President Bush. Good day. Welcome to Camp David. More importantly, welcome to Camp David to the Prime Minister and his wife. Mr. Prime Minister, we’re glad you’re here. Welcome.
The invitation to come to Camp David is an expression of my high regard for Prime Minister Rasmussen and our friendship between our two countries. You know, I think—I was checking back; I think it’s been over 2 years since we’ve had a foreign leader come and visit us here. And thanks for bringing such good weather. It’s important to have good weather today, because the Prime Minister is going to give me a mountain biking lesson after this news conference.
A couple of thoughts, and then he’s going to speak, and then we’d be glad to answer some questions.
First, I appreciate the Prime Minister’s belief that freedom can help change the world and that freedom is universal. We had a really important discussion about our desire to help others realize the great blessings of liberty, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prime Minister Rasmussen has been a strong believer in supporting the Iraqi Government’s desire to live in democracy. I thank you for your courage; I thank you for your country’s commitment of troops that are helping make a difference.
We talked about the new Government in Iraq. The Prime Minister has met Prime Minister Maliki; I have not, and so it was very useful for me to hear from him firsthand about the Prime Minister’s determination to succeed. I appreciate his understanding of the Prime Minister’s desire to set priorities, starting with electricity in Baghdad, security in Baghdad, and dismantling militia groups that are creating havoc.
We discussed our common strategies in Iraq. One of the most important strategies is to make sure that the police force in Iraq is capable of inspiring the population who they’re supposed to be protecting. And I believe we took a long—we took a big step toward that when the Prime Minister selected a new Minister of the Interior and—as well as a new Defense Minister.
And so we spent time on that, and we spent time on Afghanistan as well. Prime Minister Rasmussen shared his thoughts with me about President Karzai. We both agree that he’s a patriot, that he’s the kind of person that we can back and that we will back as this new democracy begins to develop.
We spent time on Iran. We shared thoughts about how to diplomatically solve the problem. And the problem is, the Iranians want to have a nuclear weapon, and they shouldn’t have one.
We spent time talking about Darfur, our desire to help the AU forces achieve stability in Darfur. I’ve spoken out on this subject a lot. I believe there’s genocide taking place, and I believe we have a responsibility to work together to bring some security to the poor folks that are being harassed and raped and murdered in the far reaches of Darfur.
The Prime Minister and I share values, and he spent time making sure that I understood his strong belief that when we fight the war on terror and we help new democracies, that we’ve got to uphold the values that we believe in. And he brought up the Guantanamo issue. And I appreciate the fact that the Prime Minister is concerned about the decisions that I made on—toward Guantanamo. I assured him that we would like to end the Guantanamo. We’d like it to be empty. And we’re now in the process of working with countries to repatriate people.
But there are some that, if put out on the streets, could create grave harm to American citizens and other citizens of the world. And therefore, I believe they ought to be tried in courts here in the United States. We will file such court claims once the Supreme Court makes its decision as to whether or not—as to the proper venue for these trials. And we’re waiting on our Supreme Court to act.
We talked about bilateral relations. I am impressed by the fact that the Prime Minister is off to the west coast with a message of new technologies and the desire for Denmark to work with some of our venture capitalists and businesses to promote energy independence, for example, and to come up with technologies that will enable a country like ours to become less reliant upon foreign sources of energy.
All in all, we had a very constructive visit, which will be continued over lunch after the bike ride and—presuming he doesn’t ride me into the ground. [Laughter]
So, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. Glad you’re here.
Prime Minister Rasmussen. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me first of all express my gratitude for inviting me to Camp David. I’m very honored to be here. And one could hardly imagine a better venue to spend time for work and pleasure with close friends. So thank you very much.
We have had a very productive meeting this morning at this wonderful setting. First we talked about Iraq. A few weeks ago, I met with the new Iraqi Government, as the President pointed out. It was with a particular sense of respect, I heard the views of the first permanent democratically elected Government in Iraq. I would say that our efforts have not been in vain.
Democracy is what it is all about. We agree on the very reason for being engaged in Iraq: to put an end to oppression and to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights. These are the very values we want to defend. That also gives us strong obligation to live up to those values in every step we take. When unacceptable events happen in Abu Ghraib and when allegations are made about horrific events in Haditha, it is not only a tragedy for the victims; it is damaging to our own efforts and an offense to our very own values. The President has assured me that all allegations will be investigated, and if there has been wrongdoing, then the responsible will be prosecuted.
