93/10/13 Interview on NBC-TV "Meet the Press" (Washington, D.C)  Return to: Index of 1993 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

Note: This Electronic Research Collection is an archive site. For the most current information, please visit the State Department homepage.
U.S. Department of State
93/10/13 Interview on NBC-TV "Meet the Press"
Office of the Spokesman



                     U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                     Office of the Spokesman

For Immediate Release                          October 13, 1993



                           INTERVIEW OF
              SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
                                ON
                    NBC-TV'S "MEET THE PRESS"

                         Washington, D.C.
                         October 10, 1993



MR. TIM RUSSERT:  We're joined now by the Secretary of State, Warren 
Christopher.  Mr. Secretary, welcome.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Good morning, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT:  I'm here with Bob Novak and Johnny Apple.

We heard Admiral Howe, the U.N. envoy to Somalia, say that part of the 
U.N. mission is still to capture General Aideed.  What's going on?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, I talked to Ambassador Oakley just before 
coming to the studio.  He's doing just what the President asked him to 
do.  He's out in the region assessing the situation, trying to energize 
the peace process there.  I think that's the important thing.  The focus 
has shifted; the focus is now on trying to get a political settlement in 
the area.

With respect to General Aideed, let me say this:  There is a United 
Nations resolution calling for the apprehension of those who were 
involved in the killing of the Pakistanis.  I don't want to rule in or 
rule out anything with respect to the carrying out of that resolution.  
I think -- you think -- you would know that that's the right thing to do 
at the present time.

But the President's determination is to move toward a political 
solution, as I say.  I had a good talk with Ambassador Oakley this 
morning.  I think he's doing exactly what the President intended:  
moving around the region, meeting with President Meles in Ethiopia.  And 
now he's meeting with all the principal players in Mogadishu, excluding 
General Aideed; and I think we'll see some progress on the political 
front.

MR. RUSSERT:  So Ambassador Oakley will not meet with General Aideed?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  His instructions do not include that.

MR. RUSSERT:  General Aideed said yesterday that he would accept 
President Clinton's offer of a cease-fire.  Was an offer made privately?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  No, there was no such offer.  I think that's 
just General Aideed's way of announcing a unilateral standdown on his 
part.  If he wants to do that, that's fine with us.  And as you know, we 
had a very quiet night last night in Mogadishu.

MR. RUSSERT:  You are suggesting that perhaps the apprehension of Mr. 
Aideed is still part of our mission.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, we have a United Nations resolution on 
that subject, but the focus of our effort is turned toward a political 
solution.

With respect to the apprehension of Aideed, let me say this:  I think it 
would be very much in the interests of that area if a commission were 
set up by the African leaders which would assess the responsibility of 
those involved in the killing of the Pakistanis and the killing of the 
Americans.  We're going to be talking with President Meles about that.  
I think we have two things in mind, Tim: first, to ask President Meles 
to set up a meeting of the various forces, various influential people in 
Somalia -- the clans and others -- and also to try to establish a 
commission.  We're going to try to use the African leaders' assistance 
to provide an African solution to what is really an African problem.  
And we're going to be relying on them to help us understand this 
problem.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Secretary, there seems to be some ambiguity today, 
though, as to what our posture is vis-a-vis General Aideed.  A week ago 
today 17 Americans died, 75 Americans were wounded, trying to capture 
General Aideed.  What do you say to their parents when a week later the 
policy seems confused and ambiguous?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, I think the right policy is to try to seek 
a political solution.  We have never thought that this is a situation 
for a military victory.  We didn't go there to kill anybody.  We went 
there to provide humanitarian aid for the people of that country.  We 
want to leave in due course, but we want to leave in an orderly way.  I 
think this is a time to have a steady purpose, remembering what the 
initial mission was, and carrying it out.  And what I would say to those 
parents, to respond to that question, is that anybody who died or was 
injured in that action died in the course of a humanitarian mission, 
carrying out the highest values of the United States, where hundreds of 
thousands of lives were saved.

MR. RUSSERT:  But it was an offensive mission to capture General Aideed 
and his advisors.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, there is no doubt that the mission 
changed somewhat in June, as your prior guests have said, perhaps 
without a full understanding of the consequences of that.  But it was in 
response to the killing of a number of United Nations peacekeepers, and 
I think the United Nations Security Council indicated that something 
must be done to call into custody those who were involved in that 
effort.

