Bush's Military Tribunals
Violate US Law
DENIS STAUNTON / Irish Times (Ireland) 30jun2006
Washington — In a stinging rebuke to president George Bush's conduct of the fight against terrorism, the US Supreme Court has ruled that military tribunals used to try inmates at Guantánamo Bay violate American law and the Geneva Conventions.
In a 5-3 decision, the court ruled that the trials were not authorised by Congress and their structure and procedures violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which governs the US military and international laws on the treatment of prisoners of war.
Mr Bush said he would consult Congress on how to respond to the ruling, which represents a sweeping rejection of the administration's approach to the handling of suspects picked up after September 11th.
"We will seriously look at the findings, obviously. And one thing I'm not going to do, though, is I'm not going to jeopardise the safety of the American people. People have got to understand that. I understand we're in a war on terror; that these people were picked up off of a battlefield; and I will protect the people and, at the same time, conform with the findings of the Supreme Court," Mr Bush said.
The court ruling did not order the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention centre, where 450 people are held. It upheld an appeal by Salim Ahmed Hamdan (36), a Yemeni who has admitted acting as Osama bin Laden's driver, against the Bush administration's attempt to try him before a military tribunal set up expressly to hear Guantánamo cases.
The court found the military tribunal was illegally set up without congressional approval and that it denied the defendant basic rights, including the right to hear all evidence against him and to be present at his trial. The Bush administration claimed the president's war powers entitled him to set up the military tribunal and that a law passed by Congress late last year meant the Supreme Court was not entitled to hear Mr Hamdan's case.
The court rejected both arguments, although the three most conservative justices - Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito - dissented from the decision.
Mr Thomas said the court's willingness "to second-guess the determination of the political branches that these conspirators must be brought to justice is both unprecedented and dangerous".
Justice Stephen Breyer disputed that assertion and said the president had overstepped his authority.
"The court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the executive a 'blank cheque'. Indeed, Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary," Mr Breyer wrote.
Cmdr Charles Swift, the Navy lawyer assigned by the military to represent Mr Hamdan, said the logical next step would be for Mr Hamdan to be tried either by a traditional military court martial, as provided for under the Geneva Convention, or by a federal court and that yesterday's judgment marked "a return to our fundamental values".
"That return marks a high-water point. It shows we can't be scared out of who we are, and that's a victory," he said.
Human rights groups welcomed the ruling, which Amnesty International described as a victory for the rule of law and human rights.
"The US administration should ensure that those held in Guantánamo should be either released or brought before civilian courts on the US mainland," it said.
Senate majority leader Bill Frist said he would move quickly to introduce legislation authorising military tribunals to try Guantánamo inmates.
"To keep America safe in the war on terror, I believe we should try terrorists only before military commissions, not in our civilian courts. In response to today's Supreme Court decision, Congress should work with the president to update our laws on terrorist combatants to respond to the new threats of a post-9/11 world. Since this issue so directly impacts our national security, I will pursue the earliest possible action in the United States Senate," he said.
Mr Bush has said repeatedly in recent weeks that he would like to close the Guantánamo detention centre and to repatriate some prisoners and put others on trial.
source: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/front/2006/0630/376715777HM1LEAD.html 29jun2006
Revising the War on Terror?
The Supreme Court's ruling in the Hamdan case
could have an effect far beyond the military tribunals
that have been ruled illegal
BRIAN BENNETT / Time Magazine 29jun2006
Washington — Moments after the Supreme Court decision striking down the Bush administration's military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, even a lawyer close to the defense team was shocked that court had ruled so strongly in his client's favor. The decision, he said over the phone from the courthouse steps, "will change war on terror as a whole."
That may not be far from the truth. The most bruising blow today to the Bush Administration's approach to the war on terror was not simply the Court's decision that the special military tribunals the White House had designed were illegal. It was how dramatically the decision seems to dial back the clock to pre-9/11 legal thinking.
