Interview of the President by the Times of LondonPresident George W. Bush
The Oval Office
June 29, 2005
10:28 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Looking forward to the G8. First of all, I enjoy the experience of working with leaders. You can imagine my respect for Tony Blair; I'm fond of Tony Blair, I like being around him. It's an enjoyable experience. I like to be with all the leaders. I find it to be a heady experience and it energizes me.
Secondly, I'm looking forward to the topics. There will be discussions other than the well known topics. Hopefully, discuss Palestinian peace -- or the Middle Eastern peace and a Palestinian state. Hopefully, we'll talk the freedom agenda; I think we will. I know we're going to talk about Africa and I look forward to talking about Africa. We've got a great record in Africa, and the reason we've got a great record in Africa is that I believe in the admonition, "To whom much has been given, much is required." And I can't wait to share ideas about what we can do going forward.
I'm looking forward to the discussion on climate. You know, this is an opportunity to take the world -- the dialogue that the world watches beyond Kyoto. I fully recognize my decision in Kyoto was unpopular. I had a reason for doing so and I've explained it for now three or four years as to why. But there's a lot we can do together. And we've got a good record and we've got some important things to share. We're spending a lot of money on research and development. We've got a strategy to move forward. And at this moment it is important to bring the developing countries into the dialogue.
And Tony Blair did a smart thing by inviting developing countries. It will be a great opportunity to be able to discuss not only how we can be good stewards of the environment, but how we can develop strategies to become less dependent on hydrocarbons and fossil fuels. And so I'm looking forward to it, I really am. I'm looking forward to getting back to Scotland, which is going to be a neat experience for me.
So let's go around the horn a couple of times here.
Q Okay. Can we pick up on Africa, then G8?
THE PRESIDENT: Please, yes.
Q Billions of dollars flow out of the U.S. every year in trade and aid to the developing world. And that figure, as you mentioned, has risen significantly on your watch. But having said that, the U.S. government still gives only .16 percent of its GDP to Africa. Is that enough? And have you got anything else to offer?
THE PRESIDENT: We will have -- we will make some more commitments. First of all, the way I like to describe our relationship with Africa is one of partnership. That's different than a relationship of, you know, a check-writer. In other words, partnership means that we've got obligations and so do the people we're trying to help; a sense of working together. We have a partnership when it comes to African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA -- it's an aggressive trade pact that President Clinton started with Congress, and then I signed extensions to it. It's working.
The truth of the matter is, when you really think about how to get wealth distributed, aid is one way, but it doesn't compare to trade and commerce. And we've opened up markets and we're beginning to see a payoff of more commerce, but as well, the effects of commerce -- entrepreneurship and small businesses.
My Millennium Challenge Account Initiative is a new way of approaching how we work together in partnership to alleviate poverty and hunger. Listen, Americans want to deal with poverty and hunger and disease -- but they don't want their money being spent on governments that do not focus attention on health, education, markets, anti-corruption devices. And I can't in good faith say let's continue to be generous -- after all, you did mention tripling the money -- but I can't guarantee the money is being spent properly. That's just not good stewardship of our own money, nor is it effective in helping the people.
And so the Millennium Challenge Account is an approach that I sponsored and strongly back. We've got to do a better job of getting the money out the door so Congress will continue to embrace the Millennium Challenge Account. In other words, we've got the programs going, but they're slower than I want. And as a result, Congress is saying, if this is such an important program, how come you're not kicking the money out the door? And I'm convinced once we get money going out the door and we can show tangible results, we'll be able to fund a lot more programs.
Thirdly, our approach, as well, has been when we see disaster, let's move it to help people. Recently, I announced a $674 million food package. I mean, I can proudly proclaim at the G8 that the United States feeds more of the hungry than any nation in the world.
