Ari & I: January 21, 2003
White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer
Mokhiber: Ari, UPI reported last week that Prime Minister Sharon of Israel has given the green light to Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, to engage in targeted killings in the United States and other friendly countries. The report says that Mossad has in the past engaged in assassinations in Belgium, Norway, and other European countries, but never in the United States. Is the administration aware of this new Israeli policy and has the administration agreed to it?
Ari Fleischer: That's the first I've heard of it, so I have no comment to offer on it.
Mokhiber: Could we get comment from you?
Ari Fleischer: I'll see if there is something on it.
Mokhiber: You and the President have repeatedly said that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. The biggest such attack was in Halabja in March 1988, where some 6,800 Kurds were killed. Last week, in an article in the International Herald Tribune, Joost Hiltermann writes that while it was Iraq that carried out the attack, the United States at the time, fully aware that it was Iraq, accused Iran. This was apparently part of the U.S. tilt toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. The tilt included billions of dollars in loan guarantees. Sensing he had carte blanche, Saddam escalated his resort to gas warfare -- graduating to ever more lethal agents. So, you and the President have said that Saddam has repeatedly gassed his own people. Why do you leave out the part that the United States in effect gave Saddam the green light?
Ari Fleischer: Russell, I speak for President George W. Bush in the year 2003. If you have a question about statements that were purportedly made by the administration in 1988, you need to address those somewhere other than this White House. I can't speak for that. I don't know if it is accurate, inaccurate, but you have all the means to ask those questions yourself.