For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 24, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. The position of U.S. Attorney is one of the most important jobs in the Justice Department. U.S. Attorneys are appointed by the President, and they play a leading role in prosecuting crime and protecting the public.
In recent months, the Justice Department determined that new leadership in several of these positions would better serve the country. I strongly support the Attorney General in this decision. I also appreciate the hard work and service of the U.S. Attorneys who resigned. And I regret that their resignations have turned into a public spectacle.
Earlier this week, my Administration presented to Congress a reasonable way forward that balances the constitutional prerogatives of the Presidency with Congress's interest in learning more facts behind the decision to replace eight of the 93 U.S. Attorneys.
Members of Congress now face a choice: whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation, or whether they will join us in working to do the people's business. We have many important issues before us. So we need to put partisan politics aside and come together to enact important legislation for the American people.
One of the most urgent legislative priorities is to fund our troops fighting the war on terror. I've asked Congress to pass an emergency war spending bill that gives our troops what they need, without strings and without delay. Instead, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives decided yesterday to make a political statement. The emergency war spending bill they voted for would cut the number of troops below the level our military commanders say they need to accomplish the mission. It would set an artificial timetable for withdrawal that would allow the enemy to wait us out. And it would require an army of lawyers to meet the conditions imposed by politicians in Washington who are substituting their own judgment for that of our generals in Iraq. I have made it clear that I will veto any such bill, and it is clear that my veto would be sustained.
To get the votes they needed to pass the bill, the Democrats who control the House also included billions of dollars in domestic and pork barrel spending for local congressional districts. This spending includes things like $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers, and a host of other spending items that have nothing to do with the war. Even with all this extra spending tacked on, the vote in the House was very close. This means that the Democrats do not have enough votes to override my veto.
By choosing to make a political statement and passing a bill they know will never become law, the Democrats in Congress have only delayed the delivery of the vital funds and resources our troops need. The clock is running. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April 15, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions -- and so will their families. April 15 is also about the same time that Congress returns from its Easter vacation. Members of Congress need to put our troops first, not politics. They need to send me a clean bill, without conditions, without restrictions, and without pork.
This is an important moment for our Nation, and it is an important moment for the new Congress. My Administration has presented a reasonable way forward on the matter of U.S. Attorneys, and on ensuring that our men and women in uniform have the funds and the flexibility they need to win in Iraq. It is not too late for us to work together. For the good of our Nation, I ask the Democratic leaders in Congress to seize the opportunity before us and move beyond political statements to bipartisan action.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Vice President March 24, 2007
Vice President's Remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership Manalaplan, Florida 6:52 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. (Applause.) Well, it's great to be with you. And, Mel, I appreciate that kind introduction. A little short. (Laughter.) A warm reception like that almost makes me want to run for office again. (Applause.) Almost, almost. (Applause.)
But I want to thank your fine chairman, David Flaum, and all of you for being here this evening. And I have many great friends in the room. And I'm deeply grateful for the tremendous strength and support and encouragement that you've provided over the years. And I also want to bring you good wishes from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
You know, many of our best efforts have been focused right here in the state of Florida. After the narrow margin in 2000, we worked very hard to build our strength in Florida -- and in 2004, of course, with Ken Mehlman's critical support and leadership, the Bush-Cheney ticket won this state by more than 380,000 votes. (Applause.) And earlier this year, of course, after two successful terms, Jeb Bush left office in the good hands of Governor Charlie Crist. (Applause.) And I get to see Mel Martinez every Tuesday for lunch in the Senate, with the other Republicans -- an original member of our Cabinet, he's doing an outstanding job as Florida's U.S. senator and general chairman of the RNC. (Applause.)
The Republican Jewish Coalition is a terrific organization -- and thanks to the leadership of all of you, it's a growing organization. You're spreading the President's message of freedom and progress, low taxes and limited government, empowering the common sense and the good judgment of Americans. I'm here tonight, not because I'm going to be on the ballot again, but because I share your commitment to the President's agenda and to the vision for the country. (Applause.)
We look to the future with confidence because we have the right ideas for the country -- and because we have delivered on our commitments to the American people. We cut income taxes on the middle class. In fact, we've cut income taxes for every American who pays them. We reduced the marriage penalty, doubled the child tax credit, cut taxes on dividends and capital gains, and gave small businesses incentives to invest in new equipment and the creation of jobs.
Now the results are clear for all to see: The Bush tax relief has proven to be exactly the right policy for the country. If you think of all that's happened in these eventful years -- the recession we inherited, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, natural disasters, a tripling in the price of oil -- it's remarkable how tremendously resilient our economy has been. (Applause.) We've created more than 7.5 million new jobs in the past three and a half years. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, wages are rising. In fact, since 2001, our GDP has grown by 16 percent. (Applause.) Let me put that another way: In less than six years' time, the American economy has expanded by an amount greater than the entire economy of Canada.
Along the way, we've also disproved the fallacy that tax cuts are bad for the budget. The fact is that the economic expansion, driven by tax cuts, has generated higher-than-projected federal revenues. You might recall that back in 2004, President Bush set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009. This pledge was greeted with skepticism, to put it mildly. Yet we met that target in 2006, three years ahead of schedule. (Applause.)
But despite the growth in revenues, we still have to hold the line on spending -- and on that score there's still a lot to do. The President's budget continues reducing the deficit each year, and balances the budget in 2012 without any new taxes. To meet that goal, we need to set the right priorities. The first priority is to remember that we are a nation at war, and we cannot cut corners on homeland security or defense. (Applause.) Our enemies are still trying to attack us, to kill innocent Americans. Overseas, of course, we have troops in the field, engaged with the enemy, and reinforcements on the way. Job number one is to provide the resources necessary to protect the American people, and to meet all the needs of the United States armed forces. (Applause.)
Setting priorities for the budget also means dealing with the matter of congressional earmarks -- those items that get slipped into spending bills at the very last minute. Many earmarks never make it to the floor of the House or Senate -- they're simply dropped into the committee reports that aren't even part of the legislation. Congress does not pass them into law. The President does not sign them into law. Yet somehow they get treated as having the force of law. We're going to work with Congress to reform the budget process and to get those earmarks under control.
Spending discipline, budget reform, and, yes, entitlement reform are vital to keeping the economy strong. And so is a low-tax policy that promotes growth, that rewards enterprise, and that keeps government within its proper limits. Under current law, many of the Bush tax cuts are set to expire over the next few years. We feel strongly that Congress should make all the tax cuts permanent -- and that includes ending the federal death tax. (Applause.)
On every issue, from the economy to the courts to national security, the leadership of George W. Bush has made a tremendous difference for the country. He's the first President in a generation to deliver major tax cuts. He's the President who expanded health savings accounts, and updated Medicare to cover prescription drugs. He's the President who got us out of the antiquated ABM treaty and deployed missile defenses for the first time. (Applause.) And he's the first President since Ronald Reagan to appoint a new Chief Justice, and made an outstanding choice in John Roberts. (Applause.)
Above all, ladies and gentlemen, George W. Bush is the President we can count on to protect America, to keep our commitments, to stand by our friends, and to win the war on terror. (Applause.)
Progress in the cause of security and long-term peace never comes easily. It requires moral clarity, the courage of our convictions, a willingness to act when action is necessary, and a refusal to submit to any form of intimidation, ever.
We persevere because we are the prime targets of a terror movement that is global in nature and global in its ambitions. The leaders of this movement speak openly and specifically of building a totalitarian empire covering the Middle East, extending into Europe, and reaching around to the islands of Indonesia, one that would impose a narrow, radical variety of Islam that rejects tolerance, suppresses dissent, brutalizes women -- and has as one of its foremost objectives the destruction of Israel. Their aim, ultimately, is to acquire the means to match that hatred -- and to use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons to impose their will by unspeakable violence or by blackmail.
An enemy that operates in the shadows, and views the entire world as a battlefield, is not one we can fight with the strategies that we used in other wars. An enemy with fantasies of martyrdom is not going to sit down at a table for negotiations. (Applause.) Nor can we fight to a standoff, hoping that some form of containment or deterrence will protect our people. The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive -- facing the threat directly, patiently, and systematically, until the enemy is destroyed. (Applause.)
We are facing every challenge with resolve. In Afghanistan, where I visited just last month, American and NATO forces are preparing a spring offensive against Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. In Iraq, our goal remains a democratic nation that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror. But for this to happen, the elected government in Iraq needs the space and the time to work on reconciliation goals. And it's hard to do that without basic security in the nation's capital in Baghdad. Our coalition is pursuing a new strategy that brings in reinforcements to help Iraqi forces secure the capital, so that nation can move forward and the political process can turn toward reconciliation. General Dave Petraeus and his troops are in the midst of some extremely tough, intense, and dangerous work. They are doing a brilliant job, and they need to know this country is behind them all the way. (Applause.)
The ones doing the fighting never lose their focus on the mission, or on what is at stake in this war. And neither should the rest of us. Five and a half years have passed since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and the loss that morning of nearly 3,000 innocent people here in the United States. As we get farther away from 9/11, I believe there's a temptation to forget the urgency of the task that came to us that day, and the comprehensive approach that's required to protect this country against an enemy that moves and acts on multiple fronts. In fact, five and a half years into the struggle, we find ourselves having to confront a series of myths about the war on terror -- myths that are often repeated and deserve to be refuted.
The most common myth is that Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror. Opponents of our military action there have called Iraq a diversion from the real conflict, a distraction from the business of fighting and defeating bin Laden and al Qaeda. We hear this over and over again -- not as an argument, but as an assertion meant to close off argument. Yet the critics conveniently disregard the words of bin Laden himself: "The most... serious issue today for the whole world," he said, "is this Third World War...[that is] raging in [Iraq]." He calls it "a war of destiny between infidelity and Islam." He said, "The whole world is watching this war," and that it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation." And in words directed at the American people, Osama bin Laden declares, quote, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever." This leader of al Qaeda has referred to Baghdad as the capital of the Caliphate. He has also said, and I quote, "Success in Baghdad will be success for the United States. Failure in Iraq is the failure of the United States. Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars." End quote.
Obviously, the terrorists have no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq. They have not called it a distraction or a diversion from their war against the United States. They know it is a central front in that war, and it's where they've chosen to make a stand. Our Marines tonight are fighting al Qaeda terrorists in al Anbar Province. U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed a number of al Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad, who were responsible for numerous car bomb attacks. Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain. Here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear: If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us. (Applause.)
The second myth is the most transparent -- and that is the notion that one can support the troops without giving them the tools and reinforcements they need to carry out their mission.
Twisted logic is not exactly a new phenomenon in Washington -- but last month it reached new heights. At a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain put the following question to General Dave Petraeus, who was up for confirmation: "Suppose we send you over to your new job... only we tell you... you can't have any additional troops. Can you get your job done?" General Petraeus replied, "No, sir." Yet within days of his confirmation by a unanimous vote in the Senate -- I repeat, a unanimous vote of confidence in General Petraeus, not one single negative vote -- a large group of senators tried to pass a resolution opposing the reinforcements and support that he believed were necessary to carry out his mission. The House of Representatives, of course, did pass such a resolution. As President Bush said, this may be the first time in history that a Congress "voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose the plan he said was necessary to win that battle." It was not a proud episode in the history of the United States Congress.
Yesterday, the House Democrats passed the defense appropriations supplemental to fund our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This will hamper the war effort and interfere with the operational authority of the President with our military commanders. It's counterproductive, it sends exactly the wrong message because of the limitations that are written into the legislation. When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that's been called "slow bleed," they're not supporting the troops, they're undermining them. And when members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines, or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy simply to run out the clock and wait us out.
Congress does, of course, play a critical role in the defense of the nation and the conduct of this war. That role is defined and limited by the Constitution -- after all, the military answers to one commander-in-chief in the White House, not to 535 commanders-in-chief on Capitol Hill. (Applause.) If they really support the troops, then we should take them at their word and expect them to meet the needs of our military on time, in full, and with no strings attached. (Applause.)
There is a third myth about the war on terror, and this is one that is perhaps the most dangerous. Some apparently believe that getting out of Iraq before the job is done will strengthen America's hand in the fight against the terrorists. This myth is dangerous because it represents a complete validation of the al Qaeda strategy. The terrorists do not expect to be able to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have, and they're not likely to try. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission -- and the terrorists do believe that they can force that outcome. Time after time, they have predicted that the American people do not have the stomach for a long-term fight. They've cited the cases of Beirut in the '80s and Somalia in the '90s. These examples, they believe, show that we are weak and decadent, and that if we're hit hard enough, we'll pack it in and retreat. The result would be even greater danger for the United States, because if the terrorists conclude that attacks will change the behavior of a nation, they will attack that nation again and again. And believing they can break our will, they'll become more audacious in their tactics, ever more determined to strike and kill our citizens, and ever more bold in their ambitions of conquest and empire.
That leads me to the fourth, and the cruelest, myth -- and that is the false hope that we can abandon the effort in Iraq without serious consequences to our interests in the broader Middle East. The reality is that, if our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance in that country. The violence would spread throughout the country, and be very difficult to contain. Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions. Many would head for Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others would find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents.
We must consider, as well, just what a precipitous withdrawal would mean to our other efforts in the war on terror, to our interests in the broader Middle East, and to Israel. What would it tell the world if we left high and dry those millions of people who have counted on the United States to keep its commitments? What would it say to leaders like President Karzai and President Musharraf, who risk their lives every day as fearless allies in the war on terror? Commentators enjoy pointing out mistakes through 20/20 hindsight. But the biggest mistake of all can be seen in advance: A sudden withdrawal of our coalition would dissipate much of the effort that has gone into fighting the global war on terror, and result in chaos and mounting danger. And for the sake of our own security, we will not stand by and let it happen. (Applause.)
Five and a half years ago, the President told the Congress and the country that we had entered a new kind of war -- one that would require patience and resolve, and that would influence the policies of this government far into the future. The fact that we've succeeded in stopping another attack on our homeland does not mean that we won't be hit in the future. But the record is testimony not to good luck, but to urgent, competent action by a lot of very skilled men and women -- and to a series of tough decisions by a President who never forgets that his first job is to protect the people of this country. (Applause.)
We can be confident in the outcome of this struggle. America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right, and a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of the Earth. We're the kind of country that fights for freedom, and the men and women in the fight are some of the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. (Applause.) The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that is not an option. We will complete the mission, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
Once again, ladies and gentlemen, let me thank you for the warm welcome this evening, and for all you continue to do as members of the R.J.C. You've proven your commitment to the principles we share. Tonight you're paying special tribute to Sam Fox. (Applause.) I've known Sam for many years. He's an entrepreneur, a leader in education and the arts, a patriot, a gentleman -- and also a very courageous man, because he hunts with me. (Laughter.) As a matter of fact, he's even got a nickname in the White House. Before I came here today, the President said, be sure to say hi to "Foxy." (Laughter.) The President and I are very grateful to Sam for his hard work and idealism over these many years. He's a most deserving recipient of tonight's honor.
Sam, congratulations -- and thank you very much. (Applause.) END 7:15 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 23, 2007
President Bush Hosts Celebration of Greek Independence Day at the White House East Room 3:10 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Your Eminence, thanks. It's great to have you back at the White House. One of the joys about being the President is you get to meet some pretty interesting people. And I will tell Your Eminence, I value our friendship. You're such a gentle soul, and it gives me great -- it soothes my spirit to be with you. I appreciate your prayers and I appreciate your leadership, and I am proud to join you in celebrating the 186th anniversary of Greek independence. And we're glad you're here. Thanks for coming.
As you can tell, there is going to be a series of orations, and then you get to go have some refreshments. I appreciate the leaders of the Greek American community who are here with us today. Our country is home to 1.2 million Greek Americans -- actually, more than that. And, Your Eminence, Greek Americans have really enriched our culture and enriched our nation's heritage. They're a lively bunch, as you know -- (laughter) -- but an important group of people in our country, and that's really what we celebrate here. We celebrate our friendship with the nation of Greece.
And Madam Foreign Minister, thanks for coming. I talked to Condi about her discussions with you. We have a lot to do together, and I appreciate your leadership.
I thank the Ambassador for joining us today. Mr. Ambassador, thanks. Thanks for bringing Francoise, wife. I appreciate the Ambassador from -- the Cypriot Ambassador to the United States. Andreas, thank you for coming. Appreciate you being here. Thank you for bringing your wife, Kareen.
I want to thank Nick Burns for being here, former Ambassador to Greece from the United States, now top official at the State Department. One of my top advisors happens to be a Greek American -- Fran Townsend, Fran Fragos Townsend, whose advice I listen to on a regular basis, Your Eminence. Thank you for serving.
I appreciate the members of Congress who have come. Thank you all for taking time: Congressmen Carolyn Maloney, from New York; Gus Bilirakis, from Florida; John Sarbanes, from Maryland; Zack Space, from Ohio. I appreciate you all coming. You're welcome to be here.
