24 March 2003
White House Daily Briefing Transcript
(President's schedule/phone calls, Putin phone call/hardware to Iraq,
economy/President's tax cut plan/effect from war, American
POWs/pictures on TV, Iraq/humanitarian aid, National Economic
Council/meeting with the President, cost of war/coalition countries'
contribution, Iraq/WMD, amount of force used in firefights,
President's communication with American people, status of Saddam
Hussein, war cost supplemental, Iraq/third party prohibited aid,
President's personal connection to troops, reaction of Iraqis to
American troops, Chairman Greenspan visits to White House, exile for
Saddam Hussein, airline relief package?, POWs/visit from Red Cross,
Turkish troops staying out of Iraq, effect of end of war on economy,
President's relations with Prime Minister Blair) (8500)
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer briefed.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
March 24, 2003
PRESS BRIEFING BY ARI FLEISCHER
-- President's schedule, phone calls
-- Putin phone call, hardware to Iraq
-- Economy/President's tax cut plan, effect from war
-- American POWs/pictures on TV
-- Humanitarian aid to Iraqis
-- National Economic Council/meeting with the President
-- Cost of war/coalition countries' contribution
-- Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
-- Amount of force used in firefights
-- President's communication with American people
-- Status of Saddam Hussein
-- War cost supplemental
-- Third party prohibited aid to Iraq
-- President's personal connection to troops
-- Reaction of Iraqis to American troops
-- Chairman Greenspan visits to White House
-- Exile for Saddam Hussein
-- Airline relief package?
-- POWs/visit from Red Cross
-- Turkish troops staying out of Iraq
-- Effect of end of war on economy
-- President's relations with Prime Minister Blair
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
March 24, 2003
PRESS BRIEFING BY ARI FLEISCHER
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:00 P.M. EST
MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you a report on the
President's day. The President this morning has spoken with three
foreign leaders. He began with Prime Minister Blair, where the two
discussed the ongoing aspects of Operation Iraqi liberation. The
President also spoke with President Putin to discuss the situation
involving Iraq. They discussed cooperation on humanitarian issues.
They both reiterated their strong support for the U.S.-Russia
partnership, and agreed to continue, despite the differences that the
two have over Iraq. And the two also discussed the United States'
concerns, which President Bush discussed, involving prohibited
hardware that has been transferred from Russian companies to Iraq.
Following the call, the President also spoke with Prime Minister Aznar
The President also today had his intelligence briefing, FBI briefing,
called a meeting of the National Security Council. Following the
meeting with the NSC, the President met with the Secretary of Defense.
He has just completed a lunch with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the
Residence. And later today, the President will also meet in the Oval
Office with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve and the Secretary of
the Treasury. This is immediately prior to the meeting the President
is having with the National Economic Council, where the President will
talk about the state of the economy.
Later this afternoon, the President will welcome to the White House a
bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders to talk about the
supplemental appropriation bill that the President intends to send to
the Congress to fund the war costs.
And that's my report on the President's day. I'm happy to take your
QUESTION: Did the President tell President Putin that he was just
concerned, or angry about turning over hardware that's being used
against U.S. troops? And how recently was this hardware turned over,
before or after the war broke out?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, we are very concerned that there are reports of
ongoing cooperation and support to Iraqi military forces being
provided by a Russian company that produces GPS jamming equipment.
This is what was discussed in the phone call. There are other causes
of concern, as well, involving night-vision goggles and anti-tank
guided missiles. So we do have concerns that some aspects of this may
be ongoing. Those concerns were raised in the phone call today.
President Putin assured President Bush that he would look into it, and
President Bush said he looked forward to hearing the results.
Q: Just to be clear, by saying ongoing -- there are reports, U.S.
intelligence reports, or media reports, that the jamming equipment has
been delivered since the war began?
MR. FLEISCHER: I assure you the President does not make comments to
foreign leaders based only on media reports. We have concerns; those
concerns have been expressed at the highest levels, and these are
concerns that have been expressed repeatedly over the last quite some
little while. This is not the first instance in which these concerns
have been raised with officials. Senior U.S. government officials have
repeatedly raised this issue with their Russian counterparts over the
past year, in the hopes that the Russian government will move
aggressively to cut the cooperation from this company, or the
Q: That's my point, this is not the first time the United States has
raised this concern --
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q: -- aren't we looking for more than just that we're concerned here?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, again, I'm not going to give you the verbatims on
a presidential phone call, but I've expressed to you the concerns that
we have in the United States about this. And as I said this morning,
we find these actions to be disturbing.
Q: Have they been going on since the war began?
MR. FLEISCHER: I said these concerns have been raised going back now
almost a year.
