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Public Papers - 1990

Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Following Discussions With Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom in Paris, France

1990-11-19

The President. We've had a very delightful breakfast, and I want to thank the Prime Minister for coming over. Not surprisingly, we see eye to eye on matters in the Gulf. And we had an opportunity to discuss trade, the importance of getting on to a successful conclusion of the GATT round. And thank you, Prime Minister, for coming at this early hour. But once again, I've learned a lot, and I feel very comfortable that the U.K. and the United States are looking at these major problems through the same prism.

The Prime Minister. It's been a very good breakfast meeting. We see so similarly on most things. We have the same firmness on the Gulf, the same horror that hostages are kept at all -- they should be released immediately -- the same firmness that if Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq] does not withdraw from Kuwait, the military option would have to be used.

We also come together on a day when -- if the United States and the United Kingdom and Europe had not stayed absolutely firm in defense, we should never be in a position to sign the agreement that will be signed today. That, I think, is a very, very good message to the world to stay firm in defense, because you never know what uncertainties may arise.

On other things, you know we and the United States believe firmly in free trade. That is what gets a prosperous world. And we're deeply concerned about the GATT round. And as you know, I have done my level-best to see that Europe puts forward reasonable proposals -- indeed, put forward any proposals. We're not through the difficulties yet, and it's important that the Uruguay round does succeed.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mrs. Thatcher, do you think there's going to be a war, a shooting war, in the Gulf? You have a lot of experience with the Middle East and certainly Britain's ties with Iraq. What do you think?

The Prime Minister. There will be one fair way to avoid that, and that would be for Saddam Hussein to withdraw quickly, totally.

Q. Does that answer the question?

The Prime Minister. Yes, it does.

Q. Do you think it -- --

The Prime Minister. If he does not, then he has to be removed by force. This is evil. The things that are going on in Kuwait are terrifying. They are brutal. And most people understand that evil has to be stopped. Either he withdraws or the military option has to be used.

Q. Mr. President, I know that you think this latest hostage offer from Saddam Hussein is a cynical manipulation of hostage families -- --

The President. Yes, I do.

Q. -- -- but could it serve in any way as a possible precursor for some kind of negotiation to get him out of Kuwait?

The President. I can't read his mind, but when you have done something as outrageously illegal as grabbing somebody's innocent civilians and holding them hostage -- kidnaping them, if you will -- there should be no reward for that. And he ought to have released them long ago. And he ought to release them now. And this cynicism of starting to release them on Christmas Day will be seen by the world as a total ploy. And so, if you mean does it offer me hope that he's getting flexible, I don't think so. I think it's a cynical ploy to rally public opinion. And it is so brutal to parcel out human life in that way that I think it will backfire in terms of what he expected from it.

Q. Mr. President, en route here, President Gorbachev in Italy said he was convinced that a peaceful way would be found out of this crisis. And he spoke of new ideas; the implication seeming to be new initiatives in the diplomatic front. Do you to any degree share that optimism? I know you've said you're hopeful that a peaceful way can be found, but do you share the optimism that Mr. Gorbachev appears to be expressing? And do you know anything about new ideas?

The President. I'll talk to him, but I have not seen anything to make me believe there is a new approach that fulfills the obligations entailed under the United Nations resolutions. Because there can be no compromise. You cannot reward aggression. But I will be seeing him, and Mr. Gorbachev has been very solid in support of the United Nations. So I'm anxious to know if there's something new that he's thinking of, but I can't think what it is.

Q. Could you address that question?

The Prime Minister. Saddam Hussein should obey the United Nations resolutions and withdraw immediately. What we've got now is not peace. There's no peace in Kuwait; there's evil. There is daily brutality. There is cruelty. They're shooting people because they have attempted to hide and protect foreigners in Kuwait. That is not peace. It is the worst brutality and evil. Unless he leaves, he will have to be made to leave by force. I think you just have to get the fundamentals straight. He plays with human beings as if they were pawns. Unless you stop this man, there will be no peace in the world, let alone in the Middle East.

Can I just say, the mere heads of government have to get to the conference before heads of state. [Laughter] So can I just -- --

British Conservative Party Leadership Election

Q. One British question. Are you going to survive -- --

Q. Are you going to survive tomorrow? Are you going to survive the political challenge?

The Prime Minister. I most earnestly believe so.

