Obama recalls Balkans conflict at NY speech (March 30)

WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama dropped by the United Nations Tuesday, to dedicate the U.S. Mission to the UN Building in honor of Ron Brown, who was killed in a plane crash while serving as Bill Clinton’s Commerce Secretary.

Obama noted that while Brown was not an ambassador, he did die on a mission to the Balkans, “because, [Brown] said, just as America ‘took the lead in the peace process, we need to show the way in rebuilding from the ruins of war.”

“There are times - as when President Clinton showed extraordinary leadership in the Balkans, and moments such as now in the situation in Libya - where our conscience and our common interests compel us to act,” he said, referring to the the 1990s NATO mission to oust Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of atrocities against Kosovar Albanians. [Note again the prudent new language in light of that war being debunked: “accused of.”]

“To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together,” Obama said in his speech Monday evening, “when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians.” […]

That is, it used to take us a whole year to do something stupid. Now we do it without even thinking!

It’s always been interesting, of course, that Ron Brown died in a crash on a plane to the Balkans, where it’s far easier to make people disappear. I mean, look at the difference in the magnitude of speculation between Vince Foster, who died here, and Ron Brown, who died over there…somewhere. Allow me to even out that balance by excerpting Jack Cashill’s article about Brown, from 2008 (tacky and gross as always, Clinton was in the audience at the dedication of the UN building in his name):

Hillary, why did you go to Bosnia?

Jack Cashill is an Emmy-award winning independent writer and producer with a Ph.D. in American Studies from Purdue.

As has become painfully normative, Hillary, the major media ask you all the wrong questions. The current controversy centers on whether you and your daughter, Chelsea, actually had to dodge sniper fire upon your landing at the airport in Tuzla in Bosnia on March 25, 1996 [six months after the ceasefire].

The photographic evidence seems to suggest otherwise. But sniper fire or not, as you and I both know, this really was risky business.

As testament to how dangerous trips in and out of Bosnia could be, just nine days later, another U.S. Air Force plane carrying American officials took off from that same Tuzla airport and crashed “inexplicably” near the Croatian-Bosnian border.

The crash killed all 35 people on board…You understood the risk. In your memoir, “Living History,” you tell how you and Chelsea had to wear flak jackets and sit in a reinforced cockpit in case of snipers or ground-to-air missiles, and there is no reason to doubt you.

The right question, Hillary, is not whether this trip was dangerous – it clearly was – but why you took Chelsea on such a trip in the first place. According to your schedule, you spent no more than nine hours in country, did little of consequence while there, and yet exposed Chelsea to considerable risk both coming and going.

At the time, you told the press that you wanted “to visit our troops and to say ‘thank you.’” The White House even made a point of noting that “no first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt has made a trip into such a hostile military environment.”

You also anticipated the question of why you and Bill would willingly put your 16-year-old in harm’s way. Your answer: The experience would help Chelsea “mature.” As the father of two daughters, I don’t buy that.

I have a nagging suspicion that there was something more involved, and it likely involves the fate of the lead official killed on that doomed flight out of Tuzla on April 3, nine days later.

That official, of course, was Bill’s beleaguered and increasingly desperate secretary of commerce, Ron Brown, the classic “man who knew too much.”

In the way of background, when I accepted the commission to write the book “Ron Brown’s Body,” the publishers agreed to live with the possibility that the Brown plane crash was an accident

I had presumed it was either that or a terrorist incident whose investigation was corrupted for political reasons – as happened occasionally in the run up to the 1996 election.

In this case, as you recall, Bill had sent Brown to Croatia to broker a sweetheart deal between the neo-fascist Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, and an American corporation much-favored during your White House years, Enron. Remember them?

As you know, Hillary, the crash spawned more than a few conspiracy theories, some of which I was able to disprove, like the involvement of U.S. Special Forces or the murder of a surviving Air Force flight attendant.

Some facts, however, refused to go away, including the skullduggery of Croatian intelligence, headed at the time by Tudjman’s son, Miroslav.

Best evidence suggests that Croatian intelligence agents lured the plane into a mountainside through the use of a rogue beacon and then diverted NATO search and rescue operations over the Adriatic for at least four hours.

In the interim, these agents found the wreckage and administered a final coup de grace to Brown’s otherwise intact body – the very real hole in the top of his head, likely a bullet hole.

