Transcript: Colin Powell on Hannity & Colmes

The State Department has released the following transcript of an interview Fox News' Sean Hannity conducted on Friday with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Portions of the interview will be broadcast Friday night on Hannity & Colmes, on the FOX News Channel, at 9 p.m. EDT. The show will be re-broadcast Saturday morning at 2 a.m. EDT.

MR. HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, good to see you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Sean, good to be with you.

MR. HANNITY: Thanks for being here.

All right, Kofi Annan has spoken out again, said the war in Iraq was illegal and violated the UN Charter. Your reaction?

SECRETARY POWELL: My reaction is that the secretary-general was incorrect. We believe that the war was necessary and it had rested on sound principles of international law. We have made our case and we have, in our words, moved forward directly in the spirit of defense of our position, and of course, it's a position held by Australia and the United Kingdom and all the other members of the coalition.

I spoke with the secretary-general and we know that we have different views on this, but our view is clear and our view is based on international law.

MR. HANNITY: Have you spoken to him since he made his remarks?


MR. HANNITY: Give us a little of what he said.

SECRETARY POWELL: I speak to the secretary-general I would say, oh, four or five times a week and we had a good conversation this morning.

MR. HANNITY: Was it a strongly worded conversation?

SECRETARY POWELL: We had a good, good diplomatic conversation.

MR. HANNITY: (Laughter.) That's a good diplomatic answer.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. Well, frankly, we've got the U.N. General Assembly coming up next week. It's an important meeting. The president will make an important speech next Tuesday. And we didn't want any distractions, so we'll do fine.

MR. HANNITY: Don Rumsfeld actually went on record and said, "48 days before an election, this reeks of political interference." Do you agree with that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Not really. I read the transcript very, very carefully. And the secretary-general was in an interview situation and he was not trying to get into our politics or, frankly, to make news. It was just that he got into the interview situation and said what he said, and he and I have had good conversations since then.

MR. HANNITY: The prime minister of Australia used the word "paralyzed" to describe the United Nations. You have 17 resolutions, 12 years, you have 1441. Most of these resolutions talk about serious consequences, but yet they were unwilling to follow through on those consequences. Is -- can people be intellectually honest and use the word "paralyzed," that the U.N. has lost its effectiveness, that it's been rendered impotent politically, perhaps?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that I would say it's impotent. I mean, the U.N. does a lot of good things. But dealing with a crisis like this, it tends not to do it that well because it's hard to get everybody on the same sheet of music.

In this case, however, and to show you how it is grounded in international law, we went to the United Nations and got a unanimous resolution, 1441. And that resolution said that Iraq was in material breach, remained in material breach, has not gotten out of material breach and any further acts that constituted material breach should lead to serious consequences.

Well, there were further acts: False declarations, not cooperating in the way that they should, and that believes -- led us to believe it's time to impose serious consequences. And when the Security Council was not prepared to make such a judgment based on the original resolution, 1441, and all those years of resolutions, as you pointed out, Sean, the president boldly stepped forward, and with a like-minded coalition of Australia, the United Kingdom and many other nations, he took action and we are with one less dictator in the world, and a regime that filled mass graves and used weapons of mass destruction against its own people, against its own neighbors, that violated human rights and all of these terrible things, that regime is gone.

The remnants of that regime are trying to see if they can recreate it. And they won't be able to. We'll defeat the insurgency.

MR. HANNITY: Jacques Chirac, through his spokesman, he even weighed in on this and said, "We consider it illegitimate." How does that impact your job and the relationship that the United States has with its so-called ally, France?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are always these kinds of disagreements. We understand that the French characterized it as illegitimate, but the French are wrong, too. And what you have to do is find areas where there are agreements and build on those, where there are areas of disagreement, see if you can work your way through. But there always will be points at which you can't get agreement with another party, and then you have to do what you think is right and what is in the best interest of the American people and our security and the security of the international order; and that's exactly what President Bush did last year.

MR. HANNITY: Bill Gertz has just come out with a new book, "Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes Are Secretly Arming Our Enemies." In the book, he chronicles how even after the war began, allies like France were dealing arms and the like with Iraq, serious allegations that China -- Iraq's top military officer provided Baghdad with technical assistance and other assistance. Are you aware of -- have you been following this?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are many reports, but I can't comment. I haven't read Bill's book, so I can't comment on any specifics within the book.

MR. HANNITY: Do you have any knowledge that any of our allies were involved in any effort to help Iraq at a time that we were in this conflict with them?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't talk about it because I'm not familiar with anything that happened after the war began. But, of course, before the war began, there was a lot of contact with the people in Iraq and nations that were friends and allies of ours, both within the context of the Oil-for-Food program, perhaps out of the context of the Oil-for-Food program.

