September 17, 2001
11:45 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: First, let me start off by saying to members of the Pentagon
press -- the Secretary told me about how you conducted your business on that
fateful day. I want to congratulate you and thank you. Many of your members
of the Pentagon press went out to help in the evacuation and the aide of the
people who work here in the Pentagon and the country appreciates that very much.
Thank you. Pass the word onto your colleagues, as well.
Today, we're talking about the mobilization of Reserve and Guard troops. Such
a mobilization is a strong symbol of this nation's resolve. And I want to thank
the Secretary and David and members of our team for giving me a complete and
I fully understand that a mobilization affects the lives of thousands of Americans.
I mean, after all, we're talking about somebody's mom or somebody's dad, somebody's
employee, somebody's friend or somebody's neighbor. But the world will see that
the strength of this nation is found in the character and dedication and courage
of everyday citizens.
We are -- last week I proclaimed a national emergency and authorized the Secretary
of Defense and Secretary of Transportation to call up the Ready Reserve Units
of the Armed Forces and the Coast Guard to active duty.
We are in the process of calling up as many as 35,000 such troops. They will
serve in a number of essential roles. They will help maintain our air defenses
so they can stay on high alert. They will check shipping in ports. They will
help our military with airlift and logistics. They will provide military police.
They will participate in engineering projects. They will help gather intelligence.
And they will perform work as chaplains.
I know this means a lot of sacrifice for those who will be called up, and their
families. But you understand -- the troops who will be called up understand
better than most that freedom has a cost, and that we're willing to bear that
cost. An act of war has been committed on this country, and the dedication of
our Guardsmen and Reservists will serve not only as a strong symbol to all that
we're prepared to take the necessary actions, but will be a part of helping
define the spirit and courage of America. And I'm grateful.
I want to thank the employers who understand that there is more to corporate
life than just profit and loss, that the employee who is getting ready to serve
the country is an essential part of winning the -- of defeating terrorism, evil-doers
so emboldened that they feel like they could attack the great bastion of freedom.
Before I answer a few questions, I also want to wish the American Jewish community
and Jews around the world a healthy and happy new year. As the high holy days
begin, I know you'll find strength and determination during this time of reflection.
I'll be glad to answer a few questions. Ron.
QUESTION: Mr. President, does the cost of freedom today in this war we're about
to wage include the loss of civilian and military casualties? And can you keep
us out of a depression/recession, during this crisis?
THE PRESIDENT: The only thing I can do is to reflect upon the spirit of the
U.S. military, and the U.S. military is ready to defend freedom at any cost.
The men and women who wear our uniforms, both active duty and reservists and
National Guard people are ready to respond to the call of the Commander-in-Chief
and the Secretary of Defense. There's no question in my mind that the resolve
of our military has never been stronger. And we will win the war, and there
will be costs. But the military folks understand that, and so do I, and so does
the Secretary of Defense.
In terms of our economy, I've got great faith in the economy. I understand it's
tough right now. Transportation business is hurting. Obviously, the market was
correcting prior to this crisis. But the underpinnings for economic growth are
there. We're the greatest entrepreneurial society in the world. We've got the
best farmers and ranchers. We've got a strong manufacturing base.
But there's a challenge ahead of us, and I'm confident that our business community
will rise to the challenge. Secondly, I'm confident we can work with Congress
to come up with an economic stimulus package, if need be, that will send a clear
signal to the risk-takers and capital formatters of our country that the government's
going to act, too.
Thirdly, we've got a tax cut that's still working its way through the economy,
as well as a reconstruction plan for New York and the area. After all, the Congress,
in a bipartisan fashion, overwhelmingly passed a supplemental of billions of
dollars which will help not only get New York City up and running again, but
will help provide some economic stimulus.
