The White House
President George W. Bush
Print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 21, 2003

Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer
The James S. Brady Briefing Room

12:33 P.M. EST

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you a report on the President's day, and then I want to note a milestone that today will mark.

The President began his day with an intelligence briefing, then he had his FBI briefing. He earlier this morning met with a group of economists to discuss the economic plan and growth package that the President had proposed earlier. And talked with them about the importance of this plan, given his concern about unemployment in the country and the prospects of a jobless recovery.

The President looks forward to continuing to meet with additional groups of Americans and will travel tomorrow to St. Louis, to talk about the aspects of his growth plan to help create jobs in the small business sector.

The President also today signed an executive order to create the White House Office of Global Communications, which is a reflection of the importance the President attaches in this modern era to communicating worldwide the message of the American people and the American government, particularly as we face a war involving terrorism and other great issues involving diplomacy and the importance of communicating America's message of idealism and hope around the world.

And finally this afternoon, the President will meet with the President of Djibouti to discuss bilateral issues, as well as the war on terrorism.

Finally, I do want to take a moment just to note that today marks the beginning of the third year of the Bush presidency. And I think it's appropriate to just very briefly look back at some of the accomplishments that have taken place already in the last two years, because these serve as guides for what the President hopes to get done in the next two years.

In the two years with a very narrowly divided Congress and, of course, in the wake of one of the closest elections in our nation's history, much was still able to get accomplished here in Washington. And that was -- included in that was the educational reforms to strengthen accountability and improve testing standards for children; the tax relief package, which has provided growth to the economy, which has reduced the marriage penalty, eliminated the death tax, doubled the child credit from $500 to $1,000; legislation to protect the environment through brownfields renovation; corporate governance to crack down on corporate criminals who would defraud the public by cooking their books.

For the first time in almost a decade, trade promotion authority has been enacted into law, which will help create jobs. And of course, in the area of national security and homeland security, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act to provide the intelligence community and the FBI with more tools to protect the American people; and the powerful message that Congress sent to help keep the peace, we hope, involving the resolution concerning the use of force in Iraq.

The President, as he will discuss in the State of the Union next week, has other ideas for more progress to be made to help the American people.

I did think it was appropriate -- this is the first day of the third year of the Bush presidency, and it's notable to look back. Democrats and Republicans alike have much to be proud of in terms of the work they got done together. But the President calls on Democrats and Republicans in Congress to continue in that spirit, to do even more in the next two years.

And with that, I'm very happy to take your questions. Terry.

Q Ari, the President said he's certain Saddam Hussein is not disarming. It sounds like he's made up his mind inspections aren't working and that military action is now necessary.

MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, it is not about whether inspections are or are not working. It is about whether Saddam Hussein is or is not disarming. That's the issue. The inspectors are not there to disarm Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein has an obligation under the United Nations Security Council resolution to show the inspectors that he is disarming.

Q Well, he says he's certain that he's not disarming, so that is --

MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.

Q That's the conclusion. What's the consequence?

MR. FLEISCHER: And that's why the process continues. It's a process where the President has indicated time is running out.

Q The French Foreign Minister says that the inspectors are doing something else, containing Saddam; that essentially, he says, the weapons programs are frozen, they're blocked, and that as long as you've got weapons inspectors on the ground harassing the regime, preventing them from developing these weapons, military action isn't necessary.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the French have made a very noteworthy observation when they allude to the fact that Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs have been frozen. I think "frozen" is the French word; they can contain him. The French have, therefore, concluded that Saddam Hussein has lied to the world and that he indeed possesses weapons of mass destruction that, in the French judgment, has been frozen or contained. But in that statement, the French have reached a conclusion that Saddam Hussein is once again lying to the world. It's not only the United States who says that Saddam Hussein and Iraq have weapons of mass destruction; the French say that he has weapons of mass destruction.

The question then becomes what to be done about it. And this is why the President feels so strongly that the world cannot sit by idly, that the world faces a choice; as he expressed to the United Nations, that the world can either be the United Nations or the League of Nations. And he will not stand by, if it becomes the League of Nations. The President will lead a coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein if Saddam Hussein will not disarm himself.

Q Well, what to make of the argument that containment is preferable to war, that you can get the job done -- this is the French argument -- by using these inspectors to prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction, and that's preferable to the chaos and horror of war.

