11 April 2003
White House Daily Briefing Transcript
(President's schedule, Saddam Hussein/regime status, victory in
war/definition, Iraq/security, Iraqi oil, interim authority, tax plan,
Iraq/reconstruction, Iraq/humanitarian relief, Canada, Syria,
President visits soldiers, Russia/Germany/France role in Iraq,
Iraq/media coverage) (5590)
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer briefed.
Following is the White House transcript:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
April 11, 2003
PRESS BRIEFING INDEX
-- President's daily schedule
-- Saddam Hussein/regime status
-- Victory in war, definition
-- Security in Iraq
-- Iraqi oil
-- Interim authority
-- Tax plan
-- Iraq reconstruction
-- Humanitarian relief in Iraq
-- President's visit with soldiers today
-- Russia/Germany/France role in Iraq
-- Media coverage in Iraq
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
April 11, 2003
PRESS BRIEFING BY ARI FLEISCHER
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:15 P.M. EDT
MR. FLEISCHER: Let us begin. The President began his day with a phone
call to President Arroyo of the Philippines. They discussed
developments in Iraq. The two leaders reviewed coalition progress in
Iraq and discussed the next steps in the next steps in the liberation
of the Iraqi people.
President Bush thanked President Arroyo for her early and steadfast
leadership on Iraq, and expressed appreciation for the Philippines'
commitment to provide immediate post-conflict assistance.
The two leaders discussed developments in the war on terror in the
Philippines. President Bush reaffirmed the strong U.S. commitment to
support the Philippines in their efforts to defeat terrorism, and the
two leaders agreed to continue to consult closely.
The President also told President Arroyo that he looked forward to her
State Visit later this spring.
The President also today spoke with Italian President Berlusconi. They
discussed the progress on the war. He thanked President Berlusconi for
his strong leadership in showing his support for the United States and
Then the President had an intelligence briefing, FBI briefing,
National Security Council meeting. He met with the Secretary of
Defense. And later today the President will depart from the White
House to visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Bethesda Naval
Medical Center, where he will visit with wounded soldiers, sailors and
Marines, all of whom were injured in Iraq -- one of whom who was
injured in Operation Enduring Freedom.
The President looks forward to the visit. He recognizes that this is
an important part of his role as Commander-in-Chief, to bring
consolation and comfort to the families of those who will be gathered
there with the brave warriors who were wounded on the field of battle.
The President will present Purple Hearts to many of these people. And
as well, he will witness two Marines become United States citizens.
These are people who served our country and today will become citizens
of our country.
One final item before I take your questions. The President has also
sent to the Senate for ratification the treaty to expand NATO. The
President is very pleased that NATO has reached an agreement that he
hopes will be ratified by the Senate to enable Bulgaria, Estonia,
Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to become
full-fledged members of NATO. These are our partners in a powerful and
important alliance. The President is delighted that these brave
countries of Eastern Europe have been granted entry into NATO. He
hopes the Senate will ratify the treaty required to expand it in a
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Ari, you said earlier today that Saddam Hussein's regime has
lost control, that it's gone out of Baghdad. What's most likely to
have happened? Is it thought that Hussein and some of the senior
leaders are dead? Or have they moved to another part of the country
where there could yet be intense fighting? Or have they left the
country? What is, without certainty, the most operational theory out
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it could be any of the above. We don't know. As
you know, General Brooks this morning briefed, talked very similarly
about the status of those leading Iraqis that we remain to have an
interest in, on their whereabouts, whether they are alive, whether
they are dead, whether they're there, whether they have fled or
whether they're hiding. It could be all of the above.
Q: Can victory be declared in this war without accounting, for not
just Saddam Hussein but those leading figures?
MR. FLEISCHER: Let me deal with the speculation about victory and
whether the President will declare victory, what victory would look
like, what criteria he's looking for, because the answer from the
President's point of view is it is much too soon to be discussing it.
We remain in the middle of a conflict. Yes, indeed, the regime has
ended, as General Franks said this morning. But, yes, indeed, fighting
remains. It is still a battlefield. While the central command and
control elements of the regime have been collapsed, there remain
pockets of loyalists who continue to fight and present harm for our
So from the President's point of view, it is a matter that he is not
yet speculating about. He continues to work -- in the middle of a war
-- to make certain that we win the war.
