“The president is in violation of the law. That is clear. It does not require an interpretation of the Constitution. It is the War Powers Act of 1973.”
— Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.)
“The representatives of the American people voted against this war in the Balkans… Yet the war continues unauthorized, without the consent of the governed.”
— Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)
According to the White House, the United States is not technically at “war.”
Excuse me? This is Bill Clinton we’re talking about. People are actually relying on a definition of “war” from a man who claimed that what he and Monica had wasn’t “sex.”
This is a war, as the rest of the world is acutely aware.
And, as such, this war is now quite plainly illegal under U.S. law, specifically the War Powers Act.
As this space pointed out last week, Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to decide when and if the nation should go to war. As a practical matter, the White House has always had some leeway to respond to short-term crises, but the War Powers Act mandates clearly that the White House must notify Congress of military action within 48 hours, and lacking a resolution of support from Congress, must withdraw the U.S. military from hostilities within 60 days thereafter.
According to U.S. federal law, Bill Clinton’s war had to end by May 25.
(I’ve posted the text of the War Powers Act and Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution at http://www.bobharris.com so you can read them for yourself.)
The White House has so far ignored the law, claiming it’s unconstitutional.
Too bad they apparently haven’t read the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the only body that can rule on whether the War Powers Act is constitutional, and until they say otherwise, it remains federal law, which Clinton has sworn under oath to uphold.
Which is why on May 26, a bipartisan group of 26 members of Congress, led by Representatives Campbell and Kucinich, filed a motion in U.S. District Court to end the U.S. role in the bombing of Yugoslavia.
How that motion is adjudicated just might set an enormous precedent — not just over the practical authority to declare war, but the ability even to compel the White House to obey the law.
This is a legitimate constitutional crisis.
Not that most reporters seem to care.
The Washington Post has mentioned the subject exactly three times: twice in short items on pages A25 and A28 on the day the deadline passed, and then yesterday in a TV listing in section C.
And, as Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting has pointed out, a search of the New York Times database reveals that the War Powers Act has not yet been mentioned even once.
Then again, a lot of things aren’t getting reported in the United States.
I’m writing this at about 3:45 p.m. PST on Sunday, May 30. European news agencies have reported all of the following just in the last 24 hours:
Several civilians have been killed and at least 40 wounded in the town of Krusevac; early reports state that bombs intended for a bridge over the Morava River apparently exploded near a street market full of people celebrating a local religious holiday.
At this moment, CNN is running an interview with a stock analyst discussing the price of banking shares.
Two vehicles carrying foreign correspondents from Italy, Portugal, and England have been heavily damaged by a NATO missile in Rekane. Two reporters are wounded. One person has been killed.
Fox News is airing a report on the decline in the Euro relative to the dollar.
One civilian has been killed, over 30 have been wounded, and at least 130 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the villages of Suvi Do and Pavlovci. Also, seven more bodies have been found in the rubble at the Estok prison, raising the casualty total there to 93 dead and over 200 wounded.
Meanwhile, MSNBC is hyping a special program tonight, on which Tom Brokaw will hype his new book. Fox News is now discussing the renovation of the Chelsea hotel in New York. Headline News is running a feature on summer travel bargains.
And so it goes.
U.S. media widely reported that the Serbian military was responsible for 2,000 deaths in Kosovo prior to the bombings.
This is unquestionably a terrible thing.
However, at its current pace, the bombing campaign might well claim a similar number of lives — Serbians, Albanians, Bulgarians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Chinese, and others, many of them small children — just in time for the 4th of July.
Maybe CNBC can squeeze that tidbit into a stock ticker.
The new issue of CounterPunch magazine reports that, according to a Pentagon procurement auditor, many of America’s air-launched cruise missiles have embedded chips subject to potential Y2K guidance problems.
Conveniently, however, over 200 have been fired into Yugoslavia, and another 90 have dropped into Iraq.
End of problem.
(CounterPunch is online at http://www.counterpunch.org, although, unfortunately, the Web site often lags the print edition by a couple of weeks.)
CounterPunch also notes that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) war-crimes verification team, which in January with great fanfare accused the Serbs of committing massacres of Albanian peasants, was led by none other than William Walker, former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador in the late 1980s.
Good God. Something is really wrong here. A little history:
When the U.S.-backed Salvadoran High Command used paramilitary forces to kill civilian opponents, Walker was notorious for looking the other way.
In 1989, when Salvadoran soldiers massacred six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter, this was Ambassador Walker’s response:
“Management control problems can exist in these kinds of situations.”
Then again, that’s pretty much exactly what NATO says about their civilian casualties.
If you asked anybody on the street what the Gulf War was really about, they often replied with a single word: oil.
