ABC’s Elizabeth Vargas snagged an interview with Chimpy on his way outta Dodge.
American Disaster Preparedness: Slightly Better than “Woefull”
ELIZABETH VARGAS: A congressional report assessed the U.S. reaction as “woefully unprepared” not only for a natural disaster now but for a terrorist attack, the state of readiness right now of the United States. Setting aside future improvements that you plan, today do you agree with that assessment, that the United States is “woefully unprepared” for another natural disaster or attack?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I agree that we didn’t do as good a job as we could have done on Katrina. However, I would remind people that there was a hurricane right after Katrina that hit Louisiana and Texas, and the response was much better coordinated, and the situational awareness on the ground was much improved.
VARGAS: So you don’t agree with that report that calls the U.S. “woefully unprepared”?
BUSH: I think the U.S. is better prepared than woefully unprepared. There’s no question we’ve got more work to do, and our report on Katrina outlined the work that needs to be done.
Stayin’ The Course: Despite The Civil War That’s Not Happening
VARGAS: Let’s move to Iraq. This has been a rough few days in Iraq since the bombing of the mosque in Samarra. There’s been a lot of sectarian violence. What is the policy if, in fact, a civil war should break out or the sectarian violence continues? Are you willing to sacrifice American lives to get the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop killing each other?
BUSH: I don’t buy your premise that there’s going to be a civil war. There’s no question that the bomber of the mosque is trying to create sectarian violence, and there’s no question there was reaction to it. On the other hand, I had the duty, which I did, to call these leaders, Shi’a and Sunni leaders, as well as Kurdish leaders.
And the response was that we understand this is a moment that we’ve got to make a choice if we’re going to have sectarian strife or whether or not we’re going to unify. And I heard loud and clear that they understand that they’re going to choose unification, and we’re going to help them do so.
VARGAS: But what is the plan if the sectarian violence continues? I mean, do the U.S. troops take a larger role? Do they step in more actively to stop the violence?
BUSH: No. The troops are chasing down terrorists. They’re protecting themselves and protecting the people, and — but a major function is to train the Iraqis so they can do the work. I mean the ultimate success in Iraq — and I believe we’re going to be successful — is for the Iraqi citizens to continue to demand unity.
VARGAS: So let me make sure I understand you. No matter what happens with the level of sectarian violence, the U.S. troops will stay there?
BUSH: The U.S. troops will stay there so long as — until the Iraqis can defend themselves. I mean, my policy has not changed.