The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy in Rome
Prime Minister Berlusconi. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome. Welcome to Villa Madama today, which has been around for more than 500 years. I'd like to very cordially and warmly welcome the President of the United States. I welcome him on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government and on behalf of the Italian people that has really welcomed the U.S. President very warmly because we remember what the people of the U.S. have done for us and for our freedom.
Later on during this press conference, I'm certain that I'll have the time to go into these issues that link us and connect us to the United States because of our past. But I would like also to mention to you why we feel very close to the United States today, and we will so in the future.
And I'd like for the President to now take the floor.
President Bush. Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much. Laura and I are so pleased to be in Rome to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Allied liberation of the Eternal City. I'm proud to stand with you, Mr. Prime Minister, my friend. I always look forward to our conversations. I listen to your advice. I trust your judgment. I take you for your word.
We are bound together by ties of family history and shared values. The friendship between our two nations has withstood many trials, including those perilous times in 1944 that we recall and we honor today. Over two centuries, our Governments have been allies and adversaries. And today, the affection between our peoples have never been stronger.
For the last 60 years, our Alliance has helped secure the peace of the world. Italy stood on the frontlines of freedom throughout the cold war. Italy's membership in NATO has given strength and purpose to that vital Alliance. And today in the Balkans and in Afghanistan and in Iraq, Americans and Italians are once again defending freedom against the forces of oppression and terror.
All Americans join me in honoring the more than 20 Italians who have fallen in the cause of liberty in Iraq. Their sacrifice was worthy of the ideals of this great nation. Their service will help make Italy, America, and the world more secure, as a free and democratic Iraq arises in the heart of the Middle East.
Our coalition is moving forward with a plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom. Later this month, we'll hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government. The members of that government were announced earlier this week in Baghdad, and they are a team of Iraqi patriots that reflects the religious—ethnic and religious diversity of the Iraqi nation.
Italian and American military forces will remain in Iraq to help Iraqis establish the security so that the Iraqi people can live their lives free of fear and so that democracy can take root. Our countries will continue to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and help Iraq's economy grow and prosper, and we will help Iraq move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.
These efforts deserve the full support of the international community. More importantly, a free Iraq deserves our best efforts, our hard work. Members of the U.N. Security Council and Iraq's new leaders are working toward a new resolution that will express international support for Iraq's interim government. The Security Council resolution will reaffirm the world's security commitment to the Iraqi nation and encourage other U.N. members to join in helping the Iraqi people as they establish a representative government. I want to thank you for your help in this resolution, Mr. Prime Minister.
I also look forward to joining the Prime Minister in Sea Island, Georgia, next week and in Turkey at the NATO conference— of course, at Sea Island we'll be having the G-8—where we'll discuss the role our great alliances can play in helping Iraq and the role we can play in helping spread democracy throughout the world.
This war on terror we face, Mr. Prime Minister, is the challenge of our time. Democracy and prosperity are the antidotes to the bitterness and hatred that feed terrorism. As freedom advances in the Middle East, more and more people in that region will be inspired—inspired to peace, inspired to dedicate their lives to the welfare of their families and to the success of their nations. The bitterness and burning hatreds that feed terrorism will fade away, and America and Italy and the rest of the world will be more safe.
I want to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, and I want to thank the Italian people for their friendship and courage and vision and hope for the future. We remember the sons of Italy who have given their lives to ensure a better future. I look forward to continuing to work with you to make the world a more secure and better place.
Thank you, sir.
Prime Minister Berlusconi. Thank you, Mr. President, and I wish to reaffirm here before you and before the press from the U.S. the feelings that are shared by a large majority of the Italian people towards your country that has welcomed millions of Italians that sought a better future in your country. And it was, for them, a very generous home. This is a first reason why we feel great gratitude towards you and your country.
There's another reason, actually, why this celebration is taking place and why you accepted to personally be here to celebrate this important date. Sixty years ago there were 25,000 young Americans who sacrificed their life to make happier, to make more prosperous and more secure our life here, to give our country freedom. And we will be eternally grateful to you for this.
We're also grateful because in the postwar period, we faced very difficult times, and America's generosity contributed to the growth of our economy with the Marshall plan.
We have yet another reason to be grateful to you, sir. Through NATO and, therefore, through the contribution of U.S. citizens, Europe and Italy has been able to defend itself against a Soviet Union which at that time had its missiles and nuclear arsenals pointed towards our cities.
