May 13, 1999


I am especially honored to be here with our veterans who have struggled for freedom...Your service inspires us today as we work with our allies to reverse the systematic campaign of terror and to bring peace and freedom to Kosovo.

President Bill Clinton
May 13, 1999

Today, in Washington, President Clinton addressed members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other national veterans organizations. The President saluted the veterans for their courage and contributions; discussed the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; restated NATO's conditions for ending its air campaign; and reaffirmed NATO's commitment to restoring peace and freedom to the people of Kosovo.

Saluting America's Veterans. President Clinton addressed a gathering of members of Veterans of Foreign Wars and other national veterans organizations. The President saluted the veterans for their contributions to defending freedom, and cited their courage and determination as an inspiration to America and its allies in our efforts to bring peace and freedom to Kosovo.

Facing the Challenges of Restoring Freedom. The President discussed the challenges America faced in World War II, the horrors of the Holocaust, and the Cold War. He spoke on how the efforts of our troops changed the world -- defeating fascism, helping to bring down the Iron Curtain, allowing allies to rebuild, and bringing Central European countries into Europe's community of free nations. He addressed the challenge of bringing Southeastern Europe into that community, made more difficult by the actions of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Detailing the Horrors of Ethnic Cleansing. The President discussed in detail the consequences of Milosevic's systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo -- 9 of every 10 Kosovars driven from their homes; thousands murdered; more than one hundred thousand missing; over 500 cities, towns, and villages burned -- and related the personal accounts of individual refugees.

Restating NATO's Conditions. The President restated NATO's conditions for ending its air campaign, and the reasons behind them. He stressed that Kosovars must be able to return home and live in safety; Serb forces must withdraw; and an international security force with NATO at its core must be put in place. The President discussed the strategic dangers that would occur if these conditions are not met, and described our efforts to arrive at a peaceful solution, working with Russia.

Reaffirming NATO's Determination to Prevail. The President reaffirmed NATO's commitment to restore peace and freedom to Kosovo. He emphasized that Serbia faces the choice of continuing down the path of ethnic hatred and destruction or joining its neighbors in building a Southeastern Europe that is democratic, multiethnic, integrated, and prosperous. He outlined steps already taken by Southeastern European nations, with the help of the U.S. and the European Union, towards this goal. He concluded by expressing America's determination to obtain justice for the terrible crimes in Kosovo, but added that we and our allies stand ready to embrace Serbia, as part of a new Europe, if Serbia is ready to embrace a future of tolerance and freedom for its people.

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