If you asked anybody in the White House what the Gulf War was about, they’d say it was about protecting democracy and human rights, even though Kuwait was a feudal aristocracy that had only recently banned slavery, and several allied coalition members were at that very moment engaged in repression elsewhere. Indeed, while Hussein was certainly worth opposing, the effect of the war was to entrench his vile regime and bring great suffering to the people of Iraq, although Western access to Kuwait’s natural resources is now guaranteed.
Ask anybody in the White House today what the current bombings are about, and they’ll say it’s about protecting self-determination and human rights, even though the KLA has never been much more than a fringe contra organization that has committed dozens of terrorist acts. Indeed, while Milosevic is certainly worth opposing, the effect of the war so far has been to further entrench his vile regime and bring great suffering to the people of Yugoslavia.
So let’s ask: as to natural resources, is there anything worth fighting over in Kosovo?
In the heart of Kosovo, just a short drive from the capital of Pristina, lies Yugoslavia’s state-owned Trepca mining complex, called by the New York Times (July 8, 1998) “a war’s glittering prize… the most valuable piece of real estate in the Balkans… worth at least $5 billion” thanks to its rich deposits of lead, zinc, cadmium, gold, and silver.
Impressive. The article also mentions, merely in passing, 17 billion tons of coal reserves.
To put that number in perspective, only 58 billion tons of coal have been mined in the U.S. — ever. At current consumption rates, 17 billion tons of coal would be roughly as much as the United States uses in 20 years.
How much is that 17 billion tons of coal worth? I’m suddenly damn curious.
Last October, Atlantic-Richfield paid the U.S. government 38 cents a ton for an undeveloped lode in Wyoming. That number might be a low measure of actual value, since the government notoriously gives natural resource companies in many industries favorable, below-market terms. I’ll do more research and follow up on this in coming weeks.
Data on the extent of Trepca’s current coal production is hard to find, but if the coal mines are already operational, development costs would be substantially lower. In addition, U.S. Bureau of Mines data indicates that payroll and taxes account for a third of mining costs in the U.S. Since those costs would be much lower in what Wall Street calls an “emerging market,” the value of the coal in Trepca would be boosted by, conservatively, another twenty percent.
At a very rough guess of 60 cents per ton, the coal mines would be worth about ten billion dollars. Which means that the Trepca mining complex, alone, is worth, conservatively, fifteen billion dollars.
And even that number might be way low.
The Bureau of Mines estimate I found pegs the nominal cost per ton of underground mining at a little under 30 dollars. In the real world, the figure seems to come in at roughly 25 bucks. Again, discounting tax and labor costs in eastern Europe, the cost of production would probably be even lower. Instead, however, let’s play it conservative and call the cost of production a full $30 per ton.
The sale price for a ton of coal seems to vary widely, according to its composition and market conditions, but over the last few years, a rough average for the going rate seems to be about $36 a ton.
Which means this: unless I’ve screwed up somewhere here, and God knows that’s possible, there’s over $100 billion sitting in a hole in the ground in Kosovo. Not even counting other, smaller operations in the region.
(Until somebody else who knows a lot more about mining runs all these numbers, I’ll hold off on drawing any conclusions. If I’ve made a mistake, please email me at email@example.com and I’ll eagerly publish more accurate figures.)
In any case, the question does present itself:
Is it possible that what oil was to the Gulf War, coal and precious metals are to Kosovo?
Notably, while NATO has bombed machine plants, pharmaceutical factories, television stations, airports, electrical stations, bridges, tobacco factories, prisons, car factories, textile plants, wood mills, and even a shock-absorber manufacturer, there is no report I can find that the Trepca facility has suffered even a scratch.
Meanwhile, American media has been almost completely silent about the Trepca mines, or any of Kosovo’s natural resources, for that matter. The Trepca complex hasn’t been mentioned in the Washington Post even once.
Today’s big headline in all the American papers? The Milosevic government is willing to allow an international peacekeeping force into Yugoslavia to monitor an end to the conflict.
The only sticking point is the exact composition of the force: NATO insists on providing and managing the occupational force, while Milosevic prefers a non-NATO delegation.
This is manifestly not news.
This is, in fact, the very same disagreement which has existed since the beginning of the conflict, with only minor changes in the terms.
In the weeks before the bombings began, NATO presented both the KLA and the Milosevic government a proposed accord which has come to be called the Rambouillet (pronounced, weirdly enough, like “Rambo-yay”) agreement.
As you’ve heard in the mainstream press, Rambouillet calls for a return of Albanian refugees, a cessation of hostilities, and an occupying force to enforce the agreement. All of which would be neat.
However, the implementation terms (which we’ll discuss in a moment) were never negotiated, but simply dictated by the U.S. and its NATO allies, as Madeleine Albright proudly reiterates on a daily basis. After some initial reluctance, Kosovar representatives from the KLA/UCK signed. On February 21, Yugoslavia agreed to the political portion of the agreement, but not the military terms.
