Press Briefing by Tony Snow
James S. Brady Briefing Room
12:23 P.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: All right. First let me begin with a statement by the President on the passage of H.R. 4939, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill for the war on terror, Hurricane Katrina recovery and other purposes.
"I applaud those members of Congress who came together in a fiscally responsible way to provide much needed funds for the war on terror and continued Hurricane Katrina recovery, as well as for securing our border and protecting against a possible avian flu pandemic. Responding to these critical needs in a timely way is not easy, but it must be done if we are to fight terrorism, defend our homeland, enforce our borders and fulfill our moral obligation to help our fellow Americans in need.
"I am pleased that Congress has addressed these urgent national priorities within the spending limits I set. House and Senate leadership and Chairman Cochran and Lewis deserve great credit for working together to pass a fiscally responsible bill."
Also, one important note. On this podium last week, on June 8th, I misidentified Representative Sheila Jackson Lee as Cynthia McKinney. That prompted a phone call from Representative Jackson Lee, who was absolutely charming, and we had a wonderful little conversation. It's worth reminding everybody that Sheila Jackson Lee serves on the House committees on Judiciary, Science, and Homeland Security, and sits as the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Planes. It really was a charming phone conversation, so I apologize for being an idiot on that.
And with no further ado, we'll go to questions. Terry.
Q: Tony, American deaths in Iraq have reached 2,500. Is there any response or reaction from the President on that?
MR. SNOW: It's a number, and every time there's one of these 500 benchmarks people want something. The President would like the war to be over now. Everybody would like the war to be over now. And the one thing that we saw in Iraq this week is further testimony to the quality of the men and the women who are doing that, and the dedication and determination to try to ensure that the people of Iraq really do live in a free, effective democracy of their own creation and design.
Any President who goes through a time of war feels very deeply the responsibility for sending men and women into harm's way, and feels very deeply the pain that the families feel. And this President is no different. You've seen it many times. You saw it, you saw it when he was in that ballroom, Terry, and you had this crowd of servicemen and women who were cheering loudly for the President, and he got choked up. So it's always a sad benchmark, and one of the things the President has said is that these people will not die in vain.
And part of what happened this very week when the President went to Baghdad, and he sat down with the Prime Minister and he sat down with the cabinet, and he sat down with the President and Vice President, he sat down with the national security team, and he sat down with the leaders of all the major political parties, what he saw now is that after all of this, what you have in Iraq is a freestanding government that has been elected by the Iraqi people. It has a Prime Minister who is going to be there for four years, who is determined to act as a Prime Minister, who is determined to lead, who is setting priorities, and he's somebody we can work with. You have a Minister of Defense who has significant experience and is already working with his colleagues, not only here at the Pentagon, but also General Casey and others in the field. The President understands that those deaths cannot be in vain, and you've got a government now that can help ensure that that is not the case.
Q: Was he told about the benchmark, the President?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'm sure he will hear about it.
Q: The President said yesterday, as you remember, that he and Republicans have a record to run on. With regard to Iraq, if you look at our recent poll, the public has in fact rendered judgment about that record. They think the war is a mistake. They trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle the situation in Iraq, and they don't think things are going to get better. So does the President have to answer for that record?
MR. SNOW: The President will always -- people will have to answer for the records when voters render their judgments, of course. But on the other hand, one thing as you look at the poll data, people want to win the war. They do not want the -- and the President wants to win the war.
The President understands fully what public opinion is, but he also understands what his obligations are as Commander-in-Chief, and he's said that all along. If you allow the polls to dictate, you're not always going to do your job, and what the President is doing is leading as Commander-in-Chief. And he knows that some of these things are unpopular, but he also knows that they are the right things to do.
Q: But is it a matter of unpopularity and people not -- because people don't understand the gravity of the mission, or is it that they have looked at his record of how he has conducted the war and disapproved of how he's done his job?
SECRETARY SNOW: I think -- we live in a nation of 300 million people, and there's no single characterization that's going to cover every opinion.
