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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 26, 2001
Press Briefing By Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I have brief remarks to summarize the
President's day, and then I'll be happy to take questions.
This morning the President had his usual round of intelligence briefings from the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as the FBI. Then he convened a meeting of his National Security Council to discuss the latest developments in the war. And then he met in the Rose Garden with the two American humanitarian workers who were freed from Afghanistan, who were imprisoned for the crime of preaching Christianity. The President was very pleased to have that meeting, as you saw in the Rose Garden.
And that is it in the President's public schedule for the day and I'm happy to take your questions. Ron Fournier.
Q Can you tell me specifically when and where the President included in his definition of terrorist-aiding states any country that produces weapons of mass destruction that can be used by terrorists?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think what the President was referring to is the obvious and well-known fact that Iraq and North Korea are already listed on the State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism, state sponsors of terrorism. So that's a well known existing definition.
As you remember, Ron, from the campaign, the President repeatedly referred to the issues of proliferation in North Korea. It's one of the reasons the President believes in a missile defense, because of the potential of North Korea to acquire weapons of mass destruction and potentially use them.
He has had similar words about Iraq. So I think when you heard the President saying his remarks in the Rose Garden, that he's always had that definition as far as he's concerned, it's because of the statements he's made previously.
Q And what he's saying is clearly that if these -- Iraq, North Korea and the other, what, five or six countries that are producing weapons of mass destruction that are being used by terrorists, if they don't stop they will be considered by the United States equal to terrorists and face the same consequences?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think go back to the President's words. He said it for a reason. The President said, "If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable." That's how the President said it. And then he continued, "So part of the war on terror is to deny terrorists weapons-getting -- I mean, weapons to be used for means of terror getting into the hands of nations that will use them." Which is perfectly consistent with what you've always heard the President say about nations that use them, the concern that al Qaeda or another organization will seek to acquire nuclear weapons from Iraq, from a North Korea. That's another way they would use nuclear weapons if they were to give them to another nation or an entity, a terrorist group like al Qaeda.
Q But he's never used this -- you can't find a time where he's used this language, this formulation before?
MR. FLEISCHER: As far as the war on terror? Well, again, I think it's stating the obvious --
Q As far as linking the nations that produce weapons of mass destruction. Has he ever used this language before?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, he's repeatedly talked about terrorists -- nations that sponsor terrorism, that's why they're called terrorist nations, nations that sponsor terrorism by the State Department.
Q He hasn't linked them to sponsoring 00 to weapons of mass destruction.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me bring you back again to things the President said previous to today. Take a look back on March 7th, when President Kim of South Korea was here, and the President's public remarks after that meeting. The President said, "I am concerned about the fact that the North Koreans are shipping weapons around the world, and any agreement that would convince them not to do so would be beneficial. But we want to make sure that their ability to develop and spread weapons of mass destruction was, in fact, stopped."
So he's talked about it in that context. In addition, during the campaign, in referring to the government of North Korea, he referred to the tyrants who are doing everything they can to be a 21st century menace.
Q But this is a different context. He's linking them -- he is saying today that they are akin to terrorists and will suffer the same fate as terrorists --
MR. FLEISCHER: And the reason I think why the President said to you that, when you asked the question, have I expanded the definition, "I've always had that definition, as far as I'm concerned." It's because of the language I just read to you. And the President, when he says that they're tyrants, when he says our concern is that they not proliferate and we're going to take every action we need to stop them from proliferating, and called for the inspectors to be returned in Iraq, that's in perfect consistency with what the President was saying. I think that's why you heard the President say what he said today.
Q And to focus on Iraq for a minute, which it seems where the President is focused. He has said now a couple of times over the past few days that Saddam Hussein must allow U.N. inspectors back in to make sure that there is no development of weapons of mass destruction. Is that a hard demand by this administration? Should this be seen as the next phase in the war on terrorism? And what specifically are the consequences for Saddam's --
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay. Well, one, I think that the President's focus is on Afghanistan. The President has been focused on phase one, destroying the al Qaeda and their ability to engage in terrorism; destroying the Taliban and those who harbor terrorists. And in response to some questions the President got about Iraq, he's answered as he did today when he was asked just what you said, what are the consequences. And the President has said, "that's up for -- he'll find out," referring to Saddam Hussein.
So the President has left it in an undefined way, and I think that's the appropriate place to leave it.
Q If I could just follow-up. In this question on what ought to be done with Iraq, has the administration essentially settled on an ultimatum, allow weapons inspectors back in or face the consequences?
