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U.S. Policy and Foreign Nationals in Iraq and Kuwait
Q. Mr. President, Saddam Hussein (President of Iraq) has rejected demands that he pull his troops out of Kuwait, and he's holding several thousand foreigners hostage to keep the world at bay. You say you don't see much chance for diplomacy to work. How long can the West allow this impasse to go on? And would you take any action that might endanger the lives of those hostages?
The President. It will go on as long as it takes to have these United Nations sanctions fully implemented. And I'm glad that these diplomatic efforts are taking place. Perhaps one will hit pay dirt. But as of now, I must say I'm not optimistic because the man keeps reiterating terms that simply fly in the face of the United Nations action.
And on the second question, look, I feel very concerned about Americans that are held against their will. But we cannot permit hostage-taking to shape the foreign policy of this country, and I won't permit it to do that.
Q. Sir, does that mean that their lives would be expendable if you judge in the national interest
The President. That's too hypothetical a question. It means I will not change the policy of the United States, and I don't think other leaders whose foreign nationals are in the same predicament will change their policies, to pay homage or to give credibility to this brutal move of staking out citizens and a brutal move of holding people against their will.
Q. Mr. President, there are reports that there's a split in your administration-some who want to expand the goals to include the eventual ouster of Saddam. And also, there are many, many suggestions for a Middle East conference that would include in what you would call the post-postwar shape of the world, the perennial problems of the Middle East. What do you think on both
The President. Well, I think on the second part of the question that we ought to get on with the business at hand, the shorter run business, which is the solution to this question: the making right the situation in Kuwait, meaning the pulling out of forces, obviously, and the restoration of the
rulers. As I look at the countries that are chipping in here now, I think we do have a chance at a new world order, and I'd like to think that out of this dreary performance by Saddam Hussein there could be now an opportunity for peace all through the Middle East. But we have to be sure that what's been undertaken so far is successful before we can move to that other agenda, it seems to me.
Q. Well, would you support then a conference afterwards? I mean, this may be premature, but the question is: Are you shooting for that?
The President. I haven't—that's not an objective, a conference. Peace through the Middle East is an objective. And as you know, we have never ruled out a conference of any nature. In fact, it was part of our diplomacy just several years ago. But I don't want to get out ahead of where we are right now on this. The question right now is: What do we do to get Saddam Hussein to comply with international law?
I left out-you had another part of it.
Q. And you want to get him out of his job? You want to get him out of
The President. Well, it wouldn't disappoint me if the Iraqis got up and said, Look, this man is our problem. I've said right here the problem is not with the people in Iraq-simply isn't. But I've spelled out our objectives here, and I've stopped short of adding to them what-the answer that you were seeking from me on the President
Q. Mr. President, some have expressed the fear that Saddam Hussein might seek to inflame the Arab world against the United States by drawing Israel into the conflict here, perhaps by a strike against Jordan. Can you tell us if you're prepared for such a contingency, and if so, how?
The President. Well, that's, again, hypothetical. I can't predict what he's going to do. But I can tell you that we are continuing to implement our forces and we are continuing to take all the diplomatic moves that are necessary to prepare for any eventuality. Jordan's Role in U.N. Embargo
Q. Let me just follow up by asking a question about Jordan's participation in the U.N. sanctions. There are numerous reports
coming out of the East, some quoting Israeli Q. Marlin Fitzwater (Press Secretary to intelligence, to the effect that Jordan is a the President), at one point, said that you highway, really, for supplies still reaching were pretty adamant or stubborn about it, Iraq. Are you aware of those reports, and saying to him at one point that you needed whai do you
the rest. (Laughter] Is that what it boiled The President. I'm aware of some. But,
down to? (Laughter] Brit (Brit Hume, ABC News), it is my view, Mr. Fitzwater. I beg your pardon. based on what I've seen most recently, that [Laughter) commerce has come down to a bit of a The President. I need to rest, and I trickle there. There are reports of enor- haven't gotten as much as I'd like. But I mous numbers of trucks being laid up with wouldn't call it adamant or stubborn beno goods to transport. So, I don't know how cause I refuse to effective it is right now. I do know that Mr. Fitzwater. Neither would I. (LaughKing Hussein (of Jordan) told me, looking ter] me right in the eye, that they were going to The President. He better not have, either. comply with the sanctions. But I've seen (Laughter] Marlin's going through kind of a reports that indicate there's some leakage downer, though, because the Iraqi spokesthere, but I just can't give you the quantity. man has the matching tie and hankie, you I just don't know.
