Public Papers - 1991
Remarks on the Termination of Economic Sanctions Against South Africa and a News Conference
The President. Let me begin with a statement, and then I will take a few questions.
First, let me state that apartheid must be eliminated. We've worked with the nations of the world to bring an end to this system of racial prejudice by every means possible. Political and economic pressure had been brought against the Government of South Africa by the United States and by other nations for the last several years. Progress has been slow and often painful. But progress has definitely been made.
During the last 2 years, we've seen a profound transformation in the situation in South Africa. Since coming to office in 1989, President de Klerk has repealed the legislative pillars of apartheid and opened up the political arena to prepare the way for constitutional negotiations. As I've said on several occasions, I really firmly believe that this progress is irreversible.
Much remains to be done; let's be very clear on that point. But I've been impressed with the commitment by President de Klerk, by Nelson Mandela, by Chief Buthelezi and many others to continue to build a constitutional democracy in South Africa. We will use all available means to encourage this process through to its successful conclusion.
The Congress anticipated this situation in what is known as the Comprehensive AntiApartheid Act of 1986, which placed economic sanctions against South Africa. That law anticipated the benefit of lifting these sanctions as a means of encouraging the Government of South Africa and the people of South Africa to continue the progress that has been made in eliminating apartheid.
I have, today, just signed and issued an Executive order terminating the sanctions against South Africa. And in doing so, based on a recommendation from Secretary Baker, I have determined that the South African Government has met all five of the conditions for these sanctions to end as set forth very clearly in the act.
In other measures, sanctions including the arms embargo and restrictions on our ability to support South Africa at the IMF are unaffected. These other sanctions remain in effect.
This morning I talked just now to Nelson Mandela -- a fairly long talk with him to tell him personally of the commitment by the people of the United States to support equality in South Africa. I told him of my personal belief that lifting the sanctions at this time is the right thing to do in order to encourage continued change in his country, to help provide a more stable and dynamic economy in which the blacks of South Africa can participate.
Tomorrow I intend to call President de Klerk to indicate to him that we expect the progress he has made so far to continue. Incidentally, on the Mandela call, we've been in reasonably frequent touch, and I told him that certainly that consultation will certainly continue. And he seemed to be understanding and pleased about that.
The peaceful transition to the new South Africa will not occur in a vacuum. South Africa must achieve full economic health through a strong rate of growth if it is to meet the expectations of all South Africans for a better life. The end of sanctions on trade and investment will encourage this process. And we hope that State and local governments and private institutions in the United States will take note of our action and act accordingly to help build a new South Africa, to help build employment opportunity in South Africa.
And so, my appeal here and my appeal at this G - 7 meeting that I'm fixing to go to will be that we all must help now. And I'm therefore directing that our assistance to black South Africans be doubled from its present level of million, and these funds will be used to expand our efforts to prepare black South Africans to participate fully in the revitalization of their economy and to help meet the most pressing needs of blacks in the areas of housing and education.
This is a moment in history which many believed would never be attained. But we've done so through the efforts of many people in South Africa and around the world. And in that sense, this is a time for reflection and it's also a time when all who care about the future of South Africa, as I do, should rededicate themselves to stay the course in the interest of peace and democracy. There has been dramatic change. The law says when the five conditions are met the sanctions will come off. I've signed that today. But all is not totally well there, and we will continue to be actively involved, as actively involved as we can be.
So, that is my statement, and now I'll refer to Tom Raum [Associated Press] for the first question.
Q. Mr. President, do you have any concerns or reservations that in moving now to remove the sanctions you might actually have the effect of undermining some of the progress that has been made rather than helping?
The President. I had no flexibility in considering that, but my view is we will not be undermining the progress. Sometimes one wants to recognize the changes, the very constructive changes, that have taken place and then see what the next step is. And in my view, the mandate by Congress is a proper one, and I think now that our role should be encouraging consultation between the parties -- all of them, be it Buthelezi, Mandela, de Klerk -- to see that the progress made can be built upon. So, I don't have any thoughts like that at all.
Q. May I follow up, sir? What do you say to groups like the NAACP and Amnesty International, and even House Speaker Tom Foley, that all the five conditions have not been met and there are, in fact, still political prisoners in South Africa?
The President. I say to him -- well, as a matter of fact, under our definition, there are not. Mr. Mandela pointed out to me that under different definitions of the prisoner -- what can constitute a prisoner -- there may be people that are prisoner. Under the way the Congress defined prisoner -- and I'm going to refer these technical questions to Secretary Cohen, who has done a fantastic job on all of this -- we are complying fully. But in terms of how I respond to critics on this, I say, look, one, we're complying with the law you people wrote, and secondly, I happen to think it's the right thing to do. I believe that this will result in more progress towards racial equity instead of less, and certainly in more economic opportunity rather than less. So the time has come to do it.