Q: Ari, a question about the economy --
MR. FLEISCHER: Over the past year, is how I would put it.
Q: A question about the economy. Why shouldn't Americans expect that
at a time when the administration is asking Congress for a lot of
money for the war and its aftermath, on the order of, I guess, between
$70 billion and $90 billion, that that shouldn't have some impact on
the President's domestic economic plan, particularly his tax cut?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me cite to you some of the reasons that guide the
President when he seeks to make sure that the economy can grow and
that jobs can be created, so that when our men and women in the
military return home, they'll have jobs to come home to. This is not
the first time the United States has gotten into a military conflict
of some type of prolonged nature in the past, where a President pushed
the Congress to enact tax cuts.
Quote -- "We shall, therefore, neither postpone our tax cut plans, nor
cut into essential national security programs. This administration is
determined to protect America's security and survival. We are also
determined to step up its economic growth. I think we must do both."
That statement was made by President John F. Kennedy on December 14th,
1962, at a time when the United States government spent three times,
as a percentage of the GDP, what we spend today on military and
Q: Why is that analogous to the current state of the economy in 2003?
That's a Democrat, that's terrific. But, I mean, was the -- what was
the size of the deficit at that point?
MR. FLEISCHER: It's not that it's a Democrat. The point being that
it's important to push for economic growth and to keep the country
strong. The two go hand in hand.
Q: You're quoting -- you're quoting old quotes. But what about the
question of, can Americans expect an impact?
MR. FLEISCHER: Because it still is valid. The stronger the economy,
the stronger we are as a country. The stronger we are as a country,
the stronger our military.
Q: Hold on, wait a second.
MR. FLEISCHER: Bill.
Q: Why should the American public expect that you can accomplish that
at the same time that you want to fund an extremely costly
prescription drug benefit? I mean, isn't the administration giving the
public a false sense of being able to do it all?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, this will be a matter that the Congress will
decide. And this is why the President is very pleased with the
progress that's been made in the Congress on passing of his budget. If
you take a look at what both the House and the Senate have done, you
see the budget is moving along and moving along rather nicely.
Q: Has the President made any comment to you about the showing of POW
pictures on television? Has he said anything to you about how the war
is going, given the expectation on the part of some that it would have
gone faster, that it would have proceeded more efficiently than it
seems to have?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. What he said to me is just what you heard
yesterday. The President was asked the very same questions yesterday,
and the President answered them. And the President knows that we are
making good progress in the war to disarm Saddam Hussein, as has been
reported regularly from CENTCOM. There have been setbacks, there have
been casualties. Yesterday was a tough day. But when you take a look
at the overall plan, as the President has made repeatedly clear, we
are indeed making progress.
Q: What about the POW pictures? Has he asked to see them?
MR. FLEISCHER: Nothing to report since the President shared that with
Q: In terms of the pictures, the administration is upset because it is
a violation of the Geneva Accords, you say --
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct.
Q: Are we following the Geneva Accords --
MR. FLEISCHER: Of course.
Q: -- in Iraq and Guantanamo?
MR. FLEISCHER: There are two different situations. You have the war
against terrorism, and then you have this conflict, which is much more
of a traditional conflict. And we have always treated people humanely,
consistent with international agreements. In the case of the fight in
Iraq, there's no question that it's being done in accordance with the
Q: How about the detainees in Guantanamo? They have no rights under
the Geneva Accords?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I just indicated, we always treat them humanely,
Q: The Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Ivanov, has just said Russia has
observed all U.N. sanctions, not supplied military equipment to Iraq.
He said the U.S. has had several inquiries. He said, our experts have
checked these inquiries meticulously, including a recent one, and did
not find any proof. He's lying?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, those statements were made prior to the
statements that were made this morning by the White House. And I'm
certain now with the phone call that was made to the President, Russia
will take a look at what their Russian companies are doing. That's
exactly what the Foreign Minister's boss told the President of the
United States he would do.
Q: Does the President consider that anyone who is arming our enemy is
MR. FLEISCHER: I expressed to you that the relations between the
United States and Russia are important relations that the two
Presidents are dedicated to keeping. There are problems. This clearly
is a problem that needs to be resolved. And this is why it came up in
the phone call. This is why it's disturbing. And this is why the two
have talked about it, for the purpose of resolving it.
Q: And one more on the humanitarian situation. In Basra, the Red Cross
and others are saying 40 percent of that large city's population now
cannot get access to water, to drinkable water. It is a humanitarian
emergency. The President said about 24 hours ago that within 36 hours
massive humanitarian assistance would flow into Southern Iraq. Does he
still expect that?
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, the President's statement was that massive
humanitarian relief would begin to flow in 36 hours, and everything is
being done possible to get that humanitarian relief to the people.
