For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
April 9, 2003
Remarks by the Vice President to the American Society of News Editors
The Fairmont Hotel
New Orleans, Louisiana
9:00 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Morning. Thank you. And
thank you, Rena, for the introduction. I count many friends among
the American Society of Newspaper Editors. And it's good to have
the opportunity to join you again. And I look forward to taking
your questions in a few minutes.
Three weeks into the war -- which I want to talk about this
morning -- I, obviously, cannot begin my remarks without paying
tribute to those that we've lost on the field of battle. Our
campaign is proceeding with speed and success. But that will not
ease the sorrow of the families of American and coalition troops
killed in the line of duty. We're thinking of these families now
with respect and gratitude. And this nation will always honor the
sacrifices made in our defense.
American journalism has also lost two of its finest men over the
last several days. I knew Michael Kelly and greatly admired his work.
He was a superb writer. And as a reporter and editor, he
upheld the highest standards of your profession. David Bloom, of NBC,
impressed everyone with his skill, energy and exuberance. Both
David and Michael were also very decent men with young families.
And many people are feeling their loss today, the same way they feel
the loss of the members of our armed forces. I also want to
extend America's condolences to the families of all the foreign
journalists killed in the war.
These two young reporters were among the 600 American
journalists embedded in coalition military units all across Iraq.
The embedding of journalists has made for some outstanding
reporting. I suspect the arrangement has also led to greater
respect all around. For their part, the troops have come to know
reporters who are willing to accept the hardships and dangers of
war in order to get the story right. And journalists have come to
know our military -- not just for the power of its weapons, but by the
character of the men and women who serve.
Since the war, our forces have conducted themselves with all of
the skill and integrity that President Bush and the American people
expected of them. They are in the field at this very hour.
Operations continue all across Iraq securing cities, protecting
supply lines, delivering tons of humanitarian aid. In downtown Baghdad
this morning, we are seeing evidence of the collapse of any central
regime authority. The streets are full of people celebrating.
While pockets of regime security forces may remain, they appear to be
far less effective at putting up any resistance.
In southern Iraq today, British forces are securing the
second largest city, in Basra. Across Iraq, we are beginning to
see senior religious leaders come forward urging their followers
to support our coalition, another sure sign that Saddam
Hussein's regime is clearly doomed.
There may well be hard fighting yet ahead. Regime forces are
still in control in northern Iraq -- in Mosul and Kirkuk and
Tikrit. Yet the conclusion of the war will mark one of the most
extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted. It's proceeded
according to a carefully drawn plan with fixed objectives and
flexibility in meeting them. In the early days of the war, the plan
was criticized by some retired military officers embedded in TV
studios. (Laughter.) But with every day and every advance by our
coalition forces, the wisdom of that plan becomes more apparent.
Secretary Rumsfeld, General Franks, General Myers and General
Pace at Pentagon -- and their subordinates -- have done a superb job.
It's been a most impressive performance. And coming on the heels of
the Afghanistan operation last year, it's proof positive of the
success of our efforts to transform our military to meet the challenges
of the 21st century.
Having been involved in planning and waging the Persian Gulf War
in 1991 as Secretary of Defense, I think I can say with some
authority that this campaign has displayed vastly improved
capabilities, far better than we did a dozen years ago. In
Desert Storm, only 20 percent of our air-to-ground fighters could
guide a laser-guided bomb to target. Today, all of our air-to-ground
fighters have that capability. In Desert Storm, it usually took up
to two days for target planners to get a photo of a target, confirm
its coordinates, plan the mission, and deliver it to the bomber crew.
Now we have near real-time imaging of targets with photos and
coordinates transmitted by e-mail to aircraft already in flight. In
Desert Storm, battalion, brigade and division commanders had to
rely on maps, grease pencils and radio reports to track the
movements of our forces. Today our commanders have a real-time
display of our own forces on their computer screens. In Desert Storm,
we did not yet have the B-2. But that aircraft is now critical to
our operations. And on a single bombing sortie, a B-2 can hit
16 separate targets, each with a 2,000-pound, precision-guided,
The superior technology we now possess is, perhaps, the most
obvious difference between the Gulf War and the present conflict.
But there are many others. Desert Storm began with a 38-day air
campaign, followed by a brief ground attack. In Operation Iraqi
Freedom, the ground war began before the air war. In 1991, Saddam
Hussein had time to set Kuwait's oil fields ablaze. In the current
conflict, forces sent in early protected the 600 oil fields in
southern Iraq, prevented an environmental catastrophe, and
safeguarded a resource that's vital for the future of the people of
Iraq. During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam managed to fire Scud
missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia. This time was different,
again, thanks to Special Operations Forces, which seized control
of the missile launch baskets in western Iraq, preventing their use
by the enemy. Our Special Ops forces -- joined by those of the
British, the Australian, and the Polish allies -- have played a
vital role in the success of the current campaign.
During Operation Desert Storm, we faced a massive flow of refugees
in need of aid and shelter. But so far, in Operation Iraqi
Freedom, we've averted a large-scale humanitarian crisis. U.S.
and Royal Marines succeeded in taking the Al Faw Peninsula
and cleared a path for humanitarian aid. And today, even as
fighting continues, coalition forces are bringing food and water and
medical supplies to liberated Iraqis.
