[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George H. W. Bush (1991, Book I)]
[March 6, 1991]
[Pages 218-222]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the Cessation of the 
Persian Gulf Conflict
March 6, 1991

    Speaker Foley. Mr. President, it is customary at joint sessions for 
the Chair to present the President to the Members of Congress directly 
and without further comment. But I wish to depart from tradition tonight 
and express to you on behalf of the Congress and the country, and 
through you to the members of our Armed Forces, our warm-

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est congratulations on the brilliant victory of the Desert Storm 
    Members of the Congress, I now have the high privilege and distinct 
honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.
    The President. Mr. President. And Mr. Speaker, thank you, sir, for 
those very generous words spoken from the heart about the wonderful 
performance of our military.
    Members of Congress, 5 short weeks ago I came to this House to speak 
to you about the state of the Union. We met then in time of war. 
Tonight, we meet in a world blessed by the promise of peace.
    From the moment Operation Desert Storm commenced on January 16th 
until the time the guns fell silent at midnight 1 week ago, this nation 
has watched its sons and daughters with pride, watched over them with 
prayer. As Commander in Chief, I can report to you our armed forces 
fought with honor and valor. And as President, I can report to the 
Nation aggression is defeated. The war is over.
    This is a victory for every country in the coalition, for the United 
Nations. A victory for unprecedented international cooperation and 
diplomacy, so well led by our Secretary of State, James Baker. It is a 
victory for the rule of law and for what is right.
    Desert Storm's success belongs to the team that so ably leads our 
Armed Forces: our Secretary of Defense and our Chairman of the Joint 
Chiefs, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. And while you're standing--
[laughter]--this military victory also belongs to the one the British 
call the ``Man of the Match''--the tower of calm at the eye of Desert 
Storm--General Norman Schwarzkopf.
    And recognizing this was a coalition effort, let us not forget Saudi 
General Khalid, Britain's General de la Billiere, or General 
Roquejeoffre of France, and all the others whose leadership played such 
a vital role. And most importantly, most importantly of all, all those 
who served in the field.
    I thank the Members of this Congress--support here for our troops in 
battle was overwhelming. And above all, I thank those whose unfailing 
love and support sustained our courageous men and women: I thank the 
American people.
    Tonight, I come to this House to speak about the world--the world 
after war. The recent challenge could not have been clearer. Saddam 
Hussein was the villain; Kuwait, the victim. To the aid of this small 
country came nations from North America and Europe, from Asia and South 
America, from Africa and the Arab world, all united against aggression. 
Our uncommon coalition must now work in common purpose: to forge a 
future that should never again be held hostage to the darker side of 
human nature.
    Tonight in Iraq, Saddam walks amidst ruin. His war machine is 
crushed. His ability to threaten mass destruction is itself destroyed. 
His people have been lied to, denied the truth. And when his defeated 
legions come home, all Iraqis will see and feel the havoc he has 
wrought. And this I promise you: For all that Saddam has done to his own 
people, to the Kuwaitis, and to the entire world, Saddam and those 
around him are accountable.
    All of us grieve for the victims of war, for the people of Kuwait 
and the suffering that scars the soul of that proud nation. We grieve 
for all our fallen soldiers and their families, for all the innocents 
caught up in this conflict. And, yes, we grieve for the people of Iraq, 
a people who have never been our enemy. My hope is that one day we will 
once again welcome them as friends into the community of nations. Our 
commitment to peace in the Middle East does not end with the liberation 
of Kuwait. So, tonight let me outline four key challenges to be met.
    First, we must work together to create shared security arrangements 
in the region. Our friends and allies in the Middle East recognize that 
they will bear the bulk of the responsibility for regional security. But 
we want them to know that just as we stood with them to repel 
aggression, so now America stands ready to work with them to secure the 
peace. This does not mean stationing U.S. ground forces in the Arabian 
Peninsula, but it does mean American participation in joint exercises 
involving both air and ground forces. It means maintaining a capable 
U.S. naval presence in the region,

