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President George W. Bush
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President Discusses Iraq in Press Conference
Excerpts from the Press Conference by President George W. Bush,
November 7, 2002
(Full Transcript) (Video)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good afternoon. Thanks for coming. This is an important week for our country and for the world. The United Nations will vote tomorrow on a resolution bringing the civilized world together to disarm Saddam Hussein. Here at home, our citizens have voted in an election that I believe will strengthen our ability to make progress for all the American people.
I'm grateful to the members of the Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, that came together to support the war against terror, and authorize, if need be, the use of force to disarm Iraq. We must bring the same spirit of bipartisan cooperation to the urgent task of protecting our country from the ongoing threat of terrorist attack.
QUESTION: Mr. President, how confident are you that the Security Council will approve the tough new resolution on Iraq? And if that happens, what happens next; what's the next step? Is war inevitable?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the resolution we put down is a tough new resolution. It talks about material breach and inspections and serious consequences if Saddam Hussein continues to defy the world and not disarm. So, one, I'm pleased with the resolution we put down. Otherwise, we wouldn't have put it down.
I just talked to Jacques Chirac, and earlier today I talked to Vladimir Putin. I characterize our conversation -- I'm loathe to put words in somebody else's mouth. That's, evidently, not the case with a lot of people in Washington, but nevertheless, I am. And I'm optimistic we'll get the resolution vote tomorrow -- let me put it to you that way.
And, Steve, the resolution is a disarmament resolution; that's what it is. It's a statement of intent to, once and for all, disarm Saddam Hussein. He's a threat. He's a threat to the country, he's a threat to people in his neighborhood. He's a real threat. And it's now time for the world to come together and disarm him. And when this resolution passes, I will -- we'll be able to say that the United Nations has recognized the threat, and now we're going to work together to disarm him.
And he must be cooperative in the disarmament. So the job of inspectors is to determine his level of cooperation, see. He has got to be the agent of disarming; he's got to agree that what we're doing is what he said he we do. And just like the United Nations has agreed that it is important to disarm him, for the sake of peace, and so the next step will be to put an inspection regime in there to -- after all the declarations and after all the preamble to inspections, that he's got to show the world he's disarming. And that's where we'll be next.
Let's see here. Helen.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what is the logic of your insistence on invading Iraq at some point, which may someday have nuclear weapons, and not laying a glove on North Korea, which may have them or may produce them? Both of which, of course, would be against international law. And I have a follow-up. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I may decide to let you have that follow-up or not depending upon -- (laughter) -- depending on whether I like my answer. (Laughter.)
I am insistent upon one thing about Iraq, and that is that Saddam Hussein disarm. That's what I'm insistent on. He agreed to do that, by the way. Saddam Hussein said he would disarm. And he hasn't. And for the --
QUESTION: And you don't --
THE PRESIDENT: Is that the follow-up? (Laughter.) Okay, that is the follow-up. I do care about North Korea. And as I said from the beginning of this new war in the 21st century, we'll deal with each threat differently. Each threat requires a different type of response. You've heard my strategy on dealing with Iraq. I've been very clear on dealing with the strategy all along, and tomorrow it looks like part of that strategy is coming to fruition.
With North Korea, we're taking a different strategy, initially, and it's this -- that we're going to work with countries in the neighborhood to convince North Korea that it is not in the world's interest that they develop a nuclear weapon through highly enriched uranium.
We know they've got the capacity through plutonium; we have IAEA inspectors there watching carefully their plutonium stockpile. And then we discovered that, contrary to an agreement they had with the United States, they're enriching uranium, with the desire of developing a weapon. They admitted to this. And so, therefore, we have worked with our Japanese friends and South Korean friends, with the leadership in China -- I will talk with Vladimir Putin about this after my trip to the NATO summit -- to remind North Korea that if they expect to be a -- welcomed into this family of peaceful nations, that they should not enrich uranium.
I thought it was a very interesting statement that Jiang Zemin made in Crawford, where he declared very clearly that he wants a nuclear weapons-free Korean Peninsula. That was, in my judgment, an important clarification of Chinese policy that I hope the North Koreans listen to. Believe we can achieve this objective, Helen, by working closely with this consortium of nations, which have got a valid interest in seeing to it that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons. Terry.
QUESTION: Mr. President, can I have a follow-up --
THE PRESIDENT: Of course, you can. Yes, it's fine. (Laughter.) If the elections had gone a different way, I might not be so generous. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You are leaving the impression that Iraqi lives, the human cost doesn't mean anything -
THE PRESIDENT: Say that again?