One of the central focuses of all the military planning was to make
certain that humanitarian supplies were able to reach the people of
Iraq as quickly as possible. You may want to talk to CENTCOM and
others involved in it to see what the Iraqis have left behind that
would hinder the flow of humanitarian relief. But, nevertheless, that
is part of the planning.
Q: Ari, this will be the second time today that Chairman Greenspan has
been at the White House. Can you say a little -- give a little bit
more on what kinds of advice you're seeking from him at this time?
And, secondly, can you give a little more information on the National
Economic Council meeting, what kinds of topics it will address?
MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. One, in terms of Chairman Greenspan, he is an
occasional visitor to the White House where he speaks and meets
privately with either the President or other senior administration
officials to talk about the economy. That's no surprise. It's nothing
new to this administration. The President will meet with him for one
of those periodic meetings today and then go into the meeting of the
National Economic Council.
The purpose of the meeting is to bring the economic team together --
they met several weeks ago -- but to discuss again the status of the
economy, growth signs in the economy, trends in the economy, and to
talk broadly about where the economy is going. The trends in the
economy remain mixed. The economy is indeed growing, and different
pockets have different growth rates. Clearly, the economy has emerged
from the recession it was in, but it's an issue that the President is
still focused on and concerned about, because we want to make sure
that people can work.
Q: Do you expect some discussion of the war's impact to date on the
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll try to give you a read after the meeting.
Q: And have you reached a decision on airline aid?
MR. FLEISCHER: If there is anything to report, we will report it at
the appropriate time.
Q: You mentioned that the President is going do discuss with the
congressional leadership today the cost of the war and the initial
occupation and rebuilding, so forth. What efforts, if any, are being
made at this point to seek contributions from the coalition of the
willing or any other nations out there, either to the direct military
costs or to whatever comes after?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I mentioned, interestingly, with the phone
call with President Putin, talking about the importance of
humanitarian relief, there is a commitment from nations to help in
humanitarian aspects of helping the Iraqi people with the
reconstruction costs that will be incurred. So there will be some
effort. But clearly, this is going to be something the United States
is taking the lead in and we will continue to talk to our friends and
Q: Is it your assumption at this point that United States is going to
bear the overwhelming majority of the costs, both for the military and
for the postwar?
MR. FLEISCHER: Dick, I think you'd have to wait and see what other
nations decide to do in the end here, what costs they will participate
in. And, as well, it remains to be seen what costs are incurred. Of
course, with the precision capabilities of the military, there are
going to be costs, but it's impossible to say what those costs will
Q: Ari, are you surprised that there have not been more chemical and
biological weapons found so far? And why has there not been more of an
effort up front to try to seize and control these weapons so they're
not used against American troops?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can just report to you what the President said
yesterday; he's thankful that it has not been used. And anything
dealing with seizing or anything of that nature, you have to talk to
the Pentagon about.
Q: Well, right. But you speak every day about weapons of mass
destruction. Is that -- is this should be any indication that this is
less important than territorial gain or seizing oil wells that we have
not done this sort of thing?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think if you're asking about plans that would
result in the seizure of WMD, things of that nature, that's something
that General Franks is briefed on in the Gulf, and I would refer you
to his words.
Q: The surprise element -- you're not surprised that they haven't been
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I think there can be a variety of factors behind
it. But as we have said repeatedly, we have information that Iraq has
possessed biological, and possesses biological and chemical weapons.
Q: Ari, two questions: First, on the issue of the conversation with
President Putin about the Russian technology. Is it the United States
government's concern solely that Russia or a Russian company
transferred to Iraq this GPS-jamming equipment? Or did the President
discuss concerns that perhaps there are Russian advisors inside Iraq
now helping the Iraqis use this equipment?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the issue that was raised in the phone call was the
transfer from Russian companies to Iraqi authorities of this
Q: And this is probably isolated, but there have been grumblings
today, both from a Marine unit -- members of a Marine unit and members
of an Army unit, that one of their concerns in these firefights is
that they're not being allowed to use enough force. Is there any
concern here that because of the admirable goals of trying to protect
Iraqi civilians and Iraqi infrastructure that Americans are being put
at risk in some of these skirmishes because they're not allowed, in
the cases of Iraqis shooting at them from residential areas where
there are civilians, to use overwhelming force to go after them?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is very satisfied that the rules of
engagement are rules of engagement that are to be set by the experts
who fight and win wars. And that's the Pentagon. The Pentagon makes
the determinations about the exact tactical operations that are to be
pursued to disarm Saddam Hussein and to engaged in whatever conflicts
or firefights our men and women are involved in. The President is
satisfied with that. And those are questions, again, to DOD.
