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Remarks on the Situation in Bosnia and an Exchange With Reporters in Colorado Springs

August 06, 1992


The President. A few remarks on the situation in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia and what the United States, working with the international community, is doing to contain and defuse this escalating crisis.

Like all Americans, I am outraged and horrified at the terrible violence shattering the lives of innocent men, women, and children in Bosnia. The aggressors and extremists pursue a policy, a vile policy, of ethnic cleansing, deliberately murdering innocent civilians, driving others from their homes. Already the war has created over 2.2 million refugees, roughly the population of greater Pittsburgh and Baltimore. This is, without a doubt, a true humanitarian nightmare.

Now, the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia is a complex, convoluted conflict that grows out of age-old animosities. The blood of innocents is being spilled over century-old feuds. The lines between enemies and even friends are jumbled and fragmented. Let no one think there is an easy or a simple solution to this tragedy. The violence will not end overnight, whatever pressure and means the international community brings to bear. Blood feuds are very difficult to resolve. Any lasting solution will only be found with the active cooperation and participation of the parties themselves. Those who understand the nature of this conflict understand that an enduring solution cannot be imposed by force from outside on unwilling participants.

Defusing this crisis and preventing its spread will require patience and persistence by all members of the democratic community of nations and key international organizations. Bringing peace again to the Balkans will literally take years of work.

For months now we've been working with other members of the international community in pursuing a multifaceted and integrated strategy for defusing and containing the Baltic conflict. Let me explain the critical steps that we already have underway to help defuse and to contain this crisis.

First, we must continue to work to see that food and medicine get to the people of Sarajevo and elsewhere in Bosnia no matter what it takes. To this end I have directed the Secretary of State to press hard for quick passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of all necessary measures to establish conditions necessary for and to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Bosnia-Hercegovina. This resolution is critical; it is absolutely critical to our efforts to bring food and medicine to the people of Bosnia.

This resolution will authorize the international community to use force if necessary to deliver humanitarian relief supplies. My heartfelt hope is that that will not prove necessary. But the international community cannot stand by and allow innocent children, women, and men to be starved to death. You can be assured that should force prove necessary, I will do everything in my power to protect the lives of any American service men or women involved in this international mission of mercy.

To truly end the humanitarian nightmare we must stop ethnic cleansing and open any and all detention camps to international inspection. We will not rest until the international community has gained access to any and all detention camps.

Second, we must support the legitimate Governments of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina. To this end, I have decided that the United States will move now to full diplomatic relations with those Governments. I'll shortly submit to the Senate my nomination for Ambassadors to these posts.

Third, we must continue to isolate Serbia economically and politically until all the United Nations Security Council resolutions are fully implemented. We must continue to tighten economic sanctions on Serbia so that all understand that there is a real price to be paid for the Serbian Government's continued aggression. And the United States proposes that the international community place monitors in neighboring states to facilitate the work of those Governments to ensure strict compliance with the sanctions.

Fourth, we must engage in preventive diplomacy to preclude a widening of the conflict into Kosovo, Vojvodina, Sandzhak, or Macedonia. Therefore, the United States is proposing that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, CSCE, place continuous monitoring missions in these locations to provide an international presence and inhibit human rights abuses and violence.

Fifth, we must contain the conflict and prevent its spilling over into neighboring states like Albania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece. To this end, the United States proposes that the international community again place civilian monitors, thereby reassuring these Governments of our concern for their welfare and inhibiting any aggression against them.

And sixth, we are consulting with our allies in NATO on all aspects of this crisis and how the NATO alliance might be of assistance to the United Nations.

Now, these steps represent an integrated strategy for defusing and containing this conflict. We've been working with the international community to advance our work on each of these and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead. It is through international cooperation, through the U.N., NATO, the EC, CSC, other institutions, that we will be able to help bring peace to that troubled region.

Thank you very, very much.

Q. Mr. President, are you mobilizing United States military personnel now to go there?

The President. The question is, are we mobilizing United States military personnel. The answer is no. The United States has military assets that are available. Indeed, I think everyone knows that we have had a significant presence not only in the Mediterranean but in the Adriatic. I am confident that we have what assets it takes to get the job done without any excessive moves on mobilization. We're not in that state anyway. I'm hoping that we will not have to use force.

Q. What about in the Middle East?

Q. How credible are the reports of death camps?

The President. Well, what I have done is task our intelligence community to use every asset available to see if we can confirm them. We know that there is horror in these detention camps. I cannot confirm on hard evidence some of the charges that have been made. It is absolutely essential, whatever is going on there, that there be open inspection and that humane treatment of the people in these concentration camps be guaranteed.

But in all honesty, I can't confirm to you some of the claims that there is, indeed, a genocidal process going on there.

Q. How far along is the process in determining that, sir? When do you think you'll have a determination?

The President. Well, I don't know. It's very difficult, as you know. The main thing we're doing is pressing through this United Nations action, through the Human Rights Commission, to get access to have visible guarantees as to what's going on.


Q. Sir, when you see the vivid footage from Bosnia of innocent civilians being bombed and mortared and shelled from the hills, does it not make you want to send in U.S. air power to take out those emplacements?

The President. It makes me want to do whatever we have to do to stop the killing. I would only suggest that this is a very complicated military question, very, very complicated, indeed. We have probably -- well, I know we have the best intelligence in the world on this, and it is not an easy military problem even for our fantastic Air Force.

Q. Sir, if Serbia does not open the camps -- --


Q. Mr. President, do you have a message to Saddam Hussein?

The President. Do I what?

Q. Do you have a message today for Saddam Hussein?

The President. A message for him?

Q. Yes, given his statement that U.N. inspectors will not be allowed in.

The President. Well, I think what he said, they would not be allowed into the ministries. I would say that the United Nations resolutions will be honored in full and he will comply with United Nations resolutions, and just leave it at that. I can't tell you what the inspection targets will be, but if they prove to be in the ministry, the United Nations has every right under international law to inspect. And we will help guarantee that right.

Q. Well, sir, are you getting a little fed up with this, I mean, with Saddam's playing games?

The President. I've been fed up with him for a long time.


Q. Sir, if the Serbians do not open the camps to inspectors, what would the next -- --

The President. Too hypothetical. We're going to get those camps opened the way I've said.

Q. Sir, are our allies in full support of using any necessary means?

The President. No, and one of the reasons that we're working hard in the United Nations: to be sure we're all together. This really does require international action. We've been working this problem for a long time at the United Nations, not a long time but several, a couple of weeks. I have to tell you there have been some differences. You asked the right question, but we've got to get them together. I think there's increasing concern on the part of our allies. So we are taking the lead in trying to get that done.

Q. Mr. President, if it is confirmed that there are death camps there, would the United States have a moral obligation to do whatever was necessary to stop that?

The President. Well, I feel a moral obligation to see that these camps are inspected. I feel a moral obligation to see, just on the evidence we have. So it -- don't even need to go any further than that. I think all of the American people feel, and I'm sure it's true of other peoples around the world, feel that we must have access to these camps, and we must stop the killing, and we must stop this cleansing process. Leave out genocide for a minute. And genocide just compounds it and makes it even worse, if that is proven, certainly.

Q. But to do whatever is necessary, including the use of troops?

The President. Well, I've said that, but that's what our resolution would propose.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 12:02 p.m. at Peterson Air Force Base prior to his departure for Washington, DC.

George Bush, Remarks on the Situation in Bosnia and an Exchange With Reporters in Colorado Springs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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