THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
||June 22, 1999
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
TO THE KFOR TROOPS
Skopje, Macedonia Airport
5:43 P.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, General Clark, General
Jackson, General Craddock, Colonel Ingram; ladies and gentlemen of the United
States military. And as nearly as I can tell, we've got a few of our British
counterparts back there, and at least two Spanish officers over here
And I just want to say, first of all, I am proud to have the
soldiers, the Marines, the airmen and women, the Naval forces of the United
States of America serving in NATO. I am proud that we're part of KFOR. I'm
proud that we're serving under an able commander like General Jackson. I am
proud of Wes Clark.
You know, General Clark and I went through the agony of Bosnia
together. He lost three good friends, who fell of a mountain because Mr.
Milosevic wouldn't let them take the safe road to try to negotiate a peace.
And we watched for four years while reasoned diplomacy tried to save lives,
and a quarter of a million people died and two and a half million refugees
were created before NATO and our friends on the ground in Croatia and Bosnia
forced a settlement there and ended the horror there.
This time, we didn't wait. And it took 79 days, but that's a lot
better than four years. And I hope the people of the world, when they see
these horrible, horrible stories coming out, the mass graves and all of that,
just imagine what it would
have been like if we had stepped to the side and not done what we
did for the last three months.
I hope to the day you die, you will be proud of being a
part of the nation and a democratic alliance that believes that
people should not be killed, uprooted or destroyed because of
their race, their ethnic background or the way they worship God.
I am proud of that, and I hope you are. (Applause.)
Let me also say to you that I just came from one of our
refugee camps, and there are a lot of grateful people there. But
you and I know that there's a lot to be done yet, and General
Jackson's got a big job. And the United States is proud to be
doing our part to help our allied efforts succeed there. We must
not have one conflict and roll back ethnic cleansing and then
lose the peace because we don't do every last thing just as we're
supposed to do it.
So the whole credibility of the principle on which we
have stood our ground and fought in this region for years and
years now -- that here, just like in America, just like in Great
Britain, people who come from different racial and ethnic and
religious backgrounds can live together and work together and do
better together if they simply respect each other's God-given
dignity -- and we don't want our children to grow up in a 21st
century world where innocent civilians can be hauled off to the
slaughter, where children can die en masse, where young boys of
military age can be burned alive, where young girls can be raped
en masse just to intimidate their families -- we don't want our
kids to grow up in a world like that.
Now, what it rides on is not the precision of our
bombs, not in our power to destroy, but your power to build --
and to be safe while you're doing it and to protect the ethnic
Kosovar Albanians and the ethnic Serbs alike. As long as they
are innocent civilians, doing nothing wrong, they're entitled to
protection. And to try to show by the power of your example, day
in and day out, those of you that are going into Kosovo, that
people can lay down their hatreds.
You need to think about telling your family stories.
You need to think about how we can help these people get over
this awful, grievous thing. I saw a lot of little kids just a
few minutes ago with a lot of hurt and terror and loss in their
eyes. So you've got a big, big job left.
It is not free of danger, it will not be free of
difficulty. There will be some days you wish you were somewhere
else. But never forget if we can do this here, and if we can
then say to the people of the world, whether you live in Africa,
or Central Europe, or any other place, if somebody comes after
innocent civilians and tries to kill them en masse because of
their race, their ethnic background or their religion, and it's
within our power to stop it, we will stop it.
And, by the way, look at Central Europe. These people
can live together and prosper together. That's what we're trying
to do. It can make a huge difference to our children in the new
century. It may mean that Americans will never have to fight
again in a big land war, because we just let things get out of
hand and out of hand and out of hand until everything blew up and
there was nothing else that could be done about it. This is very
And, again, I say I hope you will always be proud of
it. I hope you know how proud that I and the American people are
of you. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause.)
END 5:49 P.M. (L)