It is a classic case of one country invading another. On September 22nd, thousands of troops from South Africa invaded another country, Lesotho. But in contrast to the front-page coverage and official concern about events in the former Yugoslavia, this threat to international peace and stability was played down by the press and was virtually ignored by the Clinton Administration. The South Africa invasion got covered by the Washington Post back on page 23.
Why would the administration choose to ignore this blatant violation of the U.N. Charter and international law? Perhaps because South African President Nelson Mandela was in Washington, D.C., getting a Congressional Gold Medal and being warmly embraced not only by President Clinton but House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Clinton called Mandela “a profound and powerful example.” Gingrich called him “the father of multi-party democracy in modern Africa.” But Mandela’s troops were in Lesotho trying to prop up an unpopular regime that is said to have rigged the recent elections in that country. Although Lesotho is a land-locked country surrounded by South African territory, it is an independent state in its own right.
Asked to justify the invasion in the face of some criticism, Mandela replied, “It doesn’t matter how much criticism we have. If we are convinced about what we are doing, that’s enough.” Officially, the South African government claims it was invited to send troops into the country at the request of the Lesotho government. This is reminiscent of the rationale for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviets claimed they were invited in.
Contrast the kid-glove treatment of South Africa’s naked aggression in Lesotho to the constant drumbeat we are getting from the press about events in Kosovo, which is part of Yugoslavia. The Clinton Administration and NATO are threatening to intervene in the internal affairs of this country because they disagree with the way the Yugoslavian President has put down a growing insurgency. This guerrilla movement had been responsible for assassinating a number of Yugoslavian officials. The war on the guerrillas has displaced tens of thousands of people, creating a refugee crisis.
This is a deplorable situation. But is there any war or civil war that doesn’t have such consequences? If the United States were facing an anti-American guerrilla movement in the southwestern United States, wouldn’t we expect it to be crushed by the federal government? The so-called international community acknowledges that Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia but seems to believe that the province ought to have certain undefined rights for the Albanian majority. This has led to the threats of U.S. and NATO intervention.
There has been virtually no debate in the major media on this subject because, generally speaking, many Republicans want the Clinton Administration to intervene. Conservative publications such as the Washington Times and the New York Post have argued strongly for U.S. intervention in the conflict. Indeed, the Post actually ran an editorial titled, “Wag the Kosovar Dog,” even though the paper clearly recognized that military action would divert public attention from the president’s scandals.