Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

September 20, 2000


George W. Bush is campaigning on a platform of restoring integrity to the Presidency. Not only will the unofficial office of Presidential Concubine be abolished, but, we are led to believe, there will be no more of the egregious spinning, dissembling, and outright lying that has characterized the Clinton administration since day one. But if we look at the series of policy reversals, tortured rationales, and humiliating gaffes committed by the candidate and his handlers, we get a preview of what to expect if and when they move to into the Oval Office. If you think the Clintonians are the world champions of spin, then you missed the the adroit maneuvering and verbal gymnastics of Team Bush around the issue of US troops in the Balkans, specifically what to do about our deepening and seemingly permanent military occupation of Kosovo. Bush supported the Kosovo war, in spite of vocal opposition from the Republican congressional majority,. Last May, when the Warner-Byrd amendment, which would have withdrawn all US troops from Kosovo by a date certain, was attached to the military appropriations bill by Rep. John Kasich, it had a good chance of passing – until Dubya joined Clinton in lobbying Congress to vote it down.


Warner-Byrd lost, 53 to 47, according to the New York Times, with "at least two or three Republicans saying they were swayed by Governor Bush, who called it a 'legislative overreach' that would tie his hands if he became president." There can be little doubt that Dubya provided Clinton with the margin of victory in this fight with the Republican Congress. Without Dubya's support, Clinton would have been forced to bring the troops home by July. But that didn't stop the Bushies from playing the Kosovo card, cynically seeking to cash in on to growing noninterventionist sentiment within their own party. They sent Dick Cheney out to do the job – a bit of irony that resonates with those who know that Cheney, during his tenure as CEO of the Halliburton Company, personally made a killing on Clinton's Kosovo adventure. After all, it was Brown and Root, a division of Cheney's company, that received the noncompetitive government contract to build the facilities for US troops in Kosovo. Yet here he was saying that maybe we ought to get out, as the Times [September 1, 2000] reported:

"Without addressing the merits of the Clinton administration's initial decision to send troops into Bosnia and Kosovo, Mr. Cheney said today that it was time to consider pulling the remaining American ground troops out of the Balkans, perhaps while still keeping a small presence there to gather intelligence and help the remaining international force with logistics. 'We might continue to do that," he said. "But troops on the ground, in Europe, in the Balkans in particular, now that the crisis supposedly has passed in Bosnia and Kosovo, strikes me an appropriate role for our European friends and allies.'"


Now that Cheney and his buddies have made billions, and there are no more barracks to build and mess halls to maintain at bases like Camp Bondesteel, in northern Kosovo, it might be time to bring the troops home – that is, if it doesn't upset the Europeans too much. A foreign policy of "take the money and run" is as close to noninterventionism as any Republican on the national ticket is allowed to get.


The Kosovo war gave leftwing European politicians the chance to get up on their high horses and declaim against "genocide," all the while striking noble poses and clamoring for US intervention. But when it came time to pay the bill, they executed what you might call the old "eat and beat" maneuver: eat your fill, and then slip out the door hopefully unnoticed. Cheney is naturally critical of the Europeans welshing on their debts – especially since that debt is owed to the Halliburton Company. The GOP vice presidential nominee only recently gave up any financial interest in his ex-employer. You'll remember he divested his stock shares only with extreme reluctance, and no wonder: Halliburton's soaring stock prices have made Cheney a rich man, and he might've been even richer if only those European ingrates had paid their bills – and those media spoilsports hadn't made such a fuss about a "conflict of interest." Is there no justice in this world?


Cheney's bid for the "isolationist" vote enraged the Clinton White House. Joe Lockhart bellowed that Cheney "now has an obligation to come forward and say which deployments he was opposed to. Was he against our action in Haiti? Was he against our action of returning peace to Sarajevo and Bosnia? Was he against reversing ethnic cleansing in Kosovo? Was he against eight years of containment of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction? I think those are questions he should answer." But don't hold your breath, because the answer is: none of the above. Now, quick: which major presidential candidate opposed each and every one of those deployments? No guessing, and please don't tell me Dave McReynolds, John Hagelin, Howard Phillips, or Harry Browne – I said major, or at least major-minor. The answer to our pop quiz question is to be found at the end of this column, but, no, we aren't there yet. . . .