Looking at the overall effort, Saddam Hussein apparently
expected that this war would essentially be a replay of Desert Storm.
And although he realized that some 250,000 Americans and coalition
forces were stationed in the Gulf on the eve of the war, he seems to
have assumed there was ample time to destroy the oil fields he had
rigged to explode and the bridges that he had wired. But the tactics
employed by General Franks were bold. They made the most of every
technological advantage of our military, and they succeeded in taking
the enemy by surprise.
Let me quote the military historian Victor David Hanson
writing several days ago: "By any fair standard of even the most
dazzling charges in military history, the Germans in the Ardennes in
the Spring of 1940, or Patton's romp in July of 1944, the present race
to Baghdad is unprecedented in its speed and daring, and in the
lightness of its casualties." Hanson calls the campaign
"historically unprecedented" and predicts that its "logistics will
be studied for decades". Bottom line, with less than half of the
ground forces and two-thirds of the air assets used 12 years ago in
Desert Storm, Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks have achieved a
far more difficult objective.
Yet until this war is fully won, we cannot be overconfident in
our position, and we must not underestimate the desperation of
whatever forces remain loyal to the dictator. We know full well the
nature of the enemy we are dealing with. Servants of the regime have
used hospitals, schools and mosques for military operations. They have
tortured and executed prisoners of war. They have forced women and
children to serve as human shields. They have transported death
squads in ambulances, fought in civilian clothes, feigned
surrender and opened fire on our forces, and shot civilians who
welcomed coalition troops.
In dealing with such an enemy, we must expect vicious tactics
until the regime's final breath. The hardest combat could still be
ahead of us. Only the outcome can be predicted with certainty: Iraq
will be disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction; the regime will
end; and the Iraqi people will be free.
In removing the terror regime from Iraq, we send a very clear
message to all groups that operate by means of terror and violence
against the innocent. The United States and our coalition partners are
showing that we have the capacity and the will to wage war on
terror -- and to win decisively.
When I last spoke to this organization in 1990, the Cold War
was ending, and I said then that we were looking at a new era in
national security policy. Today, we are not just looking at a
new era, we are actually living through it. The exact nature of the
new dangers revealed themselves on September 11, 2001, with the
murder of 3,000 innocent, unsuspecting men, women and children right
here at home. The attack on our country forced us to come to grips
with the possibility that the next time terrorists strike, they may
well be armed with more than just plane tickets and box cutters.
The next time they might direct chemical agents or diseases at our
population, or attempt to detonate a nuclear weapon in one of our
cities. These are not abstract matters to ponder -- they are real
dangers that we must guard against and confront before it's too late.
From the training manuals and documents that we've seized in the war
on terror, and from the interrogations we've conducted, we know the
terrorists are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and
to use them against us. With September 11th as a fresh memory, no
rational person can doubt that terrorists would use such weapons of
mass murder the moment they are able to do so.
The government of the United States has a moral duty to
confront those threats, and to do whatever it takes to defeat
them. And as the leading power, we have a further responsibility to
help keep the peace of the world and to prevent terrorists and their
sponsors from plunging the world into horrific violence. President
Bush takes that responsibility very seriously, and he is meeting it
with great resolve and with clarity of purpose.
If we are to protect the American people and defend
civilization against determined enemies, we cannot always rely on
the old Cold War remedies of containment and deterrence. Containment
does not work against a rogue state that possesses weapons of mass
destruction and chooses to secretly deliver them to its terrorist
allies. Deterrence does not work when we are dealing with
terrorists who have no country to defend, who revel in violence,
and who are willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to kill
millions of others. To meet the unprecedented dangers posed by rogue
states with weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist networks with
global reach, our administration has taken urgent and, at times,
One of these important things we have done is to strengthen
the defense of the homeland. As the President requested, Congress
created the Department of Homeland Security to mobilize against
a wide range of potential threats. We have put more marshals on
airplanes; stepped up security at airports, power plants, ports and
border crossings. We have inoculated our troops against anthrax and
smallpox and made the vaccines available for first responders, who are
stockpiling enough smallpox vaccine for every American. We have
proposed and urge Congress to pass Project BioShield -- a
comprehensive effort to develop and make available modern, effective
drugs and treatments to counter a chemical or biological attack. And
Project Bioshield is a critical element of defense in this new era.
But we know that playing defense isn't enough -- we have to seize
the offense against terrorists. So we are going after the terrorists,
hunting them down, freezing their assets, disrupting their chain of
command. We've had great successes recently with the capture of
two key figures in the September 11th attacks -- Ramzi Bin al-Shibh
and Khalid Sheik Mohammed. And, of course, we still have forces on
the ground in Afghanistan working with that country's government
to rid it of the Taliban and al Qaeda elements.
Our war on terror continues on every front, from law enforcement,
to intelligence, to military action. The President has made clear
from the beginning that this will be a long and a focused effort -- not
only because the terrorists operate in the shadows, but also
because they enjoy the backing of outlaw states. It is this alliance
between terrorist networks seeking weapons of mass destruction and
rogue states developing or already possessing these weapons that
constitutes the gravest current threat to America's national security.
