07 December 2005
White House Briefing, December 7
Bush/speech on the war, Iraq, president's meeting with African American leaders, Katrina investigation/status, tax reform, Rice's comments on treatment of detainees, mistakes made in Iraq
White House press secretary Scott McClellan briefed the media December 7.
Following is the transcript of the White House briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
December 7, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
-- President's speech on the war
-- Reconstruction costs in Iraq/oil revenue
-- Definition of "complete victory"
-- Money wasted on corruption in Iraq
-- President's meeting with African American leaders
-- Status of Katrina investigation
-- Tax reform
-- Secretary Rice's comments on treatment of detainees
-- Mistakes made in Iraq?
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
December 7, 2005
PRESS BRIEFING BY SCOTT McCLELLAN
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:30 P.M. EST
MR. McCLELLAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I want to make one announcement. Our economic team is having their weekly luncheon here today at 1:00 p.m., and following that luncheon, Secretaries Snow and Gutierrez will go to the stakeout and talk about the state of the economy and take some of your questions. And that should be around 2:00 p.m., and we'll announce it.
Yes, Terry, you will have to put on your jacket.
QUESTION: Why can't it be in here?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll get to your questions in a second.
Secondly, the President was pleased to speak before the Council on Foreign Relations today to continue talking to the American people about our strategy for victory in Iraq. The President today focused in on how our integrated approach is working, and he talked about two specific areas, Najaf and Mosul, where significant gains are being realized by the Iraqi people on the ground. The Iraqi political leaders and Iraqi forces are providing for the Iraqi people in those cities, and the Iraqi people are starting to see real benefits of democracy.
And there are challenges that remain -- the President talked about that -- real challenges, and we've got to continue to adapt and adjust to the circumstances on the ground as we help the Iraqi people build a free and democratic and peaceful future. It is critical that we succeed in Iraq. The President knows that we will win because when we succeed in Iraq, we will have an ally in the war on terror and we will have a country in the heart of the Middle East, a troubled and dangerous region, that can help inspire reformers in Iran and Syria and other countries throughout the Middle East. And that's important, as well.
And with that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q: Scott, at these CFR sessions, it's traditional for the guest speaker to be involved in a question-and-answer session at the end of their speech. Why did the President forego that today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this was set up as a speech from the beginning.
Q: Scott, in the Iraq's reconstruction costs, how much of that should be paid for by Iraq with its oil revenues?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Iraq's oil revenues are for the Iraqi people. It is overseen by an Iraqi ministry, and all those revenues go to help the Iraqi people. And as we move forward on the reconstruction process, what we're doing is providing support and help to Iraqi leaders and residents as they move ahead on reconstruction and economic reforms. And that's what we will continue to do.
But as we get that oil -- those oil revenues coming in more and more, and protect that oil infrastructure, that goes to help them build a brighter future. Iraq is a country with vast resources and great economic potential, and that's why it's important that we continue to address the challenges posed to its oil sector. There are those who target the oil sector, and that's why we're training Iraqi battalions to help patrol and protect the pipelines and the oil refineries and so forth.
Q: But the reconstruction is for the Iraqi people, too, so how much of that reconstruction cost --
MR. McCLELLAN: And it's not just -- and I'll point out, it's not just Americans helping, it's the international community that is stepping forward and helping. And the President touched on that in his remarks, as well.
Q: So are oil revenues excluded from reconstruction?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I mean, it's for the Iraqi people.
Q: Right. So how much of the reconstruction costs --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you might want to go and look at our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. You can go to the White House website, whitehouse.gov, and look it up. And it talks about the oil sector and the progress that's being made there. And it talks about electricity, as well, within there, and it lays out some of the challenges that lie ahead. In terms of specific amounts, I mean I think the oil production recently has been relatively steady, but there are challenges we still need to address with that.
Q: How much do the American oil companies expect to get out of this oil? I understand they're negotiating for about 66 percent, a lion's share of being able to take it over.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't speak for those companies, you'd have to ask them.
Q: You don't speak for them, but would they be -- are they negotiating now?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's up to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to determine what relationships and partnerships they build.