The Court ruled that that the Geneva Convention does apply in the case of prisoners like Salim Hamed Hamdan, an admitted supporter of al-Qaeda captured in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration has spent almost five years arguing just the opposite. And if the Geneva convention applies in the case of Hamdan, it presumably applies for all 15,000 detainees held worldwide in the war on terror.
The most immediate effect of the ruling will be to scrap the Administration's current military tribunals. The court did leave open to possibility that the White House can ask Congress to have its special court system enshrined in law. But that is a humbling alternative for an Administration that has long held that the President's inherent war-time powers allow him to conduct such tribunals without consulting Congress.
The court issued a strong rebuke to the President in other ways as well. Justice Anthony Kennedy's concurring opinion reafirmed a standing legal precedent that the President's authority is limited in areas that have already defined laws — even, Kennedy pointedly adds, in "time of crisis." This could call into question the President's authority to authorize domestic wiretapping without a warrant.
What's more, the court's ruling that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention applies to a detainee at Guantanimocould open the floodgates for courts to decide whether other parts of Common Article 3 also apply — such as the language that prohibits "outrages of personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment" of prisoners. This is particularly relevant as the Pentagon is in the middle of rewriting the Army Field Manual governing the treatment of prisoners. The Administration has maintained that the guidelines for handing detainees don't have to be in line with Common Article 3, but the Court has just made that argument much more difficult to make.
President Bush told reporters he was willing to work with Congress to devise a legal court to try the detainees in Guantanamo. "I will protect the people," he said, "and at the same time conform with the findings of the Supreme Court." Now he'll have to figure out a new way to do both.
source: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1209444,00.html 29jun2006
Court Strikes Down Bush's Military Tribunals
Ruling Forces U.S. To Revise Prosecution Of Alleged Terrorists
JESS BRAVIN / Wall Street Journal 29jun2006
WASHINGTON -- In a withering opinion handed down on the last day of its term, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unlawful U.S. President George Bush's military tribunals, an alternative legal system established to prosecute enemy prisoners without granting them traditional rights found in courts martial.
The tribunals were among the first and most far-reaching responses the White House created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The ruling repudiates the aggressive legal strategy his administration deployed to expand executive authority. In a particular humiliation for the president, the victory was won by lawyers representing Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, captured in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan that followed the Sept. 11 attacks and now held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. Represented by a Navy lawyer -- assigned to the case by the government itself -- and a Georgetown law professor, Mr. Hamdan may be helping bring down a legal architecture designed in the White House by some of the sharpest minds the administration could assemble.
The court forces the administration to rewrite the rules on how it prosecutes the alleged terrorists, but it doesn't require the release of the approximately 450 men held in Cuba. The justices made clear the president can hold enemy prisoners through the duration of a conflict. The decision "won't cause killers to be put on the street," the president said.
Mr. Bush suggested instead that his next step would be to try to work with Congress to craft a more legally acceptable way to proceed with prosecuting the alleged terrorists, an initiation many top Republican leaders quickly took up. "To the extent that there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so," he said.
But that, in many ways, is precisely what Mr. Bush has spent much of his presidency trying to avoid. To White House lawyers, the "global war on terrorism" Mr. Bush declared after Sept. 11 was no metaphor, but the invocation of his powers as commander in chief in a battle that rages continuously across the entire globe, including the U.S. itself. The legal theory aims to protect the American people by assuring the president virtually any power he deems necessary, effectively importing across the federal government the life-and-death discretion wielded by battlefield commanders.
That broad assertion of war powers has manifested itself in a host of administration actions that critics say run afoul of other laws, including warrantless surveillance of targets within the U.S., and the wholesale monitoring of international financial transactions. Those programs, and an unknown number of others, remain classified and the legal issues they raise may never be tested in court.
In the case of Mr. Hamdan, Mr. Bush had claimed the power to establish military courts that answer only to him. In a November 2001 decree he styled a "military order," the president authorized military commissions to try defendants he selected, according to rules he created, for crimes he defined.
