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GW Bush, Press Conference,
[The bold text is bold in the original, as issued by the White House. The yellow highlighting is supplied by the GC.DD editor, and identifies sections bearing on nuclear policy. In response to a query about expanding attacks beyond Afghanistan, GW Bush volunteered about Saddam Hussein that I think its in his advantage to allow inspectors back in his country; and a question about withdrawal from the ABM Treaty elicited an an unforthcoming reply .]
GW Bush, Press Conference,
Q Mr. President, on that note, we understand you have advisors who are urging you to go after Iraq, take out Iraq, Syria and so forth. Do you really think that the American people will tolerate you widening the war beyond Afghanistan? And I have a follow-up. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for warning me. (Laughter.)
Our focus is on Afghanistan, and the terrorist network hiding in Afghanistan, right now. But, as well, were looking for al Qaeda cells around the world. If we find an al Qaeda cell operating, we will urge the host country to bring them to justice. And were having some progress, were making progress.
We -- as I mentioned, Helen, this is a long war against terrorist activity. And the doctrine I spelled out to the American people in front of Congress said not only will we seek out and bring to justice individual terrorists who cause harm to people, to murder people, we will also bring to justice the host governments that sponsor them, that house them and feed them.
You mentioned Iraq. Theres no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know hes been developing weapons of mass destruction. And I think its in his advantage to allow inspectors back in his country to make sure that hes conforming to the agreement he made, after he was soundly trounced in the Gulf War. And so were watching him very carefully. Were watching him carefully.
Your follow-up, please.
Q Its a little offbeat, but -- (laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, I expect an offbeat question, frankly.
Q -- youve met twice in the White House since youve been in office with Prime Minister Sharon. But you have refused to meet with Yasser Arafat. Now that you envision a Palestinian state, will you meet with Arafat and, if so, when?
THE PRESIDENT: I want to assure the American people, in particular our allies who are interested in our position in the Middle East, that were spending a lot of time dealing with the Middle East. I know there was some concern amongst our allies when the September 11th -- right after the September 11th attack, that we would forego any responsibility we have in the Middle East. Secretary of State Powell is doing a great job of staying in contact with both Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon.
I have met with Prime Minister Sharon, and Ive assured him every time weve met that he has no better friend than the United States of America. I also stated the other day that if we ever get into the Mitchell process where we can start discussing a political solution in the Middle East, that I believe there ought to be a Palestinian state, the boundaries of which will be negotiated by the parties, so long as the Palestinian state recognizes the right of Israel to exist and will treat Israel with respect, and will be peaceful on her borders.
Obviously, the events of September 11th have prevented overt diplomacy in the Middle East -- not prevented it, it just made it -- my calendar is a little crowded. On the other hand, I am very much engaged. I have spoken to Prime Minister Sharon again. And if I am convinced that a meeting with a particular party at this point in time will further the process, I will do so. If it turns out to be an empty photo opportunity that creates expectations that will become dashed, I wont meet.
I hope progress is being made. I was pleased to see that Mr. Arafat is trying to control the radical elements within the Palestinian Authority. And I think the world ought to applaud him for that. I hope hes taking measures necessary to reduce the violence in the Middle East, so that we can get into the Mitchell process.
Were working hard on the topic, Helen. Its a very important part of our foreign policy.
Q Mr. President, good evening. Id like to ask you for a more complete portrait of your progress so far. Can you tell the American people, specifically, what is the state of Osama bin Laden? What is the state of the al Qaeda network? Are they on the run? To what extent have you been able to disrupt their activities? Do you believe there are members of those cells still in the United States capable of carrying out terrorist acts? And, again, do you know whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me start backwards. I dont know if hes dead or alive. I want him brought to justice, however. We are following every possible lead to make sure that any al Qaeda member that could be in the United States is brought to justice. The FBI has got thousands of agents who are following every hint of a possibility of an al Qaeda in our country. Were chasing down the leads of -- that have been given to us as a result of the bombing. And were following other leads.
Let me say one thing about the FBI that I think people find interesting. All of us in government are having to adjust our way of thinking about the new war. The military is going to have to adjust. They recognize -- and Secretary Rumsfeld clearly understands this -- that we need to have a -- that we need to rethink how we configure our military -- theres been some stories to that effect -- so that we can more effectively respond to assymetrical responses from terrorist organizations. The FBI must think differently, and Director Mueller is causing them to do so.