MR. RUSSERT:  Can we say to the American people this morning then that 
this will be strictly a humanitarian mission and there will be no more 
offensive raids by U.S. Rangers or others to capture General Aideed and 
his supporters?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   We're not going to rule anything in or rule 
anything out on that.  I will emphasize as I have before that the focus 
now is on the political process.  The focus is on setting up a 
commission to determine the responsibility for the killing of the 
Pakistanis and the Americans.

MR. ROBERT NOVAK:  Mr. Secretary, both Senator Dole and Senator Nunn 
have said that the Senate was left unawares when this mission did change 
in June.  Can you explain to the country who made this decision in the 
United States Government to change the mission?  Was that a Presidential 
decision?  Was it your decision?  Was it some bureaucrat's?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, first, the decision was taken in the 
United Nations, as you know.  The United Nations Security Council 
decided that something had to be done about individuals in Somalia who 
were attacking United Nations forces.  You know, it's really quite rare 
to have United Nations peacekeeping forces attacked.  I think that was 
an understandable response.  And then the United Nations military forces 
in Somalia began to go after those who might be responsible.  That was 
also, I think, a natural response.

Here in the United States we have an interagency process which is 
following Somalia, and there was recognition in that process that we 
should try to seek out those who were responsible.  I say, as I've said 
before, that I think we've got undue focus on the military side of it 
and not adequate focus on the political side.

MR. NOVAK:  With all respect, sir, that isn't quite responsive to my 
question.  I'd like to know who signed off on the decision that we were 
going to send American men in harm's way in this operation?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I think we're all responsible for that, right up 
to and including the President.  We're part of this government.  We take 
responsibility for that.  The United Nations forces were there; the 
United States is part of those forces.  We went in initially with 25,800 
men.  That was the top number we ever had there.  When we came into 
office the 20th of January, that was the top number.  We began to draw 
those down.  They were drawn down to 4,000.  Then, when the attacks 
began on the United Nations forces, we built up the forces somewhat 
again to try to apprehend those who were involved.  I think that was a 
sound and natural response; but, as I've said, I think it did get out of 
balance.

MR. NOVAK:  Secretary Christopher, on September 20, speaking at Columbia 
University, you said we are engaged in nation-building in Somalia.  The 
President this past week has said we are not.  Were you wrong on 
September 20 or has the policy changed?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, we're involved in nation-building only in 
the sense that I think we're trying to help the Somalis find a way back 
to a sound and sensible government.  But that mission has been limited 
by the President's speech.  We're only going to be there no more than 
six months with the caveats you heard earlier today.  And I think that 
our main mission now is to try to help the Somalis and help the adjacent 
country leaders to find a sound, political solution.

MR. NOVAK:  So when you talked about at Columbia the second phase of 
nation-building there, which is a stage for which the United States is 
involved, that is no longer operative?  We have abandoned that policy 
just less than two weeks after it was enunciated?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   I think you're obviously reading from something 
that I said, but I said there were two phases.  The first phase was a 
humanitarian phase; the second phase was the phase of helping to get the 
police forces and so forth in order in Somalia.  That's basically the 
United Nations' phase.  That's what I meant to say.  The first phase was 
basically a United States' phase; the second phase a United Nations' 
phase.

MR. NOVAK:  Yes, but you were talking about nation-building.  And isn't 
it somewhat naive, sir, to think about nation-building in Somalia, which 
has never had a stable government, never had a unified government?  Was 
there any thought that perhaps this is something we're not quite capable 
of?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, I think that we got some encouragement 
when in Addis Ababa in March of this year all the clans of Somalia came 
together to try to find some national reconciliation.  So I think it's a 
desirable goal, but at the same time the United States is no longer 
signed onto that goal.  We think that's the responsibility of the 
nations in the area, as well as the people of Somalia.

MR. R.W. APPLE:  Mr. Secretary, Senator Dole said just a few moments 
ago, and you just alluded to it, I believe, that if by March 31 -- the 
President's absolute, supposedly absolute, deadline -- we don't have our 
present prisoner of war back, and there might be others [and we] don't 
have them back, or if we're engaged in actual fighting, that that 
couldn't be a hard deadline.  Do you agree with that?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, the President said yesterday that our 
troops would not come out as long as we had people there who are in 
custody of the Somalis.  And I think that is an understandable 
exception.  I think the American people will understand that exception.  
But other than that --

MR. APPLE:  What if we're actively engaged in fighting?  What if we're 
under attack?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   I think that the President's six-month deadline 
is a deadline that will be followed.  I expect that we'll be able to 
follow that deadline.  I think it's a reasonable deadline to carry out 
the missions that the President defined in his speech.

