|CAMPAIGN FOR KOSOVO|
May 3, 1999
TOM BEARDEN: The three American soldiers had a joyous reunion with
their families at an American air base in Germany. Medical examinations
revealed that Staff Sergeant Andrew Ramirez of Los Angeles has two fractured
ribs, and Staff Sergeant Christopher Stone of Smiths Creek, Michigan,
has a fractured nose among other minor injuries.
TOM BEARDEN: The Clinton administration said NATO would not release either of the two Yugoslavian prisoners captured by the Kosovo Liberation Army at this time. The air campaign had a dramatic impact on the average citizen last night when most of Serbia was plunged into darkness. Serb engineers said NATO planes dropped bombs that rained graphite on power stations in Obrenovac and Kostolac. Graphite conducts electricity, and when dropped on a switching facility such as this one seen in file footage, it causes massive short circuits.
SPOKESMAN: The fact that the lights went out across 70 percent of the country, I think, shows that NATO has its finger on the light switch in Yugoslavia now, and we can turn the power off whenever we need to and whenever we want to. And we can use this to severely disrupt, degrade, diminish the capacity of the Yugoslav armed forces to operate over long periods of time; delay their ability to repair the essential power systems, and of course, by disrupting in this way, the integrated air defense, improve the safety of our pilots flying over Yugoslavia.
TOM BEARDEN: Three more NATO strikes caused civilian casualties over the weekend and into today. Serbian media reported that a NATO bomb struck this bus near the city of Pec in Western Kosovo. Reports are that least twenty people were killed and ten injured. NATO Spokesman General Walter Gertz:
GENERAL WALTER GERTZ: I too have seen the reports. I have read them. But I do have no information on if that's true or not. So I will have to come back you again until we find it out. So far it's only in the press.
TOM BEARDEN: NATO did acknowledge that a stray missile struck another bus at Luzane, north of Pristina, on Saturday. Serb sources said 39 people, many of them children, were killed. And NATO missiles hit a residential area 400 yards away from an ammunition factory in the town of Valjevo, about 60 miles southwest of Belgrade. Forty homes were destroyed in the town of about 80,000 inhabitants, and a hospital was damaged. More than a dozen people were reported injured. The refugees streaming out of Kosovo have gone from freezing to sweltering. British forces warned that soaring temperatures mean new health threats in the desperately overcrowded camps in Macedonia and Albania. Serb forces sent three trainloads of people to Blace, Macedonia, last night, and this morning, part of a group of some 16,000 people who backed up the main border crossing.
SPOKESMAN: They are exhausted. They did not have food, they did not have water, they didn't rest, they didn't sleep. They were hiding and moving, hiding and moving for six weeks. And then yesterday evening they were forced on the train by the police in Pristina and sent over here.
SPOKESPERSON: This is actually the first time that we have seen such a large number of women that have been separated from their husbands and sons, and it seems that most of the men between 16 and 60 were taken and held, and it is unclear what has happened to them. The women also claim that they were beaten together with their men before they were separated.
TOM BEARDEN: NATO reported that the opposite happened to a group of people from Prizren in Southern Kosovo.
SPOKESMAN: We are concerned by reports from many refugees that at the border, the Serb police have separated women and children from the men. And interestingly, this time it is the men that have been allowed to move on, and the women and children who have been sent back -- in other words, the most vulnerable are those who are being forced to suffer the most.
TOM BEARDEN: On a tour in Macedonia, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain would double its aid to Macedonia to help that country cope with the refugees. Blair made the comments after meeting with British troops providing humanitarian aid.
TONY BLAIR: We are here for a very clear purpose, and that purpose is to be part of an operation that is going to prevent the ethnic cleansing, the racial genocide, the appalling acts of evil brutality that have been carried out against defenseless people in Kosovo just a short distance away from here.
TOM BEARDEN: NATO is feverishly constructing more camps, and said it planned to build space for another 160,000 Kosovo refugees. The Reverend Jesse Jackson arrived back in Washington this afternoon, fresh from his successful mission to free the US POW's. He spoke with reporters at Andrews Air Force Base.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: We are on the right side of history as we seek to stop the purging, the cleansing, we have the moral high ground as a nation. We must keep it. A Nintendo bloodless war leaves us without guilt. These bombs have also accidentally hit Bulgaria and Greece, which underlines the danger. We must not allow Milosevic to continue the expulsion in Kosovo. It is morally wrong. They still deserve our support. Demonization is a psychological warfare. We demonize Milosevic. They demonize President Clinton, and while there is no moral equivalent, the cycle of demonization must stop.
TOM BEARDEN: Jackson was asked about criticism that he was meddling in foreign affairs.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: I am an American. I have the right to speak within the law to matters of my world. We left our nation. And we were advised that we were urged not to go but we had a right to go. We left -- told that when we went we were in harm's way; bombs would drop. Bombs did drop. We saw them out of our hotel windows. And, yet, we were able to return to our nation and now go and meet our President. That's what makes America great. Furthermore, I cannot think of any American with a sense of care and moral legitimacy who would hope the boys would still be in jail. Without our support, they would still be in jail.
TOM BEARDEN: Reverend Jackson is scheduled to meet with President Clinton this evening and present him with a letter from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
JIM LEHRER: Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin arrived at the White House earlier this afternoon, supposedly carrying a letter for Mr. Clinton from Russian President Yeltsin. It was said to have proposals for ending the Kosovo conflict. The Senate was also busy today debating how to achieve that goal. Kwame Holman has this report.
