For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 19, 2003
Correction: Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, Correction Bolded
President's schedule...................................1-2 Second
Security Council resolution...2-3, 6-9,11,14, 16-17 Turkey/U.S.
troops................................2, 6, 13 Iraq/post Saddam
Hussein...............................3-4 Conversations with Iran or
Syria.........................4 Administration officials comments about
Korea..............................................9 Egyptian leader
Mubarak/comments with Schroeder.........10 Middle
LSUB-II missiles...................................14 President's
travel to Atlanta...........................13 Civilian casualties in a
war............................15 Chemical and biological attack on
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February
PRESS BRIEFING BY
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:20 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. The President began his day this
morning with two early-morning phones calls to foreign leaders. He
spoke with the Emir of Qatar. They talked about Iraq and the war
against terror. And the President thanked the Emir for his support of
these issues. The President reiterated his view that war is a last
resort, and his intention to continue working through the United
Nations. The President also told the Emir that Iraq would be disarmed
one way or another. The President congratulated the Emir on the
political and economic reforms in Qatar and they noted they hoped to
see each other at the earliest possible time.
The President also spoke with President Megawati of Indonesia this
morning. The President emphasized his appreciation for Indonesia's
excellent work in counterterrorism cooperation, including the
investigation of the Bali bombings. He thanked President Megawati for
her government's efforts to ensure the safety of Americans working in
and visiting Indonesia, and the two Presidents discussed the situation
in Iraq and agreed that Saddam Hussein must disarm in accordance with
this Security Council obligations.
Following the phone calls, the President had his early morning
intelligence briefing, followed by an FBI briefing. He convened a
meeting of the National Security Council. And then the President, this
afternoon, looks forward to meeting with Lord Robertson, the Secretary
General of NATO. The President will thank him for his strong
leadership in NATO's coming to the defense of Turkey. They anticipate
they'll also talk about ISAF, the force in Afghanistan, to help
preserve the peace in Afghanistan, as well as talking about NATO
transformation and NATO enlargement.
One other item for the record for you. You had this last week in
the week ahead; I want to give this to you all, just for the record.
President Bush will host Spanish President Aznar at the ranch in
Crawford on February 21st through 22nd. They'll have an informal
dinner on Friday evening, and working sessions on Saturday morning.
Spain has been a staunch ally in the war on terrorism and a valuable
member of NATO. President Aznar has personally demonstrated great
courage and leadership within Europe and the United Nations Security
Council in pressing Iraq to disarm peacefully.
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q Ari, will the administration consider it a victory if it gets
a simple majority vote, without -- sans a veto and so forth on a
MR. FLEISCHER: In the United Nations Security Council?
Q On a second resolution.
MR. FLEISCHER: The standard by which resolutions pass the Security
Council at the United Nations is nine votes in favor, with no
abstentions. That, of course, is the standard by which a resolution
Q The Turkish Parliament has now put off a vote on whether to
allow the U.S. to use the bases there. How much more time is left to
negotiate this package?
MR. FLEISCHER: One, we have not received any official notification
from Turkey about whether they will or will not vote it this week. So
this remains an issue that is at this minute an open matter, that is
not resolved. And we'll see, ultimately, what the Turkish decision
is. I'm aware of a television interview in which -- it was explained
that nothing is scheduled. It did not say that nothing would happen.
So this remains an open issue. We will see, ultimately, what the
outcome is. It's open.
Q The President, as he repeated yesterday, says that the U.S.
feels it does not need a second U.N. resolution to take military
action. But you suggested this morning that he does intend to go
through with offering a second resolution. Is that correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q Could you repeat that? (Laughter.)
MR. FLEISCHER: You said this morning that the President --
(laughter.) The position that the President has taken is that he
believes that it remains very important for the United Nations Security
Council to be an effective organization. And the President has said to
our allies that we intend to work through the United Nations, and we
The President intends to work with our friends and allies to offer
a resolution, either this week or next, at the United Nations Security
Council. And the President has made repeatedly clear that the
preferable outcome is for the United Nations to act. If the United
Nations Security Council fails to act, the President, along with a
coalition of the willing, will enforce Resolution 1441 by disarming
Q But why does he keep saying that he doesn't need one?
