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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans

October 22, 2003

Shawn, from North Carolina writes:
Secretary Evans, Why doesn't the US Gov. sell Iraqi oil to US gas companies to fund the liberation effort? Give some of the profit to the people of Iraq, some is more than those people ever had.

If US gas prices fell at the pump and American tax dollars were not going overseas, approval ratings for the Bush administration would be very good.

Don Evans
Shawn, thanks for your question.

As for the first part of your question: The President has always said that the oil in Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq. Any revenue it generates will be for the people of Iraq to rebuild their country and grow their economy.

As for the second part, the Bush Administration is working hard to make energy more affordable for US consumers. President Bush campaigned on the issue, saying that it was critical for the US to have a national energy policy. We have sent that policy to Congress, and the Congress is currently in final negotiations on an energy bill that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and invest in renewable energy. The President looks forward to receiving the final bill soon.

Scott, from Washington D.C. writes:
Secretary Evans - Have traditional U.S. free-enterprise ideals been instrumented by those helping to rebuild stable commmerce in Iraq? If not, how could the current system in place be described?

Thank you for your response.

Don Evans
Good question, Scott. As President Bush has said, “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world, it’s God’s gift to all mankind.”

I think the “traditional U.S. free-enterprise ideals” you mentioned are the ideals of people everywhere: We all want the freedom to pursue a job; to own our own home; to provide for our family and to build a better life for our children. Now, for the first time in generations, the people of Iraq are within reach of this dream.

The fall of Saddam unleashed the entrepreneurial spirit of the Iraqi people. Traveling through Baghdad, everywhere I looked I saw evidence of entrepreneurial recovery and growth.

We can encourage their entrepreneurial spirit by teaching the necessary skills to run a business and conduct commerce. For example, during my trip to Baghdad last week, I visited with women entreprenuers, the Baghdad Business School students all with the dream of being tomorrow’s small business owners.

Dermot, from United Kingdom writes:
How do you respond to the point,often made in the UK liberal media, that it was years of economic sanctions which weakened the Iraqi people therefore making it impossible for them to effect their own regime change?

Don Evans
The hardships endured by the people of Iraq are entirely the fault of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Now that his regime is no more, the Iraqi people are quickly moving towards self-government.

As you know, the United Nations levied the economic sanctions against Saddam’s regime after the first Gulf War. Now that we’ve removed Saddam, the UN has lifted the sanctions and Iraq is re-joining the world economy.

Sandra, from Pensacola, Florida writes:
Dear Secretary Evans, Thank you for being willing to answer questions. I also appreciate the very positive spirtual influence you have been for Pres. Bush. I pray the both you and he would continue to have a strong faith in these trying times.

My question is quite simple. There have been SO many conflicting reports of how things are going in post-war Iraq both as regards to the morale situation of our troops as well as the rebuilding efforts there. Where did you go exactly and what did you observe in both of these areas ---the soldiers and the rebuilding? Did you observe much resisitance to the American efforts? It seems to me that if they would cooperate more, we could accomplish our purpose and leave there and be a positive influence as we were in post-W.W.II Germany and Japan.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Don Evans
The President and I appreciate your prayers. It gives us tremendous strength, comfort and humility to know people are taking time to pray for us.

Like most Americans, having watched TV reports on the conditions in Baghdad, I expected to see a dismal and frightened area of the world. Instead, I saw anything but that.

I witnessed how the power of freedom can transform lives for a better society and a better world.

At a computer store in downtown Baghdad, I heard Iraqis talking excitedly about the opportunities created by their new Internet access. Today there are nearly 5,000 Internet connections in Iraq – more than before the war. By year’s end, there will be 50,000.

I also visited the Baghdad business school, meeting students and teachers eager to add to the educated workforce. All 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all of the primary and secondary schools.

I also participated in the rollout of the new Iraqi currency – dinars that no longer bear the image of Saddam but the rich culture and heritage of the good people of Iraq. Today, the Iraqi Central Bank is fully independent, setting monetary policy that helps all Iraqis’ savings – not a dictator’s. After World War II, it took 3 years to introduce a new currency in West Germany. In Iraq, we did it in 6 months.

Of course, security remains an issue on the ground in Iraq. I met dozens of the troops hunting the terrorists and working to secure freedom for the Iraqi people. Our troops miss their families back home, but they are committed to getting the job done first. We have a lot of young heroes serving Americans proudly in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. Please keep them in your prayers.

Sam, from Grayling, MI writes:
Having visited Iraq, are things as bad as the media presents it? One would think that the country was better off under Saddam by watching the media reports.

Don Evans
I visited Iraq to break through the media filter you referred to. What I found is, for the first time in generations, the people of Iraq are free to pursue their dreams. They are embracing it. A recent poll of Iraqis found that two-thirds of Baghdad residents say ousting Saddam was worth any hardships. Nearly seven-in-ten said Iraq will be better in five years than before Coalition action. Every Iraqi I met had a sense of hope; a sense of power and understanding that they are responsible for themselves their families and their countries.

And speaking of the media, Iraq now has a free press. There are hundreds of newspapers in Iraq – before the war there was only one.

It’s easy to fill the TV screens with isolated acts of terror every night, but that fails to capture the real hope and optimism amongst Iraqis. In fact, driving through downtown Baghdad I saw two young entrepreneurs selling soda. Remembering my own youth spent manning a lemonade stand in Houston, I stopped and gave them a little business. I think I bought their whole inventory.

