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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.

Steve Hadley
National Security Advisor

Steve Hadley
Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to join you today on "Ask the White House". This is my first time participating and I am eager to answer some of the many questions that have come in. I have just returned from spending time with the President at his ranch in Texas. Yesterday, the President met with his defense and foreign policy teams to discuss many important issues facing the Administration and our country at this time.

Let's get started with your questions.

Wyatt, from Overland Park, KS writes:
I am really confused as to what the terrorists are fighting for. Are they against freedom and peace? How can they justify the killing of innocent Iraqi citizens, including the targeted bombing of schools and children, in the name of religion? What can we do to truly win over the hearts and minds of those in the Middle East who misinterpret U.S. policies?

Steve Hadley
Wyatt, thank you for your question. The terrorists and foreign fighters are in fact fighting against freedom, peace and democracy. They simply do not want to see democracy succeed in Iraq, and have resorted to the horrific tactics of suicide bombings and targeted killings not only of American and coalition soldiers but overwhelmingly of Iraqis as well. They are trying to shake our will and resolve. But we and the Iraqi people will not let them succeed. The Iraqis have made great progress and are very close to the next step in their political process and that is presenting a draft constitution to the people of Iraq. Following the adoption of the constitution we expect the Iraqis to have elections in December. Each day more and more Iraqi security forces are being trained and are taking responsibility for their own security. As more Iraqis security forces are stood up, more American soldiers will stand down. The terrorists have recognized this progress and have become ever more fearful that their goal of returning Iraq to a state of tyranny and oppression is further out of reach. They will be defeated and Iraq will emerge as a beacon of freedom, democracy and peace, and a source of inspiration in the broader Middle East.

Sara, from Alaska writes:
There seems to be wave upon wave of crisis on the continent of Africa. Is it possible that the unrest there will eventually start to affect our national security?

Steve Hadley
Sara, thank your for your question on Africa. I can assure you that Africa has been a priority of the President from the beginning. President Bush sees Africa in a positive light. Democracy is on the rise throughout the continent. The number of conflicts is down, and we are working closely with the African Union to resolve the remaining conflicts. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South in Sudan has ended a 30 year war. The end of the wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia has opened the way to preparation for democratic elections. President Bush believes that America has a major role to play in helping Africa meet its challenges.

In advance of the G-8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the President took further steps towards working in partnership with the leaders and people of Africa by: announcing a major effort to fight hunger and humanitarian crises, including delivering emergency food aid to Niger; joining other G-8 leaders in canceling a total $40 billion in debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest nations, including 14 in Africa; challenging the world to reduce dramatically malaria as a major killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa and pledging to increase funding of malaria prevention and treatment; continuing the Africa Education Initiative to improve the quality and accessibility of basic education for millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa; and, announcing an initiative for women's justice and empowerment in Africa. These new and continued programs complement the efforts already under way on HIV/AIDs, trade, and redefining how development assistance is given to countries through the Millennium Challenge Account. In addition, experts expect some of the strongest economic growth in several years.

Combined efforts with our friends and allies are helping the people of Africa to: preserve human dignity, encourage economic growth and combat global terror. So you are correct, helping Africa is very much a national security concern because as the people of Africa build societies that are prosperous and at peace we are also denying havens for terrorists.

Daniel, from Great Barrington, MA writes:
Hi Mr. Hadley. I am a 15 year old very interested in national security. Does Iran's restart of its nuclear program worry you alot?

Steve Hadley
Daniel, I appreciate both your question and your interest in national security. Yes. It concerns me and it concerns the President because we do not want the Iranian regime to possess the technology that would allow it to produce a nuclear weapon in the future. We have longstanding concerns about Iran's intentions given its track record over the past two decades of hiding its nuclear efforts and violating of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreements. In fact, the IAEA Board of Governors just yesterday adopted a resolution that expressed serious concern over Iran's nuclear intentions. We will continue to support the EU-3's (U.K., France, Germany) negotiations with Iran, and urge the regime to fully and permanently suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities. For these are the activities that would allow Iran to obtain the nuclear material it needs for a nuclear bomb. If Iran fails to do so, we will work with our allies and others on appropriate next steps.

Robert, from Dayton, Texas writes:
Hello Steve Hadley, With our military providing an increasing role in disaster relief around the globe will these humanitarian events adversely affect the readiness of the military to respond to pop up crisiss if such relief evolutions are in progress.

Steve Hadley
Robert, each year Congress requires the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff to do a risk assessment and report to Congress on the U.S. military's ability to carry out U.S. strategy. Chairman Myers presented such a report to Congress earlier this year.

Chairman Myers has stated publicly that the U.S. presently has the forces necessary and is capable of carrying out the U.S. strategy which includes winning the global war on terrorism, including the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as any contingencies that could arise such as humanitarian missions around the world. But you are right to be concerned, and that is why the President is careful about committing U.S. troops to disaster efforts and seeks to get other nations to help as much as possible.

Rico, from Killeen writes:
Hi Mr. Hadley I have a passion for national security and foreign affairs. Currently I am pursing a degree in public policy and nongovernmental organizations. What is the best path to pursue a career in national security to eventually become national security advisor? Thank you for taking my question.

Steve Hadley
Rico, thank you for your question and I appreciate your interest in a career in national security. My recommendation would be for you to finish school (and of course do the best you can), and then look for opportunities within the federal government such as at the State Department or Defense Department where you can be a part of the policy process. From there you can determine what interests you and whether or not you would like to specialize in any particular area. I began my career at the Department of Defense in the Comptroller's office and I know Secretary Rice (my predecessor) began her career as an intern at the State Department. Your career may take you to different places. As long as you set your own path, believe in yourself and work hard, I am confident you will be able to achieve your goals, hopes and dreams. In the meantime, I would encourage you to look into the many interesting internship programs that are offered within the government for students. Good luck and I wish you much success.