MR. FLEISCHER: The suggestion that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and that is something the world can either accept or allow is not something the President would ever support. The President thinks it's vital to world peace to make certain that Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction, and so, too, does the United Nations. The United Nations passed the various resolutions they have, now 17, to make certain that he does not have weapons of mass destruction. And so the President will continue his efforts in consultation with France and with other nations around the world to make certain that the will of the world is carried out and that Saddam Hussein does not have weapons of mass destruction.

As the President said earlier today, this is a bad movie that he has no intention of watching again.

Q Nice rhetoric, but I still don't understand why is it better to go to war than to contain Saddam's weapons of mass destruction? If you can do what the French say, and keep him on his heels and keep him from using those weapons, why go to war to disarm him?

MR. FLEISCHER: As the President has said many times, the problem with Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction is that he has used them. He has used them before to attack his neighbors, to attack his own people, and history shows that if Saddam Hussein has a weapon, he will use it. So the very notion that somehow Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction is an allowable event is not something the President agrees with.

The President thinks the mere fact that Saddam Hussein indeed has possession of weapons of mass destruction is a fact that cannot -- cannot -- be tolerated, in order to protect the peace.

Q -- think U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground can keep Saddam from using those weapons?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, the purpose of the inspectors going into Iraq is not to contain. The purpose of having weapons inspectors in Iraq is, per the United Nations resolution, to make certain that Saddam Hussein has disarmed. That is the United Nations position.

Q How critical now is the January 27th report, Ari, as a possible trigger for war?

MR. FLEISCHER: It remains just as we've indicated for a couple weeks now. We've said all along it's an important date. The President has not called it a trigger for war. It's an important reporting date.

Q Are you frustrated that France and other members of the Security Council don't want to go as far as you want to go?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think, again, the world has seen this before -- it was called the '90s. Throughout the '90s many nations basically allowed Saddam Hussein to continue in his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. And it was President Bush who went to the United Nations and convinced the world that that path had to be altered. And I think the President was very successful in doing that.

And so as the world occasionally will go through phases where the resolve of the world will be tested, President Bush will work to make certain, and do it in concert with our allies, to make certain that Iraq does, indeed, disarm from possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Q When the President says, we'll lead a coalition of the willing and disarm him -- when we look at the words "and disarm him" solely, does that mean that U.S. forces will go in and find the weapons? Or will you use the goal to depose Saddam and therefore take away his ability to use those weapons?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's both. In the event that there's military action, you can be certain that the purpose of it will be to protect the world from Saddam Hussein's use of weapons of mass destruction.

Q What does that mean?

MR. FLEISCHER: It means that any result of military action would be aimed at stopping Saddam Hussein or any of the Iraqi officials from using or launching any of their weapons of mass destruction.

Q And it would be led by?

MR. FLEISCHER: The use of overwhelming and powerful military force.

Q To achieve what goal, depose Saddam?

MR. FLEISCHER: Clearly, regime change remains an American objective, per the legislation that was passed in the Congress.

Q So are you saying then, that effectively when the President says we'll lead a coalition to disarm Saddam, what you say is, we'll go into the country and we will forcefully remove him from power?

MR. FLEISCHER: The point of any military exercise would be to make certain that neither Saddam Hussein or anybody else inside Iraq is in a position to use or launch weapons of mass destruction. And of course, regime change is a part of America's policy. And if there is a military operation, the President has made clear its purpose will be to make certain that no one can use weapons of mass destruction.

Q Ari, you mentioned before that the United Nations is at risk of becoming like the League of Nations. If the Security Council does not back any military operation by the United States in Iraq, does that mean that you believe that the United Nations will become irrelevant and no longer a force in dealing with these kinds of situations around the world?

MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question, when you look at what is unfolding, with Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction, Iraq's history of using weapons of mass destruction -- in other words, Iraq's failure to keep the peace, this is a test of the United Nations.

And it's an ongoing test. It's not a test that ended on September 12th or a test that ended in early November when the United Nations passed a resolution. This remains an ongoing test of the will of nations, of the United Nations to see if, indeed, it is a body that can keep the peace, given the threat that Saddam Hussein poses to peace. And in that sense, the President does look at this as a very important moment for the United Nations and its member states to decide whether or not it is an organization that is capable of carrying out its original mandate, which was to use the collective power of the Security Council to make certain that regimes like Saddam Hussein's cannot rise up and develop weapons which could bring grievous harm and damage to the world.

