George Bush Sr. on Homeland Security
President of the U.S., 1989-1993; Former Republican Rep. (TX)
I suggested that we replace the ABM Treaty with one barring Russia and the US from building missile defenses against first strikes. Bush had no intention of building such a capability, as conceived in Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, derided by its critics as "Star Wars"). Instead, he wanted to create defense against strikes by "handfuls not hundreds" of missiles, the levels of forces Iran or North Korea might acquire in the near future, or by accidental launches in Russia or China.
To appreciate the magnitude of this act, remember that George Sr. had once been director of Central Intelligence, and had often criticized journalism, congressmen and anybody else who, through their work, identified an intelligence agent and thereby jeopardized not only that life, but the lives of countless others who had worked with them over the years. Barbara Bush in her memoirs accused--incorrectly--a former CIA agent of having written a "traitorous tell-all" book that got the agency's station chief in Athens murdered. She was sued, and had to delete that reference in the paperback edition--but it illustrates how sacrosanct the family held American intelligence agents. Until, of course, the husband of one of them was deemed an enemy and a threat.
Because his trip was facilitated in part by the Japanese government, Dad first visited the Japanese mainland.
Dad took part in raising a ceremonial US flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, site of a victorious 1945 battle where the US Marines suffered some 28,000 casualties [killed and wounded] and where Japan lost some 21,000.
His hosts asked him if he would mind stopping at a memorial for the kamikaze pilots. "I felt funny at first since my own ship had been attacked by kamikaze pilots, but I am glad I did it. Those Japanese pilots were not terrorists. They were uniformed officers who paid the last full measure of devotion attempting to save the lives of their embattled compatriots," Dad said to me.
The Vice President later claimed in interviews that he did not know the breakfast meeting's purpose. Then he amended his statement and admitted there was some discussion of arms sales but only as a means to "reach out to the moderate elements" in Iran. Within the next year he would practically strangle himself in a cat's cradle of evasions, omissions, and equivocations, repeating over and over, "I was out of the loop."
The President tried to defend his reticence: "My restraint or prudence was misunderstood. [Opponents say]: 'He ought to go to Berlin, stand on the Wall, dance with the young people to show the joy that we all feel.' I still feel that would have been the stupidest thing an American president could do because we were very concerned about how the troops would react. We were very concerned about the nationalistic elements in the Soviet Union maybe putting Gorbachev out. I think if we'd have misplayed our hand and had a heavy-handed overkill, you know, gloating, 'We won, Mr. Gorbachev, you've lost, you're out,' I think it could have been a very different ending to this very happy chapter in history when the wall came down."
Jimmy Carter, however, severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan, terminated the security treaty, and recognized the People's Republic as the sole legitimate government of China. A firestorm ensued. Reagan reaffirmed the Shanghai Communique--that Taiwan was a part of China--and agreed to cut back arms sales to the island. In 1982, the US declared that it intends to reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution.
While this writer, among others, opposed the Shanghai Communique and the more far-reaching Carter and Reagan concessions, the day when Taiwan might have declared independence with US support is gone. After Tiananmen Square, President George H. W. Bush sold F-16s to Taiwan.
The problem for Bush went beyond his role as Reagan's loyal cheerleader and would-be successor. Bush was a former CIA director and a member of the National Security Council; it was the council's staff that carried out the arms deals and the funneling of money to the Contras. The worst case scenario occurred, however, after Reagan told the press that Bush raised no objections to arms shipments to Iran, an assertion that was in direct conflict with Bush's contention that he had expressed "certain reservations" about "certain aspects" of the dealings with Iran.
He insists he is owed nothing. In fact, he believes that World War II was such an overwhelming threat that those who served did so out of an obligation that should not require special treatment forevermore. He believes some veterans' organizations are wrong to keep asking for more and more benefits. As he says, "Serving in World War II, I was a tiny part of something noble."
President Bush: No. I didn't see that he said that, but having been the Director of Central Intelligence for one fascinating year, I don't believe that order should be rescinded.
Now, if you want to put it into the contest of the war, Saddam Hussein was the commander in chief of the Iraqi forces, and if his life had been snuffed out in a bombing attack or something--too bad, that's one of the prices of war.
But I don't believe we should clandestinely target foreign leaders for assassination.
Interview with David Frost, "President Bush: Talking with David Frost," Houston, Texas
BUSH: For 40-some years, we kept the peace. If you look at the cost of not keeping the peace in Europe, it would be exorbitant. We have reduced the number of troops that are deployed and going to be deployed. I have cut defense spending. And the reason we could do that is because of our fantastic success in winning the cold war. We never would have got there if we'd gone for the nuclear-freeze crowd. I think it is important that the US stay in Europe and continue to guarantee the peace. We simply cannot pull back.
PEROT: Right now we spend about $300 billion a year on defense. The Germans spend around $30 billion. Europe is in a position to pay a lot more than they have in the past. I agree with the President, when they couldn't, we should have; now that they can, they should.
If the former Soviet Union will eliminate all land-based multiple-warhead ballistic missiles, I will do the following: We will eliminate all Peacekeeper missiles. We will reduce the number of warheads on Minuteman missiles by 1/3. And we will convert a substantial portion of our strategic bombers to primarily conventional use.
"New leaders in the Kremlin and the republics are now questioning the need for their huge nuclear arsenal. The Soviet nuclear stockpile now seems less
an instrument of national security and more of a burden. As a result, we now have an unparalleled opportunity to change the nuclear posture of both the US and the Soviet Union."
(Address to the nation on US nuclear weapons, Oval Office)
Looking forward, I have directed that the SDI program be refocused on providing protection from limited ballistic missile strikes, whatever their source. Let us pursue an SDI program that can deal with any future threat to the United States, to our forces overseas, and to our friends and allies.
|Other past presidents on Homeland Security:||George Bush Sr. on other issues:|
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)
Past Vice Presidents:
Natural Law Party