| PRESIDENT BUSH'S
October 11, 2001
After he finished his opening statement, President Bush takes questions concerning new terror threats, whether Afghanistan will become a quagmire and the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
PRESIDENT BUSH: And now I welcome your questions.
REPORTER: Thank you, sir. You said that the threat is ongoing and indeed, the deadly virus of anthrax was found in three Florida people this week. Osama bin Laden's spokesman says storms of planes are yet to be hijacked.
Your FBI warned just today that terrorists attacks could be happening again in the next couple of days. If the FBI knows of a credible threat, can you assure the public that you would take the precaution of locking down any system involved, whether it's buildings, airports, water systems, to prevent more deaths? And most importantly, is there anything you can say to Americans who feel helpless to protect themselves and their families from the next wave of attacks if there are more to come? What can people do to protect themselves?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Sure. Today, the Justice Department did issue a blanket alert. It was in recognition of a general threat we received. This is not the first time the Justice Department have acted like this. I hope it's the last, but given the attitude of the evildoers, it may not be.
I have urged my -- our fellow Americans to go about their lives, to fly on airplanes, to travel, to go to work. But I also want to encourage them by telling them that our government is on full alert and that the alert put out today by the Justice Department was such an action.
Now, if we receive specific intelligence, where we -- a credible threat that targets a specific building or city or facility, I can assure you, our government will do everything possible to protect the citizens around, in or near that facility. And let me give you one example of a specific threat we received. You may remember recently there was a lot of discussion about crop-dusters. We received knowledge that perhaps an al-Qaida operative was prepared to use a crop-duster to spray a biological weapon or a chemical weapon on American people, and so we responded. We contacted every crop dust location, airports from which crop-dusters leave. We notified crop-duster manufacturers to a potential threat. We knew full well that in order for a crop-duster to become a weapon of mass destruction would require a retrofitting, and so we talked to machine shops around where crop-dusters are located.
We took strong and appropriate action, and we will do so anytime we receive a credible threat.
Now, the American people have got to go about their business. We cannot let the terrorists achieve the objective of frightening our nation to the point where we don't conduct business or people don't shop. That's their intention. Their intention was not only to kill and maim and destroy, their intention was to frighten to the point where our nation would not act. Their intention was to so frighten our government that we wouldn't seek justice; that somehow we would cower in the face of their threats and not respond abroad or at home. We're both responding abroad and at home.
The American people, obviously if they see something that is suspicious, something out of the norm that looks suspicious, they ought to notify local law authorities. But in the meantime, they ought to take comfort in knowing our government is doing everything we possibly can.
We've got a Homeland Security Office now running, as I
And -- but the truth of the matter is, in order to fully defend America, we must defeat the evildoers where they hide. We must round them up and we must bring them to justice. And that's exactly what we're doing in Afghanistan, the first battle in the war of the 21st century.
REPORTER: Yes, Mr. President. Thank you. You've been careful to avoid saying how long the military strikes in Afghanistan might take place. But can you promise to say how long American -- can you avoid being drawn into a Vietnam-like quagmire in Afghanistan?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We learned some very important lessons in Vietnam. Perhaps the most important lesson that I learned is that you cannot fight a guerrilla war with conventional forces. That's why I have explained to the American people that we're engaged in a different type of war, one obviously that will use conventional forces, but one in which we've got to fight on all fronts.
I remember saying to you all that the first shot in the war was when we started cutting of their money, because an al-Qaida organization can't function without money. And we're continuing our efforts to reach out to willing nations to disrupt and seize assets of the al-Qaida organization.
We're in the process of rounding up al-Qaida members around the world. There are al-Qaida organizations in roughly 68 countries. And over 200 have now been apprehended. And every time I talk to a world leader I urge them to continue finding the al-Qaida representatives and bring them to justice. As far as the use of conventional forces, we've got a clear plan, and it's to say to the host government that, "You have been given your chance."
And by the way, I gave them ample opportunity to turn over al-Qaida. I made it very clear to them, in no uncertain terms, that in order to avoid punishment they should turn over the parasites that hide in their country. They obviously refused to do so, and now they're paying a price.
We are dismantling their military, disrupting their communications, severing their ability to defend themselves, and slowly but surely we're smoking al-Qaida out of their caves so we can bring them to justice.
People often ask me, "How long will this last?" This particular battle front will last as long as it takes to bring al-Qaida to justice. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two, but we will prevail. And what the American people need to know is what our allies know: I am determined to stay the course. And we must do so. We must do so.
We must rid the world of terrorists so our children and grandchildren can grow up in freedom. It is essential. It is now our time to act, and I'm proud to lead a country that understands that.
REPORTER: Mr. President, today Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said that Osama bin Laden was probably still in Afghanistan. How can the U.S. get him dead or alive, to use words that you've used recently, if we're not entirely sure whether he's in the country? And can we win the war on terrorism if bin Laden is not found?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Ours is a war against terrorism in general. Mr. bin Laden is one of the worst, but as you may remember, we published the 22 most wanted. He is one of 22 we're after. In terms of Mr. bin Laden himself, we'll get him running. We'll smoke him out of his cave, and we'll get him eventually. But success or failure depends not on bin Laden.
Success or failure depends upon rooting out terrorism where it may exist all around the world. He's just one person, a part of a network. And we're slowly, but surely, with determined fashion, rooting that network out and bringing it to justice. We've been active for a month. I intend to be giving you a briefing for as long as I am the president.
I understand this is an unconventional war. It's a different kind of war. It's not the kind of war we're used to in America. The greatest generation was used to storming beachheads. Baby boomers such as myself was used to getting caught in a quagmire of Vietnam where politics made decisions more than the military sometimes. Generation X was able to watch technology right in front of their TV screens, you know, burrow into concrete bunkers in Iraq and blow them up.
This is a different kind of war that requires a different type of approach and a different type of mentality. And so we're going to slowly but surely tighten the net on terrorists wherever they live. And it's essential to do so now. It's essential to do so now.
The actions my government takes in concert with other countries, the actions we take at home to defend ourselves, will serve as a go-by for future presidents or future prime ministers in Britain, for example, or future FBI directors. It is important that we stay the course, bring these people to justice to show -- and show others how to fight the new wars of the 21st century.