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August 03, 2006

Flashback: The Chinese Embassy Bombing of 1999 And The "Loyal Opposition" Of The Democratic-Media Party

One thing that I always used to argue about with a left-leaning online chat-buddy was whether or not his government was always "lying" to him. He was fond of noting that the Gulf War was not fought primarily to liberate the Kuwaiti people, as George Bush the Elder often declared, but to liberate their oil reserves from Iraqi domination.

"And?" I would say.

I agreed with him. While there was a moral case for liberating Kuwait from Iraq, let's not be stuck on stupid about it: We didn't send 400,000 troops across the world just for the sake of liberating the Kuwaitis.

We did it because Iraq took their oil, and Iraq was a dangerous regime with ambitions to dominate the region, and we just didn't want all that Kuwaiti oil money going to pay to expand Saddam Hussein's war machine. And nuclear research.

But it's not diplomatic to say "Hell Yes, This Is Blood for Oil, Baby!" Diplomacy and rhetoric tend towards the lofty, the noble, and the moral, not the realpolitik, the cynical, and the self-interested. It's just. The Way. It F'n'. Is.

And always has been.

"Bush isn't lying to you, dude," I would tell my righteously indignant left-leaning chat-buddy. "He's fibbing to the world, because he has to. "

"He should have told the truth," he insisted.

"I'm telling you the truth," I told him. "I am duly appointed by George Bush to tell people, on the Q.T., that yeah, you're right, the petrostrategic case for the Gulf War was the driving one, and the moral one was a convenient, and fortunately truthful, secondary justification. Consider yourself fully informed of the truth."

"I want to hear it from George Bush himself," he continued to demand.


Anyway.

This is a constant refrain among lefties. They insist that the government should always tell the truth, even when it is plainly not in America's interests to tell the world, including our enemies, the whole truth. They don't seem to grasp that in an open society, government officials cannot personally visit every American citizen and say, "Yeah, that Gulf War thing? There's a little more to it than the President's rhetoric might indicate. He's saying one thing to the world but he wants you to know the fuller picture. Don't go squealing, but it is, in fact, at least partly about the oil."

I consider that pretty childish. I expect my government to lie -- in the appropriate case. If my government isn't going to lie to protect America's, and thus my, interests, well, that's not the sort of government I want in power.

I don't consider the government lying to me in such cases. I consider them to be lying for me. Big difference.

I was reminded, for some reason, about the very controversial
bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia in 1999.

There was an awful lot of speculation -- and some confirmed reportage -- that the Chinese Embassy was in fact assisting Serbia with radar information, putting our flyboys at risk, and, who knows, maybe even contributing to the downing of one of our prized Stealth Fighters.

I don't know what really happened here. I do know that NATO's story has always been, as my left-leaning friend would say, extremely "hinky," and there is good reason to suspect the Chinese Embassy was in fact a legitimate military target that was helping the Serbs in the war.

Four Chinese "journalists" (uhhh...huhhh) were killed. The Chinese people rallied in the streets against America. The Chinese premiere wouldn't even take Clinton's first phone call to apologize for the "errant" strike and express his sadness for the victims' families.

The US gave a strange story as to how it "accidentally" targeted the Chinese Embassy. It claimed it intended to hit another target, but it was working off of four year old maps. Really? The US Military? The most kick-ass, thorough, obsessive cartographers in the history of the human race were working off of four year old maps?

And that story got weaker when it was revealed that "four year old maps" showed the Chinese Embassy to have previously been a vacant lot, which sort of made it doubtful that American warplanes were trying to bomb what their maps showed to be an empty site.

Even target-planners denied the Administration's story, feeling their competency and been dishonestly impugned. We definitely were not working off four year old maps, they contradicted Clinton.

Assume, as I do, the basic outlines of this are all true. Or that there's some alternate story, almost as embarrassing: Say the planes that dropped the bombs were in opportunity-attack mode, detected military transmisions coming from the building in question, and bombed it without anyone at HQ checking to make sure precisely what they were bombing. That story would also not be very prudent to tell, as it would implicate and antagonize the Chinese by revealing their little covert wargames against us, and suggest, even if falsely, we'd hit the Chinese Embassy with full foreknowlege of what we were hitting.

