Colin Powell's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - March 31, 2003
There are so many, many people here tonight who are friends of mine. I can't see all of you, but there is one very dear friend that I can see and I must acknowledge, and that's my dear friend Shimon Peres.
And I am very pleased to be sharing the stage this evening with my new Israeli colleague, minister Silvan Shalom. The minister is a true Israeli success story. He has distinguished himself in so many ways - as a journalist, as chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation, as a member of the Knesset, and as minister of finance.
And now he brings his many talents and all of his experience to the foreign ministry at a most important time in the life of the state of Israel. So Mr Minister, I congratulate you again on your appointment and I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to working with you, sir. Congratulations.
My friends, all of us here tonight are brought together by a deep commitment to Israel's security, prosperity, and freedom, and to the strongest possible relationship between Israel and the United States.
AIPAC came into being half a century ago to help the young Israel state meet the challenges of independence. Since then, AIPAC and its members have worked tirelessly and effectively on Israel's behalf. You have a world-class reputation for being one of the most effective such organizations in that regard.
And at the same time, it is America's commitment that also is long and enduring, a commitment that stretches back to Israel's founding. From the very moment of Harry Truman's historic decision, in war and peace, the United States has stood proudly at Israel's side. Our two nations and peoples are bound together by our common democratic values and traditions. So it has been for over 50 years. So it will always be.
As we meet tonight, our thoughts cannot help but be with the brave young men and women from the United States, from Britain, from Australia, and other coalition partners, who are laying their lives on the line to liberate Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. They are serving their nations and they are serving humanity, to free the Middle East and the world from the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
War and force was not our first choice. We gave diplomacy every chance. We worked hard to pass United Nations security council resolution 1441, which gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to disarm peacefully, but it also made it clear in that resolution and in that 15-0 vote that if this time he did not take the chance, if he did not comply, then serious consequences would follow. And they are now following.
So we warned him that we built up a massive military force on the borders to show that this time the international community meant business. But Hussein spurned that final chance, and - after 12 years of Iraqi defiance and deception - we could wait no longer. He did not comply. He did not cooperate. And the issue was compliance, not more time for inspections or more inspectors.
And we should be so proud tonight that there were brave and bold leaders such as George Bush and Tony Blair and President Aznar and Prime Minister Berlusconi, Prime Minister Howard, and so many others.
Forty-nine nations openly associated with this willing coalition, all of them headed by leaders who have to go against public opinion - public opinion, because nobody wants war. Everybody would like to avoid war. We did everything to avoid war. But these 49 nations and their leaders came together and decided that the world had to be rid of these weapons of mass destruction.
And let there be no doubt about the outcome. We will drive Saddam and his regime from power. We will liberate Iraq. We will remove the shadow of Saddam's terrible weapons from Israel and the Middle East, and we will keep them from the hands of terrorists who would threaten the entire civilized world.
I know that all of you are as proud as I am of the brave men and women in uniform who are making our success possible. You see them on your television sets every evening. Volunteers all. Willing to serve.
We are also thinking of the men and women who spend this night as prisoners of war. We hold the Iraqi regime accountable for their treatment and their safety, until we can bring them back home. And we will bring them home.
Our thoughts and prayers tonight also go out to the families of those American and British heroes who have given their lives. They will not be forgotten. And the best way we can honor their sacrifice and their legacy is to carry on the fight until we win. And we will win.
You see much on television and you read much in your newspapers as to how the war is going. Commentary from all directions. Let me just say this to you. We are only 10 or 11 days into this war. Baghdad is slowly being encircled. Pockets of resistance are being isolated. The oil fields are secure. humanitarian aid is beginning to flow. I have total confidence in the plan and total confidence in General Franks and the other leaders who are carrying out that plan.
But winning means more than just driving Saddam Hussein from power. It also means giving hope and a better future to 24 million Iraqis after decades of oppression and misrule.
And we are already starting to help Iraqis in need. We are bringing water to thirsty people. We are clearing Saddam's mines from ports so we can send in ships with food and medicine to distribute to the hungry and to the sick.