know, so he's been a little—[laughter] It's my feeling that commerce through Q. You were about to answer the quesAqaba, the port of Aqaba, and, indeed, tion about the rest. through Jordan going to Iraq and vice-versa The President. No, I think I do. I'm gethas slowed down. Regrettably, there's a lot ting some—not as much as I'd like. But it's of refugee traffic, and I think that's hurting been very pleasant there, and yet I've manthe Saddam Hussein image because people aged to accoinplish my objectives in terms see the humblest being brutalized the most. of work, too. And they see a lot of refugees out there, and I think that's sending not a very good
Financial Support for Multinational signal as far as he's concerned.
Q. Mr. President, on the question of President's Vacation
burden-sharing, since you're sending your Q. Sir, you're going to return to Kenne- envoys out, it sounds like you have not bunkport this afternoon. May I ask how gotten the voluntary contributions you bothered you may have been by the opin- might have liked to have gotten. Can you ion of many Americans, many of whom give us a sense of how much you're looking think you're doing a great job in this crisis, for and where you expect to find it? who nonetheless are bothered by you going The President. No, I don't think it's a out and fishing and golfing while in com- question of doing this because we haven't mand of the troops in the Gulf?
gotten what we think is fair for other counThe President. No, I'm not bothered by tries and for burden-sharing generally. it. I've expressed myself on that. If I were What we're talking about here, Charles bothered, I wouldn't be going back there (Charles Bierbauer, Cable News Network), for the Labor Day weekend with my
is a consulting and coordinating effort, and And I think the American people are sup- we've had strong indications of support. But porting strongly what I'm doing. And I now we're moving up a little bit and trying would repeat: I am in very close touch, to take the lead here leadership in helping done a lot of the diplomatic work that has sort out who should help whom. Somebody gone into this project from my house there, has to do that. And we've made a signifireceived a couple of foreign visitors there, cant commitment in various ways. And so, have had many briefings there. And I think it seemed appropriate that we take the lead the American people are fundamentally in working with our friends and allies. fair, and I think they see that. So, I'm not But look, Prime Minister Kaifu (of Japan) troubled by it. If I were, I expect I wouldn't called me last night—no, he didn't need a be going back again.
mission for this—and made a significant contribution and then pledged to do more confirm or deny—we never comment on in terms of support for other countries. those matters—I would simply leave it out Now, that is very good, and that was volun- there. But you say, Well, am I supportive tary. But it needs to be coordinated. Some- of-I think what you said was resistance. body needs to take the lead on saying: And I'd be supportive of anybody that Look, we don't put all the money to this wants to try to fulfill the statements that one country. Several countries are involved the world has made through the United Nahere, and let's see that these generous re- tions. sponses are fairly allocated.
Q. You didn't rule out cross-border raids Q. If I could follow up: There have been by American military personnel either. concerns expressed about the Japanese not The President. Well, if they're going to making any military contribution. They happen—let me be clear on this if it were could send minesweepers or something like going to happen, I wouldn't comment on it. that. Is money not enough in the Japanese It would be the dumbest thing I could poscase? And what has happened to your good sibly do, in my view, to tip your hat. But I friend Helmut Kohl (Chancellor of the Fed- have no plans for that right now. eral Republic of Germany), who seems extraordinarily silent?