Fourthly, it is important for people to understand that the contribution of the citizens of the United States is made not only through taxpayers' money, but through private contributions -- our tax system encourages people to do this. So, you know, the calculation of whatever you said -- point-oh-something of GDP -- is one way to look at it. My point to our friends in the G8 and to the African nations is, is that each country differs as to how we structure our taxes and how we contribute to help. And our contribution has been significant and there will be some more.
Q Mr. President, one country there is a lot of concern about, as you know, in Britain, in particular, is Zimbabwe, which is headed by a brutal tyrant, frankly.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he is.
Q I'm glad you say that.
THE PRESIDENT: I think I've called him that.
THE PRESIDENT: Better make sure -- remember -- I'm sorry to interrupt. The South African press was here with Mbeki and they quoted back my words -- I think I might have used those words, but go ahead.
Q Well, first, he is, as you say --
THE PRESIDENT: He's a tyrant. He's ruined a -- a country that used to not only feed Africa, in other words, an exporter of food, they're now an importer of food because of the decisions he has made.
Q Should it be the responsibility of other African countries to do more to isolate that country? And should you make what they do a condition of rich countries, giving them aid? I mean, they do seem -- they don't seem to take this seriously.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, see, I think the programs that -- I forgot to mention HIV/AIDS, by the way, a significant commitment. And the reason I just thought of HIV/AIDS, our programs are really designed to help people. For example, I've always said we should never use food as a diplomatic weapon. And, therefore, I think we ought to use the fact that we're working in partnership with countries as an opportunity to convince them to -- convince Mugabe to make different decisions. On the other hand, I don't think we ought to make -- or allow his tyranny to cause others to suffer on the continent of Africa.
I'm convinced the closer our ties grow as a result of collaborative efforts -- again, the aid program that I think about is one that requires governments to work closely together in partnership. I keep emphasizing that. But that's a different approach to development. Partnership when it comes to trade, partnership when it comes to taking direct taxpayers' money, or taxpayers' money directly, and spending it in such a way that -- with a government that is committed to people.
Those kinds of programs enable us to be more influential on the other foreign policy concerns of the particular country. And so, no, I don't think we ought to punish the people of Africa because of the man in Zimbabwe. He's already done that. But I do think we ought to continue to speak clearly about the decisions he has made -- and I do, as does the Prime Minister of Britain.
Q On the other main G8 talk, climate change, do you believe the Earth is, in fact, getting warmer? And, if so, do you believe that it is man who is making it warmer?
THE PRESIDENT: I believe that greenhouse gases are creating a problem, a long-term problem that we've got to deal with. And we are -- step one of dealing with it is to fully understand the nature of the problem so that the solutions that follow make sense. And I think one of the interesting points that I made earlier, that I'll continue to make, is that there's an interesting confluence now between dependency upon fossil fuels, from a national and economic security perspective, as well as the consequences of burning fossil fuels for greenhouse gases.
And that's why it's important for our country to do two things. One is to diversify away from fossil fuels, which we're trying to do. We're leading the -- I think we're spending more money than any collection of nations when it comes to not only research and development of new technologies, but the science of global warming. I laid out an initiative for hydrogen fuel cells. We've got a lot -- we're doing a lot of work on carbon sequestration. We hope to have zero emissions coal-fired
electricity plants available for the United States, as well as neighbors and friends and developing nations.
I'm a big believer that nuclear power, the newest generation of nuclear power, ought to be a source of energy, and we ought to be sharing these technologies with developing countries. I'm going to talk to the Prime Minister of India about that when he comes to see me.
One of these days, I'm absolutely convinced that biodiesel will become an economic form of energy here in America. We're going to need more diesel engines to begin with, but I put regulations in place, by the way, that cuts the emissions from diesel engines by about 95 percent. It's a collaborative effort between manufacturers, government, regulators, that was a substantial change in the -- will cause a substantial change in the amount of emissions from diesel engines.
In summary, technology, with the right government focus and help, is going to change how we live and will make us more economically secure and does so. We're leading the way. And I want to talk to my friends in the G8 about how we can work together in such a way to do so.
