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Jewish World Review May 19, 1999 /4 Sivan, 5759

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Comforting Milosevic

(JWR) ---- (
LET US NOW PRAISE fatuous men. Specifically, the fatuous men who lead, if that is the right word (and it is not), the Congress of the United States.

The United States is at war. (The president of the United States will not admit this, but there are many truths that the president will not admit.) It is customary, when the United States is at war, for members of Congress to support the nation, or at least to avoid giving support to the enemy. This quaint notion seems to be news to some Republicans.

Tom DeLay, the House majority whip, believes it is not the United States that is at war, but Bill Clinton. "This is his war," said DeLay the other day. And DeLay will be damned if he is going to do anything to help Clinton in his war. "The president will run the president's war," he said. "We'll consult with the president, but we'll get our work done."

And what is that work? Well, part of it seems to be giving aid and comfort to the Yugoslavian war aims and working against the war aims of the United States.

During the weekend of April 16-18, Rep. Jim Saxton, an eight-term Republican from New Jersey, went to Belgrade to meet with Yugoslavia's foreign minister, its deputy prime minister for international relations and the chairman of the parliament's foreign relations committee. Saxton characterized his trip as a "fact-finding mission," but it is a notable fact that all the facts that Saxton was able to find were helpful to the interests of Yugoslavia and harmful to the interests of the United States.

Saxton did not manage to uncover any evidence that Yugoslavian forces are engaging in a campaign of murder, rape, destruction and terror to cleanse Kosovo of ethic Albanians. Instead, he found -- and this must have been much, much appreciated in Belgrade -- that the United States was the one to blame for forcing 1.5 million people from their homes. "I know when the ethnic cleansing started, I know when the refugees started to move," the congressman told reporters upon his return. "It was when we started bombing." Wrong, of course; the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo was greatly intensified after the bombing began, but it had been going on for quite some time. Well, let's not let facts get in the way of our fact-finding.

Building upon the good work of the gentleman from New Jersey, Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania, led a bipartisan delegation of 11 members of Congress to Vienna on April 30 and May 1. The delegation met with a like group from the Russian Duma and negotiated a peace plan that gave lip service to the war aims of the United States but in important ways undercut the U.S. position and supported Slobodan Milosevic's position.

The "Duma-Congress" proposal called for the United States and NATO to grant Milosevic his primary aim, an immediate halt to the bombing. And, as Vladimir Lukin, the leader of the Duma delegation, noted, the proposal also contained "recognition of the fact that a military solution to the Kosovo problem is unacceptable and counterproductive" and that "bombings kill people and generate an ecological catastrophe."

All of this would seem to violate the Logan Act, which forbids American citizens from "directly or indirectly" dealing with foreign governments "in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States." But the law contains sufficient wiggle room that no serious prosecution can be brought. Still, there is no question that all of this is against the interests of the United States, that these elected representatives of this nation are working "to defeat the measures of the United States."

And what do the Republican leaders of the Senate and House make of all this? "Speaker" Hastert is, as usual, sleeping, or deceased or something -- at any rate, silent. House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman praised Jim Saxton for "going over and trying to do some good."

As for that most slender of reeds, Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader lived up to his usual high standard of wisdom and courage. Appearing May 2 on CNN, Lott praised the Weldon delegation then in Vienna for "working on the outline of what could lead to a settlement where the bombing would stop and the Kosovars could go back in." Note the sequence of events. And, appallingly, Lott added, "As Jesse Jackson would say, give peace a chance here."

Bill Clinton may not be fit to lead this nation in war, or for that matter, in peace. But this is not "his" war. It is ours. And people who do not understand that do not understand the idea of nationhood, and they call into question their own fitness to lead.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

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