For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 17, 2001
Press Briefing Index
President's Schedule 1-2
Economics 2-3; 7-8; 14; 16
Airline Industry 3-4; 5
State of Alert 4-5
World Trade Organization 5
Legislative Agenda 5-6; 6-7
Rebuilding in New York 6
Reserves Call-Up 7
Wall Street 7
President's Comments on Osama Bin Laden 8-10; 13; 14; 15-16
Arab Americans, Non-Americans 8-9; 16-17
Assassination Directive 10-11
President's Visit to Islamic Center 11
Middle East 13
National Security Council Meeting 16
the White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release September 17, 2001
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:17 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good
afternoon. I would like to fill you in on the President's
day and, also, I have a couple announcements to make.
President Bush this morning spoke with
President Zayid of the United Arab Emirates. The two spoke
about cooperation against terrorism. The President thanked
President Zayid for his public statements of support and his
willingness to help the United States.
The President, earlier today, convened a
meeting of his National Security Council to continue making
plans. Earlier, the President visited the Pentagon to be
briefed on the status of the call-up of the Reserves and to thank the
employers and families who we know will be making a sacrifice to allow
the Reservists to come serve our nation.
The President is about to make a phone
call to the Chancellor of the New York City public schools, Harold
Levy, to discuss how the federal government is prepared to help the
school children and the parents of New York City deal with this tragedy
as children go back to school.
The Secretary of Education is with the
Chancellor right now. He will be there for the phone call
and he will be making an announcement about additional millions of
dollars which will be provided to New York City public schools to help
them in this effort and to help our children and to help their
A little later this afternoon, the
President is going to be departing the White House to go to an Islamic
center in the Washington, D.C. area, where the President intends to
speak out very strongly about the need to remind all Americans that
Arab Americans and Muslim Americans love the American flag, just like
everybody else who is a citizen of this country. And he's looking
forward to that visit. He'll spend some time with the
leaders of the community, as well as various members of the
community. The President considers that a very important
Later this afternoon, the President will
return for a meeting of the economic policy team, where they will
discuss the consequences of the terrorist attack on the United States,
from an economic point of view, as well as discuss the airline industry
and the position the airline industry is in at this moment.
Mrs. Bush will be in Pennsylvania for the
memorial service for those who lost their lives in the crash of the
airline in southwest Pennsylvania.
Two announcements for you, and then I'll
be more than pleased to take questions. President Bush will
welcome French President Jacques Chirac for a meeting and a private
working dinner on September 18th, tomorrow. The visit is
part of President Bush's continuing consultation with key allies about
our global agenda, including the war on terrorism. And I'd
note that this was a previously planned meeting.
In addition, the President will welcome
Amir Shaiki Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani to Washington. He is
the Amir of Qatar, for a working visit on October 4th. And
with that, I'm more than happy to take questions.
Q Ari, on the
economic front, the President talked about working with Congress on an
economic stimulus package. Is he specifically preparing to
back another tax cut? Does he think the country needs that
MR. FLEISCHER: Too soon to say,
David, but the President will continue to keep his eye on the economy,
and he will continue to listen to members of Congress in both parties
about what steps, if any, they believe need to be taken to help the
economy, if any need to be taken.
Q Can you be more
specific? Is that one of the ideas that's currently being
discussed, both in Congress and between Congress and the
MR. FLEISCHER: That is one of
the ideas being discussed, correct.
Q And what kind of
tax cut? Are we talking about capital gains --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's too
soon to say. The President will have the briefing later this
afternoon, and so I would hesitate to speculate until the briefing.
Q Let me go
further. Does the administration support the bill in
Congress to provide assistance to the airline industry?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's the topic
that will come up at the meeting this afternoon -- the best forum that
assistance, if any is to be coming, could be available. So
that's a topic the President will review, and he has -- he's very
concerned about the health of the airline industry.
Q Will there be a
decision on either one of these matters out of this meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let the meeting
take place, and I'll try to keep you informed. And, again,
this is the beginning of a process where the President will keep his
eye on the economy, in the aftermath of the attack on the United
States. So I'll keep you updated.
