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Bush, Franks Speak from Crawford, Texas

Aired December 28, 2001 - 10:57   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: As you can see, there is President Bush arriving to give his comments as he is expected to do just at the top of the hour. With him, General Tommy Franks, the military commander of all the operations taking place in Afghanistan. General Franks coming to Crawford, Texas to give a briefing to the president in person today.

After that briefing, the president felt it was time to come out and speak to the American people.


As you can see, I've invited a guest to come to the ranch. Tommy Franks is no stranger to Texas -- after all, he was raised in Midland Texas -- and I'm looking forward to taking him over to the house here in a minute to say hello to Laura. Both of them went to the Midland Lee High School at about the same time.

But Tommy has just come back from the Afghan theater. He gave me a full briefing on what he saw and what he heard. We just got off of a teleconference with the national security team to discuss his trip and to discuss what's taking place in Afghanistan.

I want to thank you for coming, Tommy.

I am real proud of the military, and I'm proud of the commander. Tommy has done everything we've asked. He is fulfilling the mission with patience and discipline and success. He's a down-to-earth, no- nonsense guy -- precisely the kind of man we need to lead a complex mission such as this.

You know, a couple of months ago, a lot of people said that this administration and our military really weren't sure what we're doing. But I had confidence all along.

And the reason why I did -- confidence in the success of what we set out to do -- was because I had a chance to be briefed by Tommy Franks on the strategy and on the plan and on how we were going to use our United States military; and he hasn't let us down.

The country needs to be proud of the military. And one reason that I'm so pleased to welcome Tommy is to be able to say that out loud in Tommy's presence.

So I'm going to have Tommy say a few words, then we'll be glad to answer a couple of questions.

FRANKS: Thank you, Mr. President.

As the president said, my wife and I recently have had an opportunity to be with a bunch of great young people -- soldiers and sailors, airmen, marines -- in the front line states around Afghanistan and in Afghanistan, in Kandahar, and at Camp Rhino, and up in Kabul. We had a chance to meet with these young people who are doing the work for the nation.

We also had a chance to attend the installation ceremony in Afghanistan, where we saw Mr. Karzai and members of that team form an interim government in Afghanistan, where for the first time in decades, more than 26 million people will have an opportunity to have their way represented in that government.

And the combination of seeing these great young people and seeing this momentous event, just filled me with a desire to be able to brief the president on what's going on over there in the theater, on what our people are doing, how they feel about what they're doing.

And so, Mr. President, thanks very much for having me out here in Crawford.

BUSH: You bet.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what's your reaction to the new bin Laden tape this week and do you fear he's now alluded the manhunt? Also, are you concerned that if military tribunals require a unanimous verdict for the death penalty, some terrorists could avoid execution?

BUSH: Let me start with the first of your three questions, which was what? I've already forgotten.

QUESTION: What's your reaction to the bin Laden tape?

BUSH: Oh, the tape, yes. I didn't watch it all. I saw snippets of it on TV. You know, who knows when it was made.

Secondly, he is not escaping us. I mean, this is a guy who, three months ago, was in control of a country. Now he's maybe in control of a cave.

He's on the run. Listen, a while ago, I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is, we're going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that's what's happening. He's on the run, if he's running at all.

So we don't know whether he's in a cave with the door shut or a cave with the door open. We just don't know. There's all kinds of reports and all kinds of speculation.

But one think we know is that he's not in charge of Afghanistan any more. He's not in charge of the -- he's not the parasite that had invaded the host, the Taliban. We know that for certain. And we also know that we're on a hunt. And he knows that we're on a hunt. And I like our position better than his.

In terms of whether or not the tribunals will be able to render the justice necessary, that -- you know, I spoke to the secretary of defense today about the story in the newspaper. Evidently, somebody in our government wanted to show off to his family or her family, in between Christmas and New Years, by leaking information in the press that he or she thought would be helpful to the government.

The truth of the matter is the secretary of defense hadn't even seen the report that was on the front page of America's newspapers.

So my answer to your question is, I know that the leaked report is preliminary, that they're still in discussions about how best to bring justice.

