The fruits of NATO’s splendid little war in Kosovo are becoming apparent. Russia has revised its defense doctrine to make it easier to press the nuclear button. The new national security strategy promulgated by Acting President Vladimir Putin calls for “expanded nuclear containment” while pledging to resist Western attempts to dominate the globe. This policy change was sparked—according to Moscow—by NATO’s expansion into former Warsaw Pact countries and by the U.S.-led war against Serbia. The 21-page document states that “the term ‘partnership’ has been consigned to the past.”
For years, our Sunday-morning pundits and media global warriors have baited the drowsy bear, finally kicking him once too often—and now they claim that his “belligerence” proves them right. A more accurate view came from the Moscow Times, in an editorial on January 15:
[Consider a June 1999 op-ed by New York Times writer Thomas Friedman, which quotes a senior NATO official at headquarters in Brussels freely admitting, “Ever since the Cold War ended, NATO planners have been groping for a new mission . . . That’s why NATO needs the Balkans as much as the Balkans need NATO . . . ” If this is accurate, i t is an astonishing account. Just think: NATO’s need for a post- Cold War justification surely influenced the mule-like U.S. position that only a NATO-led force, not a UN force, could be parked in Kosovo. After all, the UN already has a mission (one we all democratically agreed upon, by the way-unlike NATO’s mission creep). The Kremlin has opened a debate on the architecture of international security. We’d suggest citizens of the Western democracies respond by demanding NATO better justify its existence—its massive expense, its spread through Central Europeon stand down.
The news from Russia was welcomed in Peking and Delhi, and getting those three together is no mean feat: Albright’s true legacy is already upon us. Delhi’s Hindustan Times (January 18) opined that the one country to be feared in today’s world is not Russia, but America:
When it comes to international forms of terrorism . . . without a shadow of a doubt the worse culprit is the United States of America. Surely this point should need no elaboration—the examples are innumerable, from the bombings and civilian deaths in Kosovo and Iraq to the arbitrariness of the attacks on Sudan, Libya and Afghanistan.
This assessment was reinforced on January 6 by the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau, which revealed that a videotape used by NATO to explain the killing of at least 14 civilians aboard a passenger train on a bridge in Serbia last April was shown at triple its real speed. As Agence France Presse reported on January 6:
NATO warplanes fired two missiles at the 50 metre long bridge . . . on April 12 . . . General Wesley Clark shortly afterwards showed two videotapes of the train appearing to be traveling fast on the bridge, and said i t had then been impossible to alter the missiles’ trajectories. . . . A spokesman for NATO’s military command in Mons, Belgium, acknowledged in a telephone interview . . . that those images had been altered by “a technical problem.” The footage, recorded by a camera installed in the warhead of one of the missiles that destroyed the bridge and train, was altered during the process of being copied for screening, said the spokesman. He said NATO was aware of the problem since last October but did not consider it “useful” to disclose it.
The videos are available on the NATO website: www.nato.int/kosovo/video.htm. In the clip maiked “Railway I,” the pilot has his cursor on the bridge. When allowance is made for the speeded-up tape, it is clear that the train came into view at least six (and more likely ten) seconds before the hit. There was plenty of time for the pilot to miss the oncoming civilian train had he wished to do so.
Even giving the pilot the benefit of the doubt and assuming that the first hit was a mistake, the second one certainly was not. In the clip marked “Railway II,” the pilot has turned around after the smoke has mostly cleared. The crippled train is standing still; the pilot holds the cursor directly on it for 12 seconds. It is clear why NATO and the Pentagon “did not consider it ‘useful’ to disclose” the fact that the video had been sped up. It takes a strong stomach to re-read the statement General Clark made in the aftermath of the bombing (www.nato.intAosovo/press/p990413a.htm). According to him, the pilot was “many miles” away when he launched his missile. And then:
All of a sudden, at the very last instant, with less than a second to go, he caught a flash of movement that came into the screen and it was the train coming in. Unfortunately he couldn’t dump the bomb at that point, it was locked. . . . The mission was to take out the bridge. He realized when it had happened that he had not hit the bridge, but what he had hit was the train. He had another aim point on the bridge, it was a relatively long bridge and he believed he still had to accomplish his mission, the pilot circled back around. He put his aim point on the other end of the bridge from where the train had come. By the time the bomb got close the bridge was covered with smoke and clouds, and at the last minute, again in an uncanny accident, the train had slid forward from the original impact and parts of the train had moved across the bridge. And so by striking the other end of the bridge he actually caused additional damage to the train. Two bombs were put into that bridge and in both cases there was an effort made to avoid collateral damage. He couldn’t, he saw what had happened, it is one of those regrettable things that happen in a campaign like this and we are all very sorry for it, but we are doing the absolute best we can do to avoid collateral damage, I can assure you of that.