Q: Sorry. So he hasn't thought about what would constitute victory?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is not yet ready to publicly speculate
about what it is he would say or when he would say it.
Q: That's not the question. You're turning the question around. The
question is, what has to happen for victory to be achieved?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just what I told you this morning. The President has
always said the mission is the disarmament of Iraq and liberation for
the Iraqi people.
Q: And, therefore, it is securing those weapons of mass destruction,
and until that's done --
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has always said that is the mission. I am
not going to be able to shed any more light on when the President will
say the mission is accomplished.
Q: But you just laid it out there that disarmament of Iraq,
"disarmament" meaning weapons of mass destruction, correct?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has always said that is the mission, but
I'm not going to define for you what the President will later define
Q: There's a lot of looting going on, obviously, in Baghdad and other
parts of Iraq. And it seems, based on the reporters talking to
ordinary citizens, a great deal of fear among people in Iraq about the
collapse in civic order. How concerned is the President that that
might undermine the liberation that has been achieved, that it's a
serious problem? And what can be done about it?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, what people are witnessing on the events that the
camera is catching inside Baghdad is very similar to what people
witnessed in the city of Basra, as well. The President is confident
that as the security situation is enhanced, as the events unfold, just
like what happened in Basra, that this amount of looting will
Clearly, anything that involves looting is not desirable. It is worth
noting that what you are seeing is a reaction to oppression. And that
is not to condone it. It is important that security be enforced, and
the military has plans to do so, as I talked about earlier today. And
I think as you've seen in Basra, it's a situation that develops and
It's also a situation the world has seen before when oppressed people
find freedom. For a short period of time, these actions have occurred
in history. You saw it in Sierra Leone, you saw it in the Soviet Union
with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And nobody likes to see it, but
I think it has to be understood in the context of people who have been
oppressed, who are reacting to the oppression. But the military, as
they briefed yesterday and they briefed today, does have plans to help
enhance the security as the military civil affairs units move in.
Q: It sounds as if you're saying it will take care of itself, it will
kind of burn itself out and peter out naturally. Is that your
position? And the Secretary General says it's the United States'
responsibility as the power in control of Iraq, the coalition's
responsibility to bring and restore civil order.
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's worth pointing out what happened in Iraq's
second largest city, in Basra, as something that may be indicative of
what will happen in the largest city, Baghdad. That is what we
witnessed in Basra. And it is, just as the military briefed yesterday,
part of their mission as the military civil affairs units move into
Q: So the coalition does accept responsibility under the Geneva
conventions and other international human rights law for the
restoration of --
MR. FLEISCHER: Clearly, security is an important issue. But I want no
one to lose sight of the fact that the Iraqi people are on their way
to liberty and freedom. Anything that involves looting is, of course,
regrettable. But no one should miss the larger picture here, and that
is a horrible regime has been lifted from the Iraqi people.
There is a reaction to the lifting of that power, and that is a
reaction against oppression. It is on the way to liberty and freedom.
No one likes to see looting, but that's the context.
Q: Just one more question. The Iraqi people are still under sanctions,
economic sanctions. And there's apparently 7 million barrels of their
oil sitting in a port in Turkey that can't be sold because the regime
is gone, as General Franks said. Who has now the right to approve
sales of that oil?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, under the existing program through the United
Nations, which they just reauthorized, the Oil for Food program
remains in effect. And that allows for export of Iraqi oil and it
allows the revenues that come in to go through the United Nations,
just as it had been doing under the Oil for Food program.
Q: But previously under that program the state marketing, oil
marketing organization, Saddam Hussein's government, approved the sale
of that oil to Chevron or Shell or whatever. Who does that now?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's clear over time that the institutions will
emerge that will take on the civil duties and the civilian duties of
the Iraqi people. These things will develop, they will take time.
Q: But would the United States, with the coalition, approve sales?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't speculate about that; don't know.
Q: What does happen to the oil ministry in the short-term? And does
the U.S. government run it for a little while to get it back on its
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the same thing that happens to every ministry,
and it depends on where you are in Iraq. As we're already seeing in
several cities, particularly in southern Iraq and in some cases, in
western Iraq, people have already emerged to start running affairs for
themselves to the greatest degree possible -- with, of course, the
United States military and the coalition being present.