But one thing is for certain, that whatever the procedures are for the military tribunals, our system will be more fair than the system of bin Laden and the Taliban. That is for certain. The prisoners that we capture will be given a heck of a lot better chance in court than those citizens of ours who were in the World Trade Center or in the Pentagon were given by Mr. bin Laden.

QUESTION: Can you say with confidence now that Osama bin Laden is no longer in a position to mastermind another terrorist attack against the United States or our allies?

And related to that, you've talked about 2002 being a year of war. What can you say to prepare the American people for what that vision is, what they need to be prepared for, as compared to what they've seen in Afghanistan?

BUSH: Well, I hope 2002 is a year of peace, but I'm also realistic. And I know full well that bin Laden and his cronies would like to harm America again; bin Laden and his cronies would like to harm our allies. How do I know that? I receive intelligence reports on a daily basis that indicates that that's his desires.

And therefore, the United States must be vigilant; must make sure we continue to focus on our homeland security measures; must disrupt, must use our intelligence-gathering network to prevent the enemy from attacking.

And so, while I hope that 2002 is a year of peace, I'm realistic.

As to whether or not bin Laden is in control of some network, who knows? The thing we're certain about is that he's on the run, that he's hiding in caves, if hiding at all.

And the other thing I'm certain about is, we will bring him to justice. I don't know whether it's going to be tomorrow, but Tommy will tell you that I haven't said, "Tommy, get him tomorrow." I've said, "Just get him." And we will. We will bring him to justice.

We don't know whether or not he's given any orders to any of his soldiers, but we take nothing for granted, and so our country still remains on alert. And we're actively looking for anybody would harm America.

The shoe bomber was a case in point where the country has been on alert. A stewardess on an American Airlines flight -- or a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight -- was vigilant, saw something amiss and responded. It's an indication that the culture of America has shifted to one of alertness, and I'm grateful for the flight attendant's response, as I'm sure the passengers on that airplane.

BUSH: But we've got to be aware that there are still enemies to the country, and our government is responding accordingly.

QUESTION: Do you think that India and Pakistan are sliding toward war?

BUSH: One of the things that we discussed today in the national security conference and I discussed yesterday with members of my national security team was the India and Pakistan issue. Colin Powell has spoke to both sides today, urging restraint, urging calm.

I was pleased -- I'm pleased to note that President Musharraf has announced the arrest of 50 extreme terrorists -- extremists or terrorists. And I hope India takes note of that, that the president is responding forcefully and actively to bring those who would harm others to justice. The war on terror is not just an American war on terror; it's a civilized government war on terror that we're talking about there.

My government and my administration is working actively to bring some calm in the region, to hopefully convince both sides to stop the escalation of force. And as I say, I'm pleased that President Musharraf is responding to the Indian request to round up those who would do harm to others and incarcerate them, which he did.


BUSH: Not yet. I will if need be.

As a matter of fact, I have been making calls recently to leaders in our own hemisphere. I spoke to the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay, Chile and Brazil, about the Argentinian situation.

BUSH: I made it clear to those governments that we want to work with them, to work together to make sure that the Argentinians understand that we will support a plan that sustains economic growth. We're willing to offer technical assistance through the IMF, that our government is aware of what's taking place and that we are fully engaged in the issue.

QUESTION: Mr. President, some say the events of 2001 have changed you, while other say that you're the same person you always were.

BUSH: Yes. QUESTION: Who's right or is it fair to say there's some truth in both arguments?

BUSH: Talk to my wife. I don't spend a lot of time looking in the mirror, except when I comb my hair. And you know, listen, I give you a hint, I liked coming to the ranch before September the 11th; I like coming to the ranch after September the 11th.

QUESTION: Digressing from the war for a moment, have you had any contact with Ken Lay or other Enron officials in the last six weeks?


QUESTION: And do you think that there's something the government should do to help Enron?

BUSH: I have had no contact with Enron officials in the last six weeks. Do I think the government ought to help what now?

QUESTION: Help Enron or do something to help prevent some of these employees from losing their life-savings?