That, the Supreme Court said, was a wholesale misreading both of constitutional law and historical precedent.
In a 73-page opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens, joined by four other justices, went piece by piece through the legal theories the president had asserted, finding in each instance that they ran afoul of law and precedent.
But Justice Stephen Breyer, in a one-page concurrence that three others joined, made the majority's case succinctly: "The court's conclusion ultimately rests on a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a 'blank check.' "
That was a telling reference to the court's last Guantanamo opinion, handed down two years ago, which rejected the administration's claim that enemy prisoners there had no rights that federal courts could recognize. That opinion, by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, established court jurisdiction over the isolated base in southern Cuba. "A state of war is not a blank check for the president," Justice O'Connor wrote then, but the court stopped short of dictating precisely what process was due the prisoners there.
Many legal observers saw the 2004 opinion as a warning to the administration that it should replace its ad hoc treatment of enemy prisoners with a clear and consistent system authorized by Congress. But while lawmakers of both parties said they would entertain such legislation -- and some lawyers within the administration suggested congressional action could help inoculate prisoner policies from court review -- the White House said no. Top officials worried that such a move would implicitly concede a congressional role in defining the president's war powers, something they took pains to avoid.
Still, the administration wasn't completely deaf to the rising level of concern in the courts and Congress over the executive's assertion of authority. In another signal case involving counterterrorism policies, the administration ducked rather than face Supreme Court review of its claim that the president could indefinitely imprison a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant.
Last year, a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, blessed the administration's detention of Jose Padilla, a New York-born prisoner once accused of returning from Pakistan to plan an attack on an American apartment building. But rather than defend that ruling at the Supreme Court, the White House decided to transfer Mr. Padilla to civilian custody and charge him in federal court with lesser crimes. He has pleaded not guilty, and awaits trial in Miami.
The administration's treatment of enemy prisoners even provoked a rebellion among Republicans in Congress, which last year overwhelmingly passed legislation aimed at ensuring compliance with international treaties forbidding torture. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who as an Air Force Reserve officer sits as a military judge, led the charge for the Detainee Treatment Act, which the president signed rather than see a possible veto overridden.
The court's ruling applies directly only to one aspect of the Guantanamo detentions: the plan to prosecute some prisoners for specific war crimes. Mr. Hamdan didn't challenge the president's power to hold enemy prisoners for a conflict's duration, and the court made clear he still can do so. Describing the opinion as a "limited" one, Justice Stevens said the court merely was affirming that if the president sought to prosecute enemy prisoners, he must do so in accordance with existing laws of war, not create new ones he found "convenient."
As a legal matter, then, the ruling has nothing to say about the broader question of Guantanamo, which beginning in January 2002 the administration has used to house prisoners swept up in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
But to many around the world, the base has become synonymous with prisoner abuse and superpower arrogance. Authorities including the British attorney general and the United Nations Committee Against Torture have called for the prison's closure.
President Bush himself has said he would like to close the prison, but has deflected questions about how he might do so until the Supreme Court ruled on the military commission case. With that ruling now in, American diplomats are sure to feel pressure to act decisively on the base.
But closing the facility, or reducing its population, is no easy task, U.S. officials say. Many of the prisoners, held because military interrogators deemed them violent threats, are embittered men who potentially could take up arms against the U.S. if freed. Others face potential persecution in their repressive homelands, and the U.S. is under treaty obligations to avoid returning people to places where they could be tortured.
Bush's Remarks on Guantanamo Ruling
The Supreme Court Thursday dealt the Bush administration a blow by blocking the U.S. military's Guantanamo tribunal system, ruling 5-3 the commissions violate both military rules and the Geneva Conventions.
