[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[November 11, 1998]
[Pages 2013-2016]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a Veterans Day Ceremony in Arlington, Virginia
November 11, 1998

    Thank you very much, Secretary West, for those extraordinary remarks 
and your equally extraordinary service to our Nation. Commander Tanguma, 
General Ivany, Superintendent Metzler, Chaplain Maddry, Lee Thornton, 
thank you for being with us again.
    To the distinguished leaders of our veteran organizations, General 
Ivany, Members of Congress, members of the Cabinet, Secretary Cohen and 
the Joint Chiefs, the clergy, the veterans, and their families, the 
members of the Armed Services here. We thank especially the Marine Band.
    My fellow Americans, if you will let me begin on a point of personal 
privilege, I was especially proud to listen to Commander Tanguma's 
speech today. It was about 10 months, almost to the day, from this day 
that he and I were together in Mission, Texas, his hometown. He brought 
with him a distinguished group of Catholic war veterans, including a 
number from Texas, including a member of his post, the former chairman 
of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman Kika de la Garza. We're 
glad to see you here, sir.
    What I want you to know, that is in spite of all the incredible 
valor of Hispanic soldiers in our country's war, he is the very first 
Hispanic veteran ever to host this event. It is a great honor for all 
Americans that this has finally come to pass, and we thank you, sir, for 
being here.
    Today, as a free nation, we come together to honor the men and women 
to whom we owe our freedom, to pay our own tribute here at this most 
sacred memorial to our Nation's past. Not only today but every day, some 
of us have the privilege to glance across the Potomac to see these 
silent white rows inscribed with their crosses and crescents and Stars 
of David to remind us that our achievements in peace are built on the 
sacrifices of our veterans in war and that we owe the most solemn debt 
to these brave Americans who knew their duty and did it so very well.
    We come together today to acknowledge that duty to them, a duty to 
provide for our veterans and their families, to give them every possible 
opportunity to improve their education, to find a job, to buy a home, to 
protect their health. Just this morning I was proud to sign, in the 
presence of some of the veterans leaders here, the Veterans Programs 
Enhancement Act, which will increase compensation payments to veterans 
with disabilities as well as benefits to the survivors of Americans who 
died serving our country.
    I have also directed the Secretaries of Defense, Veterans 
Administration, and Health and Human Services to establish a Military 
and Veterans Health Coordinating Board to improve health care for our 
Armed Forces, our veterans, and our families, and to make sure we know 
what the health risks are to our soldiers when we send them into harm's 
    We have a duty as well to remember the history that our veterans 
lived and to appreciate and honor the history they made. We cannot 
expect future generations to understand fully what those who came before 
saw, experienced, and felt in battle. But we can make sure that our 
children know enough to say ``thank you.'' Those two simple words that 
can mean as much or even more than a medal. We can preserve their 
diaries and documents, their letters home, their stories of sorrow and 
pride. Neither the passage of time nor the comforts of peace

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should drive the memory and meaning of their sacrifice from the 
consciousness of our Nation.
    We owe this to every American who fought in this century's wars. We 
owe it as well to the millions of Americans who served in our Armed 
Forces during the cold war. Because they stood ready, we live in a very 
different world. No longer is there a single overriding threat to our 
existence. Former adversaries are becoming our partners.
    Still, this remains a dangerous world, and peace can never be a time 
for rest, for maintaining it requires constant vigilance. We can be 
proud that the United States has been a force for peace in Northern 
Ireland, in the Middle East, in Haiti, in Bosnia, in Kosovo. We have 
been able to secure peace because we have been willing to back up our 
diplomacy, where necessary, with military strength.
    Nowhere is our vigilance more urgent than in the Persian Gulf, where 
Saddam Hussein's regime threatens the stability of one of the most vital 
regions of the world. Following the Gulf war, and as a condition for the 
cease-fire, the United Nations demanded, and Iraq agreed, to disclose 
and destroy its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons capabilities.
