Helen Thomas always brings up the hard questions that befuddle Scotty. I love her:
Q Dispatches from Iraq said that yesterday we killed 70 people in Iraq, near Ramadi, including 18 children. I want to know what the President thinks of that.Excuse me, but what's the fucking difference?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, first of all, I think you need to talk to the military, because the military --
Q No, I'm talking here.
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, and as I'm responding to you, the military has said otherwise at this point. Now, the military has review mechanisms in place and when there are questions raised, they look into those matters, and so that's something that, obviously, they will look into. But, beyond that, you'd have to talk to the military about where that stands. Now --
Q Eighteen children --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- in terms of our United States military, our military goes out of the way not to target --
Q Why were 18 children killed?
MR. McCLELLAN: Our military goes out of the way not to target innocent civilians.
Q I'm not saying they were targeted --
MR. McCLELLAN: Our military goes out of the way to target the enemy, and to --
Q Why did they say 18 children?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- bring to justice the terrorists and those who are seeking to prevent democracy from taking hold, through violent means, to justice. And that's what our military does. And they do --
Q Seventy people were killed by an air strike.
MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, please let me respond, because I think it's important to point this out when you're bringing up a question like this. We fully support our men and women in uniform. They're doing an outstanding job to defend our freedoms and to help the Iraqi people move forward on a free --
Q I'm not saying -- I'm saying why did they kill 70 people?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- to move forward on a free and peaceful future. I think everybody in this room would like me to have the opportunity to be able to talk to you about this question. And you're assuming things that people have different recollections about right now, or have characterized very differently. And that's why I said the military has review mechanisms in place, when situations like this arise, and they look into those matters. That's why you need to talk to the military, to see where that stands.
Q Are the figures wrong in all the newspapers?
MR. McCLELLAN: The military is looking into the matter, Helen. I don't have any more information at this point.
Q If I could follow on Helen's question, though. Whatever the facts of this particular situation are, war is an inexact business, and children do get killed. And what I think she's asking is for a response from the President about children who may have been killed as a result of American action.
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, I don't want to assume, because this is an incident that's being looked into.
Q I'm not assuming. I'm not assuming.
MR. McCLELLAN: And I want to also make the point -- and I think you can go back and look at this -- yes, war is always the last resort. It's not something that's pleasant. But it is a decision that sometimes the Commander-in-Chief has to make in order to protect the American people. And he made the decision that we were going to go on the offensive in this global war on terrorism that we're engaged in, and that's exactly what we're doing, and that we're going to work to spread freedom and democracy in a part of the world that is in need of hope. And you have to recognize the struggle that we're engaged in.
And there are people in Iraq, terrorists, who recognized how high the stakes are, and they're seeking to do everything they can to stop the democratic process from advancing. And there are attacks carried out on some of our troops. And when those attacks are carried out on our troops, you have others that respond to that. And we appreciate all that our men and women in uniform are doing when it comes to defending our freedoms abroad.
Now, in terms of any innocent people being killed, we mourn the loss of any innocent life that is lost. We have seen that the terrorists have no regard for innocent human life. That's the difference between the enemy and between those in the civilized world who are committed to spreading freedom and peace. We target the enemy; they target innocent civilians. And there's a stark contrast in how we go about waging this war on terrorism. They carry out cowardly acts against innocent civilians. We go after those who seek to do harm to those innocent civilians.