QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you for giving us this chance here in Al Arabiya.
Regarding the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners, six U.S. soldiers are being reprimanded.
Do you think that's enough?
BUSH: First, I want to tell the people of the Middle East that the practices
that took place in that prison are abhorrent and they don't represent America.
They represent the actions of a few people. Secondly, it's important for people
to understand that in a democracy that there will be a full investigation. In
other words, we want to know the truth.
In our country, when there's an allegation of abuse more than an allegation
in this case, actual abuse, we saw the pictures there will be a full
investigation and justice will be delivered. We have a presumption of innocent
until you're guilty in our system, but the system will be transparent, it will
be open and people will see the results. This is a serious matter. It's a matter
that reflects badly on my country. Our citizens in America are appalled by what
they saw, just like people in the Middle East are appalled. We share the same
deep concerns. And we will find the truth, we will fully investigate. The world
will see the investigation and justice will be served.
QUESTION: And you just you've said this is reflected badly here, in
the United States of America. How do you think this will be perceived in the
BUSH: Terrible. I think people in the Middle East who want to dislike America
will use this as an excuse to remind people about their dislike. I think the
average citizen will say, this isn't a country that I've been told about. We're
a great country because we're a free country, and we do not tolerate these kind
The people of the Middle East must be assured that we will investigate fully,
that we will find out the truth. They will know the truth, just like the American
citizens will know the truth, and justice will be served.
Secondly, it's very important for the people of the Middle East to realize
that the troops we have overseas are decent, honorable citizens who care about
freedom and peace; that are working daily in Iraq to improve the lives of the
Iraqi citizens, and these actions of a few people do not reflect the nature
of the men and women who serve our country.
QUESTION: After these pictures came out, some people in the area started talking
about another alleged abuse. Could you tell us about what's being done to prevent
this from happening and just to improve the situation?
BUSH: Absolutely. I have told our Secretary of Defense, and I have instructed
him to tell everybody else in the military, I want to know the full extent of
the operations in Iraq, the prison operations. We want to make sure that if
there is a systemic problem in other words, if there's a problem system-wide
that we stop the practices.
Again, it's very important for people, your listeners, to understand, in our
country that when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we
act and we act in a way where leaders are willing to discuss it with
the media. And we act in a way where, you know, our Congress asks pointed questions
to the leadership. In other words, people want to know the truth. That stands
in contrast to dictatorships. A dictator wouldn't be answering questions about
this. A dictator wouldn't be saying that the system will be investigated and
the world will see the results of the investigation. A dictator wouldn't admit
reforms needed to be done.
And so the people in the Middle East must understand that this was horrible.
But we're dealing with it in a way that will bring confidence to not only our
citizens, which is very important, but confidence to people of the world that
this situation will be rectified and justice will be done.
QUESTION: We are going to Fallujah the way the situation is being resolved,
is being considered in some parts of Iraq as a defeat to U.S. How do you address
that, or do you have anything to address
BUSH: Yes, of course. The strategy in Fallujah is to empower Iraqis to step
up and take control of the security situation; that we're on our way to the
transfer of sovereignty. And people who feel like that they can wreak havoc
on innocent Iraqis will be brought to justice in Iraq, either by Iraqi citizens
and/or by coalition forces.
And we're making progress. There are a few people there in Iraq that want to
claim credit for any situation on the ground, but the people in Fallujah are
tired of foreign fighters and radicals and extremists preventing them from living
a normal life. And those who remain in Fallujah will be taken care of. And the
Iraqi forces that have been stood up are now in the process of patrolling the
streets and bringing law and order to the streets.
QUESTION: June the 30th is approaching. How do you think still Mr. Sadr
in defense with U.S., how do you think this person should be dealt with?
BUSH: I think he ought to be dealt with by the Iraqi citizens who are getting
tired of him occupying the holiest of holy sites. And we are very respectful
for the holy sites in Iraq, we understand their importance to the Iraqi citizens.
Mr. Sadr is occupying those sites as if they're his, and I think the Iraqi citizens
are getting tired of that.
We will deal with his militias, as will the Iraqi forces deal with these militias.
Militias are people who are willing to kill, intimidate and try to take matters
into their own hands, which is not the way democracy functions. Free societies
do not allow thugs to roam streets and hold people hostage to their whims. The
Iraqis will deal with Mr. Sadr.