The lies of politicians often come back to haunt them, but rarely has a brazen fib boomeranged so quickly. The Bushies may have thought that Warner-Byrd was dead and buried, but rumors of its death turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. Looks like it's been resurrected by those mischievous House Republicans, who restored it to their version of the 2001 military appropriations budget. The measure would cut off money for nearly 6,000 United States ground forces in Kosovo by April 1, unless Congress votes for an extension – and once again the Bush camp is trying mightily to drive a stake through its heart. The House and Senate versions of the budget must be reconciled before Congress adjourns for the year, and this is the last sticking point. "We feel pretty strongly about it," said Representative Dick Armey of Texas, the House majority leader. "The question is, how long will we have people over there, and when will we have a clear definition of what they're doing?" With the same fine appreciation for legalistic hairsplitting displayed by our current President, Bush and his advisors are reiterating their "legislative overreach" argument – but not too loudly, in the hope no one will take notice, the House Republicans will capitulate in the end, as usual, and the whole issue will go away. . . .


But the issue isn't going away, as recent events in and around the former Yugoslavia make all too clear. Kosovo is a ticking time-bomb that may or may not be set to go off before Election Day 2000. The Bushies are betting that it won't, but with Election Day in Yugoslavia – September 24 – fast approaching, all bets are off. The same game is being played out in the Persian Gulf:. As a war scare drives the price of oil to new heights, the market is betting on bombs over Baghdad – and so, no doubt, is Al Gore, who would be delighted with an "October surprise" as a kind of going away present from the President. He may, however, get more than he bargained for. In the final months of his presidency. Clinton's legacy of shame may turn out to be an inheritance of blood – which will stain the next President's hands as well as Clinton's.


"We didn't start this war" – the Republican mantra is not hard to divine – "but we sure know how to finish it. Since we're in it we've gotta win it!" How many times did we hear John McCain utter this mindless rationale for mass murder, while puffing out his chest and smiling with clenched teeth? As Secretary of Defense in a Bush administration, Madman McCain will be unleashed: instead of just talking about sending American ground troops into battle in the Balkans, he'll have the chance to do it – provided he has the ear of one of Dubya's foreign policy tutors. . . .


Those Republicans who mistook Cheney's highly conditional half-promise to get us out of the Balkans as a solemn commitment were bound to be disappointed. There is only one major candidate in this race who would pull up stakes at Camp Bondsteel shortly after being sworn in, and now, finally we are come to the answer to our pop quiz – and, no, it isn't Ralph Nader. While Ralph has been in the news a lot – I thought it was charmingly counterintuitive if a bit impolitic the way he came out against medically-assisted suicide while campaigning in Washington state, where a "right to death" measure passed – the world is still waiting for the word "Kosovo" to pass his lips. I think we're going to have a loooooooong wait. He'd much rather talk about the alleged dangers of bioengineered oats, a fetish issue on which he has a stance eerily similar to that of Harvard-educated physicist and crackpot John Hagelin, the presidential candidate of the Transcendental Meditators, and the only candidate who thinks he can fly. Now if Nader wants to really crack the crackpot vote, and horn in on Hagelin's racket, maybe he can investigate the joys of "yogic flying." Okay, folks, enough is enough: coming right up is the answer to our pop quiz. Did you get it? Let's see. . . .


Only one major presidential candidate has opposed each and every foreign adventure, each foray into overseas folly, since the end of the cold war, and that is Pat Buchanan. The Reform Party candidate, who came roaring back from a brief illness, rested and refreshed with a $12.5 million infusion into his campaign coffers, is not trying to send voters a subliminal message. Pat is upfront and in your face about it: in his speech to over 2,000 cheering students, faculty, and Reform party activists at Bob Jones University, world capital of political incorrectness, he denounced the war moves of this rotten administration: Buchanan promised that if elected he would bring American troops home not only from Europe but also from the Middle East, averring that we need to redeploy them on the Rio Grande as a shield against rampant illegal immigration – because our very sovereignty is threatened. He then turned his sights on Kofi Annan and the delegates to the UN Millennium gabfest, where the nightmare of a world government was portrayed as the dream of benevolent visionaries. As is his wont, Pat addressed the elites directly, gleefully detailing the ignominious fate awaiting them under a Buchanan presidency: "We want the United Nations out of the United States by year's end,'' Buchanan said. "If you have trouble leaving, we'll send up 10,000 Marines to help you pack."


Buchanan understands, like no other political figure today, the centrality of the concept of national sovereignty in the post-cold war world. All the other candidates repeat the "globalization" buzzword, but only in a limited economic sense of the term. What they don't talk about is the globalization of American military and political power, except to exalt it: none but Buchanan points to the deadly dangers. Deadly not only to the lives of our soldiers but to the life of our Republic. A republic, not an empire – this the title and theme of his most recent book (a scholarly but very readable and accessible history of American foreign policy) and the leitmotif of his campaign. It will become the slogan of a new generation of activists and a new politics, born in the shadow of war and of a monstrously overgrown and overweening American Imperium. Let it be our battlecry.

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