Clinton, not his critics, pushed America's face into this manure
pile and rubbed it around until it was covered in ordure.
It's also worth remembering that while everybody talked about the
cynical movie "Wag the Dog,'' what Bill Clinton did was worse,
by orders of magnitude, than what the fictional playboy president
in the movie did. In the movie, remember, the cynical spinmeister
suggested and then set up a fictional war with Albania, buttressing
the impression of a war with images from stock footage. The country
was fooled but nobody was killed.
In real life, President Clinton sent real cruise missiles to destroy
a real pharmaceutical factory in a country with which the United
States had proper relations and no standing dispute besides the
missiles sent to Afghanistan that seem to have done no real harm
to bin Laden's infrastructure.
In so doing (how appropriate that the mission was code-named "Infinite
Reach'') he set up a situation (later buttressed by the ignoble
Kosovo bombing) that, as Ted Carpenter also reminded me, wherein
the president would henceforth attack wherever and whenever it tickled
his fancy to attack, with no concern for international law, no decent
respect for the opinions of others, no connection to legitimate
U.S. national security concerns, and little concern for whether
the attack actually accomplished any known military or diplomatic
objective. Bill Clinton became the Mad Bomber that day and nobody
in the world has felt safe since.
attack, combined with subsequent events, raised much more serious
issues than whether top policy-makers, either egged on by the president
or believing that they were doing his wink-and-nod bidding, ignored
the well-founded doubts of underlings who knew more than they did.
The United States is supposed to be a government of laws under a
constitution, and our constitution says it is Congress that has
the power to declare war.
A legal scholar might raise serious questions as to whether the
president should have the power to order military action in response
to an attack or provocation from another country before consulting
Congress. But an unprovoked surprise attack on a country with which
the United States has continuing diplomatic relations and with which
it has not raised concerns is an act of aggression and an act of
It's what you would expect of a personal dictator rather than what
should be expected in a constitutional republic or even a democracy.
I don't take national sovereignty as seriously as some, but there's
little question that it has been the reigning paradigm the myth
considered essential to orderly relationships for at least 100
years in international affairs, and especially since the end of
World War II. Under the paradigm, nations that want to be viewed
as legitimate members of the "community of nations'' don't undertake
unprovoked attacks on the territory of other nations. Only "rogue''
nations do such things.
That myth of national sovereignty may or may not be essential to
world order, but most diplomats and scholars have claimed that it
is and no "civilized'' nation or international body has publicly
repudiated it. So Bill Clinton transformed the United States, the
"essential nation'' into a rogue state under the terms of international
law he and his minions claim to be defending. And they wonder why
various countries are scrambling to acquire nuclear weapons, or
at least to do enough to convince their potentially troublesome
neighbors that they might have them.
Aren't some of these consequences and much more, of course that
flowed from the decision to lob missiles at a pharmaceutical factory
in Sudan at least as significant as the fact that top dogs ignored
the advice of lower-level bureaucrats who knew better than and have
finally allowed their consciences to have some influence on their
LATE THAN NEVER
that having been said, however, the Times story, even if
late and incomplete, is a welcome development. James Risen, who
wrote it, seems to have done a good job of contacting and interviewing
as many key players in the decision as possible. He has made it
clear that the evidence that the factory was a legitimate target
was thin and tenuous, that many serious people in the government
understood this and raised serious questions at the time but were
quashed by top officials determined to fire away.
The chief villains of the piece should be no surprise to most people.
National security adviser Sandy Berger, the besotted critic who
sees John McCain and Richard Lugar as knuckle-dragging isolationists,
still defends the attack and conveniently "can't remember'' even
now any serious question raised at the time.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, when she got wind that some
career State Department people were planning an after-action report
detailing and putting in one document their ongoing doubts, made
sure the report wasn't prepared. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas
Pickering dutifully played the role of hatchet-man, checking and
checking again to make sure nobody was surreptitiously doing their
duty to the truth and to the larger interests of the American people.
Phyllis Oakley, who was then Assistant Secretary of State and has
since retired after 42 years with the department, emerges as a person
who seems to have had something of a conscience. She understood
that the evidence linking the plant to terrorism was tenuous and
she seems to have tried to stop the attack. She was the one who
wanted to do an after-action report. And although she wouldn't speak
with James Risen, word is that she has continued to express her
misgivings privately since retiring.
One might question why she didn't do what in a more innocent time
would have been considered the honorable thing, which was to resign
and go public at the time of the unjustifiable attacks. But this
is an era of leaks and whispers rather than resignations or conspicuous
displays of honor or principle. Perhaps she has done the best she
can under the circumstances.
We'll just have to see whether public exposure of the way this attack
was mishandled leads to anything resembling reluctance to engage
in unprovoked and unjustified attacks on other countries in the
contribution of $20 or more gets you a copy of Justin Raimondo's
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