QUESTION: June the 30th, do you think your administration is really prepared
right now to have a very, very nice day in that day to give the power
BUSH: Absolutely we're prepared to do so. When we say we're going to do something,
we're going to do it. As you know, the United Nations, the coalition, as well
as Iraqi citizens are preparing the entity to which sovereignty will be passed.
There will still be a lot of hard work to do, and we want to help.
The Iraqi citizens must understand America is not going to leave until the
job is complete. We want to help Iraq. We've made a commitment. And the United
States will keep that commitment because we believe in freedom and we believe
the people of Iraq want to be free. We believe they want to raise their children
in a peaceful world. We believe they want to educate their children in good
schools. We want to we believe they want to realize their own personal
ambitions. If they're a businessman or a businesswoman, they want to build their
own business in peace. That's what we believe.
And, therefore, we stand side-by-side with the people of Iraq who are peaceful.
And there's a lot of peaceful people that look for a better day. I'm very proud
of the brave Iraqis who've stood up, and I'm very proud of our own men and women
in uniform who are helping Iraq to become free.
QUESTION: Mr. President, critics are saying that by your action in Iraq actually
invited al Qaeda and other terrorists to do business with you over there. Could
you address that?
BUSH: Sure. Do you remember September the 11th, 2001? Al Qaeda attacked the
United States. They killed thousands of our citizens. I will never forget what
they have done to us. They declared war on us. And the United States will pursue
them. And so long as I'm the President, we will be determined, steadfast, and
strong as we pursue those people who kill innocent lives because they hate freedom.
And, of course, al Qaeda looks for any excuse. But the truth of the matter
is, they hate us, and they hate freedom, and they hate people who embrace freedom.
And they're willing to kill innocent Iraqis because Iraqis are willing to be
free. Iraqis are sick of foreign people coming in their country and trying to
destabilize their country. And we will help them rid Iraq of these killers.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you went to Iraq as a part of your project in the
Middle East, and flourish democracy over there. To which extent you are willing
to go further to flourish a democracy? Are we going to see in the future more
action against some other countries to flourish democracy over there, like Syria?
BUSH: No, I think it's first of all, you've got to understand, sir,
that military options are always my last option, not the first option, and that
we can promote freedom without use of military. There are ways to stand with
reformers and encourage reform and hold up examples of where societies are more
stable and more free as a result of democracy and freedom.
Secondly, it's very important for the people of the Middle East to understand
that freedom doesn't have to look like America. A free society doesn't have
to look like an American society. Free societies will develop according to the
cultures of the people in the regions and the Middle East. And reform and freedom
take time. I understand that. It takes time for a free society to emerge. And
so America can affect freedom in different kinds of ways.
But inherent in your question was, you know, am I anxious to use military power?
Iraq was a unique situation because Saddam Hussein had constantly defied the
world and had threatened his neighbors, had used weapons of mass destruction,
had terrorist ties, had torture chambers inside his country, had mass graves.
It was a very unique situation. And he was given a chance to meet the demands
of the free world in a peaceful way, but he chose he chose war.
We can make progress with freedom and peace because I believe deep in the heart
and soul of every human being is a desire to be free. And America will continue
to speak to those aspirations.
QUESTION: My last question, Mr. President. You gave assurance to Sharon government.
From Al Arabiya, in these last questions, what kind of assurance are you going
to give to Palestinian today?
BUSH: I stood up in front of the world and said that the Palestinian people
ought to have their own state. I'm the first President to have ever said that.
And my assurance is, is that I have not changed my vision of two states living
side-by-side in peace. And that Prime Minister Sharon made a decision
to withdraw from the Gaza and from settlements on the West Bank, which I thought
was a very strong decision and an important decision, because it now gives us
a chance to move in and to say to the Palestinians, here's your chance to build
a state, to put the institutions in place for a state to emerge, that speaks
to the aspirations and hopes of the Palestinian people, that is a peaceful state.
And we want to help. And that's why yesterday you saw a statement coming out
of the Quartet, which is a part of the road map the road map process
that says, let's work together to give the Palestinians hope. And my commitment
to the Palestinian people is, when peaceful leaders emerge, when people are
willing to fight off terror, they will have a great opportunity to see this
state emerge. And America will help.
QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you so much for discussing. Enjoy your day.
It's sunny, so I hope you have a good day.
BUSH: Thank you, sir. It is a sunny day.
QUESTION: Thank you.