Interview With the United Kingdom's ITV
Prime Minister Blair/Iraq/G-8
Sir Trevor McDonald. Mr. President, the G-8 summit will be chaired by Tony Blair. He wants to get new international agreements on aid, on trade, and on climate change. Now, he gave you unstinting support over the war in Iraq; can he expect the same support from you over the G-8?
The President. You know, Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for the people of Great Britain, and I made decisions on what I thought was best for Americans. And I really don't view our relationship as one of quid pro quo. I view our relationship as one of strong allies and friends working together for the common good.
Having said that, I bring a strong record of support for countries in Africa. I think people are going to be surprised to learn about all the efforts we've made here in America to clean up our environment and to invest in new technologies. And so I'm confident we'll have a good G-8.
Mr. McDonald. On the question of Tony Blair, his support for you on Iraq probably damaged him politically at home. Supporting his proposals in Edinburgh might be one way of paying him back and making sure that he can probably repair some of that damage.
The President. Well, again, I really don't view our relationship as one of—you know, we both make decisions and try to earn credit with each other on a personal basis. Tony Blair made decisions on what he thought was best for keeping the peace and winning the war on terror, as did I.
So I go to the G-8 not really trying to make him look bad or good, but I go to the G-8 with an agenda that I think is best for our country. And I believe this: I believe that we have a duty and an obligation to help folks who suffer on the continent of Africa and have done so—we've tripled the aid to Africa. We've got a significant role in helping to defeat HIV/AIDS, a $15 billion program over 5 years. And there is more we're going to do, and I look forward to working with Tony and the other leaders to help the African countries succeed.
I will say something about African countries—they're not going to succeed, however, if they don't make good choices— good governance choices and investment in their people.
Mr. McDonald. If I may, Mr. President, we will come back to the question of African aid.
The President. Okay, sorry.
Climate Change/Kyoto Protocol
Mr. McDonald. But can I start with the subject of climate change, which is one of the subjects on the G-8 agenda?
The President. Sure.
Mr. McDonald. Now, the majority of the world's leading scientists now agree that climate change is a reality. Do you agree with their conclusion?
The President. I believe it is a significant, long-term issue that we've got to deal with. And that's why my Government is dealing with it. We spent I think over $20 billion since I've been the President to not only research the issue of greenhouse gases but to develop technologies that will enable us to diversify away from fossil fuels. And I look forward to discussing this agenda with not only the G-8 leaders but also with the leaders of developing countries, countries like India and China.
Mr. McDonald. Do you accept that climate change is manmade, sir?
The President. To a certain extent it is, obviously. I mean, if fossil fuels create greenhouse gases, we're burning fossil fuel, as is a lot of other countries. You know, look, there was a debate over Kyoto, and I made the decision, as did a lot of other people in this country, by the way, that the Kyoto treaty didn't suit our needs. In other words, the Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy, if I can be blunt.
And so my hope is—and I think the hope of Tony Blair is—to move beyond the Kyoto debate and to collaborate on new technologies that will enable the United States and other countries to diversify away from fossil fuels so that the air will be cleaner and that we have the economic and national security that comes from less dependence on foreign sources of oil. For that end, for example, we're investing in— or to that end, we're investing in a lot of hydrogen—research on hydrogen-powered automobiles. I believe we'll be able to burn coal without emitting any greenhouse gases, zero emissions plant.
And so therefore, we've got to spend money and share technology as to how to move forward.
Mr. McDonald. But Mr. President, if I may, the predictions about global warm-ing—and I hear what you say—are very dire. The UK's chief scientist says that it probably poses a bigger threat than global terrorism. Isn't it, therefore, irresponsible for you to say, as you've done, that you walked away from Kyoto and you won't order cuts in carbon dioxide emissions because it would damage America's economy?
The President. I walked away from Kyoto because it would damage America's economy, you bet. It would have destroyed our economy. It was a lousy deal for the American economy. I felt there was a better way. And that's why——
Mr. McDonald. But is that putting American industrial, economic interests above the global interests of the environment?
The President. No, I think you can do both. See, I think you can grow your economy and at the same time do a better job of harnessing greenhouse gases. That's exactly what I intend to talk to our partners about. I don't think you can expect any American leader to wreck the economy, nor as an ally and a friend of America and a trading partner of America should you want us to wreck our economy.