MR. FLEISCHER: For exactly the reasons I just outlined.
Q Can you comment on the op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal
by the head of the Iraqi National Congress saying that U.S. policies
and plans for a post-Saddam Iraq are, in his words, unworkable and
MR. FLEISCHER: The United States has made it abundantly clear, and
I reiterated today, that in a post-Saddam Iraq, it is important that
people from both the inside and the outside have a role in the future
government of Iraq. Not any one group over another group; no
preference for one person over another person, but for an Iraq to
evolve and emerge that is led by people from both within and without.
Q But he's saying here that the plans would keep Saddam's --
this is reading from his op-ed -- keep Saddam's existing structures
of government, administration, and security in place, albeit under
American officers, and saying that this is leaving out the Iraqi people
from determining their own future.
MR. FLEISCHER: Then I think that's a misunderstanding of what the
plans would be because the future of Iraq will, of course, be decided
by the Iraqi people. In the event there is military action, you can
expect, of course, for every effort to be made to maintain the various
infrastructures that are part of Iraq. Iraq is a developed society.
Iraq has electricity in all its towns and villages. Iraq has taken its
tremendous oil wealth, and except for the fact that much of it has been
used for military purposes, they actually have built some levels of
infrastructure that get food, that get medicine, that get supplies to
people inside Iraq.
And it is, of course, the intention of the United States government
to make certain the people of Iraq are not the victims in a war that
would have been started by their leaders. And so, we will continue to
work with Iraqis both inside Iraq and outside Iraq to provide for the
best administration of Iraq as possible.
Q Are you down-playing the role that the Iraqi National
Congress would play?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, there is no preference for
any one group over another, or any one individual over another. And
that can sometimes lead to some criticism from some corners who, of
course, would like to be the preference.
Q Has the administration or U.S. officials had conversations
with other governments and countries sort of surrounding Iraq -- I'm
talking specifically about Syria and Iran -- about what their
involvement would be, even in terms of just sealing off borders or what
you may need? Have there been any talks?
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to check with the State Department on
that. There's nothing that I have that comes to mind on specific
attention on that matter. I can tell you that we made an announcement
several weeks ago about humanitarian aid in the event of refugee
situations and we always work through international organizations to
make certain that if there is a refugee situation, that we are able to
handle it as best as possible, again through international means.
Q But as far as you know, no one from the U.S. government has
talked to Syria specifically, or Iran specifically, about --
MR. FLEISCHER: You may want to check with State on that.
Q Ari, on the U.N. resolution, a second U.N. resolution, one of
the forces that's at work, it seems, is increasing rancor and nastiness
within the Western alliance. You've got newspapers here showing France
and Germany as weasels at the Security Council, people calling France
"surrender monkeys." Then you've got a lot of anti-Americanism on the
streets over in France.
MR. FLEISCHER: Are you asking me if I can be responsible for the
Q No, but I am asking if you can be -- can speak for the
responsibility of top officials of the Bush administration --
Secretary Rumsfeld, who has dismissively referred to France and Germany
as old Europe; and today, Secretary Powell, who warned France not be
afraid of its responsibilities. Is that the rhetoric of a great power,
and is that really the most effective way of building alliances?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that there's no question that when you look
at the decades-long alliance between the United States and Europe there
are moments in that alliance that are the reflections of democratic
disagreements between nations that virtually always see things the same
way, but occasionally they don't. And during that time I think that
it's part and parcel of democracies to speak frankly.
And that has happened in numerous cases; it's happened between
France and other nations. And as the President has said, in the end,
this is an alliance of shared values, and in the end, no matter what
happens vis-a-vis Iraq, we will remain a close alliance.
Q But is it possible that the attitude which emanates not from
the press, but from the administration, of "you're with us or you're
against us," kind of dismissive superiority to some of the oldest
American allies, is contributing to the problems in forging a common
front against Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think you have some stark differences and
you're seeing the differences discussed openly, and what's wrong with
that? That's one of the strengths of our alliance, one of the
strengths of our democracies, that we can differ. And, again, when you
take a look at this, the differences are really with Germany and France
and Belgium -- and that has now been settled vis-a-vis NATO. And
those are differences that are reflective of a minority of countries.