I think what you have also seen is a little bit of movement because people saw -- for instance, the death of Zarqawi, for a lot people, said, oh, wait a minute. That's an important victory. It's certainly not going to determine everything but it's an important victory.
I think for a long time, and this is worth pointing out, people's perceptions of the war have been shaped by car bombs and not by the actual efforts of men and women in the field. And David, I know you have gotten emails and everybody in this room has probably gotten emails at one time or another from people who have been in the theater who say, "I don't know what war they're covering, but it's different than the one I'm fighting in."
And it's very easy -- as a matter of fact, the document that Iraqi authorities released earlier today, where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said that using these images was a way of shaping opinion in the West, because it's a powerful image. And the President has said that he is not going to let terrorists dictate the terms of victory or defeat, or the definitions of each in Iraq. And when it comes to public opinion, I think it is perfectly understandable that seeing these horrific images day after day is going to make people say, please make it stop. And the President wants it to stop, but he wants it to end with a free, democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, protect itself, and serve as an ally in the war on terror.
Q: Just one more on this, because you keep coming back to what seems to be kind of a facile explanation about car bombs obscuring real successes in Iraq. If that were the case, you wouldn't have had two governments fail, by the President's own admission. Isn't it a bit of a simplification to say that terrorists' car bombs are obscuring the real picture?
MR. SNOW: No, I don't. And I don't think it's facile, either --
Q: You don't think that's a misrepresentation? After three years, Baghdad can't be secured yet?
MR. SNOW: No. The President has said all along -- what you're expecting is facile, which is a snap victory, things easy. It's not easy. This is a country where there have been factional disputes that go back a very long time. And people on the ground know that it's not easy. No, they're not facile at all in their approach to how they fight the war. I would also pose that to the people who are in theater. It's not a facile explanation. It's a true explanation: a car bomb is more vivid than getting an extra hundred kilowatts out of an electrical generation facility.
Q: Well, since they haven't done that either --
MR. SNOW: There has been progress in those areas. So, the other thing is -- you talk about three failed governments. It has always been the aim of the United States to create a democratic government. This is a first. This is a first constitutional parliamentary-elected government. And you've heard repeatedly the President say, this is what we're aiming for. So give these guys a chance. They've been in office for two weeks; they've had a Defense and Interior Minister for one week. The President will be judged on this, absolutely right. But he's also -- and he's willing to take that judgment because he's doing what he thinks is right, David.
Go ahead, Jim.
Q: Tony, one of the things that seems to be talked about in Baghdad right now, the Prime Minister is doing this reconciliation process. And it's raised this question of amnesty for people who have attacked U.S. troops.
MR. SNOW: Yes, it's an important question, I'm glad you asked it. Mowaffak Rubaie, who is the National Security Advisor for Prime Minister Maliki has just been on international TV in the last couple of minutes. And he said that there's no amnesty for anybody who kills Iraqis or Americans. That's the first thing. Because I know there's been a lot of reaction on Capitol Hill.
The second thing is, when the President had conversations with the Prime Minister and the cabinet about -- there's actually a cabinet portfolio for reconciliation in Iraq. It is very clear that one of the things that Zarqawi and the terrorists wanted to do was to set Iraqis against one another, especially along sectarian lines. And if you're going to have a unity government, they all have to be together.
And to create national reconciliation is a very complex thing. It's not a single program but it's a bunch of programs. And the President and our government is going to talk with the government of Prime Minister Maliki, but it's up to the Iraqis to figure out the best way to do it. They've had prisoner releases already. There's talk about expanding the political process, encouraging insurgents and militias to lay down their arms and to join civil society.
So all these things are ongoing. But the other thing to take note of is that none of this stuff is on paper yet. We had a quote that was repeated in some American newspapers today -- the Iraqis need time to develop these plans, and I know it's something that they are keenly interested in doing. I think they have postponed what was a scheduled August meeting on this. They're trying to get all the sides to work together so that reconciliation is something that they can achieve.
Q: But I just want to be clear -- there will be no amnesty offered to anybody who has been part of an attack on U.S. troops?
