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A fter the budget passed, Congress went on its August recess and I was eager to take my family on vacation for two much-needed weeks on Marthas Vineyard. Vernon and Ann Jordan had arranged for us to stay on the edge of Oyster Pond in a cottage that belonged to Robert McNamara..cartier love bracelet replica.
But before I could leave, there was a busy week of work. On the eleventh I nominated Army General John Shalikashvili to succeed Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Colins term ended in late September. Shali, as everyone called him, had entered the army as a draftee and risen through the ranks to his current position as the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Europe. He was born in Poland, to a family from Georgia in the former Soviet Union. Before the Russian Revolution, his grandfather had been a general in the czars army and his father had been an officer, too. When Shali was sixteen, his family moved to Peoria, Illinois, where he taught himself English by watching John Wayne movies. I thought he was the right man to lead our forces in the postCold War world, especially given all the problems in Bosnia..Christian Louboutin Outlet.
In mid-month, Hillary and I flew to St. Louis, where I signed the Mississippi River flood relief legislation, after an enormous flood had caused the upper Mississippi River to overrun its banks all the way from Minnesota and the Dakotas down to Missouri. The bill-signing ceremony marked my third visit to the flooded areas. Farms and businesses had been destroyed, and some small towns within the hundred-year flood plain had been completely wiped out. On every trip, I marveled at the number of citizens from all over America who just showed up to help..Cartier Love Ring.
Then we flew on to Denver, where we welcomed Pope John Paul II to the United States. I had a productive meeting with His Holiness, who supported our mission in Somalia and my desire to do more in Bosnia. After we finished, he graciously received all the Catholics on the White House staff and on my Secret Service detail who had been able to come to Denver with me. The next day I signed the Colorado Wilderness Act, my first major environmental legislation, protecting more than 600,000 acres of national forests and public lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System..cartier love bracelet replica.
Then I went on to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to speak to my old colleagues at the National Governors Association about health care. Though the ink was barely dry on the budget plan, I wanted to get started on health care and thought the governors might help, because the rising costs of Medicaid, state employees health insurance, and health care for the uninsured were a big burden on state budgets..cartier love bracelet replica.
On the nineteenth, my forty-seventh birthday, I announced that Bill Daley of Chicago would become the chair of our task force on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Six days earlier, with Canada and Mexico, we had completed the side deals to NAFTA on labor and environmental rights, which I had promised in the campaign, as well as one protecting our markets from import surges. Now that they were in place, I was ready to go all out to pass NAFTA in the Congress. I thought Bill Daley was the ideal person to head the campaign for it. He was a Democratic lawyer from Chicagos most famous political family; his brother was the citys mayor, as his father had been before him, and he had good relationships with several labor leaders. NAFTA would be a very different fight from the budget. A lot of Republicans would support it, and we had to find enough Democrats to go along over the objections of the AFL-CIO..cartier love ring.
After the Daley announcement we finally flew off to Marthas Vineyard. That night the Jordans hosted a birthday party for me, with old friends and some new ones. Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her companion, Maurice Tempelsman, came, along with Bill and Rose Styron, and Katharine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post and one of the people I most admired in Washington. The next day we went sailing and swimming with Jackie and Maurice, Ann and Vernon, Ted and Vicki Kennedy, and Ed and Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg. Caroline and Chelsea climbed up on a high platform of Maurices yacht and jumped into the water. They dared Hillary to follow suit, and Ted and I urged her on. Only Jackie encouraged her to take a safer route to the water. With her usual good judgment, Hillary listened to Jackie..cartier love bracelet replica.
I spent the next ten days hanging around Oyster Pond, catching crabs with Hillary and Chelsea, walking on the beach that bordered the pond and the Atlantic Ocean, getting to know some of the people who lived in the area year-round, and reading..cartier love bracelet replica.
The vacation ended all too quickly, and we returned to Washington to the start of Chelseas first year in high school, Hillarys campaign for health-care reform, Al Gores first recommendations for savings through his National Performance Review, and a newly redecorated Oval Office. I loved working there. It was always light and open, even on cloudy days, because of the tall windows and glass door toward the south and east. At night the indirect lighting reflected off the curved ceiling, which added light and made it comfortable to work at home. The room was elegant yet inviting, and I always felt comfortable there, alone or in large groups. Kaki Hockersmith, a decorator friend from Arkansas, helped us with a new, brighter look: gold curtains in blue trim, gold high-back chairs, couches upholstered in gold-and-red stripes, and a beautiful deep blue rug with the presidential seal in the center, mirroring the one on the ceiling overhead. Now I liked it even better...
