Bush Goals: Win War, Protect Homeland, Strengthen Economy
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 9, 2002 Winning the war on terrorism and protecting the American homeland require a sustained national commitment, according to President Bush.
At a late afternoon White House press conference July 8, the president urged Congress to help advance three national goals. "We need to win the war; we need to protect our homeland; and we need to strengthen our economy," he said.
"Congress simply must fund our troops while they're fighting a war," Bush said. Calling on the Senate to pass the fiscal 2003 defense appropriations act, he stressed that the nation is at war and "budget priorities and actions need to reflect that reality."
The president also said Congress must provide funds to improve security at U.S. airports, noting that "further delay is intolerable."
Asked if U.S. officials are going to find Osama bin Laden before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack on America, Bush replied that the "war on terror is a lot bigger than one person." He said U.S. officials haven't heard from the al Qaeda leader in a long time.
"Osama bin Laden, he may be alive. If he is, we'll get him," Bush vowed. "If he's not alive, we got him," he added, drawing laughter from the press corps.
Still, the war on terrorism is going to be a long struggle, he stressed. "We're talking about networks that need to be disrupted, plans that need to be stopped. These people are cold-blooded killers. They're interested in killing innocent Americans, still. And therefore, we will continue to pursue them."
U.S. and international officials are making "good progress" in that effort, he said. "We're rounding people up slowly, but surely. We're disrupting networks."
The terrorists are international criminals who "hide and order things up and hide again," he said. "We're just patiently hunting them down."
The president said he seeks justice, not revenge, for the deaths of America's people. He said he can understand people's frustrations with this war.
"Everybody wants to be a war correspondent," Bush said. "They want to go out there and see the tanks moving across the plains or airplanes flying in formation, but that's not the way this war is going to be fought all the time."
A lot of actions take place that the public will never see, he said, noting as an example Abu Sabaya, a top leader in the Abu Sayyaf terrorist gang who was killed recently by Philippine troops.
"We're constantly working with nations that might become havens for terrorists, to make sure that there's no place for them to bunch up or train," the president said. "We're making progress. But it's a long journey, and that's what people have got to know."
Turning to Iraq, Bush acknowledged he has been involved in military, diplomatic and financial planning aimed at removing dictator Saddam Hussein.
"It's the state policy of this government to have a regime change, and we'll use all tools at our disposal to do so," he said. "I'm a patient person, but I do firmly believe the world will be safer and more peaceful if there's a regime change in that government."