And today too we're here together in the name of this spirit of deep friendship, to work together in the effort to make democracy grow and advance throughout the world, to combat this attack to the West that comes from terrorism and from fundamentalism. We think that it's a wrongful idea to think that there are peoples for whom democracy simply does not work. There is nothing that is more wrong than that perception. Democracy means respect for human rights. It means an open and free market. And these, of course, are the fundamental pillars of a world that hopes to look to the future in peace, in security, and well-being.
For all this, Mr. President, we are very close to you, and we're close to you not as allies that always feel that the other is an ally but as loyal friends, and therefore, we feel that whenever criticism is due, we can have the freedom to make that criticism.
I wish to thank you, sir, for the way in which you've always listened to us. I thank you for always having given us the opportunity. We're not part of the U.N. Security Council, of course, but we thank you for having given us the opportunity to have a say in matters and to work together to contribute to the drafting of this last resolution. And we certainly hope that the U.N. is going to approve this next week. And we're going to be available by participating with our men and women in the peace missions.
Let me just say one last word regarding the reasons why our troops are in Iraq and will stay in Iraq until the new govern-ment—the government that will be elected in January next—until that government, I was saying, feels that the troops and the other countries can be helpful in maintaining peace, and the construction of a democracy. We're in Iraq exactly for the same reasons why we are in Bosnia, why our men are in Macedonia, why we're in Kosovo, and why we're in Afghanistan, where this morning I guaranteed to the President of the United States—where I was saying Italy will participate with troops; it will participate in Afghanistan's effort to become a democratic country through the elections that are going to be held in the month of September. We're in Iraq for the very same reasons why we have deployed our men in these countries, together with the U.S. forces.
If anyone were to think that it would be advisable to withdraw troops from Iraq, then we would have to do the same from all the other countries in which we have our troops. And we think that this is actually the opposite of what should be done in order to secure peace in these countries, to make sure that they experience no civil wars and that they prosper until they become established democracies.
So thank you for your visit, Mr. President, and thank you very much for everything that the United States will continue to do to spread democracy throughout the world.
With our press offices, we actually established that there will be two questions addressed to the U.S. President and two to the Italian President. So I open the floor for questions. The Americans first.
President's Visit to Italy and the Vatican/Iraqi Transition
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, you got strong statement of support just now from the Prime Minister. This country has troops in Iraq with the United States troops, and yet, there were many street demonstrations yesterday. There were concerns expressed by the Pope about the U.S. mission. Do you think that your trip to Europe is mending fences or stirring the pot?
And to the Prime Minister, do you anticipate that the troops that you have in Iraq will remain at the same levels for the next coming months? Or will there be more or less?
President Bush. I think—first of all, democracy is a beautiful thing, and I am pleased to be in a country where people are allowed to express their opinion.
I believe the world understands the importance of a free Iraq emerging in the Middle East. There may have been differences of opinion about Saddam Hussein and the enforcement of a U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. Now the world understands the importance of working with the Iraqis to encourage the development of a free society.
And that's why it is important for me to remind people that there will be a transfer of full sovereignty to an Iraqi government and that the Iraqi people will be making the decisions as to how to proceed forward. And we are there to help them. People in Europe have heard the comments of Prime Minister Allawi and the Foreign Minister, both of whom—who have asked for help in making Iraq secure enough to get to free elections, and we're there to help them do that. And we're there to help them reconstruct their country.
And I sense a spirit of unity in terms of working with the new Iraqi government. That's why we're working closely with nations to get a United Nations Security Council resolution that confirms that which I just said. And I am confident we will get one soon, and I want to thank the Prime Minister for working toward that end.
Q. Second question for the American President.
The President. But one—on the Holy Father. First of all, I had a great visit yesterday. I was honored to be in his presence again. This was my third meeting with His Holiness. And it was such an honor to be in the presence of a strong, godly man. And he and I share concerns about treating people with human dignity.
And I, like His Holiness, I was repulsed by the pictures I saw about the treatment by some of our troops toward Iraqi prisoners. That treatment did not reflect the spirit of America. Those people stained our honor, and there will be a full investigation in a transparent way about the actions that took place, which will stand in stark contrast to what takes place in a society that is run by a tyrant. And it's important for the people of the Middle East to see the rule of law and to see somebody being held to account in a transparent way. But the visit yesterday was a very constructive, positive visit.
You want one more from the American side? I'll pick one. Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters].
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
President Bush. His name is Steve.
Director of Central Intelligence/War on Terror
Q. After the resignation of George Tenet, how do you keep morale from dropping in the intelligence community at a critical time? Should he be blamed for intelligence failures, and what is the status of those reforms you've been talking about?
President Bush. First, let me say what I said on the way out of town the other day. George Tenet did a superb job for America. It was a high honor to work with him, and I'm sorry he left. He chose to do so for personal reasons. When he came to see me at the White House the night before he departed—the night before he delivered his letter, the night before I departed, I talked about morale within the Agency. And he assured me that morale would remain high because the people inside the Agency understand the vitality of their mission.
The CIA plays a really important role in fighting the war on terror. In order for us to find the thugs who hide in caves and who plot against free people, we must gather intelligence and share intelligence with our friends, so we can bring people to justice before they hurt us again. And the people inside the Agency know that role and know how important that role is.
Secondly, John McLaughlin, who has been at the Agency for a long period of time, has my confidence but, more importantly, has the confidence of the people who work in the Agency.
And finally, in terms of reform, I look forward to working with all the commissions that are looking into the intelligence-gathering apparatus of the United States— including the Silberman/Robb Commission which is now gathering information and will present a report to the country within a year—to come up with recommendations to make sure that we get the best intelligence possible. You cannot win the war on terror unless your intelligence agency has got high morale and is well-structured to fight and win the war of the 21st century.
Make no mistake about it, we're still at war. It's important for the people of Italy to understand, there's still a terrorist network that wants to murder and kill, and what they're trying to do is shake our will. They want us to retreat from the world. They want us to forget our values. They want us to become fearful. They want us to throw up our hands and surrender, which I refuse to do. For the sake of the security of free people, I refuse to relent to the killers, refuse to surrender one inch to people who have hijacked a great religion and who will murder innocent women and children. And fortunately, I've got a strong ally in that view in the Prime Minister of Italy.
Prime Minister Berlusconi. I can't but agree with what the American President has just said. Also, in terms of humiliations on the Iraqi prisoners, I must highlight and stress the deep difference between a dictatorship, where torture is the usual, standard practice and is continuous, and the democracy, which has the ability to denounce, to report the mistakes, and to punish in a very clear way, an open way, the culprits, the perpetrators. That's the big difference between totalitarianism and a true, real democracy.
Once again, I would like also to add that the behavior of a few, where in democracy you have the basic principles that responsibility and accountability is personal, the crime of one or a few people cannot be blamed on a whole population.
If you have questions for the Italian Prime Minister, I'm here, ready to answer them.
Anniversary of the Liberation of Rome/60th Anniversary of D-Day
Q. I'd like to ask both of you something about the celebrations tomorrow in Normandy. I would like to ask President Bush, don't you feel insulted that one of your allies has not been invited to a celebration—since Italy participated through resistance in the liberation fight.
And I would like to ask Prime Minister Berlusconi whether he doesn't think and believe that those who exclude Italy and continue to imagine Europe being led just by three countries actually want to have an influence in the domestic choices made in our country.
Prime Minister Berlusconi. The information sources of our friend journalist are very disputable. I must say that the reality is the following. This is the situation: There was a kind of embarrassment by the French President because Italy—because of the historical situation which had taken place in Italy at the D-day. I personally got rid of this embarrassment for the French President, because since I had invited the American President, President Bush, to come to Italy before the celebrations of D-day to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Rome, I believed that it was much more desirable to have just for Italy, only for Rome and for us, a representative of the American people, rather than being part of one celebration where there are going to be 17 Prime Ministers. So I'd rather have him here, alone, than going there, one of 17.
And this is the reality. And I thank, once again, President Bush for accepting to come here.
President Bush. I am honored to have this invitation to come. Yesterday at our Embassy, I had the great honor of addressing some of the Americans who came to liberate Italy. In other words, it was a part of a series of events that I have been attending to commemorate what we have called in our country the Greatest Generation. A week ago or so, I was on The Mall in Washington, DC, where we commemorated a new World War II Memorial. And as part of that series of events to honor young men who came here to sacrifice for the liberty of others, my visit to Rome is very appropriate and necessary. I think they're called—some of them were called the Devil's Brigade. These were young guys from all across America who came into Rome, and I had the honor and chance to thank them personally. And it's necessary the American President honor these folks on Italian soil for the job they did.
And then, of course, I'll be able to pay honor for those who came to Normandy as well. I think it's appropriate, and I appreciate the invitation to be here to do so.
Prime Minister Berlusconi. I'd like to add, Mr. President, that we visited together the cemetery of the American soldiers, and together we were moved and touched, 60 years later, in reading those names on the tombstones, in seeing their birth date and their death date. They were 22, 23, 25 years, so very young lives which sacrificed themselves for a higher ideal, that of freedom, and liberate Italy and Europe from totalitarianisms, which had been the diseases affecting our continent. And America twice came here to—[inaudible]—after being a rib from Europe, America came back here to give its contribution to Europe to keep Europe in freedom. And today this new Europe, which was joined by other 10 countries which have been subject for 70 years to the communist totalitarianism, I think that this new Europe will be more capable and able to feel the unity and unification with United States and to be together with United States to make up the West.
