Conditions in Somalia
December 4, 1992
I want to talk to you today about the tragedy
in Somalia, and about a mission that can ease suffering and save
lives. Every American has seen the shocking images from Somalia.
The scope of suffering there is hard to imagine. Already, over
a quarter million people, as many people as live in Buffalo, New
York, have died in the Somali famine. In the months ahead five
times that number, one-and-a-half million people could starve
For many months now, the United States has been actively engaged in the massive international relief effort to ease Somalias suffering. All told, America has sent Somalia 200,000 tons of food, more than half the world total. This summer, the distribution system broke down. Truck convoys from Somalias ports were blocked. Sufficient food failed to reach the starving in the interior of Somalia.
And so in August, we took additional action.
In concert with the United Nations, we sent in the U.S. Air force
to help fly food to the towns. To date, American pilots have
flown over, 1,400 flights, delivering over 17,000 tons of food
aid, And when the U.N. authorized 3,500 U.N. guards to protect
the relief operation, we flew in the first of them -- 500 soldiers
But in the months since then, the security situation has grown worse. The U.N. has been prevented from deploying its initial commitment of troops. In many cases, food from relief flights is being looted upon landing; food convoys have been hijacked; and workers assaulted; ships with food have been subjected to artillery attacks that prevented them from docking.
There is no government is Somalia. Law
and order have broken down -- anarchy prevails.
One image tells the story. Imagine 7,000 tons of food aid literally bursting out of a warehouse on a dock in Mogadishu, while Somalis starve less than a kilometer away because relief workers cannot run the gauntlet of armed gangroving the city.
Confronted with these conditions, relief groups called for outside troops to provide security so they could feed people. Its now clear that military support is necessary to ensure the safe delivery of the food Somalis need to survive.
It was this situation which led us to tell
the United Nations that the United States would be willing to
provide more help to enable relief to be delivered. Last night
the United Nations Security Council, by unanimous vote, and after
the tireless efforts of Secretary General Boutros-Ghali, welcomed
the United States offer to lead a coalition to get the food through.
After consulting with my advisers, with world leaders, and the congressional leadership, I have today told Secretary General Boutros-Ghali that America will answer the call. I have given the order to Secretary Cheney to move a substantial American force into Somalia. As I speak, a Marine amphibious ready group, which we maintain at sea, is offshore Mogadishu. These troops will be joined by elements of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, California, and by the Armys 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, New York.
These and other American forces will assist
in Operation Restore Hope. They are Americas finest. They will
perform this mission with courage and compassion, and they will
The people of Somalia, especially the children of Somalia need our help. Were able to ease their suffering. We must help them live. We must give them hope. America must act.
In taking this action I want to emphasize that I understand the United States alone cannot right the worlds wrongs. But we also know that some crises in the world cannot be resolved without American involvement; that American action is often necessary as a catalyst for broader involvement of the community of nations. Only the United States has the global reach to place a large security force on the ground in such a distant place quickly and efficiently and thus save thousands of innocents from death.
We will not, however, be acting alone.
I expect forces from about a dozen countries to join us in this
mission. When we see Somalias children starving, all of America
hurts. Weve tried to help in many ways. And make no mistake
about it, now we and our allies will ensure that aid gets through.
And here is what we and our coalition partners will do. First, we will create a secure environment in the hardest hit parts of Somalia, so that food can move from ships over land to the people in the countryside now devastated by starvation.
And second, once we have created that secure
environment, we will withdraw our troops handing the security
mission back to a regular UN. peacekeeping force. Our mission
has a limited objective -- to open the supply routes, to get the
food moving and to prepare the way for a UN. peacekeeping force
to keep it moving.
This operation is not open-ended. We will not stay one day longer than is absolutely necessary. Let me be very clear, our mission is humanitarian, but we will not tolerate armed gangs ripping off their own people, condemning them to death by starvation.
General Hoar and his troops have the authority
to take whatever military action is necessary to safeguard the
lives of our troops and the lives of Somalias people.
The outlaw elements in Somalia must understand this serious business. We will accomplish our mission. We have no intent to remain in Somalia with fighting forces., but we are determined to do it right, to secure an environment that will allow food to get to the starving people of Somalia.
To the people of Somalia I promise this: We do not plan to dictate political outcomes. We respect your sovereignty and independence. Based on my conversations with other coalition leaders, I can state with confidence: We come to your country for one reason only, to enable the starving to be fed.
Let me say to the men and women of our
Armed Forces, we are asking you to do a difficult and dangerous
job. As Commander-in-Chief I assure you, you will have our full
support to get the job done, and we will bring you home as soon
Finally, let me close with a message to the families of the men and women who take part in this mission. I understand it is difficult to see your loved ones go, to send them off knowing they will not be home for the holidays, but the humanitarian mission they undertake is in the finest traditions of service. So, to every sailor, soldier, airman and marine who is involved in the mission, let me say, youre doing Gods work. We will not fail.
Thank you, and may God bless the United States of America.