For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 26, 2001
Remarks by the President
In Meeting With
Muslim Community Leaders
the Roosevelt Room
3:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It's my honor to
welcome to the White House my fellow Americans, Arab Americans,
Americans who are Muslim by faith, to discuss about the current issues
that took place, the aftermath of the incident, and what our country is
going to do to make sure that everybody who is an American is
I have told the nation more than once that
ours is a war against evil, against extremists, that the teachings of
Islam are the teachings of peace and good, and the al Qaeda
organization is not an organization of good, an organization of
peace. It's an organization based upon hate and evil.
I also want to assure my fellow Americans
that when you pledge allegiance to the flag, with your hand on your
heart, you pledge just as hard to the flag as I do; that the outpouring
of support for our country has come from all corners of the country,
including many members of the Muslim faith. And for that I
I appreciate the contributions of time,
the contributions of blood to help our fellow Americans who have been
injured. And I'm proud of the Muslim leaders across America
who have risen up and who have not only insisted that America be
strong, but that America keep the values intact that have made us so
unique and different -- the values of respect, the values of freedom to
worship the way we see fit. And I also appreciate the
prayers to the universal God.
And so, thank you all for
coming. I don't know if you all remember the Imam led the
service at the National Cathedral -- he did a heck of a good job, and
we were proud to have him there. And I want to thank you
very much for the gift you gave me, Imam, the Koran. It's a
very thoughtful gift. I said thank you very much for the
gift. He said, it's the best gift I could give you, Mr.
President. I appreciate that very much.
Q Mr. President --
MR. JOHNDROE: Thank you all
very much. Thank you all.
Q Mr. President --
PRESIDENT: Yes? Wait a minute. I feel
guilty that John couldn't -- yes?
Q Sir, Senator
Shelby this morning had some pretty direct comments about his thinking
that somebody needs to be held accountable for what has been
characterized by some people as a massive intelligence
failure. I wonder what you think of his
comments. Is he trying to inject politics in
this? Does someone need to fall on their sword, if you
THE PRESIDENT: Well, John, the
intelligence gathering capacity of the United States is doing a fine
job. These terrorists had burrowed in our country for over
two years. They were well-organized. They were
well-planned. They struck in a way that was
unimaginable. And we are a united nation. We're
going to go forward with our war against these
terrorists. And our nation should have all the confidence
that the intelligence gathering capacity of the United States is doing
everything possible to not only keep us informed about what's happening
overseas, but to keep us informed about what might happen here at
Q So how would you
characterize his comments over the last few days?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he's a
concerned American. I'm sure other Americans are asking how
could this have happened, including the President. But what Americans
need to know is that I'm receiving excellent
intelligence. The CIA is doing a fine job. The
FBI is responding on every single lead we're getting, and that we're
doing everything we can to make the homeland safe, as well as
everything we can to bring people to justice.
Q Granted the
extremism, do you -- and I'd like to ask the Imam the same question --
do you consider bin Laden a religious leader or a political leader?
THE PRESIDENT: I consider bin
Laden an evil man. And I don't think there's any religious
justification for what he has in mind. Islam is a religion
of love, not hate. This is a man who hates. This
is a man who's declared war on innocent people. This is a
man who doesn't mind destroying women and children. This is
man who hates freedom. This is an evil man.
Q But does he have
THE PRESIDENT: He has got evil
goals. And it's hard to think in conventional terms about a
man so dominated by evil that he's willing to do what he thinks he's
going to get away with. But he's not going to get away with
Q Sir, there were
thousands of more layoffs in the airline industry
today. What is the administration going to do about it?
THE PRESIDENT: Come to Chicago
JOHNDROE: Thanks. Thank you all. Can
we go now? Thank you. I don't want to shout you
down, so let's just leave. Thank you.
Q On the Middle
East -- think that's going to lead to a durable peace in the Middle
THE PRESIDENT: Steve's question
was on the Middle East. Sorry, Gordon. That's
what happens when you invite guys -- (laughter). You invite
John Roberts in here -- aggressive reporters, you get -- Steve asked
about the Middle East.
We're encouraged that there are
discussions going on that could lead to the implementation of
Mitchell. There is the framework for peace. There is the
process now available. It's the Mitchell Plan, which
everybody agreed to is the right way to get to a peaceful resolution in
the Middle East. And there is a series of discussions that
took place. Hopefully, there will be more discussions, and that both
parties get into Mitchell. And that's going to be good for
America, and it will be good for the Middle East and good for the
world. And so we're hopeful.
I don't know if you remember, but I said
out of this crisis, this tragedy that hit America, I do see
opportunity. And one of the opportunities would be that
there's some sensible thinking that goes into the Middle East, and that
people now realize that this violence, this terrible destruction of
human life is not the correct path to follow, and that, hopefully,
people use this example as -- the incidents that took place on
September 11th to bring some reality to the Middle East.
The discussions are moving
on. And I want to thank the Secretary of State for staying
with it, staying on the phone and encouraging both parties to get to
the table. And we'll see what happens. We're
Q Mr. President,
have you changed your thinking on Chechnya, in light of what's happened
since September 11th?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of
all, to the extent that there are terrorists in Chechnya, Arab
terrorists associated with the al Qaeda organization, I believe they
ought to be brought to justice. As you heard me say, that
our initial phase of the war on terrorism is against the al Qaeda
organization. And we do believe there are some al Qaeda
folks in Chechnya.
However, I do believe it's very important
for President Putin to deal with the Chechen minority in this country
with respect, respect of human rights and respect of difference of
opinion about religion, for example. And so I would hope that the
Russian President, while dealing with the al Qaeda organization, also
respects minority rights within his country.
Q Mr. President,
tomorrow you'll be announcing some new security measures, one of them
likely to include some federal role in training airport security
personnel and monitoring their work as time goes on, moving forward.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're
going to deal with airport security tomorrow, as well as other
measures, to try to convince the American public it is safe to
fly. One of my concerns is that this terrible incident has
said to many Americans -- convinced many Americans to stay at
home. And one of the keys to economic recovery is going to
be a vital -- the vitality of the airline industry.
I presume many of you came to Washington
today by flying, and you're here safely. And it's a -- we'll
announce some confidence-boosting measures, some concrete proposals,
and I believe we'll be able to work with Congress to get them done in
an expeditious way.
Q You don't support
THE PRESIDENT: Army pilots?
Q Arming pilots.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh,
arming. As I said, I look forward to any suggestion that --
there may be better ways to do it than that, but I'm open for any
suggestion. And the good news is, is that there's a
willingness on Capitol Hill to work with the administration, and vice
versa, to come up with constructive, sound ways to convince the
American public it's safe to fly.
Q How quickly do
you think you can put these plans in place?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, some of them
will be -- some of them will take a while, some of them could happen
very quickly. Just give me a chance to give my
speech. You're trying to jump the gun on me,
Q It's my job,
THE PRESIDENT: You're doing it
well, too, my boy. (Laughter.)
John, no longer can you say, I haven't
answered your questions. (Laughter.)
Q One of the three
ain't bad. Thank you, sir. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: -- batting
.333. All right.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Gordon, good job
-- no questions. (Laughter.)
3:50 P.M. EDT