I want to thank Father Alex -- wherever you are -- there he is. Father Alex, yes, trying to be as low profile as possible. Appreciate you coming and thanks for your continued friendship.
I want to thank members of the United States military, Greek Americans who wear the uniform of the United States. I thank you for your service, I thank you for your dedication, I thank you for your stalwart defense of freedom and peace. (Applause.)
As you mentioned, Your Eminence, in 1821, the people of Greece proclaimed their independence. And they risked their lives to secure liberty. They knew that their land had been the home of the first democratic society, the first place in the world where people could choose their leaders, speak their minds and freely explore the arts and the sciences.
These Greek patriots also knew that freedom and democracy were more than just a legacy, that they were their destiny. And they believed like I believe that freedom is the hope of all mankind -- not just a few people, but of all mankind.
And when they made their stand for freedom and independence they found a lot of friends in this country, Americans who express their support by contributing funds, and some who volunteer to serve in the new Greek army. Americans stood with Greece again after World War II, when violent communist insurgents threatened Greece's free government. As you mentioned, President Truman saw the danger, and he articulated a new and bold doctrine for our country. In an address to the United States Congress, he put it this way: "It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
Like democracy, itself, the Truman doctrine grew out of the experience of the Greek people, and affirmed the desire for freedom for all people -- not just a handful, not just some, but for all.
Today, Greece and the United States are allies in the cause of freedom, Madam Minister, and I want you to send thanks to your government. In Afghanistan, a Greek engineering team provides support to the international security assistance force; a Greek medical team provides emergency care to those who are wounded. And we thank you very much.
In Lebanon, Greek naval units are part of a UNIFIL force supporting the democratic Siniora government. These Greek forces are serving with courage, they're helping young democracies who struggle against the forces of evil. And I appreciate your vision. I appreciate the good work that we're doing to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come. It is hard work, Madam Minister, but it is necessary work.
I appreciate the important help Greece has provided to Americans who find themselves in danger overseas. Last summer, Greece was one of the first nations to offer ships to help evacuate Americans who found themselves stranded in Lebanon following Hezbollah's unprovoked terrorist attacks on Israel. We called for your help, and you delivered, and we appreciate that a lot. That's what friends do.
In January, the Greek government responded quickly following a grenade attack on our embassy in Athens. And we appreciate the determination of Greek authorities to bring those responsible for this attack to justice. We're grateful for the many messages of sympathy and support we've received after those attacks.
We also share with Greece important ties of faith, Your Eminence. The Greek Orthodox Church counts more than 1 million members in the United States, and it plays a vital role in the spiritual life of our nation. Your Eminence, I thank you, and congratulate you on 40 years of ministry as a bishop. You're providing necessary and important leadership here in the United States. You are a man of wisdom. You're a man of prayer. I appreciated your thoughtful response to me and Laura after the September the 11th attacks. These were tough times for our nation, and your comforting call meant a lot to me.
I thank you for your determination to rebuild what was lost on that terrible day. On 9/11 the terrorists who struck Manhattan brought down not only magnificent skyscrapers, but a humble house of worship. Before those attacks, St. Nicholas Church stood just south of the second tower of the World Trade Center. Your vision is for a new St. Nicholas to rise just a few steps from its original site. And with your help, St. Nicholas will once again be a sanctuary of faith in New York's financial district, and a new center of reconciliation for visitors from all over the world.
I thank you very much, Your Eminence, for gracing this house. This is the people's house. This belongs to everybody who's an American. I thank you for your vision of peace. I thank you for your spirituality. And I thank you for joining me as we celebrate Greek Independence Day.
May God bless you all. (Applause.) END 3:18 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 21, 2007
Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy, 2007 A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America
The United States and Greece share a long friendship built on common values and an abiding love for freedom. On Greek Independence Day, we underscore the warm ties between our countries, recognize the Greek Americans who enrich our society, and commemorate the anniversary of modern Greece.
The ancient Greeks entrusted their citizens with the right to govern, and they believed in the power of freedom to protect human dignity and basic human rights. Many of America's Founding Fathers studied Greek history and took inspiration from these democratic ideals as they framed our Constitution. The founders of modern Greece had the strong support of our own young democracy when they declared their independence in 1821, and our nations have stood as allies in the major conflicts of the 20th century. Today, we continue to defend freedom together in the global war on terror, as Greek and American Armed Forces work to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come.
On Greek Independence Day, and throughout the year, we celebrate the universality of freedom and the enduring bonds between Greece and the United States.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 25, 2007, as Greek Independence Day: A National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 23, 2007
President Bush Discusses Iraq War Emergency Supplemental Diplomatic Reception Room 2:00 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Today I'm joined here at the White House by veterans, family members of people serving in combat, family members of those who have sacrificed. I am honored that they have joined me here today.
Here in Washington, members of both parties recognize that our most solemn responsibility is to support our troops in the war on terror. Yet, today, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives abdicated its responsibility by passing a war spending bill that has no chance of becoming law, and brings us no closer to getting our troops the resources they need to do their job.
The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq. They set rigid restrictions that will require an army of lawyers to interpret. They set an arbitrary date for withdrawal without regard for conditions on the ground. And they tacked on billions for pet projects that have nothing to do with winning the war on terror. This bill has too much pork, too many conditions and an artificial timetable for withdrawal.
As I have made clear for weeks, I will veto it if it comes to my desk. And because the vote in the House was so close, it is clear that my veto would be sustained. Today's action in the House does only one thing: it delays the delivering of vital resources for our troops. A narrow majority has decided to take this course, just as General Petraeus and his troops are carrying out a new strategy to help the Iraqis secure their capital city.
Amid the real challenges in Iraq, we're beginning to see some signs of progress. Yet, to score political points, the Democratic majority in the House has shown it is willing to undermine the gains our troops are making on the ground.
Democrats want to make clear that they oppose the war in Iraq. They have made their point. For some, that is not enough. These Democrats believe that the longer they can delay funding for our troops, the more likely they are to force me to accept restrictions on our commanders, an artificial timetable for withdrawal, and their pet spending projects. This is not going to happen. Our men and women in uniform need these emergency war funds. The Secretary of Defense has warned that if Congress does not approve the emergency funding for our troops by April the 15th, our men and women in uniform will face significant disruptions, and so would their families.
The Democrats have sent their message, now it's time to send their money. This is an important moment -- a decision for the new leaders in Congress. Our men in women in uniform should not have to worry that politicians in Washington will deny them the funds and the flexibility they need to win. Congress needs to send me a clean bill that I can sign without delay. I expect Congress to do its duty and to fund our troops, and so do the American people -- and so do the good men and women standing with me here today.
Thank you for your time. END 2:04 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 22, 2007
Fact Sheet: Expanding Provincial Reconstruction Teams to Achieve Iraqi Self Reliance
"We will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams. These teams bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance." – President George W. Bush, 1/10/07
Under The President's New Way Forward For Iraq, The Number Of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) Will Increase. PRTs are joint civilian-military units that support local leaders and empower provincial authorities by working closely with the communities they serve. The expansion is a joint Department of State-Department of Defense mission that will employ both civilian and military resources toward a common strategic plan.
The Number Of PRTs Will Increase To 20 And In Personnel From 290 To Over 600.
The Ten New PRTs Will Be Embedded In U.S. Brigade Combat Teams In Baghdad, Anbar, And North Babil Provinces.
Strategic Purpose Of The Expanded PRT Mission
The Expanded PRTs Will Serve As Powerful Tools In Achieving Our Counterinsurgency Strategy By:
Bolstering Moderates. Using a decentralized approach to reach out beyond the central government to identify and empower those who reject violence as a means of achieving their goals.
Promoting Reconciliation. Fostering improved communication and cooperation across Iraqi society to facilitate dialogue and the equitable use of Iraqi resources for the benefit of all the Iraqi people.
Fostering Economic Development. Targeted assistance, such as microloans and grants to help create small businesses and jobs, provide services to meet community needs, and develop capacity for effective and sustainable governance.
Building Provincial Capacity. Assist local and provincial officials, helping them more effectively interact with the central government and local citizenry, unlock Iraqi funds to support the delivery of critical essential services to the Iraqi people, and promote increasing self-reliance.
By Helping Build Provincial Governments' Abilities To Deliver Essential Services To Iraqi Citizens, PRTs Help Extend The Reach Of The Iraqi Government In Key Provinces And Help Build The Stability Necessary To Complete The Transition To Full Iraqi Control. PRTs will use both civilian and military resources toward a common strategic plan crafted by the Team Leader and the Brigade Commander.
The Existing Program Includes U.S.-Led PRTs In Baghdad, Anbar, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, And Babil, And U.S. Participation In Coalition-Led PRTs In Basrah (UK), Dhi Qar (Italy), And Arbil (Korea).
The Expansion Will Add Six New PRTs In Baghdad, Three In Anbar, And One In North Babil. Additional personnel will also be deployed to existing PRTs. The teams will include American diplomats, military officers, development experts, and other specialists in fields such as law, engineering, and agribusiness.
Accomplishments Of Existing PRTs
PRTs Help Provincial Leaders Secure Funds From The Central Government By Helping Forge Better Working Relationships Between Provincial Leaders And Their Counterparts In The Central Government. Through these new relationships, provincial leaders are able to voice their concerns and obtain approvals for critical essential services projects. This process helps them develop greater self-reliance and increases their capacity to govern.
Kirkuk: Through PRT assistance, Kirkuk's provincial government nominated and approved 575 projects funded by Iraqi Rapid Reconstruction and Economic Development Funds. This is a major step forward in managing their own projects and finances.
Ninewa: The Ninewa PRT helped establish the Mosul branch of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq to adjudicate terrorism cases. Since the Court opened in December, 40 cases and 56 defendants have been tried resulting in 32 convictions and 24 acquittals.
Baghdad: With Baghdad PRT assistance, the Baghdad Provincial Council established a local newspaper, the "Baghdaduna." This weekly newspaper increases government transparency and accountability by publicizing Provincial Council decisions and reporting news about Baghdad Province.
Anbar: The Anbar PRT fostered intra-Anbar dialogue between the Provincial Council and anti-insurgent tribal leaders, resulting in increased engagement with all parties to encourage a power-sharing agreement.
Diyala: The Diyala PRT partnered with Iraqis to create an agricultural soil testing laboratory used by all sectors of the agricultural complex, resulting in improved soil fertility and nutrition in the area.
Babil: The Babil PRT helped enhance fiscal and project management as well as improve infrastructure by assisting the Babil provincial government in organizing a Project Management Unit in order to responsibly commit $115 million from the 2006 capital investment budget.
# # #
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 21, 2007
President Bush Welcomes Prime Minister Clark of New Zealand to the White House The Oval Office 11:48 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Madam Prime Minister, welcome. We've had a really fruitful discussion. The Prime Minister and I have visited several times over the course of the years. Every time I've talked to Helen Clark I've found a very straightforward, honest woman who cares deeply about the country she represents. And I really thank you very much for coming back.
We talked about a lot of subjects. We talked about the importance for the United States and New Zealand to work cooperatively in helping democracy in places like Afghanistan. We talked about North Korea and Iran, our mutual desire for these problems of nations wanting to have nuclear weapons to be solved in a peaceful way, by using the diplomatic process.
We talked about commerce. We talked about the environment and the need for our respective countries to work toward energy security. I assured the Prime Minister that my initiative to reduce gasoline in the United States by 20 percent over the next 10 years was a realistic initiative that's going to require new technologies, which we hope that other parts of the world, including New Zealand, will find useful to help achieve the common objective.
We talked about the South Pacific. And I praised the Prime Minister on her leadership in dealing with some difficult issues. I assured her that our government would want to help in any way we can. We understand this is a -- some of the countries there have got difficult issues, and it requires New Zealand's leadership with U.S. help to help solve the problems -- and Australian help, as well.
We talked about the need for us to continue to work together in the Asia Pacific region, about how APEC is a useful forum for New Zealand and the United States to work with China and other nations.
All in all, I found it to be a constructive conversation, such a good conversation I've decided to invite her for lunch.
Madam Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER CLARK: Well, thank you, Mr. President. It has been a good conversation. It's a very good relationship. And we talked about the areas in the new international security environment where we're working particularly closely -- counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation. The President is very familiar with the work New Zealand has been doing in Afghanistan and very appreciative of it, as I know the Afghanistan government and people are.
We've talked about New Zealand's support in the counter-proliferation area. I told the President today that following on the good work that his country and others have done in the six-party talks in North Korea, New Zealand is prepared to offer support for the energy package as part of the initial actions agreement that came out of the last session of the six-party talks. We've been involved with the Korean issue before, support of the KEDO fund. So we're prepared to be in, and support de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
We're also participating with the U.S. on another project under the G8 global partnership for eliminating the weapons of mass destruction still floating around the ex-Soviet countries. And we'll be involved in another partnership with the U.S. on the Ukranian border, which involves training officials and detecting material which might be crossing borders.
I talked about the importance to us of the U.S. presence in the Asia Pacific. We cooperate a lot on the Asia Pacific, a lot of common objectives, work well in APEC together. I particularly welcomed the President's support for developing a concept of a free trade area of the Asia Pacific, which we have to look at again at the Sydney APEC summit.
Also appreciative of the fact that the U.S. is focusing on the problems of the South Pacific. We've had close coordination on the aftermath of the coup in Fiji, on the issues in the Solomon Islands, on Tonga, where the State Department is shortly to send another envoy to look at the situation there. Quite a considerable Tonga population in the U.S., as well as in New Zealand.
And of course, Timor, which has many of the characteristics of a South Pacific country, we're very active in, as well; just sent a new helicopter contingent up there to support the peace effort.
So all in all, we've run through those issues. I've indicated that New Zealand is very supportive of fast-track authority being extended because the Doha Round needs that extension. And if at some point in the future the U.S. is in a position to consider negotiating with more countries on FTA, New Zealand is there. And we think we present very, very few problems for the U.S.
So had the opportunity to run over a lot of issues, and a very, very good relationship, and thank the President for the invitation to be here today.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, Madam Prime Minister. Thank you all. END 11:53 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 20, 2007
President Bush Addresses Resignations of U.S. Attorneys The Diplomatic Reception Room 5:45 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Earlier today, my staff met with congressional leaders about the resignations of U.S. attorneys. As you know, I have broad discretion to replace political appointees throughout the government, including U.S. attorneys. And in this case, I appointed these U.S. attorneys and they served four-year terms.
The Justice Department, with the approval of the White House, believed new leadership in these positions would better serve our country. The announcement of this decision and the subsequent explanation of these changes has been confusing and, in some cases, incomplete. Neither the Attorney General, nor I approve of how these explanations were handled. We're determined to correct the problem.
Today I'm also announcing the following steps my administration is taking to correct the record and demonstrate our willingness to work with the Congress. First, the Attorney General and his key staff will testify before the relevant congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons. Second, we're giving Congress access to an unprecedented variety of information about the process used to make the decision about replacing eight of the 93 U.S. attorneys.
In the last 24 hours, the Justice Department has provided the Congress more than 3,000 pages of internal Justice Department documents, including those reflecting direct communications with White House staff. This, in itself, is an extraordinary level of disclosure of an internal agency in White House communications.
Third, I recognize there is significant interest in the role the White House played in the resignations of these U.S. attorneys. Access to White House staff is always a sensitive issue. The President relies upon his staff to provide him candid advice. The framers of the Constitution understood this vital role when developing the separate branches of government. And if the staff of a President operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the President would not receive candid advice, and the American people would be ill-served.
Yet, in this case, I recognize the importance of members of Congress having -- the importance of Congress has placed on understanding how and why this decision was made. So I'll allow relevant committee members on a bipartisan basis to interview key members of my staff to ascertain relevant facts. In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department or any other outside person, including members of Congress and their staff, related to this issue. These extraordinary steps offered today to the majority in Congress demonstrate a reasonable solution to the issue. However, we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.
The initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available. I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.
As we cut through all the partisan rhetoric, it's important to maintain perspective on a couple of important points. First, it was natural and appropriate for members of the White House staff to consider and to discuss with the Justice Department whether to replace all 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of my second term. The start of a second term is a natural time to discuss the status of political appointees within the White House and with relevant agencies, including the Justice Department. In this case, the idea was rejected and was not pursued.
Second, it is common for me, members of my staff, and the Justice Department to receive complaints from members of Congress in both parties, and from other citizens. And we did hear complaints and concerns about U.S. attorneys. Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases, while others had concerns about immigration cases not being prosecuted. These concerns are often shared between the White House and the Justice Department, and that is completely appropriate.
I also want to say something to the U.S. attorneys who resigned. I appreciate your service to the country. And while I strongly support the Attorney General's decision and am confident he acted appropriately, I regret these resignations turned into such a public spectacle.
It's now my hope that the United States Congress will act appropriately. My administration has made a very reasonable proposal. It's not too late for Democrats to drop the partisanship and work together. Democrats now have to choose whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation, or whether they will join us in working to do the people's business. There are too many important issues, from funding our troops to comprehensive immigration reform, to balancing the budget, for us to accomplish on behalf of the American people.
