By Tom Brokaw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/16/2004 6:57:33 PM ET 2004-03-16T23:57:33

Secretary of State Colin Powell is in India headed for Pakistan and other states in the area one year after the war against Iraq began.

Before he left I asked whether all of the alarms before the war — about the possibility of nuclear weapons — even the phrase "a mushroom cloud" from national security adviser Condoleeza Rice — and Powell's comments to the United Nations about biological weapons labs amounted to a bait-and-switch to get support for the war.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell: It wasn’t a bait-and-switch. The information that I presented at the United Nations on the 5th of February reflected the best judgment of the intelligence community. It wasn’t something we made up here in the State Department.  It came from the intelligence community. And so we haven’t found stockpiles.  And they may yet turn up.  We haven’t found them yet, and that’s just the reality. But the reality is also that Saddam Hussein never lost his intention to have such weapons. 

Tom Brokaw: But David Kay, who was one of the weapons inspectors over there, one of his conclusions was: They found no evidence of the production facilities for those.

Powell: David Kay said he’s found no evidence that there are stockpiles.  But I think there is evidence that there is dual-use capability in their industrial base that could rapidly return to this kind of activity.  But there was nothing intending to be misleading about any of this. It was the best information we had.

Brokaw: When you go now and meet with your counterparts in Europe or anywhere in the world and talk about American intelligence, aren’t they going to look at you a great deal more skeptically than they have in the past?

Powell: The intelligence community didn’t do badly when it discovered what Libya was doing — and finally created a set of circumstances in the intelligence community of conducting discussions with Libya. It got Libya to turn over its weapons of mass destruction. It was the intelligence community that generated a great deal of the information with respect to Dr. A.Q. Kahn and his proliferating activities. So the intelligence community that we have is a good one.  It’s a solid one.

Brokaw: There was a recent Associated Press poll just earlier this month that said: A majority of the people living in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and Spain, all had an unfavorable view of the United States and particularly of President Bush and his role in the world.

Powell: I think we’ll close that gap as we move forward.  Iraq was a very difficult issue for many nations — and for people in many nations.  I mean some of the countries you mentioned, they were for us, and they were part of the coalition, even though there was popular discontent against the decision.  But we did the right thing.

Brokaw: One of your former military colleagues, Gen. Anthony Zinni, who ran Central Command in that part of the world, said he believes that there will be a civil war in Iraq by July once we pull out.

Powell: Well, we’re not pulling out.

Brokaw: Not militarily, but politically.

Powell: Well, we’re not pulling out politically, either.  We are giving sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. And we will have a significant diplomatic and political presence in Baghdad. 

Brokaw: And no civil war?

Powell: Well, I don’t expect a civil war.  I expect that the Iraqi people will understand that this is the time for them to build a democracy and go forward.

Brokaw: If President Bush is re-elected, as you indicated you think he will be, will you tell him you want to stay on as secretary of state?

Powell: Oh, he’ll be re-elected.  I’m confident. And I serve at the pleasure of the president.  I have both feet in this department.

Brokaw: I know that you serve at his pleasure. But do you want to stay?

Powell: I serve at his pleasure. That’s the only answer one can give to this question, Tom.

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