Mary, from Los Angeles writes:
Mr. Hadley, Why does our President refuse to meet with Cindy Sheehan, whose son made the ultimate sacrifice for a war that more and more Americans view as unjust and unwarranted? Why does he continue to insulate himself from those who disagree with his policies? He's not demonstrating leadership, he's demonstrating disdain. For shame, all the dead soldiers, all the dead Iraqi civilians; I frankly don't understand how those of you who pushed for this conflict can sleep at night.

I'm certain you won't post this question, not this White House.

Steve Hadley
Mary, the President did in fact meet with Cindy Sheehan and other family members who lost loved ones in the war on terror when he visited Ft. Lewis, Washington on June 18, 2004. The President has met 900 family members of 272 fallen soldiers. The President grieves at the loss of every single man and woman who has given their life in service to this country. When he meets with families, he does his best to bring them comfort and to honor the memory of their lost loved one. As the President often says, putting men and women in harm's way is the hardest thing a Commander in Chief must do and war is always a last resort. That was the case with Iraq, and because of the efforts of America and our coalition partners, a dictator has been thrown from power, an oppressed people now have hope, and freedom and democracy are growing in a part of the world that has never known it. The President hears and understands the arguments of those who oppose our efforts in Iraq. I met with Mrs. Sheehan myself, heard her arguments, and conveyed them to the President. He understands but respectfully disagrees. The President is committed that the job in Iraq will be finished and the sacrifice made by Americans and our coalitions partners will have made this world a better and safer place for generations to come.

sam, from new jersey writes:
how could the united states allow the israel pullout from Gaza, if every kid knows that these people are terorists and will be a home for all terorist groups?

Steve Hadley
Sam, the President believes that Israel's disengagement from Gaza strengthens Israel and can lead to peace and the defeat of terror. He understands the fears that disengagement may lead to more terrorism, and we will work with Israel to prevent that. The Palestinian Authority must also work to prevent any acts of terror. Palestinian Authority President Abbas has made the commitment publicly and has taken some initial steps. He must do more. The Palestinian people want peace and deserve peace. Both Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas are committed to a two-state solution, as is our President. The Palestinians know that in order to build their State, they will have to fight terror.

James, from Los Angeles writes:
Dear Mr. Hadley: Regarding the war on terror. Oops, I meant the struggle against extremists. I have heard the refrain that "we are not at war with Islam." I have also heard, "we are at war with the Wahhabists sp" an extreme faction of Islam. Is this correct? Are we at war with a part of Islam, but not the whole body? If this is the case, what are we doing to motivate that non-warring portion to curb these violent criminals? Perhaps if we were a little toughter, the non-warring portion of Islam would have the motivation to get involved. Instead, what I seem to see happening is a blind eye turned toward the terrorists by the rest of Islam.

Steve Hadley
James, the President is very clear on this point: We are not at war with Islam; we are at war with terrorists.

Muslim leaders, scholars and clerics and average citizens -- most recently following the attacks in London and Egypt are increasingly condemning terrorism, which amounts to nothing more than the wanton murder of innocents. These voices, which speak for the vast majority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, make clear that Islam does not sanction terrorism but rather rejects it.

It is unfortunate, but the minority of Muslims who support extremism or commit terrorist acts often receive greater publicity than the quiet Muslim majority supporting tolerance and moderation. Terrorist bombs, and the attention they attract, often drown out the voices of moderation.

We are working with moderate voices here and abroad to expand their reach and resonance within the Islamic world and more generally.

We are at war with violent extremism and intolerance, with those who advocate the murder of innocents, with those who oppose the establishment of free and democratic governance. We are not at war with Islam, but rather with terrorists who exploit Islam to justify their atrocities.

Linda, from Ocean City, Maryland writes:
How relevant is NATO in the 21st Century?

Steve Hadley
Linda, NATO is America's most important Alliance and the premier forum for our relations with Europe. We share with European Allies the values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, and together we are a single democratic community. NATO remains our key vehicle for advancing and securing the cause of freedom in Europe and beyond, and for working jointly to face the threats of the 21st century, including terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Currently, NATO is actively engaged in missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Kosovo and in the Darfur region of Sudan. Over the past four years the Administration has led a far reaching transformation of NATO aimed at making the Alliance more effective in addressing 21st century security challenges beyond Europe. That effort will continue.

Jennifer, from Michigan writes:
I know we take our goal of nuclear disarmament seriously. How can we diplomatically deal with the North Korean government when it insists it will use a nuclear power plant "peacefully"?

Steve Hadley
Jennifer, the President believes that the Six-Party talks (the diplomatic mechanism by which the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Russia, China and North Korea have engaged to discuss this issue) is the proper way to move forward. North Korea must give up all its nuclear programs. North Korea's demand for a right to peaceful nuclear energy would mean that North Korea could again be in a position to expel inspectors and harvest nuclear material any time it chooses to do so, as it did in late 2002 and early 2003. As our ambassador to the Six Party Talks Chris Hill said, we can't be in a position where the North Koreans pretend to disarm and we pretend to believe them. The talks are expected to reconvene in late August and we will continue to work with our partners towards a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

Steve Hadley
Thank you for your very good questions. I enjoyed our chat today and hope I can join you again in the future.

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