Defense Issues: Volume 10, Number 103-- Bosnia: A Call to Peace When people ask why the Europeans can't do Bosnia without America, remember how many nations stood with the United States during Desert Storm and Haiti. Now, the United States is needed.
Volume 10, Number 103
Bosnia: A Call to Peace
Remarks by President Clinton to soldiers at Task Force Eagle, Smith Barracks, Baumholder, Germany, Dec. 2, 1995 and at the signing of the presidential proclamation of Human Rights Day (Dec.10) and Human Rights Week (Dec. 10-16), Washington, Dec. 5, 1995.
I am immensely proud to be here today with the men and women of the 1st Armored Division. You truly are America's "Iron Soldiers." Previous generations of iron soldiers have answered our nation's call with legendary skill and bravery. Each time before, it was a call to war. From North Africa to Italy, they helped freedom triumph over tyranny in World War II. Then for 20 years, their powerful presence here stood down the Soviet threat and helped to bring victory in the Cold War. And just four years ago, when Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, the 1st Armored Division's awesome power turned back Iraq and protected the security of the Persian Gulf.
I know many of you were there. But I would like to remind you that in just 89 hours of combat, you destroyed 440 enemy tanks, 485 armored personnel carriers, 190 pieces of artillery, and 137 air defense guns. You should be very proud of that remarkable record.
Now America summons you to service again. This time, not with a call to war, but a call to peace. The leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia have agreed to end four long years of war and atrocities. They have asked for our help to implement their peace agreement. It is in our nation's interest and consistent with our values to see that this peace succeeds and endures. And we are counting on you, the men and women of Task Force Eagle, to get that job done.
For three years, I refused to send our American forces into Bosnia where they could have been pulled into war. But I do want you to go there on a mission of peace. After speaking to your commanders and looking at all of you and listening to you, there is not a doubt in my mind this task force is ready to roll.
Your mission: to help people exhausted from war make good on the peace they have chosen, the peace they have asked you to help them uphold.
Just two weeks ago in Dayton, Ohio, the warring parties in Bosnia agreed to put down their arms, to pull back their armies and their heavy weapons, to hold free elections, to start rebuilding their homes, their towns and their lives. But they need help to do that, and they have asked America and our NATO allies and other willing countries to provide it.
They need that help because after nearly four years of terrible brutality, trust is in short supply in Bosnia, and they all trust you to do the job right. Each side wants NATO to help them live up to the commitments they've made, to make sure each army withdraws behind the separation line and stays there, to maintain the cease-fire so that the war does not start again and give all the parties the confidence they need to keep their word -- and also to give them the trust that the other side will keep its word, as well.
I pledged to the American people that I would not send you to Bosnia unless I was absolutely sure that the goals we set for you are clear, realistic and achievable in about a year. This mission meets those essential standards. I also vowed that you would not go to Bosnia until I was sure that we had done everything we could to minimize the risks to your safety.
You know better than anyone that every deployment has risks. There could be accidents. In a formerly hostile environment, there could be incidents with people who have still not given up their hatred. As president, I take full responsibility for your well-being. But I also take pride in the knowledge that we are making this mission as safe as it can be.
You will take your orders from [U.S. Army] Gen. [George A.] Joulwan, who commands NATO. There will be no confusing chain of command. You are superbly prepared; you will be heavily armed. ...
Perhaps even more important, you will be heavily armed with the reputation that proceeds you. That and the technology and training that protect you will make those who might wish to attack think twice. But you will also have very clear rules of engagement that spell out the most important rule of all in big, bold letters: If you are threatened with attack, you may respond immediately and with decisive force. Everyone should know that when America comes to help make the peace, America will still look after its own.
Your presence will help to create the climate of security Bosnia needs. It will allow the international community to begin a massive program of humanitarian relief and reconstruction. It will bring the people of Bosnia the food, the medicine, the shelter, the clothing they have been denied for too long. It will help them rebuild their roads and their towns, open their schools and their hospitals, their factories and their shops. It will reunite families torn apart by war and return refugees to their homes. It will help people recover the quiet blessings of normal life.