Multinational Efforts The President. I wouldn't say money is Q. Mr. President, a related question about not enough. I'm fully aware of the con- this. There are some Iraqi opposition groups straints on the Japanese, and I've not in London and elsewhere, and the Kurds, pressed him to go beyond what his Consti- and they have all said in recent weeks tution provides. Helmut Kohl-I think they've heard nothing from your administhey'll be very responsive. And part of what tration. If anything, they've been encourwe're talking about here is to follow up on aged just to—that the United States only comments like the ones Helmut Kohl made wants covert contacts with them. Why not, to me about: We want to be a part of this. if, as you say, you want the Iraqi people to We want to help. So, I have no argument rise up, why has this administration not with the Germans at all.
done anything with the opposition groups? Kuwaiti Resistance
The President. We've got a plan, and the
plan is to work diplomatically, and the plan Q. Is the United States doing anything to is to put on the ground a significant military help the Kuwaiti underground, the Kuwaiti force. And if these comments I made today rebels, in training, supplies—anything? about anybody who wants to help the
The President. One, I wouldn't comment United Nations and those of us who want to on it. Two, but in a broad way, I support see Iraq out of Kuwait succeed, so much the Kuwaiti underground. I support any
the better. body that can add a hand in restoring legiti- Q. If I could just follow up: You said also macy there to Kuwait and to getting the today, you don't want to hurt the Iraqi Iraqis out of Kuwait.
people. But isn't this embargo and these Q. How do you justify it legally under the
sanctions only hurting them and hurting U.N. resolution for any support activity for
them first before they hurt Saddam? the underground?
The President. There's nothing that's The President. I'm just encouraging painless, David [David Hoffman, Washingpeople who are patriots and feel that their
ton Post), when you get into a situation like country has been pillaged and aggressed
this and when you have a leader that could against.
brutalize his own people. There's nothing
that's painless in all of this. Q. Would you draw the line at sending the Green Berets or some sort of American Diplomatic Solutions military force in cross-border raids? And do
Q. On the question of negotiations, Mr. you
President, are all channels still open? SpeThe President. That's too hypothetical. cifically, have there been any back-channel I've given you the principle. If there were contact or proposals to White House offisome quiet support, which I wouldn't ever cials that are worth pursuing?
The President. None that I know of. lem has gotten worse as a result of the
Q. If I could follow on that, sir: Saddam action that we have had to take. Hussein has suggested that you and he and Q. If I could follow that up: Senator Margaret Thatcher [Prime Minister of the Leahy has suggested a sort of war tax to pay United Kingdom) go on TV to debate this. for this. How do you feel about that conWhat do you say to that?
cept? The President. I say he can put an empty
The President. I don't feel that the chair there as far as I'm concerned. [Laugh
answer is a war tax. ter]
Television Coverage of Saddam Hussein Troop Morale
Q. Mr. President, do you have any probQ. Mr. President, in your peptalk to the
lem with the live TV coverage of Saddam armed services yesterday, you mentioned
Hussein's media events, which a lot of the difficulty of the mission, citing the
people complain just gives him a propaganda weather. Isn't boredom even a bigger factor
The President. No, I have no complaints as weeks slip into months over in the desert?
about it. I think that it hasn't helped him The President. Well, I would hope not,
very much with world opinion. I don't
know what it's done at home; maybe it's but I'm not sure it's the world's most excit
been reassuring to the people there. But I ing assignment, if that's what you mean. But I think there will be programs to keep
don't think that it is cutting into the desire
to see the U.N. sanctions fulfilled. I must morale high. Right now it's extraordinarily high.
say, I haven't seen the last couple of inter
views with the man, but I think the one Multinational Force
with the—what he calls guests and what we Q. A suggestion has been made that some
call hostages was really so brutal and so
totally unacceptable that it worked against reduction in the troops might be made in the days ahead to give a more international
him—was manipulative and cynical. So, I
haven't been concerned that he's got a shot tinge to the force over there. Would you
there. He's had a real opportunity to entertain such—or support such a move? The President. I'm more interested in
present his case to the American people. I'd
like to have a similar opportunity to present seeing the fulfillment of commitments
our case to the people in Iraq. But I have made.
no complaints about that at all, Rita (Rita Military Operation's Impact on the
Beamish, Associated Press). Federal Budget
Iraqi Withdrawal from Kuwait Q. Mr. President, you're about to begin a Q. Mr. President, could you accept a situnew round of budget negotiations. Federal
ation where Iraq withdraws from Kuwait employees are facing furloughs because of but keeps its military power intact, regardthe Gramm-Rudman law. And this oper- less of who's in charge? ation is costing over $1 billion a month. The President. Well, again, that's too hy. How do you assess the impact of the cost of pothetical. I want to see the goals that I Operation Desert Shield on your budget stated fulfilled. And of course, I think part problem?
