Clinton fights to win US over to Haiti action

David Usborne@dusborne
Tuesday 13 September 1994 23:02

WASHINGTON - President Clinton is expected to set the stage for an invasion of Haiti in a national address tomorrow. In his evening address, the President is likely to make the case for why an invasion would be in US interests if it became necessary, writes David Usborne.

As Republicans assailed the President for what one senator described as 'gunboat liberalism' in preparing to invade, White House officials said yesterday military action could come 'very soon'. Despite growing unrest on Capitol Hill, planning for invasion in the White House and the Pentagon continued at full tilt. Defence officials said two aircraft carriers were being sent to Haitian waters.

The US military started dropping leaflets on Haiti, promising that the return of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide would bring the 'light of justice' and the 'warmth of reconciliation'.

Opponents of military action pointed to an opinion poll from ABC television, suggesting only 23 per cent of Americans support invading Haiti. 'It is time, Mr President, to put an end to gunboat liberalism,' said Senator Dan Coats of the Senate Armed Services Committee. 'There is no US national security interest at stake in Haiti.'

The White House Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, argued however that Americans would support the administration once an invasion were ordered. 'Ultimately the American people will always rally to their president,' he said. Mr Panetta left little doubt that the administration was determined not to be deflected, saying it was time for the regime of Raoul Cedras to leave. 'And if they don't, then action is going to be taken against them very soon.'

At the weekend, the Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, appealed for unity, arguing that any semblance of division would only encourage General Cedras to cling to power. Apparently anticipating dissent, House Speaker Tom Foley indicated a special vote on whether the President should order an invasion is likely next week. A negative vote would be embarrassing, but would not bar Mr Clinton from pressing ahead.

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