Q: But they're not free to determine it, we're in control of Iraq, right?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, they are in control of their oil resources.
Q: And I have one more question. How do you define "complete" -- how does the President define "complete victory in Iraq"?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he actually defines "victory" in his remarks. He talked about that today. Victory is when the terrorists and Saddam loyalists no longer threaten Iraq's democracy. Victory is when the Iraqi security forces can protect their citizens. And victory is achieved when Iraq is not a safe haven from which terrorists can plot attacks against America and others in the civilized world.
Q: -- people defending their own country, aren't they? Are they all terrorists?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. The President actually talked about the enemy. They fit into three different categories. And he talked abut the Saddam loyalists who want to return to the past, the dark past. We're seeing the brutalities of the past come out now in a trial that's being held to hold Saddam Hussein and his leaders accountable for the atrocities they committed --
Q: We didn't go in there to save them --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we're also seeing that the Iraqi people are determined to build a democratic future. And so the terrorists -- the terrorists are the smallest, but most lethal group, and the President talked about that in his remarks. And then there's some rejectionists or fence-sitter types that are -- that, more and more, are being won over to the political process. They are largely Sunni Arabs who, before, realized a lot of power because they were the privileged -- they had privileges of the few. But a democracy gives everybody a voice. And that's what -- I think people around the world want. They want to live in freedom.
Q: -- being killed in their own country, aren't they, a lot of them?
MR. McCLELLAN: The Iraqi people have made tremendous sacrifices. Our troops have made enormous sacrifices to lay the foundations of peace for generations to come and help transform the broader Middle East, which has been a dangerous region of the world that has been a breeding ground for terrorism. That's why it's so important --
Q: It wasn't a breeding ground before we went in.
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, if we weren't fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be planning and plotting to attack America.
Q: How do you know that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Because they attacked us on September 11th, they attacked us -- they attacked people in London, they attacked people in Madrid, they have attacked people across the civilized world.
Go ahead, Martha.
Q: Scott, the President, I don't believe, mentioned the word "insurgency." And going back to what Donald Rumsfeld said the other day, saying he doesn't think it's an insurgency -- why doesn't the President say that? He outlined the enemy, he never mentioned --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's important for the American people to understand exactly who the enemy is in Iraq, and they're defined in really three categories. And so I think he was laying out what we view the nature of the enemy to be in Iraq.
It's not -- I don't think the President is trying to debate over words. The President was just trying to define clearly for the American people who the enemy is, and what we're doing to bring some of those into the political process -- or the Iraqi people are doing to bring them in the political process, what we're doing to marginalize others, and what we're doing to defeat those who have come into that country seeking to create a safe haven.
Q: Is it an insurgency?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: Is it an insurgency?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would define it the way the President did in his remarks today. I think that's --
Q: So you don't want to call it an insurgency anymore?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, no, I think that's the most -- that's the best and most descriptive way to explain it to the American people. And I think the American people ought to have a clear understanding of the nature of the enemy. That's very important. In a time of war, it's important to talk to the American people and make sure they have a clear understanding of our strategy for succeeding. We are going to win. Our troops are going to succeed. And part of having a clear understanding of that strategy is knowing who the enemy is. And that's what the President was talking about again today in his remarks.
Q: One of the things about an insurgency, of course, is that most experts will tell you, it takes nine, 10 years to defeat an insurgency.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think our military commanders have talked about that before Congress.
Q: So there's no effort not to use that word because of a time --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think that the best way to describe it again is to break it into those three categories -- that's who the enemy is in Iraq -- and what we're doing to address those challenges from the threats that the Iraqi people face.
Q: One more thing. The President said that, it used to be after American troops cleared the terrorists out of a city and moved on to the next mission, there weren't enough forces, Iraqi forces to hold the area; we found that after we left, the terrorists would re-enter the city. The President specifically mentioned Iraqi forces not being able to hold these areas. Were there not enough U.S. troops to stay in those areas and hold them?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the decisions --
Q: It makes it sound like it would be up to the Iraqis that the Americans --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that the point that we've made for quite some time is that Iraqi security forces are the solution. It's Iraqi security forces that are best suited to hold cities. They know the territory, they know the people, they know who the terrorists are. And I think the Iraqi citizens in those cities and areas want Iraqi security forces patrolling their streets and protecting their lives. And training and equipping the Iraqi security forces is the way to achieve that goal. And that's why, as the President pointed out in his remarks, we've taken steps to change and adjust to circumstances on the ground, and improved the training of Iraqi security forces so that they're capable enough to hold those areas. That's the way to resolve this.