On the other hand, what you would want us to do is to use our investment capacity as well as our research capacity to come up with new ways to power our economy, new ways to energize our economy. And that's precisely what we're doing, and I look forward to sharing those ideas.
Secondly, the Kyoto treaty wouldn't work unless all nations were involved. And as you know, many of the developing nations weren't involved in Kyoto. So some of the discussions we're going to have at the G-8, thanks to Tony Blair's leadership, is to work with India and China as to how to share technology with them, so that we can all work together to clean up the environment and at the same time have sustained economic growth.
Debt Relief/Aid to Africa
Mr. McDonald. You recently helped, Mr. President, to scrap the debt burden on some of Africa's poorest countries, and you've won some praise for that. But shouldn't a country as rich as yours be giving much more in direct aid to these poverty-stricken countries of Africa?
The President. Well, we've tripled the budget on direct aid to the countries in Africa since I've been the President—tripled it. We have got a great trade agreement with the African nations called AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and that is working. I just announced a $674 million food relief package. We're spending $15 billion on HIV/AIDS. No, we're leading the world when it comes to helping Africa.
But we've done something else that I think is smart and I think our taxpayers appreciate. And that is that we're saying, "Now for increased aid, you, the leaders of Africa, must have transparency in your Government. You must fight corruption. You must invest in the health and education of your people." In other words, we're not going to invest in governments that are corrupt.
Mr. McDonald. So this is aid with strings attached?
The President. No, this is aid—this is partnership. This is saying to nations, "We want to work with you as partners, partners in alleviating poverty, partners in helping fight HIV/AIDS. But you've got a role to play. You, the leaders of African nations, you've got a role to play to make good governance decisions." That's what the taxpayers of my country expect, and I hope that's what the taxpayers of Great Britain expect—is expect us to, when we make investments in countries—that they work. And they don't work if a nation doesn't invest in its people.
Mr. McDonald. I hear what you say about tripling the aid to Africa, but it's still only—it's less than naught.2 percent of gross domestic national product. And that is less than what the United Nations talks about of having naught.7 percent. Some European countries are moving towards that. Why can't America?
The President. You know, there's all kinds of ways to calculate how generous we are. Let me just tell you this: If you take all the food aid, America is by far the most generous country. If you take the direct aid, we're very generous. But when you add on our private contributions—see, our tax system encourages private citizens to donate to organizations that, for example, help the folks in Africa. And when you take the combined effort of U.S. taxpayers' money plus U.S. citizens' donations, we're very generous. And we'll do more. And I look forward to talking about doing more at the G-8. But I've got to tell you, I'm very proud of the generosity of the United States.
Mr. McDonald. But what about that kind of aid which is linked to the buying of American goods and services? You say you give aid on the condition that people buy American goods and services. That's not very generous, is it?
The President. I'm not exactly sure what you're talking about there. What I'm talking about is our Millennium Challenge Account that says, "We want to help you, but you've got to have good governance. You've got to fight corruption." Why does it make sense, for me as the person who's supposed to be the wise guardian of the taxpayers' money, to send money to a country and know the Government is going to steal it? That doesn't make any sense.
What does make sense is for our generous Nation to help countries that make good choices about how they govern, about transparency, but also good choices about investing in the health and education of their people. We're more than willing to help, and we're leading the world when it comes to help. And I wouldn't call it conditions-based, what I call it is——
Mr. McDonald. What about a country like——
The President. ——partnering, working together.
Mr. McDonald. But what about a country like Uzbekistan, Mr. President, with a shocking, appalling record of human rights, getting tens of billions of dollars of American aid because you have American bases there?
The President. Again, I'm not exactly sure of the numbers you're throwing out there, but no question we have an American base there. They've been very helpful in helping fight the war on terror.
On the other hand, we are sending very clear messages that we expect minority rights to be honored, that people ought to be allowed to express themselves in the public square without fear of reprisal from the Government.
Mr. McDonald. Mr. President, on the question of trade, how can it be morally justified for the world's richest country to subsidize its farmers so that they can sell their goods cheaper than farmers in the Third World and, as a result, put those farmers in the Third World out of business?
