| PRESIDENT BUSH'S
October 11, 2001
In the final part of his press conference, President Bush discusses nation-building in Afghanistan, relations with Russia and a new effort to help Afghan children.
REPORTER: Mr. President, you've said on repeated occasions that you're not into nation-building. Yet it appears in this case, given the politics of the region, it may play a crucial role in resolving this crisis.
Prime Minister Blair of Britain has said that the coalition, if the Taliban falls, will work to create a broadly based government. I'm wondering, sir, has that become a priority of your administration now to devise a plan for a new government in Afghanistan? And what part might King Zahir Shah play in that?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think it's -- first let me reiterate, my focus is bringing al-Qaida to justice and saying to the host government, "You had your chance to deliver."
Actually, I will say it again. "If you cough him up, and his people, today, that we'll reconsider what we're doing to your country. You still have a second chance. Just bring him in, and bring his leaders and lieutenants and other thugs and criminals with him."
I think we did learn a lesson, however, from -- and should learn a lesson from the previous engagement in the Afghan area, that we should not just simply leave after a military objective has been achieved.
That's why -- and I sent that signal by announcing that we're going to spend $330 million of aid to Afghan -- the Afghan people. That's up from roughly $170 million this year. I personally think that a -- and I appreciate Tony Blair's -- and I've discussed this with him -- his vision about Afghan after we're successful -- Afghanistan after we're successful.
One of the things that we've got make sure of is that all parties -- all interested parties have an opportunity to be a part of a new government, that we shouldn't play favorites between one group or another within Afghanistan.
Secondly, we've got work for a stable Afghanistan so that her neighbors don't fear terrorist activity again coming out of that country.
Third, it'd be helpful, of course, to eradicate narcotrafficking out of Afghanistan as well.
I believe that the United Nations could provide the framework necessary to help meet those conditions. It would be a useful function for the United Nations to take over the so-called nation-building -- I would call it the stabilization of a future government -- after our military mission is complete.
We'll participate. Other countries will participate. I've talked to many countries that are interested in making sure that the post-operations Afghanistan is one that is stable and one that doesn't become yet again a haven for terrorist criminals.
REPORTER: Mr. President, I'm sure many Americans are wondering where all of this will lead. And you've called upon the country to go back to business and to go back to normal, but you haven't called for any sacrifices from the American people. And I wonder, do you feel that any will be needed? Are you planning to call for any? And do you think that American life will really go back to the way it was on Sept. 10?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you know, I think the American people are sacrificing now. I think they're waiting in airport lines longer than they've ever had before. I think that -- I think there's a certain sacrifice when you lose a piece of your soul. And Americans -- listen, I was standing up there at the Pentagon today and I saw the tears of the families whose lives were lost in the Pentagon. And I said in my talk there that, "America prays with you." I think there's a sacrifice.
There's a certain sense of giving themselves to share their grief with people that they'll maybe never see in their lives. So America is sacrifice. I think the interesting thing that has happened, and this is so sad an incident, but there are some positive things that are developing.
One is I believe that many people are reassessing what's important in life. Moms and dads are not only reassessing their marriage and the importance of their marriage, but of the necessity of loving their children like never before. I think that's one of the positives that have come from the evildoers.
The evil ones have sparked an interesting change in America, I think, a compassion in our country that is overflowing. I know their intended act was to destroy us and make us cowards and make us not want to respond, but quite the opposite has happened. Our nation is united, we are strong, we're compassionate, neighbors care about neighbors.
The story I talked about earlier was one that really touched my heart, about women of cover fearing to leave their homes, and there was such an outpouring of compassion for people within our own country, a recognition that the Islamic faith should stand side by side, hand to hand with the Jewish faith and the Christian faith in our great land. It is such a wonderful example.
You know, I'm asked all the time, I'll ask myself a question: How do I respond to ... It's an old trick. How do I ...
How do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there is vitriolic hatred for America? I'll tell you how I respond: I'm amazed.
I'm amazed that there's such isunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am -- like most Americans, I just can't believe it because I know how good we are. And we've got to do a better job of making our case. We've got to do a better job of explaining to the people in the Middle East, for example, that we don't fight a war against Islam or Muslims. We don't hold any religion accountable. We're fighting evil. And these murderers have hijacked a great religion in order to justify their evil deeds. And we cannot let it stand.