MR. FLEISCHER: Terry, that's a reiteration of longstanding American policy that the inspectors need to be allowed back into Iraq.
Q Is there any additional oomph in it? Is this administration going to put teeth in it? It has been a long time.
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I refer you back to what the President said today in the Rose Garden, and he said that's for him to find out, referring to Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein.
Q Does the President feel the United States has the right to bomb or invade any country harboring terrorists? Is he going to invade Spain?
MR. FLEISCHER: Helen, the President, as I mentioned, is focused on phase one --
Q Eight suspected terrorists --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is focused on phase one of the war against terrorism. But the President has made it plain to the American people that this a long-term war.
Q Answer the question. What right do we have to invade any country?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not aware that we are invading Spain.
Q Ari, he also said he may be focused on phase one, but that this is just the beginning. And what does that do to the coalition? The German Foreign Minister said last week that Europe would not support expanding the war on terror to Iraq. So the President, in a sense, is out there alone on this a little bit.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's nothing new. This is a reiteration of what you heard the President say in his speech to the Congress, when the President talked about either you're with the terrorists or you're not. So it's a message that the President has consistently said from day one, and properly so. There can be no good terrorists or bad terrorists. And the war on terrorism is something the President is focused on long-term. As he said, this is an opportunity for this generation to do something for our next generation, so our children and grandchildren don't have to grow up in an atmosphere of fear.
Q But is he trying to prepare the allies for this, who clearly aren't supporting you, at least at this point?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think his words speak for themselves. And I think the allies share a willingness to make certain that terrorism is not able to do what it has been able to do in the last -- for the last generation.
Q You mentioned the speech to Congress, which was, for most Americans, the most important enunciation of the goals of this campaign against terror. And in that speech, the President did not, in any way, link developing weapons of mass destruction to a legitimate target in the war on terrorism. Today he did so. And though there were previous statements in the campaign and other venues, they do not exist within the same context we're dealing with now, where you have a coalition and an active U.S. military campaign, plus planning on the next phases. Isn't it not, today, a significant shift in administration policy in the context of war on global terrorism, to add weapons of mass destruction to the list of legitimate targets?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's not what the President said. The President said that they should be held accountable, which he has said all along. And I think that it would be a shift in policy if a President were to drop a long-standing, existing policy that nations that sponsor terrorists are, by definition, on the State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism. So the President again stated what is already known. If you're suggesting that the President should no longer state things that are known because they're in a different context, that would be a change. The President reiterated the long-standing American views about North Korea and about Iraq.
And on Campbell's question, also, I want to remind you that when the President talks about the war, he's always talked about a multi-front war, that includes financial actions against terrorist nations, terrorist activities, arrest of people who are involved in terrorist activities. Those are the various fronts that the President has always discussed. And the President said they will be held accountable. The President did not define what that means. And the President did so deliberately.
So I want to just urge you, as you take a look at what the President said, to remember that the coalition has been taking actions against terrorists, broadly defined and shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States on a host of activities not only military, but dealing with financial, dealing with political, dealing with diplomatic, dealing with the detention and the arrests of those who engage in terrorism.
Q Ari, beyond the exact words that the President used, it did seem like today there was a significant shift in tone. The administration, since September 11th, has on several occasions said flatly, we have not linked Iraq with this, with the bombing, we have not linked Iraq with anthrax. There had been a consistent message from the administration to downplay the notion that Iraq was somehow linked with the terrorist attacks in America and, thus, would have invited some kind of attack by us or response from us.
His comments today, though, seem to shift that tone and open the door to the fact that Iraq has now joined the list of countries that could be part of phase two. Is that what he intended to do?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President reiterated what has always been said about the State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism. In response to a question, he answered the question. And I think that's something you've seen him do repeatedly.
Q Ari, the policy may, indeed, be the same. But it's a question of the emphasis. And all of us in this room today who were in the Rose Garden discerned an emphasis on Iraq which has not been present in his past public speeches. And we take it from that that there is a shift in his emphasis.
MR. FLEISCHER: I would urge you to understand that this is a reiteration of what he has previously said about Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein will just have to figure out exactly what that means. And that's why the President said, he'll find out.
Q Will the President try to get other world leaders to get back together and get on a weapons inspection regime in Iraq? In other words, is he going to try to rally the coalition to focus on weapons inspection in Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: The United Nations has made that plain, that Iraq, as part of their agreement that they entered into after the Gulf War, said they would allow weapons inspectors into Iraq. Iraq unilaterally threw them out, in violation of that agreement. So that's, again, a reiteration of a long-standing American policy.
