Full Text Obama Presidency September 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Ebola Outbreak Announcing He is Sending 1000 Troops to Combat the Disease — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Ebola Outbreak

Source: WH, 9- 16-14

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, Georgia

4:01 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please be seated.  I want to thank Dr. Frieden and everybody here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for welcoming me here today.  Tom and his team just gave me an update on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, our efforts to help mobilize the international community to fight it, and the steps that we’re taking to keep people here at home safe.

Tom and his team are doing outstanding work.  Between the specialists they have on the ground in West Africa and here at headquarters, they’ve got hundreds of professionals who are working tirelessly on this issue.  This is the largest international response in the history of the CDC.  After this, I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women, including some who recently returned from the front lines of the outbreak.  And they represent public service at its very best.  And so I just want them to know how much the American people appreciate them.  Many of them are serving far away from home, away from their families.  They are doing heroic work and serving in some unbelievably challenging conditions — working through exhaustion, day and night, and many have volunteered to go back.  So we are very, very proud of them.

Their work and our efforts across the government is an example of what happens when America leads in confronting some major global challenges.  Faced with this outbreak, the world is looking to us, the United States, and it’s a responsibility that we embrace.  We’re prepared to take leadership on this to provide the kinds of capabilities that only America has, and to mobilize the world in ways that only America can do.  That’s what we’re doing as we speak.

First and foremost, I want the American people to know that our experts, here at the CDC and across our government, agree that the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.  We’ve been taking the necessary precautions, including working with countries in West Africa to increase screening at airports so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.  In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home.  We’re working to help flight crews identify people who are sick, and more labs across our country now have the capacity to quickly test for the virus.  We’re working with hospitals to make sure that they are prepared, and to ensure that our doctors, our nurses and our medical staff are trained, are ready, and are able to deal with a possible case safely.

And here I’ve got to commend everybody at Emory University Hospital.  I just had the opportunity to meet with Doctors Gartland and Ribner and members of their team and the nurses who — sorry, doctors, but having been in hospitals, I know — (laughter) — they’re the ones really doing the work.  And I had a chance to thank them for their extraordinary efforts in helping to provide care for the first Americans who recently contracted the disease in Africa.  The first two of those patients were released last month and continue to improve.  And it’s a reminder for the American people that, should any cases appear in the United States, we have world-class facilities and professionals ready to respond.  And we have effective surveillance mechanisms in place.

I should mention, by the way, that I had a chance to see Dr. Brantly in the Oval Office this morning.  And although he is still having to gain back some weight, he looks great.  He looks strong and we are incredibly grateful to him and his family for the service that he has rendered to people who are a lot less lucky than all of us.

As we all know, however, West Africa is facing a very different situation, especially in the hardest hit countries:  Liberia, Sierra Leone, and in Guinea.  Tom and others recently returned from the region, and the scenes that they describe are just horrific.  More than 2,400 men, women and children are known to have died — and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that.  Hospitals, clinics and the few treatment centers that do exist have been completely overwhelmed.  An already very weak public health system is near collapse in these countries.  Patients are being turned away, and people are literally dying in the streets.

Now, here’s the hard truth:  In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes that we have not seen before.  It’s spiraling out of control.  It is getting worse.  It’s spreading faster and exponentially.  Today, thousands of people in West Africa are infected.  That number could rapidly grow to tens of thousands.  And if the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected, with profound political and economic and security implications for all of us.  So this is an epidemic that is not just a threat to regional security — it’s a potential threat to global security if these countries break down, if their economies break down, if people panic.  That has profound effects on all of us, even if we are not directly contracting the disease.

And that’s why, two months ago, I directed my team to make this a national security priority.  We’re working this across our entire government, which is why today I’m joined by leaders throughout my administration, including from my national security team.

And we’ve devoted significant resources in support of our strategy with four goals in mind.  Number one, to control the outbreak.  Number two, to address the ripple effects of local economies and communities to prevent a truly massive humanitarian disaster.  Number three, to coordinate a broader global response.  And number four, to urgently build up a public health system in these countries for the future — not just in West Africa but in countries that don’t have a lot of resources generally.

