Radio Address to the
Nation on the Deployment of United States Forces to Honduras and the Strategic Defense Initiative
March 19, 1988
was a nice celebration of St. Patrick's Day up on Capitol Hill this week, but
believe me, that wasn't the only reason Congress knew I had my Irish up. On two
issues vital to our national security, I had some stern words for some of our
first has to do with the safety of our hemisphere. Back in the early 1980's,
there were those who argued that the prospects for democracy in Central America were bleak and we would
do little to prevent Marxist dictatorships there. But after the administration
built a consensus, Congress finally passed our economic and military aid
program, and today the countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are democratic. Indeed,
tomorrow, El Salvador -- the nation some in
Congress were gloomiest about -- will host congressional and municipal
elections, just one more sign of a successful democratic reform in that nation
in one Central American nation, Nicaragua, the cause of freedom
is in grave peril. Up until the end of last month, the United States had been aiding the
freedom fighters who've been trying to restore democracy by resisting the
regime of Soviet-backed Sandinista Communists. However, just
as the heroic efforts of the democratic resistance have forced the Communists
to cut back on their aggression abroad and to make peace concessions, the
Congress, in a close vote, decided to cut off aid to the freedom fighters.
the Congress rejected our package of assistance for those fighting for freedom
in Nicaragua, the Communist dictators
have done exactly as we predicted. Instead of giving peace a chance, the aid
cutoff is giving the Communist dictators a chance -- a chance they long hoped
for, a chance to smash their opponents. They have hardened their negotiating
position. They have fired the mediator, Cardinal Obando
y Bravo. They have sent mobs of thugs against peaceful opposition groups. And
now, instead of negotiating for a cease-fire, they have launched a major
military assault on the weakened contras, invading democratic Honduras in the process.
from the beginning, our Central American policy has been designed to prevent
another Cuba and to let the people
of Nicaragua win back their freedom
and their independence from the Soviet Union on their own, to do
this without having to commit American military personnel. But now, because of
Congress' aid cutoff last month, the Sandinistas have mounted their major
cross-border incursion into Honduras. In response, and at
the request of President Azcona, we have sent
American military units to Honduras to conduct an emergency
readiness exercise. Our purpose is to send a signal to the Governments and
peoples of Central
about the seriousness with which we view the situation.
freedom fighters are in desperate need of support. If they are to remain a
viable and effective force, they must have assistance now. There is not a
moment to spare. If urgently needed help does not reach them soon, we face the
prospect of a collapse of the democratic resistance, the attendant consolidation
of a Marxist-Leninist regime in Nicaragua, and an increased
threat to Nicaragua's democratic neighbors.
Ultimately, we will face a national security crisis of the first order and an
enormous human tragedy.
another vital security matter where the Congress has not been doing its job has
involved our work on a strategic defense against ballistic missiles. This
coming week marks the 5th anniversary of my call for just such a Strategic
Defense Initiative, or SDI. I am taking this occasion to note that the Soviets
have been making extensive progress on their own SDI-like program in the last
few years. Indeed, the Soviets may be preparing a nationwide defense, which
would mean a breakout from the restrictions of the ABM treaty, which prohibits a
massive deployment of such a system. However, at the very moment when the
Soviets are so far along in their efforts, Congress has been cutting back ours.
Every year Congress has cut the SDI budget. We are now 1 to 2 years behind
schedule, and this despite the fact that the actual SDI program is progressing
faster than we expected. But our scientists and engineers must have Congress'
support, and they must have it soon.
I can't think of two more vital national security issues than these: preventing
the establishment of a Soviet beachhead in Central America and erecting a defense
shield that will reduce the nuclear threat that has so overshadowed the postwar
era. That's why we cannot permit some in Congress to take dangerous risks with America's national security.
next week, thanks for listening, and God bless you.
Note: The President
spoke at from the Oval Office at
the White House.