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Wednesday, December 29, 2004
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 29, 2004
President Discusses Support for Earthquake and Tsunami Victims
Prairie Chapel Ranch
8:38 A.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Laura and I and the American people are shocked and we are saddened by the terrible loss of life from the recent earthquake and the tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. Our prayers go out to the people who have lost so much to this series of disasters. Our hearts are also with the Americans who have lost loved ones in this tragedy. Our embassies are working with host governments to locate American citizens who are still missing and to assist those who have been injured or displaced.
This morning, I spoke with the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and expressed my condolences and our country's condolences. I told them of our support; I praised their steadfast leadership during these difficult times. We're grateful to the American and international organizations that are working courageously to save lives and to provide assistance, and I assured those leaders this is only the beginning of our help.
We are committed to helping the affected countries in the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead. We pledged an initial $35 million in relief assistance. We have deployed disaster experts to the region. All leaders expressed their appreciation for the hard work of our ambassadors and their embassy staffs to help the countries in need. As well, we're dispatching a Marine expeditionary unit, the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, and the Maritime pre-position squadron from Guam to the area to help with relief efforts.
Secretary Powell is working hard. He has spoken with his counterparts in Japan, India, Australia, as well as other nations who are helping with the response in order to begin building an international coalition for immediate humanitarian relief and long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts. Based on these discussions, we've established a regional core group with India, Japan and Australia to help coordinate relief efforts. I'm confident more nations will join this core group in short order. Under Secretary of State Mark Grossman will lead a U.S. task force to work with these partners to help coordinate interagency response in our own government and to encourage other nations to participate in the relief efforts.
These past few days have brought loss and grief to the world that is beyond our comprehension. The United States will continue to stand with the affected governments as they care for the victims. We will stand with them as they start to rebuild their communities. And together the world will cope with their loss; we will prevail over this destruction.
Let me answer some questions. Deb.
Q Mr. President, more than 50 people died yesterday, alone, in the Sunni Triangle area. And with the Sunnis backing out of the election, how concerned are you that the world and the Iraqis will view this election as credible?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you said "with the Sunnis backing out," you mean a Sunni party has backed out? Yes. I talked to President Yawer yesterday, who happens to be a Sunni, who on the one hand expressed concern about the security situation in Mosul, and on the other hand, reminded me that most people in Iraq -- Sunni or Shia -- want to vote. And so the task at hand is to provide as much security as possible for the election officials, as well as for the people inside cities like Mosul, to encourage them to express their will.
Now, Osama bin Laden issued a statement, as you know, which made the stakes of this pretty clear to me. His vision of the world is where people don't participate in democracy. His vision of the world is where people kill innocent lives in order to affect their behavior and affect their way of living. His vision of the world is one in which there is no freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and/or freedom of conscience. And that vision stands in stark contrast to the vision of, by far, the vast majority of Iraqis and leaders like Prime Minister Allawi and President Yawer, whose vision includes the freedom of expression, the freedom of the right to vote.
And so the stakes are clear in this upcoming election. It's the difference between the ability for individuals to express themselves and the willingness of an individual to try and impose his dark vision on the world, on the people of Iraq and elsewhere. And it's very important that these elections proceed.
We just got off a conference call with our acting -- not "acting" -- Ambassador Negroponte is not in Baghdad, but Ambassador Jeffrey, his number two man, as well as General Casey, talking about how best to provide the security necessary for people to feel comfortable in voting.
Q Mr. President, were you offended by the suggestion that rich nations have been stingy in the aid over the tsunami? And is this a sign of another rift with the U.N.?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed. The -- take, for example, in the year 2004, our government provided $2.4 billion in food, in cash, in humanitarian relief to cover the disasters for last year. That's $2.4 billion. That's 40 percent of all the relief aid given in the world last year, was provided by the United States government. No, we're a very generous, kindhearted nation.
You know, the -- what you're beginning to see is a typical response from America. First of all, we provide immediate cash relief, to the tune of about $35 billion [sic]. And then there will be an assessment of the damage, so that the relief is -- the next tranche of relief will be spent wisely. That's what's happening now. I just got off the phone with the President of Sri Lanka, she asked for help to assess the damage. In other words, not only did they want immediate help, but they wanted help to assess damage so that we can better direct resources. And so our government is fully prepared to continue to provide assistance and help.
It takes money, by the way, to move an expeditionary force into the region. In other words, we're diverting assets, which is part of our overall aid package. We'll continue to provide assets. Plus, the American people will be very generous, themselves. I mean, the $2.4 billion was public money -- of course, provided by the taxpayers. But there's also a lot of individual giving in America. In this case, I think it's very important for Americans who want to give to provide cash to organizations that will be able to focus resources and assets to meet specific needs. In other words, a lot of times Americans, in their desire to help, will send blankets or clothes. That may be necessary, but to me it makes more sense to send cash to organizations that could then use that cash to make sure we match resources with specific needs on the ground. There are many NGOs now involved that understand what is specifically needed to meet the needs of these countries.
