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Public Papers - 1990 - November

Remarks to Allied Armed Forces Near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia


With us today, we have four very special guests out here. The leaders, if you will, the top leadership of the United States Congress: the Speaker of the House, Tom Foley; the leader of the Senate, George Mitchell, next to him, Senator Mitchell; Congressman Bob Michel, the Republican leader, minority leader in the House; and Senator Bob Dole [Senate minority leader].

Let me just say how pleased that Barbara and I are to be here. And I want to thank all of you for this welcome, this warm welcome. I want to thank General Myatt for greeting us -- Mike Myatt -- and all of his people. I want to thank General Boomer. I want to thank Brigadier General Cordingly of the famed Desert Rats who are with us here.

I guess like all of you, Barbara and I always try to spend our Thanksgiving with our own family. I know that's true of these leaders in the Congress. But after spending the morning visiting with the men and women of our Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard, and now with the First Marine Division here today, there could hardly be a prouder moment than sharing Thanksgiving with this family, this American family out here.

This is quite a crowd. I can't help but think of the warning one soldier gave comedian Steve Martin last month -- true story. He said, ``You'd better be funny. We've got bullets.'' [Laughter] Well, look at it this way: You guys better be nice to me. I've got Norm Schwarzkopf with me. [Laughter] And I've got Al Gray back there, so -- [laughter].

But I do first want to give a very special welcome to our staunch friends and allies, to General Cordingly and the famed Desert Rats. You, too, are a long way from home this day and your families. And I hope you will forgive me if I focus on the fact that this, at home for Americans, is our very special Thanksgiving Day.

As we gather it is dawn in America at -- lost track -- 10 minutes of eight on the East Coast and about 10 minutes to six out on the West and the beginning of our day of thanksgiving and remembrance. You know, as you drive by the farms and the cities in the early morning light, the windows all look the same. But inside each house and apartment there are people with stories to tell, families bound together in hope and love. And believe me on this one, in all of those homes, in all of those families, you right here out in this desert are very much on the minds of the American people in all of those families.

You know, Thanksgiving is the oldest, some might say the most American of holidays, dating back to our very origins as a people. And it's a day, I think we would all agree, separate and apart from others. It's a day of peace; it's a day of thanks; a day to remember what we stand for and what it means to be an American and why our forebears sacrificed so much to cross ocean and build a great land. And on this day, with all that America has to be thankful for, it is fair for Americans to say, why are we here?

It's not all that complicated. There are three key reasons why we're here with our U.N. allies making a stand in defense of peace and freedom. We're here to protect freedom. We're here to protect our future. And we're here to protect innocent life.

And number one, protecting freedom means standing up to aggression. You know, the brutality inflicted on the people of Kuwait and on innocent citizens of every country must not be rewarded. Because a bully unchecked today is a bully unleashed for tomorrow.

Last August 2d, this brutal dictator set out to wipe another country from the face of the Earth. And Kuwait, a little, tiny country, awoke to the flashing guns of cold-blooded troops, to fire and ice of Saddam Hussein's invasion. Now Kuwait is struggling for survival, an entire nation ransacked, looted, held hostage. Maybe you can strike a name from the maps, but you can't strike a country from the hearts of its people. The invasion of Kuwait was without provocation, the looting of Kuwait is without excuse, and the occupation of Kuwait will not stand.

And number two, our mission is about protecting national security, which is to say protecting our future. Because energy security is national security for us and, indeed, for every country.

Last year on a snowy Thanksgiving eve up there at Camp David, I spoke to the American people about the newly fallen Berlin Wall. The piece of the wall that sits on my desk is a reminder of our steadfast role in the worldwide explosion of freedom. But now the march of freedom must not be threatened by the man whose invasion of Kuwait is causing great economic hardship in the countries which can afford it the least.

We just saw it in Czechoslovakia. Barbara and I are just back from Czechoslovakia, where the progress of their peaceful revolution has already been damaged by the shock waves from Iraq's aggression. President Havel told me that Saddam's aggression is having a severe effect on his struggling economy. And every day that goes by increases the damage. But when he was asked if our action in the Gulf was taking too much money away from the problems of Eastern Europe, he answered plainly. He said, ``All the resources that are expended on resisting aggression anywhere in the world are finally turned to the good of all humankind.'' This from that playwright that was jailed not so many months ago by aggression itself. Listen to the words of this man who stands for freedom.

Vaclav Havel is right. Iraq's aggression is not just a challenge to the security of Kuwait and the other Gulf neighbors but to the better world we all hope to build in the wake of the cold war. We're not talking simply about the price of gas; we are talking about the price of liberty.

Number three, we're here because innocent lives are at stake. We've all heard of atrocities in Kuwait that would make the strongest among us weep. It turns your stomach when you listen to the tales of those that have escaped the brutality of Saddam, the invader. Mass hangings. Babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor. Kids shot for failing to display the photos of Saddam Hussein. And he has unleashed a horror on the people of Kuwait.

