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Excerpts from the Press Briefings by Ari Fleischer October 10, 2002 (Full Transcript)

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I'd like to begin with two announcements. One, the President appreciates the strong showing of support in the House and the Senate that is shaping up for what appears to be the final votes on the resolution to authorize the use of force against Iraq. The President hopes that this vote will send a strong message to Iraq and to the world that if Iraq does not comply with the United Nations resolutions, the United States and her allies are prepared to use force to make certain that Iraq does comply, so that the peace can be kept.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: On Iraq, the Iraqi government is taking reporters around to al Furat manufacturing facility and the Nassr engineering facility. These were mentioned obliquely by the President Monday night, the White House released satellite photographs of them, and the Iraqis I guess are taking reporters around to show that everything is hunky-dory there. You got any reaction to that?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think that reporters are seeing the same cat and mouse games get played with themselves, and they walk away scratching their heads, wondering what it is they just saw and what was concealed. I think Iraq has shown a 10-year-long history of being able to take guests into Iraq, having moved facilities around, having mobile facilities available, hiding information, allowing things to be seen that only they want to be seen. And so it's very hard, I think, for anybody, unless they are a real independent expert with the proper equipment, to walk into a facility and have a clear understanding of what it is that is either taking place there, used to take there, or may be taking place on another side of a wall through which they cannot see.

QUESTION: Ari, it's clear from the satellite photos that the White House provided to us on Monday that there has been new construction at those two facilities. But do you have any way of legitimately knowing what's inside those buildings?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the best way to know what is inside those buildings is either through intelligence, which I will not discuss, or through the return of inspectors, who have the authority to go into those buildings any time, anyplace, anywhere, with any equipment and get their job done. But your assessment is accurate. The photos that were released showed the rebuilding of a building. People can make their own interpretations about what's going on inside those buildings, but the point is that facilities that were associated with these weapons of mass destruction that we knew were used for the purpose of creation of weapons of mass destruction have been destroyed and then these same facilities rebuilt. The best way to know what's going on is through the other two means I said.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: Ari, the President in Cincinnati said that if he makes a decision to go to war, that he would, in the aftermath, support a unified Iraq, which is a significant statement. So what evidence can the administration point to now that there is a viable alternative to Saddam Hussein, an opposition that is capable of leading in his absence? Especially given the fact that Americans have a lot of information to chew on about the Northern Alliance as a viable alternative to the Taliban prior to that --

MR. FLEISCHER: It's a very interesting

QUESTION: , and I think the easiest way to express it, David, is the President has a universal faith in mankind that mankind does not want to be governed by despots, that people are capable of self-government around the world. That's particularly true in an educated, relatively advanced nation like Iraq. No people choose to have a leader who engages in the type of dictatorial, despotic, tyrannical types of actions that Saddam Hussein has taken. Another way to say it is when Saddam Hussein has been such a brutal dictator, he has no shortage of people who would like to see him gone, and who could do a much better job governing once he is gone. More specifically then, we will continue, the United States government will continue to work with people both inside and outside Iraq who have an interest in advancing the cause of government that is representative of the people. I don't think anybody thinks that Saddam Hussein is representative of the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: But -- okay, well, tell us about that. What are we doing? Don't the American people have the right to chew over what the alternatives are here, and know what the government is doing to pave the way toward dealing with the aftermath of invasion, should it come to that?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think -- it's impossible to predict with certainty what type of government would replace Saddam Hussein. It's fair to say that whatever it is, it will be an improvement. Whatever it is, it will also represent what the President has said about a government that represents the people. And that's why there are various groups, both inside and outside Iraq, who are dedicated to that.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: But you still don't have any evidence to present to the public that there is a viable alternative as we stand here today?

MR. FLEISCHER: If you're suggesting that because there is no known immediate successor to Saddam Hussein, that until one can be known, Saddam Hussein is a risk that should be left in place, the President does not agree with that approach.

QUESTION: Obviously, I didn't say that. But what I'm asking you is, do you have anything beyond faith in mankind to tell people that the government is preparing to pave the way toward an alternative leadership?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's the issues I mentioned. And also, I think that it's fair to say if you look at Afghanistan as a model -- and this is where the -- faith in mankind, don't misinterpret what I'm saying here, this is something that we hold dearly as Americans, the universal value that be believe is God-given for people to be free, for people to have a government that represents themselves, not a government that controls, not a government that is dominant over them. That is a powerful force throughout the world. That is a force for freedom and that is a force for good government. Saddam Hussein has used his powers in a ruthless manner to oppress the people of Iraq. And as I said, the President will continue to work through, and the United States will continue to work through these groups. And Afghanistan has shown that when despots are thrown out, there are a great many good people who would like to take their place and who can make for a better day for the people of that country. That is the case with President Karzai of Afghanistan and many other people who participate in the loya jirga there.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: Ari, you said that the consequences for failure to comply must be included in any U.N. resolution. Does that suggest that the U.S. has decided that it will only accept one resolution, and that the only

QUESTION: is what the language may be within it?

MR. FLEISCHER: Jim, nothing has changed. Our position remains one resolution. We are urging them to act on one resolution in which the consequences are made clear should Saddam Hussein fail to comply.