A truck stop in Tulsa has a sign that proclaims: “Kids with gas eat free.” Well, kids, Im getting gas from all the baloney we’re eing fed by NATO, the Pentagon, and the hite House about our ‘military action’ gainst Yugoslavia. Now Congress is getting in on the act, too, serving up a special appropriation of $11.7 billion worth of baloney to the war machine. Notice how Washington can’t find money to assure health care for millions of America’s uninsured children, or for rebuilding our schools and national parks, or for generating good jobs at, say, 1980 wages-but when the Pentagon cries ‘Money!’ Congress instantly says ‘How much?’ then doubles what was requested. So we’re flinging even more tons of Tomahawks, Warthogs, Apaches, HARMS, Helifires, and other weaponry at Slobodan Milosevic, his small army of 40,000 troops, the civilian population of Yugoslavia (and, oops, Bulgaria), assorted TV towers, bridges, buses, tractors, and the occasional Chinese embassy.
There is no nation- al security issue for us in this Serbian/ ethnic-Albanian civil war inside Yugoslavia. Milosevic may be meaner than the other Balkan despots, but he rules tenuously over a weak impoverished nation with zero capacity to threaten the territories of the European powers, much less our shores. Nor does Milosevic control anything our nation wants-like oil, bananas, trade routes, or other things America has warred over with small nations in the past.
No NATO interest is threatened, either. This military organization exists solely for the defense of its 19 members, none of whom are under attack by mighty Yugoslavia. Indeed, NATO is the one doing the attacking, something its charter says it absolutely, cross-our-hearts-and-hope- to-die will never do. The official rationale for NATO’s attacks has hopped all over the place. FIRST: ‘We’re gonna bring 01′ Slobodan to the peace table whimpering like a whipped puppy after we pop his sorry ass with a few of our smart bombs.’ Didn’t happen. SECOND: ‘It’s about preventing ethnic ‘cleansing’ (a sick euphemism for expulsion, annihilation, genocide and/or gross murder) of the Kosovars.’ This rationale didn’t work either, since, unfortunately, our bombing hastened the eviction/annihilation of ethnic Albanians, actually giving Milosevic the political cover he needed to do it. THIRD: ‘It’s humanitarianism that moves us to punish the bully on behalf of the refugees.’ This didn’t ring true either, since there are all those other bullies we’ve been in cahoots with over the years- Pinochet, Suharto, the TonTon Macouts, arcos, SLORC, the PRI, and, presently, the bullies of Beijing. FOURTH: ‘We must Iwin’to preserve NATO’s credibility.’ So, the bottom line is that we’re spending billions and killing thousands in the Balkans for the credi- bility of an organization that’s violating its own charter by being there in the first place. Incredible.
We’re really there because Wall Street and Washington want a globalized economy under their control—and that means having global enforcers. And, as Bill Greider argues in his new book, Fortress America, with a massive storehouse of weaponry, there is a powerful impulse—almost an imperative—to reach for it. This is especially true with the new, razzle-dazzle, video-game weaponry that offers the possibility of killing ‘cleanly’ without getting mussed up, much less getting killed yourself.
And then there are computer warfare tricks that we’ve never before had the opportunity to test. Like that nifty new strategy Of short-circuiting electrirc power for whole regions of a country by dropping thousands of long car- bon filaments onto high-power transmission lines. (You may have seen a newspaper photo of a hap- less Yugoslav family pulling hun- dreds of these cobwebs off their vegetable garden.) Other clever tricks include electronically deleting all the funds from Milosevics bank account, or sending viruses nto Yugoslavian military’s commputer systems—an exotic idea ust a few years ago when Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum did it to the aliens in the movie Independence Day.
The CIA’s doing it now, for real.
