The Fish
for 26 April 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Suck Staff

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War Stories


Loved your "War Stories" piece.

The unfortunate bombing of 65
Kosovar refugees by NATO
planes recently highlighted just
how silly we are to believe
what NATO and Ken Bacon tell

After the first reports,
Bacon came out and said,
well, yeah, we were bombing
in the region, but the
civilian deaths were
retribution for bombing a
military convoy - the Serbs
shot 'em. And if they didn't
shoot 'em, well, some
refugees are saying they were
Yugoslavian planes, so that's
a possibility. Ummm, Ken, if
there were any Yugo MIGs
flying sorties these days,
first, we'd know about it and
would have shot them down,
and second, then we're not
really doing our job, are we?
But Bacon knew better. He
just wanted an "out" story in
case the facts got muddled
enough that he could sell it.
It's shameful.

Then the refugees said, yeah,
they were Yugo planes and
that bombed us.
Huh? It makes you wonder what
other taller-than-average
tales are being told by the
refugees, who have a
motivation to embellish the
story despite the crap
they're taking from the
Serbs; the Pentagon, who
shied away from any
explanation that suggested
NATO was bombing those we're
supposed to protect; and

I'm sure you noticed the news
massage too; the story
changed from one hour to the
next. To listen to a
straight-faced Bacon
consider the idea that Yugo
MIGs did it is just
shameful. If the Serbs
managed to get a MIG in the
TROOPS?! The lack of logic is
just staggering. I'm no fan
of the Serbs, but I had to
smile when someone suggested
to the Yugo spokesperson that
they were Yugoslavian MIGs
and not NATO planes. He shot
a smiling look at the
questioner, like, hey, do you
think we can fly our planes
up there without getting our
asses shot off? He politely
suggested it was pretty
inconceivable that a Yugo MIG
was responsible.

I'll give Art Bell credit:
He suggested early on in the
bombing that, "In war, the
first casualty is always the
truth." OK, he didn't coin
the phrase, but it's worth
mentioning - and it's
becoming all too true.

Joe in SoCal

I spent much of the day
listening to NPR, and the
various official accounts of
the attack on the convoy and
the bombing of the train
changed so many times I lost
count. But here's the thing:
I'm struggling with my
instinctive belief that
anyone standing in front of a
government microphone is, as
a matter of course, lying
on purpose to achieve
a deliberate end. But I'm
not sure they're that smart -
I mean, war is going to tend
toward the chaotic, so maybe
they're just struggling to
figure it out. Maybe Wesley
Clark is just as lost as I
am. I guess the question is:
Are they bumbling or lying?

Similarly, Dianne Feinstein
told Larry King a couple of
nights ago that the Serbs
were using rape as an
instrument of terror for the
first time in history.
Is this cynical propaganda? Massive
stupidity? Or an innocent
mistake on live TV? I wish I
knew. I definitely wish I knew.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

Dear Sir,

Your criticisms of US
government policy in Kosovo
were relatively fair,
especially compared with some
other critics (e.g., the
International Action Center).
But I think you go a little
too far.

First off, have you heard of
Operation Horseshoe? Maybe
it's NATO propaganda, maybe
it's not, but if Milosevic's
government really concocted a
plan earlier this year to
drive all of Kosovo's
Albanians out of the region,
that's an enormously
destablizing action with a
slippery slope to genocide if
things go wrong (remember, the
Nazis first wanted to deport
the Jews). The Washington
ran an article on it a
couple day ago; you should
check it out.

Secondly, even if you don't
accept that as proof that
Milosevic has genocidal
tendencies, what about his
past history (e.g., Bosnia)?
And what really justifies the
airstrikes is that he's also
proven he doesn't negotiate
in good faith. The
alternative to NATO
airstrikes would be watching
Milosevic's army orchestrate
the expulsion of Kosovo's
Albanians with absolute
impunity. Diplomatic
solutions involving Milosevic
as a negotiator are totally
pointless. Whether or not
this is Rwanda, Milosevic
really is a bad guy; he's no
Hitler, but he's bad enough.

