Allied Farce: A Wartime Diary

by , March 27, 1999
On the first anniversary of the start of the Kosovo war, I present below my first column – then called “Wartime Diary.” It preserves, I think, the sense of outrage I felt at the time – and still feel – while at the same time giving the reader a sense of the irony of the situation we now find ourselves in: a year later, as the Albanian Kosovars drive the last Serbs out of Kosovo, and the US/NATO forces mass on the Serbian border, it looks very much like we could be in for round two. The perfidious role of the media, the propaganda of the War Party, the tragedy of a land torn asunder by our self-righteously murderous elites – it has all come back to haunt us.It was a sight that doubtless cheered virtually everyone who saw it – the American media being chased down the street by an angry crowd of their slandered victims. In Skopje, Macedonia, thousands of Serbians, outraged by the relentless media barrage of anti-Serbian propaganda, converged on news crews, destroyed equipment, and literally chased American, British, and German reporters down the street and out of town. The same journalistic cleansing occurred in Pristina, capital of Kosovo province, and in Belgrade, where Western journalists were expelled. As bombs rained death on Serbian civilians and soldiers alike, the big story on Ted Turner’s Cable News Network that night was CNN correspondent Brent Sadler’s brush with mortality. The New York Times reports that, after secretly transmitting images of the first NATO air strikes on Kosovo, Sadler was taken quite by surprise when, at 3 A.M. in the morning Serbian security came crashing through the door of his hotel room. "I thought it was curtains," moaned Sadler, who sustained no damage except for a few broken cameras – and his wounded vanity. In a tone of bewildered indignation, CNN reporters complained on the air that they had been singled out. But those Western journalists who have placed themselves and their profession in the service of Allied Force should not be too surprised to find that the people they have demonized are less than hospitable.

OVER THERE

The Clinton administration takes the position that the Serbian province of Kosovo should be granted autonomy, and that the main problem of the Albanian Kosovars is an oppressive and even tyrannical federal government of Yugoslavia – the only known instance in which they have been known to take up the cause of state’s rights. Unfortunately their sympathy for secessionism only seems to apply overseas.

PORTRAIT OF THE WAR PARTY:
THE OBITUARY WRITER

This column will carry a regular feature, Portrait of the War Party, which focus in on the war propaganda apparatus maintained by the interventionist lobby. Well-funded and well-connected, the War Party is such a varied and complex phenomenon that a detailed description of its activities, and its vast system of interlocking directorates and special interests, both foreign and domestic, would fill the pages of a good-sized book. The alternative is to break down the story, and serve up its constituent parts in brief glimpses, portraits of individuals and organizations that lobbied hard for this war and its bloody prosecution.

This week, we focus on the smallest of the small-fry: Stephen Schwartz is, nevertheless, a particularly instructive example of the interventionist lobby at work. On day 2 of the bombing, no sooner had I turned on my television set but there he was, on a local cable news channel, BayTV, ranting about how the United States has to liberate the Serbian people. As a former fellow traveler of the Spartacist League – a Trotskyist sect that used to show up at demonstrations in the eighties with banners proclaiming Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! – he wound up in the neoconservative orbit. Associated with the Institute for Contemporary Studies, the unofficial thinktank of the arms industry, Schwartz landed a job at the San Francisco Chronicle. He would often show up at the informal conservative journalist’s roundtable that Bill Rusher used to preside over at the Union Club on San Francisco’s Nob Hill, trying to convince a rtaher skeptical bunch of right-wingers of the virtues of labor unions and telling stories of his leftist past. He bitterly denounced Bay Area Stalinists who he insisted were out to get him: according to him, he lived in perpetual fear of his job due to the all-pervasive atmosphere of political correctness in the newsroom. I hadn’t seen Schwartz in years, but there he was as I turned on the television, calling for an all-out American effort and confidently predicting victory over Serbia in a week. The KLA is a heroic band of freedom fighters, like the contras in Nicaragua, he explained, and the Serbians are like the Nazis. Considering reports about the Marxist leadership and ideology of the KLA, from hailing the Red Army to hailing the Kosovo Liberation Army is not all that long a road to travel. A scant two hours later, there he was again, whooping it up for war, this time on MSNBC. Clearly enjoying his soapbox, Schwartz boasted about how many times he had been to Bosnia, and declared that he would soon be leaving the Chronicle for an unspecified position in the Bosnia-Kosovo region – whether as minister in charge of propaganda for the NATO army of occupation he did not say. In both appearances, the host had introduced him as Stephen Schwartz, of the San Francisco Chronicle. What the they had tactfully left out was that his reporting has been confined to the obituary page of that newspaper, where he specializes in paeans to departed San Francisco leftists and avante garde artistes. It is only natural, in times such as these, that a writer of death notices is instantly elevated to the role of a national spokesman and expert.

DEATH ALL AROUND

As the all-news networks shuttle between shots of the Belgrade burning and the trial of Doctor Kevorkian, the Kevorkian death-mask morphs into the boyish face of State Department spokesman James Rubin glibly deflecting reporters’ questions. At the end of a murderous century, the cult of Thanatos has replaced Christianity as the dominant religion. It is Day Three, and the Serbian death toll is 100 and rising . . .

THE WAR FOR PUBLIC OPINION:
THE POLLS

Polls ostensibly showing that support for the administration’s war of aggression at 50 percent yesterday took a precipitous 6-point decline in less than twenty-four hours – and that is after three days of the war for public opinion conducted by the Clintonians and their supporters in the conservative movement such as Jeanne Kirkpatrick and the usual suspects,notably Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, whose magazine a few years ago editorially relished the prospect of crushing Serb skulls.

OLLIE, BY GOLLIE

Ever since the end of the Cold War, the swing of the conservative movement away from world-saving internationalism and toward a new American nationalism has been widely noted. The conversion of Patrick J. Buchanan to a policy of America First noninterventionism during the Gulf War was the first breakthrough, and the process is being completed this time around as congressional Republicans are in vanguard of the antiwar opposition. The well-funded but essentially soldier-less neoconservatives over at the Weekly Standard have vehemently pushed military action against Serbia for years, but on this issue they are essentially generals without an army. The triumph of the Old Right and its noninterventionist foreign policy in the conservative movement and the Republican party is signified by the emergence of none other than Colonel Oliver North, the contras’ poster boy, as an articulate spokesman for the antiwar opposition. Welcome you to the ranks of the emerging antiwar movement, Ollie – your presence marks a definite improvement.

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