SENDING TROOPS TO BOSNIA
DECEMBER 12, 1995
KWAME HOLMAN: At the White House today, Angela Maxey of Grand Rapids, Michigan, detonated what she called a peace bomb, a papier-mache package filled with photographs of Bosnia children. The event was part of a ceremony honoring Americans who helped organize shipments of humanitarian aid to the former Yugoslavia, and it gave President Clinton another opportunity to urge public support for sending 20,000 American troops there.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The purpose of our mission is to take advantage of this remarkable opportunity we have when all the parties have agreed to make peace.
KWAME HOLMAN: But the President was asked if he thought Congress would approve the mission.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, let me say I'm quite encouraged by the--by two things: No. 1, a very large number of members of Congress, especially House members, have actually gone to the region in the last few days. And I applaud them for doing it. I can tell you that it's clear to me that there's been a real shift among those who have gone. Those who have gone have come back more favorable than they left America. And so I can't believe that when the--when the time for the counting comes that the Congress won't support our troops in this mission. I believe they will.
KWAME HOLMAN: Late this afternoon, the Senate began debating three separate Bosnia resolutions, ranging from reluctant approval of the mission to an outright ban on funding of the troop deployment.
SEN. JOHN KYL, (R) Arizona: In all likelihood, none of these three responses will become law, so we will have to do what's necessary to support the troops, and we will do that. What we are relegated to doing tomorrow when we have our vote is to send a message. And I think that the message we send is very important. First of all, it ought to be a message of unity in support of our troops. Secondly, it ought to be a message of unity in support of the peace process through a variety of mechanisms that the United States has already been participating in and will in the future be participating in. Third, it ought to be a message that we oppose this particular commitment of troops both in terms of the lack of clarity of mission and exit strategy and of the premise for the mission in the first place, and that is that it is essential for United States ground troops to be a part of the so-called peacekeeping effort, or else it will fail.
KWAME HOLMAN: Only Republicans chose to speak during the first hours of the debate.
SEN. CRAIG THOMAS, (R) Wyoming: I think most of us are very close to the people we represent. I can tell you that in our response in Wyoming, I think we've had two calls out of hundreds that favor the administration's position, which doesn't make it right or wrong, but it's an indication of how people feel.
SEN. HANK BROWN, (R) Colorado: This is a goofy proposal. Send American troops to stand in- between warring factions that have been at war for 500 years and never honor a peace agreement, under circumstances where we don't have the advantages that our technology provides, and stand in-between 'em as they shoot at each other? That's not a realistic proposal. That's just plain goofy.
KWAME HOLMAN: But congressional support for the Bosnia mission ultimately may hinge on the Clinton administration's willingness to arm the Bosnian government forces. Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole and John McCain of Arizona have sent a letter to the President stating they're concerned the Bosnians won't be able to defend themselves once U.S. and allied peacekeepers leave. They call on the President to "clarify these matters which are integral to the U.S. exit strategy prior to moving forward with Senate consideration of the mission." The two Senators currently are negotiating that issue with the White House. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on its three resolutions beginning at noon tomorrow.