There is agreement between the United States and most of the
nations of Europe. The European governments stand very strong with the
United States. There are differences with France. And I don't think
what you're hearing about somebody saying afraid of responsibilities is
a very powerful or strong message that people could object to. I think
these are the types of differences that, if they emerge, are the
differences that come time to time between great democracies and do not
put any particular deep strain on the alliance. That's how I think the
French would approach it the same way.
Q Ari, on the second resolution, has the administration gotten
any indication that France would not veto the second resolution?
MR. FLEISCHER: It would not be my place to speak for France and
what they would do or wouldn't do. And certainly, that's their right
to see the text of it and, at that point, to make whatever judgments
they want to make. But the President again believes that in the end,
the United Nations will want to play a constructive role and will be an
organization that is relevant. He hopes that will be the case still.
Q And does the administration have a timetable in terms of when
the U.N. Security Council members would have to act on a second
resolution? Would that be within weeks?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, they're still -- the
consultations are ongoing. And therefore, it could be -- the
resolution could be tabled this week, it could be tabled next week.
And then the President would not expect a very lengthy debate at all.
Q Apparently Turkey is asking for an additional $6 billion,
bringing the total aid package to $32 billion. One, what does the
White House feel about that? And secondly, can they enforce the
resolutions, i.e. go to war, without Turkey?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, one, I'm not going to indicate what the
specific level would be. This is a matter of some diplomacy and
conversation. But it is fair to say that Turkey has heard
authoritatively what the position of the United States government is.
And now Turkey has a decision to make, and we look forward to hearing
that decision. Turkey, of course, is desirable, from a strategic point
of view, for any military staging, but the military of the United
States is sufficiently flexible that whatever decision is made, the
United States will still be successful in carrying out any military
operations, whatever decision is made.
Q Last night, Ambassador Negroponte, at the U.N., came out
quite late and said that no decision had even been made about whether
or not to press for a second resolution. You seemed to be saying this
morning a definitive decision has been made to go forward, come what
may. Was a decision made yesterday, last night, that, in fact, you
would go forward with a decision?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think as you have known has been made very clear,
and I think if you take a look at the full context of all the various
remarks, you'll see that the President has always said, and meant it,
that we intend to go through the United Nations and to offer a
resolution to the United Nations at the appropriate moment, the
appropriate time. And nothing has changed that.
Q So there was no shift in opinion, no firm decision yesterday
about what to do or what not to do?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's been a consistent statement that we've been
Q On the content question, is there any change in view about
the need for any benchmarks in the language in a second resolution? Or
is it simply they're still in material breach and they knew they'd face
MR. FLEISCHER: It remains much as I've been describing to you now
for about a week that it would be a rather straightforward, simple
resolution that enforces Resolution 1441, and that 1441 stated Iraq had
its final chance and that if it did not comply with the final chance
and disarmed, there would be serious consequences. They've had their
Q And we intend to go forward even if the French or some other
permanent member is threatening veto?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. The President has said that we
will proceed, and either this week or next week we'll offer a
Q But I don't think the President has actually said that. He
says, we could take one, but we don't need one. But you are saying
definitively that the U.S. is determined to go forward, will introduce
one even if there is a risk of veto?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's always a risk of veto of anything at the
United Nations. There was a risk of veto of 1441. The President
believes the United Nations in the end would like to be an instrument
for peace around the world, and that the United Nations Security
Council, particularly after what took place in Kosovo, would like to be
an organization that is taken seriously in world leaders' calculations
about what steps to take to secure peace.
Q Is there any regret on the part of the President and top
advisors for having chosen the strategy that's been adopted, pushing
through the U.N. --
MR. FLEISCHER: No --
Q -- given all the trouble that's been stirred up?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President understood -- why would there be
regret? The President understood when he set in motion the path that
we are on now, to go to the Security Council last fall. This was a
decision President Bush, himself, made when he decided to go up to the
United Nations and give a speech on September 12th about Iraq, and
place this matter front and center for the United Nations Security
Council to deal with.