Q: Ari, another question on the Russian equipment. Do you have any
evidence that the GPS-jamming devices or the night-vision goggles or
anything else is being used right now by Iraqi forces against American
MR. FLEISCHER: We have credible evidence that Russian companies
provided the assistance and the prohibited hardware to the Iraqi
regime. That's why we have found these actions to be disturbing.
Beyond that -- I'm not prepared to say with any level of specificity
beyond that. But we have concerns they were provided. They were not
provided for the purpose of sitting on shelves.
Q: So you don't know for sure that they're being used right now, but
you are concerned that they might be?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, I think I've expressed it.
Q: The President's schedule has been quite curtailed for the last
couple of weeks, with almost no public events. That seems to have
changed, starting last night, today, the rest of the week. He plans a
trip on Wednesday. Has the President made a decision that it's time
for him to be much more visible to the American people at this point
in the conflict?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but I think that in the initial 24, 48 hours in the
military conflict beginning, the President, of course, addressed the
nation to explain that it was going to begin, and why. And then the
President thought that the best spokespeople for detailed
understanding for the country of what is being pursued on the ground
should come from Secretary Rumsfeld, General Myers and the DOD
Of course, the President will continue to be very up front and visible
and talk to the American people about what is happening, why it's
happening. And that's planned for the events that we've already
reported to you this week, for example, the President's trip tomorrow,
the President's trip Wednesday. You have that information already.
Q: Particularly as the news gets worse and American casualties mount,
does the President feel that it's important to be able to communicate
with the American people about why this is -- these are necessary
MR. FLEISCHER: The President, regardless of what happens with
casualties or the pace of casualties, the President knows it is always
important and part of his job to communicate with the American people,
and that's why he will continue to do it.
Q: Let me pick up on that point. Is there a concern that the American
public might have, at least for the first few days, gotten the sense
that this was going to be easier than, in fact, it is proving to be?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I can't speak for the public's understanding, of
course. But I can say that the President has always said that this
would be long and the risk being hard. If you recall, the President
taped his radio address on Friday, and he taped it Friday morning, as
I reported to you on Friday. And in the radio address, the President
said Friday morning that this could be longer and harder than some
people have thought. So this has always been part of the war planning.
This has been built into the work that has been done by our leaders
and the Pentagon, has been reflected as part of the President's
Q: Can you bring us up to date on the thinking about Saddam Hussein,
any comments you have on the most recent tape that was broadcast, and
what the current thinking is about his status?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, a review of the latest tape gives no reason for
anybody to think that this is anything fresh. No one has any
indication on whether it is canned or whether it is fresh. And that's
the nature of the tape, that's the nature of the comments that he's
made. Reviewing the tape does not lead anybody to a conclusion that
this is something fresh.
Q: Is there anything -- any particular part of his comments that give
you some suggestion about when it might have been recorded, or the
extent to which it was recorded on this particular day?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll just leave it at that.
Q: If I could ask one other thing about the Russian thing. Do you have
any indication that the materials we're talking about -- the GPS
jammers and so forth -- were sent into Iraq on humanitarian aid
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't have that level of information.
Q: Yesterday the President told us that he had extended his -- he was
grieving with the families of those who had been killed in Iraq. Do
you know, has he personally extended his condolences to those
MR. FLEISCHER: Greg, any communication that the President would or
would not have would be private. And I would treat it that way. So
there really is no light I'm going to shed on that. Anything would be
private, if there is.
Q: On the war supplemental, how important is it for the President to
have broadened or expanded flexibility on the use of the funds in
order to meet needs as they arise on the war front? Is he seeking any
MR. FLEISCHER: You're referring to homeland security funding, or the
Q: The overall, on both -- there's a homeland security piece and a
military piece, right?
MR. FLEISCHER: Right.
Q: So is he seeking some expanded flexibility in terms of the use of
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, there will be some areas that have been
delineated because of the costs incurred. And that's why the proposal
is going up to have supplemental go to pay for those costs that have
already been incurred or are immediately anticipated. But, broadly
speaking, the President's approach that is that this needs to be --
the money in the supplemental needs to be appropriate for the ongoing
operational mission, as well as for the costs that have been incurred
to date to lead up to this mission.
Q: Back on the Russian equipment. First of all, in your answer to
Terry's question, did you mean to imply that President Putin retracted
the denials that Foreign Secretary Ivanov had made earlier?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I just said that he would look into it.
Q: Did he repeat those denials?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm going to leave all details of the conversation
beyond this between the two Presidents. But he said he would look into
Q: Do you know for certain that Ivanov spoke before you spoke this
morning on this issue?