So you're seeing different regions, different people step up to
increase responsibilities from the Iraqi people themselves, which I
don't think is surprising. It's the natural action of mankind to
assume control over their own lives and their own fate. And the
President is confident the Iraqi people will do this throughout Iraq.
We're still in the middle of war. We're still in the middle of
fighting in Baghdad. It can lead to chaotic times. But more
importantly, it leads to freedom.
Q: Do you see a NATO or U.N. peacekeeping role in Iraq, Ari?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can't speculate. I think there are decisions that
remain down the road. I can't speculate about what every outcome of
those may or may not be.
Q: Given the prominent role that the Kurds have played in northern
Iraq militarily in the last couple of days, what message are you
sending at this point both to the Kurds and to Turkey? And what role,
or special role might the Kurds play in any Iraqi interim authority?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, it's a very interesting issue, and it's an issue
that's been focused on for a number of months, really. And this is
something that you saw in detailed conversations Secretary Powell has
had and other United States visitors, including the Ambassador to
Turkey, had with Turkish officials -- visitors from the United States
to northern Iraq, where they met and talked with Kurdish officials.
And the message is that all actions need to be coordinated, that we
work very hard to avert any type of humanitarian crisis in the north.
No humanitarian crisis has developed. Turkey has maintained its
military presence on the Turkish side of the border. And the United
States is moving forward to establish control in those cities in
northern Iraq, just as we pledged. It's been an issue to be managed.
And I think in fairness, the State Department and others deserve a
tremendous amount of credit for managing it well.
Q: When it comes to setting up an interim authority, though, is there
going to have to be some sort of special situation for northern Iraq
and the Kurd-controlled areas there?
MR. FLEISCHER: There's a recognition that maintaining the territorial
integrity of Iraq is paramount. And on the interim authority, we have
always said it will an interim authority that includes representatives
from all the Iraqi people -- including the Kurdish people, the Shiite
people; the Shia religion, the Sunni religion, the various aspects of
life inside the territorially whole of Iraq.
Q: Ari, there's a lot of speculation on Capitol Hill that as the
President's tax proposal gets trimmed back that it's the dividend tax
elimination portion of it that is going to suffer the most, because
that has the least immediate stimulative effect. How does the White
House feel about that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President thinks it is very important for the
principles by which he advocated the tax plan to be honored, because
that is the best way to have growth in the economy. And, therefore,
the President continues to believe that the aspects of the tax plan,
just as he proposed, are what needs to be addressed in the legislation
as it moves through the Congress.
That means the dividend tax plan must be included. It means the
acceleration of the rate cuts must be included. It means the child
credit, the AMT relief, all the provisions that the President
pronounced he was in favor of, were decided upon because of their
benefit to an economy that needs help so people find work. And the
President has not retreated on that.
Obviously, we'll work with whatever numbers we receive when the final
budget resolution is agreed to. And it looks like there is a good
compromise in the offing. And we will work within whatever those final
Q: But does he recognize that he's -- or does he recognize that he's
not going to get the entire dividend tax elimination that --
MR. FLEISCHER: I would not conclude that, no. The President believes
that there should still be, and will fight for, a 100 percent dividend
Q: Possibly at the expense of other portions of the tax cut, though,
correct? You're not going to get the whole proposal, that's clear.
MR. FLEISCHER: There are still ways, within the existing smaller
number, to accomplish the objectives the President sought, still
standing by each of the provisions that the President proposed.
Q: Yesterday the President, in his address to the Iraqi people, said
that when the Iraqi regime is gone, the coalition will take steps to
ensure security for the Iraqi people. Given the fact that today you're
saying that the regime is gone, what are you doing to expedite that,
to make sure that that is going to happen now?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, number one, just as the President said, Iraq will
be liberated, it is a process. It does not happen overnight. And we
still are in the middle of a shooting war. Sections of Baghdad still
are dangerous sections of Baghdad, from a military point of view. So
people shouldn't get too far ahead of the story. Just because central
command of the Iraqi regime has collapsed does not mean the war is
over. It is still going on.