Q. Mr. President, are you willing now to acknowledge that you were wrong on the question of sanctions -- --
The President. No.
Q. -- -- which you opposed? And you seem to think that they're pretty good for Iran and Iraq.
The President. The answer is no.
Q. You think none of this progress came as a result of our tightening the screws?
The President. Well, I can't say that, no. In fairness, I can't say that none came as a result of that. But I think what really turned the difference is when South Africa came in with a new regime and they decided to move forward. But I don't think it was strictly because they wanted to get rid of two sanctions while others remain.
Q. Well, it wasn't a question, it was a mammoth change in the whole society.
The President. No question. No question about it. But you're saying, do I credit sanctions totally, and the answer is no.
Q. I didn't say totally.
The President. Well, I did. [Laughter]
Supreme Court Nominee
Q. Mr. President, Senator Mitchell said a couple of days ago that he thought that you believed in quotas for everyone but yourself and everyone but Supreme Court nominations; he was referring to your nomination of Judge Thomas to the Supreme Court. And his remark seems to reflect some widespread disbelief that Judge Thomas's race had nothing to do with his choice. And I wondered if you might take another crack at that question, sir.
The President. I was trying to think if Senator Mitchell -- where he was when Lyndon Johnson put Marshall on the Court. I can't remember whether he accused Lyndon Johnson of a quota. I don't think he was in Congress then, but it would be interesting to go back and look at it in history. I don't think he said it was a quota. In my view, this isn't a quota appointment. I said up there in Maine, and I still feel -- I feel more strongly than ever that it is the right thing at the right time, to use an expression that Lyndon himself used.
And so, we're taking on some water on this, a little -- few shots. But I have an innate confidence that this man will be confirmed. And the reason he will be is that he deserves to be confirmed. I don't want to take too much time on this answer, but out there when I mentioned this in Missouri the other day, on the Fourth of July, there was a unanimous response from the people in terms of support -- Missouri -- support for this man. So, I think it will be well-received -- is well-received.
Q. Well, quota or not, sir, can you really say that his race had nothing to do with the selection?
The President. I think I indicated up in Maine that so much the better. But I'm not going to say it's a quota appointment. I don't believe that one seat should be assigned to one group of any kind.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman
Q. Mr. President, I'd like to ask about another appointment. Do you plan to nominate Alan Greenspan for a second term as Chairman of the Fed?
The President. I have a very high regard for him. And I want to announce a decision on that very soon.
Q. When will that be coming, sir?
The President. Can't help you on the exact timing. I've got a very busy schedule -- please, terribly busy. [Laughter] I'm trying to go to Europe, and we're canceling all kinds of -- really, it is hectic around here. But it is a key -- it's a jungle out there -- it is a very important appointment. And I think some of these stories, these understandable kind of couch-analysis stories on what we're doing about Alan Greenspan is ridiculous. I've expressed a high regard for him before; I'll express a high regard for him here. The thing doesn't come up until mid-August, I believe. Because there's been some kind of ugly speculation, I'd like to move very soon on it. But you do have an influence on timing things, not you but everybody out there.
Central Intelligence Agency Director Nominee
Q. On another appointment, Mr. Gates for the CIA. According to the testimony yesterday from Mr. Fiers, both Casey and Gates' subordinate apparently, Clair George, apparently did know about the Iran-contra affair before Mr. Gates acknowledges that he knew. Does this new information give you any pause at all and do you think that it may imperil his nomination?
The President. Absolutely none. Absolutely none. It gives me a chance to reaffirm fully, totally, my complete support for this outstanding individual who will be confirmed and who will be a great Director of Central Intelligence. So, it really hasn't -- and all I've seen about it was some reports in, I think it was, today's paper. But I didn't see anything in just reading the paper that would lessen my confidence in Gates or in any way implicate Gates in something that was not right.
Q. Did you discuss it specifically with him -- what transpired?
The President. With Bob? Well, only this morning to say, hey, you're my man, I'm all for you, and don't let them get you down. Because he's good. And he'll be outstanding to be the Director of Central Intelligence.
Q. Sir, whether you're right or wrong, are you concerned what blacks and other minorities may think about some of your recent decisions as a trend?
The President. Yes.