Q But isn't there a distinction between the strength of the United Nations as a body and its willingness to go along with the United States?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think this is one of the issues that will be tested here. And it's not just the United States, there are many nations around the world. But clearly, if the United Nations had continued on the path that it had been on, there would still be no inspectors inside Iraq. And so I think the process that has begun here is a process where the President has been working through multilateral channels, where the President made the decision to work with the United Nations to try to achieve the goal of disarmament to protect the peace.

But if the '90s were any guide, the United Nations needed President Bush to come along and give it the spine that was required to at long last get the inspectors back into Iraq so that peace could have one final chance.

Q Ari, the President says that Saddam's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is a threat to the United States and to its allies. Are there any plans or any intentions from Iraq to use those weapons of mass destruction to either strike the United States or its allies? Is there any proof of that?

MR. FLEISCHER: Any proof of it? I think the best guide is history. The best guide is what Saddam Hussein has done in the past, where he has attacked his neighbors. And I remind you also, under Saddam Hussein's obligations to the world, he is prohibited from having, for example, ballistic missiles with a range in excess of 150 kilometers. And so he is prohibited from even having the means to engage in these attacks.

The fear is, however, as Secretary Armitage pointed out very vividly today, Saddam Hussein in the late '90s was found by the United Nations to be in possession of long-range missiles, to be in possession of anthrax, mustard gas, VX gas, sarin, botulin. The question is, what has Saddam Hussein done with the very weapon systems prohibited to him that the United Nations said he has. Where are they? What has he done with them? He certainly has not provided the world with any proof that he has destroyed them, leading to the conclusion that, of course, he still has them.

Q But, Ari, you're saying that there's no U.S. intelligence to show that he has any intention of using these weapons against the United States?

MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say that.

Q Is there?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't discuss intelligence information as a matter of routine.

Q So are there any indications or plans that Saddam Hussein, beyond having a nuclear -- weapons of mass destruction, would have any intention of using them against the United States?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think his intention is best judged by his past. He has them and he's used them before. The fear is that he will use them again.

Q Can you clarify your interpretation of the French statements that you obviously believe suggest the French are saying that he does, indeed, now have weapons of mass destruction?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think the statement that was attributed is -- alluded to the fact that the French believe that they have -- Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction has been frozen and can be contained.

Q You mean frozen in place and not dismantled?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's a fair summary of the French statement.

Q Now, you've made a very strong case to us, to the world, the administration is arguing to everyone that Saddam is not disarming. When does the U.S. intend to make that case at the United Nations?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that as you've seen Secretary Armitage today spoke out about Iraq's attempts to deceive and to deny the very fact that they were shown by the United Nations to be in possession of weapons that remain unaccounted for, in violation of Saddam Hussein's obligations in filling out his declaration to the United Nations earlier -- late last year. Now Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz will also have remarks on Thursday, and the President will give a State of the Union next week. And I'm not prepared to go beyond that, but clearly there is a lot of information to be shared and will continue to be so.

Q Clearly, we should interpret that you're suggesting as the beginning of the campaign to lay out the case that we believe exists about his refusal to disarm, and that seems to be clear. But my question is, when do we take this from public argument and speeches here in Washington to the Security Council, itself?

MR. FLEISCHER: In the event there are any further announcements to be made, we will make them for you.

Q Ari, the President goes on the road tomorrow to begin to make the case for his economic plan. Looking beyond tomorrow, where does Medicare reform and the drug benefit fit into the economic programs of the President?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said repeatedly that he thinks it's very important to provide a modernized Medicare program that includes prescription drugs so seniors can get the prescription drugs that they need. This is an important priority for the President.

And one of the things I think is very interesting about what you're seeing is as much as international issues remain very important priorities for this President, he still is moving robustly and aggressively on a domestic agenda, and he will. And I think that will be very plain when people hear his State of the Union address. No matter what is happening abroad, no matter how important issues of war and peace are to the American people, there remains a very important domestic agenda that will move forward in all cases, and the President is determined to work with members of Congress to carry that out.

