Clinton Cleans Up
The full extent of Clinton’s victory in Kosovo hadn’t sunk in as George W. Bush’s media entourage swept out from Austin. But Kosovo— about which Bush was silent through most of the conflict— seems certain to stamp Clinton’s legacy, with victory also accruing to his partner— not Al Gore, who handled the Russian connection, but Tony Blair, who took the heat as the hawk, and whose troops will make or break the occupation.
Amid reports that Milosevic suffered a stroke following his indictment as a war criminal, Serbian dissidents were bracing for a new wave of repression as the Balkans strongman tightened his grip following last week’s settlement.
In a televised address Monday from a bombed bridge in Novi Sad, Milosevic told the nation that Serbia had won the war with NATO. In a speech last week, he said that not only had Serbia kept Kosovo but that it had resuscitated the UN in the process.
The defeated NATO now plans to cut Serbia off from the world, refusing any aid as long as Milosevic is in power. The civilian population, facing massive unemployment, will depend on the state to survive. Milosevic, protected by his praetorian guard, will tighten the levers of repression.
As for Kosovo, with the Russians hunkered down at Pristina Airport and the KLA hard on the heels of fleeing Serbs, the province will soon be populated almost totally by ethnic Albanians. After a lengthy five-sector NATO occupation, apparently with some kind of Russian “zone of influence,” it seems likely to be headed either for independence or inclusion in a “greater Albania.” By Monday, the KLA reportedly was in control of parts of the city of Prizren.
Despite the Russians’ beating the West into Kosovo, the prospect of the Kremlin mounting much of a force there seems dubious. Russian soldiers are poorly paid, with many working part-time as parking attendants or even begging on the streets.
“Life has forced me to go to Kosovo,” Alexander Timolin told the Boston Globe on Sunday, explaining why he jumped at the chance to make $1000 a month as a volunteer peacekeeper.
Since Russia doesn’t have the money to pay its own troops, let alone a serious peacekeeping force, NATO will have to foot the bill for a small symbolic force— about all Yeltsin really needs as a political prop.
Kasich in the Wings
What happens if Dubya flops?
That’s the question some Republicans were asking last week as the pumped-up Texas wunderkind finally ventured onto the campaign trail.
“I’m not talking about it,” said former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour, who is supporting Bush. “Republicans don’t need to be looking for an alternative, because nothing is going to happen to Bush. He ain’t going to be hit by a truck.”
Fallback is not an enticing prospect. Quayle, Forbes, Alexander hardly elicit inspiration. Buchanan is too far out. Liddy Dole, a possible Dubya vp pick, was running at 14 percent, slightly ahead of Quayle, in a weekend CNN poll.
But if something truly horrible happens— like reports coming to light about something really stupid Dubya did in his wild and crazy youth— then there’s always John Kasich, the Ohio Republican, House Budget Committee chair, and JFK rip-off who aims his political riffs at women and young people.
Last week, Kasich managed to make news with his own new scheme for “protecting”
Social Security. Kasich wants to “save” the system by asking baby boomers to take a modest cut in their Social Security returns so that their children can reap substantial rewards from a market-based plan. People over 55 and those already retired wouldn’t be affected.
2000 Races Could End Fast
Before the declining U.S. electorate knows what hit it, the 2000 presidential primaries could be history. In fact, the campaigns could be over by next March 7. “If at the end of that day, one candidate has won a plurality or a majority in those primaries, he’ll become an irresistible force,” says Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s campaign manager.
Sixty percent of GOP delegates will be chosen by March 14, and 70 percent of Democratic delegates by the end of March.
In the past, candidates hit the starting gates in Iowa and New Hampshire in February, swung through the South in March, and fought it out in primaries culminating with California in June. But big states have moved up their primaries, and next year voters in New York, California, Ohio, and Georgia will cast ballots on the first Tuesday in March. As it stands, major candidates will face perhaps a dozen primaries before March 10, and more than a dozen in the South and Midwest a week later.
