Remarks at the Annual Leadership Conference of the American Legion
you Commander Comer, and thank you all very much. Congressman Conte, President Behrend, General Turnage, and
members of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, it's wonderful to
have you here in
it's great to be with the Legion once again. You're always so kind in your reception.
But I want you to know that the trappings of office haven't gone to my head --
I still wear the same size American Legion hat you gave me in 1980. In fact, I
made the same point to Interior Secretary Don Hodel
the other day. I said, ``Don, you can't let high office go to your head. And
speaking of heads, how much room is there left on
as you may know, I'll be traveling to
here, I was reminded of something Ernie Pyle wrote in
``Last night,'' he said, ``we had a violent electrical storm around our countryside. The storm was half over before we realized that the flashes and the crashings around us were not artillery but plain old-fashioned thunder and lightning. It will be odd to hear only thunder again. You must remember that such little things as that are in our souls and will take time. And all of us together will have to learn how to reassemble our broken world into a pattern so firm and so fair that another great war cannot soon be possible.''
pattern so firm and so fair -- before Ernie Pyle, friend of the GI, was laid to
I've often said that there is something unique about the American form of patriotism, the kind so gloriously on display here at the Legion. It is not an exclusive attachment; it is not jealous or chauvinistic: It's the affirmation of man's deepest desires for the rights and liberties given him by his Creator. American patriotism is, quite simply, the call to freedom, everywhere, for all peoples. And that's why the American flag is more than a national flag. It has been, throughout our history, the hope and encouragement of freedom-loving peoples everywhere.
an account of two of
jubilation, of course, didn't last. The Hungarians did not have long to
celebrate their freedom before it was snatched away from them. Soon, to use
Winston Churchill's famous phrase, an iron curtain was to descend across
Churchill wrote: ``In war, one must show resolution;
in victory, magnanimity; in peace, good will.'' In this new cold war, as it was
called, in this uneasy peace, we would be called upon to match our good will
with resolution not just for today or tomorrow but for the long haul. We would
be called upon to match the magnanimity of the
NATO has kept the peace in
commitment to the Atlantic alliance has not been inexpensive, but the tragic
lessons of two world wars teach us that it has been cheap at the price. Today a
rebuilt, prosperous, free
aggression is not the only threat from the East. The Soviets' time-honored
tactic of political intimidation designed to split the alliance was never
better seen than at the time of NATO's INF deployments in response to the
Soviets' SS - 20's. Threatening to boycott negotiations, the Soviets mounted
the most intensive campaign of political pressure any of us can remember. For a
while it appeared they might be successful. The papers were full of predictions
that our allies would cave. So-called peace movements sprang up trumpeting a
line very close to that of the Soviets. If they had had their way, of course,
the Soviet SS - 20's would remain permanently in place, pointed at every major
the Soviet effort to split the alliance failed. The allies refused to be
intimidated and went ahead with the deployments as planned. The result -- the
historic treaty signed last December that, for the first time, eliminates an
entire class of
as I am, an old member of the cavalry -- back in a time when the cavalry still
rode horses -- [laughter] -- I know that even animals learn from experience. I
was in a picture once in
we've learned from experience, too. And as I said to General Secretary
Gorbachev -- and I think the point struck home -- when it comes to treaties
the years of these negotiations, new realities have come into play -- new
realities that present new opportunities. In particular, in recent years we've
seen the emergence among some of our European allies of a
willingness, even an eagerness, to seek a larger, more closely
coordinated role for
For these four decades, NATO has, in effect, represented an alliance between a number of partners and one very senior partner. Yet today our European allies have risen from the ruins of war to vitality, prosperity, and growing unity as a continent. And so, I would submit that now the alliance should become more and more one among equals, an alliance between continents. In the words of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: The time has come for our country ``to welcome a European identity in defense, which in the end is bound to spur Atlantic cooperation.''
will continue to push for verifiable 50-percent reductions in the strategic
arsenals of the
is a role for arms control negotiations here, but as a supplement to a policy
of strength, not as a substitute. We have learned from experience: The only
effective way to negotiate with the Soviets is from a position of strength. The
Warsaw Pact's numerical superiority and the Soviet strategy, which emphasizes
surprise attacks, means that our remaining nuclear forces are fully capable of
supporting NATO's flexible response strategy. At the same time, we must
modernize our chemical weapons to deter Soviet first-use, and we must provide
for conventional forces that are capable of protecting free
And when talking about our efforts to secure a peaceful future, nothing could be more important than our Strategic Defense Initiative, SDI -- a strategic defense that threatens no one, that could someday make nuclear weapons obsolete. The technology for SDI is developing more rapidly than many would have thought possible. No, technology isn't holding SDI back, but year after year Congress cuts our budget requests for SDI. General Secretary Gorbachev has stated publicly, before the American people, that the Soviets have their own SDI program, that they're doing everything we're doing. Now is not the time to cut back on SDI.
