For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 3, 2003
Remarks by the President After a Meeting with Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerick
The South Lawn
8:44 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I'll make a couple of
statements. I'm going to ask Bernie Kerick to make a statement, and
I'll answer two questions before I go to Milwaukee.
First, I want to welcome Bernie Kerick to the South Lawn, and to
the Oval Office. We just had a fascinating discussion about what he
did in Iraq, what he saw in Iraq. He can speak for himself. But let
me characterize it this way, that he went to help the Iraqis organize a
police force. He showed up at times of chaos and confusion. Because
of his leadership, his knowledge and his experience, he was able to
stand up a police force in Baghdad in a very quick period of time. I
think he told me opened up 37 different precinct stations -- 35
different precinct stations. They activated and trained 35,000 Iraqi
police force. And that's important because the ultimate solution to
the security issues in Iraq is for the Iraqi citizens to manage their
Bernie went there and made a big difference. And for that our
nation is very grateful. We appreciate it a lot.
MR. KERICK: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: We're going to start training police officers in
Jordan soon. As well, tomorrow, 750 new Iraqi army soldiers will
graduate from training. Part of our strategy is to enable the Iraqis
to protect themselves. Mr. Kerick can speak to this, but in a very
short period of time, we're making great progress. Iraq is becoming
more secure, and that is good.
That is good for our overall mission because a free and peaceful
Iraq will mean that America is more secure. I'll make one other
comment, then Bernie will say a few words.
Mr. David Kaye reported to the nation. I want to thank him for his
good work. He is a thoughtful man. He and his team have worked under
very difficult circumstances. They have done a lot of work in three
months, and he reported on an interim basis.
The report states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine
network of biological laboratories, a live strain of deadly agent
botulinum, sophisticated concealment efforts, and advanced design work
on prohibited longer range missiles. The report summarized the
regime's efforts in this way, and I quote from the report:
"Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved
thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded
by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end
of Operation Iraqi Freedom."
That is what the report said. Specifically, Dr. Kaye's team
discovered what the report calls, and I quote, "dozens of WMD-related
program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq
concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in
In addition to these extensive concealment efforts, Dr. Kaye found
systematic destruction of evidence of these illegal activities. This
interim progress report is not final. Extensive work remains to be
done on his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs. But
these findings already make clear that Saddam Hussein actively deceived
the international community, that Saddam Hussein was in clear violation
of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441, and that Saddam
Hussein was a danger to the world.
The Commissioner will say a few words.
MR. KERICK: Thank you. I just -- first, I want to take this
opportunity to thank the President for giving me the honor, and
allowing me to go to Iraq -- to go to Iraq and help the Iraqi people,
give the Iraq people back their country.
And we did so -- and we did so quite quickly, and that continues on
a daily basis. Four months ago -- four-and-a-half months ago, when I
arrived in Iraq, there were no police -- very few, if any. There were
no police stations. There were no cars. There was no electricity.
They didn't have telephones, communications, radios. They basically
had nothing. They had no equipment. They had no weapons, except for
those they had ordered kept on the side. In the last four months, we
brought back more than 40,000 police, 450 cars in Baghdad, stood up 35
police stations in Baghdad.
But I know I constantly hear as I come back, I listen to the press,
and I listen to some of the public, some of the criticism. And they
talk about, it's taking too long. Well, try to stand up 35 police
stations in New York City. It would take you about 11 years, depending
on who is in the city council. It takes a while. You only have 24
hours in a day. But they have made tremendous progress. The police
are working; they're working in conjunction with the military. They
are arresting the Fedayeen Saddam and the Baathists.
And I read some of the articles about this, about Dr. Kaye's report
today, in my opinion, there was one weapon of mass destruction in Iraq,
and it was Saddam Hussein. I visited the mass graves. I watched the
videos of the Mukhabarat, the intelligence services, interrogate,
torture, abuse and execute people day after day. I watched them tie
grenades to the necks of people, or stuff grenades in the pockets of
people as they interviewed them, and then detonate those grenades and
watch the people disappear. I watched a video of Saddam sitting in an
office and allowing two Doberman Pinschers to eat alive a general, a
military general because he did not trust his loyalty. There was one
weapon of mass destruction -- he's no longer in power. And I think
that's what counts today.
I understand, probably more than anyone, what a threat Iraq was and
the people that threatened Iraq was. I was beneath the towers on
September 11th when they fell. And I -- again, I just -- I want to
thank the President for the honor in allowing me to go there, because I
lost 23 people. I wear this -- this memorial band for the 23 I lost.
They were defending the freedom of our country. I got to go on their
behalf to Iraq, to bring freedom to Iraq and take one less threat away
from us in this country. So, Mr. President
THE PRESIDENT: I'll answer a couple of questions.
Q Mr. President, are you still confident that you'll -- that
weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq? And how long do you
think that that search will go on? Is that an open-ended search until
something is found?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a question you can ask David Kaye. He'll be
interviewing with the press today -- his opinion. I can only report to
what his interim report says.
Q Well --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me -- let me finish, please.
THE PRESIDENT: His interim report said that Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction program spanned more than two decades. That's what he
said. See, he's over there under difficult circumstances and reports
back. He says that the WMD program involved thousands of people,
billions of dollars and was elaborately shielded by security and
deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation
Iraqi Freedom. In other words, he's saying Saddam Hussein was a
threat, a serious danger.
Q There's a poll out in which a lot of people today are
wondering whether the war was really worth the cost.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q How do you respond to that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I don't make decisions based upon polls. I
make decisions based upon what I think is important for the security of
the American people. And I'm not going to forget the lessons of 9/11,
September 2001. I'm not going to forget what Mr. Kerick described, the
bombing that killed innocent life. This administration will deal with
gathering dangers where we find them. The interim report of Mr. Kaye
showed that Saddam defied 1441 and was a danger. We gave him ample
time to deal with his weapons of mass destruction -- he refused. So
he's no longer in power and the world is better off for it.
I can't think of any people who think that the world would be a
safe place with Saddam Hussein in power. Sometimes the American people
like the decisions I make, sometimes they don't. But they need to know
I'll make tough decisions based upon what I think is right, given the
intelligence that I know, in order to do my job, which is secure this
country, and to bring peace.
Thank you all.
Q But isn't the issue that you overstated the threat in the
view of critics --
THE PRESIDENT: Bernie, you're a good man.
MR. KERICK: Thank you, Mr. President.
END 8:54 A.M. EDT