Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, March 25, 202003 (Full Transcript)MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I have a number of statements I'd like to make, so let me begin with those.
President Bush will host British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David on March 26th and March 27th -- that's Wednesday and Thursday this week. The United Kingdom is a close ally and the largest coalition military partner with us in Iraq. The President and the Prime Minister will discuss the progress of the conflict in Iraq, urgent issues of humanitarian relief, reconstruction, and helping the Iraqi people build democratic institutions.
One question that the White House often receives from the American people as the developments on the war unfolds is, what can individuals do to help, particularly to help our troops who are serving abroad. And today I'd like to bring to people's attention that the USA Freedom Corps has launched a new resource for people seeking to support our troops, their families, and their communities, and this is called On The Homefront. By logging on to usafreedomcorps.gov, people can get information on sending letters and care packages to our troops stationed away from home, and they'll be able to find other sites on that web page to link on -- such things as Operation Dear Abby, which sends email messages to deployed troops of any service from people's home state. Defend America is an on- line thank-you for the troops. And Operation USA Care Package provides a way to send purchases of items requested by troops, such as sunscreen, disposable cameras, prepaid calling cards, and other items for the troops.
Finally, one other item on the humanitarian relief picture. The United States is currently providing $105 million to international aid agencies to help the Iraqi people, including $60 million to the World Food Program, $21 million to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, $10 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and $8 million to the International Organization for Migration.
We're also providing 610,000 metric tons of food, worth $300 million.
We have deployed approximately 3 million humanitarian daily rations in Kuwait and other locations, to meet emergency food needs. This is the largest number of HDRs -- humanitarian daily rations -- ever forward- deployed for contingency use.
To assess the needs and coordinate the efforts, we are deploying a 62- person civilian disaster response team, the largest of its kind ever. To provide this relief, coalition forces have seized the southern port of Umm Qasr. The coalition is working to get this port up and running. It will be a gateway for food and other relief items. Coalition forces are currently sweeping the port for mines, a necessary prelude to allow incoming humanitarian traffic. Two Iraqi tugboats carrying mines have already been interdicted.
This is a major step in providing humanitarian aid and resuming ration distributions to the Iraqi people. The President mentioned this in his remarks this morning at the Pentagon. It remains a very important priority and we will continue to pursue it.
With that, I'm happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: There's some doubt about whether aid is actually flowing. And there's an aid crisis, there's a water and food crisis in Basra, we understand, and there's no indication that we're aware of that any help is reaching these people. When will it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Number one, there is assistance that has been reaching people. As the troops move through, they have been providing relief to the people that they encounter as often as they can --
QUESTION: -- that's sort of a case-by-case basis.
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. And as I mentioned, there's a massive stockpiling that stands by and ready. And what is at stake here is the mining of the harbor that was done by the Iraqis, which only serves, once again, as a reminder of how Iraq is willing to starve its own people to accomplish its military aims.
QUESTION: -- immediate crisis on your hands.
MR. FLEISCHER: And the only way to deal with that crisis is by removing the mines that were laid by the Iraqis in order to get the ships through.
QUESTION: So nobody gets fed until the mines get removed?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the ships will sink if you don't remove the mines, and nobody will get fed and the situation become even worse, if the ships back up as a result of them sinking. The British ship, Sir Galahad, is equipped with 700 -- 76,000 days* of supply of food and approximately 1,500 tons of water. It's ready to go. The Australians have two shiploads of wheat, each carrying 50,000 tons, awaiting off-loading. So the mine operation is continuing. It is a priority. And as was noted in the briefing in the Gulf this morning, 40 percent of the water for Basra has already been turned back on.
QUESTION: The President said Sunday that this humanitarian aid would begin flowing in 36 hours. Was he -- did he misspeak, or is this an example of where the coalition plans haven't gone as quickly as you would hope?
MR. FLEISCHER: As the President said, massive amounts of humanitarian aid should begin moving within the next 36 hours. They are moving. We desire to get them to their end object. And as I mentioned, there is one impediment to aiding the long-suffering people of Iraq, and that is the removal of these mines.
This is a real sign of what the Iraqi regime will do. They are willing to block their own ports, starve their own people, stop humanitarian aid from getting through. All the efforts that we are making in the middle of a shooting war to feed the Iraqi people are a reflection on how the United States and our allies fight wars.