The President. Thank you all very much.

Conventional Arms Reduction in Europe

Q. I'd like another conference question, Mr. President.

The President. A what?

Q. A conference question.

Q. Can we ask you about -- --

The President. I'm going to take one more question, and then I'm leaving.

Q. I'd like to know if you see any irony in coming together to sign this treaty that reduces conventional arms and celebrates peace in Europe while you push this tough hard line against Saddam Hussein.

The President. I don't see any irony in it whatsoever. What I see is the fact that we're able to enter into a CFE [conventional armed forces in Europe] agreement with full cooperation and support of the Soviet Union who, heretofore, has been an enormous adversary of the West. And now this reduces to practically nil the tensions that have existed. It is the farthest reaching arms control agreement in history; and it signals the new world order that is emerging, and to some degree has emerged, and that is the best hope for rolling back the brutality and the aggression of Saddam Hussein, who has nothing to do with the CFE agreement.

So what it does is show a solidification of forces that in recent history have been on opposite sides of some of these questions. So if there's any message coming out of CFE for Saddam Hussein, it ought to be: Look what you're up against here. Here are people that since World War II have tension and, at times, conflict; and now they're together as they take a gigantic step forward in arms control. And they're together as they stand in the United Nations against your brutal, naked aggression. So, if there's any connection, that's the message that I'd like to see come out of all of this.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. What about the timing -- doing this on the eve of the conference -- is he trying to spoil or send a message -- --

The President. I don't know that it has anything to do with the CSCE conference, but if it is, it's to try to glom up a little support for his brutality. And I think -- you heard Prime Minister Thatcher -- I feel the same way. I'm sure President Mitterrand [of France] will feel the same way. So, if his move is timed to get support for him in CSCE, I think it will fail. I can't imagine anybody that has citizens held hostage by his brutality there succumbing to this siren's call of a 3-month release starting in a month and a half from now. It is so brutal and so cruel that it becomes obvious.

Q. Well, sir, do you think he's trying to buy time with this?

The President. Probably trying to buy anything -- public support, time -- anything. But the longer he focuses on holding innocents against their will, the more he points to his own brutality, and that's exactly what's happened here. And there is no room for compromise on what he's doing.

Q. Would you say the same thing Mrs. Thatcher just said: that if he doesn't get out, he must be forced out of Kuwait?

The President. I've already given my position. We're not ruling out any options at all.

Q. But she didn't say that. She said you must -- --

The President. I told you how I'd say it.

Q. Mr. President, a lot of people -- --

The President. We won't press ourselves -- --

British Conservative Party Leadership Elections

Q. Did you wish Mrs. Thatcher luck?

The President. Did I what?

Q. Did you wish the Prime Minister luck?

The President. I stay out of all of this, but we have a superb relationship with Mrs. Thatcher. It is, indeed, a special relationship. And far be it from me to figure out the internal politics of a party in the United Kingdom, just as I would not like to ask her to figure out the similar problems that might exist in the Democratic Party or the Republican Party in the United States.

Q. But the special relationship would continue, would it not?

The President. The special relationship is good and strong. And I'm not going to say anything that would look like I'm trying to intervene into the proceedings over there.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, are you at all concerned that the perception seems to be that other leaders are trying to restrain you and Mrs. Thatcher? You're the only ones -- --

The President. No, I don't get that at all. I didn't pick that up at all. I had dinner with President Mitterrand last night. That's nonexistent.

Q. A lot of people think your buildup -- --

Q. What was Chancellor Kohl [of Germany] up to yesterday with his remarks about negotiating and finding a way to help Saddam Hussein ease his way out of the situation? That sounds like concessions.

The President. Listen, he can ease out fine. There will be no concession. And I agree with Chancellor Kohl that it would be nice to have a peaceful resolution to this question. That's what we've been trying to do. We're ratcheting up pressure on this man, and I hope as soon as he understands that he cannot prevail that he will do that which he did in Iran: 180 degrees and head north. That's what he ought to do.

