The war may save Clinton yet, by putting defense back on the front burner and reinventing the coalition with the Republican right that blew apart in Monicagate. Congressional economists estimate that the Yugoslav campaign is costing several hundred million dollars a week— already breaking the Pentagon’s $280 billion budget, expected to grow by at least $10 billion over the next six years for missile defense alone. In addition, Congress is talking about using part of the budget surplus to pay for the war.
Best of all for Clinton, the war continues to keep the Chinese spy fiasco out of the headlines, although there has been some leakage around the edges. For example, press reports last week put national security adviser Sandy Berger on the hot seat, raising allegations that he had ignored warnings of possible espionage during his tenure. Then, on Monday, came Newsweek‘s report that Clinton’s former CIA chief, John Deutch, has been under investigation by the Justice Department for, of all things, mishandling classified secrets by stashing files on his home computer.
On the Russian front, hopes remained high that Clinton’s love affair with alchoholic bud Boris Yeltsin might still pay off in the Balkins— if the troubled Russian president can get it together long enough to budge Slobo to the peace table. Then Clinton could at least make the case that all the money spent propping up the teetering Kremlin goofball— who last week tossed off a statement warning that NATO should not “push” Moscow too hard on Yugoslavia, lest it lead to nuclear war— was worth the trouble.
Footnote: On Monday, two developments in Little Rock seemed to balance out for Clinton: Susan McDougal’s vindication on obstruction of justice charges, followed by Judge Susan Webber Wright’s finding the president in civil contempt for giving “intentionally false” testimony about Monica Lewsinsky in the Paula Jones case.
Tirana on the Hudson
Bronx’s Engel Pushes for Ground Troops
Two New York congressman, Eliot Engel of the Bronx and Jerrold Nadler of Manhattan, are taking the lead in pushing for ground troops in Kosovo. Engel’s district has the largest Albanian population in the city (25,000), and is home to the newspaper Illyria, published twice weekly in both English and Albanian with a circulation of 10,000— the largest Albanian journal in the U.S. This week, Engel will introduce legislation calling for $25 million in appropriations to arm the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). “I want to build up the KLA and let them have a presence on the ground,” he said over the weekend.
Engel is cochair of the Albanian Issues Caucus with conservative Republican Peter King of Nassau County. “I don’t think ethnic Albanians can ever be part of Serbia again,” Engel said. “We need to take Kosovo. Milosevic is a war criminal and ought to be brought before the Hague.”
The prospect of ground troops in Kosovo is a strategic nightmare. Of course, there are already a few special-ops units in Kosovo setting up
escape-and-evasion networks for downed pilots. Such networks involve scouting parties sent in to cache radios and munitions at various points.
Conceivably, the long-awaited Apache choppers could support amplified special forces entry, which in turn could provide more accurate targeting of hidden Serb tanks and guns. In addition, they could be used to try to snatch key Serb commanders and paramilitary leaders, some of whom have been labeled war criminals. (Also, as reported on CBS on Monday, ground forces might cut a corridor into Kosovo through which food and water could be brought to refugees.)
Pushing the Serbs too far, however, could be risky. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that, backed into a corner, they might obtain and use nuke-tipped artillery shells or chemical munitions, especially if the battlefield were cleared of noncombatants (through a combination of ethnic cleansing and NATO bombing).
Another, though more distant possibility, is a NATO invasion from the north through its newest member, Hungary. NATO could take control of the Serb province of Vojvodina, a valuable breadbasket that has a sizeable minority population of Hungarians and Romanians. The fact that two key bridges over the Danube already have been cut would be a help. General Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said over the weekend, “We haven’t excluded using more than one point of entry or numerous points of entry in the area if, in fact, that was required.”
Short of ground forces, some members of Congress are pushing Clinton to get negotiations going. Last week, Democrat Dennis Kucinich, whose Cleveland district contains substantial numbers of Serbs, Croats, and Albanians, asked Orthodox church leaders in Belgrade and Kosovo to take the lead in pushing for talks. Father Sava of the Decani monastery in Kosovo has repeatedly sought to mediate between Albanians and Serbs. In Belgrade, the Patriarch Pavle has reached out with ecumenical messages to Slovenians, Croats, and other groups in an attempt to override Milosevic’s ultranationalism.
