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Western Press Review: Commentators Growing War Weary

By Don Hill/Anthony Georgieff/Dora Slaba

Prague, 26 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary continues to focus on NATO's war on Yugoslavia and peripheral issues, and commentators increasingly spotlight criticism and doubt. There also are multiple commentaries on Chinese espionage in the United States and the plight of Germans expelled by Czechoslovkia after World War Two.

BOSTON GLOBE: NATO should not be dropping its bombs on Serbias infrastructure

The Boston Globe takes on NATO targeting of infrastructure in Yugoslavia. The paper editorializes bluntly: "Many things about the war for Kosovo are complicated. It may be that each side completely and disastrously misread the intentions of the other. (But) one thing should be simple -- precisely because NATO's justification for making war against Milosevic has been moral and humanitarian, NATO should not be dropping its precision-guided missiles and bombs on power plants and water pumps in Serbia."

DIE WELT: Montenegro must redefine its place within Yugoslavia

Commentator Boris Kanolky, writing in the German newspaper Die Welt, analyzes some political collateral damage of the war -- effects upon the Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro. He writes: "Diplomats and government officials in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica have spent weeks furiously searching for a solution to the country's growing discontent with the current union with Serbia."

Kanolky writes: "Last week Montenegrin President (Milo) Djukanovic visited Bonn, Paris and Brussels, the result of which was a veritable storm of media protest against him in Serbia. The accusation was that he was seeking military support from the West and the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. Djukanovic has now let the cat out of the bag. In an interview with Montenegrin TV, he said that Montenegro must redefine its place within Yugoslavia. The further views he expressed sounded as if the federation as such no longer represents an enduring basis to relations with Serbia."

CORRIERE DELLA SERA: Humanitarian interference in actual fact creates and magnifies the evil

Milan's Corriere della Sera dealt yesterday in an editorial with the oxymoron "humanitarian war." The newspaper says: "Now we have discovered the humanitarian war -- a military intervention which violates the sovereignty of a state, which tramples in an unbearable way on the human rights of its minority. Good is supposed to be achieved with humanitarian interference, but in actual fact it creates and magnifies the evil."

INFORMATION: The time has come for a compromise with Milosevic

"Chaos Rules in Balkans," the Danish daily Information contends in an editorial. The newspaper says: "NATO asserts that Serbia has become weary of the war, but the opposite is also true." Information goes on: "NATO's ideas about how to continue to operate in Kosovo differ from member state to member state, but a common attitude does seem to be emerging: that the time has come for a compromise with Milosevic, the mass murderer. This is an unpleasant thought against the background of the human price Milosevic has extracted in order to achieve his aims."

As usual -- and appropriately for democracies -- some of the most incisive criticism of the United States comes from within the United States and of Germans from within Germany.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Clinton's 60 days have run out

Robert L. Borosage, a professor at the American University School of Law in Washington, writes in a commentary in the Los Angeles Times that the last ember of domestic legality for U.S. leadership of NATO's bombardment of Yugoslavia died out yesterday. Borosage says: "(Yesterday was) the last day the bombing of Yugoslavia (had) a tinge of legal authority under the War Powers Act. The next collateral damage of the bombing campaign may be to the laws and Constitution of the United States." The law professor says that the U.S. Constitution reserves to Congress the power to declare war. He says the War Powers Act of 1973 delegates to the President the power to make war for no more than 60 days unless Congress declares war. "Clinton's 60 days have run out," Borosage says.

The commentary says: "Few wars better illustrate the (wisdom of the authors of the U.S. Constitution) than the attack on Yugoslavia. If there had been a full debate in Congress before the war, it is hard to imagine that the gulf between its moral purpose of saving the Kosovars and its divorced means of bombing Yugoslavia would have survived public airing. The doubts of the military and the intelligence community about the air strategy would have been exposed. The nation would have had to be committed before the pilots were."

WASHINGTON POST: Congress should not let this lie pass

Turning away from Kosovo, several U.S. commentators look unhappily at reports that U.S. official laxity permitted Chinese spies virtually to strip away the country's most significant nuclear weapons secrets. One, Michael Kelly, editor of the National Journal, is a frequent contributor of commentary to The Washington Post. He writes that U.S. President Bill Clinton responded true to form to reporter's questions about his personal culpability in the alleged Chinese espionage.

Kelley says: "The lawyers, flacks, hacks and good Democrats who assured us that it didn't really matter that the president was a pathologically dedicated liar -- because, you will recall, he only lied about that which gentlemen should lie about -- might now wish (to reconsider) their position."

Kelly writes: "On March 19, in the wake of press reports disclosing an ongoing campaign by the People's Republic of China to steal America's nuclear secrets, the President held a news conference. He carefully characterized China's espionage as occurring in the mid-'80s, not in the 1990s -- not, in other words, during the years in which China was funneling cash into Clinton's campaign coffers and Clinton was hailing China as America's strategic partner."

The commentator says: "On March 19, President Clinton lied, not about private acts -- not about sexually exploiting or harassing or assaulting this or that unfortunate woman -- but about the gravest issue of national security imaginable. Congress should force (White House National Security Advisor Sandy) Berger to testify as to what precisely he told Clinton, and when. Congress should also subpoena the written summary of the Cox Report Clinton received in January. Congress should not let this lie pass."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Kosovo can only establish a precedent for the future, not for the past

On another topic, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung's Stefan Ulrich, among other writers, challenges assertions of former German residents of what was called the Sudetenland in Czech Bohemia that they constitute a body of victims comparable to the Kosovar Albanians. Ulrich writes that such an equation doesn't hold up. First, he says: "In Kosovo, Serbs are expelling ethnic Albanians arbitrarily, whereas the Sudeten Germans' expulsion from Czechoslovakia was a reaction to the racial madness and war of aggression waged by the Third Reich." Second, he says: "The expulsion of ethnic Albanians is still going on, so (their previous) status might still be restored. The expulsion of the Sudeten Germans, in contrast, has been over and done with for over half a century." He writes: "The German government is right to accept the historical facts and to press ahead with reconciliation with the Czech Republic. Kosovo can only establish a precedent for the future, not for the past."