DEFENDING AMERICA
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
13 March 2000

"A GAS STATION TOO FAR"

Remember last May when President Clinton and his cabal were crowing over how Serbia was whipped by NATO air power, and Defense Secretary Madeleine Albright was leading the chorus in "Happy Times Are Here Again"?

Kosovo was saved, right?

I don't think so.

Kosovo's become just one more major foreign-policy screw up. But it's no small wonder that few folks on Main Street have gotten the word about how bad things there really are. The Clinton hype machine has been extra-busy covering up, with no small assist from all the fuss over the primary-campaign follies.

In fact, Kosovo remains a blood-filled, bottomless hate pit where things get worse with the explosion of every grenade, booby trap and rocket. Not exactly Happy Valley.

The place is as bad as Dodge City during its wildest days. NATO troops are being shot or fragged on sight. American paratroopers were recently chased out of Mitrovica by angry mobs hurling sticks and stones. Now they've been ordered not to leave their sector or return to that divided city by the Pentagon -- which these days believes high-tech wars fought from 3 miles up is the way to win fights down in the mud.

Our paratroopers are now basically confined to their bunkers. U.S. casualties mean headlines and maybe some of our citizens waking up and asking tough questions like: Why are we there anyway when the Balkans have nothing to do with our national security?

Ironically, Gen. Klaus Reinhardt, NATO's high sheriff of Kosovo, finds himself stuck in the same Balkan swamp as his German predecessors during World War II. The Nazis tried to quell the natives with bayonets and brutality and learned the hard way there's no way to tame the crazies.

Reinhardt, who apparently hasn't studied German history, actually allowed himself to be disarmed by the very Albanians he's there to save. His pistol was lifted from his holster while he was in the middle of an Albanian crowd in downtown Mitrovica last month! A neat metaphor for the whole ex-Yugoslavia mess: The people you come to liberate steal your weapon -- and then might even shoot you with it.

As our troops in Vietnam -- on another senseless mission -- used to say, "That says it all!"

Besides using NATO troops for target practice, Albanian terrorists are now cranking up a fresh reign of terror in southern Serbia designed to snatch another 500 square miles of Serb land for Kosovo.

These rebels are supported by the same drug-running thugs -- the former Kosovo Liberation Army -- who triggered the Kosovo crisis in the first place. The same hoods embraced by Albright, who's trying to clean them up with a new title -- the Kosovo Protection Corps. It's kinda like renaming the Mafia "Citizens For A Better Tomorrow."

The Serbs will react to this land grab the same way they'll respond to a planned NATO military takeover of Montenegro -- with bullets. Leakers from the NATO head-shed say blueprints are drawn, invasion troops are ready and when the green light from the president of Montenegro blinks, it's off to another swamp.
Kosovo has already cost us too many lives, too many scars and too many bucks -- $6 billion for the "Air War Victory" -- and Clinton has just about fast-talked Congress out of another $2 billion to make it through the rest of this year.

Clinton and his military-industrial-congressional-complex pals clearly envision a long-term commitment. Millions are being spent on permanent facilities such as barracks and infrastructure. Recently, $2.4 million alone was approved for two GI gyms.

One high-ranking NATO insider suggests our forces will slowly pull out of Europe -- where we're not wanted or needed -- and stealthily slide into the Balkans. Closer, incidentally, to our future gas stations near the Black Sea.

So look for even more blood to flow in the Balkans. And also expect a long-time U.S. troop commitment -- unless we citizens demand that George W. Bush and Al Gore debate the why-are-we-there issue and come up with a couple of fast exit plans.

Wouldn't it be less dangerous, less costly, far better for our national security -- and a whole lot smarter -- to make the United States oil-independent and let the Europeans worry about their Balkan back yard all by themselves?
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