O n February 19, a week after the Senate vote, I gave the first posthumous pardon ever granted by a President, to Henry Flipper, the first black graduate of West Point, who, because of his race, had been wrongfully convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer 117 years earlier. Such actions by a President may seem unimportant compared with the power of current events, but correcting historical mistakes matters, not only to the descendants of those who were wronged but to us all..http://www.panchro.co.uk.
In the last week of the month, Paul Begala announced his departure from the White House. I had relished having Paul there, because he had been with me since New Hampshire and he was smart, funny, combative, and effective. He also had small children who deserved more time with their father. Paul had stuck with me through the impeachment battle; now he needed to leave..www.onescreen.cc.
The only news out of Whitewater World was the lopsided vote of the American Bar Association, 38449, on a resolution calling for the repeal of the independent counsel law, and a news report saying the Justice Department was investigating whether Kenneth Starr had deceived Janet Reno about his offices involvement with the Jones case and about the reasons he gave her for adding the Lewinsky matter to his jurisdiction..www.onescreen.cc.
March began with the announcement that after months of complex negotiations, the administration had succeeded in preserving the largest unprotected stand of old-growth redwoods in the world, the Headwaters Forest in northern California. The next week I took a four-day trip to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to highlight a new era of democratic cooperation in a region in which, not long before, America had supported repressive regimes with horrible human rights records as long as they were anti-Communist. Viewing the aftermath of natural disasters that American troops were helping with, speaking to the parliament in El Salvador, where recent adversaries in a bloody civil war now sat together in peace, apologizing for Americas past actions in Guatemalaall these seemed to me to be signs of a new era of democratic progress I was committed to support..http://www.hopeonthestreet.co.uk.
By the time I returned, we were moving toward another Balkan war, this time in Kosovo. The Serbs had launched an offensive against rebellious Kosovar Albanians a year earlier, killing many innocent people; some women and children were burned in their own homes. The last round of Serb aggression had sparked another exodus of refugees and had increased the desire of Kosovar Albanians for independence. The killings were all too reminiscent of the early days of Bosnia, which, like Kosovo, bridged the divide between European Muslims and Serb Orthodox Christians, a dividing line along which there had been conflict from time to time for six hundred years..cartier love bracelet replica.
In 1974, Tito had given Kosovo autonomy, allowing it self-government and control over its schools. In 1989, Milosevic had taken autonomy away. The tensions had been rising ever since, and had exploded after the independence of Bosnia was secured in 1995. I was determined not to allow Kosovo to become another Bosnia. So was Madeleine Albright..hermes bracelet replica.
By April 1998, the United Nations had imposed an arms embargo, and the United States and its allies had imposed economic sanctions on Serbia for its failure to end the hostilities and begin a dialogue with the Kosovar Albanians. By the middle of June, NATO had begun to plan for a range of military options to end the violence. As summer came, Dick Holbrooke was back in the region to try to find a diplomatic solution for the standoff..moncler outlet.
In mid-July, Serb forces again attacked armed and unarmed Kosovars, beginning a summer of aggression that would force 300,000 more Kosovar Albanians to leave their homes. In late September, the UN Security Council had passed another resolution demanding an end to hostilities, and at months end we sent Holbrooke on yet another mission to Belgrade to try to reason with Milosevic..http://www.vereo.eu/.
On October 13, NATO had threatened to attack Serbia within four days unless the UN resolutions were observed. The air strikes were delayed when four thousand Yugoslav special police officers were withdrawn from Kosovo. Things got better for a while, but in January 1999 the Serbs were killing innocents in Kosovo again, and NATO air strikes seemed inevitable. We decided to try diplomacy one more time, but I wasnt optimistic. The parties objectives were far apart. The United States and NATO wanted Kosovo to have the political autonomy it had enjoyed under the Yugoslav constitution between 1974 and 1989, until Milosevic took it away, and we wanted a NATO-led peacekeeping force to guarantee the peace and the safety of Kosovos civilians, including the Serb minority. Milosevic wanted to keep control of Kosovo, and was opposed to any foreign troop deployments there. The Kosovar Albanians wanted independence. They were also divided among themselves. Ibrahim Rugova, the head of the shadow government, was a soft-spoken man with a penchant for wearing a scarf around his neck. I was convinced we could make a peace agreement with him, but not so sure about the other main Kosovar faction, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), led by a young man named Hacim Thaci. The KLA wanted independence and believed it could actually go toe-to-toe with the Serbian army..http://www.titelhelden.eu.
