President Tells VFW Paying U.N. Dues Is Moral Obligation: Hits Congress for Underfunding `Peace Arsenal'

Article excerpt

President Clinton yesterday criticized Congress for passing spending bills that would cut $2 billion in funding for U.S. diplomacy - money the president said is essential to preventing wars.

"We're cutting the very programs designed to keep our soldiers out of war in the first place," Mr. Clinton told the 100th annual convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, Mo. "Underfunding our arsenal of peace is as risky as underfunding our arsenal of war."

The president argued that neglecting diplomatic efforts at preventing conflicts is tantamount to inviting war.

"Our international affairs programs - which fund everything from resolving conflicts to strengthening young democracies, to combating terrorism, to fighting dangerous drugs, to promoting our exports, to maintaining our embassies all around the world - amount to less than 1 percent of the federal budget, and less than one-15th of our defense budget," Mr. Clinton said.

"But I regret to say that since 1985 these programs have been cut significantly," he said.

Elizabeth Morra, a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, said Congress had to make tough choices because of tight spending limits in the 1997 budget act.

"We have been forced to make some very difficult funding decisions," she said. "Do you want to fund foreign operations or do you want to fund anti-crime operations? Do you want to fund some international programs or do you want to take care of some domestic items like crime, the courts and drug programs? …