Thank you for your time. Now I'll answer a couple of questions.
Q Mr. President, are you still completely convinced that the administration did not exert any political pressure in the firing of these attorneys?
THE PRESIDENT: Deb, there is no indication that anybody did anything improper. And I'm sure Congress has that question. That's why I've put forth a reasonable proposal for people to be comfortable with the decisions and how they were made. Al Gonzales and his team will be testifying. We have made available people on my staff to be interviewed. And we've made an unprecedented number of documents available.
Q Sir, are you convinced, personally?
THE PRESIDENT: There's no indication whatsoever, after reviews by the White House staff, that anybody did anything improper.
Q If today's offer from Mr. Fielding is your best and final offer on this, are you going to go to the mat in protecting the principle that you talked about? And why not, since you say nothing wrong was done by your staff, why not just clear the air and let Karl Rove and other senior aides testify in public, under oath? There's been a precedent for previous administrations doing that.
THE PRESIDENT: Some have, some haven't. My choice is to make sure that I safeguard the ability for Presidents to get good decisions.
Michael, I'm worried about precedents that would make it difficult for somebody to walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, here's what's on my mind. And if you haul somebody up in front of Congress and put them in oath and all the klieg lights and all the questioning, to me, it makes it very difficult for a President to get good advice. On the other hand, I understand there is a need for information sharing on this. And I put forth what I thought was a rational proposal, and the proposal I put forward is the proposal.
Q And then you'll go to the mat, you'll take this to court --
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I hope the Democrats choose not to do that. If they truly are interested in information -- in other words, if they want to find out what went on between the White House and the Justice Department, they need to read all the emails we released. If they're truly interested in finding out what took place, I have proposed a way for them to find out what took place. My concern is, they would rather be involved with partisanship. They view this as an opportunity to score political points.
And anyway, the proposal we put forward is a good one. There really is a way for people to get information. We'll just fine out what's on their mind.
Q Sir, in at least a few instances, the attorneys that were dismissed were actively investigating Republicans -- in San Diego, in Arizona, in Nevada. By removing them, wouldn't that have possibly impeded or stopped those investigations? And, sir, if I may also ask about the Attorney General. He does not have support among many Republicans and Democrats. Can he still be effective?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he's got support with me. I support the Attorney General. I told you in Mexico I've got confidence in him; I still do. He's going to go up to Capitol Hill and he's going to explain the very questions you asked. I've heard all these allegations and rumors. And people just need to hear the truth, and they're going to go up and explain the truth.
Q In San Diego, Nevada, Arizona, Republicans were the targets of investigations, and those U.S. attorneys were removed. Does that not give the appearance --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't -- it may give the appearance of something, but I think what you need to do is listen to the facts, and let them explain to -- it's precisely why they're going up to testify, so that the American people can hear the truth about why the decision was made.
Listen, first of all, these U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. I named them all. And the Justice Department made recommendations, which the White House accepted, that eight of the 93 would no longer serve. And they will go up and make the explanations as to why -- I'm sorry this, frankly, has bubbled to the surface the way it has, for the U.S. attorneys involved. I really am. These are -- I put them in there in the first place; they're decent people. They serve at our pleasure. And yet, now they're being held up into the scrutiny of all this, and it's just -- what I said in my comments, I meant about them. I appreciated their service, and I'm sorry that the situation has gotten to where it's got. But that's Washington, D.C. for you. You know, there's a lot of politics in this town.
And I repeat, we would like people to hear the truth. And, Kelly, your question is one I'm confident will be asked of people up there. And the Justice Department will answer that question in open forum for everybody to see.
If the Democrats truly do want to move forward and find the right information, they ought to accept what I proposed. And the idea of dragging White House members up there to score political points, or to put the klieg lights out there -- which will harm the President's ability to get good information, Michael -- is -- I really do believe will show the true nature of this debate.
And if information is the desire, here's a great way forward. If scoring political points is the desire, then the rejection of this reasonable proposal will really be evident for the American people to see.
Listen, thank you all for your interest. END 5:57 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 20, 2007
President Bush Discusses Energy Initiatives in Missouri Ford Motor Company, Kansas City Assembly Plant Claycomo, Missouri 1:15 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. (Applause.) Alan, thank you. It's good to be here in Kansas City. Thank you for your warm hospitality. I've had -- I guess you'd call it Car Day. I started off at a GM plant across the way, and now I'm at the Ford plant. My impressions are -- is that American automobile companies are essential to keeping us competitive, essential to providing good jobs, and these manufacturing facilities are full of some really -- finest citizens in our country.
I thank you for your hospitality. I enjoyed walking up and down the line, shaking people's hands. I'm impressed by just how warm everybody was. And I thank you, I really do. It's been a joy to be here. (Applause.)
The reason I've come is I want to highlight an important initiative for the country, and that is to promote technologies so we are less reliant upon foreign sources of oil. And the best way to become less reliant on foreign sources of oil is to manufacture automobiles that will use either less gasoline, or different kinds of fuels. And that's what we're here to talk about.
The Ford plant, the GM plant are producing automobiles that are the beginning, really, of helping this country develop a wise energy policy and a wise environmental policy. And so I appreciate the fact that we've seen hybrid technologies and the world's first hybrid SUV, ethanol-driven cars. Americans are just getting used to this kind of technological -- these technological breakthroughs -- something you're used to. See, you make these cars all day long, but I don't think our citizens fully understand what is happening in America. And that's why I've come to highlight the technological changes that we're seeing.
I've set out a goal of reducing America's gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years. Some of our fellow citizens say, well, of course, that's just typical, they stand up there and put out a goal that's not achievable. I think it's achievable. And one way for me to make the case that it's achievable is to remind people about the new technologies that are being developed in a place like this Ford plant.
I believe that -- I call it Twenty Ten; in other words, reduce gasoline usage by 20 percent over 10 years. And I'm looking forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats to get it done. See, this is the kind of thing where we should be able to come together for the good of the country and promote technologies, and to encourage consumption of hybrid automobiles.
The American people expect us to work together. See, that's what they want. I'm confident that we can. And Congress needs to pass good bipartisan energy legislation, and they need to do it by the start of the summer driving season. That would be a good sign that we recognize that we've got a problem here in America, and we aim to solve it together. (Applause.)
I appreciate Sam Graves -- he's the Congressman from this area -- traveling down with me. Sam, thank you for being here. (Applause.) Sam's a farmer. I'm about to talk about ethanol a little bit. Let me put it to you this way: I like the idea that farmers are growing energy that powers our cars. I'd rather be paying American farmers than people overseas for the energy that fuels this economy. (Applause.) And so when you're making a vehicle that runs on ethanol, or a flex-fuel vehicle, you're really helping national security.
And before I get to that, I want to thank Alan for his leadership of Ford. I appreciate Ken Ward, the plant manager. Thank you for giving me a tour. How about your President of UAW 249. He's not only the President, he happens to be the Mayor. (Laughter.) I told him -- (applause) -- I said, you've got to be a busy guy, filling the potholes, at the same time that he's worrying about the employees. But, Mayor, thank you -- I call you, "Mayor." I could call you, "President." (Laughter.) I appreciate the tour, and thanks for hanging out there with me.
I want to thank all the employees that are here. I also came over with Paul Marr. He's the plant manager of the General Motors Fairfax Assembly. I know you'll greet him kindly. But thank you for coming, Paul. I appreciate you being here. (Applause.)
I mentioned national security. I bet you didn't think in terms -- or maybe you do think in terms of national security when you make these modern automobiles here. See, I believe that when you're dependent on oil from parts of the world where people may not necessarily like us, that creates a national security problem. I know that when you're dependent on oil, and the objective of some of the terrorists is to destroy oil networks, it creates a national security problem for us. In other words, the more we're dependent on oil from somewhere else, the more we're vulnerable to national security issues.
I deal with it every day in the Oval Office. And so when I tell people that a goal of reducing the amount of gasoline, which means we'll use less crude oil, is in the national security interest of the country, I think -- I hope you're beginning to get the drift of what I mean. It's like when I say to a worker, when you make one of these cars, you're helping the national security of the country.
I like the idea of being independent. I understand that when the demand for crude oil goes up in another part of the world, and the supply of crude oil doesn't match it, the price of gasoline goes up in America. That's another issue we have to deal with when we're dependent on crude oil. About 60 percent-plus of our crude oil comes from overseas.
And so what do we do about it? What should the country do to lessen our dependence on energy from somewhere else? Well, one thing we need to do is to promote the idea of technologies changing the way we live. And that's what you're doing at the plant.
And so I appreciate very much the idea of hybrid vehicles. If Americans don't know what I'm talking about, these are vehicles that you run on gasoline or electricity. You take it for granted, you live with them every day. Some people don't know what we're talking about. It's -- this is a new market opportunity for Ford. More and more people are going to be saying, how can I help us be less dependant on foreign sources of energy? Well, one way is to buy a hybrid.
It makes sense for the government to encourage people to buy hybrid vehicles. And so we've got a tax credit for somebody who purchased such a vehicle, up to $3,500 a person. I think it makes sense to encourage consumer behavior, to buy a car that you manufacture here, or at the GM plant -- not to be favoring one plant over the other. There have been -- about 700,000 hybrids have been sold in America. That's the beginning of something different, isn't it? It's the beginning of a new market.
The next wave of technologies, I'm told, is for there to be plug-in hybrids. In other words, battery technologies -- I'm hoping at some point in time relatively quickly, you all will be installing new battery technologies in these automobiles that will enable people to drive on electricity more than on gasoline.
So part of the strategy has got to be for the federal government to promote research and development on technologies that will enable us to become the leader in battery technologies -- lithium ionic batteries. I mean, it's very conceivable one day that somebody living in a big city will be able to drive the first 40 miles on electricity. Now, imagine if all the big-city drivers were able to drive on electricity, not on gasoline, how much more -- how much less dependant on foreign sources of oil we'd be. Remember, oil is the feedstock for gasoline.
And it's coming. And I predict relatively quickly that you'll be making automobiles that will have this battery technology in. And I think it makes sense to use some of your money to encourage new technologies, and to encourage research and development. And that's what we're doing. So part of the strategy is to -- is to really develop new battery technologies.
And by the way, what you're proving here is a car that -- or a truck -- doesn't have to look like a golf cart, if you're running on electricity. It can be a normal size vehicle that people like to drive. Texans like to use pickup trucks, as you well know. And it makes sense to have these technologies fit in the kind of trucks that people like to drive, or the kind of cars that people demand. And that's what's happening.
I appreciate the idea of flex-fuel vehicles for the American citizen. That means that you can either use ethanol, or you can use gasoline, and you can choose. I like the idea of the consumer having more options. You're producing flex-fuel vehicles here, where somebody can decide to fill up with ethanol, or they can decide to fill up with gasoline, their choice. In turns out that Henry Ford -- Model T was one of the first flex-fuel vehicles. I didn't realize that until I came here -- but that he had the vision of having the Model T run either on gasoline or ethanol. Isn't that interesting?
And finally -- (applause) -- and finally, it's now becoming in the marketplace. Why? Because it's going to be necessary for this country for national security and economic security reasons to start using different kinds of fuels.
And here in the Midwest you have seen a boom in ethanol production and ethanol usage. And the reason why is, is that corn-based ethanol is leading an amazing change in the country. We consume about 5 billion gallons of ethanol right now in America. That's up nearly fivefold in a relatively quick period of time. The problem we face is that right now the most efficient way to make ethanol is through the use of corn -- and that's fine if you're a corn grower, but it's not fine if you're a hog raiser, because that price of corn is beginning to affect the people who are raising hogs. And I understand that. That's why we're spending a fair amount of money on developing new types of technology that will enable us to use something besides corn to make ethanol -- whether it be switchgrasses, or agricultural refuse, or wood chips.
And that technology is coming. It may sound far-fetched to some that one of these days we'll be making a product that can go into a Ford pickup truck out of wood chips, and you'll be able to drive just like it was full of gasoline, but those days are around the corner. And it makes sense for us to promote that kind of technologies.
Right now the ethanol industry is sectionally based because this is where the corn is grown. The idea is to develop new ways to be able to process different materials so that ethanol can be more widespread around the country. If you're a Ford guy working here on the line, it's in your interests that we promote new ways to make ethanol. After all, the flex-fuel vehicle would then become more in demand.
All this is aimed, by the way, at doing what I told you, and that is to make us less dependent on crude oil. It's really interesting, isn't it, for the President to be talking about one of these days people driving pickup trucks driven by ethanol -- fueled by ethanol from wood chips? Is it real? I think it is. Otherwise I wouldn't be standing here talking to you about it. Is it necessary? I know it's necessary, for the sake of the future of this country.
Ultimately, there's going to be hydrogen driving these vehicles. Some of us aren't probably going to be able to drive by the time those show up, and so the meantime -- (laughter.) Of course, I'm not driving much anyway these days. (Laughter.)
I do believe we ought to reform the CAFE standards in a way that's based upon size -- not fleet-wise, but on different sizes, in order to be able to encourage better mileage. But the big gains in this Twenty Ten program are going to come through by alternative fuels. And that's what I want to share with you, that this is a national objective.
We spent about $12 billion over the last six years to promote different kinds of researches, different kinds of ideas, trying to make sure America stays on the leading edge of technological change. I strongly believe it's in our interest to be the leader of technologies. Technology changes the way we have lived our lives; technology is going to change the way we drive our cars.
` And so part of the strategy to be better stewards of the environment and, at the same time, be less dependent on foreign sources of energy is to change the automobile. I've come to this plant because that's what you're doing. You're making a new kind of automobile that is literally a part of changing America for the better.
An energy strategy has got to be more than just an automobile strategy. I mean, we can reduce dependency on oil -- and we will; we're still going to need oil. And therefore, I think it makes a lot of sense for us to continue to explore for oil and gas in environmentally friendly ways here in America. If you're worried about a terrorist attack, like I am -- terrorist attack on our infrastructure somewhere else that will affect the price of oil, I do believe it makes sense to double the size of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to have oil in place in the ground that we could then use in order to protect the American consumer against sudden disruptions of supply.
We got a lot of coal in America. We've got about 250 years worth of coal. If you want to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy, it seems to make sense to develop the energy reserves you have at home. And -- but coal burns -- doesn't burn cleanly. And so, therefore, we're spending a sizeable amount of money on clean coal technologies. I believe that within a relatively quick period of time, we will have the ability to use coal to fire our electricity without emitting greenhouse gases or pollutants, zero-emission coal-fired plants. We've still got work to do. But there's a lot of research going on, and it makes sense to spend that kind of money on developing ways that we can be good stewards of the environment and use a plentiful supply of coal.
I strongly believe in nuclear power. If you're somebody who is concerned about greenhouse gases, it seems like to me that it's logical then that you support the use of nuclear power. A nuclear power plant is the ultimate source of renewable fuels, and it has zero emissions. It makes a lot of sense to me to promote a nuclear power the engineering technologies have developed to the point where they're safe.
It's an interesting part of the debate. I know there's a lot of folks who worry about nuclear power. I would just hope people would keep an open mind about it. If you really do want to become less dependant on foreign sources of energy and want to worry about the environment, there's no better way to protect the environment than the renewable source of energy called nuclear power.
I do believe wind power makes sense. All we've got to do is put a couple of turbines in Washington, D.C. and we'll be energy free. There's a lot of -- (laughter) -- a lot of hot air there, you know. (Laughter.)
What I'm telling you is, is that we've got a comprehensive plan, comprehensive ideas on how to meet the challenges, really, of the 21st century. I'm a believer in technologies, and I'm a believer in the ingenuity of the American people. And for the skeptics, all you got to do is come into a place like this and see what they're building.
And I believe it's just the beginning. I really do. That's what I've come to share with you, my sense of optimism about the country. As a matter of fact, I don't think there's anything we can't achieve when we put our mind to it. This country has overcome challenges in the past, and we'll darn sure overcome them in the future.
One of the challenges we have is to protect the country from a group of terrorists who'd like to do us harm. And here in this Ford plant, I want to declare to you: No matter how tough it gets, this country is going to stay steadfast and do the job that you expect us to do, which is to protect you from harm.
And another challenge facing us is this challenge of energy independence. We're making great strides -- continue to make great strides. And they'll look back and say of this generation that I'm a part of -- I hope they'll look back and say they did their job. Job well done.
Thanks for letting me come by, and God bless. (Applause.) END 1:33 P.M. CDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 19, 2007
President Bush Discusses Fourth Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom Roosevelt Room 11:30 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Four years ago today, coalition forces launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to remove Saddam Hussein from power. They did so to eliminate the threat his regime posed to the Middle East and to the world. Coalition forces carried out that mission with great courage and skill. Today the world is rid of Saddam Hussein and a tyrant has been held to account for his crimes by his own people.
