Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, February 18, 2003
QUESTION: U.N. Security Council resolution -- diplomats
at the Security Council have given us to understand that we might have
a resolution as early as Wednesday, that is to say a draft presented by
America and Britain. But you were indicating this morning that we
might not see one until next week, if at all. Are we backing away from
MR. FLEISCHER: No, what I said this morning was it could be
this week; it could be next. Obviously, Wednesday is part of this
week. So the timing remains to be determined. We continue to consult
with allies about the exact moment that is most propitious to move
forward. It could be this week; it could be next.
QUESTION: If it looks like such a resolution would
not pass, would the administration decide, forget about it, we're just
not going to go that route?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the President said, we would
welcome the chance for the United Nations to speak out on this matter.
The President has made it clear that as far as the United States is
concerned, it is not mandatory, but it is something that we continue to
talk to our allies about.
QUESTION: One last thing on the resolution, if I
may. One thing that 1441 lacked that, I presume you would find useful,
was some sort of a timetable, a deadline. Is that the main issue, in
terms of deciding whether or not to seek such a resolution?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just not going to entertain any guessing
or speculation about the language of it. That remains something that
we're talking about in private with the allies.
QUESTION: Without talking about language, what would
you have to put in a second resolution to make it more palatable to the
other members of the Security Council, beyond the U.S. and Britain?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the key thing that the President wants
to have in there is that it enforces resolution 1441, making clear that
final meant final and serious consequences means serious consequences.
QUESTION: But what do you add to a second resolution
to get the rest of the Council to go along?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, those are the parameters the President
And the President will leave the wordsmithing to the diplomats who
have a history of working these types of issues through. And we will
see what the future holds.
QUESTION: Regarding the hang up right now with the
Turks over U.S. troops being able to use Turkey. Is the President
offended any way that the hang up seems to be over money? Does he
think that this is a matter of principle, and money shouldn't enter
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President understands that
Turkey is in a difficult position and Turkey has some important
decisions to make. The President respects the government of Turkey and
the people of Turkey. The United States and Turkey have a long
history, going back decades, of being strategic partners. And we will
see ultimately what Turkey decides and what the final outcome is.
QUESTION: Is the President optimistic that there will
be an agreement?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President is waiting to find out
what the final determinations will be. I would not characterize him
one way or another.
QUESTION: Would that be a blow if there is no
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let's wait and see what happens. And
we'll take it in turn.
QUESTION: Ari, the President of France yesterday
suggested that the European countries that support President Bush's
position are infantile and should have shut up, and basically
threatened to blackball Bulgaria, a U.N. member, and Romania from the
EU for supporting Bush. Do we feel this language is appropriate?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President understands that for
some these are trying times. And the President as he approaches
diplomacy will continue to remember that we are all one alliance and
that at the end of the day we still share values and work together.
And the President is very grateful and appreciative to the leadership
and the strength of the nations of Eastern Europe. They understand
what it's like to live under tyranny and oppression. And the President
is very grateful to have them as new partners and new allies, not only
in the war on terror but in advancing the cause of democracy.
QUESTION: And is there a concern that, for example,
these kind of threats from the President of France, for example, might
make Bulgaria less likely to vote for a new resolution, as you are
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President understands and knows
full well that the nations of Eastern Europe are sovereign, are proud,
and are able to make their own judgments and to do the right thing on
the behalf of the cause of freedom. And the United States of America
stands proudly behind the allies in Eastern Europe.
QUESTION: As far as the statement in general from the
EU, what does the administration make of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the statement by the EU represents an
amalgam of positions. Of course, it talked about this is a final
chance for Saddam Hussein and it stressed the importance of
disarmament. And I think that, by and large, the statement represented
much of what the United States views. Not all the positions that the
United States adheres to were put into the statement. A willingness or
a desire to appeal to a few. But the President, again, when you look
at Europe, it's not very complicated. With a few exceptions -- Germany
and France most notably -- Europe stands united, Europe stands
together, Europe stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States of
QUESTION: What was the administration's view of what
prompted this effort? There was a lot of talk, including by U.N.
Secretary General Kofi Annan, that it was important to have some show
of unity to bring people together to some extent. What's the
administration's view of why this effort got underway, and why it
turned out the way it did?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think one of the things that's
notable, that will be somewhat of a guide into the future, is the
United Nations Security Council last November said this is a final
chance. And now the European Union has said this is a final chance.
