For Immediate Release
President Bush, P.M. Howard Discuss Operation Iraqi Freedom
Office of the Press Secretary
May 3, 2003
Remarks by President Bush and Prime Minister Howard of Australia
The Bush Ranch
11:17 A.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. This has been an honor
for Laura and me to welcome Prime Minister Howard and Mrs. Howard to
our ranch. We love coming here. It's a place for Laura and me to
really spend some private time, and spend time with a friend is --
makes it even more special. And John Howard has been a great friend.
The Australian government has been a great friend to the American
people. The Australian people are great friends with the American
people, as well.
The Prime Minister is a man of courage. He is a clear thinker; he
understands the responsibilities of freedom. America is really
grateful for the sacrifices of the Australian people and for the
leadership of Prime Minister John Howard.
On September 10, 2001, Prime Minister Howard and I stood together
at the Washington Naval Yard to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the
ANZUS Treaty. The next day, Australia and America began writing a new
chapter in the history of our alliance. On September the 14th, just
three days after the terrorist attacks, Australia invoked the ANZUS
Treaty's mutual defense provisions. Australia came to America's aid in
our time of need -- and we won't forget that.
In nearly 20 months since September the 11th, Australian and
American intelligence and law enforcement officials have worked very
closely together. Our relationship has never been stronger. And
that's good. Because together we've broken up terrorist cells, we've
disrupted terrorist plots, we've cut off terrorist financing. We
brought a lot of terrorists to justice.
And in Iraq, Australian and American forces have stood together
once again. We ended the rule of one of history's worst tyrants, and
in so doing, we not only freed the American people, we made our own
people more secure. By getting rid of Saddam Hussein, we ended the
suffering of a lot of people in Iraq. And at the same time, we made
peace more possible in the world. All Australians are justifiably
proud of the superb performance -- and I mean superb performance -- of
the Australian Air Force, Navy and Special Forces in Operation Iraqi
As you may know, I was on the USS Abraham Lincoln two days ago. I
met with Admiral Kelly. He was our highest-ranking official in charge
of joint operations. I said, I'm getting ready to see the Prime
Minister in Crawford. I said, what can I tell him about the
performance and the bravery of the Australian troops? He said, "They
are the best in the world." And for that, Mr. Prime Minister, we're
We want to thank the Australian servicemen for their service, and
particularly want to say thanks to their loved ones, who I'm sure
agonized over the fate of their -- of their husband or son or daughter,
and tell them that we appreciate their sacrifice, as well.
We're committed to defeating the threat of terror because we have
both felt terror's effects. We remember the sympathy of the people of
Australia on September the 11th, and we shared the same sympathy with
the people of Australia after the horrible bombings of Bali. The Prime
Minister showed he's not only a man of steel, he showed the world he's
a man of heart, as well, as he dealt with the great tragedy that
affected the Australian people.
We won't tire in our attempts to fight terror. Nothing will deter
us. We understand the effects of terror. We also are committed to a
world that is more peaceful and more free. We're committed to a stable
and democratic Iraq. We fully believe the people of Iraq are capable
of running their own country. We will work to provide the conditions
necessary for security, repair the infrastructure, make sure that the
life of the average Iraqi citizen is back to normal, and then encourage
the Iraqi people to decide their own feat -- fate, and run their own
government. We agree the U.N. Security Council should move swiftly to
lift the economic sanctions on Iraq.
We'll continue to work together to make the world more safe and
free. Today, we discussed the Korean Peninsula; we discussed my
commitment to move the Middle Eastern peace process forward; we
discussed a lot of key issues. I was comfortable in so doing because I
value the advice of John Howard. I trust his judgment, and I
appreciate his friendship.
Mr. Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.
Can I first, for Janette and myself, thank George and Laura very much
for inviting us to a piece of American soil that I know has a special
place in the President's heart.
To come to the United States is always an experience and an
opportunity as Prime Minister to renew the links and the friendship and
the affection between our two nations and our two peoples. But to come
to the heart of Texas and to be a guest of the President and his wife
in this wonderful hideaway -- although it doesn't appear to be very
well hidden away with this large gathering today -- is a special
Can I thank the President for the kind words that he's expressed
about the Australian military participation in Iraq. We, too, in
Australia are immensely proud of the way in which the men and women of
the Australian defense force discharged their duties. But can I, Mr.
