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 have 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 under way 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 General 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.
Some may ask, "Why act now? Why not wait?" The answer is clear. The world could wait no longer.
Sanctions, though having some effect, showed no signs of accomplishing their objective. Sanctions were tried for well over five months and we and our allies concluded that sanctions alone would not force Saddam from Kuwait.
While the world waited, Saddam Hussein systematically raped, pillaged and plundered a tiny nation -- no threat to his own. He subjected the people of Kuwait to unspeakable atrocities, and among those maimed and murdered -- innocent children. While the world waited Saddam sought to add to the chemical weapons arsenal he now possesses an infinitely more dangerous weapon of mass destruction, a nuclear weapon.
And while the world waited, while the world talked peace and withdrawal, Saddam Hussein dug in and moved massive forces into Kuwait. While the world waited, while Saddam stalled, more damage was being done to the fragile economies of the Third World, the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe, to the entire world, including to our own economy.
The United States, together with the United Nations, exhausted every means at our disposal to bring this crisis to a peaceful end.
However, Saddam clearly felt that by stalling and threatening and defying the United Nations he could weaken the forces arrayed against him.
While the world waited, Saddam Hussein met every overture of peace with open contempt. While the world prayed for peace, Saddam prepared for war.
I had hoped that when the United States Congress, in historic debate, took its resolute action, Saddam would realize he could not prevail and would move out of Kuwait in accord with the United Nations resolutions. He did not do that.
Instead, he remained intransigent, certain that time was on his side. Saddam was warned over and over again to comply with the will of the United Nations -- leave Kuwait or be driven out. Saddam has arrogantly rejected all warnings. Instead, he tried to make this a dispute between Iraq and the United States of America.
Well, he failed. Tonight, 28 nations, countries from five continents -- Europe and Asia, Africa and the Arab League -- have forces in the gulf area standing shoulder-to-shoulder against Saddam Hussein. These countries had hoped the use of force could be avoided. Regrettably, we now believe that only force will make him leave.