Q. Can I ask you: Are you under pressure from these allies to reach a negotiated settlement?

The President. No, I'm under pressure from my own -- what I believe in my heart: that I'd like to see a peaceful solution to this question. Most of the forces are American kids over there. And anybody feels a certain responsibility for them. I also feel a responsibility to see that this aggression does not go rewarded. So, no, I'm not under any pressure from them.

Q. A lot of people think that sending 400,000 troops -- that you will feel inevitably that you have to use them.

The President. There won't have to be a shot fired in anger if he does what he's supposed to do, which is to comply fully, without condition, to the United Nations resolutions. That's the way to get the peaceful solution to this question, and that is the only way to get a peaceful solution because it's not going to go on forever. It simply cannot go on forever and won't go on forever.

Q. Do you think he's softening?

Q. Chancellor Kohl seemed to indicate that, really, we ought to really push hard on negotiations. You don't really talk about negotiations very much.

The President. I've seen the different negotiation efforts. I've seen people try for a so-called Arab solution. And they all fall short. The reason they fall short is that, in the final analysis, Saddam Hussein tells every single person that tries to be in a negotiating role, Kuwait is a province of Iraq. That is unacceptable. That's unacceptable to the United Nations. Clearly, it is unacceptable to the United States. And that's why it fails.

You can't negotiate with a terrorist. If a person kidnaps another, should the kidnaper be given face? Should that person be given some way out so he can have a little face when he gets back into the world? The answer is no, you do not compromise with that. And therein lies the problem. And Chancellor Kohl knows that very well indeed. But do I share his aspirations for a peaceful resolution to this question? Absolutely.

Q. Mr. President, isn't that exactly why, though, it appears to undercut your effort: for you to be talking pressure, him to be talking negotiation?

The President. I talked to Chancellor Kohl for 2 hours, and as I told you yesterday, I feel totally on the same wavelength with him.

Q. Why do you suppose he gives that radio interview then and talks about negotiated settlement and you've just outlined the case why it won't work?

The President. We've talked about whether there's any way to get a negotiated settlement. But he has no -- I don't think -- you can ask him -- he'll be around -- what he means by negotiated settlement. But he does not mean compromise on these U.N. resolutions, I can guarantee you. And if somebody can find a way to talk sense to Saddam Hussein and make him do in Kuwait that which he did in Iran -- turn tail 180 degrees and head east, as it was in Iran -- and do the same thing in Kuwait, so be it. He did it in Iran because he didn't want to face two fronts, I think.

But that is a reason that -- some will tell you -- makes it very difficult for him to do what he ought to do: get out of Kuwait. But that doesn't make the rationale, the moral underpinning, any less compelling. That rationale is there. You do not brutalize a neighbor. You do not kill and torture. You do not hold innocent civilians. You do not beleaguer an embassy and try to starve its people out in direct contravention of U.N. resolutions. And that's exactly what he's doing. And every day that goes by, it just strengthens my resolve.

Aid to the Soviet Union

Q. Mr. President, on your meeting tonight with Mr. Gorbachev, are you inclined to go along with providing some humanitarian aid to the Soviet Union?

The President. We would always be openminded on humanitarian aid if there's a real need there. We have certain inhibitions under United States law; but if there are food shortages, for example, and the United States was in a position to help, clearly we'd want to try. And that's the right and humane thing to do as a country moves towards us and relations are greatly improved. And I would want to try to help. But they know that we have some legal constraints under our own system of law there that prohibits our doing certain things in that regard.

Q. Do you worry about him during this bleak winter coming up?

The President. I worry about the Soviet people during the bleak winter coming up if, indeed, it proves to be as severe as some of the reports indicate. And these people are -- as we travel extensively inside the Soviet Union, we Americans -- and many are there now in very different numbers and in different ways than in previous times -- I think there's a recognition that we want to try to help with the evolution of market systems and the change that's taking place. And you also want to help new friends if they're in jeopardy. So, I want to seek for ways to try to help, but we've got certain provisions in our laws that put constraints on me.

U.S. Embassy in Kuwait

Q. How's the food holding up in the Embassy in Kuwait?

The President. Still tuna fish. Still tuna fish.

Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:02 a.m. at the U.S. Ambassador's residence.

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