Shoot or shut up
As NATO leaders met last week to decide whether to intervene militarily in Kosovo, journalists and international monitors on the ground were concluding that it was already too late to strike back. They said NATO airstrikes could not undo the unfolding evidence of atrocities committed by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's police forces during a seven-month campaign against ethnic Albanians in the region. Western investigators dubbed the scene "a killing garden"-reminiscent of the Khmer Rouge "killing fields" in Cambodia. A Pentagon officer told Newsweek, "Milosevic has created a desert, and we're about to call it peace." Newsweek reporters documented 12 massacre sites in Kosovo, where Serb police units directed by Mr. Milosevic slaughtered ethnic Albanian civilians. Three of the worst incidents, say investigators, occurred during the last week of September. Human Rights Watch released a report last week documenting additional sites going back to last February and concluding that Mr. Milosevic "is conducting a brutal war against civilians in Kosovo" in what spokesman Holly Cartner called "a climate of impunity."
- The first: At Likosane, 26 people were killed last winter. Ten victims came from the same family, and one included a pregnant woman shot at point-blank range.
- Young and old: At Obrinje, Serb police in February killed a 94-year-old invalid as well as a toddler. Valmir Deliaj, 18 months, was found shot in the head at close range, a pacifier dangling from her bright snowsuit. Only one child in the village was spared, a one-month-old infant found trying to nurse at her dead mother's breast.
- The recent: On Sept. 26, Serb police rounded up 200 Albanian villagers from Golubovac. They had fled to a nearby forest but were lured back to town by false reports that they would be safe. Fourteen men were eventually selected out of the group. They were ordered to lie down in a garden and were executed using automatic weapons.
The massacres "have pushed many of us over the atrocity line," said Sen. Gordon Smith, (R-Ore.). The reports, together with UN security council action condemning the Yugoslav government, prompted NATO to issue a warning of three-pronged airstrikes coming this week. But as NATO continued to hedge, Sen. Smith told Clinton foreign policymakers: "With all due respect, it's time to shoot or shut up."
The final roundup
First Roy Rogers, now Gene Autry. The singing cowboy, who made 95 movies and recorded 635 songs, died of lymphoma at age 91. Will Rogers once heard a young Autry strumming a guitar and singing in an Oklahoma telegraph office. "You're good," he said. "Stick to it, young fellow, and you'll make something of yourself." Mr. Autry did much more than that; his 1949 single, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," alone sold 10 million copies. With his sidekick Smiley Burnett and his horse Champion, he popularized the Western musical as Republic Pictures' biggest Western star. Mr. Autry gave Mr. Rogers the slot so he could serve as a flier in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Both men played true-blue cowboys who always fought fair. "He often considered himself the baby sitter of three generations of children," said Alex Gordon, Mr. Autry's director of licensing. "And these weren't just bang-bang, shoot 'em-up Westerns. He always wanted to put a moral in the story." Mr. Autry's "Cowboy Code" contained eight rules. The first: "The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage." After the war, he moved to TV, then launched the California Angels in 1961. He also owned four radio stations, the Gene Autry Hotel in Palm Springs, and several other properties. Mr. Autry ranked for many years on the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans, until 1995 when he hit the magazine's "near miss" list with an estimated net worth of $320 million.
This is only a test
What happens when the millennium bug strikes? The city of Lubbock, Texas, held the world's first Y2K drill-a citywide simulation of the problem. The city of 196,000 in the south plains of Texas didn't test any equipment. Instead the drill staged mock crises to see how city personnel would react. "This is the one disaster that we know exactly when it could occur, but it's also the one disaster that we have no idea how bad it will be," city manager Bob Cass said. Mr. Cass said the drill, which was devised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was a success. Simulated problems included an ice storm, a blizzard, a blackout, a hospital fire, and a raucous New Year's Eve party. There was even a fake riot caused by a grocery store whose cash registers broke down. Details of the planned "disasters" were kept secret. Test conductors sent e-mail messages to city officials notifying them of problems and emergency officials, including police, fire, and utility workers, then had to react. As the drill began, officials were told the city's 911 emergency system had failed. Later, a simulated prison riot outside town gobbled up valuable police resources. Mr. Cass said city workers improvised well when unexpected trouble arose. Computers programmed with two-digit dates could malfunction come 2000. Some bug watchers fear the glitch could cause serious problems in electric power grids, telecommunications, financial markets, and government systems. When a Chrysler plant ran a Y2K test on a computer system, it discovered its security doors were stuck closed. Mayor Windy Sitton said the test revealed that Lubbock needs a better response to natural gas shortages. When fake gas outages left hundreds of homes without heat, officials had to devise a plan to set up shelters in the parts of town that still had power.
The amount of illegal or clearly suspect money raised by Democrats that party officials have still failed to return. "Time and time again the [party] received information regarding the illegality or inappropriateness of contributions but failed to take the appropriate action of returning or disgorging them," said a report of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, released last week.