Nearly 12 million Iraqis have voted in free elections under a democratic constitution that they wrote for themselves. And their democratic leaders are now working to build a free society that upholds the rule of law, that respects the rights of its people, that provides them security and is an ally in the war on terror.
At this point in the war, our most important mission is helping the Iraqis secure their capital. Until Baghdad's citizens feel secure in their own homes and neighborhoods, it will be difficult for Iraqis to make further progress toward political reconciliation or economic rebuilding, steps necessary for Iraq to build a democratic society.
So with our help, Iraq's government is carrying out an aggressive plan to secure Baghdad. And we're continuing to train the Iraqi security forces so that they ultimately take full responsibility for the security of their own people.
I've just received an update on the situation from Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. My conversation with the Prime Minister followed a briefing earlier this morning that included Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates, along with General Petraeus and Ambassador Khalilzad, who participated by video conference from Iraq.
Prime Minister Maliki and General Petraeus emphasized that the Baghdad security plan is still in its early stages, and success will take months, not days or weeks. Yet, those on the ground are seeing some hopeful signs. The Iraqi government has completed the deployment of three Iraqi army brigades to the capital, where they've joined the seven Iraqi army brigades and nine national police brigades that were already in the area.
The Iraqi government has also lifted restrictions that once prevented Iraqi and coalition forces from going into areas like Sadr City. American and Iraqi forces have established joint security stations. Those stations are scattered throughout Baghdad and they're helping Iraqis reclaim their neighborhoods from the terrorists and extremists.
Together, we've carried out aggressive operations against both Shia and Sunni extremists; carried out operations against al Qaeda terrorists. We've uncovered large caches of weapons and destroyed two major car bomb factories that were located on the outskirts of Baghdad.
I want to stress that this operation is still in the early stages, it's still in the beginning stages. Fewer than half of the troop reinforcements we are sending have arrived in Baghdad. The new strategy will need more time to take effect. And there will be good days, and there will be bad days ahead as the security plan unfolds.
As we help the Iraqis secure their capital, their leaders are also beginning to meet the benchmarks they have laid out for political reconciliation. Last month, Iraq's Council of Ministers approved a law that would share oil revenues among Iraqi people. The Iraqi legislature passed a $41 billion budget that includes $10 billion for reconstruction and capital improvements. And last week, Prime Minister Maliki visited Ramadi, a city in the Sunni heartland, to reach out to local Sunni tribal leaders.
There's been good progress. There's a lot more work to be done, and Iraq's leaders must continue to work to meet the benchmarks that have set forward.
As Iraqis work to keep their commitments, we have important commitments of our own. Members of Congress are now considering an emergency war spending bill. They have a responsibility to ensure that this bill provides the funds and the flexibility that our troops need to accomplish their mission. They have a responsibility to pass a clean bill that does not use funding for our troops as leverage to get special interest spending for their districts. And they have a responsibility to get this bill to my desk without strings and without delay.
It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating. If American forces were to step back from Baghdad before it is more secure, a contagion of violence could spill out across the entire country. In time, this violence could engulf the region. The terrorists could emerge from the chaos with a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they had in Afghanistan, which they used to plan the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. For the safety of the American people, we cannot allow this to happen.
Prevailing in Iraq is not going to be easy. General Petraeus says that the environment in Iraq is the most challenging that he has seen in his more than 32 years of service. He also says that he has been impressed by the professionalism and the skill and determination of our men and women in uniform. He sees in our troops "a true will to win and a sincere desire to help our Iraqi partners achieve success."
Four years after this war began, the fight is difficult, but it can be won. It will be won if we have the courage and resolve to see it through. I'm grateful to our servicemen and women for all they've done and for the honor they brought to their uniform and their country. I'm grateful to our military families for all the sacrifices they have made for our country. We also hold in our hearts the good men and women who've given their lives in this struggle. We pray for the loved ones they have left behind.
The United States military is the most capable and courageous fighting force in the world. And whatever our differences in Washington, our troops and their families deserve the appreciation and the support of our entire nation.
Thank you. END 11:38 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 19, 2007
President Bush Welcomes the 2006 NCAA Football Champion Florida Gators to the White House South Lawn 3:03 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. This isn't exactly "the swamp." (Laughter.) This weekend, it would have been the ice rink. Today, it is the White House that welcomes the National Champion Florida Gators. (Applause.)
So you might remember one of my family members held elected office in Florida. Yes, that was -- (applause) -- I hope he's found work. (Laughter.) And so I said, you know, I had the privilege of welcoming the Texas Longhorns to the White House. He said, one of these days, you're going to be welcoming a Florida team. And he's right. One year after the Longhorns came, here comes the mighty Gators. And we welcome you. And we're glad you're here. (Applause.)
So you might call it Gator country. This is the 100th anniversary of college football at the University of Florida. It's a pretty fine way to celebrate the 100th year. (Applause.)
I want to thank Coach Urban Meyer and Shelley for joining us. I appreciate Dr. Machen, the President of the University of Florida, and his wife, Chris. Manny Fernandez, thanks for coming -- he's the Chairman. Members of the Board of Trustees, we're glad you all are here. Thank you for serving.
Carolyn Roberts, who is the Chair of the Board of Governors, is with us. I presume the Athletic Director is here. If not, he's probably done -- it's amazing, isn't it? So, like, the basketball team, and now the football team. (Applause.) Like, what are you doing down there? (Laughter.) Yes, Gatorade. (Laughter.)
I appreciate the members of my administration who are here, but I particularly want to thank the members of Congress, starting with Senator Bill Nelson. Thank you for coming, Senator. Appreciate you being here. Adam Putnam, all he talks about is Gator football. (Applause.) Cliff Stearns -- appreciate you being here, Cliff. Corrine Brown, thank you for coming. John Mica, Ander Crenshaw, Jeff Miller, and Gus Bilirakis, thank you all for joining us. Thanks for serving. (Applause.)
So the Florida Gators had the nation's toughest schedule, and instead of wearing them down, it made them tougher; instead of, like, discouraging them that they got the bad deal when it came to the schedule, all that did was cause them to play harder. And it put them in pretty good stead going into the championship game. Like you might remember, all the pre-game polls said you couldn't win. (Laughter.) So much for polls. (Laughter and applause.)
I don't know how you felt when the guy ran the kickoff back -- looked like a rough start -- but you didn't let it get you down. And you showed an unbelievable offense and a swarming defense. And we really congratulate you, you're a well-coached team of highly disciplined athletes.
I particularly like the story of the two quarterbacks, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. First of all -- (applause.) Where's Tebow? There he is. It's like the guy is trying to bring the single wing back, you know? (Laughter.) And so Tebow takes a look at Florida and sees the fact that they've got a four-year starter, but loves the school more than anything else and helps Chris Leak be a better quarterback. That's what we call teammates, people playing together for the common good. And we thank you both for the leadership you've shown. Of course, you wouldn't be half the players that you are without the huge offensive line and the receivers and backs you've got behind you -- I know you would say that.
I appreciate your defense. I clearly remember linebacker Earl Everett. (Applause.) I've seen that face before. (Laughter.) So has the whole country. You might remember, Everett lost his headgear. He didn't lose his head -- (laughter) -- but he lost his headgear and he went on to make a great tackle in a key moment. That's called tough defense, hard-nosed defense. (Applause.)
Where's Ray McDonald? Can I say what Ray McDonald said? Can I quote you, Ray? Okay, I will. (Laughter.) Here's what he said: "We don't really believe in destiny. We believe when your number is called, you make the play." What he's saying is, is that there's no chance. "We win because we do what we're coached to do, and we're good at it." And I appreciate the spirit, and I appreciate the caliber -- (applause) -- of people on this team.
It didn't take Urban Meyer long. Like, the guy shows up, the next thing he knows, he's at the White House. (Laughter.) Whoever hired him, good choice. He's an amazing coach, with a good coaching staff. And so I congratulate not only the players, but I congratulate the coaching staff. I congratulate all those who pick up the towels and make the program run. I thank those who help sell the tickets, and the unsung heroes of any athletic program. If you're here, we welcome you to the White House, and we appreciate what you've done for the national champs.
I do want to say another thing about this program, Mr. President. I was very pleased to see that the graduation success rate of Florida's athletic programs are 15 percent higher than the national average. (Applause.) After all, you are representing a great university. And I appreciate the fact that people can be student athletes. I appreciate it because at some point in time, you're not going to be an athlete. At some point in time, you're going to have to use the skills you learned as a student to be a constructive citizen of the United States.
And so, Coach, I appreciate the fact that you work hard with these players to make sure that they take advantage of this fantastic opportunity, and that is to be a student at the University of Florida.
I also appreciate the spirit of giving that's a part of this football program. I don't know if you know this or not, but Coach Meyer hosts the annual Urban Meyer Golf Scramble for Kids. This year, the event raised a record $300,000, all aiming at helping youth organizations buy equipment, all aiming at touching a soul, trying to make somebody's life better.
Coach, I appreciate the example you set, and I also appreciate the fact that 32 of your football players volunteered for community organizations; 32 souls said, I'm more than a football player, I'm a leader when it comes to helping the community in which I live.
Jamalle Cornelius, just happens to be captain. (Applause) Here's what he said. He said, "If everyone took a small leadership role in whatever it is they do, we can help eliminate some of the problems that are in our society." I love the spirit. (Applause.) I love the fact that champions understand you've got to be a champ on the field, as well as a champ off the field. And I believe one of the reasons this program is successful is because not only you're good football players, but you're good people.
And I want to say one other thing now that I've got the mic -- (laughter) -- I want to say something at Cam Brewer. Where's Cam? There he is, right there. United States Marine. (Applause.) I appreciate the fact that you wore the uniform of the United States of America. I appreciate the fact that you put self -- something larger than yourself as an important part of your life. It's a good example, isn't it? And now I appreciate the fact that you've taken advantage of the educational opportunities offered to those who have worn the uniform and gotten yourself an education at a fine university.
Again, I want to welcome you all to the White House. It's an honor to welcome you here. More importantly, it's an honor to welcome the National Football Champion Florida Gators. (Applause.) END 3:11 P.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 17, 2007
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. In times of war, Congress has no greater obligation than funding our war fighters. And next week, the House will begin debate on an emergency war spending bill.
The purpose of this legislation should be to give our troops on the front lines the resources, funds, and equipment they need to fight our enemies. Unfortunately, some in Congress are using this bill as an opportunity to micromanage our military commanders, force a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, and spend billions on domestic projects that have nothing to do with the war on terror.
Our troops urgently need Congress to approve emergency war funds. Over the past several weeks, our Nation has begun pursuing a new strategy in Iraq. Under the leadership of General David Petraeus, our troops have launched a difficult and dangerous mission to help Iraqis secure their capital. This plan is still in its early stages, yet we're already seeing signs of progress. Iraqi and American troops have rounded up more than 700 people affiliated with Shia extremists. They've also launched aggressive operations against Sunni extremists. And they've uncovered large caches of weapons that could have been used to kill our troops. These are hopeful signs. As these operations unfold, they will help the Iraqi government stabilize the country, rebuild the economy, and advance the work of political reconciliation. Yet the bill Congress is considering would undermine General Petraeus and the troops under his command just as these critical security operations are getting under way.
First, the bill would impose arbitrary and restrictive conditions on the use of war funds and require the withdrawal of forces by the end of this year if these conditions are not met. These restrictions would handcuff our generals in the field by denying them the flexibility they need to adjust their operations to the changing situation on the ground. And these restrictions would substitute the mandates of Congress for the considered judgment of our military commanders.
Even if every condition required by this bill was met, all American forces -- except for very limited purposes -- would still be required to withdraw next year, regardless of the situation in Iraq. The consequences of imposing such an artificial timetable would be disastrous.
Here is what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently told Congress: Setting a fixed date to withdraw would "essentially tell [the enemy] how long they would have to wait until we're gone." If American forces were to step back from Baghdad before it is more secure, the scale and scope of attacks would increase and intensify. A contagion of violence could spill out across the entire country, and in time, this violence would engulf the region. The enemy would emerge from the chaos emboldened with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America. Such an outcome would be a nightmare for our country.
Second, the bill would cut funding for the Iraqi security forces if Iraqi leaders did not meet rigid conditions set by Congress. This makes no sense. Members of Congress have often said that the Iraqis must step forward and take more responsibility for their own security -- and I agree. Yet Members of Congress can't have it both ways: They can't say that the Iraqis must do more and then take away the funds that will help them do so. Iraq is a young democracy that is fighting for its survival in a region that is vital to American security. To cut off support for their security forces at this critical moment would put our own security at risk.
Third, the bill would add billions of dollars in domestic spending that is completely unrelated to the war. For example, the House bill would provide $74 million for peanut storage, $48 million for the Farm Service Agency, and $35 million for NASA. These programs do not belong in an emergency war spending bill. Congress must not allow debate on domestic spending to delay funds for our troops on the front lines. And Members should not use funding our troops as leverage to pass special interest spending for their districts.
We are a Nation at war, and the heaviest responsibilities fall to our troops in the field. Yet we in Washington have responsibilities, as well. General Petraeus was confirmed by the Senate without a single vote in opposition, and he and his troops need these resources to succeed in their mission. Many in Congress say they support the troops, and I believe them. Now they have a chance to show that support in deed, as well as in word. Congress needs to approve emergency funding for our troops, without strings and without delay. If they send me a bill that does otherwise, I will veto it.
Thank you for listening. END
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 16, 2007
President Bush Meets with the President's Commission on Care for America's Returning Wounded Warriors Room 180 Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building 9:10 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: A couple of weeks ago I announced that Senator Dole and Secretary Shalala agreed to chair a commission of our fellow citizens to look into the health care that our veterans and those in the military are receiving.
Today, I was pleased to meet the commission members that have been selected. We've got Purple Heart recipients, got the wife of a severely wounded troop, we've got a doctor, we've got compassionate people who all care about whether or not our government is fulfilling its responsibility to make sure our health care systems, both at DoD, Defense Department, and at the Veterans Administration are meeting our obligations.
And I assured the members of this committee that I will support their work and will address the problems that they find. We owe it to those who wear the uniform and their families to make sure our troops have the best, and that's what this commission is meant to do. And I thank you for your willingness to serve. You're doing the country a great service, because the commission report will ensure that service goes beyond my time in office. In other words, it'll really set the stage for this presidency and other presidencies, set a standard that we expect government to follow.
So thanks for being here, appreciate your time. END 9:12 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 16, 2007
President Bush and Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland Participate in Shamrock Ceremony The Roosevelt Room 9:55 A.M. EDT
PRIME MINISTER AHERN: Mr. President, distinguished guests, it's a great pleasure and honor to return here to the White House this morning to wish you a Happy St. Patrick's Day. This ceremony symbolizes, in a very special way, the bonds between our two peoples. We're two countries of vastly different scales, but we're two peoples linked in a profound and a unique way. It's entirely fitting that through this ceremony, we give expression and salute to many Irish who have helped build this great country and celebrate the journey that Ireland has made from dark times past to the confident, modern and successful country it is today.
Mr. President, I'm glad to be able to say on this St. Patrick's Day, 2007, that peace in Ireland is a reality and that our people enjoy success unimaginable to earlier generations. In achieving this, we've been able to count on America as a true partner and a generous friend. This country and our many friends here have stood with us at all times, helped build our peace and contributed enormously to our economic success. This, then, is a moment to celebrate and, most of all, to say thank you.
I would like to recognize the work of Ambassadors Mitchell Reiss and James Kenny in recent years, and now Ambassador Tom Foley and Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, whose commitment to responsibilities we greatly appreciate.
Mr. President, when we met here last year, I shared with you our considered strategy to build confidence and restore the political institutions in Northern Ireland. I'm glad to say that this strategy has led us to a point where power-sharing and the restoration of the political institutions are in prospect later this month.
In last week's election in Northern Ireland, the people gave a strong and a very clear message. After so many years of delay and disappointment, they now accept that the key outstanding issues which have frustrated progress have been addressed, and that the time has come to Northern Ireland to move on.
The will of the people in Northern Ireland is unmistakable and undeniable. They want their political representatives now to take responsibility together in government for building and consolidating peace. They want Northern Ireland finally to settle and to be at ease with itself. I salute all those in Northern Ireland who courageously made the journey with us and brought the peace process to this point of completion.
Prime Minister Blair and I will spare no effort, Mr. President, to support the parties in every way that we can as they take the essential and historic last steps that lie ahead. Time is pressing, and it is our deepest wish -- and I know that you share with us, Mr. President -- that nothing should allow the process to falter at this final moment. Your support is deeply and always appreciated, and will continue to be a vital source of encouragement to us all.
Mr. President, this year, two significant anniversaries of events in 1607 are being celebrated: the settling of Jamestown, Virginia, in the United States, and the Flight of the Earls from Ireland to Europe, which effectively inaugurated the Irish diaspora. That settlement in Virginia was followed a century later by the emigration from Ireland, which brought a proud Scots-Irish tradition to these shores, a heritage which is widely celebrated and embraced today.
