For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 4, 2003
Remarks by the President to the Travel Pool
Harbison Canyon, California
9:37 A.M. PST
THE PRESIDENT: A lot of people in this neighborhood lost all their
possessions, but the spirit is strong. America has got some wonderful
citizenry who just refuse to be defeated. I met some families here
that are obviously crushed by the material loss, and they look forward
to rebuilding -- rebuilding their lives. And the role of government,
the federal government and the state government and the local
government is helping as best as we can.
You know, the worst of nature can bring out the best in our fellow
human beings. And, to a person, they were thankful for the fact that
neighbors do care about neighbors and people are helping people here.
It's just tough for a lot of folks who live in this part of the world.
I want to thank the supervisor and firefighters for welcoming us
Let me answer a few questions, and we'll keep going.
Q What do you say to these people --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold it one second, please. We've got an order --
Q I'm sorry.
Q Thanks, Mr. President. I've got a couple questions. One,
what's your evaluation, your assessment of this scene you've seen
here? And, two, to more and more Americans, the situation in Iraq is
looking like a hot war. Are we back to major combat operations?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we're back to finding these terrorists and
bringing them to justice. And we will continue to find the terrorists
and bring them to justice. These people want to -- "these people"
being the terrorists and those who would kill innocent life -- want us
to retreat, they want us to leave, because they know that a free and
peaceful Iraq in their midst will damage their cause. And we will stay
the course, we will do our job.
Q What's your -- what do you see when you look at this scene
THE PRESIDENT: I see more tragedy and heartache. I see the loss
of a lot of material possessions. However, I see a strong spirit which
exists here. I see people who are resolved to rebuild their lives;
amidst their tears, they do see hope, and that is a great tribute to
the people in this part of California. This state has been
devastated: over 3,300 homes have been destroyed; 4,000-some-odd
structures have been destroyed; hundreds of thousands of acres have
been burned. And, yet, the spirit is strong, people are resolved to
move on with their life. And we want to help them. That's why I'm
here with federal agencies, with the Governor and Governor-elect, as
well as local officials, all of whom are determined to provide the
resources necessary to help.
Q Mr. President, again on Iraq, sir. Are you moving to a
process of Iraqification, trying to use Iraqi --
THE PRESIDENT: What was the word?
Q Iraqification -- to accelerate the transition to the Iraqi
people, instead of bringing in more international aid. Are you having
trouble getting a broader --
THE PRESIDENT: Randy, we'll do both. We'll bring in aid from
those countries that want to help. We had a very successful donors
conference. We just passed the supplemental yesterday. As you know, I
look forward to signing it. I believe I'm going to sign it tomorrow.
And it is a commitment by our government and our country to help the
Iraqis rebuild their society. And that rebuilding is part of the
development of a peaceful and free Iraq. And a peaceful and free Iraq
is essential to the security of the United States. This will help
change the world in a positive way, so that years from now, people will
sit back and say, thank goodness America stayed the course and did what
was necessary to win this battle in the war on terror.
Q You seem to be accelerating the process of turning it over to
Iraqis. Is that correct?
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, from the moment of liberating the
country from Saddam Hussein, we have now stood up over 70,000 Iraqi
citizens to be police, border patrol and beginnings of the military, so
that Iraqis will be able to run their own country. That has been our
mission all along, to develop the conditions such that a free Iraq will
emerge, run by the Iraqi citizens.
You remember early on, I kept saying I've got great confidence in
the capacity of the Iraq people to run their own country. And it is to
this nation's advantage that there be a peaceful and free Iraq. It's
in our security interests. And it will help promote world peace for
Iraq to emerge as a free and peaceful country.
Q Mr. President, clearly the residents here appreciate your
coming and your seeing the devastation here. Do you bring additional
help, beyond what has been announced, sir?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, what I do is I answer questions, Ed, as to
whether or not the help that is available is being delivered.
Hopefully, I get the truth. I mean, if there is a frustration at the
federal level, I need to know about it. I haven't heard that yet.