Q But, Ari, if I could try one more approach on this. I think the question is whether this is a war aim. I don't think the President has specifically listed this as a war aim in the past, to prevent Iraq from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Is it now a war aim?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, let me refer you to the President's words that have sparked the conversation, because I think you have to look at what the President said. And he said, "If they develop weapons of mass destruction that will be used to terrorize nations, they will be held accountable." I think you're inferring what that means to unusual lengths. The President said they'll be held accountable. He didn't define what the accountability would mean. Iraq and North Korea have long been listed as nations that sponsor terrorism, and that's what the President said. Saddam Hussein will have to figure it out.
Q Ari, but the answer to that question came --
Q But is it a war aim --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President answered the question today by saying, he'll find out.
Q His answer came -- when I asked him about Iraq specifically, and referred specifically to his words at Fort Campbell, across the world and across the years, he brought up weapons of mass destruction. In his answer to my question about the next phase of the war, he said nations who not only harbor, who give safe haven to terrorists, but also develop weapons of mass destruction. He added that qualifier, weapons of mass destruction, to a specific question about Iraq. It seems to all of us here that that is a new dimension, a new war aim, a shift in policy bringing that definition into a legitimate war target, weapons of mass destruction, where it didn't occur before.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I can only refer you back to the President's words after the President -- toward the very end of the same remarks that you heard, he asked the rhetorical question, have I expanded the definition; "I've always had that definition, as far as I'm concerned."
Q Yes. Let me try to make a couple of distinctions here. If, for instance, someone used weapons of mass destruction against a civilian population, obviously, that would be an act of terrorism.
MR. FLEISCHER: Is there a question?
Q Yes. And that would obviously be included in what the President is talking about -- if someone were to use anthrax or some other sort of weapon, any weapon of mass destruction, that would obviously be an act of terrorism in the President's view.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q Is holding weapons of mass destruction an act of terrorism?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President said, "So part of the war on terror is to deny terrorists weapons getting -- I mean, weapons to be used for means of terror getting in the hands of nations that will use them." So the President addressed this in the context of nations that will use them.
Q So he's talking about the use of weapons of mass destruction --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's precisely what he said.
Q -- not the development or the holding of weapons of mass destruction?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. Because there are many nations that hold weapons of mass destruction. The President was referring to those nations that are listed on the State Department nations that sponsor terrorism that would use them, which I think is something that should be self-evident to everybody in this room. What American President would not speak sternly about any nation that is listed as a nation that sponsors terrorism from using weapons of mass destruction? Does anybody think that any nation that is a terrorist sponsor that would use weapons of mass destruction would not be held accountable? Of course they will be. That's an existing American policy, always has been, and under President Bush it always will be.
Q One other aspect, if I may, Ari --
MR. FLEISCHER: Okay, Jim.
Q Just one other aspect on that. What about development of weapons of mass destruction and then giving them to terrorists or nations that are prepared to use them?
MR. FLEISCHER: That is a use of weapons to give to terrorists. That is exactly what the President warned about two or three weeks ago when he referred to efforts by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
Q Getting back to the emphasis, it really did seem to most of us today that there was a purposeful and increased emphasis on the subject of Iraq in a way that we haven't seen in recent days or weeks. So, put it this way, is Iraq's alleged progress in developing either biological or nuclear weapons, has that been over the past several months an increasing cause of concern for the President and his advisors?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we've just about exhausted this. I understand why you're asking these questions, and it's something that I've talked to the President about since he made the comments. And I'd just refer you back, again, to what the President said about Iraq, about North Korea, prior to September 11th. It's a reaffirmation, a restatement of a long-standing American policy. And I think it should be readily understood that every American President has spoken out strongly about Iraq or North Korea, and any nation that would use nuclear weapons, especially those nations that are state sponsors of terrorism, regardless of whether September 11th took place or not. But Saddam Hussein can figure out the rest of it if he wants.
Q Is the President trying to lay the groundwork for the sanctions to be --
MR. FLEISCHER: Peter.
Q Ari, you've got the President of Yemen coming in to meet with President Bush tomorrow. Two questions. What's the assessment of their cooperation in the current war, and the investigation of the Cole? And, secondly, they are now saying that the suspects in the bombing of the Cole, that their trial has been postponed at the request of the U.S., because the U.S. wants to expand the investigation. Is that an accurate assessment?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me come back to you on that this afternoon, and let me post that. I want to take a look at some information on Yemen before I do that.
