THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
|November 11, 1998
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
VETERANS DAY CEREMONY
Arlington National Cemetery
11:45 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Secretary West, forthose extraordinary remarks and your equally extraordinary service toour nation. Commander Tanguma, General Ivany, SuperintendentMetzler, Chaplain Maddry, Lee Thornton, thank you for being with usagain this year.
To the distinguished leaders of our veteransorganizations, General Ivany, members of Congress, members of theCabinet, Secretary Cohen and the Joint Chiefs, the clergy, theveterans, and their families, the members of the armed services here.We thank especially the Marine Band.
My fellow Americans, if you will let me begin on a pointof personal privilege, I was especially proud to listen to CommanderTanguma's speech today. It was about 10 months, almost to the day,from this day that he and I were together in Mission, Texas, hishometown. He brought with him a distinguished group of Catholic warveterans, including a number from Texas, including a member of hispost, the former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee,Congressman Kika de la Garza. We're glad to see you here, sir.(Applause.)
What I want you to know is that in spite of all theincredible valor of Hispanic soldiers in our country's war, he is thevery first Hispanic veteran ever to host this event. It is a greathonor for all Americans that this has finally come to pass, and wethank you, sir, for being here. (Applause.)
Today, as a free nation, we come together to honor themen and women to whom we owe our freedom, to pay our own tribute hereat this most sacred memorial to our nation's past. Not only todaybut every day, some of us have the privilege to glance across thePotomac to see these silent white rows inscribed with their crossesand crescents and stars of David to remind us that our achievementsin peace are built on the sacrifices of our veterans in war, and thatwe owe the most solemn debt to these brave Americans who knew theirduty and did it so very well.
We come together today to acknowledge that duty to them-- a duty to provide for our veterans and their families, to givethem every possible opportunity to improve their education to find ajob, to buy a home, to protect their health. Just this morning, Iwas proud to sign, in the presence of some of the veterans leadershere, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act, which will increasecompensation payments to veterans with disabilities as well asbenefits to the survivors of Americans who died serving our country.(Applause.)
I have also directed the Secretaries of Defense,Veterans Administration, and Health and Human Services to establish aMilitary and Veterans Health Coordinating Board to improve healthcare for our armed forces, our veterans, and our families, and to
make sure we know what the health risks are to our soldiers when wesend them into harm's way.
We have a duty as well to remember the history that ourveterans lived and to appreciate and honor the history they made. Wecannot expect future generations to understand fully what those whocame before saw, experienced, and felt in battle. But we can makesure that our children know enough to say "thank you" -- those twosimple words that can mean as much or even more than a medal. We canpreserve their diaries and documents, their letters home, theirstories of sorrow and pride. Neither the passage of time nor thecomforts of peace should drive the memory and meaning of theirsacrifice from the consciousness of our nation.
We owe this to every American who fought in thiscentury's wars. We owe it as well to the millions of Americans whoserved in our armed forces during the Cold War. Because they stoodready, we live in a very different world. No longer is there asingle over-riding threat to our existence. Former adversaries arebecoming our partners.
Still, this remains a dangerous world and peace cannever be a time for rest, for maintaining it requires constantvigilance. We can be proud that the United States has been a forcefor peace in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East, in Haiti, inBosnia, in Kosovo. We have been able to secure peace because we havebeen willing to back up our diplomacy, where necessary, with militarystrength.
Nowhere is our vigilance more urgent than in the PersianGulf, where Saddam Hussein's regime threatens the stability of one ofthe most vital regions of the world. Following the Gulf War, and asa condition for the cease-fire, the United Nations demanded, and Iraqagreed, to disclose and destroy its chemical, biological, and nuclearweapons capabilities.
This was no abstract concern. Saddam has fired Scuds athis neighbors, attacked Kuwait, and used chemical weapons in the warwith Iran and even on his own people. To ensure that Iraq made goodon its commitments, the United Nations kept in place tough economicsanctions while exempting food, medicine, and other humanitariansupplies to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. The U.N.also established a group of highly professional weapons inspectorsfrom dozens of countries, a group called UNSCOM, to oversee thedestruction of Iraq's weapons capability and to monitor its ongoingcompliance.
For seven years now, Iraq has had within its power theability to put itself on the path to ending the sanctions and itsisolation simply by complying with obligations it agreed toundertake. Instead, it has worked to shirk those obligations:withholding evidence about its weapons capability; threatening,harassing, blocking the inspectors; massing troops on the Kuwaitiborder in the South; attacking the Kurds in the North.
Our steadfast determination in maintaining sanctions,supporting the inspections system, enforcing a no-fly zone, andresponding firmly to Iraqi provocations has stopped Iraq fromrebuilding its weapons of mass destruction arsenal or fromthreatening its neighbors seriously.
Now, over the past year Iraq has intensified its effortsto end the weapons inspection system, last fall threatening tooverthrow -- to throw American inspectors off the UNSCOM teams; thenin January denying UNSCOM unfettered access to all the suspect weaponsites. Both times we built diplomatic pressure on Iraq, backed byoverwhelming force, and Baghdad reversed course. Indeed, in March,again, it gave a solemn commitment -- this time to U.N. SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan -- that it would reopen all of Iraq tointernational weapons inspectors, without conditions or restrictions.