The President. That's precisely the question we've been talking to the EU about. There are tremendous agricultural subsidies in the EU. We——
Mr. McDonald. Yes, but—I put those questions to the EU if I were talking to somebody in the EU, but——
The President. No, let me—let me finish. Let me finish. I was about to say, we've got agricultural subsidies, not nearly to the extent that our friends in the EU have, and therefore, we went to Doha round, WTO—Doha round of the WTO and said, "Let's get rid of all our subsidies together. Let's join hands as wealthy industrialized nations and say to the world, we're going to get rid of all our agricultural subsidies together." And so the position of the U.S. Government is, we're willing to do so, and we will do so with the—with our fine friends in the European Union.
Mr. McDonald. So, you would if they would, because at the moment, for example——
The President. Absolutely.
Mr. McDonald. ——cotton farmers in this country get subsidized to the extent of 230 American dollars per cotton acre. You would get rid of those things if the EU does?
The President. Absolutely. And I think we have an obligation to work together to do that. And that's why it's very important that the Doha round of the WTO go forward.
Mr. McDonald. Because if we do achieve this business of free trade, and if markets in the West are opened up to countries in Africa, say, they could be so successful, then, that they could eliminate the need for aid.
The President. Absolutely. That's the whole reason why we've got the African Growth and Opportunity Act. As a matter of fact, the benefits that have come from opening up markets—our markets to them and their markets to us—far outweigh the benefits of aid.
Iraq/War on Terror
Mr. McDonald. Mr. President, if I can move on to the question of Iraq, when we last spoke before the Iraq war, I asked you about Saddam Hussein and you said this, and I quote: "He harbors and develops weapons of mass destruction, make no mistake about it."
Well, today, no WMD, the war has cost 1,700 American lives, many more Iraqi civilians killed, hundreds of billions of dollars in cost to your country. Can you understand why some people in your country are now beginning to wonder whether it was really worth it?
The President. Absolutely. I mean, when you turn on your TV set every day and see this incredible violence and the havoc that is wreaked as a result of these killers, I'm sure why people are getting discouraged. And that's why I spoke to the Nation last night and reminded people that this is a—Iraq is a part of this global war on terror. And the reason why foreign fighters are flocking into Iraq is because they want to drive us out of the region.
See, these folks represent an ideology that is based upon hate and kind of a narrow vision of mankind—women don't have rights. And I believe this is an ideological movement. And I know that they want to use suicide bombers and assassinations and attacks on the World Trade Center and the attacks in Madrid to try to shake our will and to achieve an objective, which is to topple governments. And the best way to defeat an ideology is with a better ideology. And I believe democracy is a better ideology, to provide hope for people and— but yes, it's tough. But we've done tough things before in America, and we've got a great ally in Great Britain. But it's not only Great Britain. As Gerhard Schroeder said in the Oval Office, a democratic Iraq is important not only to Germany but to Europe, and he's right.
Mr. McDonald. You talk about terrorism in Iraq, but when we spoke before the war, there was no terrorism in Iraq. And you're now making Iraq the frontline of the war on terrorism. But the terrorists have only recently arrived there, arrived since the war on Iraq.
The President. No, I beg your pardon. Zarqawi, Mr. Zarqawi, who is leading the terrorist effort in Iraq now, was in Iraq prior to our discussion.
Mr. McDonald. No Al Qaida in Iraq before the war, Mr. President.
The President. No, Zarqawi, Mr. Zarqawi was, absolutely. He was.
Mr. McDonald. So you've justified in making Iraq the frontline now in the war on terror?
The President. No, I haven't justified that. I'm just giving you a fact, that foreign fighters are traveling into Iraq to make it a frontline in the war on terror. And I would rather defeat them there than face them in our own country.
Mr. McDonald. Have you still—do you still think that you may have mismanaged, or do you think you may have mismanaged public expectations about a quick victory and a decisive ending to this war? You've talked in optimistic terms. But now, as you say, the carnage on the screens night after night seems—tell a different story.
The President. Well, certainly that's a very powerful weapon for the terrorists, is to kill innocent men, women, and children, and try to shake our will and conscience. And on the other hand, there is progress being made in Iraq.
