APRIL 16, 1997

Another of the President's top priorities, which is central to our
effort to raise international standards, is the treaty to ban chemical

In considering the value of this treaty, we must bear in mind that
today, keeping and producing chemical weapons are legal. The gas
Saddam Hussein used to massacre Kurdish villagers in 1988 was produced
legally. In most countries, terrorists can produce or procure chemical
agents, such as Sarin gas, legally. Regimes such as Iran and Libya can
build up their stockpiles of chemical weapons legally.

If we are ever to rid the world of these horrible weapons, we must
begin by making not only their use, but also their development,
production, acquisition and stockpiling illegal. This is fundamental.

The Chemical Weapons Convention sets the standard that it is wrong and
illegal for any nation to build or possess chemical weapons and it
gives us effective tools for enforcing that standard. It will not
eliminate all danger. But it will make chemical weapons harder for
terrorists or outlaw states to buy, build or conceal.

We decided long ago to eliminate our stockpiles of these weapons. We
will not use them against others; this treaty will help ensure that
others never use them against us.

Critics say the treaty is flawed because we cannot assume ratification
and full compliance by the outlaw states. To me, that is like saying
we should enact no law against drug smuggling, because we cannot
assume full compliance by drug smugglers. When it comes to protecting
Americans, the lowest common denominator is not good enough. We cannot
let the enemies of the international system set the rules of the
international system.

Eliminating chemical weapons has long been a bipartisan goal. This
treaty was negotiated by the Bush Administration. It is backed by
every former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff going back to the
Carter Administration, and by members of Congress from both parties.
General Scowcroft has been an eloquent champion of ratification, and I
want to thank him today for his counsel and support.

The debate on the Chemical Weapons Convention has been spirited. But
it has also reminded us that the bipartisan spirit of the post-war
generation is alive and well today.

Bipartisanship does not mean we must agree on every issue. After all,
Vandenberg never said that our convictions stop at the water's edge.
It does mean we must never allow the natural quest for partisan
advantage, as fundamental as it is to our democratic system, to
influence our judgment of the national interest.