The President has an abiding belief in the importance of
international organizations being the world's tool to enforce
proliferation treaties. If it is not, if this regime breaks down, then
the world is going to have to ask itself some serious questions about
how can you enforce anti-proliferation matters around the world.
If the United Nations Security Council does not choose to do
anything other than have prolonged inspections, after it's been
demonstratively proven that Iraq is in possession of prohibited
weapons, then you have to ask yourself, what is the purpose of having
the United Nations Security Council pass resolution after resolution
prohibiting the possession of such weapons. We know that Iraq is in
possession of prohibited weapons. The question is, will they disarm.
Q If the U.N. fails to endorse what the President wants,
doesn't that hurt the President's credibility --
MR. FLEISCHER: If the U.N. fails to endorse action to disarm
Saddam Hussein, there's a bigger question, and that is, what good does
the United Nations Security Council do if it passes a resolution saying
you cannot have prohibited weapons and it looks the other way when you
And as we know, Iraq has not accounted for its VX, it has not
accounted for its sarin, it has not accounted for its anthrax or its
botulin. And as we heard last week, Iraq has Al Samoud Two missiles
which are in violation of Security Council resolutions. They continue
to have these missiles that are in violation of Security Council
resolutions. They continue to have the motors for these missiles and
they continue to have the castings which made the missiles -- all in
violation. What will the U.N. do about it?
Q Two questions, one a follow-up. At one point does the
President decide the U.N. Security Council has lost its relevance, and
that the U.S. dues may be reduced? And is there anything new on the
situation in North Korea? Any new presidential decision on redeploying
American troops, moving them to a safer area?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there's nothing to report any issue involving
the troops. This is a strategic focus, a longer-term look that DOD is
undertaking about America's basings around the world, and there's
nothing new to indicate on that. Secretary Powell will be heading to
the region over the weekend, and we can expect ongoing consultations by
the Secretary in this regard.
Did you have a third question in there? Oh, U.N. dues. And on the
U.N. dues, no, there is no discussion that I have heard regarding the
change in the dues. This is a serious matter of principle, and a
serious matter of responsibility for the United Nations to face up to.
We'll see what the United Nations decides.
Q But if the U.N. Security Council rejects the resolutions,
then does the Bush administration consider they are irrelevant at that
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think at that point the President will
consider how best to keep the peace, and then you can anticipate at
that point -- much like Kosovo, where the United Nations led a
coalition to disarm -- in this case, Saddam Hussein.
Q Ari, the Emir of Qatar still holds out hope that the
situation with Iraq can be resolved peacefully. During the President's
conversation today, did that come up? And is the President doing
anything to try and ease the Emir's concerns that a decision has
MR. FLEISCHER: The President, himself, said that. President Bush
in his conversation said that he still hoped that this could be
Q In a related by separate -- in Berlin today, Egyptian
leader Hosni Mubarak brought up with Chancellor Schroeder the idea
that, yes, inspections should be allowed to continue on; however,
there has to be an end point at some point for Saddam to comply. Were
there discussions between the United Nations and the Egyptian leader
before he went over for these meetings? And also, is there a concerted
effort to try and get Arab allies on board to urge some of the other
countries that still have not made a commitment?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, there's conversations, numerous
conversations, with Arab allies about this. They have a real interest
in this matter and their positions are very important and their
positions are very constructive. They, too, see Saddam Hussein for the
threat that he is. But, no, there was not an immediate conversation
with the President and President Mubarak before President Mubarak's
visit to Germany. I think the President spoke to President Mubarak a
couple weeks ago, if I recall. But his remarks were constructive.
Indeed, there must one day come a time when the world recognizes that
inspections forever is not the solution. If the inspections last
forever, it means Saddam Hussein is getting away with having weapons of
mass destruction that he's able to hide from the inspectors. As Hans
Blix himself said in New York last week, the inspectors are not
detectives; their mission is not to find the weapons.
Q Ari, there's been a lot of talk that the U.S. is waiting for
the Israeli elections to be over before pressing the road map to
peace. Can we expect to see a greater focus on the conflict in the
coming weeks by the White House? Or how do you see this playing out?
