Historic Documents of 1991


Edited by: CQ Press

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    Historic Documents of 1991 marks the twentieth year of a Congressional Quarterly project that began with Historic Documents of 1972. The purpose of this continuing series is to give students, librarians, journalists, scholars, and others convenient access to important documents in a range of world issues.

    Each document is preceded by an introduction that provides background information and, when relevant, an account of continuing developments during the year. We believe that these introductions will become increasingly useful as memories of current times fade.

    The year 1991 was punctuated with momentous events. It began with the onset of the Persian Gulf War and ended with the slow collapse of the Soviet Union. The year was only eight days old when Congress, for the first time since World War II, directly confronted the question of sending large numbers of American troops into combat. Once the U.S.-led allied forces were committed to battle against Iraq, victory came swiftly. By February 27 President George Bush could declare, “Kuwait is liberated,” and on March 6, “The war is over.” Victory, however, was incomplete. Though humiliated and politically weakened, Saddam Hussein continued to rule most of his devastated country.

    In the first flush of triumph, the president spoke of a “new world order” in which peace would be ensured by cooperative nations—much the same as in the effort he had organized against Hussein. As if fulfilling that ideal, the parties to a sixteen-year-old Angolan civil war signed a peace agreement soon afterward. But peace remained elusive in much of the world. In Yugoslavia old hatreds between Serbs and Croats turned into civil war, splintering the country's fragile unity.

    The Soviet Union's breakup, though relatively bloodless, unfolded from August to December. It began with President Mikhail Gorbachev's kidnapping in a coup attempt by old guard Communists. The coup failed but harmed Gorbachev politically; he no longer could keep the restive Soviet republics from asserting their independence and forming the new Commonwealth of Independent States. On Christmas Day he resigned as president of a Communist empire that, after sixty-nine years, had ceased to exist. Its long, agonizing death was aptly characterized by President Bush as “one of the greatest dramas of the 20th century.”

    America's euphoria over the Persian Gulf military victory faded as the nation's economy faltered. In January the president spoke optimistically of the country quickly overcoming a “temporary interruption” in its economic growth. But unemployment continued to rise while business statistics worsened. City and state governments, hurt by falling tax revenues, made deep budget cuts to make ends meet. Bridgeport, Connecticut, filed for bankruptcy—claiming to be the first major U.s. municipality to do so. On technical grounds, the city was refused the court's protection from debtors.

    Americans were diverted from the economy, and almost everything else, by nationally televised Senate hearings into sexual harassment allegations against Bush's Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. He went on to win—narrowly—Senate confirmation for the seat vacated by Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Court's first black member. Thomas was also black but, unlike Marshall, added his voice to the Court's conservative majority.

    Basketball superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson startled his legions of fans by disclosing that he had tested positive for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), which can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), a fatal disease that often is transmitted sexually. By identifying himself as an HIV carrier, Johnson was praised for helping to raise the public's awareness of the disease and its rapid spread in recent years.

    By year's end Bush gave in, conceding that the country was indeed suffering from a recession. At that time, on the eve of a presidential election year, his high public approval rating of 89 percent, as recorded on a Gallup Poll at the war's end, had dropped below 50 percent.

    Terry Anderson, the last American hostage to be held by Arab radicals in Lebanon, was released December 4. His captivity lasted 2,454 days. When all the Americans were freed, several who had returned earlier felt free to give a full account of the often-brutal treatment their captors had inflicted.

    Those were but some of this volume's topics of national and international interest presented in texts of official statements, news conferences, speeches, special studies, and court decisions. In our judgment, the documents chosen for this volume will be of lasting interest. Where space limitations prevent reproduction of a full text, excerpts provide essential details.

    HoytGimlin, Editor Washington, D.C., February 1992

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