by Justin Raimondo
The Film Academy of Yugoslavia has announced the winner of its top prize for best film: Wag the Dog, the 1998 movie about a President who stages a war in Albania to divert attention away from a sex scandal. The Academy honored the producers, director, and actors, according to the Associated Press, and invited them to come and accept the award in person. As unregenerate Clintonians, the makers of Wag the Dog, for their part, were from the start embarrassed by what they regarded as the unfortunate timing of the film's release -- at the height of l'affaire Lewinsky -- and will no doubt be less than thrilled by this accolade. But art transcends the character -- and politics -- of the artist, and Wag the Dog will go down in history as a parable for our times.
A GREEN WAR
This war for political correctness was wildly popular with German Greens, who just entered the German government in coalition with the Social Democrats -- until the secret sections of the Rambouillet "peace agreement" were revealed and shown to contain provisions that would have permitted the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia. Several German Greens in the Bundestag (the German Parliament) declared that if they had known about these provisions, they would never have voted to support the war. Now, with toxic clouds of noxious gas hovering over the cities of Novi Sad and Belgrade -- the result of U.S. bombing of fuel depots -- the "environmentalist" Greens are in a dilemma: either repudiate the war, or else become a party to a devastating environmental disaster.
Remember when Saddam Hussein set fire to the Kuwaiti oil fields? It was called the greatest environmental disaster in the region ever, and cited as a casus belli in the first Gulf war. But as poisonous clouds waft over Yugoslavia's cities, and are blown Westward into Germany and France, we hear not a peep about NATO's war on the environment. One can only hope they will reach England without becoming too diluted, in a kind of boomerang effect. Maybe that will drive down Tony Blair's poll numbers and cool the Brits' interventionist ardor.
"We're practically a member of NATO," boasted one Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) official to a reporter recently, and certainly Clinton's contras have emerged from obscurity to become a force to be reckoned with in the Balkans. Their ranks are swelling as overseas recruits -- including several hundred Americans -- arrive daily at Tirana airport to sign up, and their leaders hobnob with Madeleine Albright and James Rubin, who seems to spend a lot of time on his cell phone chatting with KLA leader Hacim Thraci. While countless newspaper stories romanticize their exploits, echoing U.S. government officials such as Rubin who hail them as "freedom fighters," there has been little if any useful information published about KLA history and ideology. Now, at last, a major article, "Kosovo's Next Masters?" by Chris Hedges, Balkan bureau chief at the New York Times from 1992-98, has been published in the prestigious Foreign Affairs [May-June 1999], the magazine of the Council on Foreign Relations -- and the truth is out, at last. Of course, everybody knows what they want -- independence for Kosovo -- but nobody really seems to know who they are and what they believe. The KLA, writes Hedges, "splits down a bizarre ideological divide, with hints of fascism on one side and whiffs of communism on the other." The fascist faction is led by "the heirs of those who fought in the World War II fascist militias and the Skanderberg volunteer SS division raised by the Nazis." When Hitler ethnically cleansed the Jews from Kosovo, the Skanderberg division enthusiastically took up the task of rounding them up on Herr Hitler's behalf. As the Western news media compares the plight of the Albanian refugees to the Holocaust and -- falsely -- accuses the Serbs of "genocide," the irony is that it was the Kosovar unit of the Nazi SS that put the few hundreds Jews in the province into box cars and sent them to concentration camps. As Hedges puts it, "the decision by KLA commanders to dress their police in black fatigues and order their fighters to salute with a clenched fist to the forehead has led many to worry about these fascist antecedents. Following such criticism, the salute has been changed to the traditional open-palm salute common in the U.S. Army."