The FBI, as you know, spent a lot of manpower and time chasing -- spies in a post-Cold War era. They were still chasing spies. Nothing wrong with that, except we have a new enemy. And now, the FBI is rightly directing resources toward homeland security. Its been an adjustment. And Im proud to report that Director Mueller has adjusted quickly.
I am confident that the al Qaeda organization is moving around Afghanistan. They think they might find safe haven. Not if we think theyre there. And weve got them on the run.
The other day, we brought to justice a person that killed an American citizen in 1986. He was charged with murder. And I made a point of talking about that in a press conference because I wanted not only terrorists to understand, but the American people understand that well be patient, if need be, to bring them to justice. Well find them.
And he thought this -- this is an interesting case in Afghanistan because its -- he thought he had hijacked a country. He actually did for a while. He forced a country to accept his radical thoughts. And it became a safe haven for bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization. Its no longer a safe haven, thats for sure, because our military activity, David.
Q Mr. President, youve tried very hard to assure Americans that the country is safe, and yet your own Vice President has spent most of this week in a secure location. Can you explain why that is, and also how long that will last?
THE PRESIDENT: Sure. I shook hands with the Vice President today in the Oval Office. I welcomed him out of his secure location. (Laughter.) There are some times when the Vice President and I will be together, and sometimes we wont be. We take very seriously the notion of the continuity of government. Its a responsibility we share, to make sure that under situations such as this, when there are possible threats facing our government, that we separate ourselves, for the sake of continuity of our government. And I was pleased to see him. Hes looking swell. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, some critics have expressed doubts about trying to get nations that once sponsored terrorism to now cooperate in the effort against terrorism. Would you share your thinking with us, sir, and is it your view that every sinner should get a chance to redeem himself -- that there is, in effect, an amnesty for nations that once sponsored terrorism if they will now stop and cooperate with us?
THE PRESIDENT: Of course. But our ability to affect host nations harboring terrorists will depend upon our determination, our will, our patience. We are sending a signal to the world as we speak that if you harbor a terrorist, there will be a price to pay.
And there are nations in the world that have expressed a desire to help. Helen mentioned Syria. The Syrians have talked to us about how they can help in the war against terrorism. We take that -- we take that seriously and well give them an opportunity to do so.
Im a performance-oriented person, I believe in results. And if you want to join the coalition against terror, well welcome you in. I have recognized some countries will do things that others wont do. All I ask is for results. If you say you want to join us to cut off money, show us the money. If you say you want to join us militarily, like Great Britain does, do so -- and they have done so in a fashion that should make the people of Great Britain proud. If youre interested in sharing intelligence, share intelligence -- all ways.
I appreciate diplomatic talk, but Im more interested in action and results. I am absolutely determined -- absolutely determined -- to rout terrorism out where it exists and bring them to justice. We learned a good lesson on September the 11th, that there is evil in this world. I know theres a lot of children in America wondering what took place. I think its essential that all moms and dads and citizens tell their children we love them and there is love in the world, but also remind them there are evil people.
And its my duty as the President of the United States to use the resources of this great nation, a freedom-loving nation, a compassionate nation, a nation that understands values of life, and rout terrorism out where it exists. And were going to give plenty of nations a chance to do so.
Q Back to the FBI warning of today, which was based, it said, on certain information that there would be retaliatory attacks over the next several days. Given the complete generality of that warning, what does it really accomplish, aside from scaring people into not doing what youve urged them to do -- getting back to their normal lives -- what should they do with it, and did you personally approve the issuance of that warning?
THE PRESIDENT: Im aware of the intelligence that caused the warning to be issued, and it was a general threat on America. And as I mentioned earlier, had it been a specific threat, we would have contacted those to whom the threat was directed.
But, Terry, I think it is important for the American people to know their government is on full alert. And thats what that warning showed. We take every threat seriously. And the American people shouldnt be surprised that were issuing alerts. After all, on our TV screens the other day, we saw the evil one threatening -- calling for more destruction and death in America. And so we should take these threats seriously. And we had another threat, a general threat. Had it been specific, we would have dealt with the specifics of the threat.
I think the American people should take comfort in the fact that their government is doing everything we possibly can do to run down every possible lead, and take threats -- and we take threats seriously.
I think the American people do understand that after September 11th, that were facing a different world. And they accept that responsibility. They accept that responsibility. There is, I think, some positive news about the American people reacting to what were doing. The load factors on airplanes are increasing. Now, I recognize certain routes have been reduced, but nevertheless, people are getting back on airplanes. Thats important that that be the case. Hotels are getting more customers. Thats important for the working people of the country.
