U.S. Department of State
February 20, 2003
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
Interview On Black Entertainment Television's Youth Town Hall
February 20, 2003
[excerpt on 1973 U.S. covert action in Chile]
MR. BRADLEY: Welcome back to BET OpenMic. Secretary of State Colin Powell is here to answer questions from our audience and from the Internet, our audience here in the studio, students from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Let me go back here to get our next question. It is a follow-up from this young man. Your name and your question.
QUESTION: My name is James Dubek (ph). My question is that undoubtedly the United States considers itself the moral superior in this Iraq confrontation. My question is, despite past events such as in 1973 when the United States staged a coup in Chile on September 11th, despite the wishes of the Chilean populace against the coup, and in support -- and the populace in support of the democratically elected President Salvador Allende, the CIA, regardless, supported the coup of Augusto Pinochet and that resulted in mass deaths.
And my question is: Why does the United States now consider itself the moral superior enough to have nuclear weapons while Iraq -- while demanding that Iraq disarm, yet we still maintain our weapons?
SECRETARY POWELL: It's not a matter of us believing that we are morally superior. It is a matter of us recognizing a danger to the region and to the world. I wish nuclear weapons didn't exist. They do exist. The United States were the ones, we were the ones who invented them in the first place and we used them to end World War II. And other nations have acquired those weapons over the years, but for the most part, the major nations of the world who have nuclear weapons have arrangements with each other and they are under control and nobody is worried about that kind of a nuclear conflagration any longer.
But with Iraq, we have a regime that has attacked its neighbors, that has used gas against its neighbors, that has used chemical weapons, gas, against its own population, and has demonstrated an intent for years to use these weapons for not peaceful purposes and not to protect itself, but to be aggressive against other nations. And it is for that reason that the international community, not just the United States, but the United Nations, passed 16 resolutions, now with 1441 a 17th resolution, saying this is unacceptable.
So it is the will of the international community that Iraq disarm, and not just the moral superior position, as you describe it, of the United States. We have no desire to impose upon the Iraqi people a leadership that is to our choosing, but to give them an opportunity to choose their own leadership.
With respect to your earlier comment about Chile in the 1970s and what happened with Mr. Allende, it is not a part of American history that we're proud of. We now have a more accountable way of handling such matters and we have worked with Chile to help it put in place a responsible democracy.
One of the proudest moments of my life was going to Chile in the late '80s and speaking to all of the military officers in the Chilean armed forces, all the senior officers, and talking to them about democracy and elected representative government and how generals such as them and me -- I was a general at the time -- are accountable to civilian authority so that incidents of that kind or situations of that kind no longer arose.
Remarks at the 2003 Groundhog Job Shadow Day Program
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Remarks and question and answer session with students
January 31, 2003 [excerpt on 1973 Chile coup]
QUESTION: Can you explain why, exactly, Iraq is an imminent threat? I actually have two questions.
SECRETARY POWELL: Let's stick with one because there are a lot of kids.
QUESTION: Well, why, exactly, well -- maybe then I'll change my question. Why, exactly, since our historical question why the U.S. funded the overthrow in 1973 of democratically elected President Salvadore Allende from Chile on September 11th and why the U.S. supported the dictator Augusto Pinochet regardless of the fact that he was a brutal dictator in the name -- in the name of democracy?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. The -- it's a question that goes back to a period in our history in the 60s and 70s and the question talks about the overthrow of Allende in Chile and General Pinochet, who came to power.
I can't justify or explain the actions and decisions that were made at that time. It was a different time. There was a great deal of concern about communism in this part of the world. Communism was a threat to the democracies in this part of the world. It was a threat to the United States.
And frankly, up through -- I would say -- the late 80s, one had to continue to worry about communist insurgence in the Western Hemisphere, with a lot of that insurgency being fostered and promoted out of Cuba. That's no longer the case now. Cuba is isolated.
And for reasons that are well known to history, there were efforts at that time to change the nature of those regimes. I'm pleased, however, that since those days, all of those nations now have democratically elected presidents and we will only support democratically elected presidents in the region.
Mr. Pinochet was eased out, eventually. I remember one of the more exciting moments of my life as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was going to Chile and sitting in an auditorium like this with all of the senior military leaders of Chile with General Pinochet still in a position of authority, but now with civilian government in charge, and speaking to all of those military leaders and telling them what the responsibility officers is and are in a democratic society.
So things have changed from those days to the extent now that we have what we call, "A Community of Democracies," in the Western Hemisphere with 34 of the 35 nations in our Hemisphere part of that. And the rules of being a member of the Community of Democracies is you believe in the democratic process, you believe in individual rights, you do not believe in the overthrow of government, you do not believe in the subversion of government, and we believe in the values that really were the essence of your question.