Q All right. But what about the first question, just the assessment of their cooperation?
MR. FLEISCHER: On both questions. I'll post both of those.
Q Ari, just one last one on Iraq. When the President left open how we might respond, a lot of us are kind of looking at it as from the military perspective. But is the President trying to lay the groundwork for debate over the sanctions with Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, again, go back to what the President had said previously. I recall him giving a very similar answer when he said, "That's up for -- he'll find out." The President said something very similar about Iraq during one of the presidential debates -- I think it was during the Republican primary in New Hampshire. The President gave almost the exact same answer.
So what you heard today in the Rose Garden about Iraq and North Korea is what you've heard from this President repeatedly, for two years now, from the campaign forward, about the manner in which he would treat Iraq or North Korea, or any nation that's a terrorist sponsor -- state sponsor of terrorism, if they were to use, as he put it, use nuclear weapons. There is a long body of quotes from the President prior to November -- September 11th, very similar.
Q But Ari, has he set up some sort of time limit? Because in the Newsweek interview, they ask him about Iraq, and he says they should let state inspectors in. And then they come back, and they say, have you set some sort of time limit? And he seems to imply, well, that he has gotten a message to Hussein, there is a time limit. Has he? How did that message get through, and what is that time limit? And then, what's the action if it's not met?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I do not read any implied time limit in that story. It's a longstanding American demand. And it's been something that Iraq agreed to. That was one of the conditions that Iraq agreed to.
Q Ari, what's behind the decision to use language like, "he'll find out"? Why be intentionally ambiguous?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a reiteration of something he's been saying for years.
Q But what's behind it?
Q On the economic stimulus package, does the President support a provision which requires that money made from tax reductions be funneled back into investments in this country, rather than supporting factories overseas, for example?
MR. FLEISCHER: Can you be more specific, when you say, not supporting factories overseas?
Q Is there a "buy America first" provision in the economic stimulus package, or should there be one?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, the way the trade works, there are so many businesses that are headquartered in America, that have production in America and other nations; and, conversely, there are many businesses such as BMW, that's headquartered in Germany, that has plants in South Carolina, for example, that we are a very interdependent world of business.
And the President believes that the best way to promote the economy and to stimulate the economy so it creates jobs is through a package that is now pending in the Senate, that would cut taxes for middle income Americans, for people who have had their taxes cut that are supposed to go into effect on January 1st of this coming year, and next year, and the year beyond that, and accelerating those tax cuts, providing tax cuts for low-income workers, as well as extending unemployment insurance, and as well as providing a package of national emergency grants to get health benefits to people who have lost their jobs.
The President believes that's the package that can help create jobs, along with business expensing and repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax. That's the package the President supports.
Q But there's no guarantee that tax cuts will actually be used to stimulate the economy, is there?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President believes tax cuts do stimulate the economy. He believes that's the way it works. And I think there's no question, when you take a look at the economic data that had the existing tax cut that was passed by the Congress, signed by the President last spring, not gone into effect, the recession would be deeper, the recession would probably be longer. The tax cut has helped to buffer the impact of that recession.
And it's important, in the President's opinion, for the Senate to take action now, in the wake of September 11th, because the economy needs another jolt.
Q Why did the President capitulate today on his deadline for the economic stimulus plan, extending it from the end of November to Christmas? Is that not a concession that Congress won't get it done? And if it's not until Christmas, what part of the -- when are we going to stimulate this economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think what you're seeing from the President is a good faith effort to work with the Senate. The President would still like the Senate to finish their business and get that to him so he can sign it into law.
Every day the Senate waits is another day that is made more difficult for the unemployed worker. It's another day that's made for difficult for a business that wants to be able to keep its work force without laying off workers. The longer the Senate waits, the more difficult it will be for the economy to come back. And that's the message the President was giving.
Clearly, if the Senate could get this done in November, the President would be pleased and will work with the Senate so he can sign it in November. It may not be too late. But, realistically, will the Senate do it? They haven't so far. Perhaps they will.
Q Didn't he give them the green light to spend an extra month debating this by saying, by Christmas?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there's nothing scheduled for this week, and this is the last week of November. So the President will have a meeting with the congressional leaders this week. He'll again remind them of the need to get the stimulus done.
Clearly, if they were to leave without getting it done, most of the private sector forecasts, which assume that there will be growth next year, will change the amount of growth, they will predict less growth because the Senate will have failed to act. Most of the private sector forecasters have baked into their estimates the view that the amount of growth will depend on whether or not Congress this year passes a stimulus.
