4th Infantry Division Memorial Chapel
Fort Hood, Texas
April 20, 2003
11:06 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: We just had a great church service. Like thousands of our fellow
citizens, we celebrated Easter. We celebrated with our family, but we also
celebrated with members of the 4th Infantry Division military families. The
4th Infantry Division is in Iraq.
We are also here with two of -- brave Americans, two warrant officers, chopper
pilots who were captured in Iraq and recently returned to their families.
They were celebrating Easter with their loved ones: moms, dads, wives, brothers
and sisters from around our country. So it was a glorious day.
We prayed for peace and for strength, for the many blessings. I am particularly
grateful that these two men were with us today. I thank God for their lives.
I hope all our fellow Americans realize that we live in a great country,
full of great people. And today is a day to give blessings for America, as
well as an Almighty and gracious God.
I'd be glad to answer a few questions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you said you prayed for peace this morning. How soon can
you tell the American people that this operation will be complete?
THE PRESIDENT: When Tommy Franks says it's complete. I'll tell you this,
though, the liberation of Iraq will make the world more peaceful.
QUESTION: Mr. President, there have been some anti-U.S. demonstrations stirred up
by religious leaders in Iraq. Are you worried that's going to hurt the rebuilding
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not worried. Freedom is beautiful, and when people are
free, they express their opinions. You know, they couldn't express their
opinions before we came, now they can. I've always said democracy is going
to be hard. It's not easy to go from being enslaved to being free. But it's
going to happen, because the basic instincts of mankind is to be free. They
want to be free. And so, sure, there's going to be people expressing their
opinions, and we welcome that, just like here in America people can express
Q Mr. President, what is the latest that you have on the status of Saddam
Hussein? And if he is not killed or captured --
THE PRESIDENT: That Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. That's for certain.
He was in power, and now he is not. And, therefore, the Iraqi people's lives
will be much better off. But other than that, I don't -- Stretch, we'll just
have to see.
QUESTION: -- sir, any kind of a threat if he is not killed or captured?
THE PRESIDENT: If he is alive, I would suggest he not pop his head up.
QUESTION: Sir, do you expect to return more to a domestic agenda now that the war
is winding down?
THE PRESIDENT: I will continue to promote an international agenda of peace
and freedom, and I will continue doing what I have been doing, is working
on our economy and working to modernize the Medicare system. I have always
been involved with the domestic policy. I somehow get -- somewhat taken aback
when I hear stories that assume I can only do one thing. I am concerned when
people in our society can't find work.
And so I've been constantly promoting an aggressive jobs and growth program.
I believe our Medicare system needs to be modernized. I've consistently talked
about that. I look forward to working with Congress see that that's done.
Then I will continue to work to make the world a more peaceful place. The
United States is a powerful country, and one of the things we ought to do
is use our power to make the world more peaceful and more free. And I intend
to continue to do that.
QUESTION: Sir, will talks with North Korea go ahead? And do you expect any breakthrough?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the key thing on the North Korea agenda is that China
is assuming a very important responsibility, and that is that they will confirm
that which -- work toward that which Jiang Zemin told me in Crawford, right
around the corner here, that China's policy is for a nuclear weapons free
Peninsula. And now that they're engaged in the process, it makes it more
likely that's going to occur. You've got the United States adhering to that
posture, you've got China adhering to that posture; South Korea believes
that the Peninsula ought to be nuclear weapons free, Japan strongly believes
that. And I believe that all four of us, working together, have a good chance
of convincing North Korea to abandon her ambitions to develop nuclear arsenals.
How are you, Sir. Good to see you again.
QUESTION: We've been wondering about your words of encouragement to the returnees.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, they were -- first of all, they were the
encouraging people. They were the ones who offered encouragement. I was,
believe this or not, somewhat taken aback when I was in their presence. And
these guys were so uplifting and so positive, and so obviously thrilled to
be here. They got in last night at midnight. They can speak for themselves.
I think you can speak for yourselves. At least you did in my presence.
QUESTION: Sir, what are you doing this weekend around the ranch?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
QUESTION: What have you been doing at the ranch this weekend?
THE PRESIDENT: Exactly. (Laughter.) I'm enjoying myself.
QUESTION: Someone said home projects.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, home projects. A little fishing. Nothing better than
fishing with your dad, and Barney.
QUESTION: What did Barney catch?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Barney only caught that which I caught. (Laughter.)
But worked a little brush cutting, keeping that ranch -- keeping those cedars
away from those good hardwoods, letting that -- conserving my property; a
little exercise, spent some time with my family and am really glad I had
some time here in Crawford.
QUESTION: Did you have a chance to visit with the two pilots in the church?
THE PRESIDENT: I did, yes. And you can visit with them, too.
QUESTION: And their families, as well?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we did. We visited with their families. And I had a
good talk with them. They're good, strong, men. It's an amazing experience,
when you think about it. Here we are, Easter, the great -- one of the great
religious holidays, and these guys arrived last night -- might have actually
arrived Easter day. I don't know if it was exactly midnight, or a little
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER YOUNG: It was a little before midnight.
THE PRESIDENT: A little before midnight. Well, Easter eve. I was trying
to make the story a little more dramatic than it really was.
QUESTION: I wondered if either of he two pilots could tell, share their experience
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, they can. Sure, they can. That's up to them. They don't
have to. I have to speak to the press. They don't have to. But it's not that
bad an experience. This guy's getting ready -- I'll tell you one thing about
this guy, Hillman. He is going to go see his children for the first time
since he was captured. He hasn't even seen his children. So if you ask him
questions, don't make it long, because, see, we're holding a dad up from
hugging two children.
QUESTION: Could you tell us a bit about your meeting with the President inside the
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER WILLIAMS: It was an absolute honor, sir, an absolute
QUESTION: -- Officer Young?
CHIEF WARRANT OFFICER YOUNG: We stand a hundred percent behind whatever
our President decides to do. We're honored to serve him, and this is definitely
one of the highlights of my life, absolutely.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you getting any signs of cooperation from Syria yet?
THE PRESIDENT: There's some positive signs. They're getting the message
that they should not harbor Baath Party officials, high ranking Iraqi officials.
A lot of other countries have also sent that message. As you know, Secretary
Powell will be going to visit with the Syrians. It seems like they're beginning
to get the message. And when we think there is somebody there or know somebody
is there, we of course will pass on the name and fully expect the Syrian
government to hand the person over.
QUESTION: How many are there, do you have any idea, Iraqi leaders?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, obviously we felt some were there, otherwise we wouldn't
have spoken out. But probably the best diplomacy is that not through the
Associated Press or Reuters or Dallas Morning News or Houston Chronicle or
any -- let's see, who else -- Bloomberg. But the best diplomacy is the diplomacy
of having our friends, as well as ourselves, send clear messages. And we're
doing that. And I'm confident the Syrian government has heard us. And I believe
it when they say they want to cooperate with us.
Listen, have a wonderful day.
QUESTION: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all.
MRS. BUSH: Bye, happy Easter.
QUESTION: Are you going to visit with the other POWs?
THE PRESIDENT: Today? I don't think so, Bennett. I think I'm going to head
back over to the ranch. Thank you all.