Availability with United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair
Camp David, Maryland
March 27, 2003
11:00 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. It's my honor to welcome my friend and Prime
Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, back to Camp David. America has learned
a lot about Tony Blair over the last weeks. We've learned that he's a man of
his word. We've learned that he's a man of courage, that he's a man of vision.
And we're proud to have him as a friend.
The United States and United Kingdom are acting together in a noble purpose.
We're working together to make the world more peaceful; we're working together
to make our respective nations and all the free nations of the world more
secure; and we're working to free the Iraqi people.
British, American, Australian, Polish and other coalition troops are sharing
the duties of this war, and we're sharing the sacrifices of this war. Together,
coalition forces are advancing day by day, in steady progress, against
the enemy. Slowly, but surely, the grip of terror around the throats of
the Iraqi people is being loosened.
We appreciate the bravery, the professionalism of the British troops, and
all coalition troops. Together we have lost people, and the American people
offer their prayers to the loved ones of the British fallen, just as we offer
our prayers to the loved ones of our own troops who have fallen.
We're now engaging the dictator's most hardened and most desperate units.
The campaign ahead will demand further courage and require further sacrifice.
Yet we know the outcome: Iraq will be disarmed; the Iraqi regime will be
ended; and the long-suffering Iraqi people will be free.
In decades of oppression, the Iraqi regime has sought to instill the habits
of fear in the daily lives of millions; yet, soon, the Iraqis will have the
confidence of a free people. Our coalition will stand with the citizens of
Iraq in the challenges ahead. We are prepared to deliver humanitarian aid
on a large scale -- and as a matter of fact, are beginning to do so as we
Today the Prime Minister and I also urge the United Nations to immediately
resume the oil-for-food program. More than half the Iraqi people depend on
this program as their sole source of food. This urgent humanitarian issue
must not be politicized, and the Security Council should give Secretary General
Annan the authority to start getting food supplies to those most in need
As we address the immediate suffering of the Iraqi people, we're also committed
to helping them over the long-term. Iraq's greatest long-term need is a representative
government that protects the rights of all Iraqis. The form of this government
will be chosen by the Iraqi people, not imposed by outsiders. And the Prime
Minister and I are confident that a free Iraq will be a successful nation.
History requires more of our coalition than a defeat of a terrible danger.
I see an opportunity, as does Prime Minister Blair, to bring renewed hope
and progress to the entire Middle East. Last June 24th, I outlined a vision
of two states, Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.
Soon, we'll release the road map that is designed to help turn that vision
into reality. And both America and Great Britain are strongly committed to
implementing that road map.
For nearly a century, the United States and Great Britain have been allies
in the defense of liberty. We've opposed all the great threats to peace and
security in the world. We shared in the costly and heroic struggle against
Nazism. We shared the resolve and moral purpose of the Cold War. In every
challenge, we've applied the combined power of our nations to the cause of
justice, and we're doing the same today. Our alliance is strong, our resolve
is firm, and our mission will be achieved.
Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for your welcome.
Thank you for your strength and for your leadership at this time. And I believe
the alliance between the United States and Great Britain has never been in
better or stronger shape.
Can I also offer the American people, on behalf of the British people, our
condolences, our sympathy, our prayers for the lives of those who have fallen
in this conflict, just as we have offered the condolence, the sympathy, and
the prayers to the families of our own British servicemen.
Just under a week into this conflict, let me restate our complete and total
resolve. Saddam Hussein and his hateful regime will be removed from power.
Iraq will be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, and the Iraqi people
will be free. That is our commitment, that is our determination, and we will
see it done.
We had this morning a presentation of the latest military situation, which
shows already the progress that has been made. It's worth just recapping
it, I think, for a moment. In less than a week, we have secured the southern
oil fields and facilities, and so protected that resource and wealth for
the Iraqi people and avoided ecological disaster. We've disabled Iraq's ability
to launch external aggression from the west.
Our forces are now within 50 miles of Baghdad. They've surrounded Basra.
They've secured the key port of Umm Qasr. They've paved the way for humanitarian
aid to flow into the country. And they brought real damage on Iraq's command
and control. So we can be confident that the goals that we have set ourselves
will be met.
