Re: Harold Meyerson's “Why Are We in (or Anyway, Over) Kosovo?” [April 23­29], what, exactly, is the moral basis for the military action? Remember, the bombing campaign was launched as a negotiating tactic to get Milosevic to agree to the Rambouillet accords. Milosevic and his government had agreed to virtually all the elements of that accord (autonomy for the region, the creation of ethnic cantons with self-governance and self-policing, etc.). The two aspects of that treaty Milosevic had not accepted were the presence of NATO troops to enforce the agreement and the provision for a secession vote in three years. There were also lingering, and justifiable, concerns on the part of the Serbs about the Kosovo Liberation Army. The Serbs regard the KLA much as the Israelis regard the PLO — warily, and rightly so.

Still, these remaining aspects were not insurmountable deal-killers. The treaty could have easily substituted U.N. troops for NATO troops — an option Milosevic has repeatedly offered to accept since the bombing started. Why the U.N. and not NATO? Because the Serbs regard NATO as aggressively opposed to their interests. Why the dread of NATO? Well, the U.S. is the lead member of NATO, and at the end of the Bosnian war, the U.S. ally Croatia, under the training and direction of the U.S. military and the CIA, committed a massive ethnic cleansing of the Krajina region of that country. In the space of one week, 300,000 Serbs were forced from their homes and sent into permanent exile. Two top members of the Croatian army have since been indicted by the U.N. for war crimes for this particular act. The Serbs have looked at the U.S. and NATO with highly justifiable suspicion since then.

On the second issue, the secession of Kosovo was not part of U.S. policy in the region. Rather, U.S. policy had been that Kosovo be returned to its autonomous status. The creation of an autonomous region in Kosovo that remains under the constitutional control of Yugoslavia is not unprecedented. Look at Montenegro.

When the Serbs would not budge on these two points, the Clinton administration decided to bomb Milosevic to get him to budge. It is critical that we remember this. The bombing campaign was started not to stop horrible ethnic cleansing or mass slaughter, which did not exist at that point in Kosovo.

NATO has laid waste much of the industrial and economic capacity of Yugoslavia, in addition to accidentally killing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of innocent civilians with its bombing campaign. For what? What have we genuinely accomplished? Nothing but the expansion of suffering.

Meyerson suggests that if Europe wants us to “go in,” we should follow their lead. Let's be honest here. Europe has done nothing in leadership terms in the Balkans since 1989, when communism began to fall. The decision to bomb came largely from U.S. policy. And the visitors to Milosevic in the final days prior to the bombing were largely U.S. diplomats, warning him to agree or face the consequences. Virtually all of the sorties have been conducted by the U.S. The Serbs know that they are fighting America and just about nobody else.

Meyerson should drop the illusion that this is a European enterprise that we are supporting. This is an American enterprise that Europe is supporting. And if we “go in,” it's going to be American 19-year-olds who get shot and killed.

–David Raether




Harold Meyerson neglects to consider the events of the last 10 years in Yugoslavia, and the role played by the U.S. and Germany in the breakup of that federation, favoring Slovenia and Croatia and aiming to weaken Serbia. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were ethnically cleansed from Krajina by Croatia's Tudjman, every bit as much a fascist butcher as Milosevic, who came to power riding the wave of Serbian resentment against the West.

As for the “left” supporting intervention, it's a bit of a misnomer to characterize Waters, Wellstone and Bonior as progressives — Meyerson might have included in the bunch a figure of fun like the self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders. These ineffectual folks are rallying around Clinton after narrow political calculation.

The propriety of the intervention in Kosovo is contradicted by its very form — air bombings. Ethnic cleansing can only be stopped by protecting the victims on the ground. The way to do it was to seek from the U.N. a mandate empowering NATO to send an expeditionary force to the region. But of course, that would have entailed U.S. casualties, something to be avoided at all costs, because in this country public opinion reverses itself as soon as a drop of American blood is spilled.

On the other hand, bombing Serbia back to the Stone Age, in the myopic view of U.S. policymakers, has several advantages: It reminds the world that “what the U.S. says, goes,” to quote George Bush; paves the way to huge â defense-budget increases; and beckons to potential investors via a mini­Marshall Plan for reconstruction in the region, as Clinton recently suggested.


