Public Papers - 1992 - August
Remarks on Hurricane Andrew and the Situation in Iraq and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. First this morning, I want to express our continued concern and support for the people of Florida and Louisiana as they recover from this dreadful hurricane, Hurricane Andrew. I want to go to Louisiana as soon as possible today to communicate this directly to the people of that State, and I'm clearing my schedule to do just that.
As we saw in Florida 2 days ago, the destruction from this storm goes beyond anything we've known in recent years. It will test the resources of all volunteer organizations, private sector help, and State, local, and Federal governments. Damage is in the billions of dollars, and deaths already in double digits. Literally millions of American citizens today find themselves in the midst of personal devastation.
We're committing all the resources available to assist in this recovery. But just in terms of the number of people affected, our country must pull together to help. We've directed the military to provide over 2,000 MRE's, meals, to the people of Florida, and public health medical teams are there on the ground. Federal Emergency Management Centers are established in Florida and Louisiana, and they will focus all of the Government's assets on this problem.
Finally, I'm establishing a high-level task force under the direction of the Secretary of Transportation Andy Card to coordinate Federal efforts. We're making available today million to create 5,000 short-term jobs for Floridians to clean up and restore public services in the aftermath of the hurricane. This grant will be dispersed by the Florida Governor's office and may be used to employ workers left without jobs from the hurricane.
Governor Chiles has worked very closely with Federal authorities, and we are both pleased by the initial response. He said so himself, and certainly I feel that way.
During my trip to Louisiana today we will be assessing similar needs in that State. In addition, we will be asking the private sector of our country to help in every way possible. As I said earlier, this disaster threatens to overwhelm the resources of all public and private institutions, so we must all chip in and help.
Now I want to turn to the situation in Iraq. In recent weeks and months we have heard and seen new evidence of harsh repression by the government of Saddam Hussein against the men, women, and children of Iraq. What emerges from eyewitness accounts, as well as from the detailed August 11th testimony before the United Nations Security Council of U.N. human rights envoy Max van der Stoel, is further graphic proof of Saddam's brutality.
We now know of Saddam's use of helicopters and, beginning this spring, fixed-wing aircraft to bomb and strafe civilians and villages there in the south, his execution last month of merchants in Baghdad, and his gradual tightening of the economic blockade against the people of the north. These reports are further confirmation that the Government of Iraq is failing to meet its obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 688.
This resolution, passed in April of 1991, demands that Saddam Hussein end repression of the Iraqi people. By denying access to U.N. human rights monitors and other observers, Saddam has sought to prevent the world from learning of his brutality. It is time to ensure the world does know.
Therefore, the United States and its coalition partners have today informed the Iraqi Government that 24 hours from now coalition aircraft, including those of the United States, will begin flying surveillance missions in southern Iraq, south of the 32 degrees north latitude, to monitor the situation there. This will provide coverage of the areas where a majority of the most significant recent violations of Resolution 688 have taken place.
The coalition is also informing Iraq's Government that in order to facilitate these monitoring efforts it is establishing a no-fly zone for all Iraqi fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. This new prohibition will also go into effect in 24 hours over this same area. It will remain in effect until the coalition determines that it is no longer required.
It will be similar to the no-fly zone the coalition imposed on northern Iraq more than a year ago. I want to emphasize that these actions are designed to enhance our ability to monitor developments in southern Iraq. These actions are consistent with longstanding U.S. policy toward Iraq. We seek Iraq's compliance, not its partition.
The United States continues to support Iraq's territorial unity and bears no ill will towards its people. We continue to look forward to working with a new leadership in Baghdad, one that does not brutally suppress its own people and violate the most basic norms of humanity. Until that day no one should doubt our readiness to respond decisively to Iraq's failure to respect the no-fly zone.
Moreover, the United States and our coalition partners are prepared to consider additional steps should Saddam continue to violate this or other U.N. resolutions.
Now, Ed Djerejian is going to brief on the details. There will be a briefing on the military aspects of this -- I believe it's over at the Pentagon -- as soon as we're finished.
Yes, I'll take two or three questions. Then I must run.
Q. Mr. President, are you planning similar action to save the people of Bosnia who are also being slaughtered?
The President. We are in close consultation on Bosnia. As you know, the conference is going on right now. Acting Secretary Eagleburger is there, and we are discussing a wide array of things regarding Bosnia. I have expressed my concerns about use of U.S. force, certainly ground forces, in that area. But there's a lot of consultation going on right now, and I hope that that conference can come forth with productive answers that will encourage the people in that area to find peaceful means of solving these questions. The conference is off, I'm told by Secretary Eagleburger, to a pretty good start.
Q. Mr. President, obviously, these violations to which you refer have been going on for some time. So the question naturally arises as to why this action now and not before, or not later.
The President. Well, one peg is the report from this U.N. official, Mr. van der Stoel, and I think that gets things in focus. Then the other side of it is we've had rather intensive consultations on this to be sure that we are operating in the coalition. I still think that's very important.
