Helen Thomas Rules
There was a breath of fresh air when Bush finally called on Helen Thomas today. She asked a real question: why did you really attack Iraq? Too bad Bush was more interested in talking about the Gridiron dinner...
Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Gridiron (dinner), I am --
Q You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)
Q I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has
caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and
Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not
to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the
moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet
officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You
have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything
else. What was it?
THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question
and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I
wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --
Q Everything --
THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.
Q -- everything I've heard --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you
may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the
defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got
attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect
the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we
used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we
realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life.
And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made
to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our
people.Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide
safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second
Q They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.
THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a
second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al
Qaeda trained --
Q I'm talking about Iraq --
THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe
haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's
where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.I
also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically.
That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass
1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or
face serious consequences --
Q -- go to war --
THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to
make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose
to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult
decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: You're welcome. (Laughter.) I didn't really regret it. I
kind of semi-regretted it. (Laughter.)
Q -- have a debate.
THE PRESIDENT: That's right. Anyway, your performance at the Gridiron was
just brilliant -- unlike Holland's, was a little weak, but --
I wish someone had followed-up by asking him what he meant about "denying inspectors." The inspectors were there and Bush kicked them out so he could invade. He couldn't even wait a month for them to finish their report. My feeling is that he didn't really want them to finish their inspections because they would have determined there were no WMD. If that report had been filed, Bush's references to the Security Council would have been ruined.