MR. FLEISCHER: This remains a vital issue for the United States
and for the region, indeed, the world. And this is something that the
President has spoken about in his meetings with foreign leaders. It's
interesting because even with all these conversations where the focus
is on Iraq, the President always brings up the Middle East and the
importance to continue to make progress toward peace in the Middle
East. And much of what had been set in motion prior to the Israeli
election remains relevant, which is the help of the Arab nations in the
region in pushing the Palestinian Authority to reform. And that
remains, in the President's opinion, one of the keys to having a state
of Palestine that can live side by side with Israel in peace and
security; the ongoing reforms within the Palestinian Authority. And we
continue to push for that and we hope that these reforms will continue
to be successful.
Q Will we see a higher level of diplomacy now, though, in the
MR. FLEISCHER: I do not rule that out.
Q Ari, I'm still trying to understand the strategy at the
United Nations. You were just telling Jim a minute ago that you're
determined to have a vote, even if you know you may lose it. Do you
want to get these other countries on the record, is that the ultimate
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has said that he intends to offer a
resolution. We will table a resolution this week or next. I can't
predict what the outcome will be beyond that. But it is, as the
President said, important for the United Nations to speak, to have its
chance to protect the peace and to back up the resolutions that they,
themselves, passed, if those resolutions have any value or meaning.
And so I think it's very straightforward. The President believes
in the United Nations. The President is the one who went to the United
Nations. Now, it's up to the United Nations. We will see what the
United Nations decides.
Q When you talked about Colin Powell going to the region a
short time ago, you're talking about Asia --
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q -- when you talked about Korea. Does that mean he's not
going to be participating in these deliberations at the United
MR. FLEISCHER: You can go over and come back rather quickly. It's
a weekend trip; it's a two, three-day trip, if I recall. I think it's
Q Will he be back in time for the vote?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. Certainly.
Q Ari, as I recall, the President has always been concerned
about U.S. disasters, without your saying it's just a state problem or
a city problem. On page one of this morning's New York Time, reports
that South Chicago's E-2 Nightclub, where 21 people were crushed to
death had for months been sparring with the city of Chicago over
building violations, fire code violations and liquor violations with
the owner, Dwain Kyles, complaining that he was the victim of a witch
hunt against black-owned businesses. And my question is, does the
President believe that Mayor Daley's government conducts witch hunts?
Or does he deplore the Reverend Jesse Jackson's support of this killer
nightclub that had been court-ordered to close in July of 2000?
MR. FLEISCHER: Lester, what happened in Chicago is a tragedy.
There are many, many people who are mourned today as a result of what
happened. These are matters of municipal code. The President has
every faith in the government and the people of Chicago to deal with
this issue and to do so in a way that is sensitive to the lives of
those who were lost. What's important is the municipality to have the
authority it needs to enforce the laws, and also requires people to
obey the law.
Q Page 1 of The Washington Post reported that the AFL-CIO, the
American Bar Association, General Motors, Texaco, and generals,
including Schwarzkopf and Daniel Crispin, the former superintendent of
West Point, among others -- have all filed amicus briefs supporting
the University of Michigan's racial discrimination in admissions as
opposed by the President. And my question: Doesn't the President
regret that these people during Black History Month would so disregard
the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream that, some day my children
will be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color
of their skin?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you're seeing the strengths of our judicial
system in which people from various different positions are free to
file an amicus as they see fit. And now this is a matter for the
judiciary to decide.
Q And the President is sorry for these people doing this, isn't
MR. FLEISCHER: I think I've answered the question.
Q Ari, unless I'm mistaken, it's been reported that the U.N.
inspectors have done an under-the-table deal with Iraq where they will
not only notify them in advance of the U-2 flights, but also the area
the planes will fly over. Is the administration aware of this? And
what's the administration reaction?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, under 1441, there are to be no condition
attached whatsoever to the right of the inspectors to fly U-2s and to
conduct their inspections as they see fit. The inspectors do have
flexibility on how they decide to apply that. But I will say that if
the purpose is to fly spy planes with the purpose of observing, it does
make it a little question mark -- if such advance notice is provided,
what's the purpose of the advance notice? Why to give the heads-up?