And that's what people have to look at now, while we're taking a look, a very intense look, at how the Oil-for-Food program was used. And we know that there was corruption in that program. We know that there were some terrible things that have happened under the umbrella of that program, and that's what we have to look at, and let that take us wherever it does. And if it turns out that some of our allies were behaving in a way that was improper, we have to see that and we have to know that.

MR. HANNITY: I guess the one remaining question, you have expressed doubts recently about whether or not weapons of mass destruction would ever be found. And I think you're probably right based on where we are at this particular point in time. Is it more likely that our intelligence was wrong, that they didn't exist? Is it more likely that perhaps they were hidden and are still hidden? Or is it even more likely that perhaps they were moved to a country like Syria?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't exclude any of those possibilities, but if I had to put my money on something, I would say that Saddam Hussein clearly had the intention of having such weapons, he had the capability of having such weapons, and if he had ever broken free of UN sanctions or international oversight, he would have built up stockpiles.

The weakness in the case that we presented is we haven't the stockpiles we thought existed. Now, we'll just have to wait to see what Mr. Duelfer will be trying in the effort to get to the truth of all this says.


SECRETARY POWELL: My instinct right now says that the sources that we had were mistaken with respect to the existence of any significant stockpiles. We haven't found any and I haven't seen a persuasive case that said they've all been buried or they all went to another country. But that's what we've several hundred people examining under the leadership of Charlie Duelfer.

MR. HANNITY: Well, let's talk about Mr. Duelfer. The New York Times reports today that the Iraqi Survey Group, that Saddam had clear intent, they reported, to, in fact, produce biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons if the U.N. sanctions were lifted. There was no evidence they had a large-scale program to -- that it was going on at the time of invasion, but they definitely had the plan. Is there some validation there?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is no question about this and I haven't seen the Duelfer report yet. But even without that report, I have always known, and there is no debate within the intelligence community that he had the intention, he was keeping in place the dual-use capabilities that would give him a breakout possibility with biological and chemical weapons, and that he kept intact an eventual wherewithal to go back to nuclear weapons if he was ever free of all that.

Why would anybody assume that Saddam Hussein with his track record, his money and his capability, once relieved of the pressure of international sanctions, would not go back to this behavior, behavior will have been rewarded by the international community, all of those years of resolutions and suddenly the international community says, "Well, never mind."

MR. HANNITY: Yeah. In the report, according to, again, the Times, in today's edition, specifically discusses these clandestine labs that were operated by the Iraqi intelligence services and which could have produced these lethal weapons. Have the American people heard too little about them because they were discovered? This is what --

SECRETARY POWELL: They had not gotten that much attention and I think that if the New York Times report is accurate and Charlie lays out all of this information in his report, the world will see the truth. And the truth of the matter is that Saddam Hussein never changed his thoughts, a man who gassed 5,000 people on Friday morning in 1988, is the same man we took out of power last year, never changed his thoughts. He had the intention. He had these mini-laboratories that were humming away. He was keeping intact the infrastructure.

MR. HANNITY: Why? To make pesticides later, or to make chemical weapons and biological weapons later? What would you put your money on?

The president refused to put his money on the benign characterization of these activities. He refused to answer some of the basic questions put to him by the inspectors, by the U.N., what happened to the material we know you had years ago? What happened to the gaps in information that the U.N. inspectors came upon years ago? He refused to answer. So what should the international community do, say, well, let's just forget about it, he doesn't want to answer the test?

No, the president refused to put the American people at that risk, the region at that risk, and the world at the risk.

MR. HANNITY: Do you think Iraqi insurgents would try -- we keep hearing -- we're in an election cycle -- we keep hearing, we saw what happened in Spain where the terrorists tried to impact an election, and many would argue they did. Will the Iraqi insurgents on their end try and create maximum amount of chaos to perhaps potentially impact the election?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have always assumed that once the transfer of authority took place and the Iraqi Interim Government was sovereign again and they were working toward an election at the end of the year with our election coming along that timeline in early November, of course, that they would do everything they could to demonstrate that we weren't capable of securing the country and the new government was not capable.

And that's what they're doing now. That's why the violence has gone up. And what you are seeing in response are Iraqi leaders who are courageous, who are stepping forward, putting themselves at risk, young men who are stepping forward to being police officers and members of the army, and you're seeing coalition troops now starting to respond much more aggressively than they might have in recent weeks.