Q. You're lifting sanctions on South Africa; you've chosen a Supreme Court nominee who, although black himself, is unpopular among a lot of civil rights organizations; and you've got a Senator in your own party, John Danforth, who says this White House, Mr. Sununu in particular, is too rigid on a civil rights compromise. If you were a black or a member of a minority, wouldn't you think that George Bush is getting away from Lee Atwater's idea of reaching out to blacks?
The President. Yes, I'll be honest with you, I would. Because if I believed everything you cited, I would be concerned about that. But I think that we will prevail. Frankly, I think Clarence Thomas' appointment is a good -- will be well-received in the black community. You put it, I think, John [John Cochran, NBC News], in terms of how do some of these big organizations that think they speak for all blacks feel. And yes, there have been some concerns, and yes, I'd be concerned if constant criticism eroded what I feel is a commitment to civil rights here. But I think as you put down the appointment of an outstanding black to the Court and say that civil rights groups don't like it is something that shows we're not for civil rights, I'm very sorry, I would vehemently disagree with that.
In terms of a civil rights bill, if they want to pass one, pass mine. Pass mine, now. And it moves against discrimination in the workplace. And you don't hear anything about it because others want to do something that we can't accept. And I've repeated over and over again what the problem is. But it's a good civil rights bill, and if you can't -- I'd say to some of these critics out there, if you can't take 100 steps, take 85, 89, and then let's go back and reason together and try to get the rest done.
What was the other point?
Q. Well, let's see -- [laughter].
The President. Clarence Thomas.
Q. South African sanctions.
The President. South African sanctions. No, I think that will go over well. I think the Congress laid down the law. I am implementing the law.
But your question was a different one. Your question is, do you get concerned?
Q. The perception.
The President. Yes, the perception. And, yes, I am concerned about that because I know what's in my heart, I know what our record is, I know what I feel, and I know what I think is right. But if there's a pounding away from leaders that claim to speak for all the black community, yes, it worries me.
Q. Sir, just on the floor of the Senate today, Bill Bradley said this just a short time ago, speaking of George Bush: ``In 1988, he used the Willie Horton ad to divide white and black voters and appeal to fear. Now, based on your remarks about the 1991 civil rights bill, you have begun to do the same thing again.'' That's Bill Bradley.
The President. Yes, I know, and I don't like that. I don't agree with it totally. I didn't use any Willie Horton ad of that nature, either. That has become part of the liberal attempt to revise -- what's that statement they use up on Congress -- I'd like to revise my remarks and -- extend and revise my remarks. I mean, that's just grossly unfair.
The point on Willie Horton was not Willie Horton himself; the point was, do you believe in a furlough program that releases people from jail so they can go out and rape, pillage, and plunder again? That's what the issue was. And thank God we've made some progress, incidently, in our Justice Department on correcting that.
But that's part of the liberal litany. And yes, if it sinks in, John, this would concern me. But I think the American people are fair, and I think they know I want a civil rights bill. And I think they see that in appointing Clarence Thomas -- or nominating Clarence Thomas -- that I'm trying to get the best person. If he's black, we're not going to discriminate against that. And he is the best, and he's very good. But part of his problem is that he comes at some of these issues in a way a little different than a very liberal Senator from New Jersey would look at it. But he is a fair-minded guy, and he can take a look at this and decide on the merits.
But I've made up my mind. But you've put your finger on something that does concern me because this tremendous -- you know, this kind of drop, drop, drop of water on the rock could make a difference. But I'm going to take my case every chance I get -- and this is a good opportunity right here -- to black Americans and say, hey, listen, we've got a good record on civil rights and we're going to continue it, and you ought to be rejoicing that we have a very able judge to be elevated to the Supreme Court.
And similarly on civil rights. We've got a good civil rights bill. Don't listen to all these people out there that say it's bad. Put this one into effect. Let's take a step together and try. But I've got to keep doing this, saying this, so people understand how I feel.
Q. Mr. President, one of the criticisms of lifting of sanctions is it will limit the influence the U.S. has over continuing the end of apartheid. How do you answer that? And if you say that the U.S. can continue diplomatic pressure, was there any success in the diplomatic area during the period the sanctions were in effect that you can point to?
The President. I say sanctions continuing -- some are. Some have been lifted. And we are going to continue to engage -- consulting with Mr. Mandela. And we're going to continue to be engaged in talking to Chief Buthelezi. And we're going to continue to be engaged by talking to Mr. de Klerk. In terms of can I point to something, I can only point to the real change in South Africa taking place because of Mr. de Klerk himself and some of his associates who have a very different approach to equity and race and to the elimination of apartheid than his predecessors.