Also being discussed in Washington last week was the possibility of setting up a protectorate in Kosovo along the lines of postWorld War II Berlin, with zones controlled by different powers. In that event, the Russian zone could provide a buffer between Serbs and NATO nations.
‘Heads Should Roll’
Hackworth Echos Low-Level Military Revolt
Demands for the release of the three GIs captured on the Macedonian border are helping to fire a congressional inquiry into the incident, which promises to feed the rebellion already under way in the Pentagon by low-level officers. This got a shot in the arm last week when it was revealed that U.S. intelligence knew about Serb plans to abduct U.S. soldiers. Columnist Bob Novak said he got a call from one source March 23 alerting him to the plan. The soldiers were captured eight days later. Armed Services Committee chair John Warner of Virginia, who has supported the NATO bombing, wants to know why the intelligence on the threat of abduction was ignored.
Reflecting the uproar within the military, which so far has been muted in the mainstream press, Colonel David Hackworth’s e-mail newsletter, Defending America, posed some scathing questions last week.
Hackworth demanded to know why three recon scouts who’d been in Macedonia for months apparently gave up without much of a fight.
Congress, he declared, should ask:
“Why were the three scouts in a hazardous zone without their tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles . . . ?
“Why were they on patrol by themselves in just one extremely vulnerable Humvee . . . without at least three more vehicles— each with mounted machine guns, each covering the others?
“Where was the backup force . . . ?
“What were the ROE (Rules of Engagement)? Were their weapons locked and loaded? Did the soldiers have clear orders to fire if threatened or fired upon?
“Why weren’t there dead Serbs on the ground?”
Hackworth concluded that the incident was mishandled and that “Heads should roll.”
Foundations and Empire
The Ideological Battle in Washington
Seldom noticed by reporters, the real struggle for hearts and minds in Washington is waged not by traditional lobbyists but by nonprofit foundations. On the right, this ideological battle amounts to an intense propaganda war by well-heeled nonprofits ranging from the mainstream conservative Heritage Foundation (annual budget: $28.7 million) to the vociferously combative, Libertarian-minded Cato Institute (annual budget $8 million) to the social conservatives in the Family Research Council (annual budget: $10.2 million).
A new report finds that the top 20 conservative think tanks have doubled their budgets in the ’90s, spending $158 million in 1996, with total spending exceeding $1 billion during the decade. To put that figure in perspective, says the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, which prepared the report, “the Republican party raised and spent $138 million in ‘soft money’ contributions in 1996, $20 million less than the conservative policy groups profiled in the report.”
The think tanks utilize a clever approach, appealing to “ordinary people” with anecdotes, like the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s claim that homeowners in Southern California wouldn’t have had their dwellings destroyed by fire in 1993 if the Endangered Species Act had not kept them from clearing flammable growth from around their homes. Or the Heritage Foundation’s report that purported to show how lower-income Social Security participants would’ve had a much higher rate of return (and more money at retirement) had they invested in the market through IRAs. Both claims were attacked by liberal groups, but not before receiving a sympathetic reception in the press.
However, liberals are beginning to hit back, through groups such as the Institute for Public Accuracy, with its releases of alternative “experts” that reporters can turn to for the other side when they get a PR release from a conservative foundation. But this approach still falls far short of adequately dealing with operations like Heritage, which runs a nonstop open house for reporters.
Newest trend for cities all over the nation is renting themselves out, in whole or in part, to big companies as a way of making money.
For example, Ocean City, Maryland, has Coke as its official drink and Panama Jack as its official sunblock, with exclusive marketing rights on the beaches. Ford is the “official vehicle” of Los Angeles County beaches, and both New York and Indianapolis have corporate sponsors for their parks.
But, reports Robert Weissman in the Multinational Monitor, none compares with Sacramento, California, which is pushing a “Capital Spirit” program in which nearly every municipally owned item is hawked. According to a consultant to the city, the practice can generate from $2 to $5 million a year in revenues.
Additional reporting: Ioana Veleanu
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 13, 1999