The parties met at Rambouillet, France, on February 6, to work out the details of an agreement that would restore autonomy, protect the Kosovars from oppression with a NATO-led operation, disarm the KLA, and allow the Serb army to continue to patrol the border. Madeleine Albright and her British counterpart, Robin Cook, pursued this policy aggressively. After a week of negotiations coordinated by U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill and his counterparts from the European Union and Russia, Madeleine found that our position was opposed by both sides: the Serbs didnt want to agree to a NATO peacekeeping force, and the Kosovars didnt want to agree to accept autonomy unless they were also guaranteed a referendum on independence. And the KLA werent happy about having to disarm, partly because they werent sure they could rely on the NATO forces to protect them. Our team decided to write the agreement in a way that would delay the referendum but not deny it forever..www.puravidag.com.
On February 23, the Kosovar Albanians, including Thaci, accepted the agreement in principle, returned home to sell it to their people, and in mid-March traveled to Paris to sign the finished document. The Serbs boycotted the ceremony, as forty thousand Serbian troops massed in and around Kosovo and Milosevic said again that he would never agree to foreign troops on Yugoslavian soil. I sent Dick Holbrooke back to see him one last time, but even Dick couldnt budge him..cartier love bracelet replica.
On March 23, after Holbrooke left Belgrade, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, with my full support, directed General Wes Clark to begin air strikes. On the same day, by a bipartisan majority of 5841, the Senate voted to support the action. Earlier in the month, the House had voted 219191 to support sending U.S. troops to Kosovo if there was a peace agreement. Among the prominent Republicans voting for the proposal were the new Speaker, Dennis Hastert, and Henry Hyde. When Congressman Hyde said America should stand up against Milosevic and ethnic cleansing, I smiled and thought to myself that maybe Dr. Jekyll was in there somewhere after all..http://www.hopeonthestreet.co.uk.
While a majority of Congress and all our NATO allies favored the air strikes, Russia did not. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was on his way to the United States to meet with Al Gore. When Al notified him that a NATO attack on Yugoslavia was imminent, Primakov ordered his plane to turn around and take him back to Moscow..http://www.panchro.co.uk.
On the twenty-fourth, I spoke to the American people about what I was doing and why. I explained that Milosevic had stripped the Kosovars of their autonomy, denying them their constitutionally guaranteed rights to speak their own language, run their own schools, and govern themselves. I described the Serb atrocities: killing civilians, burning villages, and driving people from their homes, sixty thousand in the last five weeks, a quarter million in all. Finally, I put the current events in the context of the wars Milosevic had already waged against Bosnia and Croatia, and the destructive impact of his killing on the future of Europe..http://www.puravidag.com.
The bombing campaign had three objectives: to show Milosevic we were serious about stopping another round of ethnic cleansing, to deter an even bloodier offensive against innocent civilians in Kosovo, and, if Milosevic didnt throw in the towel soon, to seriously damage the Serbs military capacity.
That night the NATO air strikes began. They would last for eleven weeks, as Milosevic continued to kill Kosovar Albanians and drive almost one million people from their homes. The bombs would inflict great damage on the military and economic infrastructure of Serbia. Alas, on a few occasions they would miss their intended targets and take the lives of people we were trying to protect.
Some people argued that our position would have been more defensible if we had sent in ground troops. There were two problems with that argument. First, by the time the soldiers were in position, in adequate numbers and with proper support, the Serbs would have done an enormous amount of damage. Second, the civilian casualties of a ground campaign would probably have been greater than the toll from errant bombs. I didnt find the argument that I should pursue a course that would cost more American lives without enhancing the prospects of victory very persuasive. Our strategy would often be second-guessed, but never abandoned.
At the end of the month, as the stock market closed above 10,000 for the first time ever, up from 3,200 when I took office, I sat down for an interview with CBS-TVs Dan Rather. After an extended discussion of Kosovo, Dan asked me whether I expected to be the husband of a United States senator. By then, many New York officials had joined Charlie Rangel in asking Hillary to consider the race. I told Rather that I had no idea what she would do, but that if she ran and won, she would be magnificent.
