DALLAS, OCT. 15 -- President Bush today condemned Iraq's dismantling of Kuwait as "Hitler revisited" and warned President Saddam Hussein that his "ghastly atrocities" against the Kuwaiti people could result in Nuremberg-like trials once the conflict in the Persian Gulf is over.
Continuing his rhetorical assault against Saddam for the conduct of Iraqi troops in occupied Kuwait, Bush said the Kuwaiti people are being subjected to "routine torture" and "senseless suffering."
"Hitler revisited," Bush said. "But remember: When Hitler's war ended, there were the Nuremberg trials." At the conclusion of World War II, civilian and military leaders of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime were charged with war crimes. Their trials, lasting from 1945 to 1949 in Nuremberg, West Germany, established the principle that war crimes cannot be legally defended by the assertion that an accused was merely following orders.
Although administration officials have privately raised the possibility of war crimes trials to punish Saddam for his actions against Kuwait, Bush has never publicly threatened such action.
An administration official said Bush's warning was designed to put the Iraqi leader on notice that he will be held accountable later for his actions and to isolate him further in the eyes of the world.
As part of a renewed effort to increase diplomatic pressure against Iraq, administration officials are considering pushing a resolution at the United Nations condemning Iraq for the destruction of Kuwait and seeking reparations.
At the same time, the Justice Department has been studying the question of a war crimes resolution that could be presented to the United Nations. The issue could be added to the existing resolution, but an administration official said, "No decision has been made."
Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said Saddam eventually should face war crimes charges for his actions, pay reparations for the dismantling of Kuwait and be stripped of the ability to invade again.
The administration decided earlier to make a record of Saddam's conduct for possible action later. The issue was first raised in late August, when Iraqi forces began to surround foreign embassies in Kuwait in an effort to shut them down. U.S. diplomats are still holding out.
With new reports of Iraqi actions in Kuwait, Bush and his advisers have given them increased attention, warning that the dismantling of that country could bring retaliatory action.
Bush met with the deposed Kuwaiti emir and emerged with a strong statement condemning Saddam's forces. National security adviser Brent Scowcroft said the dismantling of Kuwait could shorten the timetable for consideration of military action against Iraq, even if the Iraqis do not attack first.
At a Republican fund-raising luncheon here today, Bush spoke out strongly: "Every day now, new word filters out about the ghastly atrocities perpetrated by Saddam's forces," he said. "Eyewitness accounts of the cruel and senseless suffering endured by the people of Kuwait, of systematic assault on the soul of a nation."
Bush decried "summary executions, routine torture," saying that possession of the Kuwaiti flag or a photo of the deposed Kuwaiti emir are "crimes punishable by death."
He also described the fate of two children passing out leaflets who were executed by Iraqi forces while their parents were forced to watch.
Saying the United States and other nations "will not allow the strong to swallow up the weak," Bush denounced Saddam.
"What is at stake is far more than a matter of economics or oil," he said. "What is at stake is whether the nations of the world can take a common stand against aggression or whether Iraq's aggression will go unanswered, whether we live in a world governed by the rule of law or by the law of the jungle."