Now, this is a daunting task.  But here’s what gives us hope.  The world knows how to fight this disease.  It’s not a mystery.  We know the science.  We know how to prevent it from spreading.  We know how to care for those who contract it.  We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives.  But we have to act fast.  We can’t dawdle on this one.  We have to move with force and make sure that we are catching this as best we can, given that it has already broken out in ways that we had not seen before.

So today, I’m announcing a major increase in our response.  At the request of the Liberian government, we’re going to establish a military command center in Liberia to support civilian efforts across the region — similar to our response after the Haiti earthquake.  It’s going to be commanded by Major General Darryl Williams, commander of our Army forces in Africa.  He just arrived today and is now on the ground in Liberia.  And our forces are going to bring their expertise in command and control, in logistics, in engineering.  And our Department of Defense is better at that, our Armed Services are better at that than any organization on Earth.

We’re going to create an air bridge to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa faster.  We’re going to establish a staging area in Senegal to help distribute personnel and aid on the ground more quickly.  We are going to create a new training site to train thousands of health workers so they can effectively and safely care for more patients.  Personnel from the U.S. Public Health Service will deploy to the new field hospitals that we’re setting up in Liberia.  And USAID will join with international partners and local communities in a Community Care Campaign to distribute supplies and information kits to hundreds of thousands of families so they can better protect themselves.

We’re also going to build additional treatment units, including new isolation spaces and more than 1,000 beds.  And in all our efforts, the safety of our personnel will remain a top priority.  Meanwhile, our scientists continue their urgent research in the hope of finding new treatments and perhaps vaccines.  And today I’m calling on Congress to approve the funding that we’ve requested so that we can carry on with all these critical efforts.

Today, the United States is doing even more.  But this is a global threat, and it demands a truly global response.  International organizations just have to move faster than they have up until this point.  More nations need to contribute experienced personnel, supplies, and funding that’s needed, and they need to deliver on what they pledge quickly.  Charities and individual philanthropists have given generously, and they can make a big difference.  And so we’re not restricting these efforts to governmental organizations; we also need NGOs and private philanthropies to work with us in a coordinated fashion in order to maximize the impact of our response.

This week, the United States will chair an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.  Next week, I’ll join U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to continue mobilizing the international community around this effort.  And then, at the White House, we’re going to bring more nations together to strengthen our global health security so that we can better prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks before they become epidemics.

This is actually something that we had announced several months ago at the G7 meeting.  We determined that this has to be a top priority; this was before the Ebola outbreak.  We anticipated the fact that in many of these countries with a weak public health system, if we don’t have more effective surveillance, more effective facilities on the ground, and are not helping poor countries in developing their ability to catch these things quickly, that there was at least the potential of seeing these kinds of outbreaks.  And sadly, we now see that our predictions were correct.  It gives more urgency to this effort — a global health initiative — that we have been pushing internationally.

Let me just close by saying this:  The scenes that we’re witnessing in West Africa today are absolutely gut-wrenching.  In one account over the weekend, we read about a family in Liberia.  The disease had already killed the father.  The mother was cradling a sick and listless five-year-old son.  Her other son, 10-years-old, was dying, too.  They finally reached a treatment center but they couldn’t get in.  And, said a relative, “We are just sitting.”

These men and women and children are just sitting, waiting to die, right now.  And it doesn’t have to be this way.

The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better.  But right now, the world still has an opportunity to save countless lives.  Right now, the world has the responsibility to act — to step up, and to do more.  The United States of America intends to do more.  We are going to keep leading in this effort.  We’re going to do our part, and we’re going to continue to make sure that the world understands the need for them to step alongside us as well in order for us to not just save the lives of families like the one I just discussed, but ultimately, to make sure that this doesn’t have the kinds of spillover effects that become even more difficult to control.

So thank you very much to the entire team that’s already doing this work.  And please know that you’ve got your President and Commander-in-Chief behind you.  Thank you.

