August 18, 1999


The President's reputation as a champion liar is certainly well-earned and well-known. But this time he has really outdone himself. Here is a man who has recklessly indulged in more overseas military adventures than the past three Presidents combined, with the gall to tell the Veterans of Foreign Wars, in a recent speech to their 100th anniversary meeting, that "the costliest peace is far cheaper than the cheapest war." This, from the most warlike chief executive in modern times.


Celebrating the American Century as the era of "Roosevelt [Franklin Delano], Eisenhower, [Gen. George C.] Marshall," the Wright Brothers, Martin Luther King, Dr. Jonas Salk, and Eleanor Roosevelt – deftly touching virtually all his ethno-gender-interest group bases – the President offers "a few reflections of what these 100 years mean for you and for the United States." While ritually genuflecting in the direction of science, and hailing Dr. Salk, our President insists that war, and not science or commerce, is the defining achievement of American civilization: "But if you ask who has been most responsible for making this the American century, one answer would be at the top of anyone's list after two World Wars and a long Cold War. That answer would be America's servicemen and women." No one doubts the bravery and nobility of those who have served their country honorably in war, conscripts and volunteers alike. But to elevate the armed forces to such a central place in our hierarchy of national values is dangerous and profoundly un-American: is the soldier really the one "most responsible for making this the American century," more so than the scientist, the entrepreneur, the great thinkers and inventors? The Founders would have been horrified by such an alien idea: they who (rightly) feared the dangers of a standing army. Like Sparta, or imperial Athens, post-republican America exalts the military virtues above all else, mythologizes the fallen, and worships at the altar of the war god, whose temple is the Clinton White House. It is, in a way, overcompensation on the part of a President whose relations with the military have been rocky, to say the least. But Clinton really means it especially when he lies, as in the following:


"Today, as we celebrate your centennial anniversary, we must never forget that tens, even hundreds of millions of people, in the United States and all around the world sleep in peace because hundreds of thousands of Americans rest in peace in graves marked and unmarked, all across the world – fallen veterans of foreign wars."


As Mary McCarthy once said of Lillian Hellman, every word he utters is a lie, "including 'that,' 'this,' and 'the.'" The world's millions have never slept so fitfully, and certainly all those untold millions who died to "make the world safe for democracy" must be rolling over in their graves. Far from ushering in an era of peace, their sacrifices have resulted in a world in which the threat of war has never been greater. From the Balkans to Central Asia to the Straits of Taiwan, the flashpoints of global conflict have multiplied since the supposed "end" of the Cold War. In South America. Africa, and the Indian subcontinent, the explosive mix of ethnic, religious, and class warfare could erupt at a moment's notice. If this is what it means to rest in peace – in Clinton-ese – then peace, like war, is hell.


It is almost unbelievable what whoppers Clinton can utter with a completely straight face. Whether he is getting pointers in the Method from his Hollywood friends, or else is just a natural actor, is not yet known. What is known, however, is that he uttered the following without twitching or even biting his lip:


"We will begin a new century with a truly historic achievement, for in the last few years, for the first time in all of human history, more than half the world's people live under free governments freely elected."


What world is Bill Clinton living in? No doubt he includes Bosnia and perhaps even Kosovo in this paradisiacal "more than half" the world. Even allowing that such sham "democracies" as Turkey (run by a military dictatorship), Mexico (run by drug lords), and Weimar Russia (run by gangsters), are "free governments freely elected" – a very generous concession – it is clear that our President is geographically and perhaps even mathematically challenged. The population of China and Southeast Asia, combined with that of Africa's teeming millions, the Arab world, and the totalitarian Central Asian "republics," far surpasses that of the ostensibly "free" world. Clinton's dictum of democracy triumphant is sheer bunk.


Is a "free" government one that is elected? The people, being free, can vote for tyranny. Hitler and Mussolini competed in electoral politics and won. Slobodan Milosevic was elected chief executive of Serbia and then of Yugoslavia in elections as free as any held in, say, Turkey; our NATO ally, or Egypt, the biggest recipient of U.S. foreign aid second only to Israel, These bastions of the "free" world ban opposition parties, ruthlessly censor the media, and routinely jail government critics. The "democratic" utopia of the Clintonians is a combination of Bosnia, where the occupation government is setting up formal mechanisms to control the media, and a 21st century college campus, where the academic Thought Police troll the halls hunting for evidence of "hate speech." This, to the Clintonians, is heaven on earth: but even Clinton admits there's trouble in paradise:


"Still, you and I know this is not a world free from danger. There is the potential for major wars, rooted in ethnic and religious hatred. There is the chance that former adversaries will not succeed in their transition to democracy, and could become adversaries again. There is the risk that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons will fall into the wrong hands. There is the risk of terrorist groups with increasing access to money, to technology, to sophisticated weaponry. There is the possibility that global financial vulnerabilities could overwhelm free societies."


