Excerpts from the Press Gaggle by Ari Fleischer, January 29, 2003
QUESTION: Ari, the other day the White House
released, I think it was a 7-page catalog of Iraqi's -- Iraq's failures
to cooperate with disarmament. I think it was called, "What
Disarmament Would Look Like." Is that the kind of thing that Powell
hands to the Security Council next week, or does he give them new
evidence we haven't seen before?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me make a couple points about what
Secretary Powell will do at the United Nations next week, as well as
where we stand in the bigger picture about what is coming next
vis-a-vis Iraq. The Secretary's presentation will take a look at what
is known about Saddam Hussein and the threat he presents, and he will
connect the dots. He will go before the Security Council to share with
them information about why this is such a matter of grave concern and
why the peace is threatened by Saddam Hussein's defiance of the United
Nations, and Saddam Hussein's refusal to disarm.
We are now entering the final phase. During this final phase, what
is about to unfold is a diplomatic window -- a diplomatic window. The
President takes seriously the importance of consultations with our
European allies. The President takes seriously the importance of
consulting with the United Nations and the United Nations Security
Council. You will see an increase in meetings and phone calls by the
President. Obviously, the decision the President made to send the
Secretary to New York underscores the importance the President has for
the United Nations Security Council.
This is a diplomatic window. There will be many conversations
taking place at both the presidential and the secretarial level. The
President still believes that if diplomacy results in strong and
powerful expressions of unity towards Saddam Hussein, so that Saddam
Hussein receives as powerful a message as possible that he needs to
disarm, then this can be resolved peacefully.
The President continues to hold out that hope. And that's why he
is launching this effort now through this diplomatic window. If Saddam
Hussein does not get that message, though, there can be no mistaking
the President's resolve that a coalition will disarm Saddam Hussein if
he doesn't do it himself. So that's the phase that we're entering into
now, in this final phase.
QUESTION: Does he give new evidence? Does Powell
present new evidence next week?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think that he will, in effect,
connect the dots about what is known. And I'm not going to make any
more predictions beyond that about what the Secretary will say.
QUESTION: How long will that window be open, Ari, and
what will shut it?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has not put a time period
on that. But the President believes that this diplomacy is important
because, one, he believes in consultation, he pledged to do so, and it
is, in his opinion, wise to do so. But, two, he believes earnestly
that the result of this diplomacy should be the world saying to Saddam
Hussein, you need to do what you've been told to do; you need to
QUESTION: Now, you've said -- and the administration
has said several times before that we're in a final phase, the last
stage, time is running out. What's the difference between those
statements and what you're saying here today?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, the President has not put a
specific timetable on it, and therefore, I won't. But you're seeing, I
think, an uptick in the tempo of the seriousness of these discussions.
I think the President's speech last night, in a very cogent way, took
the case directly to the American people, for them to increasingly form
their own conclusions about the risks that Saddam Hussein presents.
And I think that there's a tremendous difference and impact when many
people in Washington talk about Saddam Hussein having 30,000 warheads,
having 30,000 liters of biological weapons, including anthrax and VX,
mustard gas, sarin gas. When Hans Blix says that, it has a very
powerful message. I don't think anything is as powerful as when the
President says that to a country that is increasingly tuned in to hear
For the country, much of what the President said last night was new
evidence and new information. For others who follow every step of the
debate, they may have other thoughts. But for the country, what they
heard last night I think was powerful and new.
QUESTION: There are reports this morning that the
President would make at least two more public speeches on Iraq, if
necessary -- one on a deadline; one on a decision.
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know where that came from.
There are no plans to do that. And, again, as I've indicated, the
President has not put a timetable on it. If events warrant, the
President will inform you. But the President has not made those
QUESTION: Administration officials had explained
before, in the past, that one of the reasons why some of this
information hadn't been made public was that it would be more useful to
keep it sort of quiet, for if we had to go to war, you would want that
information, that intelligence to be used in the event of military
action. It would be more useful there. What has changed about that
concern, and is it just the sense that finally the President is
agreeing that more people are demanding more information, they want
more information, and finally that need is overtaking the concerns
about reserving that intelligence for use in a military conflict?
MR. FLEISCHER: These are valid issues that you point
to, and this is why this is a serious process, to walk through
information bit by bit to determine how much can be shared, what can be
shared, at what level it can be shared, but at the same time, not
jeopardize the sources or methods that, one, help us now to collect
information, or two, may be helpful down the road if necessary. So
that's a part of the equation.
QUESTION: But what changed that decision? I mean,
the calculation on --
MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing changed it. It's still the part
of the review that's underway. But the President has always said that
it's important to consult. Consultations include passing along
information. That's always a part of the process. The level of
information and the way to protect sources and methods is part of what
will unfold over the next little while.
QUESTION: And Senator Kennedy has said he would
submit a resolution in Congress requiring the government to present
evidence to Congress, as well, before undertaking any force against
Iraq. Is that something you can work with Congress on? Are those
concerns you're prepared to address?
MR. FLEISCHER: I haven't seen the Senator's proposal
yet. Obviously, there are a tremendous number of congressmen and
senators who believe the President has made a compelling case. There
are many who have already voted and authorized the President to make
the final judgments about whether to go to war or not. And that
resolution was passed last Congress, with overwhelming bipartisan
support. I don't remember how Senator Kennedy voted on it. But the
President will continue to reach out and talk to a number of people.
QUESTION: The President is talking to a lot of
leaders who share his view -- Blair this week, Berlusconi this week,
the Polish leader is in the mix somewhere. Is he going to reach out to
leaders who don't share his view, personally try and sway a Chirac or a
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll keep -- as we always do, we'll
keep you posted on the conversations the President has and the meetings
he has. Obviously, you're seeing here -- before Prime Minister
Berlusconi arrives tomorrow, Prime Minister Berlusconi and President
Aznar and Prime Minister Blair are all meeting amongthemselves. You're
seeing an uptick in the diplomatic front.
But you have to remember, most European nations see it the
President's way. So when you talk about, will he talk to others, the
fact is, the majority of people he talks to see it his way.
QUESTION: But France has a veto, for example. They
have a particular power.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
QUESTION: A couple questions on Powell. Is he going
to show them documents at the U.N.? Is he going to show them
pictures? Is he going to show them intercepts, anything specific like
that from U.S. intelligence? Or just list what we think they've got?
MR. FLEISCHER: The purpose of his presentation is to
provide as much as possible without jeopardizing methods or sources.
And that represents careful judgments that have to be made so that
information can be shared and sources and methods can be protected.
The President is sending him there for a reason -- he wants the world
to have information. But I also submit to you, in the President's
judgment, there's already a Mt. Everest of information, high enough to
know that Saddam Hussein has weapons and is willing to use them. From
the President's point of view, making Mt. Everest higher is not
necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: But you can't say whether he's going to
bring the evidence, itself, or just describe the additional evidence
that you plan to present?
MR. FLEISCHER: I explained to you the process. There's
a review underway of how to both share information and protect sources
and methods. And that review is underway, and we'll know all next
QUESTION: So you're still not sure exactly what he's
going to bring? You're still working on that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course, the speech is six days away.
QUESTION: One other question --
MR. FLEISCHER: Seven days away.
QUESTION: One other question -- is Powell going to be
asking for something? Is he going to be asking for another
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to defer on many of these
questions until next week.
QUESTION: But it will be newly-declassified
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say that. I didn't say it
wouldn't be, but I didn't say it would. There's a process underway,
and, with all due respect, it's important -- it's a serious process,
and it's important to let it unfold.