I would like to pay tribute to the professionalism and integrity of our
forces and those of the United States of America, our other coalition allies,
and to say how their professionalism, as well as their skill and their bravery,
stands in sharp contrast to the brutality of Saddam's regime.
Day by day, we have seen the reality of Saddam's regime -- his thugs prepared
to kill their own people; the parading of prisoners of war; and now, the
release of those pictures of executed British soldiers. If anyone needed
any further evidence of the depravity of Saddam's regime, this atrocity provides
it. It is yet one more flagrant breach of all the proper conventions of war.
More than that, to the families of the soldiers involved, it is an act of
cruelty beyond comprehension. Indeed, it is beyond the comprehension of anyone
with an ounce of humanity in their souls.
On behalf of the British government, I would like to offer my condolences
particularly to the family and the friends of those two brave young men who
died in the service of their country, and to the ordinary Iraqi people, to
whom we are determined to bring a better future.
The future of the Iraqi people is one reason why much of our discussion
has focused on humanitarian issues. Again, here we have the ship, the Sir
Galahad, loaded with tons of supplies destined for the people of Iraq. The
other immediate humanitarian priority is to restart the U.N. oil-for-food
program, which the President and I discussed, and which I will be discussing
with Kofi Annan later this evening. And this is urgent.
We also discussed the post-conflict issues. Contrary to a lot of the comment
on this, the position is exactly as the President and I set out in the Azores
-- namely, that we will work with the U.N., our allies and partners and bilateral
donors. We will seek new U.N. Security Council resolutions to affirm Iraq's
territorial integrity, to ensure rapid delivery of humanitarian relief, and
endorse an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq.
But let me emphasize once again that our primary focus now is, and must
be, the military victory, which we will prosecute with the utmost vigor.
And the immediate priority for the United Nations is, as the President was
indicating a moment or two ago, the oil-for-food program.
In addition, as has just been said to you, we had an excellent discussion
of the Middle East, and we both share a complete determination to move this
forward. It is, indeed, often overlooked that President Bush is the first
U.S. President publicly to commit himself to a two-state solution, an Israel
confident of its security and a viable Palestinian state. And I welcome the
decision announced recently to publish the road map as soon as the confirmation
of the new Palestinian Prime Minister is properly administered.
Finally, I would just like to say this: I think it is important that we
recognize at this time that the goals that we are fighting for are just goals.
Whatever the difficulty of war, let us just remember this is a regime that
has brutalized its people for well over two decades. Of course, there will
be people fiercely loyal to that regime who will fight all the way; they
have no option. But I have no doubt at all that the vast majority of ordinary
Iraqi people are desperate for a better and different future, for Iraq to
be free, for its government to be representative of its people, for the human
rights of the people to be cared for.
And that is why, though, of course, our aim is to rid Iraq of weapons of
mass destruction and make our world more secure. The justice of our cause
lies in the liberation of the Iraqi people. And to them we say, we will liberate
you. The day of your freedom draws near.
THE PRESIDENT: We'll take two questions a side. We would hope that you would
respect asking one question per question.
QUESTION: That, of course, means I can ask each leader one question.
THE PRESIDENT: No, it does not mean that. Of course, you will anyway, but
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
First to you, Mr. Prime Minister. Briefly, Secretary Powell said yesterday
that the U.N. should have a role in postwar Iraq, but that the United States
should have a significant, dominating control of post-Saddam Iraq. How will
that kind of talk play in Europe?
And, Mr. President, can you help me understand the timing of this war? You
talked yesterday that it will be -- we're far from over. Today you said,
it's going slowly, but surely we're working our way to our end goal. Given
that the resistance has been as strong as it's been in the south, and that
we have what you call the most hardened, most desperate forces still around
Baghdad, are we to assume that this is going to last -- could last months
and not weeks -- and not days?
THE PRESIDENT: I'll answer that question very quickly and then get to his.
However long it takes to win. That's --
QUESTION: -- take months?
THE PRESIDENT: However long it takes to achieve our objective. And that's
important for you to know, the American people to know, our allies to know,
and the Iraqi people to know.
QUESTION: It could be months?
THE PRESIDENT: However long it takes. That's the answer to your question
and that's what you've got to know. It isn't a matter of timetable, it's
a matter of victory. And the Iraqi people have got to know that, see. They've
got to know that they will be liberated and Saddam Hussein will be removed,
no matter how long it takes.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: In relation to the United Nations, there's no doubt
at all that the United Nations has got to be closely involved in this process.
