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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 11, 2002
Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:23 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I'll give you a report on the President's day. The President began this morning at 7:00 a.m. with a call to congratulate former President Jimmy Carter on his winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The President was very pleased to be able to extend his congratulations to a former President.
The President followed that with his intelligence briefing, FBI briefing. Then the President earlier today made remarks about the progress for the people in Afghanistan as a result of humanitarian aid that the United States is giving, while we, more than any nation in the world, are helping to rebuild Afghanistan and providing assistance to make the lives of the Afghani people and children better from the point of view of better health care, more access to schooling. And the President was very proud to welcome the group to the White House to talk about what's happened in Afghanistan in the course of the last year.
Tonight the President looks forward to attending the second annual National Book Festival with his wife. And that is my report for the day. And I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Ari, did the President get any more information about this latest shooting now in Virginia? Has this become a regular part of his FBI briefing? And I'm wondering if there is a reason that he may feel he may not want to speak out about this publicly, for fear of elevating the status of this in the killer's mind.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, one, the President's heart goes out to the victims of these shootings, and to their families and to their loved ones. He understands how deeply troubling this is for the community and for people around the country. The President was informed about this morning's shooting.
And I mentioned earlier the President raised the issue of the shootings with Attorney General Ashcroft and the FBI earlier this week. Since then, the President, every day, is informed and kept updated about the progress the law enforcement community is making in regard to trying to find out who is responsible for this. The President has made it clear to the FBI and to the government, all agencies of the federal government, the importance of dedicating federal resources to help the local law enforcement community catch whoever's behind this. It is now a daily part of the President's FBI briefing.
Q Is this, in his mind, terrorism? And is there a function that -- for homeland security in this, either by way of coordination or assisting law enforcement in other ways?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President views this as -- whatever the word you want to use to describe it -- that this is clearly terrorizing for the people who are involved, and the families. I think it is unclear -- of course, no one knows yet who is responsible for this. So that's why I've never been able to leap to any conclusions about who is behind it, therefore, is it connected to anything. We don't know if it is or is not. We have no reason to think that it is. Unfortunately, there is a history of people doing things before 9/11 that involved the taking of lives in our country.
But the President wants to make certain that the federal government is doing all it can to help the local community. This is an important issue.
Q Can you just answer the question about does he feel it would be imprudent for him to speak publicly about it?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think that, one, the President is satisfied that the federal government and the local governments are working well together about this. I don't think he's ever ruled out speaking about it. The President will let you know if he wants to say anything about it.
Q On a different topic, the Nobel Committee chairman, in giving President Carter the award, said that the former President's success in using diplomacy to negotiate peace between Egypt and Israel -- he contrasted that with President Bush's threats to use force against Iraq and said, "It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States." Your response to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks that this is a great day for President Jimmy Carter and an important moment, and that's why he called to congratulate Jimmy Carter. And I can't reflect any beyond that. That's what the President has focused on, that's what the President has said.
Q Well, you told us that -- earlier today, you gave us the briefing that he called President Carter and what he thought about the award. But I'm asking for your reaction to the chairman of the that same committee, a very prestigious committee, saying in giving the award to President Carter, "A kick in the leg to all those who follow the same line as United States." What is your reaction to that connection?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President thinks it's a great day for Jimmy Carter and that's what he's going to focus on.
Q Isn't it a great day for the American people? And did Carter express to the President his well-known opposition to war against Iraq? And I have another unrelated question.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me just tell you, Helen, it was a friendly call, it was a short call. And the purpose of the call was to congratulate him on the winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. And I don't have any more information that they talked about anything else. I don't know that they did.
Q Did Iraq come up at all?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know if anything else came up. Nobody has told me that it did.
Q An unrelated question is, does the President think we should have fingerprinting on ballistic bullets and so forth, which NRA opposed and Congress went against? Now that he sees the sniper success?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take a look at that specifically and see if there's something I can post on that topic. I'll take that.