of that would be—I think the world would The President. It's difficult at this junc demand that there be no chance of another ture to know fully what the impact will be. invasion the minute this ended. Clearly, it will have some budget implica- Q. If I could follow, sir: Senator Lugar tion. I have not moved off of my view that and some others have said that this is somewe must get a budget agreement with Con- thing that we should discuss now. gress as soon as they get back, and I'll have The President. Well, we are discussing it more to say about that in the weeks ahead. now. I had dinner with him last night, as a But I really haven't changed my view on matter of fact, because I knew he felt that that. And I think it will be very clear to way. It was a very good evening, as a Members of Congress that the deficit prob- matter of fact. I had about 11, 12 Members of Congress over there, and it was helpful ings today with some of our top analysts to me to get these diverse views. I got some and specialists on the Arab world. I don't of the feeling of that from briefing the Con- want to put words in their mouth, but that gress. But I have great respect for Dick
was one of the questions that I asked. It's Lugar, and so we'll be talking more. But I very hard to predict; it's very hard to meashave not changed the objectives, you'll ure intentions. But I think the answer is to notice, in the publicly stated objectives have the forces in place to be ready. I here.
would think that the defense of Saudi Financial Support for Multinational
Arabia is far more assured today than it was Efforts
2 weeks ago because the United States and
others have moved substantial forces there. Q. What is the total amount of money
And they're ready, and they're strong, and you are expecting from the allies? The President. There is no total price tag larly, there's a lot of naval power and, of
they’re able, and their morale is high. Simithat I have in mind. I do have to go in a couple of questions
course, air power that's there. I would think
that that would be a deterrent to anybody after two.
with any degree of rationality. Having said Israel and Saudi Arabia
that, I don't know what is in this man's Q. Has Israel served as a strategic ally in
mind. this crisis? And is there anything you can do Q. To follow on, sir: What actions by Iraq, to help protect Israel and Saudi Arabia sir, would trigger a U.S. response? against a chemical attack as was threatened The President. That is too broad a questoday?
tion to get a response from. But we're The President. Israel has behaved very ready, and if there's some provocative well, and Israel has never had difficulty de- action, why, then we'd have to make a defending itself. In terms of Saudi Arabia, we termination at that time. But I just can't are committed to the defense of Saudi
help you. Your question is too broad. Arabia, and I believe that we have a major
Last one from Texas. Cragg (Cragg Hines, stake in protecting them against that kind
Houston Chronicle)? And then I've got to of further aggression.
go. I really do. South African Assistance
Image of U.S. Forces Q. May I follow? Of the countries you're
Q. Mr. President, are you concerned that asking for assistance, have you asked South Africa to contribute anything to this?
this burden-sharing, as you call it, is going
to make American forces look like merceThe President. I don't think we've asked any of these—well, we may have asked
naries in the Middle East?
The President. I wouldn't want to have some of them so far, but I don't know that there's been a request made of South Africa
anything done that would make them look
like mercenaries. But I don't think so. In or not. Last one.
fact, we would be very careful that that
conclusion could not be drawn. Risk of War
I raised that question-one of the MemQ. Mr. President, some of the Members bers of Congress asked me that—said I of Congress who attended the meeting with don't want mercenary forces. But there are you the other day left here with the feeling ways that burden-sharing can be accomthat the longer the situation drags on, the plished without making the forces merceless the chance there is of outright fighting nary. And I'm thinking of the enormous involving U.S. troops. At the moment, what
fuel bills that are involved and transportais your assessment of the risk of fighting tion and these kinds of things that are ininvolving our forces?
volved in moves of this nature. The President. Well, it's so hard to answer But I'm glad you raised it, because U.S. that question because of the unpredictable forces should never appear to be mercenary nature of Saddam Hussein himself. And so, I forces. And that will not be the outcome of think it's almost impossible. I've had meet- this, I can guarantee you.