That's why at some length I worked through the accomplishments of the last two years. I think they're telling in terms of the President's priorities and what may be ahead. So that's in essence the President's focus on Medicare and prescription drugs.

Q Do you anticipate that the -- that we will have detailed specifics as to the State of the Union or the budget or just a list of principles about what he would like to accomplish --

MR. FLEISCHER: It's too soon for me to get into any more specific details about State of the Union. I think that may happen a little closer to the speech. But I'm not willing to do that this far out from the speech.

Q I have two totally unrelated questions. First off, has the President ever expressed regret at going to the United Nations in the first place and seeking a resolution?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, he has not. He said at the time it was the right thing to do. And he understood the process that this would launch. The President understood that going to the United Nations, or course, invites the opinions of foreign countries, which is exactly what the President thinks needs to be done, because he has promised to consult. And that's exactly the course he has set out to do.

Q My other question is, tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Is the President going to make any kind of statement about it, release a statement?

MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, as I indicated last week, the President will address -- there will be a gathering on the Mall. The President will be traveling to St. Louis and the President will be addressing the group via telephone.

Q Will the President respond to some pro-life groups who are concerned that he isn't speaking out enough and trying to overturn Roe v. Wade enough?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has been, I think, very emphatic about his approach. And he seeks to make progress on advancing a culture that recognizes and focuses on the importance of life. That's been his view, and he will continue to do so and work productively with the Congress to make progress toward achieving that goal.

Q Ari, just to be certain, as the President and members of the administration make the case against Saddam, that he has failed to comply with this U.N. resolution, is there a need for further U.N. action at all?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President will continue to talk and consult closely with members of the United Nations Security Council. There clearly is a need for international action and international focus on Saddam Hussein's violation of U.N. resolutions and his failure to file a complete, full and accurate declaration listing his weapons programs.

We are doing that. We're going that in multiple areas. We're doing it with the United Nations. We're doing it bilaterally, we're doing it through multilateral forum. And that will continue. And, again, this remains a test of the resolve of the world, to focus on peace by disarming Saddam Hussein.

Q Does the U.N. actually have to formally, in your view, formally pass another resolution?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said he will consult with the United Nations. But clearly, the Congress has spoken on this matter; the United Nations has previously spoken on this matter. And we will continue to consult with the United Nations about exact courses of action.

Q Ari, the date for oral arguments in the Michigan case has been set. Does the President intend to have some kind of a hands-on role, or will White House attorneys have a hands-on role as the Justice Department prepares its case? What does the President do from this point --

MR. FLEISCHER: Ken, I haven't asked that specifically, but I would anticipate at this point this becomes a matter for the Office of the Solicitor General, the Department of Justice. The President shaped the vision of what he believes is the appropriate course to promote diversity while not supporting quotas. And at this point, the Department of Justice, of course, represents the administration.

Although, in this case, of course, as you know, the administration is not a party to this case. An amicus brief has been filed, a friend of the court brief has been filed. But the administration is not party to the case; as is typical in a case like this, the administration would not be a party.

Q Are there plans in the works right now for the President to address the race issue in the State of the Union, and, if so, I just want to know --

MR. FLEISCHER: I would just again suggest to you, I appreciate all the questions to elicit the specifics of the State of the Union, but closer to the State of the Union you'll probably learn a little bit more. But I'm not going to go into specifics.

Q Ari, back on Iraq, twice today you've said that U.N. -- that the United Nations, the President has seen they sometimes need to have some spine, perhaps, induced into them. Are America's allies being spineless in this confrontation?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm quoting something that you heard the President, himself, say several months ago about this very -- very topic. And I think that when you look back at the '90s, for example, and the fact that the inspectors were thrown out of Iraq and they were not put back in until President Bush was able to go up to New York and make a very forceful presentation to the United Nations General Assembly about the importance of disarming Saddam Hussein and returning the inspectors there, that began the final phase of what we are in now. I think it's a reflection of reality, Mark. I think the fact that the President went to New York created the environment for the inspectors to go back.

I think it's fairly obvious, if the President had not taken that step, the inspectors would not be there and that would not be in the interest of the world.

Q You keep saying the President is keen to consult with the allies. But when they say, no, we don't think that approach is right, we need more time for the inspectors, he doesn't want to hear it.

