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Radio Address to the Nation on the Persian Gulf Crisis

January 05, 1991

As the new year begins, new challenges unfold -- challenges to America and the future of our world. Simply put: 1990 saw Iraq invade and occupy Kuwait. Nineteen ninety-one will see Iraq withdraw -- preferably by choice; by force, if need be. It is my most sincere hope 1991 is a year of peace. I've seen the hideous face of war and counted the costs of conflict in friends lost. I remember this all too well, and have no greater concern than the well-being of our men and women stationed in the Persian Gulf. True, their morale is sky-high. True, if they are called upon to fight the aggressors, they will do their job courageously, professionally and, in the end, decisively. There will be no more Vietnams.

But we should go the extra mile before asking our service men and women to stand in harm's way. We should, and we have. The United Nations, with the full support of the United States, has already tried to peacefully pressure Iraq out of Kuwait, implementing economic sanctions and securing the condemnation of the world in the form of no less than 12 resolutions of the U.N. Security Council.

This week, we've taken one more step. I have offered to have Secretary of State James Baker meet with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq `Aziz in Switzerland. Yesterday, we received word that Iraq has accepted our offer to meet in Geneva. This will not be secret diplomacy at work. Secretary Baker will restate, in person, a message for Saddam Hussein: Withdraw from Kuwait unconditionally and immediately, or face the terrible consequences.

Eleven days from today, Saddam Hussein will either have met the United Nations deadline for a full and unconditional withdrawal, or he will have once again defied the civilized world. This is a deadline for Saddam Hussein to comply with the United Nations resolution, not a deadline for our own Armed Forces. Still, time is running out. It's running out because each day that passes brings real costs.

Saddam already poses a strategic threat to the capital cities of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, and Syria, as well as our own men and women in the Gulf region. In fact, Saddam has used chemical weapons of mass destruction against innocent villagers, his own people. Each day that passes brings Saddam Hussein further on the path to developing biological and nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. If Saddam corners the world energy market, he can then finance further aggression, terror, and blackmail. Each day that passes increases Saddam's worldwide threat to democracy.

The struggling newborn democracies of Eastern Europe and Latin America already face a staggering challenge in making the transition to a free market. But the added weight of higher oil prices is a crushing burden they cannot afford. And our own economy is suffering, suffering the effects of higher oil prices and lower growth stemming from Saddam's aggression.

Each day that passes, Saddam's forces also fortify and dig in deeper into Kuwait. We risk paying a higher price in the most precious currency of all -- human life -- if we give Saddam more time to prepare for war. And each day that passes is another day of fear, suffering, and terror for the people of Kuwait, many who risked their lives to shelter and hide Americans from Iraqi soldiers. As the Amir of Kuwait said to our Vice President just last week, those who advocate waiting longer for sanctions to work do not have to live under such brutal occupation.

As I have discussed with Members of Congress just 2 days ago and in our many other consultations, economic sanctions are taking a toll, but they are still not forcing Saddam out of Kuwait. Nor do we know when or even if they will be successful. As a result, America and her partners in this unprecedented coalition are sharing the burden of this important mission, and we are ready to use force to defend a new order emerging among the nations of the world -- a world of sovereign nations living in peace.

We have seen too often in this century how quickly any threat to one becomes a threat to all. At this critical moment in history, at a time the cold war is fading into the past, we cannot fail. At stake is not simply some distant country called Kuwait. At stake is the kind of world we will inhabit.

Last Thanksgiving, I broke bread with some of our men and women on the front lines. They understand why we are in Saudi Arabia, and what we may have to do. I witnessed courage unfazed by the closeness of danger and determination undiminished by the harsh desert sun. These men and women are America's finest. We owe each of them our gratitude and full support. That is why we must all stand together, not as Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, but as Americans.

Note: This address was recorded January 4 in the Oval Office at the White House and was broadcast at 12:06 p.m. on January 5. In his address, President Bush referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Amir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah of Kuwait.

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

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