CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
President Bush, Prime Minister Howard Hold Press Conference
Aired May 3, 2003 - 13:13 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield at CNN headquarters in Atlanta, to show you this tape, as promised, as it's coming in now, of President Bush in Crawford, Texas, walking there, with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. This is a working weekend for the president in Crawford, but he's hosting the Australian prime minister because, he said earlier today in his radio address, that it's important to acknowledge America's closest allies. Let's listen in right now.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you all for coming. It's been an honor for Laura and me to welcome Prime Minister Howard and Mrs. Howard to our ranch. We love coming here. It's a place for Laura and me to really spend some private time, and spend time with a friend makes it even more special.
And John Howard has been a great friend. The Australian government has been a great friend of the American people. The Australian people are great friends with the American people as well.
I -- the prime minister is a man of courage. He is a clear thinker. He understands the responsibilities of freedom. America is really grateful for the sacrifices of the Australian people and for the leadership of Prim minister John Howard.
On September the 10th, 2001, Prime Minister Howard and I stood together at the Washington Naval Yard to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty. The next day, Australia and America began writing a new chapter in the history of our alliance.
On September the 14th, just three days after the terrorist attacks, Australia invoked the ANZUS Treaty's mutual defense provisions. Australia came to America's aid in our time of need, and we won't forget that.
In nearly 20 months since September the 11th, Australian and American intelligence and law enforcement officials have worked very closely together. Our relationship has never been stronger, and that's good. Because together, we've broken up terrorist cells, we've disrupted terrorist plots, we've cut off terrorist financing, we brought a lot of terrorists to justice.
And in Iraq, Australian and American forces have stood together once again. We ended the rule of one of history's worst tyrants, and in so doing we not only freed the American (sic) people, we made our own people more secure. By getting rid of Saddam Hussein we ended the suffering of a lot of people in Iraq. And at the same time, we made peace more possible in the world.
All Australians are justifiably proud of the superb performance -- and I mean superb performance -- of the Australian air force, navy, and special forces in our (ph) Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As you may know, I was on the USS Abraham Lincoln two days ago. I met with Admiral Kelly. He was our highest-ranking official in charge of joint operations. I said, "I'm getting ready to see the prime minister in Crawford." I said, "What can I tell him about the performance and the bravery of the Australian troops?" He said, "They are the best in the world."
For that, Mr. Prime Minister, we're grateful.
We want to thank the Australian servicemen for their service, and particularly want to say thanks to their loved ones who, I'm sure, agonized over the fate of their husband or son or daughter, and tell them that we appreciate their sacrifice as well.
We're committed to defeating the threat of terror because we have both felt terror's effects. We remember the sympathy of the people of Australia on September 11th, and we share the same sympathy with the people of Australia after the horrible bombings of Bali.
The prime minister showed he's not only a man of steel, he showed the world he's a man of heart as well, as he dealt with the great tragedy that affected the Australian people.
We won't tire in our attempts to right terror. Nothing will deter us. We understand the effects of terror. We also are committed to a world that is more peaceful and more free.
We're committed to a stable and democratic Iraq. We fully believe that the people of Iraq are capable of running their own country. We will work to provide the conditions necessary for security, repair the infrastructure, make sure that the life of the average Iraqi citizen is back to normal. And then encourage the Iraqi people to decide their own fate and run their own government. We agree the U.N. Security Council should move swiftly to lift the economic sanctions on Iraq.
We'll continue to work together to make the world more safe and free. Today we discussed the Korean Peninsula. We discussed my commitment to move the Middle Eastern peace process forward. We discussed a lot of key issues.
And I was comfortable in so doing because I value the advice of John Howard. I trust his judgment, and I appreciate his friendship.
Mr. Prime Minister.
JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. Can I first (UNINTELLIGIBLE) myself, thank George and Laura very much for inviting us to a piece of American soil that I know has a special place in the president's heart. To come to the United States is always an experience and an opportunity as prime minister to renew the links and the friendship and the affection between our two nations and our two peoples. But to come to the heart of Texas and to be a guest of the president and his wife in this wonderful hideaway, although it doesn't appear to be very well hid away with this large gathering today, is a special opportunity.
Can I thank the president for the kind words that he's expressed about the Australian military participation in Iraq. We too in Australia are immensely proud of the way in which the men and women of the Australian defense force discharged their duties.