And in terms of the troop levels, the President has always made those decisions based on the commanders in the ground. If Vietnam taught us anything, it was that we shouldn't try to micromanage things from here in Washington, D.C. We should look to our commanders on the ground and let them make the decisions about what is needed, and then do everything we can to make sure they have what they needed complete the mission.
Q: But, essentially, you're saying that there were plenty of American troops to hold these cities and there was just a decision made not to hold those --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is -- no, what I'm saying is that Iraqi security forces are the solution. And that's why we've taken steps to improve our training of those security forces and adjusted to circumstances on the ground.
Q: The President mentioned corruption. How much in American taxpayer money is being wasted on corruption in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, in terms of updates, our military and I think our State Department provides regular updates. I didn't bring a figure with me that could pinpoint any of that. I don't know if there's a figure on that or not. But one of the --
Q: -- certain percentage being wasted on corruption.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one of the points the President emphasized about a young democracy -- and this applies to young democracies around the world -- is that it faces problems. Democracy, as the President said, is difficult and it's challenging when you're helping to build an emerging democracy, and you face problems like this in emerging democracies, problems of corruption. And that's why the President emphasized we need to have transparency and openness. That's why we've helped the Iraqi leaders, the Iraqi government that was elected by its people, to set up an auditing board and to set up ways to investigate corruption and hold people to account so that that money isn't being spent improperly.
The Iraqi citizens, I think, expect the money to be spent wisely. I know the American people expect that our dollars be spent wisely. If there's problems, we investigate it; and if there are problems with Iraqi money, they are now investigating. They're learning the importance of cracking down on corruption. There was widespread corruption and fraud, I think, in the previous regime. That was the nature of -- one of the aspects that defined the nature of the regime. And they put -- what the regime did was take the money and use it to build palaces and not to help the citizens of its country.
Q: Scott, could you tell us about -- well, two things on another subject. Could you tell us about this meeting with civil rights leaders and other black leaders that are meeting here on the Katrina aftermath? Is it more so about lessons learned, or is it into concrete details of solutions --
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, this is a meeting -- the President has met with African American leaders on a frequent basis, and this was a meeting that was set up mutually -- in a mutual way. I think that everybody who helped set up this meeting agreed that we'd keep it a private discussion. And if there's anything else to add after it, I'll be glad to do that. I'll be attending the meeting here shortly, if I can get out of this room in time.
Q: Well, why private when it's been so public, all the problems that have happened --
MR. McCLELLAN: Because a lot of times you can discuss shared priorities and how to move forward on those better in a quiet way. And I think the decision was just made that this would be a private discussion.
Q: So we should not expect them to come to the stakeout?
MR. McCLELLAN: My understanding is, no, but I think it's up to those individuals to make that decision.
Q: And, also, on another subject somewhat related, during the Rosa Parks event, many of the civil rights leaders were very pleased, they gave the President a standing ovation on the issue of voting rights. And from that, Reverend Jesse Jackson wants a meeting, he wants to call a meeting with the President and other civil rights leaders to talk about the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, the three sections. Have you received that letter? And is the President --
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know, I was checking on that, but I haven't heard back.
Q: Is the President amenable to talking with these civil rights leaders in reference --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he spoke about it in front of some of those civil rights leaders that you mention right now. And he talked about that at the Rosa Parks bill signing tribute. And he talked about how we need to move forward on reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act. That's an important priority. It's up for reauthorization, I believe, in 2007, and we look forward to working with Congress on it. And so I'm sure he'll continue to talk with people about it as we move forward. I just don't know about the specific letter.