As the military has said, they have military civil affairs units that
are moving into place. Security is an important issue. Law and order
is an important issue. The President knows it will be addressed.
Q: What is the White House position on giving contracts to non-U.S.
firms to help rebuild Iraq? What is the White House position?
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House does not have positions on these
matters. These are decisions that are made by the contracting agencies
in accordance with their regulations and laws.
Q: So if USAID, for instance, were to open it up to French and German
firms, that would be okay?
MR. FLEISCHER: They have their own criteria. The White House does not
manage contracting decisions.
Q: Ari, there has been some speculation among even senior
administration officials about Iraqi leaders perhaps having fled to
other countries. When the war ends, does the window also close for
going after targeting Saddam Hussein and his colleagues?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ed, I'm not going to speculate. We don't know what
Saddam Hussein's fate is. And certainly we want to make certain that
those who are responsibility for war crimes are brought to justice. So
no matter what the period of time is, if there are people who emerge
alive, wherever they are, if the determination is made that that
individual is a war criminal, that's a matter for the international
community to take up, as the international community has done before
with people who sought to flee.
Q: Is there a line to be drawn between apprehending them and killing
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it all depends on the course of events on the
ground. These are, literally, the definition of operational matters,
in the middle of a -- what's still -- I have to remind everybody -- is
still a military conflict.
Q: How does the President view the current humanitarian relief
MR. FLEISCHER: He views them as vital, he views them as increasing, he
views them as something that is a key part of the mission. But it's
also worth understanding -- and I talked to the head of the Agency for
International Development yesterday, who is in charge of administering
the humanitarian programs -- why there are pockets of Iraq that have
humanitarian problems to be worked through. There is not a widespread
humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Much of the humanitarian problems in Iraq
existed because of Saddam Hussein's regime and the conditions that he
imposed on the Iraqi people before the first shot was fired in this
In fact, what is happening is conditions are improving. Humanitarian
problems that Saddam Hussein created are coming to an end as a result
of this liberation.
Q: The fact that a lot of these senior officials suddenly disappeared
-- assuming that all of them weren't killed -- suggests that they did
have a plan for escape. Is that the view of the administration?
MR. FLEISCHER: Either that or they ran with their tails tucked and
they just got out of there.
Q: One of the problems in reconstruction is that you cannot sell oil,
you cannot get loans from the World Bank and other international
financial institutions until there is some sort of legitimate
authority. Obviously, the administration is working on an interim
Iraqi authority. How do you get that legitimacy? What do you need to
do to get the legitimacy that's required for everything from selling
oil to getting loans?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's fair to say that the Iraqi people
will be able to take resources into their own hands, when you look at
the engineers in these fields that are increasingly returning to the
fields as the security situation allows. We have plans to bring in
people to help, from an international point of view, to manage the
fields. And the legalities will all be addressed and be reviewed. And
suffice it to say that the faster we can get resources into the hands
of the Iraqi people, the better the country will be.
Q: But you haven't answered that question. I mean, the problem is, how
do you -- managing the field is fine, but what do you do with the oil?
You can't sell it until you have some international authority that
bestows legitimacy on whoever it is that's going to try to sell the
MR. FLEISCHER: Not necessarily. Whatever the legalities are, the
legalities will be addressed. It doesn't require necessarily an
international stamp to engage in commercial transactions legally. The
United States provides products around the world that the United
Nations doesn't have to say we can do.
Q: Given Canada's vocal refusal to join the coalition, why is the
President making a personal visit there in about three weeks time? And
what does he hope to achieve?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the President visits countries and has relations
with countries not depending on just the reactions involving Iraq, we
have many broader relationships. And broader issues also unite us in
common values and common friendship. And that's the context of any
visits the President would take to any nation, whether they are with
us or not.
Q: When the war plan was put together and approved by the President,
did it include planning for the moment when U.S. forces would have to
take over security functions in cities that were being taken over from
MR. FLEISCHER: Yes, I think if you take a look at the briefing you got
yesterday out in the Gulf, they talked about military civil affairs
units moving in.
Q: Ari, what's the latest White House knowledge about the search for
arms of mass destruction or nuclear fissionable material?