This morning, after two days of working for peace in Northern Ireland, I met at the airport in Dublin with Zlata Filopovic, the young Bosnian girl whose now famous diary of her wartime experience in Sarajevo has moved so many millions of people around the world. She's my daughter's age -- just 15. But she has seen things that no one three of four times her age should ever have to witness. I thanked her for a powerful letter of support for our efforts for peace in Bosnia that she wrote me just a few days ago. And then I told her I was on my way to visit with all of you.
This is what she said: "Mr. President, when you're in Germany, please thank the American soldiers for me. I want to go home." She also asked me to thank you and all the American people for, in her words, "opening the door of the future for her and for all the children of Bosnia."
Without you, the door will close, the peace will collapse, the war will return, the atrocities will begin again. The conflict then could spread throughout the region, weaken our partnership with Europe and undermine our leadership in other areas critical to our security. I know that you will not let that happen.
As you prepare for your mission, I ask you to remember what we have all seen in Bosnia for the last four years -- ethnic cleansing, mass executions, the rape of women and young girls as a tool of war, young men forced to dig their own graves and then shot down in the ground like animals, endless lines of desperate refugees, starving people in concentration camps. Images of these terrible wrongs have flooded our living rooms all over the world for almost four years. Now the violence has ended. We must not let it return.
For decades, our people in America have recognized the importance of a stable, strong and free Europe to our own security. That's why we fought two world wars. That's why after World War II we made commitments that kept Europe free and at peace and created unparalleled prosperity for us and for the Europeans as well. And that's why you are still here, even after the Cold War.
Europe can be our strongest partners in fighting the things that will threaten the security of your children -- the terrorism, the organized crime, the drug trafficking, the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But it can only be a strong partner if we get rid of the war that rages in the heart of Europe in Bosnia. We have to work with the Europeans on this if we're going to work on all those other problems that will be the security problems of the future.
When people ask -- as they sometimes do back home because they're so concerned about you -- "Well, why can't the Europeans do this without us?", just remember that when you went to Desert Storm, we asked for help from a lot of nations who could have taken a pass, but they stood up with us. And when we led in Haiti we were supported by a lot of other nations who had no direct interest in Haiti, but they answered our call, and they stood up with us. Now in Bosnia we are needed. You are needed.
Men and women of Task Force Eagle, I know the burden of our country's leadership now weighs most heavily on you and your families. Each and every one of you who have volunteered to serve this country makes hard sacrifices. We send you a long way from home for a long time. We take you away from your children and your loved ones. These are the burdens that you assume for America, to stand up for our values, to serve our interests, to keep our country strong in this time of challenge and change.
In Bosnia your mission is clear. You are strong, you are well-prepared, and the stakes demand American leadership that you will provide. You don't have to take it just from me. I have gotten it myself form the words of your own children. A seventh-grade English teacher at Baumholder High School, Patricia Dengel, asked her students to write letters to their parents who are preparing to go to Bosnia. I've seen a few of those letters, and I was moved. I was moved by the fears they expressed, but even more by the pride and confidence they showed in you.
Justin Zimmerman's father, Capt. Ronald Zimmerman, is a company commander with the 40th Engineering Battalion. This is what Justin wrote: "Dad, I know you'll be fine in Bosnia because of all the training you've had. I'll miss you and count the days until we see you again." And Rachel Bybee, whose father, Maj. Leon Bybee, is a doctor with the Medical Corps tells him, "I'm proud of your job, which is to help others. It must make you feel great to know you save lives."
Your children know you are heroes for peace, and soon so will the children of Bosnia. Your country and I salute you. We wish you Godspeed in the days and months ahead. You are about to do something very important for your nation, very important for the world, very important for the future that you want your own children to have.
God bless you all, and God bless America.
Remarks by President Clinton at the signing of the presidential proclamation of Human Rights Day (Dec. 10) and Human Rights Week (Dec. 10-16), Washington, Dec. 5, 1995.
Thank you very much. Thank you for being here. And most important of all, thank you for your commitment to the people of Bosnia, for your care and your courage.
Many of you in this room have worked throughout the war to stop the human rights abuses that horrified the world and to ease the suffering of the people of Bosnia. Now the Balkan leaders have ended the war and have made a commitment to peace, so that now I can say to you, we need your help more than ever to make sure the peace takes hold and endures.
