George Bush Discusses Iraq in National Press Conference
The East Room 8:02 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. I'm pleased to take
your questions tonight, and to discuss with the
American people the serious matters facing our country
and the world.
This has been an important week on two fronts on
our war against terror. First, thanks to the hard
work of American and Pakistani officials, we captured
the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks
against our nation. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed conceived
and planned the hijackings and directed the actions
of the hijackers. We believe his capture will further
disrupt the terror network and their planning for
Second, we have arrived at an important moment in
confronting the threat posed to our nation and to
peace by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of terror.
In New York tomorrow, the United Nations Security
Council will receive an update from the chief weapons
inspector. The world needs him to answer a single
question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally
disarmed, as required by Resolution 1441, or has
Iraq's dictator has made a public show of producing
and destroying a few missiles -- missiles that violate
the restrictions set out more than 10 years ago.
Yet, our intelligence shows that even as he is destroying
these few missiles, he has ordered the continued
production of the very same type of missiles.
Iraqi operatives continue to hide biological and
chemical agents to avoid detection by inspectors.
In some cases, these materials have been moved to
different locations every 12 to 24 hours, or placed
in vehicles that are in residential neighborhoods.
We know from multiple intelligence sources that
Iraqi weapons scientists continue to be threatened
with harm should they cooperate with U.N. inspectors.
Scientists are required by Iraqi intelligence to
wear concealed recording devices during interviews,
and hotels where interviews take place are bugged
by the regime.
These are not the actions of a regime that is disarming.
These are the actions of a regime engaged in a willful
charade. These are the actions of a regime that
systematically and deliberately is defying the world.
If the Iraqi regime were disarming, we would know
it, because we would see it. Iraq's weapons would
be presented to inspectors, and the world would
witness their destruction. Instead, with the world
demanding disarmament, and more than 200,000 troops
positioned near his country, Saddam Hussein's response
is to produce a few weapons for show, while he hides
the rest and builds even more.
Inspection teams do not need more time, or more
personnel. All they need is what they have never
received -- the full cooperation of the Iraqi regime.
Token gestures are not acceptable. The only acceptable
outcome is the one already defined by a unanimous
vote of the Security Council -- total disarmament.
Great Britain, Spain, and the United States have
introduced a new resolution stating that Iraq has
failed to meet the requirements of Resolution 1441.
Saddam Hussein is not disarming. This is a fact.
It cannot be denied.
Saddam Hussein has a long history of reckless aggression
and terrible crimes. He possesses weapons of terror.
He provides funding and training and safe haven
to terrorists -- terrorists who would willingly
use weapons of mass destruction against America
and other peace-loving countries. Saddam Hussein
and his weapons are a direct threat to this country,
to our people, and to all free people.
If the world fails to confront the threat posed
by the Iraqi regime, refusing to use force, even
as a last resort, free nations would assume immense
and unacceptable risks. The attacks of September
the 11th, 2001 showed what the enemies of America
did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see
what terrorists or terrorist states could do with
weapons of mass destruction.
We are determined to confront threats wherever they
arise. I will not leave the American people at the
mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.
In the event of conflict, America also accepts our
responsibility to protect innocent lives in every
way possible. We'll bring food and medicine to the
Iraqi people. We'll help that nation to build a
just government, after decades of brutal dictatorship.
The form and leadership of that government is for
the Iraqi people to choose. Anything they choose
will be better than the misery and torture and murder
they have known under Saddam Hussein.
Across the world and in every part of America, people
of goodwill are hoping and praying for peace. Our
goal is peace -- for our nation, for our friends
and allies, for the people of the Middle East. People
of goodwill must also recognize that allowing a
dangerous dictator to defy the world and harbor
weapons of mass murder and terror is not peace at
all; it is pretense. The cause of peace will be
advanced only when the terrorists lose a wealthy
patron and protector, and when the dictator is fully
and finally disarmed.
Tonight I thank the men and women of our armed services
and their families. I know their deployment so far
from home is causing hardship for many military
families. Our nation is deeply grateful to all who
serve in uniform. We appreciate your commitment,
your idealism, and your sacrifice. We support you,
and we know that if peace must be defended, you
Q Let me see if I can further -- if you could further
define what you just called this important moment
we're in, since you've made it clear just now that
you don't think Saddam has disarmed, and we have
a quarter million troops in the Persian Gulf, and
now that you've called on the world to be ready
to use force as a last resort. Are we just days
away from the point of which you decide whether
or not we go to war? And what harm would it do to
give Saddam a final ultimatum? A two- or three-day
deadline to disarm or face force?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're still in the final stages
of diplomacy. I'm spending a lot of time on the
phone, talking to fellow leaders about the need
for the United Nations Security Council to state
the facts, which is Saddam Hussein hasn't disarmed.
