10 November 2003
Powell Explains Bush's Policy of Pressing for Democracy in Mideast
Interview on Rush Limbaugh radio program November 10
Secretary of State Colin Powell said democracy is a system that works especially well in the 21st century, applicable to Arabs and Muslims as well as to everyone else.
"The fact of the matter is, democracy is a system that works and it works especially well in a 21st century environment, and why shouldn't it be as applicable to Arabs and all Muslims as it is to the rest of us? It works. And I think the President's right on," Powell said, explaining President Bush's recent speech on promoting democracy in the Middle East. He was interviewed on the Rush Limbaugh radio program.
Powell emphasized that building democracy is a gradual process that should be pursued at a pace that can be managed.
"Saudi Arabia and nations like it -- and this is what the President is saying -- should start to move in that direction, at a pace, and at a speed, I should say, that they can manage and not allow the society to crumble or the worst elements of that society or the more radical elements of that society to take over," Powell said.
With regards to Afghanistan and Iraq, Powell said President Bush is determined that both countries "should be put on a solid footing of democracy."
Following is the transcript of Powell's interview:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
November 10, 2003
MR. HEDGECOCK: President Bush has outlined a very ambitious, some would say, Pollyanna-ish, call for democracy in Islam. Secretary of State Colin Powell is one of the great American biographies, in New York City today, giving an address at City College of New York about this approach to supporting development in emerging democracies.
Secretary of State Colin Powell joins us on The Rush Limbaugh Show. Mr. Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Roger. How are you? Mr. Mayor, I might say.
MR. HEDGECOCK: Thank you, sir. I appreciate that, and I appreciate your being with us today, because I wanted to get at -- you have such an extensive background in these matters. Do you think the President's call for democracy in Islam, and throughout the world for that matter, and the -- is it -- is it overreached? There's some critics saying it's overreached, this is too ambitious, this is Pollyanna, this is Woodrow Wilson all over again. How do you respond to that?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think they're wrong. I think the President is right on, and I'm going to be speaking to it later this evening at my alma mater, the City College of New York. The fact of the matter is, democracy is a system that works and it works especially well in a 21st century environment, and why shouldn't it be as applicable to Arabs and all Muslims as it is to the rest of us? It works. And I think the President's right on.
Now people will say, "Well, you can't get there right away." Well, of course you can't. But as the President noted in his speech last week, Ronald Reagan, when he spoke about this many, many years ago, he knew it would take time as well. But guess what? In the countries he spoke about in Eastern Europe, it came to pass.
Let me -- can I give you a little story, Roger?
MR. HEDGECOCK: Sure.
SECRETARY POWELL: Last week, I was in Central America. I was in Panama, a nation that, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I directed the invasion of in 1989, and I was greeted as almost -- I hate to say this -- a hero last week by a democratically elected President. They've had three satisfactory democratic elections ever since we took out that thug Noriega and put him in a jail.
I also then went over to Nicaragua, where, you recall, we supported the Contras against the Sandinistas. And when I got off my airplane in Nicaragua, got to the bottom of the steps, there was a military band playing the Star-Spangled Banner in my honor. These are two nations that people thought, you know, "Well, maybe democracy isn't ready for them. Let's leave them alone."
So I'm seeing, in my office, nations, one by one, from behind the Iron Curtain, and they're now out in our own hemisphere, in Africa, realizing that democracy works. They've got to go down this difficult path of democracy and give their people hope for a better life, and there's no reason it shouldn't equally apply to the Arab lands. And some of them are starting to get that message, as the President noted in his speech -- Bahrain, Qatar -- a number of others are starting to take tentative steps, as is Saudi Arabia and other nations.
So let's encourage them, not give the message that, "You'll never get there. You can't do it."
MR. HEDGECOCK: If there were elections today in Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabist fundamentalist branch of Islam there would probably elect the kind of extremists, you can see it coming, that were involved in the bombing, trying to get rid of the royal family, putting the royal family in Saudi Arabia on notice there, that al-Qaida, that they virtually created, is coming back to bite them.
Are there -- are there some real concerns that you have about what would happen in some countries -- Algeria may be another one -- where fundamentalist extremists could win those elections?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think what you have to do is understand that democracy is not just an election. Democracy is the creation of institutions, creation of a body of law, a legislature that people have confidence in. And when you've got those institutions in place, then you can weather the results of elections, because the people have more of a stake in their own governance, and they have institutions that will protect them against the extremes.