–Franco Cossu

South Pasadena



The arguments for opposing the bombing in Yugoslavia are not about running away from “radical evil,” which, in this instance, Slobodan Milosevic and his regime do represent, but rather about directly confronting that “radical evil” in a civilized, peaceful, cultured and humane way.

Milosevic is absolutely an evil leader, and he has absolutely violated human rights in Yugoslavia. He must be removed from power. But as President Clinton said regarding the Columbine High School shootings, “We must teach our children to settle their differences through words and not weapons.”

Interestingly enough, we don't have to look beyond the Kosovo crisis to find someone who has understood this lesson and put it into action. For nine long years, one Kosovar Albanian, Ibrahim Rugova, led a nonviolent democratic resistance to the Milosevic regime. And for nine long years, the United Nations, the United States and NATO have all but ignored that movement. Not until the KLA took up arms and partook in what the U.N. called terrorist activities, did the peace movement fall apart and the world take notice. And then all the U.S., Europe and NATO did was issue ultimatums.

When Meyerson writes that “the calls for stopping the bombing and renewing negotiations without preconditions read as if it were the absence of opportunities that made Milosevic take up the sword,” he must remember that it was in fact NATO that took up the sword on March 24, an action which only escalated the “radical evil” of ethnic cleansing, then added the predictable evils of “collateral damage” and “friendly fire” (NATO's mistaken bombing and killing of Albanian refugees). Yes, Milosevic was acting horribly before the negotiations, but why must NATO, the U.S. and Europe act horribly, too?

If we truly have a desire to create peace and equality in the world, truly want to teach our children that a lasting and meaningful peace can never be achieved through violence, and truly believe that the ends can never justify the means, then we must resist leaders who, for any reason, opt for violence and warfare to solve problems. Honest negotiations and nonviolent-resistance movements do take time and hard work. But as any mature, civilized and sensitive adult knows, in life there are no easy ways out.

–Matthew Wagner

Los Angeles



It was truly refreshing to read Harold Meyerson's column supporting NATO's action in Kosovo from a progressive viewpoint. I am continually dismayed to witness so many on the left who champion the cause of human rights in America but who, in turn, are willing to neglect the atrocities in Kosovo. The sad fact is that nearly a year of negotiations and peacemaking failed to alleviate this crisis, leaving us with few options beyond military force to prevent destabilization of the Central European region, as well as further human-rights abuses. So many on the left seem to forget the lessons of World War II and the Holocaust, that failing to act in the name of pacifism or isolationism can have truly horrible consequences.

While our objectives are not easily fulfilled, progressives should be pleased with the role which NATO has defined for itself. What a desirable foreign policy to lead us into the next century: a true coalition of democracies acting in unison, taking a firm stance versus ruthless dictators, and standing up for basic human rights.

–Darrin Hurwitz

Los Angeles




I read with dismay Marc B. Haefele's article “Alatorre Takes the Fifth — 108 Times” [April 23­29]. I say “dismay” because, by my count, Haefele uses the term “self-incrimination” when referring to the Fifth Amendment a total of three times in his article, which I find remarkable, because this is three more times than it appears in the U.S. Constitution. For the record, the relevant part of the Fifth Amendment reads as follows: “No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness . . . against himself . . .”

So what is the difference? you ask. It is the prosecution's burden to prove a defendant's guilt, not the defendant's burden to prove his or her innocence. If you were to testify against yourself — even though not guilty — a clever prosecutor could easily twist your innocent words and use them against you.


I guess I should not be surprised that your reporter erred. In the very same article, he quotes Louis Cohen — an attorney, no less — who refers to Alatorre's “privilege against self-incrimination.” The Fifth Amendment is not a privilege — it is a right. That is why the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution are collectively known as the “Bill of Rights,” not the “Bill of Privileges.”

Like the bumper sticker says, “If you don't know what your rights are, you haven't got any.”

–Paul Grim

Santa Monica




I was edified to see the positive write-up Dave Shulman gave the pope's CD [Sitegeist, April 23­29]. But why is it beyond our media to write about the Holy Father without being tasteless — as with Shulman's comment about “definitely not getting laid”?

–James Dunlap

Hamden, Connecticut



The Weekly would like to congratulate Counter Intelligence columnist JONATHAN GOLD, who received the 1999 James Beard Foundation award for restaurant reviews, and contributor GREG CRITSER, who was a Beard Foundation finalist for his article “The Fat Man Sings: A Journal of Obesity in America.”

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