In an address from the Oval Office as airstrikes against Iraq began on Jan. 16, 1991, then-President George H.W. Bush said Saddam Husssein had left the United States no other options. In many ways, his words would be echoed by his son 12 years later, at the start of a new Gulf War. Following is the text of the elder Bush's 1991 speech.
Just two hours ago allied air forces began an attack on military targets in Iraq and Kuwait. These attacks continue as I speak. Ground forces are not engaged.
This conflict started Aug. 2 when the dictator of Iraq invaded a small and helpless neighbor. Kuwait, a member of the Arab League and a member of the United Nations, was crushed, its people brutalized. Five months ago Saddam Hussein started this cruel war against Kuwait. Tonight, the battle has been joined.
This military action, taken in accord with United Nations resolutions, and with the consent of the United States Congress, follows months of constant and virtually endless diplomatic activity on the part of the United Nations, the United States and many, many other countries. Arab leaders sought what became known as an Arab solution, only to conclude that Saddam Hussein was unwilling to leave Kuwait. Others traveled to Baghdad in a variety of efforts to restore peace and justice. Our secretary of state, James Baker, held an historic meeting in Geneva, only to be totally rebuffed. This past weekend, in a last- ditch effort, the secretary general of the United Nations went to the Middle East with peace in his heart — his second such mission — and he came back from Baghdad with no progress at all in getting Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait. Now the 28 countries with forces in the gulf area, having exhausted all reasonable efforts to reach a peaceful resolution, have no choice but to drive Saddam from Kuwait by force. We will not fail.
As I report to you, air attacks are underway against military targets in Iraq. We are determined to knock out Saddam Hussein's nuclear bomb potential. We will also destroy his chemical weapons facilities. Much of Saddam's artillery and tanks will be destroyed. Our operations are designed to best protect the lives of all the coalition forces by targeting Saddam's vast military arsenal. Initial reports from Gen. Schwarzkopf are that our operations are proceeding according to plan.
Our objectives are clear. Saddam Hussein's forces will leave Kuwait. The legitimate government of Kuwait will be restored to its rightful place. And Kuwait will once again be free. Iraq will eventually comply with all relevant United Nations resolutions. And then, when peace is restored, it is our hope that Iraq will live as a peaceful and cooperative member of the family of nations, thus enhancing the security and stability of the gulf.