Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, May 19, 2003 (Full Transcript)
1:20 P.M. EDT
QUESTION: In Baghdad, continued lawlessness there. There's still a lot of resistance against what some Iraqis are calling the American occupation. You're having to bring in a lot more troops now. The swiftness of the war aside, is there a chance that you win the battle, but you lose the peace here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, there is a very important objective to win the peace, because it represents the future for the people of Iraq. And it is no easy task. It is a task that will take some time. But it is a vital part of the mission. It was planned as part of the follow-on to the military conflict, and it is not easy. But, no, I don't think there's any chance of losing the peace, but it is going to be a battle to continue to win the peace.
And particularly, keep in mind when you look at Iraq, too -- and I think it's important to make this distinction -- there are many areas of Iraq that are quiet, that are calm, where electricity has been restored, where water is up and running, where they even have more -- for example, in Basra -- more clean water today than they ever had even prior to the war.
There are areas in Baghdad -- not all of Baghdad, but areas in Baghdad which still lag far behind. And that's a big effort of the new security effort that is being made in Baghdad today. So I think it's -- if history is any indication, you will hear the worst stories, they will be told, but they're not indicative of what's happening in the rest of the country or even other sections in the same city of Baghdad.
QUESTION: Can you candidly say that the administration has been somewhat surprised at how difficult it is to establish the peace?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the biggest surprise we have realized since the hostilities ended and we were able to actually get in on the ground and see the infrastructure of Baghdad and Iraq, generally, is just how poor the infrastructure actually is. There are areas of Baghdad that have blackouts and did not have electricity even prior to the war, in a modern city like Baghdad -- there were areas like that. And much of it was because, while they had the refinery capability, the generating capability, they did not have the infrastructure of the electric grid. It was an old, rickety infrastructure.
To get spare parts, you're talking about getting spare parts for things that are, in many cases, decades old. And if anything, it was probably an over-estimation of the strength and stability of the Iraqi infrastructure.
QUESTION: And on Iraq, does the United States think Iraq should pull out or stay out of OPEC, and that way undercut OPEC's strength?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as the Iraqi authorities form, they will have decisions to make about all their endeavors, whether or not they want to have a nationalized oil company, or whether they want to have a private company; what role it would play in the rest of the world. These are decisions that free nations make. We'll see what decisions the Iraqi people want to make.