MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, new question, two minutes. Does the Iraq
experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the
United States into another preemptive military action?
BUSH: I would hope I'd never have to. I understand how hard it is to
commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops. I never -- when I was
running -- when we had the debate in 2000, I never dreamt I'd be doing
that. But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and -- ah -- I have a solemn duty
to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.
I think that by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending
mixed messages, it is less likely we'll ever have to use troops. But
a president must always be willing to use troops and must -- as a last
resort. The, ah --
I was hopeful diplomacy would work in Iraq. It was falling apart. There
was no doubt in my mind that Saddam
Hussein was hoping that the world would turn a blind eye. And if he
had been in power -- in other words, if he said let's let the inspectors
work or let's, you know, hope to talk him out, maybe that the 18th resolution
would work, he would have been stronger and tougher, and the world would
have been a lot worse off. There's just no doubt in my mind. We would
rue the day had we -- if Saddam Hussein had been in power.
So we use diplomacy every chance we get, believe me. And I -- I would
hope to never have to use force. But by speaking clearly and sending
messages that we mean what we say we've affected the world in a positive
way. Look at Libya. Libya was a threat. Libya is now peacefully dismantling
its weapons programs. Libya understood that America and others will
enforce doctrine, and the world is better for it.
So in answer to your question, I would hope we'd never have to. I think
by acting firmly and decisively, it'll mean it's less likely we use
-- less likely we have to use force.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: Jim, the president just said something extraordinarily revealing
and, frankly, very important in this debate. In answer to your question
about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said the enemy attacked
us. Saddam Hussein didn't attack us; Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al
Qaeda attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains
of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains, with
American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the
best-trained troops in the world to go kill the world's number one criminal
and terrorist. They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords who only a
week earlier had been on the other side, fighting against us, neither
of whom trusted each other. That's the enemy that is now in 60 countries
with stronger recruits.
He also said Saddam Hussein would have been stronger. That is just factually
incorrect. Two-thirds of the country was a no-fly zone when we started
this war. We would have had sanctions. We would have had the U.N. inspectors.
Saddam Hussein would have been continually weakening. If the president
had shown the patience to go through another round of resolution, to
sit down with those leaders say, "What do you need? What do you
need now? How much more will it take to get you to join us?" --
we'd be in a stronger place today.
PRESIDENT BUSH: First, listen --
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know
And secondly, to think that another round of resolutions would have
caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose, is ludicrous, in my judgment.
It just shows a significant difference of opinion. We tried diplomacy.
We did our best. He was hoping to turn a blind eye. And yes, he would
have been stronger had we not dealt with him. He had the capability
of making weapons and he would have made weapons.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Senator.
KERRY: Thirty-five to 40 countries in the world had a greater capability
of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam Hussein.
And while he's been diverted with nine out of 10 active duty divisions
of our Army either going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq, or getting
ready to go, North Korea has got nuclear weapons and the world is more
dangerous. Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons and the world is more
dangerous. Darfur has a genocide. The world is more dangerous. I'd have
made a better choice.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry. What is your position
on the whole concept of preemptive war?
SEN. KERRY: A president always has the right, and always had had the
right, for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the
Cold War, and it was always one of the things we argued about with respect
to arms control.
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor
would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United
States of America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do
it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where
your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what
you're doing, and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate
Here we have our own secretary of State, who's had to apologize to the
world for the presentation he made to the United Nations. I mean, we
can remember when President Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis sent
his secretary of State to Paris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle
of the discussion, to tell him about the missiles in Cuba, he said,
here, let me show you the photos. And DeGaulle waved him off and said,
no, no, no. The word of the president of the United States is good enough
How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result
of what we've done, in that way?
So what is at test here is the credibility of the United States of America
and how we lead the world. And Iran and Iraq (sic) are now more -- Iran
and North Korea are now more dangerous.
Now, whether preemption is ultimately what has to happen or not, I don't
know yet. But I'll tell you this. As president, I'll never take my eye
off that ball. I've been fighting for proliferation the entire time
-- anti-proliferation the entire time I've been in the Congress. And
we've watched this president actually turn away from some of the treaties
that were on the table.
You don't help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the
global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length
with the United Nations. You have to earn that respect. And I think
we have a lot of earning back to do.
LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me -- I'm not exactly sure what you mean passes
the global test. You take preemptive action if you pass a global test?
My attitude is, you take preemptive action in order to protect the American
people, that you act in order to make this country secure.
Now, my opponent talks about me not signing certain treaties. Well,
let me tell you one thing I didn't sign, and I think it shows the difference
of our opinion -- the difference of opinions, and that is, I wouldn't
join the International Criminal Court.
This is a body based in the Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors
could pull our troops, our diplomats up for trial. And I wouldn't join
it. And I understand that in certain capitals of -- around the world
that -- ah -- that wasn't a popular move. But it's the right move. Not
to join a foreign court that could -- where our people could be prosecuted.
My opponent is for joining the International Criminal Court. I -- I
just think trying to be popular kind of in the global sense, if it's
not in our best interest, makes no sense. I'm interested in working
with other nations and do a lot of it. But I'm not going to make decisions
that I think are wrong for America.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Do you believe that diplomacy
and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and
Iran, taking them in any order you would like?
PRESIDENT BUSH: North Korea, first. I do. Let me say, I
certainly hope so.
Ah -- before I, ah, was sworn in, the policy of this government was
to have bilateral negotiations with North Korea. And we -- ah -- signed
an agreement with North Korea that my administration found out that,
ah, was not, ah, being honored by the North Koreans. And so I decided
that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved
-- just besides us. And in Crawford, Texas, Jiang Zemin and I agreed
that the -- a nuclear weapons-free North -- peninsula, Korean peninsula
was in his interests and our interests and the world's interests. And
so, we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not
only the United States, but now China. And China's got a lot of influence
over North Korea. In some ways more than we do.
