Text: National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2001
Following is a transcript of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's Press Briefing:
RICE: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm here principally to answer questions, but I thought I might just give you a little feel for what today has been like for the president.
He has, of course, had several meetings, including a very successful meeting with President Megawati of Indonesia. He took that opportunity at this meeting, which was planned before but nevertheless came in the middle of this situation, to express to President Megawati, where there is, of course, the largest Muslim population in the world in Indonesia, his very great desire that everyone understand that America believes that the terrorism that we experienced is not the work of Islam, it is not the work of Islamic people, it is not the work of Arabs, it is the work of extremists. And he used the opportunity again to underscore his message of tolerance that he has been underscoring all week.
He also met with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who delivered a message of support from Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder; with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of Russia, who did the same from President Putin. And he had a couple of phone calls this morning, one with President Mbeki of South Africa and another with President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea.
The president has met with his National Security Council this morning. The pattern is that he meets with his National Security Council in the morning. He chairs those meetings himself. And then the principals reassemble later in the day to share notes, to consult and coordinate and to prepare the next day's National Security meeting.
The president also received the leadership of the Congress, the two House leaders, Speaker Hastert, Leader Gephardt, and the two Senate leaders, Senator Daschle and Senator Lott. And he was delighted to receive from Speaker Hastert an invitation to go and address the joint session of Congress tomorrow.
So it was a very busy day but, I think, again, a very successful day, as the president begins to lay out the first phases of this campaign that he wants to underscore is going to be a very long campaign in this war against terrorism.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what he hopes to accomplish tomorrow? And will the American people have any better idea of who he's going to strike, where he's going to strike, when he's going to strike, what he's going to strike?
RICE: This is not a speech to announce military action. The president has made very clear that he intends to be patient, that he is going to review his options, that he is going to look for ways to be effective in whatever it is that we do, and that we are now launched on a long campaign.
And so, what the president will do tomorrow is to use the opportunity to talk to the American people about the kind of threat that we face. The American people have a lot of questions about what kind of people would do this to the United States? Why this kind of hate would exist against the United States? So we'll get a clearer picture of the enemy that we're facing.
I think the president is going to use this as an opportunity to talk about the sustained nature of this campaign. That this cannot be a campaign that is thought of like the Gulf War, where there was a capital with a leadership that one understood fully in the way that we traditionally understood leadership. I think he will use it as an opportunity to urge patience and reason, and to demonstrate, again, that his resolve is going to be over a long period time not in a single moment.
One other thing I'd just like to mention is that he is going to talk about what Americans can do to prepare for this effort.
And he's going to talk some about the nature of the support that we're getting from around the world, which is really quite extraordinary. I think everybody understood that this was not just an attack on America, this was an attack on freedom.
QUESTION: You said that the president reiterated the message of tolerance and the importance that this is not a campaign against Islam or Arab nations generally. Has it been communicated with the administration from those nations from that part of the world that you've been talking to recently that it is a highly critical thing for the president to do, not just once, but over and over and over again? If so, why?
And President Megawati has returned to the building. We've seen her enter the West Wing just a few moments ago. Can you tell us with whom she is meeting and what we can read into that?
RICE: I believe that President Megawati was scheduled a long time ago, during this, to have a meeting with the vice president. She's meeting with the vice president. But it was not arranged hastily or anything like that. It was scheduled as a part of her program.
In terms of the tolerance message, it was very much the president's instinct from the very beginning that it was extremely important that he, first as president of the United States, make very clear that we had a lot of Muslims in the United States of America who are patriotic people, who salute the flag just like all of us do, who were appalled and saddened by what happened on September 11, and that we are a country that judges not by their religious beliefs or by their color, but by the fact that we're all Americans. So that was the first part of the message.
The second part of the message is that we have a lot of friends around the world who are Muslim.
We have countries that are long friends of the United States who are of the Islamic faith. And the president wanted to be very clear that this is not a war of, quote, "civilizations," that this is not a war against Islam. This is a war against people who in many ways pervert what Islam stands for. Islam stands for peace and stands for nonviolence, and he wanted to make that very, very clear.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up, Dr. Rice?
RICE: Yes, sure.
QUESTION: ... become more pronounced after the president invoked the word "crusade" on Sunday and that raised some alarms within the Muslim community in America and internationally?
RICE: This has been part of the message from the very beginning. And in every conversation that the president has had with leaders of all countries, but also with Muslim countries, he has been saying this from the very beginning.