I have just had a remarkable meeting in the Oval Office with a group of Bosnians who just came in and took their seats. They were forced to flee their country, and they have resettled in ours. ... They are all here with me. They bear witness to loved ones lost, homes destroyed, careers shattered, families separated. They can tell us what it's like to leave the land they love, where they were born and went to school, where they married and raised families, where they should have been able to enjoy the basic human right to build a good future in peace.
These people and so many more like them are the human faces of the war in Bosnia. They are the story behind the unbelievable numbers of a quarter of a million dead, 2 million people displaced, more than half the population of pre-war Bosnia.
Many of you have actually witnessed and documented the war's atrocities firsthand -- the executions, the ethnic cleansing, the rape of young women and girls as a tool of war, the endless lines of despairing refugees. We cannot bring back the war's victims. So many of them were little children. We cannot erase its horrors. But because the parties have said they will turn from war to peace, we can now prevent further suffering; we can now shine the light of justice in Bosnia; we can now help its people build a future of hope.
All of us have a role to play. This weekend, as you all know, I visited our troops in Germany, those who will soon set off to Bosnia not to make war, but to wage peace. Each side in Bosnia has asked NATO to help secure their peace agreement, to make sure the armies withdraw behind the separation lines and stay there, to maintain the cease-fire so that the war does not start again, to give all the parties the mutual confidence they need so that all will keep their word.
Creating a climate of security is the necessary first step toward rebuilding and reconciliation. That is NATO's mission and it must be America's mission.
I have to say that the families who just visited with me said repeatedly that they felt that the presence of Americans in Bosnia, the American troops, was absolutely critical to giving the people of Bosnia the confidence they need to believe that they can once again live in peace together as they did before the war.
I am absolutely convinced that our goals are clear, they are limited, and they are achievable in about a year's time. I'm also satisfied that we have taken every possible precaution to minimize the risks to our troops. They will take their orders from the American general who commands NATO; there will be no confusing chain of command. Our troops are very well-trained, and they will be heavily armed. They will have very clear rules of engagement that will allow them to respond immediately and decisively to any threat to their security.
The climate of security NATO creates in Bosnia will allow a separate, broad international release effort for relief and reconstruction to begin. That's where many of you come in. I cannot overstate the importance of that effort. For peace to endure, the people of Bosnia must receive the tangible benefits of peace. They must have the food, the medicine, the shelter, the clothing so many have been denied for so long. Roads must be repaired, the schools and hospitals rebuilt, the factories and shops refurbished and reopened. Families must be reunited and refugees returned home. Elections must be held so that those devoted to reconciliation can lead their people to a future together. And those guilty of war crimes must be punished, because no peace will long endure without justice.
Over the next year the civilian relief and reconstruction effort will help to realize the promise of peace and give it a life of its own. It can so change the face of Bosnia, that by the time the NATO mission is ready to leave the people of Bosnia will have a much, much greater stake in peace than in war. That must be all of our goals.
Once the people of Bosnia lived in peace. Many people have forgotten that, but it wasn't so very long ago. It can happen again. It must happen again. And every one of us must do what we can to make sure that the stakes of peace and the faces of children are uppermost in the minds of the people of Bosnia when the NATO mission is completed.
Sunday is International Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the universal declaration of human rights in 1948. For nearly four years, the war in Bosnia did terrible violence to the principles of that declaration. It destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives. It ruined countless futures.
But on this Human Rights Day, we have something to celebrate. The war in Bosnia is over. The peace, however, is just beginning. Together, if we work hard to help it take hold, to help it endure, on the next Human Rights Day, the faces of Bosnia will not be the victims of war, but the beneficiaries of peace.
I am now very pleased to sign this proclamation designating December 10th, 1995 as Human Rights Day, and December 10th through 16th as Human Rights Week. Let us make sure that for the next year, it will be a human rights year in Bosnia. ...
You look at these children, and they make you smile. They should not have to come here to look as good as they look and to be as happy as they are. I'm glad they're here. I'm honored to have such fine people strengthening the fabric of America. They are very welcome here. But the people like them who want to live at home and raise their children to look just like this ought to have the same rights. That's what this piece of paper is all about.
Thank you very much.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.