The compressed elections favor candidates who are known and have big bankrolls— i.e., Bush and Gore, who top the charts so far at around $13 million and $8.9 million each.
Colombia Fighting Could Spill Into Panama
The next U.S. shooting war could be in America’s own backyard and could involve the Panama Canal. Administration officials are viewing with concern the activities of two groups of guerrillas in neighboring Colombia, which have been vying for control of that country and its drug riches.
The battles of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) with the government of Colombian president Andres Pastrana have been marked by hijackings and kidnappings that have gone largely unreported in the English-
language U.S. press. The conflicts are on the verge of spilling into Panama. Guerrilla bands have been seeking respite there from the fighting and to avoid contact with paramilitary groups, and may eventually seek to cut themselves into the action on the canal, scheduled to be turned over to Panama at the end of this year under treaties signed by Jimmy Carter.
The canal, which produces revenues of $600 million a year, is a cash cow. The question is whether the ineffective Panamanian government has the wherewithal to manage the enterprise, or, as some on the right in the U.S. now fear, it will be held hostage to the mushrooming guerrilla conflicts.
The canal is especially touchy to U.S. conservatives since it was the key issue that led to the creation of the New Right in the late 1970s and has been a flashpoint of right-wing politics ever since. Thus, even if the canal is turned over to Panama— perhaps especially if it is— it is certain to become a topic on the right in the 2000 elections.
In Colombia, nearly 200 people have been kidnapped over the past three months. On June 7, in a remote eastern village, at least eight policemen and a civilian were killed in a FARC attack. After one of FARC’s military leaders killed three U.S. environmentalists in March, the U.S. officially refused to support Pastrana’s efforts at peace discussions until those responsible are handed over to U.S. authorities.
The ELN, which is the smaller group, has been extremely active recently, claiming responsibility for a string of kidnappings, starting with 41 passengers on an Avianca plane hijacked in April.
Both FARC and the ELN have raised funds by making deals with drug lords and ransoming kidnap victims.
Tests Spark Vieques Protests
Reports that U.S. Marine jets have been firing uranium-tipped shells, followed by an accident in which targeted bombs veered off-course during a U.S. Navy test, killing one man and wounding four others, have residents of the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques panicked.
A wave of protests by the Puerto Rican Independence Party, which seeks separation from the U.S., started after the bombing on April 19 killed a security guard, David Sanes Rodriguez, three civilians, and a military observer. In February, according to the Navy, two Marine jets fired 267 rounds of bullets made of depleted uranium during a training exercise on the island.
Residents of the 33,000-acre island have long opposed the Navy’s North Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility there. The base is one of the largest live-weapons training grounds in the world. Protesters claim that tests at the base are linked to an above-normal cancer rate and have harmed the environment, destroyed marine life, and stunted economic development.
Both the Navy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission have confirmed the firing of the uranium-tipped shells.
Craig Defends Aide’s Remarks
Idaho’s powerful senator Larry Craig is defending an aide who allegedly maligned Islam.
The staffer, James George Jatras, told an audience at the Rockford Institute in 1998 that Islam arose from “the darkness of heathen Araby” and rivals Communism as one of the “gigantic Christian-killing machines.”
Jatras added that “it is beyond me what spiritual values any Christian has in common with someone whose idea of beatific bliss is boinking an endless parade of the well-rounded houris said to inhabit the Muslim paradise.”
When Jatras’s reported comments were brought to the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the group demanded that he be sacked. Craig, citing freedom of speech, has refused.
Paul Weyrich, one of the founders of the New Right and president of the Free Congress Association, last week urged all Christians to boycott the Army until it renounces witchcraft rituals at army posts (see “Broomstick Soldiers,” Mondo Washingon, May 25). “Until the Army withdraws all official support and approval from witchcraft, no Christian should enlist or reenlist in the Army, and Christian parents should not allow their children to join the Army,” Weyrich said. “An Army that sponsors satanic rituals is unworthy of representing the United States of America.”
Additional reporting by Ginger Adams Otis and Ioana Veleanu