Fourteen forty-one, the Security Council resolution
passed unanimously last fall, said clearly that
Saddam Hussein has one last chance to disarm. He
hasn't disarmed. And so we're working with Security
Council members to resolve this issue at the Security
This is not only an important moment for the security
of our nation, I believe it's an important moment
for the Security Council, itself. And the reason
I say that is because this issue has been before
the Security Council -- the issue of disarmament
of Iraq -- for 12 long years. And the fundamental
question facing the Security Council is, will its
words mean anything? When the Security Council speaks,
will the words have merit and weight?
I think it's important for those words to have merit
and weight, because I understand that in order to
win the war against terror there must be a united
effort to do so; we must work together to defeat
Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Iraq is a country
that has got terrorist ties. It's a country with
wealth. It's a country that trains terrorists, a
country that could arm terrorists. And our fellow
Americans must understand in this new war against
terror, that we not only must chase down al Qaeda
terrorists, we must deal with weapons of mass destruction,
That's what the United Nations Security Council
has been talking about for 12 long years. It's now
time for this issue to come to a head at the Security
Council, and it will. As far as ultimatums and all
the speculation about what may or may not happen,
after next week, we'll just wait and see.
Q Are we days away?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're days away from resolving
this issue at the Security Council.
Q Thank you. Another hot spot is North Korea. If
North Korea restarts their plutonium plant, will
that change your thinking about how to handle this
crisis, or are you resigned to North Korea becoming
a nuclear power?
THE PRESIDENT: This is a regional issue. I say a
regional issue because there's a lot of countries
that have got a direct stake into whether or not
North Korea has nuclear weapons. We've got a stake
as to whether North Korea has a nuclear weapon.
China clearly has a stake as to whether or not North
Korea has a nuclear weapon. South Korea, of course,
has a stake. Japan has got a significant stake as
to whether or not North Korea has a nuclear weapon.
Russia has a stake.
So, therefore, I think the best way to deal with
this is in multilateral fashion, by convincing those
nations they must stand up to their responsibility,
along with the United States, to convince Kim Jong-il
that the development of a nuclear arsenal is not
in his nation's interest; and that should he want
help in easing the suffering of the North Korean
people, the best way to achieve that help is to
not proceed forward.
We've tried bilateral negotiations with North Korea.
My predecessor, in a good-faith effort, entered
into a framework agreement. The United States honored
its side of the agreement; North Korea didn't. While
we felt the agreement was in force, North Korea
was enriching uranium.
In my judgment, the best way to deal with North
Korea is convince parties to assume their responsibility.
I was heartened by the fact that Jiang Zemin, when
he came to Crawford, Texas, made it very clear to
me and publicly, as well, that a nuclear weapons-free
peninsula was in China's interest. And so we're
working with China and the other nations I mentioned
to bring a multilateral pressure and to convince
Kim Jong-il that the development of a nuclear arsenal
is not in his interests.
Q Mr. President, you have, and your top advisors
-- notably, Secretary of State Powell -- have repeatedly
said that we have shared with our allies all the
current, up-to-date intelligence information that
proves the imminence of the threat we face from
Saddam Hussein, and that they have been sharing
their intelligence with us, as well. If all these
nations, all of them our normal allies, have access
to the same intelligence information, why is it
that they are reluctant to think that the threat
is so real, so imminent that we need to move to
the brink of war now?
And in relation to that, today, the British Foreign
Minister, Jack Straw, suggested at the U.N. that
it might be time to look at amending the resolution,
perhaps with an eye towards a timetable like that
proposed by the Canadians some two weeks ago, that
would set a firm deadline to give Saddam Hussein
a little bit of time to come clean. And also, obviously,
that would give you a little bit of a chance to
build more support within the members of the Security
Council. Is that something that the governments
should be pursuing at the U.N. rightnow?