We are getting back to normal. Were doing so with a new sense of awareness. And the warning that went out today helped heighten that sense of awareness.
Q Mr. President, youve said on repeated occasions that youre not into nation-building. Yet, it appears in this case, given the politics of the region, it may play a crucial role in resolving this crisis. Prime Minister Blair of Britain has said that the coalition, if the Taliban falls, will work to create a broadly-based government. Im wondering, sir, has that become a priority of your administration now, to devise a plan for a new government in Afghanistan? And what part might King Zaher Shah play in that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think its -- John, its a -- first let me reiterate, my focus is bringing al Qaeda to justice and saying to the host government, you had your chance to deliver. Actually, I will say it again -- if you cough him up, and his people, today, that well reconsider what were doing to your country. You still have a second chance. Bring him in. And bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him.
I think we did learn a lesson, however, from -- and should learn a lesson -- from the previous engagement in the Afghan area, that we should not just simply leave after a military objective has been achieved. Thats why -- and I sent that signal by announcing that were going to spend $320 million of aid to the Afghan people. Thats up from roughly $170 million this year.
I personally think that a -- and I appreciate Tony Blairs -- and Ive discussed this with him -- his vision about Afghan after were successful -- Afghanistan after were successful. One of the things weve got to make sure of is that all parties, all interested parties have an opportunity to be a part of a new government; that we shouldnt play favorites between one group or another within Afghanistan.
Secondly, weve got to work for a stable Afghanistan so that her neighbors dont fear terrorist activity again coming out of that country. Third, it would be helpful, of course, to eradicate narco-trafficking out of Afghanistan, as well.
I believe that the United Nations would -- could provide the framework necessary to help meet those conditions. It would be a useful function for the United Nations to take over the so-called "nation-building," -- I would call it the stabilization of a future government -- after our military mission is complete. Well participate; other countries will participate. Ive talked to many countries will participate. Ive talked to many countries that are interested in making sure that the post-operations Afghanistan is one that is stable, and one that doesnt become yet again a haven for terrorist criminals.
Q Mr. President, Im sure many Americans are wondering where all this will lead. And youve called upon the country to go back to business and to go back to normal. But you havent called for any sacrifices from the American people. And I wonder, do you feel that any will be needed? Are you planning to call for any? And do you think that American life will really go back to the way it was on September 10th?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, I think the American people are sacrificing now. I think theyre waiting in airport lines longer than theyve ever had before. I think that -- I think theres a certain sacrifice when you lose a piece of your soul. And Americans -- I was standing up there at the Pentagon today, and I saw the tears of the families whose lives were lost in the Pentagon. And I said in my talk there that America prays with you. I think theres a sacrifice, theres a certain sense of giving themselves to share their grief with people theyll never, maybe, ever see in their lives.
So America is sacrificing. America -- I think the interesting thing that has happened, and this is so sad an incident, but there are some positive things developed -- that are developing. One is, I believe that many people are reassessing whats important in life. Moms and dads are not only reassessing their marriage and the importance of their marriage, but of the necessity of loving their children like never before. I think thats one of the positives that have come from the evildoers.
The evil ones have sparked an interesting change in America, I think -- a compassion in our country that is overflowing. I know their intended act was to destroy us and make us cowards and make us not want to respond. But quite the opposite has happened -- our nation is united, we are strong, were compassionate; neighbors care about neighbors.
The story I talked about earlier was one that really touched my heart, about women of cover fearing to leave their homes. And there was such an outpouring of compassion for people within our own country, a recognition that the Islamic faith should stand side by side, hand to hand with the Jewish faith and the Christian faith in our great land. It is such a wonderful example.
You know, Im asked all the time -- Ill ask myself a question. (Laughter.) How do I respond to -- its an old trick -- (laughter) -- how do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? Ill tell you how I respond: Im amazed. Im amazed that there is such misunderstanding of what our country is about, that people would hate us. I am, I am -- like most Americans, I just cant believe it. Because I know how good we are, and weve go to do a better job of making our case. Weve got to do a better job of explaining to the people in the Middle East, for example, that we dont fight a war against Islam or Muslims. We dont hold any religion accountable. Were fighting evil. And these murderers have hijacked a great religion in order to justify their evil deeds. And we cannot let it stand.
