George W. Bush photo

Exchange With Reporters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina

March 15, 2002

President's Visit

Q. Mr. President, it was a little noisy over there; could you give us your impression of what you——

The President. I was very impressed. We've got the finest soldiers in the world. We've got a great training mission, and I'm glad those soldiers are on my side.

Q. What kind of message should that display send to adversaries?

The President. Well, what the adversaries need to know is we're going to do what is necessary to have a well-trained military to accomplish a major objective, an important objective, which is, defend freedom. And the adversaries need to know that we're going to be in this for a long time, that we're going to be steady, relentless, and we're going to win.

Situation in the Middle East

Q. Sir, what are you hearing from General Zinni? Is his mission making any headway?

The President. Haven't heard from him yet, but I believe there's good progress in the Middle East. Obviously, the Israelis have moved back some of their troops. That's a positive development. And I have yet to hear from Zinni, but we will soon.

Q. [Inaudible]—troop withdrawal from Ramallah?

The President. Well, we're very pleased with it. As I said, that one of the things we've got to do is to work with both parties to establish the conditions for eventual peace. And I appreciate Prime Minister Sharon's decision. General Zinni is in the region now. We're hopeful that he'll have an impact on setting the conditions for peace, which begins with getting into the Tenet plan and then, eventually, the Mitchell plan. I thought that was a positive development yesterday.

Q. How hopeful are you that he'll be able to succeed?

The President. If I wasn't hopeful, I wouldn't have sent him.

Mikey, Mikey, Mikey [Mike Allen, Washington Post].

Q. Mr. President——

The President. Did that get any national play, that "Mikey, Mikey, Mikey"?

Q. With my family.

President's Visit

Q. What about lunch, Mr. President? What do you think of it? Are you getting ready to dig in? What have you seen today? Are you pretty happy?

The President. Well, first of all, I knew our troops were good because I've been reading reports about how good they are. I got to see firsthand—I'm going to see all day long, firsthand—the esprit de corps is very high here. These soldiers are proud to wear the uniform. Great command staff; they've got highly motivated officers; they are well-trained. Every one of the troops, as I moved down the line, spoke a foreign language. To give you an example of how well-trained they are, the medics, these highly trained young men, can conduct— they can pull a tooth or they can amputate a leg, if need be. I mean, these are fabulously trained soldiers. I'm real proud of their training.

One of the things we've got the make sure that Congress understands is that we've got to spend the money necessary to keep them highly trained. They all know we're in for a long struggle. They're prepared to make the sacrifices to meet that struggle.

I had the honor of meeting with the widows of two of the soldiers who died— and their dad and their mom of one of the guys—and to a person, they said, "Mr. President, don't falter." These people just lost a loved one, and they are just as resolved about winning this war on terror as I am. And I was very impressed by their steadfast support for what we're doing and their understanding of the sacrifices necessary to defend freedom.

Now I'm going to eat my lasagna. If it gets cold, you have to eat the lasagna. [Laughter]

NOTE: The exchange began at noon while the President was walking through the lunch line. In his remarks, he referred to U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East Gen. Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.); and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange. The Office of the Press Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of this exchange.

George W. Bush, Exchange With Reporters at Fort Bragg, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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