As it happens, airport aviation manager Nike Jerkuic had been “off” the day the plane crashed. Three days later, the day before USAF investigators were scheduled to talk to him, Jerkuic showed up dead with a bullet hole in his chest. Croatian authorities called Jerkuic’s death a “suicide.”

Our media chose not to investigate Jerkuic’s death or Brown’s or the Enron connection for that matter. Remember, they were on your side back then and the Croats’ as well.

Both you and the Croats had also gotten a pass from the media just months earlier, in August 1995, when Croatian forces ethnically cleansed the Krajina area of its Serbian population.

Unfortunately, Hillary, you guys had your hand in this, tactically and strategically. The White House gave the Croats the green light, as did Peter Galbraith, your ambassador to Croatia.

“Tudjman can do only what the Americans allow him to do,” said Stipe Mesic, a prominent Croatian politician of the era. “Krajina is the reward for having accepted, under Washington ’s pressure, the federation between Croats and Muslims in Bosnia.”

Still, as rough as the Croats could be, they had absolutely no motive for killing Ron Brown. Tudjman, as the man said, could do only what the Americans allowed him to do.

Even if Tudjman did have personal reasons to cooperate — he was suffering from cancer and likely facing a trip to the Hague to be tried as a war criminal — he would not have dared to assassinate Brown without an undeniably “strong signal” from someone in the White House.

Without even knowing it[,] Hillary, your trip to Tuzla may have been the signal of White House seriousness that Tudjman needed to proceed.

His cooperation would seem to have paid off. In November 1996, just one week after the president’s re-election, Tudjman traveled not to The Hague to be tried but to the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington to be treated.

The media may be asking you irrelevant questions now, Hillary, but consider yourself lucky. Back in the day, when it still mattered, they weren’t asking you any real questions at all.

Originally, Cashill didn’t believe it possible that Clinton had Brown killed, that a US president could order a death like that. And Cashill still does not think Clinton specifically ordered the plane to be sabotaged and 34 other people killed in the execution of the task. But what he did discover in the course of his investigation is included in this 2004 writing:

…More than a few callers [to Cashill’s radio show] argued that the Clintons had the plane destroyed. I dismissed these arguments out of hand. I believed then, and believe now, that an American president would never do such a thing.

When I began my investigation for my book, “Ron Brown’s Body,” I thought, however, that I might very well find another link in the Mega Fix chain – that is, the cover-up of a terrorist incident for the sake of political advantage.

Brown’s flight did leave Bosnia, a Muslim country swarming with mujahideen. This flight came just six months after the Dayton accords and the insertion of American troops – an unpopular move. I figured that if a terrorist missile shot Brown’s plane out of the sky, or a hijacker flew it into the mountain, the Clinton White House would have good cause to conceal this fact.

But I was wrong. The evidence does not support a terrorist scenario. Here is what we know for sure about Ron Brown’s last days.

* To protect his son Michael from prison, Ron Brown threatens to expose the White House’s yet unrevealed Asian fund-raising scheme, in which Brown played a major role.

* Just weeks before his death, Brown starts going to church for the first time in his life. He is scared for his life and that of his confidante, Nolanda Hill. [Note: This is reminiscent of what Clinton-era INS lawyer Rebeca Sanchez-Roig went through; she wasn’t allowed to mention that Juan Gonzalez came here not to get Elian back, but to defect too — while saying the opposite under duress by the Cuban government. According to my friend who spoke with Roig’s brother, Roig was hiding inside her house with the curtains drawn because her life had been threatened by the government.]

* The Croatian government insists on a Dubrovnik stop an unprecedented 36 hours before Brown’s scheduled landing.

* The Enron executives take their own plane.

* The Air Force calls the pilot’s nearly two-mile deviation into a Croatian hillside “inexplicable.” No aircraft has ever drifted inland before at that airport. The AWACS data suggest sabotage of the ground-based navigation system, a line of inquiry that the Air Force is not allowed to pursue.

* For the first time ever on friendly soil, the White House orders the Air Force to skip the “safety” phase of the investigation and move directly to the “accident” phase. There is to be no consideration other than accident, even though this airport is near the Bosnian border and in a potential hot-fire zone.

* Three days after the crash and two days before his scheduled interview by the Air Force, the Croatian responsible for the airport’s navigation system is found with a bullet hole in his chest.

