Illustration by Duci Simonovic, engaged artist and enraged philosopher, Belgrade, Serbia. The power of art is doubled when grounded in moral truth.
The NATO intervention in the Balkans, as seen by the victims.
A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF NATO’S purposes and activities
Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life // Dateline: February 2, 2008
Discussion led by William Blum
NATO is a treaty on wheels — It can be rolled in any direction to suit Washington’s current policy
HAVE YOU BY CHANCE noticed that NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has become virtually a country? With more international rights and military power than almost any other country in the world? Yes, the same NATO that we were told was created in 1949 to defend against a Soviet attack in Western Europe, and thus should have gone out of existence in 1991 when the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact expired and explicitly invited NATO to do the same. Other reasons have been suggested for NATO’s creation: to help suppress the left in Italy and France if either country’s Communist Party came to power through an election, and/or to advance American hegemony by preventing the major European nations from pursuing independent foreign policies. This latter notion has been around a long time. In 2004, the US ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, stated: “Europeans need to resist creating a united Europe in competition or as a counterweight to the United States.”
The alliance has been kept amongst the living to serve as a very useful handmaiden of US foreign policy as well as providing American arms and airplane manufacturers with many billions of dollars of guaranteed sales due to the requirement that all NATO members meet a certain minimum warfare capability.
Here’s some of what NATO has been up to in recent years as it strives to find a new raison d’être in the post-Cold War era.
It is presently waging war in Afghanistan on behalf of the United States and its illegal 2001 bombing and invasion of that pathetic land. NATO’s forces free up US troops and assume much of the responsibility and blame, instead of Washington, for the many bombings which have caused serious civilian casualties and ruination. NATO also conducts raids into Pakistan, the legality of which is as non-existent as what they do in Afghanistan.
The alliance, which began with 15 members, now has 26, in addition to 23 “partner countries” (under the reassuring name of (“Partnership for Peace”). Combined, that’s more than one-fourth of the entire United Nations membership, and there are numerous other countries bribed and pressured to work with NATO, such as Jordan which recently sent troops to Afghanistan. Jordan and Qatar have offered to host a NATO-supported regional Security Cooperation Centre. NATO has a training mission in Iraq, and Iraqi military personnel receive training in NATO members’ countries. In recent years, almost all members of the alliance and the Partnership for Peace have sent troops to Iraq or Afghanistan or the former Yugoslavia, in each case serving as proxy US-occupation forces.
Ironically, NATO is not averse at using materiel from the former Warsaw Pact, in this case a Bulgarian (Soviet-made) Antonov super-transport.
Israel has had talks with the alliance about the deployment of a NATO force in their country. India is scheduled to participate in upcoming NATO war games. The list goes on, as the alliance’s outreach keeps reaching out further, holding international conferences to bring together new and potential allies, under names such as the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, and the Mediterranean Dialogue (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia), or expanding military ties with existing international organizations such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates).
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, NATO gave the United States carte blanche to travel throughout Europe transporting men to be tortured. It’s like a refined gentleman’s club with some unusual member privileges. NATO also goes around monitoring elections, the latest being in Upper Abkhazia (claimed by Georgia) in January.
The alliance has military bases in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, and elsewhere in Europe, and regularly conducts “naval operations in the Mediterranean to actively demonstrate NATO’s resolve and solidarity”, as NATO puts it. This includes AWAC (Airborne Warning and Control) aircraft patrolling the Mediterranean from above and frequently stopping and boarding ships and boats at sea. “Since the start of the operation,” reports NATO, “nearly 79,000 merchant vessels have been monitored (as of 12 April 2006) … The surveillance operation utilizes ship, aircraft and submarine assets to build a picture of maritime activity in the Area of Operations.” The exercise includes “actions aimed at preventing or countering terrorism coming from or conducted at sea and all illegality possibly connected with terrorism, such as human trafficking and smuggling of arms and radioactive substances.” NATO is truly Lord of the Mediterranean, unelected, unauthorized, and unsupervised.
NATO has indeed acquired the trimmings and mentality of a separate, supranational state, hence its own flag. An example of naked power organized around the military fist.
NATO, which has ready access to nuclear weapons from several of its members (only with Washington’s approval), has joined the United States in its operation to surround Russia. “Look,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin about NATO as far back as 2001, “this is a military organization. It’s moving towards our border. Why?” As of December 2007, Moscow’s concern had not lessened. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister lashed out at NATO’s steady expansion into former Soviet-dominated eastern Europe, saying the policy “was a leftover from the time of the Cold War”. Finland — which shares a border with Russia of more than 1300 km — is now being considered for membership in NATO.