    This was no abstract concern. Saddam has fired Scuds at his 
neighbors, attacked Kuwait, and used chemical weapons in the war with 
Iran and even on his own people. To ensure that Iraq made good on its 
commitments, the United Nations kept in place tough economic sanctions 
while exempting food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies to 
alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. The U.N. also established a 
group of highly professional weapons inspectors from dozens of 
countries, a group called UNSCOM, to oversee the destruction of Iraq's 
weapons capability and to monitor its ongoing compliance.
    For 7 years now, Iraq has had within its power the ability to put 
itself on the path to ending the sanctions and its isolation simply by 
complying with obligations it agreed to undertake. Instead, it has 
worked to shirk those obligations, withholding evidence about its 
weapons capability; threatening, harassing, blocking the inspectors; 
massing troops on the Kuwaiti border in the South; attacking the Kurds 
in the North.
    Our steadfast determination in maintaining sanctions, supporting the 
inspections system, enforcing a no-fly zone, and responding firmly to 
Iraqi provocations has stopped Iraq from rebuilding its weapons of mass 
destruction arsenal or from threatening its neighbors seriously.
    Now, over the past year Iraq has intensified its efforts to end the 
weapons inspection system, last fall threatening to overthrow--to throw 
American inspectors off the UNSCOM teams; then, in January, denying 
UNSCOM unfettered access to all the suspect weapon sites. Both times we 
built diplomatic pressure on Iraq, backed by overwhelming force, and 
Baghdad reversed course. Indeed, in March, again it gave a solemn 
commitment--this time to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan--that it 
would reopen all of Iraq to international weapons inspectors, without 
conditions or restrictions.
    In August, for the third time in only a year, again Iraq severely 
restricted the activities of the weapons inspectors. Again, we have gone 
the extra mile to obtain compliance by peaceful means, working through 
the U.N. Security Council and with our friends and allies to secure a 
unanimous Security Council resolution condemning Iraq's actions. We also 
supported, along with all the members of the Security Council, what Iraq 
says it wants, a comprehensive review of Iraq's compliance record, 
provided Saddam resumes full cooperation with the UNSCOM inspectors.
    Now, if Saddam Hussein is really serious about wanting sanctions 
lifted, there is an easy way to demonstrate that: Let UNSCOM do its job 
without interference--fully comply. The international community is 
united that Saddam must not have it both ways, by keeping his weapons of 
mass destruction capability and still getting rid of the sanctions.
    All of us agree that we prefer to resolve this crisis peacefully, 
for two reasons: first, because accomplishing goals through diplomacy is 
always preferable to using force; second, because reversing Iraq's 
decision and getting UNSCOM back on the job remains the most effective 
way to uncover, destroy, and prevent Iraq from reconstituting weapons of 
mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them.
    But if the inspectors are not permitted to visit suspect sites or 
monitor compliance at known production facilities, they may as well be 
in Baltimore, not Baghdad. That would open a window of opportunity for 
Iraq to rebuild its arsenal of weapons and delivery systems in months--I 
say again, in months--not years. A failure to respond could embolden 
Saddam to act recklessly, signaling to him that he can, with

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impunity, develop these weapons of mass destruction or threaten his 
neighbors. And--this is very important, in an age when we look forward 
to weapons of mass destruction being a significant threat to civilized 
people everywhere. And it would permanently damage the credibility of 
the United Nations Security Council to act as a force for promoting 
international peace and security. We continue to hope--indeed, pray--
that Saddam will comply, but we must be prepared to act if he does not.
    Many American service men and women are serving in the Persian Gulf 
today, many others serving elsewhere around the world, keeping the peace 
in Bosnia, watching over the DMZ in Korea, working with our friends and 
allies to stop terror and drugs and deadly weapons.