* A day later, every pathologist who views Brown’s body concludes his head wound, at the very least, looks like a bullet hole. In a decision that reached the White House, there is to be no autopsy. The Brown family is not informed. Nor is there any forensic testing or a search for an exit wound.

* The head x-rays that show a possible “lead snowstorm” are destroyed. Officially, they’re lost.

* The three Armed Forces pathologists and the forensic photographer who blow the whistle on this case have their careers destroyed.

* In silencing these dissidents, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology brass assure the public that Brown died of “multiple blunt force injuries” like the others. The death certificate says otherwise. It notes that Brown died of “blunt force injuries to the head.” He was the only one of the 35 victims to have a reported head wound.

* Franjo Tudjman, who has feared a trip to the Hague as a war criminal, shows up a week after the election at the Walter Reed Army Hospital to have his cancer treated.

* His son, Miroslav, investigates the death of the navigation chief and rules it a suicide.

The evidence strongly suggests that Ron Brown was, in fact, assassinated. In the most likely scenario, Croatian intelligence agents coerce the navigation chief into sabotaging the airport’s non-directional radio beacon. After the plane crashes, they divert the rescue efforts, go to the crash site and administer a coup de grace to Brown, who may already be dead. Three days later, they murder the airport’s navigation chief lest the Air Force investigators persuade him to talk.

Who commissioned the Croatians is not known, although the list of suspects is small. If the commission came from Washington, it likely did not include the destruction of the aircraft.

Although not technically “terrorism,” the Mega Fix paradigm works here just the same: The White House undermines the investigation and exploits the political advantage. The Clintons do not want to know the truth about Ron Brown’s death, and they certainly do not want to share it. In this case, it is impossible to lay the blame on the FBI. That much-maligned agency is not involved.

This time, the Clintons use a reluctant Air Force and a nearly mutinous Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to bury Ron Brown as quickly as possible, literally and figuratively. They exploit Brown’s death for political advantage and leave the truth buried with him. Without an autopsy or a serious investigation, that is where it remains to this day. […]

(Jack Cashill’s book is Ron Brown’s Body: How One Man’s Death Saved the Clinton Presidency and Hillary’s Future)

A month after the first Cashill article above ran, he published the following piece:

Time for Obama to talk about Ron Brown (April 3, 2008)

In early December 1997, after 18 months of successful damage control by the White House, the black community in Chicago finally learned of the anomalies in the death of Ron Brown.

Bill Clinton’s secretary of commerce, Brown had dreamed of becoming America’s first black president from the time he was a little boy. And although he was, as Joe Biden might have put it, as “articulate and bright and clean” as Barack Obama, he never got the chance.

Brown died on April 3, 1996 – 12 years ago today – when the U.S. Air Force plane in which he and 34 others were flying crashed “inexplicably” into a Croatian mountainside near Dubrovnik.

As reported in the Chicago Independent Bulletin, a group of black pastors, led by the Rev. Hiram Crawford of the Israel Methodist Community Church on Chicago’s south side, “blasted local black legislators for their apparent silence in this matter.”

The Bulletin article does not specify whether the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was among the pastors or whether then Illinois state Sen. Obama was among the blasted.

Given the proximity of Crawford’s south side church to Wright’s church and Obama’s Senate district, however, the pair had to have at least known about the protest.

As the Bulletin article reported accurately, Lt. Col. Steve Cogswell, a doctor and deputy medical examiner with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, or AFIP, had gone public with his concerns.

“When you get something that appears to be a homicide, that should bring everything to a screeching halt,” Cogswell was quoted as saying of Brown’s death.

Cogswell was referring to the “.45-inch inwardly beveling circular hole in top of [Brown’s] head,” which he described as “essentially the description of a 45-caliber gunshot wound.” Cogswell argued that at the very least the wound should have prompted an autopsy, but it did not.

So troubled were the Chicago pastors by what they saw as a “conspiracy to divert justice” that they called for the impeachment of President Clinton along with the opening of an investigation into Brown’s death.

Had the pastors known about the likely sabotage of the Dubrovnik airport’s aviation systems, the death by gunshot wound to the chest of the manager of those systems, the purloining of Brown’s head X-rays, or the “lead snowstorm” visible in the photos of the same, they would have been more outraged still.

There was something else the pastors did not know: Brown was desperate after his son Michael had been targeted by an independent counsel.