Q The Taliban is
now saying that it's Supreme Council will meet tomorrow to discuss the
U.S. demand to turn over bin Laden. What's the
administration's response to that? What are you looking for
out of that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's
response will be, he will see what they say. But this is
much bigger than that. The President has made it clear, the
Vice President has made it clear, the Secretary of Defense has made it
clear that this war on terrorism is bigger than any one person. The al
Qaeda organization is a network that is represented in some 60
countries around the world, that exists beyond any one
leader. And this war on terrorism is a war that the
President said he is committed to taking throughout this organization
that engaged in this attack on our country.
Q And the Pakistani
officials are saying that they told Afghan leaders, the Taliban, they
had 72 hours to turn over bin Laden. Is that a
MR. FLEISCHER: Anything
involving, any specific actions that may or may not have been taken by
our allies in this matter, I'm not going to get into. And
let me try to shed a little light on the reason for that, because there
have been many questions about what have you asked your allies to do,
and I've indicated the broad areas.
We've asked our allies to cooperate with
us in military areas, in financial areas, in economic areas, in
political and diplomatic. And I understand why you want to
know more. But for me to indicate to you anything more than
that would also be an indication to our enemy about what concrete steps
allies may be taking. And one of the easiest ways for them
to get around any steps our allies may be taking is for them to know
So I wish somehow there was a way that I
could share this information with people here and with the American
people. But, as you know, any answer I would give to that
would also be directly provided to our enemy. And I will not do that.
Q Ari, two
things. One is, we're hearing reports of an American
airliner that had to make an emergency landing in Chicago
today. The FBI came on board, apparently, and took away
three gentlemen. What kind of state of alert is the White
House had, and law enforcement, about people who may still be flying,
that may be a danger? And, secondly, has the President
rescinded the order for the military to shoot down commercial
airliners, if necessary?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the second
point, I'm not going to address the exact status of the defense
operations to protect the American people. Suffice it to say the
United States remains on a very heightened status of alert to protect
the traveling public. But that's an operational question so,
therefore, I'm not going to get beyond what I have said.
On the first part of it, the President has
tried every day in every way to warn the American people that this is a
war and we are an open society. Obviously, the events of
September 11th, a terrorist organization was able to
penetrate our country and to attack. And being an open
society, everybody does still need to be vigilant; people still need to
take care and to remember that we are in a war footing. And
it is a different time and a different era, unfortunately.
Q Does law
enforcement, Ari, in the United States, does law enforcement believe
that there may be a number of suspects still at large in the U.S. that
may have participated in the Tuesday attack and may be planning future
MR. FLEISCHER: Concerns remain
dealing with ongoing security. And that's why I think you've
seen steps that are being taken by the Department of Transportation,
the Federal Aviation Administration, to do everything possible to
secure the traveling public, particularly in the air. So
there's a reason for the stepped-up vigilance and for the stepped-up
security. It's because there are causes for concern that
Q There's a news
report today that there's a division among the President's advisors
about whether or how much to help the airline industry. As
the President goes into this meeting, what is the current thinking
about that? And is ironing this out one of the purposes of
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think,
as you can imagine in any major issue where it involves the health of
an American industry, there are lots of factors that need to get
considered. And the President will have a good opportunity
today to start to address what the facts are. And as I
indicated earlier, the meeting hasn't taken place yet. It
will take place mid-to-late this afternoon, and you may want to check
back with me after that.
Q Ari, the IMF
cancelled their meetings today, and the Emir of Qatar is
coming. Do you think the WTO ministerial should proceed as
MR. FLEISCHER: I have no
information about that. That, of course, is in Qatar and
that's an entirely different security situation. So you
can't put everything in the same category. Of course, the
meeting that was cancelled is right here in Washington, D.C., and that
meeting would have involved bringing down police from New York,
bringing down police from Philadelphia. Obviously, there is
a major strain on the police departments along the east coast and
they've made their decision.
Q What items on the
President's legislative agenda are now on the back burner, shelved for
FLEISCHER: None. It was interesting --
none. It was interesting, at the meeting last week with the
Cabinet, the meeting of the Cabinet was called for the purpose of
discussing what the Cabinet members, again, in collecting information
from Cabinet Secretaries about the status of combatting the attack on
our country and dealing with it. At the end of the meeting,
however, the President called on all the members of the Cabinet to take
action on our domestic agenda.
