LYING ABOUT EX-YUGOSLAVIA
DAVID H. HACKWORTH

Are the powers-that-be lying to the American people about what we're up to in the former Yugoslavia? If they are, "This is déjà vu all over again," as Yogi Berra used to say.

Thirty years ago, Daniel Ellsberg blew the whistle on the Vietnam War when he released the Pentagon Papers, proving that our government, from Truman to Nixon, had been systematically lying to the American people. The papers showed a generation-long conspiracy of deliberate concealment from both the people and Congress concerning Vietnam policy.

Just one whopper among thousands: In 1964, when LBJ was running against Barry Goldwater, he promised "no escalation was needed in South Vietnam." Meanwhile, as the Pentagon Papers later showed, his advisers were telling him the ante had to be kicked up. So LBJ lied and whipped Goldwater, whose sin was telling the hard truth about what he thought needed to be done in Vietnam -- which was pretty much what LBJ ended up doing!

Because of all the fabrications, 4 million Southeast Asians lost their lives, we took nearly a half-million casualties, and our nation was almost ripped asunder.

And now, for at least a decade, we've been similarly deceived regarding U.S. policy in ex-Yugoslavia -- about who's been receiving intelligence and arms from us, and our real agenda.

The lies have ranged from biggies, like Clinton saying in 1995 that our forces would be in Bosnia for only one year, to the less consequential, such as what really happened after so-called Air Force hero Scott O'Grady went down in flames.

As with Vietnam, the American people are fast asleep, while many members of Congress seem interested only in their post-Congress lobbying jobs. And the soldiers on the ground who do the bleeding are all regulars, so no one cares what happens to them except their families.

Since 1990, the ex-Yugoslavian swamp's gotten wider, deeper and more costly in lives and dollars. First we stepped into Croatia and Bosnia. Next came Kosovo. And now there's the mess in Macedonia.

When Dubya was running against Big Al, he used to talk about getting us out of the Balkan bogs and bringing our boys back home. Now that he's in the presidential saddle, he's completely changed his jingle -- just like LBJ. The latest lyrics go, "We went in together, we'll come out together." The "we" refers to obsolete NATO, which only exists because it's good for the U.S. arms business.

More recent lies:

* Last week, Sgt. Richard Casini, a recon trooper in Kosovo, tangled with a rebel mine. "Your boy is being flown to Germany on the general's jet," an Army colonel assured his worried Dad. The dad thought: Wow. The Army really takes care of their own. The general sent his jet! Later that night, Sgt. Casini, now of one foot, called from Germany and told his dad that he'd been flown out in an old C-130 cargo plane, sandwiched between pallets. "Dad, it was so hot, they had to put an oxygen mask on me," Sgt. Casini said.

* A friend forwarded an e-mail from his 101st Airborne Division sergeant son, who was in Macedonia, giving exacting and shocking details on how his unit moved formerly CIA-supported Kosovar rebels -- who were encircled by Macedonian government forces -- out of harm's way. And how the rebels were allowed to keep their weapons and then how his unit was almost taken out by angry, armed Macedonians. An hour later, the sergeant wrote again: "Dad, I sent you that e-mail exactly 1 hour before I was briefed that I was NOT to give out ANY information on the mission at ALL to ANYONE. It could get me in A LOT of trouble! I started sweating bullets ... they made it clear the consequence of even breathing a few words to immediate family!"

Last week, President Bush said he'd "not ruled out the possibility of sending U.S. troops to Macedonia to help quell unrest there." But our troops were already there -- and many more are either on the way or on alert to go.

Like Vietnam, we've got a whole lot of lying and covering up going down. How many more feet, legs and lives will be lost in ex-Yugoslavia before another brave Ellsberg releases the Pentagon Papers Part II?

***

Http://www.hackworth.com is the address of David Hackworth's home page. Sign in for the free weekly Defending America column at his Web site. Send mail to
P.O. Box 5210, Greenwich, CT 06831.

(c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.