THE PRESIDENT: We, of course, are consulting with
our allies at the United Nations. But I meant what
I said, this is the last phase of diplomacy. A little
bit more time? Saddam Hussein has had 12 years to
disarm. He is deceiving people. This is what's important
for our fellow citizens to realize; that if he really
intended to disarm, like the world has asked him
to do, we would know whether he was disarming. He's
trying to buy time. I can understand why -- he's
been successful with these tactics for 12 years.
Saddam Hussein is a threat to our nation. September
the 11th changed the strategic thinking, at least,
as far as I was concerned, for how to protect our
country. My job is to protect the American people.
It used to be that we could think that you could
contain a person like Saddam Hussein, that oceans
would protect us from his type of terror. September
the 11th should say to the American people that
we're now a battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction
in the hands of a terrorist organization could be
deployed here at home.
So, therefore, I think the threat is real. And so
do a lot of other people in my government. And since
I believe the threat is real, and since my most
important job is to protect the security of the
American people, that's precisely what we'll do.
Our demands are that Saddam Hussein disarm. We hope
he does. We have worked with the international community
to convince him to disarm. If he doesn't disarm,
we'll disarm him.
You asked about sharing of intelligence, and I appreciate
that, because we do share a lot of intelligence
with nations which may or may not agree with us
in the Security Council as to how to deal with Saddam
Hussein and his threats. We have got roughly 90
countries engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom,
chasing down the terrorists.
We do communicate a lot, and we will continue to
communicate a lot. We must communicate. We must
share intelligence; we must share -- we must cut
off money together; we must smoke these al Qaeda
types out one at a time. It's in our national interest,
as well, that we deal with Saddam Hussein.
But America is not alone in this sentiment. There
are a lot of countries who fully understand the
threat of Saddam Hussein. A lot of countries realize
that the credibility of the Security Council is
at stake -- a lot of countries, like America, who
hope that he would have disarmed, and a lot of countries
which realize that it may require force -- may require
force -- to disarm him.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, if you haven't
already made the choice to go to war, can you tell
us what you are waiting to hear or see before you
do make that decision? And if I may, during the
recent demonstrations, many of the protestors suggested
that the U.S. was a threat to peace, which prompted
you to wonder out loud why they didn't see Saddam
Hussein as a threat to peace. I wonder why you think
so many people around the world take a different
view of the threat that Saddam Hussein poses than
you and your allies.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I -- I appreciate societies
in which people can express their opinion. That
society -- free speech stands in stark contrast
Secondly, I've seen all kinds of protests since
I've been the President. I remember the protests
against trade. A lot of people didn't feel like
free trade was good for the world. I completely
disagree. I think free trade is good for both wealthy
and impoverished nations. But that didn't change
my opinion about trade. As a matter of fact, I went
to the Congress to get trade promotion authority
I recognize there are people who -- who don't like
war. I don't like war. I wish that Saddam Hussein
had listened to the demands of the world and disarmed.
That was my hope. That's why I first went to the
United Nations to begin with, on September the 12th,
2002, to address this issue as forthrightly as I
knew how. That's why, months later, we went to the
Security Council to get another resolution, called
1441, which was unanimously approved by the Security
Council, demanding that Saddam Hussein disarm.
I'm hopeful that he does disarm. But, in the name
of peace and the security of our people, if he won't
do so voluntarily, we will disarm him. And other
nations will join him -- join us in disarming him.
And that creates a certain sense of anxiety; I understand
that. Nobody likes war. The only thing I can do
is assure the loved ones of those who wear our uniform
that if we have to go to war, if war is upon us
because Saddam Hussein has made that choice, we
will have the best equipment available for our troops,
the best plan available for victory, and we will
respect innocent life in Iraq.
The risk of doing nothing, the risk of hoping that
Saddam Hussein changes his mind and becomes a gentle
soul, the risk that somehow -- that inaction will
make the world safer, is a risk I'm not willing
to take for the American people.
We'll be there in a minute. King, John King. This
is a scripted -- (laughter.)
Q Thank you, Mr. President. How would -- sir, how
would you answer your critics who say that they
think this is somehow personal? As Senator Kennedy
put it tonight, he said your fixation with Saddam
Hussein is making the world a more dangerous place.
And as you prepare the American people for the possibility
of military conflict, could you share with us any
of the scenarios your advisors have shared with
you about worse-case scenarios, in terms of the
potential cost of American lives, the potential
cost to the American economy, and the potential
risks of retaliatory terrorist strikes here at home?
THE PRESIDENT: My job is to protect America, and
that is exactly what I'm going to do. People can
ascribe all kinds of intentions. I swore to protect
and defend the Constitution; that's what I swore
to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that
oath, and that's exactly what I am going to do.
