Interview of the President Bush by Al Arabiya



Q Mr. President, of course I cannot conclude this interview without asking the most important question, that is the issue of Palestine. Is President Bush convinced, truly convinced inside, that it is possible yet to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine? Can we achieve the two states, living side by side, and not as two enemies but two friends? Is it possible or is it difficult or impossible to achieve?

THE PRESIDENT: I believe in my soul, in my heart, that not only is it necessary that there be two states living side by side in order to achieve peace, but it’s possible. I’m very optimistic we can achieve a two-state solution.

First, Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas are committed to a two-state solution and are making progress. We’ve done a lot of dialogue between the two men, and they are making progress. And they’re making progress that I believe where the average Palestinian and average Israeli will begin to see what a vision looks like. In other words, something to work for; something that’s more tangible than just a Rose Garden speech by the President or hopeful comments by others; something real.

Secondly, that, you know we’re hosting a international conference that will be attended by interested parties — the Arab League, you know, important Arab League group will be there, a committee will be there from the Arab League. And it’s an opportunity for there to be a serious, substantive discussions about the way forward, and a two-state solution. A lot of it is going to be empower both parties — give them confidence to follow through on the vision.

I also want you to know that I fully understand the two-state solution is a part of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and that our strategy is to get all concerned countries to the table; to get this comprehensive peace moving forward in a way that is tangible and real, so people can see it.

And step two is a commitment to the road map. In other words, nobody is going to want have a state that becomes a launching pad for attack. The Palestinians, the average Palestinian doesn’t want that, and surely the Abbas government doesn’t — and Israel can’t stand that.

And so we’ve got — we got to work a lot with the Palestinians to help their security forces — and we are — and to help the President and the Prime Minister with economic aid, tangible economic aid so the average Palestinian can see a better life ahead, can realize there’s something better than violence. And so I am very optimistic about it, about the prospects for peace.

Q But I want to tell you — and I hope this doesn’t bother you at all — that in the Islamic world they think that President Bush is an enemy of Islam —

Q — that he wants to destroy their religion, what they believe in. Is that in any way true, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s not. I’ve heard that, and it just shows [sic] to show a couple of things: One, that the radicals have done a good job of propagandizing. In other words, they’ve spread the word that this really isn’t peaceful people versus radical people or terrorists, this is really about the America not liking Islam.

Well, first of all, I believe in an almighty God, and I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That’s what I believe. I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace. And I believe people who murder the innocent to achieve political objectives aren’t religious people, whether they be a Christian who does that — we had a person blow up our — blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City who professed to be a Christian, but that’s not a Christian act to kill innocent people. [What nonsense]

Q Exactly.

THE PRESIDENT:We are having an Iftaar dinner tonight — I say, “we” — it’s my wife and I. This is the seventh one in the seven years I’ve been the President. It gives me a chance to say “Ramadan Mubarak.” The reason I do this is I want people to understand about my country. In other words, I hope this message gets out of America. I want people to understand that one of the great freedoms in America is the right for people to worship any way they see fit. If you’re a Muslim, an agnostic, a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, you’re equally American.[But this is totally contrary to Islam]

And the value — the most valuable thing I think about America is that — particularly if you’re a religious person — you can be free to worship, and it’s your choice to make. It’s not the state’s choice, and you shouldn’t be intimidated after you’ve made your choice. And that’s a right that I jealously guard. [But this is totally contrary to Islam]

Secondly, I want American citizens to see me hosting an Iftaar dinner.

Q That’s a strong message for the Americans.

THE PRESIDENT: It is a strong message. I want to remind your listeners that one of the first things I did after September the 11th is I went to the local mosque. And I did because I wanted to send a message that those who came to kill Americans were young terrorists, and they do not reflect the views of the vast majority of peaceful people in the Middle East; and that our — precisely the message I was trying to send, the war is not a struggle against Muslims, the Muslim religion, it is a struggle of honorable, peaceful people throughout the world against the few who want to impose their vision. [But the Muslim religion is struggling against us. Why is Bush sending these messages. Who is he? It is for the Muslims to send these messages in word and deed.]

* * * * *

Q Actually, Mr. President, we are talking about these terrorists and what’s going on in the world right now. Are you also a man of war, as some try to describe, President Bush?

THE PRESIDENT: Now, remember, we got attacked. And I responded, after careful deliberation, in an attempt to make sure that — with a strategy of protecting ourselves. We can’t allow these people that attacked us to have safe haven. We must not give them an opportunity to strike us again. And therefore it’s important to keep the pressure on.