As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are
five voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one. And so, if Kim Jong
Il decides again to not honor an agreement, he's not only -- ah -- ah
-- doing injustice to America, it would be doing injustice to China
And I think this will work. It's not going to work if we open up a
dialogue with Kim Jong Il. That's what he wants. He wants to unravel
the six-party talks or the five -- the five-nation coalition that's
sending him a clear message.
On Iran, I hope we can do the same thing; continue to work with the
world to convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions.
We've worked very closely with the foreign ministers of France, Germany
and Great Britain, who have been the -- the folks delivering the message
to the mullahs that if you expect to be part of the world of nations,
get rid of your nuclear programs. The IAEA is involved. There's a special
protocol recently been passed that allows for instant inspections. I
hope we can do it, and we've got a good strategy.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
KERRY: With respect to Iran, the British, French and Germans were the
ones who initiated an effort -- without the United States, regrettably
-- to begin to try to move to curb the nuclear possibilities in Iran.
I believe we could have done better. I think the United States should
have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them,
see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes.
If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions
together. The president did nothing.
With respect to North Korea, the real story. We had inspectors and television
cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry
negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel
rods were, and we knew the limits on their nuclear power. Colin Powell,
our secretary of State, announced one day that we were going to continue
the dialogue and work with the North Koreans. The president reversed
him publicly while the president of South Korea was here, and the president
of South Korea went back to South Korea, bewildered and embarrassed,
because it went against his policy. And for two years, this administration
didn't talk at all to North Korea. While they didn't talk at all, the
fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras
were kicked out, and today there are four to seven nuclear weapons in
the hands of North Korea. That happened on this president's watch.
Now, that, I think, is one of the most serious sort of reversals or
mixed messages that you could possible send.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me --
MR. LEHRER: I want to make sure -- yes, sir. But in this one minute
I want to make sure that we understand -- that people -- the people
watching understand the differences between the two of you on this.
You want to continue the multinational talks, correct?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right.
MR. LEHRER: And you want --
SEN. KERRY: Both.
MR. LEHRER: -- you're wanting to do it?
SEN. KERRY: I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues, from
the Armistice of 1952 -- the economic issues, the human rights issues,
the artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues, and the nuclear issues
on the table.
MR. LEHRER: And you're opposed to that, sir, right?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks
will unwind. It's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants.
And by the way, the breach on the agreement was not through plutonium,
the breach on the agreement is highly enriched uranium. That's what
we caught him doing. That's where he was breaking the agreement.
The -- secondly, he said -- my opponent said he'd work to put sanctions
on Iran. We've already sanctioned Iran. We can't sanction them anymore.
There are sanctions in place on Iran.
And finally, we were a party to convincing -- to working with Germany,
France and Great Britain to send their foreign ministers into Iran.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry. You mentioned
Darfur, the Darfur region of Sudan. Fifty thousand people have already
died in that area; more than a million are homeless, and it's been labeled
an act of ongoing genocide. Yet neither one of you, or anyone else connected
with your campaigns or your administration that I can find, has discussed
the possibility of sending in troops. Why not?
SEN. KERRY: Well, I'll tell you exactly why not, but I first want to
say something about those sanctions on Iran. Only the United States
put the sanctions on alone. And that's exactly what I'm talking about.
In order for the sanctions to be effective, we should have been working
with the British, French and Germans and other countries. And that's
the difference between the president and me. And there again he sort
of slid by the question.
Now, with respect to Darfur, yes it is a genocide. And months ago many
of us were pressing for action. I think the reason that we're not saying
send American troops in at this point is several-fold. Number one, we
can do this through the African Union, providing we give them the logistical
support. Right now all the president is providing is humanitarian support.
We need to do more than that. They've got to have the logistical capacity
to go in and stop the killing. And that's going to require more than
is on the table today.
I also believe that it is -- one of the reasons we can't do it is we're
overextended. Ask the people in the armed forces today. We've got Guards
and Reserves who are doing double duties. We've got a back-door draft
taking place in America today. People with stop-loss programs, where
they're told you can't get out of the military. Nine out of our 10 active-duty
division committed to Iraq one way or the other, either going, coming
So, this is the way the president has overextended the United States.
That's why, in my plan, I add two active-duty divisions to the United
States Army, not for Iraq, but for our general demands across the globe.
I also intend to double the number of Special Forces, so that we can
do the job we need to do with respect to fighting the terrorists around
the world. And if we do that, then we have the ability to be able to
respond more rapidly.
But I'll tell you this: As president, if it took American forces to
some degree to coalesce the African Union, I'd be prepared to do it,
because we could never allow another Rwanda. It's a moral responsibility
for us in the world.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
BUSH: Back to Iran, just for a second. It was not my administration
that put the sanctions on Iran. That happened long before I arrived
in Washington, D.C.
In terms of Darfur, I agree, it's genocide. And Colin Powell so stated.
We have committed $200 million worth of aid. We're the leading donor
in the world to help the suffering people there. We will commit more
over time to help.
We were very much involved at the U.N. on the sanction policy of the
Bashir government in the Sudan.
Prior to Darfur, Ambassador Jack Danforth had been negotiating a north-south
agreement that we would hope would have brought peace to the Sudan.
I agree with my opponent, that we shouldn't be committing troops, that
we ought to be working with the African Union to do so. Precisely what
we did in Liberia, we helped stabilize the situation with some troops.
And when the African Union came, we moved them out. My hope is that
the African Union moves rapidly to help save lives. Fortunately, the
rainy season will be ending shortly, which will make it easier to get
aid there and help the long-suffering people there.