And once they are liberated, we will work with the Iraqi people to help them create a country that is peaceful, democratic, and unified, living in peace with its neighbors. We will help them build a nation that uses its vast oil wealth to improve the lives of mothers and children, not to develop terrible weapons or dot the countryside with lavish palaces.
While we deal with Saddam Hussein, we must not forget the burdens that the conflict with Iraq has placed on our Israeli friends. I am very pleased that President Bush has included in his supplemental budget request that just went to Congress $1b in foreign military financing funds to help Israel strengthen its military and civil defenses.
And that's just for starters. The president is also asking for $9bn in loan guarantees. These loan guarantees will help Israel deal with the economic costs arising from the conflict, and will help Israel to implement the critical economic and budgetary reforms it needs to get its economy back on track. And I am hopeful that Congress, with your encouragement will act quickly on this request.
You know, even as we rid the world of the Iraqi threat and we deal with these crises, we are also working to meet the other challenges we face at the dawn of this new century.
Over a year and a half ago, the cowardly attacks of September 11 occurred, and a year and a half later, we are still at war with terrorism. In Afghanistan, the fight continues to destroy the last vestiges of al-Qaida and the Taliban. It is still a dangerous place. Just yesterday, we lost two soldiers.
That war is not forgotten. We will remain engaged in Afghanistan. The two soldiers were lost not while out looking for combat, they were lost by being ambushed while they were inspecting a school and a hospital, both being built with American funding. And we mourn their loss and our thoughts are with their families.
But we have accomplished so much in Afghanistan in the past year and a half. We have stood up a new government, a government that is committed to the rights of all of its people, a government that is bringing women into the workplace and into the government itself.
So there is so much going on that is good in Afghanistan and good in other parts of the world, and we are hard at work on this campaign against terrorism. With the Kurds of northern Iraq, we are driving al-Qaida's friends, the Ansar al-Islam terrorists, out of their caves.
Let there be no doubt. We will pursue al-Qaida and its accomplices in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and everywhere they plot their murders. Around the world, around the world, we are working with coalition members to search out terrorists, break up their networks, and find their financing.
Every day another terrorist is arrested and put before the bar of justice. There will be no let up, no respite, no rest until the terrorists are defeated. We will never forget what was done to us on 9/11 and we will do whatever is necessary to defeat those who were responsible.
As part of our overall strategy in combating terrorism and dealing with states that do not follow acceptable patterns of behavior, we are demanding more responsible behavior from these states, especially those in the region.
It is now time for the entire international community to step up and insist that Iran end its support for terrorists, including groups violently opposed to Israel and to the Middle East peace process. Tehran must stop pursuing weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. In addition, we will continue to support the aspirations of the Iranian people to improve their lives and live in peace and security with their neighbors.
Syria also now faces a critical choice. Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices, and for the consequences.
These are sobering issues and sobering realities. We live in difficult and sobering times. But I am an eternal optimist. And as I think about the challenges, as I think about these crises, I also try to take time each day to think about the soaring opportunities that we see throughout the world to bring liberty and fresh hope to men, women, and children on every continent.
The spread of democratic and economic freedoms, combined with breathtaking advances in technology, opens unprecedented opportunities to lift millions out of misery - to help people put roofs over their heads, good food on their tables, and clean water on their parched lips.
Just a year ago, President Bush saw the need to come forward with a bold new initiative and to capitalize on these opportunities to kindle hope in people's hearts. He called it the Millennium Challenge Account, the most exciting thing we've done in foreign assistance in many years.
It will put large funds of American money behind those countries that make a real commitment to democracy, to ruling justly, to investing in people, and embracing economic freedom -- use our assistance to spur economic growth, and attract not more aid, but attract investment that is needed to further these nations along the road to prosperity.
There are so many other opportunities that are now given to us by the end of the Cold War - the relationship with Russia and China that couldn't have been dreamed of just 12 or 15 years ago - an opportunity to come together and defeat perhaps one of the greatest scourges on the face of the earth, HIV/AIDS, which kills millions of people every day on the face of the earth.
The opportunity to have free trade agreements so that more and more nations can join in the prosperity of the 21st century. The opportunity to deal with famine and all of those other issues of a transnational nature that the people of the world want us to deal with and look to the United States for leadership, leadership that we will provide.