I believe Saddam Hussein is a threat to the American
people. I believe he's a threat to the neighborhood
in which he lives. And I've got a good evidence
to believe that. He has weapons of mass destruction,
and he has used weapons of mass destruction, in
his neighborhood and on his own people. He's invaded
countries in his neighborhood. He tortures his own
people. He's a murderer. He has trained and financed
al Qaeda-type organizations before, al Qaeda and
other terrorist organizations. I take the threat
seriously, and I'll deal with the threat. I hope
it can be done peacefully.
The rest of your six-point question?
Q The potential price in terms of lives and the
THE PRESIDENT: The price of doing nothing exceeds
the price of taking action, if we have to. We'll
do everything we can to minimize the loss of life.
The price of the attacks on America, the cost of
the attacks on America on September the 11th were
enormous. They were significant. And I am not willing
to take that chance again, John.
Q Thank you, sir. May I follow up on Jim Angle's
question? In the past several weeks, your policy
on Iraq has generated opposition from the governments
of France, Russia, China, Germany, Turkey, the Arab
League and many other countries, opened a rift at
NATO and at the U.N., and drawn millions of ordinary
citizens around the world into the streets in anti-war
protests. May I ask, what went wrong that so many
governments and people around the world now not
only disagree with you very strongly, but see the
U.S. under your leadership as an arrogant power?
THE PRESIDENT: I think if you remember back prior
to the resolution coming out of the United Nations
last fall, I suspect you might have asked a question
along those lines -- how come you can't get anybody
to support your resolution. If I remember correctly,
there was a lot of doubt as to whether or not we
were even going to get any votes, much -- well,
we'd get our own, of course. And the vote came out
15 to nothing, Terry. And I think you'll see when
it's all said and done, if we have to use force,
a lot of nations will be with us.
You clearly named some that -- France and Germany
expressed their opinions. We have a disagreement
over how best to deal with Saddam Hussein. I understand
that. Having said that, they're still our friends
and we will deal with them as friends. We've got
a lot of common interests. Our transatlantic relationships
are very important. While they may disagree with
how we deal with Saddam Hussein and his weapons
of mass destruction, there's no disagreement when
it came time to vote on 1441, at least as far as
France was concerned. They joined us. They said
Saddam Hussein has one last chance of disarming.
If they think more time will cause him to disarm,
I disagree with that.
He's a master at deception. He has no intention
of disarming -- otherwise, we would have known.
There's a lot of talk about inspectors. It really
would have taken a handful of inspectors to determine
whether he was disarming -- they could have showed
up at a parking lot and he could have brought his
weapons and destroyed them. That's not what he chose
Secondly, I make my decisions based upon the oath
I took, the one I just described to you. I believe
Saddam Hussein is a threat -- is a threat to the
American people. He's a threat to people in his
neighborhood. He's also a threat to the Iraqi people.
One of the things we love in America is freedom.
If I may, I'd like to remind you what I said at
the State of the Union: liberty is not America's
gift to the world, it is God's gift to each and
every person. And that's what I believe. I believe
that when we see totalitarianism, that we must deal
with it. We don't have to do it always militarily.
But this is a unique circumstance, because of 12
years of denial and defiance, because of terrorist
connections, because of past history.
I'm convinced that a liberated Iraq will be -- will
be important for that troubled part of the world.
The Iraqi people are plenty capable of governing
themselves. Iraq is a sophisticated society. Iraq's
got money. Iraq will provide a place where people
can see that the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds
can get along in a federation. Iraq will serve as
a catalyst for change, positive change.
So there's a lot more at stake than just American
security, and the security of people close by Saddam
Hussein. Freedom is at stake, as well, and I take
that very seriously.
Q Mr. President, good evening. If you order war,
can any military operation be considered a success
if the United States does not capture Saddam Hussein,
as you once said, dead or alive?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I hope we don't have to go
to war, but if we go to war, we will disarm Iraq.
And if we go to war, there will be a regime change.
And replacing this cancer inside of Iraq will be
a government that represents the rights of all the
people, a government which represents the voices
of the Shia and Sunni and the Kurds.
We care about the suffering of the Iraqi people.