MR. FLEISCHER: I do. I saw it on the wire before I spoke this morning.
In fact, the wire said, speaking before the White House spokesman
spoke, the Russian Foreign Minister spoke. (Laughter.)
Q: Second question. Your answer -- you said that you couldn't go
beyond that -- is that because you don't know if this equipment has
been brought to bare yet, or you know and you won't say?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm just going to leave it where I left it.
Q: Ari, you said that this concern about this Russian equipment goes
back at least a year. Has the President ever had a personal
conversation about it with President Putin before? And is this
equipment that would be banned under the terms of the surrender back
MR. FLEISCHER: I couldn't tell you about under the surrender. But, of
course, under the surrender does apply to the United Nations
sanctions, and this type of material is prohibited to be transferred
to Iraq. Iraq is not allowed to purchase this type of material under
United Nations resolutions.
Q: How about the conversation? Has the President ever had a personal
conversation with President Putin about this before?
MR. FLEISCHER: These issues have been raised repeatedly at various
levels of the government, and now they have reached the highest levels
Q: So they haven't had a conversation about it before this?
MR. FLEISCHER: Not to my knowledge. It has been raised repeatedly at
other levels of the government.
Q: Following up, the Director General of the Russian company that
produces the GPS jamming devices suggests that any transfer that may
have taken place would have come from potentially a third party,
another country. Have you written that off?
And, as a follow-up, he also suggested that the Iraqis at this point
may very well be able to produce this technology themselves, just
through an old-fashioned knock-off program, technology knock-off
program. Can you also address that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The issue is just as I described it. The President
raised with President Putin our ongoing concerns about support would
be provided for Iraqi military forces by Russian companies that
produced the equipment.
Q: In a related follow-up, several sources have suggested that there
was an uptick in activity by third party -- third parties, other
nations that may be sympathetic to the Iraqis. Are we confident that
there hasn't been other kinds of technology or weaponry that were
transferred to the Iraqis in the closing days before the attack?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say that one of the issues the
President has repeatedly talked about was, as he put it in the year
2000, that the sanctions which prohibited the Iraqis from receiving
weapons like this were made of Swiss cheese. There were so many holes
in the sanctions that Iraq was able to get ahold of equipment of a
variety of natures that it was prohibited from having. Iraq also had
oil wealth. It was diverting the oil-for-food program in an effort to
acquire more information or more material that they were prohibited
And this is one of the reasons that the President, when he reached the
decision to authorize force, had watched the diplomacy fail, the
sanctions fail, the smart sanctions fail, the use of pinpoint military
operations fail. Iraq continued to defy the world, and it had help
from several quarters in doing so.
Q: Ari, you said that any communications with family members of
soldiers would be private. And that's fine, we can respect that. But
can you just confirm whether, in fact, he's had any contact with those
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm just going to leave it where I left it. If he
did or did not, it would be a private matter between the President and
Q: Does the President feel any personal connection? Does he have
anybody that he knows personally, any of the soldiers who are over
there fighting right now?
MR. FLEISCHER: I have not put that question to the President. But let
me answer more broadly because I think this is what counts the most.
It wouldn't matter to the President. What matters most the President
are the names of those he's never met, because those are the families
who make the sacrifice to answer the call of the country. That's how
the President approaches this issue -- that everybody there, who he
may have never met, whose family he may never meet, is someone who is
very close to his heart because they are serving our country. They
volunteered for service, and now they are in service in wartime. And
that's how the President approaches it, and he thinks about it, and
it's a part of his heart.
I think you all have been with him when you've seen him on recent
travels where he has met with families of those who serve our country
in the military, and how touched he is by their service. And that's
how the President approaches it.
Q: Would you find out from him, Ari, if he has anybody that he knows?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'll see if he wants to say anything of that or not. I
don't know if he will.
Q: Ari, given what we've been told about Saddam Hussein's regime, I
think a lot of Americans are surprised that we haven't seen scenes of
widespread jubilation, at least in some of the areas under coalition
control. Why do you think that is? We saw in Afghanistan in areas that
had been removed from Taliban control. Why not Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, let me remind you what you saw in Afghanistan
also didn't happen on the 5th or 6th day. I mean, there is a certain
amount of time here. The mission has only just begun. Saddam Hussein
still has rather lethal pockets of resistance that have been left
behind in different places. And the presence of those forces has still
created some fear in the Iraqi people, which is justifiable given the
way Saddam Hussein's military forces and security forces have treated
people who spoke out or showed their desire to be free from Saddam's
oppression. So we already have seen, indeed, in some areas -- and I've
seen in many of your newspapers and magazines pictures of jubilant
Iraqis. Of course, there was a picture of an Iraqi attacking a picture
of Saddam Hussein with a shoe that was widely disseminated around the
world. People saw that.
