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Open Letter to College Students on the Persian Gulf Crisis

January 09, 1991

If armed men invaded a home in this country, killed those in their way, stole what they wanted and then announced the house was now theirs -- no one would hesitate about what must be done. And that is why we cannot hesitate about what must be done halfway around the world: in Kuwait.

There is much in the modern world that is subject to doubts or questions -- washed in shades of gray. But not the brutal aggression of Saddam Hussein against a peaceful, sovereign nation and its people. It's black and white. The facts are clear. The choice unambiguous -- right vs. wrong.

The terror Saddam Hussein has imposed upon Kuwait violates every principle of human decency. Listen to what Amnesty International has documented. "Widespread abuses of human rights have been perpetrated by Iraqi forces . . . arbitrary arrest and detention without trial of thousands . . . widespread torture . . . imposition of the death penalty and the extrajudicial execution of hundreds of unarmed civilians, including children."

Including children -- there's no horror that could make this a more obvious conflict of good vs. evil. The man who used chemical warfare on his own people -- once again including children -- now oversees public hangings of dissenters. And daily his troops commit atrocities against Kuwaiti citizens.

This brutality has reverberated throughout the entire world. If we do not follow the dictates of our inner moral compass and stand up for human life, then his lawlessness will threaten the peace and democracy of the emerging new world order we now see: this long dreamed-of vision we've all worked toward for so long. A year after the joyous dawn of freedom's light in eastern Europe, a dark evil has descended in another part of the world. But we have the chance -- and we have the obligation -- to stop ruthless aggression.

I have been in war. I have known the terror of combat. And I tell you this with all my heart: I don't want there to be war ever again. I am determined to do absolutely everything possible in the search for a peaceful resolution to this crisis -- but only if the peace is genuine, if it rests on principle, not appeasement.

But while we search for that answer, in the Gulf young men and women are putting their own lives on hold in order to stand for peace in our world and for the essential value of human life itself. Many are younger than my own children. Your age, most of them -- doing tough duty for something they believe in.

Let me tell you about one of the soldiers over there, Sfc. Terry Hatfield, a young man from Georgia. He sent me a Christmas card. And this is what he wrote: "Mr. President, I just wanted you to know my soldiers and I are ready to do whatever mission you decide. Freedom as we know and enjoy has been taken away from another country and must be restored. Although we are separated from family, friends, loved ones, we will do what must be done . . . We stand ready and waiting. God Bless you and the U.S.A."

Terry understands the moral obligation that has compelled our extraordinary multi-national coalition to make this stand in the Gulf. To look this international terrorist straight in the eye and say: no concessions. To proclaim for now and for the future: no compromises. To bear witness by our presence to the fact that aggression will not be rewarded.

Terry waits thousands of miles from the White House, yet we share the same thoughts. We desperately want peace. But we know that to reward aggression would be to end the promise of our new world order. To reward aggression would be to destroy the United Nations' promise as international peacekeeper. To reward aggression would be to condone the acts of those who would desecrate the promise of human life itself. And we will do none of this. There are times in life when we confront values worth fighting for. This is one such time.

Each day that passes means another day for Iraq's forces to dig deeper into their stolen land. Another day Saddam Hussein can work toward building his nuclear arsenal and perfecting his chemical and biological weapons capability. Another day of atrocities for Amnesty International to document. Another day of international outlaws, instead of international law.

I ask you to think about the economic devastation that Saddam Hussein would continue to wreak on the world's emerging democracies if he were in control of one-fifth of the world's oil reserves -- and to reflect on the terrible threat that a Saddam Hussein armed with weapons of mass destruction already poses to human life and to the future of all nations.

Together, as an America united against these horrors, we can, with our coalition partners, assure that this aggression is stopped and the principles on which this nation and the rest of the civilized world are founded are preserved.

And so let us remember and support Terry Hatfield, all our fine service men and women, as they stand ready on the frontier of freedom, willing to do their duty and do it well. They deserve our complete and enthusiastic support -- and lasting gratitude.

Note: This letter was sent to 460 college newspapers on January 9, and it was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on January 10. The letter referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

George Bush, Open Letter to College Students on the Persian Gulf Crisis Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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