Remarks by President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi in Joint Press Availability
11:33 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all. Please be seated. Mr. Prime Minister, as I said on the South Lawn, we are delighted to have you here in Washington. The Prime Minister and I have got a very friendly relationship. We've just had two hours of discussions. We talked about a lot of areas of mutual concern. I've reminded the Prime Minister -- the American people, Mr. Prime Minister, over the past months that it was not always a given that the United States and America [sic] would have a close relationship. After all, 60 years we were at war -- 60 years ago we were at war, and today we talked about North Korea, and Iran, and Iraq, and trade, and energy cooperation.
It's amazing fact that we're able to have these discussions. To me it shows the power of liberty and democracy to transform enemies to allies and to help transform the world. And one thing about the Prime Minister is he understands that. He's a firm believer that -- in universal values. He believes in freedom. And he's willing to act on those beliefs. And we have been a strong partner in peace, Mr. Prime Minister.
You've had a remarkable tenure as the Prime Minister of your country. You have led with courage, you have made hard decisions. You've helped us change our relationship so that Japan and the United States will be able to work even closer together in the 21st century. You made the hard decision to help realign our troops in your part of the world to better accommodate the needs of the Japanese people, and at the same time, keep in position a relationship that will be necessary for peace and stability.
I want to thank you for opening your markets to U.S. beef. I think the Japanese people are going to like the taste of U.S. beef. As a matter of fact, I had a good slice of beef last night, and you told me you did, as well, and you look like you're feeling pretty good. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: Very good. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right, good. We had an interesting discussion about energy. One of the things that Japan and the United States can do is we can help provide technologies that will improve the climate, as well as reduce our dependence on hydrocarbons. We discussed the Nuclear Suppliers Group that we're a part of, and our contributions to some research and development that will help speed up fast breeder reactors and new types of reprocessing so that we can help deal with the cost of globalization when it comes to energy; make ourselves more secure, economically, as well as make us less dependent on hydrocarbons from parts of the world that may not agree with our policies.
We -- as I mentioned, we discussed Iraq and Afghanistan. By the way, the Japanese defense forces did a really good job when they were in Iraq. And they're able to leave because they did such a good job. And now the Iraqis will be running the province in which the Japanese forces used to be. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister, as he mentioned in the comments, will continue to provide airlift capacity and naval help.
The North Korean issue is one, obviously, that's got everybody's attention now. And we discussed this issue in length. We both agree that it's very important for us to remain united in sending a clear message to the North Korean leader that, first of all, launching the missile is unacceptable. There have been no briefings as to what's on top of the missile. He hasn't told anybody where the missile is going. He has an obligation, it seems like to me, and the Prime Minister, that there be a full briefing to those of us who are concerned about this issue as to what his intentions are. It makes sense, doesn't it? It's a reasonable thing for somebody to do.
We talked about the six-party talks, and to make sure we remain bound up in sending a clear message to the leader of North Korea. I also talked about one of the most touching moments of my presidency, when the mom of the abducted daughter came to the Oval Office and talked to me about what it was like to have a young daughter abducted by the North Koreans. And it really broke my heart. I told the Prime Minister it was -- it was a moving moment for me. I just could not imagine what it would be like to have somebody have taken, you know, my daughter -- one of my daughters -- and never be able to see her again. And the woman showed such great courage, Mr. Prime Minister, when she came and shared her story with me. It took everything I could not to weep, listening to her.
It also reminded me about the nature of the regime -- what kind of regime would kidnap people, just take them off offshore, you know; what kind of person would not care about how that woman felt.
And so we talked about the need to work together to bring a resolution to this issue about nuclear weapons. And I reminded the Prime Minister -- he didn't need reminding, but I'm going to share with him once again my deep concern about the human condition inside North Korea. He shares that condition -- after all, he's the Prime Minister of a country that has suffered a lot as a result of abductions. So we spent time talking about abductions.
All in all, it was a visit that I knew was going to be a good one because I know the man; I know what he's like: he's a good thinker, he's a strategic thinker, he's a clear speaker. And, plus, as you all know, it's become quite well-known that we're going to visit Graceland tomorrow. He's an Elvis fan. Laura and I gave him a jukebox as a gift, and I can't -- what was the first song you put on? It wasn't "Hound Dog," it was --
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You."