QUESTION: You are leaving the impression that you wouldn't mind if you go to war against Iraq, but you deal with another nation which may have weapons in a different way. But there are two other impressions around. One, that you have an obsession with going after Saddam Hussein at any cost. And also that you covet the oil fields.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Well, I'm -- some people have the right impressions and some people have the wrong impressions.
QUESTION: Can you --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, those are the wrong impressions.
THE PRESIDENT: I have a deep desire for peace. That's what I have a desire for. And freedom for the Iraqi people. See, I don't like a system where people are repressed through torture and murder in order to keep a dictator in place. It troubles me deeply. And so the Iraqi people must hear this loud and clear, that this country never has any intention to conquer anybody. That's not the intention of the American people or our government. We believe in freedom and we believe in peace. And we believe the Iraqi dictator is a threat to peace. And so that's why I made the decisions I made, in terms of Iraq.
Now, Terry Moran.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. On Iraq, you've said many times that if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, he will be disarmed militarily, if necessary, by the U.N. or the U.S. and others. There's a school of thought that says that going to war against Iraq would be a dangerous and misguided idea because it would generate a tremendous amount of anger and hatred at the United States, and out of that you'd essentially be creating many new terrorists who would want to kill Americans. What's wrong with that analysis?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's like saying we should not go after Al Qaeda because we might irritate somebody and that would create a danger to Americans. My attitude is you got to deal with terrorism in a firm way. And if they see threats you deal with them in all different kinds of ways. The only way, in my judgment, to deal with Saddam Hussein is to bring the international community together to convince him to disarm.
But if he's not going to disarm, we'll disarm him, in order to make the world a more peaceful place. And some people aren't going to like that -- I understand. But some people won't like it if he ends with a nuclear weapon and uses it. We have an obligation to lead. And I intend to assume that obligation to make the world more peaceful.
Terry, listen, there's risk in all action we take. But the risk of inaction is not a choice, as far as I'm concerned. The inaction creates more risk than doing our duty to make the world more peaceful. And obviously, I weighed all the consequences about all the differences. Hopefully, we can do this peacefully -- don't get me wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there's a chance he may decide to do that.
And war is not my first choice, don't -- it's my last choice. But nevertheless, it is a -- it is an option in order to make the world a more peaceful place.
QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much. You have put a lot of effort toward getting the United Nations to rally the world to disarm Saddam Hussein. And yet you and your aides have expressed a great deal of skepticism about whether Saddam Hussein will actually comply. Can you give us an idea, sir, how long you think it might take for the world to know whether Saddam Hussein actually intends to go along with the call of the world to disarm? Will it be a matter of days or weeks, months, or perhaps a year, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Wendell, this much we know -- it's so far taken him 11 years and 16 resolutions to do nothing. And so we've got some kind of history as to the man's behavior. We know he likes to try to deceive and deny, and that's why this inspection regime has got to be new and tough and different. The status quo is unacceptable, you know, kind of send a few people in there and hope maybe he's nice to them and open up the baby milk factory -- it's unacceptable.
And so that's why you'll see us with a different inspection regime, one that works to see to it that Saddam Hussein disarms. It's his responsibility to disarm. I don't put timetables on anything. But for the sake of peace -- sooner, better.
And we'll see. But you must know that I am serious -- so are a lot of other countries -- serious about holding the man to account. I was serious about holding the U.N. to account. And when they pass this resolution, which I hope they do tomorrow, it shows that the U.N. is beginning to assume its responsibilities to make sure that 11 years of defiance does not go unanswered. It's very important that the U.N. be a successful international body because the threats that we face now require more cooperation than ever. And we're still cooperating with a lot of nations. We're still sharing intelligence and cutting off money the best we can. And there's still law enforcement efforts taking place all around the world.
And that's why the international -- this international body called the U.N. is an important body for keeping the peace. And it's very important that they're effective. And we'll see tomorrow -- starting tomorrow.
And then the key on the resolution, I want to remind you, is that there are serious consequences. And that's one of the key elements to make sure that everybody gets the picture that we are serious about a process of disarming him in the name of peace. Hopefully, he'll choose to do so himself.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. You said this afternoon that the U.N. Security Council vote tomorrow would bring the civilized world together against Iraq. But broad opposition remains all over the world to your policy. Will you continue to try to build support and, if so, how will you do that? Or do you think that a Security Council vote would be all the mandate you need?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, broad opposition around the world not in support of my policy on Iraq?
