by Justin Raimondo
FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS
It was a famous victory or, rather, it will be, when the history of American opposition to our interventionist foreign policy is written. One after another, Republicans rose in the House of Representatives to denounce the war, and declare their unyielding skepticism of the President's Balkan escapade: "Was it worth it to stay in Vietnam just to save face?" asked House GOP Whip Tom DeLay "What long-term good will be accomplished by keeping our troops there? None, unless you are willing to occupy all of Yugoslavia." We should not even be in the Balkans," declared Rep. Floyd Spence, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "The national security of this country is not at stake." I was particularly taken with Rep. Tillie Fowler, Republican of Florida's 4th District, who sponsored legislation requiring the President to come before Congress and ask for approval before committing American troops on the ground in Kosovo, and who opposed a Democratic proposal to back the air campaign. But what do we mean by "air campaign," she asked, pointing out that "it could mean dropping paratroopers by air into Belgrade." Attagirl, Tillie! They aren't getting anything past you!
A MORAL VICTORY
Four proposals in all were voted on: Two resolutions by Rep. Tom Campbell, one calling for complete withdrawal from the Balkans and the other declaring war. The Republican leadership backed legislation requiring the President to ask for congressional approval before launching the ground war, and the Democrats were pushing a resolution backing the air war. To no one's surprise, both of Campbell's resolutions were defeated, but, contrary to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who denounced them as "game playing," they gave Congress a chance to be heard on the issue for the first time since the bombs began to fall. It is a measure of the growing unpopularity of Clinton's war that, a month into the conflict, already 139 members of Congress, 127 Republicans and 12 Democrats, voted to completely withdraw, no ifs, ands, or buts a kind of absolutism that was not to be found anywhere in Congress during the Vietnam era until that debacle was well into its second decade. "Mr. Speaker," said Delay, "I rise today to state that ground troops should not be sent to Kosovo and any forces presently in the region should be withdrawn. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. The Administration is just learning that lesson now." While the bill to withdraw failed, the large number of "yes" votes and the defiant words of those who cast them chalked up a moral and political victory for the antiwar forces in Congress.
BILL CLINTON A LIAR?
The vote on requiring the President to seek Congressional approval before bringing in the ground troops was equally dramatic, with Democratic Minority Leader Dick Gephardt conjuring up the dark specter of Slobodan Milosevic, who, he opined, "will be listening carefully to what we say here today." Undeterred by this attempt to equate dissent with sedition, 203 Democrats and 45 Democrats reasserted the power of Congress to make war, and, in effect, just said no to a ground war. Clinton had tried to head this off by holding a meeting with congressional leaders at which he assured them that he would not attempt to put combat troops on the ground in Kosovo until and unless he consulted with Congress. "The language in this legislation is unnecessary," declared Gephardt after all, would the President lie to Congress and the American people? For some reason, many members of Congress not all of them Republicans thought it not only possible but likely enough to require passage of the restrictions.
DISOWNING MASS MURDER
The really decisive and morally satisfying victory, however, was the vote taken on the air strikes: as NATO warplanes were dropping bombs on power plants, civilian residences, bridges, and hospitals, Republicans heard their leaders declare that they should not be "owning" this record of massive destruction. The 213-213 tie vote was a big victory for the antiwar forces in the GOP; and not only that, but it also showed the weakness of the official leadership, such as Speaker Hastert, who voted (with 31 other Republicans) in favor of Clinton's bombing campaign. The war's GOP supporters were mostly the usual suspects the "moderates" such as Ben Gilman, Rep. John Kolbe, Rep. Constance Morella, and a very few conservatives such as Duncan Hunter but they were not very visible on the floor. It was the antiwar conservatives who took the offensive and made the congressional debate a platform for a newly self-confident and militant anti-interventionism. Clinton's mad policy of war in the Balkans stands repudiated by the "people's House" an act of defiance unprecedented in wartime. After the vote, the President admonished the Congress: "America must speak with one voice," he warbled, but nobody believes this arrant nonsense. What is evident from the outcome of today's debate is that the voice of dissent will not be stilled, but instead grows louder with each passing day.
PORTRAITS OF THE WAR PARTY: ERIC HARRIS
Eric Harris, one of the two student mass murderers who recently decimated Columbine High School, "was thrilled when he heard one morning in philosophy class that the United States was on the verge of bombing Yugoslavia." According to Matt Drudge, a student who sat next to him in class remembers him saying "I hope we do go to war, I'll be the first one there." Rebecca Heins told the Washington Post that Harris "wanted to be in the front lines of the NATO action." An attempt to enlist in the Marines ended in failure when it was discovered that he had lied on his application about drug usage. Harris's enthusiastic support for Clinton's reign of terror in Yugoslavia is not all that surprising: as I wrote here at the time, the grisly massacre in Littleton was a kind of dress rehearsal for what is about to happen on the battlefields of Kosovo, complete with hand-grenades, shrapnel wounds, and 24-hour media coverage. As the story of the two killers came out, the similarities were striking: here was the same victimological thinking, the same desire to lash out at alleged "bullies," the same deadly self-righteousness that motivated the Littleton killing spree also animating the NATO assault on Yugoslavia. If the "jocks" are the Serbians, who pick on the poor victimized Trenchcoat Mafia (read: Kosovars), then the apocalyptic attack by Harris and Kleybold was the equivalent of a NATO bombing raid. The terrorist team of Harris and Kleybold differs from that of Clinton and Albright only in the relative scale of their respective crimes: both are possessed by a mental disturbance, a psychological flaw that allows (or compels) them to act on their extreme sense of grievance without regard for either proportionality or common sense.
ON SECOND THOUGHT
While I was a little hard on Rep. Tom Campbell for introducing a resolution to declare war, alongside his resolution to withdraw all U.S. forces from the war zone, I had a change of heart while watching the whole bizarre procedure on CSPAN. The spectacle of the War Party scrambling to explain why they wanted to conduct and win a war without having to say that this is, indeed, a war, made it all seem worthwhile. Of course, Tom Campbell, staunchly opposed to this war, did not vote in favor of his own resolution, but this did not stop two members of the House from voting aye Joe Barton, R-Texas, and George Taylor, D-Missouri and don't ask why. Suffice to say that there is hardly a cause so ill-advised, or even downright wacky, that some dimwitted politician isn't willing to champion it.
After some 35 days of this evil and futile war, there is finally cause for celebration, and at least some degree of optimism. Not only are demands breaking out on the international front, among some of our NATO allies, for a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis in the form of a negotiated settlement and here, again, the figure of Ibrahim Rugova, the only elected chief of the Kosovars, is key but a rebellion is brewing on the home front. The polls show that the President 's policy is increasingly unpopular, with a bare majority approving and a large majority of the opinion that our policy is "not well thought out." We are constantly told that a majority support ground troops but when the possibility of American casualties is mentioned, those polled who approve of ground troops drops considerably lower, to around 40 percent. The War Party is losing its initial momentum, and the forces of peace are on the offensive. From looking at our hit report the latest one has us up to 37,000, up from 27,000 last week I know that roughly 25 percent of our readers hail from Yugoslavia and environs. To them I want to say: take heart. We may yet beat the warmongers and much sooner than anyone thinks.
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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).