Foreign Policy in Photo Op with Congressional Leaders
The Cabinet Room
The White House
September 4, 2002
10:42 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. It's been my honor to welcome the leadership
of the United States Congress here, to welcome them back from the August recess.
We talked about a variety of issues -- talked about the defense appropriations
bill, and terrorism insurance, and an energy bill. Spent most of our time talking
about a serious threat to the United States, a serious threat to the world,
and that's Saddam Hussein.
One of the things I made very clear to the members here is that doing nothing
about that serious threat is not an option for the United States. I also made
it very clear that we look forward to a open dialogue with Congress and the
American people about the threat, and that not only will we consult with the
United States Congress -- we, being the administration -- but that my administration
will fully participate in any hearings that the Congress wishes to have on this
subject, on the subject about how to make America a more secure country, how
to best protect the American families in our country.
At the appropriate time, this administration will go to the Congress to seek
approval for -- necessary to deal with the threat. At the same time, I will
work with our friends in the world. I've invited Prime Minister Blair to come
to Camp David on Saturday, and he'll -- he's coming. I've looked forward to
talking with him about our mutual concerns about how to make the world more
secure and safe.
I will see Jean Chretien on Monday, as we -- we'll talk about how to make
our borders work better, but, at the same time, I'll talk to him about this
subject. I'll be on the phone to leaders of the -- China and Russia and France,
and then I'll be giving the speech at the United Nations.
Saddam Hussein is a serious threat. He is a significant problem. And it's
something that this country must deal with. And today the process starts about
how to have an open dialogue with the elected officials and, therefore, the
American people about our future and how best to deal with it.
Let me answer a couple of questions. Steve Holland, Fournier, and then Gregory,
and that's it.
QUESTION: Mr. President, what's your opinion on putting U.N. weapons inspectors back
in Iraq? Will you ask the U.N. to do that? Is that a viable option?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I'll be giving a speech on Tuesday -- or the
12th -- and you can come and listen to it. But let me say to you that the
issue is not inspectors, the issue is disarmament. This is a man who said
he would not arm up. This is a man who told the world that he would not harbor
weapons of mass destruction. That's the primary issue. And I'll be discussing
ways to make sure that that is the case.
QUESTION: So you will be -- you will be discussing ways to make sure that he disarms?
Are you talking about having inspectors back in?
THE PRESIDENT: I will first remind the United Nations that for 11 long years,
Saddam Hussein has side-stepped, crawfished, wheedled out of any agreement
he had made not to harbor -- not to develop weapons of mass destruction, agreements
he's made to treat the people within his country with respect. And so I'm
going to call upon the world to recognize that he is stiffing the world. And
I will lay out and I will talk about ways to make sure that he fulfills his
QUESTION: Let me just follow up on your opening statement. When you say you're going
to seek congressional approval, does that mean, in effect, Congress will have
veto authority over your plan to oust Saddam Hussein?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm confident we will be able to -- I'll be able to work with
Congress to deal with this threat to the American people. And that's what
QUESTION: Mr. President, you talked about Saddam Hussein stiffing the world. In your
mind, has the time come to issue the Iraqi leader an ultimatum similar to
that that you issued to the Taliban?
THE PRESIDENT: I am going to state clearly to the United Nations what I think.
And I think that he has not fulfilled any of the obligations that he made
to the world. And I believe it's important for the world to deal with this
man. And I believe it's really important for the United States Congress to
have an open dialogue about how to deal with this threat.
We are in a new era; the first battle of the -- the first war of the 21st
century took place in Afghanistan. The United States is under threats. We
are -- we spent a lot of time, people around this table, good-hearted people
who care deeply about America spent a lot of time thinking about how best
to secure our homeland even further. And this is a debate the American people
must hear, must understand. And the world must understand, as well, that its
credibility is at stake.
Thank you all for coming.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting an ultimatum is coming? Is a deadline coming, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: That's a fine-looking child, fine-looking child. (Laughter.)
Little Gregory. Little Stretch. (Laughter.)