Ever since it undertook a Washington-instigated 78-day bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO has been operating in the Balkans like a colonial Governor-General. Along with the UN, it’s been leading a “peacekeeping operation” in Kosovo and takes part in the policing of Bosnia, including searching people’s homes looking for suspected war criminals wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The triumvirate of NATO, the United States, and the European Union have been supporting Kosovo’s plan to unilaterally declare independence from Serbia, thus bypassing the UN Security Council where Serbia’s ally, Russia, has a veto.
We therefore have the Western powers unilaterally declaring the independence of a part of another country’s territory; this because the Kosovo ethnic Albanians are regarded as much more reliably “pro-West” than is Serbia, which has refused to look upon the free market and the privatization of the world known as “globalization” as the summum bonum, nor shown proper enthusiasm for an American or NATO military installation upon its soil. Kosovo, however, does have a large US military base on its territory. Any attempt by Serbia to militarily prevent Kosovo from seceding would in all likelihood be met by NATO/US military force. You may wonder what a United States military base is doing in Kosovo. People all over the world wonder the same about their local American bases.
You may also wonder: What force exists to slow down the growth of the Mediterranean Monster? Who can stand up to it? The military elite of the triumvirate take such a question seriously. What they apparently fear the most is nuclear weapons in the hands of the wrong people; i.e., those who don’t recognize the triumvirate’s right to dictate to the world.
On January 22 the Guardian of London reported that the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands had released a manifesto which insists that a “first strike” nuclear option remains an “indispensable instrument” since there is “simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world”. The paper had earlier been presented to NATO’s secretary general and to the Pentagon. It is likely to be discussed at a NATO summit in Bucharest in April, along with the possible extension of the alliance to include five more former Soviet countries: Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, Albania and Ukraine.
The five generals who authored the report could have advocated a serious international campaign to begin the process of actually creating a nuclear-free world. Instead, they call for an end to the European Union’s “obstruction” of and rivalry with NATO and a shift from consensus decision-taking in NATO bodies to majority voting, meaning an end to national vetoes.
NATO’s top brass visiting their newest associates in Bulgaria. Bulgaria has been wooed and the courtship has been productive, the result of turmoil and corruption at the top levels of such nations, which now include several former Soviet republics. And Putin has no reason to feel NATO is trying—again—to encircle his country?
So there you have it. The international military elite are demanding yet more power and autonomy for NATO. Questioning voices in the alliance, in the European Union, or anywhere else should forget their concerns about a nuclear-free world, international law, pre-emptive war, wars of aggression, national sovereignty, and all that other United Nations Charter and human-rights nonsense. We’re gonna nuke all those Arab terrorists before they have a chance to say Allah Akbar.
The arrogance continues, with the manifesto specifying “no role in decision-taking on Nato operations for alliance members who are not taking part in the operations,” calling also for the use of force without UN Security Council authorization when “immediate action is needed to protect large numbers of human beings”. Now who can argue against protecting large numbers of human beings?
The paper also declares that “Nato’s credibility is at stake in Afghanistan” and “Nato is at a juncture and runs the risk of failure.” The German general went so far as to declare that his own country, by insisting upon a non-combat role for its forces in Afghanistan, was contributing to “the dissolution of Nato”. Such immoderate language may be a reflection of the dark cloud which has hovered over the alliance since the end of the Cold War — that NATO has no legitimate reason for existence and that failure in Afghanistan would make this thought more present in the world’s mind. If NATO hadn’t begun to intervene outside of Europe it would have highlighted its uselessness and lack of mission. “Out of area or out of business” it was said.
Democracy is a beautiful thing, except that part about letting just any old jerk vote.
“The people can have anything they want.
The trouble is, they do not want anything.
At least they vote that way on election day.”
Eugene Debs, American socialist leader, early 20th century
Why was the primary vote for former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich so small when anti-Iraq war sentiment in the United States is supposedly so high, and Kucinich was easily the leading anti-war candidate in the Democratic race, indeed the only genuine one after former Senator Mike Gravel withdrew?