QUESTION: -- point, but I just want to make it clear -- is this -- is the aid proceeding to the Iraqi people on a timetable set out, or has the coalition been delayed, because of the fighting on the ground, in getting the aid to the Iraqis?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, it's a question of the mines. It's not the fighting on the ground, it's a question of the mines.
QUESTION: But isn't it more than the mines? Obviously, the Iraqi regime has mined this harbor, and that is a wicked thing to do. But the coalition battle plan was to bypass Basra and leave the more than half-million citizens there essentially to fend for themselves until we could get this aid flowing. It's not that we can't only get ships into Umm Qasr; it's that we didn't take Basra, which is now a scene of utter chaos and total unpredictability, and there's no telling when aid will flow there. Does the administration take any responsibility for the plight of the people in Basra?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the administration is the one, working with our allies, that is working to get the food and the water to the people of Iraq. The people of Iraq have been put in harm's way as a result of the actions of the Iraqi military, of the Fedayeen, and the brutal regime under which they've lived that doesn't care about the people of Iraq. And that's why the United States and our allies are the ones put in this position, working through, as I mentioned, a series of groups, providing money and transport. We stand ready, willing, and able. The mines need to be moved and the mines will be moved. The people will be fed.
QUESTION: But it does seem, based on, as Ron points out, the President on Sunday saying, within 36 hours massive amounts of aid should begin to move -- and perhaps the prediction that we heard quite a bit, that the people of the south, and particularly Basra, will rise up -- that you didn't expect this. That you did not expect there to be this --
MR. FLEISCHER: We didn't expect the Irani -- the Iraqis to cease caring about their own people, to cease feeding their own people, to put up impediments to this humanitarian relief supplies? That's the nature of the Iraqi regime. They've been doing it for years.
So, no, Terry. I think what you see here is, once again, in the classic sense, of the United States working with our allies as being someone who cares and provides for the humanitarian needs of people worldwide. You have an Iraqi regime that has laid mines in an effort to block shipments of humanitarian supplies -- as well as other reasons that they laid the mines, for military purposes -- the consequence of which is that the humanitarian relief, which the United States is dedicated to providing, will get there as soon as the operations can be cleared, to get the mines removed.
QUESTION: Ari, not until the President ordered war to begin and he addressed the American people last Wednesday did he prepare the public for what would be, in his words, a longer and more difficult military fight than many have predicted. Why didn't he do it sooner? And what does he believe the level of patience is of the American public? At what cost is the public prepared to pay for achieving this end?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, I think the American people have fully understood all the way along that there is risk, that there is sacrifice, as the nation prepared for war. And the President was very overt with the country about -- that this could result in the use of force.
I want to cite for you three specific instances in which the President laid it out rather explicitly, going back in time. One was a week ago last night, a week ago Monday, March 17th, when the President said, and I quote, "Americans understand the costs of conflict because we have paid them in the past. War has no certainty except the certainty of sacrifice. If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end."
And then on Wednesday last week, March 19th, the President said, on a campaign on the harsh -- "A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require a sustained commitment." And then again, Saturday, in the President's radio address, he had a very similar message.
So I dispute the premise. The President has said this consistently, and I think the American people have been prepared for this and they understand the sacrifices that must be made in order to disarm the Iraqi regime.
QUESTION: Let me follow up on that, because given -- given your precise preparation for a question like that, it seems to me --
MR. FLEISCHER: You're easy to read, David. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I guess so. Well maybe that -- then maybe that means that there's some level of defensiveness, that perhaps the President is worried that the American public may be less patient than he advised them to be. Is that the case?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I just anticipate your questions well.
QUESTION: Wait a second, Ari. This is wartime. That's a dodge of the question.
MR. FLEISCHER: You're asking me why am I prepared to answer your questions?
QUESTION: No, that's not what I asked you. I asked you, does he feel that the public did not adequately bring up its expectation for what we are facing.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, and as I answered your question at the very beginning, I said that the American people, in the President's judgment, have been well-prepared for this. And the American people understood -- as the President repeatedly, going back to September 12th at the United Nations, talked about the possibility of the use of force.