In April, the Kosovo conflict intensified as we extended the bombing to downtown Belgrade, hitting the Interior Ministry, Serbias state television headquarters, and Milosevics party headquarters and his home. We also dramatically increased our financial support and troop presence in neighboring Albania and Macedonia to help them deal with the large number of refugees flooding in. By the end of the month, when Milosevic still hadnt folded, opposition to our policy was coming from both directions. Tony Blair and some members of Congress thought it was time to send in ground troops, while the House of Representatives voted to deny the use of troops without prior approval of Congress.
I still believed the air campaign would work, and hoped we could avoid sending ground troops until their mission was to keep the peace. On April 14, I called Boris Yeltsin to request Russian troop participation in a post-conflict peacekeeping force, as in Bosnia. I thought a Russian presence would help protect the Serb minority and might give Milosevic a face-saving way out of his opposition to foreign troops.
A lot of other things happened in April. On the fifth, Libya finally handed over two suspects in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. They would be tried before Scottish judges in The Hague. The White House had been deeply involved in the issue for years. I had pressed the Libyans to do it, and the White House had reached out to the families of victims, keeping them informed and approving the construction of a memorial to their loved ones in Arlington National Cemetery. It was the beginning of a thaw in U.S.Libyan relations.
In the second week of the month, Chinese premier Zhu Rongji made his first trip to the White House in the hope of resolving the remaining obstacles to Chinas entry into the World Trade Organization. We had made substantial progress in closing the gaps between us, but problems remained, including our desire for greater access to Chinas auto market, and Chinas insistence on a five-year limit for our surge agreement, under which the United States could limit a sudden large increase in Chinese imports when it occurred for other than normal economic reasons. It was an important issue in America because of the surge we had experienced in imported steel from Russia, Japan, and elsewhere.
Charlene Barshefsky told me that the Chinese had moved a long way and we should close the deal while Zhu was in the United States to avoid weakening him at home. Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger agreed with her. The rest of the economic teamRubin, Summers, Sperling, and Daleyalong with John Podesta and my legislative aide Larry Stein, disagreed. They thought that without more progress, Congress would reject the deal and kill Chinas entry into the WTO.
I met with Zhu in the Yellow Oval Room the night before the start of his official visit. I told him frankly that my advisors were split but that we would work all night if it was important to have the deal done while he was in the United States. Zhu said if the timing was bad we could wait.
Unfortunately the false story that we had a deal leaked, so that when it didnt happen, Zhu was hurt for the concessions he had made and I was criticized as having turned away a good agreement under pressure from the opponents of Chinas entry into the WTO. The story was reinforced by a spate of anti-China stories circulating in the media. The allegations that the Chinese government had steered funds into the 1996 campaign had not been resolved, and Wen Ho Lee, a Chinese-American employee of our national energy lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico, had been accused of stealing sensitive technology for China. All of my team wanted China in the WTO this year; now it was going to be harder to achieve.
On April 12, a jury rendered its verdict in Kenneth Starrs case against Susan McDougal, who had been charged with obstruction of justice and criminal contempt for her continued refusal to testify before the grand jury. She was acquitted on the obstruction of justice charge and, according to press reports, the jury deadlocked 75 for acquittal on the contempt charges. It was an amazing verdict. McDougal admitted that she had refused a court order to testify because she didnt trust Starr and his chief deputy, Hick Ewing. She testified that, now, in open court, she would be glad to answer any questions that the OIC had wanted to ask in the secret grand jury proceedings. She said that even though she had been offered immunity, she had refused to cooperate with the OIC because Starr and his staff had repeatedly tried to get her to lie to incriminate Hillary or me, and she believed that if she testified truthfully before the grand jury he would indict her for her refusal to lie. To close her defense, she called Julie Hiatt Steele, who testified that Starr had done exactly that to her, indicting her after she twice refused to lie for him in a grand jury proceeding.
The victory couldnt give Susan McDougal her lost years back, but her vindication was a stunning setback for Starr, and a sweet triumph for all the other people whose lives and savings he had destroyed.