Why does Iraq seek that? I think it also renders meaningless Iraq's
statement that they welcome the unconditional flying of the U-2, when
clearly they have sought conditions.
Q Is the administration aware of this?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say that we're aware of the
restrictions that Iraq has imposed.
Q Ari, following Helen's question, the military says it needs a
decision on Turkey in the next couple of days. Will there be one?
MR. FLEISCHER: We will find out. This is up to Turkey now to make
a decision. And it's an important decision that Turkey is taking
seriously as a sovereign country, and we will find out, ultimately,
what the decision that Turkey takes.
Q Tomorrow the President is going to Atlanta. Can you give us
any ideas -- why did he choose Atlanta? And is there any part of his
economic package that he'll be emphasizing because it has particular
relevance to the south?
MR. FLEISCHER: Tomorrow the President is going to focus on the
domestic agenda. And the President looks forward to being in Atlanta
to make the case to the Congress about the importance of passing the
President's economic stimulus plan. The President continues to look at
the economy and see an economy that needs extra impetus to create jobs
for the American people and to have higher growth. And he believes
that the plan that he has offered to Congress will get that done.
Congress is, of course, on recess now, but the President has high
hopes that as Congress returns, the plans will quickly fall into place
over the next several months, when Congress comes back, for the
building blocks of the President's plan to be passed -- such as the
budget resolution, ultimately followed by an up or down vote on the
President's economic program.
Q Any particular reason for Atlanta or the south? Anything
going on there that is special? Why Atlanta?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's always an -- Georgia is always an
important place; the President always looks forward to visiting
Georgia. There can be any number of places to make remarks about the
importance of the economy. It's important in all 50 states, and the
President has chosen Georgia tomorrow.
Q Ari, you say now that Iraq has missiles that exceed the
150-kilometer range. If that is the case, does the United States want
the inspectors to destroy these sites? Do they need additional proof
that this is the case?
MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, it's not the United States that says
that; it's Hans Blix who has reported that. The inspectors conducted
tests using independent teams, as well as their own resources, and they
have determined that not only are the LSUB II missiles in excess of
Iraq's allowable range for any type of missiles, but the castings in
which they are made are prohibited, as well as the rocket motors
themselves as prohibited.
And now the question remains, what will be done about it. Under
Resolution 687, there is only one thing to be done with it. If, again,
the United Nations resolutions have value, those weapons must be
destroyed or rendered harmless. And we shall see, ultimately, what the
does and what Iraq does. This remains an open matter, and a
troubling one at that.
Q On the fact that the resolution, you said, is being prepared
by the United States government -- I imagine Great Britain is also
participating in these preparation. Is the language already set? Is
it a negotiable item? And who will present the resolution to the U.N.
-- United Nations, Great Britain, or both countries?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, this is part of the consultative process that
is ongoing. We continue to talk about the exact language to use, the
exact timing that it would be introduced, as well as who it will be who
actually tables the motion, as they say in New York.
And in this sense, this is much like the questions that you were
asking in November that led up to the successful passing of Resolution
1441. At that time, if you will recall, there was a process underway
where we actually did the wordsmithing, we talked about what phrases
should be used, what phrases should not be used, and you're seeing a
repeat of that. We'll see, ultimately, what happens at the United
Nations this time.
Q Ari, two things. You said last week that, "Every step will
be taken to protect civilian and innocent life in Iraq." But Pentagon
officials have said that under a battle plan called 'shock and awe,'
"there will not be a safe place in Baghdad when we attack." Baghdad is
a city the size of Paris, with five million residents. If there will
not be a safe place in Baghdad when we attack, then how do you plan to
protect every civilian?
MR. FLEISCHER: First of all, I think that any construing of any
statements that are made by anybody at the Pentagon to suggest that the
Pentagon does not and will not take every step to protect innocent
lives is an unfair representation of what the Pentagon would say. It's
well-known how the United States conducts itself in military affairs.
We are very proud of the fact that any time force is reluctantly used,
the force is applied to military targets and innocents are protected.
