Jewish World Review April 23, 1999 /7 Iyar 5759
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Future historians will be poring over the main military and political events in Europe. But after they're done with that, they're going to want to know what else was going on on the "Home Front" while our boys were bombing Belgrade.
So before the television footage of the the Kosovo Albanian refugees and
Bill Clinton's commander-in-chief impersonation are relegated to "The
History Channel," I thought it might be useful to examine a few of the
sidelights of life during wartime while our memories are still fresh.
WHO'S THE DUMBEST?
Who's winning? I'd say it's our bumbling and blustering Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, who has bluffed her boss into a war by underestimating Slobodan Milosevic.
But close behind is Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Arik Sharon, who decided that romancing a country opposing America's war effort - Russia - would be a smart idea. Sharon's goal may have been winning Russian immigrant votes in the Israeli election, but it was still a monumentally foolish idea. Does anyone in Israel really believe they can trust Moscow?
WATCH OUT FOR CHRISTIANNE
Ammanpour, who is married to State Department spokesman James Rubin (am I the only one who finds that connection slightly fishy?), is always present whenever there's violence anywhere in the world. From Africa to Asia to the Balkans, if people are getting killed, that woman always seems to be nearby with a hand-held camera and a disapproving look.
In spite of the fact that she editorializes more than most editorial writers (her sad expression and tone when Bibi beat Peres in the 1996 Israeli election sticks in my memory), she's a good reporter and ahead of most of her competition.
But if you ever see her on the street, my advice would be to drop what you're doing and head for an air-raid shelter. That woman is the television version of the Angel of Death! If she's around, something bad is about to happen.
THE WORST WAR-DECLARATION SPEECH
Chamberlain, who had done everything in his power to appease the Nazis, was feeling very embarrassed on Sept. 1, 1939, as the Germans invaded Poland and thus forcing a British declaration of war. The sorry Chamberlain, who would become a metaphor for weakness and appeasement, asked his people if they could imagine how badly he felt! Thanks to him, others would soon feel worse.
But as pathetic as that speech was, I believe historians will soon move President Clinton's speech to the American people explaining why we were going to war in Kosovo as even more pathetic than Chamberlain's.
Clinton pulled out every senseless rationale he could think of - NATO credibility? European stability? American business? - and managed to mangle the one he mentioned that made sense - human rights.
And didn't he learn any history at Georgetown or Oxford? World War II did not start in the Balkans. But an awful lot of Germans got tangled up in the mountains there before it was all over.
UNUSUAL WAR CRITICS
My favorite comments come from the opposite sides of the spectrum.
>From the far left comes Philadelphia's favorite cop-killer and former National Public Radio commentator Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal, who remains on death row for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia policeman, sent out an e-mail message of protest against the war that was forwarded to me.
In case you were interested, Mumia believes the war to be an imperialist plot to establish American hegemony and oppress minorities. Unlike some left-wingers, who seem to especially like this war, specifically because it does not serve American interests, Mumia can't resist the urge to bash America. Some folks just can't help themselves.
The strange thing is, he is echoing the same arguments about a war for NATO credibility that Henry Kissinger has been making, albeit from the opposite side. Who'd have believed they had so much in common?
But one prominent conservative think-tank head told me in confidence that he viewed the war as a great opportunity because he opposes American involvement as a senseless and misguided adventure.
"I missed out on the '60s' experience because I was not anti-war then," he confided. "But I always envied the left-wingers their candlelight vigils and being able to sing 'Give Peace a Chance.' Now I can sing for peace," he said with a laugh.
The straight kids always envied the rebels. Peace and love, man.
JEWISH HERITAGE WEEK?
Never heard of it, you say? I hadn't either, until the fax with this information direct from the Office of the Press Secretary of the White House arrived in our newsroom.
To that thought, I add my own "amen." I will leave it to commentators more cynical than I to wonder whether Mr. Clinton is thinking more of those prominent Jewish donors to his campaigns who have bunked in the Lincoln Bedroom than of the illustrious history of American Jewry.
That the document is dated the "fourteenth day of April, in the year of our
Lord nineteen hundred and ninety nine," takes a little of the shine off for
Jewish readers, but I guess sometimes you just shouldn't read the fine
JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.
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