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Clinton Praises Haiti Peacekeepers

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 1996 – President Clinton yesterday thanked U.S. military peacekeepers and said they made history during their deployment to Haiti.

Clinton spoke to service members at Fort Polk, La.

Most U.S. service members have left Haiti, and the last 500 will leave in April. American service members went into the country in September 1994 to reestablish the democratically elected government of President Jean Bertrand Aristide overthrown by a military coup.

"[You showed] that when America acts on behalf of its values and interest, it gets the job done," Clinton said. "You undertook a difficult task, and every single one of you who served in Haiti can say with great pride, 'Mission accomplished.' You made a difference for our nation's security and for a neighbor in need."

Clinton praised service members' skill and professionalism. He said the coup leaders knew they were up against the besttrained and bestled military force in the world.

"When [the coup leaders] learned that the 82nd Airborne and other units were on the way, they gave way," Clinton told the crowd. "That enabled our troops to land on the ground without bloodshed and proves once again that our military might is the indispensable muscle behind our diplomacy."

Clinton said while the military is trained to fight and win wars, those in Haiti and service members now in Bosnia show another side of America's military. "You and our troops in Bosnia have demonstrated a dedication to fighting for peace as great as your ability to prevail in war," he said.

He cataloged U.S. accomplishments: The American presence restored democracy to the troubled island, got guns off the streets and gave the people of Haiti a new sense of security. Americans helped train the new Haitian police force and fixed roads and bridges throughout the nation.

"You gave the people of Haiti the breathing space they need to reclaim their democracy, to get their economy started, to undertake the hard work that only they can do of building a free nation," he said.

Clinton thanked the families of peacekeepers also. "We know it's tough for one parent to be left to carry all the family responsibilities, to bear the extra burden of running a household and raising the families," he said. "We ask a great deal, but time and again, America's military families deliver, too."

Clinton said service members show what is best about America. He praised their determination to stand up for freedom and their readiness to help. He said their example shows why people around the world look to the United States for hope and inspiration.

"We can't be everywhere and we can't do everything, but where we can make a difference and where our values and interests are at stake, we must act," he said. "That was the case in Haiti. I congratulate you on your tremendous achievement. I thank you for a job well done."

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