President Bush Remarks
Texas A&M University
President Bush Luncheon Remarks
November 19, 1999
PRESIDENT BUSH: George, thank you, sir. Thank you very, very much. Thanks a lot for that welcome. Thank you. Thank you all, very, very much. Director, thank you, sir, for those very kind words.
You didn't get one thing quite right. The first day I was in the Oval Office, General Scowcroft and Bob Gates came to see me and they said that at 10 o'clock on November 10th of this year the Berlin Wall was going to come down. Hey, don't say we didn't have good intelligence. I'm telling you.
Okay, so you got it right. None of us, none of us here - a layman like myself or the professionals - understood exactly when it would happen. But because of the knowledge that the community presented to the various Presidents, and because that knowledge led to keeping the United States of America strong, I think it was all but inevitable that that Wall would eventually come down.
I am very honored to be here today. It is, and I thought George's comments on what's happened on this campus were so appropriate and so fitting. Gosh, yesterday, without any notice, without any heralding of it, word got around the campus there would be a meeting here in this big hall. I went over there yesterday evening to help the official Aggie family express our respects and love and affection. And there were over 12,000 people there. It was an overflowing crowd. It said something about the caring spirit of this great University where I'm so privileged to have this school and this marvelous library, and I hope all of you today will get a chance to look around and see the facility just across the way.
Barbara and I love coming here. We have a little apartment upstairs. The kids on this campus, and it's the fourth largest campus, are just about as decent and nice as you could have. Good questions. We've had leaders here, world leaders, Lee Kuan Yew was here and Giscard d’Estaing and you name it, a lot of business guys, and all of them go away saying we understand why you put your library at Texas A&M. The questions are tough and they're straight and they're from the heart, and people actually ask a question because they want to know what the answer is.
Which reminds me that George Edwards asked if I'd take questions today and I said hell no, these guys, every one of them know more about the subject than I do. I'm not going to take questions. Just have a little dessert and get out of here.
But I am really pleased to be here. Of course having, counting myself, six DCIs here. Along with George Tenet, Jim Woolsey, Bill Webster is here -- where is Bill sitting out there? I hope you've all had a chance to meet him. Bob Gates, of course. Dick Helms.
I'll never forget my first visit to Langley. I'd just been elected to Congress from down the road here in Harris County, first Republican ever to be elected from that area. I went out there and within the first couple of weeks Dick got us out and gave us one hell of a snow job there at Langley. He was the master, and he still is, and he's so widely respected in the intelligence community that we're just very fortunate that he's here with us today.
Another guy that served with me and Jim Baker is now the Chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, Howard Graves -- General Graves. Former Superintendent at West Point too, I might add. We're so honored that he's heading up this vast network of our great universities, some of the great universities in our state.
I want to thank George Edwards. This guy can really put on a show. Especially if he has Lloyd Salvetti working with him. The results are going to be just great.
So I am very pleased to be here.
I might just single out one other. Thanks to the far-sightedness of our Director, we have here at A&M a visiting professor on intelligence, a CIA man named Jim Olson. His course is just about the most popular there is. He's awakening in a new generation the necessity of good, sound intelligence, and we are blessed to have him on this campus and grateful to the Agency for helping facilitate his being here.
Roman Popadiuk here is the head of the George Bush Library and Foundation. Anybody who wants to leave money here, he's the guy you talk to. And he was, as many of you remember, our ambassador in Ukraine, and before that, was at Brent and Bob Gates' side as he wrestled with the press, the very inquiring press that we have in Washington. And of course my co-author here, General Scowcroft. There is nobody to whom I am more indebted than Brent for advice, for counsel, for wisdom, for caring. He's the very best.
So let me start by saying that having this conference sponsored by the Bush School and the CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence is one of the highlights in a year that has been very, very special for the Bush family.
