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President Bush speaks exclusively to ABC News for the first time since the capture of Saddam Hussein.
President Bush spoke to ABCNEWS' Diane Sawyer. (ABCNEWS.com)
Excerpts From Interview With President Bush
Dec. 16ﾑ Following are extended excerpts from an interview President Bush gave to Primetime's Diane Sawyer on Dec. 16. It was the president's first one-on-one interview since the capture of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Dec. 13.
DIANE SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Was this the best day of your presidency?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ No. The best day of my presidency was when I was sworn in as President and ﾑ because it gave me a chance to assume this high office and implement a strategy that would make the world more peaceful and more free and a country more compassionate. That's so far been the best day of my presidency.
This has been a presidency with a lot of dramatic moments, however, and, of course, the 13th of December was a very dramatic moment. September the 11th, 2001, was a dramatic moment. It's been a presidency that has been an active presidency for the sake of peace and freedom, and, therefore, there's been ﾑ there are a lot of interesting stories to talk about.
Hearing the News
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I was at Camp David. Laura and I went up to Camp David to make sure that the remodeled cabins were ready for Mother and Dad and some of my brothers and sister. And so she was out scouting around the place, and I was at what they call Aspen, which is the presidential cabin [at Camp David], reading the book on Ben Franklin. And the phone ﾑ the man came in, the guy at the house came in and said, "There's a secure phone call from Secretary Rumsfeld." That doesn't happen very often. And my first anticipation was something bad had happened. And he got on the phone and said, "First reports aren't always accurate, but John Abizaid thinks that we have captured Saddam Hussein."
DIANE SAWYER:ﾊﾊ At that moment, what happened inside you?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ At that moment, a cautionary note came, because I had been disappointed before. My instincts were to say, "That is good news, but let's make sure it's true." ...
It was the next morning when Ms. Rice called ﾑ that would be Condi Rice ﾑ 5:15 in the morning, saying, "It has been confirmed out of Baghdad that we have captured Saddam Hussein," that I began to get this sense of joy for the Iraqi people and a sense of accomplishment for our troops ....
You know, my dad called me during this series of phone calls I was making to our allies and friends, and he said, "Congratulations, son." I said, "Dad, this is a joyous moment for the Iraqi people."
DIANE SAWYER:ﾊﾊ But did you have a moment just father to son after 12 years in which Saddam Hussein had called you "the son of the viper"?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Right. No, not really. I was busy, believe this or not. Look, I had phone calls stacked up, and I wanted ﾑ I didn't want to keep other foreign leaders waiting. It was ﾑ it was a touching moment because Dad ﾑ I could sense this great sense of pride in his voice, and ﾑ but it was very important for him to realize that the moment is ﾑ it's an important moment, but there's nothing final about it. The only thing that's final about it is that the Iraqi people don't have to worry about Saddam ever again. But there's no finality for me. There's a lot more to be done in Iraq. ...
DIANE SAWYER:ﾊﾊ What did your Mom say?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I haven't spoken to her yet. Now, I know you probably don't think I'm telling the truth, but I'm telling you, I haven't checked in with her. She'd probably say, "Next time you go on TV, keep your hair better combed," knowing her. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ You have said, "Wanted, dead or alive." Were you sorry it was alive?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊﾊﾊ I'm glad that chapter in Iraqi history's over with.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ One way or the other?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Yeah, absolutely. And ﾑ because, see, there were some people who were told that Saddam is coming back and, therefore, shouldn't risk anything for peace and freedom. And now they know he's not coming back, and I look forward to the trial. We had an interesting discussion yesterday which I'll be glad to share with you my sentiments, if you'd care to hear them, about how I think he ought to be tried by the Iraqis. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ And if he does not get the death penalty, will you be disappointed?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Well, I'm...let's just see what penalty he gets. But I ﾑ I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty and ﾑ for what he has done to his people. I mean, he is a torturer, a murderer, and they had rape rooms, and this is ﾑ this is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice. But that will be decided not by the president of the United States but by the citizens of Iraq in one form or another. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ But you also said in a way that will stand international scrutiny ﾑ
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Yeah, that's right, and what I meant by that is, you know, you don't want a kangaroo court. I don't know if you saw the instant outburst when Bremer got up and said, "We got him," and some journalists, I believe they were journalists, started screaming, "Death to Saddam." And there needs to be a process that people ﾑ that is transparent and open and people are able to see exactly what's ﾑ what's going on.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Do you ﾑ does that mean you want an American role in it to ensure some international vantage point?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Well, there is an American role in it already because the ﾑ until we ﾑ
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ But ﾑ