Q Is the White House drawing up plans for military occupation of Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: On the question of what would happen in Iraq in the event of military action in a post-Saddam Hussein era, I think it's fair to say that the administration is determined that if this becomes a matter of military action, that we not let Iraq fall apart. The administration wants to make certain that stability can be achieved. And to do that we are working through our -- working with many -- many options are being reviewed, international partners, the United Nations. We are looking at the possibility of U.S. civil affairs units of the military having an involvement in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. The point is we are looking for how to quickly transfer power to the Iraqi people from both inside Iraq and outside Iraq and in the --
Q You mean you let the --
MR. FLEISCHER: -- and in the process we want to make certain that stability is achieved so the Iraqi people can have water, they can have food, they can have heat, they can have electricity. And those are the issues that are being looked at now.
Q You're talking about a very significant nation-building role and nation-governing role, at least for the short-term for the American military, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the purpose of the military, in the President's opinion, has not changed. And that is to fight and win wars. If it becomes a matter of using the military, that is what the military will be used for. But at the end of the day, when the military conflict has come to an end, the question then becomes, in a post-Saddam Hussein era, how to make certain that the country remains unified, that it is stabilized, and that the region has stability. And that's important. And the United States will not cut and run from that mission.
Q But isn't -- just one more on this -- isn't there a huge danger to have American military forces occupy a Muslim country and governing it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that if you look at history, and you look particularly in 1991, at the reaction of the Iraqi military and what they did when they met the American military and even what they did when they met American camera crews, the Iraqis seemed to have a desire to be liberated. They live right now under an oppressive and brutal dictator, and I think there's no question the Iraqi people want to have a better way of life, and they would welcome a change in their own country. And I think that that's the context in which this should be considered.
Q But at the very least, you face a public relations problem if the American military has to be in charge for a while, because it has to disable and disarm the weapons of mass destruction. That can't be done, obviously, overnight. And while it's being done, the military is obviously going to be in charge. So whether it's occupation or not becomes a matter of semantics.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, public relations are not going to have anything to do with how the President defends our country. If Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, the military is going to be used to disarm them.
Q -- military in there --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, no, the premise of your question is you have a public relations problem. And that's not going to be a factor in any decision the President makes. The military is going to be used to win a war, if we go to war. And the purpose of going to war, if it happens, would be to use force to disarm Saddam Hussein so he cannot use his weapons to destroy or to terrorize the region or our interests or our country.
Q It leaves the military in charge for some period of time.
MR. FLEISCHER: The point, again, to be to work with our international coalition, to work through the U.N., to work through our military, to make certain that there is stability in the region. But I think that can be a force for stability and a force for improvement of people's lives.
I mean, take a look at what's happening in Afghanistan now, and the event that the President had on Afghanistan today to mark what's happened and the improvement in people's lives from where they were a year ago. The fact is that people want to be free. Around the world, it doesn't matter what country they are, whether it's the United States or anywhere in the world, nobody wants to live under a brutal dictatorship. And the people of Afghanistan viewed the United States as liberators.
Q Well -- one more, if you will. What of the notion that there would be a military governor, as in Japan, where MacArthur ruled for a time after the end of the war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, it will be -- the options that the United States is looking at are just as I described: working through our international coalition, working through the United Nations, working through the military civil affairs units to achieve stability, in whatever form that might take.
Q Are you ruling out a military governor?
MR. FLEISCHER: I've not heard anything about that. And, obviously, events will unfold and we will try to keep you as informed as possible. But these decisions have not been made, but the broader point is what is being looked at, however that can be best achieved.
Q How would war crimes trials figure into this, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the experience there comes as a result of what happened with Serbia's attacks and attempts at ethnic cleansing and their brutality in the recent events in Kosovo. And that was an agreement by a variety of nations around the world to create a court with jurisdiction over the war criminals in Serbia. And that has worked as a good example and worked well to bring people to justice.
Q So who among the Iraqi leadership might be guilty of war crimes?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think that's an answer I can give you. That's the type of thing that --
Q The President alluded to it on Monday night when he was talking about weapons of mass destruction.
MR. FLEISCHER: What the President said on Monday night was that Iraqi generals would be well advised not to follow orders; that Iraqi generals who followed orders and, therefore, carried out chemical, biological weapons attacks against Americans would be subject to war criminal trials. I can't go beyond what the President said about that. These are the types of decisions that get made through the legal processes that could be established following any action.
Q What would the United Nations' involvement in a post-Saddam Iraq. What are you thinking about there?
MR. FLEISCHER: These are the types of things that we're all looking at, talking about. No resolution has been found yet. But I think, to some degree, it's putting the cart before the horse, because the President hasn't made a decision yet about whether he would use military force.
Q You and others have mentioned the need to continue looking for weapons of mass destruction in a post-Saddam Iraq if, in fact, that were the case. Does that require, as some have suggested, some sort of U.S. military government or military control of Iraq, to continue to look for weapons of mass destruction?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, clearly, that does not require a type of governor in order to look for weapons of mass destruction. What it requires is the military to be on the ground to complete its mission to disarm Saddam Hussein, so he's brought into compliance, and the Iraqi regime is in compliance with the United Nations.
Q Now, as far as getting others involved in exploring the options and so forth, has the U.S. been in talks, either with the United Nations or other nations, about what would happen in a post-Saddam Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't say with specificity, because many of these plans are still just being talked about inside here, in the administration. It's safe to say there are a variety of conversations underway that I can't detail with precision. But this will be an important topic of conversation with our allies.
Q Is a U.S. military government or some sort of interim government the preferred option in this case? Can you narrow it down? What are we to make of the stories that are now coming out suggesting that the U.S. is coalescing around the notion of a military government?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's exactly as I indicated. The objective is stability. The objective is after, in the event of a military undertaking in Iraq, for stability to be found in the region, for people to know that they have been liberated, and in the event of a war, that their daily needs are going to be cared about, will be looked to, by whatever the appropriate authority is.
And there are a great many Iraqis, both inside Iraq and outside Iraq, who care deeply about the people of Iraq and want to help to contribute to the creation of a more stable society within Iraq; a society that can have food, that can have water, that can have electricity, can have all the daily things that people count on to have a good life. And I think it's fair to say that life for the Iraqi people would be a far better, better thing than it is today under the brutal regime they live.
Q Can I just throw one more thing at you? That is, there's been some debate over whether or not there should be some sort of interim government, and a lot of the opposition groups that are outside Iraq have lobbied for creating some sort of interim government. I gather the administration does not think that's a great idea?
MR. FLEISCHER: I just -- we're continuing to review options, and I think it's premature for anybody to announce any conclusions about it yet.
Lester. Lester -- we'll come back.
Q The President recently visited the Maryland campaign of Congresswoman Connie Morella, and he helped her raise money, even though she was one of only two Republicans who voted against impeaching Bill Clinton. Now, by way of gratitude for the President's visit, yesterday, she was one of only six Republicans who voted no on the resolution authorizing the President to use military force in Iraq. And my question: Does the President regard this in a sort of classic manner as, "Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend"? Or does he regard her as something of a Republican Jeannette Rankin?
MR. FLEISCHER: It might surprise you, Les. Neither.
Q Neither? He was grateful for her votes on these two things?
MR. FLEISCHER: These votes are matters of conscience. And the President thinks it is entirely appropriate for elected officials in both parties to exercise their good conscience on behalf of their constituents. The President won't always agree with everybody in the Congress, but he respects their right to carry out their office as they see fit.
Q The Washington Post reported this morning that Maryland's Lieutenant Governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, one day after she vowed to avoid the gun issue in ads, as long as the serial sniper is on the prowl, she abruptly shifted gears and ran such an ad because she learned that Connie Morella is also running such ads. And my question: Does the President believe such gun ads should run while they're having funerals, suggesting that Maryland's 300 gun regulations might deter other snipers?