But can I, Mr. President, congratulate you on the leadership that you gave to the world, at times under very great criticism, at times facing very great obstruction. But you had a resolute, clear view of what had to be done. And we were very pleased and very proud and very determined when the final decision was taken to be part of that.
I think what was achieved in Iraq was quite extraordinary, from the military point of view. I think the military textbooks will be replete with the experiences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for many years to come.
And the leadership of the United States, with the support of its coalition partners -- Great Britain, Australia, Poland and others -- I think it sent a very important message not only to the region, but also to the rest of the world.
I welcome very much the personal commitment that you have given to the securing of a peaceful outcome in the long-running and bloody saga of relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
As the leader of a nation which has been a staunch and unapologetic friend of Israel ever since its foundation, we also support very strongly the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
And we see progress on this issue as being very important to consolidating what has been achieved in Iraq, and building on the message of freedom that came out of the operation in Iraq.
Our bilateral relationship is very close, indeed, in so many ways. There is a strategic and political closeness, but more important than that, there is a very deep affection between our two nations.
We have shared a lot of experiences. You recall that very emotional moment at the naval dock yard on the 10th of September, the first time we met. And the next day, of course, the world changed so dramatically. And I can remember returning by courtesy of the United States Air Force from Andrews Air Force Base to Hawaii and discussing with our foreign minister, Alexander Downer, the invoking of the ANZUS Treaty in consequence of what had occurred the day before in New York and Washington.
Australia and America are close friends because, above all, we have similar values. In the end, the thing that binds nations together more than anything else is the commonality of their values. And we have a view of the world that puts freedom and individual liberty, a belief in market outcomes where appropriate, at the center of the activities of both our nations.
Mr. President, I'm very honored to be here. Janet and I have greatly enjoyed your hospitality. We wish you well. We respect very much the leadership that you personally and your administration brings to the affairs of the world. We think the world is a safer, more optimistic place as a result of our joint efforts in Iraq.
And we think that is a message which is resonating around the world. And we, too, have one aspiration for the Iraqi people: that they can live in freedom, and they can run their own affairs, and they can benefit from the great civilization and the great resources which, unhindered, are at their disposal.
BUSH: Good. Thank you, John.
We will answer a couple of questions, two per side.
Barney, do you have a question?
He doesn't have one? Well, then we'll start with Patsy. Patsy is a fine Australian, as you know.
Tomorrow is her birthday.
Go ahead and ask a soft question then, now that I've set it up.
QUESTION: Sir, in honor of your guest, I'll ask it in Australian, if that's all right.
Is there a possibility that you may never find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? And how would that square with your rationale for going to war?
BUSH: The question's about weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The United States -- the United Nations Security Council voted 1441, which made the declaration that it had weapons of mass destruction. It's well known it had weapons of mass destruction.
And we've also got to recognize that he spent 14 years hiding weapons of mass destruction. I mean, he spent an entire decade making sure that inspectors would never find them. Iraq is the size of the state of California. It's got tunnels, caves, all kinds of complexes.
We'll find them. And it will be a matter of time to do so.
QUESTION: Mr. President, if I could ask, the prime minister has also said that Australian and American ties have never been stronger than at the moment. What impact will that have on Congress when it considers an FTA with Australia? And what sort of time line are you thinking of for the FTA?
BUSH: Right. Well, I appreciate you asking that. I'm firmly committed to an FTA with Australia. I am hopeful that the Congress feels the same way I feel.
We discussed the matter. I asked the prime minister, "Are we making, from the U.S. side, a strong enough effort to move the process along? Is Ambassador Zoellick doing what he's supposed to be doing, in terms of getting this trade agreement done?" And the prime minister assured me that was the case. And so, that made me feel good.
The idea is to try to get this thing done by the end of the year, and then of course get it to our Congress in '04. It's -- I believe we can get it done, and I think it's an important -- will be an important step in our relationship.
QUESTION: You guys now have in custody 18 of the 55 most wanted...
QUESTION: ... including several senior members -- Tariq Aziz and others. What are you learning about where Saddam might be, what his status is, or also about weapons?
BUSH: The question is about, you know, we've captured 18 of the 55, I think you said. And we're still looking for Baghdad Bob, I want you to know.
