Humiliation is Bush's aim, observers say WAR IN THE GULF

February 23, 1991|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Paris Bureau of The Sun

PARIS -- In both tone and substance, President Bush is aiming to achieve diplomatically the destruction of Saddam Hussein that might be denied him militarily, analysts and diplomats here said yesterday.

If the war were to end leaving a share of Mr. Hussein's military arsenal intact, Mr. Bush seemed to be saying, Mr. Hussein might be left an unbroken hero before Arab masses from Morocco to Jordan, the observers said.

"There's no question Bush was trying to humiliate Saddam," one diplomatic observer said after watching Mr. Bush's brief address on television.

At times, Mr. Bush's conditions sounded like Mr. Hussein's rhetoric served back to him in poison potion. As war loomed last month, for example, Mr. Hussein threatened that the United States could decide when it began, but not how or when it would end.

In giving Iraq just over 24 hours to begin the withdrawal, Mr. Bush hammered home that it would be he -- and not Mr. Hussein or Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev -- who would decide when the Persian Gulf war would end.

So far, the Iraqi leader also has been spared the need to make public admissions of defeat. As of last night, Baghdad radio had carried only Mr. Hussein's Thursday speech pledging that "our people and forces are determined to continue the struggle," and still had not announced the Iraqi promise to withdraw from Kuwait.

Although Middle Eastern and Asian sources who listened to Mr. Hussein's radio address Thursday said it did not rule out a withdrawal from Kuwait, the speech was hazy enough to be considered "defiant" and "disappointing" in quarters farther west.

"Saddam Hussein was talking to his public, and Bush was talking to his public," explained an Asian diplomat here.

Mr. Bush yesterday demanded an end to Mr. Hussein's ambiguity, not merely to secure assurances that the message Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz has delivered to Moscow has Baghdad's agreement. In ordering a clear -- and public -- statement of intention from the Iraqi leadership as one of the conditions for ending the war, Mr. Bush was also demanding that the Iraqi leadership admit defeat to its people.

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