MR. FLEISCHER: Are you registered to vote in this district? I always appreciate your -- your willingness to help me become a campaign manager for somebody else's race. But, Les, I really do not get involved in --
Q What does he think? I just want to know -- does the President think that we should be -- anybody should be running a -- politicizing gun ads while they're still having funerals?
MR. FLEISCHER: Les, I --
Q Does he, or not?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't talk to the President about every detail of the local elections.
Q Ari, on the 9/11 commission, Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain held a press conference earlier today. They said they were confused. They thought they had a deal, that the White House has been reluctant to give intelligence and information -- not only to lawmakers, but to their committees. Some Republicans go beyond this, saying they believe that the White House is intending to dilute the power or the authority of an independent commission, and really feel that the White House is not acting in good faith.
MR. FLEISCHER: We are very close to getting an agreement on the 9/11 commission. And the President thinks it can and should be done, and he hopes that it will get done by the Congress before they leave. There are a couple issues that remain between the White House and the Congress as this matter moves forward. The President would be very disappointed if the Congress allowed these issues to keep the agreement from happening. It should not keep the agreement from coming into being.
The issues are specifically, the right to issue a subpoena. This is a very important matter because in the past, as we've seen from the Congress, subpoena issues often turn into matters of politics, finger-pointing, and they don't solve problems, as much as they do create bigger problems -- particularly if, as the Congress has proposed on the 9/11 commission, the right to issue a subpoena is the right of any one political party. One political party subpoenas lead to paralysis and politics. They don't leave to solutions. And that is why this is an important issue that needs to be fixed and addressed.
Under the current terms of the commission, there would be 10 members. Under the current terms of what the Congress is proposing, five members have the right to issue a subpoena. And given the fact that the commission would have five Republicans and five Democrats, you could have a formula where each party is subpoenaing each other. That's not constructive.
The President thinks that the most constructive way to have a commission that can actually do good for the country is to have a bipartisan subpoena process, so no one party has the power to issue a subpoena. If a subpoena is to be issued either to people connected in the Congress who are being looked at as part of this commission, or in the executive branch are being looked at, that both parties have to agree before a subpoena can be issued. One-party subpoenas are a formula for paralysis in politics and that won't serve the families well. The families deserve answers, they deserve nonpolitical answers. And that's why this is an important point, but it's a point the President is confident can be worked out.
Q McCain and Lieberman thought they had a deal, though. Did they just misunderstand the administration's position? Or did this come up at the last minute? I mean, how is it that they thought that they had --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think it was made clear what the positions were. And I think that, as you see, this is not new. As things get down to the wire in the Congress -- and this has been done many times before as things get down to the wire in the Congress -- people try to do everything possible to make the best case for the position they hold. The President is going to continue to say to the Congress it's important to resolve this, but without creating one-party subpoenas.
Q What is the second issue? You said there are two.
MR. FLEISCHER: The second issue, Helen, is -- involves the composition of the committee to have 10 members. Under what the Congress has proposed, nine of the members are chosen by the Congress; only one is chosen by the executive branch, a co-equal in this endeavor. And of course, the commission will look at both the Congress and the executive branch.
The administration feels strongly that since we only have one person on the commission, the person should be the chairman. And that is still being discussed. The Congress is proposing that the administration have only one person in 10, and that person should not be the chairman, they should have equal rank as everybody else. That's not exactly balanced. Those are the issues. And those are what the President hopes can be resolved.
Q Ari, if I could just follow up, Senator Daschle said earlier today he encouraged the President to cancel his fundraising trips, saying -- I'm quoting here -- "to show the American people that you have an economic plan. You've indicated a concern for regime change in Iraq; I think you ought to consider regime change in your economic councils in the administration." Any response?
