|For Immediate Release||July 26, 1999|
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you today about thechallenges America has faced in Kosovo -- and the important tasks stillahead. To look back, and to look forward.
All across Kosovo, we see reminders that America and our allies did theright thing in taking a stand against ethnic cleansing. We see it inthe heart-rending returns of the living -- and in the stark and silenttestimony of the dead.
The Serb forces responsible for the violence are gone. Already, morethan 720,000 of the roughly 1 million refugees have returned. But thereis also tremendous sadness -- from the pain of remembering and thedevastation left behind by Milosevic's campaign of hate. And in manyvictims there is rage, a desire for justice, and sometimes revenge.
As we face these challenges, we cannot forget why we acted.
In Bella Crkva, where Serb forces murdered scores of villagers, a manwho survived by pretending to be dead returned and helped bury thevictims. "All of my best friends were killed," he said. "They killed12 children. I had two buses. They burned them. I had a home. Theydestroyed it."
Returning residents of Mitrovica say that beginning last September thesmell of burning flesh rose from the chimneys at the Trepca mine. NATOsoldiers found around the mine piles of clothing, shoes, and identitycards belonging to Kosovars.
In the town of Orahovac, a family returned to find unmistakable evidencethat their house had been turned into a center for sexual assault --pornography, torn and blood-stained clothing, restraints.
In the city of Pec, those returning came across an elderly Kosovar womanwhom Serb forces had ordered to remain in her home. It was the samehome where Serb paramilitaries cut her son's throat. His blood stillstained her carpet. They had stolen her television and washing machine.They had taken her wedding ring from her finger.
In a landscape dotted with mass graves, NATO troops found, near thevillage of Ljubenic, the largest mass grave site discovered so far fromthis conflict, with as many as 350 bodies. Returning Kosovars recalledhow Serb forces lined up villagers and fired with machine guns,continuing to shoot long after every victim had fallen to the ground.
In the hills outside of Lubizhde, a man in his sixties stood by a pileof rocks and dirt, under which was visible a black jacket and theremains of a young man. "This is my son," he said.
We cannot forget the atrocities, the assault on humanity that promptedAmerica and our allies to act in Kosovo. During the conflict, ElieWiesel, at the request of the President, visited refugees in the camps.He reported back: "What I saw and heard there was often unbearable tothe survivor that still lives in my memory. I never thought that Iwould hear such tales of cruelty again."
I am proud that our country did the right thing in Kosovo.
It was not happenstance that NATO prevailed. Our cause was just. Ourgoals were clear. Our strategy was right. And our military forcesperformed with enormous skill.
Could Milosevic have won? I believe the answer is yes - not bydefeating NATO militarily, but by splitting the alliance politically.That was his strategy for success; as he put it when the conflict began,"I am ready to walk on corpses and the west is not -- that is why Ishall win." That is why it was not enough for us simply to concentrateon winning a military victory. At the heart of our strategy had to bebuilding and sustaining the unity of our alliance.
More than once, Milosevic made conciliatory gestures, even as his forcescontinued their brutality. He offered a phony cease-fire. He releasedprisoners. He purported to accept the G-8's general principles -- butnot the crucial details -- for ending the conflict. Through it all,NATO, which in its 50 years had never been tested by protractedconflict, did not crack.
Even during the bad moments that Milosevic sought to exploit -- strikesagainst military targets that resulted in collateral civilianscasualties, and, of course, the mistaken bombing of China's embassy inBelgrade -- NATO stood together. From Germany, engaged in its firstpost-war military action, to Greece and Italy, with historic or economicties to Serbia, to our three new NATO allies finding themselves at armsjust 12 days after joining NATO, our 19 democracies stayed on course --until it became clear that Milosevic could not undermine our unity andpurpose.
Undeniably, there were costs to operating as an alliance. In thebeginning, our military leaders did not have all the authority, forexample in terms of targeting, that we would have had if we were actingalone. But day by day we worked to raise the level of allied consensus.
The critical moment came, I believe, at the 50th anniversary NATO summitin Washington, four weeks into the air campaign. The leaders arrivedeach having made their own choice to go forward in Kosovo. They leftwith a firm collective will.
Maintaining that essential unity required carefully handling the issueof ground forces, much discussed here during the conflict. NATO diddevelop and update ground force options. And, if necessary, thePresident was prepared to seek allied and congressional support for aground operation, because he was determined that NATO prevail. But apremature debate over a ground invasion would have been divisive andcounterproductive, weakening, not strengthening, our essentialsolidarity against Milosevic, perhaps even giving him an opportunity toachieve a dishonorable compromise.