Mr. President, each new generation of Irish arriving in this country has made is own contribution and helped assure a unique relationship. The generation of Irish who have arrived here more recently are themselves now putting down new and deep roots and our a precious asset as we build a relationship and keep it fresh and vibrant for the future.
I want to thank you for your support for a comprehensive and balanced solution to the current challenges facing the immigration system in the United States. You've offered real leadership on this sensitive issue. The resolution of this issue would mean an enormous amount to so many Irish men and women, and I fervently hope that they will, in the not too distant future, be able to step away from the shadows and into the sunshine of this great country.
Mr. President, I believe that we are closer than at any time in our past in Ireland to a final resolution of one of the oldest conflicts in history. I hope that our journey can give inspiration and hope to other parts of the world that are in conflict, or where people are suffering and in despair. The plight of the poorest in the world, the search for peace throughout the Middle East, global warming, air transport and trade liberalization are but a few of the vital and complex challenges demanding the attention of the international community. I look forward to discussing many of these wider issues with you this morning, and also to reviewing our bilateral relations.
Mr. President, thank you once again for your support, for your friendship. I'm pleased to present this shamrock as a symbol of the very special kinship between Ireland and the United States. And to you, Mr. President, Happy St. Patrick's Day.
(The shamrock is presented.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Taoiseach, good morning --or should I say, "top o' the morning." I'm really pleased that you came back to the White House. I'm looking forward to our discussions. And I cannot thank you enough for your strong leadership in resolving the issues of Northern Ireland, and I stand ready to help.
I gratefully accept the bowl of shamrocks. I am delighted that you have joined us, once again, to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick's Day is an occasion that unites two distinct groups of Americans: those who are of Irish descent, and those who wish they were. (Laughter.) Whether they're Irish today or every day, Americans are grateful for our country's Irish heritage, and the enduring friendship that exists between Ireland and the United States is strong.
The ties that bind our two nations stretch all the way back to our country's founding. Ireland gave us at least nine signers of the Declaration of Independence, and many more who risked their lives to defend it. Irish Americans fought valiantly to preserve the union in our Civil War. They helped turn back the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. And they're fighting bravely in today's war on terror, risking their lives to secure a future of freedom and peace for generations to come.
Many of Ireland's sons and daughters came to our shores to escape poverty and famine. Once here, they helped us build and strengthen this great nation with their gifts of industry and talent and faith. Irish workers build our railroads, our cathedrals, and our cities. Irish writers and musicians have enriched our literature and our culture. Irish priests and nuns established parochial schools that have helped generations of children build lives of prosperity and purpose. And with their many contributions, Irish Americans remind us of our heritage as a nation of immigrants, and our duty to remain a welcoming society.
In 1783, President George Washington -- I refer to him as the first George W. -- (laughter) -- wrote to recent Irish immigrants in New York that "America is open to receive the oppressed and persecuted of all nations," and he expressed his wish that the blessings of equal liberty and unrestrained commerce would one day prevail in Ireland.
Well, today, Ireland is a free, independent, and very prosperous nation. Ireland now has one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. And over the past decade, our two nations have enjoyed a strong and growing trade relationship. And as Ireland prospers, a land whose people came to America seeking a better life is now attracting to its own shores immigrants with those very same dreams.
It has been said that the Irish, like the presence of God, are to be found everywhere. On this St. Patrick's Day, we're grateful for the presence of the Irish in our country. And we are blessed by your presence here at the White House, Taoiseach. I thank you for coming to help us celebrate St. Patrick's Day, and honor the friendship between our two nations. In the words of the Irish proverb: "May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight." (Laughter.)
Thanks for coming. (Applause.) END 10:04 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 15, 2007
President Bush Meets with Vice President Adil Abd Al-Mahdi of Iraq The Oval Office 10:55 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: It is such an honor to welcome the Vice President of a free Iraq to the Oval Office.
Mr. Vice President, I appreciate your courage. I don't know if the citizens of my country know, but the other day, a killer tried to take your life. And fortunately, you sit here, and you speak with enthusiasm and optimism about the future of your country.
One of the reasons why -- the main reason why I've reinforced our troops in Iraq is to give leaders such as yourself the opportunity to do the hard work of reconciliation. I appreciate very much the progress that you're making. I know it's hard work. It's hard work to overcome distrust that has built up over the years because your country was ruled by a tyrant that created distrust amongst people.
But you, Mr. Vice President, are showing strong vision, and a vision of peace and reconciliation. And I welcome you to the Oval Office. I thank you for your courage, and I thank you for the conversation we've had.
VICE PRESIDENT ABD AL-MAHDI: Thank you. Thank you, President. Thank you for receiving me, and the present occasion to thank you personally, and to thank the American people for all the support you've given to Iraq, the sacrifices. Also, I visited yesterday some soldiers in the hospital, and I saw their high spirit they had, really, better morale than I had, talking about their mission.
We are working hard together. Our security plan is marking some points. We are not finished, but we are doing better than expected in this plan. This will not solve the whole problem; the reconciliation process will take our political agenda forward. We are working on many issues; the hydrocarbon bill, which we approved in the Cabinet. We are working on a deBaathification bill and it will be presented later. We are working on so many things.
So, really, I want to take this occasion to thank all Americans -- the United States, you, Mr. President, the Congress, the administration -- for all the sacrifices, effort, assistance given to help my country.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Thank you. END 10:58 A.M. EDT
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 14, 2007
8:43 A.M. (Local)
THE PRESIDENT: I'd like to thank you all for joining us. One of the best things America can do is help people realize their dreams. The best way to realize dreams is through education.
I'm so happy that you all have joined me to share with me your experiences from one of our most effective programs, which is a program all aimed at improving the human condition. I'm proud of the citizens of the United States who show great concern for citizens in our neighborhood. And I thank you for coming to share your experiences.
Victor, would you like to start? I mentioned you in un discurso en los Estados Unidos about the benefits of this program. I understand you went to Bettendorf Community College -- Scott Community College? Okay. Well, tell us, Victor, your story.
MR. L PEZ RUIZ: I want to express my deepest appreciation for this opportunity. Thank you, Mr. President, for sharing the story in your speech last week. Your words fill me so happy. And I have the encouragement to keep working in my community. I want to express my gratitude, as well, to Becas Cas (phonetic) and USAID for selecting me for this scholarship in 2004. I received also an associate degree in international business and trade at Scott Community College, Bettendorf, Iowa.
And finally, I would like to thank everyone that supported me and helped me for this opportunity, my dreams come true -- especially my family. I had to face many challenges to get an education, but I learned that with the right attitude and a lot of effort and commitment, everything is possible.
At the age of 12 I had to leave my community to be able to study high school. I faced several obstacles, including the fact that I did not speak Spanish, because my language is Tzotzil. Now I speak three languages. I had to work to support my education. This is how I was able to study. I still continue fighting for my dream today, which makes me value them even more.
I really enjoyed my time in the U.S.A. I lived with a nice family for the first year. We had a hard time trying to communicate to each other, but quickly I felt like one of their family. I still talk with them, and although I miss my Mexican food -- (laughter) -- I thought I would only be eating hamburger and pizza. (Laughter.) My American family introduced me to delicious food and I gained weight. From the U.S.A. culture, I learned to value organization, civic responsibility -- and respect and tolerance, to be able to work with others.
I did an internship in a coffee production company in Bentondorf, to use the skills that I was learning in commerce and administration. These same skills have helped me to start a small family-run Internet cafe and bakery in Comitan, Chiapas. I also volunteer with two associations, one is a local coffee company made up of indigenous people -- coffee growers. They assist with financial management and human resources, assist them in possessing the -- certificate and serve as a translator. I am also continuing my education in bachelor degree in accounting at Universidad Aut noma de Chiapas.
I want to invite Mexican young people to come together and commit to their community and our country. Education is the only means to improve our quality of life and achieve peace, social peace in the entire world.
Once again, thank you for this scholarship program. I hope the U.S.A. government will continue to support this program so that other young people can have the same opportunity that I have had. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Victor. What was the name of the family in Bentondorf?
MR. L PEZ RUIZ: Peter and Mary Shaffer (phontetic.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I thank them. I hope they feel good about the fact that they helped you. There's a lot of American families that have great compassion for people around the world. And thank you for sharing the story.
Marcela. You went to Texas.
MS. RUIZ: I went to Texas. Good morning, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. Being a small business owner is more than just a job or as a way to take a living. It's a calling in life. The power of having an idea, taking a risk, and starting a small business that fulfills a need in the marketplace, and that creating jobs is truly magical. In Mexico, there exists a very strong entrepreneurial spirit, just like in the United States, where men and women from all over the country are ready to engage their God-given abilities, work hard, and improve the life of their families.
I have dedicated my life to helping businessmen and women in the state of Aguascalientes live their dreams and start their own small businesses. My center, CEINNOVA, was started in 2001 and has since helped over 300 small businesses start and prosper, which has resulted in the creation of hundreds of jobs and improved the lives of countless families.
A key factor in the CEINNOVA SBDC success was having the opportunity to participate in a training program offered by the Unversidad Autonomous of Guadalajara and the University of Texas at San Antonio, and supported by USAID. The diplomatic training program shared a small business counseling and training best practices from the 1,100 centers from U.S. small business development network. This training not only helped us for better assist the entrepreneurs of Aguascalientes, but it also linked up with counterparts in the U.S. and helped us support a growing Mexican association of SBDC now led by the Universidad de (inaudible).
On behalf of the many businessmen and women that we have helped, I would like to thank you, Mr. President, and the American people for supporting us. I am very proud of the work of CEINNOVA SBBC and the Mexican Small Business Development Center Network are doing here in Mexico to grow the small business sector, create jobs, and improving the life of its community.
Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Very good. Thank you all very much. Thanks. We'll eat a little breakfast now where we can continue our discussion. END 8:52 A.M. (Local)
For Immediate Release March 13, 2007
President Bush and President Calderón of Mexico Exchange Dinner Toasts Hacienda Xcanatún Mérida, Mexico 8:16 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: (As translated.) Your Excellency, Mr. George W. Bush, President of the United States of America; distinguished Mrs. Laura Bush; President of the Supreme Court; President of the House of Representatives; members of both delegations; ladies and gentlemen. I would like once again to tell President Bush that I am very happy and very pleased to have him here in Mexico.
Our meetings have been very fruitful, not only because of the dialogue that we have held and for the solutions that we arrived at, but also because it shows the type of relation that we have between our two countries. Your presence here, Mr. President, in Mexico allows us to see from both sides the challenges of the dynamic relation which exists between our two countries. It is clear that interdependence is a sign of our relation. The success of this meeting in the peaceful state of Yucatán lies in dialogue, respectful dialogue, intense and open dialogue that we have had today.
We have seen different issues under the light of the economy, of politics, of specific border situations and problems, and we have seen all of this on the basis of equality, and we have based our dialogue on equity. Throughout our agenda we have seen cooperation repeatedly. We have addressed very specific issues on how to be able to increase our cooperation to combat drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and other problems along the border. We have analyzed opening up of trade in sectors which are viable to our economies and which also brings forth good news for Mexico this year -- opening up to all the United States our avocado, and also cross-border situations which will help trucking companies in both countries.
Besides these challenges in our agenda, I would like to highlight the firm political will of both governments in order to reach solutions which satisfy our needs on both sides of the border. In a world where everyone is competing in these frameworks of economy and policies, we know well that we can face these challenges together. We have brought our efforts together in order to increase bilateral relations, to increase services, and to respond to the demands of our citizens.
We have kicked off today, Mr. President, a new stage in bilateral relations, a stage which is seen under the light of renewed spirits when we speak of our challenges and where we have to share responsibility.
We share problems, and solutions must be shared, also. We cannot have a North America which is safer if we do not thrust its prosperity at the same time. Mr. President, I'm happy to see that you said today that it was essential that your Congress can approve reforms in migration that you are thrusting.
You have also mentioned the importance of development in those nations which see many of its citizens going out, and that you are, indeed, supporting all that has to be done. We coincide in giving an integral response to migration and to thrust development in countries which are seeing their citizens going elsewhere for better conditions. We hope that for the good of Mexico and the United States we will soon be able to, under your leadership, find a framework, a legislative framework in both our Congresses which will tend to the needs of migration. Only with shared responsibility will we live in an America with harmony and with work.
In Mexico we do not abandon our objective of becoming in the near future one of the five most thriving and stronger economies of the world. That's why we want Mexico to be one of the best destinations for investments. And in so doing, we are working arduously in order to structure what we need in order to have sustainable development, sustained development, to tend to the needs of our societies. We want all Mexicans to find here in their soil the opportunities that they need for their development and well-being. I'm certain that the United States, a society which is characterized by diversity and by work, understands economic and social efforts put forth by Mexico today.
Mr. President, I would like to recall the words of Benjamin Franklin, when he said, either we all work together towards peace or we will never find it. Mexico and the United States have a fruitful and sound alliance. We are friends, we are neighbors, and strategic partners. We have common goals for development. We share values, such as democracy, freedom, and respect for human rights and the law. I am certain that from this very important meeting our governments will continue to work with new spirits to foster international cooperation and to reach better levels of development.
With that conviction in mind, allow me to raise my glass -- allow me to raise my glass and to make a toast for the health and well-being of President Bush and his distinguished wife, and for the prosperity and happiness of Mexicans and U.S. citizens. Thank you very much.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, Mrs. Zavala, members of your government, governor of Yucatán, the Mayor of Mérida, other government officials, distinguished guests, buenas noches, y gracias. Laura and I are delighted to be back in Mexico. We're grateful for the warm hospitality of President Calderón and Mrs. Zavala. We appreciate the chance to dine in this beautiful setting, which calls to mind Mexico's rich history and its bright future.
For Laura and me, the connection to Mexico stretches back for decades. Somos Tejanos. We have come to admire your country, the people, and your culture. As governor, I worked closely with my counterparts on this side of the border and made a lot of friends in Mexico. As President, Mexico was the first country I visited, and the first country whose leader I welcomed for a state dinner at the White House. Over the past six years, I've traveled all across your nation -- from here in Mérida to Monterrey to Los Cabos on the Pacific Coast. And this evening the relationship between Mexico and the United States is as strong and is as vibrant as it has ever been, and President Calderón and I intend to keep it that way.
The ties between our countries are deep and lasting. We are united by the bonds of family. We are united by the growing commerce that crosses our border each day. And we are united in our faith in an Almighty God.
The accident of geography made our two countries neighbors, but common values have made us friends. The most important value we share is our belief in democracy, and last year the world saw Mexican democracy in action. Across the country, large numbers of voters turned out for an election that was open, honest and really close. Come to think of it, it sounds familiar to me. (Laughter.) Your fidelity to the democratic process was the mark of a nation growing in confidence and freedom. And in the end, the Mexican people chose a good man to be their President.
Shortly before his inauguration, President Calderón came to see me in the Oval Office. I was impressed by his character, his leadership and his devotion to the Mexican people. He's an innovative thinker with a vision of justice and prosperity for all in this nation. And during his first 100 days as President he's shown his commitment to delivering results for all the people he has served. In my conversations today he shared his willingness to work with members of all political parties and with people from all sectors of the civil society.
Today we discussed the President's top priorities. I share those priorities. His top priority is to provide security throughout the country. He's taking bold steps to enforce the rule of law, and to crack down on organized crime and drugs, and reform the judicial system.
The United States is a strong partner in these efforts. We've got work to do on our side of the border. People provide drugs because there is a demand for drugs. And the United States must do a better job of reducing the demand for drugs. And at the same time, I look forward to close cooperation. We'll work with the President and other Presidents in our region to interdict the supply of drugs.
President Calderón also knows the importance of creating new opportunities for Mexico's economy. He's laid out innovative policies to combat poverty and to create jobs. I found one of his policies most interesting -- rewarding Mexican companies that hire first-time workers. And I appreciate his strong commitment to housing and infrastructure in southern Mexico.
He's called for economic reforms that encourage competition and fight corruption. He understands the importance of free and fair trade. The United States welcomes a strong Mexican economy and we fully understand that we must work together to facilitate a smooth transition to full trade, especially on sensitive issues such as corn and beans.
President Calderón holds deep convictions on the matter of migration -- and so do I. Our nations share a 2,000-mile border, and that should be a source of unity, not division. So we're working together to keep both sides of the border open to tourism and trade, and closed to criminals and drug dealers and smugglers and terrorists and gun runners.
I appreciate the President's commitment to secure Mexican borders on both the North and the South. And I told the President today -- and I'm going to keep repeating it while I'm here in Mexico -- that I know our country must have comprehensive immigration reform. We are a rule of law. But it's important for the American citizens to understand that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, and that it's in our nation's interests to have a comprehensive immigration law, so we can uphold the great values of America, values based on human dignity and the worth of each individual.