MR. SNOW: All I can tell you -- again, there's no plan yet. This is the problem. Everybody wants specificity about what was a general quote. Wait until they have a plan. It's a little too early, but what the Iraqi National Security Advisor said -- and I can't go any further than this -- is no amnesty to those who have killed Americans or Iraqis. I can't answer your question about whether that means people who have been involved in activities against American troops --
Q: But in terms of -- as the President has been saying, as the Iraqis are sort of getting to run their own show and set their own agenda, will the administration have a role in saying, look, as you are beginning to do this, this is what we want?
MR. SNOW: I'm sure we'll express our opinions, but we also recognize that it's theirs to do. But, absolutely, there will be conversations.
Q: Would you like to reaffirm what you said earlier today, that the U.S. wants no permanent bases in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Well, I think -- let me -- because -- can you define what a permanent base is?
Q: No, I can't.
MR. SNOW: Well, then how can I get a question --
Q: Except into infinity -- no, no, no, you're dancing around already.
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not dancing around. I'm actually trying to get a specific question answered.
Q: Okay, say flatly, does the United States want bases in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: It has bases in Iraq, and the United States will have bases -- look, the United States, Secretary Rice has said -- well, number one, it's premature to talk about how long they're going to be there. Number two, Ambassador Khalilzad has said we have no desire for permanent bases. Number three, when it comes to a permanent base, that is not the call of the United States. As you know, Iraq has a sovereign government. So the issue of --
Q: It's about as sovereign as the President being able to go into Iraq and not even tell the President.
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, obviously, Helen, you're preaching and not asking. Let's go to you.
Q: You said the death of Zarqawi was an important victory. The President always said that the war is more about one person. Why was this such an important victory? Can you speak to some of these things -- documents and so forth that have been recovered?
MR. SNOW: Well, we have not fully confirmed the documents, but the Iraqi government has released what it says is basically a plan of battle that was found -- a strategic plan that was found in the ruins of where Zarqawi was discovered. And these include efforts to foment sectarian strife; to try to create war-like tensions between Iran and the rest of the world, which was an interesting wrinkle; to look for ways to use media images as a way of shaping world opinion -- it goes back to the point I was making with David before -- and a number of those things.
I think as we get time to sort of confirm exactly whether it's authentic, and no reason to believe it's not, but we still have not completely confirmed it.
The first part of your question was?
Q: Why his death is such an important victory when the war is more about than just one person.
MR. SNOW: Well, a lot of times in terrorist movements -- and Jerry Bremer made this point in The Wall Street Journal today -- a lot of times in terrorist movements you do have a charismatic figure who leads them. Bin laden -- but the man who has been his operational head, and a man who in recent years has had more blood on his hands than any person on earth was Abu Musbab al-Zarqawi. And to take away somebody who has not only that kind of value in terms of serving as a point of inspiration, I suppose, or a rallying point for terrorists is important, but also this is a guy who had very significant operational responsibilities and capabilities. And it does send a message, too, to those who want to succeed him, which is, do you really want to take on this job? To me number three in al Qaeda is one that has a relatively short life expectancy. I think Zarqawi is now the fifth to have fulfilled that position.
So in many ways, I think this is a very sobering lesson for anybody in the terror movement, but also Zarqawi was unique. There is absolutely no doubt that he was devastatingly effective at what he did. But he will have the opportunity to do that no more.
Q: Tony, the investigation of Karl Rove is now over. Why is it, then, inappropriate for the President of the White House, three years later, to finally give us some sort of explanation or assessment, judgment, of Karl Rove's actions when it had nothing to do with the Libby trial?
MR. SNOW: Because, as you know, there is -- well, they may have. There is talk that he may be called --
Q: Scott McClellan has nothing to do with the Libby trial, his conversation with ABC News has nothing to do with the Libby trial.
MR. SNOW: Well, that's fine. I will continue my statement first. I can't give you any texture or background on the Scott/Karl stuff, because I wasn't here. But the President made it pretty clear that a lot of this stuff -- and as you know, Peter, once you get up on the stand, and Karl may be called to the stand -- they can ask about anything.
