Remarks by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
BG0110E | Date: 2001-10-31
October 25, 2001
SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Chairman, we will always remember the 11th of September, where we all happened to be on that day, it's seared into our individual memories, it's seared into our individual souls. I was in Lima, Peru at breakfast with the President of Peru, President Toledo, when the notes were handed to me, two notes in a quick row, making it clear that it wasn't an accident, but my country had been hit by the worst terrorist act that we had seen in our history.
And it was a long day for me, as I got in my plane and flew all the way back from Peru, unable to communicate with anybody in Washington until I arrived and joined the President in the White House with the other national security advisors to the President.
And when I walked into the Situation Room and joined the President, I found a President who was seized with the mission that had been handed him that day, a President who had already seen that a challenge had been presented to him that would change the entire nature of his presidency and his administration. And a President who took up that challenge, I think, in a bold way, a way that history will long remember.
He knew right away that he not only had to go after the perpetrators of these terrible attacks against us; he knew also that we had to go after terrorism. It wouldn't be enough just to deal with these perpetrators, who were soon identified as the al-Qaida network and Usama bin Laden. But in order to be the kind of leader that he is, in order to show leadership to the world, we had to undertake a campaign that goes after terrorism in all of its many forms around the world.
And it's a campaign that has many dimensions to it. It's a campaign that some days involves financial attacks, other days law enforcement attacks, intelligence attacks, and sometimes, as we see now in Afghanistan, military attacks. We have to secure our borders. We have to do a better job of talking to other nations about who travels across our borders. We have to make sure we go after the financial networks that support terrorist activity.
And to do that, we built a broad coalition, a coalition of nations that came together to respond to this attack, not just against America, but against civilization. Hundreds and hundreds of people who were not Americans died in the World Trade Center. Five hundred Muslims died in the World Trade Center. Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida killed Muslims on the 11th of September 2001 in New York City, as well as men and women representing every race, color and creed on the face of the earth, and a large number of American citizens.
And we're going after them with this broad coalition to make sure that they are brought to justice or justice is brought to them. It was an attack against civilization; civilization must respond.
People have said, well, you know, it was an attack against America, really not civilization. No, it wasn't. It was the action of an evil man, and it was an evil act. There is no connection or relationship to any faith; there is no faith on the face of the earth that would sanction such an evil strike against innocent people. And we cannot let Usama bin Laden pretend that he is doing it in the name of helping the Iraqi people or the Palestinian people. He doesn't care one whit about them. He has never given a dollar toward them. He has never spoken out for them. He has used them as a cover for his evil, criminal, murderous, terrorist acts. And he has to be seen in that light.
We have put together a grand coalition, and people have said, well, coalitions sometimes come with problems. When you bring all these people together, don't you have to take into account all of their interests, and don't these kinds of coalitions sometimes hamstring the President and his ability to do what he thinks he has to do?
The answer to the question is: the President has not given up any of his authority. There are no arrangements within this coalition which in any way, shape, fashion or form constrain the President and the exercise of his constitutional responsibilities to defend the United States of America and to defend the people of the United States. So that should not be a concern in anyone's mind.
At the same time, without this coalition, the President couldn't do what needs to be done. Without this coalition, we couldn't be cooperating with 100 nations around the world on going after financial networks of terrorist organizations. Without this coalition, we wouldn't have countries that were supporting us in the prosecution of our military campaign, giving us over-flight, giving us basing rights and contributing military forces to fight alongside American forces.
So this is a coalition that is of enormous value, and what is unique about this coalition that makes it different than any other coalition anyone has ever put together is that, except for about three or four countries, every other country on the face of the Earth has signed up. They have signed up in many ways, whether it was NATO, 19 nations invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the NATO Treaty, for the first time in history, saying that an attack on one is an attack on all, and that attack in New York City and Washington and Pennsylvania was an attack on one and was an attack on all of us, and NATO has responded.
The United Nations Security Council, the United Nations General Assembly, the OAS, the Rio Treaty was invoked, the ANZUS Treaty was invoked. The Organization of Islamic Conference had a meeting earlier this month, and 56 Muslim nations came forward and said this was a dastardly attack which does not represent Islam; it's a disgrace; the United States is right to see it as an attack on civilization and an attack on America.
One more point I would make about the coalition is that, whether we wanted it or not, it showed up. Within 24 hours, NATO acted. Before I could really get on the phone and ask them, they were there. The UN showed up within 48 hours. A lot of people pat me on the back and said, "Good job with the coalition." I have to sort of drop my head slightly. They all showed up. Our friends showed up when we needed them.
