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<nettime> Counterpunch on Kosovo

Bedtime for General Clark?

Members of Congress who, during their spring recess, met in
Brussels with Gen. Wesley Clark, the NATO supreme commander,
were startled by his bellicosity. According to the
lawmakers, Clark suggested the best way to handle Russia's
supply of oil to Yugoslavia would be aerial bombardment of
the pipeline that runs through Hungary. He also proposed
bombing Russian warships that enter the battle zone. The
American general was described by the members of the
congressional delegation as waging a personal vendetta
against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. "I think the
general might need a little sleep," commented one House

Robert Novak, 4/17/99


Strange are the ways of men! It feels like only yesterday
that the New York Times was denouncing President Bill as a
moral midget, deserving of the harshest reprobation for
fondling Monica Lewinsky's breasts. And today here's the New
York Times doling out measured praise to the same president
for blowing little children in pieces. The Times last
Thursday had pictures of those dead refugees on its cover,
bombed by one of NATO's aviators. Editorial page editor
Howell Raines staked out the Times official view that "For
now, NATO must sustain and intensify the bombing." What a
weird guy Raines must be. Kiss Monica's tits and he goes
crazy. Bomb peasants and he shouts for more.

Maybe some corner of Clinton's brain reckons that bombs on
Serbia will extinguish Monica Lewinksy from popular memory.
But what man of mature judgment and compassion would not
prefer to be remembered by the Starr report than by bomb
craters and dead bodies? Many people thought Clinton would
be the first president who would somehow prefer Starr's
volume as his epitaph, however embarrassing. But no. Like
all the others he wants craters and corpses as his requiem.

Being a peacenik is definitely passĄ. Liberals are learning
once again--did they every truly forget--that it's fun to be
a warmonger and cheer the high explosive as it falls. After
suffering indigestion towards the end of the Vietnam affair,
they got the taste for war again in the mid-1990s, with
Bosnia. They became the "laptop bombardiers," an apt phrase
coined by Simon Jenkins in The Spectator in 1995.

Back then, there wasn't a week, for months on end, that
Anthony Lewis didn't call for the bombardment of Serbia. The
Serbs became demons, monsters, and Milosevic the most
demonic monster of all. Last week I ran across an
interesting piece by an Indian, Lt General Satish Nambiar
who had been First Force Commissioner and Head of Mission of
the United Nations force deployed in the former Yugoslavia
from March 1992 to March 1993. He was writing in an Indian
journal. "Portraying the Serbs as evil and everybody else as
good was not only counterproductive but dishonest," the
general writes. "According to my experience all sides were
guilty but only the Serbs would admit that they were no
angels while the others would insist that they were."

Nambiar says accurately that there were plenty of chances of
agreement on a Bosnian settlement in the mid-1990s but the
Americans always nixed them. There was the Lisbon plan and
then the Vance-Owen plan, both not so different from the
final Dayton plan. But the trouble was that the US, amid the
furious screams of the liberals, refused to admit the Serbs
had legitimate grievances and rights.

In Britain there was a coalition running from Margaret
Thatcher to the Laborite New Statesman in favor of bombing
the Serbs. Ken Livingston, the pinko firebrand of London,
bellowed for bombs. So did the Thinking Woman's Crumpet (my
sister-in-law's wry description of him), Michael Ignatieff.
In this country the laptop bombardiers crossed from the Wall
Street Journal editorial page, which likes to bomb anything,
(though most of all, Little Rock) to William Safire, to
Anthony Lewis, to the Democratic Socialists of America.

The worst offender was the press, which carefully ignored
detailed accounts of how the Bosnian Muslims were
manipulating western opinion most notoriously by almost
certainly lobbing a missile in to a marketplace filled with
their own people. When the Croats ethnically cleansed the
Krajina of hundreds of thousands of Serbs--the biggest such
cleansing in the Balkans since World War II--with direction
from US military and CIA officer, reporters and commentators
mostly looked the other way or actually cheered. "The Serbs
Asked For It," exulted the headline on a piece in the Los
Angeles Times by pundit William Pfaff. Monitors for the
European Union prepared a report on the Croat atrocities,
and though it was confidential, Robert Fisk of the London
Independent was able to get a copy. "Evidence of atrocities;
an average of six corpses a day, continue to emerge...the
corpses--some fresh, some decomposed--are mainly of old men.
Many have been shot in the back of the head or had throats
slit, others have been mutilated...Serbian homes and lands
continue to be looted. The crimes have been perpetrated by
the HV (Croatian Army) the CR (Croatian Police) and CR
civilians. There have been no observed attempts to stop it
and the indications point to a scorched earth policy."

If American journalists had bothered to report this, then
perhaps public opinion would have been prepared for the
notion that there are no innocent political players in the
Balkans. The better informed the people are the harder it is
to demagogue them with the idea that the best way forward
now is--to get back to Howell Raines and that New York Times
editorial to "sustain and intensify the bombing."

But Bosnia, back in the middle 1990s, rode on a hysteria
that was never properly confronted and now the price is
being paid, with contemptible opportunists like Senator John
McCain shouting for "lights out in Belgrade" (why doesn't
McCain have the guts to emulate John Glenn, get assigned to
a bombing crew and go strafe refugees in Kosovo.) But McCain
is more than matched by Democrats like Senator Carl Levin,
or by that brass-lunged fraud from Vermont, Bernard Sanders,
"socialist progressive," who has endorsed Clinton's bombs.