Even allowing for his being cut out of several debates, Kucinich’s showing was remarkably poor. In Michigan, on January 15, it was only Kucinich and Clinton running. Clinton got 56% of the vote, the “uncommitted” vote (for candidates who had withdrawn but whose names were still on the ballot) was 39%, and Kucinich received but 4%. And Clinton, remember, has been the leading pro-war hawk of all the Democratic candidates.
I think much of the answer lies in the fact that the majority of the American people — like the majority of people all over the world – aren’t very sophisticated politically, and many of them aren’t against the war for very cerebral reasons. Their opposition perhaps stems mainly from the large number of American soldiers who’ve lost their lives, or because the United States is not “winning”, or because America’s reputation in the world is being soiled, or because a majority of other Americans express their opposition to the war, or because of George W.’s multiple character defects, or because of a number of other reasons you couldn’t even guess at. Not much especially perceptive or learned in this collection.
I think there are all kinds of intelligence in this world: musical, scientific, mathematical, artistic, academic, literary, mechanical, and so on. Then there’s political intelligence, which I would define as the ability to see through the bullshit which the leaders and politicians of every society, past, present and future, feed their citizens from birth on to win elections and assure continuance of the prevailing ideology.
This is why it’s so important for all of us to continue “preaching to the choir” and “preaching to the converted”. That’s what speakers and writers and other activists are often scoffed at for doing — saying the same old thing to the same old people, just spinning their wheels. But long experience as speaker, writer and activist in the area of foreign policy tells me it just ain’t so. From the questions and comments I regularly get from my audiences, via email and in person, and from other people’s audiences as well, I can plainly see that there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir’s thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda trick; they’re unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present; knowing the facts but unable to apply them at the appropriate moment; vulnerable to being led astray by the next person who offers a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe. The choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened.
As cynical as others may think they are, the choir is frequently not cynical enough about the power elite’s motivations. They underestimate the government’s capacity for deceit, clinging to the belief that their government somehow means well; they’re moreover insufficiently skilled at reading between the media’s lines. And this all applies to how they view political candidates as well. Try asking “anti-war” supporters of Hillary Clinton if they know what a hawk she is, that — as but one example — she’s promised that American forces will not leave Iraq while she’s president. (And Obama loves the empire as much as Clinton.) When Ronald Reagan was president, on several occasions polls revealed that many, if not most, people who supported him were actually opposed to many of his specific policies.
In sum, even when the hearts of the chorus may be in the right place, their heads still need working on, on a recurring basis. And in any event, very few people are actually born into the choir; they achieve choir membership only after being preached to, multiple times.
When I speak in public, and when I can mention it in an interview, I raise the question of the motivations of the administration. As long as people believe that our so-called leaders are well-intentioned, the leaders can, and do, get away with murder. Literally.
“How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.”—Gore Vidal
Another interesting view of the American electoral system comes from Cuban leader Raúl Castro. He recently noted that the United States pits two identical parties against one another, and joked that a choice between a Republican and Democrat is like choosing between himself and his brother Fidel.
“We could say in Cuba we have two parties: one led by Fidel and one led by Raúl, what would be the difference?” he asked. “That’s the same thing that happens in the United States … both are the same. Fidel is a little taller than me, he has a beard and I don’t.”
Speaking of political intelligence … take a little stroll with Alice through the American wonderland … just for laughs…
“This war [in Iraq] is the most important liberal, revolutionary U.S. democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan. … it is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad.” — Thomas Friedman, much-acclaimed New York Times foreign-affairs analyst, November 2003
“President Bush has placed human rights at the center of his foreign policy agenda in unprecedented ways.” –Michael Gerson, columnist for the Washington Post, 2007
The war in Iraq “is one of the noblest endeavors the United States, or any great power, has ever undertaken.” –David Brooks, New York Times columnist and National Public Radio (NPR) commentator (2007)
If this is what leading American public intellectuals believe and impart to their audiences, is it any wonder that the media can short circuit people’s critical faculties altogether? It should as well be noted that these three journalists are all with “liberal” media.
And when Hillary Clinton says in the January 31 debate with Barack Obama: “We bombed them [Iraq] for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors,” and the fact is that the UN withdrew its weapons inspectors because the Clinton administration had made it clear that it was about to start bombing Iraq …
Obama didn’t correct her. Neither did any of the eminent journalists on the panel, though this particular piece of disinformation has been repeated again and again in the media, and has been corrected again and again by those on the left. Comrades, we have our work cut out for us. The chorus needs us. America needs us. Keep preaching.
