THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Good afternoon. Thanks for coming. This
is an important week for our country and for the world. The United
Nations will vote tomorrow on a resolution bringing the civilized world
together to disarm Saddam Hussein. Here at home, our citizens have
voted in an election that I believe will strengthen our ability to make
progress for all the American people.
I'm grateful to the members of the Congress, both Republicans and
Democrats, that came together to support the war against terror, and
authorize, if need be, the use of force to disarm Iraq. We must bring
the same spirit of bipartisan cooperation to the urgent task of
protecting our country from the ongoing threat of terrorist attack.
Mr. President, how confident are you that the Security
Council will approve the tough new resolution on Iraq? And if that
happens, what happens next; what's the next step? Is war inevitable?
Well, first of all, the resolution we put down is a
tough new resolution. It talks about material breach and inspections
and serious consequences if Saddam Hussein continues to defy the world
and not disarm. So, one, I'm pleased with the resolution we put down.
Otherwise, we wouldn't have put it down.
I just talked to Jacques Chirac, and earlier today I talked to
Vladimir Putin. I characterize our conversation -- I'm loathe to put
words in somebody else's mouth. That's, evidently, not the case with a
lot of people in Washington, but nevertheless, I am. And I'm optimistic
we'll get the resolution vote tomorrow -- let me put it to you that
And, Steve, the resolution is a disarmament resolution; that's what
it is. It's a statement of intent to, once and for all, disarm Saddam
Hussein. He's a threat. He's a threat to the country, he's a threat to
people in his neighborhood. He's a real threat. And it's now time for
the world to come together and disarm him. And when this resolution
passes, I will -- we'll be able to say that the United Nations has
recognized the threat, and now we're going to work together to disarm
And he must be cooperative in the disarmament. So the job of
inspectors is to determine his level of cooperation, see. He has got to
be the agent of disarming; he's got to agree that what we're doing is
what he said he we do. And just like the United Nations has agreed that
it is important to disarm him, for the sake of peace, and so the next
step will be to put an inspection regime in there to -- after all the
declarations and after all the preamble to inspections, that he's got
to show the world he's disarming. And that's where we'll be next.
Let's see here. Helen.
Mr. President, what is the logic of your insistence on
invading Iraq at some point, which may someday have nuclear weapons,
and not laying a glove on North Korea, which may have them or may
produce them? Both of which, of course, would be against international
law. And I have a follow-up. (Laughter.)
Well, I may decide to let you have that follow-up or
not depending upon -- (laughter) -- depending on whether I like my
I am insistent upon one thing about Iraq, and that is that Saddam
Hussein disarm. That's what I'm insistent on. He agreed to do that, by
the way. Saddam Hussein said he would disarm. And he hasn't. And for
And you don't --
Is that the follow-up? (Laughter.) Okay, that is the
follow-up. I do care about North Korea. And as I said from the
beginning of this new war in the 21st century, we'll deal with each
threat differently. Each threat requires a different type of response.
You've heard my strategy on dealing with Iraq. I've been very clear on
dealing with the strategy all along, and tomorrow it looks like part of
that strategy is coming to fruition.
With North Korea, we're taking a different strategy, initially, and
it's this -- that we're going to work with countries in the
neighborhood to convince North Korea that it is not in the world's
interest that they develop a nuclear weapon through highly enriched
We know they've got the capacity through plutonium; we have IAEA
inspectors there watching carefully their plutonium stockpile. And then
we discovered that, contrary to an agreement they had with the United
States, they're enriching uranium, with the desire of developing a
weapon. They admitted to this. And so, therefore, we have worked with
our Japanese friends and South Korean friends, with the leadership in
China -- I will talk with Vladimir Putin about this after my trip to
the NATO summit -- to remind North Korea that if they expect to be a --
welcomed into this family of peaceful nations, that they should not
I thought it was a very interesting statement that Jiang Zemin made
in Crawford, where he declared very clearly that he wants a nuclear
weapons-free Korean Peninsula. That was, in my judgment, an important
clarification of Chinese policy that I hope the North Koreans listen
to. Believe we can achieve this objective, Helen, by working closely
with this consortium of nations, which have got a valid interest in
seeing to it that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons. Terry.
Mr. President, can I have a follow-up --
Of course, you can. Yes, it's fine. (Laughter.) If
the elections had gone a different way, I might not be so generous.
You are leaving the impression that Iraqi lives, the
human cost doesn't mean anything -
Say that again?
You are leaving the impression that you wouldn't mind if
you go to war against Iraq, but you deal with another nation which may
have weapons in a different way. But there are two other impressions
around. One, that you have an obsession with going after Saddam Hussein
at any cost. And also that you covet the oil fields.