Somebody asked a question -- I'm not sure of the answer I gave -- I can't say that sanctions had no effect, but I think far more important than sanctions was the fact that you had a forward-looking man of Mr. de Klerk's stature who released Mr. Mandela from jail and decided to go forward in consultation. And I can't say that Mr. de Klerk did that because of economic sanctions.
Q. Mr. President, your domestic policy staff is looking at the title 10 regulations that affect whether doctors can mention abortion as an option for women who come to family planning clinics. Are you amenable to a compromise on this issue?
The President. Listen, if some compromise can be worked out that I find acceptable, absolutely.
Q. Well, could you describe the kind of compromise you might -- --
The President. No, I can't describe it for you because I haven't found such a compromise yet. My position is well-known, oft-stated, open, and I'm not going to change my fundamental position. Now, if something can be worked out, can be resolved, so much the better.
Q. The U.S. has had a couple of days now to analyze a 29-page document released by Saddam Hussein detailing Iraq's nuclear holdings. Are you convinced at this point that he's come clean, or do you think he's -- --
The President. No.
Q. Do you think he's still hiding a nuclear weapons capability? And what can the U.S. do about it?
The President. The answer to your questions are nope and yep. No, I am not convinced that it's total. And yes, I do feel that there's still reason to believe that he is hiding and has not come totally clean.
Now, do I view this step favorably, his confessing to that which he has denied over and over again? Yes, I think that's progress. But we will be watching this very carefully. I've been having consultations with leaders -- already two major leaders around the world, Mulroney yesterday, Mubarak today. I'll be talking to others in the next day or two about this Iraq situation.
And I am anticipating a unanimous view that we've got to keep our eyes wide open and not be lulled by some letter or some very belated offering from Saddam Hussein that he is now willing to do that which he should have done a long time ago. So, I've very skeptical, but I would have to say that the letter is progress. And I am convinced that the coalition and the major countries that we've been dealing with on this will be looking at the problem the same way I am.
When you're dealing with nuclear, when you're dealing with proliferation of nuclear in the area, that is a subject that really gets people's attention. Some other deviation by Saddam Hussein might have been less uniting of coalition forces and other forces around the world. But when you're dealing with hiding and cheating and lying on nuclear matters, I think almost every country is very, very concerned.
Q. A followup, please. Prior to the war with Iraq, you expressed concern that Saddam Hussein may not be getting the message from the United States that the U.S. was serious in turning back the aggression. He was pretty quick to react this time around, after there were reports that you refused to rule out military action. Do you think he got the message this time?
The President. I certainly -- put it this way -- I'm hopeful that he got the message because we're deadly serious. And I do still believe, Jim [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News], that part of the massive miscalculation last year was, one, he didn't believe it and, two, he believed that if we did, hypothetically, if use of force would come, that he in some way would prevail. And I think he's disabused now on both points.
So, I would hope that our enhanced credibility that I keep referring to, along with the enhanced credibility of our supportive allies, might have made the difference in this instance. But I wish I could tell you I felt it was all done.
Q. Mr. President, did we miscalculate by not taking out Iraq's nuclear capability when our bombers were flying?
The President. Well, I think we took out a lot of Iraq's nuclear capability when our bombers were flying. The question is how do you -- how can you certify, when your objective is to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, that you have also taken care of this collateral and very important problem? And I don't think that we -- I think we can certify that the program has been set back a long, long ways.
I couldn't help but think back to those dreadful days of debate and turmoil in this country before the successful conclusion of Desert Storm, with many thinking when we talked about an Iraqi nuclear capability that we were just throwing up that as a smokescreen to try to enhance our action or to give us another reason for which to act against this tyrant. And now people are saying, hey, they may have been on to something here. And so, it wasn't an objective to destroy that, but it worked out that we did take out a great deal of his nuclear capability.
The problem is that under the latest resolutions, second-to-last resolution I believe it is, 679 of the United Nations -- looking for help here and not getting any -- [laughter] -- that under that resolution it is very clear that this should all be abandoned. And he said, I don't have any of this. Then we show him through briefing of the United Nations Security Council that he's got it. ``Oh, yes, but, well, I've been obfuscating'' -- I don't know how you say that in Arabic -- [laughter] -- but he's been obfuscating, which I say is lying, and then comes forward and says here is what I'm going to do. So, we're certainly skeptical about this.
Q. If I can follow that, sir, there apparently are inspections underway now. Are you going to be able to assure the world it is all gone?
The President. No. But we are going to try to be able to assure the world that it is all gone. But when you're burying component parts off in the desert somewhere, in somebody's attic or somebody's basement in downtown Baghdad, if that's what's happening, it is pretty hard to certify that. But what we want to do is set up a mechanism so whenever there's any evidence of intelligence that is even a hint of his violation of these U.N. resolutions, we must be satisfied, the international community must be satisfied, the U.N. must be satisfied that that equipment has been destroyed.