    Too often we forget that even in peacetime their work is hard and 
often very dangerous. Just 3 days ago, four brave, dedicated American 
flyers, Lieutenant Commander Kirk Barich, Lieutenant Brendan Duffy, 
Lieutenant Meredith Carol Loughran, and Lieutenant Charles Woodard--all 
four were lost in a crash aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Today our 
prayers are with their families.
    When we give our Armed Forces a mission, there is a principle we 
must keep in mind. We should never ask them to do what they are not 
equipped to do, but always equip them to do what we ask them to do. The 
more we ask, the greater our responsibility to give our troops the 
support and training they require and the tools they need, from basic 
spare parts to the newest technology.
    As Commander in Chief, I have no higher duty than this: to make 
certain our troops can do their job while maintaining their readiness to 
defend our country and defeat any adversary; to ensure they can deploy 
far from home, knowing their loved ones have the quality of life they 
deserve. For, as one sergeant recently said, ``We enlist soldiers, but 
we reenlist families.''
    While our current state of readiness is sound, there are real 
concerns about the future. For that reason, I made a commitment to add 
resources to this year's budget to keep our readiness razor sharp and to 
improve recruitment. We asked the Congress to approve $1.1 billion in 
new funds for readiness, and it did. Today I am happy to announce that 
we are releasing those funds.
    We have also obtained almost $2 billion in emergency funds to cover 
unanticipated operations in Bosnia and shifted another $1 billion in our 
defense budget to meet readiness needs. We have approved pay raises that 
will significantly reduce the discrepancy between military and civilian 
    In addition, I have ordered my administration to conduct a thorough 
review of our long-term readiness and have met with all of our service 
chiefs to discuss that. The process is now under way. I anticipate it 
will result in a set of budget and policy proposals for our year 2000 
budget requests and for future years. My fellow Americans, this is a 
challenge we can and must meet. For while we certainly cannot solve all 
the world's problems, when our values and interests are at stake, we 
must be ready to act.
    Let us always remember that our most profound duty to our Nation's 
veterans is to keep standing for the ideals for which they fought and 
for which too many died; to keep strengthening the alliances they 
forged, as we will next spring at NATO's 50th anniversary summit in 
Washington; to keep taking risks for peace; to keep faith with those who 
struggle for human rights, the rule of law, a better life.
    We have a duty to seize, not shirk, the responsibilities of 
leadership, and we have an opportunity to create a world more peaceful, 
more free, more prosperous than any people have ever known. Therefore, 
we should look on leadership not as a burden but as a chance, a 
responsibility to give our children a world that reflects the hopes and 
enthusiasm that have inspired generation after generation of Americans 
to serve our country in uniform, from World War I hero Alvin York to 
World War II hero Waverly Wray, from General George Marshall to General 
Colin Powell, from John Glenn to John Glenn. [Laughter] I think we ought 
to give Senator Glenn a hand today, don't you? [Applause] Think of it, 
he's given us a whole new field of endeavor to look forward to in our 
old age. [Laughter]
    We dedicate this day to all our veterans, to the retired 
schoolteacher who in his time helped liberate a death camp, to the 
hospital medic who learned to save lives in Vietnam, to the legionnaire 
who pins on his medals with pride, to the heroes buried in the Tomb of 
the Unknowns.To all of them and all they represent, we dedicate each and 
every day spent in service to our country and its ideals. May God bless 
them and their families. May God bless the United States of America.

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    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 11:45 a.m. in the Amphitheater at Arlington 
National Cemetery. In his remarks, he referred to Manuel Tanguma, Jr., 
commander, Catholic War Veterans of the U.S.A.; Maj. Gen. Robert R. 
Ivany, USA, commander, U.S. Army Military District of Washington; John 
C. Metzler, Jr., Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery; Hugh 
Maddry, Chief of Chaplains, Department of Veterans Affairs; Lee 
Thornton, master of ceremonies; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. A 
portion of these remarks could not be verified because the tape was 
incomplete. H.R. 4110, the Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998, 
approved November 11, was assigned Public Law No. 105-368.