Yugoslavia’s objections were to occupation by 28,000 NATO troops as described by a number of enforcement terms outlined in Appendix B. However, the day before the bombing began, the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution expressing willingness to review the “range and character of an international presence” in Kosovo. An agreement involving U.N. and neutral peacekeepers was very likely still possible.
It was — as they proudly admit — Madeleine Albright and NATO who would not negotiate.
This is still essentially the situation, changed only in that Milosevic is now willing to admit troops from the nine NATO members who are not currently blowing anything up. The NATO side still will not negotiate. Indeed, some American pundits are already citing the change in Milosevic’s position as a reason to step up the bombings still further.
Since the text of the Rambouillet agreement was unavailable at the outset of the bombing, and it has yet to appear in any mainstream U.S. media, it’s easy for Clinton and Albright to pose as the sole voices of reason in the pre-war talks.
I’ve placed of the full agreement at http://www.bobharris.com, along with a convenient copy of Appendix B, which contains most of the stuff Belgrade rejected. Judge for yourself.
So what’s in this Rambouillet deal, anyway? Here’s the Cliffs Notes version:
The agreement begins with a group-hug preamble and a “Framework” that elaborates the need for everybody to stop shooting and play nice. The right noises are all made. Cool so far.
From there, the main body of the agreement begins with essentially a shopping list of political goals that have never been in serious dispute, to wit:
Chapter 1 is a constitution for Kosovo.
Chapter 2 is about civilian law enforcement and criminal justice.
Chapter 3 is about holding elections.
All is still good. But then things get interesting.
Chapter 4, on economic issues, starts out with this blunt assertion as its very first sentence: “The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles.”
That’s nice and all, but why does NATO need to specify the Kosovar economic system, of all things, so early in the agreement, if their only interest is in returning refugees to their homes?
There hasn’t been a single word yet about the transport of displaced persons, expediting of food, clothing, medicine, and other assistance, finding of the missing, economic reconstruction, adjudication of war crimes claims, or any of the other stuff the U.S. and NATO claim to be so concerned with. Just this: “The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles.”
That means stuff like the Trepca mines and other mineral resources in Kosovo will inevitably be privatized while under NATO control. And the wealthy investors who front the cash and make the profits won’t be coming from anywhere in Yugoslavia.
Article 2 confirms the point. Section 1: “The Parties agree to reallocate ownership and resources in accordance insofar as possible with the distribution of powers and responsibilities set forth in this Agreement, in the following areas: (a) government-owned assets (including educational institutions, hospitals, natural resources, and production facilities)…”
Couple that with Section 2: “The Parties agree to the creation of a Claim Settlement Commission (CSC) to resolve all disputes… (a) The CSC shall consist of three experts designated by Kosovo, three experts designated jointly by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, and three independent experts designated by the CIM.”
Aha. The Kosovo protectorate government and its NATO protectors receive 6 out of 9 votes over control of Kosovo’s resources.
Hmm. Maybe there really are a hundred billion reasons for the West to care about Kosovo.
Still not a single word yet about all those hungry Albanians.
Chapter 4A is entitled “Humanitarian Assistance, Reconstruction and Economic Development.”
Finally we get to feed somebody, right? Nope.
Chapter 4A is only 352 words long. There are seven paragraphs here, placing all such matters in the hands of “the international community.” Not a single specific is mentioned.
This is almost unimaginable.
Remember, as this was composed, there were already thousands of refugees and internally displaced people within Kosovo. It was Serbia’s “ethnic cleansing” of these people that was presented to the world as the [whole, sole] reason this document had to be drawn up in the first place. U.S. leaders were even casually tossing around the term “genocide.”
Yet including its lengthy title, the Rambouillet agreement’s entire game plan for all the starving refugees is exactly 53 words longer than an earlier subsection specifying the details of police uniforms.
This is just a guess, but the curious designation “Chapter 4A” is the kind of thing you tack on a term paper the night before it’s due, when the rest of it is already done and printed and you suddenly remember something you’re pretty sure the professor is going to want to hear in the morning.
Chapter 5 is called “Implementation I.” Now we’re getting to the nuts and bolts of who really gets to order everybody else around.
Article 1, section 2 creates a 7-member Joint Commission chaired by the Chief of the Implementation Mission (CIM). Serbia gets one representative. The CIM is empowered to carry out not just the stuff in the agreement, but anything else “as may be later agreed.” Agreed by whom? Presumably, as agreed by the Joint Commission the CIM chairs. In other words, there is no check on his power.
Which is codified explicitly in Article 4, section 5: “The CIM may recommend to the appropriate authorities the removal and appointment of officials and the curtailment of operations of existing institutions in Kosovo if he deems it necessary for the effective implementation of this Agreement. If the action recommended is not taken in the time requested, the Joint Commission may decide to take the recommended action.” In other words, the CIM rules by executive fiat.
