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Jewish World Review April 16, 1999 /30 Nissan 5759

David Corn

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Damage Done

(JWR) ---- (
WHEN CIVILIANS ARE KILLED in military attacks, the Pentagon describes such horrors with the euphemistic term "collateral damage."

The collateral damage of NATO’s attack extends beyond the bodies of civilians caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Vojin Dimitrijevic, a human rights activist in Belgrade, noted on the website of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, "NATO’s air offensive against Yugoslavia has not simply ‘degraded’ Yugoslavia’s military installations. It has also taken its toll in human lives and is progressively destroying the economic infrastructure of our impoverished country. In the long run, however, the biggest collateral damage is likely to be to the prospects for democracy in Serbia... I fear that the only durable result of the undeclared war will be a permanent state of emergency."

Dimitrijevic argues that "a democratic Serbia is the only real cure for Kosovo. It would also help create stability in the Balkans." There’s been a nascent movement in Serbia for human rights and democracy, but it’s received little attention and support from the policymakers of Europe and Washington. "In one night," Dimitrijevic writes, "the NATO air strikes have wiped out ten years of hard work of groups of courageous people in the nongovernmental sector and democratic opposition."

Another victim of the bombing may be the START 2 treaty, which would significantly decrease the nuclear arms maintained by the United States and Russia. Last week, Aviation Week & Space Technology, the Variety of the military-industrial complex, reported "the West’s assault on Russia’s historical Serb allies could be the death knell" for the treaty. "Although Russia’s military leadership has always supported parliament’s ratification of the long-stalled pact," the magazine noted, "a lengthy NATO air campaign in the Balkans might unleash lasting and powerful anti-American sentiment in Russia that could poison not only an already-jaundiced, Communist-dominated parliament, but also forthcoming Russian elections." A frost in U.S.-Russia relations could prompt Russia’s security apparatus to bolster secrecy and block access to nuclear facilities. "The ultimate proliferation threat—loose nukes—is apt to go up," Matthew Bunn, an arms control expert at Harvard, told the magazine.

War Is Crazy

LEAVE IT TO PAUL WEYRICH to come up with the kookiest analysis of the Kosovo crisis.

Last we heard from this religious-right leader, he was hoisting the white flag for social conservatives in the culture wars.

(His evidence: Bill Clinton’s unsurprising impeachment acquittal.)

Last week he outdid himself. "Suppose you were Bill Clinton," Weyrich wrote in a column. "Suppose after all these years you really did still loathe the military. Suppose you were now a lame duck President and you were finally in a position to do something about it. What would you do?"

Seems Weyrich has figured out Clinton’s master plan to wreck the U.S. military: "First, you would get the military involved in all sorts of non-military activities, which would then be hidden in the military budget... Second, you would overextend the now downsized military forces... Third, you would continue to spend money on strategic missile defense initiatives which go nowhere [as opposed to anti-missile systems that could be built]... Fourth, you would take an obsolete Cold War alliance, NATO...[and] seek to expand it... Fifth, you would look to involve the United States in a civil war somewhere."

And, Weyrich adds, "you would do this knowing that some stupid Republicans would be outflanking you and telling the American people you hadn’t done enough. That way, in destroying the military, you would look moderate and responsible."

By now, the experienced column-consumer would be looking for a line that would go something like: "Of course, I’m not suggesting Clinton is bombing in Kosovo in order to fulfill a lifelong ambition to undermine the U.S. military." Such a sentence never appears. Weyrich does seem to be saying that Clinton is blasting Serbia as part of his scheme to tear apart the military. And Bill Kristol, John McCain and their ilk are in on it. There’s still time for one more impeachment.

What a message the Clinton administration sent when it announced that the Kosovar refugees it pledged to take in would be airlifted to either Guam or the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In other words, no way you’re reaching the mainland. After deliberation, the administration settled on America’s toehold in Cuba, daring a repeat of sad history. It was a mere four years ago that the United States corralled more than 50,000 Cuban and Haitian refugees in Guantanamo. Fidel Castro, maintaining the Clinton administration was not negotiating in good faith on an immigration dispute, had exhorted Cubans who wanted to leave his island to paddle or sail toward Florida. U.S. Coast Guard vessels collected the fleeing Cubans and dumped them in Guantanamo. The refugees sat at the base for months—as Havana and Washington dickered—and the scene there was pure misery.

The base didn’t have the resources to handle the crowd; it was hot as hell; people were bored to tears. Several refugees committed suicide. There were riots. Lt. Gen. John Sheehan, the head of the U.S. Atlantic Command, flew up to Washington and reported the base couldn’t handle this mission. He pleaded with the administration to come to terms with Castro. Clinton and Castro eventually worked out an immigration deal, and the refugees came to the United States. When a U.S. military official last week was quoted saying the base was not prepared for the Kosovars, it must have triggered bad flashbacks for those involved in the last refugee bash at Guantanamo.

History Deleted

ON THE SUBJECT OF CUBA, I mentioned that I was in Havana recently. To get there, I hitched a ride with a charter flight carrying 80 school kids from Baltimore and Washington.

They were on their way to play baseball with Cuban children, as part of the exchange that brought the Baltimore Orioles to the island to face a team of Cuban all-stars. The State Dept., which had to license the children’s trip (thanks to the draconian U.S. ban on travel to Cuba), had courteously provided the kids and their adult escorts a briefing book on Cuba.

One section covered the history of U.S.-Cuban relations and contained a handy timeline. The chronology starts with 1958, which was convenient: By beginning then, State Dept. historians could skip the 1950s, when the U.S. supported the thuggish government of Fulgencio Batista along with occasions earlier in the century when the United States occupied Cuba. More interesting is the omission of any reference to the U.S.-sponsored assassination attempts against Castro in the 1960s, or the years of sabotage raids conducted against Cuba by U.S.-backed exiles.

The State Dept. handout does refer to the CIA-engineered Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. But it neglects to mention these other CIA actions, which are no longer state secrets. The assassination schemes—in one plot, the CIA used the Mafia to try to poison Castro—were acknowledged in the 1970s during congressional investigations.

The CIA’s small war against Castro has been expunged from official history by the State Dept. Expect the truth about the Clinton administration’s conduct during the Kosovo conflict to be as elusive in the official accounts to come.

JWR contributor David Corn is the "Loyal Opposition" columnist at New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/14/99: No Left Churn
04/12/99: Clinton’s Policy Bombs
04/09/99: A Cuban Frost
04/05/99: Coups and Fibbers
03/31/99: The Flynt Fizzle
03/24/99: Liddy and St. Steve
03/19/99: Hope in Hollywood
03/12/99: Clinton: The Novel
03/08/99: A Tale of Two Clintons
03/04/99: ..and Dumber
03/01/99: Post-Mortem Ad Nauseam
02/25/99: What’s Next?

©1999, NY Press