Nor did they know that Brown had threatened to reveal the still-buried details of the China fundraising scandal when President Clinton refused to intervene on Michael’s behalf.

After Cogswell’s revelations, White House troubleshooters went into overdrive. They had the AFIP impose a gag order on Cogswell while military police escorted him to his house and seized all of his case materials on the Brown crash.

The following day, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post did what the mainstream media routinely did during the Clinton years – attacked the president’s critics.

“Cogswell never actually examined the body,” Kurtz snickered about Cogswell, who had covered the Croatian end of the crash. Kurtz then added with preposterous certainty, “There definitely was no bullet because there was no exit wound.”

If the Post or the White House thought the outbreak had been contained, they were in for a surprise. In a refreshingly noble gesture, Lt. Col. David Hause, a pathologist who had been present for the Brown examination, went public in support of Cogswell.

To Kurtz’s claim that there was no exit wound, Hause and Cogswell both agreed a bullet could have traveled down the neck and lodged elsewhere in the body. They knew too that given White House pressure, there had been no time to search for an exit wound, let alone perform an autopsy.

The pressure from the black community continued to grow. On Dec. 18, the head of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, took the Brown case to the White House and demanded answers.

On Christmas Eve, veteran activist and former comedian Dick Gregory staged a protest and prayer vigil at the AFIP headquarters in Washington that culminated in the TV-friendly gesture of wrapping yellow crime scene tape around the area.

“We are not going to allow this to pass,” Gregory vowed. “There is very strong evidence the AFIP found a gunshot wound on Brown’s head and decided to cover up this evidence.”

The mainstream media largely ignored Gregory, just as they had Mfume. But there was one black leader neither the media nor the White House could ignore.

That was Chicago’s own Jesse Jackson, and he came forward on Jan. 5. With Jackson on board, reporters finally raised the Brown question at a White House press conference on that same day. They obviously struck a nerve.

“It’s time to knock this stuff off,” snapped press secretary Mike McCurry. “I’m not going to talk about this further or take any further questions on the subject.”

But the questions would not go away. A week later, a third AFIP pathologist came forward, Air Force Maj. Thomas Parsons. He agreed the hole was “suspicious and unusual” and worthy of an autopsy.

The chief forensic photographer who had first discovered the hole, Kathleen Janoski, offered public confirmation and support as well.

With momentum still building in the black community, the Washington Afro-American ran a lengthy front-page story on Jan. 17, 1998.

At this moment in time, the story had enough substance and biracial support to breach the firewall the mainstream media had constructed around the White House and shake Washington to its foundation, but this was not to be.

On that very same Jan. 17, Bill Clinton was about to swear under oath that he had no idea who Monica Lewinsky was. True to form, Newsweek tried to suppress the Lewinsky story as the Washington Post had successfully done earlier.

The Internet, however, now made suppression all the more difficult. Matt Drudge ran with the story and forced the major media to follow. By Jan. 21, the Monica tale had inundated the land and left every other news story gasping for breath.

Jesse Jackson and other ambitious black politicians had a choice to make. They could either pick away at the administration on a story that had just lost its legs or exploit the president’s Monica problem to their own best advantage.

Jackson chose to exploit. Dick Gregory continues his protest to this day. The three pathologists and the photographer had their careers destroyed, and it is unlikely that in his visit to Croatia this week President Bush will vindicate them.

As to Obama, he has kept his powder dry. Apparently, he feels no need to talk about Brown’s death unless he has to.

And unless he does, there will never be an investigation.

I’ll close with Cashill’s most recent article on the subject, which makes a few good points:

How Clinton-era mischief protects Obama (Oct 22, 2009)
By Jack Cashill

As late as the Woodward-Bernstein era, people who chased down good stories and reported the facts were called “reporters.” Today, they are called “conspiracy theorists.”

In trying to bust out the increasingly obvious story that Bill Ayers played a major role in the writing of Barack Obama’s “Dreams From My Father,” I have found myself hindered by my reporting on Clinton-era mischief.

Consider the following post on Powerline by its respected and halfway sympathetic editor, Scott Johnson:

“Cashill’s apparent penchant for conspiracy theories – a look at his Web site suggests he believes that former Clinton administration Commerce Secretary Ron Brown might have been murdered – should also give one pause.”

Unlike others who have attacked from the same angle, Johnson accurately includes a “might” in describing my conclusions about Brown’s death.