Therefore, a vital element of our strategy against terror must be
to break the alliance between terrorist organizations and
terrorist-sponsoring states. The chemical and biological weapons
that Saddam Hussein is known to have produced are the very
instruments that terrorists are seeking in order to inflict devastating
harm on the people of this country, in Europe, and in the Middle
East. That's why from the day the Gulf War ended in 1991, the
United States has supported the efforts of the U.N. Security Council
to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. And that is why the
United States today is enforcing that demand.
As we meet this morning, I cannot predict with certainty how
soon this war will be over. Although I am pleased, as is everyone
else, to see the reports coming out of Baghdad today, I want to
caution everybody that we still have a lot of work to do yet. I
am certain that when it is successfully concluded, the friends of the
United States -- throughout the world and in the Middle East -- will
be deeply heartened by this victory and will prove far more willing
to stand up to the tyrants and terrorists in their midst.
The end of Saddam's regime will remove a source of violence
and instability in a vital part of the world. A new regime in Iraq
will also serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom to
other nations in the Middle East. As President Bush has said:
"The United States, with other countries, will work to advance
liberty and peace in that region. Our goal will not be achieved
overnight, but it can come over time. The power and the appeal of
human liberty is felt in every life and every land. And the
greatest power of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence and turn
the creative gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace."
The actions of our coalition now being taken in Iraq today have
come at a cost. But the cost of inaction would have been far greater.
And they would have been paid, not just by future generations, but
very likely by our own, as well. By their skill and courage, the
American armed forces joined by the finest of allies are making this
nation and the world more secure. They are bringing freedom where
there is tyranny, relief where there is suffering. As a former
Secretary of Defense, I've never been more proud of those who wear the
uniform of the United States military.
Later this morning, here in New Orleans, my wife, Lynne, and I
will visit the National D-Day Museum, the museum founded on the
initiative of the late Stephen Ambrose, whose writings did so much to
acquaint Americans of today with the heroism of the World War II
generation. In one of his books, Ambrose related a soldier's memories
of that period in our history. "In the spring of 1945," he said,
"around the world, the sight of a 12-man squad of teenage boys armed,
in uniform, brought terror to people's hearts. But there was an
exception: a squad of G.I.'s, a sight that brought the biggest
smiles you ever saw to people's lips and joy to their hearts.
G.I.'s meant candy, cigarettes, C-rations, and freedom. America had
sent the best of her young men around the world, not to
conquer, but to liberate; not to terrorize, but to help."
Ladies and gentlemen, in the spring of 2003, the American people
and the watching world are seeing another great generation. The
citizens of Iraq, like so many oppressed peoples before them, are
coming to know the kind of men and women that America sends forth to
meet danger and to defend freedom. We can all be thankful that our
country still produces such men and women -- this great force of
volunteers, placing themselves between our country and our enemies.
And when their mission is accomplished, we look forward to welcoming
them home with pride and with gratitude.
Thank you. (Applause.)
It's my understanding the drill is, for questions, I think we've
got microphones in each aisle, and anybody who wants, step up and I'll
be happy to respond as best I can. Yes, sir.
Q Mr. Vice President, Edward Seaton (ph) from the
Manhattan Mercury in Kansas. As you know, 11 journalists have been
killed in this war. I think that represents about 9 percent of
the total of U.S. and British troops who have been lost. Yesterday
was a particularly grueling day for journalists, both U.S.
journalists and international journalists. There were three
journalists who died yesterday, and there were three strikes that
have been questioned, particularly in the Arab world, that have the
look of perhaps more than simple military action -- at least
that's been the allegation in some quarters. Abudabi TV was hit,
was struck by U.S. fire. A missile hit Al Jazeera TV, and the
Palestine Hotel was struck by tank rounds. I wonder if you
could speak to those allegations that we're hearing from the Arab
world, and just generally, the issue of safety, particularly of
journalists who are not embedded with U.S. forces or British forces.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate the question. Obviously,,
as I mentioned in my remarks, any loss of innocent life in the military
action is to be regretted. The suggestion that somehow the United
States would have deliberately attacked journalists is obviously
totally false. After all of the effort we went to to make the
battlefield, so to speak, available to journalists, to embed hundreds
of journalists, both Americans and foreigners, with our forces, to be
right there on the front lines where they could report in real time
what's going on, has been, I think, a very important and positive
contribution. But the suggestion that having done that, we would
somehow then encourage deliberate attacks on journalists makes no
sense at all. You'd have to be an idiot to believe that.
The fact is that our troops have come through three weeks of
fighting through southern Iraq into Baghdad. They have, during that
period of time, been fired upon from mosques, from schools, from
other kinds of civilian facilities. They have seen the enemy take
off their uniforms and put on civilian clothes. They've seen
civilians used as human shields. They've been fired upon under a
white flag of truce. And they are specifically authorized under the
rules of engagement, anytime they believe they believe they're fired
upon to return fire, to defend themselves. And I have no reason to
believe that that wasn't the case here. That is to say that their
response was simply the act of troops in a combat zone responding to
what they perceived to be threats against them.
