Powell Defends Iraq War; Receives Award
Before a crowd of Princeton University students and local dignitaries, Secretary of State Colin Powell Friday accepted a student-issued award and defended the U.S.-led war in Iraq, saying that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had both the technical capabilities and intent of producing weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Powell said that while WMDs have not been identified, it does not discount the fact that the "intention" to build such weapons existed. He promulgated the idea that the war is more than the discovery of weapons, but also about the dispersion of "intentions, programs, and capabilities" that lead to stockpiles.
"Not only have the coalition forces ridden the world of a regime that was simultaneously building palaces for its pampered and building mass graves for its innocents, the object lesson of the war has led to some important successes in the non-proliferation area," he said.
"The war is justified, and [is being] fought skillfully and is bringing a new dignity to the Iraqi people and to the entire region," he added.
Mr. Powell was speaking at a ceremony in which he was presented with the Crystal Tiger Award, a new prize presented by Princeton undergraduates that recognizes an individual who has impacted lives, communities, and values. His appearance also punctuated the weeklong 100th birthday celebration of former Ambassador George F. Kennan.
Mr. Kennan was a member of Princeton's Class of 1925.
"Many people said that perhaps Ambassador Kennan was just the beneficiary of a lucky guess. Not so," Mr. Powell said. "His prediction was the manifestation of genuine wisdom."
"When the Soviet Union came to an end in 1991, it did so exactly as Ambassador Kennan [said] it would in predictions he made 45 years earlier," Mr. Powell said.
Ambassador Kennan is most known for composing the famed "long telegram," an 8,000-word opus he dispatched from Moscow in 1946 in an effort to convey to American officials the futility of diplomatic relations with a Stalinist government. The telegram gave rise to the U.S. policy of containment toward the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War and thrust him into a life-long role as an authority on U.S.-Soviet relations.
Mr. Powell said insight like Mr. Kennan's set a precedent as a way to approach the nation's current situation in Iraq.
[Ambassador Kennan's] memoirs show us how to get under the 'human skin' of international politics," Mr. Powell said, referring to Mr. Kennan's ability to see below the surface into the essence of diplomatic relations.
Mr. Powell said Iraq had continually "lied" and had "waved the specter" of a nuclear program for so many years, action needed to be taken.
"Iraq and Saddam Hussein clearly had the technical capabilities for WMDs, had the programs in place, and never lost the intention to have such weapons," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that it was just a matter of time before that capability would have produced stockpiles that would have threatened the world."
"So many nations understand that, [and] no serious person denies we have a serious problem," he said.
He lauded the fact that "more nations have given up nuclear programs in the past 20 years" than have not. Most specifically, Mr. Powell pointed to Libya as an example of a once-hostile country but has since diffused its nuclear agenda.
Mr. Powell said the U.S. is seeking to continue the nuclear abandonment trend through six-party talks with Japan, Russia, China, and North and South Korea.
He stressed the need to find diplomatic solutions that lead to "irreversible" dismantling of the Korean peninsula, saying that nuclear weapons "don't protect anybody."
He again evoked Mr. Kennan's historic role as having a part in current events. It is "a matter of sad necessity" that this age is defined by terrorism and WMDs, the Secretary of State said, "we must not be dominated by these dangers."
"The young George Kennan witnessed the birth of a monster at close range. He saw the will to power take its 20th-century form, in first communist, then fascist totalitarianism. He foresaw the great darkness totalitarian regimes would spread. And he saw just as clearly, too, that many well-intentioned people in the West did not understand the real character of that enemy," the Secretary said.
"Having undergone such an experience, a young person could have been forgiven for entertaining a certain pessimism about the future. But George Kennan was no pessimist," Mr. Powell said. "He has never forgotten that noble ideals guide us to victory in the end."
Mr. Powell spoke to a capacity crowd on campus at Alexander Hall in Richardson Auditorium. Outside at Palmer Square's Tiger Park, about 30 to 40 people gathered to protest the U.S.-led war in Iraq, carrying signs proclaiming anti-war messages and calls for peace.
The protest was organized by the Belle Mead-based Committee to End the Occupation of Iraq. The Princeton-based Coalition of Peace Action was absent from the protest.
Sue Niederer of Hopewell, who lost her son, Seth Dvorin, in Iraq earlier this month, stood with a sign that demanded an explanation from Mr. Powell: "why did you send our troops to Iraq?"