Q In the Vice President's speech this morning, he said -- and this was in the context of the war in Iraq -- he said, "We weren't in Iraq on September the 11th, and the terrorists hit us anyway." Why does the Vice President continue to give the impression that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was connected with the September the 11th attacks, when the President has conceded that they were not, and the 9/11 Commission conceded they were not?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think that does. I don't think that does. But I think what you have to understand about September 11th is that September 11th taught us some important lessons: one, that we need to take the fight to the enemy and engage them abroad to prevent attacks from happening here at home -- that's the best way we can protect the American people. And two, to address the root causes that lead to people flying planes into buildings or strapping on bombs and blowing themselves up and killing innocent men, women, and children. And that means spreading freedom in the broader Middle East and changing the status quo.
The Middle East had become a dangerous breeding ground for terrorism, and what we're working to do is bring some hope and opportunity to the region. Iraq will inspire the rest of the Middle East by its example of building a free and democratic future for its people, and help encourage those who, around the Middle East and beyond, want to live in freedom. So I think that you have a misunderstanding of what he said.
Q "We weren't in Iraq on September 11th and the terrorists hit us anyway." Would you not agree that there's some linkage there?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think he's making the point that the President made last week, that those who suggest that if we weren't in Iraq, that the terrorists would just be idle. That's an absurd allegation, because the terrorists are determined to spread their fear and chaos and violence throughout the civilized world. They attacked us well before we were in Iraq; they attacked other countries well before any decisions were made to go into Iraq.
Q The Vice President --
MR. McCLELLAN: They continue to try to carry out the attacks. That's why it's so important that we're engaging the enemy in Iraq, that we're taking the fight to them there. And all you have to do is look back at the letter from Zawahiri to Zarqawi to see the nature of the enemy that we face and what they recognize is involved in Iraq, because they have said themselves that when we succeed in Iraq, it will be a major blow to their ambitions. And that's why we are going to continue to move forward toward victory, because it is critical to prevailing in the broader war on terrorism.
Q Does the Vice President now agree that Saddam Hussein's arrest was not involved in September 11th?
MR. McCLELLAN: Those questions have been gone over ad nauseam in the past. Thanks.
Ad nauseam for us as well. The point being the W, Rove and Co should stop trying to link Iraq with 9/11. There wasn't one and the terrorists were not there until we provoked them by going there. Of Course, Scotty doesn't want to slap the Veep, but he should, no?
Instead, Scotty makes a very feable attempt to link himself by bluffing his way through an answer to a very good question. Why, indeed, did we go to Iraq in the first place? It certainly wasn't to "spread democracy" like manure on a field.
Q Mr. McClellan, you mentioned a couple of times today our efforts to -- continuing efforts to spread democracy --
MR. McCLELLAN: I was calling on him, but go ahead.
Q All right, well, just to be clear about something, we didn't go to Iraq to spread democracy, did we? I mean, we didn't go to Iraq to help the Iraqi people. It was initially a security issue -- just to be clear on that.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we spelled out the reasons we went to Iraq, and I would encourage you to go back and look at that. We have liberated 25 million people in Iraq, and 25 million people in Afghanistan. And spreading --
Q But it wasn't the reason we went --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- spreading freedom and democracy -- well, we're not going to re-litigate the reasons why we went into Iraq. We've made very clear what the reasons were. And, no, I don't think you define them accurately by being so selective in the question.
In terms of the lessons of September 11th, again, let me reiterate what those were -- that we need to address the underlying causes that lead people to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, or that lead people to strap on bombs and blow themselves up. And that's what we're doing by spreading freedom in the broader Middle East. And there are different ways we can support those efforts.
The Middle East peace process -- the President has been providing a lot of strong support for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people as they move forward on the Middle East peace process. That's important for spreading hope and opportunity in the broader Middle East. We are continuing to support the people of Afghanistan as they move forward. And we'll continue to support and help the Iraqi people as they move forward, too.
Q But just to be clear, that's a different argument than was made to the American people before the war --
MR. McCLELLAN: Our arguments are very public. You can go and look at what the arguments were. That's not what I was talking about.