QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us.
Evidence of torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. personnel has left many Iraqis
and people in the Middle East and the Arab world with the impression that the
United States is no better than Saddam Hussein's regime, especially when those
alleged torture took place in the Abu Ghraib prison, a symbol of torture of
Iraqis under Saddam.
QUESTION: What can the U.S. what can we do to get out of this?
BUSH: First, people in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as
They must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent
America that I know. The America I know is a compassionate country that believes
in freedom. The America I know cares about every individual. The America I know
has sent troops into Iraq to promote freedom; good, honorable citizens that
are helping the Iraqis every day.
It's also important for the people of Iraq to know that in a democracy everything
is not perfect, that mistakes are made. But in a democracy as well those mistakes
will be investigated and people will be brought to justice.
We're an open society. We're a society that is willing to investigate
fully investigate in this case what took place in that prison.
That stands in stark contrast to life under Saddam Hussein. His trained torturers
were never brought to justice. Under his regime there were no investigations
about mistreatment of people. There will be investigations. People will be brought
QUESTION: When did you learn about the did you see the pictures on TV?
When was the first time you heard about the...
BUSH: Yes. First time I saw or heard about pictures was on TV. However, as
you might remember, in early January, General Kimmitt talked about an investigation
that would be taking place about accused alleged improprieties in the
prison. So our government has been in the process of investigating.
And there are two, more than two investigators multiple investigations
going on, some of them related to any criminal charges that may be filed. And
in our system of law, it's essential that those criminal charges go forward
In other words, people need to be are treated innocent until proven
guilty. And facts are now be're a free society. That's what free societies do.
If there's a problem, they address those problems in a forthright, up-front
manner. And that's what's taking place.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in a democracy and a free society, as you mentioned,
people investigate. But at the same time, even those who are not directly responsible
for these events take responsibility. With such a problem of this magnitude,
do we expect anyone to step down? Do you still have confidence in the secretary
BUSH: Oh, of course, I've got some confidence in the secretary of defense and
I've got confidence in the commanders on the ground in Iraq because they and
our troops are doing great work on behalf of the Iraqi people.
We're finding the few that want to try to stop progress toward freedom and
democracy. And we're helping the Iraqi people stand up a government. We stand
side by side with the Iraqis that love freedom.
But people will be held to account. That's what the process does. That's what
we do in America. We fully investigate, we let everybody see the results of
the investigation and then people will be held to account.
QUESTION: Every year, the State Department issues a human rights report about
practices around the world and abuses. And we call upon countries every once
in a while to put pressure on them to allow International Red Cross to visit
prisons and detention centers. Would you allow the International Red Cross and
other human rights organizations to visit prisons under the control of the U.S.
military in Iraq?
BUSH: Of course, we'll cooperate with the International Red Cross. They are
a vital organization and we work with the International Red Cross.
And you're right, we do point out human rights abuses. We also say to those
governments, "Clean up your act." And that's precisely what America
is doing. We've discovered these abuses. They're abhorrent abuses. They do not
reflect the actions of these few ust as appalled at what they have seen
on TV as the Iraqi citizens have. The Iraqi citizens must understand that. And
therefore there will be a full investigation and justice will be served.
And we will do we will do to ourselves what we expect of others. And
when we say, "You've got human rights abuses, take care of the problem,"
we will do the same thing. We are taking care of the problem.
And it is unpleasant for Americans to see that some citizens, some soldiers
have acted this way, because it doesn't again, I keep repeating, but
it's true: It doesn't reflect how we think. This is not America. America is
a country of justice and law and freedom and treating people with respect.
QUESTION: Transferring control of Fallujah, in Iraq, to former army officers
under Saddam Hussein led many people in Iraq, and even in the Arab world, to
believe that the U.S. is lowering its expectations. How would you respond?
BUSH: Quite the contrary. We're raising the expectations. We believe the Iraqi
people can self-govern and we believe the Iraqi people have got the capacity
to take care of people who are willing to terrorize innocent Iraqi citizens.
And that's what you're seeing in Fallujah.
