My-my, things are getting a bit testy in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. It’s not like Scottie has lost all credibility with the press corps, is it?
Q Secretary Laird said, when he came out of the meeting this morning, that the President heard some things from the participants that he didn’t like. What did the President hear that he didn’t like today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t know what he was referring to. You might want to ask what he —
Q I don’t know, either, so that’s why I was asking you.
Q Can you also explain something about — you often say the Iraqis are in charge, or that’s up to the Iraqis. How far does that go? I mean, are they in charge of —
MR. McCLELLAN: It’s a sovereign nation.
Q But when they choose someone to head a brigade that the United States isn’t very happy about.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you ought to talk to the military about those matters, because —
Q No, I understand you’re going to say, let’s talk to the military.
And any exchange between Scottie and Helen Thomas is going to generate some heat.
Q Does the President think that 120 people dying in Iraq, after we’re nearly three years into this war, is tolerable?
MR. McCLELLAN: The Iraqi people, Helen, have shown time and time again that they want to live in freedom. I think it’s important to look at what took place in December. There are terrorists and Saddam loyalists —
Q Why are we there? Why are we killing people there?
MR. McCLELLAN: — there are terrorists and Saddam loyalists — because we’re transforming the Middle East, and that will help us lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.
Q — didn’t ask you to do that, their country.
MR. McCLELLAN: We were attacked on September 11th and —
Q We were not attacked by Iraqis.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think we ever said we were. But what we learned on that day was that this is not a law enforcement war we’re engaged in. This is a war about the safety and security of the American people. It’s not a law enforcement matter. It’s a war. We are a nation at war. And this is a comprehensive effort that we’re taking. We’re not ignoring threats. We are confronting threats before it’s too late. And that’s what this President will —
Q You had none from Iraq.
MR. McCLELLAN: — that’s what this President will continue to do because he knows his most important responsibility is protecting the American people. And spreading democracy in the broader Middle East is vital to our own nation’s —
Q Don’t do it by attacking an innocent country.
MR. McCLELLAN: — vital to our own nation’s security. And the Iraqi people have shown they are deeply appreciative of the efforts that we have undertaken to remove a regime that was a threat and a destabilizing force in a dangerous region of the world. And we are going to change a troubled region for the better, and it will help lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.