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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

President Bush Makes Statement on WMD Report

Aired October 3, 2003 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, well, the president is heading off to some events in Wisconsin. Here's the comments he made on the White House lawn.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: First, I want to welcome Bernie Kerik to the South Lawn and to the Oval Office. We just had a fascinating discussion about what he did in Iraq, what he saw in Iraq. He can speak for himself, but let me characterize it this way: that he went to help Iraqis organize a police force. He showed up in times of chaos and confusion.

Because of his leadership, his knowledge and his experience, he was able to stand up a police force in Baghdad in a very quick period of time. I think he told me he opened up 37 different precinct stations -- 35 different precinct stations. He activated and trained 35,000 Iraqi police force. And that's important, because the ultimate solution to the security issues in Iraq is for the Iraqi citizens to manage their own affairs.

Bernie went there and made a big difference, and for that our nation is very grateful and we appreciate it a lot.

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER ADVISER IN IRAQ: Thank you.

BUSH: We're going to start training police officers in Jordan soon. As well tomorrow, 715 new Iraqi army soldiers will graduate from training. Part of our strategy is to enable the Iraqis to protect themselves.

Mr. Kerik can speak to this, but in a very short period of time, we're making great progress. Iraq is becoming more secure, and that is good. It is good for our overall mission for a free and peaceful Iraq, which means that America is more secure.

I'll make one more comment, and then Bernie will say a few words.

Mr. David Kay reported to the nation. I want to thank him for his good work. He is a thoughtful man. He and his team have worked under very difficult circumstances. They have done a lot of work in three months. And he reported on an interim basis.

The report states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine network of biological laboratories, a live strain of deadly agent botulinum, sophisticated concealment efforts and advanced design work on prohibited longer-range missiles. The report summarized the regime's efforts in this way, and I quote from the report, "Iraq's WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom."

BUSH: That is what the report said.

Specifically, Dr. Kay's team discovered what the report calls, and I quote, "dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002." In addition to these extensive concealment efforts, Dr. Kay found systematic destruction of evidence of these illegal activities.

This interim progress report is not final. Extensive work remains to be done on his biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs. But these findings already make clear that Saddam Hussein actively deceived the international community, that Saddam Hussein was in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 and that Saddam Hussein was a danger to the world.

The commissioner will say a few words.

KERIK: I just -- first, I want to take this opportunity to thank the president for giving me the honor and allowing me to go to Iraq -- to go to Iraq and help the Iraqi people, give the Iraq people back their country.

And we did so, quite quickly, and that continues on a daily basis. Four months ago -- four and half months ago, when I arrived in Iraq, there were no police -- very few, if any. There were no police stations. There were no cars. There was no electricity. They didn't have telephones, communications, radios. They basically had nothing. They had no equipment, they had no weapons, except for those they had hoarded and kept on the side.

In the last four months, we brought back more than 40,000 police, 450 cars in Baghdad, started up 35 police stations in Baghdad. And I know I constantly hear, as I've come back -- I listen to the press and I listen to some of the public, some of the criticism.

KERIK: And they talk about, "It's taking too long." Well, try to stand up 35 police stations in New York City. It will take you about 11 years, depending on who's in the city council. It takes a while, you only have 24 hours in a day. But they have made tremendous progress. The police are working, they're working in conjunction with the military. They are arresting the Fedayeen Saddam and the Baathists.

And I read some of the articles about Dr. Kay's report today. In my opinion, there was one weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, and it was Saddam Hussein.

I visited the mass graves. I watched the videos of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and the intelligence services interrogating, torture, abuse and execute people day after day. I watched them tie grenades to the necks of people and stuff grenades in the pockets of people as they interviewed them and then detonate those grenades and watch the people disappear.

I watched the video of Saddam sitting in an office and allowing two Doberman pinschers to eat alive a military general because he did not trust his loyalty. There was one weapon of mass destruction, he's no longer in power and I think that's what counts today.

I understand probably more than anyone what a threat Iraq was, and the people that threatened Iraq was. I was beneath the towers on September 11th when they fell. And I again -- I want to thank the president for the honor in allowing me to go there, because I lost 23 people.

KERIK: I wear this memorial band for the 23 I lost. They were defending the freedom of our country. I got to go on their behalf to Iraq to bring freedom to Iraq and take one less threat away from us in this country.

So, Mr. President?

BUSH: Let me answer a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, are you still confident that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq? And how long do you think that that search will go on? I mean, is that an open-ended search until something's found?

BUSH: That's a question you need to ask David Kay. He'll be interviewing with the press today -- his opinion. I can only report to what his interim report says.

QUESTION: Well...

BUSH: Let me finish, please.

His interim report said that, "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs span more than two decades." That's what he said. See, he's over there under difficult circumstances, and reports back.

He says that, "The WMD program involved thousands of people, billions of dollars and was elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom."

In other words, he's saying Saddam Hussein was a threat -- a serious danger.

QUESTION: There's a poll out in which a lot of people today are wondering whether the war was really worth the cost. How do you respond to that, sir?

BUSH: You know, I don't make decisions based upon polls. I make decisions based upon what I think is important to the security of the American people. And I'm not going to forget the lessons of 9/11 -- September 2001. I'm not going to forget what Commissioner Kerik described, the bombing that killed innocent life.

This administration will deal with gathering dangers where we find them. The interim report of Mr. Kay showed that Saddam Hussein defied 1441 and was a danger. And we gave him ample time to deal with his weapons of mass destruction and he refused. So he's no longer in power and the world is better off for it.

I can't think of any people who think that the world would be a safe place, with Saddam Hussein in power.

Sometimes the American people like the decisions I make, sometimes they don't. But they need to know I make tough decisions, based upon what I think is right, given the intelligence I know, in order to do my job, which is to secure this country and to bring peace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Mr. Bush on the South Lawn of the White House, making comments before he heads off to Andrews Air Force base for events that will take place later today in Wisconsin.

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