So, what's happened is that once again through these incidents it has been pointed out that he'll go to any end to do those things which he's not supposed to do. I again come back to the letter, hope it's positive. But it's like Missouri -- show me. I'm from Missouri; we've got to see exactly what's going on.
You already had a question. Charles [Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network].
Q. Mr. President, you were meeting, I believe, this morning with Secretary -- --
The President. Last two. Really, these are the last two. And then we've got Secretary Cohen, who's going to go into all the technical details on the question of South Africa and, I might say parenthetically, who has done a superb job himself on handling South Africa. He wasn't there the other day when we had our ceremony honoring those who helped with the question of Ethiopia. Not only is he interested in the Horn, the south of this, but he's done a great job on all these African questions -- Angola and many others. So, I hope you will save some of these technical ones for him.
Charles, and then we're going to end here.
Military Base Closings
Q. You met, I believe this morning, with Secretary Cheney to discuss base closings. Have you signed off on that? He's called it a good package.
The President. Yes, I signed the letter to the Commission and I signed the forwarding of the Commission report with a total acceptance of the Commission report -- signed the transmittal of that, if you will, to the United States Congress.
Q. Is it enough? Would you like to see it go further?
The President. No, I think for now it's proper. I think they did their work without any reference to politics. Anytime you close a base someplace you're going to have people in that district or that State raise cain about it. And I can understand that.
But this commission has served without political motivation; and the report, I am satisfied, is without political bias or motivation. So, I sent the committee forward largely based on the enthusiastic acceptance, obviously, of the Pentagon on this, because it comes under the heading of their business and gets into what I was talking about yesterday, the need for a balanced and structured force with less money being spent on it.
Q. The Iraq situation is still a bee in your bonnet here. Six months after the war, Saddam Hussein is still making trouble. It's not the same kind of trouble, but it is still a problem. What's your attitude now about dealing with this outlaw you've surrounded? Is he going to be trouble for you now for a long time to come? How do you approach this? Do you reason with him all of a sudden, after having caught him? What's your feeling about it?
The President. No. No, I don't see any room to reason with him as long as he is in violation of any of these -- I'll put it this way -- as long as any of the United Nations sanctions remain unfulfilled. And even beyond that, I don't think, given his total lack of any kind of -- put it this way -- I don't think that his behavior merits any kind of formal treatment by the United States, or informal treatment. We cannot have normal relations with Iraq -- normal relations -- as long as this man is in power.
And for my part, I want to see the economic sanctions kept on. I keep going back to the ``let sanctions work'' -- do you remember that cry? If we had let sanctions work back there, we would have had the coalition fall apart and the main objective would have been totally unmet. That man would still be sitting in Kuwait and would have been threatening further -- who knows what he would have been doing to Saudi Arabia? So, he's still there. And he's there with a bloodier hand. And we will not have normal relations as long as he's there. But we are determined to continue to work through the United Nations to see these resolutions fulfilled.
And let me add another one, because I now sense a little hue and cry going up in some quarters about food and medicine. The United Nations resolutions provide for being able to ship food and medicine into this country. What it doesn't provide for is having food shipped in there and then sent off to the Baath Party cadres up in Tikrit. It doesn't provide for taking the food out of the mouths of the hungry children or the medicine away from the people and giving it to the army. And once again, this whole diversion is another reason that I feel as strongly as I do that there will not be normal relations with Saddam Hussein ever again.
But again, I'd like to repeat what I said before the war started: Our argument is not with the people of Iraq. It's not even with other leaders in Iraq. We'd be perfectly willing to give the military another chance, provided Saddam Hussein was out of there and representations were made to the rest of the world as their willingness to abide by these U.N. resolutions and play by international law. But they're not willing -- under Saddam Hussein, it is most unlikely that any will ever believe him if he says that.
So, that's where we are. And I'm very concerned about it. And I still feel, as I said at a question yesterday, that certainly setting back that aggression on itself -- the objective, the main objective of the United Nations was worth it. But there are these residual problems that concern me, of course.
Thank you all very, very much.
Note: The President's 88th news conference began at 12:02 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. In the news conference, the following persons were referred to: Nelson Mandela, head of the African National Congress; Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi, chief minister of South Africa's KwaZulu Homeland and leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party; Herman J. Cohen, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Alan D. Fiers, Jr., former director of the Central Intelligence Agency's covert operations in Central America; Clair E. George, former CIA deputy director for operations; William J. Casey, former Director of the CIA; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada; and President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.