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Last week, I was standing in the checkout line at Eddie’s Market in Charles Village. I noticed a legal size pad lying next to the front window, with a long list of signatures on it. So, I picked it up. The paper was entitled, “Petition.” It was a earnest plea by the local citizens to the City Council to find the money to reopen a local Enoch Pratt Free Library branch. It had been closed because of lack of public funding.
On the corner, as I headed homeward, I couldn’t help but stare at the banner newspaper headlines in a long row of boxes. They told of the continuing carnage in the Balkans and of the U.S. role in it. The experts say this war may cost more than $100 billion to win, and that American troops might be in the Balkans for “another 30 years” to keep the peace.
What a contrast! Baltimoreans are rightly upset that a library branch has been shut down for fiscal reasons. But, where is their outrage over an undeclared military conflict, that is killing innocent civilians, aggravating a monumental “ethnic cleansing” problem, and sending our tax dollars to evaporate in an orgy of black smoke in the Balkans?
Congress has not declared war on Yugoslavia, a sovereign nation. Nor does the civil war there pose a threat to our national interest. Yet, Bill Clinton, and Madeleine “The Mad Bomber” Albright, have targeted Serbia for a trip back to the Stone Age. It was Albright’s State Department that in 1998, listed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a separatist movement, as a “terrorist organization.” The KLA is suspected of bankrolling its operations from proceeds from the international heroin trade. Now Albright, because of politics, wants to arm them.
How does Clinton and his gang, get away with such patently unlawful conduct? What explanation is there for the gross indifference of so many citizens, including the clergy, to this situation? Well, it sure helps to have on your side a complicit press, such as The Baltimore Sun.
Since U.S. bombs first began falling on Yugoslavia, The Sun has utilized all its editorial muscle aiding and abetting Clinton’s amoral and reckless military intervention. The propaganda coming from the computer desktops of the warhawks at 501 N. Calvert Street has been non-stop, despite the fact there isn’t any legal basis for such an aggressive attack.
Humanitarian concerns for the refugees doesn’t cut it. Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-WI), put it best when he said, “I’m really perplexed how genocide and tragedy of this proportion requires our action, but do not require our action in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Sudan and East Timor.”
Also, just imagine the outcry, if during our civil war, Great Britain would have invaded the North to “punish” Abraham Lincoln for his militant defense of the Union. Kosovo is a part of Yugoslavia and Belgrade has every right to defend its national borders. This does not excuse the excesses of Slobodan Milosevic, but he’s Europe’s problem, not America’s. However, none of these arguments have penetrated the skulls of The Sun’s geopolitically-impaired warhawks.
On April 28, the House of Representatives voted against funding ground troops in the conflict. To their credit, Baltimore’s Rep. Ben Cardin (D-3rd) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-7th) have demanded Clinton get their approval before making that kind of military commitment. Cardin said, “I have serious concerns about ground troops. If the president believes it is necessary to use ground troops, I believe he must come to the Congress in compliance with the War Powers Resolution.” The House also, on April 28, voted by a 472-2 margin “against declaring war.”
The Sun responded on April 30, by mocking the independence and integrity of the House members and barking that it “gets a failing grade.” The warhawks claimed the lawmakers are, “not coming to grips with the problem, merely pointing blame in a contradictory manner.”
The Sun also let loose its cartoonist Mike Lane, to ridicule the congressmen. He portrayed the courageous vote of House members, like Cardin and Cummings, as giving a “comfort basket” to Milosevic. If anyone is waiting for Lane to criticize the drug running KLA, in the same vicious guilt-by-association manner, don’t hold your breath.
I hope The Sun’s warhawks don’t prevail on this issue. Americans don’t deserve to again witness their fallen heroes returning to the Dover, Delaware Air Force base in body bags. One Vietnam is one too many.
As the great Martin Luther King once said, “Spirit of God, forgive our pride in being so well adjusted to life that we fail to be malajusted to the tragic effects of physical violence and to tragic militarism.”
Finally, Baltimoreans are entitled to a free and vibrant public library system, without petitioning to higher powers. Let the brass at the Pentagon, for a change, go the solicitation route to get its funding.
(Originally published in The Baltimore Press, May 5, 1999.)