Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Military Leaders and an Exchange With Reporters in Arlington, Virginia
The President. Let me say, first of all, I'm delighted to have a chance to be back at the Pentagon to meet with our commanders-inchief. This is the first meeting for Secretary Cohen and our new national security team. We're all looking forward to it.
America is very proud of our men and women in uniform, and they have maintained an extraordinary tempo of operations for the last several years, being deployed in many different places for long periods of time. And the leadership and planning that has gone into these operations are a tribute to the people around this table and to others in our Armed Forces. And I'm looking forward to discussing what we're going to do in the next year and having this meeting.
War Crimes in Bosnia
Q. Mr. President, do you think that U.S. troops could play a role in trying to arrest some of the accused war criminals that are out and about in Bosnia at the moment?
The President. I think that the agreement that was struck at Dayton and signed in the Paris Peace Treaty says what our military believes is responsible, that if we're going to go there and do the UNPROFOR mission, it would be impossible to do that and spend your time taking affirmative action over—as a police force, in effect, international police force—but that if they come in contact with people who are wanted and where there is, in effect, a warrant out for them, they ought to apprehend them. But I think it would be very difficult for them to do the mission, particularly with a smaller number of people, and in effect spend full-time doing that.
It's always—I think at Dayton—everyone knew from Dayton on that this was one of the most difficult things, that they couldn't walk away from this evidence of war crimes and that there needed to be some way of proceeding, but that there was no way that you could effectively do the job of UNPROFOR, which was the most important thing to try to stabilize the country and the borders, and in effect make that the primary mission.
Maybe I ought to let General Joulwan answer that question, but I think that's the right answer.
Gen. George A. Joulwan. Yes, Mr. President. [Laughter]
Q. Do you oppose the international group that's been proposed?
The President. Well, what I want to look— I have asked—at the University of Connecticut, when I spoke at the—Senator Dodd not very long ago—I said I thought we ought to consider whether there should be a permanent international war crimes tribunal, which of course would require some sort of way of carrying out its mandate. But that—if we do that, we need to look at it not just in terms of Bosnia but over the long run.
We need to recognize that we can't expect people who are sent into a very volatile situation and ask us to stabilize borders, to ensure the security of cross-border crossings, and all the other things that UNPROFOR has had to do, you can't expect those same people to do this other work unless they literally come in contact with those who should be arrested and returned. So there would have to be a completely different way of dealing with it if we're going to have a permanent war crimes tribunal, which I think has a lot of merit.
NOTE: The President spoke at 10:25 a.m. in the Army Conference Room at the Pentagon. In his remarks, the President referred to Gen. George A. Joulwan, USA, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Military Leaders and an Exchange With Reporters in Arlington, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/224163