The war in Iraq could not have been avoided and the United States must stay the course there because Iraqis want democracy, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Friday.
"We can't cut and run," Powell said. "We promised them democracy and we owe them that."
He acknowledged in his speech at Duke University that part of the intelligence leading to the Iraq war was wrong because there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
In a prewar speech to the United Nations, Powell had accused Iraq of harboring such weapons. The speech lent credibility to President George W. Bush's case against Iraq and going to war to remove Saddam Hussein. Powell later said his speech was a blot on his record.
As for post-invasion Iraq, Powell said that if a better job were done when Baghdad fell there might not have been the rise of insurgency that's gripping the nation today.
He said the effort in Iraq will remain a challenge, but added that the terrorist regime is now history.
Powell said that after the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, people got the impression that America was not as friendly, due in part to tighter immigration measures. He said the U.S. had to take such steps, but after a few years he saw that America was paying a price for it. The United States has since made it easier to get visas, Powell said.
America has to show the world that it has not changed, that it is still generous and open, Powell added.
"If we convey to the rest of the world you're not welcome, we don't want you here, then the terrorists are winning," Powell said.
His nearly hour-long speech to several hundred people also touched on his college days, his career in the military and at the State Department, and retirement.
Powell touched briefly on the Summit of the Americas that started Friday in Argentina, where more than 1,000 demonstrators denounced Bush's policies with violent demonstrations.
Democracy is a noisy system and the United States will have to help those nations along, Powell said, AP reported. V.A.