This has been a terrible disaster. I mean, it's just beyond our comprehension to think about how many lives have been lost. I know that our fellow citizens are particularly troubled to learn that many of the deaths were young children, and we grieve for their families, their moms and dads who are just, you know, heartsick during this -- during these times.
Q Sir, Schroeder this morning said that the Paris Club nations should put a moratorium on this debt of Somalia and Indonesia. Is that something that you think the U.S. and other Paris Club nations should do, put a moratorium on these countries' debt?
THE PRESIDENT: We'll look at all requests. Right now we're assessing the short-term needs. We are -- there are two issues that are involved, obviously, in these disasters. One, what can we do immediately to help? And then, what needs to happen in the long-term to help these countries rebuild? And we're still at the stage of immediate help. But slowly but surely, the size of the problem will become known, particularly when it comes to rebuilding infrastructure and community, to help these affected parts of the world get back up on their feet.
Q Mr. President, are you confident that the U.S. west coast residents -- Hawaiian residents, Alaska residents -- are well enough protected with early warning systems for possible tsunamis affecting this country and coastal --
THE PRESIDENT: No, I appreciate that question, it's a -- I think that part of the long-term strategy in how to deal with natural disaster is to make sure we have -- "we," the world, has a proper tsunami warning system. As a matter of fact, the President of Sri Lanka also mentioned that to me. She said that one of the things that she and the Prime Minister of India discussed -- I'm not sure they discussed it, but they're both thinking the same way, let me put it to you that way -- is the development of a proper warning system. And I think it's going to be very -- I can't answer your question specifically, do we have enough of a warning system for the west coast. I am going to -- I am now asking that to our agencies and government to let us know. I mean, that's a very legitimate question. Clearly, there wasn't a proper warning system in place for that part of the world, and it seems like to me it makes sense for the world to come together to develop a warning system that will help all nations.
Q And seeing that as we have, does it concern you that we may not have that mechanism in place? Or is this something we can use through our civil defense air raid siren system?
THE PRESIDENT: I just have to look into it, that's a very legitimate question. I am on the -- I presume that we are in pretty good shape. I think our location in the world is such that we may be less vulnerable than other parts, but I am not a geologist, as you know. But I think it's a very legitimate question.
I've so far focused on the international approach towards a tsunami warning systems and it seems like to me it's a -- it makes sense for governments to come together and figure out how best to provide a warning system that will help all nations be prepared for such a disaster. Obviously, such a warning system was not in place.
Q Mr. President, there continues to be criticism of the speed with which American troops are being armed in Iraq. Are you satisfied with the way the --
THE PRESIDENT: If the Iraqi troops are being armed?
Q No, the U.S. troops.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I beg your pardon.
Q Are you satisfied with the pace with which the U.S. troops are being armed in Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: Are you talking about the armored vehicle issue, for example?
Q That and others.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have looked at the statistics on that, and we have stepped up the production of armored Humvees significantly. The other issue is the rearmament of existing -- of vehicles that are now in theater, vehicles that require a different armament structure than that which they initially were manufactured with. And I am told that those vehicles will be armed up by mid-summer of 2005. And what I know is, is that the Defense Department is working expeditiously with private contractors and with our military to get these vehicles armed up.
Well, listen, thank you all for coming by. I'm sorry to disrupt your day, but I felt like it was important to talk about what is going to be one of the major natural disasters in world history. And it's important for the world to know that our government is focused and will continue to respond to help those who suffer.
Q Any plans for New Year's Eve?
THE PRESIDENT: Early to bed.
Q New Year's resolutions?
THE PRESIDENT: I'll let you know. Already gave you a hint on one, which is my waistline. I'm trying to set an example.
Thank you all.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
I have decided to participate in this week's Homespun Symposium by asking the following question to the Homespun Bloggers community:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld now finds himself in the midst of the bitter and often cruel politics which have become a hallmark of the D.C. political landscape. In the past few weeks Rumsfeld has weathered criticism over his handling of the ambush-like question planted by a reporter during a question and answer session with the troops, the defense secretary has received harsh indictments from the likes of John McCain and Trent Lott, and Rumsfeld has endured embarrassing exposés fueled by Pentagon leaks.Now, before I begin with my own response I would like to apologize to the readers of Esoteric * Diatribe for my sparse blogging as of late. My work schedule has made a night and day reversal in the past few weeks leaving me precious little time. That being said...
My recent spat about liberal Republican loud-mouth John McCain came only a day or two before McCain railed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld saying that he (McCain) had, "no confidence" in Rumsfeld.
A few weeks earlier McCain said of Rumsfeld
I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence.It is no surprise to media watchers that a media-whore like McCain would say darn near anything that would make himself more popular with the press. My initial take on this story was that McCain was simply cashing in on the anti-Rumsfeld trend that seemed to take root following the ambush question at the Q&A Rumsfeld had with the soldiers a few weeks back. You may recall the question:
"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?"In all fairness, the question was pretty ridiculous. Not only was this question NOT crafted by one of the soldiers (the question was planted by an embedded news reporter trying to make his bones) but this would be tantamount to a WWII soldier asking why his jeep or truck didn't have the same basic armor as a tank.