It started in January when within a couple of weeks of each other two of our sons were sworn in as Governors of the second and fourth largest state in our great country; then in April the CIA headquarters in Langley was named, as the Director said, renamed in my honor, which to be honest had Barbara scratching her head a little bit. She said why would they name a building dedicated to intelligence for a 75 year-old guy who jumps out of good airplanes. I brushed off that criticism from her.
Actually, despite that harassment, I did make a parachute jump in June, landing right out here on the front lawn, you'll see it when you walk out, of the big front lawn of this library. It was my third jump -- the second of a voluntary nature. And as you can see, it worked out okay.
Finally, yesterday at 4 o'clock in the morning I returned from an 11-day, eight-city tour of Europe including Warsaw, Prague and Berlin, the scenes of so much drama that the Director referred to a few minutes ago, drama ten years ago. And as you might imagine, it was a very emotional experience. I wish every one of you people that have contributed, men and women, in one way or another, direct or indirect, to the intelligence of this country could have been there just to feel first hand the emotion. To be in Berlin, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the fall of the Wall. It was also an overwhelming experience to stand in free Poland next to the President as he thanked the United States of America for our steadfast support. Meeting all the other Polish leaders. Then to be in Prague to celebrate the Velvet Revolution with Havel.
It was overwhelming to visit with men that I consider modern-day heroes and realize that 80 years after the October Revolution brought its tide of tyranny, and after 40 years of occupation, Europe has experienced a rebirth of freedom. There isn't a total new world order, but there's a new world order of more freedom and more democracy and in the future I hope that many of the young people here, the Texas Aggies when they go out in the world, will assume responsibility for solidifying and perfecting a new world order where the whole world benefits from the kinds of joys and blessings that we take for granted every day of our lives in the United States of America.
As this audience knows, the revolution of 1989 marked the triumph of the many nations who coalesced around a single idea. It was an alliance of freedom that eventually carried the day.
Over the last couple of weeks I also spent a lot of time with another historical figure who will be remembered kindly by future generations. Indeed, he was at our side in Berlin and then again in Prague, and I'm talking, of course, about Mikhail Gorbachev. I don't think there's any doubt that none of what we saw happening in Eastern Europe ten years ago would have occurred as quickly as it did if Gorbachev had not had the courage to follow through on his perestroika and glastnost reforms. And ultimately he met the same fate as the other revolutionaries and a handful of others, myself included. He received what Winston Churchill called The Order of the Boot. Hey, mine happened through an election. He was just kind of shoved out the door.
But in any event, he was unable to reform socialism and maintain its viability, but he did not crack down as country after country left the Soviet orbit. So I worried that there might be - and I think several on our team worried that there might be - there was no encore to the Prague spring of 30 years ago.
This two-day conference offers a welcome opportunity to reflect on these and other events as the Cold War ended. Tomorrow, and well, today too, you've gathered the best in the business including many of my respected former colleagues to talk not only about how the superpower conflict subsided, but also what its ramifications are for the future.
In looking at the list of names that Lloyd sent me, and George Edwards and I went over, you've tapped panel members for your discussions, people that really served the Presidents of this country with great honor and great distinction. I mentioned Brent of course, at our NSC, and I was blessed with a good, a whole team, I think. Jimmy Baker over at State, Arnold Kanter and Ginny Lampley here with us today, Dennis Ross, Condi Rice, of course Bill Webster, and Bob Gates right here who's now the Acting Dean of our School of Government and Public Service. I want to emphasize that last part. And of course Cheney and Powell and my friend Dave Jeremiah over here, over at the Pentagon. Excellence describes the people that I had at my side, and it was a joy, a blessing to work with each of them.
Make no mistake, they were good and decent people, but they were tough, too, with strong views, and they were mature men and women who understood that power had a purpose. And moreover, seeing them work together it was clear that they respected one another.
As we debated one issue or another, they would often argue views very forcefully. But once the decision, once the President made the decision, we closed up the ranks. That's the way it ought to be.
A President, given good intelligence, should not be expected to put up with a lively debate after he makes the presidential call and the presidential decision, and I was blessed in that way.
