Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com

August 23, 2000

BUSH ON KOSOVO – TURNING ON A DIME

The furious backpedaling by George Dubya and his foreign policy advisors on the issue of Kosovo is not unrelated to a subject covered in my last column: the breaking news that the claims made by NATO and various self-appointed "human rights" advocates to justify military intervention were complete and utter hogwash. No wonder the Bushians, who collaborated with Clinton in putting their imprimatur on that war, are backing away as fast as they can.

IN WITH THE SPIN

The numbers are in – and so is the spin. The news that the alleged "genocide" committed in Kosovo by the Serbs was a complete hoax, and that the numbers of dead – initially touted as 100,000, then 50,000, then 10,000 – will come in under 3,000, has yet to make a single American newspaper. But the Brits, who always get their news slightly ahead of us, are already disposing of this inconvenient fact in a manner that points the way forward for our own masters of spin. The London Times account gives the numbers a slight boost – "between 4,000 and 5,000" ethnic "Albanians murdered by Yugoslav Army and paramilitary forces in Kosovo" – and then comes out with a real whopper, matter-of-factly informing us that "this is half the total estimated during NATO's 78-day bombing campaign." Not so fast – half? Leaving aside the questionable figure of 4 to 5 thousand – is that total killed, including Serb civilians? – the number is far less than half. Unless you believe that half of 100,000 – or 50,000 (both numbers given out by various sources, official and unofficial, during the war) – equals 5,000. Perhaps the mathematically-challenged editors of the Times need a refresher course in elementary arithmetic – or, better yet, Remedial Journalism.

GOING INTO OVERDRIVE

But no amount of remedial instruction can reform propagandists disguised as "journalists," and this piece by Michael Evans, the Times' "defense editor," is a classic example of their incorrigibility. After stating the essential kernel of news – the Kosovo death toll numbers were waaay wrong – around which the rest of the article is wrapped, Evans immediately launches into spin overdrive:

"However, Graham Blewitt, deputy prosecutor at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, said yesterday that it was known that many of the bodies had been 'incinerated' by the Serbs. 'We will never know the full extent of the killings,' he said."

"THE DOG ATE MY HOMEWORK!"

Challenged to produce legally-admissible evidence to back up their trumped-up charges of "genocide, the War Crimes Tribunal and their globalist cheerleaders came up with the equivalent of: "The dog ate my homework." Never mind the facts, since they are unknowable. The truth is what we say it is. Perhaps they can get away with such brazen effrontery in merry olde England, which is neither merry these days nor very free. In the colonies, however, such a statement would be met with a loud guffaw. Americans know a liar when they see one. After all, the most infamous liar of them all has been ensconced in the Oval Office for the past eight years, and not a day has gone by when we haven't been forced to witness some aspect of his monumental dishonesty with the collusion of the American media. This is one reason you have to go to a British paper to read about what is really going on in the world.

SULTANS OF SPIN

Phillip Knightley, author of The First Casualty, and a trenchant critic of the media's cheerleading during the Kosovo war, captured the spirit of what is happening in a speech given last year to the Freedom Forum – in which he addressed an audience made up largely of the objects of his scorn. Although war reporting is usually seen as an extension of the war effort, he said:

"The military does not trust all war correspondents to toe the line. What if one of them decides to break ranks and tell the truth as he or she sees it? To try to make certain that this does not happen, the military has a manual, updated after every war, on managing the news in wartime. It follows basic principles: Appear open, transparent, and eager to help; never go in for summary repression or direct control; nullify rather than conceal undesirable news; control emphasis rather than facts; balance bad news with good; and lie directly only when certain that the lie will not be found out during the course of the war."

ORWELL LIVES

A NATO spokesman explained it away by denying that the figure of 10,000 dead had ever been "an alliance estimate." According to this official,

"It was a figure produced by the international community, based on a whole range of sources, including intelligence reports, interviews with refugees and witness accounts, and if it turns out that the total number of deaths is smaller, then that's very good news."

