FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cambodia to Kosovo

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

No doubt about it. We’re heading straight for the quagmire. These days there are so many ghosts from the Vietnam era hovering behind every headline about the war on Serbia, you can practically hear them clanking their chains. General Westmoreland, sorry, General Clark says we’re winning the war, and that the Serb forces in Kosovo are near breaking point. Bill Clinton says his policy is working, and we must stay the course. We’ve got the “peace-seeker” pantomime conducted by the State Department’s special envoy Chernomyrdin as a way of distracting attention. And now we’re getting the word that a build-up of 50,000 on the Kosovan border with Macedonia is the next order of business. Wait for the next upward revision to 150,000 in a week or so. Then 200,000….

We’ve got an administration that doesn’t know how to cut its losses and which is therefore prepared to wipe Serbia off the map rather than lose face. In short, we’re in the count-down phase to disaster. Now we need something that took half a decade to build towards back in the Vietnam era: a huge peace march on Washington. We need a Congress that will go on telling the President loud and clear: he has no mandate for war and he won’t get the money to fight it. On May 25 Clinton was in breach of the War Powers Act of 1973. Spare a moment and travel back with us to that same year of 1973 and see why Congress voted in that law, over Richard Nixon’s veto.

Here we are, on the morning of August 7, 1973, and the dignity of the Richard B. Russell Senate Office Building, Room 235, where Senator Stuart Symington was presiding over a hearing into the secret bombing of Cambodia. Also present: Senators Strom Thurmond and Harold Hughes. The first witness that summer morning was George Moses, at that time a staff assistant to a California Congressman but in an earlier phase, commencing in September 1969, an intelligence officer in the Seventh Air Force, serving in Vietnam.

It was Moses who had written to Hughes, alerting him to the secret bombing. Across that summer the Senate hearings disclosed that between March 18, 1969, and the end of May 1970, B-52s had flown more than 3,600 sorties, dumping bombs on Cambodia in a war that most certainly wasn’t secret to the Cambodian people, or to anyone who bothered to listen to their frequent public complaints. These started with a broadcast over Cambodian radio in French to all of Southeast Asia, US journalists included, at 12:30 GMT, March 26, 1969, monitored by the US Foreign Broadcasting Information Service: “The Royal Government undertakes to point out that the Cambodian population living in the border regions has been bombed and strafed almost daily by U.S. Aircraft. The Royal Government demands that the United States immediately stop.” It then gave precise details of whom the “secret” bombings had killed the previous night.

On August 7, Moses read publicly his letter to Hughes. “Two hundred years ago,” it concluded, “we put our faith in the judgment of the people, and that judgment has proved sound. When Americans put on a uniform today, they do so in defense of the open society in which we live, and the activities I have described have no place in such a society, or the military that defends it.”

“And why,” Hughes asked, “did you send this letter?”

“I have a strong belief,” Moses replied, “in the Constitution as the working document by which this country operates. Through hearings held by this committee in the past I became aware of a feeling on my part that perhaps these principles were not being best served by some of the activities I observed.” Moses was putting in delicate form what Hughes had said far more explosively on July 30, when he roared to his colleagues and to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Earle Wheeler:

“I want the record to show damned clearly that I totally reject the concept of representation of the American people by notification of one or two members of a certain committee in this Congress of what the war policies of this country are-and if that is or has been the policy of the Pentagon, and still is, I reject it totally. The Congress must correct it, or there never will be a moment in the history of this country in the future when the people will have a hand in the declaration of war or the conduct of war over international borders. That sort of a concept of operating this government in warfare, declared or undeclared, is totally unacceptable to me. I have been elected by the people of Iowa to represent my State. The Constitution gives me that right and that responsibility. You have no right, nor anyone else, to deny that to me.”

Hughes was a great man. He fought in World War II, started civilian life as a truck driver, battled out of alcoholism and near-suicide to become a two-term Governor of Iowa, then a Senator, before quitting after one term. He felt as a matter of conscience that he could no longer be party, even as a dissenter, to legitimizing the process of allowing war to be considered a rational option in international disputes. (History, has it’s little ironies. Working for Hughes then was Sandy Berger, now President Clinton’s war counseler.)

The Cambodia hearings led the House to consider the inclusion of Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia among the articles of impeachment. They also led Congress, over Nixon’s veto, to pass the War Powers Act of 1973, which requires that within forty-eight hours of introducing US forces into hostilities the President report to Congress. Within sixty days he must terminate such use of force unless he gets explicit authority from both houses. Such authority denied, he must withdraw forces. Only if the President certifies in writing that “unavoidable military necessity respecting the safety of US armed forces requires the use of such forces to bring about prompt removal” can he continue for another thirty days.

Now enters a populist Democrat, Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, an opponent of the bombing of Serbia. Shortly before April 28 Kucinich noted that the White House was trying to win House approval of Senate Resolution 21, giving support to the bombing. If the House passed the resolution, Clinton could plausibly claim he had explicit authorization of force, which could then be used to escalate the war and deploy ground troops. Kucinich rushed out a leaflet to colleagues warning that approval of the resolution would be “a blank check for the President to wage war.”

The night of April 28 the vote came. The White House was lobbying hard. Seconds before the gavel fell the tally stood at 213 to 212 in the White House’s favor. At the last moment came the tying vote, dealing Clinton a huge and significant defeat. Kucinich spoke six times on the floor that day, but just twenty-five Democrats agreed with him, along with 188 Republicans.

With this defeat for Clinton, Representative Tom Campbell called Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights to file suit-joined by several other Republicans, plus only two Democrats, Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur, also of Ohio-charging Clinton with violating Article One, Section 8 of the Constitution and, after May 25, the War Powers Act. “No other President,” Ratner says, “has carried out such levels of hostilities as Clinton has for the past sixty days without explicit authority, and it’s the first time since the Boland Amendment against Reagan in the 1980s that the House has denied this authority to the President.”

Ratner thinks there’s “a slight chance” a federal judge will rule against Clinton. And the point of the suit? “It challenges the imperial presidency. It says the guy is willing to flout Congress. It’s closer to impeachable stuff.” There you have it. Onward to impeachment, on substantial grounds! We’re not big on Democrats, but Hughes and Kucinich advertise the best of the breed.

The administration knows it hasn’t much time to lock in a land war strategy. Public opinion is turning against even the air war. The April 28 vote threw the Administration off balance. That same coalition of Republicans and a handful of Democrats has to dish out another blow at war-making by Executive Order. There’s not much time. CP

Click here to read the text of the lawsuit drafted by Michael Ratner in Campbell v. Clinton.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net. Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail