October 28, 2003

Dubya's Press Conference Read it

Dubya's Press Conference

Read it here. Some parts were strong, some less so.

Some key snippets (italicized) with observations below the relevant text in normal font.

Defining Imminency Down

Check out this interesting exchange.

QUESTION:

Your package of reconstruction aid, sir, that the Congress, as you point out, is considering, that's an emergency package, meaning it's not budgeted for. Put another way, that means the American taxpayer and future generations of American taxpayers are saddled with that.

Why should they be saddled with that? I know you don't want the Iraqis to be saddled with large amounts of debt, but why should future generations of Americans have that?

BUSH: First of all, it's a one-time expenditure, as you know.

And secondly, because a peaceful and free Iraq is essential to the future security of America.

First step was to remove Saddam Hussein because he was a threat -- a gathering threat, as I think I put it. [my emphasis]

Dubya's been reading Sully (see "The Real Issue")--or his advisors have.

Later in the press conference:

Q: Sir, David Kay's interim report cited substantial evidence of a secretive weapons program, but the absence of any substantial stores of chemical or biological weapons there have caused some people even who supported the war to feel somehow betrayed.

Can you explain to those Americans, sir, whether you are surprised those weapons haven't turned up, why they haven't turned up and whether you feel that your administration's credibility has been affected in any way by that?

BUSH: David Kay's report said that Saddam Hussein was in material breach of 1441, which would have been casus belli. In other words, he had a weapons program, he's disguised the weapons program, he had ambitions. And I felt the report was a very interesting first report, because he's still looking to find the truth.

The American people know that Saddam Hussein was a gathering danger, as I said. And he was a gathering danger, and the world is safer as a result for us removing him from power. Us being more than the United States, Britain and other countries who are willing to participate -- Poland, Australia -- all willing to join up to remove this danger.

And the intelligence that said he had a weapon system was intelligence that had been used by a multinational agency, the U.N., to pass resolutions.

It's been used by my predecessor to conduct bombing raids. It was intelligence gathered from a variety of sources that clearly said Saddam Hussein was a threat. And given the attacks of September the 11th, it was -- you know, we needed to enforce U.N. resolution for the security of the world, and we did. We took action based upon good, solid intelligence. It was the right thing to do to make America more secure and the world more peaceful.

And David Kay continues to ferret out the truth. Saddam Hussein is a man who hid programs and weapons for years. He was a master at hiding things. And so, David Kay will continue his search.

But one of the things that he first found was that there was clear violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, material breach they call it in the diplomatic circles. Causes belie (ph), it means that would have been a cause for war. In other words, he said it's dangerous.

And we were right to enforce U.N. resolutions as well. It's important for the U.N. to be a credible organization. You're not credible if you issue resolutions and then nothing happens. Credibility comes when you say something is going to happen and then it does happen.

And in order to keep the peace, it's important for there to be credibility in this world, credibility on the side of freedom and hope."

You know, I've said it before, but it's worth saying again. Dubya's right. Saddam, by not disclosing the existence of the weapons programs that Kay has uncovered, was in breach of 1441.

Casus belli right there. Sure, in the heated advent to war, there may have been some (very) unfortunate hyping of intelligence by some Administration figures (though nothing I've seen, to date, by the President, proves anything beyond very aggressive readings of imperfect intelligence--as compared with purposeful deception).

Would I be happier if we had stumbled upon large stockpiles of anthrax, sarin and botulinum toxin back in April? You bet.

But post 9/11, the burden of proof must lie on states running afoul of U.N. resolutions (particularly when led by leaders who have used WMD before) to persuasively show compliance with valid demands of the international community with respect to their weapons programs and stockpiles.

The Middle East Peace Process

QUESTION: Mr. President, your policies on the Middle East seem so far to have produced pretty meager results, as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians...

BUSH: Major or meager?

QUESTION: Meager.

BUSH: OK.

QUESTION: ... as the violence between Israelis and Palestinians continues. And as you heard last week from Muslim leaders in Indonesia, your policies are seen as biased toward Israel and I'd like to ask you about that.

The government of Israel continues to build settlements in occupied territories and it continues to build the security fence which Palestinians see as stealing their land.

You've criticized these moves mildly a couple of times, but you've never taken any concrete action to back up your words on that. Will you?

BUSH: My policy in the Middle East is pretty clear. We are for a two-state solution. We want there to be a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.