September was also the biggest foreign policy month of my presidency. On September 8, President Izetbegovic of Bosnia came to the White House. The threat of NATO air strikes had succeeded in restraining the Serbs and getting peace talks going again. Izetbegovic assured me that he was committed to a peaceful settlement as long as it was fair to the Bosnian Muslims. If one was reached, he wanted my commitment to send NATO forces, including U.S. troops, to Bosnia to enforce it. I reaffirmed my intention to do so...
On September 9, Yitzhak Rabin called to tell me that Israel and the PLO had reached a peace agreement. It was achieved in secret talks the parties held in Oslo, which we were informed of shortly before I took office. On a couple of occasions, when the talks were in danger of being derailed, Warren Christopher had done a good job of keeping them on track. The talks were kept confidential, which enabled the negotiators to deal candidly with the most sensitive issues and agree on a set of principles that both sides could accept. Most of our work lay in the future, in helping with the immensely difficult task of resolving the tough issues, hammering out the terms of implementation, and raising the money to finance the costs of the agreement, from increased security for Israel to economic development and refugee relocation and compensation for the Palestinians. I had already gotten encouraging signs of financial support from other countries, including Saudi Arabia, where King Fahd, though still angry about Yasser Arafats support for Iraq in the Gulf War, was supportive of the peace process...
We were still a long way from a comprehensive solution, but the Declaration of Principles was a huge step forward. On September 10, I announced that the Israeli and Palestinian leaders would sign the agreement on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday, the thirteenth, and that because the PLO had renounced violence and recognized Israels right to exist, the United States would resume its dialogue with them. A couple of days before the signing, the press asked me if Arafat would be welcome at the White House. I said that it was up to the parties directly involved to decide who would represent them in the ceremony. In fact, I badly wanted Rabin and Arafat to attend and urged them to do so; if they didnt, no one in the region would believe they were fully committed to implementing the principles, and, if they did, a billion people across the globe would see them on television and they would leave the White House even more committed to peace than when they arrived. When Arafat said he would be there, I again asked Rabin to come. He accepted, though he was still a bit on edge about it...
In retrospect, the leaders decision to come may look easy. At the time, it was a gamble for both Rabin and Arafat, who couldnt be sure how their people would react. Even if a majority of their constituents supported them, extremists on both sides were bound to be inflamed by the compromises on fundamental issues inherent in the Declaration of Principles. Rabin and Arafat showed both vision and guts in consenting to come and speak. The agreement would be signed by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, both of whom had been intimately involved in the Oslo negotiations. Secretary Christopher and Russian foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev would witness the accord...
On the morning of the thirteenth, the atmosphere around the White House was alive with excitement as well as tension. We had invited more than 2,500 people to the event, which George Stephanopoulos and Rahm Emanuel had labored over. I was especially happy Rahm was working on this because he had served in the Israeli army. President Carter, who had negotiated the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, would be there. So would President Bush, who, with Gorbachev, had co-sponsored talks in Madrid in 1991 involving Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states. President Ford was invited but couldnt get to Washington before the celebration dinner in the evening. All former secretaries of state and national security advisors who had worked for peace over the past twenty years were also invited. Chelsea was taking the morning off from school, as were the Gore children. This was something they didnt want to miss...
The night before, I had gone to bed at ten, early for me, and awakened at three in the morning. Unable to go back to sleep, I got my Bible and read the entire book of Joshua. It inspired me to rewrite some of my remarks, and to wear a blue tie with golden horns, which reminded me of those Joshua had used to blow down the walls of Jericho. Now the horns would herald the coming of a peace that would return Jericho to the Palestinians.
We had two minor flaps early in the morning. When I was told that Arafat intended to appear in his trademark garb, a kafyeh and an olive green uniform, and that he might want to dress it up with the revolver he often wore on his hip, I balked and sent word that he couldnt bring the gun. He was here to make peace; the pistol would send the wrong message, and he certainly would be safe without it. He agreed to come unarmed. When the Palestinians saw that they were identified in the agreement as the Palestinian delegation, not the PLO, they balked. Israel agreed to the preferred designation.
