American troop deployments in Kosovo were the subject of a debate in the House of Representatives on March 11. A resolution authorizing President Clinton to contribute U.S. ground troops to a NATO peacekeeping mission in the troubled province was supported by 219 members, just one more than a majority. While the vote cut across party lines, the White House and most Democrats opposed holding the vote in the midst of negotiations, but the Republican leadership brought the resolution to the floor any-way. Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) voted for it, while Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and Majority Whip Tom Delay opposed it.
Even more troubling than the possibility of sending American soldiers into an ethno-religious civil war was the misuse of historical argument and analogy used to justify it.
During eight hours of debate, the importance of Kosovo to the Serbian identity was never mentioned. Kosovo was part of the original heartland of Serbia. In 1389, the Muslim Ottoman Turks defeated the Orthodox Serbs' greatest hero. Prince Lazar, at the Field of the Blackbirds on St. Vitus' Day. A number of Serbian nobles had accepted Turkish vassalage, but the prince is revered because he died in battle rather than suffer the dishonor of surrender.
Serbia would not regain its formal independence from the Turks until 1882, but it won autonomy within the Ottoman Empire in 1817 after a series of bloody rebellions....