END
4:14 P.M. EDT

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Full Text Obama Presidency September 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at MacDill Air Force Base Announcing He will not Sends Troops on the Ground in Iraq — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at MacDill Air Force Base

Source: WH, 9-16-14 

Tampa, Florida

12:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, MacDill!  (Applause.)  I want to thank General Austin for his introduction, Lloyd, for your exceptional leadership — were you about to sneak off the stage?

GENERAL AUSTIN:  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir, I was.

THE PRESIDENT:  Go ahead.  (Laughter.)  It’s better when Lloyd is not standing next to me because I don’t look small.  (Laughter.)  General Austin has done such an extraordinary work, both commanding our forces in Iraq; today as the commander of CENTCOM.  I want to thank somebody else for his own lifetime of service to America –- first as a soldier who fought in Vietnam; now as our Secretary of Defense –- Chuck Hagel.  Give it up for Chuck.  (Applause.)

Chuck was here a few weeks ago to welcome the new head of Special Operations Command, General Joe Votel.  Give Joe a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  For those of you who don’t know, 13 years ago, Joe led his team of Army Rangers as they jumped into Afghanistan to establish our first base there –- by jumping out of the plane alongside them.  So Joe is a tough guy, and he knows what he is doing and I can’t think of somebody who is more qualified to head up our Special Forces.  And so we want to thank Joe for accepting this assignment.

Your member of Congress, Kathy Castor, is here.  Give Kathy a big round of applause — there she is right there.  (Applause.)  Your Wing Commander, Colonel Dan Tulley.  (Applause.)  Your senior enlisted leaders:  Command Sergeant Major Chris Greca; Command Sergeant Major Chris Faris; Chief Master Sergeant Matt Lusson.  (Applause.)  And most of all, I want to salute all the spouses and military families on base, because let’s be honest -– they’re the force behind the force.  (Applause.)  I spent time with some of them last night, and it’s clear why our military is the finest fighting force in the history of the world — and it’s because our military families are serving right alongside you.

I know we’ve got some Air Force in the house.  (Applause.)  It’s great to be at the home of the 6th Air Mobility Wing.  (Applause.)  The 927th Air Refueling Wing.  (Applause.)  CENTCOM.  (Applause.)  SOCOM.  (Applause.)  We’ve got some Army here.  (Hooah!)  Navy.  (Hooyah!)  The Marines.  (Oorah!)  And Coast Guard.  (Laughter and applause.)  We love our Coast Guard.  (Laughter.)

Now, I’m not here to give a long speech.  But what I really wanted to do is come down and just shake some hands.  I just received a briefing from General Austin and met with your commanders.  I met with representatives from more than 40 nations.  It is a true team effort here at MacDill.  And I came here to say the same thing that I’ve been saying to troops on bases across this country, around the world, and a few months ago in Bagram — and that is thank you.  On behalf of the American people, I want to thank all of you for your service; I want to thank all of you for your sacrifice; I want to thank you for your commitment to each other and your commitment to our country.  As your Commander-in-Chief, I could not be more proud of each and every one of you.

For nearly 75 years, the men and women of MacDill have lived a commitment to “Airmen, Mission, and Community.”  You’ve supported our troops through each generation of challenges.  And as home to both Central Command and Special Operations Command, you have shouldered some of the heaviest responsibilities in dealing with the challenges of this new century.

For more than a decade -– ever since that awful September morning 13 years ago; ever since Joe and his Rangers took that jump a month later -– you, and all our men and women in uniform, have borne the burden of war.  Some of you -– our quiet professionals, our Special Forces -– were among the first to go.  When the decision was made to go into Iraq, you were there.  When we refocused the fight back to Afghanistan, you were there. You have served with skill, and honor, and commitment, and professionalism.

And some of you carry the wounds of these wars.  I know some of you lost friends.  Today, we remember all who have given their lives in these wars.  And we stand with their families, who’ve given more than most Americans can ever imagine.  And we honor those sacrifices forever.