The American people understand it when the President talks about the use of force, they understand that means that lives can be lost. The President made that perfectly plain in those remarks that I quoted to you.
QUESTION: Ari, if I could just take you back to your comment before about how you didn't expect the Iraqis to interfere with the humanitarian aid.
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say that.
QUESTION: You said, we didn't expect the Iraqis to step in and help starve their own people and so forth --
MR. FLEISCHER: I didn't say we didn't expect; I said this is something that we've seen throughout Iraqi history, where they have starved their own people. It's a sign of how the Iraqi regime has treated its own people. I think that's what I said.
Go ahead. I hear there is a question coming.
QUESTION: The essence of the question here is, you said that the humanitarian aid is delayed because of the demining operation. But, clearly, Basra, which is where the biggest need is right now and the second largest city, does not appear to be in a condition where you could deliver aid without fear of military action against the aid-givers. In retrospect, did the plan that you folks had call for an ability to get that aid into Basra, assuming that you got past the mining issues, by this time? Or did you expect that it would take weeks or months to be able to deliver that aid?
MR. FLEISCHER: You'd have to talk to the Pentagon planners for any more precision on exactly what their plans called for. I can assure you from the President's point of view that the focus on humanitarian aid remains a paramount issue. And as was mentioned in the briefing in the Gulf this morning, 40 percent of the water for Basra has already been turned back on again. And it remains unclear on who turned the water off for Basra, how it got turned off and who turned it off.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, Ari, if I could just follow up on that.
MR. FLEISCHER: Go ahead, David.
QUESTION: The second issue is, yesterday we were hearing from both Secretary Powell and then others at the Pentagon that there was concern about a red line around Baghdad that would -- once we crossed, there could be a use of chemical or biological weapons. Is this based, to your understanding, on any new intelligence? Or is this basically a recycling of a fear that we've heard many times before, which was the Iraqis could use chemical and biological, which they do not appear to have done yet?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think you need to address that to the Pentagon. That's something they've talked about repeatedly.
Dana. Lester, we're going to save you for last.
QUESTION: For last?
MR. FLEISCHER: For last. Or close to it; maybe penultimate. Dana.
QUESTION: Two questions. One, can you describe the most important issue when the President meets the Prime Minister? Is it that the troops have advanced to a point close to Baghdad where you have to make key decisions about where to go forward? And also, Dr. Rice was up at the United Nations today. Can you discuss at all her conversations and the disagreement between the United States and the United Nations -- and with the United Kingdom to a degree -- about how long the United States would have an interim authority, led by General Franks and down through, before it ceded any power to any U.N. -
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, the discussions at the United Nations were about the humanitarian situation in Iraq. That's what the focus of it was. We reiterated our concern about the humanitarian situation. We also discussed the status of the oil- for-food program, which is pending at the United Nations, which is a matter of some discussion among the various members of the United Nations.
There was discussion of the post-conflict Iraq and our desire to secure sovereignty for the Iraqi people just as soon as possible. We also talked about -- Dr. Rice talked about the protection of human rights in Iraq. These remain issues that are important, that we will continue to talk with the United Nations about.
QUESTION: No details about who would be securing Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have every detail of a private conversation. But I -- you many want to take a look back at the statement that was made at the Azores, where we very publicly discussed the importance of the United Nations playing some type of role in the humanitarian reconstruction efforts.
QUESTION: And your sense of point A, for Bush-Blair?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm sorry? It's just as I indicated. There are a variety of topics that will be on the agenda, and I think you'll be able to find out additional information after the meeting is over.
QUESTION: Yes, on the question of humanitarian aid, the U.N. oil- for- food program, even if it gets cranked back up, you don't really anticipate any of that aid getting on the ground and to Iraqis until the end of hostilities, do you?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there are two components here. One is, the United Nations has for a long time, since the sanctions were imposed on Iraq, had an oil-for-food program, which Saddam Hussein broke and used the money -- diverted the money for food for the purpose of use for his military. The United States has committed, as we discussed earlier, to the immediate humanitarian relief of the Iraqi people by providing food on the ground as quickly as is possible and doable on the ground.
Beyond that, there's a longer-term commitment, and that is, that the oil-for-food program, which is a United Nations- administered program -- so you have two aspects going on at the same time. The immediate need is to provide the food on the ground through the means available as a result of the war and efforts underway, having troops on the grounds. The other is longer-term.
