HILL OF BEANS: Kosovo Corner

America, of course, is considerably more patriotic than it was 25 years ago. It is even getting a bit too patriotic for my tastes--that is, if patriotism is to blame for the wholesale lack of skepticism about Bill Clinton's wilding spree in Kosovo. Through a sneaky elision, the President has laid claim to use the American military machine while holding himself accountable only to "humanity"-- a meaningless constituency. He has set a very dangerous precedent.The President never made it clear in whose name he was destroying Serbia: in America's or humanity's. If America's, then the President should have been upfront about his mission civilisatrice in Southeastern Europe, and admitted that we are embarked on a long-term imperial role there. This, however, would have left the President accountable to Congress. But the President clearly believes he is not accountable to the American public, since Congress refused to support his war and the President kept on bombing.To whom, then, is he accountable? The President claims to act in the service of a new constituency--"humanity." But since humanity isn't really a constituency, the President isn't really accountable to anyone.Unless we take "humanity" to mean "the international community." In that case, (a) exhortations that we support "our" troops and "our" President are little more than hypocritical bullying. If it's Humanity's air force that's bombing Kosovo and not ours, then our obligation to support the President's silly project is no more and no less than that of any Bangladeshi or Ghanaian. And (b) American attempts to laugh away war-crimes charges against the President and his advisers become intellectually groundless. If it is truly the "international community" that gave moral sanction to our war, then that community's tribunals have standing to decide whether our war was conducted decently or criminally.But whoa! whoa! At that point, the President skulks back to his position as leader of America, not Humanity. Dissent from "supporting our troops" is caricatured as unpatriotic; and the idea of trying an American president for war crimes is offered up to the traditionally contemptuous judgment the American people have for international organizations and tribunals. In effect, the President is hiding behind the principle of sovereign immunity no less brazenly than Gen. Pinochet. Or Slobodan Milosevic, for that matter.The opportunities for hypocrisy and double-dealing are limitless. Take the huge protests in the Serbian town of Cacak last week. Afterward, Secretary of Defense William Cohen announced, "I suspect there is going to be a level of criticism that will continue to escalate." That's a nudge-nudge, wink-wink reference to the CIA project to destabilize Milosevic that was uncovered by the Washington Times last week. Two thoughts: First, that's a heck of a "dictatorship" that allows 10,000 anti-regime protesters to assemble on a weekday afternoon. Second, how are we serving our stated goal of "stability" in Europe by using the CIA to topple a democratically elected government? (You don't hear much about democracy from the Saviors of Humanity anymore, the way you used to back when we were bringing the democratically elected psychopath Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to power in Haiti.) If Milosevic is such a genocidal monster that it was worth killing thousands of civilians to break his hold on Kosovo, then why is that conscienceless wonder Jamie Rubin now wandering the Balkans like some kind of Henry Cabot Lodge de nos jours--and warning the government of Montenegro that they must not break away from Milosevic's Serbia?Or take the Chinese embassy bombing, an American solo effort in which the NATO allies played no part, and for which the United States has not yet given a satisfactory explanation. (The Chinese embassy was built on an empty lot, and the "old CIA maps" that allegedly made our bombers think there was a strategic building on the site show no building at all there.) The New York Times reports that two of the "journalists" killed inside the embassy were actually spies, and later reports claim the two were helping the Serbians anticipate NATO air attacks. Kosovo triumphalists crow that we've called China's bluff. They shouldn't.True, it looks like Clinton the President of Humanity actually helped "Humankind" by killing those Chinese technicians. But it also looks like Clinton the President of the United States of America has been caught in a very big lie for which we will likely pay a very big price.

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