Our diplomats and our citizens held hostage must be freed. And it's time to stop toying with the American hostages. And it's time for Saddam to stop trying to starve out our little beleaguered Embassy in Kuwait City. And the same, General Cordingly, is true of the British Embassy that is courageously holding on -- the two of us side by side in Kuwait as we're shoulder to shoulder in the sands of Saudi Arabia. And it's time to put an end to this cruel hostage bazaar, bartering in human beings like the days of the slave trade. Because if we let Iraq get away with this abuse now, Americans will pay a price in future hostage-taking for decades to come, and so will other nations.

Three simple reasons: protecting freedom, protecting our future, protecting innocent lives. And any one is reason enough why Iraq's unprincipled, unprovoked aggression must not go unchallenged. Together they make a compelling case for you to be away from your families on this special Thanksgiving Day. They make a compelling case for your mission.

No President is quick to order American troops abroad. But there are times when any nation that values its own freedom must confront aggression. Czechoslovakia -- they know firsthand about the folly of appeasement. They know about the tyranny of dictatorial conquest. And in the World War that followed, the world paid dearly for appeasing an aggressor who should and could have been stopped. We're not going to make that mistake again. We will not appease this aggressor.

As in World War II -- the threat to American lives from a seemingly distant enemy must be measured against the nature of the aggression itself: a dictator who has gassed his own people -- innocent women and children -- unleashing chemical weapons of mass destruction, weapons that were considered unthinkable in the civilized world for over 70 years.

And let me say this: Those who would measure the timetable for Saddam's atomic program in years may be seriously underestimating the reality of that situation and the gravity of the threat. Every day that passes brings Saddam one step closer to realizing his goal of a nuclear weapons arsenal. And that's why more and more, your mission is marked by a real sense of urgency. You know, no one knows precisely when this dictator may acquire atomic weapons, or exactly who they may be aimed at down the road. But we do know this for sure: He has never possessed a weapon that he didn't use. What we're confronting is a classic bully who thinks he can get away with kicking sand in the face of the world.

So far, I've tried to act with restraint and patience. I think that's the American way. But Saddam is making the mistake of his life if he confuses an abundance of restraint -- confuses that with a lack of resolve.

Over the past 4 months, you have launched what history will judge as one of the most important deployments of allied military power since 1945. And I have come here today to personally thank you. The world is watching. Our objectives in the Gulf have never varied. We want to free and restore Kuwait's government, protect American citizens abroad, safeguard the security and stability of the region. The united world has spelled out these objectives in 10 United Nations Security Council resolutions. To force Iraq to comply, we and our allies have forged a strong diplomatic, economic, and military strategy. But the Iraqi dictator still hasn't gotten the message.

Maybe he's confused by his own propaganda, this ridiculous radio broadcast that I understand the marines have labeled ``Baghdad Betty.'' [Laughter] Well, she plays all the oldies, so one guy suggested we send Iraq a tape of M.C. Hammer and a note that says: This is how we entertain ourselves. Just imagine how we fight.

We have been patient. We've gone to the United Nations time and time again. I'm prepared to go another time. We still hope for a peaceful settlement, but the world is a dangerous place. And we must make all of these options credible. Those in uniform, it seems to me, will always bear the heaviest burden. We understand something of what you endure -- the waiting, the uncertainty, the demands of family and military life. And we want every single troop home. We want every Brit to be able to go home as soon as possible. We want every single American home. And this I promise: No American will be kept in the Gulf a single day longer than necessary. But we won't pull punches; we are not here on some exercise. This is a real-world situation. And we're not walking away until our mission is done, until the invader is out of Kuwait. And that may well be where you come in.

As we meet, it is dawn in America. It is Thanksgiving Day. The church bells ring an hour of prayer, a day of rest, a nation at peace. And especially today, Americans understand the contribution that you all are making to world peace and to our country. Year after year on this special day, no doubt each of you has given thanks for your country. This year, your country gives thanks for you. Thanksgiving is a day of prayer, a day when we thank God for our many, many blessings. And I have done that today. This has been an unforgettable visit, an unforgettable visit.

And I leave -- as I know our Congressmen do, and I know Barbara does -- with pride in our heart, a prayer on our lips. God bless you all. God bless our faithful allies, the United Kingdom. God bless the Marines, and may God bless the greatest, freest country on the face of the Earth, the United States of America. Thank you and bless you all. Good luck to all of you guys.

Now, wait a minute, we've got a challenge to offer here. I brought you a present because I thought maybe you could find a place to use these things. No, and it's not a flyswatter. All right, I want to get the general to organize a little tournament around here. And I'll bet you -- and I invite the winners -- this team -- you need two on a team here -- invite the winners to the White House as soon as you get through your workout here. And my son and I will be prepared at any time, at your convenience, to take on the winners on the White House horseshoe pit. It's a challenge; it's a firm invitation. I want the two best men you've got, possibly women -- we had a woman champion in the White House this year -- come and get it. I think we can whip you. Good luck.

Note: The President spoke at 3:50 p.m. to troops gathered at a Marine tactical site in the desert. In his remarks, he referred to Brig. Gen. J.M. Myatt, commanding general, 1st Marine Division; Lt. Gen. Walt Boomer, commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force; Brig. Gen. Patrick Cordingly, commander of the British 7th Armoured Battalion; Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf; Gen. A.M. Gray, Jr., Commandant of the Marine Corps; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. Following his remarks, the President and Mrs. Bush had Thanksgiving dinner with the troops.

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