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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks on the Persian Gulf Conflict

1991-02-11

The President. Let me just say that we had a very thorough briefing from Secretary Cheney and from Chairman Powell. They had a very good visit out there to the Gulf area, talking to our commanders. I am very satisfied, having heard their briefing, with the progress in the war. The air campaign has been very, very effective, and it will continue for awhile. We're not talking about dates for further adding to the air campaign, put it that way.

But I would simply want to say to the American people that the war is going well. I am very pleased with the people that are running the war; they have my full confidence. We are going to take whatever time is necessary to sort out when a next stage might begin. And I will not be discussing it any further than that. And I can guarantee you that there should be no further discussion of that for a lot of reasons, including the safety of our own troops -- and that comes first as far as I'm concerned -- and the coalition forces. Their safety is paramount in my mind.

But I would be remiss if I didn't reassure the American people that this war is being fought with high technology. There is no targeting of civilians. It has gone far better in terms of casualties than I'd hoped, though we mourn the loss of every single member of our armed forces and the coalition forces, of course.

My heart still goes out to the families. I might say to the families of those who are over there, the report from General Powell and from Secretary Cheney is very reassuring in terms of the morale of our people over there. They know why they are there. They are gung ho about it. They know its importance. They know that it's right and just. And so, I have great confidence in them.

And altogether, I feel much better after this briefing. I've always felt confident we were on the right path. I feel even more so now after this briefing from Secretary Cheney and General Powell. So, we will just continue down this road. We're the ones that are going to set the time for how this war -- the time for any action that is taken. We are not going to suit somebody else's timetable, whether he lives in Baghdad or anyplace else. And that's exactly the way it should be.

And so, I will rely heavily on the advice of our Secretary of Defense, of our Chairman, of our generals out there -- General Schwarzkopf and others. Then if they come to me and say there needs to be another phase, then I will then make that decision because that is a decision for the President of the United States.

Having said that, I have total confidence that we are on the right path. And with no further ado, I want to thank them for this arduous trip, but it was well worth it.

Thank you.

Q. Mr. President are you still skeptical air power will do the job?

The President. They may be taking questions over there and I'll refer the -- as I said early on when I started in all of this, the briefings on military and air and all of this are best conducted by the experts. And they are over there across the river in the Pentagon. When it comes to the President's decision, I'll be glad to discuss it at the appropriate time. But this is not the appropriate time, for the reasons that I gave you.

We are on track; it is going smoothly. I've got total confidence that we are prevailing. It is working well. And that's what the American people need to know now, and I don't have anything to contribute beyond that.

Note: The President spoke at 3:45 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Prior to his remarks, the President was briefed by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on their recent meetings in Saudi Arabia with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, and other allied officers.

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