by Justin Raimondo
HOW SWEET IT IS
The War Party was soundly whipped on the House floor, when 213 members of Congress voted to repudiate the bombing campaign, and they haven't stopped whining for the past forty-eight hours. House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt was practically beside himself with fury: "Right-wing extremists," he fumed, were behind a plot to derail his resolution of support: "They are out of step with Republicans all over the country and Republicans in the Senate." It was only a matter of time before the War Party started smearing us as being part of an "extremist" plot. During the Vietnam war era, of course, all antiwar activity was supposed to be part of a left-wing extremist plot; and on those grounds the FBI and other government agencies acted to disrupt, degrade, and destroy as Wesley Clark would put it burgeoning opposition to the war. And how nice to know that Mr. Gephardt is in such close communication with Republicans "all over the country" and that he is now deciding what is and is not in the mainstream of Republican thought but isn't this carrying "bipartisanship" a little too far?
LEARNING TO LOVE THE WAR POWERS ACT
Another wonderful sight to behold: little Billy Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, was even more perturbed than his Clintonian allies over the House vote, as the New York Times noted: the War Powers Act is "legislation Republicans have always despised," complained Kristol, and to invoke it "in order to cut off a military action that is under way and upon whose success American credibility depends, is really appalling, really irresponsible." Kristol if wrong: the tie vote on the air war had nothing to do with the War Powers Act. It was, instead, a calculated political risk that Gephardt now sorely regrets having taken, for it was he who introduced a bill retroactively endorsing the conduct of the war up until now. But what is so appalling about having an open national debate before we get dragged into yet another European war? What's the big hurry? If conservative Republican opponents of this war in Congress have to invoke the War Powers Act to have their say before we commit troops and treasure, then they will learn to love it.
Of all the reactions to the stunning news of the House vote against the war, my own personal favorite was Joe Lockhart, the President's press secretary, who threw his hands up and declared: "If there is a clear message" in the votes "someone needs to explain it to me, and to speak very slowly and to use small words, because I don't get it." Okay, Joe, we'll go real slow, take it step by step, listen and learn: 1) In voting not to approve the air strikes, the House majority, including 26 Democrats, was saying stop the bombing, Mr. President. It isn't working, and it isn't right. 2) In voting to withdraw all our forces from the region, 139 House members were saying to the President: next time this comes up for a vote, we will win. 3) In voting to require a vote of Congress before ground troops are introduced into the war zone, the Congress was saying: we know you've been planning on a ground war all along, in spite of your denials, and so be on notice you'll have to get past us, first.
WAILING WALL STREETER
Oh, the joys of gloating! Can anything compare to it? What a pleasure it was to read Paul Gigot's Wall Street Journal column [April 30, 1999] bemoaning the House vote against the war. He relates the story of some anonymous "Republican leader in Congress who these days prefers anonymity" who has been having the following 'nightmare": "It's July of 2000. At the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, Bill Clinton is being 'lionized for saving Europe and defeating Milosevic, despite the isolationists in Congress.' Al Gore basks in reflected foreign policy triumph, while Republicans can only grouse that Slick Willie has outwitted them again." What a laugh! This has got to be Newt Gingrich that Gigot is quoting here; of anyone in or around Congress, who else but this latter-day Napoleon would be so deluded as to believe that we are headed for "victory" in Serbia by next year. Milosevic can put over 2 million fighting men in the field almost at a moment's notice: it will take many months before we can get a fighting force of sufficient size over there. And as for "saving Europe from Milosevic" is this really supposed to be taken seriously? Milosevic is not exactly threatening to march on Paris. This stupid analogy to the Nazis is so overblown that it is beginning to backfire on its perpetrators: no one believes that Milosevic poses a military threat to Europe when he can barely contain the KLA.
PUT OUT THAT JOINT!
According to Gigot, this fantastic scenario the Kosovo quagmire as a political asset rather than a liability "could happen." What have you been smoking, Paul? The President's poll numbers have been dropping back to pre-Lewinsky levels since the Kosovo crisis kicked in, and going down. As a Republican, you are supposed to be happy about this but I guess some loyalties transcend party lines.
GOOD NEWS: THE McCAIN MARATHON MAY BE OVER
Practically every line of Gigot's column is good news for us isolationists. (Yes, why not embrace the epithet? Like "hippie," and "dissident," the word "isolationist" now a badge of honor.) He writes that "In the debate between pat Buchanan and John McCain, more and more Republicans are siding with Peacenik Pat." This is too too terrible and why? Because 'in the process they may let Mr. Clinton off the political hook for so mishandling the war." Mishandling the war? Republicans need to attack Clinton (and Gore) for starting it.
ONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER
To refrain from doing that would really be letting them off the hook. But Gigot just doesn't get it. He simply cannot believe that, after all that free TV time, "the loneliest Republican in Congress these days in Mr. McCain, a stranger is a suddenly strange party." Could anything be a better measure of the essential health and vitality of the party than the fact that John McCain's presidential bid is sinking like a stone? It warms the cockles of my cold isolationist heart to see it: the consternation, the confusion, the panic setting in among the country club Republican set. Like Rip van Winkle suddenly waking to find that the Cold War is over, Communism is kaput, and peace has broken out in the conservative movement, the old war-horses of the Republican Establishment and especially the Wall Street wing are disoriented and cranky. They cannot understand what is happening to their party, and in trying to fathom it, they attribute it to an excess of Clinton-hating. But Gigot doesn't really buy this line about hatred of the President turning into hatred of his warmmongering, for he flails at the GOP for becoming "this generation's McGovernites." This analogy is as phony as the idea that Milosevic is the modern-day equivalent of Hitler: for there is no Communist enemy to appease, no worldwide movement slowly but inexorably gobbling up nation after nation only the leader of a third-rate European country whose territory has been reduced by more than two-thirds over the last decade. Gigot approaches everything, not in terms of principle, but as a political game, and he calculates that the winner in all this is going to be John McCain: If Clinton starts the ground war, and wins, then "McCain will share the credit." If he chickens out, as is "likely," then, says Gigot, "Mr. McCain will have the credibility to criticize." Of course, the only permissible critique is from an ultra-interventionist position: "isolationist" dissent is disallowed. "The Buchanan Republicans will have no such standing." And why not? "Because they're now urging Mr. Clinton to cut exactly that kind of Milosevic-saving deal. Mr. Clinton will crow, while Republicans will face a vote on ground troops anyway, in that case to enforce another unstable 'peace' agreement." But what will Clinton have to "crow" about that he got us into an unwinnable war in which "victory" is undefinable and impossible at any rate? That he slipped into the Balkan quicksands, and is now desperately trying to get out? The very effective Republican argument can and will be that they always advised against getting involved in the first place and if they face a vote on whether to station troops for "peacekeeping" purposes they have only to vote an emphatic no to send an unmistakable and consistent message, the one they have been sending all along: This isn't our war. And how is Gigot so sure that Clinton is going to cut a deal with Milosevic, when every deal offered by the Germans, the Russians, and Milosevic himself has so far been disdainfully rejected? If only it were so. That even a single life has been lost in this unnecessary and utterly immoral war is a crime, and the sooner it ends the better. Gigot is hallucinating when he fantasizes that when Clinton starts the ground war and wins "McCain will share the credit." Republicans will want to be implicated in this fiasco about as much as they want to take "credit" for the Somalia disaster or the futile and seemingly endless intervention in Haiti i.e. not at all.
A CHANGE OF PACE
There was a refreshing change of pace at the daily briefing given by the British Ministry of Defense, when the playwright Harold Pinter asked Defense Secretary George Robertson whether, given that the Geneva Convention Act states that civilians shall not be the object of an attack unless they have taken a direct part in hostilities, Robertson could really describe the killing of civilians at the Belgrade television station last week as anything but an act of murder. Robertson, caught completely off guard, sputtered angrily: "I deny and reject that absolutely and completely." When he got over the shock of being asked a question that did not assume absolute rectitude of the Allied cause, he explained the sinister theory behind the attack on Belgrade television in particularly revealing terms: "Many of these targets are indeed the brains behind the brutality gong on in Kosovo today, part and parcel of the apparatus that is driving this ethnic genocide that is going on inside this part of the former Yugoslavia, and so long as that continues we must continue those targets." By this same tortured logic, therefore, a Serbian attack on the American media say a few bombs tossed into CNN headquarters in Atlanta would be entirely justified. Already, Serbians are being blamed for the murder of BBC television personality Jill Dando: someone claiming to be a Serb has reportedly taken responsibility for the attack. Of course, this is a classic black propaganda ploy: anyone with some change and access to a telephone booth could pull it off. But the reality is that by defining television stations that don't toe the NATO line as being "legitimate" military targets it is the American and British governments that are widening this war and engaging in terrorism. In the event of retaliation in kind, the blame is clearly on those who started it.
Raimondo's Wartime Diary
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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).