FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

One Last Look, Before We Leap

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

First, let’s eavesdrop on a commander-in-chief, broodingon the great themes of war and death: “‘We’re not inflicting pain onthese fuckers’ [The President] said softly at first. ‘When people kill us,they should be killed in greater numbers.’ Then, with his face reddening,his voice rising and his fist pounding his thigh ‘I believe in killing peoplewho try to hurt you, and I can’t believe we’re being pushed around by thesetwo-bit pricks.'”

LBJ at the time of the Tonkin Gulf resolution? Nixon duringthe Christmas bombing of Haiphong? No. This was Bill Clinton, as recalledby George Stephanopoulos in his recent memoir, privately ranting at thetime US “humanitarian” intervention in Somalia was falling apart,back in 1993. In other words, the first post cold war president’s instinctivereaction to challenge from a foreign adversary, however diminutive, is exactlythe same as those of commanders-in-chief in the years of the cold war, whowalked noisily and flourished big sticks.

And alas, one can imagine Clinton ranting this week inthe Oval Office to his national security advisor Sandy Berger just as hedid back then to Stephanopoulos and to Berger’s predecessor, Tony Lake.Is the “two bit prick,” President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia,still defiant? Then bombard Serbia’s cities ever more heavily with highexplosive! He still won’t succumb and acknowledge NATO’s writ? Send in theinfantry!

There is a rhythm to these imperial forays, and we shouldunderstand clearly the stage to which we are now arriving, for Clinton warpolicy is in the process of congealing into a long-term military strategyof truly appalling contours. As always, the initial predictions were optimistic,the rhetoric ebullient and the public reaction firmly adverse. The NATObombing was to be of Serbian military units, and brief in duration. Milosevicwould soon come to his senses. The committal of ground forces was out ofthe question. Public opinion was hesitant even on the bombing, and deadset against any ground war.

So, the bombs and missiles have been falling steadily.There are even more refugees heading into Belgrade than out of Kosovo intoMacedonia. Belgrade itself is going the way of Baghdad, on exactly the sameUS targeting strategy: bridges gone, power plants gone, sewage treatmentdestroyed. Missiles will go on killing civilians as they did the other dayin Novi Sad. The limitations of air power are once again being exposed.

Surveying the infinite worsening of the misery and flightof the Albanians of Kosovo, the NATO generals and some of the Joint Chiefsare saying that they knew this would happen. There are increasing rumblesabout the need for a ground invasion by NATO to finish the job. Meanwhile,American public opinion is massaged by State Department propaganda bulletinsand unending footage about the plight of the Albanian refugees. Sure enough,under this barrage, American public opinion is beginning to shift. Maybea ground war is the only way.

Then everything congeals. Policies get set in stone, sometimesfor years, because now American “resolve” is under duress. It’snot difficult now to look down the tunnel and see a NATO troop build upin Macedonia, Albania and other more distant NATO allies: a land onslaught;a bloody war; a devastated region; 100,000 NATO occupiers in Kosovo; andSerbia in rubble. Contrary to some predictions, American public opinionwould endure body bags and would rally to the flag. Any peace movement herewould take a long time to get off the ground. Most of the crucial organizers,seemingly unable to think of more than one thing at a time, are presentlypreoccupied with the campaign for Death Row prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal. Manyliberals and so-called progressives favor the bombing.

Or maybe, for logistical reasons, the recalcitrance ofallies, fear of too many casualties, there won’t be a land war, but justcontinued bombing of Serbia, along with such economic and trade sanctionsas can be imposed. Serbia will be shoved back into the living conditionsof a very poor third world country, as was Iraq after the 1991 war. Publicopinion will tolerate this, just as it has the dreadful toll, particularlyon Iraq’s children, caused by the sanctions against Iraq.