And so, Mr. President, it's been a good day. We spent a lot of time talking about important issues in a very constructive and friendly way. I appreciate your candor. I appreciate your being straightforward. And, I, too, would like to offer a toast, to good people of Mexico and its leaders.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.) END 8:30 P.M. (Local)
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 13, 2007
President Bush and President Calderón of Mexico Exchange Luncheon Toasts Hacienda Temozón Mérida, Mexico 12:45 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT CALDERÓN: President George Bush, President of the United States of America; distinguished Laura Bush; distinguished members of the delegation accompanying President and Mrs. Bush. For the people in government of Mexico, it is a great satisfaction to have the presence of the President of the United States and his distinguished wife in Yucat n. A proud Mexico, proud of its culture, its roots and history, receives you.
You are also in a modern country, a country which is ever more interrelated and interdependent. Mexico is a nation with a sound past, but also with a sound future; a nation which modernizes in order to face the 21st century. A democratic nation which shares with the United States values -- values of freedom, of democracy, of respect to rule of law and individual rights, and the defense of human rights. Mexico, then, is a freer, safer, and more democratic country.
I have believe, as you do, Mr. President, that our work as leaders takes us to have a better world for our people and for North America. And we hope that we, together, can thrust, within the framework of equality, a future of development and well-being in our region.
I am certain that if we continue to work together we will be able to face the many challenges of our agenda; issues such as migration, combat poverty, the environment, organized crime, and regional trade.
And if you allow me, I would like to toast the health and well-being of President Bush and his wife, and the prosperity and happiness of our peoples in the United States and Mexico. Cheers.
(A toast is offered.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Señor Presidente, thank you very much for your gracious hospitality. I think you picked a perfect place to invite Laura and me and our delegation. It's a beautiful land. It is a spectacular day. And our meetings were constructive. Thank you, First Lady, for your hospitality, as well.
Relations between Mexico and the United States are muy importante. We've got a great history. We've got a strong tradition of working together. And my job, Mr. President, is to do all I can to work with you to advance progress on both sides of the border.
There are issues, of course, issues that we discussed today and will continue to discuss in a manner of respect and dignity. Perhaps the biggest issue concerning your country is the issue of migration. America is a country of law, we'll respect law, but America is also a hospitable country, a country that recognizes the value of each human being. And as the President of your grand country, I know you're deeply concerned about how your citizens are treated within our country. And my pledge to you and the people of Mexico is they'll be treated with respect and dignity.
The best way to do that is to pass a migration law that upholds the values of America, and at the same time, allows us to respect the rule of law. As I told you in private, as you expressed your deep concerns about whether or not America can pass such a law, that I will use all the efforts I can, working with both Republicans and Democrats, to pass such a piece of legislation.
We spent a lot of time talking about Mexico's important role in the world, and I thank you for your leadership, Mr. President. You're President of a great country. You will use your influence to foster social justice and prosperity and peace. I look forward to your leadership on such issues -- I look forward to helping you as best I can, as best as you request to do so.
And I, too, would like to offer a toast. I'd like to offer a toast to the great people of a great country, nuestro amigo, México, and to your salud, Mr. President.
(A toast is offered.) (Applause.) END 12:51 P.M. (Local)
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 13, 2007
President Bush and President Calderón Participate in Arrival Ceremony Hacienda Temezon Temozón Sur, Mexico 9:04 A.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT CALDERON: (As translated.) Your Excellency, Mr. George W. Bush, President of the United States of America; Mrs. Laura Bush and distinguished members of the staff accompanying President Bush, I hope you are all welcome to Mexico. We're very pleased with your visit because it reflects your interest upon our country and it allows us to dialogue about our complex bilateral agenda.
For many reasons, the relationship with the United States of America is a most important relationship for Mexico, but also the relationship with Mexico is a most important relationship for the United States of America. This is what you have expressed, Mr. President, in a meeting like this one when you expressed some years ago that there is no relationship all over the world that is most relevant to the United States than that one that you have with Mexico. Unfortunately, the terrible happenings against the United States people made that in a very understandable way, the priorities changed. Nevertheless, I believe that it is now time to retake the spirit of those words and to direct our relationship toward a path of mutual prosperity. We are countries and friends as people with our prospective place and a shared future that I am certain that we can reach for mutual benefit.
I come originally from the state of Michoacán, one of the states that has endured tremendously with migration. And I know the pain of the families when they split and also of all those towns where the elderly are remaining alone. I also know that Mexicans lose in each migrant the best of our people, young people, working people, and audacious people, strong people -- people that leave Mexico because they don't find the opportunities here in order to pull through with their lives. This is which we want to generate jobs for Mexicans here in Mexico, because that is the only way in order to truly solve the migratory issue.
That is a solution that is convenient for all of us, and as a result, we should commonly resolve it, because while we have two economies that complement each other, but yet are not equal. One is intensive in labor, and the other one is intensive in capital. So, therefore, migration might not be stopped, and certainly not by decree. This is why we are intensively working, so instead that our labor will be moving to where the capital is located. It will rather receive in Mexico the investment where the labor is located and our families will not continue splitting themselves, nor our population. Mexicans will all due fully respect the right that of the government and the people of the United States of America has to decide within its territory what will be best for their concerns and security.
But at the same time, we do consider in a respectful way that we may truly stop the migration by building a kilometer of highway in Michoacán or Zacatecas than 10 kilometers of walls in the border. This is why we wish to respect the rights of everyone, more so of our population. This is why we recognize and support the effort that you are conducting, Mr. President Bush, in order to promote a comprehensive migratory reform in the Congress of the United States, and we wish you the best of successes. This is why we also would like to continue working together, and now with tremendous emphasis in order to accelerate the development of our people, because I am certain that there is nothing better for the security and prosperity of our region than the prosperity of Mexico.
On the other hand, we share the intention of keeping a safe border, because those who live on both sides of the border deserve so, being American or Mexican. The government does the part that it has to do. It gets back all the public plazas and the streets from criminals and drugs. We have accredited with facts our firm commitment in our battle against those who wish to poison the bodies and the souls of our young population. But in order to be successful in our struggle, we need the collaboration and the active participation of our neighbor, knowing that while we will not reduce the demand for drugs in a certain area, it will be very difficult to reduce the supply in ours.
Mr. President, I have no doubt that together our governments will move forward in the generation of new opportunities of well-being and prosperity for our nations. Please feel very, very welcome to Mexico.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Buenos días. Estamos encantados de estar en Mexico otra vez. We're delighted to be in Mexico again.
Mr. President and Mrs. Zavala, thank you for your warm welcome. We're delighted to be back in your country. As governor of Texas I visited your beautiful country many times and I came to know and admire the people of Mexico. As President, I've worked to strengthen the ties between our two nations. Mexico was the first country I visited after I became President of the United States. The United States and Mexico are partners. We're partners in building a safer, more democratic and more prosperous hemisphere. And a strong relationship between our countries is based upon mutual trust and mutual respect.
President Calderon, I appreciate your determination to create new opportunities for the people of Mexico. I share your commitment to building an Americas where the poor and the marginalized begin to feel the blessings of liberty in their daily lives. I respect your views on migration. Because we're working together, I believe we will make good progress on this important issue. Together, we're working to ensure that we have a secure and modern border that speeds the legitimate flow of people and commerce, and stop those who threaten our common safety and prosperity.
The United States respects rule of law. But in the debate on migration, I remind my fellow citizens that family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, that there are decent, hardworking honorable citizens of Mexico who want to make a living for their families. And so, Mr. President, my pledge to you and your government -- but, more importantly, the people of Mexico -- is I will work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
We support your plans to improve education and health care and housing for all your citizens. We will continue to work with you to expand opportunities for trade and investment. We will work together to facilitate a smooth transition to full trade, especially on sensitive issues like corn and beans. We recognize that the best hope to lift millions out of poverty is to spread prosperity through free and fair trade. The people of the United States understand that when we help our neighbors build a better life for themselves, we advance peace and prosperity for all of us.
Today, the most important ties between the United States and Mexico are not government to government, they are people to people. These ties include churches and faith-based institutions that serve people on both sides of the frontera. These ties include our colleges and universities, which run important exchange programs for students and teachers. These ties include our businesses with trade with one another and invest in each other's countries. And these ties include the families, who send an estimated $20 billion in remittances each year to their relatives here in Mexico, one of the largest private economic initiatives in the world. These ties are vital and they are growing.
Mr. President, geography has made our countries neighbors, but the choice we've made for each other is a choice for freedom. And that choice has made us friends. I'm honored to be in your country. I'm looking forward to our discussions over the next two days. You've set a very ambitious agenda that is going to require a lot of hard work. But I'm confident that by working together, we'll build a better life and a future of hope for our peoples.
Thank you for having me. God bless. (Applause.) END 9:16 A.M. (Local)
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 12, 2007
President Bush and President Berger of Guatemala Participate in Joint Press Availability The National Palace Guatemala City, Guatemala 3:37 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT BERGER: (As translated.) Distinguished members of the media, welcome, and thank you for honoring us with your presence. A very fruitful, interesting and productive day with President Bush. Today's visit to the department of Chirijuyú, Iximché, the contact that we were able to have with our people, the cultural legacy that we were able to witness together, and the special meaning that it is together closer to the Guatemalan people and hear from them of their history with President Bush and Mrs. Bush, has been very important today.
After that very interesting visit, we met with teams of President Bush and Berger, and evidently, on the table were extremely important topics, particularly as regards Guatemala. And we were able to discuss security and our efforts to fight drug trafficking. In that sense, President Bush expressed his support also for the Maya plan that is already in operation, and has told us that he is going to make a regional proposal to fight drug trafficking, regionally, where he is inviting Mexico and the Central American countries to join the United States in the fight. Part of this strategy seeks to train the security bodies that are in charge of fighting drug trafficking, and the intelligence that is going to surround these teams, and then be able to identify these sources in a permanent strategy, and I insist, regional strategy, which I think is key. We should no longer work in isolation. We should work jointly -- that is the countries that face this very serious problem.
Likewise, we talked about the Millennium Challenge Account. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told us that Guatemala continues to be among the countries that could be elected. In the coming two months we are going to receive a response. We expect that it might be favorable for Guatemala.
Today, President Bush, who is participating in this productive effort -- we were able to see how these Guatemalan workers produce the best vegetables in the world, and have been able to enter a very important market, particularly the Central American market, the effort of whose integration President Bush is also aware of.
Of course, President Bush's visit brings us closer to the most important and largest economic power and the largest market in the world with many possibilities through CAFTA, where we give better access to the U.S. market to Guatemalan produce, where we highlighted snow peas and berries, chili peppers and tomatoes. We had a limitation, and there was -- as of a couple of months, we are exporting significant amounts of Guatemalan produce. So we also mentioned support by U.S. customs to control Guatemalan port and customs services. This gives us a better rating, and makes it possible for us to exercise a more efficient trade effort.
We've mentioned to President Bush, and we've invited the United States to become the partner of the Central American Economic Integration Bank -- CABEI -- one that he favored, and he is well aware of the fact that this bank and it's resources are used to build infrastructure, to promote investment, and to give support to governments, as well.
I believe that everyone will probably be waiting to hear about the topic of migrants. This is a topic that we discussed at greater length with President Bush during the trip this morning, and during this afternoon's meeting. It is a concern for President Bush, it is a concern for the Guatemalans and the 13 million illegal immigrants who are currently living in the United States.
President Bush has confirmed that there are no express instructions to persecute Guatemalan illegal aliens -- that is somebody is acting beyond the scope of the law, he has to be brought before the law. But if there is no intention to persecute undocumented workers. He has convinced us that the best proposal is the migration law reform. He extensively explained the efforts that -- what the efforts will need to engaged by the Democratic groups, and the Republican groups in the Senate, but that should not be an issue that should be on the agenda next year. That should be taken care of, and he expects by August we will have a reform for the immigration act, where a legal status will be considered for those who are already living there, and regulations of how to become a legal worker in the United States.
I would like to take this opportunity, President Bush, to thank you for your visit. Guatemala feels honored. We feel highly satisfied and deeply committed with this effort. We have been in the eyes and the minds of the entire world during these couple of hours that we have been sharing with you. And what is most important, I believe that for the people in the highlands of Guatemala today, there was a message of closeness, of rapport with President Bush and of a hope, together we can achieve great things as Mariano Can said, in Tecp n -- where he showed us what he can do with his work team, how he can give added value to the wonderful vegetables of the highlands of Guatemala, to be able to send it to the great U.S. market.
Once again, for President Berger, this has been a wonderful opportunity to have been able to share with Mrs. Bush and President Bush. And for Guatemala, it is a reason for pride. Once again, thank you very much for your visit. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Señor Presidente, thank you very much for your warm welcome. I agree with you, it's been a great day for Laura and me. And we really loved traveling with you and Wendy, and it's just a wonderful experience.
I appreciate your kindness on this first official visit to your country. Relations between the United States and Guatemala are stronger than ever. We're friends. And that's important. Our countries are fellow democracies. We're partners in trade. We're allies in the cause of social justice. Today President Berger and I discussed some of the ways that the United States and Guatemala can continue to work together to build a more hopeful future for the people in our respective countries.
Guatemala is a strong and vibrant democracy of more than 12 million people. President Berger understands the importance of building a government that is accountable to all its citizens. And I appreciate that commitment. I appreciate the steps you've taken to increase transparency, to reduce corruption, to modernize the civil service and to help improve Guatemala's record on human rights. You've got strong leadership, Mr. President.
In September, you elect a new President, who will face the task of building on your successes. The United States and the international community will support the people of Guatemala in holding free and fair elections.
Your President and I both believe that a strong democracy requires security from drug lords and violent criminals. So we spent a lot of time talking about that today. I appreciate the fact that you have renewed the fight against the drug trade, that you've worked to eradicate opium poppy, and you fired hundreds of corrupt police officers. That's what leaders do. You find problems and you address them for the good of the people. We appreciate Guatemala's commitment to this work and we'll continue to stand with you.
President Berger is working with the United Nations to form an international commission to help investigate and prosecute organized crime in Guatemala, and the United States strongly supports this effort. Our countries are working together to fight transnational gangs. And the President was right -- I suggested we think about this issue regionally. You've got to understand that these gangs are able to move throughout Central America and up through Mexico into our own country, and therefore, we've got to think regionally and act regionally.
The first thing we can do is share information so we can help track down gang members and we can increase communications. We can develop effective ways to protect children from gangs. There's a lot of work to be done, but it first starts with making a sincere commitment to addressing the problem.
Improving education is an important goal for both our nations. We spent a lot of time today talking about education. And the President and First Lady of Guatemala are absolutely committed to extending education's reach beyond just the capital city. And I appreciate that commitment, Mr. President. More than 40 percent of the population of this country is under 15 years old -- an interesting statistic, isn't it? -- which means that a more hopeful future depends on teaching the younger generation the skills necessary to be able to succeed in the 21st century.
And we want to help. We've done some interesting work here, and the American people need to know that our commitment, our bilateral aid in Guatemala goes toward helping meet education goals. It's in the interest of the United States that there be literate populations in our neighborhood. In the city -- in the department of Iximch , we established a project that helped raise the number of children who complete 1st grade from 51 percent to 71 percent. It's not a well-known program, but it worked. And this country of mine is committed to helping make these kind of programs successful, Mr. President.
We also want to expand access to health care. Today, as the President mentioned, we went to Santa Cruz Balanyá -- it was a really interesting moment. The American people would have been incredibly proud of watching our military folks dispense with basic health care needs to people who needed help. And the people of Guatemala would be especially proud to have seen your military working side-by-side with our troops to do the same thing. There's a great mission of compassion. And it's making a difference to people's lives.
Imagine not being able to see, and then all of a sudden somebody appears in your life, gives you an eye test and fits you for glasses so you can see better. Or you have a perpetual tooth ache and somebody shows up, in this case in military uniforms, and says, how can I help? It is in the interest of the United States to continue these kinds of missions, Mr. President.
It is estimated that we have served more than 160,000 Guatemalans since 2001 providing health care, basic health care needs. And I was sharing with the President a little earlier that we're going to set up a health care training mission in Panama, so that we can train trainers, so that people in Guatemala can come and get the basic skills necessary to take back to their towns and villages to be able to dispense with basic health care.
The United States and Guatemala trade a lot, especially now that Guatemala has become a full member of CAFTA-DR. President Berger and I believe that CAFTA can spread opportunity, provide jobs, and help lift people out of poverty. We saw how trade can transform the small village of Chirijuy -- part of our experience in traveling with the President was to get outside the capital. It was really, really fun -- and really heartwarming. As a matter of fact, it was one of the great experiences of my presidency. The town has grown from subsistence farming to selling high-value crops, like lettuce and carrots and celery. As a matter of fact, I got to pack some lettuce. The President and I were hauling boxes of lettuce, we were putting them in the truck.
I met Mariano Canú. I talked about this man, Mariano Canú, in my speech in Washington, D.C. I never met him, but I was intrigued by his story about how a fellow had gone from being a subsistence farmer, just scratching out a living, barely making it, the father of six kids wondering whether or not they would have a future, and then he organized an organization of small farmers call Labradores Mayas. And they came together and they became more efficient. And then they found markets. They found markets throughout Central America, as a result of CAFTA, and into the United States as a result of CAFTA.