PRESIDENT BUSH: See, he loves Elvis, and I couldn't think of a better way to honor my friend by going to Graceland. But it also sends a signal about how close our relationship is.
And so Mr. Prime Minister, we're glad you're here. Thanks for your friendship, thanks for your alliance, and thanks for your leadership.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: (As translated.) Thank you very much. With President Bush, I had a very candid exchange of views. Over the past five years, I've really had a close friendship with President Bush, and thanks to that we've been able to have a very candid exchange of views. And I believe this is not just limited to close relations between us, personally, but I believe this close relationship is necessary in the future between Japan and the United States, as well.
Japan and the United States is in a Japan-U.S. alliance in the world, and we confirmed that we can cooperate with each other on various challenges, maintain Japan's security and deterrence, and reduce burdens on local communities. On these points we were able to have a very important agreement, and we're most grateful for that.
In the meeting, we discussed not just Japan-U.S. bilateral relations, but numerous challenges that the world community faces today -- Afghanistan, North Korea, poverty reduction -- reduced poverty for people who suffer from various diseases. We shared common perception, and by doing so we'll be able to cooperate with each other.
Now, Japan, in a way different than the U.S., has been supporting the nation-building in Iraq by the Iraqis, themselves. The ground self-defense forces stationed in Samawa, having accomplished their mission, will be withdrawing. But as a responsible member of the international community, through cooperation with various countries concerned and through cooperation with the United Nations, Japan will continue provide support and help the Iraqis get back on their feet.
With regard to North Korea, we spent a lot of time, and I expressed my views, and President Bush also expressed his thoughts. President Bush was kind enough to meet with Mrs. Sakie Yokota. And he told me he was very moved on that occasion. Anyone, if one's daughter is abducted, naturally will be grieved. And this feeling need be shared by Americans and Japanese. And we discussed that sort of thing.
We do have the six-party talks framework. Japan and the United States, I believe, need to maintain close coordination and encourage North Korea to become a responsible member of the international community.
With regard to Iranian nuclear proliferation, Japan also is concerned about this problem. The United States attaches importance to cooperation with EU and other countries concerned. Japan certainly supports that U.S. stance of seeking resolution through a dialogue regarding the nuclear proliferation issue. The Iranian issue remains a grave issue for the entire world economy, and Japan wishes to cooperate with the United States and other countries concerned on this matter, as well.
On U.N. reforms, building on the results achieved so far, we would like to work out with the G4 a proposal that can be supported by the United States and achieve reforms in the United Nations and the Security Council. Japan and the United States will maintain close coordination and partnership. We need to do that and address various challenges.
The Japan-U.S. alliance is not just an alliance for our two countries; it is an alliance for the world. And in the interest of the world we were able to confirm that we need to cooperate with each other, and I think this was a very substantive, fruitful meeting. And I would like to thank President Bush and the U.S. for a very warm, hospitable welcome.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We've agreed to take two questions a side. Walking in, I reminded the Prime Minister of one of Elvis's greatest songs, "Don't Be Cruel" -- (laughter) -- so keep that in mind, Hunt, when you ask your question.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. You've said that you wanted to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but you were waiting for the Supreme Court decision that came out today. Do you intend now to close the Guantanamo Bay quickly? And how do you deal with the suspects that you've said were too dangerous to be released or sent home?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you for the question on a court ruling that literally came out in the midst of my meeting with the Prime Minister -- and so I haven't had a chance to fully review the findings of the Supreme Court. I, one, assure you that we take them very seriously. Two, that to the extent that there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so.
The American people need to know that this ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street. In other words, there's not a -- it was a drive-by briefing on the way here, I was told that this was not going to be the case. At any rate, we will seriously look at the findings, obviously. And one thing I'm not going to do, though, is I'm not going to jeopardize the safety of the American people. People have got to understand that. I understand we're in a war on terror; that these people were picked up off of a battlefield; and I will protect the people and, at the same time, conform with the findings of the Supreme Court.