Clinton's litany of dangers he attributes to all sorts of miscellaneous enemies: nameless "terrorists," unknowable economic processes, and science fictional plagues unleashed by demonic conspiracies. That's the trouble with the post-Cold War world: the enemy (or, more formally, the Enemy) is everywhere and nowhere to be seen. It is all very murky, there are no clean-cut cases of good versus evil, only rival tribalisms locked in conflict. Yet if we look at all of the above-mentioned dangers, each one is perpetrated on a far vaster scale by the US government than any private terrorist organization. For that is the one agency that has access to all of the listed resources and in great abundance: money, technology, sophisticated weaponry, not to mention nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. We need not worry that these "will fall into the wrong hands." They already have fallen into the wrong hands, i.e., Clinton's. The problem is how to wrest them from his grip.


Even as the "peace" in Kosovo unravels into a full scale war between NATO and its ugly spawn, the Kosovo "Liberation" Army, Clinton dares to intone that "America must still be engaged in the world, working with others to advance peace and prosperity, freedom and security, and America must remain strong. That is what our most recent conflict in Kosovo was all about. I want to thank you profoundly for the support the VFW gave us
during the conflict there. I know it wasn't easy for you to do. We were still in the early stages of the longest and most difficult military campaign in the 50-year history of NATO. Critics were convinced from the beginning that we could not succeed. But you stood with us and, more importantly, you stood with our men and women in uniform. NATO and the United States prevailed." The complete dishonesty of this statement is breathtaking in its defiance of the facts: if anyone is more hated in the veterans community than his friend Jane Fonda, it is probably the President of the United States. The military never backed the Kosovo adventure, not the Pentagon, and not the grunts, quite apart from their contempt for the Commander-in-Chief. And certainly not the veterans' groups: the biggest single group, the American Legion, was openly and outspokenly opposed to the Kosovo war. The last time Clinton appeared before a veterans' group, at the height of the war, he was coldly and just barely politely received. This time, he could not resist a little chest-beating:


"So, instead, the century ends with a powerful statement by NATO's 19 democracies, reaffirming human life and human dignity, giving us the chance after two world wars, the Cold War and the Balkan conflicts, for the first time ever to have an undivided, democratic and peaceful Europe. It shares our values, strengthens our economy, helps us meet our common aspirations and [ensures that we] will not call young Americans to go there to fight and die in the 21st century."


Is Russia, at least the Westernmost regions, not part of Europe? But that is the least of our problems. If the President really believes that Americans will not be called on to fight another war in the Balkans, "in the 21st century," even as it erupts in "liberated" Kosovo and flares up in neighboring Macedonia, then we have to remember that here is a man who parses every word, every syllable. Taken literally, he can only mean the second Balkan war will not wait for the dawn of the 21st century. Now, doesn't that sound much more plausible?


Here is the biggest lie, perhaps, in a few lines casually dropped into the middle of Clinton's speech:

"Many times our pilots risked their lives because they would not fire back at the Serb gunners who were positioned in heavily populated areas, and they didn't want to kill innocent civilians."


Clinton does not merely lie: he inverts the truth. NATO's high-flying bombers could not differentiate between civilian and military targets, and low-flying missions were forbidden because of the political costs of American casualties. The ordnance dropped by American warplanes did not consist of "smart bombs," with their alleged precision, but profoundly dumb bombs that were dropped en masse over Serbian cities and throughout Kosovo. The US/NATO bombardment did little but slaughter innocent civilians, as the great majority of military targets hit turned out to be decoys, fake "tanks" and antiaircraft artillery made of painted wood and scrap metal.


We need more weapons, and more recruits, to fuel the gigantic war machine that is now a basic part of our economy: Clinton makes pitches for both, and then he gets to the point:

"Of course, international engagement costs money. But the costliest peace is far cheaper than the cheapest war. Ever since I became President, I've been trying hard to convince Congress of that basic truth. It has been a considerable challenge. Our international affairs programs – which fund everything from resolving conflicts to strengthening young democracies, to combating terrorism, to fighting dangerous drugs, to promoting our exports, to maintaining our embassies all around the world – amount to less than one percent of the federal budget, and less than one-fifteenth of our defense budget. But I regret to say that since 1985, these programs have been cut significantly. This year, the House and Senate have passed spending bills that would cut our request for international affairs by more than $2 billion. In other words, we're cutting the very programs designed to keep our soldiers out of war in the first place."


