While Powell ultimately supported the president's decision to invade Iraq, he acknowledges that he was hesitant about waging war. "I'm always a reluctant warrior. And I don't resent the term, I admire the term, but when the president decided that it was not tolerable for this regime to remain in violation of all these U.N. resolutions, I'm right there with him with the use of force," he said.
Powell told Walters he is unfazed by criticism that he put loyalty to the president over leadership. "Loyalty is a trait that I value, and yes, I am loyal. And there are some who say, 'Well, you shouldn't have supported it. You should have resigned.' But I'm glad that Saddam Hussein is gone. I'm glad that that regime is gone," he said.
When Walters pressed Powell about that support, given the "mess" that the invasion has yielded, Powell said, "Who knew what the whole mess was going to be like?"
While he said he is glad that Saddam's regime was toppled, Powell acknowledged that he has seen no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorist attack. "I have never seen a connection. ... I can't think otherwise because I'd never seen evidence to suggest there was one," he told Walters.
Despite his differences with the administration, Powell said he never considered resigning in protest. "I'm not a quitter. And it wasn't a moral issue, or an act of a failure of an active leadership. It was knowing what we were heading into, and when the going got rough, you don't walk out," he told Walters.
When asked what steps he would take in Iraq, Powell said, "I think there is little choice but to keep investing in the Iraqi armed forces, and to do everything we can to increase their size and their capability and their strength," he said.
Still, he questions some of the administration's post-invasion planning. "What we didn't do in the immediate aftermath of the war was to impose our will on the whole country, with enough troops of our own, with enough troops from coalition forces, or, by re-creating the Iraqi forces, armed forces, more quickly than we are doing now. And it may not have turned out to be such a mess if we had done some things differently. But it is now a difficult situation, but difficult situations are there to be worked on and solved, not walked away from, not cutting and running from."
Powell said he is sensitive to Cindy Sheehan and other mothers and family members whose loved ones have been wounded or killed in Iraq, but stressed that soldiers are risking their lives for a worthy purpose. When asked what he would say to Sheehan, who has grabbed media attention with her daily anti-war protests near Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, he told Walters he'd tell her what he'd tell any mother who suffered such a loss: "We regret the loss, but your loved one died in service to the nation and in service to the cause."
He acknowledged that the pain of losing a loved one would be heightened if a family feels the war is unjust. "If they don't feel the war is just, then they'll always feel that it is a deep personal loss and I sympathize with Ms. Sheehan. But this is not over. This conflict is not over, and the alternative to what I just described is essentially saying, 'Nevermind, we're leaving.' And I don't think that is an option for the United States."