If It’s Thursday, Let’s Bomb Bulgaria!

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

By next week they’ll be bombing Athens on the grounds that over 90 percent of the Greek people oppose the war. So then the Turks, fully enlisted in NATO’s campaign, can get to bomb the Parthenon again, finishing the job they started in 1827.

By the middle of last week General Wesley Clark and his strategists had finally digested the contents of our predictions here a month earlier that the air war wouldn’t work and would merely firm up Serbian eagerness to fight to the end. Next on the agenda comes the Pentagon’s basic instinct when confronted with a defiant foe: carpet bombing by B-52s. Old fashioned 500-lbs. iron bombs are now descending from the heavens in prodigious numbers on Kosovo and Serbia. US Air Force General Richard Shelton is aping Curtis LeMay’s old rules of engagement: “bomb ’em back to the stone age.”

The war emptied Kosovo of most Albanians and failed to cow the Serbs. It is also beginning to have a seismic effect on the political landscape of Western Europe, where almost all the ruling war-mongering parties are social democrats. The Chinese have been bombed into being players. Even here its tremors can be felt, not just in Columbine High but also in Washington DC.

It seems quite likely that the Social Democrat-Green coalition governing Germany will fall apart, as the leaders of these parties are forced to react to fury at the war among many of their party members.

This is not to say that there aren’t large numbers of German Social Democrats and Greens who don’t heartily endorse this reprise of Hitler’s invasion of Serbia, but particularly among the Greens there are also thousands of embittered people who do not find it easy to forget that their party is committed to peace, and who are not happy to see the Luftwaffe in action again.

Meanwhile, British interest in, and enthusiasm for, the war has been undercut by the murder on her own doorstep of Jill Dando, a popular broadcaster whose show about Britain’s Most Wanted had a huge following. The upscale Guardian ran 3 full pages on the killing, and the more demotic Daily Mail no less than 8. The London Times evev ran a bizarre piece speculating that Dando may have been assassinated by a crazed Serb.

Here in the US we’re having to redraw the political maps. Leftist opponents of the war, such as ourselves, now march shoulder to shoulder with Chuck Colson, Barry Farber, Don Feder, Bob Grant, Bob Novak, Arianna Huffington, A.M. Rosenthal, Charles Krauthammer, Edward Luttwak, Oliver North, Joe Sobran and the Pope. We never thought we’d ever be on the same side as Don Feder, a fierce right-winger who writes columns for the Boston Herald. We don’t want to give the impression that the anti-war crowd is entirely composed of right-wingers. There are plenty of church folk on the anti-war side, not to mention Nat Hentoff, Lars Erik Nelson, Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Camille Paglia and Gary Wills.

We’ll say this for right-wing columnists like Novak or Feder: when they turn against a war, they do it right. Try this from Feder:

“It’s argued that now that we’re in the conflict, America must win it to remain credible. By 1973, we had lost 55,000 Americans in Vietnam, which gave us far more of a stake there than we have in Kosovo.

“If we’d applied this do-or-die logic to the war in Southeast Asia, we would still be slugging it out in the rice paddles and the Vietnam memorial would be a far more imposing structure.

“I know, I know, if we don’t take Belgrade and display Milosevic naked in a cage, malefactors and evildoers from Baghdad to Pyongyang will view us as a paper tiger.

“But if I were Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong II or the Chinese politburo, I’d like nothing better than to see America wasting its limited military resources (very limited, thank to our anti-defense commander in chief) in the Balkans.

“Think of how thrilled Hitler would have been if, in the spring of 1939, England had decided to begin bombing Liechtenstein.

“NATO cannot survive if it now abandons the campaign without achieving its objective, insists Henry Kissinger.

“Who says NATO has to survive?

“Half of a century after NATO’s birth, the Iron Curtain is a rust heap. Eastern Europe and the Baltic states are free. So, why NATO?

“Presumably, if NATO loses credibility, it will limit the alliance’s ability to pull us into future abysses. Wouldn’t that be a pity?…

“The armed forces of the United States aren’t the legions of the Roman Empire. The soldiers of a republic shouldn’t be walking endless foreign battlements in a deranged and futile attempt to enforce a pax Americana.”

It takes a robust Republican to throw NATO into the trashcan. Liberals never talk like that. For them, talking dirty about NATO is like attending a baptism and spitting in the font.

The most useful parable about progressives is that offered by Bernard Sanders, self-styled “socialist progressive independent” rep from Vermont. Sanders owes his political career to rage against the Vietnam war among radicals, many of whom moved into the state in the early 1970s. They forthwith planned a long-term, carefully organized, assault on the Vermont’s two-party structure. Sanders linked his political ambitions to this effort to organize a third force, the Progressive Alliance. He became mayor of Burlington and, later , congressman. At a rapid clip the emphasis moved from party-building to Sanders-building. At least five years ago it was apparent that the only movement B. Sanders was interested in was that of liberal money into his political campaign trough. One disgusting political piece of opportunism followed another, always forgiven by Vermont progressives who are frightened of Sanders and fear to speak out against the loud-mouth fraud, even though, last year, Sanders spoke vehemently in Congress in favor of sending his state’s nuclear waste into a poor, largely Hispanic, township in Texas called Sierra Blanca. He supported sanctions against Iraq which have killed over a million Iraqis, many of them children.

Then he voted in favor of this war. He did it once, he did it twice and on April 28, he did it again. This was the astounding 213-213 tie vote, which meant that the House of Representatives repudiated the war on Serbia launched by Clinton in violation of Article One of the US Constitution which reserves war-making powers to Congress. So if the “socialist-progressive”Sanders, who owes his entire career to antiwar sentiment, had not voted for the NATO bombers, the result would have been even more dramatic, a straight majority for the coalition of Republicans and radical Democrats such as Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Barbara Lee, Pete Stark and a handful of others.

On April 26, even before his most recent vote of shame, Sanders’ office was occupied by 25 radical Vermonters sickened by his crap. The last time any political rep from Vermont had an office occupied was when a group later known as the Winooski 44 sat in (Republican) Senator Robert Staffords’ office in 1984, protesting Reagan’s War in Central America. Stafford waited three days before asking the police to remove the protester. The cops arrested 15. Sanders waited only four hours. On Monday May 3, he held a town meeting in Montpelier attended by the 15 protesters, wearing chains. The man in Sanders’ Burlington office who told the protesters Sanders wouldn’t speak to them was Philip Fiermonte, ironically one of the Winooski 44.

Readers of the Washington Post first edition can be forgiven if they missed the historic House vote refusing to approve the bombings. At first the Post reported the vote coyly on page A27. In the late edition the Post still played down the vote. The New York Times had a better sense of news and history and put the vote on its front-page, above the fold: “Deadlocked House Denies Support for Air Campaign”. The Washington Times did better too, with a front-page banner headline, “House Refuses to Back Air War on Serbs: Separate Vote Denies Funds for Deploying Ground Forces.” In the Vietnam era it took years for resistance in the House even to approach that level. CP

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