On the twentieth, America suffered another horrible school shooting. At Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, two heavily armed students opened fire on their classmates, killing twelve students and injuring more than twenty others before turning their guns on themselves. It could have been even worse. One teacher, who later died from his wounds, led many students to safety. Medics and police officers saved more lives. A week later, with a bipartisan group of members of Congress and mayors, I announced some measures to make it harder for guns to fall into the wrong hands: applying the Brady laws prohibition on gun ownership to violent juveniles; closing the gun show loophole to require background checks on people who bought guns at such events rather than at gun stores; cracking down on illegal gun trafficking; and prohibiting juveniles from owning assault rifles. I also proposed funds to help schools develop successful violence prevention and conflict-resolution programs like the one I had just observed at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia.
Senate majority leader Trent Lott called my initiative a typical knee-jerk reaction, and Tom DeLay accused me of exploiting Columbine for political gain. But the legislations principal sponsor, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy of New York, wasnt interested in politics; her husband had been killed and her son badly wounded on a commuter train by a deranged man with a handgun he should never have been able to possess. The NRA and its supporters blamed our violent culture. I agreed that children were exposed to too much violence; thats why I was supporting Al and Tipper Gores drive to get V-chips into new TVs so that parents could limit childrens exposure to excessive violence. But the violence in our culture only strengthened the argument for doing more to keep guns away from children, criminals, and mentally unstable people.
At the end of the month, Hillary and I hosted the largest gathering of heads of state ever to meet in Washington, as the leaders of NATO and the states in its Partnership for Peace gathered to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of NATO, and to reaffirm our determination to prevail in Kosovo. Afterward, Al From of the DLC and Sidney Blumenthal put together another of our Third Way conferences to highlight the values, ideas, and strategies Tony Blair and I shared with Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, Wim Kok of the Netherlands, and the new Italian prime minister, Massimo DAlema. By this time, I was focused on building a global consensus on economic, social, and security policies that I thought would serve America and the world well when my term was over by strengthening the forces of positive interdependence and weakening those of disintegration and destruction. The Third Way movement and the broadening of NATOs alliance and its mission had moved us a fair distance in the right direction, but as with so many of the best-laid plans, they would later be overtaken and redirected by events, principally the growing hostility to globalization and the rising tide of terror.
In early May, shortly after Jesse Jackson persuaded Milosevic to release three U.S. servicemen the Serbs had captured along their border with Macedonia, we lost two American soldiers when their Apache helicopter crashed in a training exercise; they would be the only U.S. casualties in the conflict. Boris Yeltsin sent Victor Chernomyrdin to see me to discuss Russias interest in ending the war and its apparent willingness to participate in the peacekeeping force afterward. Meanwhile, we kept the pressure up, as I authorized 176 more aircraft for Wes Clark.
On May 7, we suffered the worst political setback of the conflict when NATO bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three Chinese citizens. I soon learned that the bombs had hit their intended target, which had been erroneously identified on the basis of old CIA maps as a Serbian government building used for military purposes. It was the kind of mistake we had worked hard to avoid. The military was mostly using aerial photography for targeting. I had begun meeting with Bill Cohen, Hugh Shelton, and Sandy Berger several times a week to go over the high-profile targets in an attempt to maximize damage to Milosevics aggression while minimizing civilian casualties. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset by the mistake and immediately called Jiang Zemin to apologize. He wouldnt take the call, so I publicly and repeatedly apologized.
Over the next three days, protests escalated all over China. They were especially intense around the American embassy in Beijing, where Ambassador Sasser found himself besieged. The Chinese said they believed the attack was deliberate and declined to accept my apologies. When I finally talked with President Jiang on the fourteenth, I apologized again and told him I was sure he didnt believe I would knowingly attack his embassy. Jiang replied that he knew I wouldnt do that, but said he did believe that there were people in the Pentagon or the CIA who didnt favor my outreach to China and could have rigged the maps intentionally to cause a rift between us. Jiang had a hard time believing that a nation as technologically advanced as we were could make such a mistake.
I had a hard time believing it, too, but thats what happened. Eventually we got beyond it, but it was tough going for a while. I had just named Admiral Joe Prueher, who was retiring as commander in chief of our forces in the Pacific, to be the new U.S. ambassador to China. He was very respected by the Chinese military, and I believed he would be able to help repair the relationship.