There are interesting -- I think the people and your readers will be interested to note, the market also is working. The hybrid automobiles, mainly manufactured by the Japanese, or only manufactured by the Japanese, at least in our country, are now taking off. I think there's only market penetration of a couple hundred thousand. Demand is huge now for them. We've got, in the energy bill, which I think I'll be signing here before the August break, there's a pretty good-sized tax credit for those who purchase a hybrid automobile. And the truth of the matter is, for us to fully deal with the greenhouse gases, as well as our dependency upon fossil fuels, we're going to have to figure out how to drive better. We're going to have to figure out better engines for our cars and different fuel sources for cars.
Q Mr. President, can I ask you about Iraq?
THE PRESIDENT: Please, yes.
Q Last night you talked a lot about it. You mentioned 9/11 repeatedly and the importance of -- and how Iraq is part of the broader war on terrorism. But there is evidence, isn't there, that Iraq is becoming a haven for jihadists. There's been a CIA report which says that Iraq is in danger of becoming another Afghanistan, or like Afghanistan of the 1980s.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Are you creating -- are you at risk of creating the kind of -- more of the problems that actually led directly to 9/11?
THE PRESIDENT: No, quite the contrary. We're going to -- this is where you win the war on terror, is you go to the battlefield and you take them on. And that's what they've done. They've said, look, let's go fight, this is the place. And that was my point. My point is, is that there is an ideology of hatred, an ideology that's got a vision of a world where the extremists dictate the lives -- dictate to millions of Muslims.
They do want to topple government in the Middle East, they do want us to withdraw, they're interested in exporting violence. After all, look at what happened after September the 11th. One way for your readers to understand what their vision is, is to think about what life was like under the Taliban in Afghanistan. So we made a decision to protect ourselves and remove Saddam Hussein. The jihadists made a decision to come into Iraq to fight us, for a reason. They know that if we're successful in Afghanistan -- in Iraq, like we were in Afghanistan, that it will be a serious blow to their ideology. And the interesting thing about this debate is you've got to first understand or believe that we are dealing with people that have got an ideology and kind of world vision.
That was part of the campaign, as you might remember. The debate was, is this a law enforcement measure or is a war on terror? And so my speech last night was reminding people about what I believe. General Abizaid told me something very early in this campaign I thought was very interesting. He's a capable man. He's an Arab American, who I find to be a man of great depth and understanding. He said, when we win in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's the beginning of the end -- talking about the war on terror -- if we don't win in either, it's the beginning of the beginning.
And that's how I view it. And that's what that speech said last night. And the context of September the 11th was this, we came -- we learned firsthand the nature of the war on terror on September the 11th, so when the war first came here is what I say. The last time I went to Europe I said something, which is true, I said, and many in Europe viewed September the 11th as a tragic moment, but a moment. I viewed it -- view September the 11th as an attack as a result of a larger war that changed how I view the world, as did -- and how many other Americans view the world. It was one of these moments in history that changed outlook.
And so long as I'm sitting here in this Oval Office I will never forget the lessons of September the 11th, and that is that we're in a global war against cold-blooded killers. And you're seeing that now being played out in Iraq. And we're going to win in Iraq, and we're going win because, one, we're going to find them and bring them to justice. And, two, we're going to train Iraqis so they can do the fighting. The Iraqis don't want foreign fighters in their country stopping the progress toward freedom.
And the notion that people want to be free was validated by the over 8 million people who voted, which happened not all that long ago -- although it appears, it seems to be a long time ago. I mean, it wasn't all that long ago that people were saying these people don't really want to be free. And, in fact, 8 million of them showed up, or over 8 million. And now we're back to a period where we're moving along the road forward. We're on a dual track between the security process and the political process. And the political process is about to have a key moment, which is the writing of the constitution. And I think it will be written on time, and it will be a document that will embolden others in the Middle East.