Well over two-thirds of the Democrats in the House are
cheering the bombs, and senatorial liberals like Barbara
Boxer are discovering the joys of war. "I never believed I'd
go back and vote on air strikes," she marveled in an article
in the Boston Globe for March 31.

These days, to get a dose of common sense, you have to go
over the Republican side of the aisle and listen to people
like Rep Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania who made a terrific
speech in Congress on April 12, reporting on his contacts
with members of the Russian Duma (where Weldon has many
friends), endorsing their idea that Russia should pledge
that Milosevic will abide by the Rambouillet accords on
condition that an international peace-keeping force moves
into Kosovo, devoid of any personnel from nations now
bombing Serbia.

Follow this carefully, because the exact nature of such a
force is what's causing bombs to fall on civilians in
Belgrade and Kosovo. Remember that Milosevic agreed to
virtually everything on the table at the Rambouillet
meeting, with two exceptions. For him the status of Kosovo
as part of Serbia was non-negotiable, and he wouldn't agree
to the stationing of NATO forces on Yugoslav soil, which
does after all include Kosovo. But it's clear enough that a
solution could have been found. As Stephen Erlanger reported
in the New York Times on April 8, the Serbian Parliament,
before the bombing started, accepted the idea of a UN force
to monitor a political settlement there. And it's clear that
the notion of an Albanian autonomous region within Serbian
Kosovo was negotiable. After all, Montenegro, Macedonia,
Greece--to name only three--and also the US have pronounced
themselves opposed to the idea of a greater Albania, which
is what an independent Kosovo would presage.

It's plain enough that the US and its NATO subordinates
wanted a confrontation and ultimately forced it. It's also
clear that increasingly vocal and explicit charges by the
Russians that the KLA was supplied by the Germans and the
CIA have merit. The KLA itself was roundly denounced--before
the bombings--in the London Times, as a Maoist gang fueled
by heroin trafficking. (This is standard operating procedure
for a CIA operation, as any scrutiny of recent histories of
Afghanistan, or south-east Asia will attest.)

So the NATO bombs began to fall and, exactly as could have
been predicted, the Serbian brutalities in Kosovo escalated
and the tidal wave of refugees began. Everything has gone
according the script. NATO bombs destroying Serbian civilian
infrastructure: power plants, sewage treatment, electricity
and gas and oil supplies. Everything that's hit is hastily
described by NATO spokesmen as "dual purpose," (i.e.,
possibly also for Serb military use) unless it's obvious to
all that only peasants, with no conceivable "dual purposes"
have been blasted to bits. Wednesday last saw the mad NATO
supreme commander, Wesley Clark, utter his most deliberate
and obvious lie to date, when he said that "There was a
military convoy and a refugee convoy. We struck the Serb
convoy and we have very strong evidence that the Serbs then
retaliated by attacking the column of refugees." By the next
day it became clear that there was no "Serb convoy," no
"very strong evidence" and that an Albanian column of
refugees on tractors had been killed by NATO bombers.

By the end of last week the Germans were surfacing a plan
for international peacekeepers to move in, after a
cease-fire gained by the ending of aggressive Serbian
operations in Kosovo. The transition from this to a
negotiated agreement guaranteed by non-belligerent forces
under UN auspices is not too hard, unless the US refuses to
relinquish its overall goal of making NATO the arbiter of
Europe's future. This is what the war and the bombing are
about. On this strategy which presumes a continued refusal
to let Russia have any role in securing a ceasefire or peace
settlement, there can be no trace or suspension of
hostilities. Indeed there can only be a ground war, with
NATO troops, following Hitler's old invasion plans, which
Adolf called "operation Punishment," because the Serbs
overthrew those who sided with him and refused to knuckle
under. Serbia was then invaded by Germany, with Italian and
Hungarian support. Now US generals are poring over those old
Nazi war plans, even while they carefully deny it's an

To date it's been a lovely war from the American point of
view. Only three captives, and one Stealth shot down. (We
like that Serb sign, "Sorry, we didn't know it was
invisible.") A ground war? Those who keep talk about the
need to "see this through" have probably forgotten what a
ground war is really like. People have talked so long about
"a new Vietnam" that they don't recognize it when it finally
slouches round the corner. Not just 70 dead refugees:
thousands and thousands of dead civilians. Thousands of dead
soldiers. Serbian villages being flattened. Our boys being
debauched and corrupted by fighting against a people.

This really does take us back to somewhere round 1962 or so,
when all the Kennedy liberals and all the Eisenhower
"internationalists" thought war in Vietnam was a great and
necessary idea. The Republican isolationists had been put
out of business by then, ever since the Republican senator
Vandenberg signed on to the cold war in the 1940s. But these
days there is no communist threat. The Chinese premier just
took America by storm, without so much as a weapon in his
hand, except for the magic words, "cheap labor" and "big
markets." Maybe our only hope now is that Republican
isolationist tradition. Right now my only confusion is
whether to vote for Pat Buchanan or Dan Quayle, the only
presidential candidates to oppose the war. We've always
loved Marilyn Quayle, with those wonderful great teeth, big
enough to chomp an apple through a picket fence. A Vote for
Quayle is a Vote for Peace! The essence of a properly
functioning corporate democracy is that there are no
agreeable choices. CP

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