It's always unfortunate -- we try to remind people,
especially reporters, that when you go into a war zone it is risky.
There are great dangers in that kind of a setting, and we cannot
guarantee everybody's safety. We do the very best we can, but
it's still a war zone. And hopefully, the conflict will end as soon as
possible and there won't be any more loss of innocent life, either
civilians or reporters. So, we regret that it happened, but
unfortunately, it's the kind of thing that happens in modern warfare.
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm Chris Pack (ph), the editor of
the Memphis Commercial Appeal and a Wyoming native.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- ranger, I believe.
Q That's correct.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: A great newspaper. They used to endorse me
when I ran for Congress.
Q Yes, they did. (Laughter.) You talked about the
technological advantages we have in the war in Iraq. Could we talk
a little bit about the psychological aspects of the war? Do you
think, after this war, that we're going to have a difficult time making
the case in the Arab world that we are there as liberators and not
aggressors? And how do you think we're going to need to deal with
the Arab leadership and the tremendous anger that's being portrayed
and projected towards America as a result of this war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there's no question but
there's work to be done in that area. I've always found a little bit
frustrating, all the years that I've been dealing with problems in
that part of the world, going back now, I suppose, 20-some years,
to find this criticism that's sometimes leveled at the United States
based on our operations out there when I think the record of the
United States over the years may not be perfect, but we have gone to
war now on a number of occasions, frankly, to protect Muslims, to
role back Saddam Hussein's aggression in Kuwait in 1990 and '91, in the
Balkans, in Bosnia, and elsewhere.
In this case, we were, after great provocation and after 12 years
of unsuccessful efforts by the U.N., acting to eliminate one of
the most brutal dictators of our time. A man who probably was
responsible for the death of at least a million Muslims, half of
them his own people. A man who ran a horrific police state. And I
see that, and I see the outpouring of joy in the streets of
Baghdad today by the Iraqi people at their liberation, and still the
U.S. is subject to criticism from our friends in the region.
And I think we need to do everything we can, partly to tell our
side of the story. I think most people who live in that part of the
world don't have access to free media, and I think it would be an
improvement if they did. There's clearly more work that needs to be
done in that area by us. But I think, in the final analysis, history
will judge us, and hopefully, the people of the region will judge
us based upon what happens next in Iraq, in how we conduct ourselves
going forward, in whether or not we keep the commitment we made --
which we definitely will keep just as quickly as possible, to
establish a viable representative, democratic government in Iraq, and
to withdraw our forces just as quickly as we can.
We are not there as occupiers. We have no interest in the oil.
We have no interest in maintaining forces there a minute longer
than is necessary. And I think when they see how we function, how
rapidly we move in that direction, whether or not we keep the
commitments we made, hopefully they'll come to judge that what
we've done here was, in fact, necessary and appropriate to the
circumstances, and that the people of Iraq are far better off for our
having eliminated this horrific regime than they were if we had not
Q Mr. Vice President, Clarence Pennington (ph), retired
member. We know you have a plan to reorganize and rebuild Iraq.
You, along with the President and the coalition. Could we hope
that you also have a precise plan to give France and Germany a role
in Iraq that is consistent with their pre-war behavior? (Laughter.)
-- that will help you avoid the wrath of --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm trying to think if this is
an opportunity or if I should be scared here about the answer that
I'm about to -- (laughter.)
Q And I have a follow-up.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay, all right. Let me say a word about
the problem we encountered. Obviously, I think we're
disappointed, most Americans are, at the fact that nations that have
historically been close friends and allies of the United States,
in this particular case, did everything they could to stop us from
doing what we thought was essential, from the standpoint of our own
national security, as well as the -- our friends in the region.
The President made a very deliberate decision last fall to go to
the United Nations to sort of give Saddam Hussein one more chance
to come clean, but also to try to restore the U.N. Security Council
process to a position of competence and integrity at dealing
with these kinds of international problems. There are likely to be
other problems like this in the future that we'll have to deal
with. And if the international community can come together
effectively, obviously, that's preferable.
In this particular case, that didn't happen. And the French and
the Germans, in particular, did everything they could to prevent us
from going forward and enforcing the U.N. Security Council
resolutions. They seemed to be less interested in solving the
problem than they did in restraining the United States from taking
That's history, that's behind us now. It's time for us to get
on with business and do what we set out to do in Iraq originally. I
think the preeminent effort at this point, obviously, is going to
be led by the United States and our coalition partners -- by the
Brits, the Australians, the Poles and a great many other nations that
have supported this effort. They've already demonstrated their
willingness to be part of an effort to deal with this problem and
I think we can expect them to step up and conduct themselves in
the fashion that is reflective of the commitment they've already
With respect to others who didn't support the effort, perhaps
time will help in terms of improve their outlook. I think once
they see the results of our efforts, that they'll be interested in
trying to help at least on the humanitarian side. And that's
There's this debate raging over the United Nations, what kind of
role should the U.N. have in Iraq. I think the U.N. has a
prominent role to play. They do great things with respect to
refugee assistance and coordinating the work of the non-governmental
organizations and charitable organizations that are very valuable in
this kind of setting.
