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Text: President Bush on Building Global Coalition To Fight Terrorism

Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2001

Following is a transcript of President George W. Bush's Media Availability During Photo Op With Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri


BUSH: ... houses terrorists, encourages terrorism will be held accountable. And we are gathering all evidence on this particular crime and other crimes against freedom-loving people.

And I would strongly urge any nation in the world to reject terrorism, expel terrorists. I would strongly urge the Taliban to turn over the Al Qaeda organizers who hide in their country.



... about all countries and their willingness to harbor or not harbor terrorists.

QUESTION: This is the message that's going out?

BUSH: The message to every country is that there will be a campaign against terrorist activity--worldwide campaign. And there is an outpouring of support for such a campaign. Freedom-loving people understand that terrorism knows no borders, that terrorists will strike in order to bring fear, to try to change the behavior of countries that love liberty, and we will not let them do that.

Now, this is a campaign in which nations will contribute in a variety of ways. Some nations will be willing to join in a very overt way. Other nations will be willing to join by sharing information, and information in a campaign such as this is going to be incredibly important. It's very important for us to be able to find where these people are.

There's going to need to be a financial component of the campaign, where we need to cooperate to make sure we cut off funds, find these organizations that serve as front-groups for funding these terrorist cells. So my message to all nations is, we look forward to full cooperation.

Did you have a question for...?

QUESTION: Yes, could he respond to (OFF-MIKE)?

MEGAWATI: (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): After I heard and witnessed and saw what happened, the tragic events in New York and in Washington, I immediately issued a statement which strongly condemns these attacks which were very inhumane. And afterwards, I sent a letter to President Bush expressing my condolences. So this is the position of my government on this issue. So it is very clear.

QUESTION: (inaudible) since you have declared war against terrorism, there are a number of countries which seem to be saying, not so fast. China in particular said that any strike must be preceded by irrefutable evidence. Others are very concerned about civilian casualties.

So the first question is, are you now prepared to provide such irrefutable evidence to countries? And what, in your mind, is the biggest challenge that you face trying to construct this coalition?

BUSH: Well, first of all, we'll do what we need to do to achieve the first objective of a long campaign. And the first objective is to bring people to justice who we feel like committed this particular set of atrocities and to hold the organization accountable, and to hold those who harbor them accountable. That's the first objective of a very long campaign.

I think that the real challenge for America and our allies in this effort is to do a couple of things.

One, condition the world, starting with our own country, that this will be a different kind of battle, a series of battles; that they will be fought visibly sometimes, and sometimes we'll never see what may be taking place. And that we fully understand that some nations will be comfortable supporting overt activities, some nations will be comfortable supporting covert activities. Some nations will only be comfortable in providing information. Others will be helpful, and only feel comfortable helping on financial matters. I understand that.

Thirdly, that as these various--as the campaign evolves, some nations may take a more active role than others.

The mindset of war must change. It is a different type of battle. It is a different type of battlefield. It is a different type of war. And that in itself is going to be a real challenge for America and those other nations who understand that. Because sometimes--look, the mission is to rout out terrorists activities. And there's a variety of ways in which that can happen. Clearly, one of our focuses is to get, to move people out of their caves, smoke them out, and get them moving and get them. That's about as plainly as I can put it. And we're focused on that.

But we're also focused, and we recognize that the Al Qaeda organization exist in some 60-plus countries.

And we're beginning to work with other nations that are receptive to the notion of fighting terrorism and, say, "Help us round-up these people. You can play a constructive role."

We fully understand that certain NGOs, nongovernmental organizations, serve as fronts, as a funding mechanism for terrorist organizations. We expect there to be activity on those fronts as well.

So the challenge is to redefine the terms of the conflict--the campaign--in a way that the leaders understand and in a way that the people of the world understand. There's a certain impatience with war of the past. People demand a certain clarity of a specific battlefield, but this is the first--this is a new type of a struggle. It's really the first series of battles in the 21st century.

Again, I repeat: Terrorism knows no borders. It has no capital. But it does have a common ideology, and that is, they hate freedom and they hate freedom-loving people. And they particularly hate America at this moment.

But many leaders understand that what happened in New York City and Washington, D.C. could have easily have happened in their capital as well. It's a long a answer to a short question, I know.

QUESTION: Mr. President, do you in your mind have irrefutable evidence that links Al Qaeda, and specifically, Osama bin Laden?

BUSH: When we take action, we will take action because we know we'll be on the right.

And I want to remind people that there have been terrorist activities on America in the past as well, and there has been, you know, indictments have been handed down. This is a war not against a specific individual, nor will it be a war against solely one organization. It is a war against terrorist activities. Our nation must do everything we can to protect our homeland, and we are.

The attorney general briefs on a daily basis, as does the director of the FBI, talking about what we're doing to do the best we can to protect the American people from any further activity.

But the best way to make sure that America is safe, people in Indonesia are safe, is to find terrorism at its roots, and root it out, to get them out of their caves and get them moving, cut off their finances, and hold them accountable.

QUESTION: Now that (inaudible) Chairman Arafat has said he was willing to (inaudible) coalition. Are you willing to talk to him? (Inaudible) question is, are you able to offer (inaudible) support for this coalition or do you have that (inaudible)?

BUSH: Let me first--I would that Chairman Arafat backs up his strong statement with action. We take his words very seriously, that he is interested in doing everything he can to reduce terrorism and violence in the Middle East. I thought that was a very positive statement he made, and I hope he stays focused on achieving the goal he stated. And so to that end, our administration and our government is continuing to talk to Chairman Arafat to encourage him to live up to his words and, at the same time, working with the Israelis to encourage them to seize the moment.

Progress is being made. Madam President, I said at the time, through my tears, I see opportunity. One of the opportunities I saw was the ability not only for freedom-loving nations to come together to say resolutely we will fight terrorism, but I felt like it would be--that this event may shake up the attitudes of the Middle East where people would end up resolving to show the world that there could be peace there as well. And progress is being made.

And I want to tell the American people, the secretary of state--that even though we're focused on what happened in New York and Washington, D.C., we're also very much involved in the Middle East. And Secretary Powell was on the phone yesterday with leaders in the Middle East urging them to seize this moment. And so we now have a sense of optimism that something positive may take place in the Middle East.

Your question to the president?


MEGAWATI: (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Indonesia has always been against violence. Anything that relates to violence, including acts of terrorism, we will definitely be against it.

BUSH: Thank you all.


© 2001 The Washington Post Company