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Message to Allied Nations on the Persian Gulf Crisis

January 08, 1991

More than 5 months ago, in the early morning hours of August 2d, Iraqi forces rolled south and the rape of Kuwait began. That unprovoked invasion was more than an attack on Kuwait, more than the brutal occupation of a tiny nation that posed no threat to its large and powerful neighbor. It was an assault on the very notion of international order.

My purpose in speaking to you, the people of countries united against this assault, is to share with you my view of the aims and objectives that must guide us in the challenging days ahead. From the center of the crisis in the Middle East, to people and countries on every continent, to the families with loved ones held hostage, to the many millions sure to suffer at the hands of one man with a stranglehold on the world's economic lifeline, Iraq's aggression has caused untold suffering, hardship, and uncertainty.

In the more than 5 months since August 2d, Iraqi troops have carried out a systematic campaign of terror on the people of Kuwait -- unspeakable atrocities against men and women and, among the maimed and murdered, even innocent children. In the more than 5 months since August 2d, Iraq's action has imposed economic strains on nations large and small -- among them some of the world's newest democracies at the very moment they are most vulnerable. And yet, Iraq's aggression did not go unchallenged.

In the 5 months since August 2d, the world has witnessed the emergence of an unprecedented coalition against aggression. In the United Nations, Iraq's outlaw act has met a chorus of condemnation in 12 resolutions with the overwhelming support of the Security Council. At this moment, forces from 27 nations -- rich and poor, Arab and Muslim, European, Asian, African, and American -- stand side by side in the Gulf, determined that Saddam's aggression will not stand.

We're now entering the most critical period of this crisis. For the past 5 months, Saddam has held the world and the norms of civilized conduct in contempt. In the next few days, Iraq arrives at a deadline that spells the limit of the civilized world's patience.

Let me be clear about the upcoming deadline. January 15 is not a "date certain" for the onset of armed conflict; it is a deadline for Saddam Hussein to choose, to choose peace over war. The purpose of declaring this deadline was to give Saddam fair warning: Withdraw from Kuwait, without condition and without delay, or -- at any time on or after that date -- face a coalition ready and willing to employ "all means necessary" to enforce the will of the United Nations.

Every one of us, each day of this crisis, has held out hope for a peaceful solution. Even now, as the deadline draws near, we continue to seek a way to end this crisis without further conflict. And that is why, back on November 30, I offered to have Secretary Baker travel to Baghdad to meet with Saddam Hussein. And that is why, even after Saddam failed to respond, failed to find time to meet on any of the 15 days we put forward, I invited Iraq's Foreign Minister to meet with Secretary Baker in Geneva on January 9th.

In Geneva, we will be guided by the will of the world community -- expressed in those 12 U.N. resolutions I mentioned a moment ago. I didn't send Secretary Baker to Geneva to compromise or to offer concessions. This meeting offers Saddam Hussein a chance -- possibly the final chance -- before the U.N. deadline to resolve by peaceful means the crisis that he has created.

Saddam may seek to split the coalition, to exploit our sincere desire for peace, to secure for himself the spoils of war. He will fail -- just as he has failed for more than 5 months. I know that pressures are now building to provide Saddam some means of saving face, or to accept a withdrawal that is less than unconditional. The danger in this course should be clear to all. The price of peace now on Saddam's terms will be paid many times over in greater sacrifice and suffering. Saddam's power will only grow, along with his appetite for more conquest. The next conflict will find him stronger still -- perhaps in possession even of nuclear weapons -- and far more difficult to defeat. And that is why we simply cannot accept anything less than full compliance with the United Nations dictates: Iraq's complete and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait.

I began by saying that Iraq's action was more than an attack on one nation -- it is an assault on us all, on the international order we all share. We who have witnessed in this past year an end to the long years of cold war and conflict, we who have seen so much positive change, stand now at a critical moment, one that will shape the world we live in for years, even decades, to come.

The key now in meeting this challenge is for this remarkable coalition to remain steadfast and strong. If we remain in the days ahead nations united against aggression, we will turn back not only the actions of an ambitious dictator; we will, as partners, step forward toward a world of peace.

Thank you, and may God bless all of you.

Note: This message was recorded January 6 at Camp David, MD, and it was broadcast at noon on January 8 over the U.S. Information Agency WORLDNET satellite network. In his message, President Bush referred to President Saddam Hussein and Foreign Minister Tariq `Aziz of Iraq and Secretary of State James A. Baker III. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this message.

George Bush, Message to Allied Nations on the Persian Gulf Crisis Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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