A typed letter by George H.W. Bush reveals the US President had "hope" conflict would be avoided, just weeks before beginning military action against Iraq in the First Gulf War.
In the letter to his children, he expresses his happiness at spending Christmas celebrations with them at Camp David in 1990, before expressing his conflicted feelings as he prepares for the possibility of war with Iraq.
The letter was written on 31 December 1990 – 16 days before the president gave an address confirming the battle had "been joined".
A multinational United Nations coalition of American and British troops launched military action against the invading Iraqi army in Kuwait.
Addressing the letter to "Dear George, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Doro," President George H.W. Bush wrote: "When I came into this job I vowed that I would never ring (sic) my hands and talk about 'the loneliest job in the world' or ring (sic) my hands about the 'pressures or the trials.'
"Having said that I have been concerned about what lies ahead.
"There is no 'loneliness' though because I am backed by a first-rate team of knowledgeable and committed people.
"No president has been more blessed in this regard."
President Bush went on to say: "We have waited to give sanctions a chance, we have moved a tremendous force so as to reduce the risk to every American soldier if force has to be used, but the question of loss of life still lingers and plagues the heart.
"My mind goes back to history: How many lives might have been saved if appeasement had given way to force earlier on in the late '30s or earliest '40s?
"How many Jews might have been spared the gas chambers, or how many Polish patriots might be alive today? I look at today's crisis as 'good' vs. 'evil' – yes, it is that clear."
Here is the original copy of that letter in full:
President George H.W. Bush remained as president until January 1993.
His son, George Bush junior, one of the addressees of Bush senior's letter, went on to become the 43rd US President in 2001, serving two terms.
President George Bush junior would eventually go on to topple Saddam Hussain after invading Iraq in 2003 in response to unfounded claims that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
George Bush senior died on 30 November 2018 at his home in Houston, Texas, after suffering from vascular Parkinson's disease.
Listen to the story of the First Gulf War, told by those who were there. Decision-makers, military commanders, soldiers, sailors and air personnel reflect on their roles in the conflict, 30 years on.
'GRANBY: The Storm in the Desert' is available from Friday 15 January, wherever you get your podcasts and on bfbs.com/podcasts.
Cover image: President George H.W. Bush at work in the White House Oval Office in February 1991 (Picture: PA).