Remember, it wasn't all that long ago that 8 million people went to the polls to vote. And you might remember the discussions prior to the vote. I had a lot of people saying, "Well, they don't know what they're doing. The people don't want to be free. Certain people can't—they're not going to—what makes you think they want democracy?" And all of a sudden, when given the chance, 8 million people voted, and now the political process is moving in parallel with the security process. And our strategy is to help the Iraqis stand up a viable government, to encourage them to get their constitution written, and to have the elections, to ratify the constitution, as well as a government under the constitution, and, at the same time, train Iraqis so they can fight. That's our strategy, and we're making good progress.
Mr. McDonald. Is the administration at sixes and sevens about the insurgency in Iraq? The Vice President said that we're in the last throes, or seeing the last throes of the insurgency. Donald Rumsfeld comes up and says we could be there for 5, 8, 10, 12 years. Which is it? Which do you believe?
The President. I believe—I believe that we will succeed in Iraq, because, one, the Iraqis want to live in a free society.
Mr. McDonald. But how long will it take, Mr. President?
The President. And two, that the Iraqis want to take the fight to the enemy. And people want me to put a timetable on things. That's a huge mistake. Putting a timetable on this—on our stay there in Iraq simply emboldens the enemy and discourages our friends. And so therefore, my answer is just, quickly as possible, and we are making progress.
Mr. McDonald. Do you ever, in one of those dark souls of the night, do you ever think—do you ever think maybe this was not such a good idea?
The President. No, I'm actually confident it's the right thing to do.
Mr. McDonald. You have never had any doubts at all about it?
The President. I am absolutely confident that we made the right decision. And not only that, I'm absolutely confident that the actions we took in Iraq are influencing reformers and freedom lovers in the greater Middle East. And I believe that you're going to see the rise of democracy in many countries in the broader Middle East, which will lay the foundation for peace.
Mr. McDonald. Mr. President, on the subject of climate change, again, if I can just come back to that——
The President. Okay.
Mr. McDonald. They are expecting— many countries are expecting international legal binding agreements on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Can they expect your support in doing that?
The President. If this looks like Kyoto, the answer is, no. On the other hand, if people want to come together and share technologies and develop technologies and jointly spend—and spend money on research and development, just like the United States is, to help us diversify away from fossil fuels—more than willing to discuss it.
Mr. McDonald. But they're wasting their time if they think that they'll get from you an international binding agreement about mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases?
The President. I have—I have no idea. Look, you're asking me to design a treaty here with you on the set of the—right here on the set of this—on this beautiful set. I mean, that's kind of—but I'm telling you, if you're trying to get me to say, "We support Kyoto," the answer is, "No. We don't." And it's a bad deal for America.
On the other hand, I look forward to working with nations. Look, we spent over $20 billion on understanding greenhouse gases, understanding climate change, and more importantly, on technologies that will enable us to deal with this. I believe, for example, as a result of some of the research we're doing, we'll have hydrogen-powered automobiles. I know we need more nuclear power in order—nuclear power, after all, is not dependent on fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. I believe we're going to be able to have coal-fired plants that have zero emissions. We need to work on carbon sequestration technologies. I mean, there's a lot we can do together and achieve the objective which a lot of people want, which is the reduction of greenhouse gases and, at the same time, have viable economic growth.
Mr. McDonald. And because, sir, America remains the biggest polluter.
The President. America is the largest investor in the technologies necessary to be able to say to people, you can grow your economy so people's standard of living can improve, and at the same time be good stewards of the environment.
Mr. McDonald. But pollution in this country has increased amazingly since 1992.
The President. That is a totally inaccurate statement.
Mr. McDonald. It's a U.N. figure.
The President. Well, I just beg to differ with every figure you've got. The environment has—the quality of the environment has improved, in spite of the fact that we've grown our economy.
Mr. McDonald. Mr. President, thank you.
The President. Always a pleasure.
NOTE: The interview was taped at 1:19 p.m. in the Library at the White House for later broadcast. In his remarks, the President referred to Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom; former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany; senior Al Qaida associate Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. A reporter referred to Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King of the United Kingdom. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on July 5. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.
George W. Bush, Interview With the United Kingdom's ITV Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213174