MR. FLEISCHER: I think just let the process evolve. There is a process underway and the President is content to let this evolve. The President values the opinion and the judgment of our allies and our friends and he will continue to do so. And I think it's fair to say the positions that various nations take can evolve over time themselves, and that various people and governments have various opinions and this is not yet a matter that has been brought to its final conclusion. And so I think it's also important as you judge other nations to be open to the fact that continued consultations will take place and not all positions are final. Perhaps they will be. But I think that's not the case.

Q Thank you. On this new White House Office of Global Communications, how big will it be, who is going to head it, and does it have authority over the VOA or the IBB?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, on the last part. It's about a dozen people. It will be headed by Tucker Eskew, very well known to people here -- Deputy Assistant to the President who has very ably been involved in this area for quite a considerable period of time.

And this office is created because the President recognizes that in our global information society, it is very important for people around the world to hear the message of the United States. And I think this President particularly has reflected on the fact that we, as Americans, take it for granted what a good, caring, compassionate country we are. We're the world's largest provider of food; we're the world's largest provider of funding to fight HIV-AIDS. And yet you can travel to pockets of the world and hear a lot of anti-Americanism, a lot of statements that are not reflective of the good deeds that the American people fund through their tax dollars, and good deeds that the government carries out through the Peace Corps and through a variety of areas that serve to make the world a more peaceful, better fed, better educated, healthier place. And so there's a recognition that we have work to do to bring that message around the world.

And so this office will be a White House office that will work very closely with the State Department and other agencies of the federal government as a part of the coordination of message. It's a very important endeavor in the President's judgment.

Q But if its advice contradicts the story that VOA is broadcasting, who wins?

MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think it's going to be a question of that. I think that both organizations focus on the facts and on the truth, and there should be no conflicts.

Q Ari, Ms. Rice and Secretary Powell this weekend both publicly disagreed with the President's very deep concern about racial discrimination at the University of Michigan, which is before the Supreme Court. And my question: if these two members of the Bush administration can publicly oppose the President, can you do so and others do so, or is this a privilege that's confined to Rice and Powell?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think what happened here -- first of all, to correct your question, Dr. Rice indicated that she supported the President's position. She added one sentence that went beyond what the President said, but she --

Q Right, she disagreed with him.

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, she supported the President's statement, as she indicated. No, I think this is a question of, in the case of Secretary Powell, he has a longstanding public record on this issue. He was asked about it, and he's not going to run from it. He's proud of it, and this is Secretary Powell's beliefs and he expressed them.

In the case of Dr. Rice, she, as she pointed out on the Sunday shows, corrected a newspaper story that gave an incorrect characterization of her views and she spoke out. I think it's also a reflection of the President and how proud he is to have a team of people who he believes so deeply in -- that when Dr. Rice saw a story that reflected something so wrongly about her, he encouraged her to issue a statement that could set the record straight.

Q Last month, the New York Times business page reported that the nation's largest hospital company, which is HCA, agreed to pay $1.7 billion in civil and criminal penalties, which they noted is by far the largest amount ever secured by federal prosecutors.

My question: what is the President's reaction to the fact that the founders and owners of HCA are the father and brother of the new Senate Majority Leader, of whom the Washington Post quoted Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee as saying, that Senator Frist owned nearly $25 million worth of stock in HCA. What's the President's reaction to that?

MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, I'm not familiar with the facts in this case. But in any matter that's adjudicated before the law, the President's expectation with all matters of law would be honored and followed through across our society, no matter who is involved.

Q Ari, the administration has made clear in recent days that the American people should not expect to see in the 27th inspectors report a smoking gun or an Adlai Stevenson-type photograph. I'm wondering what the President thinks the American people should be looking for in that report, what will they see, and how much stock should they put in it?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that's a question you've got to ask to the authors of the report. It's not a United States government document, and so I'm not in a position to tell you what would be in that report. I really don't know how to answer it beyond that.

You know, one of the interesting things, you refer to the Adlai Stevenson photograph. Of course, there was a recent symposium held in Cuba about the Cuban missile crisis. And one of the questions was raised was, how could this be that these missiles was put there in a way that was so visible, why could the world see them? And the answer, interestingly enough, came back from the people who were part of the missile crisis back then who returned to Cuba years later to talk about this. It was that the general in charge of the missile program was not a very good general, and

therefore he failed to hide the weapons he had, and therefore they became visible.