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ ﾑ transfer for sovereignty, and it would be during this process that we'll be working with the Iraqis to develop a system that ﾑ that people will say it's open and it's fair.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ But in terms of an American presence in the rial itself?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I don't think so. I think the Iraqis are plenty capable of conducting the trial itself. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Would you like to see him?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ No. I don't care to see him.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I have no ﾑ I've seen him. I've seen enough of him. I saw him getting deloused and after having been pulled out a rat hole.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ His daughter has said that those photos were disrespectful and humiliating to him, but he also seemed sedated, by the way.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Yeah.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Was he sedated? And was it designed to humiliate him?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ No, I don't ﾑ first of all, I don't know if he was sedated or not. I mean, that's a question you'd ask the folks in the field. Secondly, it was designed to reflect the truth and to show ﾑ and to show the world that this barbaric person was found in a hole, hiding, cowering, that ﾑ it's also interesting that he's going to receive the justice that he never gave others. And it's ﾑ it's a dramatic moment. And I can understand a daughter being concerned about her dad. I mean, presumably somewhere in this hard, barbaric heart there was some love for his child. And ﾑ but he showed no love for the Iraqi people, particularly those that dared express an opinion other than his. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Two little questions I'm just afraid I'll forget. One of the members of one of the congressional intelligence committees said this morning that it would be perfectly all right on Saddam Hussein to use some of the measures ﾑ not torture, but sleep deprivation, cold, some of the things that can be induced to make him uncomfortable. Do you endorse this?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I have no idea what ﾑ how they're going to interrogate. I do know that this country doesn't torture.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ And it's all right if they use the other means?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I have no idea what they're going to do, but we do not torture. ...
Weapons of Mass Destruction
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ We read that he has already said no weapons of mass destruction.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Yeah. You've read that for many, many years.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ But that he is talking. Has he said anything that is new? ...
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I wouldn't trust a word he said. He ﾑ he's deceived and lied to the world in the past. He's not going to change his stripes. And I wouldn't ﾑ I wouldn't hold much account to the word of Saddam Hussein.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Do you think he was directing the raids on Iraq now that you've seen him, now that you see where he was hiding ?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I don't think we know enough yet, and what we do know is that he's a dangerous man who gassed his own people, who murdered people, who invaded Kuwait, and ﾑ and that the world is safer without him. And the Iraqi people can now close that chapter, that ugly, brutal chapter of their history, and show the world they can govern themselves.
Osama Bin Laden
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Many people have said, "Saddam Hussein. All right. What about Osama bin Laden?" VIDEO OF OSAMA
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Well, he's ﾑ he's ﾑ we're on his trail, too. He's ﾑ
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Well, I don't know. It's ﾑ it's ﾑ you know, had you and I conducted this interview the day before we captured Saddam, you'd have said, "Are we close to Saddam?" And I would have said, "You know, I really don't know." And I knew that we have a strategy to find him, but I didn't know how close we were. And I don't think you know how close you are on finding somebody like this until you actually find them. I mean, this is a person hidden in a hole and in a country the size of California. And bin Laden's on the run. I mean, he's ﾑ all I can say, he's certainly not leading any parades these days. And, you know, he's probably in a hole somewhere hiding from justice. We'll get him.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Dead or alive?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Dead or alive.
U.S. Losses in Iraq
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Does the capture of Saddam Hussein mean that the troops will come home?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ The troops will come home when we've completed the mission and ﾑ which is a free and secure Iraq. And the capture of Saddam Hussein is a great tribute to the bravery of our troops. And it's a great tribute to the capacity for us to gather intelligence, actionable intelligence, and be able to respond to it very quickly. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ I'm thinking that most mornings, I assume in that office right through that door ﾑ
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Yes.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ ﾑ you get the reports on deaths and casualties.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I do.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ As Americans do when they wake up every morning.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Yeah.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ When you hear, on an average, nine ... every day, what do you say to yourself in that office?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I, first of all ﾑ and, you know, I've seen the grief of the moms and dads and husbands and wives and children firsthand. I've had ﾑ one of my duties is to ﾑ is to, you know, console as best as I can, and weep or hug or whatever is necessary to do my part to try to help. And ﾑ but I say thank God our country has got people willing to sacrifice on behalf of peace and freedom ... I have had to make some very difficult decisions about sending brave young Americans into harm's way. And in so doing, they lost their life, and I've asked for God's blessings on their ﾑ on the people that love them.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Is there ever a point at which you would say this is too many, this is too high a price to be paying?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ The ﾑ my job is to do everything I can to protect America and Americans. We are at war, and the war on terror is ﾑ is the challenge of the 21st century, and we must win the war. And there are different fronts on the war on terror, and I will continue to do what I think is necessary to win that war. I ﾑ and the key for me is to remind the loved ones that their troops are getting what is necessary to achieve this objective, that this government's supporting them, and that ﾑ and that we honor their memories, and we will not stop short of the objective until we have achieved the objective. ...
