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President Bush Discusses Iraq Situation

Aired February 25, 2003 - 11:27   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We're standing by -- actually President Bush. We received some tape that was taken at the White House, and it's coming down in 30 seconds. I understand that president bush did answer some questions on Iraq.
So we're interested in hearing what he had to say.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: He was meeting with his economics team this morning, as I understand it. So it will be interesting to see what he has to say.

KAGAN: A little economics, a little Iraq. There's a live picture from outside the White House, and here comes the tape.

Let's listen in.



I'm meeting with my National Economic Council, key members of my administration who have been traveling the country listening to the voices of small-business people, entrepreneurs, workers, listening to their concerns about our future, and at the same explaining to them how we address the economic issues of our country.

BUSH: This administration is firmly committed to the principle that if people have more of their own money, they're likely to spend it on a good or a service, which means somebody is more likely to be able to find work.

We're committed to the notion that investment of capital equals jobs. And so therefore our policies are aimed at encouraging investment and job creation, as well as consumer confidence and spending.

And we are confident that when the Congress listens to the people, that they will support this plan. It's an important economic plan, and it's one that we look forward to vigorously working with Congress to get it done here.

I'll be glad to take some questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what would it take at this time to avoid a war with Iraq?

BUSH: Full disarmament.

QUESTION: Could you explain on that, sir?

BUSH: Well, there's only one thing: it's full disarmament. The man has been told to disarm. For the sake of peace, he must completely disarm.

I suspect we'll see him playing games, that he will -- the world will say disarm and he'll -- he will all of a sudden find a weapon that he claimed he didn't have.


BUSH: I suspect that he will try to fool the world one more time. After all, he has had a history of doing that for 12 years. He's been successful at gaming the system. And our attitude is it's now time for him to fully disarm. And we expect the Security Council to honor its word by insisting that Saddam disarm. Now's the time.

QUESTION: Mr. President, one of the concerns about the economy is the possibility of a war. Do you have any idea how much a war might cost and it might affect our economy here at home?

BUSH: There's all kinds of estimates about the cost of war. But the risk of doing nothing, the risk of the security of this country being jeopardized at the hands of madman with weapons of mass destruction far exceeds the risks of any action we may be forced to take.

There are people who worry about the future. I understand that. And I worry about the future. I worry about a future in which Saddam Hussein gets to blackmail and/or attack. I worry about a future in which terrorist organized are fueled and funded by Saddam Hussein.

BUSH: And that's why we're bringing this issue to a head.

QUESTION: Will the outcome in the U.N. Security Council vote have any effect on whether or not you go to war?

BUSH: Obviously, we'd like to have a positive vote. That's why we've submitted a Security Council resolution, along with Great Britain and Spain. But as I said all along, it would be helpful and useful, but I don't believe we need a second resolution. Saddam Hussein hasn't disarmed. He may play like he's going to disarm, but he hasn't disarmed. And for the sake of peace and the security of the American people, he must disarm.

QUESTION: How big and what kind of sacrifices will be asked of the U.S. troops, their families, the American public should you decide to go to war?

BUSH: Any time you put a troop into harm's way, that in itself is a sacrifice. First of all -- and that's why war is my last choice. That's why I've said all along I would hope that the world would come together to convince Saddam to make the decision to disarm. Perhaps the biggest risk in the theater, if we were to commit our troops, is Saddam himself. He shows no regard for human life in his own country. After all, he's gassed them. He's used the weapons of mass destruction on his own people that he now claims he doesn't have. He tortures people, he brutalizes them, could care less about human condition inside of Iraq.

I think one of the biggest dangers we face, if we go to war, is how he treats innocent life. And it is important for the Iraqi leadership and Iraqi generals to clearly understand that if they take innocent life, if they destroy infrastructure, they will be held to account as war criminals.


KAGAN: Well, there's President Bush on tape that was taken at the White House just a little bit ago. The president saying that the only thing that would prevent war with Iraq would be full disarmament by Saddam Hussein. He was asked about the cost of war, didn't come up with an exact dollar figure about what that would be, but said it would be a lot more expensive and costly to let someone like Saddam Hussein continue to be armed.

Let's bring in our John King, who is listening in at the White House as well.

John, I think I picked up on something that I think President Bush and the French actually have in common, and that's that they don't necessarily believe a second resolution is needed at the United Nations.

But of course they come at this from a very different perspective of why they think one would or would not be needed.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A very different perspective indeed. The president, of course, said he wants the Security Council's blessing if there is a war. That would give him much more international support, but the president again saying it is not necessary in his view.

The president also said that war is his last choice, acknowledging the significant sacrifices that could be paid by U.S. military personnel and their families. But as the president said yet again, war is his last choice. If you listen to that entire exchange, it was quite clear that the president believes he may be making that choice in the very near future. He said only full disarmament by Saddam Hussein will avoid a war. The president also saying he does not expect Saddam Hussein to meet that test. He did say look for some games by Saddam Hussein over the next couple of weeks, but the president sounding quite determined to go forward. But also acknowledging, not only the potential sacrifices to U.S. personnel, but as he meets with his economic team today, the prospect of war is a cloud overhanging not only the U.S. economy, but the global economy. Many financial markets uncertain of which direction to head until they know how this confrontation will be resolved -- Daryn. KAGAN: John, the president saying that only full disarmament is the only thing that's going to prevent war, and yet, when you look at the trust or lack of trust between the president and Saddam Hussein, you have to wonder is there anything that that leader or government can claim that the United States would believe without going to war?

KING: Well, there is a long list, if you go back to the current U.N. resolutions and the resolutions, more than a dozen over the past 10 to 12 years. There's a long list of things that Saddam Hussein would have to do, beginning with destroying those Al Samoud II missiles. That is the latest demand from the weapons inspectors. But there also are hundreds of chemical weapons, shells, thousands of gallons of chemical and biological weapons that have been documented into previous inspections regime. That inventory is part of the public record, if you will, at the United Nations.

To meet the test, Saddam Hussein would have to account for all of that and have to destroy the weapons that are still in his possession. The United States says they see absolutely no evidence that Saddam Hussein lo do that, destroy the full inventory, and they cite as the most recent example, his government's apparent reluctance to meet the demands just presented by the inspectors to destroy those missiles.

KAGAN: John King at the White House. John, thank you.


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