Opposing Iraqi Aggression

On the White House lawn on August 5, 1990, H.W. Bush took a stand against Iraqi aggression against Kuwait. "He led with his gut, with his instincts," says biographer Timothy Naftali.


Narrator: Bush had asked the United Nations to impose economic sanctions on Iraq. At a weekend meeting at Camp David, he decided to offer to send U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia to protect its oil fields. When he returned to Washington, he had made another decision. 

Doro Bush Koch, daughter: I watched Dad get out of the helicopter, and there was this smoldering intensity to him. He knew that he needed to kick Saddam out of Kuwait, and I don't think he knew at that point exactly how he was going to do it. But there was this sort of focused, intense demeanor that was very different.

George H. W. Bush (archival): This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait. I've got to go. I have to go to work.

Timothy Naftali, biographer: Bush led with his gut, with his instincts...He was an emotive, an emotional, an intuitive, instinctive leader, much more emotional than people thought.

Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor, 1989-93: I was surprised that he spoke out that quickly. His mind had been made up that one way or another, the Iraqis had to leave Kuwait.

Colin Powell, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff: Now, that statement, "This will not stand," doesn't translate into how we're going to make it not stand. Is it going to be sanctions? Is it going to be UN coalition action? Is it going to be unilateral U.S. action? And what exactly is it we're going to do?

Narrator: Bush dispatched Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to Saudi Arabia to convince the Saudis to accept American forces. Despite warnings the U.S. forces would sully the Muslim holy land, the king accepted the U.S. offer. Osama bin Ladin, the 33-year-old Islamic fundamentalist who issued the warning, was placed under confinement. The operation to protect Saudi Arabia was called Desert Shield.


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