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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer on October 22, 2002 (Full Transcript)
QUESTION: Does regime change mean that you want to change the leader of Iraq, or you want to change the nature of the regime?
MR. FLEISCHER: The objective is for Saddam Hussein's Iraq to disarm, to stop threatening its neighbors, to stop repressing minorities within its own country. And that's why Congress passed the policy of regime change.
QUESTION: Well, which of those definitions is correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let's do it -- let me cut to the bottom line on it. What I would propose is that in the event Saddam Hussein gives the order, and under his leadership and direction disarms Iraq, gives up its weapons of mass destruction, has no more chemical weapons, no more biological weapons, stops using hostility as a way to deal with its neighbors, stops repression of minorities with his own country, give me a call. After you cover Saddam Hussein doing these things, let's talk about it. Until then, the President is focused on making sure that these developments take place as a result either of the U.N. resolutions being enforced, or by whoever in Iraq taking these actions to make it happen. But this is probably the mother of all hypotheticals. Give me a phone call when it happens.
QUESTION: But can you define --
QUESTION: Why not just say we want him Saddam to go? Why not just say we want him overthrown, we want him out?
MR. FLEISCHER: The policy is regime change. Saddam Hussein is the heart of the regime.
QUESTION: But can you define regime change? Can regime change exist, and Saddam still be in power?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is like how many angels, or in this case, how many devils can dance on the head of a pin.
QUESTION: -- you guys use all the time. This is crucial, you have to define it.
MR. FLEISCHER: The resolution that Congress passed didn't define regime change.
QUESTION: This is the President of the United States. Forget Congress, what does regime change mean? Does it mean that Saddam Hussein can stay in power?
MR. FLEISCHER: It means exactly what I said.
QUESTION: No, it doesn't mean -- then what did you say? Say it again.
MR. FLEISCHER: I said, it means that those policies and those objectives get carried out, that the regime --
QUESTION: So Saddam could stay in power if those objectives were carried out?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, call me up when Saddam Hussein gives the directions for all those factors to take place.
QUESTION: So, that's a yes?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think this is a question of how many devils can dance on the head of a pin.
QUESTION: It's not. Can he stay in power and have regime change?
MR. FLEISCHER: You're asking the mother of hypotheticals. And I think it's a rather-
QUESTION: Does it refer to a leader or a government, regime change?
MR. FLEISCHER: It refers to actions that have to be taken to keep the peace.
QUESTION: So it's a question of policy, not personnel?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a good way to put it.
QUESTION: So he could stay in power if all those things happen?
MR. FLEISCHER: If you want to fool yourselves into believing that that's what Saddam Hussein would do in policy, that's an interesting way to approach it.
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