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Faux Pas D'Etat: Defense Secretary Weinberger refers to Central America as “the mainland of the United States”

Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger
speaking at Kresge Auditorium, Stanford University, March 12, 1982

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Transcript of Secretary Weinberger:

The basic issue in El Salvador is not whether the government that emerges or the government that is there is left wing or right wing or center, or whether we like it, or whether we don't like their policy. The basic issue that we have to examine is, quite simply, the defense of continental United States. Those are the responsibilities we're charged with.

And what we have to look at is what are the alternatives to what we're doing. And if as we believe the alternatives are that there is a movement that is, in effect, not only supported, but supplied and very heavily reinforced, by the Soviet Union, and that there would be an attempt to get a stronghold, a genuine communist stronghold on the mainland of the United States—not whether the government of El Salvador or Nicaragua is left wing or right wing, but an actual Soviet presence through clients on the mainland—then the defense of the continental United States would be made infinitely more difficult.

And that is essentially why we are trying to help the government of El Salvador, which incidentally has called for free and open elections, and has asked the observers of the world to come and see if it is that way; has asked all parties, including the guerillas, to participate; and indeed is, would—has told us many times—that they would fully abide by the results of that election, and that is one of the conditions of our continued economic and military assistance to them, that they do abide by the terms of that election.

And so it does seem to me that principles of self-determination are being fulfilled, and it also seems to me that we are fulfilling the responsibilities which are at the moment assigned to me and to others in the administration of trying to do what we can to insure that the defense of the continental United States is not compromised or made more difficult by the existence or emergence, not of a left wing or a right wing government, but of an actual communist stronghold on the United States mainland. That's the problem we have to worry about.