Teaching political intelligence
If you’re a high school or college teacher, you might want to look at http://www.teachpeace.com/highschoolkit.htm for teaching aids to impart a progressive outlook on US foreign policy and related issues to your students.
 Jewish Telegraph Agency, international wire service, February 16, 2004
 The Guardian (London), June 7, 2007, article by Stephen Grey, author of “Ghost Plane: The inside story of the CIA Torture Program” (2006)
 Associated Press, June 16, 2001
 Focus News Agency (Bulgaria)/Agence France-Presse, December 26, 2007
 Much of the NATO material can be found on NATO’s website: http://www.nato.int/home.htm. Also see an abundance of material at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/messages
 Associated Press, CNN.com, December 25, 2007)
 New York Times, November 30, 2003
 Washington Post, September 7, 2007
 Mary Eberstadt, ed., “Why I turned Right: Leading Baby Boom Conservatives Chronicle Their Political Journeys” (2007), p.73
William Blum, a Senior Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal, is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of his books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at <www.killinghope.org > Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website at “essays”. To add yourself to his mailing list simply send an email to <firstname.lastname@example.org> with “add” in the subject line. William Blum would like your name and city in the message, but that’s optional. He asks for your city only in case he’d be speaking in your area. Or put “remove” in the subject line to do the opposite. Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission. We’d appreciate it if the websites involved were mentioned.
ADDENDUM: Corroborating statements from witnesses on all sides of the political spectrum—except the center, nota bene!
FROM THE LEFT: Editorial Board of World Socialist Web Site
US-NATO bombs fall on Serbia: the “New World Order” takes shape
By the editorial board
25 March 1999
The editorial board of the World Socialist Web Site emphatically opposes the US-led NATO attack on Serbia. The massive air assault against a small country of less than ten million people is an act of naked imperialist aggression. It represents a qualitatively new stage in the eruption of American and European militarism.
As the British Financial Times pointed out: “The enormity of NATO launching its first attack against a sovereign state is not to be underestimated. Unlike Iraq, Belgrade has not invaded another country. Nor is the situation akin to Bosnia, where the legitimate government invited outside intervention. Nor, finally, has the United Nations Security Council specifically authorized NATO to bomb.”
It is a telling commentary on the state of American democracy that the US government feels free to go to war without even bothering to offer a coherent explanation for its actions to its own people. Without even a trace of embarrassment President Clinton acknowledged, only hours before the bombing commenced, that most Americans probably would not be able to locate Kosovo on a world map.
Without a declaration of war–indeed, without anything that can even be remotely described as a public debate–the United States has commenced the bombing of another country which has not harmed, or even threatened, a single American citizen.
What is the logic of this policy? The United States assumes the right to compel countries to change their policies in accordance with American demands, i.e., to relinquish sovereignty within their own borders. Even as ruthless a practitioner of imperialist realpolitik as Henry Kissinger has warned that the war against Serbia represents an extraordinary and unprecedented redefinition of the “national interest”–which now, it would appear, includes the domestic policies of other countries.
Though it has not been explicitly stated, the implication of this new “Clinton Doctrine” is that the United States may bomb and even invade countries whose domestic policies are not to its liking. This doctrine implies that any country in the world is a potential target for US bombing. It would not be difficult–based on the present state of world affairs–to draw up a list of 10 to 20 countries that could be considered likely candidates for military attack by the United States. And, were a deterioration of world economic conditions to lead to an exacerbation of trade tensions, the size of that list could quickly double.
The aim of these assaults is to establish the role of the major imperialist powers–above all, the United States–as the unchallengeable arbiters of world affairs. The “New World Order” is precisely this: an international regime of unrelenting pressure and intimidation by the most powerful capitalist states against the weakest.
The attack on Serbia follows a definite pattern. In recent years, military interventions by the US have occurred with increasing frequency. In less than twelve months the US has bombed the Sudan and Afghanistan and is, with the support of Britain, conducting a permanent war against Iraq. It is impossible to separate the assault on Serbia from this chain of events.
The official reasons given for the military intervention are utterly hypocritical. According to German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the bombing has been undertaken to prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe.” According to British Prime Minister Tony Blair it is necessary to “save thousands of innocent men, women and children from death, barbarism and ethnic cleansing by a brutal dictator.”
But looking back on the tragic consequences of the break-up of Yugoslavia, it is clear that humanitarian issues were the last concerns motivating the intervention of the big powers. In fact, the largest single act of ethnic cleansing carried out in the entire period–the Croatian army’s expulsion of 100,000 Serbs from the Krajina region into Bosnia–was carried out with the approval of the German and American governments, and directly supervised by American personnel.