QUESTION: So the U.S. and British would be the first phase while hostilities continue. The U.N. humanitarian aid wouldn't really come in until hostilities had ceased, but during this interim period?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I'm not sure I can say hostilities have ceased.
I don't think that there's a firm timetable on it. The point is, there is a program at the United Nations for a longer-term approach, and it remains always important to provide that food for the Iraqi people, and the discussions at the United Nations run the longer-term approach to it. In the interim, the meanwhile, we are doing everything possible on the ground to provide that humanitarian relief.
QUESTION: Could you clarify for us exactly what role you expect or want the U.N. to play in the reconstruction and administration of Iraq in a post- Saddam era?
MR. FLEISCHER: I refer you back to the statement made in the Azores that described the anticipated role. It will be a matter of some discussion, I think is fair to say.
QUESTION: Ari, can you -- you mention the mines in the harbor. Can you outline your understanding of how extensive the mining is? How much -- how many have been removed, and what their understanding is on the timetable for clearing the port?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, that's something that DOD would have to get into. I can describe for you, as a general manner, what the situation is, but DOD would have that specifics. I don't have them.
QUESTION: You don't have an expectation on when -- so is there --
MR. FLEISCHER: As soon as is doable, and it just depends on what they find as they're underwater and how many they find.
QUESTION: And is there then -- while that work is going on, is there an effort to open up a land route that will begin the flow? I mean, is that --
can you describe how that is working?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, from the President's point of view, every effort is being made to provide this assistance. When you want to get into the specifics of how is that being accomplished on the ground, that remains a DOD issue.
QUESTION: The money that you mentioned, the $105 million -- is that new money, money transferred this week? How old is -- can you give some context to that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Which money are you referring to, the overall aid?
QUESTION: You started out by describing the --
MR. FLEISCHER: The international aid money?
QUESTION: The humanitarian relief money that the U.S. has provided, $105 million -- when you detailed the list --
MR. FLEISCHER: This is the existing funds, and, of course, in the supplemental appropriation bill that was sent up to the Congress today, there is a request for additional funding, which would be provided for in this current fiscal year, so it could flow immediately. And that includes additional humanitarian relief for the people of Iraq. So it's two parts.
QUESTION: Is there -- two questions. One is, is there concern by the White House that this guidance weapons jamming system that Russia supposedly has supplied to Iraq is still being used? And second, why are the President and Prime Minister Blair meeting at Camp David this week rather than at the White House?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think they're meeting at Camp David just because it's a very good place to kind of sit down in a more informal atmosphere and to have discussions. If you recall, Prime Minister Blair came here before for a visit that was supposed to take place at Camp David and it ultimately got canceled because of the weather, and it was held here in its entirety. So there is a little bit of makeup for that.
So it will be a meeting at Camp David. There will be a public component to it, so you will all be receiving shortly your invitations to Camp David. And so they'll be up there on Thursday. I look forward to seeing you all there.
QUESTION: What about the Russians supplying the jamming system?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that was addressed rather smartly this morning in the Gulf in their briefing about what they found with the jamming equipment. It is a matter of some diplomatic concern that remains a disturbing item. And we continue to have the talks with Russian officials about it.
QUESTION: On the expectations issue, I just wanted to read back to you a quote from the Vice President from March 16th on Meet the Press. He said that he thought the regular Iraqi army would not try to put up a fight. "My guess is, even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely, as well, to want to avoid conflict with U.S. forces and are likely to step aside."
So can you really say that the American people were accurately prepared for the battle that we're now facing, based on comments like these, and based on the fact that the President really didn't talk about it until we were, you know, days away from the conflict?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I think the President started talking about this in September when he talked about the use of force. And the American people understand when the President talks about the use of force, it entails the potential for loss of life. I think it's rather plain, and the American people have understood that. And the American people have understood the case that the President made and the rallying call he made to leaders around the world to make certain that we did not put our people in a position where Saddam Hussein could use weapons of mass destruction against us later.