Then there was the question of whether Rabin and Arafat would shake hands. I knew Arafat wanted to do it. Before arriving in Washington, Rabin had said he would do the handshake if it will be needed, but I could tell he didnt want to. When he arrived at the White House, I raised the subject. He avoided making a commitment, telling me how many young Israelis he had buried because of Arafat. I told Yitzhak that if he was really committed to peace, hed have to shake Arafats hand to prove it. The whole world will be watching, and the handshake is what they will be looking for. Rabin sighed, and in his deep, world-weary voice, said, I suppose one does not make peace with ones friends. Then youll do it? I asked. He almost snapped at me, All right. All right. But no kissing. The traditional Arab greeting was a kiss on the cheek, and he wanted no part of that.
I knew Arafat was a great showman and might try to kiss Rabin after the handshake. We had decided that I would shake hands with each of them first, then sort of motion them together. I was sure that if Arafat didnt kiss me, he wouldnt try kissing Rabin. As I stood in the Oval Office discussing it with Hillary, George Stephanopoulos, Tony Lake, and Martin Indyk, Tony said he knew a way I could shake hands with Arafat while avoiding a kiss. He described the procedure and we practiced it. I played Arafat and he played me, showing me what to do. When I shook his hand and moved in for the kiss, he put his left hand on my right arm where it was bent at the elbow, and squeezed; it stopped me cold. Then we reversed roles and I did it to him. We practiced it a couple of more times until I felt sure Rabins cheek would remain untouched. We all laughed about it, but I knew avoiding the kiss was deadly serious for Rabin.
Just before the ceremony, all three delegations gathered in the large oval Blue Room on the main floor of the White House. The Israelis and the Palestinians still werent talking to each other in public, so the Americans went back and forth between the two groups as they moved around the rim of the room. We looked like a bunch of awkward kids riding a slow-moving carousel.
Mercifully, it was over before long, and we walked downstairs to start the ceremony. Everyone else walked out on cue, leaving Arafat, Rabin, and me alone for a moment. Arafat said hello to Rabin and held out his hand. Yitzhaks hands were firmly grasped behind his back. He said tersely, Outside. Arafat just smiled and nodded his understanding. Then Rabin said, You know, we are going to have to work very hard to make this work. Arafat replied, I know, and I am prepared to do my part.
We walked out into the bright sunshine of a late-summer day. I opened the ceremony with a brief welcome and words of thanks, support, and encouragement for the leaders and their determination to achieve a peace of the brave. Peres and Abbas followed me with brief speeches, then sat down to sign the agreement. Warren Christopher and Andrei Kozyrev witnessed it while Rabin, Arafat, and I stood behind and to the right. When the signing was completed, all eyes shifted to the leaders; Arafat stood on my left and Rabin to my right. I shook hands with Arafat, with the blocking maneuver I had practiced. I then turned and shook hands with Rabin, after which I stepped back out of the space between them and spread my arms to bring them together. Arafat lifted his hand toward a still reluctant Rabin. When Rabin extended his hand, the crowd let out an audible gasp, followed by thunderous applause, as they completed the kissless handshake. All the world was cheering, except for diehard protesters in the Middle East who were inciting violence, and demonstrators in front of the White House claiming we were endangering Israels security.
After the handshake, Christopher and Kozyrev made brief remarks, then Rabin moved to the microphone. Sounding like an Old Testament prophet, he spoke in English, and directly to the Palestinians: We are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land. We, the soldiers who have returned from battles stained with blood . . . , say to you today, in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough! . . . We, like you, are peoplepeople who want to build a home, to plant a tree, to love, to live side by side with you in dignity, in affinity as human beings, as free men. Then, quoting the book of Koheleth, which Christians call Ecclesiastes, Rabin said, To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, . . . a time of war and a time of peace. The time for peace has come. It was a magnificent speech. He had used it to reach out to his adversaries.
When Arafats time came, he took a different tack. He had already reached out to the Israelis with smiles, friendly gestures, and his eager handshake. Now, in a rhythmic, singsong voice, he spoke to his people in Arabic, recounting their hopes for the peace process and reaffirming the legitimacy of their aspirations. Like Rabin, he promoted peace, but with an edge: Our people do not consider that exercising the right to self-determination could violate the rights of their neighbors or infringe on their security. Rather, putting an end to their feelings of being wronged and of having suffered an historic injustice is the strongest guarantee to achieve coexistence and openness between our two peoples and future generations.
Arafat had chosen generous gestures to speak to the Israelis and tough words to reassure the doubters back home. Rabin had done the reverse. He had been heartfelt and genuine toward the Palestinians in his speech; now he used body language to reassure his doubters back in Israel. All the while Arafat was speaking, he looked uncomfortable and skeptical, so ill at ease that he gave the impression of someone who was dying to excuse himself. Their different tactics, side by side, made for a fascinating and revealing juxtaposition. I made a mental note to take it into account in future negotiations with them. But I shouldnt have worried. Before long, Rabin and Arafat would develop a remarkable working relationship, a tribute to Arafats regard for Rabin and the Israeli leaders uncanny ability to understand how Arafats mind worked.
I closed the ceremony by bidding the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael, both children of Abraham, Shalom, salaam, peace, and urging them to go as peacemakers. After the event I had a brief meeting with Arafat and a private lunch with Rabin. Yitzhak was drained from the long flight and the emotion of the occasion. It was an amazing turn in his eventful life, much of which had been spent in uniform, fighting the enemies of Israel, including Arafat. I asked him why he had decided to support the Oslo talks and the agreement they produced. He explained to me that he had come to realize that the territory Israel had occupied since the 1967 war was no longer necessary to its security and, in fact, was a source of insecurity. He said that the intifada that had broken out some years before had shown that occupying territory full of angry people did not make Israel more secure, but made it more vulnerable to attacks from within. Then, in the Gulf War, when Iraq fired Scud missiles into Israel, he realized that the land did not provide a security buffer against attacks with modern weapons from the outside. Finally, he said, if Israel were to hold on to the West Bank permanently, it would have to decide whether to let the Arabs there vote in Israeli elections, as those who lived within the pre-1967 borders did. If the Palestinians got the right to vote, given their higher birthrate, within a few decades Israel would no longer be a Jewish state. If they were denied the right to vote, Israel would no longer be a democracy but an apartheid state. Therefore, he concluded, Israel should give up the territory, but only if doing so brought real peace and normal relations with its neighbors, including Syria. Rabin thought he could make a deal with Syrian president Hafez al-Assad before or soon after the Palestinian process was completed. Based on my conversations with Assad, so did I.
Over time, Rabins analysis of the meaning of the West Bank to Israel would become widely accepted among pro-peace Israelis, but in 1993 it was novel, insightful, and courageous. I had admired Rabin even before meeting him in 1992, but that day, watching him speak at the ceremony and listening to his argument for peace, I had seen the greatness of his leadership and his spirit. I had never met anyone quite like him, and I was determined to help him achieve his dream of peace.
After the lunch, Rabin and the Israelis flew home for the High Holy Days and the task of selling the agreement to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, stopping on the way in Morocco to brief King Hassan, who had long taken a moderate position toward Israel, on the agreement.
That night Hillary and I hosted a celebratory dinner for about twenty-five couples, including President and Mrs. Carter, President and Mrs. Ford, and President Bush, six of the nine living secretaries of state, and Democratic and Republican congressional leaders. The Presidents had agreed to come, not only to celebrate the peace breakthrough, but also to participate in the public kickoff of the campaign for NAFTA the next day. During the evening I took all of them up to my office on the residence floor, where we took a picture to commemorate a rare occasion in American history when four Presidents dined together at the White House. After the dinner the Carters and Bush accepted our invitation to spend the night. The Fords declined, for a very good reason: they had booked the Washington hotel suite in which they had spent their first night as a married couple.
The next day we kept the momentum for peace going, as Israeli and Jordanian diplomats signed an agreement that moved them closer to a final peace, and several hundred Jewish and Arab-American businesspeople gathered at the State Department to commit themselves to a joint effort to invest in the Palestinian areas when conditions were peaceful enough to permit a stable economy to develop.
Meanwhile, the other Presidents joined me at a signing ceremony for the NAFTA side agreements in the East Room of the White House. I made the case that NAFTA would be good for the economies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, creating a giant market of nearly 400 million people; that it would strengthen U.S. leadership in our hemisphere and in the world; and that the failure to pass it would make the loss of jobs to low-wage competition in Mexico more, not less, likely. Mexicos tariffs were two and a half times as high as ours, and even so, next to Canada, it was the largest purchaser of U.S. products. The mutual phaseout of tariffs had to be a net plus to us.