But here is what I want every single one of you to know.  Because of you, this 9/11 Generation of heroes has done everything asked of you, and met every mission tasked to you.  We are doing what we set out to do.  Because of you, Osama bin Laden is no more.  Because of you, the core al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been decimated.  Because of you, Afghans are reclaiming their communities; Afghan forces have taken the lead for their country’s security.  In three months, because of you, our combat mission will be over in Afghanistan, and our war in Afghanistan will come to a responsible end.  That’s because of you.

You and our counterterrorism professionals have prevented terrorist attacks.  You’ve saved American lives.  You’ve made our homeland more secure.  But we’ve always known that the end of the war in Afghanistan didn’t mean the end of threats or challenges to America.

Here at MacDill, you knew this and have known this as well as anybody.  You played a central role in our combat and counterterrorism operations.  You make sure our troops and pilots get what they need in order to get the job done.  You train forces around the world so countries can take responsibility for their own security.  The 6th Air Mobility Wing is continuously deployed, supporting our humanitarian and combat operations around the world -– “Ready to Defend.”  And your work is as vital as ever.

Because in an uncertain world full of breathtaking change, the one constant is American leadership.

In a world where technology provides a small group of killers with the ability to do terrible harm, it is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists –- including the group in Syria and Iraq known as ISIL.  Our intelligence community, as I said last week, has not yet detected specific plots from these terrorists against America.  But its leaders have repeatedly threatened America and our allies.  And right now, these terrorists pose a threat to the people of Iraq, the people of Syria, the broader Middle East — including our personnel, our embassies, our consulates, our facilities there.  And if left unchecked, they could pose a growing threat to the United States.

So, last month, I gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against ISIL.  And since then, our brave pilot and crews –- with your help -– have conducted more than 160 airstrikes against these terrorists.  Because of your efforts, we’ve been able to protect our personnel and our facilities, and kill ISIL fighters, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory.  They’ve helped our partners on the ground break ISIL sieges, helped rescue civilians cornered on a mountain, helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.  That’s what you’ve done.

Now going forward, as I announced last week, we’re going to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.  And whether in Iraq or in Syria, these terrorists will learn the same thing that the leaders of al Qaeda already know:  We mean what we say; our reach is long; if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.  We will find you eventually.

AUDIENCE:  Hooah!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  But — and this is something I want to emphasize — this is not and will not be America’s fight alone.  One of the things we’ve learned over this last decade is, America can make a decisive difference, but I want to be clear:  The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.  They will support Iraqi forces on the ground as they fight for their own country against these terrorists.

As your Commander-in-Chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.  After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries’ futures.  And that’s the only solution that will succeed over the long term.

We’ll use our air power.  We will train and equip our partners.  We will advise them and we will assist them.  We will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight.  Because this is not simply America versus ISIL — this is the people of the region fighting against ISIL.  It is the world rejecting the brutality of ISIL in favor of a better future for our children, and our children’s children — all of them.

But we’re not going to do this alone.  And the one thing we have learned is, is that when we do things alone and the countries — the people of those countries aren’t doing it for themselves, as soon as we leave we start getting into the same problems.

So we’ve got to do things differently.  This is why we’ve spent the past several weeks building a coalition to aid in these efforts.  And because we’re leading in the right way, more nations are joining us.  Overall, more than 40 countries so far have offered assistance to the broad campaign against ISIL.  Some nations will assist from the air — and already France and the United Kingdom are flying with us over Iraq, with others committed to join this effort.

Some nations will help us support the forces fighting these terrorists on the ground.  And already Saudi Arabia has agreed to host our efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces.  Australia and Canada will send military advisors to Iraq.  German paratroopers will offer training.  Other nations have helped resupply arms and equipment to forces in Iraq, including the Kurdish Pershmerga.

Arab nations have agreed to strengthen their support for Iraq’s new government and to do their part in all the aspects of the fight against ISIL.  And our partners will help to cut off ISIL funding, and gather intelligence, and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East.

And meanwhile, nearly 30 nations have helped us with humanitarian relief to help innocent civilians who’ve been driven from their homes — whether they are Sunni, or Shia, or Christian, or Yazidi, or any other religious minority.