A New York Times front-page article last Sunday reported that the war crimes tribunal in the Hague has concluded the Croatian army carried out summary executions, the shelling of civilians and “ethnic cleansing,” all of which occurred under the auspices of retired US military officers working in Croatia with the approval of Clinton and the Pentagon.
The Times report exposed the hypocrisy of the US government, which tailors its selective outrage over ethnic atrocities to its immediate military and geo-political aims. Three Croatian generals face indictment for the atrocities committed during the Krajina offensive, but the Pentagon opposes any legal action against them, claiming the shelling of Serb towns and villages was a “legitimate military action.” Milosevic, denounced by Washington as an international outlaw, is giving the same rationale for his present policy of shelling and burning Albanian villages in Kosovo that the US gives for similar depredations against the Krajina Serbs.
Viewed within an international context, the indignation of Europe and the United States over massacres and the suppression of national rights is even more cynical. While it sheds crocodile tears over the fate of the Kosovars, the United States provides military and financial support for the suppression of national and ethnic minorities by right-wing regimes all over the world.
A case in point is Turkey, a NATO member and strategic US ally, which is conducting a savage war against the Kurdish population in its own country. Turkish policy towards the Kurds is even more ruthless than that carried out by Serbia against the Kosova Albanians. Turkey makes it a crime to acknowledge a Kurdish national identity, and its military violence in Kurdistan affects far more people than the Serbian repression of Kosovo Albanians. Nevertheless, Ankara has never been threatened with military raids, the Turkish military is provided with weapons and expertise by the German and American governments, and the leader of the Kurdish national movement, the PKK, has been handed over, thanks to US intervention, to his Turkish hangmen.
In the air war against Serbia, military force has become its own raison d’être. As NATO governments and the media insist, the maintenance of NATO’s credibility demands that the US and its allies bomb now, because they have repeatedly threatened to do so in the past. Typical were the remarks of the German paper Die Welt, which declared, “NATO must strike,” because not to strike “would have consequences going far beyond the conflict in Kosovo. Its authority as a military and political protecting power would be destroyed…”
The World Socialist Web Site has no sympathy for Milosevic, nor does it support his policies. He is a former Stalinist bureaucrat, turned rabid nationalist and defender of bourgeois property, who tramples on the democratic and social rights of the people. In this respect he is not fundamentally different from Russian president Boris Yeltsin and many other heroes of the Western media.
However, the attempt to reduce the complex historical and political issues of the Balkans to the machinations of one bad man whose supposed thirst for power is the source of evil in the world is patently absurd. Given the traumatic experiences of Serbian history, no political leader–even one with none of the characteristics attributed to Milosevic–could have accepted the humiliating ultimatum delivered by the Contact Group of imperialist nations. Acceptance would amount to sanctioning foreign troops on Serbian territory and surrendering sovereignty over an area considered part of the Serbian state since the withdrawal of the Ottoman empire last century.
In 1914 an ultimatum by the Habsburg empire, threatening Serbian sovereignty in a similar way, triggered World War I. During World War II several hundred thousand Serbs fell victim to a genocidal assault supported by the German occupation army. With these memories still present, and with the German army returning to the stage of international war in the bombing of Serbia, the refusal to accept the US-sponsored ultimatum can hardly be blamed on Milosevic alone.
Indeed, the Western powers worked closely with Milosevic in implementing the ethnic carve-up of Bosnia under the Dayton agreement. The present war is directed not primarily against Milosevic, but rather against the Serbian population and the Balkan people as a whole.
The Kosovo Albanians, in whose behalf the war is supposedly being waged, will be amongst its main victims. With a huge part of the Serbian army concentrated in and around Kosovo, the province will inevitably become one of the main theaters of military conflict, with high civilian casualties.
According to a German government briefing of parliamentary leaders, NATO’s plan, should Serbia not give in after extensive bombardment, is to escalate the political and military offensive by backing the secession of Kosovo from Serbia and equipping the Kosovo Albanians with modern weapons.
The conflict in Kosovo must be placed in its historical context. Its cause is not the personality of Milosevic, but the breakup of Yugoslavia, which is the combined product of the collapse of Stalinist rule and the intervention of the major capitalist powers, especially Germany and the United States.
