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Thursday, September 27, 2007

 
The Historic Line Of Decency

by digby

While doing research for the post below, I came across this remarkable article written in the middle of the Kosovo war in 1999:

Chicago-Sun Times ^ | May 6, 1999 | Robert Novak

Balkan failure is Clark's

Who is responsible for an air offensive that is building anti-American anger across Europe without breaking the Serbian regime's will? The blame rests heavily on Gen. Wesley Clark, the NATO supreme commander.

After 40 days, U.S.-dominated NATO air strikes no longer even pretend to aim solely at military targets. Pentagon sources admit that the attacks on the city center of Belgrade are intended to so demoralize ordinary citizens that they force President Slobodan Milosevic to yield. That has not yet happened, but diplomats believe the grave damage done to American prestige in Central and Eastern Europe will outlive this vicious little war.

"The problem is Wes Clark making--at least approving--the bombing decisions," said one such diplomat, who then asked rhetorically: "How could they let a man with such a lack of judgment be [supreme allied commander of Europe]?" Through dealings with Yugoslavia that date back to 1994, Clark's propensity for mistakes has kept him in trouble while he continued moving up the chain of command thanks to a patron in the Oval Office.

In the last month's American newspaper clippings, Clark emerges as the only heroic figure of a non-heroic war. Indeed, his resume is stirring: first in his class at West Point, Rhodes scholar, frequently wounded and highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran, White House fellow. He became a full general about as fast as possible in peacetime.

But members of Congress who visited Clark at his Brussels headquarters in the early days of the attack on Yugoslavia were startled by his off-the-record comments. If the Russians are going to sail war ships into the combat zone, we should bomb them. If Milosevic is getting oil from the Hungarian pipeline, we should bomb it.

NATO's actual air strategy did not go that far, but increasingly, it has reflected Clark's belligerence. Even the general's defenders in the national security establishment cannot understand the targeting of empty government buildings in Belgrade, including Milosevic's official residence. Civilian damage and casualties in Kosovo and elsewhere in Serbia are too widespread to be accidental.

Sources inside the U.S. high command say this week's disabling of Belgrade electrical power facilities was intended to destroy civilian morale. The Pentagon has announced NATO "area bombing" with "dumb" bombs carried by B-52s--clearly an anti-population tactic. In a highly limited war, Clark is using the methods of total war.

One American diplomat with experience in the Balkans, who asked that he not be quoted by name, told me that ground forces are needed and he is appalled by the bombing of civilian targets. "It has no military significance, and it is pointless--utterly pointless," he added. "But it has a terrible impact on us. This bombing in the heart of the Balkans is costing us."

That cost is viewed by State Department professionals as the product of Clark's deaf ear when it comes to diplomacy. His classic gaffe came in 1994 when he went off to meet Ratko Mladic, the brutal Bosnian Serb commander now sought as a war criminal, at his redoubt in Banja Luka. Mladic concluded their meeting by saying how much he admired Clark's three-star general cap. Impulsively, the American general exchanged hats with the notorious commander, who has been accused of ethnic cleansing, and even accepted Mladic's service revolver with an engraved message.

That escapade cost Victor Jackovich his job as U.S. ambassador to Bosnia. He was sacked partly for not exercising sufficient restraint on the mercurial Clark and for not preventing him from gallivanting off to Banja Luka. The sequel came at Belgrade a year later during the diplomacy leading to the Dayton peace conference. Milosevic, smiling broadly, humiliated Clark by returning his hat to him. That helps explain the general's intense personal animosity for the Yugoslav president.

Clark is the perfect model of a 1990s political four-star general. Clark's rapid promotions after Dayton--winning his fourth star to head the Panama-based Southern Command and then the jewel of his European post--were both opposed by the Pentagon brass. But Clark's fellow Arkansan in the White House named him anyway. The president and the general are collaborators in a failed strategy whose consequences cast a long shadow even if soon terminated by negotiation.

I don't know what to say.

(Even aside from the frontal attack on Clark's integrity, Novak's bitchy back-stabbing Village gossip was crap from beginning to end.)

Here is what the smarmy John Cornyn said about the Move-On vote:

“This amendment was an opportunity for every Senator to declare with not only their voices but also with their votes that they fully support our troops and our commanding General in Iraq,” Sen. Cornyn said today.

“For MoveOn.org and their left-wing allies to brand General Petraeus a traitor and a liar crossed a historic line of decency. It was a despicable political attack by a radical left-wing interest group. I’m pleased that majority of the Senate, in a bipartisan vote, has repudiated it.

We will not tolerate the patriotism and integrity of our troops and their leaders in the field being dragged down into the swamp of Washington politics.”

Yes they won't tolerate it unless it's being dragged there by a properly credentialed conservative stenographer like the "decent" Robert Novak.


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