I mentioned in my opening comments that there's
a lot of food ready to go in. There's something
like 55,000 oil-for-food distribution points in
Iraq. We know where they are. We fully intend to
make sure that they're -- got ample food. We know
where their hospitals are; we want to make sure
they've got ample medical supplies. The life of
the Iraqi citizen is going to dramatically improve.
Q Sir, I'm sorry, is success contingent upon capturing
or killing Saddam Hussein, in your mind?
THE PRESIDENT: We will be changing the regime of
Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people.
Q Mr. President, to a lot of people, it seems that
war is probably inevitable, because many people
doubt -- most people, I would guess -- that Saddam
Hussein will ever do what we are demanding that
he do, which is disarm. And if war is inevitable,
there are a lot of people in this country -- as
much as half, by polling standards -- who agree
that he should be disarmed, who listen to you say
that you have the evidence, but who feel they haven't
seen it, and who still wonder why blood has to be
shed if he hasn't attacked us.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Bill, if they believe he should
be disarmed, and he's not going to disarm, there's
only one way to disarm him. And that happens to
be my last choice -- the use of force.
Secondly, the American people know that Saddam Hussein
has weapons of mass destruction. By the way, he
declared he didn't have any -- 1441 insisted that
he have a complete declaration of his weapons; he
said he didn't have any weapons. Secondly, he's
used these weapons before. I mean, this is -- we're
not speculating about the nature of the man. We
know the nature of the man.
Colin Powell, in an eloquent address to the United
Nations, described some of the information we were
at liberty of talking about. He mentioned a man
named Al Zarqawi, who was in charge of the poison
network. He's a man who was wounded in Afghanistan,
received aid in Baghdad, ordered the killing of
a U.S. citizen, USAID employee, was harbored in
Iraq. There is a poison plant in Northeast Iraq.
To assume that Saddam Hussein knew none of this
was going on is not to really understand the nature
of the Iraqi society.
There's a lot of facts which make it clear to me
and many others that Saddam is a threat. And we're
not going to wait until he does attack. We're not
going to hope that he changes his attitude. We're
not going to assume that he's a different kind of
person than he has been.
So, in the name of security and peace, if we have
to -- if we have to -- we'll disarm him. I hope
he disarms. Or, perhaps, I hope he leaves the country.
I hear a lot of talk from different nations around
where Saddam Hussein might be exiled. That would
be fine with me -- just so long as Iraq disarms
after he's exiled.
Let's see here. Elizabeth.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. As you said, the Security
Council faces a vote next week on a resolution implicitly
authorizing an attack on Iraq. Will you call for
a vote on that resolution, even if you aren't sure
you have the vote?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I don't think -- it
basically says that he's in defiance of 1441. That's
what the resolution says. And it's hard to believe
anybody is saying he isn't in defiance of 1441,
because 1441 said he must disarm. And, yes, we'll
call for a vote.
Q No matter what?
THE PRESIDENT: No matter what the whip count is,
we're calling for the vote. We want to see people
stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam
Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security
Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to
show their cards, to let the world know where they
stand when it comes to Saddam.
Q Mr. President, are you worried that the United
States might be viewed as defiant of the United
Nations if you went ahead with military action without
specific and explicit authorization from the U.N.?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not worried about that. As
a matter of fact, it's hard to say the United States
is defiant about the United Nations, when I was
the person that took the issue to the United Nations,
September the 12th, 2002. We've been working with
the United Nations. We've been working through the
Secondly, I'm confident the American people understand
that when it comes to our security, if we need to
act, we will act, and we really don't need United
Nations approval to do so. I want to work -- I want
the United Nations to be effective. It's important
for it to be a robust, capable body. It's important
for it's words to mean what they say, and as we
head into the 21st century, Mark, when it comes
to our security, we really don't need anybody's
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Even though our military
can certainly prevail without a northern front,
isn't Turkey making it at least slightly more challenging
for us, and therefore, at least slightly more likely
that American lives will be lost? And if they don't
reverse course, would you stop backing their entry
into the European Union?
THE PRESIDENT: The answer to your second question
is, I support Turkey going into the E.U. Turkey's
a friend. They're a NATO ally. We will continue
to work with Turkey. We've got contingencies in
place that, should our troops not come through Turkey
-- not be allowed to come through Turkey. And, no,
that won't cause any more hardship for our troops;
I'm confident of that.
April. Did you have a question, or did I call upon
Q Oh, I have a question. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I'm sure you do have a question.
