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Powell Addresses House Committee

Aired February 12, 2003 - 11:03   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: This now is the hearing before the House International Relations Committee, and as you see here -- that's Henry Hyde, who is the Republican leader there. Now you see Secretary of State Colin Powell, and he is just now beginning some very interesting remarks.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... system and give more authority to Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei in order to help Iraq comply.

And then finally, to make sure that Iraq understood the seriousness of this issue, the final part of the resolution clearly said that, if there are new material breaches, further material breaches, meaning Iraq has not complied as it must, then serious consequences will flow.

Every member sitting in the council that day and all other capitals understood that serious consequences meant, if Iraq did not take this last chance, this last opportunity to come into compliance, they would face military force in order to bring them into compliance, in order to disarm them. There was no confusion in that council that day, I can assure you, because we worked on that document for seven and a half weeks.

We now have three months of experience under that resolution, and Saddam Hussein has not complied. He sent forward a false declaration 30 days after the resolution was enacted, one day short of 30 days. And in that declaration, he gave us a lot of smoke.

We specifically put that in there as an early requirement, 30-day requirement, in order to test -- in order to test him, to see whether or not he was going to seriously under take his obligations. He failed the test. Nobody can dispute that.

He has also failed to give the inspectors the kind of cooperation that is needed for the inspectors to do their work. I don't think there's any dispute about that. And we'll hear more about this from Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei on Friday.

And so we are reaching a moment of truth with respect to this resolution and whether it meant anything or not. We're reaching a moment of truth with respect to the relevance of the United Nations Security Council to impose its will on a nation such as Iraq, which is ignored the will of the council for the last 12 years. And we are reaching a moment of truth as to whether or not this matter will resolve peacefully or will be resolved by military conflict.

The president still hopes it can be resolved peacefully. I think everybody has that hope. I have that hope. I don't like war. I have been in war. I have sent men to war. I have seen friends die in war. Nobody wants war, but sometimes, it's necessary when you need it to maintain international order. And the United States is prepared to lead a coalition, either under U.N. auspices or, if the U.N. will not act, demonstrates its irrelevance, and then the United States is prepared, with a coalition of the willing, to act. And it will be a good coalition, a strong coalition.

There are some of my European colleagues right now who are resisting the natural flow of this resolution and what's supposed to happen. They want to have more inspectors. More inspectors aren't the issue. Dr. Blix hasn't asked for more inspectors. Dr. ElBaradei hasn't asked for more inspectors. It's not clear Saddam Hussein would let more inspectors in.

But that's not the issue. The issue is lack of Iraqi compliance. And just to say we need more inspectors is a way of delaying, of diverting attention from the basic proposition Iraq is not complying and the resolution spelled out clearly what should happen at that time.

And the United States will not shrink back from the obligations that we undertook when we worked to get that resolution passed. I hope that, in the days ahead, we will be able to rally the United Nations around the original resolution and what other resolution might be necessary in order to satisfy the political needs of a number of the countries.

But the United States will not be deterred. Iraq must be disarmed, peacefully or through the use of military force.

And it is interesting and challenging, Mr. Chairman, to watch the politics of this unfold, especially within Europe. France and Germany are resisting. They believe that more inspections, more time. The question I put to them is, why more inspectors and how much more time? Or are you just delaying for the sake of delaying in order to get Saddam Hussein off the hook and no disarmament?

That's the challenge that I will put to them again this Friday and next week as debate continues on this issue. Nations, such as the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, many of the newly independent states who were once enslaved and under dictators, who understand the consequences of not dealing with a dictator when one should deal with a dictator are solidly on our side.

We have these debates within NATO and within Europe all of the time. The Financial Times made reference this morning to Charles De Gaulle back in 1956 saying the United States is a superpower that has to be brought under control.

So we've seen these kinds of expressions and hyperpower complaints previously.

I still believe that it is possible to rally the international community to discharge its obligations. All of the nations that we are now having debates with are, at the end of the day, allies and friends of ours. We've had our disagreements. We've had our fights in the past, and we've always managed to find a way forward. And it's my job as secretary of state to work with these nations and find a way forward, but never by compromising our principles and our strong beliefs, but by using the power of our principles to convince others of what we should do in a collective fashion.