People have also said, "Well, this coalition will start to come apart after a while. They won't stick together." Well, they've stuck together. It's now six weeks. The President just returned from an important meeting in Shanghai, the APEC conference, where 21 Asian and Pacific nations all came together to talk about economic issues, to talk about the world trading system, to talk about breaking down barriers to trade. But the first thing they talked about was terrorism, and all 21 of these nations reaffirmed their support for what we are doing.
As my colleague Don Rumsfeld often says, "It's not just a single coalition. It's a shifting set of coalitions, really, that come together." And members will do different things at different times in the life of this coalition. Some member-nations have said, look, all we can do really is give you political and diplomacy support. We don't have the wherewithal, or because of our political situation, we can't do much more than that. Others have said we'll participate fully on intelligence-sharing and financial digging-up of terrorist organizations, and we'll provide military assets as well.
We have said let each contribute according to your ability to contribute, your willingness to contribute, and the situation you face within your country. And so far, after six weeks, this coalition is gaining strength, not getting weaker.
Our attention now is focused on the military campaign in Afghanistan. I am so proud of the men and women in uniform that I used to be so closely associated with, as they once again go in harm's way in such a professional manner to serve the American people, and in this case to serve the cause of civilization. They are doing a fine job. But, as the Chairman noted, it is going to be a tough campaign. It's a tough campaign, tough in the air and even tougher on the ground, as we use not American forces directly, but other forces who are like-minded in recognizing that the Taliban must be removed. It's quite difficult to coordinate them, but we are working on that very hard, and with each passing day the coordination links between the air campaign and what is happening on the ground become tighter, become more direct, and are moving in the right direction.
Our work in Afghanistan, though, is not just of a military nature. We recognize that when the al-Qaida organization has been destroyed in Afghanistan and as we continue to try to destroy it in all the nations in which it exists around the world, and when the Taliban regime has gone to its final reward, we need to put in place a new government in Afghanistan, one that represents all the people of Afghanistan and one that is not dominated by any single powerful neighbor, but instead is dominated by the will of the people of Afghanistan.
We are working hard at that. Ambassador Richard Haass, the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, is my personal representative, working with the United Nations, Ambassador Brahimi, the King and others to try to help Afghan leaders around the world find the proper model for the future Afghanistan.
But we have got to do more than that. We also have to make sure that when the Taliban regime is gone, we remain committed to helping Afghanistan finally find a place in the world, by helping its people build a better life for themselves, by making sure they get the food aid and other aid they will need to start building decent lives for themselves and for their children.
And while we are going through this conflict period now and thinking about the future, we also have to make sure that we are pumping as much humanitarian aid into the country now as winter approaches so that we don't leave anybody at risk of starvation. There are lots of reports about that, but I can say that the reports I have this morning suggest that we have got quite a bit of food going in, blankets going in. It is still a tenuous situation, but the situation has improved in recent days, and I think it will improve in the days ahead.
We are giving it the highest priority, working with our friends in Pakistan and Uzbekistan, and I was pleased to see the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan in the hearing room today, and it gives me the opportunity to thank him and his government for the terrific support that they have provided to us.
The Chairman mentioned that new strategic opportunities may come out of this crisis. I think that is absolutely right. We have seen Russia do things in the last six weeks that would have been un-thought-of five or six years ago even, long after the Soviet Union was gone. We are working with the Russians to take advantage of these new opportunities.
At the APEC meeting in China, Mr. my other dear chairman, you would be pleased to know that while we were talking about trade and economic development with the People's Republic, we made sure that they understood that even though we want to move in that direction, we are not forgetting about human rights, we are not forgetting about religious freedom. The President talked about the Dalai Lama. He talked about relations with the Vatican. And we have seen improvement already with respect to dialogue between the Vatican and Beijing, just within the last 24 hours.
We talked about proliferation. We told them what we don't like about what they do with respect to rogue nations. So Senator Helms, I can assure you and assure all the other members of the Committee that we are clear-eyed about this coalition building. We are clear-eyed about the campaign we have embarked upon. We understand the nature of some of the regimes that we are having some opening discussions with. And they are not going to get in on the cheap. "We are against the Taliban, but you've got to tolerate our actions with respect to other terrorist organizations that we like" -- it won't work. The President says you've got to choose now to move into a new world, where you no longer support those kinds of activities if you want a better shot at good relations with the United States of America.
And so I think we are off on a noble cause. I think it is a cause that is just. It is a cause that we will prevail in, because we are doing the right thing.
Let me close by once again thanking the Committee for the support that they have provided to us. I know how much it means to the President for you all to visit with him every week or so. And let me once again express my admiration for the men and women in uniform who are doing such a great job. And let me also express my admiration for the men and women of the State Department, and the other civilian agencies of the United States Government, who are serving in missions all around the world, sometimes in great danger, sometimes at the risk of their lives. They are doing a terrific job, and I know that you share my admiration and pride in the men and women of our diplomatic service.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.