Then Presidents Ford, Carter, and Bush spoke up for NAFTA. They were all good, but Bush was especially effective, and wittily generous to me. He complimented my speech by saying, Now I understand why hes inside looking out and Im outside looking in. The Presidents gave bipartisan gravitas to the campaign, and we needed all the help we could get. NAFTA faced intense opposition from an unusual coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, who shared a fear that a more open relationship with Mexico would cost America good jobs without helping ordinary Mexicans, who they believed would continue to be underpaid and overworked no matter how much money their employers made out of trading with the United States. I knew they might be right about the second part, but I believed NAFTA was essential, not just to our relationships with Mexico and Latin America but also to our commitment to building a more integrated, cooperative world.
Though it was becoming clear that a vote on health-care reform would not come until the following year, we still had to get our bill up to Capitol Hill so that the legislative process could begin. At first, we considered just sending an outline of the proposal to the committees of jurisdiction and letting them write the bill, but Dick Gephardt and others insisted that our chances of success would be better if we started off with specific legislation. After a meeting with congressional leaders in the Cabinet Room, I suggested to Bob Dole that we work together on legislation. I did it because Dole and his chief of staff, an impressive former nurse named Sheila Burke, genuinely cared about health care, and, in any case, if I produced a bill he didnt like, he could filibuster it to death. Dole declined to work on drafting a joint proposal, saying I should just present my own bill and wed work out a compromise later. When he said that, he may have meant it, but it didnt turn out that way.
I was scheduled to present the health-care plan to a joint session of Congress on September 22. I was feeling upbeat. That morning I had signed the bill creating AmeriCorps, the national service program; it was one of my most important personal priorities. I also nominated Eli Segal, who had shepherded the bill through Congress, to be the first chief executive of the Corporation for National Service. Attendees at the signing ceremony on the back lawn of the White House included young people who had answered my call to do community service that summer; two old veterans of FDRs Civilian Conservation Corps, whose projects still marked the American landscape; and Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps. Thoughtfully, Sarge had lent me one of the pens President Kennedy had used thirty-two years earlier to sign the Peace Corps legislation, and I used it to bring AmeriCorps into being. Over the next five years, nearly 200,000 young Americans would join the ranks of AmeriCorps, a larger number than had served in the entire forty-year history of the Peace Corps.
On the evening of the twenty-second, I felt confident as I walked down the aisle of the House Chamber and looked up at Hillary sitting in the balcony with two of Americas most famous doctors, the pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a longtime friend of hers, and Dr. C. Everett Koop, who had served as President Reagans surgeon general, a position he used to educate the nation about AIDS and the importance of preventing its spread. Both Brazelton and Koop were advocates of health-care reform who would lend credibility to our efforts.
My confidence slipped when I glanced at the TelePrompTer to begin my speech. It wasnt there. Instead, I was looking at the beginning of the speech to Congress on the economic plan that Id delivered in February. The budget had been enacted more than a month earlier; Congress didnt need to hear that speech again. I turned to Al Gore, who was sitting in his customary seat behind me, explained the problem, and asked him to get George Stephanopoulos to fix it. Meanwhile I started the speech. I had a written copy with me and I knew what I wanted to say anyway, so I wasnt too worried, though it was a bit distracting to see all those irrelevant words scrolling by on the TelePrompTer. At the seven-minute mark, the right text finally came up. I dont think anyone knew the difference at the time, but it was reassuring to get my crutch back.
As simply and directly as I could, I explained the problemthat our system cost too much and covered too fewand outlined the basic principles of our plan: security, simplicity, savings, choice, quality, and responsibility. Everyone would have coverage, through private insurers, that would not be lost when there was an illness or a job change; there would be far less paperwork because of a uniform minimum-benefit package; we would reap large savings through lower administrative costs, which were then significantly higher than those of other wealthy nations, and a crackdown on fraud and abuse. According to Dr. Koop, that could save tens of billions of dollars.
Under our plan, Americans would be able to choose their own health plan and keep their own doctors, choices that were vanishing for more and more Americans whose insurance was carried by health maintenance organizations (HMOs), which tried to hold down costs by restricting patient choices and conducting extensive reviews before approving expensive treatments. Quality would be assured by the issuance of report cards on health-care plans to consumers, and the provision of more information to doctors. Responsibility would be enforced across the board against health insurance companies that wrongfully denied care, providers who padded their bills, drug companies that overcharged, lawyers who brought bogus suits, and citizens whose irresponsible choices weakened their health and exploded costs to everyone else.