One final point, Mr. Chairman, somebody asked me yesterday, "Well, suppose there is a military conflict. Infidels will be going into Iraq. Isn't that going to be terrible? Isn't just all kinds of heck just going to break loose?"

Well, nobody complained when infidels went into Kuwait to save the people of Kuwait from an Iraqi invasion. We were welcomed by the Moslem population of Kuwait, which had been invaded by a Moslem nation. Nobody talked about infidels when we acted in Kosovo a few years ago.

Nobody talked about infidels when we were in Afghanistan today, because what the Afghan people are learning today, what the people of Japan and Germany and so many other key places over the years, America comes in peace. America comes as a partner. America comes to help people, to put in place better systems of government that respect the rights of men and women. America never comes as a conqueror. America comes to do the principal thing in the interest of peace and in the interest of stability.

And that will continue to be the philosophy by which this president runs our foreign policy.

Mr. Chairman, let me just stop there in the interest of time.

REP. HENRY J. HYDE (R-IL), CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much for a very fascinating statement.

I will now go to the questions, and I ask the members to be as succinct as they can and not trespass on someone else's five minutes.

And we'll start with Mr. Leach.

REP. JAMES A. LEACH (R), IOWA: Well, Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary for a thoughtful presentation, particularly your ending assertions.

It strikes, I think, all of the American people that the Iraq dilemma is self-evident in the sense that there are a massive number of unknowns. That is, intervention could be short and decisive, respected around the world if not supported.

On the other hand, rather than lessening the likelihood of use of weapons of mass destruction, it might precipitate their utilization and might as well increase terrorism for many quarters.

In this context, as well as in the context of the massive forces in the region, it would seem that the only win-win prospect for the American people, the Iraqi people and everybody else in the region, would be for, in the next few days for Saddam Hussein and his cohorts to abdicate and accept asylum.

The problem with asylum is that it's an idea in search of a strategy, and so my question is, is the United States prepared to accept as part of a U.N. resolution or in other ways to urge the secretary general of the United Nations to advance an asylum strategy to Saddam and his cohorts? The likelihood of its acceptance might not be high. On the other hand, an offer would underscore to the world that our issues with Saddam, our issue is with the weapons of mass destruction program and not necessarily with Iraqi sovereignty or Iraqi oil.

And so my query is, is there more than simply contemplation of asylum within this administration? Is there a strategy to advance it? And is the United States prepared to press an asylum option before invading?

POWELL: We are not only discussing it. We are in touch with a number of countries that have expressed an interest in conveying this message to the Iraqi regime that, time's up, and one way to avoid a lot of suffering is for the regime to step down, Saddam Hussein and his cohorts.

We are looking at the various aspects of such a strategy, asylum, where, with what protection -- you know, exactly how you would operationalize this.

I haven't had a direct conversation with the secretary general about it, but as part of our contemplation and our strategizing of this issue, it would ultimately require some kind of United Nations participation in order to make sure that we could do it in a way that would actually entice him to seek asylum.

So it is something we're looking at, and we recognize the attractiveness of such an option. It avoids a lot of problems, and it would have to include him, and it would have to include his top level.

We would have to get the whole infection out, and then get on with the healing process.

LEACH: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

HYDE: Next will be Mr. Lantos.

I might announce to the new members, the procedure we follow is we call you in the order in which you arrived at the hearing. That score card is kept by the staff. And so if it seems to be going out of order occasionally, it's due to the idiosyncrasies of that tradition which we still live by.

Mr. Lantos?

REP. TOM LANTOS (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Secretary, thank you for a very cogent statement. Let me assure you that the department's request will be given very careful and very sympathetic consideration, as we have done in the past. You indicated, and we all know, that in the next few days, the U.N. Security Council will be at the...

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, you are listening to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He is testifying before the International Relations Committee hearing, of course talking about the president's proposed international affairs budget. Also, as you heard just moments ago, discussing the situation with Iraq, saying America comes in peace, America is not a conqueror, but the fact of the matter is, time is up for resolution 1441.

For now, we are going to go to international correspondent Nic Robertson in Baghdad. We want to hear more about the tapes from Osama bin Laden, or the alleged tapes, I should say.

Nic Robertson, tell us what you know from this. I know you've been speaking to people on the streets. What is their reaction to the little bit they have heard so far?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very interesting, actually, because a lot of people here haven't actually heard the tapes. It was a big holiday here late last night when the tapes were broadcast. They were broadcast on a satellite television channel. Of course, people are banned from having receivers for satellite television here, so the only way they can hear it is international radio services.