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just as we have for over 40 years. Let it be clear: Our vital national 
interests depend on a stable and secure Gulf.
    Second, we must act to control the proliferation of weapons of mass 
destruction and the missiles used to deliver them. It would be tragic if 
the nations of the Middle East and Persian Gulf were now, in the wake of 
war, to embark on a new arms race. Iraq requires special vigilance. 
Until Iraq convinces the world of its peaceful intentions--that its 
leaders will not use new revenues to rearm and rebuild its menacing war 
machine--Iraq must not have access to the instruments of war.
    And third, we must work to create new opportunities for peace and 
stability in the Middle East. On the night I announced Operation Desert 
Storm, I expressed my hope that out of the horrors of war might come new 
momentum for peace. We've learned in the modern age geography cannot 
guarantee security, and security does not come from military power 
    All of us know the depth of bitterness that has made the dispute 
between Israel and its neighbors so painful and intractable. Yet, in the 
conflict just concluded, Israel and many of the Arab States have for the 
first time found themselves confronting the same aggressor. By now, it 
should be plain to all parties that peacemaking in the Middle East 
requires compromise. At the same time, peace brings real benefits to 
everyone. We must do all that we can to close the gap between Israel and 
the Arab States--and between Israelis and Palestinians. The tactics of 
terror lead absolutely nowhere. There can be no substitute for 
    A comprehensive peace must be grounded in United Nations Security 
Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of territory for 
peace. This principle must be elaborated to provide for Israel's 
security and recognition and at the same time for legitimate Palestinian 
political rights. Anything else would fail the twin test of fairness and 
security. The time has come to put an end to Arab-Israeli conflict.
    The war with Iraq is over. The quest for solutions to the problems 
in Lebanon, in the Arab-Israeli dispute, and in the Gulf must go forward 
with new vigor and determination. And I guarantee you: No one will work 
harder for a stable peace in the region than we will.
    Fourth, we must foster economic development for the sake of peace 
and progress. The Persian Gulf and Middle East form a region rich in 
natural resources with a wealth of untapped human potential. Resources 
once squandered on military might must be redirected to more peaceful 
ends. We are already addressing the immediate economic consequences of 
Iraq's aggression. Now, the challenge is to reach higher, to foster 
economic freedom and prosperity for all the people of the region.
    By meeting these four challenges we can build a framework for peace. 
I've asked Secretary of State Baker to go to the Middle East to begin 
the process. He will go to listen, to probe, to offer suggestions--to 
advance the search for peace and stability. I've also asked him to raise 
the plight of the hostages held in Lebanon. We have not forgotten them, 
and we will not forget them.
    To all the challenges that confront this region of the world there 
is no single solution, no solely American answer. But we can make a 
difference. America will work tirelessly as a catalyst for positive 
    But we cannot lead a new world abroad if, at home, it's politics as 
usual on American defense and diplomacy. It's time to turn away from the 
temptation to protect unneeded weapons systems and obsolete bases. It's 
time to put an end to micromanagement of foreign and security assistance 
programs--micromanagement that humiliates our friends and allies and 
hamstrings our diplomacy. It's time to rise above the parochial and the 
pork barrel, to do what is necessary, what's right, and what will enable 
this nation to play the leadership role required of us.
    The consequences of the conflict in the Gulf reach far beyond the 
confines of the Middle East. Twice before in this century, an entire 
world was convulsed by war. Twice this century, out of the horrors of 
war hope emerged for enduring peace. Twice before, those hopes proved to 
be a distant dream, beyond the grasp of man. Until now, the world we've 
known has been a world divided--a world of barbed wire

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and concrete block, conflict, and cold war.
    Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there 
is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston 
Churchill, a world order in which ``the principles of justice and fair 
play protect the weak against the strong. . . .'' A world where the 
United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfill the 
historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect 
for human rights find a home among all nations. The Gulf war put this 
new world to its first test. And my fellow Americans, we passed that 
    For the sake of our principles, for the sake of the Kuwaiti people, 
we stood our ground. Because the world would not look the other way, 
Ambassador al-Sabah, tonight Kuwait is free. And we're very happy about 
    Tonight, as our troops begin to come home, let us recognize that the 
hard work of freedom still calls us forward. We've learned the hard 
lessons of history. The victory over Iraq was not waged as ``a war to 
end all wars.'' Even the new world order cannot guarantee an era of 
perpetual peace. But enduring peace must be our mission. Our success in 
the Gulf will shape not only the new world order we seek but our mission 
here at home.
    In the war just ended, there were clear-cut objectives--timetables--
and, above all, an overriding imperative to achieve results. We must 
bring that same sense of self-discipline, that same sense of urgency, to 
the way we meet challenges here at home. In my State of the Union 
Address and in my budget, I defined a comprehensive agenda to prepare 
for the next American century.
    Our first priority is to get this economy rolling again. The fear 
and uncertainty caused by the Gulf crisis were understandable. But now 
that the war is over, oil prices are down, interest rates are down, and 
confidence is rightly coming back. Americans can move forward to lend, 
spend, and invest in this, the strongest economy on Earth.
    We must also enact the legislation that is key to building a better 
America. For example, in 1990, we enacted an historic Clean Air Act. And 
now we've proposed a national energy strategy. We passed a child-care 
bill that put power in the hands of parents. And today, we're ready to 
do the same thing with our schools and expand choice in education. We 
passed a crime bill that made a useful start in fighting crime and 
drugs. This year, we're sending to Congress our comprehensive crime 
package to finish the job. We passed the landmark Americans with 
Disabilities Act. And now we've sent forward our civil rights bill. We 
also passed the aviation bill. This year, we've sent up our new highway 
bill. And these are just a few of our pending proposals for reform and 
    So, tonight I call on the Congress to move forward aggressively on 
our domestic front. Let's begin with two initiatives we should be able 
to agree on quickly: transportation and crime. And then, let's build on 
success with those and enact the rest of our agenda. If our forces could 
win the ground war in 100 hours, then surely the Congress can pass this 
legislation in 100 days. Let that be a promise we make tonight to the 
American people.
    When I spoke in this House about the state of our Union, I asked all 
of you: If we can selflessly confront evil for the sake of good in a 
land so far away, then surely we can make this land all that it should 
be. In the time since then, the brave men and women of Desert Storm 
accomplished more than even they may realize. They set out to confront 
an enemy abroad, and in the process, they transformed a nation at home. 
Think of the way they went about their mission--with confidence and 
quiet pride. Think about their sense of duty, about all they taught us 
about our values, about ourselves.
    We hear so often about our young people in turmoil--how our children 
fall short, how our schools fail us, how American products and American 
workers are second-class. Well, don't you believe it. The America we saw 
in Desert Storm was first-class talent. And they did it using America's 
state-of-the-art technology. We saw the excellence embodied in the 
Patriot missile and the patriots who made it work. And we saw soldiers 
who know about honor and bravery and duty and country and the world-

