The Real Rambouillet

Press Clips was not going to write about Kosovo this week. However, the sight of State Department spinmeister Jamie Rubin defiling the atmosphere of a Washington restaurant by sucking cigarettes and blabbering on his cell phone while we were recovering from a hangover served to remind us of the (ob)noxious quality of Clintonian foreign policy and its handmaidens in the media. Case in point: lack of clarity regarding last March's Rambouillet conference, where the failure of the Serbs to sign the U.S.- sponsored diplomatic initiative hastened NATO's loosing its airborne arsenal.

After hostilities commenced two months ago, Sam Husseini, director of the Washington office of the Institute for Public Accuracy, began to look more closely at the antecedents to NATO's mobilization in the ostensible name of regional stability and humanitarian endeavor. Doing what few who covered the conference apparently did, Husseini actually read the entire text of the proposed accords. Appendix B in particular caught his eye, as its wording didn't seem to lend itself to an amicable settlement. Subsections 7 and 8, for example, said that "NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] and "shall enjoy . . . free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY, including associated airspace and territorial waters." Clauses 11 and 15 granted NATO "the use of airports, roads, rails, and ports without payment [and] the right to use all of the electromagnetic spectrum." Also included were arbitrary arrest and detention powers for NATO personnel.

As the Serbs were hardly amenable to the notion of an independent Kosovo, it struck Husseini that they probably wouldn't be too keen on NATO forces taking full advantage of Appendix B in Serbia proper. Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, agreed; in his view, a close reading of the accords "provided for the independence of Kosovo in all but name and the military occupation by NATO of all of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo." At an April 26 event at the National Press Club, Husseini asked NATO spokesman Jamie Shea about Appendix B. "There was no intention whatever of having any kind of NATO occupation regime in Yugoslavia itself. What Rambouillet refers to is simply the right of transit, nothing more," the NATO flack replied. When Husseini pressed Shea to explain other non-transit-related provisions of Appendix B, Shea pled lack of firsthand knowledge, explaining that he wasn't "a negotiator at Rambouillet." While The Washington Post's For the Record column ran an edited-for-space excerpt of the Husseini-Shea exchange, no mention or subsequent investigation of Appendix B has appeared in the news pages of the Post or any other publication. It seems unlikely that the Rambouillet accords were a cloak for the ulterior motive of a full-scale occupation of Yugoslavia. Yet a number of neglected analysts are troubled that the media isn't reexamining Rambouillet; if nothing else, they say, the wording of Appendix B reflects U.S.-led NATO's embrace of cruise missile diplomacy based on miscalculation and arrogance. "The administration went to Rambouillet basically to arrange a trap for Milosevic. It was a no-win situation for him and frankly, Albright was basically trying to find a pretext for bombing," said Dan Goure, deputy director of political and military studies at the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies, in an IPA release. "They told the Kosovar Albanians that if they signed and Milosevic didn't, they'd bomb Serbia. Rambouillet was not a negotiation, it was a setup, a lynch party. The administration saw ethnic cleansing as an aid to their case. For them, the more the better. The administration's current position is to continue to use the refugee situation as a basis for justifying their hard-line political approach in dealing with Milosevic."

"The Rambouillet document was not a compromise," echoes Julianne Smith, a senior analyst at the progressive British American Security Information Council. "Even the ethnic Albanians were not keen about this. It didn't really constitute any sort of an agreement. Now, as we move towards a new settlement, the language keeps changing as to the force that will be there. Over the past few days we've gone from a NATO force to an 'international NATO core' to an 'international force with a NATO core.' Whatever it is, what's not consistent with peacekeeping is total occupation of a country."

While Goure and others from left to right believe that Rambouillet's wording was enough to give the Serbs legitimate pause, they're also irked that the press has largely declined to look at Rambouillet in the context of NATO's future. "This was largely an attempt by the Clinton administration to codify the rules by which NATO and the West would operate in the areas between the great empires for the next 50 years— the operational version of the new strategic concept for NATO," says Goure.

Indeed, Hussein Ibish, an analyst at the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, recently penned an op-ed referencing the Pentagon's Defense Planning Guidance report for 1994­1999. As Ibish notes, the document stated that "While the United States supports the goal of European integration, we must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO. . . . Therefore, it is of fundamental importance to preserve NATO as the primary instrument of Western defense and security, as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European security affairs."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Ibish's phone isn't ringing off the hook with editors eager to publish his piece.


Diplomatic Pouch

Though Christopher Hitchens's new book on Clinton is called No One Left To Lie To, Press Clips has to wonder, given the media's ongoing deference to the ever-changing explanations for the bombing of the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. In the past eight months, we've gone from the plant being owned by Osama bin Laden to being partially owned by bin Laden to being the property of a man the U.S. government characterizes as a terrorist and "agent" of bin Laden's, Saudi businessman Salah Idris. Buried on the back pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post last week were short stories reporting that the government, rather than present any evidence of Idris's nefariousness in court, wasn't challenging suits brought by Idris to unfreeze his U.S. assets. "American officials have stood by their assertions that soil samples obtained clandestinely from the site tested positive for traces of Empta, a chemical used in the production of VX nerve gas," wrote the Times. After its much ballyhooed joint endeavor with Frontline, in which the PBS show and the Paper of Record poked enough holes in that story to liquidate it, one would have hoped for the Times to dispense with dignifying this hoary tale once and for all. But as the government has also alleged that the Iraqis were in on Al Shifa, perhaps keeping all the bases covered is best; it's probably only a matter of time before Milosevic emerges as an Al Shifa investor, too.


Raving Lunatics

It would be nice to think that, after mass-murder coverage that put youth culture through the wringer, local news outlets might refrain from lurid reporting that harks back to Reefer Madness. But, carrying on in the grand tradition of William Randolph Hearst ("MARIJUANA MAKES FIENDS OF BOYS IN 30 DAYS"), WTTG-5, Washington's Fox News affiliate, presented a report last Wednesday night about "the underground of raves," rife with "pulsating music, illegal drugs, even sex." Declining to provide any historical context about young-adult drug use— such as the fact that, since the 1920s, teens have played with everything from liquor to pot to coke to psychedelics to whippets, etc., yet the Republic is still intact— the report relied largely on snuff-film grade hidden-camera footage and a matter-of-fact but righteously indignant voiceover from reporter Elisabeth Leamy. Her "revelations" about a drug that lends itself to a cool sensory experience were punctuated by images sure to inspire horror in the hearts of suburban parents everywhere: teens blissfully stroking each other's faces and shoulders, grinding teeth on pacifiers, and badgering bartenders for water.

The most arresting revelation of the "investigation," however, came when the camera lens was trained on security personnel: off-duty D.C. cops who, Leamy noted, "have full arrest powers even when they're off duty," Yet (as the footage showed) they steadfastly decline to take action against Ecstasy-popping ravers. And this, Leamy later intoned, "even though [Ecstasy] has killed at least 10 people nationwide." Tempting as it is to point out that more people died from lightning strikes last year (OK, we yield to the temptation), what Press Clips found most appalling was that a key contextual fact was left out until the postreport anchor- reporter chitchat: In the District of Columbia, Ecstasy isn't illegal. Due to a nearly 10-year-old typo in D.C. law, cops have no legal authority or obligation to arrest X users. But no matter; suburbanites living outside the Capital of the Free World will now sleep better knowing that, in a city coping with poorly trained, trigger-happy cops to negligent care for the mentally incapacitated to a street-drug problem exacerbated by the lack of treatment programs, Fox 5 brought down "the rave underground."

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