As more American peacekeeping troops poured into Haiti, the Pentagon's top general expressed grave concern about the potential for violence among rival Haitian factions and warned Tuesday, "We can be taking casualties at any moment."
Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no problems have been encountered yet in the 2-day-old operation, with 6,000 troops expected to be in Haiti by nightfall.However, he said, "This is the first day of an awful lot of days. This uncertainty, this breakout of hostilities of Haitian-on-Haitian violence can come at any time."
Even as Shalikashvili emphasized the continuing danger for American troops, President Clinton reassured congressional leaders that, "This is a very different and a much better day" than if there had been an aggressive invasion of Haiti.
Clinton and senior Pentagon officials briefed congressional leaders at the White House on the deployment. By week's end, up to 15,000 Americans are expected to be in Haiti.
While no resistance has been encountered, Shalikashvili said there's no agreement yet on how to disarm the Haitian military.
Clinton won plaudits from Republicans and Democrats - and a boost in his poll ratings - for avoiding an outright invasion of Haiti with a last-minute peaceful settlement.
Yet, lawmakers of both parties already expressed worries about this new commitment of U.S. forces in Haiti. And former President Jimmy Carter, who helped negotiate the agreement that averted a U.S. attack, sharply criticized the Clinton administration's handling of Haiti.
Carter said he had made a "very emotional speech" to Haiti's military leaders to win the agreement for them to step down.
"One of the things was that I was ashamed of my country's policy," the former president said on his return to Atlanta Monday night.
White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers said, "President Carter may have a different view of that. It's certainly his right."
She acknowledged a differences of opinion over the status of acting President Emile Jonassaint. The administration views him as a military puppet; Carter called him a major player in Haiti. "That was President Carter's view. We don't recognize his government," Myers said.
Shalikashvili said a prime concern is that Americans will get caught up in violence between supporters of deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and backers of Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, the military chief. Shalikashvili said "that murky sort of a threat" is always there.
Clinton, in his remarks, said, "We must be prepared for the risks that remain for the troops, but we should recognize that we are in a much stronger and safer position to achieve our goals in Haiti today."
Sen. Sam Nunn, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who helped broker the deal that averted a U.S. invasion, said Tuesday that "We should not in any way underestimate the difficulties we still face there."
Earlier Monday, the House voted 353-45 for a resolution calling for the orderly withdrawal of all American forces "as soon as possible." Utah's three representatives - Jim Hansen, Karen Shepherd and Bill Orton - voted with the majority.