MR. FLEISCHER: Just as was briefed this morning by General Brooks in
Q: Ari, General Franks has made an appeal to civil servants in
Baghdad, around Iraq, sanitary workers, police, fire, to do their
jobs. Who is responsible at this point for paying these people? And
what is the currency right now in Iraq?
MR. FLEISCHER: Ken, these will be all the issues that get addressed
through the reconstruction. There's no question that in the immediate
aftermath of areas where there's been military conflict, there are
going to be issues that need to be worked through and worked out. I
remind you, we are still in the middle of a shooting war. Our forces,
as the President is going to visit later today, are still in harm's
way. These are the ongoing issues that the process of reconstruction
will address. They cannot all be addressed in the immediate time of
Q: You talked earlier about the importance of adhering to the original
principles of the tax bill, would the President not accept a partial
elimination of the dividend tax cut?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think it's too soon to start speculating about
what the final tax bill will be and whether the President accepts or
Q: But there has been some compromise -- the size has been cut.
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, there will be compromises. Given the
fact that the President proposed a $726 billion proposal, most
Democrats originally said nothing more than $100 billion. And today an
agreement will be reached, it looks like -- they still have to vote it
in the Senate -- but an agreement, it looks like it will be reached
that would allow for $550 billion in the House and $350 billion in the
Senate -- with the possibility of going higher down the road.
Q: But what comes out of that $550 billion is only a partial
elimination of the dividend. Would the President not accept that?
MR. FLEISCHER: I don't know why you have to -- it does not lead to
requiring only a partial elimination of the dividend. It is, indeed,
possible within the $550 billion figure to have a 100 percent
elimination of the dividend. The President thinks that's important,
and he will pursue it.
Q: Ari, we spoke earlier about fighting along the Syrian border. To
what extent is there a concern that military assets, leaders -- Baath
Party leaders, whatever -- and/or weapons of mass destruction are
going across the border there? And is there any thought given to
pursuing any of these things across the border?
MR. FLEISCHER: Again, that's an operational issue. DOD, of course, is
set up --
Q: It's an international border, surely that's something the White
House would have a view on.
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I'm talking about what steps are being taking to
interdict people as they would try to cross the border. Obviously,
this combat is limited to Iraq.
Q: Is this administration considering a realignment or asking for a
realignment of U.N. Security Council and a reduction of U.S. dues to
MR. FLEISCHER: No, there's nothing like that I've heard.
Q: What's the President's role going to be in the citizenship service?
Is he going to administer the oath of citizenship?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President of the United States is not allowed
to administer an oath of citizenship, interestingly. The President
cannot do that; other officials can.
Q: Do you have any other information on those two Marines? How long
they were in the Marines, what their countries of origin were -- are?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm trying to have that for after the events this
afternoon at the hospitals.
Q: Will their names be released?
MR. FLEISCHER: I'm working that right now. It depends on the family.
Every family -- it's up to the families.
Q: Ari, you said that -- you and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld had
said that some of these folks are fleeing into Syria and some have
reached Syria. Will you use legal means to retrieve them? Or will you
take extra legal means to get them back in before the courts of
MR. FLEISCHER: I assure you any action that we would take would be
Q: There's a front page article in the Financial Times today titled,
"the Marines shot anything they considered a threat." And there are
reports that Marines from the -- 5th Marines were so unnerved by
attacks from Iraqi fighters in civilian clothes that they opened fire,
repeatedly hitting unarmed men, women and children, including a
six-year-old girl who was shot in the head. Does the President know
about this, and is he concerned about, like, a My Lai situation
MR. FLEISCHER: Russell, the President is very concerned about
situations that threaten our armed forces, suicide attacks on our
armed forces. And he has high confidence that our armed forces are
doing everything they can to protect innocent civilian life as they
Q: You indicated it's too soon to speculate about a peacekeeping role
for the U.N. or NATO. But what kind of a role does the President
envision for other countries, and specifically for Germany and France,
Russia -- countries that opposed the war?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, countries that opposed the war and countries that
supported the war will have to decide for themselves what role they
seek to play in the lives of the Iraqi people in the future. These are
decisions that will be made from state to state. These will be
decisions that Germany will have to take up with the new Iraqi
government, for example, when there is a new Iraqi government. These
will be matters that they will have to consider.
