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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 3, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En Route South Bend, Indiana
12:32 P.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: Good morning. Let me run through the President's day. He had his usual briefings before departing. He also spoke with Secretary -- he called Secretary Rumsfeld this morning to discuss the strong actions and steps that the military is taking to address matters in the prison system in Iraq and prevent prisoner abuse. They talked about the comprehensive review of the policies and procedures throughout the prison system in Iraq. And the President wanted to make sure that appropriate action was being taken against those responsible for these shameful, appalling acts.
And then following that, the President met with the Secretary of State. And now we are on our way to events in Michigan.
The President today -- just so you know, the campaign will be putting out material for you all on the participants in these events -- So you should be able to get those when you're on the ground, if you haven't received them already. But the President today will be talking about how we're working to build a safer, stronger and better America. And he'll talk about what we're doing to win the war on terrorism and what we're doing to strengthen our economy, so that everybody who is looking for work can find a job, and what we are doing to encourage compassion in communities across America, and spread the values that make our communities better.
The first event -- well, upon arrival in South Bend, we will hop on the bus. And the President will participate in an interview with some regional media, including the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, and a reporter from Booth Newspapers, which represents several newspapers in Michigan.
And then in Niles, Michigan, he'll participate in an "Ask President Bush" event. Following that, we will go to Kalamazoo, where the President will participate -- where the President will make remarks. And then this evening the President will make remarks at a Sterling Heights, Michigan rally. And I think that's all I've got.
Q What's an "Ask President Bush" event?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the campaign can tell you a little bit more about it, but from my understanding, there will be some participants that he'll talk to about the economic situation. And then he'll take some questions, I believe, also from the audience.
Q Are these ticketed events? Do people have to --
MR. McCLELLAN: The campaign can get you all that information. They'll get you all that on the ground.
Q The phrase you used, "shameful and appalling," and do you think that steps that are being taken are strong enough now, so far?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, our military does not tolerate prisoner abuse. The images are appalling, and such action is inexcusable. And the shameful actions of a few do not represent the 99 percent of our men and women in uniform who are performing superbly and representing the United States with honor and distinction. It is -- we believe in treating all people, including prisoners, with dignity and respect. And that is a stark contrast from the regime of Saddam Hussein, who encouraged and tolerated prisoner abuse.
Q Do you think the administration action -- administrative action that's been taken against the troops is strong enough?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President expects appropriate action to be taken, and he is confident our military is taking appropriate action to correct the situation and hold those who are responsible accountable.
Q Has the President read or been briefed on the internal Army report that was prepared, I guess, since January? And you mentioned it was the actions of a few people --
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, I think General Myers spoke to that yesterday. He had yet to see it, at this point.
Q You said, the actions of a few people. There's some indication that it may have been the actions or the practice of a much larger group of people.
MR. McCLELLAN: That's why the military is taking strong action to find out what happened, and hold those responsible for these -- hold those who are responsible for these appalling acts to account.
Q Scott, is this trip 100 percent political?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, it's a campaign trip.
Q So it's all paid for by the campaign, except for the normal --
MR. McCLELLAN: The political expenses are paid for by the campaign.
Q But everything on here is considered a campaign --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's following the same procedures that we do for these events.
Q On the prisoners, what about the fallout in the Arab world? It's one thing to condemn it and to take the steps that you're calling, but what does the President plan?
MR. McCLELLAN: These actions -- and the President made it clear the other day, He expressed his disgust at these images. These images are shameful and appalling. They are intolerable. They do not represent what the United States stands for. They do not represent the high standards of conduct that our military is committed to upholding.
Q Any special outreach, though, to anybody in the Arab world, besides sending that particular message to try to --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think we're always in contact with people in the Arab world. And, again, I said that this -- there are some real differences here. When we find actions like this, we take steps to hold those responsible accountable and to correct the situation. Saddam Hussein's regime encouraged and tolerated this kind of behavior, the United States does not. As I said, all people should be treated with dignity and respect, and our practice is to uphold high standards of conduct and treat prisoners humanely and in accord with our international obligations.
Q You say the President will take appropriate action. What is that? Does the President, for example, think that these soldiers should stay in the Armed Forces?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, I can't get into discussing specific cases that may be being pursued. But there are criminal charges that are being pursued by the military. The military has instituted a comprehensive review of policies and procedures throughout the prisons in Iraq. And they are looking at additional criminal charges from -- it is my understanding.
Q Does the Commander-in-Chief think that soldiers participating in this kind of activity should remain in the Armed Forces?
MR. McCLELLAN: They should be held fully accountable for their actions. Again, I'm not going to speculate about individual cases. But the military is taking strong action. They are pursuing criminal charges and appropriate steps against individuals who might be responsible for these -- for this kind of abuse.
Q Does the President see any need for a larger review about how military intelligence and interrogations are conducted?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the military is looking into all these matters. That would be asking me to get into speculation about where this may lead. But I think you can look back to General Myers' comments from yesterday, as well as General Kimmitt, from earlier this morning, in terms of where things stand in terms of the investigation and the criminal charges that are being brought.
Q On Israel, Scott, can you talk about the Likud Party voting down Sharon's plan? Is there any response?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, we put out a statement yesterday on that. The President continues to believe that Prime Minister Sharon put forward a bold proposal that can help us move forward on the two-state vision that the President outlined. This can help us get moving again on the road map to help the Palestinian people realize a state of their own. And we have had some staff level contacts already with the government of Israel. And we'll continue to consult with Prime Minister Sharon and the government of Israel. And I expect that the government of Israel will have more to say in the coming days about how they intend to proceed.
Q Staff-level contacts since the referendum?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, just in the last day.
Q What did those staff-level contacts lead you to believe?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, we're going to continue talking with Prime Minister Sharon and the government of Israel about how we move forward.
Q Is this plan -- or is Sharon still going to pursue it?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don't think -- look, I think, one, that's why I said, Prime Minister Sharon and the government of Israel, I expect, will have more to say in the coming days. We'll stay in consultation with them about how to move forward.
Q But what have they told you? Have they indicated to you what they're going to do?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into the staff-level discussions at this point. Like I said, I think you can expect to hear more from Israel soon.
Q Will he be speaking with Sharon any time soon?
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted if he does.
Q If we write a lead on the Rummy call, instead of saying -- when we write a lead on the Rummy call, can we say that the President wanted to make sure that those responsible are punished, or just that those responsible have appropriate action taken against them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Absolutely, people that break the law or violate military standards of conduct need to be held accountable.
Q Is there any reaction to the Turkish police foiling a plot against the NATO summit?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know the full details of that. Obviously, we are -- Turkey is someone we're working closely with in the war on terrorism. And we appreciate the actions that they're taking. But I don't have the specific information on the latest about that plot.
END 12:42 P.M. EDT