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National Archives

Public Papers - 1990

Exchange With Reporters Near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

1990-11-22

U.S. Armed Forces

Q. -- -- the other force was here, and something like four to one?

The President. Well, we're by far the largest country. Also, when you're the leader in the world for peace and for freedom, you bear a disproportionate responsibility. We're prepared to do that. I'm pleased that 23 countries are involved. I'm pleased that other forces are moving in. I saw the famed Desert Rats here today -- I'm very proud, once again, we're shoulder to shoulder with the Brits, for example. We have Arab forces here. But we're the United States of America; we have a disproportionate responsibility to lead and to stand for something. And that's what we're doing.

Prime Minister Thatcher of the United Kingdom

Q. Speaking of the Brits, what is your reaction to Margaret Thatcher's decision to resign?

The President. Well, of course you know of my high regard for Prime Minister Thatcher. We will obviously work with the next Prime Minister, and I expect that, knowing the fiber there, that they'll stay right on course with us. But on a very personal sense, I would send my best to her at this difficult time. She's been a staunch friend and ally. She's a woman of principle; she's stood for what she believes. You always know where she was and what she believed. I think everybody in America would agree that Margaret Thatcher has been an outstanding ally for the United States. I'm certain that this will continue with the United Kingdom.

But on a personal basis, I'll miss her because I value her counsel, I value her long experience -- the wisdom that comes from her long experience. She has been an outstanding Prime Minister for the United Kingdom and an outstanding friend to the United States.

President's Visit With the Troops

Q. Mr. President, on today, what did you learn by walking in the same footsteps of the soldiers you've sent here?

The President. I learned a lot about the kids just from looking them in the eye. And I learned once again something I already knew: how lucky we are to have this all-volunteer force as strong, as well-trained, and as highly motivated as they are. And I learned they are just like my own kids. Probably wish they were home Thanksgiving Day in the United States. And I learned that they're willing to be apart from their own loved ones because they feel it is their duty and their obligation. And they're strong and they're tough, and I've been very moved by today, I'll tell you.

Q. Had you been concerned about the morale, sir, given the fact that it's over 4 months now and they've had nothing to fight?

The President. Well, I think the waiting is a difficult part of this. But I think they, like their President, would prefer a peaceful solution. But like their President, I sense a certain resolve on their part that if they have to do something they're prepared to do it. And they want to do it and do it fast. And they want to do it and get it over. I can understand that. I was in their shape 40-some years ago to this very day -- 46. So, I've been very moved and motivated myself by this.

And I'll go the extra mile for peace. We've been doing it. We've been showing patience and restraint. But I also know that this Saddam Hussein is cruel and he's brutal, and he's violating the rights of individuals. And I don't believe there's a marine out here, or an Army person or a Navy person or an Air Force man or woman, or a British Rat or our Arab allies that are not as upset as I am about the way innocent civilians are being treated. And I'll damn sure tell you: I'm upset about it. We'll try the peaceful route. We're trying it. But there will be no compromise with this kind of aggression. We're not going to compromise.

Iraqi Nuclear Capability

Q. Sir, you've talked increasingly today about a nuclear -- Saddam's nuclear capability --

The President. Yes, I'm concerned about it.

Q. What's behind that?

The President. There's nothing behind it. It's just the fact that I think the longer it goes on, why, I'm concerned about it. That's what's behind it.

Q. Do you have new information, more so than you thought before?

The President. I would just stay with what I've said here today. When I said, remember, that he's used every weapon that he's had, I'm thinking primarily of the brutality of those chemical weapons that he did use on his own people. And I hope the American people understand this more clearly now. But I darn sure get the feeling that the people out here understand it.

President's Visit With the Troops

Q. Was this an emotional day for you, sir?

The President. It was a very emotional day for me. And I think we are very fortunate to have this kind of dedicated young men and young women in the sands of Saudi Arabia today. It's only the United States that can lead like this -- it's only the United States of America. We have others with us, but these are the ones that are doing the heavy lifting. And God bless them all.

Note: The exchange took place at a Marine tactical site in the desert. In his remarks, President Bush referred to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

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