Clinton Tries to Rally US Behind Invasion of Haiti Warships Stand by, but Members of Congress Resist the Move

By Peter Grier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 15, 1994 | Go to article overview

Clinton Tries to Rally US Behind Invasion of Haiti Warships Stand by, but Members of Congress Resist the Move


Peter Grier, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


PRESIDENT Clinton is rallying both United States warships and his own words as the administration makes its final preparations for an expected invasion of Haiti.

The warships are the aircraft carriers USS America and USS Eisenhower, which are now at sea loaded with Army helicopters and troops intended as the initial muscle of an invasion force. The words will form Clinton's television address to the nation tonight, which is meant to calm a Congress restive about the impending military action.

"I can't see risking one American life in Haiti," says Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) of California, expressing the discontent many lawmakers currently feel.

There is still a chance that a US-led ouster of the Haitian military regime can be avoided. Lawmakers briefed by the administration on Tuesday indicated that much pressure was still being brought to bear on Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras and his cohorts to leave voluntarily, instead of at the point of the 10th Mountain Division's rifles.

But there was no real indication that the Haitian junta would finally crack after months of banging war drums, and in Capitol Hill cloakrooms the talk was not of "if" but "when." One theory is that an attack will take place around Oct. 4's new moon, when the US military could take advantage of their night-vision equipment.

Some of the congressional discontent with Haiti policy is based in the clashing roles of institutions. For years Congress and presidents of both parties have differed over the meaning of the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which requires timely congressional approval when the executive branch puts US troops at risk.

Both House Speaker Thomas Foley (D) of Washington and Senate majority leader George Mitchell (D) of Maine have urged Clinton to ask for a vote of approval before invading, though Mr. Mitchell has admitted that "no president in my lifetime" has concurred that such a vote is a prerequisite for using US troops.

Some of the Capitol Hill discontent is pure partisanship. Republicans are "gleeful" about Haiti, says the defense adviser to one senior Democratic senator. The lurching manner in which Mr. Clinton's Caribbean policies have developed have given them all manner of opportunity to bash the White House.

And some of the opposition is simply opposition - lawmakers who believe restoring ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power is not enough of a US interest to endanger any US soldiers' lives. After all, polls show that most US voters do not support a Haitian invasion.

In his speech tonight President Clinton will try to convince the American people, and through them Congress, that US national interests do justify the Haitian junta's ouster. …

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