Together we confronted a world in the midst of turbulent change, and looking back, in many ways we're still struggling to understand the importance of the events that transpired during the summer and the fall of 1989 as we watched "the world wake up from history." And over in our library there's an exhibit on the Cold War titled "The Longest Winter". It's an apt description for it was a bitter enmity that divided our world into two ideological camps - each one armed, each poised to strike down the other. But if the Cold War was an endless struggle against a relentless adversary, then CIA was certainly one of freedom's most vigilant defenders.
My strong views about the Agency, indeed the community and its people, I hope are well known to the professionals here in this audience. But one thing merits repeating. When it comes to preserving and defending the national interests of the United States of America around the world, there can be no substitute for the President's having the best possible intelligence in the world which means we still must rely on CIA and indeed the entire intelligence community.
Though our world has undergone a profound transformation over the last quarter century, my views about the importance of CIA and its work haven't changed one single bit. Every once in awhile you hear some nutty Congressman get up and say well we ought to put the money in downtown Detroit, or we ought to forget about intelligence. There are no enemies any more. Well, the heck with them. They don't understand the realities of the world in which we are living.
When I went in as DCI nearly 24 years ago, I was well aware of the controversy that engulfed CIA. I was well aware that it would be a tough assignment. Détente had just run its course and the Soviets were expanding their efforts to strengthen their military and export revolution to the third world. But as I wrote my three brothers and my sister Nancy before leaving China - it came to me out there, some of you may remember it - that the President wanted me to come back. I was riding my bicycle, going from the International Club to our Embassy when a communicator appeared and said, "Mr. Ambassador, I have a message for you." I
said, "What is it?" He said, You'd better sit down." And it was a message inviting me to come back and take over as Director of Central Intelligence.
So I wrote my brothers and my sister, "Overriding all this is what I perceive to be a fundamental need for an intelligence capability second to none. It's a tough, mean world and we must stay strong." When the cable came in I thought of dad, what would he do? What would he tell his kids? And I think he would have said, 'It's your duty'."
Of course to tell you how smart I was, I wrote and told them I thought it was a political dead end, too.
Anyway, it was a dangerous time for our country. But it merits noting that it was a particularly difficult time for the men and women who worked for the Agency. We all remember those days. Thanks to among others one Philip Agee, who tried to sue my wife when she wrote something nasty about him in the book, but have at it, Philip, because what I think is, I think he betrayed a solemn trust in helping to expose the identity of our undercover agents and I can't think of anything that in my book is more traitorous or more offensive to the decency that is the American way. To this day I believe he bears a moral responsibility for the lives lost in the wake of those actions. And if I may add, that treachery of Agee’s, like that of Aldrich Ames or - who was it - Howard, is a good reason why we must never let the guard down on our counterintelligence. The Agency's people are its strongest asset, a point every DCI sitting out here understands as well if not better than I do.
Needless to say when I entered the presidency 10 years ago, thanks to my brief time out there at Langley I understood the value of intelligence and the need for intelligence.
In his memoirs, President Truman wrote, "A President has to know what is going on all around the world in order to be ready to act when action is needed. The President must have all the facts that may affect foreign policy or the military policy of the United States."
Well, in my view Truman was describing one of the President's most important jobs and I can understand why the DCI - I guess it was Admiral Souers, then General Vandenberg - was usually Truman's first "caller of the day" as he described it. I think those are the words he called it, the "first callers of the day."
As for me, the PDB, the Presidential Daily Brief, was the first order of business on my calendar, too. I made it a point from Day One to read the PDB in the presence of a CIA officer and either Brent or his deputy. We tried to protect the distribution of the PDB because we knew very well once it was faxed or put through a Xerox machine, then the people preparing it with their oath to protect sources and methods would be inclined to pull back and not give the President the frankest possible intelligence assessments presenting the best possible intelligence.