By late May, NATO had approved a 48,000-troop peacekeeping force to go into Kosovo after the conflict was concluded, and we had begun quiet discussions about the possibility of sending in ground troops earlier if it became clear that the air campaign wasnt going to prevail before people were trapped in the mountains by winter. Sandy Berger was preparing a memo for me on options, and I was ready to send troops in if necessary, but I still believed the air war would succeed. On the twenty-seventh, Milosevic was indicted by the war crimes prosecutor in The Hague.
There was a great deal of activity in the rest of the world in May. In mid-month, Boris Yeltsin survived his own impeachment vote in the Duma. On the seventeenth, Prime Minister Netanyahu was defeated for reelection by the Labor Party leader, retired general Ehud Barak, the most decorated soldier in Israeli history. Barak was a brilliant Renaissance man: he had done graduate work in economic engineering systems at Stanford, was a concert-level classical pianist, and repaired clocks as a hobby. He had been in politics only a few years, and his close-cropped hair, intense stare, and blunt, staccato speaking style were more reflective of his military past than of the more murky political waters he now had to navigate. His victory was a clear signal that Israelis saw in him what they had seen in his role model, Yitzhak Rabin: the possibility of peace with security. Equally important, Baraks large victory margin had given him the chance to have a governing coalition in the Knesset that would support the hard steps to peace, something Prime Minister Netanyahu had never had.
The next day Jordans King Abdullah came to see me, full of hope for peace and determination to be a worthy successor to his father. He clearly understood the challenges facing his nation and the peace process. I was also struck by his understanding of economics and the contribution that more growth could make to peace and reconciliation. After the meeting I was convinced that the king and his equally impressive wife, Queen Rania, would be positive forces in the region for a long time to come.
On May 26, Bill Perry delivered a letter from me to Kim Jong Il, North Koreas leader, proposing a road map to the future in which America would provide a broad range of assistance to him if, but only if, he gave up his attempts to develop nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. In 1998, North Korea had taken the constructive step of ending its tests of such missiles, and I thought Perrys mission had a fair chance to succeed.
Two days later, Hillary and I were at a DLC retreat at White Oak Plantation in northern Florida, which has the largest wild game preserve in the United States. I got up at four in the morning to watch the inaugural ceremonies for Nigerias new president, former general Olusegun Obasanjo, on TV. Ever since gaining independence, Nigeria had been riddled by corruption, regional and religious strife, and deteriorating social conditions. Despite its large oil production, the country suffered periodic power outages and fuel shortages. Obasanjo had taken power briefly in a military coup in the 1970s, then had kept his promise to step aside as soon as new elections could be held. Later, he had been imprisoned for his political views and, while incarcerated, had become a devout Christian and had written books about his faith. It was hard to imagine a bright future for sub-Saharan Africa without a more successful Nigeria, by far its most populous nation. After listening to his compelling inaugural address, I hoped Obasanjo would be able to succeed where others had failed.
On the home front, I started the month with an important clean-air announcement. We had already reduced toxic air pollution from chemical plants by 90 percent, and had set tough standards to reduce smog and soot that would prevent millions of cases of childhood asthma. On May 1, I said that after extensive consultation with industry, environmental, and consumer groups, EPA administrator Carol Browner would promulgate a rule to require all passenger vehicles, including gas-guzzling SUVs, to meet the same pollution standards, and that we would cut the sulfur content of gasoline by 90 percent over five years.
I announced a new crime initiative, releasing the funds to complete our efforts to put 100,000 police on the streets (more than half of them were already in service); expanding the COPS program to hire 50,000 more police officers in the highest-crime areas; and making it a federal crime to possess biological agents that could be turned into terrorist weapons without a legitimate, peaceful purpose for having them.
The twelfth was a day I had hoped would never come; Bob Rubin was returning to private life. I believed he had been the best and most important Treasury secretary since Alexander Hamilton in the early days of our Republic. Bob had also been the first head of the National Economic Council. In both positions he had played a decisive role in our efforts to restore economic growth and spread its benefits to more Americans, to prevent and contain financial crisis abroad, and to modernize the international financial system to deal with a global economy in which more than one trillion dollars crossed national borders every day. He had also been a rock of stability during the impeachment ordeal, not only speaking up at the meeting when I apologized to my cabinet, but also constantly reminding our people that they should be proud of what they were doing, and cautioning them not to be too judgmental. One of our younger people said that Bob had told him that if he lived long enough, he would do something hed be ashamed of, too.