Coralie, from Hornell,N.Y. writes:
Why ,Sir, is your visit to Iraq necessary? What progress has been made in the economic condition of this needy country? Are they respecting all the effort we are going to, to give them economic independence and freedom? I sure hope so Thank you.

Don Evans
Thanks for the question, Coralie. I visited Iraq to get a better understanding of the situation on the ground, and to see firsthand the opportunities for foreign business investment in Iraq.

President Bush and the international coalition are committed to helping the Iraqis by establishing a secure environment and accelerating the orderly transition to self-government.

But equally important, businesses here in America and around the world should invest in a liberated Iraq. Building a secure and free Iraq means building a prosperous Iraq. It means a safer and more secure America and a safer and more secure world. Growing Iraq’s economy will require foreign direct investment to complement domestic entrepreneurship.

As I witnessed firsthand, the Iraqi people are motivated and well educated. They are eager to work. As the security situation continues to improve, I believe American businesses would do well to invest in the Iraqi markets and workforce.

American businesses interested in investing in Iraq should visit the Department of Commerce’s Iraq reconstruction website at

Thompson, from Sumter, SC writes:
When do you feel the American consumers will feel the affects of Iraqi oil in providing lower gas prices?

Don Evans
The Iraqis are making great progress in rebuilding their oil infrastructure. Already, oil production is three months ahead of schedule. It is important that Iraq be a reliable supplier of crude oil to meet the growing energy demands in the world. This will mean a more reliable and affordable supply of oil for the American people and consumers around the world. Iraq’s oil belongs to the people of Iraq – how they utilize it in the rebuilding of Iraq is their decision to make.

fidel, from canada writes:
can you give us the latest update on what we are accomplishing in iraq?

Don Evans
Working together, the Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi Governing Council are making progress in rebuilding Iraq.

Driving through Baghdad, I saw Iraqis policing themselves; school children walking to class; and I saw hundreds of small business owners reopening for business and some for the first time. And there are hundreds of Iraqi newspapers that have been established since the fall of Saddam.

For the latest on Iraq’s reconstruction, I would urge you to regularly visit the Coalition Provisional Authority website at

Justin, from Argillite, KY writes:
What is all this about "mis-information" about the war with Iraq? Did the President believe there was a cause for war in Iraq? How come we have not found any weapons of mass destruction over there if there were any over there in the first place? I understand that Saddam Hussein has broken UN resolutions, was that the cause of the war? Thank you for taking the time from your schedule to reach out to the American people, and although I am a registered Democrat, I believe you all in the Executive Branch are doing a fantastic job Keep up the good work, and good luck in 2004 for re-election.

Don Evans
Thanks for your support, Justin. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve. In response to your questions, the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq continues.

David Kay’s recent report to Congress showed that Saddam actively deceived the international community. Already, our investigators have found evidence of advanced design work on prohibited, longer range missiles, a clandestine network of biological laboratories and an elaborate campaign to hide illegal programs.

The United States and a broad international coalition took action against Saddam Hussein after he refused to disarm peacefully. The President will not forget the lessons Sept. 11, 2001 – we cannot ignore grave and growing threats against our citizens.

With Saddam gone, we are working with the Iraqi people to build a prosperous nation that will stand as a beacon of hope and peace in the region.

Dave, from Avon, CO writes:
I think it is laughable when the news media compares Vietnam to Iraq. I was in Vietnam and it is important to remember every casualty is important -- every casualty. Saying that, this was the most humane war ever conducted (something that gets lost continually in the media) and our casualty count is low (and I say that respectfully). Does it drive you crazy to watch the sensationalist news coverage of what's happeninng in Iraq?

Don Evans
Thanks for your question, Dave, and thanks for your service in Vietnam.

I know the President well, and I know every American and Iraqi casualty weighs heavily on him. We are doing everything possible keep our troops safe and to bring them home soon.

As you said, while we mourn and remember every life lost in Iraq, we should also commemorate the great and historic achievements of our armed forces in Iraq.

I give great credit to Secretary Rumsfeld and the Department of Defense for keeping Coalition and civilian casualties during the liberation of Iraq to a minimum. The skill and professionalism of our troops should make every American proud.

I am also very impressed with Ambassador Bremer and the folks working with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. Working with the people of Iraq, the CPA is doing a great job hunting the terrorist killers and restoring stability in Iraq. Their efforts have certainly saved and will continue to save countless lives, both in Iraq, here at home and around the world.

Brent, from Brooke County writes:
What surprised you the most during your recent trip?

Don Evans
Brent, thanks for the question. If there was one comment I could make about my recent trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be: Never in my life have I been more proud to be an American. God bless you.

edward, from topeka writes:
did you get a chance to meet with the troops? what stands out in your conversations?

Don Evans

Thanks for your question. I did have a chance to meet with the troops. What stood out to me was the strong sense of duty in the young men and women in the armed forces and their noble commitment to expand protect and preserve freedom in Iraq and around the world. They are truly our heroes of freedom. They said be sure to give the President their best; they were proud of him and they said they were proud to be Americans. I told them that the President was proud of them and prayed for them every day.

Nora, from Texas writes:
I saw your interview on Fox and Friends while you were in Iraq. Do you really wear the T-Shirt they gave you?

Don Evans
Nora, yes I often wear the Fox and Friends t-shirt when I exercise.

Don Evans
I like to offer my thanks to all of you for participating in today's "Ask the White House". I'm sorry that I can 't answer all of the questions. I hope that the questions I responded to were a reflection of the majority of the questions that were asked. I look forward to doing this again.

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