But the key role, going forward, has to be -- especially as long
as there's a security threat, which there's likely to be for some
considerable period of time -- has to reside with the U.S.
government. And our plan that we've talked about and that we
will carry through on is just as quickly as possible to stand up an
Iraqi interim authority, run by Iraqis, selected by Iraqis, that is
both building the government of the future in Iraq, as well as
administering the nation today. And we'll pass responsibilities
off at -- just as quickly as possible.
We don't believe that the United Nations is equipped to play
that central role. They'll play a very important role, but I think
the central role needs to still reside with the coalition until
such time as we can pass it to the Iraqi people, themselves. And,
hopefully, that process will begin within a matter of days.
So we'll continue to work with our friends and allies. I guess I
-- I look at Europe, and it's important for us to remember that
there are a large number of European nations that stepped up and
supported us in this enterprise, and we shouldn't forget that. We
appreciate very much the support we got from them. And hopefully,
should similar problems arise in the future, maybe our French and
German friends will reconsider their position.
Q Good morning, Mr. Vice President. I'm Deanne Davis (ph)
with United Press International. Within the last three weeks,
we've seen a number of coalition forces taken prisoner and some
gone missing. You mentioned in your remarks this morning about
POWs being tortured and killed. Can you add anything this morning to
what is known about the POWs or perhaps those who are missing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I cannot. We have a very carefully
developed and elaborate process for notifying next of kin when we do
find people or get information about people who are either missing
or possibly held as prisoners, and we don't make any announcements,
except through the regular orderly process. It would be unwise
for me this morning to make any announcements here. I don't have any
to make, anyway. Those announcements would come out of the Pentagon,
and that's how it should be.
Q Mr. Vice President, there's a growing perception
among librarians, academicians, researchers, historians,
reporters, editors, publishers, broadcasters that the Bush
administration is a foe of openness in government. Is that an unfair
perception? And if it is, what can you do affirmatively to change
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do think it's an unfair perception; that
it's not the way I view our approach. I think the -- some people
have focused on -- Rena mentioned in her introduction the work of the
energy task force that I chaired two years ago. The debate has now
been settled, in effect. The court has ruled in favor of the
administration that we did handle it in an appropriate way. And the
dispute with the GAO and the Congress on that issue has now been
resolved in favor of the administration.
The issue that was involved there was simply the question of
whether or not a Vice President can sit down and talk with citizens
about an issue and gain from them their best advice and counsel on how
we might deal with a particular issue. The charge was made that I
should have to tell the Congress, specifically a Congressman, Henry
Waxman of California, every time I met with somebody, on what it
is they told me and what kind of advice they gave me. That was the
I said, no, I didn't think that was reasonable at all. In terms
of what our policy recommendations and decisions were, none of
that was secret. We published a 120-page brochure, passed out
thousands of copies
that laid out all of our policy decisions and recommendations, so
everybody knew exactly what we believed and what kinds of policies we
felt we ought to pursue. But the Vice President should not
have to answer any congressman and say, well, at 2:00 p.m. last
Thursday I talked to Joe and here's what he recommended. That
would put an absolute chill on our ability to get good advice from
private citizens or anybody else. We have to be able to have those
kinds of conversation.
Some people may have taken that as a, "chilling" the
information process. I don't. I think it restored some of the
legitimate authority of the Executive Branch, the President and the
Vice President, to be able to conduct their business. And as I say,
now the matter has gone to court. The GAO brought suit and the federal
district court has now ruled that they were wrong, and supported the
In other areas, if we talk about openness, I can't think of
anything that better demonstrates our commitment to the free flow
of information about very important events than this whole exercise
we're in the middle of right now, with respect to imbedding the
press corps with U.S. military forces.
It's now possible, in part by virtue of technology -- 12 years
ago, when we did Desert Storm, we weren't able to do it. We
had a very different system for handling it that was frustrating for
everybody, with pool coverage on a limited basis. I mean, if we
were devoted to secrecy and trying to keep information from the
press, we certainly wouldn't have taken 500 or 600 of them and
put them out there with the 3rd Infantry Division and the 101st
Airborne and the 1st Marine Division to be right there, side-by-side
with our troops, all the way into Baghdad. So I don't accept the
criticism, or I disagree with it, anyway.
Q Mr. Vice President, I'm Sandra Kies (ph), the editor of
the Honolulu Advertiser, where we tend to look with equal interest on
events in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also terrorism in Philippines,
Indonesia, and in particular, now what's going on in North Korea, and
to wonder whether the administration's focus of diplomatic
attention, military strategy and so on, on Iraq now has caused a
dilution of energies to confront in particular the situation in North
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't believe it has led to a dilution
of effort. I know I just finished, before I came to speak this
morning, our morning intelligence brief. We have an arrangement where
every morning at 8:00 a.m., Washington time, the CIA comes in and
briefs the President, myself, the National Security Advisor on
events around the world -- the PDB, the President's daily brief.
That was followed by a National Security Council meeting that
focused on Iraq and the Middle East in particular today, Afghanistan,
as well. But the PDB, sort of a -- it covers those areas that we're
most interested in and following at any moment. And I can assure you
that that process gives a lot of attention to other parts of the world
than where the public focus might be at any particular point in time.
