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Exchange on the Situation in Iraq With Hispanic Journalists in Los Angeles, California

September 19, 1991

Q. Mr. President, you talked yesterday about the situation with Iraq in the monitoring of the cease-fire agreements. Do you think it will be necessary to have a substantial show of force, of weapons, and perhaps troops in that region to make sure that those agreements are fulfilled, implemented?

The President. At this juncture the answer to your question is, no, I don't think so. I do think that Saddam Hussein must comply willingly or reacting to pressure with the United Nations resolutions. There is too much at stake. The international community has too much at stake. The very meaning of a new world order with the U.N. playing an active role in it has too much at stake. The United States has a disproportionate responsibility for this. We do the heavy lifting. We're the only ones that can. And we saw that clearly when your sons and daughters went off to that war in the Gulf.

We don't need lots of troops and to mobilize a whole "Son of Desert Storm" operation. The way to diffuse it is for Saddam Hussein to do what the U.N. is calling on him to do. One way to have him to do is to understand that if he doesn't, he is going to find that we are prepared to use military action to see that he does comply. And we're not going to be doing this alone if it comes to that. We'll have others with us.

But to allay the concerns of America, I would simply say we're not talking about massive troop movements. What we are talking about, if required -- and if you ask me whether I thought it will be or not, I'd say, no -- what we are talking about is accompanying helicopters with some air power. And we got a lot of air power there.

And we've demonstrated, thanks to our technology and to the ability of our pilots, that we can be very specific as we apply this air power. And so, I'm glad you asked that because there's a lot of interest in the country, and a lot think that we're talking about a massive mobilization. I saw one of the networks interviewing some families down at Shaw Air Force Base, "Oh, please, we don't want to go through this again." That's not what we're talking about here. And I don't see it escalating that we would be talking about it.

But I will say this: I am determined that he comply with these resolutions. And when a President makes a statement like that, he ought not to do it without being willing to back that up. And I think the reason we ended up having the war in the first place was twofold. One, Saddam Hussein never believed we'd use power. He just didn't believe it. He listened to the debate in this country. He read the editorials. He'd misread a sign, and he didn't believe it. And the second miscalculation was, he believed that if we did use power, he didn't think we would, but he believed that if we did, that he would prevail either by a standoff emerging as the new Nasser or in some way beating us. He had no idea what was going to happen to him.

That's now history. He knows what we can do. And so, it is my gut feeling that he will do that which he should have done long ago, and that is comply with the letter of the United Nations resolutions.

And I would just like to take this opportunity to say to him through your outlets: He should comply. He should not miscalculate again. And we don't need to threaten. That's all we have to say: You ought to comply. And I've never been more determined. And he can interpret it any way he wants to.

Q. Are you imposing a deadline for him?

The President. No, no deadlines. Just a simple statement of determination in which I'm sure I would be joined by countries all around the world. I mean, this isn't just the United States. Just as the strength of Operation Desert Storm came from the fact that it had an international sanction, his compliance and demand for compliance comes not just from the United States but from the Security Council of the U.N.

So, there's no deadline, no lines in the sand. Just to say: Hey, go ahead and do what you ought to have done some time ago.

Note: The exchange began at 1:55 p.m. in the Benedict Room at the Four Seasons Hotel. President Bush referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

George Bush, Exchange on the Situation in Iraq With Hispanic Journalists in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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