Q: So what are the components of the Civil Rights Act that he wants further study on?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q: The components. We understand that he's for it, but he wants to study it to see if there's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, again, this is still a ways off before it's up for reauthorization, but the President made it very clear what his view was.
Q: Scott, on the Hurricane Katrina topic, what is the status of the administration's investigation of what went wrong with the response --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's moving forward. Hopefully, we'll be able to provide you more of an update soon. I think we'll be updating members of Congress, as well. And the lessons learned review is an important aspect of -- or an important aspect of making sure that we are learning everything we can to do a better job next time. The President felt that all levels of government had a responsibility and that all of us could have done better. There are many examples of great work -- from the first responders to federal authorities, the Coast Guard personnel rescuing people off rooftops -- and we can't ignore all of the great work that was done by those who were working 24/7 to help the people in the immediate aftermath of what was an unprecedented natural disaster.
But the President was not satisfied with the response, and that's why he directed Fran Townsend, the head of the Department of -- I mean, our Homeland Security Advisor, to move forward on a lessons learned review. And we talked about that previously with you all. It's moving forward. The Cabinet agencies have all been providing help so that we can pull those lessons together and do a better job in the future.
Q: Do you have a sense of a time frame on when there might be some kind of an announcement or some --
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll keep you posted about it. It's been moving along and we're making good progress on it.
Q: Scott, the audience that watched the President's speech today was more subdued than some that he's appeared before recently, where there were -- to use the phrase -- a lot of applause lines in front of military crowds and so forth. Did the President have any reaction to how he was received today, and the absence of those kind of "hoo-hah" lines?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President appreciated his reception. I don't know why we're having a discussion about that when there are so many important elements that he was talking about in his remarks that I think the American people care about. This was a very important speech about real progress that we're making on the ground, and I don't think any of us here at the White House get caught up in those things.
Go ahead, Goyal.
Q: Scott, so much has been written and said about torture. And I've been talking with Prime Minister of India and -- in the U.S. What they're saying is that torture means only that when terrorists are being tortured are the victims, and that families, thousands and millions have been killed by the terrorists, including now four being held in Iraq, including an Indian -- they're also being tortured by the terrorists. And also Abu Salem in India, and terrorists here are on trial, they are saying that they have been tortured. What message do you think the President will have to those families --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, who was being tortured? I didn't quite --
Q: -- one terrorist on trial in India, Abu Salem, and other terrorists --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- allegations of torture?
Q: Yes, they are claiming they have been tortured. But how about those families and the victims are being killed and tortured by these terrorists --
MR. McCLELLAN: Okay, I hear what you say --
Q: -- you have those left behind?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we face a very dangerous and deadly enemy. We have been talking about that for some time. There's been some issues that have come up recently that we've talked about in more detail; Secretary Rice has been talking about it. And we have to realize that we're in a different kind of war. And we need to do everything we can lawfully to protect our citizens, and that's what this President is committed to doing.
We all remember very well what happened on September 11th, and the President said he will never forget. Some will tend to forget, but he will not. This is a long struggle we're engaged in against an enemy that espouses a very hateful and oppressive ideology. And the President talked about, in his remarks today, how today is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. And he talked about how that generation rose to the challenge and met it, and we are safer for it. This generation now is rising to the challenge that we face to make America safer for generations to come.
Q: May I follow --
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going and I'll come back to you. I'll come back to you if I can.
Q: Thank you. Scott, I have two questions. And the first one is on Pearl Harbor.
MR. McCLELLAN: The first one is what?
Q: Pearl Harbor Day.
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, Pearl Harbor Day, okay.
Q: -- 64 years, and members of the 9/11 Commission say we are just as vulnerable to attack now as we were then. Why aren't the recommendations of the committee members already enforced? And what else does the administration plan to do to prevent another 9/11?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, a couple of things. We are acting on the recommendations that the Commission made. We are implementing 37 of 39 of the recommendations that relate to the executive branch. There's some additional recommendations that relate to Congress. The best way to make America safer and protect the American people is to engage the enemy abroad, to stay on the offensive, to fight them abroad so that we don't have to fight them here at home. And that's what this President has done.
