Friday, April 08, 2005

Hammering The Crooked Nails Of Revisionism

A recent back and forth between myself and Greg Djerejian (I'm not showing quarter just because he's on hiatus mind you) concerning the issue of troop removal from Iraq prompted a non-sequitur from Greg likening a certain position on the matter to what he called "the abdication of responsibility laden Clinton years." By this, he meant that Clinton had not risen to the challenges in Rwanda and the Balkans (he referred to Bosnia in particular, though Kosovo is also relevant in my opinion so I refer to "the Balkans" generally).

I actually agreed with him on these points, in as much as Clinton should have acted to stave off the genocide in Rwanda and should have gotten involved in the Balkans (in both locations) sooner than he did. Then I pointed out that this malady was not Clinton's alone, though, and that despite the high soaring rhetoric, Bush has not used US forces to intercede in the mass murder (I prefer to call it genocide) in Darfur, Sudan - a humanitarian crisis that
continues to this day.

Further, while Clinton was slow to act, the Republican leadership was not exactly clamoring for action in any of those arenas. In fact, the GOP was rather oppositional and obstructionist when Clinton sought to muster support for each of the Balkan campaigns, and made nary a peep about Rwanda. Lest I be accused of perpetrating a
tu quoque fallacy, I maintain that the GOP's intransigence does not excuse Clinton's inaction, and he should have risen above the partisan sniping to pursue the humane course of action regardless of the difficulties involved. Nevertheless, if someone is going to attack Clinton for this lapse in fortitude, Bush and the GOP deserve a heap of scorn as well.

In response to this last claim, Djerejian cited a handful of conservatives who did support intervention in Bosnia as if this absolved the leadership of the Republican Party in America for what they were doing at the time. This is hardly dispositive evidence. If I trot out Joe Lieberman and his centrist ilk and use them as cover to claim that the Left or the Democratic Party supports this or that policy, it would be nothing short of obfuscation. In reality, Djerejian, and some of the
commenters in that post's thread, are actually trying to claim that the GOP was pressing for Clinton to get involved in the Balkans and/or Rwanda, but Clinton was dragging his feet and "abdicating" his responsibility. This is a virulent form of revisionism that must not be allowed to stand. History deserves better than this hackneyed partisan whitewashing.

In rebuttal, I cited
documents and articles which spell out the Republican position quite clearly on these matters, and it was blatantly oppositional to everything Clinton was doing, despite the conservative free thinkers Djerejian cited. It was partisan politics as usual, and Clinton had to fight an uphill battle and twist enough arms to gain passage of the military resolutions he was seeking (still, not an excuse - he could have made these political maneuvers earlier).

The reason I return to this debate, aside from my intention to set the record straight, is because recent developments in the burgeoning Tom DeLay ethics scandals (that's
plural by the way), have called into question certain of Mr. DeLay's motives for opposing, quite vehemently, President Clinton's intervention in Kosovo. Mark Kleiman has compiled a series of links which discuss DeLay's trip to Russia which was improperly financed by Russian lobbyists. One of those links was to a Kevin Drum post which cited Garance Franke-Ruta's post on the subject of DeLay's voyage:
The United States of America cannot have one of its top congressional leaders taking money from people advocating for Russian military-intelligence and defense interests as part of a lobbying deal. It simply cannot. It is unacceptable for a critical leader in the U.S. government to be taken on a junket by groups working for foreign military interests or lobbying on their behalf, even if indirectly and without his knowledge.
As Drum correctly notes, DeLay's strong opinions on the matter of Clinton's Balkan policy just happened to, coincidentally I'm sure, line-up with Russia's stance. Here's a look at how far DeLay, and some of his GOP brethren like Trent Lott and Don Nickles, were willing to take their opposition to Clinton's Kosovo campaign.
When asked whether they would authorize Clinton "to use all necessary force to win this war, including ground troops," Lott and Nickles --who had voted a month ago, along with 70 percent of the Senate GOP, not to support the NATO air campaign--said they wouldn't. Nickles questioned the propriety of "NATO's objectives," calling its goal of "access to all of Serbia ... ludicrous." DeLay, meanwhile, voted not only against last week's House resolution authorizing Clinton to conduct the air war--which failed on a tie vote--but also in favor of legislation "directing the president ... to remove U.S. Armed Forces from their positions in connection with the present operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." When asked whether he had lobbied his colleagues to defeat the resolution authorizing the air war, as had been reported, DeLay conceded that he had "talked to a couple of members during the vote" but claimed not to have swayed anyone since it was "a vote of conscience." [emphasis added]
So not only were Republican leaders (70% in the Senate, and DeLay's considerable leadership in the House) opposed to stopping the carnage in Kosovo, but Tommy DeLay might have been influenced by his connection to Russian lobbyists (at the very least an appearance of impropriety no?). Nice. Go read the rest of the quotes from the faction of the "non-abdicators" here. My particular favorite is this (with numbered caption by Will Saletan):
1. The atrocities are America's fault. "Once the bombing commenced, I think then [Slobodan] Milosevic unleashed his forces, and then that's when the slaughtering and the massive ethnic cleansing really started," Nickles said at a news conference after appearing on Meet the Press. "The administration's campaign has been a disaster. ... [It] escalated a guerrilla warfare into a real war, and the real losers are the Kosovars and innocent civilians." On Fox News Sunday, DeLay blamed the ethnic cleansing on U.S. intervention. "Clinton's bombing campaign has caused all of these problems to explode," DeLay charged in a House floor speech replayed on Late Edition.
All the subtlety of a hammer.

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