OBSERVATIONS | 1999-04-03

I. For my peace of mind, it is good that Ronald Reagan began to become senile shortly after he left the White House. I think it may have prevented him from going the way so many old conservative heroes go.

He had already begun the routine process of trading in his conservative credentials for praise in the press. He began by endorsing the Brady Bill.

It would have gotten worse, much worse. Each time there was a confrontation between the Clinton White House and conservatives, Ford and Bush were out there holding a joint press conference to nobly support our beleaguered Chief Executive. I'm afraid Reagan would have been out there with them.

Bush and Ford are little men, and nobody expected them to do anything but stab conservatives in the back. After all, they had been doing that for decades. But with Reagan, it would have hurt.

II. There is lot of discussion about whether the Serbians have committed "war crimes."

As a supporter of the Confederacy, I can comment on that. We had an officer hanged for "war crimes."

Major Henry Wirz, Swiss-born Confederate commander at Andersonville prisoner of war camp, was tried by the Yankees after the War. Many of his witnesses were not allowed to testify. He was hanged.

Available statistics indicate that, despite the fact that the Yankees had PLENTY of food and clothing, and despite all the talk about Andersonville, as many of us died in their prisons as Yankees did in ours. AND they were holding LESS of OUR prisoners than we were of theirs!

There are many complicated aspects to the whole concept of "war crimes." But there is one thing on which all precedents are absolutely agreed. There is actually only ONE thing that every "war criminal" has in common


No one on the WINNING side has ever, in all history, been ACCUSED of a war crime, much less CONVICTED of one. The Serbs will have committed war crimes if they lose the war. If they win the war, what they did will be like Sherman's March, it will be like the starvation and freezing of Confederate prisoners in Yankee prisons, it will be like what Stalin's troops did in

World War II, or like the allied bombing raids on Dresden -- just "regrettable necessities of war."

"Just following orders" and "the regrettable necessities of war" only become war crimes if you LOSE.

III. Shades of Vietnam!

Lord, it is just like a news flashback. The State Department spokesman for the Clinton Administration on the Serbian war is a carbon copy of the Harvard intellectuals who were spokesmen for Kennedy as we got into the Vietnam conflict. He has the pencil neck. He has the BOWTIE!

David Halberstam wrote about these people -- whom he knew personally -- in his book "The Best and the Brightest." I used to watch them parade in front of the TV cameras in the early '60s.

This guy is pure déjà vu!

No one remembers that the Harvard types got us into the Vietnam War. No respectable conservative has a memory. That's what makes him respectable.

IV. Speaking of our national habit of forgetting, I remember that it was the Bush Administration that first got us into this Yugoslavian mess. After Tito died, his Serbian successors ruled the country. Then the Communist regime was overthrown. During the Bush Administration, Croatians and others began seceding. The Bush Administration back then had the usual attitudes about secession.

Nobody REMEMBERS this, of course, but just before the USSR began to split up, the whole idea of the USSR splitting up was considered laughable. Cartoon after cartoon back then showed the people talking about national autonomy in places like the Ukraine in CONFEDERATE uniforms, to show how silly the idea was.

Funny, you never see any repeat of those cartoons now. That piece of media wisdom went right down the Memory Hole.

My understanding is that the Bush Administration showed the same sort of wisdom when Croatia and Macedonia began to talk about secession. I understand that State Department reps of Bush and James Baker, being good, solid, old-fashioned carpetbagger Republicans, said that the United States realized that secession had to be dealt with sternly. America had had to take strong measures to preserves ITS union. The Serbians were happy to hear about that attitude. Their secessionists WERE dealt with sternly. But since then, all talk of this Bush Administration wisdom has disappeared down that same Memory Hole.

I seem to have another memory which everyone else does not share. Back when Saddam invaded Kuwait, it was very reliably stated that a representative of the Bush Administration in Iraq had indicated to Saddam that the United States would not look too unkindly on such an invasion. How could such an indication have been given?

Well, I remember something else: right after Iraq took over Kuwait and the US threats began, Saddam was asked whether he planned to leave Kuwait. He answered that he did not plan to withdraw from ANY of the PROVINCES OF IRAQ. Kuwait was historically part of Iraq, he said, and he planned to preserve THE UNION OF HIS COUNTRY.

I wonder if that "unionist" mentality that was conventional wisdom in the press, and especially in the fanatically Lincolnesque Bush Administration, may not be the basis of many of our present-day problems?

According to American history, you can do anything you want to anybody if your aim is to preserve your union. It would not have taken much for a Saddam or a Milosevic to take a message like that from any kind of hint.

One more memory which only I seem to have: when Bush began to react to the brutal Serbian suppression of secession in Yugoslavia, black leaders began to attack him for being an evil racist.

Minority groups began to say that Bush was worried about human rights in WHITE Yugoslavia, but not in BLACK Somalia.

So Bush went into Somalia. That experiment in "nation building" ended up with the corpses of American soldiers being dragged through the streets while the locals CHEERED! The media, of course, have totally forgotten that it was Bush's exercise in total wimpishness in yielding to minority pressure to get into Somalia that caused that disaster. That might put his version of "appealing to minorities" into perspective! We couldn't have that, could we?

V. While we are reexamining all the fashionable reasons given for the mess we are in right now, we should take a look at the cry of "ethnic cleansing." How does THEIR ethnic policy compare to OUR ethnic policy?


In 1914, the Austrian Grand Duke was assassinated at Sarajevo. Every European major Power was a part of an alliance, and as one declared war, all the rest were pulled into it. World War I was under way. Today, the respectable conservatives, like George Will and Senator McCain, are saying that this war doesn't make any sense, but we have to fight it all the way because we are part of NATO. Some things never change

ERRATA: Last week I said Bill Mauldin was killed in World War II. It was actually Ernie Pyle, another cartoonist. Thanks for catching that, Richard.

Also, sometime back I referred to the adoption of the "Eurodollar" in Europe. Actually, the unit of currency is the "Euro."