We are committed to remain in Iraq as long as the Iraqi Government and the U.N. request our assistance and as long as we can make a positive difference.
As the President mentioned, we had also a discussion on Iran. I am pleased that the United States, under the President’s leadership, has joined his European allies in presenting a package to the Iranians. It’s now up to the Iranians to take advantage of this window of opportunity.
Secondly, we touched upon energy. I strongly share the President’s view that energy is a major strategic challenge. I think that transatlantic cooperation can contribute to ensuring energy security and sustainable development. It could, for instance, be instrumental in developing new energy technologies.
In Denmark, this issue has been a high priority for 30 years. We have focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and we are among the leading countries when it comes to developing technologies in that field. It is part of the reason for our strong economy and competitiveness. And in Denmark, we have managed to combine economic growth with energy efficiency. Over the last 25 years, the Danish economy has grown by 50 percent without increasing the use of energy.
I think it’s fair to say that Danish companies are at the edge in developing new technologies, and they are already engaged in the United States. Some of them are traveling with me to the west coast on Monday.
Which brings me to my final point on our bilateral economic relations. Trade and investment between the United States and Denmark is flourishing at impressive growth rates. The United States is now the biggest foreign investor in Denmark. Likewise, Danish companies have turned their attention towards the United States. Our top five companies have created more than 20,000 jobs in the United States, and they have engaged in a vast number of subcontractors. I think that the broad range of subjects demonstrates the vitality and closeness of our relations.
Mr. President, the health experts tell us that we need daily exercise. So before we even start thinking about lunch, I’m looking forward to exploring Camp David in even greater detail on bike. It’s going to be hard work; I know that. But I will do my very best to keep up with you, Mr. President. [Laughter]
So once again, thank you very much for your hospitality. Meeting with you at Camp David has indeed been a great symbol of the close and very warm relations between our two countries. Thank you.
President Bush. I’ll take a couple of questions. Deb [Deb Riechmann, Associated Press].
Iraq/Abu Musab Al Zarqawi
Q. Mr. President, after meeting with the Danish Prime Minister last month, Maliki said he thought he could stand up the Iraqi security forces in about a year-and-a-half. And with Zarqawi’s death, do you think this is realistic?
President Bush. I think it is—we’ll get a realistic appraisal about the capacity for standing up Iraqi troops as this new Government begins to function as a government. It wasn’t until just a couple of days ago that they didn’t had a Defense Minister. Now they’ve got a Defense Minister, which will give us time to assess their command and control, their capacity to be able to send an order from the top to the bottom of their organization—a Defense Ministry that will be independent from politics, hopefully.
Once we make those assessments, then I think I’ll be able to give the American people a better feel for what “stand up/ stand down” means. And one of the reasons we’re coming here—I’m coming here Monday, by the way, Mr. Prime Minister, with a lot of my Cabinet members to discuss the way forward in Iraq, to analyze the new Government, to look carefully at what their blueprint for the future looks like, and to figure out how we can help. And of course, I will share our thoughts with the Prime Minister, because he’s a very important part of our coalition.
Zarqawi’s death helps a lot. Zarqawi was bin Laden’s main advocate, outside of some remote parts of the world. He was the operator. He was the person that had made the declaration that it’s just a matter of time for America and other democracies to leave, so that we could then—so that they could then develop safe haven from which to launch further attacks. He beheaded people; he was a coldblooded killer; he masterminded the bombing of the hotel in Jordan; he masterminded the bombing of the U.N. headquarters early on in the liberation of Iraq.
Removing Zarqawi is a major blow to Al Qaida. It’s not going to end the war, and it’s certainly not going to end the violence. But it’s going to help a lot.
One of the goals of Al Qaida was to encourage sectarian violence inside that country; it was to pit Sunni against Shi’a and Shi’a against Sunni in order to be able to stop democracy. His whole ambition was to stop the advance of democracy in Iraq. And our troops—who performed brilliantly, by the way, in bringing this man to jus-tice—did the Iraqis and the Americans and anybody else who loves freedom a great service by bringing him to justice.
Q. Can I ask you a followup?
President Bush. Probably not.