Before writing me off as some moonbat, however, Johnson and others might want to take a deeper look at why I came to the conclusion I did in my book “Ron Brown’s Body.”

What follows is just one detail out of many that should have interested any reporter. It involves a woman named Zdenka Gast, a Croatian-born American citizen.

U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith entered her name into the official record. Gast had been scheduled to fly with Brown to Dubrovnik on his fatal flight but thought better of it.

Said Galbraith to Air Force interviewer Capt. John Cairney, “There were problems in – in – in this – in concluding this deal where they wanted to sign a letter of intent, and so, rather than – than go on the Brown trip, she stayed with the Inron [sic] people to do the final negotiations.”

That is “Inron” as in “Enron.” At the time Gast was serving as liaison between Enron and the Croatian government. Brown had died for no nobler purpose than to secure a sweetheart deal between the neo-fascist president of Croatia and a notoriously corrupt American company.

I discovered this nugget in the 22-volume Air Force report eight years after the crash. When I tried to interest my major media contacts in the Enron angle – Enron was by this time a hot item – they chose not to know. The story gets better.

“We’ve been looking for [Zdenka],” Cairney told Galbraith. The Air Force obviously did not look too hard. Investigators conducted 148 witness interviews, but Zdenka Gast was not among them.

I found her in five minutes of searching. When I reached her contact person, I was told, “Don’t be surprised if she gets back to you in just a few minutes.” I am still waiting.

Inquiring into Gast’s background, I came across a Croatian-language magazine named Gloria. Although I could not read the text, the photo that graces this article leapt off the page at me.

In the center of three smiling women, all linked arm in arm, is Zdenka Gast, an attractive, full-figured redhead. On her left is the then–secretary of labor, Alexis Herman. On her right is none other than Hillary Clinton.

This was one article that I had to get translated. I did, and here is what I learned.

The story details a wedding reception for Alexis Herman at the White House, hosted by the Clintons. The reception took place a few weeks after Herman’s wedding in mid-February 2000.

Only 40 people were in attendance. Those named included Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al and Tipper Gore, as well as “several governors and senators.” Zdenka was about the only person there I had not heard of.

One would think that real reporters would find the Enron-Clinton connection at least interesting.

Or the fact that Hillary had made a quick side trip to Tuzla in Bosnia, Brown’s point of departure, nine days before Brown’s fatal flight.

Or that the Air Force concluded that the plane’s controlled descent off course and into a mountainside was “inexplicable.”

Or that the maintenance chief responsible for the airport’s navigation system showed up with a bullet hole in his chest the day before his Air Force interview.

Or that Brown’s fatal injury struck the forensic photographer and attending pathologist as having the size and shape of a gunshot wound.

Or that Brown was buried over the protest of the pathologists without an autopsy.

Or that a U.S. Navy criminal investigator informed the photographer that the first set of Brown’s head X-rays had been destroyed because they showed a “lead snowstorm.”

Or that the photographer and three Armed Service pathologists would sacrifice their careers going public with their discontent.

The mainstream media found none of this interesting enough to report on, despite the fact that the New York Times had a reporter on the doomed plane. None of them even requested the Air Force report.

For all of his flaws, Ron Brown never lost his core humanity. He was still capable of love, especially toward his children.

Just before his death, he and his son Michael were facing indictment on serious corruption charges. Brown reacted as a father would.

According to my source, Brown confidante Nolanda Butler Hill, Brown threatened the Clintons and their associates with exposure on their still unreported China fundraising as leverage for his son’s freedom.

The Clintons’ Indonesian, Chinese and American corporate allies had invested much in the Clintons and couldn’t have cared less about Ron or Michael Brown or the affection between them.

Any number of them would – and did – benefit greatly from Brown’s death. Whether accidental or not, it preserved their investments and likely saved the Clinton presidency.

A month after the crash, Michael Brown was playing golf with the president, and Nolanda Butler Hill was in hiding.

Eric Holder, then deputy attorney general, had warned Hill’s lawyer that her statements “were getting her into trouble.” She would soon enough be imprisoned on bogus tax charges. […]

“The [former] U.S. Ambassador to Croatia…[Peter] Galbraith is famous for having described the light rain that was falling when Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown’s plane crashed near Dubrovnik as the worst storm in a decade. He also approved the importation of arms by Croatia in violation of the U.N. embargo.” — Reed Irvine, Accuracy in Media, May 1999