Public Papers

Remarks to the Military Airlift Command in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia


Thank you all. Thank you for that warm welcome. I'm just delighted to be here, and so is Barbara. And I don't normally speak for the joint leadership of the United States Congress, but it is most fitting that on this Thanksgiving Day we have with me here the Speaker of the House, Tom Foley; Bob Michel, the minority leader in our House; Senator Mitchell, the leader in the United States Senate; and Bob Dole, the minority leader in the Senate. I'm just delighted they're out here with us.

And, of course, I salute not only Colonel McBroom but also General Schwarzkopf. And, Norm, we have a little present for you. It comes from the families and friends of our troops around the world, and it's just exactly your size. [Laughter] This thing will fit you. [Laughter]

Well, Barbara and I are very proud to be sharing this Thanksgiving with the men and women of our allied forces. And later we're going to visit your partners in the Army, the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines -- together, the finest Armed Forces in the entire world. And we are here because we believe in freedom: our freedom and the freedom of others. And we're here because we believe in principle. And we're here because we believe in you.

And I'm very impressed with the Air Force -- people like Airman First Class Wade West. He was home on leave to get married when this got started. On August 7th he was called up. Within an hour he had the ceremony performed -- his wedding ceremony -- and left for the Middle East. You talk about a guy who gets things done. [Laughter] Fantastic.

Over the past 4 months, you have launched what history will judge as one of the most important deployments of allied military power since 1945. And I'm here today to personally thank you -- the Saudi, Kuwaiti, British, and American air men and women here today, and the forces from 23 other nations -- here to see that an unprecedented series of U.N. resolutions is honored.

Thanksgiving is indeed the oldest, some say the most American of holidays, dating back to our very origins as a people. It's a day apart from all others -- a day of peace, a day of thanks, a day to remember what we stand for and, this Thanksgiving, why we're here. It isn't all that complicated. Earlier this week I set out the key reasons why we're here, making a stand in defense of peace and freedom. And we're here to protect freedom, here to protect the future, and here to protect innocent lives.

First, freedom: Protecting freedom means standing up to aggression. The brutality inflicted on the people of Kuwait and on innocent citizens of every country must not be rewarded. Kuwait is small, but one conquered nation is one too many. And remember, remember, the invasion of Kuwait was without provocation. The invasion of Kuwait was without excuse. And the invasion of Kuwait simply will not stand.

Second: Protecting our future means protecting our national security and the stability and security of the Gulf area that is so vital to all nations. Today the worldwide march of freedom is threatened by a man hell-bent on gaining a choke-hold on the world's economic lifeline. And that's why Iraq's aggression is not just a challenge to the security of our friends in the Gulf but to the new partnership of nations we're all hoping to build. Energy security is national security for us and for every country.

And third: We're here to protect innocent lives, including American lives. Every diplomat and every citizen of every country held hostage must be freed.

Three simple reasons -- protecting freedom, protecting our future, protecting innocent lives -- any one is reason enough why Iraq's unprincipled, unprovoked aggression must not go unchallenged. Together, as 10 United Nations Security Council resolutions made clear, they are a compelling case for your mission.

What we're confronting is a classic bully who thinks he can get away with kicking sand in the face of the world. And so far, we have acted with restraint, as is our way. But Saddam is making the mistake of his life if he confuses an abundance of restraint and patience with a lack of resolve. And every day that passes brings Saddam Hussein one step closer to realizing his goal of a nuclear weapons arsenal. And that's another reason, frankly, why, more and more, our mission is marked by a real sense of urgency.

Our objectives in the Gulf have never varied. We want a free and restored Kuwait, protect American citizens, safeguard the security and stability of the region. To force Iraq to comply, we and our allies have forged a strong, diplomatic, economic and, yes, military strategy. No President, none at all, is quick to order American troops abroad. But there are times when all nations that value freedom must confront aggression.

Sometimes it's a question of some pain -- some pain now to avoid even worse pain later. In World War II, the world paid dearly for appeasing an aggressor who could have been stopped early on. We're not going to make that mistake again. We will not appease this aggressor.

The world is still a dangerous place, and those in uniform will always bear the heaviest burden. And we want every single American home. And this we promise: No American will be kept in the Gulf a single day longer than necessary. But we won't pull punches. We're not here on some exercise. This is a real world situation, and we're not walking away until our mission is done, until the invader is out of Kuwait.

There is no way Americans can forget the contribution you are making to world peace and to our country. Year after year on this very special day, special to every American, no doubt each of you has given thanks to your country. This year your country gives thanks to you. We think of you with pride in our hearts and a prayer on our lips.

May God bless you and watch over you. To those with whom we stand shoulder to shoulder, our friends from other lands, may God bless each and every one of you. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you. Good to see all of you. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:05 a.m. at the Military Airlift Command ramp at Dhahran International Airport. In his remarks, he referred to Col. John McBroom, commander of the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing; Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.