QUESTION: Is the president prepared for the inevitable comparisons with President Roosevelt vis-a-vis tomorrow's speech?
RICE: Well, I think the president is going to deliver the speech on its own terms.
But, you know, it allows an interesting point, which is that this isn't Pearl Harbor. I know that there are a lot of comparisons to Pearl Harbor, but this is different, and it's different in a lot of ways.
This is the first war of the 21st century. In that case we had a country with a capital, with marching armies and beaches to storm and islands to take, and in the last war deserts to cross. That is not the nature of this war.
There will be, undoubtedly, some things that our military forces and the military forces of others can do. But this is also a war of will and mind, it is a war in which information may be the most important asset that we have. And so we're asking a lot of countries to help us with information.
These are not traditional enemies. And so he's going to have a very different task.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) different speech for us, then, than the one Roosevelt delivered?
RICE: This is a speech that will seek to start to broaden and deepen the American people's understanding, indeed, people around the world--the understanding of what it is we face and how we're going to have to face it, because we're in this for the long haul.
QUESTION: Does the president believe and will he try to prepare people tomorrow night for some sort of sense of sacrifice? For instance, we're already talking about spending some $100 billion on things other than what it would have been spent on. Clearly, something has to give.
RICE: I think that every American understands that life changed on September 11. Now, what didn't change is our way of life, and we have to, as the president said when he welcomed workers back here at the White House complex, it's every American's duty to try to get back to doing the things that make us American--going to work and going to shop and taking your kids to school.
But there's no doubt that the country faced a severe shock and blow, and we have to respond to that. And he said to the leaders that this country is going to respond and its leadership is going to respond. He's been heartened by the fact of unity between the Congress and the executive branch on exactly this point.
But, yes, this is going to be a time of sacrifice. I think the president is not afraid to say that, and he will make that case.
QUESTION: A lot of nations around the world are calling for the United States to act with restraint--China, Egypt, Jordan saying that we should act with restraint. And some are even suggesting we operate through multilateral institutions.
What's the balance between this coalition-building that the president is doing and the U.S. exercising its right under the U.N. charter to act unilaterally?
Well, the United States faces the situation in which we really are in a situation of self-defense. If no one believes that these are dangerous people to the health and well-being of the United States, then just look again at that tape on September 11.
I would caution that this is a different kind of coalition. This is not the Gulf War coalition, where we all mobilize our military forces and march off to war after 100 days. This is a coalition in which, I think, a lot of states have recognized that this is not just an attack on the United States, this is an attack on freedom-loving peoples everywhere. This is an attack that was meant to generate maximum fear in countries that don't want to close their borders, that don't want to act in a fearful way.
Now, there are going to be a lot of different fronts in this war--some on the information side, some on the financial side, some on the military side, some on other fronts. And I think that we will have broad support. Different countries are going to play different roles. There are going to be countries that you may never hear of their contribution but it might actually be the most important contribution in locating this network. So this is a different kind of coalition.
The president is absolutely committed to doing what the United States has to do. But I think that we have tremendous support and understanding that there have to be several phases to this and this has to go on for a long time.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. feel constrained at all by the calls from other nations, especially as time passes and the urgency of the moment fades? Does the United States feel constrained about it?
RICE: Well, the president's made clear that he's not going to lose his focus. And with every foreign leader--and I've sat in now on lots of meetings with leaders--every conversation is about how the world cannot lose its focus on what happened, cannot--start to get back to normal life, we want to do that--but forget that this is a threat that is out there and that will strike again if we don't take the necessary measures to root it out, to draw them out of their holes, as the president said, to bring them to justice. And so, we're not going to lose focus, and we don't think that the rest of the world will lose focus.
But the main thing here is to do something effective--to do something effective in the first phases, but also to continue to do something effective over the long haul.
QUESTION: In my mind, the president left the impression today that, in terms of coalition-building, the first objective is that the U.S. has the right and the obligation to retaliate against those who are responsible for the World Trade Center attacks and the attack on the Pentagon, and that that's first. And that for the longer part of the sustained effort, that coalition-building may come after that. Is that a fair reading?
RICE: No. I think that we believe that this first phase in which the president demonstrates, if you will, that what he said about being determined to root out those who perpetrated this act and those who harbor them--in other words, that there isn't a distinction here--that that is an important part of the next phase of this. That you have to be able to demonstrate to states that might harbor terrorists that that's not going to be a good thing to do in the future, and to give states that have been harboring terrorism a chance to change their ways.
But the president is committed to the coalition because the coalition is being committed to him.
And I want to caution. Talking about "the coalition," again, we tend to think of the last war and we tend to think of the way that the Gulf War coalition was put together.
But countries are going to contribute different things, and the most important contributions may come down the road as we deal with the financial networks of these organizations; that we deal with rooting them out of countries in which they are burrowed in and ready to strike. This is a long conflict, a long struggle, and there are going to be a lot of different contributions along the road from a lot of different countries.
QUESTION: As you say, the president isn't going to announce military action tomorrow night. So what would he say that we have not already heard from him? Is he going to tell us anything new?
RICE: The president will take this opportunity to make a case, I think, to the American people of why we are entering this long struggle, and to understand better its nature. This is not something that is going to be over in a matter of months.
And so the president feels an obligation to bring the American people along with him in his thinking; to bring them along with him in his deepening understanding of what it is we face; to understand that there may be sacrifice along the way. Also to rally the country and the world to understand that this really is an attack on freedom. It's a chance to bring this together in a way that lays the foundation for what is really going to be a very long struggle.
QUESTION: Did the president today sign any deployment order, as was reported on at least one network, regarding additional airplanes to the Gulf region to beef up the no-fly zone forces there and potentially clear up other forces to deal with something in Central Asia?
RICE: The United States is repositioning some of its forces to support the president's goal. I'm not going to talk about operational matters or further about troop movements. I can refer you to the Pentagon for anything further. But we are repositioning some forces.
QUESTION: But can you explain it at least, without the specifics, as an order signed and approved by the president, whatever the order said?
RICE: Well, you understand that the president has done a couple of things. The order on the call-up of the reserves. He's talked with the secretary of defense about what is necessary to prepare the United States for any action that it might wish to take in accordance with the goals that he's laid out.
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, Chinese President Jiang Zemin has been waging a quiet campaign that's quite different from the United States. He called several world leaders, including President Chirac, who's just been here yesterday. And what they are saying basically is that the United States, if you want to wage a war, you have to go through the United Nations Security Council and respect the so-called territorial integrity and the sovereignty issue.
Well, a lot of analysis saying that the Chinese real target is Taiwan and Tibet. I just wonder whether the president has any idea on this. I mean, Chinese foreign minister is due here tomorrow.
RICE: Yes, the Chinese foreign minister is due here.
But let me say that one of the first phone calls that the president had was with President Jiang Zemin. It was a very positive phone call that promised cooperation.
Again, we do not expect every country in the world to be involved in every phase of this operation or in every aspect of it. We expect, though, that everybody understands that terrorism is a real threat to civilization, to freedom-loving peoples. And that, we believe, the Chinese understand and understand fully.
QUESTION: Will you need another U.N. resolution to do it?
RICE: Look, the United States, first of all, we had an expression from the U.N. of support for the United States and an understanding that there are things that may have to be done. I can't tell you what further U.N. activity there may be or we may request.
We have had several expressions of support from a number of countries, from a number of alliances. And I think the most remarkable in this regard was NATO's invocation of Article V that an attack upon one is an attack upon all.
But the United States, of course, has certain rights to self-defense. I think people understand that. Again, if you don't think that this is about self-defense, just look at those pictures on September 11.
QUESTION: Condi, several of the leaders have had asked for evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement. You've heard this today from Pakistan. We've heard it from China as well.
Within the constraints that you have, given the classification of the material, what are you prepared to go do, and what model in the way of faring this evidence to help build the coalition? And what model do you use for this? Does it go back to the Cuban missile crisis, where, obviously, some intelligence data was shared? What do you do, and how central is that?
RICE: Well, the first thing to say is that, obviously, there's an ongoing investigation, and so I can't get into details of what is being looked at.
But I will say this. The organization that we're talking about has a history. There are already indictments out against members of this organization and against Osama bin Laden himself. This is an organization that is well-known to have been involved in several other terrorists incidents or attacks against American interests. There are a number of operatives whose names have popped up during this investigation that are known to be linked to Osama bin Laden. I think that we know who we're dealing with and what we're dealing with here, and we've known for a long time.
I would just say that, we are more than happy to talk with allies and friends and the rest of the world about what it is we need to do. But the United States is going to have to take measures in self-defense to deal with this problem.