Q. How long will——
President Bush. Yes.
Q. You said you’d have to reassess with the new Government these various things. How long do you think that that assessment is going to take?
President Bush. See, part of the issue I deal with is people want to know with certainty when certain things are going to happen, and I understand that; it’s a legitimate question. It’s like, when are you going to withdraw troops? And the answer is, when conditions on the ground——
Q. I didn’t ask that.
President Bush. No, I know, but I’m— you asked the question; I answer them. The answer is, as to when we’ll be able to stand up Iraqis and stand down, when we’ll be able to analyze the situation, depends upon how these people react—how they react to pressure, how they react to forming their Government. This is a brand new democracy. And the problem with the war we have is it requires a certain degree of patience in order to succeed. And we have to be patient here, as this new democracy begins to flourish and has to deal with people like Zarqawi who is trying to stop their advance.
And so, as soon as possible. I’ve told the American people I’d like to get our troops out as soon as possible. But the definition of “as soon as possible” is depending upon victory in Iraq. And victory in Iraq is a country that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself. That’s the definition of victory, and we’re making progress toward that goal.
Here you go.
Q. Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, last week, we saw a major change in the policy towards Iran. And although you don’t want to talk about timetables, the Prime Minister talked about a window of opportunity for the Iranians. How do you see that window of opportunity? What is the timetable, and what will be the next step in the procedure when we talk about Iran?
President Bush. Thank you. Actually, you saw a shift in tactics but not a shift in strategy. I’ve always felt like we needed to solve this problem diplomatically. And I always felt it was essential that when the Iranians looked out at the world, they see a common, united group of nations saying, “No nuclear weapon.”
Part of the change in tactics was to do two things: One, say to the Iranians, “The choice is yours to make,” see. “You have said you’re going to verifiably suspend your program. Now we’re going to see whether or not you really mean it. And if you do, by the way, the United States will come to the table.” And I said to our friends and partners, “If they choose not to come back—to suspend verifiably, there must be a consequence.” There must be a sense of urgency on our part to send a common message to them. And I applaud my Secretary of State for effectively delivering that message.
And so to answer your question, we’ve given the Iranians a limited period of time—weeks, not months—to digest a proposal to move forward. And if they choose not to verifiably suspend their program, then there will be action taken in the U.N. Security Council.
Caren [Caren Bohan, Reuters].
Abu Musab Al Zarqawi
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Your initial public comments on the death of Zarqawi have been described as more cautious than other developments, such as the capture of Saddam Hussein. Are you more cautious now? And, if so, why?
President Bush. Well, let me make sure everybody understands, I’m thrilled that Zarqawi was brought to justice. And I am so proud of our troops and intelligence officers who brought him to justice. This man had a lot of blood on his hands. He killed a lot of people. And it’s a big deal to have brought him to justice. Having said that, I don’t want the American people to think that a war is won with the death of one person that—we have still more work to do.
I am confident that Al Qaida will try to regroup and kill other people in order to say, “Well, we haven’t lost our way.” I believe that. I also know that there are criminal elements and irritated people inside of Iraq who will try to stop the progress of the Government; they will continue to bomb.
The problem we have in this war is that all they’ve got to do is kill some innocent people by a car bomb, and it looks like they’re winning, see. It takes a major event like an election or the death of Zarqawi to understand that we’re making progress. And so one of the things I’m trying to be is realistic with the American people and say, there’s still going to be tough days ahead because the enemy has got the capacity to get on our TV screens with death and destruction. That’s what they’ve got the capacity to do.
In the meantime, however, the political process—remember, a government that can sustain itself and govern itself and defend itself. Well, the governance aspect, as the Prime Minister will attest, is making progress under Prime Minister Maliki. It’s a new type of government. It’s a unity Government that represents the Iraqi people under a Constitution which they ratified, which is a remarkable feat, by the way, in the Middle East. A government that can defend itself, and that is, a government with an army that’s well-trained, with a chain of command that’s responsive to civilian leadership.
And finally, a government that can sustain itself is one that not only has an economic—a bright economic future for its people, but one in which the internal security is such that people have confidence in their Government. And frankly, that’s the area where we need a lot of work, which is in the police forces. The Interior Minister was dominated by politicians that wanted to seek revenge, as opposed to provide blanket security. And as General Casey has said, “The—training our troops—training the police is the mission of our troops for 2006.” And I want to thank the Prime Minister for his great contribution through NATO and the police training academies that we’re helping to run.