The President reminded them that a
patients' bill of rights remains important; that there are a series of
initiatives that are pending up on the Hill that remain
important. And he called on them to get done, including
education reform, which the President reminded them remains a top
Q He doesn't expect
to get it, surely?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, Helen,
I think it's interesting, the Congress still has a job to do and we
still are a constitutional system and that's what has kept us strong
and that's what is going to enable us to win. So there is a
domestic agenda, the President is committed to it. I think
it's fair to say that you'll hear less about it because of the
dominance, obviously, of dealing with an attack on our country.
But the President told the Cabinet members
to be dedicated to it and members of our staff are.
Q A couple of times
in the past two or three days the President has talked about the need
to rebuild New York, the need to do it as quickly as
possible. It is his opinion that the World Trade Center, or
something similar to it, should be rebuilt?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's too
soon to say, John. And that's the type of conversation the
President is going to want to have with New York officials and, of
course, with the many private organizations who are headquarter in the
World Trade Center.
But, obviously, the President has a real
keen eye out for how to help New York and how to bring New York --
rebuild New York. But what form that will take, it's too
soon to say, this is six days after the attack.
Q But is he of the
mind, though, that if you did not rebuild that building, or a
reasonable facsimile thereof, that it would be bowing to the
MR. FLEISCHER: No. I
think, again, the President is going to have serious discussions at the
appropriate time with the Mayor of New York, with the Governor of New
York, with the appropriate people who are responsible for such an
endeavor. But what the President is making clear is not only
for the symbolism of rebuilding New York in the wake of attack, but for
the humanity of it and for the deserving nature of helping New York, he
is intent to get it done.
Q Can I just follow
up on Helen's question. The President would like those
issues addressed this year, patients' rights, education and everything
that was on the plate, trade promotion authority, still this year?
MR. FLEISCHER: That was his
charge to the Cabinet members.
Q Now, wouldn't
that foster some disunity on the Hill? I mean, a lot of
those are very contentious issues and he's looking for a united
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, Keith,
I guess that's one way to look at it. I don't think that's the way the
President looks at it. And I think that in the wake of this
there is a different mood in the Congress, and in the Presidency about
working with each other and cooperating with each other. So I've made
no such presumption. The issue should be, proceed with the
people's business on the domestic front and work together.
Q Can you give us
any kind of summary about the Pentagon meeting the President had
MR. FLEISCHER: The President
received an update about the status of the call up of the Reserves, the
number of people involved, the activities that they will be working
in. The President, of course, listed many of those
activities -- you heard him, himself, when he was talking about
engineering roles, he went through -- protecting the
harbors. He went through the whole list of activities which
the Reserves are helping in. And also talked about the employers and
the families, the difficulty that a call-up can impose on
them. And the President expressed his gratitude for those
who provide such a vital service.
It's interesting because the Reserves
really do play a tremendous role in our nation's ability to defend
itself. It's not a passive role, it's not a small role --
it's an integral role. And that's what they talked about.
Q Ari, you know the
eyes of the world are on Wall Street today. It's been closed for six
days, after the terrorist incident. Is the President being
appraised -- I know Secretary O'Neill was over there for the opening,
but is the President being appraised continually of the behavior of the
markets, not just the averages?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I did
not ask him when we went over to the Pentagon if he was aware what
stocks were trading at, at that moment. But, of course, the
President is keenly aware of the first day of the markets opening, and
the importance of the markets working and functioning. It's
a terribly important topic. That's why Secretary O'Neill has
been so involved in it and will continue to be.
Q Will he be at the
meeting this afternoon, the economic meeting?
MR. FLEISCHER: Secretary
O'Neill? I believe the meeting is of the White House staff
that works with all the Cabinet Secretaries. But, again, the
meeting will be in a couple of hours.
Q Ari, can you
elaborate a little bit on the President's remarks today about wanted
dead or alive? I mean, could you explain his intent? Is he
essentially issuing an appeal for anyone to hunt down and possibly kill
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think
you can elaborate. I think they were pretty plainly spoken.
