Public Papers - 1990 - November
Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Following Discussions With Amir Jabir al-Ahmad al-Jabir Al Sabah of Kuwait
The President. May I say that I just had a very useful meeting with His Highness, the Amir, and I reiterated the total commitment of the United States to the objectives that are enshrined in 10 United Nations Security Council resolutions. And as you all know, these objectives include Iraq's immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Kuwait, the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate government, the release of all individuals held against their will from whatever country they come, and it also includes the eventual stability and security of the Gulf.
We agreed on the desirability that these objectives be realized peacefully. At the same time, we also agreed that all options remained open and that steps needed to be taken right now in order to make these options credible and effective.
His Highness the Amir told me of the atrocities and acts of destruction that are being committed daily against the Kuwaiti people by the forces of Saddam Hussein. It is a moving and touching and horrible story. And I come away from this conversation more committed than ever to seeing this cruel occupation come to an end and those responsible for this violence called to account.
Let me just close by saying that this is my second meeting with His Highness the Amir since the tragic events of August 2d. And as I told him, I both hope and expect that our next meeting will take place in liberated Kuwait.
The Amir. Mr. President, it is with great pleasure that I meet with you once again, this time on the land of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a land that is very dear to us and friendly to us all. Although this meeting takes place under tragic circumstances for my country and my people, we nevertheless find some solace in the honorable stance taken by the world community and respect of our cause, on the side of justice and righteousness in an unprecedented matter as to make it an historical turning point in international relations.
In this context, I feel duty-bound to single out the decisive role of the United States -- people and administration -- in standing up in the face of aggression. The American resolve did not come as a surprise, for your people are the descendants of the Pilgrim fathers who, centuries ago, preferred risking their lives in search of freedom in a far and unknown world rather than accepting to live under oppression and injustice, thereby setting a tradition of standing up for justice and opposing aggression.
Their hopes were realized, and they built a free world that rejects despotism and oppression. And so, it became a refuge for all freedom-lovers. Today, the descendants of the Pilgrim fathers reversed their historic crossing in aid of freedom yet once again, again to dissipate the dark shadows cast by another dictator on the land of the free, true to their tradition and true to the tradition of their ancestors to which they have always adhered.
Mr. President, it is with affliction in our hearts that every day passes, knowing how much suffering our people and peoples of other nationalities are being subjected to in an ever-increasing manner, and the darkness that has befallen their homeland, making them vulnerable to unprecedented inhuman treatment, depriving them even from food and medicine.
The people of Kuwait inside their country, unarmed and outnumbered, are unanimously engaged in a passive resistance against the invaders with a rare bravery against all odds and under the most adverse circumstances. So much that the aggressors has lost his senses and indulged in its fury of frustration in the practice of oppression and brutality in an ever-increasing manner.
No doubt, Mr. President, your Ambassador [Nathaniel W. Howell] and what have remained of Western diplomats that have managed so bravely to continue living in Kuwait, sharing the suffering of the Kuwaiti people, will testify to this fact. And there is not the slightest talk that the flagrant aggressor would give up his intransigence and his determination to defy the collective will of the world community or his indulgence in the exercise of cheap tricks and playing with the sentiments of people with the issue of hostages, whom he should not have detained in the first place. And his attempt to connect and justify his aggression with that of Arabs, as he is comparing an evil with more evil, thereby exposing his people and his nation to serious dangers, the extent of which cannot be predicted.
Nevertheless, we are sure of the inevitability of the triumph of right over wrong, and in that we place our hope. For our faith is strong, and our confidence in the firm support of our brothers and our friends is limitless.
Last but not least, I present my sincere felicitation to you and, through you, to the American people and their sons who have come to the Gulf to deter the aggressor, on the occasion of Thanksgiving Day, the anniversary of those brave men who had refused to succumb to oppression.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Persian Gulf Crisis
Q. Mr. President, what do you mean by that steps should be taken right now?
The President. What did I mean by them? I think he ought to step out of Kuwait immediately and release all the hostages.
Q. Sir, are you suggesting you should take some action?
The President. We are taking action. We are moving considerable force here. And I hope that will get the message to Saddam Hussein how serious not only the United States is but other countries are because others are moving forces, too. And besides that, his most recent cruel ploy of talking about kind of dribbling out hostages, some of which he'd start releasing on Christmas Day and then spread that over 2 months -- that ploy has backfired on him. Everybody I talked to in Paris felt that it was a cruel gambit, a cruel ploy. And the Amir has said he shouldn't have held these hostages in the first place, and that is correct.
Q. President Gorbachev today called for a Security Council meeting.
The President. Well, good.
Q. What do you think of that? And is that of your making?
The President. I think this is just fine.
Q. What do you expect to come of it?
The President. Well, we'll discuss that when we get to the Security Council. But I think there's been general understanding that the United States has been in favor of such a step. And I would expect there would be yet another resolution strongly against Saddam Hussein. But we'll wait to see what that resolution does.
Q. -- -- new atrocities tonight from the Amir, atrocities that you haven't heard about before -- --
The President. He showed me some pictures that are so cruel and so brutal, the treatment of Kuwaitis so cruel and so brutal that it just turns your stomach. And so, we talked about some. But there will be a chance for the world to have a little window on this because this matter is going to be aired in the United Nations next week. And justice demands that the world listen and understand exactly the kind of brutality that Saddam Hussein has wrought upon innocent kids and families in Kuwait. And what he's doing to hostages in Kuwait today is appalling.