Our world is a mix of challenges and opportunities, old and new. But no challenge, no opportunity, is more important, more pressing, than the quest to put an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
These are difficult times for Israel. Families live with the reality that a suicide bomber could tear their lives apart. Just hours ago, the bombers struck again, in Netanya. We condemn this cowardly attack and we pray for the victims and their families.
Continued terror and instability is having a terrible effect on the Israeli economy. Tourism and investment are down. Breadwinners are worried about their jobs. Young people are increasingly worried about their economic futures.
The people of Israel are coping. They always do. They always have. But Israelis should not just cope, not just survive; they should thrive. And with our help, they will.
We are all here tonight working and praying for the day when Israelis can go out to dinner and relax and enjoy the evening, without looking over their shoulders. We are all striving for the day when Israeli parents can send their children to school without fear, when they can travel without trepidation, and when they can enjoy the bounty of a booming economy.
We all know that the solution to these difficulties is peace. That is why we are working so hard to bring an end to the tragic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians that has caused both peoples so much suffering.
Last year, President Bush outlined a bold vision for peace based on two states existing peacefully, side-by-side - a secure, Jewish, democratic State of Israel, and a viable, peaceful, democratic, independent State of Palestine.
We are not naive. We know it will be hard to achieve this vision, especially after the terrible violence and suffering of recent years. Peace will take courage and difficult choices by Israel, by Palestinians, and by Israel's neighbors in the region.
And one fact is unmistakable. The president's vision requires an end to the use of violence and terror as a political tool. There is no other way. Terror must end.
The president's vision puts clear obligations on the Palestinians. The Palestinian state must be based on transformed leaderships and institutions that end terror. The Palestinian government must be transparent and accountable to the people. Above all, the Palestinian state must be a real partner for peace with Israel.
Israel has clear obligations, too. It must take steps to ease the suffering of Palestinians and diminish the daily humiliation of life under occupation. Israel must also help put economic hope in Palestinian hearts by helping revive the devastated economies of the West Bank and Gaza.
Settlement activity is simply inconsistent with President Bush's two-state vision. As the president has said, "as progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the Occupied Territories must end."
Today, we have reached a hopeful moment, when progress may again be possible. Israel has held elections and formed a new government. The Palestinian Legislative Council has created the office of prime minister for the Palestinian Authority. As written and passed, the law gives the prime minister real power and authority, and provides direct accountability to the legislature that elected him.
There was a vigorous debate among Palestinians over this step, but in the end, the PLC was clearly responding to calls for freedom from the Palestinian people themselves. We will be watching very carefully to see how the new Palestinian prime minister exercises his authority, which is so important for Palestinians' hopes for a better future.
Once the new Palestinian prime minister is confirmed in office, we will present both sides with the roadmap we have developed to restart movement toward peace.
The president's vision of June 24 marked the beginning of what must be a continuous, determined journey to peace. The roadmap we have developed in close consultation with the parties, our friends in the region, and our partners in the Quartet - Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations - describes that journey and the mutual obligations both sides must meet if we are going to reach our shared destination.
The roadmap is not an edict, it is not a treaty. It is a statement of the broad steps we believe Israel and the Palestinians must take to achieve President Bush's vision of hope and the dream that we all have for peace.
Israel and the Palestinians must walk the road of peace together, if either is to arrive at the desired destination. The roadmap offers a way for the two sides to restart the direct engagement with each other that their journey requires.
As we move ahead, we must not lose sight of why we are doing this. We are working so hard for peace because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken too many lives - Jewish, Muslim, and Christian - and ruined far too many more. We must find a way to ensure that Israeli children, Palestinian children can grow up in peace and dignity and live in mutual respect of each other. We must recommit ourselves to making a better future for men, women, children, and generations yet unborn.
In the Middle East, such hope depends on security. And Israel's security ultimately requires a real and lasting peace with its neighbors. That is the reality behind the roadmap.
My friends, from day one to today, America has been totally committed to Israel's security and well-being. So has AIPAC. In good times and difficult times, Israel has always been able to rely on her friends. The United States and AIPAC have always been there. And we will always be.
Thank you so very much.