MR. HANNITY: National Intelligence Estimate over the summer that our government or senior analysts examining things here, that this was tending and trending towards a civil war. They described it in pessimistic terms. You've read this report. Do you disagree with that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I've read this report and I wouldn't characterize it quite that way, and I don't remember any reference to civil war. What it was was a very sober assessment of the challenges that lay ahead. And that's what intelligence estimates are supposed to do. They're not supposed to tell you about all of the great things that have happened and you don't have to worry about anymore.

What you want the intelligence community to do is point out the challenges and problems you're facing, the things you'd better be worrying about. That's what this is. It's a very sober appraisal of the situation.

MR. HANNITY: The U.S. State Department for the first time labeled Saudi Arabia one of the world's worst violators of religious freedom, quote, the report says, "Freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia," and they're a close ally.

SECRETARY POWELL: It does not, and they are a close ally, and they've been a friend to the United States for many years and we have cooperated with them in so many ways over the years and they have supported us in so many ways. But the reality is that there is not freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia and they would not say to you that there is. It is an Islam country. It's not our country. It does not tolerate other expressions of religious freedom, and for the first time, we, in conversations with the Saudis, said we have to designate you in a category that we have in the law, a Country of Particular Concern, and I had long talks with my Saudi friends before I designated them.

MR. HANNITY: And their reaction?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they're not happy being designated but they recognize the reality of the situation, and hopefully with this sort of spotlight, this sort of pressure, they will keep moving down this rather large path of reform that they are on.

MR. HANNITY: Let's talk about Vladimir Putin for a minute here and his proposed political changes, and you said it was a pullback, and the president said from democratic reforms. Between that and what happened in Russia with these school kids, in particular, and their, basically, adoption, at least publicly, of the Bush doctrine, do you put the two together, as why he is proposing that, and what do you say to him?

SECRETARY POWELL: What we have said to the Russians and both the president and I, as you noticed, Sean, made statements earlier this week. We fully understand the outrage that exists in Russia over what happened. It was their 9/11. Over 300 children and others killed, two airplanes blown out of the sky, subway entrance blown out. So they were shocked and they have to go after these murderers, go after these terrorists, just as we have gone after the terrorists that were striking us and we supported them. And we would suggest that they do nothing less than deal with these murderers, not negotiate with them.

But at the same time, you have to keep a balance in your society in the political structure and Russia has been looming down the path of solid democratic reform over the last 12 or so years, since the end of the Cold War, and some of the steps that President Putin has taken in recent days causes some concern. We want to make sure that Russia, which is a good friend of ours, cooperates, in so many ways, keep on the right path and not unbalance the situation.

MR. HANNITY: How has he reacted?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they don't -- we'd rather not be guided in this manner or to get advice in this matter, but friends give to other friends advice from time to time and make their concerns known.

MR. HANNITY: Let me ask you this question. I am not going to bring you into politics, though I'd love to, but maybe one day we'll have that discussion. We're 46 days from having an election. Throughout the last year, the president you serve, and you're always quick to say, "I serve at the pleasure of the president," has been called by the leaders of his opposition party repeatedly a liar, and said he concocted a war for political gain.

People who laid out the case that you laid out about WMDs in Iraq in 2003, have now totally shifted their position on it. How dangerous is that? What impact does that have on your ability to do your job and the ability of the president of the United States to wage a war, engage in a battle against terrorism?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a heated political season and I've been through many such seasons in the course of my --

MR. HANNITY: Maybe more, too, in the future.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, who knows. Nice try. (Laughter.)

MR. HANNITY: I'll try. I'll try.

SECRETARY POWELL: And you expect these kind of charges to go flying back and forth. But on the 2nd of November, the American people will render the only judgment that counts. They will offer the only opinion that makes any difference, whatsoever, and they will speak.

MR. HANNITY: But is that reckless?

SECRETARY POWELL: What they will see is, I think, that President Bush has dealt with the challenges that this nation has faced. He refused to allow a dictator like Saddam Hussein to continue in office a threat not only to the people in the region, but the world. He has taken action to help the world with his Millennium Challenge Account funding for developing nations, with what he has done with HIV/AIDS in the government to go after that.

We're moving weapons of mass destruction from Libya, pressuring the international community to do something about North Korea and Iran. The president has spoken clearly and directly. Sometimes it annoys people that he speaks so clearly and directly, but he's not going to stop. And all of these charges that fly back and forth, this is what's called American democracy and all those charges will be resolved, dealt with and will be history on the evening of the 2nd of November, as the American people offer the only judgment that counts.

MR. HANNITY: And then you'll serve at the pleasure of the president in the second term?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's so nice seeing you, Sean. (Laughter.)

MR. HANNITY: Good to see you, Secretary Powell. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.