Bush, in speech, restates his case for going to war WAR IN THE GULF

January 24, 1991|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said last night that his decision to order American troops into battle against Iraq eight days ago has been justified by Saddam Hussein's response.

He also gave the strongest hint so far that one aim of the campaign is to remove Mr. Hussein from power or bring him to justice.

"Saddam has sickened the world with his use of Scud missiles, those inaccurate bombs that indiscriminately strike cities and innocent civilians in both Israel and Saudi Arabia," Mr. Bush told a gathering of the Reserve Officers Association.

"These weapons are nothing more than tools of terror, and they do nothing but strengthen our resolve to act against a dictator unmoved by human decency."

The president said he had "watched, along with all of you, the repulsive parade of our American airmen on Iraqi television -- one more proof of the savagery of Saddam."

Noting that British Prime Minister John Major had hinted he would not weep if the Iraqi president became a target of his own people, Mr. Bush declared: "No one should weep for this tyrant when he is brought to justice. No one -- anywhere in the world."

Mr. Bush wrote most of the 13-minute address himself. It was intended to be the president's personal assessment of the how well the week-old war is going.

He pronounced himself "very pleased with our progress," which he said was "right on schedule."

Mr. Bush reported that allied air attacks over Iraq have "dealt a severe blow to Saddam's nuclear ambitions," putting him "out of the nuclear bomb-building business for a long time to come."

Allied aircraft "enjoy air superiority," the president said, and are using it to deprive Mr. Hussein of his ability to "wage war effectively."

The thousands of bombing runs over Iraq each day are knocking out "many of their key airfields [and] hitting early warning radars with great success," he said.

Mr. Bush only alluded to the potential for a long and bloody ground war against well-entrenched Iraqi forces in occupied Kuwait, noting that there would be "setbacks" and "more sacrifices" ahead.

But he insisted that the United States and its allies were in the fight until Mr. Hussein was finally driven from there.

"We did not begin a war seven days ago," the president argued. "We began to end a war -- to right a wrong that the world could not ignore.

"We will stay the course -- and we will succeed all the way," he declared to thunderous applause.

Mr. Bush could hardly have chosen a more sympathetic audience. The 68-year-old Reserve Officers Association was founded by World War I veterans to promote U.S. military policy that provides "adequate national security."

Shortly before the president arrived in the Washington Hilton grand ballroom, the hundreds of uniformed men and women in attendance were waving tiny American flags as a military band played, "It's a Grand Old Flag."

Security was unusually tight for the president's appearance, with streets around the hotel blocked off long before Mr. Bush's arrival.

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