There were, moreover, good reasons to be cautious about deploying groundforces. In addition to testing allied unity, it risked our support fromSerbia's neighbors and our chances for working with Russia to end theconflict. And prevailing on the ground would have come at substantialcost, military and civilian.
I profoundly disagree with those who said that not putting forces on theground, and instead relying on our own overwhelming air advantage,somehow undermined America's moral position. Morality in a militaryconflict, I would submit, derives fundamentally from the justness of thecause and the care taken to minimize civilian casualties. In combat, itis a good thing to achieve your objectives with minimum loss to yourside. We gain no moral elevation from needless loss of lives.
From the beginning and until the end, we strongly believed NATO couldprevail with an air campaign. As we expected, we achieved essentialdomination from the air once we neutralized Serbia's air defenses. Wetook advantage of precision munitions, stealth bombers and otheradvances that allow military operations with an accuracy andeffectiveness far beyond what was possible just a few years ago. Ourstrong airlift and tanker capabilities, and staging support from nationsin the region, allowed us to sustain the campaign virtually 24 hours aday, with debilitating effect on Serbia's leadership.
Above all, we had the skill, training and courage of our men and womenin uniform, and those of our allies. NATO flew more than 37,000 strikeand support sorties over 78 days. Our air crews faced many dangers,including hundreds of surface-to-air missile attacks. In the end, NATOlost only two aircraft and not a single crew member, a remarkableperformance.
We will never know exactly why Milosevic ultimately capitulated. But Ibelieve there were several reasons. As I noted, he failed to split ouralliance as he thought he could. Particularly in the final weeks of thecampaign, our strikes were doing severe damage to Serbia's ground forcesin Kosovo and other assets supporting its military machine. AndSerbia's assault on Kosovo, far from eliminating the Kosovo LiberationArmy, had energized and strengthened it.
We knew the power to change Serbia's course was concentrated inMilosevic's hands. And we knew he was not immune to pressure fromwithin. By raising the alliance consensus, we were able to strikeharder and wider at Serbia's military-related assets.
And we employed other means -- enforcing tough economic sanctions;tightening travel restrictions; freezing financial holdings; making itdifficult for Serbia's privileged class to go abroad, move money around,or plan their exits. In one case, a Milosevic crony, with family in towand suitcases bulging, found himself denied entry to a nearby country.Such developments raised the level of anxiety and discontent withinBelgrade's power circles.
The reverberations from NATO's action spread, from the military, wheredefections and dissent mounted, to Milosevic's economic patrons, whoselosses were growing. The initial public mood in Serbia -- defiantsupport for Milosevic's stance -- turned sour as the impact of ourefforts came home.
Many around Milosevic came to see the futility -- and the risks -- ofhis intransigence. And I believe his indictment by the internationalwar crimes tribunal also helped persuade his most powerful supportersthat he was a falling star.
Last but not least, there was our continuous effort to engage Russia indiplomacy. Russia, of course, strongly opposed our air campaign. Butit was prepared to work with us in an effort to end the conflict. TheRussians agreed that the refugees should return, that Serb forces shouldleave, and that some form of international security force was needed toprotect the people. When Finnish President Ahtisaari and RussianSpecial Envoy Chernomyrdin sat down with Milosevic in Belgrade and spokewith one voice, he had no place to go. He accepted our conditions thenext day.
I want to make one more point about NATO's military campaign. I believewe acted not only in the right way, but at the right time -- whenintensive peace efforts had failed and Milosevic's intent wasunmistakable. Having gone through the agonizing experience of Bosnia,where it took far too long to refocus on stopping that war rather thansimply aiding the victims, we were determined to gain an alliancedecision to act swiftly.
Some have claimed that NATO's air campaign caused the Serb campaign ofethnic cleansing in the first place. That is plainly wrong. When NATOstrikes began, Serb forces already were implementing a carefully-plannedcampaign to rid Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian population, dead or alive,in short order. We hoped that initiating military action would stopthem. But we knew that it was equally possible that it would not andthat a sustained campaign might be necessary. We were determined to dothe best we could to halt and, if necessary, reverse a massive ethniccleansing.
Sadly, we could not prevent the tragedy that occurred. But had Americaand our allies done nothing, an entire people would have been erased, anentire region would have been dangerously destabilized. And, at the endof this bloodiest of centuries, we would have faced history's judgmentthat the world's most powerful alliance was unwilling to act whenconfronted with crimes against humanity on its own doorstep.
But standing against such evil is only half the battle. Now we have theopportunity -- the responsibility -- to stand for a positive vision andwork to bring it about. We won the war, but it will be a hollow victoryif we lose the peace. That is why the President and other alliedleaders have articulated a vision for Kosovo and for all of southeastEurope: nations coming together to build stronger democracies andeconomies as they join the mainstream of Europe.