But we’re making progress. But I don’t want—I want the people to understand that our progress will be viewed as incremental progress. If I didn’t think we would succeed, I wouldn’t stay. And if I didn’t think it was necessary for peace, I wouldn’t have put our troops there in the first place. And I told that to the Prime Minister. I said you can count on America for standing by this new Government, because we’re doing the right thing. And people are going to look back at this moment in history and say a democracy in Iraq helped change the world for the better and helped provide security. It certainly helped address the simmering resentment that exists in a part of a region that for too long has been ignored, see.
And some say, I understand, that liberty isn’t universal; therefore, we shouldn’t worry about freeing people of Iraq. I strongly disagree with that. Liberty is universal. And not only in our attempts to defend ourselves—we also have got to understand that to help win hearts and minds, freedom is an avenue that will help do that. We’ve got to be confident in our belief in freedom and confident in our knowledge that freedom has the capacity to yield the peace we want.
Abu Ghraib Prison/Situation in Iraq
Q. Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, in previous meetings, you have discussed Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and now Haditha, and possibly other crimes have been added to that list.
Mr. President, how did you try to convince the Prime Minister today that that kind of violations of human rights will stop and guilty will be prosecuted? And for Mr. Prime Minister, are you today convinced that violations of human rights will stop so that these violations are not undermining the war for democracy in Iraq? Thank you.
President Bush. You know, the last time—I think it was in Denmark, we talked about Abu Ghraib, if I’m not mistaken. Yes. I told the people in Denmark—on your soil—that it was a disgusting event. It soiled our soul. It’s not what America stands for. I also—I’m not sure I put it this way, but I understand humans make mistakes, but there needs to be accountability. And since then, those involved with the Abu Ghraib have been brought to justice. And that’s what happens in transparent societies— which, by the way, stood in stark contrast to the society that Saddam Hussein ran, where there was no justice, where there was no transparency, where people weren’t given a chance to take their case in front of an impartial court. But that’s what’s happened here in America.
I’m like the Prime Minister; I understand that these incidents run contrary to what we believe; I know that. But I also want to assure—I assured the Prime Minister that they’ll be dealt with. That’s what societies like ours do. I can’t guarantee success all across the front, but I can guarantee there will be justice.
Prime Minister Rasmussen. I’m very much in line with that. What we have seen in Abu Ghraib is not, was not what we are standing for. If the allegations concerning Haditha show up to be true, it is definitely not what the coalition, what America, what Denmark stands for. On the contrary, we are in Iraq to promote freedom, democracy, respect for human rights. And, of course, we should comply with these basic principles in all our behavior.
I can give no guarantee, but just like the President, I can give the guarantee that in free and open societies, the whole process will be transparent. And if there are wrongdoings, the responsible will be prosecuted. That’s a guarantee you can give in a free and open society based on the rule of law.
The President. Bret [Bret Baier, FOX News].
Abu Musab Al Zarqawi/War on Terror
Q. Mr. President——
President Bush. Fine looking shoes you’ve got on there. [Laughter]
Q. Thank you, sir. Mr. President, what are your top commanders telling you, in the last 48 hours, about the possible impact of Zarqawi’s death? And how does that affect what you are trying to accomplish in these strategy meetings here in Camp David, Monday and Tuesday?
President Bush. First, we had the strategy meetings scheduled before Zarqawi’s death, interestingly enough. I haven’t spoken to our commanders yet, except to call General Casey and McChrystal and congratulate them but, more importantly, for them to congratulate the troops and the intel groups that were working on finding Zarqawi.
I suspect they will tell you what I just said, answered to Caren, and that is that it’s a big deal, but it’s certainly not the end of conflict. We had some—we believed that Al Qaida was stirring up violence inside of Baghdad. And one of the things the Prime Minister told the Prime Minister and me by phone, that the security of Baghdad is a central part of having a strategy that shows the Iraqi people that the Government is capable of governing and achieving objectives. And therefore, if Al Qaida was a part of—not the sole source, but a part of the violence inside of Baghdad, it helps to get rid of their commander.
