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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer October 9, 2002 (Full transcript)

QUESTION: Helen's right. And I have a

QUESTION: -- how much does oil have to do with the assessment of the threat from Saddam Hussein? President Bush didn't mention it.

MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not sure I follow your


QUESTION: Well, you keep talking about blackmail. You're talking about blackmailing the region to get control of the oil supplies. How significant is that in the President's thinking?

MR. FLEISCHER: I see. Well, if you take a look at what the President said when he went to the United Nations, and what Congress said when it passed the Iraq Liberation Act for regime change in 1998, that issue is not in play. The issue is the enforcement of the United Nations resolutions urging -- calling on Iraq to make certain that they disarm, that they cease the development of weapons of mass destruction, they cease the hostility towards its neighbors, the repression of minorities. And Congress stated similar positions in 1998. Those are the factors, Terry, that threaten the peace.

QUESTION: But when you talk about the potential -- the very real potential that if he gets a nuclear weapon he'll be able to blackmail the world, what would we be concerned that he wants, that he would demand?

MR. FLEISCHER: Think if Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons at the time he invaded Iran, or the time he invaded Kuwait. If he had invaded Kuwait in possession of nuclear weapons, think how much harder it would have been to put the coalition together to forcibly remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. If he has them, he knows that that calculation changes and changes dramatically. And the risk with Saddam Hussein is, while others may have nuclear weapons, Saddam Hussein has a military history of invading his neighbors, using the military tools he has to accomplish through force what cannot and should not be accomplished, that is the takeover of others. And that's why the U.N., as part of its resolution cited the need for him to cease his hostility toward his neighbors.

QUESTION: But if his neighbors didn't have so much oil -- there are countries in Africa which invade each other and we don't get involved -- most security analysts take a look at it and say oil is a central aspect to the nation's security. And Saddam Hussein getting control of the world's oil supplies -- are you saying oil is not at all a factor in the President's thinking?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think when you take a look at what the United Nations voted for, what the Congress voted for, what President Clinton signed, and what President Bush supports, that is not a factor.

QUESTION: So oil is not a factor?

MR. FLEISCHER: That is not a factor. This is about preserving the peace and saving the lives of Americans. And it's also -- a factor that is new is what took place on September 11th, and the awakening here that we are vulnerable to attacks on our own soil, now, and that Saddam Hussein, if he links up with terrorists, has an interest in harming us.

QUESTION: So the stability of oil prices is not a national security or an economic matter -- how can you say that it's not a factor? I just don't understand that.


QUESTION: is about any potential use of military force. And this is about saving the lives of American people.

QUESTION: Saddam Hussein's oil reserves are not at all a factor in any of the geopolitical calculations?


QUESTION: as I took it was about whether or not this is a factor in what makes us --

QUESTION: -- on a broader


MR. FLEISCHER: I think the reasons are exactly as the President stated. Now, there are implications as a result of any action that will have effects on the economy. And no one can predict what those will or will not be. The past history, at least in 1991, shows that the projections and the predictions were dire and were wrong, but I think it's impossible to state what the impact will be if this comes to pass.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: Ari, the House vote coming tomorrow on the Iraq resolution, are you satisfied that you're going to get the signal that you wanted to send the world?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the strong likelihood is the House tomorrow will send a very strong signal to the world, to our allies and to the American people that we stand as one; the country speaks with a strong, united voice; and many people, Democrat and Republican alike, deserve praise for their actions.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: The President has called both North Korea and Iraq two parts of an axis of evil. He says they both have weapons of mass destruction. He says they both threaten their neighbors. He says that both leaders -- he compares them to Stalin. So, other than the oil that Iraq controls, what's the difference?

MR. FLEISCHER: Between North Korea and Iraq? How many of Iraq's -- how many of North Korea's neighbors have they invaded lately?

QUESTION: Well, there was the one.

MR. FLEISCHER: I said lately. And I said by the current -- and also, of course, by the current leader. Saddam Hussein has ordered the Iraqi military to attack Iran. Saddam Hussein ordered the --

QUESTION: -- when he was our guy, right? On the attack on Iran.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, if you have some disputes with the policies that were in place in 1979, you're welcome to bring those up with leaders who were here in 1979. Saddam Hussein ordered his military to attack Iran. Saddam Hussein ordered his military to attack Kuwait. Saddam Hussein launched the missiles at Saudi Arabia and at Israel. It's a very different matter, and a very different leader.