One thing I learned is that he's announced the death penalty for those who harbor innocent civilians. If you hide innocent civilians and you're caught by his brutes, you get the death penalty. And that is pretty brutal, and it's just one more piece of evidence that this brutality must not be rewarded.
Q. Mr. President, you're going on to Geneva to meet with President Assad. Can you tell us what you expect to undertake with him and why are you meeting with President Assad when the United -- --
The President. He is a coalition partner. He's in the process of moving substantial force here. We've worked to help others build a big, strong coalition. And I will be talking to him about our common objectives in the Gulf, and they are common objectives because I understand that the Syrians want to see Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait just as much as we do.
Q. Do you have any problems sitting down with President Assad given the problems with terrorism that the two countries have?
The President. I have no problem sitting down with him for this common objective. And it's important that this coalition stay together. It's important that everybody that's a part of it feel a part of it. And I'm going to be discussing that with him.
Q. Mr. President, considering the atrocities, how can you wait any longer? It's been 3 months.
The President. Well, I've indicated we were moving substantial force. Others are moving forces. And we are still hoping that the man will come to his senses and do that which he should have done in August, and that is to get out of Kuwait without condition. And I can't tell you or Saddam Hussein how long is long enough. In my view, 1 day was long enough. But how long this coalition will wait before other options are exercised? I'm sorry, I can't help you with that.
Q. Could you give us some idea of the U.N. resolution you're after, Mr. President?
The President. No, I'll let that evolve. We're still in consultation, Secretary Baker having consulted widely. I've had a chance to discuss that with the Kuwaitis here this evening, and there will be more consultation before that resolution gets into final form. But I can view this as very positive. I had not heard Mr. Gorbachev's comments, but I know what he and I have talked about, and I know what Secretary Baker and Mr. Shevardnadze have talked about, and it is all positive.
And for those who interpreted my meeting with Mr. Gorbachev as chilly, they just simply misinterpreted. It was the best meeting I've ever had with the man, and we've had very, very good ones in the past. So, I'm glad this thing is evolving and we now see the differences that some over there in Paris thought might exist between the Soviets on the way we're looking at this question. They are determined to see Saddam Hussein comply with the United Nations resolutions and get out of Kuwait without condition. I'm absolutely certain of it.
I've got time for just one or two more.
Q. Despite the tough talk by the United States and other countries, Saddam Hussein is not budging, and he's increasing the pressure in Kuwait. What's your comment, sir?
The President. The pressure is increasing on Saddam Hussein. And if he doesn't understand it now, he will soon. But I think he's beginning to understand it. Most reports we get indicate that the sanctions are having some effect; I can't tell you how much. Unless he's blind, he sees a strong coalition armed force still mobilizing against him, and I would think that he's beginning to get the message.
Now, in terms of his cruelty and his brutality, yes, it does continue. It continues in Kuwait. It continues in the holding of these hostages. So, we're not happy and we're not relaxed about his fully understanding that he must unconditionally get out of Kuwait, but we're going to keep on getting that message out there. And it's a solid message.
I'll tell you, I don't know if you were in Paris, but it was a solid front against the man from all the countries represented. And one thing I found that was very interesting: that those countries in Eastern Europe that have suffered in the past from aggression are very, very strong in support of what we all are doing as it relates to the Gulf.
Q. Mr. President, have you discussed with the Amir of Kuwait a timetable for war?
The President. We've discussed a lot of things and we did not put any time -- dates on that category of discussion, no.
Q. Are you suggesting now you're going to the United Nations, or your lieutenants will, to present these pictures to the U.N. in some fashion?
The President. Well, there are going to be -- Jim can help you. There's already a scheduled session.
Secretary Baker. Monday and Tuesday in the Security Council there will be some hearings with respect to the atrocities that have been committed. The government of Kuwait has asked for these hearings.
Q. Sir, is this a preamble for the force resolution you've been seeking?
The President. It's just more information getting out because I think there's a lot of people around the world and all of the U.N. countries that don't really appreciate yet the brutality of Saddam Hussein. Most see it, and the world is obviously united against it. But I don't think they have the full impact yet, and perhaps these hearings will drive home to the man on the street in these various countries the brutality of Saddam Hussein.
Q. Do you feel the pressure of the November 30 deadline when we have to give up the chairmanship of the U.N. Security Council?
The President. No, I don't feel great pressure on it, but I feel that we should act and take action before November 30th. I think we should take action right away in the United Nations for more resolutions. Stay tuned.
Q. Mr. President, there's been much talk about a window of opportunity and that's why Saddam Hussein set this March 25th last date for the recent release of hostages. Is the window of opportunity really nonexistent? They talked about the desert storms and the desert heat and Ramadan and all that. In your own mind, is there such a thing as a window of opportunity?
The President. Well, I think that the window of opportunity for Saddam Hussein is right now. I think he should withdraw unconditionally from Kuwait right now and stop the brutality against the innocent women and children and men of Kuwait and innocent hostages from other countries. So, I think your question, John, gets to the question of how long can we permit the sanctions to be the sole action-forcing event. And I just can't help you with how long.
Q. Will you be satisfied, Mr. President, if the U.N. gives you something less than a resolution authorizing force?
The President. Nice try, Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press]. We're not going to discuss the content of the U.N. resolution until we're ready to table it and until extensive consultations have been concluded. And they are continuing. They will be continuing right up through the next few days. So, I just leave it right there.
Thank you all very much.
Note: The President spoke at 9:27 p.m. at the Al-Hamra Guest Palace. Prior to their remarks, he and the Amir participated in a bilateral meeting with U.S. and Kuwaiti officials. In his remarks, President Bush referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.