ON SENDING TROOPS TO BOSNIA
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, since the beginning of the conflict in Bosnia in 1992, as I said, I have consistently opposed the use of United States ground troops . Today, we are faced with the situation of what do we do now, given the President's commitment? My votes today expressing opposition to this Presidential decision go back to the fundamental question: Does the United States have a vital--and I repeat and emphasize the word `vital'--national security interest at stake in this region of the world, such vital security interest of a level that would justify the added deployment of United States ground troops into a region that we know is fraught with risk?
I see on the floor the distinguished Senator from Nebraska. I was privileged to accompany him to this region, the region of Krajina, in early September. We saw with our own eyes the ravages of this war-torn region. We looked into the faces of the refugees, combatants and noncombatants alike. This was the fifth in a series of trips I have conducted to this region over the years since the conflict has started.
I wish to acknowledge, Mr. President, to my colleague, how much I value the opportunity to travel with this distinguished Senator, a former naval officer, highly decorated, a man whose judgment and opinion I greatly value on military matters.
The reason I raise this is that I wish to apply a test to this deployment decision along these lines: Would I be able to go into the home of a service person who had been either killed or wounded in Bosnia as a consequence of this proposed deployment and explain to a parent or a spouse or a child why their loved one was sent to Bosnia and why their sacrifice was justified?
This is a duty I performed earlier in life as a young Marine officer and again as Secretary of the Navy, and it is not an easy one, Mr. President. I apply that test today.
I could not justify such a sacrifice, given the current situation in that region and the current status diplomatically and militarily of all the circumstances surrounding this peace accord.
I have listened carefully to the administration's justification for this deployment, but I do not find a vital United States national security interest at stake in Bosnia that would justify the use of ground troops at this time in that nation.
I do not want to see further American casualties in trying to resolve a civil war, based on centuries-old religious and cultural hatreds, which none of us understand. I certainly say, as hard as I have studied, and based on five trips, I do not understand how people in this civilized age of mankind can treat one another this way. These are well-educated people. Yet, they behave in such a manner as to be on the borderline of savagery. I cannot understand it, Mr. President.
I remember so well a hearing of the Armed Services Committee in the aftermath of Somalia. I remember a Col. Larry Joyce, the father of a young Ranger who was killed in the October 3-4 raid in Somalia which I described earlier. He came before the committee and he said to the Senators as follows:
Too frequently, policymakers are insulated from the misery they create. If they could be with the chaplain who rings the doorbell at 6:20 in the morning to tell a 22-year-old woman she is now a widow, they would develop their policies more carefully.
I would hope that the Somalia experience would cause us to more carefully consider the policy decisions that put at risk the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces.
I have been deeply moved, as has every other Member of the Senate, and indeed all Americans, by the suffering we have seen in Bosnia as a consequence of the hatreds and atrocities in that region. I have seen it in their faces, in the hospitals we visited and in the wanton destruction of the homes and properties--homes which are so essential for the return of the many refugees. Senator Kerrey and I witnessed, as we went through the villages, a row of houses, and one house with the geraniums out, the fresh laundry hanging out, and the house right next to it was flattened to the ground--flattened because it was once occupied by a Serb.
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, before the distinguished Senator from California leaves the floor, I'd like to say I was greatly taken by her closing remarks. And I think I jotted it down accurately. I may be wrong. `I may be back here on the floor asking that we bring our troops home.'
I say to the Senator, that is precisely why I oppose this Presidential decision to send to Bosnia a third significant element of U.S. troops --that is, troops on the ground. This Nation experienced the problem of Congress acting to withdraw our troops from Lebanon. This Nation experienced that problem in Somalia. I happened to have been on this floor protecting Presidential prerogative--at the time we took serious casualties in Somalia, some 18 killed in one day and some 80-plus wounded on that same day--and I said it is the President's decision as Commander in Chief when a military mission is completed and when our forces should be brought home.
We had a very vigorous battle right here on the floor of the Senate about that Somalia situation. And it was a tough fight to establish the President's clear right to determine when to bring those troops home and not rush to judgment in the sorrow of those severe casualties.
Mrs. BOXER. May I respond?
Mr. WARNER. This is what bothered me. The credibility of the United States of America will be far more endangered if we are faced in 6 or 8 months with a decision to bring our troops home because of casualties and other unforeseen problems, than if we make the stand now not to go forward with this mission.
Mrs. BOXER. Would the Senator yield for a very brief moment?
Mr. WARNER. Yes. I do not yield the floor, but for a question.
Mrs. BOXER. I understand.
I just wanted to respond to my friend. I will, of course, put it in the form of a question. But the deployments that my friend talked about I did not support. I come here to say that I think it is worth a try in an area of the world where we have lost thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans.
If the Senator believes that there is no chance that this war can spread and this mission cannot change that and is not important and is not worth trying, then he should absolutely vote against the Dole-McCain amendment. And I respect his right.
All this Senator is saying is that I have waited, and I believe--and I take full responsibility for that vote, and I respect my friend if he comes down on the other side--in this part of the world we have an opportunity to make a difference for peace. If it does not work out, we at least have tried to do so.
I do view it quite differently than in the other areas that my friend has pointed to. I did not support those deployments, I say to my friend.
I guess I did not have a question. I merely wanted to respond, but I have the utmost respect for my friend for whatever conclusion he reaches, and I hope he would have that same respect for this Senator if she comes down on the other side.
Mr. WARNER. Mr. President, I say to my colleague from California, this vote is a clear vote of conscience, not politics, and each of us has to draw on our own life experiences, our own best judgment and make this tough decision.