So I made it a point there to read it with the CIA officer and usually Brent Scowcroft or sometimes his deputy or sometimes both. This way I could ask the briefers for more information of matters of critical interest, consult with Brent on matters affecting policy. I think it helped those who were working night and day out there in Langley to prepare the PDB to know that at least their product was being looked at by the President himself. I think it helped a little bit in the morale of that section of the CIA that works so hard to put this book together.
Knowing of my interest in the clandestine services, I remember particularly one event with Bill Webster and also with Bob Gates, would occasionally bring someone in who risked their lives to gather critically important intelligence. I won't refer to the person that Bill Webster brought in, but I'll never forget it until the day I die. The woman in the operations end of the business who literally had her life on the line day in and day out in intelligence gathering - human intelligence. It brought home to me the necessity of protecting people like that and saluting them because they serve without ever getting the prestige or honor that they deserve. Without fail, I was impressed with their courage and their patriotism and the professionalism of those who served in the whole Directorate of Operations. They never get recognition, but they deserve it.
As we saw in the Agee and Ames cases, even though there's always a danger that they or one of their comrades could be killed if their cover is blown, our people continue to serve with honor - and thank God for that.
I know I leaned very hard on CIA during my four years in office - four years when we saw our world change in profound ways as the Cold War ended, Eastern and Central Europe and the Baltics were liberated, a democratic Russia started emerging, and just as remarkable was the way the world community stood shoulder to shoulder against Saddam Husayn's brutal aggression against tiny Kuwait, an act that insulted every standard of international law.
So much happened so quickly during those four years, and it was an incredible challenge to be a part of shaping some of the critical events that unfolded.
I wouldn't have wanted to try tackling any of the many issues that we confronted without the input from the intelligence community. Not for one second.
Today, ten years after the revolution of 1989, it is satisfying to look back and not only note the vital role intelligence played in our historic success, but also to see how far we've come, from a world divided to a world transformed. It is a safer world, free from the threat of nuclear superpower, nuclear annihilation, and yet it's also a world where we face new threats to stability, new enemies. There is more unpredictability perhaps.
The superpower struggle is no more, but new dangers have emerged to take its place. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorists, extreme religious fundamentalists, narcotraffickers, to say nothing of despots like Saddam Husayn and at one point in history Qadhafi. All represent threats to the peace and stability that the international community seeks to build.
Another threat to security and stability are the forces of isolationism and rampant nationalism. We're not above political opportunism in their attempts to turn their countries selfishly inward and lamely away from the course of reform. These forces of defeatism feed off discontent, but they can strike anywhere, and in my view that includes our own great country.
Today here there's kind of an odd coalition comprising elements of the political left and the right who want the US to withdraw from much of the world. They like to beat up on the UN. I like to do that too, but not just on every part of it. It had a useful role to play when Desert Storm came along and you've got to figure out where it can be effective. They like to beat up on that, they like to pound on China and Japan. Some even like to bash the EU these days, and they want no more free trade agreements. I worry that such attacks -- I think it's a minority, but I worry that attacks by this minority, this vocal minority, send a terrible signal to our friends around the world about our willingness to stay engaged.
And at the same time our alliance is undergoing its own transformation of sorts to give more responsibility to our global partners to address regional issues. This is a good thing. Unless, for example, it weakens the strong US-Europe ties that have helped keep the peace in Europe for much of the last half century.
It is imperative that the United States not withdraw into some form of neo-isolationism or protectionism. By way of example, the only thing that concerns me about this European Defense Initiative is that it may be seen in the United States as Yankee go home. And believe me, Tuesday, I was asked at a large group in Paris, of business people and foreign affairs experts about this. And they asked me about that and I said just fine, and if anybody wants to do more of the heavy lifting fine, but don't make it look like a Yankee go home thing or we're going to go home and we're going to pull back from Europe. I think in my view that would be disastrous.
Some guy asked me about the French-US relationship. What do you think? What's your summary of that? I said you think we're arrogant and we think you're French. That's the problem. I did. I told him that. I was amazed. I thought, well it is off the record, although I know nothing is off the record, so I told him this, and I was surprised he said, yeah, the guy's got something there.
