Clinton's statement on the U.S. strike on Iraq
September 3, 1996
Web posted at: 11:20 a.m. EDT (1520 GMT)
The following is a transcript of U.S. President Bill
Clinton's statement Tuesday on the situation in Iraq. The
statement was given in the Oval Office, and was followed by
questions from the media.
Three days ago, despite clear warnings from the United States
and the international community, Iraqi forces attacked and
seized the Kurdish-controlled city of Irbil in northern Iraq.
The limited withdrawals announced by Iraq do not change the
reality. Saddam Hussein's army today controls Irbil and Iraqi
units remain deployed for further attacks.
These acts demand a strong response and they have received
one. Earlier today I ordered American forces to strike Iraq.
Our missiles sent the following message to Saddam Hussein:
When you abuse your own people or threaten your neighbors you
must pay a price.
It appears that one Kurdish group which in the past opposed
Saddam now has decided to cooperate with him. But that
cannot justify unleashing the Iraqi army against the civilian
population of Irbil. Repeatedly over the past weeks and
months we have worked to secure a lasting cease-fire between
the Kurdish factions.
The Iraqi attack adds fuel to the factional fire and
threatens to spark instability throughout the region. Our
objectives are limited, but clear: to make Saddam pay a
price for the latest act of brutality; reducing his ability
to threaten his neighbors and America's interests.
First, we are extending the no-fly zone in southern Iraq.
This will deny Saddam control of Iraqi airspace from the
Kuwaiti border to the southern suburbs of Baghdad and
significantly restrict Iraq's ability to conduct offensive
operations in the region. Second, to protect the safety of
our aircraft enforcing this no-fly zone, our cruise missiles
struck Saddam's air defense capabilities in southern Iraq.
The United States was a co-sponsor of United Nation's
Security Resolution 986, which allows Iraq to sell amounts of
oil to purchase food and medicine for its people, including
Irbil, the city seized by the Iraqis, is a key distribution
center for this aid. Until we are sure these humanitarian
supplies can actually get to those who need them, the plan
cannot go forward and the Iraqi government will be denied the
new resources it has been expecting. Saddam Hussein's
objectives may change, but his methods are always the same:
violence and aggression against the Kurds, against other
ethnic minorities, against Iraq's neighbors.
Our answer to that recklessness must be strong and immediate,
as President Bush demonstrated in Operation Desert Storm, as
we showed two years ago when Iraq massed its forces on
Kuwait's border, and as we showed again today.
We must make it clear the reckless acts have consequences, or
those acts will increase. We must reduce Iraq's ability to
strike out at its neighbors and we must increase America's
ability to contain Iraq over the long run.
The steps we are taking today will further all those
Time and again, Saddam Hussein has made clear his disdain for
civilized behavior. He brutalized his own people, attacked
his neighbors, supported terrorism and sought to acquire
weapons of mass destruction.
Our policy is equally clear. When our interest in the
security of our friends and allies is threatened, we will act
with force if necessary. That is what we did this morning in
I know the thoughts and prayers of all Americans are with our
military men and women who are conducting this mission.
God bless them and the nation they are serving.
QUESTION: Mr. President, why do you think that only Britain
is supporting our move? Or why have the allies all retreated
from any support?
CLINTON: Well, I believe that -- first of all, you have to
ask them their position -- but I believe that we have
historically, at least in recent history, taken the lead in
matters like this. And I think this was our responsibility
at this time.
I talked to quite a large number of our allies, and I am
satisfied with their response and I believe that we will be
able to go forward with this mission, and I think others feel
that at this time there may be, for their own domestic
purposes, some limits on how much they can do.
But I think it's important to move now.
We have not seen any withdrawal of Saddam's forces from the
area. And we know that he has a history of seeing how far he
can go -- taking a little, and then doing a little more;
taking a little, and then doing a little more.
So I can only tell you what I believe is right, and that I
have done my best to cooperate with others.
QUESTION: Mr. President, he appears unbowed. He says
that he's not going to recognize the no-fly zones anymore.
He says that there has been only minimal damage to his -- to
Iraqi assets, and that he urges his troops to resist strikes.
Is this over, or it there going to have to be more?
CLINTON: Well, as always with Saddam Hussein, it depends
entirely on what he does. Not on what he says, but what he
does. And we were trying to have very limited damage to
human beings and trying to take an action which would show
our resolve and would protect our planes as they fly in an
expanded no-fly zone.
That's why the targets were picked -- to make it clear what
we thought and to secure the safety of the planes that will
be flying the expanded no-fly zone.
QUESTION: At this stage, do you see any other troop
movements that alarm you?
CLINTON: It is -- the present deployments and the things
that we have seen in support of them have convinced me that
at least he has maintained the potential to take further
military action in the region. That is the problem.
You know, he said, well we took our soldiers out of Irbil.
That's true, but look where they are and look what they're
doing. And the latest reports this morning are not
So again I will say to you, let's look and see what he does
and that is I think what should drive our actions. The words
are not important. The actions are what matter.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.