Yes. Well, I'm -- some people have the right
impressions and some people have the wrong impressions.
Can you --
Well, those are the wrong impressions.
I have a deep desire for peace. That's what I have a
desire for. And freedom for the Iraqi people. See, I don't like a
system where people are repressed through torture and murder in order
to keep a dictator in place. It troubles me deeply. And so the Iraqi
people must hear this loud and clear, that this country never has any
intention to conquer anybody. That's not the intention of the American
people or our government. We believe in freedom and we believe in
peace. And we believe the Iraqi dictator is a threat to peace. And so
that's why I made the decisions I made, in terms of Iraq.
Now, Terry Moran.
Thank you, sir. On Iraq, you've said many times that if
Saddam Hussein does not disarm, he will be disarmed militarily, if
necessary, by the U.N. or the U.S. and others. There's a school of
thought that says that going to war against Iraq would be a dangerous
and misguided idea because it would generate a tremendous amount of
anger and hatred at the United States, and out of that you'd
essentially be creating many new terrorists who would want to kill
Americans. What's wrong with that analysis?
Well, that's like saying we should not go after Al
Qaeda because we might irritate somebody and that would create a danger
to Americans. My attitude is you got to deal with terrorism in a firm
way. And if they see threats you deal with them in all different kinds
of ways. The only way, in my judgment, to deal with Saddam Hussein is
to bring the international community together to convince him to
But if he's not going to disarm, we'll disarm him, in order to make
the world a more peaceful place. And some people aren't going to like
that -- I understand. But some people won't like it if he ends with a
nuclear weapon and uses it. We have an obligation to lead. And I intend
to assume that obligation to make the world more peaceful.
Terry, listen, there's risk in all action we take. But the risk of
inaction is not a choice, as far as I'm concerned. The inaction creates
more risk than doing our duty to make the world more peaceful. And
obviously, I weighed all the consequences about all the differences.
Hopefully, we can do this peacefully -- don't get me wrong. And if the
world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure
on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there's a chance he may
decide to do that.
And war is not my first choice, don't -- it's my last choice. But
nevertheless, it is a -- it is an option in order to make the world a
more peaceful place.
Mr. President, thank you very much. You have put a lot of
effort toward getting the United Nations to rally the world to disarm
Saddam Hussein. And yet you and your aides have expressed a great deal
of skepticism about whether Saddam Hussein will actually comply. Can
you give us an idea, sir, how long you think it might take for the
world to know whether Saddam Hussein actually intends to go along with
the call of the world to disarm? Will it be a matter of days or weeks,
months, or perhaps a year, sir?
Well, Wendell, this much we know -- it's so far
taken him 11 years and 16 resolutions to do nothing. And so we've got
some kind of history as to the man's behavior. We know he likes to try
to deceive and deny, and that's why this inspection regime has got to
be new and tough and different. The status quo is unacceptable, you
know, kind of send a few people in there and hope maybe he's nice to
them and open up the baby milk factory -- it's unacceptable.
And so that's why you'll see us with a different inspection regime,
one that works to see to it that Saddam Hussein disarms. It's his
responsibility to disarm. I don't put timetables on anything. But for
the sake of peace -- sooner, better.
And we'll see. But you must know that I am serious -- so are a lot
of other countries -- serious about holding the man to account. I was
serious about holding the U.N. to account. And when they pass this
resolution, which I hope they do tomorrow, it shows that the U.N. is
beginning to assume its responsibilities to make sure that 11 years of
defiance does not go unanswered. It's very important that the U.N. be a
successful international body because the threats that we face now
require more cooperation than ever. And we're still cooperating with a
lot of nations. We're still sharing intelligence and cutting off money
the best we can. And there's still law enforcement efforts taking place
all around the world.
And that's why the international -- this international body called
the U.N. is an important body for keeping the peace. And it's very
important that they're effective. And we'll see tomorrow -- starting
And then the key on the resolution, I want to remind you, is that
there are serious consequences. And that's one of the key elements to
make sure that everybody gets the picture that we are serious about a
process of disarming him in the name of peace. Hopefully, he'll choose
to do so himself.
Thank you, Mr. President. You said this afternoon that
the U.N. Security Council vote tomorrow would bring the civilized world
together against Iraq. But broad opposition remains all over the world
to your policy. Will you continue to try to build support and, if so,
how will you do that? Or do you think that a Security Council vote
would be all the mandate you need?
First of all, broad opposition around the world not
in support of my policy on Iraq?