So I think you have seen it. I suspect that as the security situation
becomes more stable in many of these areas, you'll see more of it.
Q: Does that also apply in terms of the military forces that -- again,
in Afghanistan there were forces that actually switched sides.
Although we've seen some surrenders, we haven't seen any side
switches. Is that the same explanation, that you think the reign of
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't think you can compare the two in that sense.
Afghanistan has had a history of tribal fights in which people would
often change sides. That's not quite the case here. We do not expect
Iraqis to change sides and become American soldiers.
Q: Ari, just for clarity sake, you said the GPS jammers are part of
ongoing concerns. But does that mean that the night-vision goggles and
the anti-tank -- that that transfer has ceased? And, secondly, you
also said that Chairman Greenspan has been an occasional visitor and
he has visited occasionally. But he's been here three times in the
last two days. Why is he here so often?
MR. FLEISCHER: You say three times in the last two days. I think he
was here meeting with staff last week. He met with staff this morning.
He'll meet with the President. As I indicated, he meets with staff.
It's just not my habit to read out every staff member's meeting with
everybody in Washington, D.C. If I did that, we'd never take any
questions; it would all be about what staffers met with whom. So I
can't speak to every staff meeting that somebody has.
Q: It's clearly an increased presence here at the White House.
MR. FLEISCHER: How do you know that? If I haven't read out the staff
meetings before, I don't think you have really much of a basis to
compare whether he's here on an increased or the same level as always.
The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, as part of his duties in this
administration and in all administrations, meets with the most senior
staff to discuss economic matters and meets with the President
Q: On that basis --
MR. FLEISCHER: On a periodic basis.
Q: But a periodic -- three times in two days? He's here that often?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know what you're making of that. But whatever
the facts are, he meets with staff from time to time.
Q: On the GPS -- you didn't answer the first question on the GPS --
MR. FLEISCHER: I do not have any type of breakdown specifically on
night vision versus GPS versus anti-tank guided missiles. We have
concerns about all of them.
Q: Ari, on Friday, the door still seemed to be a little bit open to
exile. Over the weekend, there were some setbacks -- the President had
comments on it yesterday -- there were apparent war crimes, executing
American GIs in Iraq. Is the door now effectively closed to any
arrangement for exile of Saddam and the leadership of Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, you heard the President say yesterday he gave
Saddam the 48 hours to leave the country to avoid military conflict
and he did not take him up on that. But I think if you look
realistically now, there -- it's a hard thing to imagine that Saddam
would now take advantage of it. We still are hoping for every
opportunity that results in settling this as peacefully as possible.
But I think you have to be realistic about what Saddam plans to do.
Q: Last week Northwest Airlines laid off several thousand employees,
blaming the war. Why hasn't the administration taken a position on an
airline relief package? And would it oppose congressional efforts to
add such a package to the war supplemental?
MR. FLEISCHER: We continue to consult with the airlines. Meetings have
been held here between administration economic advisors and the
airlines. The airlines, of course, even prior to September 11th, were
not in as strong a financial condition as they would have liked.
September 11th made it harder, and a large package was passed to help
the airlines with that. Of course, conditions now, prior to the war,
also had an economic impact on the airlines, separate and apart from
anything that's happened in Iraq. So we will continue to work with
them and to listen to them, and I'm not going to prejudge all
Q: Senator Lott and Senator McCain sent a letter last week which has
not been answered yet. When -- is the administration going to take a
position in time to consider it as part of the war supplemental?
MR. FLEISCHER: As I mentioned, we'll continue to work with the
Congress on this and listen to various advice we have. I can't predict
Q: Ari, yesterday the President said -- someone asked him if he
thought that the POWs would be coming back, and he said, of course.
Well, the first -- the first response that we understand the White
House or the military should be making is with the Red Cross to see
how the POWs are. Has the White House gotten any information as to
when the Red Cross will be going in to see them?
MR. FLEISCHER: That information would be handled by the Department of
Defense through our officials in the Gulf. That would not be the Red
Cross conveying that to the White House. So again, I understand the
sensitivity on this issue, but this still remains an operational
matter involving our prisoners and our forces, and you'd have to
address it to DOD.
Q: For the President Bush to make that statement, does he feel
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think, April, you might want to take a look at
the exact question he was asked. I think the question was, are there
things that can be done to make sure they come home, and the President
said, of course. I don't think it was a guarantee.
Q: But for him to make that, "of course," it kind of leaves the
impression, at least with me, that the Red Cross is involved, and once
they get in -- that's a sign, once they get in and look, that is a
clear signal that they could be coming home, if things could be
MR. FLEISCHER: Let us hope that is the case.