So now, as Clinton’s policy starts to congeal, let us retaina sense of realism and proportion. The lot of the Kosovars, of the refugees,awful though it may be, was no reason to go to war. The US didn’t bomb Croatiain the mid-1990s when President Tudjman sent in Croat troops to ethnicallycleanse Serbs in the Krajina. To the contrary, US military advisers helpedhim target Serb towns, thus prompting even more Serb refugees moving east(about 800,000) than Albanians out of Kosovo. The US’s humanitarian credentialsare not robust.

The bloody Vietnamese quagmire owed much to the insistenceof US presidents Johnson and Nixon that there was no viable “exit strategy.”Of course there were many, but those available were withheld from publicdiscussion here. It’s the same now. Milosevic’s recent suggestion of a ceasefirewas brushed aside as somehow unthinkable. The efforts of Russian premierPrimakov and of the Vatican have been scorned.

We’re already hearing derision about the “fainthearts”in NATO. Maybe some corner of Clinton’s brain reckons that bombs on Serbiawill extinguish Monica Lewinsky from popular memory. But what man of maturejudgment and compassion would not prefer to be remembered by the Starr reportthan by bomb craters? Many people thought Clinton was the first presidentwho somehow would prefer Starr’s volume as his epitaph, however embarrassing.But no. Like all the others, he wants bomb craters as his requiem. CP

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
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
Bruce Dixon
White Liberal Guilt, Black Opportunism and the Green Party
Edward Hunt
Killing Civilians in Iraq and Syria
Matthew Kovac
Is the Flint Water Crisis a Crime Against Humanity?
Mark Harris
The Revolutionary Imagination: Rosa for Our Times
David Rosen
America’s Five Sex Panics
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia: the Kingdom Whose Name We Dare Not Speak At All
Jack Heyman
Class War on the Waterfront: Longshore Workers Under Attack
Kim C. Domenico
Marginalize This:  Turning the Tables on Neoliberal Triumphalism
Brian Cloughley
Trying to Negotiate With the United States
John Laforge
Activists Challenge US Nukes in Germany; Occupy Bunker Deep Inside Nuclear Weapons Base
Jonathan Latham
The Biotech Industry is Taking Over the Regulation of GMOs From the Inside
Russell Mokhiber
DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox Won’t Let Whistleblower Lawyer Lynne Bernabei Go
Ramzy Baroud
The Story Behind the Jerusalem Attack: How Trump and Netanyahu Pushed Palestinians to A Corner
Farzana Versey
The Murder of Muslims
Kathy Kelly
At Every Door
David W. Pear
Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire
Maria Paez Victor
Venezuelan Opposition Now Opposes the People
Uri Avnery
Soros’ Sorrows
Joseph Natoli
The Mythos Meme of Choice
Clark T. Scott
High Confidence and Low Methods
Missy Comley Beattie
Glioblastoma As Metaphor
Ann Garrison
Organizing Pennsylvania’s 197: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities
Ted Rall
What Happened When I Represented Myself as My Own Lawyer
Colin Todhunter
Codex Alimentarius and Monsanto’s Toxic Relations
Graham Peebles
Europe’s Shameful Refugee Policy
Louis Proyect
Reversals of Imperial Fortune: From the Comanche to Vietnam
Stephen Cooper
Gov. Kasich: “Amazing Grace” Starts With You! 
Jeffrey Wilson
Demolish! The Story of One Detroit Resident’s Home
REZA FIYOUZAT
Billionaire In Panic Over Dems’ Self-Destruct
David Penner
The Barbarism of Privatized Health Care
Yves Engler
Canada in Zambia
Ludwig Watzal
What Israel is Really All About
Randy Shields
Matters of National Insecurity
Vacy Vlanza
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Through Eyes of an Activist for Palestine
Cesar Chelala
Dr. Schweitzer’s Lost Message
Masturah Alatas
Becoming Italian
Martin Billheimer
Lessons Paid in Full
Charles R. Larson
Review: James Q. Whitman’s “Hitler’s American Model”
David Yearsley
The Brilliance of Velasquez
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail