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Published on Tuesday, February 11, 2003 by
Ari the Evader by Russell Mokhiber...
Ari & I
White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer
Tuesday, February 11, 2003 - 12:30 PM
by Russell Mokhiber

Mokhiber: According to the current Business Week, the Commerce Department estimated [in 1992] that tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed as a result of the first Gulf War. And a Zogby poll yesterday shows that 54 percent of Americans are opposed to the upcoming war in Iraq if it means thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths. So, the question is, what is the administration's estimate of Iraqi civilian deaths in the upcoming war?

Ari Fleischer: I'm not aware of any estimates. But I will say to you that every step will be taken to protect civilian and innocent life. The greatest risk to civilian life of course comes from Saddam Hussein, who has shown that he is willing to kill his own people with chemical weapons, he is willing to put his own people in harm's way as human shields. And the greater threat that the President also has to concern himself with is that the civilians who will be killed -- the Americans -- as a result of Saddam Hussein carrying out an attack, directly, or through terrorists' organizations that he hooks up with. That's what is on the President's mind as well, Russell.

Mokhiber: Second question. It was a question I asked last week and you didn't get a chance to answer, so I'd like to rephrase it. President Bush has said that Jesus Christ is his favorite political philosopher. He said that during the campaign.

Fleischer: Do you really want to open this door again?

Mokhiber: I want you to answer the question.

Fleischer: Where's Lester?

Mokhiber: You didn't get a chance --

Fleischer: Did you wait until Lester was gone to raise this today?

Mokhiber: I would actually like you to answer the question.

Fleischer: Okay, go ahead.

Mokhiber: President Bush has said that Jesus Christ is his favorite political philosopher. He said that during the campaign. Jesus Christ said -- turn the other cheek. He said -- the meek will inherit the earth. And he said -- do violence to no man. How does the President square his militarism with Jesus Christ's pacifism?

Fleischer: One, I think your choice of words is inappropriate when you refer to President Bush's militarism. The President is seeking a way to provide peace and to protect the American people from a growing gathering threat in the hands of Saddam Hussein and the weapons that he has collected. The President approaches this matter for his Constitutional duties. And his Constitutional duties as the commander in chief -- he is sworn to uphold the Constitution and protect the American people from threats to our lives. And that's the manner in which he approaches it.

He does view this also as a matter of great morality in terms of the serious judgment that any President has to make about risking lives to save life. And that's the focus that the President brings.



-Thanks to Russell Mokhiber

White House reporter Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter - He co-authors the weekly Focus on the Corporation column with Robert Weissman which Common Dreams publishes. He can be reached at:


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