President Bush taped an eight-minute message to the Iraqi people yesterday and the White House said that if the government there fails to broadcast it on state television within five days, the United States will release the message for the rest of the world to see.
"It's personal and it's directed toward the people of Iraq and toward the hardship that they've had to bear in this matter," White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said yesterday. "It provides a very candid but personal description of our involvement and our goals and objectives in the region."
Administration officials said they would not release the tape or a text of the remarks until the Iraqis have a chance to put it on television in Baghdad.
Fitzwater said the televised message is not an attack on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but officials said that Bush uses Saddam's own words against him. Bush quotes from a November 1988 speech in which the Iraqi leader said an Arab country does not have the right to invade another Arab country and that if such an invasion occurred, Arab nations should band together in resistance.
Fitzwater said Bush restates many of the themes he used in Tuesday's speech to a joint session of Congress, "particularly that we have no quarrel with the Iraqi people, that the Iraqi government has forced incredible hardships on the people of Iraq."
Among the things Bush describes are the buildup of multinational troops in Saudi Arabia, the flow of refugees from Iraq to Jordan and the difficult conditions that now exist for those refuges on the Jordanian border.
"We're concerned that the people of Iraq are not aware of the disruptions caused by the invasion," Fitzwater said.
In the message, Bush also outlines the U.S. goals of seeing Iraqi troops withdraw from Kuwait, says that U.S. troops have been deployed to protect Saudia Arabia "and that we want a peaceful resolution, we want peaceful coexistence with the people of Iraq," Fitzwater said.
Bush taped the message early yesterday morning standing in front of his desk in the Oval Office, said Sig Rogich, White House director of special activities and initiatives, who was in charge of the production. The president decided to deliver the videotaped message in response to an invitation to be interviewed on Iraqi television.
The tape will carry an Arabic translation and Arabic subtitles, provided by the Voice of America.
Administration officials spent much of yesterday dubbing the finished product on various types of video tape "so that there will be no technical reason for the Iraqis not to use it," one official said.
Fitzwater said the president held two meetings with representatives of the State Department and the National Security Council to discuss the message before it was prepared.
Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger is supposed to deliver the tape to Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Mashat, most likely this morning.
"We expect that Iraq will honor its invitation to allow this to be addressed to the Iraqi people, and we will ask them to provide it an air time within the next five days," Fitzwater said.
If the Iraqis broadcast it within that time, the U.S. plans to release it immediately, to give everyone a chance to see whether the Iraqis showed it without any editing. "It will be clear to the world what they were not willing to let their people see," Fitzwater said in a challenge to the Iraqis.
Staff writer Ann Devroy contributed to this report.