Historic Documents of 1994


Edited by: CQ Press

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    Earthquakes—both literal and figurative—served as bookends to the year 1994. As the year began, a huge earthquake struck the Los Angeles area, killing sixty-one, injuring thousands, and causing billions of dollars in damage. As it ended, another earthquake—this one of the political variety—rolled through the halls of power in Washington, D.C., as Republicans won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in forty years.

    The November election results were not the only bad news President Bill Clinton faced in 1994. His massive plan to reform the nation's health care system, the centerpiece of his domestic agenda, died in Congress without so much as a vote on the proposal. Clinton also had trouble getting and then keeping people for his administration. Bobby Ray Inman publicly withdrew his name from consideration to be secretary of defense, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy resigned under an ethical cloud, and Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders was forced to resign after she suggested that schools should consider teaching children about masturbation. As the year ended, Clinton's proposal for a middle-class tax cut appeared dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.

    Clinton had far greater success on the economic front. In November he helped persuade Congress to approve expansion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was aimed at knocking down trade barriers among 124 countries. As the year ended he signed an agreement with the leaders of thirty-four Western Hemisphere nations to negotiate a free trade agreement that would make the Western Hemisphere the world's largest free trade zone.

    While the trade agreements looked to the future, in 1994 the United States also came to grips with some past events concerning civil rights violence in the South and the Vietnam War that had haunted the nation for decades. In Mississippi a jury convicted Byron De La Beckwith, an unrepentant segregationist, of the 1963 assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Beckwith had been tried for the crime twice in the 1960s, but both times all-male, all-white juries had deadlocked. This time, a jury of eight blacks and four whites did not. The same week the jury decided Beckwith's fate, President Clinton lifted the trade embargo imposed on Vietnam in 1964. While administration officials emphasized that the move was just the beginning in the process of improving relations between the United States and Vietnam, many believed it would eventually lead to a normalization of diplomatic relations.

    In 1994 the United States said goodbye to four leading figures of the second half of the twentieth century who left the public stage through death, illness, or retirement. Former president Richard Nixon, who opened the door to China and promoted detente with the Soviet Union before resigning in disgrace over the Watergate scandal, died April 22. Ronald Reagan, the president known as the "Great Communicator," announced that he had Alzheimer's disease, a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the Democratic power broker from Chicago and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was defeated in the November election after being indicted on seventeen counts of embezzling from his expense accounts. Associate Justice Harry Blackmun, one of the best known justices in the Supreme Court's history because of his authorship of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, retired from the Court.

    Before Blackmun retired, the Court released two critical decisions in the battle over abortion. In January the Court ruled that abortion clinics could use the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law to sue protesters who attempted to shut them down. In June the Court upheld the creation of buffer zones around abortion clinics to stop protesters from blocking access to the facilities.

    Two new laws approved by state voters in 1994 were nearly as controversial as the abortion decisions. In California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 187, which bars illegal aliens from receiving welfare, schooling, and most government-funded health care. The new law was immediately challenged in numerous suits, which were pending as the year ended. In Oregon voters narrowly passed a measure that allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill patients who request them.

    On the foreign front, 1994 saw genocide—the systematic slaughter of people belonging to an ethnic or tribal group—practiced on a scale not seen since World War II. In Rwanda, an estimated half million people were killed in a campaign of genocide carried out by militant members of the dominant Hutu tribe primarily against members of the Tutsi tribe. In Bosnia, Serbs continued their campaign of wholesale murder and brutality aimed at slaughtering or driving from the land all Croat and Muslim inhabitants. The international community provided humanitarian aid in both Rwanda and Bosnia, but could not figure out a way to stop the bloodshed.

    Turbulence on a smaller scale struck other countries. Japan's prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, was forced to resign after only eight months in office because of financial scandals. In Mexico two of the nation's top political leaders—-including the leading candidate for president—were assassinated in separate attacks. Late in the year, after appearing to be on the brink of war, North Korea and the United States signed an agreement under which the communist country agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for billions of dollars in aid from various countries.

    The year also saw many triumphs on the international scene. Only a few years after ending nearly three decades in prison, African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela was sworn in as South Africa's first democratically elected president. In Haiti Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide—backed by thousands of American troops—was restored to power as the nation's president. King Hussein of Jordan and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel signed an accord that formally ended a forty-six-year state of war between their two nations. In Northern Ireland Catholic and Protestant militias declared ceasefires in their decades-old battle over the fate of the British province, leading to the start of negotiations between the British government and Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

    These are but some of the topics of national and international interest chosen for Historic Documents of 1994. This edition marks the twenty-third year of a Congressional Quarterly project that began with Historic Documents of 1972. The purpose of this continuing series is to give students, librarians, journalists, scholars, and others convenient access to important documents on a wide range of world issues.

    Each document is preceded by an introduction that provides background information and, when relevant, an account of continuing developments during the year. In our judgment, the official statements, transcripts of press conferences, speeches, reports, and court decisions presented here are of lasting interest and importance.

    Bruce Maxwell, Editor, Washington, D.C., February 1995

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