As General Clark’s Commander in Chief would have said, grimly, with a finger pointed at the camera, “We did not target that train.” But vae victis: For all those hoping that the facts of the Kosovo war will eventually become known to the public, the editorialist of the (London) Spectator offers a sobering thought in the first issue of the year:
what people remember is that Blair stood up to the Serb tyrant, put some spine into Clinton, and won. They don’t care what is going on now in Kosovo, the purges against the Serbs. They don’t care that Slobo and the rest of the gang are still in power in Belgrade. The public knows that we fought, and we won, and that is it.
Amidst the hype surrounding Y2K, very few commentators have taken notice of the fact that, 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, his disciples are still suffering and dying for their adherence to their faith. As Michael Binyon noted in the (London) Times on January 4:
From Egypt to Indonesia, Nigeria to Lebanon, an upsurge in intercommunal violence has already marked the new millennium as one of the worst periods of global conflict between Christianity and Islam for generations. All around the edges of the Muslim world, tension is growing in communities divided by religion. Clashes, shootings and massacres have highlighted the atavistic suspicions of those who live in the borderlands where the tectonic plates of the world’s two largest faiths overlap.
In the first week of this year, dozens of people died in clashes between Muslims and Christians in southern Egypt. In southern Sudan, the number of religiously motivated killings exceeds 10,000 a year. The killing of Christians continues unabated in Indonesia, and goes largely unreported in America. But some Europeans are breaking free from self-censorship. “Muslim mobs hunt Christians on resort island of Lombok” was a major headline in the (London) Independent on January 19:
All 11 churches on the west side of Lombok have been burnt. There are burnt-out cars, and burnt shops and houses. There has been more looting. “This is the home of a wealthy Chinese Christian family,” one attacker was reported as saying. “We are all poor Muslim people. We are the real people of Lombok.” . . . The chaos of the past two days raises the nightmarish prospect that after a year of slaughter in the remote Indonesian Spice Islands, religious violence is spreading through the archipelago. Unknown thousands have been killed in the past three weeks alone in battles between Muslims and Christians in the islands.
Christians are fair game, especially when their killing occurs in a politically significant Muslim country. By the same token, abduction and forced conversion of Christians—even American citizens—to Islam is acceptable, at least as far as our government is concerned. According to Our Sunday Visitor, a Catholic news weekly, that is what happened to two American girls in Saudi Arabia:
Alia Al-Gheshayan will celebrate her 21st birthday on Jan. 5 in Saudi Arabia, half a world away from her American mother. Alia and her younger sister, Aisha, were born in California, but their Saudi father abducted them in 1986. Patricia Roush, the girls’ mother, has only seen them once since they were seized. She says that during their captivity, these two girls, raised as Catholics, have been coerced into becoming Muslims. For nearly 14 years, Roush has tried to bring her children home. But, she argues, Saudi government intransigence and State Department ambivalence have resulted in little more than anguish. She recounts that from the very beginning a State Department representative told her, “Your children are gone. You’ll never see them again. There’s nothing we can do.” . . . She shared with Our Sunday Visitor two unclassified State Department cables which discuss her daughters’ adherence to Islam. One cable from the American consulate in Jeddah says, ‘Alia has become a very good Moslem. She loves to study the Koran and pray.’ . . . Despite these cases, a September 1999 State Department review of international religious freedom says of Saudi Arabia: “There were no reports of the forced religious conversion of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the Government’s refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.”
While Patricia Roush is hoping and working for a happy resolution to her ordeal, she has written a book about her daughters. Alia’s Rainbow: Journey Through an International Kidnapping was published through www.buybooksontheweb.com on January 5. It was her older daughter’s 21st birthday. Hers is a genuine “human interest” story—and one, apparently, unfit for the mainstream media to print.