When Bob came into the administration he was probably the wealthiest person on our team. After he supported the 1993 economic plan, with its tax increase for the highest-income Americans, I used to joke that Bob Rubin came to Washington to help me save the middle class, and when he leaves, hell be one of them. Now that Bob was moving back into private life, I didnt think Id have to worry about that anymore.
I named Bobs able deputy secretary, Larry Summers, to succeed him. Larry had been in the thick of all the major economic questions of the last six years, and he was ready. I also named Stu Eizenstat, the undersecretary of state for economic affairs, to be deputy Treasury secretary. Stu had handled a lot of important assignments well, none more important than the so-called Nazi Gold matter. Edgar Bronfman Sr. had sparked our interest in it by contacting Hillary, who got things moving with an initial meeting. Eizenstat then spearheaded our attempt to secure justice and compensation for Holocaust survivors and their families whose assets had been looted as they were being packed off to concentration camps.
Soon afterward, Hillary and I flew to Colorado to meet with students and families from Columbine High School. A few days earlier the Senate had adopted my proposals to ban the import of large ammunition clips that were being used to evade the assault weapons ban, and to ban the possession of assault weapons by juveniles. And in the face of intense lobbying by the NRA, Al Gore had broken a 5050 tie to pass the proposal to close the gun show loophole in the Brady laws requirement of background checks.
Although the community was still grieving, the students at Columbine were coming back, and they and their parents seemed determined to do something to reduce the chances of further Columbines. They knew that though there had been several school shootings before theirs, it was Columbine that had finally pierced the soul of America. I told them that they could help America build a safer future because of what they had endured. Although Congress would not close the gun show loophole, in the 2000 election, because of Columbine, the voters in conservative Colorado would pass a measure to do so in their state by an overwhelming margin.
Whitewater World was still alive and well in May, as Kenneth Starr, despite his defeat in the Susan McDougal trial, pursued his case against Julie Hiatt Steele. The case ended in a hung jury; in conservative northern Virginia, it was another setback for the independent counsel and his tactics. After all Starrs efforts to get into the Jones case, the only person who was indicted as a result was Steele, another innocent bystander who refused to lie. Starrs office had now conducted four trials and lost three.
In June, the punishing bombing raids on the Serbs finally broke Milosevics will to resist. On the second, Victor Chernomyrdin and Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari personally handled NATOs demands to Milosevic. The next day Milosevic and the Serbian parliament agreed to them. Predictably, the next few days were full of tension and disputes over the details, but on the ninth NATO and Serbian military officials agreed to a prompt withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo and the deployment of an international security force with a unified NATO chain of command. The next day Javier Solana instructed General Clark to suspend NATOs air operations, the UN Security Council passed a resolution welcoming the end of the war, and I announced to the American people that, after seventy-nine days, the bombing campaign was over, the Serb forces were withdrawing, and the one million men, women, and children driven from their land would be able to go home. In an Oval Office address to the nation, I thanked our armed forces for their superb performance and the American people for their stand against ethnic cleansing and their generous support of the refugees, many of whom had come to America.
Allied Commander Wes Clark had managed the campaign with skill and determination, and he and Javier Solana had done yeomans work in holding the alliance together and in never wavering in our steadfast commitment to victory on the bad days as well as the good ones. So had my entire national security team. Even though when the bombing wasnt over in a week we were constantly second-guessed, Bill Cohen and Hugh Shelton had remained convinced that the air campaign would work if we could hold the coalition together for two months. Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, and Sandy Berger had all remained cool under fire in the nail-biting, roller-coaster weeks we had just been through together. Al had played a critical role in keeping our relationship with Russia intact by staying in contact with Victor Chernomyrdin and making sure that we and the Russians had a common position when Chernomyrdin and Ahtisaari went to Serbia to try to persuade Milosevic to give up his futile resistance.
On the eleventh, I took a congressional delegation to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to say a special word of thanks to the crews and support personnel on B-2 stealth bombers, which flew all the way from Missouri to Serbia and back, nonstop, to perform the nighttime bombing operations for which the B-2 was especially well suited. In all, 30,000 sorties were flown in the Kosovo campaign. Only two planes were lost, and their crews were recovered safely.