Despite 10 years of turmoil in the Balkans, many of southeast Europe'snations are already on a path of political and economic reform andregional cooperation. But there is far to go. Our victory is notcomplete when hundreds of thousands of Kosovars are returning toshattered lives. Our work is not done when Serbia is still ruled by thesame leaders who have caused such suffering for their people and theregion. Our job is not finished when the people of this promising buttroubled region are still threatened by dangerous instability. So wewill work with our allies and partners to rebuild Kosovo, to promotedemocracy in Serbia, and to advance freedom, tolerance, prosperity andintegration all across Southeast Europe.
In Kosovo, there are tremendous challenges ahead in creating a futurefrom the total devastation left by the Serb assault.
First, we must create a secure environment, where people of all groupsare safe and rebuilding can go forward. Already, some 35,250 troops,mostly from NATO nations but joined by forces from Russia and othercountries, have deployed to Kosovo to constitute the internationalsecurity force, or KFOR. The total force will be 50,000, with about7000 American troops.
For obvious reasons, there a great deal of anger in Kosovo right now.Last month, I could hear it in the voices of the refugees I met with thePresident in Macedonia. Since the conflict ended, we have seen it inburning of houses, scapegoating of gypsies, and most chilling of all, inthe murder last week of 14 Serb civilians in the village of Gracko. Tobe sure, this act of violence is not the same as the massive, systematiccampaign that was unleashed by Milosevic. But it is profoundly wrongand unacceptable. We will work against it. And those in the region whowish to be our partners must work actively against it as well.
Over the weekend, Kosovar leader Thaqi strongly condemned the killingsin Gracko. NATO, the UN and the War Crimes Tribunal are investigatingthem. We must be clear: America did not fight in Kosovo for one ethnicgroup over another. We fought for a stable, peaceful Europe -- and forthe principle that no people should be singled out for destructionbecause of their ethnicity or faith. Unfortunately, most Serbs haveleft Kosovo, at least for now. But we must work to create anenvironment where those Serbs who want to return and remain can do so insafety.
Second, we must help meet the humanitarian needs of Kosovo's people. Inparts of Kosovo, entire neighborhoods and villages have been completelydestroyed. Forty percent of the water supply in villages is of poorquality; in many places, polluted by corpses. Serb forces destroyedschools and clinics, stores and bakeries, farms and livestock. Already,more than 90 relief agencies and organizations from around the world,including our own USAID, are on the ground distributing food, water,tents, building materials and health care supplies.
This Wednesday in Brussels, nations and international institutions willhold a donors conference, focused on financing immediate humanitarianneeds in Kosovo. The European Union and its member states will be theprincipal contributors for humanitarian aid and for reconstruction inKosovo. But fair burden sharing cannot be an excuse for us to abdicateour responsibilities. So I am pleased to announce today that at theconference the United States -- through AID -- will be prepared tocommit up to $500 million in additional humanitarian aid for Kosovo,subject to a clear assessment of needs and confirmation that otherdonors will also do their part. In the fall, after a more comprehensivedamage assessment is completed, another conference will mobilize aid forlonger-term reconstruction.
Third, to bring closure, to bring accountability, to ensurereconciliation triumphs over revenge, justice must be done. KFOR hasidentified more than 200 sites of atrocities. Scores of FBI personnelhave been working with investigators from six other countries. Theirtasks have included, of course, obtaining evidence related to theindictment of Slobodan Milosevic.
Fourth, an effective international administration must be established,to pave the way for self-government down the road. The United Nationsis moving to get this done. The newly-appointed Special UNrepresentative for Kosovo is Bernard Kouchner, founder of thehighly-regarded humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders and untilrecently the French Health minister. His deputy is American Jock Covey,a seasoned Balkans veteran and a superb organizer and diplomat who,until recently, was a Special Assistant to the President at the NSC.
Over 700 UN and other international personnel already are in Kosovo.The UN Mission so far has appointed 19 judicial officials and is workingto establish an effective court system. 18 nations have committedofficers for the projected 3100-officer UN civil police force; 160 arenow on the ground, with hundreds more expected in the next few weeks.
Fourth, we must help build local institutions of self-government thatare responsive, effective, and will further ethnic and religioustolerance. UN officials are already working to build a local policeforce, with officer training to begin next month. They are addressingdifficult questions regarding the selection of mayors and theapportionment of jobs among ethnic groups. They are working withofficials of Pristina University to create mixed ethnic classes wherethere had been segregation. They are supporting efforts to revive andbolster local television and radio services and other independent media.And ten days ago leaders of Kosovo's political groups, Serbs as well asethnic Albanians, held the first meeting of the Kosovo TransitionalCouncil, which will lay the groundwork for local autonomy.