Anyway, what are we learning? Well, we're learning that, for example, that Tariq Aziz still doesn't know how to tell the truth. He didn't know how to tell the truth when he was in office; he doesn't know how to tell the truth when he's been -- as a captive.
And the -- but we will find out a lot about the nature of the Hussein regime as time goes on. Because, you know, it -- more and more people will come forward. It may not be the aces, kings and queens and jacks that do the talking. It may be those who were doing the -- carrying the water for the aces, kings, queens and jacks that do the talking.
And we will learn a lot when the Iraqi people -- as the Iraqi people continue to come forth. And when we feel like sharing information with you, we will. It's -- you'll probably learn it before I will, in certain cases. But what we're going -- the world will find is, the man had a program to develop weapons of mass destruction, that he had terrorist connections, and that he was by far one of the most brutal dictators in the history of the world. People in Australia and America can't imagine when John and I say how brutal this guy is. This is a guy that cut the tongues out of dissidents and let them bleed in town squares. That's just beyond the imagination of the Australian people to think that could possibly happen. It happened.
And more and more people will find out the nature of this regime as time goes on. I don't know whether the aces will talk. I don't know whether the kings will talk. But many Iraqi citizens will talk. And the more we learn, the more the world will find out about the true nature of the Iraqi regime.
HOWARD: Leigh Salson (ph), ABC?
QUESTION: President Bush, can you give an idea of the sorts of things that you and the prime minister did at the ranch last night and this morning? And when do you plan to visit Australia?
BUSH: Yes, as soon as possible. You know, I don't know what that means though, so that's kind of a -- that's called a dodge.
I'd love to come to Australia.
We -- so I get out of coffee (sic), of course got Laura some coffee first thing in the morning. And I look out my window, and there's the prime minister ready to go for a stroll. So I hustled and got dressed, and we went for a good walk.
And I'll tell you something, the guy -- I'm a pretty good athlete. He walks a good clip. I was breathing hard, and Barney was breathing harder. We had trouble keeping up with him.
But one of my favorite things to do is to show this place to friends. So the prime minister and Mrs. Howard and Laura and I went -- traveled the ranch. And I took him to my favorite spot, which is this canyon. And there's a waterfall. It had rained a couple of days ago, and actually last night, so the water was moving pretty good. And it's just a special part of the ranch.
We've got a lot of different variety of hardwood on this ranch. It's hard to tell it from this spot, but north of here there's a creek and intersection to a river. And there's just some fantastic trees in these bottoms. And John and I went and spent some time down there.
We visited a lot about our mutual interests. He's obviously very knowledgeable about a lot of the world. We spent a lot of time talking about Indonesia and the threats that emanate out of Indonesia and what the Australian government is doing to work with the Indonesian government to make Australian people and America, for that matter, more secure. Had a pretty good dinner last night, a little beef. And fortunately the prime minister wanted to go to bed early, because I did too.
And we had a great visit. We'll go have a lunch -- one more tour of the ranch and have a lunch.
The one thing I regret is that he didn't go fishing with me yesterday afternoon. He wanted a little rest.
But I love having him here.
I can't tell you what a comfort it is to talk to him on the phone. He's steady. You know, times get tough when you make tough decisions. And we both made a tough decision, but there was never any doubt in his mind. He was steady under fire. He stood his ground when he needed to stand his ground, because he understands the difference between right and wrong. And he knows the difference between slavery and freedom.
And I'm honored to call him friend and really am glad he's here.
Thank you all very much. Hope you enjoy your stay in this part of the world.
By the way, they tell me Australia and Texas got a lot in common. Having watched this man perform, I agree.
Biggest compliment you can pay to somebody, at least in this part of the world, is "You're kind of like a Texan."
BUSH: Thank you.
HOWARD: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Well, President Bush in Crawford, Texas showing a little humor there as he hosts Australian Prime Minister John Howard, saying the two have an awful lot in common, besides the fact that they are good friends, even the president joking about the Texas dinner they both enjoyed last night, beef tenderloins, okra and grits. But he says, not on the menu of events, no fishing.
On a serious note, however, President Bush said, as well as John Howard, both patting each other on the back for what they call a good military operation, a job well done in Iraq, now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. The two nations are working together in early stages of the war. The Australians, the Americans, as well as the British Special Forces, working together to secure western sites, which would have been Scud missile launch sites.
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