Why We Are In The Gulf

It is now more than 15 weeks since Iraqi tanks, with little warning and even less mercy, rolled across the border dividing Iraq from Kuwait. Within three days, 100,000 Iraqi troops controlled the streets of Kuwait City and massed at the borders of Kuwait's neighbor Saudi Arabia. A second invasion, or at the very least, military intimidation, appeared imminent.

Iraq's occupation of Kuwait has been a nightmare. Hundreds of thousands of Kuwaiti men, women and children have been driven from their country, Saddam has brought in tens of thousands of Iraqis and other foreigners to resettle Kuwait in their place. Homes, buildings and factories have been looted. Babies have been torn from incubators; children shot in front of their parents. Disappearances and graphic accounts of torture are widespread.

Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein has not been content with violence against Kuwaitis. Thousands of foreigners are being denied the freedom to leave, in violation of the most basic norms of civilized conduct. Embassies and diplomatic residences are being violated, and their diplomatic personnel are being starved out.

The response of the international community to this cruelty has been immediate and unwavering. The United Nations Security Council has passed ten resolutions condemning Iraq's invasion and occupation, rejecting its annexation of Kuwait, and calling upon Saddam to allow all who wish to leave to do so. To back up these calls for action, the international community has put into place mandatory, comprehensive economic sanctions designed to ensure that Iraq reverses, and does not benefit from, its aggression. I am proud to say that the United States played a key role in building the coalition of nations that forged this response; American leadership remains a positive and constructive force in this changing world.

Now, as I write this, more than 200,000 men and women wearing the uniforms of the U.S. armed forces stand guard on the sand and along the shores of the Arabian peninsula, together with the armed forces of more than 25 other countries. Over the next few months, they will be joined by thousands of additional troops.

But why are we there? Why should we be there?

First, the world must not reward aggression. Iraq's invasion and occupation of Kuwait is not just a case of petty aggression. We stand now at a singular moment. The civilized world is now in the process of fashioning the rules that will govern the new world order beginning to emerge in the aftermath of the Cold War. The history of this century shows clearly that rewarding aggression encourages more aggression. If the world looks the other way in this first crisis of the Post Cold War era, other would-be Saddams will conclude, correctly, that aggression pays. We must either be prepared to respond now or face a much greater set of challenges down the road.

Second, our national security is at stake. Can the world afford to allow Saddam Hussein a stranglehold around the world's economic lifeline? That is exactly what would happen if we failed. Armed with thousands of tanks and aircraft, not to mention chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons, Saddam would dominate the Gulf and the bulk of the world's petroleum reserves. Even now, without an actual shortage of oil, Saddam's aggression has almost doubled oil prices. Fledgling democracies are at particular risk; the poorest nations are hit hardest. The potential for much greater suffering is real. We cannot allow any tyrant to practice economic blackmail. Energy security is national security, and we must be prepared to act accordingly.

Last, innocent lives are at stake. I want to see a world in which Americans and others can live free from fear. The cynical use of innocent civilians, as bargaining chips or as pawns to deter attack, is an affront to civilized behavior. This blackmail will not succeed. At the same time, our citizens and our diplomats must be free.

Many, understandably, counsel prolonged patience. Yet, it is grim reality that with each passing day the consequences of Saddam's aggression grow. Remember, Saddam has not hesitated to use his most terrible weapons--not merely in time of war, but against his own people. The fact that Saddam is developing the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction known to man--nuclear and biological weapons--is ominous indeed. Those who are in hiding or inside our embassy in Kuwait risk capture or surrender. Saddam has callously refused to comply with the U.N. Resolution that calls for the replenishment of foreign embassies. The potential cost in human lives of what would be needed to break Saddam's grip on Kuwait mounts as do the global economic costs of his aggression.

Our goals have not changed since I first outlined them to the. American people last August. First, the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Second, the restoration of Kuwait's legitimate government. Third, security and stability for the Gulf--an important national interest of the United States since the time of Harry Truman. And fourth, the protection of American citizens abroad.

Let me make one more thing clear. As I work to realize these goals, I will use every means at my disposal to reach a peaceful solution. We will continue the effective implementation of the United Nations sanctions. There already has been enough violence, suffering and sacrifice.

Lasting and meaningful peace must be founded upon principle. Iraq cannot be rewarded for its blatant aggression. Kuwait must be sovereign; its territory intact. The hostages must be set free. Iraq can never again be in a position to threaten the survival of its neighbors or our vital interests.

With unity and determination, and yes, patience, I am confident that these objectives are within reach. When we succeed, we will have returned a country to its people. We will have shown that aggression will not be tolerated. We will have invigorated a United Nations that contributes as its founders dreamed. We will have established principles for acceptable international conduct and the means to enforce them. In short, we will have taken a major step toward a community of nations bound by a common commitment to peace and restraint. This is something Americans and peace-loving peoples have long sought. Out of this difficult time of testing, we have the extraordinary opportunity to make this dream a reality.

Why We Are In The Gulf | News