And the other point I made last night, which is very important for people to understand, is that there is a freedom movement taking place around the world. You've seen it in Europe with Ukraine and Georgia, and we're seeing it in the Middle East. And, again, the debate was whether or not certain people can be free or not. If you would review my Whitehall speech, I made that point. And, frankly, I rejected the kind of intellectual elitism of some around the world who say, well, maybe certain people can't be free. I don't believe that. I, of course, was labeled a blatant idealist. But I am. Because I do believe people want to be free regardless of their religion or where they're from. I do believe women should be empowered in the Middle East. I don't believe we ought to accept forms of government that ultimately create a hopelessness that then can be translated into jihadist violence. And I believe strongly that the ultimate way you defeat an ideology is with a better ideology. And history has proven that.
Anyway, you got me going. (Laughter.) Sorry to give the whole speech again.
Q Let me just --
THE PRESIDENT: That was an important moment to give. It's not the first time I've talked to the nation about the way forward. And it won't be the last time I've talked to the nation about the way forward. My job is to occasionally, you know, go out above the -- above the filter and speak directly to the people. I did so at the inaugural address. I've done so at the State of the Unions. I do so here. And I must continually remind people, make the connection between the -- two things, probably -- I don't know if I'm giving you more than you need, but two things that are very important for people to understand is that, one, I firmly know that we've got to defeat them there, face them there, or we'll face them again -- here or in Great Britain or anywhere else where somebody is bold enough to say we want to be free.
And the other point is, is that we're laying a foundation for peace that free societies ultimately yield peace. And I like to remind people that one of my close collaborators and friends -- somebody I'll see in Scotland -- is Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan. And it wasn't all that long ago in the march of history that Japan was our mortal enemy. And I'm convinced that they're not our mortal enemy because we helped rebuild the country, and at the same time helped them develop a democracy.
Q On Iran, quickly, the new Iranian President was a ringleader of the students who took Americans hostage.
THE PRESIDENT: Right, right.
Q He said today the wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world. Is this the kind of guy you can -- the West, the U.S. and its European allies can really do business with?
THE PRESIDENT: Time will tell. The first interface, kind of serious interface with the West will be on the EU 3 discussions about the nuclear ambitions of Iran. And our position is very clear, and that is, is that they should not be able to develop the technologies that will enable the enrichment of uranium, which will ultimately yield a nuclear weapon. I say that because they tried to do that clandestinely before, which, obviously, shows that there's a conspiratorial nature in their thinking.
And, secondly, that their stated objective is the destruction of Israel, for example. In diplomacy, it's important to establish common goals. Once you establish a common goal or common objective it then makes it much easier to work together to achieve diplomatic ends.
Our common goal is that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. That is, people universally recognize that is a valid goal, and we're hooked together on that. Our position, and the position of our EU 3 is that you shouldn't -- if that's the case, you shouldn't have the means to develop a nuclear weapon.
And so the first test as to, as you said, whether or not he can relate to the West will be on this issue, it seems like to me. And I want to thank the foreign ministers of Great Britain, Germany, and France for working in a collaborative way to send that constant -- consistent message to the Iranians.
Q Tony Blair has taken great risks and shown great loyalty to you over the last four years, and at occasionally great cost to himself domestically. What have you done for him, and is it enough?
THE PRESIDENT: The decisions we have made have laid the foundation of peace for generations. His decision making was based upon what he thought was best for the free world -- for Great Britain and the free world. What doesn't happen in our relationship is we sit down here and calculate how best we can help each other personally. That's not our -- our job is to represent something greater than that.
And, you know, we've had several press avails together, and one of the undercurrents has always been, you know, quid pro quo. Leaders think about visions that are positive and hopeful and optimistic, and you work toward that. And that's what's led my decision making process, and it's what led -- that's why we're a great alliance. Allies work together for the common good. And that's what we have the chance to do in the G8, work together for the common good in a smart way.
I admire Tony Blair. I admire Tony Blair because he's a man of his word. I admire Tony Blair because he's a leader with a vision, a vision that I happen to agree with, a vision that freedom is universal and freedom will lead to peace. I admire him because in the midst of political heat, he showed backbone. So he's been a good ally for America. And guess what? Americans admire him, too.