Q How about in
addition to that, then, if we want to go through the same imagery, is
there any consideration of a federal bounty, a reward?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's nothing
that I've heard about like that.
Q To follow up on
that, yesterday afternoon the President used the term, find the
perpetrators and bringing them to justice. Was he talking
about a form of justice in which you police, the international
community polices, brings them to an international sense of justice in
terms of judicial justice, or is he talking about specifically just
military strikes, obliteration?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, and the
President said that again today, he said that remark in the context of
justice. He added that, as you heard, in his
comments. I think that justice comes in many different
shapes and forms. And the President has stressed his opinion about a
couple of those different shapes and forms that it could come in.
Q The comments that
the President and his senior advisors have made about the increased
security, the increased awareness that we will have to follow now have
been careful to note that we don't want this country's freedoms to be
eroded by the terrorist attack, we want to remain America. And, yet,
the presence of five or four Middle East nationals on a domestic flight
is exceptionally rare.
Are the rules different for
non-Americans? Should that trigger now questions -- Middle
East nationals on domestic flights in large numbers, should that
trigger questions? And are non-Americans in this heightened
sense, this more aware time, to undergo more close scrutiny than
members of the Arab American community -- non-Americans to undergo more
scrutiny than they did in the past?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
when you look at the fact that there are lines, sometimes people are
told to get to their flights four hours early, that way they can all go
through the same security review, I think it's perfectly clear that
these provisions apply to one and to all. As a matter of law
enforcement, anybody who is believed to be violating the laws of the
United States will be held accountable and responsible. And
the laws target law-breakers.
Q -- whether we can
be more focused on non-Americans in this time. I'm trying not to get
to profiling; I'm trying not to get to the diminution of civil
liberties. But is the scrutiny more on non-Americans than it
can be on Americans?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
the scrutiny is on those who violate the law. And whether
that's in the form of immigration, whether it's in the form of anything
else that would give the law enforcement community reason to believe
that there are threats. But I remind you, again, that the
precautions that have been put in place apply to one and to all.
And, again, the President -- also, there's
a reminder here when he goes to the mosque this afternoon that it still
is a time to remind all Americans about the role of civil justice in
our society, about the role we all play as individuals in treating our
neighbors fairly and in making no presumptions about
guilt. And that's one of the reasons the President is
going. He wants to stand shoulder to shoulder with the
American Arab community and Muslims to say that they, too, are patriots
and they, too, are victims of this attack.
Q But, Ari, one of
the hijackers was an American.
MR. FLEISCHER: And I repeat my
answer: law enforcement will target those who break the
Q Ari, on the issue
of bringing -- potentially bringing someone like Osama bin Laden to
justice, he's already under indictment in New York. Does the President
believe that it's, as a security matter, that it's even possible to try
Osama bin Laden in the United States, particularly in New
York? Does he think a trial is even a viable option?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think we'll
just have to see what steps unfold and in what manner this is dealt
Q Does he want him
tried, or does he want him --
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President
said, dead or alive.
Q Right, but this
is not a hypothetical. I mean, he's under indictment in New
York, currently. If he were to be produced, there's a real
question, if you talk to former prosecutors, current prosecutors about
the ability of the United States to even try such a person, to secure a
courthouse, to be able to put somebody like that on trial --
MR. FLEISCHER: David, I hope
the United States has to deal with this. I hope the United States has
to face the fact that Osama bin Laden is found, either dead or alive,
and then it's a question we will actively have to deal
with. Until that time, I'm not going to speculate about any
trials in the United States. I just refer you to the words
of the President and the words of the Vice President on this very
Q I'm not asking
for details, but has the President settled on a course of action, or is
that still under debate within the administration?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
discuss the timing of it --
Q That's not the
question. Has he settled on --
MR. FLEISCHER: To answer that
could be a clue that something could be imminent or it could be a long
time from now. So I'm not going to get into giving status
reports on the President's decision-making process.
Q Ari, when the
President said, "wanted dead or alive," did he have a preference as to
whether -- (laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: I did not hear
him express any preference.
Q Ari, has the
President, vis-a-vis the "dead or alive" comment, has the President
lifted the directive that forbids the use of assassination?
