That's Some Catch
"Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.... If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to...."
--Joseph Heller, Catch-22
As the NATO rampage continues in Yugoslavia, Western military and political leaders seem to be drifting slowly away from what can be fully explained by institutional analysis. While it's relatively clear why NATO got itself into the current mess, inflating the crisis exponentially to establish a new post-Cold War role for the "alliance" (TM, LucasArts), the logic employed by NATO strategists in their day-to-day rhetoric and actions grows increasingly murky.
All told, many hundreds of civilians of all regional ethnicities have been killed in the nightly raids. Meanwhile, I have counted more than 40 mornings in nine weeks when NATO officials or affiliates have announced or "called for" an "increase" in the quantity and strength of the aerial attacks -- even and especially right after accidental catastrophes like refugee bombardments and the Chinese Embassy missile mishap. These demonstrations of Western resolve are used to counter what should be shameful humiliation over vicious blunders.
The latest example of such arrogance was the "accidental" bombing of a KLA barracks, immediately followed by an announcement of intensification. Of course, referring to collateral damage as accidental is like telling Gramma you "mistakenly" dropped her favourite vase while tossing it about.
NATO's latest attempt at half-assed diplomacy has been to invoke the ultimate Catch-22. They told Milosevic, if he wants "peace," he must extract his troops from Kosovo. But he must do so visibly. However, NATO has admitted that all Serbian forces spotted moving in any direction will be attacked from above with extreme prejudice.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," a reporter reportedly commented. "It's the best there is," replied a Pentagon official speaking on conditions of anonymity.
Still hoping to bomb into submission the same population which defeated eight divisions of Third Reich infantry during World War II, NATO's pipe dreams are regurgitated in the corporate media, the latter by now almost fanatical in its willingness to sugar-coat even the most absurd among the military's stances, in ostensible support of forces to which reporters regularly refer as "our troops."
A few days after Germany announced, in one of the most refreshing turns of events in more than two months of unchecked aggression, that it would definitely not allow NATO to stage a ground invasion of Kosovo, the BBC web site ran a headline "Allies United on Kosovo Troops." The headline was misleading, to say the least. In reality, the UK and US, at least according to their respective foreign ministers Cook and Alrbight, are gung-ho to invade, even under "non-permissive" conditions. (You may recall such "non-permissive" environments as Japan and Vietnam). In reality, NATO is a schitzophrenic headcase over the issue of a ground war, not least as a result of popular pressure in Italy, Greece and now Germany, where the divided Green Party finally took a stance in favor of de-escalation.
In an almost unique display of momentary bias against NATO practice, CNN reported last week on a UN Security Council document claiming Western forces have dropped more than 15,000 cluster "bomblets" (4 out of 5 kids agree they're cuter than their name!) on Yugoslav soil. This saturation has resulted so far in the deaths of over 200 people and wounded 450 more in Kosova/Metohija alone, leaving countless more bomblets waiting to explode.
CNN itself referred to the employment of cluster bombs, in addition to depleted uranium ammunition, as the "use of banned weaponry." According to my own research, DU and cluster bombs, like landmines and a few distasteful chemical weapons, have been banned only by treaties which the US has refused to sign, and is thus not beholden to. Why ban weapons that no one is likely to use against you?
As usual, on Capitol Hill the bullshit pile is challenging the Washington Monument in stature. Some House Democrats recently noted that the American people, of whom they are really quite fond, don't seem to grasp the notion that Milosevic is a fledgling Hitler and the lives of American boys should be expended in the prevention of another Third Reich. Thus, in unusual deference to unreasonable popular will, Washington can't send in ground troops.
A quick quiz:
As of today, Congress has officially:
(a) expressed its overwhelming support for "our troops" in Yugoslavia
(b) condemned US participation in the war
(c) given President Clinton twice the requested amount of funding
(d) failed to declare war
(e) failed to invoke the provisions of the War Powers Act which force a president to seek congressional approval of foreign military actions and permits Congress to stop an undeclared war
(f) begun moving to ban the use of Pentagon funds, some recently awarded for the Kosovo operation, from being used -- you guessed it -- in the Kosovo operation
(Answer: all of the above.)
On day 60 of Operation Feel Good, the Washington Post ran an extensive story on the various opinions of legislators with regard to the Kosovo war, referring to the further "erosion" of "resolve" in support of the President's policy. (At least NATO has managed to "degrade" something, albeit nonmilitary, other than quality of life in the Balkans.) What the Post forgot to mention was one word about the War Powers Act, which places restrictions on the a President's prerogative to wage war in foreign lands, especially after exactly 60 days. If the president has not obtained Congressional approval, in the form of a declared war, in two months' time, continuation of said war is against federal law. Evidently, such aren't legitimate grounds for impeachment, as no one inside he beltway -- least of all the media -- is making a peep about the War Powers Act.
As resistance builds around the world, organizers and movement strategists are wondering just how to reason with these types of elites. The answer remains, as ever, hit 'em where it hurts... assuming their institutional anatomy has not drifted as far from reality as they themselves seem to have.
Brian Dominick is a member of On the Ground, a direct action collective of youth activists in Syracuse, NY. OtG is currently producing an international newspaper and "activist kit" re the war in Yugoslavia. For more info, visit http://kosovo.rootmedia.org/otg or write email@example.com.