End of Ramadan at White House Ceremony
The Diplomatic Reception Room
The White House
December 17, 2001
1:12 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome. It's good to see everybody. Thank you all for coming.
We want to thank you for coming to the White House to celebrate Eid. It's so
nice of you to be here. It reminds us how much we all have in common, how similar
boys and girls are, no matter what their religion may be. So thanks for being
here today. We're really thrilled you're here.
Eid is a time of joy, after a season of fasting and prayer and reflection. Each
year, the end of Ramadan means celebration and thanksgiving for millions of
Americans. And your joy during this season enriches the life of our great country.
This year, Eid is celebrated at the same time as Hanukkah and Advent. So it's
a good time for people of these great faiths, Islam, Judaism and Christianity,
to remember how much we have in common: devotion to family, a commitment to
care for those in need, a belief in God and His justice, and the hope for peace
We also share a custom I know all of you are excited about, and that's giving
gifts to children. And after this is over, I have a little gift for you, from
the White House. This season is meant to be a time of rejoicing, as well as
a time of generosity. I'm proud that our country, during Eid, is helping the
people of Afghanistan. And I'm proud that the children of America, through America's
Fund for Afghan Children, are giving food and clothes and toys to the children
The people of Afghanistan have suffered so much, and we're committed to helping
them in their time of hardship and in their time of need. These are challenging
days for our nation, but holidays like this one remind us about how much we
have to be thankful for, and that God delights in joy and generosity of men
and women and children. People of every faith are welcome here in the people's
house. People of every background are welcome to come here to the White House.
I want to thank you all for coming, and I'd like to go read, if you don't mind,
read from a book to you. Is that okay? How about that. Let's go do that, and
then we'll go back over here. We've got a special gift for you.
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. We're getting ready to leave. I may
answer a few questions if you have some. Stretch, and then Ron.
Q Mr. President, have you -- with the campaign against the Taliban winding down
to a very small area of Afghanistan, will you consider this operation a success
if Osama bin Laden is at large?
THE PRESIDENT: Osama bin Laden is going to be brought to justice. It may happen
tomorrow, it may happen in a month, it may happen in a year. But he is going
to be brought to justice. He's on the run. He thinks he can hide, but he can't.
We've been at this operation now for about two and a half months, and we've
made incredible progress. And one of the objectives I've said, in this theater,
in all theaters for that matter, is that we want al Qaeda killers brought to
justice. And we'll bring him to justice.
Q What do you know, sir, about whether he's still in Afghanistan? And have you
spoken to the Pakistani government about helping you to track him down if, in
fact, he has fled across the border?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Pakistanis will help us, and they are helping us look
for not only one -- Osama bin Laden, but for all the al Qaeda murderers and
killers. They will be brought to justice. And it's just a matter of time, as
far as I'm concerned. We've got all kinds of reports that he's in a cave, that
he's not in a cave, that he's escaped, that he hasn't escaped. And there's all
kinds of speculation.
But when the dust clears, we'll find out where he is, and he'll be brought to
Q Will you order a military tribunal for him?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, one thing at a time, Ron. I do have the option of military
tribunals, because I think it's going to be a way to protect national security
matters. But I'll make that judgment when we bring him to justice.
Q On another matter, sir, have investigators concluded the anthrax used in the
mailings have a domestic source? Are you looking for --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're still looking on that. We've all got different feelings
about it. I -- and we're gathering as much information. And as soon as we make
definitive conclusions, we'll share it with the American people.
Q -- what the next steps might be in fighting terrorism in other countries or
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we're looking. I mean, any time there is somebody harboring
a killer or a terrorist, we will work with them to bring those people to justice.
And one of the things I won't do, of course, is tell the enemy what our next
move will be. I'm working to build -- to keep our coalition strong.
Colin Powell and myself and others in the administration are constantly talking
to world leaders to encourage them to cut off money, or disrupt killer cells
that might be hiding in their countries. We've made great progress. We've arrested
over -- I think it's over 300 now. We're beginning to shut down financial institutions
around the world.
Not every operation needs to be a military operation to be successful against
the terrorist networks. And I'm pleased to tell you that the coalition is working
cooperatively. And we're sharing a lot of intelligence between nations, and
it's having an effect.
Q So might Iraq be next, probably?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, no, I'm not going to tell the enemy what's next. They just
need to know that so long as they plan, and have got plans to murder innocent
people, America will be breathing down their neck.
Q Mr. President, what are you learning about John Walker's involvement in the
Taliban or al Qaeda, and should he face the death penalty if he's found to be
THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to let the appropriate law enforcement agencies make
recommendations to me. He has been questioned, properly questioned by the U.S.
government. I have yet to see the transcript myself. But we'll make the decision
on what to do with Mr. Walker. He is a U.S. citizen. Obviously, I've said that
U.S. citizens will not go into military tribunals. And so we'll make the determination
whether or not he stays within the military system or comes into the civil justice
system, the civil system in America.