Q. How concerned are you that Saddam Hussein's regime may retaliate against U.N. inspectors on the ground?
The President. Well, they've already taken some steps there. That is a matter of concern because I think that just further antagonizes, properly so, the United Nations against them. But whether there's any steps, I don't know that he'd be foolish enough to take any steps as it relates to this no-fly zone.
Q. Mr. President, what if the Iraqis keep their planes on the ground, yet continue to suppress the Shiites with ground forces? What does this coalition do in that case?
The President. Well, we are not -- that's hypothetical, and I just hope that that doesn't occur. But quite obviously, we would be extraordinarily concerned about that because that would be in violation of 688, as this use of these planes is. So we just have to wait and see what further action might be taken.
Q. Mr. President, yesterday in proceedings involving the Iran-contra trial of Caspar Weinberger, there was a memo released, a memo from then-Secretary of State Shultz concerning a telephone conversation he had with Cap Weinberger. It appeared to indicate that you knew about the diversion of arms sales, monies to Iran, to the contras, before the time that you acknowledge. Could you address that, sir?
The President. No, I don't know about that. I've told very openly everything I have to say about it. I don't know about that memo. I find nothing -- I see no reason to contradict myself at all. I think what I've done is give the facts as I've seen them. I saw a story on it, and to be honest with you, I didn't read it.
Q. Do you know what they're talking about -- --
The President. No.
Q. -- -- this conversation that they had?
The President. No.
Q. Mr. President, we haven't had a chance to talk to you since your convention address in which you proposed tax cuts. Will you be specifying which tax cuts you're talking about and how you plan to pay for it? And if you don't, how do you expect the American people to -- are they supposed to take this on faith?
The President. Well, I think what we're talking about here is a fundamental difference. And the difference is going to be whether you think you can -- whether people can have lower taxes to pay and less spending, or the opposition says they want to raise taxes and raise spending. Much more important than the detail of it, which I would obviously have to support in the budget, would be the philosophy: Which approach are you taking?
We already have specific spending cuts recommended up there in the Congress, and so how specific I'll be, I'm not sure. I've already made specific recommendations on cutting taxes that have been up before the Congress. Whether I elaborate on that or not, I'm not sure. Right now my goal is to make sure people know the fundamental difference. One side wants to raise taxes and raise Government spending. My view is that we must cut taxes and cut Government spending. So I want to keep it in that perspective and not get all bogged down in a lot of detail.
Q. How dire will the consequences be if Iraq is partitioned into three parts? Does the United States support that partition?
The President. No. And as I said in my statement, we do not.
Q. Sir, it seems one reason we didn't defend the Shiites after the war was we were concerned about this partition. Now have you had a different read on the Shiites? We hear stories about the Shiites not being considered a threat; in fact, they're more Iranian -- rather, more Iraqi than they are pro-Iranian and Shiite. Is that true? Is that your latest intelligence read on them? Are you concerned that you're now doing this solely in a political year that this simply is going to look funny to the American people?
The President. Well, do you think it looks funny to the British people, the French people, the Saudi people? The answer is no. I'm not concerned about that in the least. I don't think the other side will try to put a political spin on this. We're talking about something that's very serious here. General Scowcroft notified Governor Clinton of what it is we're doing. I'm not worried about the politics of it at all.
On the separation, I'd like to leave that question to Ed to answer as to whether these Shiites are pro-Iran. They're Iraqi, and we do not want to see the partition of Iraq.
Yes, John [John Mashek, Boston Globe]. This is the last question.
Q. Mr. President, since the convention, another development is that the Democrats are saying that you've replaced patriotism of 1988 with love of God and family values in '92. Are those code words this year?
The President. Well, I was very pleased with something. I noticed that Governor Clinton was proclaiming there at the American Legion his pride in the fact that they had passed in Arkansas an anti-flag-burning resolution. That was in the litany of things he talked to the American Legion about. I think that's very good. So I don't think that one side is more patriotic than the other.
I'm going to continue to talk about the values that I think are very, very important. But I don't think we can say one -- what was the rest of your question?
Q. Well, that both the love of God and family values are code words, that the Democrats aren't as strong as the Republicans on those two issues.
The President. Well, I think we'll just say what we're for and let them reply as to what they're for. I noticed a rather vigorous response. I didn't hear -- the press didn't ask me about it, but when Governor Cuomo equated us with Nazis, front page of one of the New York papers 2 days ago, it was -- you know, we're in a funny year when people can say those things. So they've got their hot shooters out there; we've got some. What I'm trying to do is spell out what I think is fundamental. We're not going to stop talking about family values. If they want to talk about that, that's fine.
Q. Is Chief of Staff Baker prepared now to agree to three Presidential debates with Governor Clinton?
The President. I suggest, John, that you address that to -- I was going to see whether to punt that ball into Baker's end zone -- [laughter] -- but I think the answer to your question, though, is no. But we'll see. We'll see. We haven't discussed it.
Note: The President spoke at 10:48 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Edward P. Djerejian, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.