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power of these simple words. There is something noble and majestic about 
the pride, about the patriotism that we feel tonight.
    So, to everyone here and everyone watching at home, think about the 
men and women of Desert Storm. Let us honor them with our gratitude. Let 
us comfort the families of the fallen and remember each precious life 
    Let us learn from them as well. Let us honor those who have served 
us by serving others. Let us honor them as individuals--men and women of 
every race, all creeds and colors--by setting the face of this nation 
against discrimination, bigotry, and hate. Eliminate them.
    I'm sure that many of you saw on the television the unforgettable 
scene of four terrified Iraqi soldiers surrendering. They emerged from 
their bunker broken, tears streaming from their eyes, fearing the worst. 
And then there was an American soldier. Remember what he said? He said: 
``It's okay. You're all right now. You're all right now.'' That scene 
says a lot about America, a lot about who we are. Americans are a caring 
people. We are a good people, a generous people. Let us always be caring 
and good and generous in all we do.
    Soon, very soon, our troops will begin the march we've all been 
waiting for--their march home. And I have directed Secretary Cheney to 
begin the immediate return of American combat units from the Gulf. Less 
than 2 hours from now, the first planeload of American soldiers will 
lift off from Saudi Arabia, headed for the U.S.A. That plane will carry 
the men and women of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division bound for 
Fort Stewart, Georgia. This is just the beginning of a steady flow of 
American troops coming home. Let their return remind us that all those 
who have gone before are linked with us in the long line of freedom's 
    Americans have always tried to serve, to sacrifice nobly for what we 
believe to be right. Tonight, I ask every community in this country to 
make this coming Fourth of July a day of special celebration for our 
returning troops. They may have missed Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I 
can tell you this: For them and for their families, we can make this a 
holiday they'll never forget.
    In a very real sense, this victory belongs to them--to the privates 
and the pilots, to the sergeants and the supply officers, to the men and 
women in the machines and the men and women who made them work. It 
belongs to the regulars, to the reserves, to the National Guard. This 
victory belongs to the finest fighting force this nation has ever known 
in its history.
    We went halfway around the world to do what is moral and just and 
right. We fought hard and, with others, we won the war. We lifted the 
yoke of aggression and tyranny from a small country that many Americans 
had never even heard of, and we ask nothing in return.
    We're coming home now--proud, confident, heads high. There is much 
that we must do, at home and abroad. And we will do it. We are 
    May God bless this great nation, the United States of America. Thank 
you all very, very much.

                    Note: The President spoke at 9:12 p.m. in the House 
                        Chamber at the Capitol. He was introduced by 
                        Thomas S. Foley, Speaker of the House of 
                        Representatives. In his remarks, he referred to 
                        Dan Quayle, President of the Senate; Secretary 
                        of State James A. Baker III; Secretary of 
                        Defense Dick Cheney; Colin L. Powell, Chairman 
                        of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. H. Norman 
                        Schwarzkopf, commander of the U.S. forces in the 
                        Persian Gulf; Saudi commander Gen. Abdul Aziz 
                        bin Sultan; British commander Gen. Peter de la 
                        Billiere; French commander Gen. Michel 
                        Roquejeoffre; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; 
                        and Ambassador Saud Nasir al-Sabah of Kuwait. 
                        The address was broadcast live on nationwide 
                        television and radio.