WASHINGTON -- There's an unwritten rule that ex-presidents refrain from criticizing the current occupant of the White House. But President Clinton's policies in Kosovo have prompted two former commanders in chief to speak out with extraordinarily caustic objections.
Former President Gerald Ford said Monday that Clinton "miscalculated the potency, the potential success" of an exclusively air war with Yugoslavia, underestimated the size of the refugee problem that would result and lost a valuable bargaining chip by "ruling out, right from the very outset, that there would be no ground force" used if the air war failed."Having lived through the worst aspects of the war in Vietnam, where we did everything gradually, gradually, gradually, I firmly believe today that our action ought to be stronger and, if necessary, we should have ground forces in there to achieve whatever our goal happens to be," Ford told reporters at the National Press Club.
He also endorsed criticisms leveled recently by his successor, Democrat Jimmy Carter, who accused Clinton of failing to exhaust negotiations before using a bombing campaign that included cluster bombs that "kill or maim" Serbian troops.
"The international community has admirable goals of protecting the rights of Kosovars," Carter wrote in The New York Times last week. "But the decision to attack the entire nation has been counterproductive and our destruction of civilian life has now become senseless and excessively brutal."
Former President George Bush, whom Clinton defeated in 1992, has not spoken out much against his former rival. Bush has helped raise money for Kosovar refugees.