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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Makes Haiti Case

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton has issued a final warning to Haitian military leaders to give up power immediately as the United States took the last diplomatic and military steps to prepare for an invasion.

Clinton, in an Oval Office address to Americans, directed a blunt message to the troika of military leaders who the United States has insisted must depart. "Your time is up. Leave now or we will force you from power," he said.

Officials said Thursday night the White House expects to know within 48 hours whether the Clinton speech, the direct ultimatums, and what amounts to a virtual public announcement that the invasion will begin next week have accomplished the goal of getting the three to leave without military force.

But Haiti's military leader Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras vowed Thursday evening to defend Haiti "until death" against a U.S. invasion he said would lead to civil war and a massacre, and called for talks to avert bloodshed.

The Clinton address was both a message to the Haitian leaders and an explanation to Americans on why their interests necessitate military action. He also sought to calm opponents and critics of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the elected populist president whom Clinton is seeking to return to office, by stating that Aristide had pledged to him personally to leave office when his term is up in early 1996. That was designed to make the U.S. invasion a restoration of democracy, not of one leader.

In explaining the need for military action after months of warnings, Clinton said the United States "must protect its interests: to stop the brutal atrocities that threaten tens of thousands of Haitians; to secure our borders and present stability in the hemisphere; and to promote democracy and uphold the reliability of our commitment around the world."

The military leaders who staged the coup that removed Aristide, Clinton said, are "armed thugs" who have engaged in an increasingly brutal "reign of terror" that includes murdering children, raping women and killing priests.

In what many believe is the most potent and politically tenable argument, Clinton also warned that 5 percent of Haiti's population are in hiding and poised to flood into the United States. "If we do not act," he said, "they will be the next wave of refugees at our door."