I've been -- frankly, Mike Brown and FEMA have been getting high
marks. But I want to see, as best as the President can possibly see,
First of all, I've seen the truth of the devastation of a fire.
That's evident. Now I want to know whether or not the help that is
available is being expedited and made available. So far the marks
appear to be good. But if we're slow and if we're not doing what we
need to be doing, we'll adjust and respond.
Q You said that Saddam Hussein is no longer a menace, but
there's reports that he may be behind these attacks. So how can we be
sure that he is, in fact, no longer a menace?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he's no longer running a country. He's no
longer got rape rooms; no longer raping young girls, having young girls
raped because their families don't agree with them; he's no longer
torturing people; he's no longer developing mass graves -- remember, we
discovered thousands and thousands and thousands of men, women and
children in mass graves in Iraq. He's no longer running the -- no
longer threatening people, and he is no longer in power. We'll get
him, we'll find him.
Q He's not behind these attacks, though?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I'm sure he's trying to stir up trouble. As
I've said, Saddam loyalists, those are the people, the torturers and
murders and thugs that used to benefit from Saddam Hussein's regime are
the ones -- some of the ones creating the havoc, trying to create the
conditions so that we leave, testing our will. And I'm sure that -- I
don't know, look, I can't tell you what he's doing. All I can tell you
is, he's not running Iraq. And all I can tell you, as well, there's a
lot of -- some people who are upset by the fact that he's no longer in
Q Mr. President, as you know, Sunday was the deadliest day in
Iraq since the end of major combat. What was your reaction to the
downing of the Chinook and the 16 soldiers who were killed on board?
And, also, should Americans be prepared for more such deadly days
THE PRESIDENT: I am saddened any time that there's a loss of
life. I'm saddened, because I know a family hurts. And there's a deep
pain in somebody's heart. But I do want to remind the loved ones that
their sons and daughters -- or the sons, in this case -- died for a
cause greater than themselves, and a noble -- and a noble cause, which
is the security of the United States. A free and secure Iraq is in our
national security interests. We are at war.
And it's essential that the people of America not forget the
lessons of September the 11th, 2001. We are vulnerable to attack.
There are people that hate us, and there are people who are willing to
take thousands of lives in acts of tremendous violence. And the United
States must understand that and adjust to the new realities. And part
of that reality is defeating terrorism and defeating the terrorists.
And that's precisely what the loved ones who died on that day were
doing. They were making America more secure. And I want to thank
their families for the ultimate sacrifice.
Yes, ma'am. You've been very patient, unlike some of the others in
the press corps --
Q Well, they took all my questions.
THE PRESIDENT: -- that's the case.
Q No, I'm kidding. You've had a chance to talk to a few of the
families here. You know, I live here so I've seen the destruction, as
I'm seeing it firsthand here for the first time. How do you continue
to get these -- give these folks hope? I mean, sometimes we're giving
THE PRESIDENT: That's a really good question. The best thing I
can do is to listen and hug and empathize as best as I can empathize.
It's very difficult for me to put myself in their position, because
it's their home and their possessions. As the lady just said, she
said, all my pictures are gone, all my memories have been destroyed in
one act of nature. And it is a sad moment for me to hear that.
On the other hand, best as I possibly can, I try to encourage her
and lift up her spirit by reminding her that some of the most precious
things are still there -- her husband, her daughter, who is, by the
way, serving in the United States military. This was the lady up here
with whom hopefully she'll be reunited soon and can hug and kiss and
But it's a very sad moment to listen to the stories of those who
are obviously devastated by what has taken place. And all our jobs,
for those of us who are still standing, have got our lives intact, is
to comfort and provide comfort and help.
I met a lady at the airport when I landed at Miramar. She's a Red
Cross volunteer. She spent 100 hours this week helping people who
hurt. And I suspect the citizens here who are -- at the darkest
moments will find light when a fellow citizen loves them. And the
response, as I understand in this neighborhood, had been terrific,
where people have come together and they want to help their -- help
their fellow citizens.
Okay, listen, thank you all.
END 9:47 A.M PST