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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on Iraq

August 16, 1992

The President. Well, there's currently a good deal of speculation about potential U.N. inspections and then possible military measures in Iraq and alleged political motivations. I'm not going to comment on today's speculative stories, except to say I saw quite a few inaccuracies.

From now on, some will accuse us of political opportunism for every move I make, and that's unfortunate. But it is not going to deter me from doing what is right, regardless of the political fallout. We're determined that U.N. Resolution 687 will be fully implemented. Now, this requires U.N. teams to inspect and destroy the Iraqi network of weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile.

I have total confidence in Rolf Ekeus of the United Nations and of the U.N. teams who have the responsibility for this mission. Let me make clear that what they elect to inspect and when they do these inspections is strictly their decision. The U.S. role is to provide support for their efforts.

Saddam Hussein needs to realize that the world will not ignore interference with these U.N. requirements. He cannot be allowed to dictate what can and cannot be inspected.

So let me underscore something which I think you all know. As President, whatever I decide has immediate consequences. But there will be no politics, and I will do what is right for the United States and in this case for the rest of the world.

I just wanted to get that statement out because I've read some ugly speculation. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, if that leak came from a military source, isn't that a breach of security? Are you checking to determine whether that did in fact happen?

The President. Well, again, I don't want to confirm what leak we're talking about. But yes, there's been a clear breach of security.

Q. Mr. Bush, how do you feel about reading what the New York Times wrote today?

The President. Well, I don't like it. But I, unfortunately, have not grown accustomed to but am less shocked than I used to be by breaches of this nature. But in any event, I don't want to go further into what I like or don't like about it. But I must say I was shocked to read all this today.

Q. Mr. President, will you say what the situation is in order to clarify?

The President. No, I won't, because the U.N. makes these decisions. Dr. Ekeus makes these calls. He has our full confidence, and what he plans to do next is his business. That is not something that's done by the United States.

Q. Does the U.S. have a plan to strike the Iraqi ministry buildings if Saddam Hussein denies access?

The President. The United States has plans to be sure that Saddam Hussein does what he's supposed to do, and that is to comply with Resolution 687 and also 688, which refers to the brutalization of his own people.

Q. Even if he refuses to allow U.N. inspectors in during convention week or during the course of the campaign?

The President. The campaign and the convention have nothing to do with this. This is the national security interests of the United States. This is obligations to support the United Nations. So I'm glad you raised it, Randall [Randall Pinkston, CBS News]. But I will repeat it: I have responsibilities as President and responsibilities as Commander in Chief. I will go through with those responsibilities regardless of the politics. That is a very important point in all of this, and I hope I have demonstrated that enough to earn the trust of the American people when it comes to making this kind of decision. I do not make decisions involving military force lightly. I've been there myself. I know what it's like. I don't commit somebody else's son or daughter to battle or to any kind of combat unless it is the right thing to do, regardless of politics.

Q. Mr. President, has there been -- --

Q. -- -- Houston convention if there were a problem that demanded your attention during the week?

The President. If there was a problem that demanded my attention, I would. But I'm not sure. I can handle whatever comes up from wherever I am. We've got a great system of communications, and I think we demonstrated that during the Gulf war.

Last one.

Q. Mr. President, you don't seem to be denying this report. Am I right?

The President. What report?

Q. The report that was published today in the New York Times.

The President. Please repeat it for me, because I've read several different -- what part of it?

Q. The part that there is some plan for the United States to sort of encourage Saddam Hussein to get involved in some kind of fight. I mean, there is some kind of contingency plan -- --

The President. I totally deny that.

Q. Not picking a fight -- --

The President. I totally deny that we're trying to pick a fight, and I totally deny we're trying to pick a fight for political purposes. If that was in the report, I really am angry about it. Didn't read it that carefully. But is he going to oblige; is he going to follow through on these resolutions? I've stood right here and said that over and over again, and he has.

But if this is the argument, I can totally deny that.

Q. Are they going to go in on Monday, are the bombs -- --

The President. It is ugly, and it is uncalled for.

Q. Are the bombs going to start falling tomorrow? This was in the report as well, that something could happen tomorrow.

The President. I am not going to say what we are or are not going to do. Don't believe everything you read in these reports.

Q. I guess what people just want to know is, is there or is there not a game plan for air strikes if there's a problem with Iraq?

The President. I have said before, all options are open. That's all I'll say.

Q. What about consultations with the allies on a new enforcement plan? Have there been those kinds of consultations in recent days?

The President. We've been in constant touch with our allies, yes.

Q. Is your speech ready for Thursday night? It's not ready?

The President. It's not ready, no. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 4:45 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House upon his arrival from Camp David, MD. In his remarks, he referred to Rolf Ekeus, Executive Director, United Nations Special Commission on Iraq.

George Bush, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters on Iraq Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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