Yesterday, at the White House, I met with an outstanding American leader — retired Marine General John Allen.  He worked with Iraqi tribal leaders as they fought to reclaim their own communities from terrorists, and he’s going to serve as America’s special envoy to build and coordinate this incredible coalition. And I’ve called on Congress to make sure you’ve got all the authorities and resources you need to get the job done.

But the point is we cannot do for the Iraqis what they must do for themselves.  We can’t take the place of Arab partners in securing their own region and a better future for their own people.  We can’t do it for them, but this is an effort that calls on America’s unique abilities — and responsibilities — to lead.

In a world that’s more crowded and more connected, it is America that has the unique capability to mobilize against an organization like ISIL.  In a world full of broader social challenges, it is America that has the unique capability and know-how to help contain and combat a threat like Ebola, the epidemic in Africa.  And yesterday, on top of all that we’re already doing to help, I announced a major boost to our response. We’re establishing a military command center in Liberia, at the request of their government, to support civilian efforts across the region.  And Major General Darryl Williams, commander of our Army forces in Africa, arrived yesterday — he’s already on the ground.  And our armed forces will bring their unique, unrivaled expertise in command and control, and logistics and engineering, including creating an air bridge to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa faster.  And obviously, in all our efforts, the safety of our personnel will remain a top priority.

In the nation of Liberia, one person who heard this news yesterday was reported to say, “We have been praying to get the disease wiped out of our country.  So if the coming of U.S. troops will help us get that done, we [will] be happy.”  And that’s the story across the board.  If there is a hurricane, if there is a typhoon, if there is some sort of crisis, if there is an earthquake, if there’s a need for a rescue mission, when the world is threatened, when the world needs help, it calls on America.  Even the countries that complain about America — (laughter) — when they need help, who do they call?  They call us.  And then America calls on you.

To all the servicemen and women here and around the world:  we ask a lot of you.  And any mission involves risk.  And any mission separates you from your families.  And sending our servicemembers into harm’s way is not a decision I ever take lightly; it is the hardest decision I make as President.  Nothing else comes close.  I do it only when I know the mission is vital to the security of this country that we love.  I do it only because I know that you’re the best there is at what you do.  And, frankly, there just aren’t a lot of other folks who can perform in the same ways — in fact, there are none.  And there are some things only we can do.  There are some capabilities only we have.

That’s because of you — your dedication, your skill, your work, your families supporting you, your training, your command structure.  Our Armed Forces are unparalleled and unique.  And so when we’ve got a big problem somewhere around the world, it falls on our shoulders.  And sometimes that’s tough.  But that’s what sets us apart.  That’s why we’re America.  That’s what the stars and stripes are all about.

And between war and recession, it has been a challenging start to this new century.  We’ve been busy.  This has not been an easy 14 years.  And many of you came of age in these years.  But I want you to know, as I stand here with you today, I’m as confident as I have ever been that this century, just like the last century, will be led by America.  It will be and is an American century.

At home, we’re bouncing back, better positioning ourselves to win the future than any nation on Earth.  Overseas, we’re moving forward, answering the call to lead.  And even when it seems like our politics is just dividing us, I want you to remember that when it comes to supporting you and your families, the American people stand united.  We support you.  We are proud of you.  We are in awe of your skill and your service.  Only 1 percent of Americans may wear the uniform and shoulder the weight of special responsibilities that you do, but 100 percent of Americans need to support you and your families — 100 percent.

This is a moment of American leadership, and thanks to you, it is a moment that we are going to meet.  And I will keep standing up for your interests and for our security, and for the human rights and dignity of people wherever they live.  And we’re going to keep on working with our allies and partners to take out the terrorists who threaten us wherever they hide.  Because in stark contrast to those who only know how to kill and maim and tear down, we keep on building up and offering a future of progress and hope.  And like the generations before us, we’re willing to defend this country we love.  We’re willing to help others on this planet that we share.  We’re protected by patriots like you.  And for all those reasons, the United States of America will remain the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known.

Thank you very much, everybody.  I’m proud of you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
12:22 P.M. EDT

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