It’s also a—General Abizaid, whose job it is to think beyond just Iraq—he’s the CENTCOM; he’s the theater commander— will tell you that the upper management of Al Qaida was counting on Zarqawi to help implement their vision beyond Iraq.
See, it’s really important for the American people to understand that Al Qaida has got an ideology and a strategy to impose that ideology. And part of the strategy is to create turmoil in moderate Muslim nations. And they want to overthrow moderate Muslim nations. They want to have their view of the world. I call it totalitarian, Islamo-fascism. Whatever you want to call it, it is extreme, and it’s real. And Zarqawi was the implementer of that strategy, and he can no longer implement. And that is helpful in winning the war on terror.
Iraq is a theater in the war on terror; it’s not the war on terror. It’s a part of the war on terror. And Zarqawi was a general inside of Iraq, and he was a part of their strategy outside of Iraq. And I suspect General Abizaid—I don’t mean to be putting words into one of our top commanders, but I would suspect he would say this was a major blow to Al Qaida.
The death of Zarqawi was very important for the people of Iraq. He was sowing incredible violence inside of Iraq. He promoted spectacular death. And by the way, he talked about human rights abuses, and we definitely need to be held to account. But the world needs to hold to account terrorists for civil rights abuses too. The killing of innocent people to achieve a military objective is the cornerstone of Al Qaida’s military strategy. And this world of ours—it’s no question we ought to be concerned about what the United States does. But I expect the free world, as well, to unite in condemnation of terrorist activities around the world. See, there ought to be a universal condemnation. We ought not to excuse that kind of behavior.
And yesterday’s action—or a couple of days ago action, expressed our disdain for that kind of killing of innocent life. And bringing him to justice is a positive thing.
It’s important for the Iraqi people to see progress in the death of Zarqawi. There’s no question progress toward more stable— it’s not going to solve all problems. And I’m sure, as I mentioned to you, there’s going to be some who step up and say, “We will teach you a lesson, and we will continue to send suiciders into neighborhoods just to show that we’ve still got power.” But they’ve lost their general. They’ve lost the person that the top management of Al Qaida was counting on. And it’s a positive development.
Upcoming Meeting on Iraq
Q. Is there specific goals for Monday and Tuesday?
President Bush. Specific goals for Monday and Tuesday is to review the Iraqi strategy, the Iraqi way forward. In other words, the Prime Minister has put forward a strategy as to how to achieve his objectives, which coincide with our objectives— a nation that can sustain itself, govern itself, and defend itself. And we want to review all aspects of that strategy. I felt that Camp David is a good place to do it because it can be distracting down in Washington, with phone calls and all those kinds of stuff; we can make sure the people involved in senior levels of Government stay focused on the task at hand.
I will be talking to Zal and our commanders just to get assessment. One question I’ll ask is precisely the question you asked. I want to get a feel for their view of the Iraqi Government’s plans and how we can help Iraq achieve the objectives they want. And then the next day, we’re going to have the Ambassador from Iraq to the United States up to talk with him, as well as have a Cabinet meeting between my government and the Maliki Government via secure video. And I think that will be a very interesting moment for the Iraqi Government, to see that we’re concerned and interested about their plans for success. And I think it will be interesting for us to be able to get a sense for the type of people that the Prime Minister has attracted.
Ask Anders a question, will you? He’s feeling a little defensive. [Laughter]
Central Intelligence Agency
Q. I’m sorry, I have one for you, Mr. President. This week, a report from the European Council talked about some CIA flights, illegal CIA flights with the prisoners in Europe, and illegal CIA presence also in some European countries. Have these flights taken place, and did you discuss this in your meeting today?
President Bush. We haven’t discussed it yet. I suspect we will now that you brought it up. I would just—I can tell you what I’ll tell the Prime Minister, is that in cases where we’re not able to extradite somebody who is dangerous, sometimes renditions take place. It’s been a part of our Government for quite a period of time—not just my Government, but previous administrations have done so in order to protect people. And as we do so, we protect the sovereign rights of nations that we’re involved with.
Okay, thanks for the press conference. Enjoy yourselves. Get out of here. [Laughter] Welcome, glad you all are here.
Q. Are you guys going to race?
President Bush. No, we’re old—one of us is old. [Laughter] I’m taking a lesson.