MR. FLEISCHER: That directive
is in effect. And I also want to add that it does not limit
the United States' ability to act in its self-defense.
Q -- has been
interpreted to limit our ability to target a specific individual at a
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll just refer
you to my words. It is in effect, but it does not limit
America's ability to act in self-defense.
Q Are you saying we
haven't prohibited assassination?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've answered
the question in the context in which it was asked.
Q Can we follow?
Q Let me follow up
on that point. You said it doesn't limit the U.S. ability to
act in self-defense. Does going after a prime -- going after
someone who we believe is responsible or behind the Trade Center fall
under that directive? Is that an act of self-defense?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just going
to repeat my words, and others will figure out the exact implications
of them. But it does not inhibit the nation's ability to act
Q Can you give us a
copy of that order?
Q Would going after
bin Laden be an act of self-defense?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a legal
matter and I'm sure the lawyers will have more to say if they want
to. But that's the answer, Ron. It does not --
the executive order does not limit the United States' ability to act in
Q And is going
after bin Laden an act of self-defense?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
define all the steps that may or may not be taken.
Q Ari, we like to
think of ourselves as a civilized world, so why does the administration
feel that it is appropriate to encourage, globally, people to go kill
MR. FLEISCHER: Jean, our nation
has been attacked and we're at war, and to win a war it is vital for
the United States to engage in it. And, unfortunately,
having had the first blow taken at our nation, our nation will defend
itself. And defending itself means acts which involve the
lives of others. We will defend ourself. And the
United States will act in self-defense, and that is why.
Q The President's
visit to the Islamic center you mentioned has an important domestic
purpose. Does it have an international purpose, as
well? How concerned is the President that in defending
ourselves we could ignite, not among the government of the region, but
among the people of the region, a kind of religious conflict, a holy
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think
it's fair to say that any actions the President takes domestically have
international repercussions. The world is looking to us to
see how we react to the fight against terrorism. The world
will follow America's lead in many cases. And we will continue to work
directly with many of those other nations.
But I remind you, also, Terry, that many
of those nations have their own threats from within and they have to
ask themselves if they fail to act against terrorism, will that further
embolden the terrorists and send a signal that they can get away with
Q But is there a
concern that this could degenerate into a conflict, not between
terrorism and civilization, but between Islam and Christianity?
MR. FLEISCHER: This attack had
nothing to do with Islam. This attack was a perversion of
Q Ari, if you could
just come back to the coalition you're trying to put together here --
and the President has used that phrase a few times. How does this
differ from the kind of coalitions put together in the Persian Gulf
time? Do you envision a different role for, say, the close
and traditional allies, the NATO allies, and then, obviously, this
other group that you are going to -- who tend to be, in large cases,
either Arab states or states that encircle Afghanistan?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that's a
very good question. The biggest difference is while the
United States is talking to coalition allies and asking for various
things, the war to be fought is a very different war. In 1991, the
Persian Gulf War was much more a traditional war. It
involved a lengthy period of aerial attacks on Iraq, as part of a broad
coalition, followed by a ground force invasion of Iraq, organized by a
large coalition of nations, including Arab nations, in that case.
What is different in this war, as the
President has said, as the Vice President has said, as the Secretary of
Defense said yesterday on one of the shows, is a war on terrorism does
not involve those traditional targets. There may be some
elements of that, but there will be some things that don't involve
overt military action of that nature.
And what that means is that some nations
are going to contribute in ways more identical to
1991. Others are going to contribute in ways that are much
more limited, but they have real contributions to make on that front,
on the political front, on the diplomatic front, on the financial
front. So different nations will contribute in different
ways. But just because one nation contributes more or less
doesn't make them any more or less an important part of the coalition.
Q Ari, can you
clarify one thing for me? Going back to this "dead or
alive," the Vice President said yesterday that he wouldn't mind seeing
Osama bin Laden dead, but that he would have to consult more with the
White House lawyers. Is the description that you gave us
based on a recent interpretation by the White House legal counsel staff
as recently as yesterday? Or is this the standing policy of
this administration? Can you clarify --
MR. FLEISCHER: I couldn't tell
you the exact genesis, the date of that. But that is the
Q Two-part. The President does not
want the State Department to keep pressuring Israel to negotiate with
Arafat, does he, since that would be to tell Israel, do as we say, not
as we are preparing to do?