Yet officials of the British government repeatedly stated the 10,000 figure during and after the war. Is Britain not a member of the NATO alliance? The same figure was repeated by US government officials, including State Department spokesman James Rubin. Last we looked, the US was – unfortunately – still a NATO member. And how is the revelation that we have been lied to on a massive scale is "good news"? Only in the Orwellian world of British politics, where Bad News is Good, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

NATO'S BIG LIE

While the mass news media is almost completely co-opted and manipulated by the War Party, occasionally some real bit of news damaging to their interests manages to leak out. In that case, the War Party is prepared: their spin-doctors are the best in the world. The revelations about NATO's Big Lie may just be hitting the mass media, but we have been reporting this story since the middle of last year – and the debate has been ongoing. NATO's fallback argument is that the numbers don't really matter, since the kind of "ethnic cleansing" going on in the Balkans is impermissible no matter what. But that is not the debate we had in the months leading up to the bombing of Belgrade. In the all-too-brief national discussion over whether intervention was justified by any measure, either moral or material, the American people were told that "genocide" was being committed: the President and his spokesmen repeatedly invoked the memory and imagery of the Holocaust, and so much as said that if we didn't go in the blood of an entire people would be on our hands – and they lied. It's as simple as that.

GETTING UGLY

Meanwhile, nine children were injured in a drive-by grenade attack on a Serb enclave in Kosovo a few days ago. The attackers heaved two grenades into a basketball court in the Obilic area, and the situation on the ground in that "liberated" land gets uglier by the day. So ugly, indeed, that even firm backers of the Kosovo war, such as GOP presidential candidate George "Dubya" Bush, are backing away from the monster they helped create.

HAVING IT BOTH WAYS

Last year the headline was "Bush and Clinton Unite to Block Kosovo Pull-out" – yet now he's complaining about "overdeployment." Bush is making the same arguments that Senators John Warner and Harry Byrd made in authoring legislation that would have set a deadline for our long-promised Balkan withdrawal – so why did Bush block that legislation, and why did Condolezza Rice brag about it in an interview on CNN right after her speech at the Republican convention? When Judy Woodruff brought up the familiar liberal smear word – "isolationism" – Condie smiled and reminded everyone that it was George Dubya, after all, who asked Republicans to vote against the Warner-Byrd amendment.

A CAMPAIGN SLOGAN – AND A MASCOT

But that was then, and this is now – as good a slogan for the Bush campaign (and the Bush Presidency, should it ever come to pass) as anyone is likely to come up with. The god of the Bush camp must be the two-faced Roman deity Janus, the most important of the Italian gods. Janus ruled over doors and gates and symbolized beginnings and endings, presiding over all sorts of transitions – notably the transition from peace to war or vice versa. In the ancient Roman Forum stood the sacred temple of Janus, its doors flung wide open whenever Rome was at war, so that the god himself might intervene on Rome's behalf. As to what sort of a transition a Bush administration would make in the foreign policy realm, the unhappy answer requires some digging. . . .

AMBIGUITY THY NAME IS DUBYA

The Republican standard-bearer, in a recent speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, averred that he would "review foreign deployments of US troops" – while, naturally, increasing military expenditures. To begin with, "reviewing" doesn't necessarily imply one result or the other. In any case, Bush's recent statement was nothing new, but merely a reiteration of what he said in a speech to the Citadel last year, when he told the young military cadets:

"As president, I will order an immediate review of our overseas deployments – in dozens of countries. The longstanding commitments we have made to our allies are the strong foundation of our current peace. I will keep these pledges to defend friends from aggression. The problem comes with open-ended deployments and unclear military missions. In these cases we will ask, 'What is our goal, can it be met, and when do we leave?' As I've said before, I will work hard to find political solutions that allow an orderly and timely withdrawal from places like Kosovo and Bosnia. We will encourage our allies to take a broader role. We will not be hasty. But we will not be permanent peacekeepers, dividing warring parties. This is not our strength or our calling."

