George W. Bush photo

Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and an Exchange With Reporters at Camp David, Maryland

September 14, 2002

President Bush. It's my honor to welcome Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy, to Camp David. I've been looking forward to having a chance to spend some quality time in a quality place. We're going to have a good visit, meeting about our common interests. And we'll have a good lunch with my wife. And I've invited my brother and my sister; I want my family members to meet a good friend, a strong leader.

We're making progress in the war against terror. I tell the American people all the time that we're doing everything we can to protect our homeland by hunting down killers, one person at a time. And yesterday, thanks to the efforts of our folks and people in Pakistan, we captured one of the planners and organizers of the September the 11th attack that murdered thousands of people, including Italians. One by one, we're hunting the killers down. We are relentless. We are strong, and we're not going to stop.

Secondly, I had a chance to speak to the United Nations to talk about another threat that face—we face—that we face, all of us face, in the civilized world, and that is a threat of weapons of mass destructions in the hands of leaders who disregard human liberty, that do not believe in freedom—a leader, in this case, who's poisoned his own people, poisoned his neighbors, attacked in his neighborhood, and refuses— refuses—to comply with United Nations' regulations, as a matter of fact, defies the United Nations. And we're making progress.

And so, Mr. Prime Minister, you're here at an important time. I look forward to talking with you, and thank you for coming.

Prime Minister Berlusconi. Thank you. Well, first of all, I'm glad to be here with President Bush, with whom I have a very deep friendship. I'm here as the Prime Minister of a country which is a loyal and faithful ally of the United States of America.

The United States is a country to which my people bears a deep gratitude because it owes to the generosity of this great democracy its freedom and its prosperity. We'll never forget the fact that about a half a century ago, through the sacrifice of so many young Americans, Italy and Europe were saved from totalitarianism. I'm here as a sincere ally, and I know that we, as an ally, we're respected, and we heard. So I'll be able to speak as a friend, speak truthfully, in order to find, as usual, common solutions and common positions.

President Bush. Thank you.

Prime Minister Berlusconi. I would like to add one more thing.

President Bush. Sure.

Prime Minister Berlusconi. I consider the flag of the United States is not only a flag of a country but is a universal message of freedom and democracy.

President Bush. Thank you, sir.

His English is very good. [Laughter]

Here's what we're going to do. I'm going to call upon an American reporter. Silvio will call upon an Italian reporter. I then will call upon an American reporter. Silvio will call upon an Italian reporter. And that's it, because we've got to go have our talks.

Scott [Scott Lindlaw, Associated Press]. And I will this time let the interpreter— pardon me for not allowing her to work.

Situation in Georgia/United Nations

Q. Thank you, sir. President Putin is borrowing your logic to argue he has the right to attack terrorists in Georgia. Would that action be justified in your view? Are you concerned other countries, India, Pakistan, China, may use your arguments to justify actions they see fit?

President Bush. I made it very clear to the Georgian Government that we expected them to rout out the Al Qaida-type terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge. We are working with the Georgian Government and training Georgian troops. I have told Vladimir Putin that he must give the Georgians a chance to achieve a common objective, an objective that's important for Georgia, an objective that's important for Russia, an objective important for the United States, and that is to get the Al Qaida killers and bring them to justice. And so I urge him to continue to work with us to allow the Georgians—troops—to do their job.

And finally, one final point for the world to hear: Saddam Hussein has defied the United Nations 16 times. Not once, not twice—16 times he has defied the U.N. The U.N. has told him after the Gulf war what to do, what the world expected, and 16 times he's defied it. And enough is enough. The U.N. will either be able to function as a peacekeeping body, as we head into the 21st century, or it will be irrelevant. And that's what we're about to find out.

But remember what I said in my speech, now is the time to deal with the problem.

Q. What about the appropriation of your argument?

President Bush. I should have clarified it by my statement. I just clarified it by my—not should have, I just.

Support for the President's Action

[At this point, a question was asked in Italian, and no translation was provided.]

Prime Minister Berlusconi. Well, first of all, as I said before, we want a common position with the United States of America. And we welcome the decision of President Bush to bring the problem to the table in the Security Council. As it was stated clearly, the United Nations cannot continue to see its image undermined and its resolutions flaunted.

I would hasten to add, the decision taken by President Bush found agreement of my European colleagues and of the Russian Federation.

President Bush. Thank you.

Patsy [Patricia Wilson, Reuters].

United Nations

Q. Mr. President, if Saddam Hussein has defied the United Nations 16 times and stiffed the world for a decade, why does he deserve one more chance?

President Bush. That's a very interesting question. Why don't you interpret the question? He stiffed the world 16 times, why does he get another chance?

First of all, the United Nations deserves another chance to prove its relevance. See, we're entering a new world. Wars of the future are not going to be like wars of the past. We fight these terrorists that hide in caves and send their youngsters to suicidal death. They strike America, but they're likely to strike Italy. They hate freedom. They also are willing and want to work with countries like Iraq to develop the capacity to deliver weapons of mass destruction. And therefore, the international community must work together to prevent this from happening.

So this is a chance for the United Nations to show some backbone and resolve, as we confront the true challenges of the 21st century. It's a chance for the United Nations to show its relevance, and that's why I gave the speech I gave. But make no mistake about it, if we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it.

Italy's Role in the War on Terrorism

[At this point, a question was asked and answered in Italian.]

President Bush. Thank you all. Welcome to Camp David. No, you misunderstood. Two questions apiece. Sorry. Two and two, si.

Q. ——English, Mr. President.

President Bush. Oh, you want an English translation. Sorry, thought you might have been trying to defy the two-question rule. Very good. [Laughter]

Q. What was the question?

Interpreter. The question was——

President Bush. That doesn't matter. Just write the answer.

Interpreter. ——is Italy able to play the mediating role——

Prime Minister Berlusconi. The role of Italy, now.

Interpreter. At this moment, what's the role Italy is going to play?

And the reply was: Italy today is playing a role which it wasn't able to play up to some times ago, because Italy finds itself at a center of a series of relationships with the countries of the European Union, with the countries of the Middle East, with the countries of the Mediterranean, and we have the special friendship with the Russian Federation, with our common friend Vladimir Putin. So Italy is playing its part, and it's able then to play its role in this context.

President Bush. Thank you all very much.

Prime Minister Berlusconi. Grazie. Arrivederci.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:52 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an Al Qaida operative suspected of helping to plan the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, who was captured in Karachi, Pakistan; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The Prime Minister spoke in Italian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George W. Bush, Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and an Exchange With Reporters at Camp David, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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