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President George W. Bush
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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.

Dan Senor
October 9, 2003

Dan Senor
Hi, I'm Dan Senor. I'm in Washington for a few days after having spent the last 6 months in Iraq. I've been working for Ambassador Bremer on a number of reconstruction, policy and communication issues. I'll be returning to Iraq within the next two weeks but look forward to answering your questions on the reconstruction while I'm here.

Erica, from Pasadena writes:
I am most saddened by the children who have to suffer through all of this. Hopefully, our actions will lead to better lifetimes for them. They won't have to live under a brutal dictator like Saddam. I think that Americans forget just how horrible this man was. We've become so insulated and so protected that we can't imagine what life was like under someone like Saddam.

Anyway, back to the children. Do they have hope? Can they go to school? Are the schools a disaster? I pray for them.

Dan Senor
Hi Erica

First of all, you are completely correct. The horrors inflicted by Saddam Hussein on his own people are tragic. I have visited mass graves where thousands of Saddam’s victims were buried dead and alive. I have met with the families of victims of his chemical attacks in the North. I have heard from the survivors of his torture chambers and his rape rooms. This truly was an evil regime.

The good news is that the overwhelming majority of Iraqi people have embraced the liberation and are grateful for all we are doing to reconstruct their country. This is critical not only for the freedom of the Iraqi people but also for our overall success in the war on terror.

As for the Iraqi children of whom you spoke, we are proud of our record on schools and education. When we arrived in Iraq after the fall of the regime the school system was in disarray, but we got the school system up and running quickly. Shortly after Ambassador Bremer arrived in Iraq, he declared that we would rebuild 1,000 public schools by the start of the next school year. That new school year began just a few days ago with over 1,500 schools rebuilt. All of Iraq's 22 universities have been re-opened and the youth in Iraq are finally hopeful for their future.

Jared, from Oklahoma writes:
I've seen almost daily negative media reports that talk about all the problems in Iraq. After six months time, has anything good been accomplished in Iraq or is this just another Vietnam? If there are good things, what are they?

Dan Senor
Thanks Jared,

Today is the 6-month anniversary since the fall of Saddam's regime. When we arrived in Iraq following the toppling of this regime, there was not a single Iraqi police officer on the streets, today there are over 40,000. The Iraqi military was dissolved. Just a few days ago, the first battalion of the new Iraqi Army graduated. This new Iraqi army will not be engaged in repression of the Iraqi people and posing a threat to America and the international community. It will be focused on protecting Iraq’s borders and helping us and assisting American forces in the war on terror. In addition, today all of Iraq’s 240 hospitals are open, 90 percent of (Iraq's health clinics are open). When Ambassador Bremer arrived, he said that we would meet pre-war electricity levels within a few months -- just a few days ago, we exceeded pre-war electricity generation levels.

Ambassador Bremer also said that by this summer we would form an Iraqi governing council to play a role in governing Iraq while we are there. The governing council was formed according to schedule. So we have a plan and we are executing it according to plan. There is still much work to be done, but we can be proud of the immense progress we have made so far.

Justin, from Massachusetts writes:
Mr. Senor, How will the new government of Iraq be chosen? Will free elections be held? If so, how do you think Iraq's neighboring Arab nations will respond?

Dan Senor
Thanks Justin......

The new government of Iraq will be chosen in a free democratic process with elections based on a constitution drafted by Iraqis and ratified by the Iraqi people. We have a 7 step plan to get there.

The first step was the formation of the Iraqi governing council. The 2nd step was the governing council’s appointment of Iraqi Ministers to run the Ministries. The 3rd step was the formation of an Iraqi constitutional preparatory committee to propose a plan for the constitutional convention.

Those 3 steps have taken place.

The 4th step is the constitutional convention where a constitution will be drafted by the Iraqi people. The 5th step will be the ratification of the constitution. The 6th step will be free elections based on the constitution.

And once there is a freely elected government in Iraq, the 7th step will occur which is coalition withdrawal of civilian authority in Iraq.

henley, from baton rouge, lousiana writes:
as the media speculates do you think iraq has derailed us from the war on terror and our efforts in the rest of the world? i appreciate your response.

Dan Senor
Iraq is now a central front in the war on terror. Saddam Hussein's government was a state sponsor of terrorism. His government used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. There are terrorists in Iraq today engaging US forces because they know that if we are successful in building a free government in Iraq at peace with its own citizens, with its neighbors and serves as a model for the region and is no longer a threat to the United States, then the terrorists’ days are numbered.

If we choose to ignore terrorists in Iraq we will wind up hearing from them on our own soil. That is why success in the reconstruction of Iraq is so critical.

Eric, from Lawton writes:
Dan, what was your reaction and the overall reaction when Uday and Qsay were eliminated, or as Ahnuld would say "terminated"?

Dan Senor
Hello Eric

Uday and Qsay Hussein were personally directly involved in decisions to slaughter torture and rape thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqis. I have met some of their surviving victims. And their stories are ones I will never forget.

The overwhelming majority of Iraqi people were terrified by these two men and Iraq celebrated when Uday and Qsay’s careers came to an end. That was a great day for Iraq and the Iraqi people.

Judy, from Oceanside, NY writes:
Do you feel that the media is presenting an unfairly negative view of the post-war situtation in Iraq?

Are there any newspapers or columnists in the US who you feel are presenting an accurate, unbiased picture of our progress or lack of same there?

Thank you.

Dan Senor
Since I spent most of my time in Iraq, I don’t see all the U.S. coverage, but I can tell you what is going on on the ground and you can decide if it is being fairly reported. Here’s what’s going on on the ground:

Hospitals are open. Schools are open. Children are back at school. Iraqis are taking more and more responsibility for their security. There is a flourishing free press with over 160 Iraqi newspapers that have started up since liberation. There is a thriving small business free market with satellite dish stores, white good sales (refrigerators and appliances) on every street corner in downtown Baghdad.

95 percent of the country is at peace and returning to normal daily life. There is a tiny area of the country where remnants of the former regime and foreign terrorists are organizing against us. That is because they do not have a stake in a new free Iraq.

brian, from Redondo Beach writes:
Are there any Iraqi leaders who will publicly thank the USA for ridding their country of Saddam?

Dan Senor
There are Iraqi leaders stepping up all the time thanking the United States for their liberation. Members of Iraq’s new governing council as individuals and as a group have repeatedly thanked President Bush and the United States for removing Saddam Hussein from power. I hear from Iraqis all the time who have expressed this sentiment. One I will never forget was General Ahmed Ibrahim who is a senior Iraqi security official. In his words, "we will never forget the Americans who came to a foreign country to help people they never knew."

George, from Seattle, WA writes:
When is President Bush going to call an all-station press conference and discuss with the American people the information in the recent WMD interim report which all major media except Fox News channel has ignored? When is he going to start telling the American people about all the successes we have had in rebuilding Iraq - and destroy the facade of "miserable failure" his democratic challengers have created, with the willing help of most major media outlets in America?

Dan Senor
Hello George,

President Bush has told the American people about the interim report -- click here. Here’s what the interim report said.....

US inspectors have found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein was in violation of UN Resolution 1441 which gave him a final chance to disarm.

Among the early findings:

Iraq’s intelligence service ran a clandestine network of biological labs and safe houses and deadly biological organisms were concealed in scientists’ homes.

Newly documented links between Iraq and North Korea have been discovered that would enable Iraq to make missiles with ranges of up to 1300 kilometers. -- A clear violation of UN resolution limiting Iraq to missiles with a range of 150 kilometers or less

Inspectors have found systematic efforts to sanitize or destroy documents computers, equipment and other materials related to WMD work.

Karen, from Public Affairs Office, Baghdad writes:
You looked great on Fox earlier. Can you offer us any style tips?

Dan Senor
Glad to see that Fox has an audience in Iraq.

Eddie, from Seven Hills writes:
You always hear about the faulty infrastructure in Iraq -- how it was either caused by neglect or the war itself. This seems like a mammoth problem and it is unsettling because infrastructure can be pretty fragile. But without the basic infrastructure, it will be hard to rebuild the economy. Is it a priority for the United States and the Iraqi people? SPECIFICALLY, what is being done?

Dan Senor
Iraq’s infrastructure is fragile and brittle because of 35 years of chronic underinvestment and neglect by Saddam Hussein. Take electricity for example, even before the war there was a structural shortage built-in to Saddam's electrical system. Only 2/3 of the country’s electrical needs were met. In addition, there was no redundancy built into the system. So on top of the shortage, the entire electrical infrastructure is very susceptible to political and criminal sabotage.

We have been working to get Iraq’s electrical generation back to pre-war levels and exceeded that a few days ago. Now we must do a major reconstruction of the electrical system which we hope to be funded in part by the President’s budget request. This will make it more difficult for terrorists and extremists to capitalize on frustrations of Iraqis.

This is another reason why the President’s supplemental budget request is so important. It helps give Iraqis the tools to maintain their own security, it helps provide a basic living standard so terrorists and extremists cannot capitalize on despair and it helps create an economic environment in Iraq that is welcome to private investment. So Iraq can get on a path toward independence.

Improved electricity goal for example, fits into all three of these categories. These priorities all contribute to the larger goal of doing what’s in America’s national security interest.

Gabe, from Rockland writes:
I don't know whom to believe. The news coverage is almost like an election. We hear vastly different things depending on who is covering the story.

This is your show. You've been to Iraq. Tell me specifically what good we've been doing in Iraq. What progress has been made. I'm an attorney. Do they have any semblance of a legal system over there now and has the US played a part in helping to create one?

Thank you.

Dan Senor
Hi Gabe

The Iraqi Minister of Justice just a few weeks ago announced the establishment of an independent judiciary in Iraq. Ambassador Bremer signed this decree into law at the request of the Justice Minister. Iraqi judges for the first time in 35 years will be free from political interference, control and manipulation. This is historic. It is the only independent judiciary of its kind in the region and this is one of the key pillars of a free, democratic society in addition to pillars like freedom of speech and freedom of religion -- both of which are also protected in the new Iraq.

Dan Senor
Thanks for taking the time to send your questions in. I found them very interesting. I will continue to consider them when I return to Iraq in the days ahead. I hope to do this again soon. Perhaps from Baghdad.

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