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I've
thought about this a lot, and they really are very different
circumstances. In the case of Israel, and the situation
there, you have a lengthy process that was involved in bringing the
partners together, toward peace, a process that both have committed
themselves to. So the President does see here an opportunity
to help address the problems of the Middle East, and he does believe
that the patterns in the Middle East need to rededicate themselves to
the Mitchell Accords and to the peace process.
Q The Baltimore Sun
reports that radio stations in Washington and Baltimore and elsewhere
owned by Maryland multi-millionaire Kathy Hughes are, "broadcasting
African-Americans either endorsing or excusing the acts of terrorists
who took thousands of lives and who are expressing sympathy with both
bin Laden and the Palestinians."
And my question is, does the President,
who stated, we are at war, believe it would be wrong for the FCC, which
already take action on pornography, to contact Mrs.
Hughes? Or does the President believe we were wrong after
another war to send to federal prison Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not heard
these reports, so I'm not going to comment on things that I have not --
Q Well, they were
in the Baltimore Sun.
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to
comment on things that I haven't heard. But if you have
anything that would demonstrate that, I'd be interested to see it.
questions. There was a wire report that Berlusconi said he
had talked to the White House or the President about a G-8 meeting
here, sounding somewhat imminent, and that the White House has agreed
to it. Do you know anything about that?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there's
nothing. I think there was some conversation, I saw a report
on the wire that someone is proposing a G-8 meeting on the ministerial
level, but I don't know what the status of that is. That's
something that, obviously, if it's ministerial, it's Treasury.
Q What about at the
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there just
was a G-8 meeting and I don't anticipate any upcoming ones, other than
Q The President, in
his remarks at the Pentagon, used some fairly graphic language talking
about the terrorists slitting the throat of a
woman who was on one of the planes. Is he talking about
a specific incident or was it imagery or what --
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I have
not talked to the President since he said that, but I know I'm aware of
public reports involving things that were said on cell phones with
passengers on the flight in southwest Pennsylvania.
Q So there wasn't
something -- I mean, do you know which flight he was talking about or
was this just general --
MR. FLEISCHER: I just
indicated. I just said.
Q But it's based on
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I
indicated I haven't talked to the President to see beyond
that. But you all have heard those same reports.
Q On the meeting
this afternoon with the economic team, when you said that they're
considering what steps, if any, to consider in the way of an economic
stimulus package, is it possible the administration might be
considering the appropriateness of encouraging proposals to encourage
the sell-off of assets at a time when, in fact, there is a concern
about major sell-offs?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I
think you have to let the meeting take place and see what information
is presented to the President and what his reflections
are. I'll be there; I'll do my best to give you some type of
Q Ari, speaking of
civilized nations and religion, America heeded the call that President
Bush gave this week, talking about going to the church house or going
to the place of worship and praying. Many of those who
prayed this week were praying to prevent war. What does the
President, who is a devout Christian, say to these people as they're
praying that there is no more bloodshed?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that,
also, is a great question. I've thought about that a lot, as
somebody who works here, frankly. And I just think it's
really -- it has to be said, but it's unfortunate to say -- that one of
the reasons all of us are here and enjoy what we do and have the
lifestyles we lead is because somebody in a generation before answered
the call. And, unfortunately, in our history, there has been
a call to war at times. And it's a call that a peace-loving
nation and a free nation like the United States never -- ever -- wants
to get involved in or answer.
But make no mistake: the United
States has been attacked, and the United States will answer the call.
Q The Bible says,
turn the other cheek.
MR. FLEISCHER: This nation will
be defended. That way, we can have a Bible to continue to
live by and to listen to, as well as a Koran, or as well as everybody
else who comes to this country so we can protect their way of life.
Q Ari, just a few
days ago, the President talked about Osama bin Laden as a
suspect. What has happened in the past few days to bring a
finer point on his sense that this is the perpetrator and that this is
the person who is responsible, and this is what he wants to tell the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I can't
share that information with you, of course, and that deals with
anything that would involve how the United States has learned
information. If I were to answer that question, that would
be information our enemy would love to have about how we get the
information we get.
