Between: George Bush, Bill Clinton and Ross Perot
October 19, 1992
East Lansing, Michigan
Debate transcript can be found here
LEHRER: Mr. Perot, 1 minute.
And the rest of my minute, I want to make a very brief comment here in terms of Saddam Hussein. We told him that we wouldn't get involved with his border dispute, and we've never revealed those papers that were given to Ambassador Glaspie on July the 25th. I suggest, in the sense of taking responsibility for your actions, we lay those papers on the table. They're not the secrets to the nuclear bomb.
Secondly, we got upset when he took the whole thing, but to the ordinary American out there who doesn't know where the oil fields are in Kuwait, they're near the border. We told him he could take the northern part of Kuwait, and when he took the whole thing, we went nuts. And if we didn't tell him that, why won't we even let the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee see the written instructions for Ambassador Glaspie?
BUSH: I've got reply on that. That gets to the national honor. We did not say to Saddam Hussein, Ross, you can take the northern part of Kuwait.
PEROT: Well, where are the papers?
BUSH: That is absolutely absurd.
PEROT: Where are the papers?
BUSH: Glaspie has testified--
--and Glaspie's papers have been presented to the US Senate. Please, let's be factual.
PEROT: If you have time, go through Nexis and Lexis, pull all the old news articles, look at what Ambassador Glaspie said all through the fall and what-have-you, and then look at what she and Kelly and all the others in State said at the end when they were trying to clean it up. And talk to any head of any of those key committees in the Senate. They will not let them see the written instructions given to Ambassador Glaspie. And I suggest that in a free society owned by the people, the American people ought to know what we told Ambassador Glaspie to tell Saddam Hussein, because we spent a lot of money and risked lives and lost lives in that effort, and did not accomplish most of our objectives.
We got Kuwait back to the emir but he's still not his nuclear, his chemical, his bacteriological and he's still over there, right? I'd like to see those written instructions. (Applause.)
LEHRER: Mr. President, just to make sure that everybody knows what's going on here, when you responded directly to Mr. Perot, you violated the rule, your rules. Now--
BUSH: For which I apologize. When I make a mistake I say I'm sorry. (Laughter.)
LEHRER: I just want to make sure everybody understands. If you all want to change the rules, we can do it.
BUSH: No, I don't. I apologize for it but that one got right to the national honor and I'm sorry. I just couldn't let it stand.
LEHRER: Governor Clinton, you have a minute.
LEHRER: All right. Next question goes to you, Mr. Perot. It's a 2-minute question and Helen will ask it. Helen?
THOMAS: Mr. Perot, what proof do you have that Saddam Hussein was told that he could have the--do you have any actual proof or are you asking for the papers? And also, I really came in with another question. What is this penchant you have to investigate everyone? Are those accusations correct-- investigating your staff, investigating the leaders of the grassroots movement, investigating associates of your family?
PEROT: ... Now, let's go back to Saddam Hussein. We gave Ambassador Glaspie written instructions. That's a fact. We've never let the Congress and the Foreign Relations, Senate Intelligence Committees see them. That's a fact. Ambassador Glaspie did a lot of talking right after July 25 and that's a fact and it's in all the newspapers. And you pull all of it at once and read it and I did, and it's pretty clear what she and Kelly and the other key guys around that thing thought they were doing.
Then at the end of the war, when they had to go testify about it, their stories are a total disconnect from what they said in August, September and October.
So I say this is very simple. Saddam Hussein released a tape, as you know, claiming it was a transcript of their meeting, where she said we will not become involved in your border dispute and, in effect, you can take the northern part of the country. We later said no, that's not true. I said well, this is simple. What were her written instructions? We guard those like the secrets of the atomic bomb, literally.
Now, I say whose country is this? This is ours. Who will get hurt if we lay those papers on the table? The worst thing is, again, it's a mistake. Nobody did any of this with evil intent. I just object to the fact that we cover up and hide things. Whether it's Iran-contra, Iraq-gate or you name it, it's a steady stream.
LEHRER: Governor Clinton, you have 1 minute.
CLINTON: Let's take Mr. Bush for the moment at his word--he's right, we don't have any evidence at least that our government did tell Saddam Hussein he could have that part of Kuwait. And let's give him the credit he deserves for organizing Operation Desert Storm and Desert Shield. It was a remarkable event.
But let's look at where I think the real mistake was made. In 1988 when the war between Iraq and Iran ended, we knew Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, we had dealt with him because he was against Iran--the enemy of my enemy maybe is my friend.
All right, the war's over; we know he's dropping mustard gas on his own people, we know he's threatened to incinerate half of Israel. Several government departments-- several-- had information that he was converting our aid to military purposes and trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. But in late '89 the president signed a secret policy saying we were going to continue to try to improve relations with him, and we sent him some sort of communication on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait that we still wanted better relations.
So I think what was wrong--I give credit where credit is due--but the responsibility was in coddling Saddam Hussein when there was no reason to do it and when people at high levels in our government knew he was trying to do things that were outrageous.
LEHRER: Mr. President, you have a moment--a minute, I'm sorry.
BUSH: Well, it's awful easy when you're dealing with 90-90 hindsight. We did try to bring Saddam Hussein into the family of nations; he did have the 4th largest army. All our Arab allies out there thought we ought to do just exactly that. And when he crossed the line, I stood up and looked into the camera and I said: This aggression will not stand. And we formed a historic coalition, and we brought him down, and we destroyed the 4th largest army. And the battlefield was searched, and there wasn't one single iota of evidence that any US weapons were on that battlefield. And the nuclear capability has been searched by the United Nations, and there hasn't been one single scintilla of evidence that there's any US technology involved in it.
And what you're seeing on all this Iraqgate is a bunch of people who were wrong on the war trying to cover their necks and try to do a little revisionism. And I cannot let that stand, because it isn't true.
Yes, we had grain credits for Iraq, and there isn't any evidence that those grain credits were diverted into weaponry--none, none whatsoever. (Applause)
And so I just have to say, it's fine. You can't stand there, Governor Clinton, and say, well, I think I'd have been--I have supported the minority, let sanctions work or wish it would go away--but I would have voted with the majority. Come on, that's not leadership.