Good morning. The night before last, I spoke with you about why America's interests compel us to help restore democratic government in Haiti.
For 3 years, the United Nations, the Caribbean community, and the Organization of American States have pursued every diplomatic avenue possible. But the dictators rejected all of our efforts, and their reign of terror, a campaign of murder, rape, and mutilation, gets worse with every passing day. Now we must act.
Our reasons are clear: to stop the horrific atrocities that threaten thousands of men, women, and children in Haiti, here in our own neighborhood; to affirm our determination that we keep our commitments and we expect others to keep their commitments to us; to avert the flow of thousands of more refugees and to secure our borders; and to preserve the stability of democracy in our hemisphere.
Today I'd like to speak with you about the steps we are now taking to ensure that these brutal dictators leave and leave now. The preparations of the extraordinary international coalition we have assembled are proceeding without delay. Even as I speak with you, our Armed Forces, in coordination with personnel from 24 other nations from all around the world, are poised to end the reign of terror that has plagued Haiti since the military coup 3 years ago. I have great pride and confidence in our troops. Our leaders have prepared their mission very, very carefully, and our forces are clearly the finest in the world.
At the same time, it is the responsibility of any American President to pursue every possible alternative to the use of force in order to avoid bloodshed and the loss of American lives. That is why this morning, at my request, President Carter, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell, and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator Sam Nunn left for Haiti. Their mission is to make one last best effort to provide a peaceful, orderly transfer of power, to minimize the loss of life, and to maximize the chances of security for all Haitians and, of course, for our own troops in the coalition force.
On Thursday night, I stated that the Cedras regime's time is up. Their time is up. The remaining question is not whether they will leave but how they will leave. They can go peacefully and increase the chances for a peaceful future and a more stable future for Haiti in the near term, not only for all those whose democracy they stole but for themselves as well. They can do that, or they will be removed by force.
Yesterday leaders of the international coalition gathered at the White House. They come not only from our hemisphere and from our neighborhood here in the Caribbean but also from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, from countries as diverse as Israel and Poland, Belgium and Bangladesh, countries with problems of their own, economic problems, political problems, even security problems. But each and every one of them believes it's important enough for them to come here to participate, to stand united with us in insisting that the dictators who terrorize Haiti must be removed and that the democratically elected government must be returned to power now.
As Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados stated so eloquently yesterday, "The Haitian people have wished for democracy. They have suffered for it. They have voted for it. And now they are dying for it."
The goals of the international coalition are clear and limited. Once the military regime is removed from power, the coalition will help the democratic government establish basic security. It will begin the process of placing the Haitian police under civilian control and monitor them to help ensure that they respect human rights. Then, in months, not years, the coalition will pass the baton on to the United Nations. The U.N. mission in Haiti will take over and continue to professionalize Haiti's police and military. It will leave Haiti no later than 18 months from now, after elections are held and a new government takes office.
Over time, the coalition countries as well as the international financial institutions will provide Haiti with economic, humanitarian, and technical assistance that the country needs to stay on the democratic track, to put people back to work, and to begin the work of progress.
They can get assistance from other countries, but we all know that in the end the job of rebuilding Haiti belongs to the Haitian people.
Yesterday at the White House, President Aristide took a long step toward the job of rebuilding, in the spirit of reconciliation. He put it very well when he said, "We say and we will be saying again and again, no to vengeance and no to retaliation; let us embrace peace." President Aristide also reiterated his pledge to transfer power peacefully to a duly elected successor. He said that in the formative years of any democracy, the most important election is not the first one but the second. That's a sentiment that should become a staple of civics books in our country and throughout the world.
My fellow Americans, at this very hour, we are taking important steps in the journey back to democracy in Haiti. We still hope to end this journey peacefully. But let me say one last time: The cause is right, the mission is achievable and limited, and we will succeed. The dictators must leave.
Thank you for listening.