And so I'm not saying that Saudi Arabia should have an election tomorrow. But I am saying that Saudi Arabia and nations like it -- and this is what the President is saying -- should start to move in that direction, at a pace, and at a speed, I should say, that they can manage and not allow the society to crumble or the worst elements of that society or the more radical elements of that society to take over. But they need to start moving in those directions, and it's not a message we have not been delivering, more quietly, perhaps, than the President's speech of last Thursday.
MR. HEDGECOCK: Colin Powell, the Secretary of State. Now, Mr. Secretary, I think most Americans would agree with what you just said. I think there's a big consensus on that. There isn't a consensus, I don't think, on the actions of Congress -- 87 billion for Iraq for nation-building, the absence of France and Germany and Russia in putting troops into Iraq, the kind of absence of the coalition that was built in the first Gulf War and its aftermath to address the issue now of a liberation of Iraq, rather than an occupation. What about that?
SECRETARY POWELL: There is a lingering problem. I mean, we have to face the reality that at the beginning of the year, when we decided that this was a war we were going to have to fight in order to remove a tyrant, we did not enjoy universal support for that position. The French and the Germans, Russians and others thought it was the wrong choice to make. Nevertheless, it was a choice that we and the United Kingdom and Spain and Italy and a number of other countries in Europe and around the world joined us in.
We were successful. That regime is gone. No more mass graves will be filled, no more citizens will be gassed. There will be no more brutality inflicted upon the people of Iraq, and their oil will be used for creating a better society and creating a democracy and not for building weapons or threatening neighbors.
We are moving forward, and I have been working hard, the President has been working very hard, to try to bring the international coalition back together again. Some are contributing a great deal. The Japanese have made a positive financial contribution, and at the Madrid conference a couple of weeks ago, we got $13 billion worth of additional pledges, in the form of loans and grants, to go on top of the $20 billion that the United States Congress has appropriated.
But we shouldn't expect that the nations of Europe, some of them anyway, which were against this -- not only their leaders, but their politics, their publics as well -- are going to suddenly offer up large numbers of troops or a lot of additional money beyond that which they have contributed to the European Union.
We're going to continue to encourage them to do more for the Iraqi people, but we've still got a long way to go before all of the bad feelings of the spring are behind us. But I think we're going to get there, and remember, the resolution just passed in the UN was passed unanimously. So everybody knows we've got to come together behind what Ambassador Bremer and the coalition are now doing, and help the Iraqi people.
But it's going to take a while to get everybody to the level of commitment that we're making, and we probably won't get everyone. The good news is that some 30-odd nations are there with us in the Gulf now, standing alongside us with their troops in Iraq, and that $13 billion on top of 30 billion -- $20 billion -- is 33 billion, and Iraqi revenue, in another year or two, will start to generate the additional money needed for reconstruction.
MR. HEDGECOCK: Secretary of State Colin Powell. Are you satisfied, Mr. Secretary, of the process, then, in Afghanistan toward a constitution, the process in Iraq toward a constitution, toward building the institutions that you were talking about? I know the Iraqi Council is having some trouble coming to grips with the deadlines. The Afghanis have a lot of politics going on now, give-and-take between the warlords and all the rest of the factions there. Are the institutions really being built where democracy is going to take a firm hold?
SECRETARY POWELL: In the case of Afghanistan, they now have come forward with a constitution; it took them some time to get there. You know, it took us quite a few years before we went from the Articles of Confederation through our Revolutionary War, and then to our own constitution.
But the Afghans now have a constitution, which is a quite good one, and we're looking at it, and they're looking at it. And I hope that by the end of the year, they will vote on that constitution and then next year they'll have elections. That is quite an achievement for a country like Afghanistan, and we're pleased with it.
Moving to Iraq, we're just now starting that process of determining the nature of the constitution, how to write it, do we go right to a full constitution, do we consider putting in place a basic law before we get to a full constitution? These are discussions that Ambassador Bremer is now having with the Governing Council in Iraq, and it will take time for us to resolve these issues. But the President is determined that both Afghanistan and Iraq should be put on a solid footing of democracy, and only then will our jobs have been accomplished, and I'm confident we can do it in both places.
MR. HEDGECOCK: Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mr. Secretary, thanks for the interview. Thanks for your continuing service to our country. I appreciate it.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)