Transcript: Partial Text of Bush‘s News Conference
on 21 March, 2006, as transcribed by CQ Transcriptions:
QUESTION: Iraq‘s interim prime minister said Sunday that violence is killing an average of 50 to 60 people a day and that if this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is. Do you agree with Mr. Allawi that Iraq has fallen into civil war?
BUSH: I do not. There are other voices coming out of Iraq, by the way, other than Mr. Allawi — who I know, by the way; like; he‘s a good fellow.
President Talabani has spoken. General Casey the other day was quite eloquent on the subject. Zal Khalilzad, who I talk to quite frequently — listen, we all recognize that there is a violence, that there‘s sectarian violence. But the way I look at the situation is that the Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war.
A couple of indicators are that the army didn‘t bust up into sectarian divisions. The army stayed united. And, as General Casey pointed out, they did, arguably, a good job in helping to make sure the country stayed united.
Secondly, I was pleased to see the religious leaders stand up. Ayatollah Sistani, for example, was very clear in his denunciation of violence and the need for the country to remain united.
The political leaders, who represent different factions of the Iraqi society, have committed themselves to moving forward on a unity government.
And no question that the enemy has tried to spread sectarian violence.
They use violence as a tool to do that. You know, they‘re willing to kill innocent people.
The reports of bound Sunnis that were executed are horrific. And it‘s obviously something we‘re going to have to deal with; and, more importantly, the Iraqis are going to have to deal with it.
But I see progress. You know, I‘ve heard people say, Oh, you know, he‘s just kind of optimistic for the sake of optimism. Well, look, I believe we‘re going to succeed.
And I understand how tough it is. Don‘t get me wrong. I mean, you make it abundantly clear how tough it is.
I hear it from our troops. I read the reports every night.
But I believe the Iraqis — this is a moment when the Iraqis had a chance to fall apart and they didn‘t. And that‘s a positive development.
QUESTION: Thank you. You describe Iran as a threat. Yet you‘re close to opening talks with them about Iraq. What would be the objective in these talks if they are not negotiations? And is there a risk of getting drawn into the nuclear issue?
BUSH: Thanks for asking that question. A couple of months ago, I gave Zal, our ambassador in Iraq, permission to explain to the Iranians what we didn‘t like about their involvement in Iraq.
BUSH: I thought it was important for them to hear firsthand, other than through press accounts. He asked whether or not it made sense for him to be able to talk to a representative in Baghdad.
I said: Absolutely. You make it clear to them that attempts to spread sectarian violence or to maybe move parts that could be used for IEDs is unacceptable to the United States.
It is very important for the Iranians to understand that any relationship between Iraq and Iran will be negotiated between those two countries.
Iraq is a sovereign government. They have a foreign policy. And when they get their unity government stepped up, they will be in charge of negotiating with the Iranians their foreign policy arrangement.
So this is a way for us to make it clear to them that — about what‘s right or wrong in their activities inside of Iraq.
Secondly, our negotiations with Iran on the nuclear weapons will be led by the E.U.-3. And that‘s important because the Iranians must hear there‘s a unified voice about — that says that they shall not have a capacity to make a nuclear weapon and/or the knowledge as to how to make a nuclear weapon for the sake of security of the world.
It‘s important for our citizens to understand that we‘ve got to deal with this issue diplomatically now.
And the reason why is because if the Iranians were to have a nuclear weapon, they could blackmail the world; if the Iranians were to have a nuclear weapon, they could proliferate.
This is a country that is walking away from international accords. They‘re not heading toward the international accords. They‘re not welcoming the international inspections or safeguard measures that they had agreed to.
And so our policy for the Iranians in terms of the nuclear program is to continue to work with the E.U.-3 as well as Russia and China.
Later on this week, there‘s going to be a P-5 — that‘s diplomatic sloganeering for the permanent members of the Security Council — plus Germany, in working together to make sure that the message remains unified and concerted.
If you‘re a nontransparent society, you‘ve got a negotiating advantage over six parties, because all you have to do is, kind of, try to find, you know, a — the weakest link in the negotiating team. And so, our job is to make sure that this kind of international will remains strong and united, so that we can solve this issue diplomatically.
Helen, after that brilliant performance at the Gridiron, I am ...
QUESTION: You‘re going to be sorry.
BUSH: Well, then, let me take it back.
QUESTION: I‘d like to ask you, Mr. President — your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.
Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, your Cabinet officers, former Cabinet officers, intelligence people and so forth — but what‘s your real reason? You have said it wasn‘t oil, the quest for oil. It hasn‘t been Israel or anything else. What was it?
BUSH: I think your premise, in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist — that I didn‘t want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect.
QUESTION: And ...
BUSH: Hold on for a second, please. Excuse me. Excuse me.
No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it‘s just simply not true.
My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. When we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people.
Our foreign policy changed on that day. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life.
And I‘m never going to forget it. And I‘m never going to forget the vow I made to the American people, that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.
Part of that meant to make sure that we didn‘t allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy, and that‘s why I went into Iraq.
BUSH: Hold on for a second. Excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al-Qaida.
BUSH: Helen, excuse me.
That‘s where — Afghanistan provided safe haven for al-Qaida. That‘s where they trained, that‘s where they plotted, that‘s where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.
I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That‘s why I went to the Security Council. That‘s why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed.
And the world said, Disarm, disclose or face serious consequences. And therefore, we worked with the world. We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world.
And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did. And the world is safer for it.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld ...
BUSH: You‘re welcome.
I didn‘t really regret it. I kind of semi-regretted it.
BUSH: That‘s right.
Anyway, your performance at the Gridiron was just brilliant, unlike Holland‘s (ph) which was a little weak.
QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld has said that if civil war should break out in Iraq, he‘s hopeful that Iraqi forces can handle it.
If they can‘t, sir, are you willing to sacrifice American lives to keep Iraqis from killing one another?
BUSH: I think the first step is to make sure a civil war doesn‘t break out. And that‘s why we‘re working with the leaders there in Baghdad to form a unity government.
Obviously, if there is difficulty on the streets, the first line of defense for that difficulty will be the Iraqi forces, which have proved themselves in the face of potential sectarian violence, right after the bombing of the mosque in
Source: Brocktown News