Serbia’s democratic movement
Let’s say the objective really is to save Kosovo for the Kosovars. If so, we’re going about it in the most expensive, destructive, unimaginative, and ineffective way. Consider costs alone (by the way, Congress is taking its $11.7 billion war appropriation out of our Social Security trust fund). Here’s a New York Times rundown of price tags on some of the mili- tary toys being deployed:
• F-16 round-trip: $5,900
• Cost of F-117A shot down March 27; $45 million
• Apache helicopter (two of which have crashed to date); $18 million
• MI Abrams tank: $4 million • A-10 ‘Warthog’ anti-tank fighter: $9 million
• B-2 bomber: $2 billion SORTIES (and we’re flying 400-600 a day):
• F-16 round-trip: $ 5,900
• F/A-18 round-trip: $17,200
• B-2 bomber from Missouri to Serbia and back: $1.6 million
Aircraft carrier per day at sea: $2.8 million
• Navy Tomahawk missiles: $1 million each
• Air-launched cruise mis- siles: $2 million each
• Helifire missiles fired from Apache helicopters: $42,700 each
• HARM (high-speed anti-radiation missiles): $340,000 each
• Smart bombs, or bombs with electronic guidance: $50,000 each
• Laser-guided 2,000 lb. bomb dropped from F-117: $26,200 each
• Old-fashioned bomb with no guidance: $600 each ‘
Present military costs admitted to by the Pentagon total $37 mil- lion a day. This does not count the costs of dealing with the refugees, nor the costs of reserves being called up or of future ground troops to go in. Hell, for less than we’ve spent so far, we could have BOUGHT Kosovo-every inch of land and every building in the province!
Instead, we keep bombing, apparently under the theory that if brute force isn’t working it’s probably because we’re not using enough of it.
There was another way besides bombs. U.S. media, which have been shameless cheerleaders for NATO’s military action, ignored the vital democratic opposition to Milosevic throughout Yugoslavia prior to the bombing and he was in trouble politically. For months the opposition movement had been pleading for support, especially for underwriting independent television broadcasts which could have been beamed into Yugoslavia from Italy or elsewhere, revealing Milosevic as the inept and corrupt president he is. But Washington yawned and waved off the opportunity to back the democratic movement. A prominent, opposition journalist appeared as a guest on my Chat & Chew radio show and said that as soon as the bombing started, the democratic movement had no choice but to rally around the flag-just as happens here. NATO did Milosevic a political favor.
Winners and losers
Obviously, the Kosovars are the big losers in this war, but the Serbian people of Yugoslavia are suffering, too, the adjoining Balkan nations with delicate ethnic balances are destabilized, our national reputation is sullied all over the world, both Russia and China are chapped, the UN has lost more of what little face it had left, NATO is a laughingstock, and we Americans are divided by another undeclared, unexplained, and costly war.
But one group is a clear winner: War Profiteers. The stock prices of Pentagon contractors are exploding with every direct hit of their whiz-bang arsenals.
Raytheon (maker of the Tomahawk, AMRAAM, and Maverick missiles) has seen its stock shoot up by 30% since NATO’s assault began.
Texas Instruments (maker of HARM missile and ISOWs-loint Standoff Weapons) has had a 17% stock-price increase during the bombing. Textron (maker of the CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed bombs) has enjoyed a 24% jump;
Northrop Grumman (maker of the B-2 Stealth bomber and the A-10 fight- er) is up 10%. And Boeing (maker of the B-1 and B-52 bombers, Apache helicopter, and the cruise missile) has had a 26% increase.
One Wall Street analyst gushed, ‘This is not just a flash in the pan. Kosovo is just the catalyst. We’re going to keep seeing money flow- ing into defense stocks.’
All that free time on CNN
Two big factors are at work here. One, with thousands of sorties, missiles fired and bombs dropped, the West’s inventory of those million-dollar Tomahawks, $340,000 HARMS, and so forth is being depleted-and Wall Street knows that Washington will move billions more of our tax dollars into the pockets of defense contractors to replenish the inventory. As Paytheon boss Dan Burnham told the Wall Street Joumal: “Kosovo underscores . . . that we need to get to $60 billion [a yearl in weapons outlays”
The second factor is the ‘buzz’ of the action worldwide. CNN broadcasts the thrill of each cruise missile plowing into targets . . . and every dictator in the world sits there with eyes wide and a big smile on his face, thinking ‘Let’s call Raytheon first thing tomorrow morning.” The televised war is free advertising for the merchants of war-as USA Today trilled: ‘The USAs defense equipment, such as the satellite-guided smart bombs, has stolen the international spot- light . . . . That could mean increased foreign interest in U.S. military equipment.”
If you wanted a snapshot of who gains from NATO’s bombings, check the videotapes from NATO’s 50th birthday bash in Washington in April. In the shadowy corners of the reception rooms you’ll see the executives and lobbyists of America’s arms merchants, smiling like cats with their whiskers full of feathers. They were the official ‘hosts” of NATO’s birthday party: Boeing, DaimierChrysler, GM, Honeywell, Microsoft, Motorola, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, TRW, United Technologies, and others-each one having paid up to $250,000 to sponsor the event … and to mix with the government honchos who buy their products and make the decisions about going to war.