Well, I think most people around the world realize
that Saddam Hussein is a threat. And they -- no one likes war, but they
also don't like the idea of Saddam Hussein having a nuclear weapon.
Imagine what would happen. And by the way, we don't know how close he
is to a nuclear weapon right now. We know he wants one. But we don't
know. We know he was close to one at one point in time; we have no idea
today. Imagine Saddam Hussein with a nuclear weapon. Imagine how the
Israeli citizens would feel. Imagine how the citizens in Saudi Arabia
would feel. Imagine how the world would change, how he could alter
diplomacy by the very presence of a nuclear weapon.
And so a lot of people -- serious people around the world are
beginning to think about that consideration. I think about it a lot. I
think about it particularly in the regard of making the world a more
And so it's very important for people to realize the consequences
of us not taking the case to the U.N. Security Council. People need to
think about what would happen if the United States had remained silent
on this issue and just hoped for a change of his attitude, or maybe
hoped that he would not invade somebody again, or just hoped that he
wouldn't use gas on his own people when pressure at home began to
I'm not willing to take those kind of risks. People understand
that. I think a lot of people are saying, you know, gosh, we hope we
don't have war. I feel the same way, I hope we don't have war. I hope
this can be done peacefully. It's up to Saddam Hussein, however, to
make that choice.
I also want to remind you that, should we have to use troops,
should it become a necessity in order to disarm him, the United States,
with friends, will move swiftly with force to do the job. You don't
have to worry about that. We will do -- we will do -- we will do what
it takes militarily to succeed.
I also want to say something else to people of Iraq, that the
generals in Iraq must understand clearly there will be consequences for
their behavior. Should they choose, if force is necessary, to behave in
a way that endangers the lives of their own citizens, as well as
citizens in the neighborhood, there will be a consequence. They will be
held to account.
And as to the Iraq people, what I said before -- the Iraqi people
can have a better life than the one they have now. They can have a --
there are other alternatives to somebody who is willing to rape and
mutilate and murder in order to stay in power. There's just a better
life than the one they have to live now.
I think the people of the world understand that too, Judy. I don't
take -- I don't take -- I don't spend a lot of time taking polls around
the world to tell me what I think is the right way to act; I've just
got to know how I feel. I feel strongly about freedom. I feel strongly
about liberty. And I feel strongly about the obligation to make the
world a more peaceful place. And I take those responsibilities really
Thank you. I wanted to go back to your earlier point
about the risk of an action versus the risk of inaction.
Where would that be, in the Congress or at the
Your CIA Director told Congress just last month that it
appears that Saddam Hussein "now appears to be drawing a line short of
conducting terrorist attacks against the United States." But if we
attacked him he would "probably become much less constrained." Is he
wrong about that?
No. I think that -- I think that if you would read
the full -- I'm sure he said other sentences. Let me just put it to
you, I know George Tenet well. I meet with him every single day. He
sees Saddam Hussein as a threat. I don't know what the context of that
quote is. I'm telling you, the guy knows what I know, that he is a
problem and we must deal with him.
And, you know, it's like people say, oh, we must leave Saddam
alone; otherwise, if we did something against him, he might attack us.
Well, if we don't do something, he might attack us, and he might attack
us with a more serious weapon. The man is a threat, Hutch, I'm telling
you. He's a threat not only with what he has, he's a threat with what
he's done. He's a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda. In my
Cincinnati speech, I reminded the American people, a true threat facing
our country is that an al Qaeda-type network trained and armed by
Saddam could attack America and leave not one fingerprint. That is a
threat. And we're going to deal with it.
The debate about whether we're going to deal with Saddam Hussein is
over. And now the question is how do we deal with him. I made the
decision to go to the United Nations because I want to try to do this
peacefully. I want Saddam to disarm. The best way to convince him to
disarm is to get the nations to come together through the U.N. and try
to convince him to disarm.
We're going to work on that. We've been spending a lot of time -- I
wouldn't exactly call it gnashing of teeth, but working hard on the
U.N. resolution. It took a while, but we've been grinding it out,
trying to bring a consensus, trying to get people together, so that we
can say to the world the international community has spoken through the
Security Council of the United Nations and now, once again, we expect
Saddam to disarm.
This would be the 17th time that we expect Saddam to disarm. This
time we mean it. See, that's the difference -- I guess. This time it's
for real. And I say it must not have been for real the last 16 times
because nothing happened when he didn't. This time something happens.
He knows -- he's got to understand that. The members of the U.N.
Security Council understand that. Saddam has got to understand it so
he, so, in the name of peace, for a peaceful resolution of this, we
hope he disarms.