And so it is our view that we're simply not going to get involved in making comments on something that may be brought to trial, when Scooter Libby is still under indictment and is going to go to trial with the special prosecutor. The other thing is that Karl, apparently, the prosecutor found nothing untoward in what Karl has done, there is no indictment. But we're just not going to go into it. You could go at it 58 different angles, I'm still not going to give you an answer.
Q: Let me ask a general question then. In 2000, the President said it wasn't enough to simply not be indicted in the White House, that he had a higher ethical standard. Is that, in fact, still the ethical standard --
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q: -- or, in fact, should we interpret from his comments yesterday that as long as you're not indicted, everything is fine?
MR. SNOW: Apparently, you've indicted Karl.
Q: No, I'm asking a question.
MR. SNOW: And yes, the answer is, the ethical standard still applies.
Q: And what is the ethical standard?
MR. SNOW: You tell me. I mean, the President said the higher ethical standard -- you were reciting a thing. You know what the President says is, you serve honorably, you serve well, you obey the law.
Q: And the reality is --
Q: Did Karl Rove serve honorably and serve --
MR. SNOW: Like I said, don't try to get me to bite on it because I'm not going to do it.
Q: Oh -- (laughter.)
MR. SNOW: Oh, I'm sorry, okay, never mind --
Q: Now you still have an upcoming Cheney trial, so --
MR. SNOW: Libby trial. Libby trial.
Q: But are you worried about what that may -- is the Vice President's office worried about what that may -- how intrusive that could be, in terms of the inner operations of his office?
MR. SNOW: I don't have any idea. You'll have to deal with his office on that.
Q: Can we go back to the documents for a second?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q: Iraq's National Security Advisor said that finding them marked the beginning of the end of al Qaeda in Iraq. And based on what the White House knows, does the administration agree with that assessment?
MR. SNOW: We're still assessing the documents. I think what -- the view is it lays out not only a battle plan, but many of the people involved. Obviously, there are other things among those documents that we don't know about now, and that the Iraqis, for good reason, are not going to be releasing for public consumption. But obviously, they think that they've gotten kind of a good road map to the who, what, when, where, and why of al Qaeda within Iraq. And I'll have to let their comments stand on it.
Q: -- make a statement like that, do you think, by the national security --
MR. SNOW: Again, I don't know. I haven't seen the documents, I have no benchmark against which to assess it.
Q: Tony, back to Jim's question. Senators Reid, Schumer, Nelson, Menendez, Levin talked extensively about this possible amnesty for those who kill -- attack U.S. troops, saying that the President should pick up the phone and call Prime Minister Maliki and make it known that the U.S. will not stand by and --
MR. SNOW: The U.S. will not stand by something that hasn't been committed to paper and is not yet official.
Q: Will the President express those views to President Maliki, or has he?
MR. SNOW: Number one, what we're talking about is speculation about a plan that doesn't even exist yet. So I appreciate the sentiment of the Senators, and I think it's pretty clear that already the Iraqi government has demonstrated some sensitivity to this. The National Security Advisor has come out and said, no amnesty extended to people who kill Iraqis or Americans.
It's premature to be making comments because there is no proposal on reconciliation. There was a news story, and it became a convenient opportunity for people to talk. And the United States will express itself appropriately, whether it be through the President or through his designees. We'll let our views be known about what we think is appropriate. But it is up to the Iraqis. The Iraqis are going to have to make choices on now to handle this. And we also have to have some faith in their ability to choose wisely.
Q: On another topic. I don't know if you've heard about this overture that our senior Vice President got from a senior aide in Tehran about Iran helping the U.S. in Iraq. Have there been similar overtures from Tehran like this? Is this an effort by Iran to divorce itself from talk about nuclear enrichment?