On the other hand, the ultimate way for peace is for people to realize the great blessings of liberty. And what’s interesting, and what has taken place ought to be hopeful to people in the Middle East, is that two young democracies have sprung up where people, when given a chance, voted. [Is he suggesting that Palestine is a young democracy?] See, I believe there is a universal God. I believe the God that the Muslim prays to is the same God that I pray to. After all, we all came from Abraham. [Dumber than dumb – a lousy argument.]I believe in that universality. And I believe a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman and child is freedom. I really do. And I think people, if given a chance, will seize freedom. And it’s liberty and free societies — not — they don’t have to look like America — an Iraqi democracy is going to be Iraqi, it’s going to reflect Iraqi traditions and Iraqi history.

Q And that’s what happened in Iraq.

THE PRESIDENT: First of all, yes. I was very concerned about the dictator in Iraq. He was an enemy of the United States of America. He had ties to terrorists — I’m not saying those who attacked us on September the 11th, but I am saying ties to terrorists. He had a lot of money that he was willing to spend on weapons of mass destruction. We didn’t find the weapons, but he certainly had the knowledge. And in my judgment, over time, he would have been able to develop those weapons, and they would have been — one thing the Middle East doesn’t need is a nuclear arms race.

Q Yes, we’re going to discuss this.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, this guy doesn’t — the man, Saddam Hussein, had capability — but remember, there’s also a human condition. I believe in human rights. I believe every life has value — whether it be an American life or a life of a person in the Middle East. And this brutal guy killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. And he was unbelievably brutal to neighbors, and, as well, to Iraqis. And there’s — liberation is a powerful — to me, liberating people is a powerful step toward peace. I wish we didn’t have to do this militarily. I was hoping that diplomacy would work. I gave diplomacy a lot of chance to work.

Q But it didn’t.

THE PRESIDENT: It did not work. So the choice was his, not mine. He had the choice as to whether or not this issue would be resolved peacefully. See, that’s the interesting thing that has been turned around. And so I don’t regret the decision. As a matter of fact, I feel it was the right decision to this day. And now the question is, will America keep its commitment to the millions of Iraqis who want this society to work? And the answer to that is, yes, we will.

Q And here, Mr. President, I would love to ask, I mean, for the Iraqis now, they know and they keep on listening to the news. Sometimes we tell them we want to withdraw the troops. And now we’re talking about the partition of Iraq, which is very, very bad news for the Iraqis.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it is.

Q I know you refused this. You want the unity of Iraq. But what if this Iraqi — what if, in the next administration, another President comes to the office and believes in the partition of Iraq? What’s going to happen then?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think it will happen. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Q How do you guarantee?

THE PRESIDENT: And I know there’s some noise out of here about partition. But most folks who follow this issue don’t support partition, and they don’t think it’s a good idea.

What Iraq is going to have to do is get the proper balance between the central government and the provinces — the very same thing we’ve been worried about here in America for years.

Q I know that your message, your deep message was — to the Arab world — was democracy, freedom, human rights. And you’ve said too many times that the first message is democracy, is that you have rights, you people of the Middle East, to be free. But now, is democracy still a priority? Because all we hear now in Iraq is, let’s achieve security, let’s achieve stability. Is democracy in the Middle East on hold now, waiting for security first?

* * * * *

Q Iran. Mr. President, have you made the decision to strike Iran, as some are saying, or trying to say that you will not leave your administration and office before you strike Iran militarily?

THE PRESIDENT: I have made the commitment that I would continue to work with the world to speak with one voice to the Iranians, to the Iranian government, that we will work in ways that we can to make it clear to you that you should not have the know-how on how to make a weapon, because one of the great threats to peace and the world would be if Iranians showed up with a nuclear weapon. It would give them an opportunity to blackmail or threaten or possibly follow through with their stated objective, which is the destruction of Israel.

I, of course, said all options are on the table, but I made a pledge to the American people we will work diplomatically to solve the problem. And that’s why you see us at the United Nations working with the EU countries, and China and Russia, to send that clear message; and that we’re going to continue to impose sanctions and make it harder for the Iranian government to operate in the world until they change their mind, until they come to a new way forward. I have said that if they suspend their nuclear program we will be at the table. But they have so far refused to do that.

Q But Mr. President, is there a redline, either a timeline or redline — I hear from analysts that Iran wants today, or at least trying today to buy time in order for you to wait — to lose the time that you can make a big decision, such as going to war. In your judgment, is there a timetable, is there a ceiling that if negotiations would fail, a decision to go to war would be made?

THE PRESIDENT: The Iranian regime must understand that I’m dedicated to the proposition that they should not continue their desire to enrich, as will be people that follow me in office. There is universal concern about Iranian ambition here in America. This is not a party issue, an issue between one party or the other. When the Iranian President announces to the world that he’s going to destroy an ally, or announces to the world that he will end up defying the world — that no matter who the President is, there is going to be a continued focus and effort to achieve this issue, to resolve this issue.