As a matter of fact, the general in charge of the operation in Fallujah had
been imprisoned by Saddam Hussein. So he felt the vindictiveness of the Hussein
And I've got confidence that Iraq will be a peaceful, self- governing nation,
and I also have confidence that with help the Iraqi security forces will be
strong against foreign terrorists and others who are willing to kill, and criminals
who are willing to try to wreak havoc in this society.
Listen, there are thousands of innocent Iraqis who are dying at the hands of
these killers, and we want to help decent, honorable Iraqi citizens bring peace
and security to Iraq.
QUESTION: So there is no reversal in policy of de- Baathification?
BUSH: Oh, no. There are citizens, for example, in the amongst the teaching
ranks in Sunni parts of Iraq that were denied the right to teach because they
may have been affiliated with the Baathist Party in the past, but who are very
important to the future of Iraq because they're teachers.
And, of course, there now being let back in the classroom, not to spread political
propaganda, but to teach to teach children. And obviously there's a process
of balancing those who may have been affiliated with the Baath Party and those
who were terrorist and killers. And obviously terrorists and killers and extremists
will not be a part of the government. But people who are by and large peaceful
people who care deeply about the future of Iraq will be.
And that's what you see taking place now.
QUESTION: It's been over a year since Saddam Hussein's regime has toppled down.
And U.S. allies are in place right now in Iraq. What is your assessment today
of the U.S. allies and the governing council and the various factions of the
BUSH: Well, first, I think we made a lot of progress in a year.
QUESTION: Do we still trust them? Do you feel that they...
BUSH: Well, I trust the Iraqi people let me put it to you that way.
I believe the Iraqi people want to be free. By far, the vast majority of Iraqi
citizens want to have a life that is peaceful so they can raise their children,
see that the children are educated, have a chance for their children to succeed.
The business people of Iraq want a stable environment for them to be able to
run their businesses and make a living. People want jobs.
There are normal aspirations in Iraq that give me great confidence in the future
of Iraq. People aspire for the same thing in Iraq as we do in America: a chance
I also have confidence that the process we're under will work, which is to
transfer sovereignty on June 30th. The people of Iraq must understand sovereignty
will be transferred on June 30th. And there's a process now in place to make
sure that there's an entity to which we transfer sovereignty.
And then there will be elections. And I think the timetable we're on is a realistic
timetable. It's one that will be met. And I believe that the elections will
help the Iraqi citizens realize that freedom is coming.
QUESTION: Let me finally ask you my final question on the issue of the peace
efforts that you are conducting. You supported Prime Minister Sharon's plan
to withdraw from Gaza, and you sent senior officials to Israel, and Israeli
officials came to Washington and negotiated that plan.
Do you think it was a mistake to support a plan before the prime minister secured
the support of his own party?
BUSH: I think when you see a step toward peace it's important for a peaceful
nation like America to embrace it. And I felt that a withdrawal from the Gaza
by the Israeli prime minister, as well as the withdrawal from four settlements
from the West Bank bynister, was a step toward peace.
And at the time he did so I called for the United States and others to seize
this moment the quartet and the European Union and Russia and the United
Nations, and hopefully the World Bank, to seize this moment and to help the
development of a Palestinian state that will be at peace with its neighbors,
a Palestinian state that will provide hope for long-suffering Palestinian people.
I think this is a historic moment for the world. I think this is a good opportunity
to step forth.
I am confident that a peaceful Palestinian state can emerge. I'm the first
president ever to call for the establishment of a Palestinian state. I still
feel strongly that there should be one.
I also recognize that we have got a duty, all of us, to fight off the terrorists
who are trying to stop the spread of a peaceful Palestinian state, or the creation
of a Palestinian state.
And now's the time to make progress. And I believe we can. There was a good
statement yesterday out of the quartet that confirmed our desire for a Palestinian
state to emerge.
And what the prime minister of Israel did was took a political risk; obviously
he did. I mean, his own party condemned the statement. But that doesn't mean
condemned the policy. However, I still believe it was the right thing
for him to do. And we support peace in the Middle East, and we support the vision
of two states living side by side in peace.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you.
BUSH: Good job.