MR. FLEISCHER: Did you mention anything in there about Senator Daschle urging anybody else to do the same thing? Or was it just one party -- as America goes through its democratic process to elect Democrats and Republicans alike, that his proposal is for only one party to deny itself, under the law, its opportunity to participate in free speech in the elections? I think obviously that letter is a letter that has little point.
Q Yes, I have two questions for you. First of all, the Senate is controlled by the Democrats, and according to the tally on President Bush's resolution on Iraq, got 77 percent of the Senate vote. The House is controlled by Republicans, he got 69 percent of the vote. The Democrats had Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy in very vociferous opposition. Was the President surprised that the Senate gave him a bigger margin of victory than the House?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think the President was very -- I know the President was very pleased to receive such an outstanding and overwhelming bipartisan show of support from both Houses. And the President recognizes that this is a very difficult issue for many. In the Democratic Party, it's an issue where in the House, most Democrats voted against it. That is their right. As I mentioned earlier, the President views this as a matter of conscience for individuals to make these decisions. And that's how he views it.
Q Second question: Tony Blair has been meeting today with Vladimir Putin, who has publicly -- the Russian government has publicly said it does not like the American proposal to the Security Council of the U.N. concerning Iraq. Did the President speak with Tony Blair before he went to Moscow, or does he expect to speak with him soon?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't -- I do not believe he spoke to Tony Blair this week. I don't have anything on that.
Q Ari, is there concern from the White House that vulnerabilities are being shown to the nation as we watch this sniper attack unfold? And is the President getting information from the FBI during the briefings that this person will be caught?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, it is the law enforcement community's goal is to catch who is doing it. I'm not in a position to characterize the day that that's going to happen; of course, everybody wants it to happen immediately, and many good people are working hard to make that happen. And the President's going to continue to monitor this very closely, and make certain that the government is doing everything it can and should to help.
Your first question?
Q Is there a concern from the White House that there are vulnerabilities that are being exposed as we watch this unfold every day?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's concern goes directly to the families of those who lost their lives, the victims and their families. That's where the President's concern is. And that's why he wants to make certain that everything is being done to help.
Q Ari, there have been reports that the person has been finding their next target after it's been made through the media what's going on, what's happening. Is the White House concerned about that, though?
MR. FLEISCHER: About the media's role in this? That's not something the White House would comment on, if we did have a concern.
Q And the fact that a lot of the -- this latest one happened near a police barrack. And many people are wondering how could that happen near a police barrack and this person go away.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think many people are wondering how it could happen at a school, and I think many people are wondering how it could happen at a gas station, how it could happen at any open space, how it could happen at any closed space, how it could happen at all. And that's why this is such a difficult, difficult thing. That's why the President cares so much for those who have been affected by it. And what's important now is to continue doing everything possible through the law enforcement community to catch the person who's responsible.
Q Ari, back to the postwar plans for Iraq, you've disputed our use of the word "occupation." I don't understand why. Are American and/or other forces not going to be occupying Iraqi territory? And are not at least some of the Iraqis going to be objecting to it?
MR. FLEISCHER: My point is -- and I think this was understood in the way I said it this morning, given the context in which this was first reported as if the United States would be an occupying power -- I dispute that notion, because I have made the case about Afghanistan. I don't think anybody views the United States as an occupying power in Afghanistan.
The presence of the United States military is the presence of the military. Obviously, we have military in other places around the world. Are we an occupying power? I just disagree with that comparison, especially the comparison to Japan.
The Japanese, of course, fought the United States for a four-year sustained period in World War II. The country actively fought the United States. As we saw in 1991 in Iraq, the Iraqi military actively surrendered to the American military at first chance. Now, that's not to predict what the ultimate outcome could be if we go to war, because there nobody is saying a war will not have difficulties and there will not be casualties. My point is, the likelihood is much more like Afghanistan, where the people who live right now under a brutal dictator will view America as liberators, not conquerors.
Q But you're not talking about --
Q How do you know that?
