|We're Fighting Evil |
We're Fighting Evil
Edited Transcript of a joint press conference given by the President of the United States, George Bush, and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, Washington D.C., Wednesday 7 November 2001. Source: FCO, London.
Mr Blair: First of all, can I say how pleased I am to be back at the White House in the company of President Bush, and to have continued the discussions we've been having over these past weeks and continue them face-to-face? And can I thank him once again for his leadership and his strength at this time? And can I say to him on behalf of the people of my country, but I believe people right across the world, that the determination to see that justice is done is every bit as strong today as it was on 11 September?
The cause is just, the strategy is there, the determination is there, and there is a complete and total commitment to making sure that this is a battle in which we will prevail. And we will. I have no doubt about that at all.
What we've discussed already, and we'll carry on discussing, is obviously the military strategy in Afghanistan. We have discussed the humanitarian issues to make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can to help the plight of people in Afghanistan. And we should never forget that some 4.5 million of them were refugees before the 11 September.
We've discussed also the reconstruction of Afghanistan. How we make sure that after the present Taliban regime, led by Mullah Omar, is out of the way, that we construct a broad-based regime that is representative of all the different groupings in Afghanistan, and offer some hope and stability and prosperity for that part of the world.
And we've obviously also discussed how important it is that at this moment in time we carry on building on that strong coalition against international terrorism in all its forms. And I believe that that coalition, if anything, is even stronger today. Certainly, from the discussions I had with European leaders just a few days ago, their commitment is real and their determination is also absolute to see this thing done.
So can I once again thank President Bush very much for his kindness in welcoming me here?
Question: It's been eight weeks since the 11 September attack, and we don't know where Usama bin Laden is. What do you say to Americans who might be frustrated and impatient with the war effort?
Mr Bush: Yes. I will say to them, we fight a new kind of war. Never would we dream that someone would use our own airplanes to attack us and/or the mail to attack us. I will tell them that we've got a sound strategy in place that has got Usama bin Laden and the Al Qa’ida thugs on the run.
And I will tell them that we will bring them to justice. I can't tell them exactly when, but I will tell them that we will prevail. There's no question in my mind. We know he hides in caves and we are shutting down caves. We know he moves around at night and we're looking for him. We know that slowly but surely the Taliban is crumbling. Its defences are crumbling. Its folks are defecting. We know that if you're on the front line and if you're a Taliban soldier, you're likely to get injured because we're relentless in our pursuit of the mission.
In terms of the anthrax, we don't know who did it yet. We do know it's a terrorist. Anybody who would use the mail to try to kill an American is a terrorist. But we do know this: that we've responded rapidly; that our health officials are performing really fine work. And I truly believe - as I have said many times, I believe they have saved a lot of lives. We know how to treat anthrax, and we now know we need sanitation machines in our post offices - machines to sanitize the mail. And we're putting those in. We know that we're fighting evil. And the American people are patient. They've heard the call. And tomorrow night I'm going to put out an address that reminds the nation that we're truly a great nation, that we responded in ways that the enemy could never have imagined. And I'm so proud of the patience and steadfast nature of our people.
Question: Can I ask you whether you think you can win this struggle against terrorism without a settlement in the Middle East and what can America do to reinvigorate the peace process?
Mr Bush: I believe we can. I believe we're going to - we're hunting them down as we speak. And we will bring them to justice. But, remember, the war is beyond just Afghanistan. There are over 60 Al Qa’ida organizations around the world. And today we struck a blow for freedom by cutting off one of their money sources. And I'm absolutely convinced, having said that, however, we're both working hard to try to bring peace to the Middle East. My secretary of state spends enormous amounts of time on the phone with both parties, urging for there to be calm so that we can get into the Mitchell process. There is a process in place that will lead to peace called Mitchell. It's been embraced by most of the nations of the world. And we're working hard to get us into the Mitchell process. But there's no doubt in my mind we'll bring Al Qa’ida to justice, peace or no peace in the Middle East.
Mr Blair: Can I just say a word on that? There is no way whatever in which our action in Afghanistan is conditional on progress in the Middle East. And indeed one of the things that bin Laden wants to do is to try and hijack the Palestinian cause for his own purposes. Now, we are taking the action in Afghanistan, and I believe, incidentally, people are patient about this. I think they understand this is not a conventional conflict. It takes a lot of strategy and planning and determination over a period of time to be successful. But be under no doubt at all, our objectives, which is to close down that terrorist network in Afghanistan - those objectives will be achieved. Now, even though it is not conditional in any sense, of course we want to see progress in the Middle East. That's why we're devoting enormous amounts of time to it. And I believe it is possible to see how we can make progress in the Middle East. And I described some of the ways that that could happen when I was in the Middle East last week. So be under no doubt either that, irrespective of the action in Afghanistan, it is in everybody's interest that we make progress in the Middle East and we will strain every sinew we possibly can to do so.
Question: Prime Minister, there are many experts on both sides of the Atlantic who believe that the air war is limited in its ability to really inflict a decisive blow against the Taliban. One, do you agree and two, are you willing to commit large numbers of British troops beyond the SAS and the Royal Marines?
Mr Blair: Well, first of all, let me say something to you I often say to our own media when I'm asked a question about the precise nature of our military operations, and that is that I've learned in these situations it's not a sensible thing to discuss in detail they types of military operation you may undertake, for very obvious reasons. But we are completely committed to seeing this thing through. I think people know that the strategy has to encompass more than air strikes alone. Although do not underestimate the enormous damage that is now being done to Taliban front-line troops because that is where the air power is being concentrated.
But, of course, there are other operations that we will mount as well. And there is obviously the support and the assistance that we are giving to the Northern Alliance. There are the measures that we're taking of a political and diplomatic nature as well. The war is only a month old, and we have begun this action. We have taken it at a number of different levels. I think it is already having a huge impact. We have destroyed virtually all the terrorist training camps of Al Qa’ida. We've destroyed an enormous amount of the military infrastructure of the Taliban. Their air power, so far as it existed, is completely taken out. We therefore have a very, very strong situation from which to move forward. And I think what is different about this conflict is that every part of it has to come together. In other words, not just the military part, but also the support for those parties in opposition to the Taliban, and the political and diplomatic aspects that help build a strong coalition that can secure the objectives we want to see.
And I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will achieve the objectives that we want. And those objectives are very simple. Sometimes people say to me, ‘Well, you know, clarify the military objectives.’ There's no difficulty about doing that at all. It's Al Qa’ida and the terrorist network shut down; it's the Taliban regime out; it's a new regime in that is broad-based; and it's a decent future for the people of Afghanistan based on some stability and progress, not based on a regime that oppresses its people, treats it people appallingly, is a threat to regional stability, and basically thrives on the drugs trade. Now, I think those are pretty clear objectives, and I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will achieve them in full, and we will not let up until we do.