In August, for the third time in only a year, again,Iraq severely restricted the activities of the weapons inspectors.Again, we have gone the extra mile to obtain compliance by peacefulmeans, working through the U.N. Security Council and with our friendsand allies to secure a unanimous Security Council resolutioncondemning Iraq's action. We also supported, along with all themembers of the Security Council, what Iraq says it wants, acomprehensive review of Iraq's compliance record -- provided Saddamresumes full cooperation with the UNSCOM inspectors.
Now, if Saddam Hussein is really serious about wantingsanctions lifted, there is an easy way to demonstrate that. LetUNSCOM do its job without interference -- fully comply. Theinternational community is united that Saddam must not have it bothways, by keeping his weapons of mass destruction capability and stillgetting rid of the sanctions.
All of us agree that we prefer to resolve this crisispeacefully, for two reasons. First, because accomplishing goalsthrough diplomacy is always preferable to using force. Second,because reversing Iraq's decision and getting UNSCOM back on the jobremains the most effective way to uncover, destroy, and prevent Iraqfrom reconstituting weapons of mass destruction and the missiles todeliver them.
But if the inspectors are not permitted to visit suspectsites or monitor compliance at known production facilities, they mayas well be in Baltimore, not Baghdad. That would open a window ofopportunity for Iraq to rebuild its arsenal of weapons and deliverysystems in months -- I say again, in months -- not years. A failureto respond could embolden Saddam to act recklessly, signalling to himthat he can with impunity develop these weapons of mass destructionor threaten his neighbors, and this is very important in an age whenwe look forward to weapons of mass destruction being a significantthreat to civilized people everywhere. And it would permanentlydamage the credibility of the United Nations Security Council to actas a force for promoting international peace and security. Wecontinue to hope, indeed pray, that Saddam will comply, but we mustbe prepared to act if he does not. (Applause.)
Many American service men and women are serving in thePersian Gulf today, many others serving elsewhere around the world,keeping the peace in Bosnia, watching over the DMZ in Korea, workingwith our friends and allies to stop terror and drugs and deadlyweapons.
Too often we forget that even in peacetime their work ishard and often very dangerous. Just three days ago, four brave,dedicated American flyers, Lieutenant Commander Kirk Barich,Lieutenant Brendan Duffy, Lieutenant Meredith Carol Loughran, andLieutenant Charles Woodard -- all four were lost in a crash aboardthe USS Enterprise. Today our prayers are with their families.
When we give our armed forces a mission, there is aprinciple we must keep in mind. We should never ask them to do whatthey are not equipped to do, but always equip them to do what we askthem to do. The more we ask, the greater our responsibility to giveour troops the support and training they require and the tools theyneed, from basic spare parts to the newest technology.
As Commander in Chief, I have no higher duty than this:to make certain our troops can do their job while maintaining theirreadiness to defend our country and defeat any adversary; to ensurethey can deploy far from home, knowing their loved ones have the
quality of life they deserve. For as one sergeant recently said, "Weenlist soldiers, but we reenlist families."
While our current state of readiness is sound, there arereal concerns about the future. For that reason, I made a commitmentto add resources to this year's budget to keep our readiness razorsharp and to improve recruitment. We asked the Congress to approve$1.1 billion in new funds for readiness, and it did. Today, I amhappy to announce that we are releasing those funds. (Applause.)
We have also obtained almost $2 billion in emergencyfunds to cover unanticipated operations in Bosnia and shifted another$1 billion in our defense budget to meet readiness needs. We haveapproved pay raises that will significantly reduce the discrepancybetween military and civilian pay. (Applause.) In addition, I haveordered my administration to conduct a thorough review of ourlong-term readiness and have met with all of our service chiefs todiscuss that.
The process is now under way. I anticipate it willresult in a set of budget and policy proposals for our year 2000budget requests and for future years. My fellow Americans, this is achallenge we can and must meet. For while we certainly cannot solveall the world's problems, when our values and interests are at stakewe must be ready to act.
Let us always remember that our most profound duty toour nation's veterans is to keep standing for the ideals for whichthey fought and for which too many died; to keep strengthening thealliances they forged, as we will next spring at NATO's 50thAnniversary Summit in Washington; to keep taking risks for peace; tokeep faith with those who struggle for human rights, the rule of law,a better life.
We have a duty to seize, not shirk, the responsibilitiesof leadership, and we have an opportunity to create a world morepeaceful, more free, more prosperous than any people have ever known.Therefore, we should look on leadership not as a burden but as achance, a responsibility to give our children a world that reflectsthe hopes and enthusiasm that have inspired generation aftergeneration of Americans to serve our country in uniform.
From World War I hero Alvin York to World War II heroWaverly Wray; from General George Marshall to General Colin Powell;from John Glenn to . . . John Glenn (Laughter.) I think we ought togive Senator Glenn a hand today, don't you? (Applause.) Think ofit, he's given us a whole new field of endeavor to look forward to inour old age. (Laughter.)
We dedicate this day to all our veterans, to the retiredschool teacher who in his time helped liberate a death camp, to thehospital medic who learned to save lives in Vietnam, to thelegionnaire who pins on his medals with pride, to the heroes buriedin the Tomb of the Unknowns.
To all of them and all they represent, we dedicate eachand every day spent in service to our country and its ideals. MayGod bless them and their families. May God bless the United Statesof America. Thank you.