Let's be very clear: The president is concerned to protect the United States in any way that he can. And rooting this cancer out of the tens of countries that are out there in which it's operating has got to take place, because that is in the self-defense of the United States and frankly in the self-defense of all countries that favor freedom.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the speech preparation, how long has the speech been in the works and how is he putting it together? And also, what is the explanation for why people would do this?
RICE: Well, I think that I'd refer you to the president's speech tomorrow night. I think that he's going to really lay out this case for the American people as a foundation for what we're about to face.
And I urge you very much to listen to it in its totality.
The speech-writing process is, you know, the speech-writing process. There have been a number of people involved in it. Wouldn't surprise you that...
QUESTION: When did it start?
RICE: You know, a couple of days. The president's been thinking about the speech for a couple of days but not with a specific date in mind. I think he's known for quite some time that he wanted to make the case to the American people for what it is we're about to embark on and that he wanted to do that in a way that is not hurried, not a press soundbite here or there, but really lays out the case.
QUESTION: As far as the message of returning to a normal life, returning to school, returning to a job, what does the president intend to do for those people who have no job to return to in the wake of massive layoffs, particularly in certain sectors? Is he going to outline in any way or reassure the American people of any economic stimulus package, any assistance to particular sectors that have been hit in the wake of all of this?
RICE: Well, you know that the president is in discussions with his economic advisers and also with the Congress about what can be done to deal with the national emergency that we have faced. I think the president is quite aware, as everyone is, that there have been effects on the economy of what happened.
But I know that he said to the leaders today that he wants to work with them and that he is prepared to try to think about what it is that he needs to do. But, you know, beyond that, the details will come.
QUESTION: Many Americans expect some kind of decisive military action. From all that you've said, this being a campaign of mind and will and so forth, is part of the president's intention to suggest that perhaps what will be decisive here will not be military action?
RICE: The president is going to be results-oriented. And he is bringing to bear all of our instruments of national power. He is also bringing to bear the assets and instruments of national power of a vast number of countries around the world.
I have no doubt that military power is some part of that, but we are not facing a traditional enemy here. We're facing a quite unconventional enemy. The president, though, made very clear that, while he wants to root out those who are hiding, who we've gotten accustomed to is the car bomber who runs and hides, but who this time perpetrated this well-orchestrated terror attack on some of the most important symbols of power and authority and prosperity of the United States, that he's got to get them. He's got to root out that organization wherever it may be. But that he also believes that those who harbor them--it needs to be demonstrated to them that harboring these terrorists is not good for one's well-being.
So there will be a host of instruments brought to bear on this problem, and that's the case that the president is going to make tomorrow.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting today that it might be useful to think of this as multiple coalitions for multiple purposes?
And second, this 192 countries that have responded with condolences or offers of help include a lot of countries that are not, as you described, freedom-loving countries, people that the vice president has described as some unsavory characters.
And I'm wondering--some of these counties are able to provide the most help in routing out this terrorist threat. I'm wondering how you're going to be guided in striking a balance between how far the United States can go in dealing with these countries to get at this threat?
RICE: Our values matter to us. And I want to make the point that our values matter to us internally, as we try to think about how to secure ourselves better--civil liberties matter to this president very much--and our values matter to us abroad. We are not going to stop talking about the things that matter to us--human rights, religious freedom and so forth and so on. We're going to continue to press those things. We would not be America if we did not.
We have a particular threat here to, not just our well-being, but to our way of life. And the coalition and what countries can bring to it, it's very important to take advantage of what can be brought from a variety of different countries and a variety of different means to address that threat. And, yes, I think the notion of multiple coalitions is probably a good one.
There is clearly one big, overarching coalition that says, "This could have been us, and we understand that when America was attacked, more than America was attacked." But what different countries will bring to the equation, what different fronts people will fight on against this war on terrorism, I think, will unfold over this period of time.
But I do want to say that the really interesting thing about what happened on Tuesday, if you try and step back from the horrors of it--and it's just really horrible--is that when the World Trade Center went down, the world's trade center went down. There were citizens from numerous countries that died in the World Trade Center. This was not just Americans. These were Pakistanis and Brits and people from the continent of Africa and Latin Americans.
What really was attacked was this world community that trades and works and tries to make people more prosperous and enjoys the freedoms and the kind of freedom of life that we're so accustomed to in the United States.
And so when the president says that he is doing this to rally the world, we have a very visible symbol of the fact that it was the world that was attacked and it was the multiple nationalities that were attacked in the World Trade Center.
Thank you very much.