Bush tells Couric regrets Abu Ghraib, 'Bring it on' comment
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Thursday September 7, 2006
President Bush told new CBS anchor Katie Couric during a taped interview that he regretted the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib and some comments he made the past few years including "Bring it on."
"When you look back on the last five years, President Bush, is there anything that you wish you had done differently?" asked Couric.
"Yeah," replied Bush. "I mean, I wish, for example, Abu Ghraib didn't happen. That was a stain on our nation's character and it sent a signal about who we're not to a lot of people around the world."
"I probably could have watched my language a little better, you know," added Bush.
Couric asked, "And in terms of saying --"
"'Bring it on,' for example," replied Bush. "Sometimes I try to explain myself in plain terms and sometimes the terms are too plain."
Bush's exact words during a White House press conference in July of 2003 were actually "bring them on" in regards to Iraqi insurgents still fighting US troops.
Full transcript of interview:
JULIE CHEN: On Wednesday, in an exclusive interview, President Bush told CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric why he revealed a secret CIA program. He also spoke about the upcoming anniversary of the September 11th attacks and how the world has changed since that terrible day.
MS. COURIC: As you well know, Monday is the fifth anniversary of 9/11. So many Americans are thinking about that day. And I'm just wondering what your thoughts are as we approach that anniversary.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you know, I approach it with mixed emotions. I remember the horror and I remember the loss of life. I also remember the lessons. And the truth of the matter is, September 11th affected my thinking. It basically changed my attitude about the world. And I resolved around that time that I would do everything to protect the American people. And it frankly has defined much of how I think as the president.
MS. COURIC: You have said, Mr. President, that America is safer, but we are not yet safe.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right.
MS. COURIC: When you think about the threats out there, what is your biggest fear?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, my biggest fear is somebody will come and slip in this country and kill Americans. And I can't tell you how. Obviously there would be the spectacular. That would be the use of some kind of biological weapon or weapon of mass destruction. But as we learned recently from the British plots, people will get on airplanes and blow up airplanes with innocent people flying to America.
MS. COURIC: When you look back on the last five years, President Bush, is there anything that you wish you had done differently?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. I mean, I wish, for example, Abu Ghraib didn't happen. That was a stain on our nation's character and it sent a signal about who we're not to a lot of people around the world. I probably could have watched my language a little better, you know.
MS. COURIC: And in terms of saying --
PRESIDENT BUSH: "Bring it on," for example.
MS. COURIC: Yeah.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Sometimes I try to explain myself in plain terms and sometimes the terms are too plain.
MS. COURIC: What is the significance, Mr. President, of your announcement regarding the masterminds between 9/11?
PRESIDENT BUSH: (From videotape.) In addition to the terrorists held at Guantanamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.
(To Ms. Couric.) We have had a CIA interrogation program -- everybody knows that, but I'm now formally announcing it -- and that we've moved the people in the program, all the people in the program, to Guantanamo Bay. And the reason why we're moving them there is because we want them to go through a military tribunal. We want them to receive the justice that they denied other people. But the other thing is that we've got to make sure that we have the capacity to interrogate, not torture, but interrogate people to learn information.
MS. COURIC: Can you give us any indication about what kind of information you're able to glean from these, quote-unquote, "high- value targets"?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right. Well, for example, we uncovered a potential anthrax attack on the United States, or the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had gotten somebody to line up people to fly airlines -- to crash airlines on, I think, the West Coast or somewhere in America, and these would be Southeast Asians.
MS. COURIC: Is this a tacit acknowledgement at all, Mr. President, that the way these detainees were handled early on was wrong?
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, it's not at all. It's a tacit acknowledgement that we're doing smart things to get information to protect the American people. I've said to people that we don't torture, and we don't.
MS. COURIC: I know you care so much about the soldiers in Iraq. And when we told some of them we had an opportunity to speak with you, almost all of them said, "Would you please ask the president of the United States, when can we come home?"
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mmm. And the answer is when the mission is done, when your commanders decide you can.
You know, it's interesting you said that. I get a little different response from the soldiers I meet, you know. Frankly, I've never had one say that. They've all said, "I'm honored to serve the country. I understand what we're doing. I'm proud to be a volunteer." And, you know, I can't tell you how great the military is. It's a proud group of people, dedicated to protecting this country and doing their duty.
MS. COURIC: Well, Mr. President, thank you so much for your time.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good luck.
MS. COURIC: I'm very grateful. Thank you. Thank you.