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Lies, Damn Lies, and the Clinton Administration

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What are we to do with a head of state who is responsible for the deaths of many innocent people, who has never been elected to office by a majority of citizens, and who rules by force and deceit? Will the war crimes tribunal at the Hague bring him to justice?

It’s unlikely, because the man is President Clinton.

It’s too bad the Republicans wasted impeachment on perjury over Monica Lewinsky. Mr. Clinton’s conduct in the Yugoslavia war and its aftermath make his Lewinsky conduct look like Boy Scout stuff. That the U.S. government is unbounded by law has been most recently demonstrated by a federal court’s dismissal of a suit by a U.S. congressman charging that Mr. Clinton has flouted the War Powers Resolution. Under that law, a war that has not been declared by Congress must end after 60 days. A court dismissed the suit, arguing that Congress appropriated money for the war. The law says nothing about appropriations. Another shovel of dirt has been tossed on the rule of law.

Mr. Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright have lied repeatedly about every aspect of this war. This affirms a much-unappreciated fact about government in the United States: it disdains the American people and treats them the way bad parents treat children, constantly manipulating them with deceptions. There is simply no connection between its words and reality. Words have one purpose: to induce a response in the American people that serves the power interests of their leaders. (Re-read Orwell’s 1984 to see how this works.)

Since the bombing stopped, Mr. Clinton and Mrs. Albright have said that it is time Serbia embraced democracy and got rid of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Detail: Milosevic was elected by the Yugoslavs. There were opposition parties and opposition media. The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo boycotted the last election; they had the legal right to vote like any Serb. Yugoslavia is at least as democratic as our ally Mexico.

In the Wall Street Journal recently, Mrs. Albright wrote, “First, before resorting to force, NATO went the extra mile to find a peaceful resolution.” That couldn’t be more dishonest. Before resorting to force, the Clinton administration demanded that Yugoslavia unconditionally surrender to NATO and a violent separatist movement led by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Under the Rambouillet diktat NATO’s occupying troops would have had the run of the country without expense or liability. It would even have had the power to alter the country’s infrastructure at will. NATO’s terms also included autonomy for Kosovo for three years, followed by a procedure (most likely a referendum) to determine Kosovo’s future status, which would have led to independence.

Milosevic rejected those terms, as anticipated by NATO and as any head of state would have done. Instead, he proposed a UN peacekeeping force in Kosovo only. Mr. Clinton, Mrs. Albright, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair didn’t like those terms, so they bombed Yugoslavia, killing thousands of innocents and destroying the country’s economic assets. That’s going “the extra mile to find a peaceful resolution”?

The terms finally agreed to in early June lacked what Milosevic found objectionable. The foreign forces are permitted in Kosovo only and are under UN, not NATO, auspices. Yugoslavian sovereignty was affirmed, although qualified. Kosovo will have substantial autonomy, but there is no referendum in three years. Moreover, under Milosevic’s terms the KLA will be “demilitarized.” The KLA wasn’t even mentioned in the Rambouillet diktat.

In other words, Milosevic was not intransigent before the bombing, and the bombing did not achieve NATO’s objectives.

The other big lie of this administration concerns “ethnic cleansing.” According to the German foreign ministry and other independent observers, there was no Serb campaign against ethnic Albanians before the bombing. There was fighting between Serb forces and the paramilitary KLA, which was seeking a violent secession and killing even Albanians who opposed their tactics. That is far different from genocide. When the bombing started, the Kosovar Albanians fled, many of them north to Belgrade. Serbs may well have engaged in slaughter but it was apparently after NATO’s hell broke loose. There’s no reason to assume it would have happened without the savage bombing.

This administration claims to abhor violence. What about the violence wreaked on America when its leaders systematically lie?

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.