I proposed that all employers provide health insurance, as 75 percent of them were already doing, with a discount for small-business owners who otherwise couldnt afford the insurance. The subsidy would be paid for by an increase in cigarette taxes. Self-employed people would be able to deduct all the costs of their health-care premiums from their taxable incomes.
If the system I proposed had been adopted, it would have reduced inflation in health-care costs, spread the burden of paying for health care more fairly, and provided health security to millions of Americans who didnt have it. And it would have put an end to the kinds of horrible injustices I had personally encountered, like the case of a woman who had to give up a $50,000-a-year job that supported her six children because her youngest child was so ill she couldnt keep her health insurance, and the only way for the mother to get health care for the child was to go on welfare and sign up for Medicaid; or the case of a young couple with a sick child whose only health insurance came through one parents employer, a small nonprofit corporation with twenty employees. The childs care was so costly that the employer was given the choice by its insurer of firing the employee with the sick child or raising the premiums of all the other employees by $200. I thought America could do better than that.
Hillary, Ira Magaziner, Judy Feder, and all those who helped them had crafted a plan that we could implement while reducing the deficit. And contrary to how it was later portrayed, health experts generally praised it at the time as moderate and workable. It certainly wasnt a government takeover of the health-care system, as its critics charged, but that story came later. On the night of the twenty-second, I was just glad that the TelePrompTer was working.
Toward the end of September, Russia dashed back into the headlines, as hard-line parliamentarians tried to depose Yeltsin. In response, he dissolved parliament and called new elections for December 12. We used the crisis to increase support for our Russian aid package, which passed the House, 321108, on September 29 and the Senate, 8711, on September 30.
By Sunday, October 3, the conflict between Yeltsin and his reactionary opponents in the Duma erupted into a battle on the streets of Moscow. Armed groups carrying hammer-and-sickle flags and portraits of Stalin fired rocket-propelled grenades into the building that housed a number of Russian television stations. Other reform leaders in former Communist countries, including Vclav Havel, issued statements in support of Yeltsin, and I did, too, telling reporters that it was clear that Yeltsins opponents had started the violence, that Yeltsin had bent over backwards to avoid using excessive force, and that the United States would support him and his effort to hold free and fair elections for parliament. The next day Russian military forces shelled the parliament building and threatened to storm it, forcing the surrender of the rebellions leaders. Aboard Air Force One, on my way to California, I called Yeltsin with a message of support.
The battle in Moscows streets was the top news story across the world that night, but the news in America led with a different story, which marked one of the darkest days of my presidency and made famous the phrase Black Hawk Down.
In December 1992, President Bush, with my support, had sent U.S. troops to Somalia to help the UN after more than 350,000 Somalis had died in a bloody civil war, which brought famine and disease in its wake. At the time, Bushs national security advisor, General Brent Scowcroft, had told Sandy Berger they would be home before my inauguration. That didnt happen because Somalia had no functioning government, and without our troop presence, armed thugs would have stolen the supplies the UN had been providing and starvation would have set in again. Over the next several months, the United Nations sent in about 20,000 troops and we reduced the American force to just over 4,000, down from 25,000. After seven months, crops were growing, starvation had ended, refugees were returning, schools and hospitals were reopening, a police force had been created, and many Somalis were engaged in a process of reconciliation moving toward democracy.
Then, in June, the clan of Somali warlord Mohammed Aidid killed twenty-four Pakistani peacekeepers. Aidid, whose armed thugs controlled a good part of the capital city of Mogadishu and didnt like the reconciliation process, wanted to control Somalia. He thought he had to run the UN out to do so. After the Pakistanis were killed, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali and his representative for Somalia, retired American Admiral Jonathan Howe, became determined to get Aidid, believing the UN mission could not succeed unless he was brought to justice. Because Aidid was well protected by heavily armed forces, the United Nations was unable to apprehend him and asked the United States to help. Admiral Howe, who had been a deputy to Brent Scowcroft in the Bush White House, was convinced, especially after the Pakistani peacekeepers were killed, that arresting Aidid and putting him on trial was the only way to end the clan-based conflicts that kept Somalia mired in violence, failure, and chaos.