There are, of course, unresolved questions about Kosovo's long-termfuture. It is understandable that the people of Kosovo do not wish tobe governed by Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia any more. As a practicalmatter, they will not be. In time, when the people of Kosovo and Serbiahave democracy, when, in all of southeast Europe, human rights arerespected, minorities have a voice, and national boundaries are less andless important, a just future for Kosovo can be determined peacefully.
For now, the international community will protect Kosovo, and we willencourage efforts by the people of Serbia to bring democratic change, sothe region can develop in peace. It is increasingly clear that Serbsfrom all walks of life have had enough of the brutal and hatefulpolicies that have brought so much suffering to the Balkans. And let mestress this point: We will not provide a penny for reconstruction -- andwe will not work to bring Serbia into Europe, as we will do with therest of the region -- so long as an indicted war criminal rules inBelgrade.
As we rebuild Kosovo, we must seize this historic opportunity to makesoutheast Europe, at last, a vital and integral part of a peaceful,united continent.
We have traveled similar roads before. From the rubble of World War II,the Marshall Plan, NATO, and other efforts helped build a prosperous,democratic and united Western Europe that has been the cornerstone ofour security for 50 years. With the collapse of the Berlin Wall, we andothers helped the nations of Central Europe, and in a remarkable tenyears they have overcome the harsh legacy of communism to builddemocracy and growing market economies, to become our security partnersand even our NATO allies. Now we must help put the last pieces of thepuzzle in place in southeast Europe -- and realize the vision thePresident has pursued since early in his presidency: a Europe undivided,democratic and at peace for the first time in history.
This Friday in Sarajevo, President Clinton and leaders from more than 35 other nations will gather to launch the Balkan Stability Pact, aframework for promoting democracy, prosperity and security across theregion. As was the case with our earlier efforts for Europe, we willlook to the leaders of the region to define their own plans forpolitical and economic reform at home and cooperation across borders.
At Sarajevo, southeast Europe's leaders will reaffirm their intent toimprove the climate for trade and investment. We and our allies willundertake to help with reforms, speed their integration into the worldtrading system, and encourage our private sectors to play a strong rolein their development. The nations of the region will commit to deepencooperation among themselves, for economic growth and for greatersecurity. We will reaffirm our commitment to helping these nations, whocourageously bore a heavy burden in the Kosovo conflict, to strengthentheir ties to Europe. The conference participants will also endorsedemocratic change in Serbia and reaffirm support for leaders who standup for democracy, like President Djukanovic of Montenegro and BosnianSerb Prime Minister Dodik.
And to hold this meeting in a peaceful Sarajevo, in a struggling butslowly healing Bosnia is, itself, remarkable. Near the start of the20th Century, violence in Sarajevo triggered the First World War. Morerecently, Sarajevo was the site of some of the worst atrocities sincethe Second World War. Now we have the chance to end this century inSarajevo, with a gathering of international leaders engaged in buildinga future of tolerance, peace and progress in the region.
As in Kosovo, the European Union will provide most of the funding fordevelopment across the region. But our participation is very muchneeded. For many people in southeast Europe, as in so many other placesaround the world, America is a symbol of hope and resolve. And helpingthe region is strongly in our national interest. It will make it farless likely that our troops will be called upon to risk their lives inanother, perhaps far costlier European conflict in the future. It willhelp make the whole of Europe a stronger partner for advancing ourinterests and values.
So we need a strong U.S. commitment, and that means a strong bipartisancommitment. For that, we look to work with Members of Congress whorecognize that we cannot ensure our prosperity and security at homeunless we continue to engage and address critical problems abroad.There was bipartisan support in the Congress for helping the Kosovarrefugees in their tents. I hope there will be bipartisan support forhelping them in their homes.
Let me end as I began, with a tale of return.
Fehmi Agani was a prominent Kosovar professor who led with courage anddignity in the struggle to restore peace and human rights to Kosovo.Last month, his wife and son returned to the family home near Pristina.They found it ransacked. Serb forces had torn it apart on the same daythat they took Agani off a bus full of Kosovars. His body was found ona roadside, three bullet holes in his head. After the conflict ended,Agani's widow and son considered an offer to come to America. But, likehundreds of thousands of others, they went home to Kosovo. They wenthome to help realize Fehmi Agani's dream -- of a democratic Kosovo, in ademocratic southeast Europe where people build a peaceful and prosperousfuture together.
In the name of Fehmi Agani and others who perished, for the sake oftheir survivors, and in our own profound national interest, we must helpmake that dream a reality.
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