When you take a look at the fighting tactics employed by the Fedayeen, when you see how he is willing to have civilians surrender, armed then with weapons -- because they're not civilians -- feigned civilians who pretend to surrender and then attack, it tells you that we're really dealing here with elements of terrorism inside Iraq that are being employed now against our troops. It's a reminder about the nature of this regime and what they will do, and what they are capable of doing, and their desire to do it if they can link up with other terrorists and reach our shores.
As for the Vice President's statements, as Secretary Rumsfeld pointed out in his briefing today, we are only in the opening days of this war. So I don't know how you can reach any conclusions about the accuracy of these statements until you allow sufficient time to pass. I think if you're making judgments within the immediate commencement of the hostilities, you're making judgments too soon about their likely outcome. So I think the Vice President said what he said because he had reason, good reason to say it.
QUESTION: So you think that his prediction could still pan out that the Iraqis wouldn't fight?
MR. FLEISCHER: I assure you, the Vice President does not say things lightly. So when the Vice President says something like that, he has good reason to say it and to think it and, therefore, to say it.
QUESTION: Ari, six days after the hostilities began, there's still speculation about the fate of Saddam Hussein. Is there anything concrete about that, or is all that just being spread to quite further destabilize the Iraqi regime in the first place?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, nothing new to report on that.
QUESTION: Ari, you said a few minutes ago, we're seeing elements of terrorism inside Iraq, citing the Feyadeen surrenders and the donning of civilian attire by fighters. Is it the administration's view that through these activities, these groups have put themselves in the same category as terrorist groups proscribed by the administration, and perhaps even al Qaeda itself?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, there is no question that there is a body of law that even governs the conduct of war. And as President Bush stated, in the conflict with Iraq war crimes will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished. And we're seeing a growing pattern of war crimes, war crime violations committed by the Iraqi regime, with the use of human shields; mistreatment of prisoners of war and various acts of perfidy, feigning injury or surrender, the improper use of the flag of truce, and fighting in civilian clothes. This is another reminder to those smaller number of Iraqi officials who would follow orders or who would engage in this behavior, do not do it, because you will be tried as a war criminal.
QUESTION: Ari, paraphrasing the President earlier today, he said that the war would be long, and he also said that we know the outcome -- we will win. Does that win, is that win allowing for negotiations? And also, if not, does that win deal with military issues were Saddam Hussein and his sons be killed?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has stated two reasons for this. One is the disarmament of Iraq, the complete disarmament of their weapons of mass destruction. And the second is to change the regime so that the Iraqi people in the world don't have to deal with this again. And those are the objectives of the military campaign. Then the President says, the objectives will be achieved, the end is clear, the outcome is certain. Those are the two facts that he is referring to.
QUESTION: But can you remove Saddam Hussein without death and negotiation?
MR. FLEISCHER: We will find out.
QUESTION: And disarm, I mean --
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm not going to get into negotiation. I think the President has made it abundantly clear what the purpose of the mission is.
QUESTION: Ari, Condi is headed up to the U.N. Blair is coming in to consult with the President before going up to the U.N. Are you all concerned that the folks at the U.N. might take it out on the U.S. in post-Saddam Iraq, might try to take some sort of revenge for what they see as ill treatment at the hands of the President, and maybe block your efforts, your desires for setting up a post-Saddam government?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that -- well, one, the answer is, no, we are not concerned about, I think what you -- revenge. The purpose of the United Nations is to foster the ability of the international community, in this case to deal with humanitarian crises. That's a serious responsibility. And the President has called on the United Nations to honor that responsibility.
Clearly, when it came to the security side, through the United Nations Security Council, the United Nations failed to act, failed to speak. But I think it's a sign of the President's commitment to international procedures that we continue to work with the United Nations while we also do our own work on the ground to take care of the humanitarian situation in Iraq.
QUESTION: Ari, speaking of public expectations and preparation, a Pew poll released today found on Friday and Saturday, 71 percent of the public thought the war was going well. By Monday, that had dropped to 38 percent.
If the public was so well-prepared for this, why would a weekend of, by historical context, relatively minor casualties so shake their confidence in how well the war was going?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't speak for every poll out there. There have been a number of other public polls that indicated different results. And I think that if your question is, can one day's events move the public, then your answer is, the public obviously has temporary positions that will move around somewhat. But that won't deter the President, whether those numbers are lock, stock at record levels in behalf of support of the President, from carrying out this mission. That's the purpose of the President's endeavors here, is to continue the disarmament of Saddam Hussein. And as the President said this morning, we are making steady progress, steady advancement toward that goal.