Q -- the modality here. If I can just --
MR. FLEISCHER: I said we're going to come back and we will. There are lot of -- we'll come back. I said we would.
Q Regarding war crimes trials of the Iraqis, did I understand you to say in response to Steve's question that the International Criminal Court would have jurisdiction if --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I referred to the court that was set up after Serbia was created as a result of the action in Serbia, specifically under rules to try Serbian war criminals.
Q Isn't the International Criminal Court the successor, though, to those ad hoc courts that were set up to deal with Serbia --
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a successor in terms of time. But it's not a successor as different from what that court was.
Q So you would envision another ad hoc, special tribunal -- international tribunals?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's what worked -- my point was that's what worked well after Serbia. And that's what the President believes can work well again.
Q But not the International Criminal Court?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not the International Criminal Court.
Q Is there a jurisdiction -- as I understand, the U.N. has, in effect, transferred the authority of -- to try war criminals from these ad hoc commissions to the ICC?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that given how much controversy there is about the ICC and its ability to have jurisdiction over nations that don't even subscribe to the ICC, that's an unsettled matter. And the President thinks this needs to work in a matter that has proven successful in the past.
Q Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott yesterday said that he would like an energy bill that's comprehensive and not scaled back. Well, based on the remarks that you said yesterday, is the administration willing to accept energy legislation that does not include ANWR, as long as there's other provisions in there that would increase energy independence?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we're continuing to talk to the conferees about the exact make-up of the legislation. And as you know, I am not going to negotiate our precise provisions -- positions in public. That does not serve any good to do that. But the important issues that the President wants to make certain come out of the conference are, one, promotion of America's energy independence; two, a focus on increasing conservation and
use of renewables; and three, changes in our -- America's ability to deliver electricity so that the American people are not going to have to worry about brownouts and blackouts.
Q With respect to promoting energy independence, I presume that means that you want to lessen foreign -- dependence on foreign oil. And if that's the case, in a postwar Iraq, what would be U.S. policy in terms of oil exploration in a volatile area such as the Middle East?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that if you take a look at the exports that are coming out of Iraq today, not only in the matter of oil, but in all products, the outlaw Iraqi regime is under United Nations sanctions, and an Iraqi regime that comes into agreement with international norms and becomes part of the welcomed world community because it has a new government would clearly be in a position to trade more, both in terms of oil and in terms of products, around the world.
Q How does that lessen dependence on foreign oil?
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say that would lessen independence. I was asking -- answering your question about what can happen in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
Q Ari, the homeland security bill doesn't seem to be going anywhere over this dispute over the President's flexibility with workers. When you consider that it's only, what, about 49,000 prospective employees of that department that would be covered by collective bargaining and this is holding up the whole thing, does that send a message to the American people?
MR. FLEISCHER: It does. I think it sends a message that the holdup in the Congress needs to stop so the Department of Homeland Security can be created. You just have to scratch your head and ask why are people holding on to such a narrow provision to take away from the President the existing authority he currently has. It's stopping the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, and the President urges the Congress to get on with it.
Q Then basically, to a certain extent, the Democrats or the senators who are involved in this are being held hostage -- are being held hostage by the unions, to a certain extent.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think there's no question that, three weeks before the election, special interests have an ability to exert unusual pressure, and I think that's happening here.
Q Ari, in the face of the paralysis throughout the Washington National Capital Area caused by the Washington sniper, is the President concerned about the incredible ease with which military-style assault weapons can be acquired? And will the President condemn the gun-sniper culture that also pervades the society?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think what's important is to catch the person who did it. And once we catch the person who did it, I think we'll all know a lot more about who this person is, where he comes from, what weapons he has. That's where the President is focused.
Q Ari, now that the President has the resolutions from Congress, what does he view as Congress's role now, as he comes to a decision on whether to use military action in Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Congress has spoken. The vote that Congress passed is a very meaningful expression, in a bipartisan way, of Congress's authorization for the President to use force. The President, again, has made no decision about the use of force. In the resolution that the President will have to sign, the resolution makes clear about reporting to the Congress on, I believe it's a 60-day period. And so that, of course, is an important part of Congress's role.