It was German support for the secession of Slovenia, and even more so its promotion of an independent Croatia in 1991, that triggered a series of nationalist eruptions, including the Bosnian civil war, the Croatian expulsion of the Krajina Serbs, and the Serbian crackdown in Kosovo. The NATO powers have intervened throughout the past decade to inflame and exploit national and ethnic tensions for their own purposes. None of the nationalist politicians in the former Yugoslavia and none of the Great Powers come to Kosovo with clean hands.
There is little reason to believe that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), should it take power in Kosovo, would behave differently than Milosevic, Croatia’s Tudjmann, the Bosnian Moslem leaders, or other nationalist politicians in the region. Nothing in the KLA’s past record indicates that it would treat the 180,000 Serbs living in the area differently than the Croatian army dealt with the Krajina Serbs.
The removal of Serb military forces would likely be followed by the mass expulsion of the Kosovo Serbs. Serbian resistance would likely be met with KLA massacres as bloody as those being carried out against the ethnic Albanians by Milosevic’s forces today. As the recent history of the Balkans, Rwanda and other international flash points has tragically demonstrated, those subjected to “ethnic cleansing” and national oppression at one point can, at the prompting of their own bourgeois nationalist leaders, become the perpetrators of such crimes at the next point.
The international press has provided extensive reports of the suffering of the Kosovo Albanians and their persecution at the hands of Serbian forces. But it has said little about the estimated 15,000 Serbs who have fled villages for towns in Kosovo since the beginning of open conflict in spring 1998.
According to a report issued by the Institute of War & Peace Reporting: “From late April until the end of June last year, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) undertook a series of offensives and took control of nearly 40 per cent of Kosovo. Serbs who lived in the villages under KLA control left their homes–sometimes of their own free will and sometimes forcibly, after their closest kin had been abducted and their houses surrounded and attacked with small-arms fire.”
The NATO attack on Serbia will have incalculable consequences for the stability of the entire region. It threatens renewed civil war in Bosnia, destabilizes Albania and Macedonia, and undermines the rump of Serb-controlled Yugoslavia. Belgrade could face the secession of Montenegro and ethnic unrest in the province of Vojvojdina, which has no majority population, but large minorities of Serbs, Croats, Hungarians and Romanians.
According to the German news magazine Der Spiegel, “Neighboring Macedonia, whose territory is greedily observed by the bordering states, would inevitably be drawn into the conflict: 420,000 Albanians live there. And the mother country Albania could militarily intervene on behalf of its embattled compatriots in Kosovo–a general Balkan war could hardly be avoided.”
In the final analysis, the escalating spiral of war, civil war and ethnic cleansing which has beset the Balkans demonstrates the historically reactionary character of the entire structure of national states carved out of the former Yugoslavia. As a result of the political interference and military intervention of the imperialist powers, the Balkans have been “re-Balkanized” in a manner that precludes both economic progress and the development of genuinely democratic conditions.
This policy, motivated by the most short-term considerations, may prove to have consequences far more serious than those anticipated by the Clinton administration. The decision by Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, on the way to an official visit to Washington, to turn his plane around and go back to Moscow, and President Boris Yeltsin’s subsequent decision to sever all ties with NATO, provide an indication of the destabilizing impact of these events on Europe as a whole.
A possible consequence is the emergence of an extreme nationalist regime in Russia. Already there are reports that Russia may supply arms to the Serbs if fighting develops on a large scale.
One of the three new additions to NATO, Hungary, has no common border with any NATO country, but does have a common border with Serbia, and clashes could break out there. The fragile relations between Turkey and Greece, both members of NATO and perpetually on the brink of war, could rapidly deteriorate should the war spread to Macedonia.
There are innumerable factors in this crisis that lend to the prevailing situation a tremendous degree of unpredictability. But the following can be said with certainty: whatever may emerge from the destruction and death produced by this latest eruption of US-NATO violence, it will be neither the peace nor the justice so fatuously promised to the peoples of the Balkans by President Clinton.
EVEN Right wing think tanks—in this case the Libertarian Cato Institute— denounced the Clinton-endorsed NATO assault on Yugoslavia in 1999. What follows, by CATO’s leading foreign policy analyst, Ted Galen Carpenter.
Bill Clinton, Aggressor
by Ted Galen Carpenter
This article appeared on cato.org on March 23, 1999.