REPORTER: Mr. President, you have spoken with great pride of this international coalition. I want to ask you, before the events of Sept. 11, one of the big questions you faced this fall was would you violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty and go ahead with the missile defense plan if Russia did not strike a deal. Will you do that now because Russia's cooperation is so important?
And separately, but related, are you disappointed that while there have been some statements of support from the Muslim world that there have -- and the Arab world, that there have not been more vocal and repeated statements agreeing with you that this is a war against terrorism, not Islam?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me start with the latter part. I was heartened by the Organization of Islamic Conference's statement of support for our war against terror. I think that statement spoke volumes about the attitude of Muslim nations, and I was pleased to see that support.
Some coalition members will feel more comfortable doing certain things than other coalition members will. And my attitude is, and the attitude of my administration is, we will accept any help that a government's comfortable in giving. And we should not try to force governments to do something that they can't do. Any help is better than no help. And so I am so appreciative of the help we are getting in the Middle East.
Somebody asked me the other day was I pleased with the actions of Saudi Arabia. I am. I appreciate the actions of that government. In terms of missile defense, I can't wait to visit with my friend Vladimir Putin in Shanghai to reiterate, once again, that the Cold War is over, it's done with, and that there are new threats that we face. And no better example of that new threat than the attack on America on Sept. 11. And I'm going to ask my friend to envision a world in which a terrorist thug and-or a host nation might have the ability to develop -- to deliver a weapon of mass destruction via a -- via rocket. And wouldn't it be in our nations' advantage to be able to shoot it down?
At the very least, it should be in our nations' advantage to determine
whether we can shoot it down. And we're restricted from doing that because
of an ABM Treaty that was signed during a totally different era. The
case cannot be even -- the case is more strong today than it was on
Sept. 10 that the ABM is outmoded, outdated, reflects a different time.
And I am more than anxious to continue making my case to them, and we
will do what's right in regards...
PRESIDENT BUSH: Excuse me. I'm having trouble hearing.
REPORTER: If he does not agree with you, would you withdraw from the ABM Treaty this year?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I have told Mr. Putin that the ABM Treaty is outdated, antiquated and useless. And I hope that he will join us in a new strategic relationship. One more question, please. Thank you.
REPORTER: You talk about the general threat toward Americans. The Internet is crowded with all sorts of rumor and gossip and, kind of, urban myths. And people ask us, what is it they're supposed to be on the lookout for? Other than the 22 most wanted terrorists, what are Americans supposed to look for and report to the police or to the FBI?
PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, if you find a person that you've never seen before getting in a crop-duster that doesn't belong to you, report it.
If you see suspicious people lurking around petrochemical plants, report it to law enforcement. I mean, people need to be logical. And listen, I want to urge my fellow Americans not to use this as an opportunity to pick on somebody that doesn't look like you or doesn't share your religion.
The thing that makes our nation so strong and that will ultimately defeat terrorist activity is our willingness to tolerate people of different faiths, different opinions, different colors within the fabric of our society. And so I would urge my fellow Americans, obviously, if they see something suspicious, abnormal, something that looks threatening, report it to local law enforcement.
Let me conclude... Let me conclude by one final statement. Thank you all for coming.
Before we leave, I want to make a special request to the children of America. I ask you to join in a special effort to help the children of Afghanistan. Their country has been through a great deal of war and suffering. Many children there are starving and are severely malnourished. One in three Afghan children is an orphan, almost half suffer chronic malnutrition, and we can and must help them. We've created a special relief effort that will be supervised by the Red Cross.
We are asking every child in America to earn or give a dollar that will be used to provide food and medical help for the children of Afghanistan. You can send your dollar in an envelope marked "America's Fund for Afghan Children" right here to the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.
This is an opportunity to help others while teaching our own children a valuable lesson about service and character. I hope school classes or Boys and Girl Scout troops, other youth organizations will participate in any way to raise the money to send to the children. Wash a car. Do a yard for a neighbor. And I hope the adults will help them as well.
Ultimately, one of the best weapons, one of the truest weapons that we have against terrorism is to show the world the true strength of character and kindness of the American people.
Americans are united in this fight against terrorism. We're also united in our concern for the innocent people of Afghanistan. Winter is coming, and by acting today we can help the children survive.
Thank you for your questions.
May God bless America.