Text Of Bush News Conference (2)

President Bush answers a question during a prime-time news conference from the East Room at the White House, Thursday, March 6, 2003.

Q: Mr. President, if you decide to go ahead with military action, there are inspectors on the ground in Baghdad. Will you give them time to leave the country, or the humanitarian workers on the ground, or the journalists? Will you be able to do that and still mount an effective attack on Iraq?

BUSH: Of course, we will give people a chance to leave. And we don't want anybody in harm's way who shouldn't be in harm's way.

The journalists who are there should leave. If you're going and we start action, leave.

The inspectors — we don't want people in harm's way.

And our intention — we have no quarrel with anybody other than Saddam and his group of killers who have destroyed a society.

And we will do everything we can, as I mentioned — and I mean this — to protect innocent life. I've not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully. I believe that, as a result of the pressure that we have placed, and others have placed, that Saddam will disarm and or leave the country.


Q: Mr. President, good evening.

Sir, you've talked a lot about trusting the American people when it comes to making decisions about their own lives, about how to spend their own money.

When it comes to the financial costs of the war, sir, it would seem that the administration surely has costed out various scenarios. If that's the case, why not present some of them to the American people so they know what to expect, sir?

BUSH: Ed, we will. We'll present it in the form of a supplemental to the spenders. We don't get to spend the money; as you know, we have to request the expenditure of money from the Congress, and at the appropriate time we'll request a supplemental.

We're obviously analyzing all aspects. We hope we don't go to war, but if we should, we will present a supplemental.

But I want to remind you what I said before.

There is a huge cost when we get attacked. There's a significant cost to our society.

First of all, there's the cost of lives. It's an immeasurable cost. Three thousand people died. Significant cost to our economy. Opportunity loss is an immeasurable cost. Besides the cost of repairing buildings and cost to our airlines. And so, the cost of an attack is significant.

If I thought we were safe from attack, I would be thinking differently. But I see a gathering threat. I mean, it's a true, real threat to America. And therefore, we will deal with it.

And at the appropriate time, Ed, we will ask for a supplemental. And that'll be the moment where you and others will be able to recognize what we think the dollar cost of a conflict will be.

You know, the benefits of such an effort, if, in fact, we go forward and are successful, are also immeasurable. How do you measure the benefit of freedom in Iraq? I guess if you're an Iraqi citizen you can measure it by being able to express your mind, though. How do you measure the consequence of taking a dictator out of power who has tried to invade Kuwait, somebody who may someday decide to lob a weapon of mass destruction on Israel? How would you weigh the cost of that?

Those are immeasurable costs. And I weigh those very seriously.

In terms of the dollar amount, we'll let you know here pretty soon.

George Condon?

Q: If I can follow on Steve's question on North Korea, do you believe it is essential for the security of the United States and its allies that North Korea be prevented from developing nuclear weapons? And are you in any way growing frustrated with the pace of the diplomacy there?

BUSH: Yes, I think it's an issue. Obviously I'm concerned about North Korea developing nuclear weapons, not only for their own use, but for — perhaps they might choose to proliferate them, sell them. They may end up in the hands of dictators, people who are not afraid of using weapons of using weapons of mass destruction, people who try to impose their will on the world or blackmail free nations — concerned about it.

We are working hard to bring a diplomatic solution.

And we've made some progress. After all, the IAEA asked that the Security Council take up the North Korean issue. It's now in the Security Council.

Constantly talking with the Chinese and the Russians and the Japanese and the South Koreans. Colin Powell just went overseas and spent some time in China, went to the inauguration of President Roh in South Korea and spent time in China. And we're working the issue hard, and optimistic that we'll come up with a diplomatic solution.

I certainly hope so.


Q: Thank you, sir.

Mr. President, millions of Americans can recall a time when leaders from both parties set this country on a mission of regime change in Vietnam. Fifty-thousand Americans died. The regime is still there in Hanoi and it hasn't harmed or threatened a single American in 30 years since the war ended.

What can you say tonight, sir, to the sons and the daughters of the Americans who served in Vietnam to assure them that you will not lead this country down a similar path in Iraq?

BUSH: It's a great question.

Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.

In order to disarm, it will mean regime change. I'm confident that we'll be able to achieve that objective in a way that minimizes the loss of life.

No doubt there's risks with any military operation. I know that. But it's very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won't change. The mission is precisely what I just stated. We've got a plan that will achieve that mission should we need to send forces in.

Last question. Let's see, who needs one? Jean?

Q: Thank you, Mr. President.

In the coming days, the American people are going to hear a lot of debate about this British proposal of a possible deadline being added to the resolution or not. And I know you don't want to tip your hand; this is a great diplomatic moment.

But from the administration's perspective and your own perspective, can you share for the American public what you view as the pros and cons associated with that proposal?

BUSH: You're right, I'm not going to tip my hand.

Q: But could you help them sort out the debate ...

BUSH: Thank you.

Anything that's debated must have resolution to this issue. We're not going to — it makes no sense to allow this issue to continue on and on in the hopes that Saddam Hussein disarms. The whole purpose of the debate is for Saddam to disarm.

We gave him a chance. As a matter of fact, we gave him 12 years of chances. But recently, we gave him a chance starting last fall, and it said, "last chance to disarm." The resolution said that. And had he chosen to do so, it would be evident that he disarmed. And so more time, more inspectors, more process, in our judgment is not going to affect the peace of the world.

So whatever is resolved is going to have some finality to it, so that Saddam Hussein will take us seriously.

I want to remind you that it is his choice to make as to whether or not we go to war. It's Saddam's choice. He's the person that can make the choice of war and peace. Thus far, he's made the wrong choice. If we have to, for the sake and the security of the American people, for the sake of peace in the world and for freedom to the Iraqi people, we will disarm Saddam Hussein. And by we, it's more than America. A lot of nations will join us.

Thank you for your questions.

Good night.