President Bush Meets with Prime Minister Howard of
Australia Remarks by the President and Prime Minister
Howard of Australia in Photo Opportunity The Oval Office
5:46 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to make some welcoming comments. The
Prime Minister is going to say some things. We'll then take some
questions -- two from the American side and two from the Australian
Prime Minister Howard is a
close, personal friend of mine; a person whose judgment I count on;
a person with whom I speak quite frequently. I believe he's a man of
clear vision. He sees the threats that the free world faces as we go
into the 21st century. I'm proud to -- I'm proud to work with him on
behalf of a peaceful world and a freer society. He's a man grounded
in good values and I respect him a lot, and I'm glad he's back here
in the Oval Office.
THE PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. I'm
delighted to be back in the United States, where talk is naturally
about Iraq and other related matters. I want to say that from the
very beginning, the President has shown very strong leadership on a
difficult issue. He's been prepared to go out and argue a very
strong case. It's not been an issue that's been free of criticism
for any of those who've advocated a particular point of view.
Australia's position concerning Iraq is very clear. We believe a
world in which weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of rogue
states, with the potential threat of them falling into the hands of
terrorists, is not a world that Australia -- if we can possibly
avoid it -- wants to be part of. And that is the fundamental reason
why Australia has taken the position she has.
And it's the fundamental reason why we believe the goals that the
United States set of disarming Iraq are proper goals and they are
goals that the entire world should pursue. We all hope that they
might -- despite the apparent unlikelihood, we all hope that there
might be a peaceful solution. The one real chance of a peaceful
solution is the whole world saying the same thing to Iraq.
And that's why we believe the closest possible cooperation and
unity of -- objective unity of advocacy is very important.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, John. Don't worry, malfunctioning light.
There it is.
Patsy, and then Ron. She's from Australia.
Q Yes. Do I get two questions? One from each side? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Knowing Ron's habit, you probably will, I guess.
Q Iraq has agreed to allow U-2 flights and also private
interviews with some scientists. Does this make it harder for you to
argue that Saddam Hussein is not -- is not cooperating?
THE PRESIDENT: No, Iraq needs to disarm. And the reason why we
even need to fly U-2 flights is because they're not disarming. We
know what a disarmed country looks like. And Iraq doesn't look like
that. This is a man who is trying to stall for time, trying to play
a diplomatic game. He's been successful at it for 12 years. But, no,
the question is, will he disarm.
I notice somebody said the other day, well, we need more
inspectors. Well, a disarmed -- a country which is disarming really
needs one or two inspectors to verify the fact that they're
disarming. We're not playing hide-and-seek. That's what he wants to
continue to play. And so, you know, Saddam's got to disarm. If he
doesn't, we'll disarm him.
Q Sir, can I ask an Australian question?
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
Q Could you tell us whether you count Australia as part of the
coalition of the willing?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do. You know, what that means is up to John
to decide. But I certainly count him as somebody that understands
that the world changed on September the 11th, 2001. Ironically
enough, John Howard was in America that day, in Washington, D.C.,
the day the enemy hit.
In our country it used to be that oceans could protect us -- at
least we thought so. There was wars on other continents, but we were
safe. And so we could decide whether or not we addressed the threat
on our own time. If there was a threat gathering from afar, we could
say, well, let's see, it may be in our interest to get involved, or
it may not be. We had the luxury. September the 11th, that changed.
America is now a battleground in the war on terror.
Secondly, the Secretary of State made it very clear that there
are connections between Saddam Hussein and terrorist networks. And,
therefore, it is incumbent upon all of us who love freedom to
understand the new world in which we live. John Howard understands
Q In addition to being among the some people who are calling for
inspections, the French today blocked NATO from helping Turkey. And
President Chirac said, nothing today justifies a war.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Given what Americans and the French went through in the last
century, are you upset by their attitude now?
THE PRESIDENT: I wouldn't -- "upset" isn't the proper word. I am
disappointed that France would block NATO from helping a country
like Turkey prepare. I don't understand that decision. It affects
the alliance in a negative way.
Q You think it does?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it affects the alliance in a negative way,
when you're not able to make a statement of mutual defense. I had a
good talk with Jacques Chirac recently. I assured him that, you
know, that we would continue to try to work with France as best we
can. France has been a long time friend of the United States. We've
got a lot in common. But I think the decision on NATO is
shortsighted in my judgment. Hopefully, they'll reconsider.
Q Mr. President, there are many Australians -- there are many
Australians and others who are still not convinced that they should
be going with you to war. At this late stage what's your personal
message to them?
THE PRESIDENT: My personal message is that I want to keep the
peace and make the world more peaceful. I understand why people
don't like to commit the military to action. I can understand that.
I'm the person in this country that hugs the mothers and the widows
if their son or husband dies. I know people would like to avoid
armed conflict. And so would I. But the risks of doing nothing far
outweigh the risks of whatever it takes to disarm Saddam Hussein.
I've thought long and hard about this issue. My job is to protect
the American people from further harm. I believe that Saddam Hussein
is a threat to the American people. I also know he's a threat to our
friends and allies.
The second thing -- my message is, and I started speaking about
this today, I also have got great compassion and concern for the
Iraqi people. These are people who have been tortured and
brutalized, people who have been raped because they may disagree
with Saddam Hussein. He's a brutal dictator. In this country and in
Australia people believe that everybody has got worth, everybody
counts, that everybody is equal in the eyes of the Almighty. So the
issue is not only peace, the issue is freedom and liberty.
I made it clear in my State of the Union -- and the people of
Australia must understand this -- I don't believe liberty is
America's gift to the world; I believe it is God's gift to humanity.