What people told me, they said, look, we don't like Osama bin Laden, we don't support him, we don't support his organization. Other people told me they felt that the message was coming at a really bad time. People here are very, very concerned about the possibility of war, and they certainly recognize a message of this type potentially could very much inflame the situation.

Other people told me that they have no ties and they see no reason for Osama bin Laden to be interfering in their affairs. Most people here very focused on the potential of war with the United States could be not far away.

No reaction from the leadership here at all, and of course, they were criticized by Osama bin Laden in that speech very much, calling President Saddam Hussein an infidel -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Nic, is there any chance the Iraqi people will ever see these tapes or this broadcast?

ROBERTSON: It's unlikely. The only place in this country where people are able to watch this type of satellite television channel are in government offices where, of course, they monitor these events very, very closely. They're very, very in tune to what's happening in the rest of the world. They pay a huge amount of attention to it. There will be elements in the speech by Osama bin Laden that will resonate here, things that he said, that the United States is only interested in Iraq's oil. The United States and Israel only want to conquer this region so they can run it. These are things the leadership here in Iraq have told the people of Iraq, these are the reasons they've given the people of Iraq, these are the reasons the United States may go to war with Iraq. They've put it on that issue, rather than the weapons of mass destruction.

Though these issues may resonate, it doesn't appear likely that it's going to appear on Iraqi Television, because it was so critical of President Saddam Hussein and his ruling party here -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you, live from Baghdad -- Leon.

Let's check on the latest word coming from the White House after this tape has been released, and we're also hearing all this testimony taking place on Capitol Hill, these various hearings.

Let's see what's on the White House's mind this morning. Our senior White House correspondent John King checks in. He's got the latest for us right now.

Hello, John.


The White House toady picking up on that point that Nic Robertson just left off with. Yes, Osama bin Laden is critical of Saddam Hussein and his government in this audiotape, but the White House says that criticism and past criticism does not mean that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden could not link up in partnership in the future or in the immediate days ahead if either or both believed it was in their interest.

Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary saying, this is the nightmare that people have warned about, linking up Iraq with Al Qaeda. He all said the world cannot afford to be in denial about the possibility that Saddam Hussein, facing a military conflict with the United States, would share chemical or biological weapons with Al Qaeda at a time -- Ari Fleischer said -- and we've heard more from Secretary Powell and CIA director Tenet and FBI director Mueller in recent hours, at a time when Al Qaeda is actively planning, the Bush administration, new attacks on the United States.

So, yes, there's quite a bit of skepticism that there is any formal alliance, any operational alliance anyway, between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. But this new rhetorical alliance, if you will, is a warning that the Bush administration says should buttress its case that not only does the United States have to continue the war on terrorism in the pursuit of Al Qaeda, but it has to have a very tough posture when it comes to Iraq.

We'll know much more about the success in selling this argument, Leon, when we get near the end of the week, when the administration tries to convince the United Nations Security Council that the inspections regime is a failure, and it is time move on to possible military confrontation.

HARRIS: We just heard Colin Powell talking about that, and how the effort is to get that message across the Security Council. It's going to happen later on this week.

But let me ask you what you're hearing behind the scenes there. Is there no concern at the White House that the release of this audio tape from Osama bin Laden is actually going to remind the American public that, hey, here's a job that we have not finished? Osama bin Laden, the man we promised that we would get dead or alive, is still out there on loose.

KING: There is that concern, as there has been in the past when messages from Osama bin Laden have come out. Remember the very colorful language of this president early on, after the September 11 attacks, when he said he wanted bin Laden dead or alive. The administration quickly removed away from that, as it realized how difficult it was and how frustrating it was to locate the Al Qaeda leader.

Now the administration's standard line is that it's much more about dismantling the Al Qaeda network, not finding any one individual. But yet, you can be certain the American people might ponder that question. You can be certain critics in Congress, who say this president is in too much of a rush to have a war with Saddam Hussein, will say that priority number one should be Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. What the White House says is, this is all one war, that you need to deal with weapons of mass destruction and the regimes that have them at the very same time you deal with terrorist networks like Al Qaeda.

HARRIS: Got you, John, thanks. Appreciate it. John King at the White House. We'll see you soon.


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