After the raids succeeded, John Keegan, perhaps the foremost living historian of warfare, wrote a fascinating article in the British press about the Kosovo campaign. He admitted frankly that he had not believed the bombing would work and that he had been wrong. He said the reason such campaigns had failed in the past is that most bombs had missed their targets. The weaponry used in Kosovo was more precise than that used in the first Gulf War; and though some bombs went astray in Kosovo and Serbia, far fewer civilians were killed than in Iraq. Im also still convinced that fewer civilians died than would have perished if we had put in ground troops, a bridge I would nevertheless have crossed rather than let Milosevic prevail. The success of the air campaign in Kosovo marked a new chapter in military history.
There was one more tense moment before things settled down. Two days after hostilities officially ended, fifty vehicles carrying about two hundred Russian troops rushed into Kosovo from Bosnia and occupied the Pristina airport without advance agreement from NATO, four hours before the NATO troops authorized by the UN arrived. The Russians asserted their intention to keep control of the airport.
Wes Clark was livid. I didnt blame him, but I knew we werent on the verge of World War III. Yeltsin was getting a lot of criticism at home for cooperating with us from ultra-nationalists whose sympathies lay with the Serbs. I thought he was just throwing them a temporary bone. Soon the British commander, Lieutenant General Michael Jackson, resolved the situation without incident, and on June 18, Secretary Cohen and the Russian defense minister reached an agreement under which Russian troops would join the UN-sanctioned NATO forces in Kosovo. On June 20, the Yugoslav military completed its withdrawal, and just two weeks later the UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that more than 765,000 refugees had already returned to Kosovo.
As we had learned from our experience in Bosnia, even after the conflict there would still be a great deal of work ahead in Kosovo: getting the refugees home safely; clearing the minefields; rebuilding homes; providing food, medicine, and shelter to the homeless; demilitarizing the Kosovo Liberation Army; creating a secure environment for both Kosovar Albanians and the minority Serb population; organizing a civilian administration; and restoring a functioning economy. It was a big job, most of which would be performed by our European allies, even as America had borne the lions share of responsibility for the air war.
Despite the challenges ahead, I felt an enormous sense of relief and satisfaction. Slobodan Milosevics bloody ten-year campaign to exploit ethnic and religious differences in order to impose his will on the former Yugoslavia was on its last legs. The burning of villages and killing of innocents was history. I knew it was just a matter of time before Milosevic was history, too.
On the day we reached the agreement with Russia, Hillary and I were in Cologne, Germany, for the annual G-8 summit. It turned out to be one of the most important such meetings of my entire eight years. In addition to celebrating the successful end to the Kosovo conflict, we endorsed our finance ministers recommendations to modernize the international financial institutions and our national policies to meet the challenges of the global economy, and we announced a proposal, which I strongly supported, for a massive millennium debt-relief initiative for poor countries if they agreed to put all the savings into education, health care, or economic development. The initiative was consistent with a chorus of calls for debt relief from all over the world, led by Pope John Paul II and my friend Bono.
After the summit we flew on to Slovenia to thank the Slovenians for supporting NATO in Kosovo and helping the refugees, then to Macedonia, where President Kiro Gligorov, despite his countrys own economic hardships and ethnic tensions, had taken in 300,000 refugees. At the camp in Skopje, Hillary, Chelsea, and I got to visit with some of them and hear the horrible stories of what they had endured. We also met members of the international security force who were stationed there. It was my first chance to thank Wes Clark in person.
Politics began to heat up in June. Al Gore announced for President on the sixteenth. His likely opponent was Governor George W. Bush, the preferred candidate of both the Republican Partys right wing and its establishment. Bush had already raised more money than Al and his primary opponent, former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley, combined. Hillary was moving closer to getting into the Senate race in New York. By the time we left the White House she would have helped me in my political career for more than twenty-six years. I was more than happy to support her for the next twenty-six.
As we entered the political season, I was far more concerned about maintaining the momentum for action in Congress and in my own government. Traditionally, when presidential politics begin to heat up and the President isnt part of it, inertia sets in. Some of the Democrats thought they would be better off if little new legislation was passed; then they could run against a Republican do nothing Congress. Many Republicans just didnt want to give me any more victories. I was surprised at how bitter some of them still seemed to be four months after the impeachment battle, especially since I hadnt been hammering them in public or in private.