Q: Do you think the prison will close?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I haven't had a chance to fully review what the court said, Terry. I wish I had, and I could have given you a better answer. As I say, we take the findings seriously. And, again, as I understand it -- now please don't hold me to this -- that there is a way forward with military tribunals in working with the United States Congress; as I understand certain senators have already been out expressing their desire to what the Supreme Court found, and we will work with the Congress. I want to find a way forward.
In other words, I have told the people that I would like for there to be a way to return people from Guantanamo to their home countries, but some of them -- people need to be tried in our courts. And that's -- the Hamdan decision was the way forward for that part of my statement, and, again, I would like to review the case. And we are, we've got people looking at it right now to determine how we can work with Congress if that's available to solve the problem.
Q: On North Korea, I'd like to ask a question of both of you, Prime Minister and President. On North Korea, I understand you spent a lot of time to exchange views. It is said that the North Koreans are preparing to launch Taepodong-2. To resolve this missile issue, what kind of cooperation do you think is possible between Japan and the United States? And also, did you discuss possibly referring the matter to the U.N. Security Council?
On the abduction issue and human rights issue, I understand, Mr. President, you've shown deep concerns for the resolution of the abduction issue. What sort of cooperation do you think is possible between the U.S. and Japan?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Do you want to go? Yes, please.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: (As translated.) The North Koreans -- I believe, in the first place, we need to try and approach the North Koreans not to launch Taepodong-2 through various efforts, and should they ever launch the missile, that will cause various pressures -- we would apply various pressures. And we discussed that. I believe it is best that I do not discuss what specific pressures we were talking about.
As we approach the North Koreans, we shall maintain close cooperation and coordination with the United States, including the abduction issue.
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- all kinds of opportunities, and the U.N. is an opportunity to express our common concern. You know, another interesting opportunity is, over time, to work on missile defenses. The Japanese cannot be -- afford to be held hostage to rockets. And neither can the United States or any other body who loves freedom. And so one really interesting opportunity is for -- to share and cooperate on missile defenses.
You know, the leader of North Korea is just going to have to make a decision, does he want to be isolated from the world, or is he interested in being an active participant in kind of the nations of the world who care about their people and desire peace? It's his choice to make. We've made our choice. We believe it's important for nations such as Japan and the United States to be active participants in the world in a positive way. And that's what we're doing.
You know, a lot of the focus of our relationship is based upon, obviously, Iraq and Afghanistan, but the truth of the matter is, Japan and the United States make mighty contributions to end suffering because of disease and hunger. And that's why I appreciate the Prime Minister's leadership. He understands that with economic might comes serious responsibilities in the world. And the United States takes those responsibilities seriously, and so does Japan.
Q: Yes, Mr. President. We can assume you've at least been given some of the broad strokes of the Supreme Court's decision on Guantanamo --
PRESIDENT BUSH: I just gave you the answer on that. I'll be glad to answer another question -- I gave you the broad strokes I've been given.
Q: Right, but this -- can you comment on what looks like a judicial repudiation of your administration's policy on the treatment of terror suspects post-9/11?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Matt, I can't -- I wish I could comment, and would, obviously. I'm a person who generally comments on things. I haven't been briefed enough to make a comment on it, except for the following things. I'm sorry you had to waste your question, but we will conform to the Supreme Court, we will analyze the decision. To the extent that the Congress has given any latitude to develop a way forward using military tribunals, we will work with them.
As I understand, a Senator has already been on TV. Haven't seen it, haven't heard what he said, but as -- they briefed me and said he wants to devise law in conformity with the case that would enable us to use a military tribunal to hold these people to account. And if that's the case, we'll work with him. But that's -- I can't comment any more than I have just done in the first question. Otherwise I would have. I just haven't been fully briefed enough to answer your question, Matt.