There are tons of recent
examples for which you could
attack the United States for
acting blatantly immorally or
hypocritically, some you
didn't even mention (e.g.,
Guatemala). But this one time
I really believe the primary
motivation of the US
government is moral; if
Rwanda makes you cry, scream,
and vomit, then shouldn't we
attempt to reduce Milosevic's
capacity to destroy? Why sit
here and make another
unenforcable agreement with
him like the one from last
October, only to have him
order Serb police to murder
more villagers?

There has to be a precedent
set by the United States to not
tolerate genocide. I think
part of the reason Clinton is
willing to do it here and now
is because he has the guilt
of hundreds of thousands of
deaths in Rwanda and Bosnia
on his conscience. He's not
as AWOL as Reagan, nor as
disgusting as Ollie North, I

In any case, I can't believe
the Clinton administration
got into this in order to
inflate Al Gore's
foreign-policy image. The
whole situation smacks of
danger signs, and I think the
administration was really
convinced that something like
Bosnia was going to happen
again unless it stepped in.
Can you blame it?

It's a terrible situation,
and it would be a lot easier
to believe the Western forces
involved are as cynically
motivated here as they are in
Iraq. But that's too easy; it
takes a lot to unite France,
the German Greens, the Clinton
administration, and me. The
moral (as opposed to
practical) arguments I've
heard against the initial
decision to bomb just aren't

Hoi Polloi

Sorry to take forever getting
back to you, but I got
(roughly) a million email messages
about this one. And I'm not
even arguing, mostly. It's
probably fair to say I went
too far - or better to say
I was a bit careless in
premising the whole thing on
the (really kind of
indisputable) fact that the
Serbs are doing some horrible
things in Kosovo.

But I do think the NATO
leadership - and particularly
our own leaders in the United
States - offered a glib,
marginally accurate
explanation about both the
problem and the possible
consequences for
intervention. And it seems
fair to say they took a lazy
view of the thing; witness
the leaked story in The
Washington Post
saying that
the Secretary of State was
completely convinced that
Milosevic would cave with the
first round of bombs. I
think we want to do the moral
thing without the moral
struggle; we want the credit
for taking action without a
whole lot of risk. The
Germans have invaded Poland -
let's bomb their ground

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

Worm's-eye View

The other thing I've noticed
is that the allegedly
nonporno cams all have the "This
is a slice of life - what
happens, happens" FAQ. Then,
if you look in their
archives, the first four days
of "programming" are email
checking, and the fifth day
is the friends coming over to
play Naked Twister.


That's what makes Web cams
such interesting sociological
tools. Prior to their advent
we really had no idea of
knowing how much Naked
Twister was actually being
played out there.


Fish With Letter Icon

I was intrigued by the piece
where Jenny complained she
was broke. So I brought that
up while talking to friends
this morning. As you might
expect in this business, a
friend of a friend knows her
and said she lives near K
Street in my native
Washington, DC. To say this
is a high-rent area of our
town is like saying a
building on Central Park in
Manhattan is a little pricey.
One would expect rents in
that neck of the woods to be
around $2,000 to $3,000 per
month. I can imagine she
thinks she's broke. It's all

Don Smith

You know, this brings up an
interesting question: Does
she get to write off rent and
everything else as expenses
that are material to her
business? Or maybe her site's
a nonprofit; I'm not sure how
that works tax-wise. I wish
one of those TV newsmagazines
that are always featuring her
would actually do some real
investigative reporting on
the interesting questions
about her enterprise.