MR. SNOW: I can't really respond to any of it. A, I haven't seen the report. B, when it comes to Iranian overtures of this sort, there have been a number of times when they've said stuff. I mean, our position on Iran is real simple: You go and ahead and you do -- take care of business on the nuclear front, we'll talk about a whole lot of stuff, and we'll be happy to cooperate on any number of fronts. As you know, there have been some talks on mutual security issues in the past, or attempts to talk with the Iranian government. But at this point, I'm certainly not going to tip our hand on what we may or may not say.
Q: Tony, two quick questions, going back on terrorism. Like President said many times now, also recently last week, the Homeland Security Secretary also said that we are fighting this war beyond, of course, our borders, and we haven't had any serious attack on the U.S. since 9/11. Traveling to states where people are still living under the threat of terrorism, because we think that -- (inaudible) -- who had direct connection, and advice from Osama bin Laden, that terrorism will go down or up, or where is Osama bin Laden -- where he stands now?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what's that question again? Where we stand on bin Laden?
Q: Yes, that he --
MR. SNOW: We're trying to get him.
Q: Zarqawi was advised by Osama bin Laden, or they had --
MR. SNOW: You're talking about Zawahiri and his correspondence with Zarqawi?
Q: And Osama bin Laden.
MR. SNOW: When Zawahiri -- I'm not sure bin Laden's done any direct -- most of the comments that we have seen, at least pieces of advice to Zarqawi, were from Iman al-Zawahiri, the number two, who was telling him things like, please stop beheading people on video, it's really bad publicity. I mean, obviously, they're going to have to find somebody else to communicate with. But the United States obviously still wants to get Osama bin Laden.
Let's not reduce the war on terror to the world's most wanted, because it's far broader than that. You have to go after terror cells, but you also have to create the basis where people are going to live in hope, where people are going to feel that they have control over their lives, where people are going to be able to say, I'm not going to choose the terrorist bet because it's a stupid choice for me; I want to be able to live with hope, I want to have a job, I want to create wealth, I want to pass on wealth to my family, and all that sort of thing. Those are the conditions by which, in the long run, you beat terror. And it's not simply taking down Zarqawi or bin Laden. Those are essential elements. But people do rise up and try to take those jobs.
What you have to do, and this is a key part of the enterprise in Iraq right now, is, you have to create a society, which, by virtue of what it offers its citizens in terms of freedom, and dignity, and opportunity, sends a far more powerful message than people who say, go strap a bomb on yourself.
Q: On Afghanistan?
MR. SNOW: Very quickly.
Q: Very quickly. This war on terror was started from Afghanistan by training of 25 or more million Afghanis for al Qeada and now terrorists went back -- they are in Pakistan. Not only in United Nations, but also the international forces and President Karzai is now asking the President and the U.S. to do more to stop fighting there, because --
MR. SNOW: As I explained -- well, we know that the Taliban has been trying to reassert itself, and as I explained a couple of weeks ago, what has happened is that you've had a transition from U.S. to coalition or NATO forces, and they're testing them out. And what has happened on the ground is that there have been a series of pretty lopsided engagements where you've seen a lot of terrorists killed. So while the United States is certainly concerned about that, we also have faith in the people who are now fighting, especially in the southern regions of Afghanistan.
Q: Tony, the President is off fundraising tomorrow. He said yesterday it's a little too soon to go campaigning. Can you give us any idea of when that transition will happen?
MR. SNOW: No, I mean, you know, people are going to be doing fundraising, obviously, because the President wants to retain a Republican Congress. But I think, right now, the President is trying to do his job, which is not only work on the war on terror. He has been holding meetings on immigration. He's talking about tax relief and trying to make that permanent for people. There are a lot of very important action items and the President has been working with them.
Take a look at today's schedule. You've got a whole series of events that are arrayed around domestic issues. Yesterday, a lot of foreign policy emphasis. Last week, he either met or talked with more than a dozen foreign leaders.
So, I mean, I think what's going to happen -- you understand this -- you get to, usually, you get to that Labor Day to November sprint and everybody makes the transition to politics. Right now, we're still in the position where people on Capitol Hill are wrapping up their business. And so I don't know that there's some magical start date, nor do I know that there is some way to tell. It's one of those things that you know it when you see it.