Italy is working for this. Italy is working in order to keep European Union close to United States to strengthen our friendship, because only through joint action we will succeed in fighting this recent war, the war caused by the terror attacks. We can win together. We must win together. We will win together. Fine, we thank you very much.
Iraqi Transition/Proposed U.N. Security Council Resolution
Q. Good morning.
Prime Minister Berlusconi. Do you have the same sources as your colleague?
Q. No, I don't think I do. No, really I have a question for both Presidents. I'd like to know exactly what's the role of Italy in the development of what might be a new U.N. resolution for Iraq?
Prime Minister Berlusconi. Well, you want to know the highlights?
Q. Yes, I'd like to know about Italy's role in that development.
Prime Minister Berlusconi. I see. Well, I think perhaps it should be the President to answer that question.
President Bush. Well, I'll be glad to answer it. Last week the Prime Minister came to the Oval Office. He wanted assurances that there would be a full transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi government. You might remember—7 days ago, I guess it was, that you were there—that there was some doubt in people's minds as to whether or not we intended to participate in a full transfer of sovereignty. I assured him that not only that was our intention, that would be— his desires would be reflected in the United Nations Security Council resolution.
There's a variety of issues that he sought assurances on. He fully understands, for example, that our troops must be there at the request of a sovereign government. In other words, when you transfer full sovereignty, the government must say, "We welcome your help." And that's precisely what is happening.
Again, I repeat what I said before. The Prime Minister as well as the Foreign Minister not only thanked us for our contributions but asked us to stay there to help the Iraqis step up the security forces necessary to make sure the country is peaceful enough for elections to be held. That's what they want; they want to hold elections.
And by the way, the terrorists don't want elections, and that's just their nature, see. They're frightened of freedom. And that's why they kill indiscriminately, to stop—to try to stop this march toward a free society. And it will be a major defeat in their cause.
These terrorists, by the way, hold—have an ideology that is very much like that ideology which subjected the people of Afghanistan to brutality, that basically demeans women, that doesn't believe in rule of law, that doesn't believe in free thought or free religion. That's what they want, and they would like to spread that ideology, particularly in the Middle East.
And I equate the struggle we have today with the struggle we had with communism in Europe after World War II. And the free world could have either yielded to communism or stood up to communism right after World War II. And fortunately, we stood up to communism, and now, Europe is free, whole, and peaceful. And we have the same issue today. And the fundamental question is: Will we hold the line and uphold our values and work to spread democracy, or will we yield to terrorism and resentment and hatred?
And this is a turning point in history. It's an important moment. And one of the reasons why I'm proud to stand here with the Prime Minister is he understands the stakes; he understands the importance. And like me, he shares a great sense of optimism about the future.
And so I'm proud to be with you, Mr. Prime Minister. It's great to be back in this beautiful city. You've got a fantastic country. And our country is better off because of the contributions of millions of Italian Americans, I might add. And thanks for having me. God bless.
Prime Minister Berlusconi. I have to give my answer——
President Bush. I thought you wanted me to answer the question. [Laughter]
Prime Minister Berlusconi. It was addressed to me too, Mr. President. I simply wish to say that we've been very, very happy to have been able to give our contribution, in spite—and this is something we ought to remember—in spite of the fact that we're not members of the U.N. Security Council, which I don't think is something that this Government is responsible for.
There is one point, I believe, that was not introduced, a point that I was able to discuss with the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Putin, which has to do with the calling of an international conference on Iraq. And I'd like to explain the reasons why this point was not discussed, or is not found in the current draft of the resolution. As this resolution—or rather, as sovereignty will be transferred to the new Iraqi government, it was believed that it will be precisely the new Iraqi government to decide on whether or not it may be useful and possible to hold an international conference. And this too I think is evidence of the sovereignty that is not just words but that is something that we believe in seriously, concretely, and transparently.
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you to the press, from the U.S. especially. Thank you to everyone, and best of luck in your work.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at approximately 11:15 a.m. at the Villa Madama. In his remarks, he referred to former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari of the Iraqi interim government; and Pope John Paul II. Prime Minister Berlusconi referred to President Jacques Chirac of France; and President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Prime Minister Berlusconi spoke in Italian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.
George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy in Rome Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/214989