The Humvee is basically the modern military's version of the jeep. Alhough Humvees can be equipped with additional armor, it is not intended as an heavily armored vehicle... the Humvee is nothing more than truck intended to get soldiers quickly from point A to point B OR to add support to a convoy. The Humvee wasn't designed to be a tank capable of withstanding an all-out assault. The Humvee is just a truck with a 50 cal mounted to the top. But enough about why I think the question was stupid...
The point is that this question got the ball rolling in the media and lit a fire under the libs to start attacking our Secretary of Defense (our Secretary of War, really) Donald Rumsfeld. The press didn't fairly report Rumsfeld's response to the question. Read the following if you think otherwise:
The first thing the Defense Secretary said was: "I talked to the general coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they're not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I'm told that they are being - the Army is - I think it's something like 400 a month are being done. And it's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it."I think this is as good a refutation as any of the misrepresentation being done in the media as to what was said by Rumsfeld in response to the planted question. The only thing I'd heard from the mainstream media outlets was the quick soundbite:
As you know, you go to war with the army you have. They're not the army you might want or wish to have at a later timeWithout the internet, the masses wouldn't even have the opportunity to hear the truth because the press is so agenda driven... there is no way that one could come to an accurate assessment that the media was being fair to Rumsfeld. Take for instance, Ignorance fuels Rumsfeld attack.
Nevertheless, the ball kept rolling and the attacks and angry voices calling for Rumsfeld to resign continue...
Lott Joins Anti-Rumsfeld Chorus: "I would like to see a change..."
Bayh: Rumsfeld Should Resign: "I have lost confidence in him."
Coleman steps up criticism of Rumsfeld "what you are hearing is that legitimate concerns have been raised, that they need to be addressed, that has caused some undermining of confidence in the secretary of defense. And I would hope that the president would take a close look at that, perhaps at a more appropriate point in time."
Criticism Mounts on Recent Rumsfeld Remarks
Calls Get Louder For Rumsfeld's Resignation
Poll: Rumsfeld losing public's support
Majority of Americans want Rumsfeld out
Congress Criticizes Rumsfeld Over Letters
This list could go on ad naseum.
So I return to my question: Is all the controversy surrounding Rumsfeld justified? In a word, no.
There are basically two types of Rumsfeld haters, the libs who hate him because he is doing a good job and they have always hated him anyway, and the old-school hawks who think the Powell Doctrine, slow Goliath, overly bloated military divisions working alone to win the war approach is the ONLY approach to armed combat. Apparently those guys think working in concert means 4 star generals bickering back and forth in the Pentagon about how the money should be divvied up and why their branch is the only branch capable of winning the war.
The old-school hawks want a larger army, a larger presence in Iraq, more weapons spending, etc etc ect. Because Rumsfeld used what was available: a smaller but more effective military that is fast-moving, muti-divisional, and less dependent on massive troop build-ups, the old school hawks want him out. The libs just never wanted him in the first place.
I think Steve Yuhas, who wrote Rumsfeld should stay: John McCain should Resign has it right in pointing out, "As far back as early 2002 liberals in this country (and even more who live in Europe) have been calling on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign." Steve is right, this isn't something new. In fact, this has been going on for quite some time. Steve basically says everythign I am thinking about the recent Rumsfeld situation right down to:
As to the latter criticism by family members who are not getting an autograph in their condolence letter, the Secretary of Defense will now sign all of the condolence notes personally; what a great victory for people who lost a loved one in war.I echo the call on Senator McCain to resign.
My second question, 'are these attacks on the defense secretary fair', depends on how you look at it. I do not think it is fair for Senators, who write the laws that fund the war, to criticize the Secretary of defense - who has no control over defense appropriations - regarding issues for which the Congress is responsible. I do think it is important for people to question whether we are doing enough for our troops; but I don't think these agenda driven attacks on Rumsfeld have anything at all to do with concern over the safety and well being of our troops.
Lastly, "Should he stay or should he go?" Rummy better stay. America needs the Donald Rumsfeld's of the world. America is lucky to have him. I would vote for Rumsfeld for president in a heartbeat and I would campaign for him 24-7 if he ever decided to run. I am that confident in Donald Rumsfeld.
The senators who have chastized him ought to be ashamed. The media who misreported on the recent controversy, opting for a juicy soundbite instead of the truth, ought to be replaced. The President, who stood by his Defense Secretary in the latest hyped-up snafu, ought to be commended.
Others who blogged about this topic
Being Thomas Luongo
Major Dad 1984
Ogre's Politics and Views
The Commons at Paulie World
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
BOSTON (Reuters) - A four-letter term that came to symbolize the difference between old and new media during this year's presidential campaign tops U.S. dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster's list of the 10 words of the year.Neat.
Great AmericansRonald Reagan Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Frederick Douglas This list will continue to grow. Suggest a Great American. See rules.
Blog Roll(some of this is reciprocal, others are sites I just like to read) Evangelical Outpost Powerline A Perfect Contradiction Discerning Texan Incessant Rant Conservative Eyes Jeff Blanco Tom Metzger Family Boston Brat Secure Liberty Big White Hat The View From The Core