Today leaders in Asia and Europe continue to face tough political and economic issues as this process of reform moves forward. Seeing their struggles remind us that though we're in an age of exhilarating change, we've still got one great big job to do. The stakes riding on the success of these ongoing reforms are just too high for us to get it wrong. That's why I really hope that the United States won't get tired of involvement. I hope we'll continue to lead.
As Bob Gates noted in his wonderful book, despite the turbulent changes we encountered during the Cold War, one thing stayed the same. The US was able to maintain a fundamental bipartisan commitment to freedom, to winning the Cold War. He also noted that every President, Republican and Democrat, stood faithful watch during the Cold War, and that each was able to build on the contributions of his predecessors.
For example, he pointed out that President Nixon's SALT negotiations built on the work of the Johnson Administration. Jimmy Carter became known for his advocacy of human rights after Jerry Ford had been over, had really shown some courage in going to Helsinki. And clearly, Ronald Reagan's support for a strong defense was absolutely critical to our trying to manage the events that took place when I was President of the United States.
As we strive to build the next American century I just hope that we can achieve a new consensus on our role in the world. I hope we can forge a new bipartisan way of addressing the many challenges that remain. And in that regard, conferences like this one, I believe, can serve a very useful purpose, and the kind of give and take on display here this week is exactly the kind of big picture, long-range thinking we need to solve the many new questions that have emerged in the wake of the Cold War.
To be honest, I'm not sure we've found our footing on this new path that we've taken. And at times I worry that we appear to be kind of a superpower adrift. But my time for contributing to this work in the public arena is now past, and I had my chance. Thanks to our team we got some things right. And I expect history will say we may have screwed up some things, too.
But of course 1992 did not work out the way we hoped, but I have tried very hard, and I think there's a good point here for the young men and women of Texas A&M, not to criticize my successor, understanding that his job is a difficult job, and that there are plenty of good people in the loyal opposition out there fighting for many of the beliefs that I share. They don't need one more back-bencher in Houston, Texas, saying hey, wait a minute. Here's the way I used to do it.
We had our chance. Besides that, my two boys in the political arena don't need me doing that either.
So the torch of public service in our family has been passed, unless I can make a difference here in this little school. Unless I can help Roman and Bob Gates and George Edwards and you name it, the professors that give of themselves to inculcate into these kids a sense of public service. If that's my public service, well maybe it's not over. But it's been passed, in a broad sense, to George and Jeb who make me and Barbara very, very proud every day that they're willing to be in there trying. I still want to find a way to contribute, though, and the Bush School is a big part of that. We have great people here, and we have high hopes for what we hope to accomplish, and I want to help. I want to help where I can.
Last week in Berlin, I was proud to announce the formation of a new privately funded fellowship program along with Helmut Kohl, a Bush-Kohl Fellowship. It's going to enable young German and American professionals to spend up to 12 months working in business and government positions of leadership on the opposite sides of the Atlantic.
The goal is to build a bridge of even greater understanding and cooperation in a way that will strengthen US-German relations and better enable us to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
Next month Helmut Kohl will visit College Station to receive the first ever Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. I just hope we can repay some of the gracious hospitality that he and all Germans extended to Barbara and me last week.
If you don't think the work of the CIA matters, if you don't think the hard work of national security makes a difference, you should heed John Kennedy's advice. Go to Germany. The reception we received was unbelievable -- a complete outpouring of friendship from the German people. I was a recipient, but the credit goes to all of those who vigilantly supported their cause of freedom. And it was exactly the same way in Warsaw, exactly the same way in Prague.
As I said last week, we can never repay the debt that is owed to the brave men and women of Berlin and elsewhere who taught us the true value of freedom. But if we can help pass along their enduring legacy of courage and honor, then maybe in some small way we will be doing the Lord's work.
Such is the work the CIA performs day in and day out, and I am grateful for this opportunity to salute everything you in the community do.
So thank you for coming to this school, and good luck to each and every one of you, and may God bless Texas A&M University in its grief, and the United States.