Index

First Press Conference by President Bush, February 22, 2001


THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

February 22, 2001

PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT

The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:40 P.M. EST

Q: Sir, the Secretary of State is departing for the Middle East
tomorrow. One of the things that he will be discussing with Middle
East leaders is the possibility of modifying sanctions on Iraq, and
I'm wondering what message he will take from this administration to
leaders in the Middle East in the area of sanctions that matter,
sanctions that are effective on the regime, but do not carry with them
the same level of criticism that current sanctions have had in that
they affect the Iraqi civilian population more than they do the
regime, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: We're reviewing all policy in all regions of the world,
and one of the areas we've been spending a lot of time on is the
Persian Gulf and the Middle East. The Secretary of State is going to
go listen to our allies as to how best to effect a policy, the primary
goal of which will be to say to Saddam Hussein, we won't tolerate you
developing weapons of mass destruction and we expect you to leave your
neighbors alone.

I have said that the sanction regime is like Swiss cheese. That meant
that they weren't very effective. And we're going to review current
sanction policy, and review options as to how to make the sanctions
work. But the primary goal is to make it clear to Saddam that we
expect him to be a peaceful neighbor in the region and we expect him
not to develop weapons of mass destruction. And if we find him doing
so, there will be a consequence.

We took action last week, and it may be on your mind as to that
decision I made. The mission was twofold - one was to send him a
clear message that this administration will remain engaged in that
part of the world. I think we accomplished that mission. We got his
attention.

And secondly, the mission was to degrade his capacity to harm our
pilots who might be flying in the no-fly zone. And we accomplished
that mission, as well.

Q: Sir, if I could follow up --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, John, go ahead.

Q: How would you characterize sanctions that work, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Sanctions that work are sanctions that when a - the
collective will of the region supports the policy; that we have a
coalition of countries that agree with the policy set out by the
United States. To me, that's the most effective form of sanctions.

Many nations in that part of the world aren't adhering to the sanction
policy that had been in place, and as a result, a lot of goods are
heading into Iraq that were not supposed to. And so, good sanction
policy is one where the United States is able to build a coalition
around the strategy.

....

Q: Sir, on the air strikes in Iraq, the Pentagon is now saying that
most of the bombs used in those strikes missed their targets. Given
that, what is now your assessment of how successful those strikes
were? How much danger do the remaining installations that we missed in
those strikes pose to our forces? And would you hit them again if
commanders in the field asked for authorization to do so?

THE PRESIDENT: I - we had two missions. One was to send a clear
signal to Saddam, and the other was to degrade the capacity of Saddam
to injure our pilots. I believe we succeeded in both those missions.

The bomb assessment damage report is ongoing, and I look forward to
hear what the Pentagon has to say as they fully assess, completely
assess the mission. And I will continue to listen to the commanders in
the field. My job as Commander in Chief is to get input from the
commanders in the field, and we will do everything needed to protect
our pilots, to protect the men and women who wear the uniform.

....

Q: Mr. President, on Iraq, what is your understanding of the Chinese
presence in Iraq, especially with regard to constructing military
facilities? And do you see anything that you see as a violation of
U.N. sanctions?

THE PRESIDENT: We're concerned about the Chinese presence in Iraq, and
we are - my administration is sending the appropriate response to the
Chinese. Yes, it's troubling that they'd be involved in helping Iraq
develop a system that will endanger our pilots.

Q: That is what they're doing, sir, you're convinced that is --

THE PRESIDENT: We think that may be the case. Let me just tell you
this - it's risen to the level where we're going to send a message to
the Chinese.