Q: Anything new on the Turkish front, and what is the President doing
to make sure Turkish troops stay out of Northern Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: The position vis-a-vis Turkey is well-known. We said it
repeatedly. And we have American officials who are in contact with
Turkish officials on a regular basis to make certain they understand
our position, and that continues.
Q: Have we gotten any assurances that they will stay out?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think that there are ongoing conversations
about this. And our position is unchanged, it's been made very clear.
And we continue to talk to Turkish officials about it. There were many
reports previously that Turkish forces had crossed the border, and
none of those had materialized. But it does remain a matter of ongoing
discussion and concern.
Q: You said that Presidents Bush and Putin discussed cooperation on
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q: But the Russians say that Putin urged the President to avoid, "a
humanitarian catastrophe." Was this conversation perhaps a bit more
contentious than you've indicated?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but I think it's fair to say that President Bush
and President Putin have a good personal relationship, and it's also
marked by being a good, frank relationship. The two of them are
comfortable saying directly to each other what they think. That's the
mark of a strong relationship.
What I've noticed in diplomacy is oftentimes when people don't speak
directly to each other about what they think, it's the mark of
relations that are not as strong as they otherwise could be. So the
two leaders do speak directly to each other, they speak frankly to
each other. They hold each other in high personal regard.
Nevertheless, there are some differences in our views about situations
in Iraq. I've walked you through several of them today.
Q: So what's your frank appraisal of the Russians' concern about the
U.S. provoking a humanitarian catastrophe?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think the differences there are well-known and
obvious. Russia did not think that military force should be used to
disarm Saddam Hussein. Russia did not see the threat of Saddam Hussein
the same way the United States, in the post 9/11 world, saw the threat
from Saddam Hussein. So that's not surprising. But what is important
is that, especially when it comes to humanitarian issues, that we are
able to work together. That remains important.
Q: Can you preview the Pentagon event tomorrow? And on the
supplemental, is this designed to cover the entire cost of the war, or
this just a big down payment?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President will travel to the Pentagon tomorrow to
announce the amount of money that he is seeking from Congress to fund
the war. The funding the President will seek will cover not only the
operational and ongoing costs incurred to fight the war, but will also
include funding for vital homeland security programs at home and some
other programs, too.
Q: And do you expect this to be enough?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's correct. That's why the President is making the
request he's making.
Q: Has the White House done an analysis or projection of how they
expect this war to affect the U.S. economy? And if so, can you share
with us what that is? Do we expect it to get worse before it gets
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think, frankly, if you talk to economists, none
of whom would be able to agree what a war of an undetermined duration
would do to the economy, the big issue is the uncertainty that the
pre-war period had created in the economy. I think you saw that in a
variety of areas. I think economists would continue to tell you that
for the duration of the war, people may still hold off on some of
their major capital expenditure decisions in the private sector. That
remains an issue. And the President has always said that if force is
used, the purpose of using force is to disarm Saddam Hussein. He's
aware of the implications the use of force can have on the economy.
But what is driving him is the military necessity of protecting the
American people first.
Q: Have you all done a formal analysis then --
MR. FLEISCHER: Not that I'm aware of, Bob. I don't know how anybody
could do a formal analysis when there are as many variables as there
are. But I'm not aware of one, if there is.
Q: If America cannot win the war in a short time, such as two or three
weeks, or if Iraq has already used the chemical weapons, will you
think that the President will decide to use much more powerful
weapons, such as nuclear weapons?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, I'm not going to make any predictions
about the length of the war. I don't think that anybody is in position
to be able to do that. I would just remind you what the President said
and has said repeatedly, about that this is going to be longer and
harder than people have thought.
American policy, in terms of weapons, is well-known and has existed
for decades, and that we do not discuss the type of weapons that we
may use. We never have and we do not speculate about that.
Q: Just to be clear, you're saying, certainly the President has not
watched any of the footage of the prisoners of war or of the dead
Americans. He has not seen any of that himself?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, of course, the American media made a decision not
to show that footage. I understand even Al Jazeera, after initially
showing it, decided not to show it any longer. And so the President
was not able to see that. There have been some freeze-frames of it, of
course, and I'm not in a position to tell you whether he did or did
not see that. As I walked you through last week, the President will
from time to time watch some TV. But I do not play TV Guide with the
President and ask him everything he watches.
Q: The White House doesn't have an internal feed of any of the stuff
Al Jazeera was broadcasting previously?