He has led and made sure that we're taking the fight to the enemy now. Before September 11th, the enemy was taking the fight to us, but we didn't respond in a comprehensive way. We've got to fight on many fronts. And another front we've got to fight on is the home front. And that's why the President moved forward quickly on one of the critical recommendations that was made by the 9/11 Commission; that was the creation of the Director of National Intelligence. And we have a great Director in place, Director Negroponte, who is doing a great job.
We, as the Commission said, are safer, but not yet safe. We are still engaged in a war. We have an enemy that is determined, that is ruthless, and that wants to continue to attack innocent civilians. That's why it's so important that we succeed in Iraq. That's why it's so important that we continue to help to spread freedom in the broader Middle East and change that dangerous breeding ground.
Q: I have another question, please, and this one is also on Hurricane Katrina. It's three months since Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and many thousands of people are still homeless and desperate. There are experts who say the administration will have to attack the problem with the same intensity as it's engaging in, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that it's not enough to say -- are in the hands of local and state officials. Does the President realize the scope of the problem? And does he have any new plans to --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, absolutely. The President is very focused on -- and, in fact, just yesterday he met with Secretary Chertoff and other administration officials and White House officials that are responsible for overseeing these different matters from the federal government standpoint. And, in fact, there are two important issues that came up yesterday in their discussion. These are ongoing problems that need to be addressed. One is the issue of the levees and rebuilding those levees. The other is the issue of housing.
We want to make sure that everybody is getting the help they need. And many people have been put into transitional housing. They have trailers that have been set up -- at their companies, in some instances; on their old property, in other instances. There are others, a smaller number now that is still left in hotels. We're working to transition them out of those hotels and get them into apartments. We're going to make sure that they're taken care of. That's the President's commitment and that's what he's directed his administration to follow through on. And so this is very much a priority that we are focused on and that we're continuing to work to address with state and local authorities.
Q: Since the administration opposes tax increases, and there are several provisions that expire this year, including your alternative minimum tax, and things like welfare-to-work, work opportunity tax credits, would you support a bill that handles those separately?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think Congress is working to address the alternative minimum tax. The President wants to make sure that more middle-income Americans are not being hit by the alternative minimum tax, and that the tax relief we provided to those Americans, all Americans, is not taken away because of the alternative minimum tax.
We've talked about it in the context of tax reform, that it ought to be looked at in the context of tax reform, and that's something that the bipartisan advisory panel was charged with doing. And Secretary Snow is now looking at the recommendations that it made. But on the issue, right now, before Congress, we're working with them on it, and that's where it stands.
Q: But some of these other extenders are actually in the reconciliation bill, and it looks like that might not happen this year. Would you support those extenders being separated --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President very clearly stated our position the other day. We support making the tax relief we put in place permanent. It's very important. The last thing we need to do right now is raise taxes on the American people. Our economy is strong, and this would significantly hurt workers and families if we were to raise taxes at a time like this. The way to keep our economy growing stronger is to keep those pro-growth policies in place and to build upon those policies with additional steps to help workers address their health care needs and their energy needs. That's what we're doing, that's what we're committed to doing, and that's what we're working with Congress on.
And remember, we've had 4.5 -- nearly 4.5 million jobs created since May of 2003, and an unemployment rate that is down to 5 percent. We have a solid foundation for growth in place. Now we need to continue acting on that to make people's lives even better, and to also address those who are not realizing some of the benefits of our strong economy through job training and education initiatives.
Q: Right. But if you don't support -- or Congress doesn't support extending cap gains, it's still going to be around until 2008, versus these other extenders, which expire this year, including your work opportunity --
MR. McCLELLAN: The President talked about the importance of making the capital gains and dividend tax cuts permanent, because it provides certainty so that people can plan. And that's an important aspect of keeping our economy growing strong. And I don't know of any additional update we have, in terms of what we've already stated on those other issues.
Q: It sounds like you're saying it's okay for these other ones to expire, which they do --
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I didn't say that. I said I don't know of anything additional that we've said recently, beyond what we've previously stated. I'll check into it.
Q: Scott, just one question today. At yesterday's briefing, the transcript records my quoting the President in his saying, "Each year we gather here to celebrate the season of hope and joy and to remember the story of one humble life that lifted the sights of humanity. Santa, thanks for coming." When I asked you WorldNet Daily's question, will the President apologize to Christians offended by his referring to Jesus as Santa, you responded, "The President meant exactly what he said, Les." But last night, I received an email which had your name on it, which said there were two separate -- (laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: Keep working on my emails, sending you things.
Q: There were two separate thoughts --
MR. McCLELLAN: Must have been a little -- must have been a little elf. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, wait a minute, let me just tell you what was on the email --
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead. I want to give you the stage.
Q: -- which it said, there were --
MR. McCLELLAN: I think I know where you're going with this.
Q: -- two separate thoughts -- after he spoke about the meaning of Christmas, he then recognized Santa. And first of all, I want to ask, was that your email? And was it your final and conclusive answer rather than, the President meant --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it was my email. He wasn't, as you phrased it yesterday, comparing the two. Santa was at the event for the children that were there, and I don't think you want to take Santa away from all those children.
Q: Oh, no, no, I just want to clarify that the President did not mean exactly what he said, and your good correction.
MR. McCLELLAN: No, the President -- that's what the President was saying in his remarks. He was changing topics in his remarks. He stated the meaning of Christmas --
Q: But you didn't say he was changing topics in his remarks, yesterday, did you?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I actually did not attend the event. I looked back at the remarks after the briefing to see exactly what it was --
Q: But it's all clarified now.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- but what the President said stands.
Q: Can I ask a related question? (Laughter.)
MR. McCLELLAN: No, no. (Laughter.)
Brendan, go ahead.
Q: Senator Carl Levin of Michigan is interpreting Secretary Rice's comments today about the treatment of detainees as what he calls an "almost total reversal of the Bush administration's policy." Could you clarify -- you mentioned this earlier, but could you clarify the intent of Secretary Rice's comments today?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, she spelled out in a comprehensive way what our views were when it comes to the treatment of enemy combatants. And I was asked earlier, is this existing policy -- and as I stated earlier, yes, it is existing policy.
Q: Existing policy since September 11th?
MR. McCLELLAN: And I don't know what -- you said Senator Levin was making these comments?
Q: That's right.
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not sure what he's referring to, but I'll be glad to take a look at it.
Q: Just a follow-up. Could you comment on these reports that the White House is dropping its demands that the McCain provision on this topic not apply to the CIA?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one of the things we talked about recently is that we are in a different kind of war, facing a different kind of enemy. There are some difficult issues relating to how we go about dealing with people that have been captured on the battlefield, because our traditional criminal justice and military systems were not necessarily set up to address these matters. We all have a responsibility to do everything within our power, that is legal, to protect our citizens. And we need to work together to do that because we face such a determined and ruthless and deadly enemy. And that's what we're committed to doing.
The issue here is how do we deal with terrorists that are captured on the battlefield. And there are some difficult issues relating to this, as we've talked about previously. We've been working with Senator McCain -- those discussions with his office are ongoing -- so that we can come up with good solutions. And that's something that we've talked about at length recently.
Q: Scott, can I follow up what Martha was asking about, the use of the word "insurgents"? We use that term all the time. Are we wrong to do so? Is that not appropriate for what we're facing in Iraq?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'll let others make those judgments; that's up to you all to make a determination in terms of what you use. But I think it's important for the American people to have a clear sense of who the enemy is. And that's why the President has been spelling out exactly who it is and how it breaks down into really three categories.
Q: So does he think it's not -- I mean, does he -- is he not planning to use that word? Does he want you guys not to use that word?
MR. McCLELLAN: I haven't heard any discussion about it here, Mark.
Q: Is "rejectionist" a replacement word for "insurgent"?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just said, I haven't heard any such discussion about that. I think that this is what the military commanders would tell you how they would define the enemy, and it's important to have that clear understanding of who the enemy is.
Q: Do you know how long "rejectionist" has been used to describe the insurgents?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think probably people have been using it for quite some time. It's not -- I think you've got to look at "rejectionist," you've got to look at "Saddam loyalist," and there are the "terrorists." And so I don't think you can limit it.