Congress is also speaking in the passage of the defense appropriation bill. If you remember, the President called on the Congress to pass the Defense appropriation bill first. It appears they are listening and are doing so. The House has passed it; the Senate looks like they will pass it next week. And the President is pleased to see that the Congress has listened on that important matter. There has been less progress on other appropriation bills. But the Defense appropriation bill and the military construction appropriation bill are moving forward.
Q If I could just follow, does he plan to take their views into account as he reaches a decision? Or does he view it as his decision now, based on the fact that, as you say, Congress has spoken? And also --
MR. FLEISCHER: I think everybody recognizes, David, that the final determination about whether force should or should not be used rests with the Commander-in-Chief.
Q Would he consider a joint session speech, as some members have asked for, before ordering military action?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say the President will continue to communicate actively with the country and the Congress about this. And we'll let you know whatever form that will take.
Q Mr. Fleischer, any comment on the recent decision by the European Union in regard to East Europe, the Baltic States, the Republic of Cyprus, and Malta, but not Turkey for the time being?
MR. FLEISCHER: This is a matter for the European Union, and I do not have any additional comment on it.
Q Anything on Scott Speicher? A senator has said that the government has made the decision to change his status from missing in action to missing, captured.
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me take a look and see if there's any change. The last information was missing in action, but that's always under review. And so if anything has changed, I will let you know.
Q Ari, your comments before about the concept of occupation, being an occupying power -- I mean, the difference, obviously, in Afghanistan was that there was a group poised to take over leadership of the country, and the United States provided military protection and support --
MR. FLEISCHER: Actually not -- not really, not on October 7th, the day the military attack began. There was no group poised to take over Afghanistan on that day.
Q You had been working to install the Northern Alliance and their leader into power.
MR. FLEISCHER: Hamid Karzai is not the leader of the Northern Alliance.
Q He was their choice, wasn't he?
MR. FLEISCHER: He was the choice of the loya jirga, which represented the multiethnicity of Afghanistan, not just one region.
Q What I'm asking is twofold. One, you're not ruling out a provisional government in Iraq that would be run by the U.S. military, are you? And then, secondly, are you suggesting by saying there wouldn't be an occupying power, that the President supports the establishment of a government in exile that could be put into place once the country is -- some order has been restored in Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think on this day, October the 11th, it is impossible to say with precision, just as, on October 7th, even when military action began in Afghanistan, it was impossible to say what the new government would be. Just as on June 6, 1941, it was impossible to say what the new government of European nations would be as their liberation began. It's too early to say, David, with precision. The United States is looking broadly at how to address this issue and has made no decisions.
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Q You're looking more than broadly. I mean, the American people have a right to know that, just as before the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States government was meeting with the former King of Afghanistan to talk about a transitional government. I mean, obviously, we're looking at this more than what we have faith that they want to be liberated so we're sure something will work out.
MR. FLEISCHER: And, as you know, we have been meeting and talking to a great many Iraqis outside the country. That's an active part of America's diplomacy.
Q -- government in exile that would be installed after order has been restored in Iraq.
MR. FLEISCHER: You're asking about specificity that cannot be known at this date without, especially, no action having been taken in Iraq.
Q But the goal is territorial integrity?
MR. FLEISCHER: Territorial integrity, the unity of the country.
Q Does that include stability of the oil production and oil industry? Would the United States government be involved in running that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think it's impossible to say with precision how every step along this way can be determined. But the overall objective is to make certain that any Iraq in a post-Saddam Hussein era is an Iraq that goes to -- is governed by the people of Iraq who are interested themselves in a better future.
Thank you. And a reminder about Anne Womack. If everybody would join people downstairs for a goodbye party for Anne Womack.
Q When, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: Now.
END 12:57 P.M. EDT
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