Just a few days before he retired as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell came to me with a recommendation that I approve a parallel American effort to capture Aidid, though he thought we had only a 50 percent chance of getting him, with a 25 percent chance of getting him alive. Still, he argued, we couldnt behave as if we didnt care that Aidid had murdered UN forces who were serving with us. Repeated UN failures to capture Aidid had only raised his status and tarnished the humanitarian nature of the UN mission, I agreed.
The American commander of the Rangers was Major General William Garrison. The armys Tenth Mountain Division, headquartered in Fort Drum, New York, also had troops in Somalia under the overall commander of U.S. forces there, General Thomas Montgomery. They both reported to Marine General Joseph Hoar, the commander of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. I knew Hoar and had great confidence in his judgment and ability.
On October 3, acting on a tip that two of Aidids top aides were in Mogadishus Black Sea neighborhood, which he controlled, Major General Garrison ordered the Army Rangers to mount an assault on the building where the men were thought to be. They flew into Mogadishu in Black Hawk helicopters in broad daylight. It was a much riskier operation during the day than it would have been on a dark night, when helicopters and troops are less visible and their night-vision devices give them the ability to operate as well as they can in daylight. Garrison decided to take the risk because his troops had carried out three previous daylight operations successfully.
The Rangers stormed the building and captured Aidids lieutenants and some lesser figures. Then the raid went terribly wrong. Aidids forces fought back, downing two of the Black Hawks. The pilot of the first copter was pinned in the wreckage. The Rangers would not abandon him: they never leave their men on the field of battle, dead or alive. When they went back in, the real fireworks began. Before long, ninety U.S. soldiers were surrounding the copter, engaged in a massive shootout with hundreds of Somalis. Eventually, General Montgomerys Rapid Deployment Force entered the action, but the Somali resistance was strong enough to prevent the rescue operation from succeeding throughout the night. When the battle was over, nineteen Americans were dead, dozens were wounded, and Black Hawk pilot Mike Durant had been captured. More than five hundred Somalis were dead and over a thousand wounded. Enraged Somalis dragged the body of the slain Black Hawk crew chief through the streets of Mogadishu.
Americans were outraged and astounded. How had our humanitarian mission turned into an obsession with getting Aidid? Why were American forces doing Boutros-Ghalis and Admiral Howes bidding? Senator Robert Byrd called for an end to these cops-and-robbers operations. Senator John McCain said, Clintons got to bring them home. Admiral Howe and General Garrison wanted to pursue Aidid; according to their sources in Mogadishu, many of his clan allies had fled the city and it wouldnt take much to finish the job.
On the sixth, our national security team convened in the White House. Tony Lake had also brought in Robert Oakley, who had been Americas top civilian in Mogadishu from December through March. Oakley believed that the United Nations, including his old friend Admiral Howe, had made a mistake by isolating Aidid from the political process and by becoming so obsessed with tracking him down. By extension, he disagreed with our decision to try to apprehend Aidid for the UN.
I had a lot of sympathy for General Garrison and the men who wanted to go back and finish the job. I was sick about the loss of our troops and I wanted Aidid to pay. If getting him was worth eighteen dead and eighty-four wounded Americans, wasnt it worth finishing the job? The problem with that line of reasoning was that if we went back in and nabbed Aidid, dead or alive, then we, not the UN, would own Somalia, and there was no guarantee that we could put it together politically any better than the UN had. Subsequent events proved the validity of that view: after Aidid died of natural causes in 1996, Somalia remained divided. Moreover, there was no support in Congress for a larger military role in Somalia, as I learned in a White House meeting with several members; most of them demanded an immediate withdrawal of our forces. I strongly disagreed, and in the end we compromised on a six-month transition period. I didnt mind taking Congress on, but I had to consider the consequences of any action that could make it even harder to get congressional support for sending American troops to Bosnia and Haiti, where we had far greater interests at stake.
In the end, I agreed to dispatch Oakley on a mission to get Aidid to release Mike Durant, the captured pilot. His instructions were clear: The United States would not retaliate if Durant was released immediately and unconditionally. We would not trade the people who had just been captured. Oakley delivered the message and Durant was freed. I beefed up our forces and set a fixed date for their withdrawal, giving the UN six more months to establish control or set up an effective Somali political organization. After Durants release, Oakley opened negotiations with Aidid and eventually secured a truce of sorts.