And let me give you some specifics on that, as well. Macroeconomic Advisors assumed on October 15th -- they're one of the leading private sector forecasters -- that there would be a $60 billion stimulus package for 2002. And they're 2002 growth rate is 4.1 percent. They've built that into their estimates. Another group that has also done that is J.P. Morgan. They've assumed a $75 billion stimulus in their report of growth, and they've projected 2.6 percent growth.
So there's a variety of different growth forecast for 2002, but all those private sector forecasters have assumed Congress will pass a stimulus that the President will be able to sign. Failure to pass a stimulus means less growth next year.
Q On the economic stimulus, given the President wants this bill sent to conference, is he considering embracing or endorsing the centrist coalition as the best vehicle to getting it to conference? Or does he disagree with every element in it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is open-minded about the vehicle. The President is going to continue to work with the various senators. And I think he recognizes that there are some senators that are simply too liberal who will not be interested in passing a stimulus that relies on tax cuts.
But there is another group of Democrats who are more willing to pass a stimulus that provides tax cuts. And the President sees putting together a coalition with whoever is willing to vote for a stimulus that provides incentives based on tax cuts, not more spending. Because the President has already proposed extending unemployment insurance, which he thinks is terribly important and Congress needs to do that. The President thinks it's terribly important for people to get health care coverage as a result of the national emergency grants that he's proposed.
But as important as that is, the President also knows the American people want more than unemployment checks, they want paychecks. And that's the President's focus.
Q A week ago last Sunday, Condi Rice said that the Nunn-Lugar program had not been -- was not going to be cut under the administration's budget proposal. But your own documents show a $98-million cut from 2001 to 2002 for the Department of Energy portion of that program. How does that square with what the National Security Advisor said?
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually, it depends on the component you look at, at it. But, broadly, under the Clinton administration, DOD requested less money in those programs than it did in fiscal year 2001 because of spending requirements foreseen for that year. And the Bush administration took the same position in the budget it submitted to Congress, so it matched that level of funding.
There was a separate item under the Department of Energy that a cut was taken before the Bush administration review of the nonproliferation programs with Russia had been put into effect. But the administration is committed to Nunn-Lugar. The President has long believed that working cooperatively with Russia to help them to dismantle their nuclear weapons is a very effective means of fighting against proliferation around the world, and will continue in that vein.
Q Ari, the President in the Rose Garden said that, we're entering into a dangerous time. Clearly, for the troops on the ground in Afghanistan, that's true. Was he also referring to the home front? Because there have been warnings to the natural gas industry, for instance, that if Osama bin Laden is captured or killed, there could be attacks on natural gas facilities? Could you just elaborate on what that warning is about?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President has always believed that we've been, since September 11th, in a dangerous time here on the home front. The President begins his days every morning with a review of what's called the threat matrix, which are the analysts' understanding of the threats that have been received in this country. And it's a sobering way to begin a day. So the President has focused very strongly through Governor Ridge on the homeland defense and the efforts we need to take, and that's why security measures have been increased throughout the country in a variety of industries.
But the President, specifically to answer your question, in his remarks that he made was talking about the war in Afghanistan, because he's talking there about cities may have fallen, but the mission has not yet been achieved; the objective, which is to destroy al Qaeda's ability to engage in terrorism, has not yet been finalized, and it won't be, necessarily, for who knows how long. It could be years, as the President has reminded everybody, until Osama bin Laden is brought to justice, until his top lieutenants are also brought to justice.
Q Ari, what's going on with the Vice President? Is he still in an undisclosed location? The President was joking about it last week, but this morning he sort of dismissed it like he's been here all along, "I had breakfast with him."
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes. The Vice President met with the President this morning. He was here this morning after breakfast, so they spent some time together this morning. The Vice President has been in a secure location, as well, and as we've indicated, there are going to be days when they're together -- the President said this -- there will be days when they are not. They happened to be together today.
Q But there's no change in this policy of trying to keep them separate in the interest of having someone
MR. FLEISCHER: No, that policy remains in effect. Throughout that policy there have been times when they were together. And as the President said -- I think he said this about a month or so ago -- there will be times when they're together and there will be times when they're not. More often they have not been. Today the Vice President was here this morning.
Q Ari, you and Governor Ridge have said repeatedly in the past that there's no evidence linking Iraq to the September 11th attacks or the anthrax attacks. Is that still the case?