QUESTION: The question is, if they had been better prepared, would there be such swings in public -- you know, in their confidence. You know, if they had --
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, if there are swings up, there are swings down.
And there are other polls that show no swings at all.
QUESTION: First of all, by the way, we would love to Camp David if you can get us all up there by bus. Can you look to the future relations with Russia, France, Germany and Turkey -- how do you see this administration repairing them --
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think that, number one, the mission is underway in Iraq, and that is very important. There is a mission to be accomplished involving the disarmament of Saddam Hussein from the weapons of mass destruction that we have expressed so many concerns about. And I think as the mission is successful, different nations will take a look at this and think about the positions that they took, and then examine their own relations with the United States.
Of course, the United States will continue to work with other nations. We have other interests, we have values that we share. And we'll be interested in hearing other nations' reactions, as well.
QUESTION: Thank you. Ari, France says it is allowing U.S. and British warplanes to overfly France on their way to bomb Iraq. Is that an olive branch from the French?
MR. FLEISCHER: Is that what from the French?
QUESTION: An olive branch from the French.
MR. FLEISCHER: You know, I will let the French government speak for itself about the actions it takes.
QUESTION: Can you talk about how many times we can expect to see the President talk about the war in public, how he plans to use the bully pulpit to maintain support for it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think he's going to be talking about it often. This is very serious and important business. This is something that is front and center right now for our country, for our troops, for our people and for the families at home. And this is something the American people should expect to hear the President talk about and talk about frequently, and they will.
QUESTION: Every day? Every other day? Or is there a specific plan --
MR. FLEISCHER: There's no magic number, Bob. But the President is going to be talking about it often, as he did today, he will tomorrow, he will Thursday. So you're going to have a lot of listening to do from the President.
QUESTION: Beyond the statement in the Azores, how does the administration -- does the administration plan to prepare the American taxpayer for the burden that he or she will have to bear probably well into the future for reconstructing and stabilizing Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's a very interesting question, and one of the issues that the President focuses on when he makes this determination to use force to disarm Saddam Hussein is the cost of not acting. If the United States failed to act and Saddam Hussein continued to possess weapons of mass destruction that he could then use at a time and a moment and a place of his own choosing, what would be the cost to our country? What was the cost of September 11th?
The Office of Management and Budget has estimates that the cost to our country were in the hundreds of billions of dollars as a result of September 11th, both in terms of the economic costs, in terms of the direct government-incurred costs, and also, of course, no one can measure the costs of human life that were taken on that day. And that's also how it's important to focus on this issue.
So, yes, there is a price tag attached;,the President sent it up to the Hill today, for the direct action we are taking to disarm Saddam Hussein. But the President is guided by preventing the other costs from being incurred.
QUESTION: -- precisely to September 30th, and beyond that stretches possibly years of costs for rebuilding and stabilizing.
MR. FLEISCHER: Certainly. And there will be costs beyond this year, and the President has said that we are committed to providing security for Iraq and to stay as long as is necessary, but not a day longer. Throughout this process, the supplemental appropriation that was sent up today will fund costs through September 30th -- it is for this current fiscal year. In good order and in short order, the Congress, in regular order, will take up next year's budget and they will examine the costs to be incurred then.
But simply because there are long-term costs does not in any way to this President suggest that those costs should not be paid. That's like saying at the beginning of the '50s, because we had a totalitarian communist state that we had to concern ourselves with to protect the American people, that there were costs of the Cold War that should not have been incurred because those costs would last for a considerable period of time, as well. That's the approach the President takes. There's no way to put an exact time limit on how much it will cost.
And one other issue on the cost, too, that's important to consider when you talk about the burden on the American taxpayer: Iraq is a wealthy nation, Iraq has resources. Those resources have been diverted from feeding Iraqi people to building a military. It is foreseeable, it is certain, that the Iraqi government, a future Iraqi government will use those resources to feed themselves, to take care of themselves, to reconstruct their own country with their own resources that are generated from within Iraq, and not to mention the billions of dollars that are frozen Iraqi assets around the world that are available also. The President just announced that action last week on that matter.