by Alexander Cockburn
are the ways of men! It feels like only yesterday that editorial writers by the hundreds were denouncing President Bill Clinton as a moral midget, deserving of the harshest reprobation for fondling Monica Lewinsky. Today, many of them are doling out measured praise to the same president for blowing little children to pieces.
The New York Times last Thursday had pictures of those dead Kosovar refugees on its cover, bombed by one of NATO's aviators. In the same paper, 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, and he goes crazy. Bomb peasants, and he shouts for more.
Being a peacenik is definitely out of style. Liberals are learning once again -- did they ever truly forget? -- that it's fun to be a warmonger and cheer the high explosive as it falls. After suffering indigestion toward the end of the Vietnam affair, they got the taste for war again in the mid-1990s, with Bosnia. They became the laptop bombardiers.
Back then, there wasn't a week, for months on end, that liberals didn't call for the bombardment of Serbia. The Serbs became demons and monsters, with Milosevic the most demonic monster of all. 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. He still does. His leader, Prime Minister Tony Blair, talks about the "first progressive war." 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 press carefully ignored detailed accounts of how the Bosnian Muslims were manipulating western opinion. For one, they almost certainly lobbed a shell into a Sarajevo marketplace filled with their own people, blaming it on the Serbs. 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 U.S. military and CIA officers, reporters and commentators mostly looked the other way or actually cheered.
If American journalists had bothered to report the facts, 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.
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 Sen. John McCain shouting for "lights out in Belgrade." But McCain is more than matched by Democrats like Sen. Carl Levin or by that brass-lunged fraud from Vermont, Rep. Bernard Sanders, "socialist progressive," who has endorsed Clinton's bombs.
Over 80 percent of the Democrats in the House are cheering the bombs, and senatorial liberals like Barbara Boxer are discovering the joys of war. These days, to get a dose of common sense, you have to go over to the Republican side of the aisle and listen to people like Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who made a fine speech in Congress on April 12 reporting on his contacts with members of the Russian Duma (where Weldon has many friends). He endorsed their idea that Russia should pledge that Milosevic will abide by the Rambouillet accords on condition that an international peacekeeping force moves into Kosovo, devoid of any personnel from nations now bombing Serbia.
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. It's clear enough that a solution could have been found. The United States and its NATO subordinates wanted a confrontation and ultimately forced it.
Today, a negotiated agreement guaranteed by non-belligerent forces under UN auspices would be hard to reach unless the United States relinquished its overall goal of making NATO the sole 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 cease-fire or peace settlement, there can be no truce or suspension of hostilities.
People have talked so long about "a new Vietnam" that they don't recognize it when it finally slouches around 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 war really does take us back to somewhere around 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 Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg signed onto the Cold War in the late 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."
So, maybe our only hope now is that Republican isolationist tradition.
April 26, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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