Q: Are we to assume he still has a few more fundraising dates though --
MR. SNOW: Well, of course he does. You know, he's going to do everything he can to raise money and support Republican candidates.
Q: Tony, two questions about events that are getting a lot of attention in the world, but not here. One light, one serious. Light one first. World Cup Soccer, which is really big.
MR. SNOW: Yeah, that may be light to you, but it's serious business for a lot of people.
Q: Millions of people around the world are watching, are obsessed with it. They consider it in many ways a war substitute between nations. Other than the President's phone call to the ill-fated American team, is anybody here paying attention to it?
MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute. Ill-fated American team? They've got a big match against Italy coming up. Come on. It ain't over 'til it's over.
Look, it's sporting events, and the President follows sports. And, obviously, soccer is more popular in other countries than it is in the United States, but it got a pretty good constituency. It's been playing up in our office today.
Q: I have one more on Gaza -- a tragic situation and the deterioration between Gaza and the Israelis. Is anybody here actively trying to help out, trying to mediate the situation?
MR. SNOW: Well, I mean, there are a number of areas of concern. Obviously, we are hoping that the Palestinians in particular are going to be -- the Palestinians have to decide which road they want to travel here. And they're at one of those points -- you can -- what the United States is hoping is that the Palestinians will, in fact, follow the peaceful road, that they will work on becoming partners in peace, to work on two-party negotiations so that there can be a peaceful resolution. The other thing the United States has done -- we clearly do not recognize or support the Hamas government, which has not met the key benchmarks of recognizing Israel, renouncing terror and acknowledging previous agreements.
But having said that, we are not against the Palestinian people. And we are working to make sure that humanitarian relief does reach people in the Palestinian Territories, in the West Bank and Gaza.
Q: Tony, sorry, can I come back to amnesty? I understand what you're saying, the national security advisor saying, well, we don't really have anything, there's not a plan yet, you don't want to comment on something that doesn't exist yet.
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q: But are you saying that the President, the administration, has no view today on whether any amnesty --
MR. SNOW: No, I'm saying the -- I'm not going to negotiate from here. Of course the administration -- the administration is going to have views. But the other thing, I've said before -- and you have to understand this -- give the Iraqi government some time. I mean, they're smart people. And rather -- so why should the President be kibitzing before they've come up with a policy.
Q: Today, the administration has no view as to whether amnesty should ever cover somebody who attacks and kills an American soldier?
MR. SNOW: As I said, why raise a question that hasn't arisen yet, other than in press reports? Why do it? It's not constructive.
Q: Tony, yesterday the President said that he's made the comments he's going to make about the Karl Rove matter, and now he's going to move forward. A year ago, he told us at least twice that he would be more than happy to comment further once the situation, the investigation was completed. Does this mean that despite telling us that he would comment further that now he isn't going to? Or does it mean that he will comment further and be happy to at a later date?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm going to let his comments yesterday suffice. I'm not going to get beyond what he said yesterday, and we'll see what happens. That would be a why-don't-I-figure-it-out -- what the President said yesterday is he's not going to comment because the Libby trial is upcoming. I don't know if he has any plans --
Q: Has he made the comments he's going to make?
MR. SNOW: Victoria, I don't know if he has any plans. I just don't know. I can't give you an answer.
Q: Will that include appeals? How far can we stretch this?
MR. SNOW: I don't know, Peter. But I'll tell you what. It's obviously really important to you guys. I'll try to find out.
Q: I have one other one.
MR. SNOW: Okay, come on. Does Jim want to get called on? (Laughter.) That's okay.
Q: I have one other one on Karl Rove working in the White House, and the "honorable standard" question, which is that he's not being indicted, apparently. But three years ago -- I say "apparently" because I don't think anyone has seen the letter yet -- but three years ago he was asked about whether he has spoken to any reporter about whether Valerie Plame was --
MR. SNOW: Okay, I'm not going to -- I can't get back into that question, because, frankly, I'm totally incompetent on it, and I'm not going to get in the middle of the Karl Rove thing. That all predates me.