Q Mr. President, as the nation is at odds over war,
with many organizations like the Congressional Black
Caucus pushing for continued diplomacy through the
U.N., how is your faith guiding you? And what should
you tell America -- well, what should America do,
collectively, as you instructed before 9/11? Should
it be "pray?" Because you're saying, let's
continue the war on terror.
THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that question a lot.
First, for those who urge more diplomacy, I would
simply say that diplomacy hasn't worked. We've tried
diplomacy for 12 years. Saddam Hussein hasn't disarmed,
And we live in a dangerous world. We live in new
circumstances in our country. And I hope people
remember the -- I know they remember the tragedy
of September the 11th, but I hope they understand
the lesson of September the 11th. The lesson is,
is that we're vulnerable to attack, wherever it
may occur, and we must take threats which gather
overseas very seriously. We don't have to deal with
them all militarily. But we must deal with them.
And in the case of Iraq, it is now time for him
to disarm. For the sake of peace, if we have to
use our troops, we will.
My faith sustains me because I pray daily. I pray
for guidance and wisdom and strength. If we were
to commit our troops -- if we were to commit our
troops -- I would pray for their safety, and I would
pray for the safety of innocent Iraqi lives, as
One thing that's really great about our country,
April, is there are thousands of people who pray
for me that I'll never see and be able to thank.
But it's a humbling experience to think that people
I will never have met have lifted me and my family
up in prayer. And for that I'm grateful. That's
-- it's been -- it's been a comforting feeling to
know that is true. I pray for peace, April. I pray
Q Thank you, Mr. President. As you know, not everyone
shares your optimistic vision of how this might
play out. Do you ever worry, maybe in the wee, small
hours, that you might be wrong and they might be
right in thinking that this could lead to more terrorism,
more anti-American sentiment, more instability in
the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT: Hutch, I think, first of all, it's
hard to envision more terror on America than September
the 11th, 2001. We did nothing to provoke that terrorist
attack. It came upon us because there's an enemy
which hates America. They hate what we stand for.
We love freedom and we're not changing. And, therefore,
so long as there's a terrorist network like al Qaeda,
and others willing to fund them, finance them, equip
them -- we're at war.
And so I -- you know, obviously, I've thought long
and hard about the use of troops. I think about
it all the time. It is my responsibility to commit
the troops. I believe we'll prevail -- I know we'll
prevail. And out of that disarmament of Saddam will
come a better world, particularly for the people
who live in Iraq.
This is a society, Ron, who -- which has been decimated
by his murderous ways, his torture. He doesn't allow
dissent. He doesn't believe in the values we believe
in. I believe this society, the Iraqi society can
develop in a much better way. I think of the risks,
calculated the cost of inaction versus the cost of action. And I'm firmly
convinced, if we have to, we will act, in the name
of peace and in the name of freedom.
Q Mr. President, if you decide to go ahead with
military action, there are inspectors on the ground
in Baghdad. Will you give them time to leave the
country, or the humanitarian workers on the ground
or the journalists? Will you be able to do that,
and still mount an effective attack on Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: Of course. We will give people a
chance to leave. And we don't want anybody in harm's
way who shouldn't be in harm's way. The journalists
who are there should leave. If you're going, and
we start action, leave. The inspectors -- we don't
want people in harm's way. And our intention --
we have no quarrel with anybody other than Saddam
and his group of killers who have destroyed a society.
And we will do everything we can, as I mentioned
-- and I mean this -- to protect innocent life.
I've not made up our mind about military action.
Hopefully, this can be done peacefully. Hopefully,
that as a result of the pressure that we have placed
-- and others have placed -- that Saddam will disarm
and/or leave the country.
Q Mr. President, good evening. Sir, you've talked
a lot about trusting the American people when it
comes to making decisions about their own lives,
about how to spend their own money. When it comes
to the financial costs of the war, sir, it would
seem that the administration, surely, has costed
out various scenarios. If that's the case, why not
present some of them to the American people so they
know what to expect, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, we will. We'll present it in
the form of a supplemental to the spenders. We don't
get to spend the money, as you know. We have to
request the expenditure of money from the Congress,
and, at the appropriate time, we'll request a supplemental.
We're obviously analyzing all aspects. We hope we
don't go to war; but if we should, we will present
But I want to remind -- remind you what I said before.
There is a huge cost when we get attacked. There
is a significant cost to our society -- first of
all, there is the cost of lives. It's an immeasurable
cost -- 3,000 people died. This is a significant
cost to our economy. Opportunity loss is an immeasurable
cost, besides the cost of repairing buildings, and
cost to our airlines. And so, the cost of an attack
If I thought we were safe from attack, I would be
thinking differently. But I see a gathering threat.