Q: (As translated.) Over the past five years, Prime Minister Koizumi and President Bush have built up the best sort of relationship between the two of you in the history of Japan and the United States. Now, what is the greatest reason for having maintained this policy of attaching greatest importance to Japan-U.S. relations?
A question for President Bush: Various problems have occurred after 9/11. And in the Prime Minister Koizumi's policy of attaching importance to Japan-U.S. relations, what was the case, instance where you were most appreciative of Prime Minister Koizumi's position? And what sort of impact has it had -- has it had on your feeling and stance toward Japan?
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: (As translated.) Well, attaching importance to our relations with the United States -- well, after the second world war, throughout, over the past six years, Japan has maintained that policy. We've recognized the importance of Japan-U.S. alliance, and also maintain a stance of international cooperation and coordination. It's because we have learned the lessons of World War II we took up this policy in believing that this was good for Japan. In the past, today, and the future, as well maintain Japan-U.S. alliance and international cooperation. This is a very important fundamental policy of Japan that should never change.
Last year, President Bush visited Kyoto in Japan and had one-on-one meeting. Some seem to think that the -- to the extent that Japan-U.S. relations is undermined, that could be complemented by better relations with Asia and other countries. And I've said I do not subscribe to that view. The better the Japan-U.S. relations, my view is that we will be able to have better relations with China and other countries and Asia.
Some in the mass media took up on that and misinterpreted my position. In other words, they felt that I was saying to the extent Japan-U.S. relations remain good, I couldn't care less what Japan's relations would be with other countries. That is not at all what I said. I've been saying that there is no country in the world that has as important bilateral relations as Japan-U.S. bilateral relations. But I have no view such as having better relations with the United States at the expense of relations with other countries.
My view is that by having better relations with the United States, I can have better relations with other countries. And from that perspective, in the post-war years, Japan has achieved remarkable growth and development. It is because we've learned lessons from the past in our relations with the United States and determined to maintain friendly relations with the United States. And that is what we have done to date.
In the future, as well, Japan-U.S. alliance is something that will be -- contribute to the resolution of various challenges in the world by maintaining friendly ties between Japan and the United States. Attaching importance to our relations with the United States does not sacrifice our views and our relations with other countries. Please do not misunderstand.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's a pretty tricky question. I hate to point out one area where that has influenced my thinking about Japan's contributions for fear of diminishing the contributions in other areas. Because the truth of the matter is we live in a very complex world, and by cooperating to solve problems makes the world a better place. However, since you asked, I'll answer. I would think it is the Prime Minister's understanding of the capacity for democracies to help change the conditions of the world. And, therefore, his strong support for helping a new Afghanistan democracy grow and his willingness to do something a lot of other leaders in Japan have been unwilling to do, which is to commit self-defense forces to help the growth of a new democracy.
And I tell the American people this, I use the Prime Minister all the time in my speeches, as the press corps will tell you, incredibly bored of hearing. But, nevertheless, I do
share the example with the people about my relationship with the Prime Minister. It is just -- it strikes me as just amazing. A lot of people take it for granted. I don't, because 60 years ago we were at war. And something happened between our visit to Graceland and when our respective fathers looked at each other with deep suspicion. And what happened was, Japan developed a Japanese-style democracy based upon shared values. And today, we're able to discuss peace. It is a remarkable transformation of a relationship. We just happen to be the beneficiaries of that transformation. I also believe, however, that there are people who are coming up who have shedded the bonds of tyranny are also the benefits of this relationship.
And so Japan is making a mighty contribution to new democracy, which I strongly believe is in our nation's interests, and I strongly believe will yield peace. And I firmly believe that the example that we show today will be repeated over the decades, particularly with newly-elected leaders in the Middle East. And the Prime Minister understands that. And I'm grateful for the contribution of the Japanese people to the cause of peace.
Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.
PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: Thank you, very much, American people, for "Love Me Tender." (Laughter.)
END 12:00 P.M. EDT
Source: The White House