And the very fact that Adlai Stevenson was able in one fell swoop to make such a revelation of course led to a change in behavior of our enemies around the world, where they realized that if they did have bad generals who had their weapons out in the open, it was now a knowable fact. And so the very fact that it was revealed once led to a change in behavior of our would-be enemies around the world, because they did not want to repeat the mistakes that were made.

And that brings me to Iraq. Iraq is excellent at hiding what it has. It has large areas of desert. It has large underground areas. It has mobile laboratories. The fact that people can even think that what Adlai Stevenson was able to do in an era far, far long ago can be repeated today is a wrongful impression of how Saddam Hussein and Iraq operate. And I think that historic context and the fact that it happened once means it's very, very less likely to happen again is important to point out.

Q Ari, two questions. UPI reported last week that Prime Minister Sharon of Israel has given the green light to Moussad, the Israeli intelligence service, to engage in targeted killings in the United States and other friendly countries. The report says, Moussad has in the past engaged in assassinations in Belgium, Norway and other European countries but never in the United States. Is the administration aware of this policy, new Israeli policy, and has the administration agreed to it?

MR. FLEISCHER: It's the first I've heard of it, so I have no comment to offer on it.

Q Can you get a comment --

MR. FLEISCHER: I'll see if there's anything to the report.

Q The second question. You and the President have repeatedly said that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. The biggest such attack was in Halabja in March, 1988, where some 6,800 Kurds were killed. Last week in an article in the International Herald Tribune, Joost Hilterman writes that: while it was Iraq that carried out the attack, the United States at the time, fully aware that it was Iraq, accused Iran. This was apparently part of the tilt toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. And the tilt included billions of dollars in loan guarantees. Sensing that he had carte blanche, Saddam escalated his resort to guesswork there and graduating to ever more lethal agents.

So you and the President have said that Saddam has repeatedly gassed his own people -- why do you leave out the part that the United States, in effect, gave Saddam the green light?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, Russell, I speak for President George W. Bush in the year 2003. I think if you have a question about statements that were made or purportedly made by an administration in 1988, you need to address those to somewhere other than this White House. I can't speak for that. I don't know if that's accurate, inaccurate. But I think you have all the means to ask those questions yourself.

Q Ari, there seems to have been a major sea change in this administration, vis-a-vis Iraq and its policy. Up until perhaps Sunday, certainly with Dick Armitage's speech today and the speech that Paul Wolfowitz is going to give on Thursday, it's no longer -- according to the administration, voiced by these two men -- that Saddam must disarm and there must be a regime change, even though that's an act of Congress. The policy now seems to be that Saddam Hussein is in violation of the U.N. resolution, which means, in effect, the administration does not have to produce a smoking gun in order to go to war. Would you comment on that, please?

MR. FLEISCHER: We have never said that there is a standard of a smoking gun. We have always said the standard is, has Saddam Hussein disarmed. That is what the inspection process is all about, and that remains the case today.

It's worth noting that when the United Nations passed this resolution, 15-0, Iraq was under an international obligation to file a declaration listing, in a full, final and complete manner, all the weapons that they possessed. It's remarkable what was left off of that document. In addition, of course, to the now 16 chemical warheads that have been discovered inside Iraq that were left off that declaration, what happened to the 26,000 liters of anthrax? What happened to the botulin? What happened to the 1.5 tons of VX? What happened to the sarin?

The United Nations said they had them in late 1990s. Iraq left them off their declaration, which raises the question, unless Iraq proves that they destroyed them, where are they? And that's the fear that we have. They of course still have them, they have them in facilities that can be hidden, that can be mobile, and hence, the threat to the world.

Q And a follow-up, if I may. As we know in many countries, the latest France and Germany and Russia and perhaps China are saying, in effect, show us the beef, show us some proof that Saddam Hussein does in fact have these weapons of mass destruction. And both you and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld say the President will make his case to the American people and the world before any attack on Iraq. Is that still the way the President intends to do it? Will he reveal this intelligence?

MR. FLEISCHER: Unquestionably, the President has said that in the event that he reaches the conclusion that the world must disarm Saddam Hussein, a coalition of the willing will have to go in to do the job -- the President will of course, at considerable length, talk to the American people about the reasons why he has come to that conclusion.