President, congratulate you on the leadership that you gave to the
world, at times under very great criticism; at time fighting very great
obstruction; but you had a resolute, clear view of what had to be
done. And we were very pleased and very proud and very determined when
the final decision was taken to be part of that.
I think what was achieved in Iraq was quite extraordinary from the
military point of view. I think the military textbooks will be replete
with the experiences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for many years to
come. And the leadership of the United States, with the support of its
coalition partners -- Great Britain, Australia, Holland and others -- I
think has sent a very important message not only to the region, but
also to the rest of the world.
I welcome very much the personal commitment that you have given to
the securing of a peaceful outcome in the long-running and bloody saga
of relations between Israel and the Palestinians. As the leader of a
nation which has been a staunch and unapologetic friend of Israel ever
since its foundation, we also support very strongly the establishment
of an independent Palestinian state. And we see progress on this issue
as being very important to consolidating what has been achieved in Iraq
and building on the message of freedom that came out of the operation
Our bilateral relationship is very close, indeed, in so many ways.
There is a strategic and political closeness. But more important than
that, there is a very deep affection between our two nations. We have
shared a lot of experiences. You recalled that very emotional moment
at the Naval Dock Yard on the 10th of September, the first time we
met. And the next day, of course, the world changed so dramatically.
And I can remember returning by courtesy of the United States Air Force
from Andrews Air Force Base to Hawaii, and discussing with our Foreign
Minister Alexander Downer of the invoking of the ANZUS Treaty, in
consequence of what had occurred the day before in New York and
Australia and America are close friends because, above all, we have
similar values. In the end, the thing that binds nations together more
than anything else is the commonality of their values. And we have a
view of the world that puts freedom and individual liberty, a belief in
market outcomes, where appropriate, at the center of the activities of
both our nations.
Mr. President, I'm very honored to be here. Janette and I have
greatly enjoyed your hospitality. We wish you well. We respect very
much the leadership that you, personally, and your administration
brings to the affairs of the world. And we think the world is a safer,
more optimistic place as a result of our joint efforts in Iraq, and we
think that is a message which is resonating around the world. And we,
too, have one aspiration for the Iraqi people, that they can live in
freedom and they can run their own affairs, and they can benefit from
the great civilization and the great resources which, unhindered, are
at their disposal.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, John.
We will answer a couple of questions, two per side. Barney, do you
have a question? (Laughter.) He doesn't have one? Then we'll start
with Patsy. Patsy is a fine Australian, and as you know. Tomorrow is
her birthday. (Laughter.)
Go ahead and ask a soft question, now that I've set it up.
Q Sir, in honor of your guest, I'll ask it in Australian, if
that's all right. (Laughter.) Is there a possibility that you may
never find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? And how would that
square with your rationale for going to war?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes -- the question is about weapons of mass
destruction. Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The
United States -- United Nations Security Council voted 1441, which made
the declaration it had weapons of mass destruction. It's well-known it
had weapons of mass destruction. And we've also got to recognize that
he spent 14 years hiding weapons of mass destruction. I mean, he spent
an entire decade making sure that inspectors would never find them.
Iraq's the size of the state of California. It's got tunnels, caves,
all kinds of complexes. We'll find them. And it's just going to be a
matter of time to do so.
Q Mr. President, if I could ask, the Prime Minister has also
said that Australian-American ties have never been stronger than at the
moment. What impact will that have on Congress when it considers an
FTA for Australia? And what sort of timeline are you thinking of for
THE PRESIDENT: Right. Well, I appreciate you asking that. I'm
firmly committed to an FTA with Australia. I am hopeful that the
Congress feels the same way I feel.
We discussed the matter. I asked the Prime Minister, are we
making, from the U.S. side, a strong enough effort to move the process
along? Is Ambassador Zoellick doing what he's supposed to be doing, in
terms of getting this trade agreement done? And the Prime Minister
assured me that was the case. And so that made me feel good. The idea
is to try to get this thing done by the end of the year, and then, of
course, get it to our Congress in '04. It's -- I believe we can get it
done, and I think it's an important -- will be an important step in our
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Amen to that.
Q Sir, you guys now have in custody 18 of the 55 most wanted --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
Q -- including several senior members, Tariq Aziz and others.
What are you learning about where Saddam might be --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right.
Q -- what his status is, or also about weapons?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The question is about -- we've captured 18 of the
55, I think you said. And we're still looking for Baghdad Bob, I want
you to know. (Laughter.) Anyway -- what are we learning? Well, we're
learning that, for example, that Tariq Aziz still doesn't know how to
tell the truth. He didn't know how to tell the truth when he was in
office. He doesn't know to tell the truth when he's been -- as a
And the -- but we will find out a lot about the nature of the
Hussein regime as time goes on because more and more people will come
forward. It may not be the Aces, Kings, and Queens, and Jacks that do
the talking. It may be those who were doing the -- carrying the water
for the Aces, Kings, Queens, and Jacks that do the talking.
And we will learn a lot when the Iraqi people -- as the Iraqi
people continue to come forth. And when we feel like sharing the
information with you, we will. It's -- you'll probably learn it before
I will in certain cases. But what we're going -- the world will find
is, the man had a program to develop weapons of mass destruction, that
he had terrorist connections, and that he was, by far, one of the most
brutal dictators in the history of the world.
People in Australia and America can't imagine what -- when John and
I say how brutal this guy is. This is a guy that cut the tongues out
of dissidents and let them bleed in town squares. That's just --
that's beyond the imagination of the Australian people to think that
could possibly happen. It happened. And more and more people will
find out the nature of this regime as time goes on. I don't know
whether the Aces will talk. I don't know whether the Kings will talk.
But many Iraqi citizens will talk. And the more we learn, the more the
world will find out about the true nature of the Iraqi regime.
Q President Bush, can you give us an idea of the sorts of
things that you and the Prime Minister did at the ranch last night and
this morning? And when do you plan to visit Australia?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, as soon as possible. I don't know what that
means, though. So it's kind of what we -- that's called a "dodge."
(Laughter.) I'd love to come to Australia.
We -- so I get out a coffee -- of course, got Laura some coffee
first thing in the morning. And I look out my window and there's the
Prime Minister ready to go for a stroll. So I hustled and got dressed,
and we went for a good walk. And I'll tell you something, the guy --
I'm a pretty good athlete; he walks a good clip. I was breathing hard,
and Barney was breathing harder. (Laughter.) We had trouble keeping
up with him.
But one of my favorite things to do is to show this place to
friends. And so, the Prime Minister and Mrs. Howard and Laura and I
went -- traveled the ranch. And I took him to my favorite spot which
is this canyon, and there's a waterfall. It rained a couple of days
ago -- actually last night -- so the water was moving pretty good. And
it's just a special part of the ranch.
We've got a lot of different variety of hardwood on this ranch.
It's hard to tell it from this spot, but north of here, and -- there's
a creek and intersection to a river, and there's some just fantastic
trees in these bottoms. And John and I went and spent some time down
We visited a lot about our mutual interests. He's obviously very
knowledgeable about a lot of the world. And we spent a lot of time
talking about Indonesia and the threats that emanate out of Indonesia,
and what the Australian government is doing to work with the Indonesian
government to make Australian people -- and America, for that matter --
We had a pretty good dinner last night -- a little beef. And,
fortunately, the Prime Minister wanted to go to bed early -- because I
did, too. (Laughter.) And we had a great visit. We'll go and have a
lunch. One more tour of the ranch and have a lunch. The one thing I
regret is he didn't go fishing with me yesterday afternoon. He wanted
a little rest. But I love having him here.
I can't tell you what a comfort it is to talk to him on the phone.
He's steady. You know, times get tough when you make tough decisions,
and we both made a tough decision, but there was never any doubt in his
mind. He was steady under fire. He stood his ground when he needed to
stood his ground, because he understands the difference between right
and wrong. And he knows the difference between slavery and freedom.
And I'm honored to call him friend, and really am glad he's here.
Thank you all very much. Hope you enjoy your stay in this part of
the world. By the way, they tell me Australia and Texas, they've got a
lot in common. Having to watch this man perform, I agree.
(Laughter.) The biggest compliment you can pay to somebody, at least
in this part of the world, is you're kind of like a Texan.
(Laughter.) Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay, Barney, come on. Quit showing off.
END 11:40 A.M. CDT