And the guy is making a living. He's making more than a living; he's built a thriving enterprise. You should have seen the look on his face, about how proud he was to show to the President of this country and the President of the United States about progress being made.
As the President mentioned, I'm working with the United States Congress on comprehensive immigration reform. He asked me about an incident that took place up in Massachusetts the other day. I said, yes, we're going to enforce the laws in our country, just like you should you enforce the laws in yours. It is against the law for somebody to hire somebody who is in our country illegally to work. And, therefore, the deportations took place as a result of law enforcement enforcing the law. They didn't say, well, maybe there's Guatemalans there, let's go get them. That wasn't what happened. Just so you know. You've got to understand that when we enforce the law, we do so in a fair and rational way. It just so happened that Guatemalans were working there illegally.
He also mentioned to me that there's some conspiracies about how children are being left behind in Guatemala. No es la verdad. That's not the way America operates. We're a decent, compassionate country. Those are the kind of things we do not do. We believe in families and we'll treat people with dignity. And the system needs to be fixed. And so we spent time talking about our strategy to get comprehensive immigration reform out of the Congress.
As I told the President, it seems like to me we've got to get this done by August. I hope so. I don't want to put a timetable on the legislative process. Timetables are generally meant to be broken. We don't believe in timetables. But I do believe in pressing hard and working with Democrats and Republicans to get it done, Mr. President. And we want there to be a rational way for people to come and do jobs Americans aren't doing. We don't want people to feel like they have to get stuffed into the back of a truck and pay exorbitant fees to coyotes to come and try and realize dreams. There's got to be a better system.
And I told him the biggest problem in the debate is going to be what to do with the people who are already in our country illegally. And I explained to him there will not be amnesty, automatic citizenship. It's just not going to happen. Nor is it feasible to try to kick everybody out of our country. That's not possible. And so I'm going to work with members of both parties to find a rational middle ground to have a comprehensive plan, Mr. President. It's important to you, but it's important to the United States of America to do this, as well.
We also talked about adoption. I don't know if my fellow citizens understand this, but there are a lot of U.S. families who adopt babies from Guatemala, thousands of babies. This year it is very important for the United States and Guatemala to implement the Hague Convention on adoptions to help protect children and families during the adoption process. We found common ground on that issue. And I appreciate your strong stand, Mr. President, and I assured the President we would follow through, ourselves.
I can't thank you enough for your leadership. I appreciate the vision you have for your country. When you speak, you speak with passion, because you care deeply about the future of Guatemala, and you care deeply about the people of Guatemala. It's an honor to be with you. It's been a joyful trip for us. I'm looking forward to the dinner that you're hosting for Laura and me. I'm not going to talk too long because I might get too hungry. (Laughter.) But thank you for your time. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BERGER: Thank you, President Bush. I have here a note where I'm asked to make reference to the members of the media who are going to ask questions.
Go ahead, Francisco.
Q President Bush, good afternoon. Mr. President, deportations continue. At the end of 2006, and only a week ago, this practice of deporting, or arresting immigrants and beginning a process of deportation continued. In Guatemala, information of abuse of authority and lack of respect for the right of the Guatemalan immigrants has been disseminated. My question is, now that you are in Guatemala, is there a commitment from your country to the 13 million Guatemalans to cease these deportations since you expect to have a comprehensive immigration reform?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The commitment is people will be treated with respect, but the United States will enforce our law. It's against the law to hire somebody who is in our country illegally, and we are a nation of law.
The best way to solve the concerns of the citizens of Guatemala -- listen, I fully understand that the citizens of Guatemala are concerned about their relatives or friends who are in the United States. And I appreciate that. The best way to address the concerns inherent in your question is for me to work with Congress to get a comprehensive bill. And I'm optimistic we can do so. It's going to be tough work, don't get me wrong. But I believe we can get a comprehensive bill out of the Congress.
And I think you'll find that -- let me say, I certainly hope you'll find that people who are in the -- that are interfacing with our government are treated with respect and decency. That's certainly the instructions. Now, I'm sure they don't want to be sent home, but nevertheless, we enforce laws. And I readily concede the system needs to be changed, and I hope I can convince the majority of both the House and the Senate to change the law in a rational way.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. May I extend good wishes to your father's health.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
Q You've spoken throughout this trip --
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's actually a kind gesture. Thank you.
Q You've spoken throughout the trip about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. It's been a big subject here in Guatemala City. Can you provide a little more detail, sir, if you would, about how you intend to overcome congressional opposition? There is opposition in both parties, specifically at the moment; a bill has been expected for some time now. You've been working with senators, and your staff have been working with senators. Is there a hold up? How are you tackling the problem at the moment?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I appreciate that. He's referring to the process at this point in time, about why hadn't a consensus bill in the Senate began to emerge, and it's because this is a complicated issue that requires both parties learning to work together on this issue. I believe it is, first of all, incumbent to find as best as possible a coherent Republican position in the Senate. And that's where we're spending a lot of time right now. And then, as I understand it, Senator Kennedy will be carrying the bill on the Democrat side, and then once we can get a coherent Republican position, one that most Republicans are comfortable with, then we'll start working with the Senator.
As you know full well that if we don't have enough consensus, nothing is going to move out of the Senate. And if nothing moves out of the Senate, nothing is going to happen in the House. And so, therefore, the initial stages of getting a bill that meets objections is time-consuming, but it is worth it and necessary, in order for us to be able to address the concerns, many of which were expressed during the last debate on immigration reform.
Now, I'm optimistic. I really am. I believe -- I believe we can get something done, and I believe we're beginning to find consensus. I think there is pretty widespread consensus that there ought to be a temporary worker plan that says you can come legally to the United States to do a job Americans are not doing for a period of time. That will help a lot of the Guatemalan citizens. It will mean somebody, first of all, doesn't have to sneak in the country in the first place and pay a coyote, or buy forged documents, or sleep in some sleazy place hiding from authorities until you're able to make destination. You'll be able to come in in a rational way.
Secondly, that once you're in the United States, if you have to come home to be with your family, you'll be able to do so in a legal way. In other words, you'll be able to come back and forth, without fear. You won't be able to -- there will be a time limit on the amount of time, and that's part of the negotiations.
The hard issue, as the President noted, and I just talked about, was what to do with the people who've been in our country for more than a limited period of time. And that's a difficult issue, and it's one that's got a lot of politics in the country. The idea of giving someone automatic citizenship is just not acceptable. It's not acceptable to a lot of people in our country. And, Massimo, you understand that. And yet, the fundamental question is how do you design a system that doesn't raise those fears. And, yes -- obviously, he didn't like my answer. Oh, you did like it. Good. (Laughter.)
My dad had been ill, and he kindly brought greetings.
Q That was very specific. That's a lot, though. You think you can get that done by August?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I -- you know, August is a date that I was musing about, and that date came to mind because I understand how difficult it can be coming down the stretch in the legislative session in a calendar year because the appropriations bill -- you're learning more about this than you probably want to know -- but the appropriations bills begin to crowd out the calendar in the latter part of the year. And they can consume a lot of time.
And therefore, my hope is -- my hope is -- it's certainly not a promise, but my hope would be that we'd be able to get something out of the Senate and then into the House, and something -- then they can work the conference in the fall. That would be the hope.
And but I'm not the person that sets the calendar. I'm just a simple member of the executive branch. (Laughter.) It's the legislative branch that decides the calendar.
And -- go ahead.
PRESIDENT BERGER: I would like to say that, in fact, the Guatemalan people would have preferred a more clear and positive response: no more deportations, so to say. But as the President has said, there is a legal framework that needs to be respected. But historically, I think that we have never been so close to finding a solution to this problem as now.
I was very pleased to hear President Bush say that this is a problem that they also have. It is not only a problem for migrants. It is a problem for the American citizens and a problem that has to be resolved. We have never before been as close as we are at this time of seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and in the near future in getting the undocumented status changed for 13 million illegal aliens who are living in the U.S.
Q Good afternoon, President Bush and President Berger. President Bush, in Guatemala, there is a very serious problem of drug trafficking. You talk about a regional strategy to tackle it. I would like to ask you to expand on this topic, also taking into account that the latest reports produced by the United States on Guatemala have not been very favorable. And also, the issue of drug trafficking has led to very serious security problems in Guatemala. The latest was the murder of three Salvadorean congress members. The U.S. is also participating in this investigation. How far will the U.S. cooperation go? Because there is also the request for a mini-Colombia Plan to face it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: The drug trafficking is very serious, a serious problem for the United States, and so -- most of the drugs end up in the United States, which really says that we need to do a better job of convincing our citizens not to use drugs. If demand for the drugs went down, it could make it more difficult for the drug traffickers to find markets.
Secondly, drug trafficking is a serious problem because narco-trafficking destabilizes areas. It's in our interests in our country to promote prosperity and peace and stability. Narco-traffickers promote instability and tensions, which make it hard for the general populous to become prosperous. It also turns out narco-traffickers oftentimes leave behind the poison as they head to other markets. In other words, the local population can become deeply affected by drogas.
And so this is a serious issue. We've had experience in dealing with one state that, obviously, had to deal with the potential of narco-traffickers undermining democracy, and that's Colombia. This is -- in my judgment, the best way to deal with this problem, and to convince others throughout our country that it makes a lot of sense to commit assets is to think regionally. Because as the President mentioned, he said, one of the interesting dynamics that's taking place here is that people and goods are moving quite freely across borders. Well, if people and goods are moving quite freely; drug traffickers will be moving quite freely. And there's kind of almost a borderless domain for these people.
And therefore, thinking regionally -- and that includes the United States and Mexico and Central America -- now, I'll bring this up with President Calderon tomorrow about how we can work constructively. A lot of this has to do with sharing of information. In other words, we pick up pretty good information at times. After all, the United States, oftentimes, is the endpoint, is the end of the distribution chain. And sometimes our DEA folks can trace back movements of drugs, which might then be able to help the region be able to disrupt and affect.
Look, I am a "if they break the law, arrest them" person. I think we ought to go find these people and bring them to justice. And it's tough, because the richer they become, the more lethal they become, and the more dangerous they are to democracies. And that's why there needs to be a collaborative effort, the details of which will emerge as we continue to strategize. But step one is to share information.
As to the Salvadorians, of course, I'm deeply concerned about their death, as is the President. And we have sent, I think, four FBI agents down here to help with forensics and to help track down the leads, so that wherever those killers may light, the authorities can go get them. And that's what we need to do.
This is a serious issue, and we spent a lot of time talking about it.
This will be your last question, Mr. President, and then we can start thinking about dinner, la cena. Que vamos a comer?
PRESIDENT BERGER: Tortillas.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Tortillas? Que bueno.
PRESIDENT BERGER: We have tortillas with guacamole and beans.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Con el muerso, hoy.
Q President Bush, your decision to sign legislation authorizing construction of a fence along the U.S.-Mexico was not viewed positively here in the region. How would you respond to critics who feel that that sends a message that Latin Americans are not welcome in the United States?
And, President Berger, what are your thoughts on the idea of a fence, the U.S. border policy in regard to a fence?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I did sign legislation modernizing our border. It was more than just fence, it was infrastructure -- kind of a novel infrastructure, like detection devices, berms. We've got a very long border, and it needs to be enforced. It needs to be enforced not only to stop coyotes, but it needs to be enforced to stop drugs. It needs to be enforced to stop potential terrorists, and it needs to be enforced to stop arms. By the way, arms that sometimes go the other way, I'm told. And so we've got to have a border. That's what countries do, they enforce their borders.
And so we modernized the border. It was more than just fence. And I understand it sent a signal that said, you're not welcome. Quite the contrary; people are welcome, but under the law. There are thousands of people in our country who are not citizens who are there legally. The question is, what do we do with people who have been there over years, the result of a law that isn't working well? And I've already given that answer.
I will also explain that part of convincing people that a comprehensive plan can work is to assure the American people that we're doing our duty by enforcing law. In other words, a lot of citizens said, you just don't care about whether or not we have a border that's secure. And the Congress responded by saying, of course, we care. It is the first step toward a comprehensive bill. In other words, people in Congress were saying, let us do something about border enforcement, and then let's go comprehensive -- I hope that's what they're saying.
In other words, that's what I'm pressing them to say. Okay, we've responded to the needs of border enforcement; there are people being sent back. As a matter of fact, I think it's interesting -- and, frankly, I didn't anticipate this -- that the good press corps of Guatemala, reflecting the concerns of the Guatemalan people, and the President of Guatemala reflecting the concerns, asked me about deportations. I mean, that was a primary concern. It means that something is -- the law is being enforced, is what that means.
The American people need to be persuaded, Elaine, that the government takes our responsibilities seriously, which then will make it easier to convince reluctant members of Congress to come up with a comprehensive plan.
Now I've always been for a comprehensive plan. You might remember, if you look back at some of my speeches -- I know you didn't listen to any of them, but you might want to go back and read them. Well, that's not fair. Okay, anyway, but I've always felt it was important. And I learned firsthand how important it was as the governor of Texas. I used to say family values do not stop at the Rio Grande River, and that people are coming to do jobs Americans are not doing because they want to feed their families. That's why I said that.
By the way, the reason why trade is important in helping the programs like Labradores Mayas is that I also believe most citizens in Guatemala would rather find meaningful jobs at home instead of having to travel to a foreign land to work. And therefore, the more we can enhance prosperity in our neighborhood, the more we can encourage trade that actually yields jobs and stability, the less likely it is somebody who is worried about putting food on the table for their family will be coming to the United States.
Anyway, I thank you for your interest on the topic, Mr. President. It's been a wonderful press conference. Thank you.
PRESIDENT BERGER: I would like to close with that topic, the American Dream for everyone. And we can have that American Dream in our own countries by promoting education, by improving infrastructure, by implementing CAFTA, which is a very interesting tool to produce and to export and also to attract investment and generate jobs. I believe that we are firm along those lines that the American Dream is going to be the dream for all the Americans living in the American continent.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all. END 4:15 P.M. (Local)
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary March 11, 2007
President Bush and President Uribe of Colombia Participate in a Joint Press Availability Casa de Nariño Bogotá, Colombia 3:34 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT URIBE: (As translated.) Mr. President of the United States of America, George W. Bush; distinguished members of the delegation; friends from the government; distinguished journalists who have come from other countries and from Colombia, I would like to welcome again in the warmest fashion possible. I would like to welcome his delegation, as well.
During the working lunch we have just had, at the end I was able to read some beautiful paragraphs from Bolivar, the Liberator: one in the Charter of Angostura, where he actually was talking about the creation of the American nation around -- or on the basis of freedom, tolerance, and of having a general law that would respond to common interest through individual wills. The Liberator also mentioned a very nice paragraph during the Constitution Assembly in Bolivia on the legacy of President George Washington.
I was saying that the relations between the Colombian people and the American people are sound. We have mutual understanding on democratic values since the birth of our two states. This visit is a reason for being proud. We will trust even more in our relations and the Colombian process, and we would like to thank you very warmly, President Bush.
You have come to Colombia at a time of unrest because of the peace process that is taking place. You have come at a time of revelations that really have motivated a public debate. But they are taking place because of one reason, and that reason is that our policy on democratic security has tried to defeat terrorism in the guerrillas, in the paramilitaries, because our democratic security policy wants to reestablish democratic institutions fully in Colombia. And these revelations are taking place because our law on justice and peace requires and demands truth -- truth, so that the country will know the dimension of the tragedy we have come to; truth to prepare us for a future free of the guerrillas, the paramilitaries and drug traffickers.
The law on justice and peace that is being enforced has been discussed in Congress throughout its approval process, and it has been discussed during its implementation, and has three elements that makes it different from former legislation in Colombia and in the world. Number one, justice. There will be no amnesty for crimes against humanity.
This law requires reparations to take place, and there is no other single country in the world other than Colombia that might say that in order to have shorter sentences within a law of peace the perpetrators are required to hand in their assets, so as to repair the victims. And that has never happened anywhere else in the world.
There are two countries in Latin America that tried to compensate for the problems of the victims under dictatorships, but with money coming from the budget. Here we will strive to give them all the assets that the perpetrators have. It is truth, justice, and reparations, and these are the three key elements of our legislation.
This country has an independent justice system, Mr. President, which makes our democracy different. The decision of my administration in this process of institutional recovery is total support for justice, so that Colombia may finally overcome the time of terrorism.
I would like to go back in history. For thirty years, the Marxist guerillas actually hit Colombia, and they proposed a social revolution, and they produced even more poverty. They proposed more democracy, and they were assassinating and murdering the mayors and the council members, and they were actually killing democracy.