MR. APPLE:  Now Senator Dole made it quite clear and Senator Nunn almost 
as clear that they were not about to vote to send troops under any 
circumstances to Bosnia unless Mr. Clinton can make some kind of magical 
speech.  And Senator Dole said we ought to pull the troops out of Haiti 
right now.  What do you make of that?  What chances does that give you 
of getting Congressional authorization?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, let's first talk about Bosnia for a 
minute, Johnny.  We've been saying that very hard questions will have to 
be asked before the President ever recommends that American troops go 
into Bosnia.  There is no agreement yet to enforce in Bosnia, and there 
may not be one for some time.

MR. APPLE:  But suppose there is?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   All right, suppose there is.  Then I think 
there have to be very hard questions asked:  What is the mission?  Can 
the mission successfully be carried out?  Is there a departure date?  Is 
it the kind of a mission that the American people will support?  I think 
all of those questions will have to be examined in consultation with 
Congress.  I don't doubt that at all.

MR. APPLE:  What do you think the odds are?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   I don't want to make odds now because that's a 
very hypothetical question.  We don't have an agreement.  We don't even 
have the form of an agreement at the present time.

MR. APPLE:  Well, let's talk about a less hypothetical one.  The State 
Department, although it denies it, and the Pentagon have been battling 
away over the question of dispatching troops to Haiti.  In fact, there 
is still some infighting this weekend.  Do you think that it was a 
mistake to send these troops to Haiti without protection, as Senator 
Nunn said?  Do you think they ought to be brought back?  Do you think 
the thing should be re-thought?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, let me say a word about Haiti.  Haiti is 
a place where we have very important American interests.  First, if the 
Haiti matter is not resolved, we're likely to have a flood of 
immigration creating a very serious problem in this country.

Second, the Haiti situation presents a case of wanting to restore 
democracy in a country only an hour away from the United States.  So we 
have very important interests to carry out there.

The Governors Island accords, which provided a timetable for sending 
President Aristide back, the duly elected President of that country, 
have been followed step by step by step.  It was always contemplated 
under that agreement that we would send some U.S. military forces, not 
in a combat role, but in a role to help reconstruct the country and to 
train the army.  We'd send them in before General Cedras and Police 
Chief Francois left.  We're moving through the Governors Island accords 
step by step, and we're watching it very closely.

MR. APPLE:  But you're also sending troops to Haiti without heavy arms, 
with sidearms, putting them in harm's way, exactly the way you did in 
Somalia.  Doesn't it give you pause, Governors Island or no Governors 
Island?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Well, certainly we're going to be watching it 
very carefully, but there is no indication that Americans have been 
targeted in any way.  Indeed, the international observers that have been 
in Haiti have not been targeted in any way.  We're going to be watching 
this situation very closely.  These 700 people are going as engineer 
companies for reconstruction of the country and to train their own army.   
So I think it's a totally different situation.  They're not going as a 
fighting force.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Secretary, finally, on Russia.  Boris Yeltsin is 
abolishing political parties, closing down newspapers.  Isn't it about 
time for you to tell Mr. Yeltsin as a price for continued U.S. support 
he start behaving as a democrat with a small "d" and not a totalitarian?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   I think President Yeltsin is handling this 
matter very well.  I think he has his eye on the long-range target of a 
democratic society there.  He is the one who's proposed that there be 
elections for the parliament.  He is the one that proposed that there be 
another election for the presidency, even ahead of schedule.

There is a situation there where his government has been attacked by the 
communists of yesteryear.  I think he had to respond as any government 
would.  He seems to be relieving the problems with respect to civil 
liberties.  Papers are publishing again; critical articles are 
appearing.  I think that we have to continue to give our support for 
President Yeltsin as the most promising democratic figure.  You know, if 
his opposition had won that struggle a week ago today, we would have 
reverted to a situation of repression in Russia where the United States 
would have to go back, I think, into a much different posture than we 
are now.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.  

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:   Thank you very much.

(###)

To the top of this page