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President Bush Addresses U.S. Troops in Kosovo

Aired July 24, 2001 - 07:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We go live to Kosovo right now, where President Bush is on the last leg of his European trip. He is visiting with U.S. troops in Kosovo. He was just teased about his civilian wardrobe and got a jacket from the Army.

Let's listen in to some of his remarks.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... the true meaning of the sacrifices you made for our freedom.

Thank you, General David (ph), for your kind introduction and your hospitality. Laura and I are honored to be here.

I also want to recognize the leadership of the senior NCO command sergeant, Major Marvin Hill (ph).

(APPLAUSE)

I don't know what you did, Marvin (ph)...

(LAUGHTER)

... but you got some of the folks kind of excited when I mentioned your name.

We're honored to be here. I realize that on July 4th you had the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders...

(APPLAUSE)

I recognize I don't look quite as pretty, but I am from Texas...

(APPLAUSE)

... and I'm proud to be an American...

(APPLAUSE)

... and I know you are as well because we represent a great land, a great land.

I'm also looking forward to having a lunch with some of you in a while. The general mentioned I like PT. I'm going to eat lightly because I look forward to leading a run up Radar Hill after lunch.

(APPLAUSE)

Are you ready to go?

(APPLAUSE)

I want you to know there's no higher honor than to serve as your commander in chief. America appreciates your service and sacrifices for our country and I'm here to tell you that.

It's good to be here with the Screaming Eagles of the 101st airborne.

(APPLAUSE)

You just lived up to your name.

I also want to thank the members of the United States Army Reserve, the Air Force, the Navy and Marine Corps and a National Guard unit from Nebraska...

(APPLAUSE)

... Rhode Island and Tennessee.

(APPLAUSE)

I thank the civilians and contractors who helped build this base.

(APPLAUSE)

My first opportunity as president to address America's military forces came at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

(APPLAUSE)

It's great to be back with the dog-faced soldiers of...

(APPLAUSE)

I think I'll just repeat what I said there -- oooh-aaah.

(APPLAUSE)

And finally, I want to thank all our allies who join in this mission; Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

(APPLAUSE)

It's a long list. It speaks volumes about why you are so good at your mission. You come from many nations, many cultures and many continents. Just like amongst the U.S. military personnel, many races, there are many faiths, many traditions represented. Your diversity and close cooperation, General, in the cause of peace is an example to the people of this region and is a rebuke to the ethnic intolerance and narrow nationalism that brought us here in the first place.

As we head into the 21st century, we must not allow difference to be a license to kill and vulnerability, an excuse to dominate. We will pursue a world of tolerance and freedom. From Kosovo to Kashmir, from the Middle East to Northern Ireland, freedom and tolerance is a defining issue for our world. And your service here has set an example for the whole world to see.

We're making good progress. Thanks to you and those who served before you, the people of Kosovo are able to buy food and find shelter, go to school and get medical help. Thanks to you, there will be elections here in November, elections where we want to see the widest possible participation.

Thanks to you, there are fewer arms flowing into Macedonia and a hope for peace in that land. Thanks to you and the service of our forces throughout the Balkans, the region is growing closer to the rest of Europe, but there is still a lot of work to do.

Civil institutions must be put in place and made stronger. Organized crime must be brought under control. War criminals must face justice, and Kosovo must not be a safe haven for insurgents elsewhere.

America has a vital interest in European stability and therefore peace in the region. That's why I've recently taken steps to cut off outside support for the rebels in Macedonia. That's why we need you to keep patrolling the border and cutting off the arms flow.

Each and every day, your work is important to the people of this region. America and allied forces came into Bosnia and Kosovo. We came in together and we will leave together. Our goal is to hasten the day when peace is self-sustaining, when local democratically elected authorities can assume full responsibility and when NATO forces can go home.

As well, you not only need to have a clear mission here, but you need to have a commander in chief with a clear vision who sets clear goals for our military.

(APPLAUSE)

And those goals are to be well equipped and well trained to be able to fight and win war; and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place. I know how hard frequent deployments are on you and your families. I know that America owes you a decent quality of life and those who wear America's uniform deserves America's full support...

(APPLAUSE)

... and you've got it. I'm going to do something unusual here. I brought with me a piece of legislation, a supplemental spending bill to this year's defense budget. It's been passed by the House, passed by the Senate, differences were reconciled, so I'm going to sign it here because it contains $1.9 billion for pay, benefits and health care.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, the tax cut is real, too.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm also pleased that next year's defense budget request includes an additional $2.2 billion for pay and benefits...

(APPLAUSE)

... beyond the supplemental I'm signing here today and that will include housing as well as an additional $2.3 billion for improved health care.

(APPLAUSE) And it's important for the Congress to hear this message. It's important for Congress to start dealing with next year's defense budget now...