Fish With Letter Icon
War Stories

Ahhh, at last. Someone out
there actually knows both
history and current
events well enough to make an
accurate depiction of the tar
baby Clinton and NATO have
gotten their fists in. I also
like the idea that not only
are we now fighting a war on
two fronts (a strategic
position that has always
helped win wars, I'm sure),
we now will almost
assuredly have to enter into
a ground war in Yugoslavia
or Iraq to prove to Iran
and the group of CIS
countries that we can
take a firm political, as
well as military, stand. While
many of our allies are
currently in an air campaign
against both Iraq and
Yugoslavia, our relations
with Russia have crumbled so
much that they are now arming
their Slavic friends and our
chums in Baghdad. With
countries like Iran, North
Korea, and all the rest that
we've managed to piss off during
our muddle-headed romp
through dogma-based military
campaigns looking to see if
perhaps we've spread
ourselves too thin this time,
we are making a mockery of
the supposed "defensive"
label pasted on NATO. My
question is this: How could
we fuck things up any worse?
Thanks for the article,

Suck hate club member #23456

Alex Ferguson

How could we fuck things up
any worse? Only one way, as
far as I can tell. But I
doubt there's much sentiment
for repealing the 22nd
Amendment, so we should be

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

Generally it was a good column,
though I must confess that
anybody who rails against
stupid wars generally gets my
nod. But what's the deal with
"The decision to ignore the
killing [in Africa] in
1994 ... reflected an active
effort to escape
Responsibility for what?
Entering into conflicts where
nothing of actual value to
the United States is at
stake? How do you justify
criticizing the obvious
mistake of getting involved
in the Balkans when sending
troops to Rwanda would have
been exactly the same kind of

Robert L. McMillin

Well, two things. One, I was
aiming for a comparison of
argument versus action, rather
than rattling the saber in
the direction of history.

Second, I also think there
were reasons to act in
Rwanda, failure doomed or
no. The killing there was so
horrifying and so explicitly
orchestrated to target
everyone in a particular
group that it qualified for
status. I think an argument
could be made for getting
involved in the Balkans.
I just don't think the case
has been made honestly.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

After reading your piece
today, this is the only
sentence that I thought seemed
over the edge:

"[The] Balkans have erupted
into violence twice in this
century after outside powers
entered the region and
initiated it."

Since culling the media is
your work and you do it
well, I would appreciate your
take on the essays of Daniel
Shore. I understand he is
associated with The Pentagon
Papers in some way and would
like to know more about how
or why I endure his opinions
on NPR about what is "really
happening." His credibility
suffers even more than our
president's by the fact that
his voice was used in the
movie The Siege to give it
that "realistic" touch.

If it is true (or even cute)
that they at NPR or WNYC
at least "kept their Monicas
to a minimum," we all would
benefit from getting off the
planet as soon as possible.


I used to cover city council
meetings in the 'burbs, and
Daniel Shore always reminds
me of a guy (who has since
left us, bless his heart) who
had been on the council
forever and wasn't really,
like, functioning anymore. He
would tend to lean into his
microphone during these long,
sober discussions about the
city's bond rating or some
really fascinating
sewer-maintenance issue and
blurt things that had no
connection at all to anything
anyone was talking about:
"Crack babies! Don't like it
one bit!" Then he would lean
back, smacking his chops in
that old-man-chewing-
with-an-empty-mouth way,
with a hugely satisfied look
on his face. There would be a
long pause and then the
conversation would continue
right where it left off,
literally the unprefaced
ending of the sentence he'd
interrupted, precisely as if
he hadn't spoken at all.

Hasn't Dan earned his
retirement by now?

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon
Subject: Warning: Indignant
letter follows.

Dear A. B.:

Congratulations, you've been
awarded the Maureen Dowd
Award for the conspicuous
willingness to throw hand
grenades at random without
any coherent, justifying
logic. May you enjoy it.
Let's discuss your failings
calmly and in order:

1. To criticize the decision
to intervene in Kosovo as
defective because the United
States failed to intervene in
Rwanda and was late
intervening in Bosnia implies
that once someone has made a
mistake he is required to
repeat it endlessly. Why not
consider that perhaps one can
learn from mistakes?