Q This issue, before I move to Iraq, which also, a lot of Iraqis are waiting for this — is there — there are some leaking to the press, and particularly the Arabic press, is it true that you have issued orders, Mr. President, to your senior generals in the American military to prepare for a major and precise strike that could happen during the end of January or February?

THE PRESIDENT: I would call that empty propaganda. Evidently there’s a lot of gossip in parts of the country — world that try to scare people about me, personally, or my country, or what we stand for. And that kind of gossip is just what it is — it’s gossip, it’s baseless gossip.

THE PRESIDENT: I strongly support Prime Minister Maliki. Again, there’s a lot of gossip here, as well as overseas. One of the jobs that I have to continue to do is constantly repeat what — the position of my government. And the position of my government is that Prime Minister Maliki is a good man who is working hard, and we strongly support him.

But it’s not just Prime Minister Maliki that we support. We also support President Talabani or Vice President al-Mahdi or Vice President Hashimi. We support those who are committed to peace and committed to the welfare of the Iraqi people. And we support those who are willing to take on these extremists, the few who are murdering innocent people in order to create chaos and confusion inside of Iraq. Again, I repeat, the situation is not perfect, but our country is not perfect. And I’m proud of the courage of the Iraqi citizens.

The Iraqis have been through a lot of bloodshed and violence. And yet they’re still strong in their desire to achieve — the Iraqis will be successful.

Q Mr. President, let’s move to Lebanon. And a lot of Lebanese are waiting. You have met with Mr. Saad Hariri today, and they are all talking about the upcoming elections in Lebanon that could or could not happen. Does President Bush have a specific, preferred candidate in Lebanon that you wanted to support for the presidency of Lebanon? Is there going to be elections in Lebanon that will take place?


Q Steven told me that time is over, Mr. President. Could you just — a few seconds, if you allow me. And since I wanted to go ask you that question, when we, after — 20 days after commemorating September 11th, I said, when I meet President Bush, I’m going to ask him a question. This massacre that happened on 9/11, it is very difficult for any Arab who lives in the Arab world that can imagine what happened to innocent American people on that day.

I would like to know what was your reaction the first time when you heard that 15 Saudi Muslims were among the hijackers who committed this crime and this terrorist act. How did that affect your relationship with the Kingdom, which plays a major role in the region and particularly Crown Prince Abdullah — now King Abdullah — who is a personal friend of yours?

THE PRESIDENT: King Abdullah is a personal friend of mine, and I respect him. You know, I have seen murder before in my own country. I have seen evil people take innocent life. And when that’s happened, I haven’t condemned everybody else around.

I will give you an interesting story. I was in a community yesterday — a gunman came and killed five young Amish girls — this is last year — and the gunman was killed. The Amish community, which is a religious community here in America, went and reached out to the wife and children of the gunman in compassion and love. And I’m not saying I was that — you know, I hope I could be that compassionate. It was a great act of compassion.

And the reason I tell you that is my reaction on September the 11th was, I vowed to find the killers — those who ordered the killing — and bring them to justice.

    On the other hand, never did it enter my heart and my mind to be embittered toward a group of people, innocent people, who had nothing to do with the murderer. In other words, I was focused on the individuals and their commanders, not citizens in the Middle East, of any country, particularly Saudi Arabia.

In other words, my first reaction was not, look, the Saudis are bad people. My first reaction was, evil people came and killed, and we’ll react to protect ourselves. And we’ll react to protect ourselves in two ways. One is to work with concerned governments, including Saudi Arabia, to find those few that are willing to murder us — and those same murderers that came to the United States would very much like to murder the leaders in Saudi Arabia. And so there’s a lot of common ground throughout the world to rout out people and to bring them to justice.

And the long term — these people believe something. There’s an ideology behind their views. And the ideology basically is very different from one based upon freedom. Their ideology is, you can’t worship the way you see fit. And if you don’t worship the way they want you to worship, you’ll be publicly beaten, or you’ll be killed, or you’ll be in prison. They don’t believe, for example, young girls ought to be educated. I strongly disagree with that. I think one of the great potentials of the Middle East is women. And I certainly know, as a father, that I want my little girls to be — you know, have a good education, which they did, and I’m confident other fathers want the same thing in the Middle East, even though we may not speak the same language or share the same religion.

And so my reaction was — tough reaction to make sure we find those who ordered the killing and bring them to justice, and to keep the pressure on them so they don’t do it again — and I believe they want to do it again. But on the other hand, I have this sense of a possibility based upon something that’s worked throughout the world, and that is people being able to realize dreams through liberty.

October 7, 2007 | 2 Comments »

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