Q Mr. President, you have spoken with great pride of this international coalition. I want to ask you, before the events of September 11th, one of the big questions you faced this fall was, would you violate the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and go ahead with the missile defense plan if Russia did not strike a deal? Will you do that now because Russias cooperation is so important? And, separately, but related, are you disappointed that while there have been some statements of support from the Muslim world and the Arab world, that there have not been more vocal and repeated statements agreeing with you that this is a war against terrorism, not Islam?
THE PRESIDENT: John, let me start with the latter part. I was heartened by the Organization of Islamic Conferences statement of support for our war against terror. I think that that statement spoke volumes about the attitude of Muslim nations, and I was pleased to see that support.
Some coalition members will feel more comfortable doing certain things than other coalition members will. And my attitude is, and the attitude of my administration is, well accept any help that a government is comfortable in giving. And we should not try to force governments to do something that they cant do. Any help is better than no help.
And so, I am so appreciative of the help were getting in the Middle East. Somebody asked me the other day, was I pleased with the actions of Saudi Arabia. I am. I appreciate the actions of that government.
In terms of missile defense, I cant wait to visit with my friend, Vladimir Putin, in Shanghai, to reiterate once again that the Cold War is over, its done with, and that there are new threats that we face; and no better example of that new threat than the attack on America on September 11th.
And Im going to ask my friend to envision a world in which a terrorist thug and/or a host nation might have the ability to develop -- to deliver a weapon of mass destruction via a -- via rocket. And wouldnt it be in our nations advantage to be able to shoot it down? At the very least, it should be in our nations advantage to determine whether we can shoot it down. And were restricted from doing that because of an ABM Treaty that was signed during a totally different era.
The case cannot be even -- the case is more strong today than it was on September 10th that the ABM is outmoded, outdated, reflects a different time. And Im more than -- I am more than anxious to continue making my case to them. And we will do whats right in regards --
Q -- not agree, would you withdraw this year?
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, I have trouble hearing John.
Q If he does not agree with you, would you withdraw from the ABM Treaty this year?
THE PRESIDENT: I have told Mr. Putin that the ABM Treaty is outdated, antiquated and useless. And I hope that he will join us in a new strategic relationship.
One more question, please.
Q You talk about the general threat toward Americans. You know, the Internet is crowded with all sorts of rumor and gossip and, kind of, urban myths. And people ask, what is it theyre supposed to be on the lookout for? Other than the 22 most wanted terrorists, what are Americans supposed to look for and report to the police or to the FBI?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Ann, you know, if you find a person that youve never seen before getting in a crop duster that doesnt belong to you -- (laughter) -- report it. (Laughter.) If you see suspicious people lurking around petrochemical plants, report it to law enforcement.
I mean, people need to be logical. Now, listen, I want to urge my fellow Americans not to use this as an opportunity to pick on somebody that doesnt look like you, or doesnt share your religion. The thing that makes our nation so strong and that will ultimately defeat terrorist activity is our willingness to tolerate people of different faiths, different opinions, different colors within the fabric of our society.
And so I would urge my fellow Americans, obviously, if they see something suspicious, abnormal, something that looks threatening, report it to local law enforcement.
Let me conclude by one final statement. Thank you all for coming. Before we leave, I want to make a special request to the children of America. I ask you to join in a special effort to help the children of Afghanistan. Their country has been through a great deal of war and suffering. Many children there are starving and are severely malnourished. One in three Afghan children is an orphan. Almost half suffer chronic malnutrition. And we can, and must, help them.
Weve created a special relief effort that will be supervised by the Red Cross. We are asking every child in America to earn or give a dollar that will be used to provide food and medical help for the children of Afghanistan. You can send your dollar in an envelope, marked "Americas Fund for Afghan Children," right here to the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.
This is an opportunity to help others, while teaching our own children a valuable lesson about service and character. I hope school classes or Boys and Girl Scout troops, other youth organizations will participate in any way to raise the money to send to the children. Wash your car. Do a yard for a neighbor. And I hope the adults will help them, as well.
Ultimately, one of the best weapons, one of the truest weapons that we have against terrorism is to show the world the true strength of character and kindness of the American people. Americans are united in this fight against terrorism. Were also united in our concern for the innocent people of Afghanistan. Winter is coming, and by acting today we can help the children survive.
Thank you for your questions. May God bless America.
END 8:44 P.M. EDT
[Source: White House Press Office. http://www.whitehouse.gov/ news/releases/2001/10/ 20011011-7.html]