MR. FLEISCHER: That is correct, Ron. There is nothing that has been brought to my attention by it, so nothing would change that from anything I've heard recently.
Q The President today said, cloning is morally wrong and bad public policy. Does he plan to take any other steps, either by executive order or by urging Congress to act, in view of what was revealed yesterday?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this is now a matter in the Congress' hands, and the House has already acted. The House, earlier this year in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 265 to 162, banned the type of cloning that took place in Massachusetts. And the President applauded the House at the time, expressed his strong support for that legislation.
The President, through stem cell research, sees great promise in fighting diseases and curing diseases, without crossing the morally hazardous line of cloning humans. And that's why the President believes that we can unleash the great potential of science through stem cell research without entering the dangerous area of human cloning. And he calls on the Senate to pass the House legislation. It was overwhelmingly bipartisan -- some 63 Democrats voted for it in the House, both Independents voted for it in the House, so the President hopes the Senate will similarly act.
Q Does he think that doctors who engage in the kind of research that these people in Massachusetts should -- should be disciplined, sent to jail, what?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks that the practice of cloning should be made illegal.
Q -- make it illegal if somebody does it, then the question is, what do you do with the people who do it?
MR. FLEISCHER: I would refer you to what the penalty section was of the House bill. I don't have the bill in front of me. But he has supported the Weldon legislation.
Q Iranian radio said that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan. Do you think the President still believes that he is in Afghanistan? And, number two, international Red Cross is reporting that hundreds of Pakistanis in Afghanistan fighting against the United States, and thousands are still there. Do you think, according to the reports, the President is surprised to know? And five air fighters were sent to Afghanistan to defend them.
MR. FLEISCHER: One, I have not heard anything that would change what Secretary Rumsfeld said last week about, we have no reason to believe that he's left the country. Secretary Rumsfeld talked about how there could be things in Afghanistan that are unknown, but he said that we have no reason to believe that he has.
On the second question, you know, I think the President obviously understands the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is made more complicated by the presence of people who are not Afghani. They don't only include Pakistanis, but they include many people from Arab nations. Afghanistan is not an Arab nation, but much of its current problems stem from the fact that Osama bin Laden, who is Saudi, came into Afghanistan with other non-Afghans for the purpose of hijacking a country and hijacking a religion so they could engage in worldwide sponsorship of terrorism. So that's -- the President, of course, is aware of that.
Q The President this morning said that Americans need to be -- there will be loss of life in Afghanistan. Is he preparing people for the Marines going -- the Marines, those thousand Marines now --
MR. FLEISCHER: If you remember, the President also said that in his speech to the Congress. The President warned the American people that this would not be an antiseptic war, that there would be casualties in the war, and he said that explicitly in that address. And the President, as he said in the Rose Garden, also reminded people that we've already lost lives in this war, the lives -- some 4,000 or so people were lost in the destruction of the World Trade Center, the brave people who were on board Flight 93, as well as all the passengers of the airplanes that were hijacked, and one that hit the Pentagon, the deaths at the Pentagon.
America has already had many casualties -- civilian, as well as, of course -- military is always at risk. And the President was reminding people that the risks remain, particularly at this time, to our military.
Q Ari, are we making any progress on a new sanctions regime against Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President continues to hold out hope that the sanctions regime against Iraq can be made less porous, that it can be tightened up so that it can be a more focused series of sanctions. That's something that, written, has spoken eloquently about, at the United Nations, and the President remains hopeful that that will one day become the case.
Q If I can follow up on that, was this a topic of discussion in Crawford with President Putin, since the Russians have been one of the key obstacles here?
MR. FLEISCHER: The Iraq sanctions? I'll have to go back to take a look.
Q Ari, does the President believe there is any legitimate role for any former member of the Taliban in a new Afghanistan government?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, a couple points on it. One, the future of the government of Afghanistan will be up to the Afghani people. Having said that, the President also wants to make certain that it is a multi-ethnic front -- multi-ethnic group that governs Afghanistan, that includes women. It's hard to imagine any moderate Taliban. However, Afghanistan is a large country. There may be people who were in Afghanistan who are not members of the Taliban, in an active sense. But that's something that will be sorted through in the dialogue that begins Tuesday in Germany. And that's the first step in a long process to help determine what the government of Afghanistan will look like.
But, again, it fundamentally remains an issue for the Afghani people. And it's hard to imagine that they want any of the Taliban who governed them having any positions of authority, if they had authority before.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 1:25 P.M. EST