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
b>THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think most people around the world realize that Saddam Hussein is a threat. And they -- no one likes war, but they also don't like the idea of Saddam Hussein having a nuclear weapon. Imagine what would happen. And by the way, we don't know how close he is to a nuclear weapon right now. We know he wants one. But we don't know. We know he was close to one at one point in time; we have no idea today. Imagine Saddam Hussein with a nuclear weapon. Imagine how the Israeli citizens would feel. Imagine how the citizens in Saudi Arabia would feel. Imagine how the world would change, how he could alter diplomacy by the very presence of a nuclear weapon.
And so a lot of people -- serious people around the world are beginning to think about that consideration. I think about it a lot. I think about it particularly in the regard of making the world a more peaceful place.
And so it's very important for people to realize the consequences of us not taking the case to the U.N. Security Council. People need to think about what would happen if the United States had remained silent on this issue and just hoped for a change of his attitude, or maybe hoped that he would not invade somebody again, or just hoped that he wouldn't use gas on his own people when pressure at home began to mount.
I'm not willing to take those kind of risks. People understand that. I think a lot of people are saying, you know, gosh, we hope we don't have war. I feel the same way, I hope we don't have war. I hope this can be done peacefully. It's up to Saddam Hussein, however, to make that choice.
I also want to remind you that, should we have to use troops, should it become a necessity in order to disarm him, the United States, with friends, will move swiftly with force to do the job. You don't have to worry about that. We will do -- we will do -- we will do what it takes militarily to succeed.
I also want to say something else to people of Iraq, that the generals in Iraq must understand clearly there will be consequences for their behavior. Should they choose, if force is necessary, to behave in a way that endangers the lives of their own citizens, as well as citizens in the neighborhood, there will be a consequence. They will be held to account.
And as to the Iraq people, what I said before -- the Iraqi people can have a better life than the one they have now. They can have a -- there are other alternatives to somebody who is willing to rape and mutilate and murder in order to stay in power. There's just a better life than the one they have to live now.
I think the people of the world understand that too, Judy. I don't take -- I don't take -- I don't spend a lot of time taking polls around the world to tell me what I think is the right way to act; I've just got to know how I feel. I feel strongly about freedom. I feel strongly about liberty. And I feel strongly about the obligation to make the world a more peaceful place. And I take those responsibilities really seriously.
QUESTION: Thank you. I wanted to go back to your earlier point about the risk of an action versus the risk of inaction.
THE PRESIDENT: Where would that be, in the Congress or at the U.N.?
QUESTION: With Iraq.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: Your CIA Director told Congress just last month that it appears that Saddam Hussein "now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks against the United States." But if we attacked him he would "probably become much less constrained." Is he wrong about that?
THE PRESIDENT: No. I think that -- I think that if you would read the full -- I'm sure he said other sentences. Let me just put it to you, I know George Tenet well. I meet with him every single day. He sees Saddam Hussein as a threat. I don't know what the context of that quote is. I'm telling you, the guy knows what I know, that he is a problem and we must deal with him.
And, you know, it's like people say, oh, we must leave Saddam alone; otherwise, if we did something against him, he might attack us. Well, if we don't do something, he might attack us, and he might attack us with a more serious weapon. The man is a threat, Hutch, I'm telling you. He's a threat not only with what he has, he's a threat with what he's done. He's a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda. In my Cincinnati speech, I reminded the American people, a true threat facing our country is that an al Qaeda-type network trained and armed by Saddam could attack America and leave not one fingerprint. That is a threat. And we're going to deal with it.
The debate about whether we're going to deal with Saddam Hussein is over. And now the question is how do we deal with him. I made the decision to go to the United Nations because I want to try to do this peacefully. I want Saddam to disarm. The best way to convince him to disarm is to get the nations to come together through the U.N. and try to convince him to disarm.
We're going to work on that. We've been spending a lot of time -- I wouldn't exactly call it gnashing of teeth, but working hard on the U.N. resolution. It took a while, but we've been grinding it out, trying to bring a consensus, trying to get people together, so that we can say to the world the international community has spoken through the Security Council of the United Nations and now, once again, we expect Saddam to disarm.
This would be the 17th time that we expect Saddam to disarm. This time we mean it. See, that's the difference -- I guess. This time it's for real. And I say it must not have been for real the last 16 times because nothing happened when he didn't. This time something happens. He knows -- he's got to understand that. The members of the U.N. Security Council understand that. Saddam has got to understand it so he, so, in the name of peace, for a peaceful resolution of this, we hope he disarms.