THERE ARE SOME OCCASIONS when one should not mince words, and the spectacle of U.S.-led air strikes on Serbia is one. Put bluntly, if President Clinton orders an assault on Serbia, the United States will be guilty of committing a flagrant, shameful act of aggression. U.S. forces will be attacking a country that has not attacked the United States, a U.S. ally, or even a neighboring state. That is the very definition of an aggressor.
Belgrade is guilty of nothing except attempting to put down a secessionist rebellion in one of its own provinces. Nearly a dozen other countries have done the same thing in this decade alone — often with far greater bloodshed. Russia’s war in Chechnya, Sri Lanka’s conflict with Tamil rebels and Turkey’s suppression of the Kurds are merely a few examples.
The Clinton administration’s spinmeisters insist that Serbia is the aggressor in the current confrontation, but that argument twists language in a manner reminiscent of characters out of George Orwell’s novels 1984 and Animal Farm. “Aggression” is a long-standing concept in international relations, and it has a very specific meaning: unprovoked cross-border warfare — an unwarranted attack by one state on another. A country cannot commit aggression in its own territory any more than a person can commit self-robbery.
The argument that Serbia has committed aggression in Kosovo, thereby justifying military intervention by NATO, is not only an Orwellian distortion, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent. The traditional standard that developments within a country, however sad and tragic, do not justify military intervention by outside powers is one that should not be cast aside lightly. Without that limitation, weak and imperfect as it may be, the floodgates are open to intervention by an assortment of countries for any number of reasons — or pretexts.
Before the proponents of NATO intervention in Kosovo cheer too loudly, they ought to consider the potential ramifications. For example, might Russia and its ally Belarus someday cite the Kosovo precedent for attacking Ukraine because of the latter’s alleged mistreatment of Russian-speaking inhabitants in the Crimea? Could China and Pakistan argue that India’s suppression of secessionists in Kashmir is a humanitarian tragedy and a threat to the peace of the region, justifying joint military action against that “aggressor”?
Of course, the Clinton administration contends that the events in Kosovo are not really an internal Serbian affair, because the conflict might spread southward in the Balkans. According to that scenario, the fighting threatens to draw in Albania and Macedonia and, eventually, NATO members Greece and Turkey. That argument is a refurbished version of the old domino theory, and it is dubious on two levels.
First, it is curious (if not nauseating) to see Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and other alumni of the anti-Vietnam War movement make that argument. They ridiculed the domino theory when Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon invoked it during the conflict in Southeast Asia. They were even more scornful when Ronald Reagan invoked it with regard to the communist insurgencies in Central America and the Caribbean during the 1980s. Now, suddenly, they believe the theory has indisputable validity in the Balkans in the 1990s. At the very least, they owe the American people an explanation of their dramatic change of perspective.
Second, even if one accepts the dubious domino theory, the administration’s policy is making the spread of the Balkan conflict more rather than less likely. The Serbs are not the party with expansionist ambitions in the southern Balkans; the Albanians are. Kosovo Liberation Army commanders have stated that their ultimate goal is, not merely an independent Kosovo, but the creation of a Greater Albania. Nationalist groups in Albania openly circulate maps of Greater Albania — an entity that includes not merely Albania and Kosovo but an additional slice of Serbia, all of western Macedonia and a large chunk of northern Greece.
By facilitating Kosovo’s secession — and the NATO-imposed peace settlement is nothing more than Kosovo’s independence on the installment plan — the United States and its allies would be strengthening the very faction that is the most likely to stir up additional trouble in the southern Balkans. Thus, the administration’s policy lacks even internal coherence.
War against Serbia is unwarranted on strategic, legal and moral grounds. If air strikes take place, Serbia will be the fourth country Bill Clinton has bombed in the past seven months. That record is one of a trigger-happy administration that is creating an image of America as the planetary bully. Decent Americans need to make a stand when it has reached the point of a full-scale war of aggression against a country that has done us no harm.
Also of interest
America’s Coming War With China: A Collision Course Over Taiwan
A warning about what the U.S. must do quickly to avoid being drug into war.
Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and the author or editor of 10 books on international affairs._________________________________________
AND THE SUMMARY BELOW COMPILED BY GLOBAL RESEARCH, a RESPECTED leftwing think tank.