Q Second question. You have admitted that Saddam may attack
our invading troops with chemical and biological weapons. On Sunday,
60 Minutes reported that many military leaders believe that our troops
have neither the proper equipment, nor the proper training to survive a
chemical and biological attack. The report quoted an Army audit that
found that 62 percent of the gas masks examined "had critical defects
that could cause leakage."
Now, since 100,000 U.S. veterans in the Gulf War may still be
suffering from Gulf War Syndrome -- many of them believe that this is
from inhaling toxic fumes. Tens of thousands of them were exposed to
sarin gas when we bombed a Iraqi munitions dump -- how can the
President send troops into harm's way knowing that they are not
adequately protected from a chemical and biological attack?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has full faith and confidence in the
Department of Defense and in their planning for the worst. And I think
premised in your question is the fact that perhaps you now are coming
around to the realization that Iraq does indeed have weapons of mass
destruction and a willingness to use them. It's not anybody in the
United States government who has admitted -- in your word -- that
Iraq might use these weapons; it's that Iraq has such weapons, they've
used them in the past. And hence the danger not only to the troops who
are in the region, but to people abroad, people in the United States,
and friends and allies and civilians in the region who remain
vulnerable to Saddam using such weapons on innocents.
Q What about the 60 Minutes report that we're not prepared --
MR. FLEISCHER: As I indicated to you, the President has full faith
and confidence in DOD's measures to protect our troops in all
Q Ari, does this new resolution represent a last chance for the
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, when you consider the fact that Resolution
1441 said, "last chance," then what the President is saying to the
Security Council is, this is your last chance to mean what you've
previously said. After all, if you can pass resolutions that say Iraq
must comply fully and immediately, Iraq must comply with all
provisions, they may not have any missiles in excess of 150 kilometers,
and then they acknowledge that Iraq has missiles in excess of 150
kilometers, and they do nothing about it, what's the purpose of passing
all those previous resolutions?
Why then would people look to the United Nations as an instrument
of peace, if instead, all it is is an instrument of putting out
declarations that nobody intends to take seriously anyway? So the
President believes that if the declarations are to have meaning and
have value, they must be taken seriously. So this is the President's
chance to have the United Nations taken seriously.
Q One more with the U.N. The President initially said, very
carefully, that he would welcome a new resolution. Other
administration officials said that he would support a new resolution,
and it sounded as if this was in theory. And now, you're saying that
the United States is going to press aggressively and take the leading
role. I mean, what changed? Why the more aggressive effort by the
MR. FLEISCHER: I think, just quote the words. I've never used the
words, "aggressively" or "take a leading role." I said that the
President has said that it's important to have a meaningful United
Nations Security Council, and that the President believes that it is
important to go to the Security Council. We will offer a resolution
this week or next, and I've made no predictions about what the outcome
of that would be. I've said the President believes that ultimately the
United Nations will want to be relevant and want to have an effective
role. That remains his hope. That's what I've said. Those are the
words that I've used.
Q But leading role would not be accurate, from what you told us
today, about the --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, as I indicated, we'll determine
exactly, along with our friends and allies, of who the sponsor of the
resolution will be. The United States is working with the United
Kingdom right now in the drafting of such a resolution. So in that
sense, if you want to call that a leading role, I think that might be
an accurate description. But I just want to use my words.
Q Ari, you mentioned earlier that the administration could live
with a 9-0 vote out of the United Nations. I'm just wondering what
value you would see in a resolution that's passed by nine votes, but
vetoed by other countries.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, if something is vetoed, then it
doesn't pass. And what I said was, the measure for passage is nine
votes and no veto.
Q Do you anticipate success in your effort to win it?
MR. FLEISCHER: We'll find out. We'll find out, and as the
President says, he very much hopes so. That's what he would like for
the United Nations to do. And if the United Nations does not see fit
to enforce its resolutions, then the President does not believe the
world would be safer with an armed Saddam Hussein who receives a signal
from the Security Council that it's okay to have arms, that the
Security Council intends to do nothing about it.
Q Could you just give us an update, or is there -- actually
are there any updates on the signing of the omnibus budget bill?
MR. FLEISCHER: I noticed just before I came here that the White
House has officially received it now. And so we'll keep you informed
about exactly when it will get signed.
Q Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 12:56 P.M. EST