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Text: Bush News Conference on Iraq

Of course, it's important that Saddam's sons were brought to justice. It changes attitudes in Iraq. People didn't believe that the Baathist regime was going to be gone forever. They felt like--you know, you hear reports of Baathists--former Baathist officials saying to Iraqi citizens, "Listen, the Americans will grow stale and tired. They'll leave. And by the way, we'll come back. And when we come back with a vengeance if you helped in the reconstruction of the country."

So needless to say, when two of the most despicable henchmen of the Saddam Hussein regime met their fate, the Baathist claim that, you know, at least these two will come back and haunt the citizen rings hollow.

_____Bush Press Conference_____
Video: The Post's Dana Milbank and washingtonpost.com's Terry M. Neal evaluate the president's news conference.
Video Excerpt: Bush on Hunt for Hussein
Video Excerpt: Bush Defends Iraq Claims
Video Excerpt: Bush on Gay Marriage
Text: Complete Transcript
Excerpts
_____From The Post_____
Bush Takes Responsibility for Iraq Claim (The Washington Post, Jul 31, 2003)
Upbeat Tone Belies Downside Risks (The Washington Post, Jul 31, 2003)

I don't know how close we are to getting Saddam Hussein. You know, closer than we were yesterday, I guess. All I know is we're on the hunt. If you had asked me right before we got his sons how close we were to get his sons, I'd say, "I don't know, but we're on the hunt."

And we're making progress. It's slowly, but surely making progress of bringing those who terrorize their fellow citizens to justice and making progress about convincing the Iraqi people that freedom is real. And as they become more convinced that freedom is real, they'll begin to assume more responsibilities that are required in a free society.

QUESTION: Homeland Security is warning against possible hijackings this summer. How serious is this threat and what can you do about it? How can Americans feel safe?

BUSH: Yeah. Well, first of all, the war on terror goes on, as I continue to remind people. In other words, there are still Al Qaida remnants that have designs on America.

The good news is that we are, one, dismantling the Al Qaida organization and, two, we're learning more information about their plans as we capture more people.

And the threat is a real threat. It's a threat that--you know, we obviously don't have specific data. We don't know when, where, what.

But we do know a couple of things. We do know that Al Qaida tends to use the methodologies that worked in the past. That's, kind of, their mindset. And we've got some data that indicates that they would like to use flights--international flights, for example.

Now, what we can do is we can be--obviously at home, continue to be diligent on the inspection process of baggage, as well as making sure those who board aircraft are properly screened.

And obviously we're talking to foreign governments and foreign airlines to indicate to them the reality of the threat. We're conscious of folks flying--you know, getting lists of people flying into our country and match them now with a much improved database. International flights coming into America must have hardened cockpit doors, which is a positive development.

Being on alert means that we contact all who are responsible, who've got positions of responsibility. And so we're focusing on the airline industry right now, and we've got reason to do so. But I'm confident we will thwart the attempts.

You know, let me talk about Al Qaida just for a second. I made the statement that we're dismantling senior management, and we are. Our people have done a really good job of hauling in a lot of the key operators. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Abu Zubaida. Ramzi--Ramzi alshibh or whatever the guy's name was.

(LAUGHTER)

Sorry, Ramzi, if I got it wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

Binalshibh. Excuse me.

Swift Sword is dead thanks to the Saudis. Abu Bakar (ph) is now captured by the Saudis.

BUSH: We're dismantling the operating decision-makers.

We've got more to do. And the American people need to know we're not stopping. We've got better intelligence gathering, better intelligence sharing. And we're on the hunt. And we will stay on the hunt.

The threat that you asked about reminds us that we need to be on the hunt because the war on terror goes on.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you met yesterday with the Saudi foreign minister who wants the administration to declassify these 27 or 28 pages about his government in this report on 9/11. Many members of Congress, including several Republicans, say they see nothing, or at least most of the materials in their view could be made public.

Can you tell us, is there any compromise inside on this? And could you at least summarize the material in that classified documents? Is there, as some members of Congress say, material that you could read and have an incriminating view of the Saudi government when it comes to 9/11?

BUSH: The foreign minister did come and speak to me. And I told him this. I said, "We have an ongoing investigation about what may or may not have taken place prior to September the 11th. And therefore it is important for us to hold this information close so that those who are being investigated aren't alerted."

I also told him in the document that if we were to reveal the content of the document--by the way, 29 pages of a near-900 page report--it would reveal sources and methods. By that I mean, it would show people how we collect information and on whom we're collecting information, which, in my judgment and in the judgment of senior law enforcement officials in my administration, would be harmful on the war against terror.

I just described to you that there is a threat to the United States. And I also said we're doing a better job of sharing intelligence and collecting data, so we're able to find--you know, able to anticipate. And what we really don't want to do, it doesn't make sense to me--seem like to me--is to reveal those sources and methods.

Now at some point in time, as we make progress on the investigation and as the threat to our national security diminishes, perhaps we can put out the document.

But in my judgment, now is not the time to do so.

And I made that clear to him, and I will be glad--and I'm making clear to members of Congress.

I want to remind you that, sure, some have spoken out, but others have agreed with my position, like the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. So it's a different point of view.

My point of view, however, since I'm in charge of fighting the war on terror, is that I it won't reveal sources and methods that will compromise our efforts to succeed.

QUESTION: Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to Al Qaida were a key part of your justification for war, yet your own intelligence report, the NIE, defined it as, quote, "low confidence that Saddam would give weapons to Al Qaida.'' Were those links exaggerated to justify war or can you finally offer us some definitive evidence that Saddam was working with Al Qaida?

BUSH: I think, first of all, remember I just said we've been there for 90 days since the cessation of major military operations. Now, I know in our world, where news comes and goes and there's this, kind of, instant news and you must have done this and you must do this yesterday, that there's a level of frustration by some in the media--I'm not suggesting you're frustrated; you don't look frustrated to me at all.

But it's going to take time for us to gather the evidence and analyze the mounds of evidence, literally, the miles of documents that we have uncovered.

David Kay came to see me yesterday. He's going to testify in a closed hearing tomorrow, which in Washington may not be so closed, as you know. And he was telling me the process that they were going through to analyze all the documentation. And that's not only to analyze the documentation on the weapons programs that Saddam Hussein had, but also the documentation as to terrorist links.

And it's just going to take awhile. And I'm confident the truth will come out.

And there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States' security and a threat to peace in the region. And there's no doubt in my mind that a free Iraq is important. It's got strategic consequences for not only achieving peace in the Middle East, but a free Iraq will help change the habits of other nations in the region which will make America much more secure.

QUESTION: Building, sort of, on that idea, it's impossible to deny that the world is a better place and the region certainly a better place without Saddam Hussein.

But there's a sense here in this country and a feeling around the world that the U.S. has lost credibility by building the case for Iraq upon sometimes flimsy or some people have complained nonexistent evidence.

And I'm just wondering, sir, why did you choose to take the world to war in that way?

BUSH: You know, look, in my line of work it's always best to produce results. And I understand that. For a while the questions were, "Could you conceivably achieve a military victory in Iraq? You know the dust storms have slowed you down.'' And I was a patient man because I realized that we would be successful in achieving our military objective.


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