These guerillas ended up being financed by drug traffickers. And there are many people in many regions of Colombia that were not protected by the state, and now they feel protected, thanks to our security policy. The growth of the guerillas and the lack of a state protection for citizens resulted in these guerillas producing the paramilitaries, and these paramilitaries phenomenon started committing the same crimes, atrocious crimes, as the guerillas. The Marxist guerillas brought to Colombia, the validity of combining all sorts of struggle. They infiltrated universities, the labor movement, and the peasant movement. They infiltrated very important sectors of intellectual movements and journalists. And they infiltrated politics.
The same guerillas planted a hatred among the classes. They wanted to eliminate the foundation of solidarity on which this nation was built. The guerillas taught the paramilitaries to combine all sorts of struggle. And what happened then? Some of these guerillas actually signed an amnesty, but they were not required to tell the truth, which is something we are requiring now. So they didn't say which were the sectors of the civil society that had been infiltrated. These guerillas were not demanded to give reparations to the victims, as we are asking for now. And these guerillas were able, in spite of having committed so many atrocious crimes, to get an amnesty for atrocious crimes, amnesty that is not given out today for these crimes against humanity.
The peace process that we are undertaking with the directives of truth, justice and reparations, actually set the limits for peace processes in the future. We have been very rigorous in this process. It has been a very serious process, and the world and Colombia will know that the processes in Colombia in the future, with the guerillas, such as the ELN and FARC, should require, as we are requiring today, truth, justice and reparations.
I would like you to know, Mr. President, that our commitment is the full defeat of terrorism, and the total recovery of justice and of democratic institutions. We are working with a model of state. We are not dismantling the state, as has been done in many Latin American countries throughout the '90s, nor are we proposing a state-dominated government. We do not accept dismantling of the state or state monopolies. What we are building is trust for private investment in Colombia, and at the same time, we are demanding social responsibilities. We see in trust a way of investing in our country. In investment we see a development tool, and in growth we see a possibility of overcoming poverty and building equity.
You have come to Colombia, Mr. President, with a thesis which is necessary for our continent, and that is a diversification of the energy basket. After Brazil, Colombia is the second country in the continent in the production of biofuels. We have created the tax incentives. We have approved regulations in agreement with the standards of the World Trade Organization. There are projects that are producing more than 1,000 liters of ethanol in Colombia, and there are many more that are being installed. We have 6 million hectares in the Orinoco department, and these are savannas, in general, that we can use for biofuel production without destroying a single tree in our jungle.
We have thanked the President of the United States of America and his delegation for the support given to Colombia through the Plan Colombia. The fight against drug trafficking has received support, practical support, and your support -- the support of President Clinton, the support of your Congress, your enthusiastic support, Mr. President, has been very practical and has helped the struggle of the Colombian people against drug trafficking.
We have the opportunity of discussing very important issues, as well, such as the agenda against poverty, our social goals, our program of forest rangers families, which is unique in the world, that is paying 50,000 peasant families so that they can protect the jungle free of drugs, and so that they can recover the jungle where it has been destroyed.
We have discussed our trade agreement again, and political possibility of integration, and far away from ideological sectorisms that is trying to look for opportunities of investment and employment with dignity and social security programs.
Thank you very much, Mr. President, for coming to Colombia. I am very proud of my fellow countrymen -- when you could come here after landing at the airport, going through this beautiful landscape, and was able to go to Plaza de Bolivar, and to this palace. I am very proud, Mr. President, that the world may see how the Colombian people are overcoming nowadays the great difficulties that we have suffered in the last years.
And again, thank you so much for your visit, sir.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much for your kind words, and for your invitation. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in your country again. I've been really looking forward to coming to this beautiful capital city, and I thank the people of Colombia for such a generous welcome.
We did have an extensive conversation. But that's what you'd expect when friends sit down at a table together. I bring the greetings of the United States. The people of my country care deeply about the human condition. We believe strongly in human rights and human values, just like you believe in them. We're two strong democracies and we've got a lot in common and a lot of values that we share. So this visit advances those values.
I listened very carefully when he was -- expressed concern about the immigration laws of the United States. He was most eloquent in his concern about Colombians who live in the United States, and I assured him that a top priority of my administration is the passage of comprehensive immigration reform. I will work with both Republicans and Democrats to get a comprehensive bill to my desk as quickly as possible, Mr. President.
We talked about the benefits of expanding trade so that people in both our countries can benefit. The United States is Colombia's largest trading partner. Colombia is the second-largest market in Latin America for U.S. farmers. Trade is beneficial to both countries. And it can grow even more with the free trade agreement that we signed in November.
I told the President that I will work hard for the passage of that important piece of legislation. I believe that a trade package with Colombia is in the interests of both our nations, Mr. President.
I'm looking forward to visiting with some Afro-Colombians today to talk about social justice programs. The reason I do is because it's very important for the people of South America and Central America to know that the United States cares deeply about the human condition, and that much of our aid is aimed at helping people realize their God-given potential. And so we'll talk about programs all aimed at giving people a chance to realize their dreams, Mr. President.
You described many of those programs at lunch -- or your cabinet described many of those programs at lunch, and I was most impressed by the strategy of your administration and the vigor and the energy of your Cabinet.
I'm looking forward very much to talking and continuing to work with you to defeat the drug lords and narco-traffickers -- narco-terrorists. You recognize, like I recognize, that the most important function of state is to provide security for its people. You cannot tolerate in a society the ability of people to take innocent life to achieve political objectives. And so I appreciate your steadfast strength, and so do the people of this country.
I am looking forward to working with you on the second phase -- or the next phase of Plan Colombia. We're going to work with your government to continue to fight drug trafficking. The United States has an obligation to work to reduce the demand for drugs, and at the same time, work to interdict the supply of drugs. There's a lot we can do. But part of it is to help you exercise control over all your territory; is to strengthen the rule of law, and to expand economic opportunity for the citizens. And we want to help.
The Plan Colombia recognizes the importance of protecting human rights. I appreciate the President's determination to bring human rights violators to justice. He is strong in that determination. It's going to be very important for members of my United States -- our United States Congress to see that determination. And I believe, if given a fair chance, President Uribe can make the case.
This Colombia government continues to make progress that is going to earn greater confidence from all its citizens and greater respect in the international community. You've set high expectations for your nation. I appreciate your determination, and I'm proud to call you a personal friend, and to call your country a strategic partner of the United States. Thank you for having me.
Q Good afternoon. President Bush, what is your opinion about the way in which the government has handled the scandal of the politicians involved in drug trafficking, and the paramilitaries? Because we know that there are many more members involved with the paramilitaries. Up to what extent do you support President Uribe given the fact that most of these paramilitary heads are drug traffickers? And finally, the U.S. will insist on extraditing these people?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I support a plan that says that there be an independent judiciary analyzing every charge brought forth, and when someone is found guilty, there's punishment. That's the kind of plan I support. It happens to be the kind of plan the President supports. In other words, there's no political favorites when it comes to justice, that if someone is guilty, they will pay a penalty. And the best way to assure that that penalty is fair and the justice is fair is for there to be a court independent from politics.
And so, when I asked this very same question to the President about the news I've been reading in Washington, D.C., the same questions he's going to be asked when he and his government come to talk to our Congress, he answered just like I described. He said, we have an independent court, we've got a firm law; people will be held to account, whether or not they're -- no matter what political party they may or may not be associated with. That's what the people of Colombia expect; that's the kind of justice they're going to receive.
Listen, this country has come through some very difficult times. And the best way to heal wounds is for people to see fair, independent justice being delivered, and I believe that's the kind of justice this government will do.
Q -- Capitol Hill are finding it disconcerting that the number of U.S. troops deployed keeps climbing. Even the budget revisions that you announced a couple of days ago ordered up more. I'm wondering, do you think that the American citizens should now look at the troop buildup that you announced in January, the 21,500, as merely a starting point? And --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Go ahead.
Q And President Uribe, with all the talk about Chavez, could you tell us your opinion on whether you think his influence in the region is overstated?
PRESIDENT URIBE: What is your question --
Q With all the talk about Chavez, could you tell us how much you -- if you think that his influence in the region is overestimated, or exaggerated?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The troop announcement I made was over 20,000 combat troops. Secretary Gates and General Pace went up to Congress and testified to the effect that those combat troops are going to need some support. And that's what the American people are seeing in terms of Iraq, the support troops necessary to help the reinforcements do their job. My hope, of course, is that Congress provides the funding necessary for the combat troops to be able to do their job, without any strings attached.
Secondly, in terms of Afghanistan, I did announce, as a result of a review of our policy, an additional 3,200 troops. But in addition to that, the troops that you're referring to are going to be part of a training and embedding mission that I did also discuss during that strategy, although I didn't have any details of the troops.
PRESIDENT URIBE: Colombia is a loyal ally to the States, and it shows solidarity towards Latin America, as well. We have promoted more integration with the USA through Plan Colombia and the free trade agreement, and more integration with Latin America, as well. The Andean community, it has been led by Colombia and has an agreement signed with Mercosur. We have contributed to the creation of the South America Union. Colombia has been recently accepted as the main member of a Plan Panama Puebla.
So we are looking also for a trade agreement with Canada. We are about to close negotiations with three Central American countries. And as you can see, this is our democratic and loyal international policy. With our sister countries we have very good relations. We respect, and we ask everyone to respect, the guiding principles of international public law, as well as the respect for the autonomy in each country and the principle of non-intervention. We have to help one another in promoting freedom and in overcoming poverty, and in conquering health.
I have to mention something about the question that was asked to President Bush. Number one, the whole world must know that this country was affected for 30 years by the Marxist guerillas; that these guerillas infiltrated politics and journalism; that they infiltrated the labor movement and labor unions, universities. And the truth was never demanded, which is something we have to demand in the future.
Number two, the world must know that many -- during these years, some regions in Colombia were not protected. Number three, the world must know that the guerillas and the lack of protection was what generated the paramilitarism. Number four, the world must know that this administration is the first one that has started fighting directly against the paramilitarism. There is a political discussion going on, but the paramilitary aggression has gone down radically.
Why? Because the law on justice and peace has resulted in most of the paramilitary leaders being in jail, because our security policy has actually eliminated more than 1,700 of these paramilitary groups' members. And I'd like to have so many people from other countries in Colombia present here to be able to say that most of the crimes that are being tried and prosecuted happened before my administration; to say that democratic security has been recovering the transparency in electoral processes in Colombia. Last year's elections, the opposition to my administration has not even one complaint about lack of guarantees. They were able to visit all the places with which in the past were not possible to visit, because on the one hand, there was control by the guerrillas, and there was also paramilitary control in other regions, and they couldn't visit these places.
The candidates running for the presidency in 2006 received effective guarantees. They were able to visit the whole country, and the effect of the democratic security policy was quite evident, because there were no pressures against them by the terrorists. The only pressure in the year 2006 were against the people who supported my campaign in departments, in the southern part of the country, where FARC, together with the drug traffickers, introduced a strike, and they threatened those who were going to vote for me. And this is something that the world should be aware of. And there were candidates to congress and the President from all ideological movements.
The world must also know that it is a government that has asked for the truth; that the government is promoting the law on justice and peace; that it is this administration that has made the decision of dismantling the criminal machinery of the paramilitaries; that it was the government who made the decision to put them in jail; that it is this government that has made the decision that they have to give out their own assets for the reparations of the victims; and that it is the government that has made the decision of supporting justice fully.
For the first time, the supreme court of justice in Colombia, which is an independent branch, has its own investigators. Thanks to the will of this administration of funding this group, we are dismantling what was built for many years, for more than three decades. Terrorism advanced in taking parts of Colombia, and terrorism made progress in suppressing freedoms, in threatening journalists, in assassinating labor union leaders. And of all this, we are actually making progress.
So I think I have to tell an anecdote, as well. Not long ago, I was asked if the government supported direct transmissions on TV of the hearings where the paramilitaries are being tried before the prosecutors. And I said that the government supported this transmission live and direct, because that is the way to get the truth. So instead of being afraid for telling the truth, we have been supporting truth. Instead of looking for ways out of justice, we are trying to support justice as much as possible.
Let's talk about the director of the security agency, the ZEAS. When he left this agency, there were no complaints of links with paramilitaries against him. And he was then accused of facts that were known months after he left this agency, the security agency. And I have to discuss these subjects, because these are subjects that are becoming increasingly important in international debates. The Minister of Defense has said that if there were any militaries related to terrorist organizations, they will be withdrawn from their positions.
But we cannot fall into the trap of the guerrillas, that we should weaken the armed forces. We are not going to make them weak, because this is the only way we have to have a country without any guerrillas and without any paramilitaries. If there are members of this government that have any links to these organizations, they will be immediately removed from their offices.
And so I am concerned for the question asked by the journalist. And he said -- and this is not correct -- that there are many members of the government related or with links with paramilitary groups. And this is a contradiction, because this is the first government ever that has prosecuted the paramilitaries, that has actually killed some of the paramilitaries and sent others to jail. We are going to eliminate paramilitarism, and we are going to eliminate the guerrillas, because we can't fall in the trap that poses a paramilitary scandal that will actually do away with all the results in democratic security.
The Minister of Defense, at lunch, was saying that we are going to levee a tax on the wealthiest contributors in Colombia so that they can contribute to the consolidation of the democratic security program. And we will demand the truth without any fears. And this is what makes a difference.
When I was running for the presidency, I was not well-interpreted. I was saying that Colombia had to eliminate the guerrillas, but perhaps I was misunderstood because I also said that the only way was to recover the institutions, and hence, that we had to eliminate the paramilitaries, as well.
On August the 7th, I will have been five years in power, and throughout all the time -- and I say this before a great ally, the President of the United States, and before the world, thanks to the journalists present here, to all these governments -- we have constantly fought the guerrillas, the paramilitaries, and the drug traffickers continuously. Our sole purpose is Colombia free of this place; our sole purpose is a Colombia that will have strong institutions again. There is nothing to hide here. We are fighting against narco-terrorism. And let that be clear to you all.
Q Good afternoon. This is a question for President Bush. The FARC had many people kidnapped for political purposes, and for very many years. And the humanitarian agreement has been discussed, amongst others, the free citizens of your countries. Mr. Shannon said this week that the U.S. would be extremely happy if we could get a solution through a humanitarian agreement. So my question is, are you going with your administration to propose an option of a humanitarian agreement, so that these kidnappees are finally released, vis-a-vis a military action?
And number two, Mr. President, is it true that you two discussed the military actions that had to be reinforced to release the hostages? And you have not answered if you are going to insist on extraditing the paramilitary heads from Colombia.
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- President Uribe. We've had good relations, we're friends, we've worked very closely on the extraditions. And so it will be a government-to-government decision.
In terms of the hostages, I am concerned about their safety. I'm worried about their families. These are three innocent folks who have been held hostage for two long, and their families are concerned about them. We hear from their families. Their kidnappers ought to show some heart, is what they ought to show. And I've obviously discussed this with the President, and he's developing strategies that will hopefully bring them out safely. That's all I ask.
It's amazing, isn't it, that we live in a society where you've got part of your country where people just kidnap somebody who is hear trying to help, without any regard to whether or not -- how their family feels.
So that's what I think about, sir. That's what's on my mind about those hostages. Obviously, I'd like to see them come out safely.
Q President Bush, in your assessment, what, if anything, was accomplished at the Baghdad regional conference? And what are your expectations for future rounds? Also, do you take -- do you believe that Iran and Syria were serious in their post-conference statements that they want to help stabilize Iraq? And if that is true, do you see a possibility of opening the way towards more formal direct contacts with those two countries?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm the kind of person that likes people to say something and then do it; then we'll react. Words are easy to say in politics in the international diplomacy. If they really want to help stabilize Iraq, there are things for them to do, such as cutting off weapon flows and or the flow of suicide bombers into Iraq. There's all kind of ways to measure whether they're serious about the words they utter. We, of course, welcome those words. Those are nice statements. And now they can act on them.
I thought the conference -- well, first of all, I thought the conference got people in the neighborhood to say positive things about the young democracy. In other words, people are now committed publicly to helping Iraq, which was, I thought, very positive. I think the other benefit from the conference is, is that the government gained some confidence. In other words, this young democracy had nations from around the neighborhood and around the world come and talk to them in a way that was constructive and positive.
Part of the success in Iraq is going to be whether or not this government has got the confidence necessary to make hard decisions. They're learning what democracy is all about. They've come from a tyranny to democracy in a pretty quick period of time. And I believe the conference will give the different factions inside Iraq the confidence necessary to do the hard things to reconcile, and the government the confidence necessary to make the decision so that reconciliation can happen.
So it was a positive outcome. And in terms of the expectations of the next meetings, we'll see. But the point is, is that the momentum made in the first one can be carried over to the second one. Secretary Rice will be going to that meeting. In other words, it's a step up in -- I'm not dissing anybody, but it's a step up in the pay grade, let's put it that way. (Laughter.) And I think -- and I think Condi is going to -- will take an agenda that will help advance this young democracy, and she's going to work with the other nations to do so.
Gracias, Señor President.
PRESIDENT URIBE: Gracias, President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you very much. Thank you all. END 4:14 P.M. (Local)
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