So we receive regular reporting on the situation in North
Korea. There are ongoing diplomatic efforts to try to deal with
that. It is a very serious problem, and it has not been ignored, I
can assure you that. We may not have anything publicly to announce
at this particular moment. The world's attention is focused on
what's going on in Baghdad this morning, but that doesn't mean that
we can afford to, or that we are in any way ignoring other parts of the
The thing that I'm struck by -- this is, I guess, my
fourth administration that I've worked in, now going back over 30
years. And to a greater extent than ever before, in my past
experience, there are more balls in the air now than previously.
Life used to be relatively simple, when I think back to the Cold
War days, and sort of gave a structure to your morning when you
got up, in terms of what you had to worry about. (Laughter.) And
that's no longer the case. It's a big, complicated world out there,
and we're having to deal with multiple moving parts on any given day.
And we do, in fact, do that.
Q May I follow? Are you --
Q -- tension to be at this time?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm reluctant to do that because we are
involved diplomatically right now. We've spoken before, we think
it's important that there not be the development of nuclear
weapons capability on the Korean Peninsula. We think everybody
in the region agrees with that. Certainly, in terms of the South
Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese and the Russians, they're all most
directly affected by this. And we believe there ought to be a
multilateral approach to persuade the North Koreans that it's not in
their interest to proceed down the track of developing nuclear
But I'll just leave it at that, partly because for me to go beyond
it might upset ongoing discussions, and I wouldn't want to do that.
Q Charlotte Hall (ph) from Newsday, New York. Mr.
Vice President, you have alluded this morning to the administration's
vision of how a civilian authority and an Iraqi government will be
established. I'm wondering if you can give us any details about how
the administration sees the next six months, in terms of the
management of oil resources of Iraq, their production, their sale?
And should any of the oil revenue go to defray our costs for the war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We've spent a fair amount of time thinking
about how we manage that resource. We are committed to see to it
that it's put to use for the people of Iraq. It's their oil, their
resource. One of the real tragedies we're finding is that not only
did Saddam Hussein forego over a hundred billion dollars worth of
revenue over the last 10 years, because of his refusal to comply
with the U.N. resolutions, that kept sanctions on -- he wasn't able to
sell over a hundred billion dollars worth of oil. That's revenue
that didn't flow to the Iraqi people, obviously. And what oil
revenue did come in, he spent on himself, building these
magnificent palaces all over the country, and on his programs --
military programs, developing weapons of mass destruction.
So the standard of living in Iraq today is significantly below
what it was 10 or 12 years ago. And one of the keys, we
believe, to the reconstruction of Iraq and to getting it stood up and
back and functioning again, is to get those oil fields up and
functioning. And we now control virtually all of the fields in the
south. I think this morning there was one well still on fire, the
others had all been put out. The fields in the north are still under
control of the regime, but hopefully they'll be taken over eventually
without having them destroyed.
And once we can get Iraqi oil production back up and functioning,
it could generate as much as $20 billion a year for the Iraqi
people. That money will go to Iraq. We'll establish, as part
of a interim Iraqi authority, an organization to oversee the
functioning of their oil ministry. That will be composed
primarily of Iraqis. It may have international advisors from
outside, as an advisory group, but they, ultimately, are going
to have to make the decisions about how much they want to reinvest.
And investment is needed in the fields; Saddam let them deteriorate,
so they're in bad shape today. But with some investment, we ought
to be able to get the production back up on the order of
two-and-a-half, three million barrels a day within -- hopefully, by the
end of the year. And that revenue will then flow to the Iraqi
government and give them a resource base to start to do those things
they need to do.
They're still going to need outside help and assistance. And
we're prepared to do that. I'm sure that the United Nations is
prepared to help. And that other members of the coalition will be
willing to stand up and provide some additional resources, as well.
But the oil revenue is not to be diverted to any purpose other than
specifically to service the immediate and, hopefully, long-term needs
of the people of Iraq.
Q Good morning. My name is Kevin Willey (ph) with The
Dallas Morning News. My question has to do with if, in fact, a
democracy of some sort is ultimately established in Iraq, how would
you describe what you expect to be the response to that in some of
the surrounding nations -- Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, others, both
in terms of the royal families that rule those areas today, but
also among the populace of those countries? What sort of a
reaction do you expect?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I would hope if we're able to stand up
a representative, democratic government in Iraq -- one that has due
regard for the human rights of the people of Iraq, preserves its
territorial integrity, isn't a threat to its neighbors and so forth
-- that they will come to see this as, obviously, a significant
improvement over Saddam Hussein, who started two wars, twice invaded
neighbors, launched ballistic missiles at neighbors and so forth. So
from that perspective, it'll be a plus.
Exactly what it will look like is something the people of Iraq
are going to have to determine. I think it would be a mistake
for we, as Americans, to say, well, look, here's a cookie mold, this
is how we do it, this is, therefore, exactly how you have to do it. I
don't think that will work. I don't think that takes into
account their unique culture and historical experience and so
forth. They're going to have to work it themselves and figure out
what makes sense from their standpoint, given the social organization
and the way their society has functioned in the past. And it'll be
a difficult task. But they've got some very able people already
engaged in thinking about those kinds of thoughts and issues.