This business of "the costliest peace is far cheaper than the cheapest war" is really far too facile to taken seriously. If that were true, then even in a defensive war, in which the territory of the US was under attack from foreign invaders, it would be better to pay them off with concessions than to fight to preserve our sovereignty. Whatever happened to "millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute"? I'll tell you what happened to it: the foreign aid program of the United States government, in which we pay tribute to our noble "allies" so they won't start a war and so they'll buy our products. As explained by our President, foreign aid is the price we pay for peace, and, remember, "the costliest peace is far cheaper than the cheapest war." If that is true, then we must be willing to pay off every corrupt Third World hellhole that threatens the peace. Or, as the President puts it:


"Underfunding our arsenal of peace is as risky as underfunding our arsenal for war. For if we continue to underfund diplomacy, we will end up overusing our military. Problems we might have been able to resolve peacefully will turn into crises that we can only resolve at a cost of life and treasure. If this trend continues, there will be real consequences for important American interests."


In other words: pay up, or go to war. This is precisely what a highwayman announces to his victims: the US is being held for ransom, not by its alleged enemies but by its allies and dependencies. It is a curious sort of empire, unprecedented in all of human history, in which the conqueror is exploited, and, as Garet Garrett trenchantly observed, "everything goes out and nothing comes in."


The rest of this appalling speech was devoted to a plea for more aid to Kosovo and the American presence in the Balkans. Was it an act of God, or an accident of timing, that the news of the billion-dollar rip-off of US aid to Bosnia was exposed in the New York Times the very next day?


A billion dollars, stolen from the American taxpayers, stolen by Bosnian "banks" that "loaned" the money to friends and relatives, and by the Muslim political party that used it to fund its election campaigns and political police. But we must give them more:


"If we don't, and the effort fails, make no mistake – there will be another bloody war that starts in the Balkans, and spreads throughout southeastern Europe. And some day, more young Americans may be asked to risk their lives at far greater cost than our part of the rebuilding of the region. If we are to succeed in winning the peace, we may see a 21st century – I'll say again – in which we do not have to send the young people of America to fight in another European war. That is a worthy objective.


But how will throwing another billion down the Bosnian rathole buy peace in the Balkans? This whole speech reads like a ransom note: pay up or face the dire consequences. What kind of a "peace" is it that mandates the payment of perpetual tribute to the Bosnias and Kosovos of this world? Russian scientists are running loose, the Russian military is selling off its nuclear stockpile, uranium is spilling out of the Soviet Union faster than it poured out of the reactor at Chernobyl, and Clinton is presenting us with the bill in the form of the foreign aid bill, now lumbering its way through Congress and due to come up again some time in September. Congress seems determined to make minuscule "cuts" – in reality, which means everywhere but Washington, D.C., a slowdown in the planned expansion of foreign aid spending – but even a minor setback is enough to make the foreign aid lobby scream bloody murder.


Who benefits from foreign aid programs? The biggest single beneficiary among recipient countries is the state of Israel, but this is not enough to explain the persistence of a program generally disdained by voters. Some major beneficiaries in this country are US exporters, who soak up the foreign aid tax dollars shoveled out to foreign governments. How much of that $1 billion went directly into the pockets of US companies with government contracts, and how much went into the bank accounts of Bosnian government officials is not the point. There is not much ideological support for interventionism, except among a few self-deluded intellectuals; the core of the interventionist lobby is motivated by economic self-interest rather than ideology. Thus the curious phraseology of Clintonian rhetoric, which hailed our great "victory" in the Balkans and the imminent arrival of peace in the region as "good for the American economy." But it is hard to see whose economy directly benefits, other than that of various and sundry Bosnian officials and their concubines. The arms manufacturers, the foreign lobbyists, and the suppliers of high-tech communications and other infrastructure required for the rebuilding of the Balkans: these are the only winners. The losers are not only the American taxpayers, who are literally being held for ransom, but also the people of the region we are supposed to be lifting out of poverty and hopelessness. For the vast infusion of money into the most criminal and irresponsible sectors of their society distorts and destroys the social fabric as well as the economy. In so "aiding" them, we are doing them no favors.

Check out Justin Raimondo's article, "China and the New Cold War"

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of 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 US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and 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).


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