Article 5, a summary sentence which stands by itself, is even clearer: “The CIM shall be the final authority in theater regarding interpretation of the civilian aspects of this Agreement, and the Parties agree to abide by his determinations as binding on all Parties and persons.”
Chapter 6 creates an Ombudsman to monitor the protection of human rights and such. The Ombudsman is to have unimpeded access and whatnot. He also has no power.
Chapter 7 is called “Implementation II.” It doesn’t say so up front, but this is where we get into who gets to hold the big guns.
Right off the bat, Article 1, Section 1a: “The Parties invite NATO to constitute and lead a military force to help ensure compliance…” Section 1c: “Other States may assist… those States’ participation will be the subject of agreement between such participating States and NATO.” NATO and only NATO runs the show.
Then comes language elaborating timetables for a cease fire, a demilitarized zone along the Yugoslav/Kosovo boundary, Serbian withdrawal, and demilitarization. All fine, but strangely, the KLA/UCK isn’t mentioned by name even a single time. And while the agreement generally forbids crossing borders for military purposes, there is virtually nothing in the agreement to impede KLA/UCK training operations in Albania and elsewhere.
After which, as in Chapter 5, Chapter 7 concludes authority in military matters with Article 15: “…the KFOR (NATO’s occupation force) Commander is the final authority in theater regarding interpretation of this Chapter and his determinations are binding on all Parties and persons.”
Again, the power of the NATO occupying authority will be absolute.
Chapter 7 has two appendices. Appendix A details where and how Serbian units are allowed to position themselves. Appendix B pertains to the “Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force,” which means NATO’s occupying troops and personnel.
However benevolent the motive may be, the language of Appendix B rather strikingly grants NATO nothing less than complete occupational power over the whole of Yugoslavia.
Keep in mind as you read on: Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, and NATO are bombing Yugoslavia because the Belgrade government would not agree irrevocably to the following terms:
Section 6a: “NATO shall be immune from all legal process, whether civil, administrative, or criminal.”
Section 6b: “NATO personnel, under all circumstances and at all times, shall be immune from the Parties’ jurisdiction in respect of any civil, administrative, criminal or disciplinary offenses which may be committed by them in the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).”
Section 7: “NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in the FRY.”
Section 8: “NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.”
Section 10: “The authorities in the FRY shall facilitate, on a priority basis and with all appropriate means, all movement of personnel, vehicles, vessels, aircraft, equipment, or supplies, through or in the airspace, ports, airports, or roads used.”
Section 15: “The Parties shall, upon simple request, grant all telecommunications services, including broadcast services, needed for the Operation, as determined by NATO. This shall include the right to utilize such means and services as required to assure full ability to communicate and the right to use all of the electromagnetic spectrum for this purpose, free of cost.”
Section 16: “The Parties shall provide, free of cost, such public facilities as NATO shall require to prepare for and execute the Operation…”
Section 17: “NATO and NATO personnel shall be immune from claims of any sort which arise out of activities in pursuance of the operation…”
Section 19: “Commercial undertakings operating in the FRY only in the service of NATO shall be exempt from local laws and regulations…”
Section 22: “NATO may, in the conduct of the Operation, have need to make improvements or modifications to certain infrastructure in the FRY, such as roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings, and utility systems.”
This bears repeating: bombs are falling and people are dying because Yugoslavia wouldn’t agree — surrender, in essence — to all of the above. But no nation in the world would imaginably consent to all of these terms willingly.
Rambouillet finally concludes with Chapter 8, which promises that three years hence the “final status” of Kosovo will be resolved in some unspecified manner. The earlier language, however, guarantees that such resolution would be fully under the control of NATO.
Notice that throughout the treaty, the U.N. is hardly even mentioned, although the Security Council is “invited” to endorse the Agreement. Reading closely, however, we find that whether the U.N. approves or not is immaterial.
Just as whether or not you and I, as citizens of the United States, approve has become immaterial.
I’ve been writing all day. It’s about 10:45 p.m. Headline News just reported, with no comment or rebuttal, NATO’s assertion that the civilian deaths in Krusevac were the result of bombing a legitimate military target. Now they’re repeating the piece on summer travel bargains.
European press reports state that, in addition to power plants and an oil refinery, a retirement home has just been hit. The first reports say that eleven civilians are dead and many more are missing.
CNN, meanwhile, is (I swear this is all true) profiling the guy who draws Bugs Bunny. MSNBC is studying the body language of people flirting in restaurants. And Fox News is holding a roundtable discussion of sexy undergarments for senior citizens.
I’m going to bed now.
Bob Harris is a radio commentator, political writer, and humorist who has spoken at almost 300 colleges nationwide.