| PRESIDENT BUSH'S
October 11, 2001
In this part of his press conference, the president discusses whether the U.S. ought to widen its war against terrorism, how efforts to end the al-Qaida network are going and whether Americans should feel safe.
REPORTER: Mr. President, on that note, we understand you have advisers who are urging you to go after Iraq, take out Iraq, Syria and so forth. Do you really think that the American people will tolerate you widening the war beyond Afghanistan? And I have a follow-up.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you for warning me.
Our focus is on Afghanistan and the terrorist network hiding in Afghanistan right now. But as well, we're looking for al-Qaida cells around the world. If we find an al-Qaida cell operating, we will urge the host country to bring them to justice. And we're having some progress -- we're making progress.
As I mentioned, this is a long war against terrorist activity, and the doctrine I spelled out to the American people in front of Congress said not only will we seek out and bring to justice individual terrorists who cause harm to people -- to murder people, we will also bring to justice the host governments that sponsor them, that house them and feed them.
You mentioned Iraq. There's no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know he's been developing weapons of mass destruction. And I think it's in his advantage to allow inspectors back in his country to make sure that he's conforming to the agreement he made after he was soundly trounced in the Gulf War. And so we're watching him very carefully. We're watching him carefully.
Your follow-up, please?
REPORTER: It's a little offbeat, but...
PRESIDENT BUSH: OK, well, I expect an offbeat question, frankly.
REPORTER: You've met twice in the White House since you've been in office with Prime Minister Sharon, but you have refused to meet with Yasser Arafat. Now that you envision a Palestinian state, will you see and will you meet with Arafat? And if so, when?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to assure the American people, and particularly our allies who are interested in our position in the Middle East, that we're spending a lot of time dealing with the Middle East. I know there was some concern amongst our allies when the Sept. 11 -- right after the Sept. 11 attack, that we would forgo any responsibility we have in the Middle East. Secretary of State Powell is doing a great job of staying in contact with both Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon. I have met with Prime Minister Sharon, and I have assured him every time we've met that he has no better friend than the United States of America.
I also stated the other day that if we ever get into the Mitchell process, where we can start discussing a political solution in the Middle East, that I believe there ought to be a Palestinian state, the boundaries of which will be negotiated by the parties so long as the Palestinian state recognizes the right of Israel to exist and will treat Israel with respect and will be peaceful on her borders. Obviously, the events of Sept. 11 have prevented overt diplomacy in the Middle East -- not prevented it; just made it -- my calendar's a little crowded.
On the other hand, I am very much engaged. I have spoken to Prime Minister Sharon again. And if I am convinced that a meeting with a particular party at this point in time will further the process, I will do so. If it turns out to be an empty photo opportunity that creates expectations that will become dashed, I won't meet. I hope progress is being made. I was pleased to see that Mr. Arafat is trying to control the radical elements within the Palestinian Authority. And I think the world ought to applaud him for that.
I hope he's taking measures necessary to reduce the violence in the Middle East so that we can get into the Mitchell process. We're working hard on the topic. It's a very important part of our foreign policy.
REPORTER: Mr. President, good evening. I'd like to ask you for a more complete portrait of your progress so far.
Can you tell the American people specifically what is the state of Osama bin Laden? What is the state of the al-Qaida network? Are they on the run? To what extent have you been able to disrupt their activities? Do you believe there are members of those cells still in the United States capable of carrying out terrorist acts? And again, do you know whether Osama bin Laden is dead or alive?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. Let me start backwards. I don't know if he is dead or alive. I want him brought to justice, however.
We are following every possible lead to make sure that any al-Qaida member that could be in the United States is brought to justice. The FBI has got thousands of agents who are following every hint of a possibility of an al-Qaida member in our country. We're chasing down the leads that have been given to us as a result of the bombing. And we're following other leads.
Let me say one thing about the FBI that I think people find interesting. All of us in government are having to adjust our way of thinking about the new war. The military is going to have to adjust. They recognize -- and Secretary Rumsfeld clearly understands this -- that we need to have a -- that we need to rethink how we configure our military -- there's been some stories to that effect -- so that we more effectively respond to asymmetrical responses from terrorist organizations.
The FBI must think differently, and Director Mueller is causing them to do so. The FBI, as you know, spent a lot of manpower and time chasing Cold -- spies. In the post-Cold War era, they were still chasing spies. Nothing wrong with that, except we have a new enemy. And now the FBI is rightly directing resources toward homeland security. It's been an adjustment, and I'm proud to report that Director Mueller has adjusted quickly.