What that means for the neighboring states, I think it's
important for the United States -- the President has made this an
important priority for us -- to continue to encourage reform in that
part of the world. And reform can take many forms. It can be
economic. You've got serious economic problems among many of those
nations, in terms of rapidly growing populations and inadequate
economies to support them. I think it can mean educational reform,
and we want to encourage that so that we end up with young
populations that have got useable skills for the marketplace, rather
than just -- don't finish their educational systems and don't
have opportunities or have skills they can use for that purpose.
There are already growing democracy movements in some of
the countries in the region. Places like Bahrain, Qatar, for
example, have begun to move in that direction -- Kuwait. So
exactly what it'll look like, in terms of being able to say, this is
their form of government, I don't want to be prescriptive. I don't
think we should be. But I do think once Iraq is given the
opportunity, and the people of Iraq given their -- this was
historically a sophisticated nation, with a well-educated middle
class, a great deal of technical expertise, a significant resource
base, second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia
-- that if there's a potential in that part of the world to create a
modern state with a good, strong representative government, I think,
hopefully, Iraq is it. We have to do our best to get them off and
running. And if it works in Iraq, it may encourage positive trends in
other parts of the region.
Q Good morning, Mr. Vice President. Amy Net (ph), the
Star Ledger. With postwar reconstruction plans already in the
works, I was wondering if you could give any assurances, especially in
view of the large role played by foreign countries -- in particular,
the British -- that the British will have an opportunity to participate
in postwar reconstruction?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think they will. But, again, a lot
of those decisions are going to have to be made by the new Iraqi
interim authority. As they get up and running, they'll have to
decide what kinds of long-term relationships they want there.
But we're not trying to exclude anybody. We've stood up an
organization under Retired Lieutenant General Garner, who's got a
great deal of experience in the area; he ran the relief operations
for the Kurds 10 years ago in northern Iraq; he's well-known to the
people in the region; he's got a very good team drawn from all over
the government working with him, specialists in various fields --
the State Department is involved, the Defense Department is
involved, a lot of our civilian agencies.
And they'll be making the decisions about what kind of work
is needed, as well as getting, as I say, the Iraqi interim
administration up and running. And in the final analysis, a lot of
those decisions will be made out there in the field by those
individuals. And there's no desire on our part to exclude
anybody. I think the work will go to whoever is qualified to do
Q Mr. Vice President, Rich Oppel (ph), with the Austin
American Statesman. Both the President and you in your remarks this
morning have begun to sketch-out a relatively limited role for the
United Nations in postwar Iraq. The outline of that role seems
pretty vague at this point. You mentioned, for example, working with
-- the United Nations working with NGOs, this morning. Does the
United States see any role for the United Nations in formation or the
development of the Iraqi interim authority? Or in the formation of an
THE VICE PRESIDENT: As I say, the perception we have, the concept
is right now General Franks is in charge. We've got troops
throughout the country. We're still conducting combat operations,
so there is a major military ongoing task that's not yet completed.
At the same time, we've already begun the humanitarian
relief operations. We've already got the International Red Cross
operating in parts of the country. We're already delivering --
oftentimes with military units -- delivering food and medicine and
water, for example, to those areas that have already been
liberated. And I think we'll gradually see that humanitarian effort
take on greater and greater significance.
At the same time, we're getting up and running with this
organization that will be headed up by General Garner. He's
already in the theater, he's already got a lot of his people out there
with him. And they will get into the business of finding out
what's the status of the various ministries, what kind of shape are
they in, what kinds of resources they've got; how soon can we get the
health ministry up and running; how soon can we get the oil
ministry up and running; are there people left in those bureaus and
agencies that can be part of the new Iraq, have we gotten rid of all
the Baath Party folks in there who were Saddam Hussein cronies.
You've got to vet people that are going to come in and be part of
that process, but to get those ministries up and going as quickly as
We're going to have a meeting on the 12th, just three days from
now, Attalio (ph), outside al Nasiriyah, in southern Iraq, where we
will bring together representatives of groups from all over Iraq, to
begin to sit down and talk about planning for the future with this
Iraqi interim authority and getting it up and running.
Now, what role does the U.N. play in all of that? Well, I think
the United Nations, as the President said, has got a major role to
play. I would not say their role is insignificant, by any means.
They bring a lot of expertise to certain types of activities -- in
particular, to a lot of the humanitarian agencies that they have
significant influence over, the work of the NGOs and so forth, that I
Traditionally, the Secretary General appoints a
personal representative. It's what happened in Afghanistan. He
sent a very able international civil servant out to represent the
U.N. in a lot of the deliberations that took place in Afghanistan.
Similar kind of arrangement may be the right way to go here.
But as to the question of whether or not we're going to
turn everything over to the United Nations and put them in
charge of this process, the President has made it clear we're not
going to do that; that we want them to play a major role. Kofi Annan
has indicated, frankly, that the vision he has is pretty close to the
one we have. So, I think it will work.