KWAME HOLMAN: Speaking on behalf of ten Senators from both parties, Arizona Republican John McCain brought to the floor a resolution authorizing President Clinton to use all necessary force in the battle for Kosovo.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: If Senators believe this war is worth fighting, then recognize that the President should exercise the authority vested in his office to use the power of the United States effectively, to achieve victory as quickly as possible.
KWAME HOLMAN: But even as he argued to grant the president expanded authority, McCain criticized Mr. Clinton for his handling of the Kosovo crisis today.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Publicly and repeatedly ruling out ground troops may be smart politics according to the President's pollster. But it is inexcusably irresponsible leadership.
KWAME HOLMAN: West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, long the protector of legislative rights, argued against giving the President blanket authority to fight the war.
SEN. ROBERTY BYRD: If we were to adopt this resolution, we would be essentially committing the United States to pay an undetermined amount of money for an unknown period of time to finance an uncertain and open-ended military offensive. Mr. President, that, by any standard, is not sound policy.
KWAME HOLMAN: Minnesota Democrat Paul Wellstone also opposed the resolution and instead called for a temporary halt to NATO bombing to give diplomatic efforts a chance to work.
PAUL WELLSTONE: A brief and verifiable halt in the bombing, a cessation of what seems to be the slide toward the bombing of a broader array of military targets, a potential oil embargo and deeper involvement in a war that I believe we could come to regret.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republican Senators Specter and Lugar debated the logic of giving the President broader authority when both believe the President has not shown adequate leadership.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: Why is it sensible to, in effect, give the President a blank check when he's not asked for the resources and where he is not-- he has not demonstrated any capability to exercise leadership to effectively carry out that broad grant of authority?
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: The President clearly hasn't asked for the authority or the arms or whatever he needs. And we're saying he needs to do that. He needs to rapidly. And we cannot sit around and simply wish that he did so and then lament that he failed to. We have a responsible to act along with him. I hope and pray that he will do that.
KWAME HOLMAN: However, the senate is expected to avoid for now the issue of granting the President of expanded authority and vote tomorrow to postpone indefinitely any further consideration of Senator McCain's resolution.
JIM LEHRER: At his news conference with the Japanese prime minister, President Clinton fielded several questions about war and diplomacy in Yugoslavia. He was asked if he was seeking total victory or flexible negotiations.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: First of all, let me say, I don't think you can characterize it as total victory. That is not what I am asking for. What I am asking for are the minimal conditions necessary for the Kosovars to be able to go home and live in security with self-government. That is, they won't go home unless the Serbian security forces are withdrawn. And they won't go home unless there is a credible international security force in which NATO plays a role.
REPORTER: But does America have to be a part of it?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I don't think that a lot of the Kosovars will go home if we are not a part of it. And on the other hand, I have always said from the very beginning that the United States was open to a broad security force. We would welcome the United Nations embrace of such a security force. We did -- that is exactly what we did in Bosnia. The Russians were there. I personally think it is quite important that the Russians, perhaps the Ukrainians, perhaps others who come from the orthodox tradition who have close ties to the Serbs be a part of such a mission. That's one of the reasons that it has been as successful as it has in Bosnia, and one of the reasons there's been as little violence as there has been there. And I have been quite encouraged by President Yeltsin's involvement here, by Mr. Chernomyrdin's involvement; I look forward to seeing him later in the day. And I'd like to also remind all of you and the people in Serbia as well, that perhaps the most important new element to come out of the NATO meeting last week was that all the NATO allies -- which means, in effect, the EU -- recognize that it was important not just to bring this terrible episode to an end on satisfactory terms that clearly reverse ethnic cleansing and repudiate that policy, but also to give the people of Kosovo, the people of the Balkans, the people of Southeastern Europe a larger future together than they have by continuing to fall out with each other and fight with each other, and then they would have if Mr. Milosevic continued to pursue his policies of ethnic and religious cleansing. So it seems to me that given those two things, there's plenty to talk about, to work on, for -- to engage not only the Serbs but the other people of Southeastern Europe. But on the basic core conditions, it's not -- that's not a prescription for a victory by NATO or the United States. That's a prescription for what it will take for the Kosovars to be able to go home and live safely and have a measure of autonomy. That is what is necessary. Terry?
REPORTER: Mr. President, Reverend Jackson seems disappointed that NATO did not suspend its bombing after he won the release of the three American servicemen, even calling it an arrogance of power. Do you think that the release of the three POW's suggests that Mr. Milosevic is looking for a way out? Or are you concerned that he might be trying to use this for a propaganda victory to exploit and divide the NATO allies?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, the truth is we don't know -- maybe a little of both. But I think that one of the things we have learned in dealing with Mr. Milosevic now for, on my part, over six years, is that you have to judge him by what he does -- and what he does in this case, not just with the soldiers, in terms of words, you know. We had words last October and before, where Mr. Milosevic made certain commitments and then they were abandoned. We have tried diplomacy. We have said that under the right circumstances, we would be willing to have a bombing pause, but we would need acceptance of the basic principles and at least the beginning of withdrawal of Serb forces. And I don't believe that we should change that position.