Q Just to clarify,
this is what the President wants to tell the American people, that this
is the mastermind of this, this is the person who is responsible, and
that he is worth, dead or alive, rather than being brought to a court
MR. FLEISCHER: People have
asked him questions, and he's answered them. People have
said, is Osama bin Laden a suspect, and he's answered your questions
directly. But this is why I caution you that, ask away on
the topic of Osama bin Laden -- but that is not all this is
about. This is about something so much bigger and broader
than any one person. And as I think the Vice President could
not have made it plainer yesterday, that if Osama bin Laden was dead,
this war would continue on, because it does not stop with him.
Q Ari, does the
President consider the possibility that by declaring these acts of war,
he might prevent some of the businesses in the New York area that were
harmed from collecting on insurance? Is there any
contingency plan, perhaps, to help those businesses out if they have
catastrophe insurance, but cannot collect because this was deemed an
act of war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number
one, the President has called this an act of war because it is, and our
nation previously has dealt with the consequences of acts of
war. And as a result of our dealing with those consequences,
we've led the world every time. We will do so
again. But there are economic implications to all of this,
and that's one of the reasons the President is meeting today with his
But, fundamentally, the President knows
that America is a nation of patriots. And as he said today
at the Pentagon, corporations have to pay more attention to just the
bottom line, to profits and losses. He said that in the
context of those who allow the Reservists to come up. But
everybody in this country is going to be asked to chip in, in one way
Q Ari, is the Vice
President, personally, taking part in the NSC meeting here at the White
House today? Was he there? Was he present?
MR. FLEISCHER: That was earlier
this morning, and he did.
Q He was here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes.
Q Ari, going back
to the President's trip to Islamic center. There have been
some incidents of Indian Sikhs and Indian Muslims were also under
attack. And one Sikh was shot dead in Phoenix, and other --
now, also the Prime Minister of India called President
Bush. They spoke on the phone yesterday. So could
you share their conversation and what the President is going to take
action against those -- Indian Sikhs who look like Osama bin Laden?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the
President spoke with President Vajpayee yesterday, and it's just
another reminder that everybody in this country is an immigrant here,
and everybody may have come at a different time and from a different
place. But for this President, it doesn't matter how
recently you've been here, everyone here is just as American as the
And I think at a time like this, it's
incumbent on leaders -- and that's why he is going to go to the Islamic
Center today -- to say that to the American people. I
indicated earlier that in several of the private meetings I've been in
with the President and, for example, at the meeting with those who
represented New York and Virginia and Pennsylvania, the areas that were
hit, the President said, it is your job as leaders to go out and remind
people that all of us have to speak out and remind Americans not to act
violently toward our fellow citizens just because of their ethnicity or
the color of their skin.
Q Just to follow,
I'm sorry, almost every Hindu temple around the country, including this
area, they've been having prayers and they are sending message to
President Bush that they are united and they are with the American
people, including yesterday. The Indian Ambassador, he spoke
clearly that India is with the United States. And
tomorrow, all over India, they will observe prayers for the victims in
New York and Washington.
MR. FLEISCHER: And I can report
to you, the President, he has noted this and he's been touched by
it. I've heard the President comment about the prayers and
the candle-lightings around the world, the fact that the American
National Anthem was sung at the Elysee. And these are
powerful signals that the world is sending as the world stands as one.
Q Ari, just a
couple weeks ago the U.S. government was condemning Israel for hunting
down and killing people that they said were terrorists, they said they
were acting in their self-defense, that a war had been declared on
them. And we were saying that was wrong. Now it
seems that we're making the exact same argument the Israelis
were. Has the U.S. changed its position on this?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, that's
basically Les's first question. The difference clearly is
that the two parties there had pledged to each other and to the United
States to engage in a peace process. That process has begun,
and when the two parties are committed to that peace process, the
President believes the best course is to help them and urge them to
honor that peace process.
I don't think there's any peace process
that was ever begun between those who committed this act and the United
Thank you, everybody.