QUESTION: Mr. President, in the airline industry, in particular, is in trouble,
and looking for some relief. I know that Secretary Mineta was supposed to meet
with representatives from the industry this week. As you look down the road
does he think and expect some --
THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, I think these are the kinds of subjects that we will
talk with the Secretary of Transportation, with the airline industry and, as
importantly, with members of Congress. Congress must be involved with -- obviously,
with these deliberations. And I look forward to -- I've already encouraged my
administration to reach out to members of Congress. And we will continue doing
QUESTION: Mr. President, the Taliban apparently has refused to hand over Osama
bin Laden to the Pakistanis. Does this mean that the U.S. will be prepared to
THE PRESIDENT: Patsy, I want to make it clear to the American people that this
administration will not talk about any plans we may or may not have. We will
not jeopardize in any way, shape or form, anybody who wears the uniform of the
All I can tell you is that Osama bin Laden is a prime suspect, and the people
who house him, encourage him, provide food, comfort or money are on notice.
Last Tuesday -- last week, I spoke clearly about our nation's policy. And that
is, we're going to find those who -- those evil-doers, those barbaric people
who attacked our country and we're going to hold them accountable, and we're
going to hold the people who house them accountable; the people who think they
can provide them safe havens will be held accountable; the people who feed them
will be held accountable.
And the Taliban must take my statement seriously.
QUESTION: Mr. President, is it the case, based on what you've said now, that
war is inevitable, and can you tell me the American people what that war is
going to look like?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe, I know that an act of war was declared against America.
But this will be a different type of war than we're used to. This is -- in the
past there have been beaches to storm and islands to conquer. We've been able
to watch on our television screens sophisticated weaponry find a building; and
we've seen dramatic reports from the front where Pulitzer Prize-to-be winning
reporters stood up and declared, the United States is attacked, and all that.
There may be some of that, who knows. But I know that this is a different type
of enemy than we're used to. It's an enemy that likes to hide and burrow in,
and their network is extensive. There are no rules. It's barbaric behavior.
They slit throats of women on airplanes in order to achieve an objective that
is beyond comprehension. And they like to hit, and then they like to hide out.
But we're going to smoke them out. And we're adjusting our thinking to the new
type of enemy. These are terrorists who have no borders. And, by the way, it's
important for the world to understand that we know in America that more than
just Americans suffered loss of life in the World Trade Center. People from
all kinds of nationalities lost -- that's why the world is rallying to our call
to defeat terrorism.
Many world leaders understand that that could have easily -- that the attack
could have as easily happened on their land. And they also understand that this
enemy knows no border. But they know what I know, that when we start putting
the heat on those who house them, they will get them running. And once we get
them running we have got a good chance of getting them. And that's exactly what
our intent is.
The focus right now is on Osama bin Laden, no question about it. He's the prime
suspect, and his organization. But there are other terrorists in the world.
There are people who hate freedom. This is a fight for freedom. This is a fight
to say to the freedom-loving people of the world: we will not allow ourselves
to be terrorized by somebody who thinks they can hit and hide in some cave somewhere.
It's going to require a new thought process. And I'm proud to report our military,
led by the Secretary of Defense, understands that; understands it's a new type
of war, it's going to take a long time to win this war. The American people
are going to have to be more patient than ever with the efforts of -- our combined
efforts, not just ourselves, but the efforts of our allies, to get them running
and find them and to hunt them down.
But as the Vice President said, you know, Osama bin Laden is just one person.
He is representative of networks of people who absolutely have made their cause
to defeat the freedoms that we take -- that we understand. And we will not allow
them to do so.
QUESTION: Do you want bin Laden dead?
THE PRESIDENT: I want justice. There's an old poster out west, as I recall,
that said, "Wanted: Dead or Alive."
QUESTION: Do you see this being long-term? You were saying it's long-term, do
you see an end, at all?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that this is a long-term battle, war. There will be battles.
But this is long-term. After all, our mission is not just Osama bin Laden, the
al Qaeda organization. Our mission is to battle terrorism and to join with freedom
We are putting together a coalition that is a coalition dedicated to declaring
to the world we will do what it takes to find the terrorists, to rout them out
and to hold them accountable. And the United States is proud to lead the coalition.
QUESTION: Are you saying you want him dead or alive, sir? Can I interpret --
THE PRESIDENT: I just remember, all I'm doing is remembering when I was a kid
I remember that they used to put out there in the old west, a wanted poster.
It said: "Wanted, Dead or Alive." All I want and America wants him
brought to justice. That's what we want.