November 27, 1995

Associated Press

[regarding announcing American troops would be sent to the Balkans]


I assume full responsibility for any harm that may come to them, but anyone contemplating any action that would endanger our troops should know this: America protects its own. Anyone -- anyone who takes on our troops will suffer the consequences. We will fight fire with fire, and then some.

After so much bloodshed and loss, after so many outrageous acts of inhuman brutality, it will take an extraordinary effort of will for the people of Bosnia to pull themselves from their past and start building a future of peace. But with our leadership and the commitment of our allies, the people of Bosnia can have the chance to decide their future in peace. They have a chance to remind the world that just a few short years ago the mosques and churches of Sarajevo were a shining symbol of multiethnic tolerance, that Bosnia once found unity in its diversity. Indeed, the cemetery in the center of the city was, just a few short years ago, the magnificent stadium which hosted the Olympics, our universal symbol of peace and harmony.

Bosnia can be that kind of place again. We must not turn our backs on Bosnia now.

And so I ask all Americans, and I ask every member of Congress -- Democrat and Republican alike -- to make the choice for peace. In the choice between peace and war, America must choose peace.

My fellow Americans, I ask you to think just for a moment about this century that is drawing to close and the new one that will soon begin. Because previous generations of Americans stood up for freedom and because we continue to do so, the American people are more secure and more prosperous. And all around the world, more people than ever before live in freedom, more people than ever before are treated with dignity, more people than ever before can hope to build a better life. That is what America's leadership is all about.

We know that these are the blessings of freedom, and America has always been freedom's greatest champion. If we continue to do everything we can to share these blessings with people around the world, if we continue to be leaders for peace, then the next century can be the greatest time our nation has ever known.

A few weeks ago I was privileged to spend some time with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, when he came to America. At the very end of our meeting, the Pope looked at me and said, "I have lived through most of this century. I remember that it began with a war in Sarajevo. Mr. President, you must not let it end with a war in Sarajevo."

In Bosnia this terrible war has challenged our interests and troubled our souls. Thankfully, we can do something about it. I say again our mission will be clear, limited, and achievable. The people of Bosnia, our NATO allies, and people all around the world are now looking to America for leadership, so let us lead. That is our responsibility as Americans.

Good night, and God bless America.