I am confident that the al-Qaida organization is moving around Afghanistan. They think they might find safe haven? Not if we think they're there. And we got them on the run.
The other day we brought to justice a person that killed an American citizen in 1986. He was charged with murder. And I made a point of talking about that in a press conference because I wanted not only terrorists to understand, but the American people to understand that we'll be patient, if need be, to bring them to justice. We'll find them.
This is an interesting case in Afghanistan, because he thought he had hijacked a country. He actually did for a while. He forced a country to accept his radical thoughts, and it became a safe haven for bin Laden and the al-Qaida organization.
It's no longer a safe haven, that's for sure, because of our military activity.
REPORTER: Mr. President, you have tried very had to assure Americans that the country is safe, and yet your own vice president has spent this week in a secure location. Can you explain why that is, and also how long that will last?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Sure. I shook hands with the vice president today in the Oval Office. I welcomed him out of his secure location.
There are some times when the vice president and I will be together and some times we won't be. We take very seriously the notion of the continuity of government. It's a responsibility we share to make sure that, under situations such as this, when there are possible threats facing our government, that we separate ourselves for the sake of continuity of our government. And I was pleased to see him; he's looking swell.
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President. Sir, some critics have expressed doubts about trying to get nations that once sponsored terrorism to now cooperate in the effort against terrorism.
Would you share your thinking with us, sir? And is it your view that every sinner should get a chance to redeem himself; that there is, in effect, an amnesty for nations that once sponsored terrorism if they will now stop and cooperate with us?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Of course. But our ability to affect host nations harboring terrorists will depend upon our determination, our will, our patience. We are sending a signal to the world as we speak that if you harbor a terrorist, there will be a price to pay. And the -- there are nations in the world that have -- that have expressed a desire to help. Helen mentioned Syria. The Syrians have talked to us about how they can help in the war against terrorism. We take that -- we take that seriously and we'll give them an opportunity to do so.
I'm a performance-oriented person. I believe in results. And if you want to join the coalition against terror, we'll welcome you in. I have recognized some countries will do things that, you know, some -- that others won't do.
All I ask is for results. If you say you want to join us to cut off money, show us the money. If you say you want to join us militarily like Great Britain does, do so. And they have done so in a fashion that should make the people of Great Britain proud.
If you're interested in sharing intelligence, share intelligence -- all ways. I appreciated diplomatic talk, but I'm more interested in action and results. I am absolutely determined -- absolutely determined to root terrorism out where it exists and bring them to justice.
We learned a good lesson on Sept. 11, that there is evil in this world. I know there's a lot of children in America wondering what took place. I think it's essential that all moms and dads and citizens tell their children we love them and there is love in the world, but also remind them there are evil people. And it's my duty as the president of the United States to use the resources of this great nation, a freedom-loving nation, a compassionate nation, a nation that understands values of life, and root terrorism out where it exists. And we're going to give plenty of nations a chance to do so.
REPORTER: After the FBI warning of today, which was based, it said, on certain information that there would be retaliatory attacks over the next several days, given the complete generality of that warning, what does it really accomplish, aside from scaring people into not doing what you've urged them to do -- getting back to their normal lives? What should they do with it? And did you personally approve the issuance of that warning?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm aware of the intelligence that caused the warning to be issued, and it was a general threat on America. And as I mentioned earlier, had it been a specific threat, we would have contacted those to whom the threat was directed.
But I think it is important for the American people to know their government is on full alert. And that's what that warning showed. We take every threat seriously. And the American people shouldn't be surprised that we are issuing alerts. After all, on our TV screens the other day, we saw the evil one threatening, calling for more destruction and death in America. And so we should take these threats seriously. And we had another threat, a general threat. Had it been specific, we would have dealt with the specifics of the threat.
I think the American people should take comfort in the fact that their government is doing everything we possibly can do to run down every possible lead and take threats -- and we take threats seriously. I think the American people do understand that after Sept. 11, that we're facing a different world, and they accept that responsibility. They accept that responsibility.
There is, I think, some positive news about the American people reacting to what we're doing. The load factors on airplanes are increasing. Now, I recognize certain routes have been reduced, but, nevertheless, people are getting back on airplanes. That's important, that that be the case. Hotels are getting more customers. That's important for the working people of the country.
We are getting back to normal. We're doing so with a new sense of awareness. And the warning that went out today helped to heighten that sense of awareness.