The battle of Mogadishu haunted me. I thought I knew how President Kennedy felt after the Bay of Pigs. I was responsible for an operation that I had approved in general but not in its particulars. Unlike the Bay of Pigs, it was not a failure in strictly military termsTask Force Ranger had arrested Aidids lieutenants by dropping into the middle of Mogadishu in broad daylight, executing its complex and difficult mission, and enduring unexpected losses with courage and skill. But the losses shocked America, and the battle that produced them was inconsistent with our larger humanitarian mission and the UNs.
What plagued me most was that when I approved the use of U.S. forces to apprehend Aidid, I did not envision anything like a daytime assault in a crowded, hostile neighborhood. I assumed we would try to get him when he was on the move, away from large numbers of civilians and the cover they gave his armed supporters. I thought I was approving a police action by U.S. troops who had far better capacity, equipment, and training than their UN counterparts. Apparently, thats also what Colin Powell thought he was asking me to approve; when I discussed it with him after I left the White House and he was secretary of state, Powell said he would not have approved an operation like that one unless it was conducted at night. But we hadnt discussed that, nor apparently had anyone else imposed any parameters on General Garrisons range of options. Colin Powell had retired three days before the raid and John Shalikashvili had not yet been confirmed as his replacement. The operation was not approved by General Hoar at CentCom or by the Pentagon. As a result, instead of authorizing an aggressive police operation, I had authorized a military assault in hostile territory.
In a handwritten letter to me the day after the fight, General Garrison took full responsibility for his decision to go forward with the raid, outlining his reasons for the decision: the intelligence was excellent; the force was experienced; the capacity of the enemy was known; the tactics were appropriate; planning for contingencies had been done; an armored reaction force would have helped, but might not have reduced U.S. casualties, because the task-force troops would not leave behind their fallen comrades, one of whom was pinned in the wreckage of his helicopter. Garrison closed his letter by saying, The Mission was a success. Targeted individuals were captured and extracted from the target. . . . President Clinton and Secretary Aspin need to be taken off the blame line.
I respected Garrison and agreed with his letter, except for the last point. There was no way I could, or should, be taken off the blame line. I believe the raid was a mistake, because carrying it out in the daytime underestimated the strength and determination of Aidids forces and the attendant possibility of losing one or more of the helicopters. In wartime, the risks would have been acceptable. On a peacekeeping mission, they were not, because the value of the prize was not worth the risk of significant casualties and the certain consequences of changing the nature of our mission in the eyes of both Somalis and Americans. Arresting Aidid and his top men because the UN forces couldnt do it was supposed to be incidental to our operations there, not its main purpose. It was worth doing under the right circumstances, but when I gave my consent to General Powells recommendation, I should also have required prior approval of the Pentagon and the White House for any operations of this magnitude. I certainly dont blame General Garrison, a fine soldier whose career was unfairly damaged. The decision he made, given his instructions, was defensible. The larger implications of it should have been determined higher up.
In the weeks ahead, I visited several of the wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital and had two moving meetings with the families of the soldiers who had lost their lives. In one, I was asked tough questions by two grieving fathers, Larry Joyce and Jim Smith, a former Ranger who had lost a leg in Vietnam. They wanted to know what their sons had died for and why we had changed course. When I gave the Medal of Honor, posthumously, to Delta snipers Gary Gordon and Randy Shugart for their heroism in trying to save Mike Durant and his helicopter crew, their families were still in great pain. Shugarts father was furious at me, and angrily told me that I wasnt fit to be Commander in Chief. After the price hed paid, he could say anything he wanted as far as I was concerned. I couldnt tell if he felt the way he did because I had not served in Vietnam, because I had approved the policy that led to the raid, or because I had declined to go back after Aidid after October 3. Regardless, I didnt believe the emotional, political, or strategic benefits of catching or killing Aidid justified further loss of life on either side, or a greater shifting of responsibility for Somalias future from the UN to the United States.
After Black Hawk Down, whenever I approved the deployment of forces, I knew much more about what the risks were, and made much clearer what operations had to be approved in Washington. The lessons of Somalia were not lost on the military planners who plotted our course in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and other trouble spots of the postCold War world, where America was often asked to step in to stop hideous violence, and too often expected to do it without the loss of lives to ourselves, our adversaries, or innocent bystanders. The challenge of dealing with complicated problems like Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia inspired one of Tony Lakes best lines: Sometimes I really miss the Cold War.