BUSH: Well, I think the life-saving issue is something we need to look into. I think it's very important to understand what took place. Government will be looking into this. The SEC will be looking into the matters. Congress appears to be looking into the matter, so there'll be a lot of government inquiry into Enron and what took place there.

I'm deeply concerned about the citizens of Houston who worked for Enron, who lost life savings. It's very troubling to read the stories about those who lock up their plans -- locked up Enron stock and had their Enron stock locked up in their 401(k) plans and then saw their savings dissipate.

I think it's very important for us to fully understand the whys of Enron, and there'll be plenty of investigations.


BUSH: Thinking about it, I don't know yet.

I'm right now focused on the military operations in Afghanistan and giving Tommy a tour of my ranch. But I'll -- at the appropriate time will take a good hard look at recess appointments.

I'm disappointed that a lot of my appointments were stalled in the United States Senate, weren't given a hearing, you know. The Scalia man got out of committee, never given a vote on the floor of the Senate. He's a good fellow; he ought to be approved. But I'll take a good hard look at all the options available to me.

QUESTION: Is there a time table in your mind for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan? Or as long as bin Laden is still on the run, do you imagine them being there indefinitely? BUSH: I imagine us being there for quite a long period of time. But my time table is going to be set by Tommy Franks. Tommy's in charge of the military operations; he's in charge of the military. And I'll let Tommy speak for himself, but I will tell you this: We won't be making political decisions about what to do with our military. I gave Tommy a mission; it was a well-defined mission. And Tommy's in charge of getting that mission done. And when Tommy says, "Mission complete, Mr. President," that's when we start moving troops out. But until he says that, I will make the case to the American people that we're doing the right thing.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) mission being complete in Afghanistan?

BUSH: In Afghanistan, well, the Taliban gone, the country's secure, the country's stable, that, you know, Al Qaeda cells rounded up. Taliban fighters, you know, brought to justice; the over 6,000 troops -- prisoners being held, prisoners of war being held by our allies, interrogated, fingerprinted.

I mean, there is a lot to do. And the American people just must understand, when I said that we need to be patient, that I meant it. And we're going to be there for a while, and I don't know the exact moment when we leave, but it's not until this mission is complete.

The world must know that this administration will not blink in the face of danger and will not tire when it comes to completing the missions that we said we would do. The world will learn that, when the United States is harmed, we will follow through. The world will see that, when we put a coalition together that says, "Join us," I mean it. And when I ask others to participate, I mean it. And in order to lead the coalition, we must show that we will complete the mission.

And part of that mission is, as Tommy will tell you, is to make sure that Afghanistan is a stable country. And he's got a lot to say on that if you want him to talk about it. OK, bring the man to the mike.

QUESTION: General Franks, could you talk about how -- evasive (ph) action when you were fired upon the other day. There was a report yesterday that your helicopter was fired upon.


FRANKS: Let me take your question, first.

As we look around, today, we have more than 50 nations involved in this coalition effort and around Afghanistan providing support and so forth. We have 26 nations represented at our headquarters down in Tampa, Florida.

We have 16 nations represented on the ground or in the air or at sea around Afghanistan. And it's interesting that over the past 10 days, the numbers I've just described have grown rather than shrinking. I think the view is that Afghanistan is a part of a global effort against terrorism, that we'll stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to do what the president has said. We will do away with the Taliban, and that has been done. We now have a legitimate interim government in Kabul.

We will destroy the Al Qaeda terrorist network inside Afghanistan. We will take care of the screening and the work that needs to be done with all these detainees -- fingerprinting, DNA work, photography, screening, interrogation. We'll determine which ones need to be brought out and need to be handled in some form of legal process.

How long will that take? I think the president said it immediately after the 11th of September, and I think many of us have said it about every day since then: It will take as long as it takes.

Interesting to me the fact that these young people standing at Kandahar airport a few nights ago, in the middle of the night, watching a USO show, showed me absolutely no desire to leave their mission at all.

And so, I think that it's best for all of us to recognize that we will not be hurried, we will not be pressed into doing something that does not represent our national objectives, and we will take as long as it takes.

And a very short answer to the business of the helicopter. I have been told since I took that helicopter ride that someone took a shot at the helicopter. I didn't see it when it happened, and I believe it may have happened.