That's not just right; it's in everyone's interest that it happens. All I'm
saying to people is, the focus -- the immediate focus has got to be on the
oil-for-food program, because that is thing we need to get sorted out with
the United Nations literally in the next few days.
Now, after that is the issue of the post-conflict administration, where,
as we said in our Azores statement, it's important there, again, that the
U.N. is involved, and that any post-conflict administration in Iraq is endorsed
But there are huge numbers of details to be discussed with our allies as
to exactly how that is going to work -- and also, the conflict is not yet
over, we are still in the conflict. So we will carry on discussing that with
the U.N., with other allies. But I think that is best done in those discussions
without trying to do it by discussion through the press conference or through
But, about the role of the U.N. and the basis of the principles we set out
in the Azores Summit, there is simply no difference at all there. But there
are a huge amount of details as to exactly how that is to be implemented
that have to be a matter of discussion, and also, a matter of a reflection
of the reality that we will face when we get to the point of post-conflict.
QUESTION: -- of the BBC. For both leaders, if I may. We, all of us, noted quite
a shift in emphasis over the last few days from a hope that this could be
over very, very quickly, to the military in both countries briefing about
months. My question is really, why do you think that shift has taken place?
Did we underestimate the scale of Iraqi resistance? Has it been the weather?
Has it been poor advice at the beginning of the campaign, or is it a military
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, you know, in the previous two campaigns in which
I've been involved -- Kosovo and Afghanistan -- you reach this particular
point where people start asking -- ask us to speculate on exactly how much
time it takes to get the job done. The important thing is the job will be
done. There is no point in entering into a speculation of how long it takes
except to say we have been, I think, just under a week into this conflict.
Now, because of the way it's reported, you've got this constant 24-hours-a-day
media, it may seem to people that it's a lot longer than just under a week.
But actually, it's just under a week. And in just under a week, there is
a massive amount that has already been achieved. I mean, after all, coalition
forces are within 50 miles of Baghdad, the southern oil fields are secured,
the west is protected from external aggression, we've got forces going into
Now, we will carry on until the job is done. But there is absolutely no
point, in my view, of trying to set a time limit or speculate on it, because
it's not set by time, it's set by the nature of the job. All I would do,
though, is point out to you that within those six or seven days, actually
an enormous amount has already been achieved.
I think it's also important just to make one other point, which is we have
very deliberately wanted to do this in a way that protects the future of
the Iraqi people, too. And that's one reason why we went immediately in to
secure the oil installations in the south. If we weren't able to do that,
then the prospects of the Iraqi people for the future would be blighted.
That's why the air campaign has targeted very, very specifically, as precisely
as we possibly can, military command and control, the aspects of Saddam's
regime, not the civilian population.
So we're doing this in the way that we set it out to achieve our objectives.
We will achieve our objectives.
THE PRESIDENT: I have nothing more to add to that.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you've raised the possibility of holding Iraqis accountable
for war crimes. I'm wondering if now if you could describe what war crimes
you think they've committed to date. And secondly, sir, should the Iraqis
be prepared for U.S. retaliation with nuclear weapons if they were to attack
coalition forces with weapons of mass destruction?
THE PRESIDENT: You heard the Prime Minister eloquently talk about the loss
of British life. They were murdered, unarmed soldiers executed. I mean, that's
a war crime. But, you know, I'm not surprised. This man, Saddam Hussein,
has tortured and brutalized his people for a long, long time.
We had reports the other day of a dissident who had his tongue cut out and
was tied to the stake in the town square, and he bled to death. That's how
Saddam Hussein retains power.
His sons are brutal, brutal people. They're barbaric in nature. So I'm not
surprised he's committing crimes against our soldiers. I'm not surprised
to hear stories about his thugs killing their own citizens and trying to
blame it on coalition forces. I'm not surprised to know that regular army
forces are trying to desert, but get blown away by fellow Iraqi citizens.
I'm not surprised, because the nature of the man who has run the country
for a long period of time.
If he uses weapons of mass destruction, that will just prove our case. And
we will deal with it. We've got one objective in mind: That's victory. And
we'll achieve victory.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they've been sent a message in this war, too, in that
if you launch a weapon of mass destruction, you'll be tried as a war criminal.
