Good morning and welcome to the briefing. In addition to today's regrets for yesterday's errant bombs, we would like to apologize for some of the collateral damage that previous briefers have done to the English language. We also are reviewing the transcripts to see if NATO spokesman Jamie Shea's answers in French, to questions from French-speaking journalists, have degraded that language as well.
First, we regret Air Force Gen. John Jumper's use of the term "force provider" in describing himself on May 14. Any implication that delivering bombs is the moral equivalent of providing health care services was unintended and unfortunate. Still, it was better than if the general had said he was the "supreme annihilator of ground-based life forms."
We would like to clarify a statement by a senior State Department official, reported on May 21, suggesting that we were monitoring the "fray rate" of the Milosevic regime. The official meant that we wanted to see how much distress and political instability our bombing was causing in Yugoslavia. We are, however, monitoring the "fray rate" of the seats of the pants of senior State Department officials. We are not as yet alarmed, but we are concerned.
We apologize to our friends in the media for State Department spokesman James Rubin's use of the term "non-expert talk" to criticize punditry about ongoing military events. Rubin meant no offense. He was understandably upset with commentators who have insisted that the NATO operation is comparable to Pickett's Charge, Waterloo, Gallipoli, or that episode when Larry and Curly try to enlist in the Army and wind up hiding in burlap sacks used for bayonet practice. Bona fide "expert talk," authorized by NATO, likens the operation to the Berlin Airlift, the Israelites slaying the Philistines, and the Yankees' glorious and decisive sweep of the San Diego Padres in the 1998 World Series.
We also would like to clarify a recent statement by President Clinton that described the hostilities as an "air war." There is no "war," as the term is commonly defined. The president was using the second variant of the first definition of the word, sub-definition B, as reflected by Webster's Third New International Dictionary, namely: "Conflict among opposing parties." Though he was not "wrong," the president would have been more accurate if he had said NATO is engaged in an air "conflict" in which it is "implementing" a "campaign" involving the "deployment" of "anti-personnel" devices against "homo" "sapiens."
In addition, we regret any misunderstandings created by Defense Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon's May 15 statement that "Yesterday was a high ops tempo." Ken was merely indicating that NATO had increased the rate of its bombing missions. He was not making an insensitive association between bombing and music, as in the movie "Apocalypse Now," when U.S. helicopters fly off to drop napalm on villages, blaring "The Ride of the Valkyries."
We would like to deactivate the April 21 statement by Jamie Shea that we had "deconflicted the flights of military equipment" so as to avoid any airborne mishaps by more effectively spacing our support missions. Unfortunately, this sounded like bureaucratic doublespeak. It is really quite straightforward; when NATO "deconflicts" flights, it is merely eliminating conflicts via rescheduling, the way one might prudently reschedule a luncheon with one's girlfriend if one had inadvertently scheduled it at the same time and place as one's luncheon with one's wife, resulting in embarrassment, anger, Apache helicopters launched, etc.
We are also reassessing Air Force Gen. Charles Wald's May 12 explanation as he narrated a videotape of a building being bombed: "The explosion egresses from various parts of the building." The general was not suggesting that an explosion exits a building in a polite and orderly manner, with a tip of the hat, like a pastor after Sunday tea. An explosion egresses a building the way green goo egresses a caterpillar when you step on it. We are trying to find a polite way to say that. When we do, we will get back to you.
And last, we regret our overuse of the term "permissive environment" to describe a condition under which NATO would occupy Kosovo only with a guarantee that Yugoslav forces will not be hostile to them. We realize, in retrospect, that this sounds a little effete, as though Churchill had said, "We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight them in the fields and in the streets; we shall never surrender . . . unless they are mean to us and make us cry." From now on, we will replace the term "permissive environment" with "cowering acquiescence by a broken and defeated enemy." Assuming that term is approved by President Milosevic.
Thank you. We will now take your questions.
Gene Weingarten is a staff writer for The Post's Style section.