You think at some point in time he'd begin to become a little more proficient at this...
Press Briefing May 26, 2004:
Q: Scott, in the past, the President, has criticized John Kerry for saying that fighting terrorism was more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation than a military one. And now you're having this news conference with law enforcement officials trying to get information to help fight the war on terror. Isn't that hypocritical for the President to be criticizing John Kerry for what he's doing --Translation: If John Kerry says that fighting a war on terror necessitates more intelligence and law enforcement activities than military operations, it's because he just doesn't understand what we face in the 21st century. He can't see the tremendous progress we're making on the war on terror with our military operations. Doesn't he know that it's estimated that al Qaeda has grown by as many as 18,000 members as a result of our actions. If John Kerry says it's a 'front' he's wrong and on homeland security a front may be a subfront if that's what we deem it to be. We won't acknowledge that either, but the war on terrorism is part of the war on terrorism and that's all we have to say, you're just not listening to what the pResident and I are saying.
MR. McCLELLAN: Not all it. I don't think you've maybe been listening to what the President has been saying. He's saying that the war on terror is fought on many fronts, but the best way to win the war on terrorism is to take the fight to the enemy. And this is a war. This is a broad war against terrorism. September 11th changed the equation and taught us that we must confront threats before it is too late. And that's exactly what this President is doing. But the war on terrorism, the President has said from very early on, is fought on many fronts. It's fought on the law enforcement front; it's fought on the diplomatic front; it's fought on a number of different fronts -- the terrorist financing front, for another example.
Q: In March he said -- at a speech in California, he said -- quoting John Kerry, saying exactly that, 'the war on terror is far less of a military, far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation,' the President said he disagreed with that, and pointed to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, as an example.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. And what's your question about that? That statement stands. Those who suggest that we are not at war on terrorism, that it is not a military operation --
Q: Why do you not have Secretary Ridge at the news conference?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- don't have an understanding of what we're facing in the 21st century."
Q: Just on today's announcement. Would you consider the effort to prevent terrorist attacks in this country part of the overall war on terror?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, part of a war on terrorism, preventing attacks from happening in the first place.
Q:Is it not true that by federal statute that that effort, within the borders of the continental United States, is primarily a law enforcement operation?
MR. McCLELLAN: Protecting the homeland? We're working on a number of different fronts. You learn information together, from your efforts overseas. You learn information from cracking down on terrorist financing.
Q: Is it not true that within the United States that efforts to prevent terrorism is, in fact, a law enforcement operation?
MR. McCLELLAN: John, the war on terrorism is fought on many different fronts. And it's also part of that war on terrorism, is making sure we're protecting the homeland. And that's the way I would describe it.
Q: Scott, could I ask about the Amnesty report, which we talked about in the briefing earlier, and its contention that the U.S.-led war on terror has resulted in the worst attack on human rights and the rule of law in 50 years? Helen talked about Guantanamo and the decision not to apply the Geneva Accords there, but let me just specifically quote from the report. They blame this administration for "picking and choosing which bits of international law it will apply and where." What is your response to that?Translation: We're not only picking and choosing the bits of international law we will follow but we also pick and choose which humans have rights. Al Qaeda and other terrorists don't represent countries so, for all intents and purposes, you can't really consider them human. I'm also going to skirt the whole Guantanamo Bay thing so there's really no point in your continuing to mention it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, my response is that the war on terrorism has resulted in the liberation of 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the protection of their rights. People in those countries did not have the kinds of protections that we're used to in the United States. And now they do. So the war on terror has helped protect human rights for some 50 million people.
Q: So does that justify -- does that end, protecting those people, and obviously the American people, as well, justify the means of picking and choosing which bits of international law it will apply and where?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President has been very clear in terms of applying international law to detainees -- if that's what you're referring to, which I suspect it is. He's made it very clear that whether or not the Geneva Conventions apply, that those detainees should be treated humanely. And you have to keep in mind that al Qaeda is not -- does not represent a nation. It is not a party to the Geneva Conventions. The United States is.
Q: They're human beings, aren't they?
MR. McCLELLAN: And certainly Iraq was. And the Geneva Convention applies in the Iraq. And in terms of the al Qaeda and Taliban detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the President has made it very clear that he expects our military to treat them humanely and consistent with the Geneva Accords. But we also have to remember, as we're talking about today, that we are at war on terrorism, and that it's important to talk to these individuals and gather as much information as we can to try to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. These are individual at Guantanamo Bay who were involved, or want to help carry out attacks against the American people.
Q: So why don't you charge them and try them?
MR. McCLELLAN: And these are dangerous people. And despite that, the President has made it clear that he expects our military to treat them humanely and consistent with the Geneva Accords.
Q: They also, by the way, accuse the administration of, in effect, giving a green light to places like Uzbekistan and elsewhere to basically shield under the war on terror for some pretty awful human rights abuses.
MR. McCLELLAN: The United States of America is a leading advocate of protecting human rights, and we will continue to be.
Q: The Washington Post reported at length about the superintendent of the Naval Academy ordering a revision in the 81-year-old song, "Navy Blue and Gold," that all references to men will be eliminated. And my question: Does the Commander-in-Chief believe it is fair to do this when the Academy continues to virtually shave the heads of all incoming male plebes, but none of the female plebes?Translation: Say, What? Or at least that would have been my response.
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, the President has --
Q: Does he think that's fair, as Commander-in-Chief?
MR. McCLELLAN: Les, the President has confidence that our military leaders can address these issues appropriately.