And unless the words "final" are so flexible that they have no meaning,
this is Saddam Hussein's final chance, per the United Nations Security
Council and per the European Union. And that's an important statement,
if it has meaning.
QUESTION: One last thing for you on the second
resolution. Is it your sense that there will be some effort to put in
some sort of guidelines, some sort of accomplishments that must happen,
that Iraq must do in order for the process to move forward, or will it
be a much simpler, shorter statement?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's going to be a relatively simple
and straightforward resolution. It would, as I indicated earlier,
enforce resolution 1441.
QUESTION: On that point then, are you looking for
outside of a resolution language -- is the United States seeking
reassurances from Dr. Blix saying that he will, in the short term, make
certain demands of Iraq, like that the missiles that Dr. Blix says are
in violation be destroyed in a public way, in a specific time frame?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's interesting, because these aren't
demands, these are legal requirements. This is exactly what the United
Nations Security Council set in motion with Resolution 687, as well as
1441. There are no choices, there are no options. There is only one
way, unless the word of the United Nations has absolutely no value.
After all, if the United Nations finds that you can have proscribed
missiles and get to keep them, because they don't do anything about
them, then is the United Nations really the instrument of disarmament
And that's something Dr. Rice talked about over the weekend, about
the importance of the United Nations being effective.
QUESTION: Turkey's financial demands on the United
States seem to amount to tens of billions of dollars. Without going
into the specifics of the negotiation with Turkey, what provision is
the administration making for the non-military cost of this war?
Whether it's foreign aid, eventual rebuilding costs, dealing with
refugees, and so forth, all of which appears to be adding up to a very,
very significant amount of money, none of which seems to be accounted
for in any budgetary proposals or anything else.
MR. FLEISCHER: These are issues that we continue to talk to
Turkey about. And Turkish officials have also had conversations with
members of the Congress, as you would expect, about this. And it
remains to be seen exactly what the ultimate outcome will be. But one
of the most important ways to protect Turkey and make certain that they
are -- endure the fewest costs possible was thanks to the action that
NATO took over the weekend to begin to provide defenses to Turkey.
Without those defenses, whatever cost would be borne would be far, far
higher. And the President is grateful that NATO was able now to
proceed and provide the assistance to Turkey that an ally like Turkey
QUESTION: But shouldn't the American people and
Congress have a clearer sense of what the total bill might add up to
for all of these things before we get into this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Dick, I think there's no question that that
will be forthcoming in the event that agreements are reached. But
until those agreements are reached, this remains a matter of some
discussion. And Congress is consulted on this.
QUESTION: But I'm not talking about just Turkey here,
but refugee costs, rebuilding, all of these things extending out over
MR. FLEISCHER: And I think you received the announcement
that we made, oh, some 10 days ago, about the United States already
beginning the reprogramming of money -- I believe it was in the
reprogramming category -- for humanitarian relief along the areas
bordering with Iraq. The humanitarian issue remains a vital issue in
the event of war. It is part and parcel of America's planning to go in
with humanitarian relief, with food aid, with medical aid to help the
Iraqi people. So all of this is part and parcel of the plan.
QUESTION: But at this point, you don't have a global
number or estimate?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's impossible to have a global number or
an estimate for it because that all depends on what the outcome is. So
it very well may be insignificant, it might be significant. It's too
hard to say.
QUESTION: But where does it come from?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sarah.
QUESTION: Back on the cost issue. If the U.S. does
not get a second resolution, does the President believe that U.S.
taxpayers will disproportionately bear the burden of the reconstruction
costs in Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the reconstruction costs remain a very
-- an issue for the future. And Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather
wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the
Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be
able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction.
And given the fact that Iraq right now suffers under sanctions as a
result of Saddam Hussein's repression and Saddam Hussein's attempts to
procure weapons which the United Nations have said are sanctionable --
the fact of the matter is that Iraq's reconstruction will be aided by
the removal of Saddam Hussein because Iraq will then be able to take
its proper place among nations of the world that trades and trades
freely, which all benefits the reconstruction of Iraq.
QUESTION: What about all of the post-war costs -- you
Is the fact that, if we don't get a second resolution, isn't it
true that the U.S. is going to disproportionately bear the burden of
paying all of those costs?
