George W. Bush photo

Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Jacques Chirac of France and an Exchange With Reporters

September 18, 2001

President Bush. It is my honor to welcome a good friend, a good personal friend and a good friend of America, to the Oval Office. It's the first formal visit I've had with any world leader since the terrible day a week ago.

After the incident, after that day, I got a lot of phone calls, and one of the most meaningful phone calls of all was from Jacques Chirac, who expressed his concern for the American citizens. He expressed his desire to stand solidly with America during this terrible, terrible day.

President Chirac understands that we have entered a new type of war. It's a war against people who hate freedom. And I am honored to welcome our friend here to the Oval Office.

Welcome, sir.

President Chirac. Thank you. I've come here to tell you of the emotion—the emotion of France, of the French people, an emotion which has no precedent in history before this tragedy, which does not have a parallel. Indeed, it is a tragic event, something which is beyond crime; there are no words to qualify it.

I want to tell President Bush, who is my friend, that we stand in total solidarity. We bring you the total solidarity of France and the French people. It is solidarity of the heart.

I also wanted to say that we are completely determined to fight by your side this new type of evil, of absolute evil, which is terrorism. And I also wanted to say that France is prepared and available to discuss all means to fight and eradicate this evil.

President Bush. Thank you, sir.

Yes, Ron [Ron Fournier, Associated Press].

Response to Terrorist Attacks

Q. Mr. President, sir, do you expect French and British soldiers to fight side by side with ours?

And President Chirac, do you agree that we are in a war, and is France in it? Will you fight side by side with U.S. troops?

President Bush. This is a new kind of war. This war will require determination and patience. People who love freedom, such as Jacques Chirac and the people of France, will join us—I'm confident of that—in finding those who feel like they can terrorize nations because they hate freedom.

We will—it's a policy of my Government not to discuss any plans we may have as to how we intend to deal with the terrorists and the terrorist networks that believe they can disrupt lives anyplace, anytime in the world. I look forward to talking with one of our strongest allies in private about what's on my mind.

But make no mistake about it: This administration has got a firm goal and a determination to achieve the goal, and that is to rally the world toward a campaign to find terrorists, to smoke them out of their holes, and to get them, and to bring them to justice.

And there's no doubt in my mind France joins with us in this most important campaign. Jacques Chirac has—this is my fourth meeting with this leader. He's a man of vision. He's a man who understands what I understand, that we've entered into a new era. And I feel confident that we're going to work in a collaborative way to achieve a common objective.

If you love freedom, you must join with us; you must join with America and France. That's the message of this meeting. And we will discuss ways that we can work in a way that will achieve the goal. And there's no doubt in my mind that we'll find solidarity with the French and the French Government.

Q. Will your citizens fight shoulder to shoulder with ours?

President Chirac. I don't know whether we should use the word "war," but what I can say is that now we are faced with a conflict of a completely new nature. It is a conflict which is attempting to destroy human rights, freedom, the dignity of man. And I believe that everything must be done to protect and safeguard these values of civilization.

Therefore—and we are, naturally, prepared to work in complete solidarity with the United States and do everything which is necessary, in consultation with them, to reach this target which is the elimination of terrorism. And I would also like to add that practically all the leaders of the world are following the same line.

Q. Mr. President, don't you think it's high time for the occidental world to review in a very tougher way its relationship with a certain number of, let's say, Arabic countries which have been helping or harboring the terrorists?

President Bush. In my statement to our Nation, I told the people of the United States that we would not only hold those who committed these horrible acts accountable, that we would also hold those accountable who harbored them, who fed them, who hide them. That's our policy.

Many, many Arab—first of all, it is important to know that this is not a campaign against Islam. This is not a campaign against Arab people. This is a campaign against terrorists. This is a campaign against evildoers who hate freedom.

I have had and I'm sure Jacques, as well, has had strong statements of solidarity from governments in the Middle East. I've talked to many world leaders, Arab leaders, all of whom are outraged by the acts of terrorism against America, all of whom understand it could be them as well. Terrorism knows no borders.

And so I've been very pleased with the outpouring of support. And we will take the governments for their word and will work with them to disrupt the finances, the travel, the communications. We will find them in their hiding places, and we'll get them moving, and we'll bring them to justice. Make no mistake about it.

Q. Mr. President——

President Bush. Yes, Patsy [Patricia Wilson, Reuters].

Middle East Cease-Fire

Q. Do you think the Middle East ceasefire will hold? And what do you think the next step should be for both the Israelis and the Palestinians?

President Bush. We've had very positive developments in the Middle East today, and it's one of the subjects that my friend and I will discuss. I was very pleased by the statements by Chairman Arafat, followed by the strong statements by the Israelis that they would stand down troops.

And I hope in my heart of hearts that out of this evil comes good. I think it will; I'm a very optimistic person. And one of the goods that can come is that people involved with the Middle East conflict, that both leaders here want to resolve, realize that a terrorist way of life is not going to lead to a peaceful resolution for people.

The next step, of course, is to stay involved in the region, is to work with both the Palestinians and the Israelis to encourage them to seize the moment, to hold Mr. Arafat to his word that he will fight violence, and to encourage the Israelis to sit down and have meaningful dialog, with the attempt to get into the Mitchell process. And it's a glimmer of hope that all of us hope that the parties involved will seize.

U.S. Response to Terrorist Attacks

Q. Mr. President, how will this new war be fought, this new war against terrorism?

President Bush. It is new, and it's important for the world to understand that there are no beaches to storm, there are no islands to conquer, there are no battle lines to be drawn. It's a war that is going to take an international effort. It's going to take all of us to gather the necessary intelligence, the necessary information, to be able to find the location of terrorists, to work with governments to smoke them out of their safe houses, to get them moving, and then have the courage to bring them to justice.

My Government will commit whatever resources is necessary to be effective in this all-important cause. I repeat: We're fighting for liberty and freedom, a way of life that is so essential for humankind, mankind to be able to realize their full potential. And we are focused on achieving the goal.

There's going to be a time when free nations settle into what is viewed as an ordinary life, and I hope that happens soon; I hope that happens soon. But make no mistake about it: My goal, my intentions will not diminish with time. I am absolutely—I know that we are called to respond to terror now. This is the time, and the world is ready for leadership. And Jacques Chirac is ready to provide that leadership, as am I.

I want to thank you all for being here.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:30 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. He also referred to the Report of the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, chaired by former Senator George J. Mitchell, issued April 30. President Chirac spoke in French, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George W. Bush, Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Jacques Chirac of France and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under




Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives