DECEMBER 5, 1995
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: A bipartisan delegation of 15 House members met with top officials in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. They also talked with U.S. military commanders in Germany and Italy. The delegation was headed by Republican Susan Molinari of New York and Democrat Sander Levin of Michigan. They join us from Capitol Hill, along with Republican Stephen Buyer of Indiana and Democrat Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. Thank you all for being with us. Congresswoman Molinari, based on what you saw and heard, what is your position now on the deployment of troops to Bosnia?
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI, (R) New York: Well, everything that we saw there really, I think, underscore the feelings that we had before we had gone on the trip, with the exception of understanding that I think the level of training and readiness of our troops was very reassuring to see them, that they do, in fact, have a tight military operation. That was reassuring. I'm still opposed to this policy, and I think that we are making a mistake, but, again, the level of troop readiness was very good to see, and, in fact, all the state leaders have given their commitments to try and protect our troops, just like they did in the Dayton peace accord. Our concern is that they do not have as much control over their rogue elements as we'd like to see and, in fact, we don't have any necessary punitive measures against the leaders of those countries in case they fail to take the necessary steps to ensure 100 percent cooperation in protecting and promoting our troops while they're in that area.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So you're really concerned about two issues then.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: No--but the main issues, no way to pressure say President Milosevic if he can't control the Bosnian Serbs, is that what you're talking about?
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: It's funny that you would use Milosevic as an example, but obviously that is a great concern. We spent a morning with President Milosevic, who looked us straight in the eye and said he is a guarantor of the reactions and the actions of the Bosnian Serbs on the ground and that, you know, Gen. Mladic will cooperate and do what he needs to do and that, of course, the day after Gen. Mladic had a very nice demonstration against the existence of United States and international enforcement troops in the area and said that he's going to fight the unification of Sarajevo, so obviously there's a big disconnect there that could further jeopardize our troops. That needs to be tightened. But there's one thing--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congresswoman, let me just move on to Congressman Levin for a minute. Before you went, you had a list of questions that you wanted answered. Did you get some of those questions answered when you were in Bosnia?
REP. SANDER LEVIN, (D) Michigan: (Capitol Hill) Yes, we did. First of all, as to the security of our troops, I think all of us were struck by what the military said to us. They said, we can do the job. From the admiral in charge, all the generals, to the helicopter crews that we saw, they're well prepared, they think the mission is defined, is limited, and achievable, and they also have the power to use whatever force is necessary. So one major question I had, will our troops be secure, obviously there's some risk, but have all precautions been taken that have the power to protect themselves, the answer given to us by our leadership and our troops is yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Congressman Buyer, I kind of what to get all of your views on this, and then we'll--we'll talk some more about specifics. You, I believe, have opposed the use of U.S. ground troops in Bosnia. Did the trip change your mind at all?
REP. STEPHEN BUYER, (R) Indiana: No, not at all. I believe that when the President made the commitment to the international community to put 25,000 U.S. troops in Bosnia, it was ill- conceived then, it was a bad idea eight weeks ago when I proposed a resolution not to negotiate a peace agreement based on the condition that the United States troops would be there to implement it. Three hundred and fourteen of my colleagues agreed with that proposition. And having gone to Bosnia and met with the leaders, it only solidifies my opposition to ground troops. Those of us that oppose ground troops are not isolationists. We believe that the United States has a key and vital role to play in the peace process. We also believe in the leadership of the regional nations of Europe. The United States troops have launched the protection of neutrality, and when that occurs because of our bombing not only of the Serb positions but also the arming, training of the bosnian Muslims, that our troops become targets and casualties.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. I want to come back to that issue, but Congresswoman McKinney first, how did the trip affect your views?
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY, (D) Georgia: (Capitol Hill) The trip deeply affected me. There was no way that I could enter into Sarajevo and see the total destruction and see the lines etched in people's faces and at the same time their hope and their joy. They were overcome, in many instances, even with tears at the prospect of the American presence there in Sarajevo. Sarajevo is an example of what happens when racism goes mad, and it's abhorrent to the very nature of our political idealism. I think we have a moral responsibility to respond. I'm sorry that we didn't come up with a response and a peace that was a sooner--concluded sooner than this, but I think we're well on our way to correcting a very real human tragedy.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Congresswoman McKinney, what do you think about the point that Congresswoman Molinari raised? Let's just take, for example, the point that perhaps Serbian President Milosevic, who of course spoke for the Bosnian Serbs in the Dayton peace meetings, that he perhaps will not be able to make sure that they, that they keep to the peace agreements, and that there isn't really a line of communication that immediately works between them.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: We were able to sit down in face-to-face meetings with these men and to assess their sincerity. Now, I know that Milosevic is a smooth operator, but he has delivered, he initialed the peace agreement, and he indicated to us in the strongest possible terms that there was no need for the U.S. to fear the Bosnian Serbs and that they--that Bosnian Serbs were 99 percent in favor of peace. I believed him then.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Congresswoman Molinari.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: Yes.
REP. SANDER LEVIN: Could I add just a word to that, because I asked Mr. Milosevic that question. He said he was the guarantor for Bosnia, for the Bosnian Serbs, as well as his country. And I said, do you give us the assurance that you will fulfill that guarantee, and he said, yes. But, look, let's not just go by his words. We should look at his deeds. Over the last few months he has followed through, but that isn't good enough either. This is a peace accord. Each of these nations has a self-interest in implementing this. Otherwise, they would not have done it. The Serbs lost the war. They've been terribly squeezed economically. You can see that just by going to Belgrade. And let me just mention one thing about what happens if they violate the peace accord. There is a punishment in there. Spelled out very specifically is that if the head of IFOR, an American admiral, believes that Milosevic is violating his accord, his agreement, then within five days, the embargo can go back on that country. And that embargo squeezed them and helped to bring them to peace. We can reinvoke it if we want without the UN action.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And what about that? Congresswoman Molinari first, and then--
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: I think it's tremendous that we trust Milosevic's word because he delivered over the last three months. He, in fact, has been primarily responsible for the slaughter of these 200,000 innocent civilians. He knew that there was establishment of rape camps and concentration camps, and atrocities that we have not witnessed since post Nazi Germany, and he looked at us very sincerely in the eye and said, "I didn't know any of that was happening, and this was all one big tragedy." So he obviously has no absolutely no credibility on the world front and cannot be trusted.
REP. STEPHEN BUYER: Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Levin.
REP. SANDER LEVIN: Look, we're not relying on--go ahead, Stephen, then I want to comment on that.
REP. STEPHEN BUYER: I'm sorry. I just want to say Milosevic stressed to us also, he said he had no influence over the military chain of command. We know that to be false. I think what is important here, if Milosevic wants to send a message to the world that he's committed to peace. He should handle these war criminals, because they are the ones that are inciting those who believe that the peace treaty is unjust. The real threats to the IFOR as a force and U.S. troops will not come from an outright company or battalion military clash with us, because we're an overwhelming force. It will come through cowardly acts of terror, whether they're booby traps, mines, snipers, car bombs, those types of things.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Buyer, let me just ask you--Congressman Buyer--
REP. STEPHEN BUYER: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --what do you think should happen now? Do you want to stop the deployment of troops, or do you want a resolution which has some kind of conditions that will allow you to live with the deployment?
REP. STEPHEN BUYER: Well, we're discussing that right now in our--the leadership meetings. We talked about that this afternoon. I think that it's important for the Congress to stress that we have already voted twice on the issue, saying no to the ground troops in Bosnia. I think it's also important, No. 2, we'll stress that we'll provide for the troops to ensure that they're under the U.S. chain of command, that we'll also have the modernization of equipment, and that we're going to care for their families while they're gone. And last, I think it's important for us now when we have a President that will override the majority will of this Congress to narrow the parameters to find the criteria for success of this operation and to minimize the loss of life.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Just briefly, can you give me an idea about the timing on this. Do you expect a resolution to be drawn up in the next few days, and then there'll be a vote at the end of the week, or early next week?
REP. STEPHEN BUYER: We're looking at next Tuesday or Wednesday.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: Probably early next week.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman Levin, you've been trying to say something. Go ahead.
REP. SANDER LEVIN: You know, I really think we should resist partisanship here. This plan is not a plan that we reinforced the administration or anybody in the administration on the military, our military. They were in on the planning. They say this is doable. That's what they told us, point blank. We're not just relying on the word of Mr. Milosevic, and it's unfair, I think, to cast it that way. The administration isn't, and the generals aren't relying on it. What's happened is that that country's been squeezed economically. They signed on the dotted line because they need peace. And as I said, the sanctions can go on essentially like this if they violate the accord, so this is not--
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: I think it's unfair for you to say it's partisan. And it's clearly not partisan when we have had votes that gained 315 members. Do not tell the American people that what is a genuine philosophical disagreement is, is resulting of anything that has a partisan nature.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me ask you--
REP. SANDER LEVIN: I don't think--Mr. Dole is showing--Mr. Dole is showing the ability, I think, to rise above partisanship, and I think we all--
REP. STEPHEN BUYER: This is not an issue of partisanship.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: I think the bottom line on this--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Excuse me, if you all speak at once, we can't hear you. Congressman Levin, what do you think should happen next? Do you think that there should be a resolution which does have some conditions? Do you think--what do you think should happen in the next week?
REP. SANDER LEVIN: I think we ought to discuss this, we ought to discuss it across party lines. I think there should be an authorization. I think some conditions are fine. I think we ought to spell them out, but we should not do so in a way that will distort the plan. For example, an exit strategy, I think there is an exit strategy, and it's this: The parties have signed a peace accord. If they're going to abide by it, if they really want peace, we'll help out in our self interest. But if they decide to take up arms again, there's an exit strategy that I think all of us favor, and the administration does, and that is we're going to get out.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Congressman [Congresswoman] McKinney, just let me move on to another issue for the few minutes we have left. What did you learn there about the view of the U.S. leadership role in this? There's a lot being said now, and analysis of why the U.S. has to be in the leadership here, if it does. I'd like to hear what you have to say about that.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I think it was made very clear to us by all three of the Presidents and all of the leadership members of the government that we met with that the United States is "the" leader and that United States leadership in this, in this--on this issue is of vital importance. It was no accident that it was in Dayton that the peace accord was initialed, and it is no accident that it took President Clinton to, to put this together and make this happen. The area, the leaders of the area are all anxious for peace because they understand that if the war re- erupts, everybody loses, and it's only through peace, and it's only through this Dayton process with United States leadership that we can have a re-ordering of the international order in that particular part of the world.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, Congresswoman Molinari, just a few seconds left on that. What do you think about that, the whole issue of U.S. leadership?
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI: Well, I think U.S. leadership is essential, and it's sad that it is, that the European Community have shirked their responsibility, and frankly, as Cynthia said, so has the United States up until this point. We did allow these atrocities to go on, and the United States is leading in the right direction. And we can all believe, as Stephen said, that we need to take a role, that we need to make a commitment to these people, that they can turn their lives around while disagreeing on the fact that 25,000 ground troops are necessary. We agree we have a moral imperative to get involved, and we agree that we're going to support our troops, and that's really where I think you're going to find us coming across party lines to do what we need to do.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Thank you all for being with us.