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Address to the People of Iraq on the Persian Gulf Crisis

September 16, 1990

I'm here today to explain to the people of Iraq why the United States and the world community has responded the way it has to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. My purpose is not to trade accusations, not to escalate the war of words, but to speak with candor about what has caused this crisis that confronts us. Let there be no misunderstanding: We have no quarrel with the people of Iraq. I've said many times, and I will repeat right now, our only object is to oppose the invasion ordered by Saddam Hussein.

On August 2d, your leadership made its decision to invade, an unprovoked attack on a small nation that posed no threat to your own. Kuwait was the victim; Iraq, the aggressor.

And the world met Iraq's invasion with a chorus of condemnation: unanimous resolutions in the United Nations. Twenty-seven States -- rich and poor, Arab, Moslem, Asian, and African -- have answered the call of Saudi Arabia and free Kuwait and sent forces to the Gulf region to defend against Iraq. For the first time in history, 13 States of the Arab League, representing 80 percent of the Arab nation, have condemned a brother Arab State. Today, opposed by world opinion, Iraq stands isolated and alone.

I do not believe that you, the people of Iraq, want war. You've borne untold suffering and hardship during 8 long years of war with Iran -- a war that touched the life of every single Iraqi citizen; a war that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of young men, the bright promise of an entire generation. No one knows better than you the incalculable costs of war, the ultimate cost when a nation's vast potential and vital energies are consumed by conflict. No one knows what Iraq might be today, what prosperity and peace you might now enjoy, had your leaders not plunged you into war. Now, once again, Iraq finds itself on the brink of war. Once again, the same Iraqi leadership has miscalculated. Once again, the Iraqi people face tragedy.

Saddam Hussein has told you that Iraqi troops were invited into Kuwait. That's not true. In fact, in the face of far superior force, the people of Kuwait are bravely resisting this occupation. Your own returning soldiers will tell you the Kuwaitis are fighting valiantly in any way they can.

Saddam Hussein tells you that this crisis is a struggle between Iraq and America. In fact, it is Iraq against the world. When President Gorbachev and I met at Helsinki [September 9], we agreed that no peaceful international order is possible if larger states can devour their neighbors. Never before has world opinion been so solidly united against aggression.

Nor, until the invasion of Kuwait, has the United States been opposed to Iraq. In the past, the United States has helped Iraq import billions of dollars worth of food and other commodities. And the war with Iran would not have ended 2 years ago without U.S. support and sponsorship in the United Nations.

Saddam Hussein tells you the occupation of Kuwait will benefit the poorer nations of the world. In fact, the occupation of Kuwait is helping no one and is now hurting you, the Iraqi people, and countless others of the world's poor. Instead of acquiring new oil wealth by annexing Kuwait, this misguided act of aggression will cost Iraq over $20 billion a year in lost oil revenues. Because of Iraq's aggression, hundreds of thousands of innocent foreign workers are fleeing Kuwait and Iraq. They are stranded on Iraq's borders, without shelter, without food, without medicine, with no way home. These refugees are suffering, and this is shameful.

But even worse, others are being held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait. Hostage-taking punishes the innocent and separates families. It is barbaric. It will not work, and it will not affect my ability to make tough decisions.

I do not want to add to the suffering of the people of Iraq. The United Nations has put binding sanctions in place not to punish the Iraqi people but as a peaceful means to convince your leadership to withdraw from Kuwait. That decision is in the hands of Saddam Hussein.

The pain you now experience is a direct result of the path your leadership has chosen. When Iraq returns to the path of peace, when Iraqi troops withdraw from Kuwait, when that country's rightful government is restored, when all foreigners held against their will are released, then, and then alone, will the world end the sanctions.

Perhaps your leaders do not appreciate the strength of the forces united against them. Let me say clearly: There is no way Iraq can win. Ultimately, Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait.

No one -- not the American people, not this President -- wants war. But there are times when a country -- when all countries who value the principles of sovereignty and independence -- must stand against aggression. As Americans, we're slow to raise our hand in anger and eager to explore every peaceful means of settling our disputes; but when we have exhausted every alternative, when conflict is thrust upon us, there is no nation on Earth with greater resolve or stronger steadiness of purpose.

The actions of your leadership have put Iraq at odds with the world community. But while those actions have brought us to the brink of conflict, war is not inevitable. It is still possible to bring this crisis to a peaceful end.

When we stand with Kuwait against aggression, we stand for a principle well understood in the Arab world. Let me quote the words of one Arab leader, Saddam Hussein himself: "An Arab country does not have the right to occupy another Arab country. God forbid, if Iraq should deviate from the right path, we would want Arabs to send their armies to put things right. If Iraq should become intoxicated by its power and move to overwhelm another Arab State, the Arabs would be right to deploy their armies to check it."

Those are the words of your leader, Saddam Hussein, spoken on November 28, 1988, in a speech to Arab lawyers. Today, 2 years later, Saddam has invaded and occupied a member of the United Nations and the Arab League. The world will not allow this aggression to stand. Iraq must get out of Kuwait for the sake of principle, for the sake of peace, and for the sake of the Iraqi people.

Note: The President recorded this address in the Oval Office at the White House on September 12, and it was broadcast unedited on Iraqi television on September 16.

George Bush, Address to the People of Iraq on the Persian Gulf Crisis Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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