MR. FLEISCHER: We do. But, as I indicated, Al Jazeera took it off the
Q: And also, can you preview the trip on --
MR. FLEISCHER: And, of course, tapes exist. It went out, so tapes
Q: I imagine if the President wanted to see it, you could make it
MR. FLEISCHER: The answer is, the President had not seen the video,
and I can only leave it at that. But the point being that the
President is, of course, very, very familiar with what Al Jazeera
filmed -- I'm sorry, I should back that up. The President is very
familiar with what Iraqi state TV filmed and then disseminated to
Q: But he has expressed no curiosity about wanting to see it
MR. FLEISCHER: I think the President understands what it shows.
Q: Can you preview the trip on Wednesday and what he wants to achieve
by going to visit the troops?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President on Wednesday is going to take a
trip down to Tampa to CENTCOM to our military facility there to visit
with the leaders, to get a briefing on events in the war, and also to
meet with the troops and families of the troops, in an effort to tell
them and to show them how much he respects them and how much America
Q: Ari, now according to the reports now, U.S. military have found
some chemical weapons in Iraq. You think President is mad at the U.N.
weapons inspectors who were in Iraq and they couldn't find it? And
also if he has -- and if he's going to address the General Assembly in
MR. FLEISCHER: Goyal, on the issue of chemical weapons, that's again
an issue you need to talk to DOD about what it is they find when they
go through the battlefield. Obviously, there were a number of issues
involving the inspectors which raised questions about Saddam Hussein's
successful ability to hide the weapons he had from the inspectors. And
I have nothing for you this far in advance on any September trips.
Q: The Democrats have been after the tax cut because of the projected
budget deficits, and now we have this supplemental coming on top of
that. Just as a political matter, isn't this supplemental going to
make it that much harder for the President to achieve his tax cutting
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, no, I think that the Congress has known all along
that a supplemental was coming. There have been any number of
discussions in the open media about what the range of it would be. And
it still has been a budget proposed by President Bush that is passing.
The Senate tried to pass several amendments last week to reduce the
amount of economic growth that the economy would receive by reducing
the tax cut. Those efforts were, by and large, turned back by the very
senators who understood a large supplemental was coming. So I think,
frankly, if you take a look at the actual votes of the House and votes
of the Senate, you find no basis for what you said.
Q: Do you feel like you're getting the whole package or just some of
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President thinks the best thing for the
economy would be for the entire package to pass, but it's important to
continue to work with Congress. Not everybody sees it the President's
way. The President is going to continue to work to help them to see it
his way, but Congress has a role to play here, and they're playing
Q: Just to follow up on Kemper's question, you said that the economy
had been suffering before -- earlier this year, from the overhang of
uncertainty that was depressing capital investment. Does that mean
that you expect that the end of the war will provide a stimulative
jolt to the economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but I think that what economists would tell you is
that the uncertainty created a freeze, particularly in capital
expenditures, particularly large capital expenditures and the
manufacturing in the private sector. Once the war is over, there will
be a sense of certainty that returns to the economy. There may still
be some underlying economic factors that need to be addressed. One of
the best ways, in the President's judgment, to address them is by
Congress passing an economic stimulus that helps grow the economy and
Q: You've got no sense of how much the economy -- the growth path of
the economy might be affected by the end of the war?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's nothing that I can point to. I think different
people might have different conclusions about it, which is common for
economists. But it also depends on just what the outcome is and the
duration is. So I think it's very hard to take a guess right now.
Q: Ari, has the President received any briefing in regard to the
magnitude of the civilian casualties of the war on the Iraqi side? And
how many countries do you think will be participating in the
humanitarian aid delivery in the next hours?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I don't have a count on the number of countries
that are participating. Obviously this is something the United States,
United Kingdom, Australia, other coalition allies, have been working
on as a part of the military planning. We are relying on many of the
military vehicles to help to deliver the food, deliver the water,
deliver the medicine. It's all part of the plan.
In the President's briefings, the President is briefed on the
objectives of the mission, the status of the mission. That's all that
we know on his briefings. That's all I can tell you about.
Q: How are the President's relations with Prime Minister Blair and
Prime Minister Howard holding up? His closest allies were under quite
a bit of stress from the people on their streets.
MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, it's very strong. I think that these leaders and a
number of other leaders share a point of view that military force
became necessary because Saddam Hussein refused to disarm. And they
are all watching the same events unfold. And it is the men and women
of all their militaries, as well as other nations that are
participating in this. And I think it's fair to say that these leaders
generally see events eye-to-eye.
Q: Ari? Thank you. Ari, now that France has announced it will not help
in the reconstruction of Iraq, does the President still plan to attend
the G-8 conference in Paris? If so, will he snub French President
MR. FLEISCHER: The event is on and it's scheduled. He looks forward to
Q: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 1:44 P.M. EST
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)