Der Fuhrer Invades Yugoslavia
CLINTON WILLING TO RISK GLOBAL WAR
"How many body bags will it take to make this jerk face reality?"
Bill Clinton's failing Kosovo war is part of a desperate, dangerous and fatally flawed plan by a scandal-ridden President to salvage a legacy for the history books, White House and Pentagon insiders say.
In fact, the President is willing to risk a global military conflict to shift the emphasis on his Presidency away from the many sex and money scandals that have dogged his administration, interviews with present and past White House and Pentagon staff members reveal.
Interviews conducted over the past two weeks show an increasingly isolated President whose obsession with his place in the history books has led him to ignore the recommendations not only of career military officers, but also of many close aides.
"The President is standing alone on a lot of this," says one White House aide. "He's finder fewer and fewer people who are willing to stick with him over Kosovo. He's backed himself, his administration and his country into a corner."
Two who are sticking with Clinton are National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who aides say would follow Clinton anywhere.
"Berger and Albright put their loyalty to Clinton above their oaths to serve the constitution," says military analyst Sander Owen. "It's pathetic to watch."
At the Pentagon, senior officers now call the President the "draft dodger in chief," and sneer at his inability to grasp simple military tactics.
"The man is an ass," says one career officer. "He has no concept of a military operation. To him, it's just a video game. What we don't know is how many body bags it will take to make this jerk face reality."
Arnold Crittendon, a retired intelligence analyst, says Clinton has become a "laughing stock" in both the military and intelligence communities.
"His political motives are so blatant that they would be farcical if we weren't talking about the lives of American soldiers," Crittendon says. "There wasn't that much respect for the man to begin with. What little there was is long gone now."
Clinton, who often turns to history to justify his actions, has told aides that Richard Nixon, who resigned from office in the Watergate scandal, will be remembered more for his foreign policy accomplishments than the scandal that ended his Presidency.
"There's a real irony here," says one White House staffer. "The President's troubles have often been compared with those of Nixon. Now he's using Nixon as a model to justify his actions in Kosovo."
Aides say that Clinton started focusing more on foreign policy when it became clear he would not be convicted in the Senate impeachment trial.
"He wanted to find some foreign policy arena where a bold stroke would showcase his administration as a world leader," one former aide says. "When it became clear that he was focusing on Kosovo, a lot of people tried to talk him out of it. But Bill Clinton is a man who won't let go of something once he focuses on it. He was sure that defeating a tyrant would restore his place in history."
But military planners told Clinton he could not win a limited air war in Kosovo.
"The President was advised that his strategy was flawed and did not serve the national interest," says one Pentagon planner, "but he wasn't interested in hearing the facts."
Now, with the air war turning into a global fiasco and some calling for sending in ground troops, Clinton is faced with either a full commitment or a pullout that will be seen worldwide as a defeat.
"The President is really facing only two choices," says one White House aide. "He can get out before American lives are lost or he can increase the commitment and plunge the country into a prolonged war that will undoubtedly lead to American casualties."
Former Navy Capt. Al Simonson says he knows several career military professionals who are willing to resign their commissions rather than continue to serve under Clinton.
"I've been around the military for more than 30 years and I have never seen morale this low," Simonson says. "Bill Clinton has destroyed the soul of our armed forces."
At this point, few at either the White House or the Pentagon are willing to guess which direction the President will go.
"There's a real feeling at the Pentagon that the President may have gone off the deep end on this one," says retired Air Force officer Matthew Higgins. "He has become very unpredictable on this one."
"A few weeks ago, we all would have said that Clinton would give up as soon as the going got tough," says a high-ranking Pentagon officer. "But no one is really sure what he will do now. He's obsessed with this thing and that makes him both unpredictable and dangerous."
A psychologist who treats obsessions says Clinton's preoccupation with his legacy could be viewed by mental health professionals as a warning sign over the President's stability.
"There are enough outward signs that the President is so driven by his obsession with his legacy that it could be affecting his mental judgments," says Dr. Stephanie Crossfield. "If I were consulting on the President's case, I would recommend further evaluation of his condition."
The White House did not return phone calls seeking comment on this report.
Capitol Hill Blue, April 5, 1999