I think the Iraqi people will also have thoughts about who they want
to -- to whom they express their gratitude for their freedom, and that
is the relations between states.
Q: Debt reduction -- I mean, debt forgiveness, that sort of thing, in
the immediate --
MR. FLEISCHER: Certainly. There are nations that traded extensively
with Iraq, to whom they owe the Iraqi government a substantial debt --
or the Iraqi government owes to them substantial debt. Debt relief
would be something those nations could provide to the Iraqi people if
they so chose. That's their determination.
Q: There's been increasing criticism on the Hill of the no-bid
contract given to Halliburton for oil field services, which yesterday
the government revealed would cost as much as $7 billion. Some such as
even Susan Collins are saying that all these contracts for
reconstruction and related services should be put out to bid, or some
sort of competitive bidding. Does the White House believe that that
should be the norm, or should --
MR. FLEISCHER: The White House believes that the procedures should be
established and followed, the criteria should be followed by the
contracting agencies. The White House does not get involved or dictate
to agencies on how to award contracts.
Q: So they can do no-bid contracts and the White House has no problem?
MR. FLEISCHER: There are criteria that Congress passed in law that
guide what the agencies can do. And the President is confident that
that will be done.
Q: Thank you. Ari, since Turkey refused to allow U.S. troops to use
Turkey in the war with Iraq, will the President still help Turkey get
membership in the European Union?
MR. FLEISCHER: Certainly. The President stood on principle when he
said that Turkey deserves membership in the European Union, and
nothing has changed that.
Q: Thank you. Can you provide us, Ari, with any further details on the
Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Worldnet Daily and Fox News story about the
extensive tunnel infrastructure under the Al-Tuwaitha nuclear plant
and reports of the possible discovery of weapons-grade plutonium?
MR. FLEISCHER: That's a DOD matter, operationally, as they go through
Iraq and take a look at the facts that they find and as they evaluate
information they receive through their technical teams.
Q: Does the administration feel that the atrocities of Saddam Hussein
and his regime have been accurately reported?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think it's fair to say, when you look at the press
coverage of this war, they have done a very enviable job, in most
instances, under some very difficult circumstances. I think -- I can't
speak for everybody in the government, but I think it's fair to say
that the decision to embed reporters has proved to be a very good
decision; good from the media's point of view, I believe, and good
from the government's point of view. More importantly, good from the
point of view of the American people, so they can get independent
reporting from the field.
Q: Ari, with all the looting and things going on in Iraq right now
some would say that if the U.S. government had not planned for some
kind of interim situation right now -- not to say the interim
government to come down the road, but the situation for now is kind of
fixed in this crisis of looting and just going -- running amuck, the
town running amuck -- well, the country running amuck.
MR. FLEISCHER: This is almost starting to remind me of the stories
that said our forces were bogged down, as people watched 24, 36 hours'
worth of people reacting to the oppression from which they suffered.
As I indicated, there is an example that took place in Iraq's second
largest city, that we believe to be indicative. And that is what took
place in Basra, and that order has increasingly been restored to
It may take some time in a larger city like Baghdad, but there's no
question, in the President's judgment, that what's happening is people
are finding liberation, are finding freedom. Order will increasingly
Q: So this basically went against the plan. You didn't have anything
planned for this --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, I didn't say that. That's the part that reminded me
of the previous statements about things haven't gone according to
Q: And also the Cubin situation over in the House. Many are
questioning that -- why hasn't the White House said anything about
this in the wake of the Trent Lott situation?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think people there have addressed it. And I think she
made her second thoughts clear.
Q: But people are wanting to hear from the White House about that
statement, as she equated African Americans to drug --
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I can just tell you this. I don't know if the
President personally heard what she said. He obviously heard other
statements that people made.
Q: Ari, in regard to the debt that is owed by Saddam's government to
other countries, do we regard that as legally binding on a new
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, under international law, debt is owed from one
country to another country, not contingent or dependent on who the
leader of that country is. It's a state to state relationship. The
state to state relationship endures. So the debt is still owed, which
is why it is a question of if those governments wanted to act in this
way to help the Iraqi people, they would be within their rights to
waive that debt.
Q: Thank you.
MR. FLEISCHER: Thank you.
END 12:45 P.M. EST
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