NATO AGGRESSION AGAINST YUGOSLAVIA: A CASE IN POINT
NATO’s Aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
Global Research, March 24, 2005
ARTEL – 2005-06-19
Belgrade Forum for World Equality Belgrade, March 17, 2005
This month, March 24th specifically, marks the sixth anniversary of the beginning of the NATO pact’s 1999 aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During the aggression, which lasted 78 days, thousands of people became casualties, a large number of whom were wounded and rendered disabled for the rest of their lives. The result was the destruction of the road and rail network, schools, hospitals, petroleum facilities and cultural monuments. The direct material damage is estimated at US$ 1 billion. The use of depleted uranium has lastingly polluted land and water the length and breadth of Serbia and Montenegro, particularly Kosovo and Metohija. The consequences on the population, particularly infants and children is being seen in terrible birth defects and this is just the tip of the iceberg which will only get worse with time. The ghosts of ruined buildings are still visible in the center of Belgrade.
The aggression of NATO on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia represents a previously unseen strike at the international legal system and relations and the entire United Nations system. Its motives and consequences represent the most important occurrence in world affairs since WWII. It was a war against Europe whose consequences are only now being accurately seen. NATO’s aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia represented the thin wedge of the doctrine of unilateral use of force in international relations and, after the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq the question asks itself, “Who is next?”
In the course of that aggression NATO became allied with the terrorist KLA. The results of this association is felt to this day in the continuation of terrorist activities against Serbs and other non-Albanians throughout Kosovo and Metohija, witnessed by the destruction of Christian cultural monuments and the ethnic cleansing of Serbian and other non-Albanian populations. The most visible evidence of this state of affairs occurred in the period of March 17- 19, 2004, when Albanian terrorists cleansed additional thousands of Serbs from the homes and hearths in which they have lived for centuries as well as destroying an additional 35 Middle Age Serbian churches and monasteries.
The consequences have been the maintenance of ties and the presence of ‘sleeper cells’ of Al-Quaidi in the Balkans. A further consequence is that over 250 thousand Serbian and non-Albanian refugees, who were forced from Kosovo during the 1999 NATO attack and afterward, have been denied the ability to return to Kosovo, contrary to all promises to the contrary.
The thesis regarding ‘frustrated Kosovo Albanians’ was manufactured and forwarded with the object of justifying NATO’s illegal attack and to move forward the detaching of Kosovo and Metohija from Serbia, and the creation of a ‘Greater Albania’ to the detriment of the lands of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Greece. The Albanians in Kosovo Metohija aren’t frustrated; that thesis was launched to expedite the implementation of plans for the changing of internationally recognized borders in the Balkans. Why does no one speak of the fact that Serbs are frustrated, particularly those in Kosovo and the over 250 thousand who can’t return to their homes? Are they unconcerned about the state of affairs? The Balkans and Serbia Montenegro need peace, stability and development. That is only possible within existing borders. Before the so-called final decision on Kosovo Metohija there must be a way found to return the 250 thousand refugee Serbs to Kosovo Metohija.
Attack on civilians
During the NATO aggression on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from March 24-June 10, 1999, NATO aircraft committed many multiple attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. In those attacks children, the sick, travelers, people on the streets, in the markets, refugee columns all suffered. Hospitals, homes, schools, churches and bridges were all attacked and destroyed. The spokespersons of NATO called these kinds of attacks ‘collateral damage’, even though the evidence shows that the purpose of these bombings was to terrorize and destroy the moral of the civilian population.
We remind the readers of some of the occurrences in which civilians were casualties:
April 4 – Heating plant in Belgrade (1 dead) April 12 – Passenger train at Grdelica (20 dead) April 14 – Refugee column in Kosovo Metohija (73 dead) April 23 – Radio Television Beograd (16 dead) May 1 – Bridge in Kosovo (39 dead) May 2 – Civilian bus near Savinih voda in Kosovo (17 dead) May 7 – Chinese embassy in Belgrade (3 dead) May 7 – Nis (14 dead) May 8 – Bridge in Nis (2 dead) May 13 – Refugee camp in Kosovo Metohija (48 to 97 dead) May 19 & 21 – Dubrava prison at Istok (99 dead) May 30 – Bridge at Varvarin (10 dead)
This is only a small number of the innocent civilians of NATO’s aggression. As humans, a people and a nation we have the moral obligation to honor all the other casualties of that aggression. On that other list of casualties let us remember 2 year old Milice Rakic from Batajnice, a suburb of Belgrade, the casualties of the bombing of the children’s ward of Dragisa Misovic Hospital in Belgrade and many others. Let us remember the thousands and thousands of wounded who are still with us, often without the basic minimum for existence.