I think there's going to be more than enough work there for
everybody to do. But our objective, as I say, is to just as quickly
as possible get this interim authority up and running that's
composed of Iraqis and transfer authority to them; not to the
United Nations, not to any other outside group, but specifically to
get them in a position to be able to make decisions for themselves
-- begin to deliver basic services at the local level, begin to build
over time -- because it will probably take time -- begin to put
together that political structure that ultimately, hopefully, will
result in a new representative government for the people of Iraq.
Q Will U.N. representatives be at the April 12th meeting?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I don't know. Yes.
Q Paul Vanslambrick (ph) of The Christian Science Monitor.
Mr. Vice President, many people feel the central issue to the U.S.
standing in the Arab world is the conflict between the Israelis and
Palestinians. Do you see the conditions now lining up post-Iraq to
enable a serious push by the U.S. on that issue? And do you foresee
progress on it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think the potential for progress does
exist. I think there's some hopeful signs. The President's made it
clear that he will make sure that we make a major effort in this
area to try to make progress on the peace process in the months
immediately ahead. I go back to the speech the President delivered
last June, on June 24th, that laid out a vision with respect to
the future, in terms of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. He
talked about the establishment of a Palestinian homeland -- the
first time an American President ever called for that -- about
democracy and democratic reform of the Palestinian Authority.
We made it clear that we've reached the point where we didn't
believe Yasser Arafat could any longer be the principal
interlocutor for the Palestinians, that that simply hadn't worked.
And they now are moving on the creation of a post of prime
minister selected by the Palestinian Parliament. And those
negotiations within the Palestinian Authority are continuing.
Hopefully, if they can, in fact, establish a credible
government under a prime minister, we can begin to make some progress.
The problems are horrendous. I don't want to underestimate
how difficult it is, but I think there's no doubt we'll continue to
push very hard to try to end the violence, to try to re-establish the
peace process, and move in the direction laid out by the President in
his speech last June 24th. So it will be a priority for us.
I'm going to do one more question, then I've got to go. Yes, sir.
Q Mr. Vice President, Neil Brawn (ph) of the St. Petersburg
Times in St. Petersburg, Florida. If I could shift gears for just a
second, I was wondering if you could give us your outlook on the
American economy. And as a fiscal conservative who used to argue
against deficit spending, are you concerned about the deficits we're
running up right now?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: With respect to the economy, it's still soft.
I had spent some time on Friday, I guess it was -- sat down with a
group of outside economists, which I do periodically. We have a
regular practice now in the White House; on Mondays, the economic team
gets together. Steve Friedman is the White House Assistant for
Economic Policy. Secretary Snow, Secretary Evans, myself, several
others review where we are. We do that every week. And I think
the general view is that the economy is still pretty soft, that it
began to pick up at the early part of this year. But since about
February, it's sort of been flat.
There are two views: One is that a lot of that has to do with
the uncertainty created by the war - how soon is that going to get
resolved, what would be the cost, how long would it last, and so
forth. Hopefully, that will now recede as a factor. And if that's
the case, then we would expect to see some resumption of a more normal
pattern of growth.
We believe it's important now to go forward as quickly as
possible with an insurance policy. That's why we recommended to
the Congress a stimulus package this year, the tax reform package
that we asked Congress for. There's a debate raging now between
the House and the Senate -- getting ready to go to conference this
week on the budget resolution that will really set the parameters of
how big that package can be. And then later this year, we pass the
revenue measures to actually implement it. I think that's important to
With respect to the deficit, now, I have been a deficit hawk. If
you go back and look at my voting record, it was pretty
conservative. But those of us, even, who are deficit hawks have
always made an exception for war or national emergency. And we found
ourselves, I think, with today's deficit resulting from the slowdown
in the economy that resulted in lower revenues that really began the
first quarter of 2001. That's continued.
Once the bubble burst in the stock market, we're not collecting
those capital gains revenues any more -- the way we were for a while.
That's had a big impact on revenue. The terrorism attack of 9/11
clearly didn't help. It had a significant impact. You look at
industries like the airlines, the travel business, and so forth,
they've all been adversely affected by that. And, of course, we've got
the ongoing war on terror, and now the operations in Iraq. So, I
think it's not surprising that we got a deficit at this stage.
If I look at it in historic terms, the deficit today is not nearly
as large as a percentage of our total economic activity of our gross
domestic product as it was, say, back in the early '80s. And in terms
of our total national debt to the total size of our economy, we're
in relatively good shape. We've made significant progress in recent
Do we have watch it? Certainly. We need to be restrained
going forward with respect to spending. We've got to look
especially at our mandatory programs, our entitlement programs, and to
make sure that doesn't get out of control. But, today, at this
stage, with respect to where we are with the economy, as well as
what our needs and requirements are, today's deficit is not as much
concern as was the case, say 10 or even 20 years ago. I think we're in
much better shape then we were then.
Let me wrap it up. I thank all of you this morning and
for listening. These obviously are important and challenging times.
But we do appreciate very much the enormously important role the free
press plays in America, and all of you represent that. We'll complain
from time to time, but that's our right as politicians. And you
complain from time to time about us. That's your right as editors.
But we really do appreciate the opportunity to spend some time with all
of you this morning. So, thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 10:00 A.M. CDT