MR. FLEISCHER: I want to remind you that even with or
without a second resolution, as the President has said, this will be a
rather large coalition that will go in to disarm Saddam Hussein. But
make no mistake, the President of the United States has stated that the
United States will be committed to the long-term stability of Iraq, and
that we will stay in Iraq as long as necessary -- not one day longer,
but as long as necessary to make certain that the transition in Iraq is
a transition to a unified and peaceful Iraq. The costs of leaving
Saddam Hussein in power far exceed the cost of anything that might
involve the disarmament and the reconstruction of Iraq. I don't think
it will be very long down the road when Iraq does settle in its place
as a different type of nation, a nation without sanctions and a nation
that can become a harbinger of good things in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Won't it be a lot more expensive without
France and Germany?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think we'll see what ultimately they
decide to do. And, of course, as I mentioned, once sanctions are
lifted from Iraq, that provides a lot more means for the rebuilding and
the reconstruction of Iraq.
QUESTION: Ari, how would you characterize the
President's personal demeanor as he faces all these war protests, as he
faces France and Germany holding up things at the U.N., as he faces a
lot of frustrations as he tries to move toward getting this matter
resolved with Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, in terms of the war protests, you
heard what the President said himself earlier, where the President said
that he respectfully disagrees. As he said, democracy is beautiful.
And these are the rights of people to protest. Were the people in Iraq
to protest so freely, Saddam Hussein would have been gone from power a
long time ago.
As for the relations with the allies, this is part and parcel of
ongoing diplomacy around the world. It wasn't easy to get the first
resolution last November. There were many nations who disagreed about
the exact language that was going to be used. There were many people
in the United States Congress who said they would never put a
resolution through the United States Congress authorizing the use of
It reminds me also of when the President withdrew from the anti-
ballistic missile treaty to pursue the missile defense initiative, when
many people said, you can't do that, we will oppose you in doing that
-- particularly throughout Europe. And people said at that time that,
if you pursue what the President is proposing it will lead to an
increased militarization around the world, when the case of missile
defense the exact opposite turned out to be the case. We have better
relations with Russia and fewer offensive weapons as a result.
So the President approaches all these issues of opposition in a
matter of, one, the importance of standing on principle and, two,
respecting those who disagree, but continuing to lead if he thinks it
will lead to peace. And I think he's had a pretty good track record of
standing on principle and leading in the direction that has helped
formulate peace around the world.
QUESTION: Is he getting a little frustrated with all
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the President understands when
he went to the United Nations last fall, he set this path in motion.
If the President wanted to act unilaterally, the United States could
have acted unilaterally last fall. And this was a decision President
Bush made to bring the United Nations into this, front and center. And
that is where we remain.
Now, the question is, is the United Nations getting uncomfortable
seeing threats to peace they do not control. Is the United Nations
getting uncomfortable with the fact that the military mission to remove
Slobodan Milosevic had to be done outside the United Nations Security
Council auspices, because the United Nations Security Council could not
face up to the threats.
These are the issues the United Nations Security Council has to ask
itself, are they comfortable with the role the Security Council is
playing in the world, when they were set up, by design, to replace the
League of Nations, so they didn't meet the same fate of an organization
of international states that was not up to the challenge or up to the
The history in Kosovo is not a good one for the United Nations
Security Council. The President hopes that won't be repeated.
QUESTION: When the President was asked about -- for
his reaction to the demonstrations over the weekend, he said, evidently
some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace. In
fact, the argument that most, if not -- well, the vast majority of the
people who were in the streets over the weekend make, is not that
Saddam isn't a threat, but that they simply disagree with the President
over how to deal with that threat. Does the President think those
people were being insincere? Does he not think that that's their real
MR. FLEISCHER: No, he thinks that -- he respects them, but
he thinks that their position is wrong, that the real threat to peace
is Saddam Hussein and his possession of weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: Well, didn't he mischaracterize the main
argument of the people on the other side? They don't seem to disagree
that Saddam is a threat or a risk to peace --
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think that was very visible, if
that's the case.
QUESTION: So you don't think that that's their real
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think that was a visible message, if
that's the case.
QUESTION: Ari, this morning on the topic of the
protests you drew a parallel to the early '80s protests in Europe
against the IMF missiles. But these protests also occurred in Brazil,
in Hong Kong, in Seoul, throughout the Arab world, in Canada. Do you
think those are also sort of this throwback to the early '80s?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, my remarks about Europe and the protests
in Europe were directly analogous to the situation in the early 1980s
QUESTION: What about Asia, Canada and the rest of the
MR. FLEISCHER: Just as the President said. It's the right
of people to protest, wherever around the world they so choose.
QUESTION: A couple questions on the resolution. I'm
unclear on one point, is the administration committed to going forward
with a second resolution? Could it be this week? Could it be next
week? Could it be never?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the administration is committed to going
The administration is continuing to work with our allies about the
exact language and drafting of it. And as I indicated, it could be
this week, it could be next.
QUESTION: And then you suggested that France and
Germany are more or less alone in Europe. How would you read the
Security Council at this point? Is the United States swimming
upstream? Or --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's too -- I think it's too soon to
say. Very often at the Security Council, people keep their powder
generally dry until almost the day of the vote -- if not the day of the
vote. And so I think it's clear that Germany will be "no" vote no
matter what. And it remains to be seen about many of the other member
states. And that's why it's important to keep talking to them. That's
why I also am not going to get into any of specific words that might be
in a resolution because we're working that quietly and privately and
diplomatically with those countries.
QUESTION: If the Iraqi people are going to largely be
responsible for paying for their own reconstruction, will they be given
a lot of freedom, in terms of how that reconstruction is going to be
carried out? Or are we going to kind of guide them and tell them what
needs to be done?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think what's going to emerge will be
a government of the Iraqi people that comes from both inside Iraq and
outside Iraq. There are no shortage of people who are dedicated to a
different route for Iraq. And I think also one of the great issues
that will be seen -- if this does come to war -- is how, when people
have the ability to be free, they exercise that right to be free. The
Iraqi people have lived under tyranny and under dictatorship. And as
the nations of East Europe have shown us just recently, when the yolk
of dictatorship is removed, people's God-given rights to freedom
emerge. And the President believes that that will be the case in
QUESTION: Does the President believe there is any
value in listening to those -- either countries or individuals who do
not agree with his position on Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, certainly. And that's why the
President has talked to different leaders and continues to do so. I
reported to you last week his phone call with President Chirac. And
the President will continue to do that. And the President understands
that even when people take different opinions, different positions, at
the end of the day, because our values between Europe and America are
so strong, that even for nations where we disagree, the relations will
remain strong. They can get tested.
Our alliance has been through tests before. France is not a
military member of NATO, they're not part of the defense policy
committee, because Charles DeGaulle removed France from it in the
1960s. The alliance has survived after that move by France. And there
have been strains before in the alliance, there will be strains in the
future. But in the end, we will remain an alliance because of the
shared values that we hold. In the end, one way or another, Saddam
Hussein will be disarmed.
QUESTION: What about the protesters? Is there any
reason to listen to the message they have, even if he doesn't take it
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President addressed that
QUESTION: The U.N. is predicting that any war on Iraq
could displace more than a million Iraqi civilians. They also say that
thousands of children would face starvation. Is the removal of Saddam
Hussein worth that price?
MR. FLEISCHER: The question is, Saddam Hussein, left to his
own devices, how many people will he kill, how many Iraqis has he
killed already? You all know that more than a million died in the war
between Iraq and Iran.
QUESTION: Ari, I want to follow-up on a question
earlier. If it would be more persuasive for Americans to hear the
President describe in more detail what U.S. involvement in a
post-Saddam world would mean for the Iraqi people, what it would cost,
how involved we would be, why is he waiting for a decision to be made
-- I'm not sure if it's inevitable, why is he not talking to the
American people now about that aspect of the benefits that he sees?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the President has talked about
this in the past, when he talks about freedom and the fact that he is
confident that any outcome in Iraq will lead to freedom for the Iraqi
people. And you've heard it expressed from numerous other people in
the administration, notably Steve Hadley, in a speech before the
Council on Foreign Relations last week up in New York. And you have
not heard the final word from the President on this topic, too, I
QUESTION: But he would wait until a military strike
begins, to talk to the American people about the post-war effect, or
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I would just remind you also, when the
allies landed in France in June of 1944, we didn't know what the future
government of Nazi Germany would be, but we knew the world would be a
better place and a safer place as a result of beating the Nazis in the
campaign in which they launched in bringing the war to the soil of
Europe, to free the people of France and to free the people of Europe,
without a crystal-clear conclusion about what the future of Nazi
Germany would be.
And so this remains an important topic. It is something you will
hear about in the future. But it's impossible to say with precision
now what the future will hold, just as it was impossible to say on June