(APPLAUSE)

... to not only include the request we made initially, but the amendment to the defense bill. The Congress has got to keep in mind the needs of those who wear the uniform.

(APPLAUSE)

And I expect a quite response from the members of the United States Congress. When I ran for president, I promised America that help is on the way for the men and women who wear our uniform. Today, I'm proud to say help is arriving.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm committed that America does a better job of supporting you all for every one of you has dedicated yourself to something greater than yourself, you put your country ahead of your comfort. You've committed your lives to defending our nation's highest ideals and thanks to you the march of freedom continues around the world.

It's an honor to be here. It's a huge honor to be the commander in chief.

Thank you for your service to a great country.

(APPLAUSE)

LIN: President Bush there preaching to the choir pretty much, as he addresses some 5,000 American troops at Camp Bondsteel, just south of Pristina, in the -- still the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. He talked about a lot of different things, thanking the troops for their service there, basically touching on what their stated mission is at this point: that they should be securing the border between Kosovo and Macedonia; stopping some of the insurgents there from fighting in Macedonia; and also stopping the flow of weapons between the border.

But he only touched on basically what the future might be for peacekeeping missions for these American troops.

CNN's senior White House correspondent John King is standing by there as he travels with the president -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, a very uncertain message from the president in some ways -- Mr. Bush referring only indirectly to the situation in Macedonia.

There are new diplomatic efforts under way trying to reinforce a NATO-brokered cease fire that many believe is crumbling. And the concerns of many of these troops here in Kosovo is that they might be called upon to go across the border and get involved in peacekeeping operations or some other form of operations in Macedonia.

Mr. Bush has committed to other NATO allies that the United States would do that if necessary. But he made no specific message to that today here. He did try to lighten the moment a little bit by signing a piece of legislation that includes some pay raises and additional health care benefits for members of the military.

But remember, back as a candidate, then candidate Bush said he wanted to bring these troops home as soon as possible, and that he would lean on the European allies to pick up the burden here. But he acknowledged in his speech the change he has made since becoming president, saying the allies came into the Balkans together and they will leave together -- so this president, just like when President Clinton came to this very camp back in October, 1999, unable to tell the U.S. peacekeeping troops here when they might be heading home -- Carol.

LIN: But, John, do you think that will be part of President Bush's private conversations today with any of the leaders of KFOR, the securing force there?

KING: He was briefed before this speech about not only the situation here in Kosovo and the progress being made by the peacekeepers here, but also on both the diplomatic and the military operations under way in Macedonia.

KFOR troops on this side -- on the Kosovo side of the Macedonia border -- have been trying to keep any arms from getting through. But there also is a small contingent of U.S. and other NATO-allied troops already in Macedonia assisting the government with some efforts. And there has been some concern that the number of troops there might have to be increased.

And we haven't received details on what the president was told. But we do know that United Nations officials and local KFOR commanders did brief him on the situation across the border in Macedonia, where more fighting yesterday had many believing that NATO-brokered cease- fire was on the verge of total collapse.

LIN: Lots of serious issues, obviously, on the president's plate. But, John, he really seemed like he was in his element here at Camp Bondsteel. He seemed a lot more comfortable than he did in previous days on this European trip. What do you think?

KING: Well, certainly a great deal of tension because of the situation in Macedonia -- but, otherwise, these are moments any president loves: a very warm welcome by the troops here at Camp Bondsteel; Mr. Bush getting a chance to visit U.S. troops deployed overseas. The troops certainly appreciate that for morale purposes -- many of them away from their homes and their families for a great deal of time. So it's a good way to end the trip on an upbeat note.

Mr. Bush would claim that this trip is a success in the sense that he agreed -- won an agreement with the Russians to sit down for arms control negotiations, including the very difficult issue of missile defense -- still very lingering disagreements with the European allies over global warming. That fight will continue in the months ahead.

But this is Mr. Bush's last stop. He will head home from here. And, certainly, all presidents like to be warmly received by the troops. And Mr. Bush, just ahead of me here, is being warmly received at this moment. So he will enjoy this stop, Carol.

LIN: All right. Well, he is about to sit down for lunch with some of these soldiers. What is this hill that he is promising he is going to run after lunch?

KING: I am sorry. I couldn't hear your question.

LIN: Oh, I know he is going to be sitting down for lunch with some of these troops. But then he made a crack that he was going to be doing some running after lunch with these guys.

KING: Yes, he told them he was going to lead them on a run up camp -- Radar. Mr. Bush loves to run. He hasn't had many opportunities as president to get out and run. He occasionally uses the track out behind the White House. But he told the troops he was going to lead them on a run here, so that he was going to eat lightly to save himself for that run. So we'll update you on that one a little bit later.

(LAUGHTER)

LIN: All right. And President Bush expected back at the White House tonight.

Thank you very much, John King, reporting live as he covers the president through his tour of U.S. troops there at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

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