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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.

Jim Wilkinson
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February 6, 2004

Jim Wilkinson
Hello everyone ... good to be here ... let's get started.

Andrew, from Washington writes:
Thanks for taking our questions and your service to our country, Mr. Wilkinson.

I was wondering if you could explain the Administration's recent reaction to Pakistani President Musarraf's pardon of his nuclear scientist - Abdul Qadeer Khan - who sold nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya.

How does the Administration decide to communicate firmly in situations such as these?

Jim Wilkinson
President Musharraf has assured the Administration that Pakistan was not participating in any kind of WMD proliferation activity -- and we value those assurances. From our perspective, the investigations now underway by the Pakistani Government into questions of possible WMD technology proliferation are a sign of how seriously Pakistan takes it commitments on this issue.

However, your question is an important one because it highlights a larger, more complex issue. Intelligence collection has always been difficult against closed, highly secretive and regimented societies that actively seek to conceal their conduct through denial and deception. However, the technical challenges for the collection and analysis of intelligence on WMD programs of rogue states and terrorist organizations are even more difficult and more complex than at any time in the past. This is a new and challenging threat to our nation.

To help address this more complex threat, last May in Krakow, Poland President Bush unveiled an aggressive initiative known as the Proliferation Security Initiative, which is a broad partnership of countries that have agreed to coordinate their actions to halt shipments of dangerous technologies.

It was this iniative which led to the interdiction of a ship bound for Libya last year filled with weapons material. The Libyan interdiction was handled in close coordination with the intelligence services of other nations. Because of this initiative, and because of the Libyan announcement that the government was giving up WMD, 55,000 pounds of Libyan weapons materials is now out of Libya and in a secure location -- and I will point out that much more weapons-related material will be brought out of Libya.

Craig, from Ogdensburg, NY writes:
How strong is the United States' relations with Afghanistan today? Do we still have troops in the country?

Jim Wilkinson
This Administration is committed to the long-term growth, prosperity and freedom of Afghanistan. Not that long ago, the Taliban terrorist regime ran Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a haven for terrorism and its citizens were oppressed. In fact, women were beaten for laughing, they were not allowed to see a doctor without a male present, and little girls were not allowed to go to school.

A broad coalition of troops liberated the Afghan people, and now that nation is on path to a brighter future. I would point out that in recent days Afghanistan has completed their Loya Jirga and the Afghan people agreed to a constitution that protects the liberties of individuals -- including new protections and freedoms for women.

The Coalition's work in Afghanistan is only beginning and the US is committed to helping the Afghan people have a brighter, more prosperous future.

Brenda, from Fort Worth, Tx writes:
Something to ponder... Osama Bin Laden attacked the United States and killed many innocent victims on 911 without the use of weapons of mass destruction or chemical warfare.

That act cost the United States and it's citizens billions of dollars, not to mention the families that lost loved ones on that horrible day.

With that memory, how can Americans be upset with President Bush's decision to pursue Saddam Hussain? September 11 proved to Americans that it does not take weapons of mass destruction or chemical warfare to cripple the United States.

Mr. Hussain has the proven ability to gather forces to pursue deadly interests in the United States and has continued to be a threat to our safety.

I commend Mr. Bush's decision to pursue and capture Mr. Hussain.

I am anxious to see the day that Bin Laden is brought to justice. Until then, it is nice to know that we finally have a president that is making a positive impact on the safety of the United States.

Blessings, Brenda Lungrin

Jim Wilkinson
Brenda, thanks for your question.

As President Bush said after September 11, the war on terror is a different kind of war against a different kind of enemy. And as the President said today, he will not take risks with the lives and security of the American people by assuming the goodwill of dictators.

The decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision. September 11 taught us that we must confront threats to our Nation before it is too late.

Saddam repeatedly defied the international community -- ignoring the demand of the United Nations and 17 UN resolutions.

He had large quantities of WMD that he failed to account for.

Saddam stonewalled inspectors, played cat and mouse games with the UN, and then threw the inspectors out of Iraq.

Saddam used WMD on his own people and against his neighbors.

Saddam was a threat to the stability of the region, and a threat to his neighbors.

War was President Bush's last option. That's why he exhausted diplomatic options, to include giving Saddam Hussein one more warning, and yet another UN resolution. Given this final chance, Saddam chose defiance, and he chose war.

Saddam Hussein and his regime were a threat to our nation, and our nation is safer with his regime out of power and with Saddam sitting in a jail cell.

Removing his regime was the right decision then, and it is the right decision now.

Kristin, from Atlanta writes:
Tell me about the decision behind the President's press conference today. When was it decided? Who was in the meeting? What was the discussion like?

Jim Wilkinson

Certainly won't comment about private discussions. What I will tell you is that by appointing this commission today, the President is addressing new and complex WMD threats to our Nation from those who seek to do us harm.

Melissa, from Tennessee writes:
Jim, Can you tell us where the U.S. stands with the dismantlement of Libya's nuclear arsenal? I feel that this initiative is a huge step in for National Security because if it goes well, it could provide a positive example for other countries who have been hesitant to deal with the U.S. and U.K. in the past on matters of WMD.

Jim Wilkinson

The latest update is that Libya is cooperating and so far is living up to their commitment to dismantle and turn over their weapons programs. Recently a plane filled with 55,000 pounds of weapons-related materials was brought out of Libya and taken to the laboratory facility at Oak Ridge in Tennessee. And more material will soon be brought out of Libya.

You bring up a broader issue though, and that is the issue of the example Libya is setting. The President's nonproliferation policy gives regimes a choice. They can choose to pursue WMD at their peril and at great cost. Or they can choose to disarm, renounce terrorism, and get on a path to better relations with the US and the international community.

It is our hope that other nations will find an example in Libya's decision to disarm.

Liz, from Brooklyn writes:
Don't you think Iraqi women are worse off today than before the invasion?

Jim Wilkinson

No I do not.

Saddam Hussein had a well documented history of rape rooms for women, and countless other atrocities against the women of Iraq.

Take a look at the photos of the dead women holding their dead children following Saddam's WMD attacks on his own people.

These terrible atrocities against women are gone with Saddam out of power. I think if you ask Iraqi women, they are perhaps the happiest of all that his regime is out of power.

Iraqi women now have the opportunity to participate in a free Iraq, and they are doing so.

I take it you think the women of Iraq were better off under Saddam's regime?

Jim Wilkinson
Sorry but I have to run ... hope I can come back again soon and answer your questions ... thank you all for these great questions.

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