WELCOME TO THE BADLANDS
A hilarious story by Emma Daly, a correspondent for the London Independent, filed from the town of Bajram Curri, in northern Albania caustically debunks the image of the Albanians as lovable victims -- and illustrates why the U.S. is going to sorely regret stepping in that vipers' nest. Daly describes being ripped off on a lonely mountain road by a gang of Albanian bandits: "Someone yanked open the car door," writes Daly, and "a black balaclavaed face peered in, shouting. Another burst of gunfire over our heads and the bandit -- dressed in German camouflage and armed with an AK-47-- pulled us out and grabbed at our pockets. We didn't need to speak Albanian to understand that gesture . . . ." The "armed police escort" hired to protect the media caravan "did not lift a finger, let alone a safety catch. Our man stood aimlessly by the roadside, watching, his Kalashnikov cradled safely." I wonder how much the "armed police escort" was cut in for. Daly and her party, relieved of their television equipment and computers, were not the only victims; earlier, this example of involuntary "humanitarian aid" given the hard way was also experienced by the BBC and Turkish television crews, whose load had been similarly lightened on the same road some 48 hours earlier. Daly's article is a kind of mini-survival guide for any Westerner who would be so foolish as to venture into the Albanian "badlands," of which Bajram Curri is the capital city. Among the "very specific precautions" journalists must take are "first, find a gun for hire -- there are plenty hanging around the lobby -- and pay him to protect you." Second, "try to persuade your new friend to use the safety catch and to point the Kalashnikov in the opposite direction." Western officials and media coming into this Wild West scene routinely travel with police or army escorts: "Not that this necessarily helps. Three days ago, an OSCE Land Rover traveling to Tirana, the Albanian capital, and escorted by police in a second car was held up by three gunmen who did not even bother to wear masks. They drove off in the OSCE vehicle and a Mercedes, while the policemen watched." As we pour billions into a nation of thugs, building roads, communications networks, and other basic infrastructure completely missing in the primitive Albanian landscape, the same kind of rip-off is in progress -- on a much bigger scale.
But it isn't just the Albanians who will be making out like bandits from this war -- they are just getting the chump change. While the rest of us are going to pay dearly for Clinton's conquest of Serbia, in new war taxes, certain American companies are going to profit mightily from the bloodshed -- and they have shown the proper appreciation for NATO by sponsoring its 50th anniversary celebration, to be held next week in Washington. Thirteen big companies have ponied up $250,000 apiece for seats on the Board of Directors of the "NATO Host Committee," including Honeywell, Inc., Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Ford, and Boeing. In the $50,000 range, NATO "Benefactors" include Chevy Chase Bank, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman Corporation. The AOL Foundation, FedEx, IBM, and Verio Inc., the Western Policy Association and the Washington Post Foundation gave $25,000 each, which entitles them to the designation of "Patrons." When Albania is redone, and Yugoslavia "reconstructed," these companies will be first in line to do the reconstructing. Like the selling of the White House to fatcat Democratic party contributors and various Friends of Bill, the selling of this war in Clinton's America is as brazen an act of highway robbery as any that has occurred in Albania -- and far more profitable. Tomorrow the President will ask for $6 billion to fund the war -- and that will only cover the cost of the military operations for the first few weeks. The total cost of the entire operation is now being estimated at $20 billion -- and climbing. Who profits? Who will builds the weapons, supplies the trucks, connects the communications networks, and finances what they are already calling a second Marshall Plan for the Balkans? Just log on to today's Washington Post for the complete list of NATO's corporate contributors -- and subtract the relatively piddling cost of these "contributions" from the practically unlimited cornucopia of government contracts and other payments related to Operation Allied Force. The popular bromide that no one really wins a war, and that we are all the losers, is refuted by the math.
OH, GROW UP
Of course, we're all shocked -- shocked! -- that NATO has been caught lying about the bombing of the Kosovar refugees, and that the tape recording played by NATO spokesman Jamie Shea at a NATO briefing was not the voice of the pilot who made the bombing run, as was strongly implied. After all, our side never lies -- or does it? For three days, this has been the main topic of conversation on the television talk shows and the top story on the news, which is all to the good -- but one can only wonder what the media will do when they finally stumble on the fact that this whole war is based on lies. Perhaps some psychological survival mechanism short of willful blindness will prevent them from going mad.
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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).