I mean, this is a true, real threat to America.
And, therefore, we will deal with it. And at the
appropriate time, Ed, we will ask for a supplemental.
And that will be the moment where you and others
will be able to recognize what we think the dollar
cost of a conflict will be.
You know, the benefits of such a -- of such a effort,
if, in fact, we go forward and are successful, are
also immeasurable. How do you measure the benefit
of freedom in Iraq? I guess, if you're an Iraqi
citizen you can measure it by being able to express
your mind and vote. How do you measure the consequence
of taking a dictator out of -- out of power who
has tried to invade Kuwait? Or somebody who may
some day decide to lob a weapon of mass destruction
on Israel -- how would you weigh the cost of that?
Those are immeasurable costs. And I weigh those
very seriously, Ed. In terms of the dollar amount,
well, we'll let you know here pretty soon.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. If I can follow on Steve's
question, on North Korea. Do you believe it is essential
for the security of the United States and its allies
that North Korea be prevented from developing nuclear
weapons? And are you in any way growing frustrated
with the pace of the diplomacy there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's -- I think it's
an issue. Obviously, I'm concerned about North Korea
developing nuclear weapons, not only for their own
use, but for -- perhaps they might choose to proliferate
them, sell them. They may end up in the hands of
dictators, people who are not afraid of using weapons
of mass destruction, people who try to impose their
will on the world or blackmail free nations. I'm
concerned about it.
We are working hard to bring a diplomatic solution.
And we've made some progress. After all, the IAEA
asked that the Security Council take up the North
Korean issue. It's now in the Security Council.
Constantly talking with the Chinese and the Russians
and the Japanese and the South Koreans. Colin Powell
just went overseas and spent some time in China,
went to the inauguration of President Roh in South
Korea; spent time in China. We're working the issue
hard, and I'm optimistic that we'll come up with
a diplomatic solution. I certainly hope so.
Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, millions of Americans
can recall a time when leaders from both parties
set this country on a mission of regime change in
Vietnam. Fifty thousand Americans died. The regime
is still there in Hanoi, and it hasn't harmed or
threatened a single American in the 30 years since
the war ended. What can you say tonight, sir, to
the sons and the daughters of the Americans who
served in Vietnam to assure them that you will not
lead this country down a similar path in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a great question. Our mission
is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission
is very clear: disarmament. And in order to disarm,
it would mean regime change. I'm confident we'll
be able to achieve that objective, in a way that
minimizes the loss of life. No doubt there's risks
in any military operation; I know that. But it's
very clear what we intend to do. And our mission
won't change. Our mission is precisely what I just
stated. We have got a plan that will achieve that
mission, should we need to send forces in.
Last question. Let's see who needs one. Jean.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the coming days,
the American people are going to hear a lot of debate
about this British proposal of a possible deadline
being added to the resolution, or not. And I know
you don't want to tip your hand -- this is a great
diplomatic moment -- but from the administration's
perspective and your own perspective, can you share
for the American public what you view as the pros
and cons associated with that proposal?
THE PRESIDENT: You're right, I'm not going to tip
my hand. (Laughter.)
Q But can you help us sort out the --
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for -- thank you. Anything
that's debated must have resolution to this issue.
It makes no sense to allow this issue to continue
on and on, in the hopes that Saddam Hussein disarms.
The whole purpose of the debate is for Saddam to
disarm. We gave him a chance. As a matter of fact,
we gave him 12 years of chances. But, recently,
we gave him a chance, starting last fall. And it
said, last chance to disarm. The resolution said
that. And had he chosen to do so, it would be evident
that he's disarmed.
So more time, more inspectors, more process, in
our judgment, is not going to affect the peace of
the world. So whatever is resolved is going to have
some finality to it, so that Saddam Hussein will
take us seriously.
I want to remind you that it's his choice to make
as to whether or not we go to war. It's Saddam's
choice. He's the person that can make the choice
of war and peace. Thus far, he's made the wrong
choice. If we have to, for the sake of the security
of the American people, for the sake of peace in
the world, and for freedom to the Iraqi people,
we will disarm Saddam Hussein. And by we, it's more
than America. A lot of nations will join us.
Thank you for your questions. Good night.
END 8:54 P.M. EST