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National Archives

Public Papers - 1991

Exchange With Reporters on the Persian Gulf Conflict

1991-01-17

Q. Mr. President, based on what you've been told this morning, what are your thoughts at this point on how severely the Iraqis have been damaged, how long this may last, and at what cost?

The President. Well, again, I don't want to go into questions here because of the moment. I will say that was covered very well by Secretary Cheney and Colin Powell. And the way we're going to handle this is, I will not be commenting on the ups and downs -- and there will be some downs -- or the trauma of the moment -- there's a lot of trauma of the moment. But I think it is fair to say -- and I will be repeating this to the leaders here -- that we are pleased with the way things have gone so far. We're determined to finish what we've set out to do. But I just think, for procedural reasons, I'd like you all to know that I'm not going to be trying to do briefings from the White House on the details of the operations over there. I have full confidence in our Secretary of Defense and in our able Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and, of course, in our general, General Schwarzkopf.

So, for the future, though I'll be in touch with the American people, I think it's better to leave the details of the operations to the briefings over there. And, of course, I'll be available for questions from time to time. But when we don't have all the information, I just would hate to risk misleading the American people.

Having said that, I think all of us are very pleased that so far the operation is going forward with great success. And we keep praying that the loss of life will be held at an absolute minimum. And I feel so strongly about our troops over there. Certainly I feel that way about them, and I feel that way about the innocents who might get caught up in this conflict. So, I think it's fair to say there's a lot of prayer going on both here and on Capitol Hill and across this whole country. And it will be that way until this is concluded.

Q. Mr. President, Saddam Hussein says he won't be crushed.

The President. I won't take others right now. Thank you.

Q. Are you concerned this early talk of success might lead to unwarranted optimism on some people's part?

The President. No, I'm not concerned. There is no unwarranted optimism, and there will be none. And I would refer you to the briefing of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Thank you all very much.

Note: The exchange began at 9:40 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House, prior to a meeting with congressional leaders. In his remarks, the President referred to Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney; Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.

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