Was Clinton wrong to lie about it to the Chinese?

Of course he wasn't, and I didn't think so at the time, either. If he'd told the truth -- "We have repeatedly requested, and then demanded, the Chinese government stop assisting the Serbs through their embassy staff, and all such requests have been rejected; so we deliberately struck a legitimate military target" -- the Chinese, obsessed with "face," would have had little other option but to declare war on us, or start firing at our planes, or the like. (Bush's early-term crisis of the downed P3 Orion surveillance plane might have been a little payback for the Embassy bombing.)

He had to lie. He had to pretend it was all just a terrible accident, so that the Chinese could pretend it was a terrible accident as well, so that the Chinese would not be required, in order to save "face," to start lobbing missiles at our bases in Okinawa or our ships patrolling the waters between Taiwan and China.

I notice the media never really showed much interest in getting to the bottom of this strange story. For some reason, the media seemed to somehow "get it" that this was a story that really wasn't in America's best interests to dig too deeply into. There was coverage on it, of course, but there wasn't "flood the zone" coverage, there were not big-name investigative journalists assigned to ferret out the truth, and, of course, there were only a handful of leakers casting doubt on the official story.

And their claims weren't very prominently reported.

And the Republican Party did not make a big issue out of this. While I'm sure that some very-partisan and not-terribly-prudent Republicans mentioned the story, and how implausible it was, the mainstream Republican thinking on this was: Shut up. Let it go. This is a lie he gets away with, because it's in all of our interests that he does.

Which is precisely how the entire matter should have been handled. Everyone, from Clinton, to the media, to the intelligence services (except for a few leakers), and the vast majority of the opposition party behaved precisely as they should have, and in America's best interests.

Constrast that to today, where the media feels it's required by its "code of truth" to out information deleterious to America's interests, like the fact we're sharing NSA Intel with Israel. Or the cover companies our secret CIA airwing operates under. Or the completely legal and unobjectionable and prudent subpoenaeing of bank records from an international clearing house in order to track terrorist money transfers.

And of course Jack Murtha sensationalizes the killings of Iraqi civilians as murders "in cold blood" before an investigation determines they are guilty even of negligence in observing the rules of engagement.

In point of fact, the media does seem to have the common sense to protect American secrets, in the appropriate situation. But the "appropriate situation" only seems to be cases of a liberal Democratic President they support fighting a not-terribly-vital war they also support (chiefly because the liberal Democratic President is so keen on it).

Here's the deal: If President Clinton did, in fact, hit the Chinese Embassy because they were playing a passive-aggressive game of war against us, good for him.

If he lied about it in order to prevent an all-consuming Pacific War, good for him again.

If the media showed restraint in teasing out the particular details of this strange episode, good for them, too.

There are some things I'd like to know, yes-- like what exactly happened here.

But I would also not like America's enemies and rivals to know about these things. And if that means I have to go uninformed and not know the full truth myself, so be it.

But I guess I'm just crazy that way.

The media has collectively decided that there are no longer any American secrets worth keeping. "Informing the public" is just too important in all instances.

And nasty political operatives like Sidney Blumenthal blithely reveal information damaging to America, just because it's also damaging to Bush. And if America has to lose for Bush to lose, so be it.

The media and the mainstream of the Democratic party is devoted to "informing the public" even when "informing the public" also means damaging or even crippling America's ability to fight its enemies in a war genuinely vital to preserving American lives -- Kosovo, I'd like to point out to my left-leaning friends, was the ultimate war of choice. I don't remember any Serbs flying airplanes into our buildings.

Odd that the priorities of the media and the "loyal opposition" have so dramatically shifted, yes-yes?


Thanks to Joe Mama for the correct description of what I erroneously termed a "downed communications jet."

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posted by Ace at 04:09 PM

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