Q A very quick question on Europe. Europe is in turmoil at the moment politically. Tony Blair takes over the presidency of the EU on Friday. He wants to push -- he has a vision of an EU which is open, which is open to trade, which liberalizes its markets, which is economically free and dynamic. And he's got a struggle on his hands. You've said you want a strong Europe. You want a strong and integrated Europe. What's your vision of a strong and integrated Europe?
THE PRESIDENT: My vision is one that is economically strong, where the entrepreneurial spirit is vibrant. And the reason I say that is because Europe is our largest trading partner. We trade a trillion dollars a year. And it's really helpful for our own economy to have a strong, vibrant Europe -- economic Europe.
Secondly, a strong Europe is one where we can work in common cause to spread freedom and democracy. A viable EU has been -- is very important for sending messages to places like the Ukraine, Georgia, Kosovo, that with the right decision making by their governments that they're a part of the greater Europe, which is I think a really important role for the EU.
In terms of helping people who hurt, the EU can be a great partner with the United States. We can do a lot when we collaborate. And obviously we're watching with interest what has taken place during the recent EU debate, when Jos Barroso and Prime Minister Juncker from Luxembourg came, Jean-Claude. You know, my message was, was that we want you to succeed. We want you to be a partner. We want to have a partner that is viable and strong. If you have a friend, you want your friend to be strong. Strong friends make it easier to get things done.
And so it's going to be -- it'll be of great interest to me to watch how the European Union deals with its current problems. But I believe they will over time.
Q Can I just ask you quickly about Scotland?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q You're actually arriving in Scotland on your birthday.
THE PRESIDENT: I am.
Q And I wondered if you have any plans for an appropriate celebration? (Laughter.)
Q That may or may not include haggis?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, haggis. I was briefed on haggis. (Laughter.) No. Generally, on your birthday you -- my mother used to say, what do you want to eat? And I don't ever remember saying, "Haggis, mom." (Laughter.)
But I'm looking forward to going back to Scotland. I've got fond memories of Scotland. There's a fellow named James Gammell, who was a well-known Scottish investment banker from Ivory and Sime. And he had a lot of friends in Texas, and one of whom was my dad. And he had son -- he had a son my age and we did an exchange program. And my year to go to visit Scotland was I think the year we actually moved from Midland, Texas, to Houston, Texas -- quite a dramatic year for me.
Anyway, I went there and spent a month or so on their sheep farm in Glen Isle, I believe it is. It was a fantastic experience. First of all, it's a fabulous family, and their farm is beautiful. They still have the farm; it's still in their family, I'm told, by another son. Jamie is the older son who was my age, and then Billy was a person that I then reconnected with. He was an oil and gas guy -- became an oil and gas guy. And he used to come out to Midland, Texas, and we did some deals together. I take it -- he's taken his little entity and built it into a big entity. He's a very successful entrepreneur.
I see Billy on occasion. Actually, Billy and his wife, Geraldine, and their two kids came to visit Laura and me, I want to say, last year. We went to Camp David. And so we're in touch. And then I saw -- the Queen gave a beautiful dinner for us at Buckingham Palace and Gammell showed up in his kilt. And I said, look buddy, you can wear your kilt, but I'm not going to wear one, if that's all right. (Laughter.)
Q And how -- is there any -- you're staying at the most famous golf course in the world. Are you going to have some time for --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm afraid Blair has got us over-scheduled. (Laughter.) And he didn't -- he wants us to work as opposed to get a lot of recreation. I'm looking forward to walking the links, if possible. I'd like to get a little -- I'm an exercise person. And I'd like to get some exercise. Laura is going over there, so she and I can walk around together, holding hands in the Scottish mist.
Q Very romantic. Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, thanks guys, for coming. I appreciate it.
END 10:58 A.M. EDT