And I urge those Iraqi generals who have any doubt of our word to be careful,
because we'll keep our word. We're going to keep our word to the Iraqi people
and we'll keep our word to those war criminals in Iraq.
QUESTION: I'd like to break the rule, because I don't think we know the details
of why you're using this word "executed" about the British servicemen.
I would like if you could explain that.
But could I ask you both -- you both talked about the history, the justness
of the cause that you believe that this war is. Why is it then, that if you
go back to that history, if you go back over the last century or, indeed,
recent conflicts in your political careers, you have not got the support
of people who have been firm allies, like the French, like the Germans, like
the Turkish? Why haven't you got their support?
THE PRESIDENT: We've got a huge coalition. As a matter of fact, the coalition
that we've assembled today is larger than one assembled in 1991 in terms
of the number of nations participating. I'm very pleased with the size of
I was down yesterday at CENTCOM and met with many of the generals from the
countries represented in our coalition, and they're proud to be side-by-side
with our allies. This is a vast coalition that believes in our cause, and
I'm proud of their participation.
QUESTION: They're not Western allies. Why not?
THE PRESIDENT: We have plenty of Western allies. We've got -- I mean, we
can give you the list. Ally after ally after ally has stood with us and continues
to stand with us. And we are extremely proud of their participation.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Can I -- in relation to our soldiers, the reason I
used the language I did was because of the circumstances that we know.
And the reason why I think it is important to recognize the strength of
our alliance -- yes, there are countries that disagree with what we are doing.
I mean, there's no point in hiding it; there's been a division. And you obviously
have to take and go and ask those other countries why they're not with us,
and they will give you the reasons why they disagree. But I think what is
important is to bear in mind two things. First of all, there are an immense
number of countries that do agree with us. I mean, I hear people constantly
say to me, Europe is against what you're doing. That is not true. There is
a part of Europe that is against what we are doing. There are many existing
members of the European Union, and virtually all the new members of the European
Union, that strongly support what we are doing. So there is a division, but
we have many allies.
And the second point I'd make is this, that I understand why people hesitate
before committing to conflict and to war. War is a brutal and a bloody business.
But we are faced with the situation where Saddam Hussein has been given 12
years to disarm voluntarily of weapons of mass destruction, that the whole
of the international community accepts is a threat, and he has not done so.
Instead, what we have had is 12 years in which he has remained in power with
these weapons intact and brutalized his own people.
Now, we felt we had come to the point where if we wanted to take a stand
against what I believe to be the dominant security threat of our time --
which is the combination of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unstable,
repressive states and terrorist groups -- if we wanted to take a stand, then
we had to act. And we went through the diplomatic process. We tried to make
the diplomatic process work, but we weren't able to do so.
And the other reason why I think it is important that we act, and why, indeed,
we have many, many allies, is because people do know that this is a brutal
regime. That is not the reason for us initiating this action -- that is in
relation to weapons of mass destruction. But it is a reason why, if we do
so, as we are doing, we do so in the full knowledge that we are, indeed,
going to bring a better future for the Iraqi people.
And if you just want one statistic -- although statistics I'm afraid never
have the same emotional appeal as pictures, but we don't see these pictures
of what has happened in Iraq in the past -- but just one statistic: Over
the past five years, 400,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died of
malnutrition and disease, preventively, but died because of the nature of
the regime under which they are living. Now, that is why we're acting.
And, yes, there are divisions in the international community. There are
many people on our side, there are those that oppose us. But that is for
us, I'm afraid --
QUESTION: -- why do they --
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I'm afraid, Adam, that is a question to ask
to other people, as well as to us. All I can tell you is why we are acting
and why we believe our cause to be just. And, yes, at the end of this whole
process, we need to go back over it and ask why this has happened. But I
simply say to you that if the world walks away from the security threat facing
us, and if we back down and take no action against Saddam, think of the signal
that would have sent right across the world to every brutal dictator, to
every terrorist group.
Now, we believe that we had to act. Others have disagreed. As I say, at
some point, we will have to come back and we'll have to discuss how the disagreement
arose. But I have no doubt that we're doing the right thing. I have no doubt
that our cause is just, and I have no doubt that, were we to walk away from
this conflict at this time, we would be doing a huge disservice to future