A viewer asked this question on 7/4/2000:
A few years ago the President stated that, for the first time since the Cold War began, there were no hostile missiles aimed at the people of America.
Can anyone provide a citation for that quote (i.e. reputable source and date)?
Thanks for your help.
JesseGordon gave this response on 7/5/2000:
Clinton's statement was referring to an agreement with Russia that we both would not directly target each other's cities. In other words, if we want to fire on each other, we can't just push the button any more; we have to aim and THEN push the button. It's a political decision to declare that as "no longer aimed" at us -- I'd say it's a good first step.
Clinton's statement is discussed in a Heritage Foundation paper (a reputable source but biased against Clinton and towards making the missile threat look more serious) at http://www.heritage.org/missile_defense/chapter1.html#pgfId= 997518 . That's footnote 34, which says: "For a list of 130 occasions on which President Clinton made this assertion, see the American Foreign Policy Council's Website at http://www.afpc.org."
The context in which it is cited is this:
"Consider, for example, the bilateral retargeting agreements the Clinton Administration signed with Russia and China, respectively, so that all parties aim their missiles toward the open seas instead of at one another.... The only practical consequence of these agreements has been to encourage an incredible barrage of fatuous statements from President Clinton and senior officials of his Administration. On at least 130 different occasions, President Clinton declared that Russian missiles no longer threaten U.S. citizens. This grossly unprovable and "demagogic" statement--as former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger describes it--has had a profound impact on reducing public awareness of the severity of the ballistic missile threat facing the United States today."
I haven't heard of the AFPC, but presumably they have the same bias (conservative and pro-defense) as Heritage. Their references to Clinton saying this are pretty unambiguous, so here are a few recent ones: (all are listed at http://afpc.org/issues/quotes.htm)
". . . there are no Russian missiles pointed at any American children tonight for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age."
--President Clinton, Speech to the People of the Springfield Area, Springfield, Massachusetts, November 3, 1996.
"With Russia, we dramatically cut nuclear arsenals and we stopped targeting each other's citizens."
--President Clinton, State of the Union Address, February 4, 1997.
"Today, there is not a single Russian missile pointed at America's children."
--President Clinton, address to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, lobbying for the CTBT, February 3, 1998.
Notice that Clinton consistently says RUSSIAN missiles, not "no hostile missiles" as you ask about. That's because the agreement he refers to was only with Russia. The other nuclear powers are either not hostile (France, Britain, Israel) or incapable of reaching the US mainland (China, Pakistan, India). Hence the statements come out the same, but you won't find Clinton saying "no hostile missiles".
There is some debate (which you can read about in the Heritage paper) about whether China can target the US with its missiles; Heritage says they can reach Alaska and Hawaii, but they've only got a few dozen missiles with intercontinental capability at all, versus the US with over 2,000 (see http://issues2000.org/Background_Defense.htm for details). So at least for the next few years, few would seriously claim that China's missiles count as "hostile missiles aimed at the people of America."
A viewer rated this answer:
Exceptionally thorough and well balanced answer. Your assistance is very much appreciated and deserves at least 51/2 stars.
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