But then, again, this is Afghanistan, and we have pockets of Taliban still in that country, and that's one of the reasons that we're going to stay there until we have mopped all that up.


QUESTION: Would you prefer to see bin Laden captured so he can be questioned about the attacks...

BUSH: Dead or alive is fine with me.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you talked about how you support more technical assistance (OFF-MIKE) would you support more money for Argentina now that (OFF-MIKE) has kind of run dry there?

BUSH: Well, it depends upon what Argentina decides to do. The key for Argentina is to get her fiscal house in order, get monetary policy in order, and to develop a plan that will show sustained economic vitality and economic growth. But it's up to Argentina now to develop the plan.

As you know, there's an interim government in place. There will be elections in a couple of months. And the point we have made to the Argentinian government, as well as to our friends in the region, is that we will be willing to help them develop the plan if they ask for technical advice.

BUSH: It will all be done through the IMF. But the first order of business is for the Argentinians to develop a plan, to show us how they're going to get their house in order. They've got a lot of work to do. And all of us that are concerned about Argentina are willing to work together to get the job done. There was near unanimity on my phone calls to the other leaders in the region of the course of action that I just laid out.

QUESTION: Mr. President, (OFF-MIKE) conducting through a military tribunal?

BUSH: Well, Americans shouldn't, as you know. I mean, I excluded any Americans, but...

QUESTION: Of the prisoners, have you decided that any one...

BUSH: Oh, no. Have we made any decisions yet? Not at all. Not yet. I still want to make sure that the -- I still want to see the -- you know, what the secretary of defense recommends as to how to proceed.

As I said, he hadn't seen the now-famous document that some American decided to leak. I don't know why people do that. I guess, either to make you feel good and/or to make themselves feel good, but nevertheless, it was not very helpful.

And as the secretary of defense said, he hadn't even seen the document yet. But they're working through, and we're working through, as you know, all the other types of cases that'll come forward.

I mean, as Tommy said, there's a lot of people to be questioned and there's also a lot of decisions to be made as to how to run this folks through our system, and we're just not quite there yet. We've got time.


BUSH: Well, same situation. We've got time. And Walker's well- berthed on a U.S. warship. It's a heck of a lot more comfortable on that ship than he was in the basement of that prison, when he decided, you know, when he was captured, Walker made a terrible decision.

BUSH: And our system is such that he'll have proper justice. But, you know, he's working with the enemy, and we'll see how the courts deal with that.

QUESTION: Sir, were you upset that that Secret Service agent was kept off that plane? Because you've been saying this isn't...

BUSH: Yes, I was. I talked to the man this morning. I told him how proud I was that he was by my side. He's here on the ranch, and he's guarding me. And of course, I was.

We'll let the facts -- you know, they're going to get the facts out. There's an inquiry going on as to specifically what took place. But if he was treated that way because of his ethnicity, that's -- that will make me madder than heck.

QUESTION: There's an increasing news reports that bin Laden has escaped to Pakistan.

BUSH: Oh, yeah?


BUSH: Well, I -- sorry to interrupt your question, but if you'd asked me the question yesterday, you'd have said, "There's an increasing news reports that he's dead," and the day before that "he's hiding in a cave."

In other words, there is increasing speculation about bin Laden, but what one shouldn't speculate on is, if he's alive, he's on the run.

And you don't need to worry about whether or not we're going to get him, because we are, and it's just a matter of time. I mean, you know, I've read reports where he dyed his hair red. That's not going to stop us from finding him.

QUESTION: But what assurances have you gotten from President Musharraf that that -- if that is the case, that he'll find him and turn him...

BUSH: Yes, well, I appreciate that. President Musharraf has been very helpful. Tommy's visited with him; I've visited with him; the secretary of defense has visited with him. And he said he'll help in all matters, and we believe he'll help with Mr. bin Laden too, if, in fact, he happens to be in Pakistan. Who knows where he is? But one thing is for certain: He's on the losing side of a rout.

BUSH: And the other thing is for certain is we're not going to stop until we get him and all those murderers that are associated with him.