Q: I can't even finish the question?
MR. SNOW: You can finish the question. I'll give you the same answer.
Q: Okay, but he was asked whether -- Scott McClellan was asked whether in fact he had spoken to any reporter about whether Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. And the reply was that he had assured Scott McClellen that he wasn't involved in any of this.
MR. SNOW: Right. As I said, thank you for getting me in the middle of an old fight that I have no part in and I'm not -- I'm just not going to play on it. But thank --
Q: It seems clear, however that he spoke with Matt Cooper, Judith Miller and Robert Novak, so it would seem that the two answers don't match.
MR. SNOW: Okay, thank you.
Q: Tony, is the President satisfied -- is the President satisfied with the security level with our northern border, with Canada, given the recent arrests, terror arrests in Ontario?
MR. SNOW: Well, we've been through this before. I think the President -- the answer is, yes. But on the other hand, you never -- yes, and let me put it this way: yes and no. Border security is something where you never say, boy, I'm perfectly satisfied. It's an ongoing effort, because terrorists move around, they change locations, they change tactics. And as a consequence, you have to maintain a state of constant vigilance. Now the good news here is the Canadian government did it, and it did it in an international operation, which included cooperation from the United States. So I think -- the point is that we congratulate the Canadian government, but we also realize that you've got to be vigilant and you need to keep working the problem.
Q: With all the recent attention to the Mexican border security, I just didn't know if it had come up in the presidential briefings or discussions about --
MR. SNOW: Well, we went through this last week, and maybe you weren't here when we did it. But the discussion is always, how do you deploy your resources most effectively where you need them most, on the northern and the southern borders, and how do you work with the relevant governments to make sure that you can secure those borders.
So there's no such thing as a fixed picture when it comes to border security in this day and age. A plane ticket suddenly can bring a terror cell into a country, and you've got to be very careful about it.
So the most important things to do are to beef up presence, to make sure intelligence is as good and credible as possible, and to do surveillance as effectively as you can, and also cost-effectively.
Q: On the measure of success in Iraq, the President has been focusing on other fronts -- I mean, political progress, energy, electricity. How much does reducing the level of violence and the strength of the insurgency remain an important part of that, or have we gotten to a point where even this level of violence might just be a reality, and success could be declared if there's progress in other ways?
MR. SNOW: Well, David, I think at this point -- clearly, the government in Iraq is not satisfied. That's why you've got Operation Forward Together, which began yesterday, that involves the deployment of roughly 50,000 Iraqi police and army forces within five different areas of Baghdad and 7,200 coalition forces, as well.
What the President has said is you can't -- if you want an absence of violence to be your benchmark, you'll never get there because it allows the terrorists to define success or failure by a simple act of violence. But on the other hand, I don't think anybody takes -- wants to take for granted the kind of violence we have right now. The question a lot of you have raised about a President having to go in the way we went into Baghdad the other day, that obviously is not -- what you want is an end state, that's not what you would accept.
The problem with trying to come up with a measure, it's a very difficult thing to come up with a proper metric for that. I mean, if you start taking a look at murder rates in major American cities, people would say, it's scary to be there. But it's -- this is a different situation. You have random violence where Americans are going to be targeted and members of the Iraqi government and people who are on the side of the democracy, and I think, obviously, that is a real concern.
What the President was talking about is -- and this gets to David's questions earlier -- is you have violence. You also have people saying, well, what about the other part of the picture? And I think one of the things that we will have to be measured by -- the efforts will have to be measured by is progress in those humanitarian areas. You know, what does happen with electricity? If electricity doesn't improve, that's bad. If you don't have oil production improving, that's going to be bad -- if you don't have sanitation and water.
So those are at least easier to measure benchmarks than sort of a violence standard. But is violence -- the present level of violence acceptable? Of course not.
Q: Thank you.
MR. SNOW: Okay, thank you.
END 12:56 P.M. EDT
Tony Snow, Press Briefing by Tony Snow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/273049