Remarks to the Travelling Press Pool
Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School
March 20, 2002
1:25 P.M. EST
QUESTION: Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
QUESTION: What are you hoping to achieve by holding the military tribunals? And at this
point, do we have any people eligible to face those tribunals?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the tribunals are just an option for us. And we'll be using
the tribunals if in the course of bringing somebody to justice it may jeopardize
or compromise the national security interests. So they're a tool, they're an
option. As you know, we're discussing rules about how they can function well.
The Defense Department asked a lot of opinions from respected scholars, and
the world's now beginning to see what we meant by a fair system that will enable
us to -- justice, but at the same time protect national security. I have no
plans right now to use anybody -- nobody in mind yet. But the option is available.
QUESTION: Are many of those people otherwise going to be sent back to their home countries,
and have you decided which one would be --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're still in the process of getting as much information
from the detainees as possible. Remember, these are -- the ones in Guantanamo
Bay are killers. They don't share the same values we share. They would like
nothing more than to come after America, or our friends and allies. And so,
therefore, it's in our national interest to make sure we know enough about them
before we decide what to do with them. So there's a process -- ongoing process
to get as much information as we can from the prisoners or the detainees. Some
talk, some don't talk.
QUESTION: But let me follow, if I could --
THE PRESIDENT: You're going on three questions.
QUESTION: Okay, sorry. But if you say they're killers --
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think they're killers.
QUESTION: What makes them eligible to go to a tribunal?
THE PRESIDENT: I told you, if any evidence required to convict them jeopardizes
the national security interests of the country, we'll use the tribunal.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you frustrated by the continuing violence in the Middle
East, that looks -- one day it looks good, the next day it's --
THE PRESIDENT: Of course, I am. I am frustrated by the violence in the Middle
East, and so are a lot of people who live in the Middle East. I know there are
some people who do not want us to achieve any kind of peaceful settlement of
a longstanding dispute. And they're willing to use terrorist means to disrupt
any progress that's being made. And that frustrates me. It frustrates mothers
and dads who happen to be Palestinians and Israelis, because they want to raise
their children in a secure environment.
Nevertheless, we'll continue to work the issue, and work it hard. Zinni is over
there, he's making some progress. He's saying to both parties, stay the course,
work hard to get into Tenet. And hopefully we can achieve what we all want to
achieve, which is eventually a political settlement. But first and foremost,
we've got to come up with a security agreement. We made some progress, and I
want to thank Zinni for his job that he's doing there. And I'm looking forward
to being briefed by the Vice President tomorrow morning when he gets back from
-- he's getting back this afternoon, but he's going to come in tomorrow morning.
We'll have breakfast first thing in the morning, prior to me leaving for Mexico.
QUESTION: Mr. President, just yesterday the Vice President was suggesting that he could
meet with Chairman Arafat if there was a cease-fire. Does a cease-fire mean
an end to all suicide bombings?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what he said was, was that there are certain conditions
under which he would meet with Mr. Arafat, and that is getting into the Tenet
agreement and meeting the conditions. And we've also said that we expect there
to be 100 percent effort by Chairman Arafat. We expect him to be reining in
those people with whom he's got influence. Clearly, he's not going to have influence
with every single suicide bomber, I understand that. But we expect him to be
diligent and firm and consistent in his efforts to rein in those who would like
to disrupt any progress toward peace, and rein in those who would harm our friends,
And as I've said in the past, I didn't think he has done a very good job of
doing that up to now, and I believe he can do a better job. And that's exactly
the message the Vice President is delivering in his statement.
Listen, thank you all very much. I don't want to hold two press conferences
in one week.
MRS. BUSH: Wait, let me just show them one thing before they go off. I want
you all to see this uniform that's down here, before we go to the next part
of the press conference.
A group of people from around the globe, actually, have gotten together to raise
the money to send manual sewing machines to Afghanistan, so women can have jobs
making these uniforms, as well as a lot of fabric, so that when girls go back
to school, in a few weeks they'll have a uniform to wear to school. I wanted
you to see this on the mannequin before we go into the next event.