WACO, Texas – White House chief of staff Andrew Card told an online audience Wednesday that he believes Saddam Hussein has been killed.
Card made the statement as he launched a new interactive feature on the White House Web site in which Internet users around the world had the chance to question one of President Bush's most-powerful aides on any topic they liked.
Of course, he got to choose which questions to answer.
But Card did not shy away from difficult topics, taking queries on such topics as the United States' commitment to civilians hurt during the hostilities in Iraq, tensions with North Korea, wartime protests, and the role of nations that didn't support the U.S.-led war in Iraq's postwar future.
"Casey" from Quincy, Mass., asked if there was any new information on the deposed Iraqi leader's location and if the war in Iraq could be deemed successful without Saddam Hussein's death or capture.
"He is not likely to be in Quincy, Braintree or my hometown of Holbrook," replied Card, a Massachusetts native. "I think he is dead. The good news is that his regime is no longer a threat to the people of Iraq nor to the U.S. or our allies."
Card ignored the second half of the question.
Saddam's his whereabouts are unknown. Other U.S. officials have said they don't know if he is dead or alive.
The chat -- featured on the Web site complete with a White House-supplied picture of Card tapping away at his computer keyboard -- got off to a slow start, with the first answer not up on the site until eight minutes into the 30-minute session.
The Web site asked for questioners' first name, their location and their question, although people could provide more information about themselves if they wanted.
In keeping with his personality, Card kept responses more businesslike than chatty. Questions about his role in informing Bush about the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and seeking advice for aspiring public servants, for instance, drew facts, but little emotion or encouragement.
Still, the crisp replies allowed Card to pack in 17 questions -- ranging from the first moments after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, to mutual cheering of the football team of Card's alma mater, the University of South Carolina -- and left time for a little levity.
National conservative radio talk show host and author Laura Ingraham asked jokingly if the White House has "plans to invade France next."
Card answered: "Virginia wine is fine with me."
A question about the culture of the White House culture elicited this:
"The WH staff is not like the TV show -- running and bumping into each other all day," Card wrote. "We do our work, enjoy being around each other and love serving this President. Long hours are NOT a challenge, but an opportunity."
"Laura," from Duluth, Minn., asked if the administration would do everything possible to prevent looted treasures from Iraq's museums from going on the open market.
War commander Gen. Tommy Franks, Card said, "is working with Iraqi leaders to encourage people who have come across stolen good to return them so the treasures of Iraq will be there for generations to come."
To the question from "Bryan" of Orlando, Fla., about the biggest challenges ahead for the White House, Card -- mindful of the economy's importance to his boss' political future -- replied: "Jobs, jobs, jobs and a continued focus on winning the war against terror."
The online White House chats -- dubbed "Ask the White House" -- are to continue periodically with other Bush administration officials.
"I had a great time and look forward to doing this again," Card wrote as he signed off.