Q: Have you used it before?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think so. But I think the best way to describe the enemy is the way the President did. And that's why I've often described it as "Saddam loyalist" and "terrorist."
Q: Scott, last week in Annapolis, the President talked about, in terms of military -- Iraqi military and security forces training, that changes had to be made because what was being done was not effective. Today, talking about infrastructure, he made the same comment saying, changes have got to be made because what was being done was not effective. Today, you used the phrase, adapt and adjust. Are all these the administration's way of saying mistakes were made?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the President quoted Senator Lieberman in his remarks earlier today, and he talked about how Senator Lieberman said mistakes have been made. But then Senator Lieberman went on to say the bigger mistake would be that we not follow through on what we're trying to accomplish in Iraq. That would be a colossal mistake, and we would create a safe haven for terrorists to plan and plot attacks against Americans. And --
Q: Does the administration believe mistakes --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and the President, in his remarks, said in that whole portion that Senator Lieberman is right in terms of decisions that have made, and historians are going to look back and make judgments in terms of the decisions that were made in the aftermath of going into Iraq. And the one thing you -- in a time of war, that you have to be able to do is adjust and adapt and make changes to circumstances on the ground. And that's the point the President was making. We have learned from experience. And he talked about how bringing in a new democracy after decades of oppression and brutality is difficult, and he talked about how it sometimes can be chaotic.
Q: So will you state from that podium that this administration has made mistakes in pursuing this war?
MR. McCLELLAN: In pursuing this war?
Q: In prosecuting --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I mean, the President talked about how we'd learned from experience, and he said, as Senator Lieberman said that we've made mistakes, and he said he's right. And so, yes. I mean, but in terms of making judgments about what those are, I don't think you can judge that at this time. Historians over time will be able to look back and make judgments about the decisions and --
Q: In acknowledging and agreeing with Senator Lieberman, what mistakes do you believe this administration has made?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, we'll let the historians look back and make those judgments. I don't think you can do it in the current time. This is something that will be looked back over the course of history. What we will do is continue to help the Iraqi people build a brighter future and adapt or adjust to the circumstances on the ground as needed. And that's what you have to do.
We have a dynamic strategy in place. That's important for the American people to understand. I think sometimes over the course of this discussion on Iraq that has been lost. But our commanders have often talked about it; we've talked about it for some time. And so this is not new, but, of course, in a time of war, there are going to be changes and adjustments you have to make and you're going to have to make improvements. Not everything is going to go the way you expect. Not everything is going to be -- go exactly as you planned it, but you have to be flexible and be able to adjust.
Let me go -- last one.
Q: Yesterday some African American Katrina survivors said that they have felt that racism played a role in the government's response. Is this something that's frustrating to the President? Is that one of the reasons why the President has these African American leaders here today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think --
Q: And also who called the meeting, please? Who made up the list?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think it was mutually agreed to between our office and others. Some of these people we have -- some of these individuals we have met with previously, and so it was a mutually agreed to meeting to talk about important priorities.
Q: Who requested the meeting?
MR. McCLELLAN: Who first requested it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll have to go back and look, but I'll be at that meeting, and if there's additional information we can provide, I will. But I think everybody wanted to kind of talk about priorities and keep this meeting a private discussion. If there's more to say afterwards, I'll be glad to do that.
In terms of the issue you brought up, I think the President has previously talked about that. When the Coast Guard personnel were in their helicopters pulling people off roofs, they weren't discriminating, they were going to save lives. They were going to help people on the ground. I think that the deep history of injustice has been exposed by the hurricanes. There has been inequality and injustice in that region and it's something that needs to be addressed.
This President has been acting to address that deep history -- injustice and inequality by moving forward on important initiatives like the No Child Left Behind, and helping making sure that every child can learn and succeed; by moving forward on important pro-growth policies that lift people out of poverty and give them the opportunity to realize a prosperous life; and by moving forward on an ownership society, because more people who have ownership in a society, the better off they're going to be; and by moving forward on faith-based and community initiatives to help those people who are in need.
Okay, thank you.
END 1:05 P.M. EST
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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