GONE BY YESTERDAY

With war brewing on the Serbian-Kosovo border, and the Montenegrin land mine waiting to be stepped on, what does a "timely" withdrawal mean? To me, it means we should have been gone by yesterday. To Bush's foreign policy advisors, the so-called "Vulcans" such as Condelezza Rice, however, it almost certainly means something altogether different. What it doesn't mean is that President Dubya is going to bring the troops home anytime soon. It is significant, however, that Bush would like to appear to be in favor of withdrawal, at least for the moment: his focus groups must be telling him how dangerous and volatile the Kosovo issue really is. I realize that foreign policy is not supposed to matter this election year, and in any case it is almost considered bad manners to bring the issue up, but apparently Bush thinks he is getting some political mileage out of it. His own Republican base opposed the Kosovo intervention from the very beginning – a fact he ignores at his peril.

THERE'S ALWAYS A CATCH

The catch is that if the shooting starts before Election Day 2000, the concept of a "timely and order withdrawal from places like Kosovo and Bosnia" is meaningless: As in Vietnam, a war essentially started and escalated by a Democratic President will be inherited and largely fought by US troops under a Republican commander-in-chief. With John McCain presiding over the Defense Department, can anyone doubt that we'll be hearing a lot more of that old moronic McCainiac slogan: "We're in it, and we've got to win it!" ? This is the way it always works, it is the essence of our bipartisan foreign policy of global meddling and empire-building: as Bob Dole once perceptively pointed out, the Democrats like to start the wars and the Republicans like to think they can finish them. But where is this one likely to end? Right on Moscow's doorstep. . . .

THE FOREIGN POLICY ISSUE

Don't let them tell you foreign policy is not an issue in this campaign. As a factor it may be having an effect entirely beneath the surface, but at any moment the issue could be front and center this election year. With yet another confrontation with Iraq looming in the not-too-distant future, and the Balkan cauldron bubbling furiously, foreign policy could very well determine the outcome of this election. In that case, both major party candidates are sure to suffer – for they are both candidates of the War Party, the party of perpetual war for perpetual peace, as the historian Charles Austin Beard once put it. Fueled by globalist delusions that most ordinary people regard as dangerous and un-American – as well as the profit-margins of certain politically-connected companies and industries – our internationalist foreign policy has never been popular. Now that the cold war is ended, support for foreign meddling, foreign aid, and the fevered pleas of foreign lobbyists is at an all-time low. This is what accounts for Bush's rhetoric about "overdeployment" and his measured backing away from his previously fulsome support for the Kosovo intervention. But don't you believe it: never mind Bush, just take a good long look at his much-vaunted advisors, who will be making policy if and when Dubya makes it to the Oval Office. . . .

BUSH'S HAWKS

In a May 22 column, I pointed out the contradictions inherent in Dubya's Kosovo double-talk, and cited an interesting Washington Post piece on the factional alignments within the Bush foreign policy team. While the relatively dovish Ms. Rice is the author of the "troops out of Kosovo" commitment, the more hawkish advisors such as the ever-warmongering Paul Wolfowitz have the real power. As Clinton readied public opinion for the "liberation" of Kosovo by US troops, Bush heeded Wolfowitz, not Rice, and joined the President in calling for intervention, because "it's in our national interest." Dubya's critique, at the time, was that Clinton was not prosecuting the war "ferociously" enough.

TO THE GATES OF MOSCOW

Behind Serbia lies Russia – which Wolfowitz and his fellow "Vulcans" see as the main danger to the US. According to the "Wolfowitz Doctrine," enunciated in an infamous memo drawn up by him during the previous Bush administration, a resurgent Russia is America's main antagonist, and the idea is for US troops to ride up to the very gates of Moscow in a drive for NATO expansion – including not only the Baltic states, but also the Ukraine and the Caucasus. The "Great Game" being played by the big oil companies over who shall pump the big oil bonanza out of the Caucasus and feed Europe's energy needs – and at what price – has the US government as one of the major players. With Dick Cheney by his side, and Wolfowitz enforcing the party line in the foreign policy realm – perhaps using Ms. Rice as national security advisor or even secretary of state as a shield against "isolationist" critics on the Republican Right – President Dubya would sink us even deeper in the European quagmire.

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