And who knows how many we've gotten to date, because we're gathering evidence. We don't know whether some of these people are in those caves. But Tommy did a fine job of shutting them down. They may still be locked up in there. And as you know, we're sending troops up in that region to take a look at some of the caves to find out what's in there, and we're going to have to dig some of them out.

But as time will go on, we'll know more and more about how successful we have been. The point is, is that we're going to be there for a while. I'm patient, the commander on the ground is executing the plan, and the American people are in strong support of what's taking place.

Listen, thank you all for being here today.

It's great to see you. Welcome back to Prairie (ph) Chapel Ranch. And maybe we'll get you back out here before the New Year's. If not, happy new year.

Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) for New Year's?

BUSH: Probably going to bed early.


QUESTION: What are you doing with your days here?

BUSH: Well, I was up this morning at 5:00. Spent a little quality time with the first lady. And I've just finished my book, "Theodore Rex," by Edmund Morris, which is a fabulous book on Teddy Roosevelt. I'd recommend people reading it.

I am going to -- I would have gotten up and run three or four miles this morning, which I'll probably do that this afternoon. I'm going to take Tommy around to show him parts of the ranch. But if Tommy weren't here, I'd be working down there, a little chain saw work, clearing some brush, burning some brush.

BUSH: We're making some great progress in one of our -- one of the bottom areas that was heretofore relatively inaccessible. One of these days, I'll take you down there. It's a beautiful place. It's a Bodark grove, Bodark trees. It's a native tree, real hard wood, that grows these giant green kind of apple-looking things, but it's -- I'll spend time doing that. And then this afternoon, it gets dark here about 6 -- at about 5:30, and so I'll probably watch the University of Texas football tonight.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) yesterday?

BUSH: Tree plant, very good, my senior staff gave me a beautiful oak, a 10-inch oak, and we planted it right outside the house. It's a -- I haven't written my thank-you note yet, so I'll give them a verbal -- thanks for the tree. It's a -- it is a beauty.

And we planted about -- I think we've planted so far about 35 trees, live oaks and cedar elms here, and it's going to be -- it'll be a beautiful sight for when these trees get -- when they take off.

Did a little fishing yesterday, by the way, not very successful. Water's cold, the fish are at the bottom; they're not biting very much. But just the fact that I was able to fish was a nice treat.

Thank you all.

KAGAN: Been listening to President Bush as he makes comments from his ranch in Crawford, Texas. By his side, General Tommy Franks, chief of Central Command. The president giving an update on the situation in Afghanistan and also, at the end there giving some comments about how he is spending vacation time there on the ranch. With more, let's bring in our White House Correspondent Major Garrett, standing by near the ranch -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, a quick summary of the key points the president made: One, that the troops in Afghanistan, the U.S. troops and coalition troops, are going to remain there for a good long while until the president and General Franks said the mission is done. Also, about bin Laden, the president could not have been more dismissive about the tape itself. Said he saw snippets of it, didn't even offer a full-blown presidential reaction to what he did see.

The point he wanted to drive home, and it's part of an ongoing effort to sort of miniaturize Osama bin Laden, is to say look, a month ago or two months ago, he ran a country. Now he doesn't a run country, he may, the president said, run a cave. The president also, a couple of times, alluded to the fact that bin Laden may, in fact, be dead. It's one of the reasons the White House did not want to respond more forcefully to that bin Laden tape.

Also, on India and Pakistan, strong message of support for Pakistani President General Musharraf, who the president said has arrested 50 extremists -- terrorists, the president called them. He said he hoped India could take due note of that. You can deconstruct that to stay the president is now signaling to India, look over across the border, Pakistan is trying to deal with the terrorist elements within its country.

That's a concern of the Indian government. Take good note of that, the president said his secretary of state will continue to work on the situation, to reduce tensions between those countries who have been massing troops along the border between India and Pakistan, something that could jeopardize not only coalition against terrorism, but complicate overall war efforts for U.S. forces who have to fly over both countries.

Also, the president said on a couple of domestic items, he hasn't yet decided whether or not there will be any recess appointments to sidestep the Democratic Senate, who has not approved some of his key appointments to cabinet -- not to cabinet posts, but to departmental posts. Also, as you noted, the president just giving us a little bit of an idea of what he does for his leisure time at the Crawford ranch. A bit of fishing, a bit of clearing brush, and just like to show people like Tommy Franks all the splendor of that 1,600 acre spread -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Major, wouldn't be too surprised if he puts the general to work there on the ranch before the day is done. Major Garrett, near Crawford -- in Crawford, Texas near the president's ranch. Thank you very much. We are going to touch on some of these military points that General Franks was making there, and with us, bring in one of our own generals, General George Harrison, Air Force retired, to pick up on some of points that both the general and the president made. First of all, good morning. Welcome.


KAGAN: Good to have you with us. First to Osama bin Laden. We heard the comment that Major picked up on there, that the president with the clever saying that Osama bin Laden was running a country, now he might run a cave, but basically, the man is on the run. That also means the hunt still goes on, and the military operation looking for Osama bin Laden.

HARRISON: Well, of course it does, and one of the key points that both the president and General Franks made, was that this operation is going to last as long as required. So, there shouldn't be any feeling on the part of the associates of bin Laden that they can outlast us. I think the American people are clearly understanding that this is a long term process, we are talking about months and years, rather than days and weeks, so this is going to go on for a long time, and nobody is going to have safe refuge.

KAGAN: And that's also going to be newsworthy to the family and friends that have people serving overseas in Afghanistan. People might not be coming home too soon.

HARRISON: Well, that's right, but I think General Franks's comments about the troops -- he was exactly right. These folks are really outstanding young men and young women, they're doing a great job. They're all volunteers by the way, there is no draft in America.

KAGAN: No draft military, absolutely.

HARRISON: So these people are there because they want to be, they understand how important it is, they're frustrated, they get tired, they get cold and wet and hungry, and all those kinds of things, but they are really dedicated professionals.

KAGAN: On the topic of military tribunals, president seemed a little irked that there seems like a document that has been leaked, and is in a lot of the newspapers today, but basically, the bottom line is, has not been decided how these military tribunals will work in the end.

HARRISON: Well, that's right, but I think it's clear that the basis of the military tribunals will be the procedures laid down in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which, of course, all military people are subject to. That's a fundamentally fair system. It provides for the rights of the accused, it provides for full complete hearings, it's not a kangaroo court system, and it's the system that these young men and young women that we're talking about have been under for their entire service.

KAGAN: But there are still a lot of Americans not comfortable with that system, as it's being set up.

HARRISON: Well I understand that, and I think most folks do understand that. However, it is a fair system, and it is -- it seems like --

KAGAN: As a court (ph) for the military --

HARRISON: As a court for the military, and I think if those procedures are followed, and it's apparent that that's going to be the basis, I think it will be a fair system for any accused that comes into the process, and there will be plenty of provision for civilian counsel, for discussion, for the providing of evidence, all those kinds of things, and the people who will be doing the judging and the jury -- will be members of the jury --

KAGAN: Will be the military.

HARRIS: -- will be people who really have a commitment to fairness.

KAGAN: And all military.

HARRISON: I think so.

KAGAN: Just so we understand. Okay. On detainees that are now being brought in and held at Kandahar airport, these detainees, or many of them, the plan is to take them to Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base -- Navy base in Cuba. I think a lot of people are going find that odd that -- why would you take --

HARRISON: Unusual.

KAGAN: Yeah, I mean, from Kandahar to Cuba, of all places, but you were telling me as we were listening to those comments that actually, this facility makes perfect sense to take the detainees to.

HARRISON: Well, it makes sense to me. It is an isolated facility. Access is very well controlled. We have plenty space down there, the U.S. has plenty of space down there to bring in interrogators and the people who do -- who will work with the detainees. It's within two hours flying time of Miami, so there is reasonable access to the United States.

KAGAN: But it is close to U.S., but important to note that it is not on U.S. soil.

HARRISON: That's right. It is not on U.S. soil, and that appears to be a key point.

KAGAN: Very key point. General George Harrison thanks for your insight.

HARRISON: You bet.

KAGAN: Appreciate it, thanks for listening in with us today.




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