Now, in order to achieve a two-state solution there needs to be a focused effort by all concerned parties to fight off terror. There are terrorists in the Middle East willing to kill to make sure that a Palestinian state doesn't emerge. It's essential that there be a focused effort to fight off terror.

Abu Mazen came here to the White House. You were here. You witnessed the press conference. He pledged a focused and concerted effort to fight terror so that we could have a Palestinian state emerge. And he asked for help, which we were willing to provide.

Unfortunately, he is no longer in power. He was eased out of power. And I do not see the same commitment to fight terror from the old guard.

And, therefore, it's going to be very hard to move a peace process forward until there's a focused effort by all parties to assume their responsibilities.

You asked about the fence. I have said the fence is a problem to the extent that the fence is an opportunity to make it difficult for a Palestinian state to emerge. There is a difference between security and land acquisition, and we have made our views clear on that issue.

I have also spoken to Prime Minister Sharon in the past about settlement activities. And the reason why that we have expressed concern about settlement activities is because we want the conditions for a Palestinian state on the ground to be positive; that when the Palestinians finally get people that are willing to fight off terror, the ground must be right so that a state can emerge -- a peaceful state.

This administration is prepared to help the Palestinians develop an economy. We're prepared to help the long-suffering Palestinian people.

But the long-suffering Palestinian people need leadership that is willing to do what is necessary to enable a Palestinian state to come forth.
[emphasis added]

Was Bush joking when he prodded the questioner about whether results of Middle East peace processing efforts were meager or major? Sadly, I think he was seriously asking--though I didn't see the conference on video and am solely relying on the text.

Regardless, the bolded portion pretty much says it all. The peace process is moribund and in tatters. And it will likely remain so for quite a spell.

We are in the strange position that Arafat's presence all but means Bush has decided to hit the pause button on the peace process. At the same time, we are against the Israelis killing or expelling him--as the consequences would be dire (as senior IDF folks are aware too--another reason Sharon has held his fire).

Catch-22 in the Holy Land, you might say.

Someone has to move the process ahead despite Arafat's presence. The only person who can do that is Bush. And it appears he simply won't.

I say this is dumb policy. I'd take Yossi Beilin's fervent peace processing efforts over this paralysis any day of the week--especially as the Palis gave up right of return in the Geneva arrangements.

Condi's Role

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

You recently put Condoleezza Rice, your national security adviser, in charge of the management of the administration's Iraq policy. What has effectively changed since she's been in charge?

And a second question: Can you promise a year from now that you will have reduced the number of troops in Iraq?

BUSH: The second question is a trick question, so I won't answer it.

The first question was Condoleezza Rice. Her job is to coordinate inter-agency. She's doing a fine job of coordinating inter-agency. She's doing what her -- I mean, the role of the national security adviser is to not only provide good advice to the president, which she does on a regular basis -- I value her judgment and her intelligence -- but her job is also to deal inter-agency and to help unstick things that may get stuck. That's the best way to put it. She's an unsticker... [emphasis added]

(LAUGHTER)

... and -- is she listening? OK, well, she's doing a fine job."

An unsticker? No folks, she's got to be a proactive broker--like I've argued before.

A few points here. The use of the term unsticker is quite revealing. For one, it presupposes such frequent "stickiness."

Put differently, it means that in this Admin, it's pretty much simply assumed Rummy/Powell will go to the mat each time (with Armitage sparring in the background with Wolfy, Feith and Co.) and produce a morass of conflicting policies. And then Condi comes in and simply unsticks the mess, ie. the attendant inertia/policy paralysis.

Nah. That's not an effective M.O.

Again, think Brent Scrowcroft. We need an active broker with the gravitas, skill and intellect to bash Beltway barons like Powell and Rummy (and deal with a very, very powerful Veep with his own mini-NSC) into line when the national interest demands innovative bridging proposals (or other out of the box thinking) emanating from the NSC--when the other principals can't get their ducks in line.

Condi Rice, with all due respect, hasn't played this role to date.

Troops Levels in Iraq

Q:....And, in addition, are you considering the possibility of possibly adding more U.S. troops to the forces already on the ground there to help restore order?

BUSH: That's a decision by John Abizaid. General Abizaid makes the decision as to whether or not he needs more troops.

I constantly ask the secretary of defense, as well as when I was visiting with General Abizaid, "Does he have what it takes to do his mission?" He told me he does. [emphasis added]

Why is Dubya "constantly" asking Rummy if we have another troops? Maybe because he, just might, instinctually feel we don't have enough? He might be on to something...

Posted by Gregory at October 28, 2003 10:06 PM
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