Our great democracy does not go to war lightly. If the President makes that judgment, he will of course discuss the reasons repeatedly with the American people.

Q Does that include making specific examples of things that they have not -- weapons they have not disarmed?

MR. FLEISCHER: I can't make predictions about a speech that is not yet given and may never be given, the President hopes. So I don't know how to deal with a hypothetical about a speech that does not exist.

Q My other question is, any more information on the shootings in Kuwait and who might be responsible?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, I've received nothing since this morning about any information about who might be responsible.

Q Ari, just after September 11th, and at the start of the war against terrorism, the State Department, which has swallowed up the U.S. Information Agency previously, announced a major initiative to present America's case around the world and the face of America as we know it, and not as propaganda has it, especially in the Muslim world.

Given that we're now creating this Office of Global Communications, is that any indication the State Department effort has failed, or is this new office specifically tasked with explaining our case vis-a-vis Iraq to the Muslim world?

MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's a reflection of how important the State Department effort and the efforts of the United States government, broadly speaking, are. That's why this has risen to such a priority that the President has created through executive order -- this new operation, this new office here in the White House. It's actually a way to bolster the efforts at the State Department, to bolster the efforts of the other organizations doing the work of carrying America's message.

I think it's fair to say that many entities within agencies, for example in the domestic agencies, would love to have a high level White House focus on their mission. It makes it easier for them to carry out their mission because they know it has the ear of the President, and that's how this should be viewed.

Q Ari, there's been a drastic fall-off in European investment in the U.S. securities market, leading to -- we've seen the fall of the dollar. While that has been still compensated, to some extent, by continued Asian investment, there is indication that the Asian central bankers are now talking about greater diversification because of a fear of the situation in the U.S. market. Will the President be saying anything tomorrow night which will encourage people --

MR. FLEISCHER: Tomorrow night?

Q At the State of the Union next Tuesday, to let them know that the U.S. economy is still a going concern and that people should continue to invest --

MR. FLEISCHER: Without addressing the specifics of your question dealing with investment, there will be a significant portion of a State of the Union devoted to the economy.

Q To follow- up on that, on Medicare, the Medicare Advisory Commission has recommended that the Congress freeze payments to nursing homes, home care agencies, and to some hospitals. If Congress is convinced in going along with these measures, would the President be happy with this, and would he accept it?

MR. FLEISCHER: There are a whole series of advisory panels that are part of the whole process of annual looks at the Medicare program, and several of them have different thoughts about how to proceed. And the President is going to work with the Department of Health and Human Services, who is responsible for Medicare, to take a look at a variety of different people's ideas and proposals about how best to modernize Medicare.

This report is much more narrow than the broader issue of how to modernize Medicare. This is part of the annual requirements that Congress has imposed on these advisory panels to make recommendations. They really are congressional advisory panels.

Q Ari, two questions, one on Mexico. One of the papers has a story on the front page that the Mexican authority is giving IDs to legal immigrants as a way to promote (inaudible). Does the White House share that -- in the paper about the Mexican IDs for legal immigrants?

MR. FLEISCHER: I think, broader than Mexico, of course, anybody who would seek to immigrate to the United States, number one, the President welcomes immigration to our country. He thinks it's a sign of how the world still looks to America as the best place in many cases for people to move for opportunity and for freedom. And he always wants America to be a welcoming nation in that sense. He wants it to be done right, and that means that anybody, of course, who would come to our country would have to, of course, have legitimate documentation.

Q Ari, this "Apparatus of Lies" is supposed to highlight the other deceptions by Saddam Hussein, not just weapons inspections. But how does highlighting something like Saddam Hussein is a non-religious man -- how does that help make the case Iraq poses an immediate threat to this country?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this document was not billed as that Saddam Hussein poses an immediate threat. That's the case that is made in a variety of ways. What this document goes through at great length is the fact that Saddam Hussein has lied, is lying, and will lie. And one of the areas that he does that is through exploitation of Islam.

I think one of the points that is made here is that Saddam Hussein deny's pilgrims in Iraq the right to make the Hadj to Saudi Arabia, yet he professes to be a man of faith. It is one of the most central tenets of Islam to allow people to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hadj.

Q Thank you.

MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.

END 1:12 P.M. EST

Return to this article at:

Print this document