The National Endowment for the Arts simply cannot avoid controversy. The federal arts agency gave a relatively modest $10,000 grant to Shooting Back, an ostensibly harmless program designed to teach photography to disadvantaged youngsters. Turns out Shooting Back got a bit out of focus. Here's what happened: Last summer, a group of eight teenage girls were taken to the National Museum for Women in the Arts. They were turned over to Annie Adjchavanich, a mentor at the museum who has a reputation in the D.C. arts scene as a photographer of sexual deviants; one of her 1994 exhibits, "Biological Men," consisted entirely of shots of female impersonators. Ms. Adjchavanich opened her portfolio and showed the girls two photos that were representative of her work in the "leather community." A graduate student studying the Shooting Back program for a master's thesis witnessed the event and described the girls' reaction to the sadomasochistic images: "The kids were just looking at us, like a kid will look when they see something they might not have been intended to see, and looking to the adults for how to react." They got no adult guidance. Until, that is, the organizer of the Shooting Back program, James Hubbard, had a fit of conscience. "We walked into the museum with a great project. We thought they would nurture and protect the kids there. And instead we walked out shaking our heads at photographs teenage girls should never have been shown." Mr. Hubbard shook his finger at the head of the museum for letting it happen, demanding that the mentor be fired and the girls offered psychological counseling. Wilhelmina Cole Holladay fired back a letter making it clear Mr. Hubbard would keep his mouth shut if he knew what was good for him. "There shall be no criticism by you other than directly to me and no further discussion concerning what has been shown in the past." Federal prosecutors are involved. At the request of Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), prosecutors are investigating whether any laws designed to shield minors from pornography were violated. Ms. Holladay and Ms. Adjchavanich have no regrets. The mother of two of the girls in the program does: "I think it is disgusting."
Chinese officials signed the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights at the United Nations Oct. 5. The covenant purports to guarantee wide-ranging freedoms, such as the right to free elections, freedom of expression-including freedom of religion-and other democratic standards. Beijing said its decision to sign shows its respect for international standards on human rights. Beijing's practice is different. China does not honor the right to self-determination in either Taiwan or Tibet. Last month when a group of political dissidents tried to form a new political party, the China Democratic Party, two leaders were detained and threatened by state authorities.
Doctors Without Borders, the Paris-based relief organization, pulled out of North Korea to protest government intervention in the delivery of supplies to the starving communist country. The group said Pyongyang ordered it to stop treating sick and starving people and instead supply raw materials and chemicals to the country's pharmaceutical plants. Of less than 10 organizations the government has allowed in to relieve famine conditions, two others-the French group Doctors of the World and Chesci, an Italian organization-have also left. Doctors Without Borders said it had treated more than 15,000 children in 64 feeding centers, as well as operating clinics in four provinces. A spokesman said hospitals were performing abortions and appendectomies without antiseptics, anesthesia, or even gloves because of the severe shortages.
The release of the latest batch of supporting documents transmitted to the House Judiciary Committee by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr reveals how the president's lack-of-integrity virus infected one of our premier and most respected institutions-the U.S. Secret Service. Testimony before a grand jury reveals that some agents either looked the other way or did and said things that helped the president avoid accountability for the way he behaved with Monica Lewinsky and possibly other women. Officer Brent James Chinery testified that he and his colleagues believe the president had sexual trysts in the White House with at least six women, whose names have been stricken from the printed testimony. In other Secret Service testimony, two officers said that White House steward Bayani Nelvis told them of his unhappiness at having to "clean up" after the Clinton-Lewinsky trysts. He complained of having to pick up towels and tissues stained with lipstick and other substances. Agent Gary Byrne testified he suggested that Mr. Nelvis discard the towels instead of sending them to the laundry. "My fear was that ... if there was lipstick on there, regardless of whose it was, that when the people that did the laundry saw it, you know, I just didn't want to give anybody any more fuel for any more rumors about the president." Those rumors, according to testimony, had been rampant in the White House for years. Agents took to betting on how long it would take for the president to arrive at his office from the family quarters once he heard Ms. Lewinsky was there. Steven P. Pape, a uniformed Secret Service officer, said he had wagered the president would arrive on one Saturday morning in only 10 minutes. "I almost lost the bet," he testified. "It was 9 minutes and 40 or 50 seconds before he came down for that appointment." Mr. Pape testified he was particularly upset by another Lewinsky visit in October of last year. It was the Clintons' 22nd wedding anniversary. Mr. Pape testified, "I just made a mental thought of that was not the way to celebrate a traditional family anniversary, in my opinion." Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has suggested that "bad conduct itself" might be reason enough to impeach the president. So should the corrupting of an institution that has served honorably and well until the Clinton presidency. Everything and everyone with whom Bill Clinton comes in contact is at risk of infection. If we were dealing with a health plague, the proper response would be quarantine or medication of sufficient strength to eradicate the disease and to protect others from infection. With a political disease that has infected even the Secret Service and other institutions and agencies of government, the only proper remedy is removal from office of the one carrying the virus. Let the impeachment hearings begin the process of purging us of this terrible disease.
Cal Thomas, © 1998
Los Angeles Times Syndicate