Colin Powell: U.S. Should Not ‘Single Out Just Muslims as Being Bad’

WASHINGTON – Using the war in Libya and the conflict in Syria as examples, former Secretary of State Colin Powell cautioned against U.S.-backed regime changes.

Touching upon the debate surrounding U.S. immigration from the Middle East, Powell said Muslims should not be “singled out” as threats.

“You better be careful because – and I have considerable experience with this – just taking out the regime doesn’t necessarily fix the problem. And especially in the post-Cold War world I saw this over and over where you had a pressure cooker that you have kept the pressure inside for the last 60 years, because of the Cold War strategy and because we knew there was a Soviet Union we had to deal with and there was a NATO and there was an Atlantic alliance,” he said at the International Bar Association conference last week.

Powell said the U.S. military intervention in support of the Libyans’ Arab Spring revolution, supported by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of State, led to the death of Moammar Gadhafi but resulted in chaos.

“Now we have chaos because there was no plan to do anything for the Libyans or with Libya,” he said.

“As I have said to my old bosses, President Bush and others, be careful what you do. Remember if you take out a regime you become the new regime until you can figure out a way to pass it on to the people who live there,” he added.

Powell also pointed to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president but the Muslim Brotherhood won the subsequent election and “now we have another general in charge” in Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

He called ISIS a dangerous movement that cannot be stopped solely by bombs.

“We can’t just fight it by dropping bombs on it or retaking ground. As we have seen in recent months, ISIS is not just fighting us in Iraq and Syria, it is now surfacing in Europe, it is now surfacing in other parts of the country in the form of terrorism,” he said.

Powell predicted that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not be removed from power anytime soon and suggested a ceasefire.

“With the support of the Russians and others, he has remained in power and I see no process, no possibility in the near future that will remove him from power. And so we better find a way to see if we can bring this horrible war to some kind of stalemate or ceasefire or something,” he said.

“So it seems to me without worrying about Assad or any of the other little pieces of this, we ought to do everything we can to get a ceasefire in place because hundreds of thousands of people are suffering and every morning when I turn on the television and see the cities being destroyed – those are people’s homes, people’s factories, people’s offices, schools, hospitals – and I would be trying to see if we can get all parties to simply stop the fighting right now while we figure out politically what to do, but it won’t work if we simply say Assad must go,” he added.