2. To criticize people
calling what's happening
genocide (or cleansing or
whatever) is so precious as
to defy belief. Perhaps it's
unfortunate that we lack really
good terms to distinguish
among unspeakable horrors,
but that's the way it goes. I
remind you that John Barnes
used the word "serb" in a
recent novel as a verb,
meaning to terrorize by raping
and rapining. Is that
sufficiently elegant wordplay
for you?

3. Finally, to bitch that the
air war being waged isn't the
optimal way to deal with the
problem on the ground tacitly
assumes there is some better
way to handle things that the
fools in NATO overlooked.
Democracies are lousy at
making war; loose
conglomerates of democracies
are even worse. Surely it was
better to at least try to
solve a problem with minimal
violence before dropping the
ground bounders into the mud.
"You got a better hole, you
go to it."

Let me put it another way.
Here in scenic NYC, people
are revolting because four
cops fired 41 shots at an
innocent, semilegal immigrant.
This was a bad thing (and you
wonder who the demonstrators
are demonstrating against and
what they want - do they
think there's anyone who
thinks it was a good idea to
shoot this kid? Would they
have preferred it if the cops
had stepped up to him and
calmly put one 9 mm in his
brain?), but it's what
happens when you send armed
men out to arrest rapists.

They got the rapist, by the
way - just about the time a
young female cop got herself
killed by approaching another
young man a bit too casually.

Anyway, at least as I read
it, the people still want the
cops to keep the peace; they
just want it kept very
daintily. But it ain't going
to happen. Some things are
inherently messy. Keeping the
peace in NYC or in the Balkans
is probably that kind of
thing. So complaining that
the job isn't being done
elegantly enough for
you ... deal with it.

And pick a side. Join the
Republican wimps, who never
met a weapon system they
didn't like, as long as nobody
actually has to be shot
trying to use it. Or join the
hawks, whose motto is that of
Buffy: Kill them, kill them a
lot. Or join the rest of us,
muddling around in the
middle, remembering that our
mothers told us violence
never settles anything while
trying to figure out exactly
what it can and can't settle.
Just don't sit off in a
corner, lobbing random
grenades. Dear Ms. Dowd has
that franchise all locked up.

And you might catch up on
your Kipling while you wait:

Oh, it's Tommy this and Tommy
that and Tommy how's your
soul? But it's a thin red
line of heroes when the drums
begin to roll.

Alan S. Kornheiser

Except that you've inflated my
argument and then set about
demolishing the thing you've
created. Let's go back and
take another look at, say,
my first sentence: "War is
understood to advance along
the rails of some fictional
narrative or other, and the
current example isn't doing
much more in that regard than
following the old rules." I
have not written an essay
that proclaims the many
virtues of the heroic Serbian
government. My piece is about
the honesty, accuracy, and
democratic respect contained
in the efforts of our
government to explain the war
to us, to explain why we're
involved and what we hope to
achieve. I wrote about the
advertisement; you wrote in
to defend the soap.

Ambrose Beers

Fish With Letter Icon

 The Shit
Left for Dead in Malaysia, Neil Hamburger, Drag City, 1999
The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink, Mark Dery, Grove/Atlantic, 1999
Crazy from the Heat, David Lee Roth, Hyperion, 1998
Keep It Like a Secret, Built to Spill, WEA/Warner Brothers, 1999
Abbott's Pizza Company, near the corner of Abbott-Kinney and California, Venice Beach, Los Angeles (delivery hours limited)
Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Pink Floyd, CD remaster, EMI 1994
Motorhead, CD remasters, all
Det Som Engang Var, Burzum, Misanthropy, 1998
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, Nashville, Tennessee
A History of the Modern Fact, Mary Poovey, University of Chicago Press, 1998
V., Thomas Pynchon, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999
The Coffee Mill, Emeq Refaim, Jerusalem, Israel
The Salesman and Bernadette, Vic Chesnutt, Capricorn Records, 1998
Good Morning Spider, Sparklehorse, Cema/Capitol, 1999
Third Floor, Anderson Building, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

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