I tried to wake up every morning without bitterness and to keep working in a spirit of reconciliation. The Republicans seemed to have reverted to the theme they had trumpeted since 1992: I was a person without character who could not be trusted. During the Kosovo conflict some Republicans almost seemed to be rooting for us to fail. One Republican senator justified his colleagues tepid support for what our troops were doing by saying I had lost their trust; they were blaming me for their own failure to oppose ethnic cleansing.
It seemed to me that the Republicans were trying to put me in a lose-lose situation. If I went around wearing a hair shirt, they would say I was too damaged to lead. If I was happy, they would say I was gloating and acting as if Id gotten away with something. Six days after my acquittal in the Senate, I had gone to New Hampshire to celebrate the seventh anniversary of my New Hampshire primary. Some of my congressional critics said I shouldnt have been happy, but I was happyand for good reasons: all my old friends came out to see me; I met a young man who said hed cast his first vote for me, and I had done exactly what I said I would do; and I met a woman who said I had inspired her to get off welfare and go back to school to become a nurse. By 1999, she was a member of the New Hampshire Board of Nursing. Those were the people I got into politics for.
At first I couldnt for the life of me figure out how the Republicans and some commentators could say Id gotten away with anything. The public humiliation, the pain to my family, the huge debts from legal bills and settling the Jones suit after Id won it, the years of press and legal abuse Hillary had endured, and the helplessness I felt as countless innocent people in Washington and Arkansas were persecuted and ruined financiallythese things took a terrible toll on me. I had apologized and tried to demonstrate my sincerity in the way Id treated and worked with the Republicans. But none of it was enough. It would never be enough, for one simple reason: I had survived and continued to serve and fight for what I believed. First, last, and always, my struggle with the New Right Republicans was about power. I thought power came from the people and they should give it and take it away. They thought the people had made a mistake in electing me twice, and they were determined to use my personal mistakes to justify their continuing assault.
I was sure that my more positive strategy was the right thing for me as a person and for my ability to do my job. I wasnt as sure it was good politics. The more the Republicans pounded away at me, the more the memories of what Ken Starr had done or how they had behaved during impeachment faded. The press is naturally focused on todays story, not yesterdays, and conflict makes news. That tends to reward the aggressor, whether the underlying attack is fair or not. Soon, instead of asking me whether I could forgive and forget, the press was asking those earnest-sounding questions again about whether I had the moral authority to lead. The Republicans were barking away at Hillary, too, now that, instead of being a sympathetic figure standing by her flawed man, she was a strong woman finding her own way in politics. Yet, on balance, I still felt good about where things stood: the country was moving in the right direction, my job rating was high, and we still had plenty to do.
Although I would always regret what I had done wrong, I will go to my grave being proud of what I had fought for in the impeachment battle, my last great showdown with the forces I had opposed all of my lifethose who had defended the old order of racial discrimination and segregation in the South and played on the insecurities and fears of the white working class in which I grew up; who had opposed the womens movement, the environmental movement, the gay-rights movement, and other efforts to expand our national community as assaults on the natural order; who believed government should be run for the benefit of powerful entrenched interests and favored tax cuts for the wealthy over health care and better education for children.
Ever since I was a boy I had been on the other side. At first, the forces of reaction, division, and the status quo were represented by anticivil rights Democrats. When the national party under Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson began to embrace the cause of civil rights, the southern conservatives migrated to the Republican Party, which, beginning in the 1970s, formed an alliance with the rising religious right-wing movement.
When the New Right Republicans had taken power in Congress in 1995, I had blocked their most extreme designs and had made further progress in economic, social, and environmental justice the price of our cooperation. I understood why the people who equated political, economic, and social conservatism with Gods will hated me. I wanted an America of shared benefits, shared responsibilities, and equal participation in a democratic community. The New Right Republicans wanted an America in which wealth and power were concentrated in the hands of the right people, who maintained majority support by demonizing a rolling succession of minorities whose demands for inclusion threatened their hold on power. They also hated me because I was an apostate, a white southern Protestant who could appeal to the very people they had always taken for granted.
Now that my private sins had been publicly aired, they would be able to throw stones until the day I died. I was letting go of my anger about it, but I was glad that, by accident of history, I had had the good fortune to stand against this latest incarnation of the forces of reaction and division, and in favor of a more perfect union.