Secretary Gorbachev talks about perestroika, or restructuring at home. Well,
it's time for some perestroika in the Warsaw Pact. It's time for the removal of
Soviet troops from
years, especially in the seventies, the cognoscenti spoke of the so-called
superpower conflict in value-neutral terms, as if there was no essential
difference between Western democracies and Soviet communism. Any suggestion
that a system that denies its people their God-given liberties was
fundamentally evil was met with ridicule. Well, I challenge those people to go
The question can be asked: How can we ever achieve a lasting peace with a regime that is so scared of its own people that it must imprison them behind barbed wire? And that's why I said to Mr. Gorbachev: If you really want glasnost, if you really want openness, tear down that wall.
unnatural division of
me just say a few words here about Congress and defense spending. It seems
ironic to me that so many of those who welcome, as they should, our historic
agreement to eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet INF missiles in
Europe and Asia continue to undercut our ability to negotiate from strength by
voting year after year to cut necessary defense spending. In the seventies we
tried dealing with the Soviets and their clients from a position of weakness.
We don't have to stretch our memories back too far to remember that the American people twice, by overwhelming majorities, voted clearly and emphatically for something that all of us here believe in: They voted for peace in the only way it can ever be secured; they voted for peace through strength.
the people of
you know, Congress will be voting again on continued aid to the freedom
Before the last vote, I warned Congress: You may cut off aid to the freedom fighters, but Soviet deliveries to the Sandinistas won't stop. And in fact, Soviet military assistance to the Sandinistas was nearly doubled in the first 2 months of this year compared to the same period in 1987. Congressional opponents of aid argued that the peace process would flourish and the Sandinistas would democratize if we cut off our assistance to the freedom fighters. Well, it's been 3 weeks, and exactly the opposite has happened.
Cardinal Obando y Bravo was forced to suspend the most recent round of peace talks because of Sandinista obstructionism. And Sandinista rhetoric has become ever more warlike, full of promises to crush the resistance. And the Sandinistas continue to tighten their grip on the suffering country -- threatening La Prensa; sending out the government directed turbas, or mobs, to harass dissidents; and expanding their system of political prisons. That's the Sandinistas for you. At the same time they promise a general amnesty, they're building more political prisons. They've gone from 2 to 16 prisons.
a document was found on a Communist terrorist killed in battle in
The American people are watching, and Congress knows it. And some say they're willing to support some type of humanitarian aid but are doing everything they can do to disband the freedom fighters. But there's nothing humanitarian about asking people to go up against Soviet attack helicopters armed only with boots and bandages. Whatever package emerges from the Congress must include a provision for expedited procedures that would allow us to request additional military aid to the freedom fighters should the peace process break down.
will not leave the freedom fighters to be picked off one by one -- picked off
by Sandinistas heavily equipped by the
the consolidation of a pro-Soviet regime on the American mainland is a crucial
test of national security. If
finally, I'd like to turn to another side of the world:
Now, I can't resist just one last thing here before I go. I have become a collector of jokes that I can absolutely establish are told among the Soviet citizens. They tell them to each other, and reveals they've got a great sense of humor. But also they've got a pretty good sense of realism about their government.
one happens to do -- I was mentioning about the Berlin Wall and why it must
come down. This is a story that is told in
I want to thank you all very much. God bless all of you.
Note: The President spoke at in the main ballroom at the Sheraton Washington Hotel. In his opening remarks, the President referred to John (Jake) P. Comer, national commander of the American Legion; Representative Silvio O. Conte of Massachusetts; Pearl Behrend, president of the American Legion Auxiliary; and Thomas K. Turnage, Administrator of Veterans Affairs.