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ ... The way to dishonor a memory of a fallen soldier is to quit too early, is to not to see that America is a more secure country and the world is a more peaceful place. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ I guess for the family, how ﾑ maybe the question they would ask is, How much do you suffer with each death?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I, I, I'm ﾑ I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a son or a daughter, or a husband, and ﾑ or a wife, for that matter, and I ﾑ it pains me. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ ... Will we have fewer troops in Iraq this time next year?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ That depends on the commanders on the ground, and it's very important for you to understand how I think the commander in chief ought to run a way and a reconstruction effort. My job is to set the goal and to make sure our troops and planners have got the resources necessary to achieve the goal. I depend on the commanders on the ground to make the decisions necessary to achieve the goal: troop levels, troop rotations. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ ... We keep hearing that 40 percent of the casualties are among the Reserves and the National Guard, and their families have talked about the fact they're in Humvees with soft sides. Some of the families have actually sent flak jackets over saying, "Can we give you any help?" Are we saying there is nothing more that can be done to protect them, that the casualties just have to be absorbed every day?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ No, I don't think people feel that way. I mean, that would be ﾑ if anybody ﾑ well, first of all, my, my job is to continue to ask those questions to our, to our military. What more can we do? Can we change flight patterns? Can we harden assets? Can we detect and defuse IEDs? the, these explosive devices, before they happen? And we've asked other countries for technology to help protect our troops. We're doing everything we can to protect the troops, and it's important for their loved ones to understand that.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Sen. John McCain has said that at times, commanders in chief have to go to the military and overrule them, and more troops are needed right now.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I asked John Abizaid, who is the general in charge of that theater, does he need more troops. He said we've got what we need. As a matter of fact, the strategy is to, is to have more troops but they would be Iraqi troops, Iraqi police, Iraqi civil defense corps, and there's about 160,000 trained Iraqis that are in charge of their own security. The truth of the matter is for Iraq to emerge as a free society, the Iraqi citizens must step up, and I think ﾑ I truly believe that the arrest of Saddam Hussein will encourage more Iraqis to step up, because the doubt as to whether or not he'll return has now been removed. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Once again, through that door this morning, presumably, you received the threat matrix which you get every morning.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I did, yes.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ Are more al Qaeda in Iraq today than they were before the war? Are more al Qaeda in the United States today than there were before the war?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ Interesting question. It's hard to quantify that. Ansar Islam, which is an al Qaeda affiliate ﾑ I would call him al Qaeda ﾑ was active in Iraq before the war ﾑ hence, a terrorist tie with Iraq, and they are still active in Iraq. I don't know the numbers. It's hard for us to quantify yet numbers, but they suffered a pretty serious blow when the war first broke out in Iraq, and how many have been able to return or how many we've brought to justice, it's just hard to tell right now. In terms of our own country, you know, we pay a price for being such a free country. People move, are able to move in and out. They're able to burrow into our society. We're doing a better job of understanding who's coming in and who's leaving. But if there is a sleeper cell here, we're doing everything we can to find them and disrupt them.
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ How many Arab sleepers do we have now?
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ I can't answer the question. ...
SAWYER:ﾊﾊ But Secretary Rumsfeld, in his famous memo that was leaked, worried that more radicals are being produced in the schools, Islamic schools than we're capturing, than we can kill, capture or otherwise contain.
PRESIDENT BUSH:ﾊﾊ No one said the war on terror is going to be short. I mean, this is going to be a long struggle. And the United States, and our friends, including the French and the Germans, must continue to cooperate, which we are on a number of fronts, to defeat those who hate freedom and who spread a message of hate and intolerance. ...