"On the eve of its 50th birthday, NATO, a defensive alliance founded
to protect Western Europe from Soviet invasion, has struck hard at a sovereign
state that is not a threat to allies. Without a specific UN Security Council
authorization, NATO is intervening in a civil war, a war of secession, to
halt the cruelty with which it is being fought--especially by the Serbs.
In the process, the allies run the risk that their attacks might increase
the level of killing in Kosovo, drive the conflict into neighboring countries
and make a negotiated peace less likely." --Bruce W. Nelson,
Time, April 5
Images of War
It is difficult not to feel the urge to act. Grim pictures: A line of thousands
fleeing across the Kosovo border; 500,000, a million perhaps, emptying the
villages and towns of the war-torn province. Shattered buildings, pillars
of smoke rising, stories of mass killings, of men being pulled from cars
and shot point-blank in the back of the head.
It is difficult not to feel the urge to act.
But the path we've chosen, the route we are travelling down, is the wrong
path, immoral and ill conceived, designed ultimately to do little for the
ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo--or any ethnic minority forced to remain
under the yoke of the oppressive Slobodan Milosevic.
Rather than forcing the Serb leader to recognize and respect the rights
of the Kosovars to self-determination, rather than guaranteeing their well-being,
the bombings provide Milosevic with a chance to consolidate power by portraying
himself and his government as the victims of superpower aggression, by pumping
up the passions of Yugoslavia's hard-core nationalist minority and by plucking
the heart strings of Serbs who have been taught from birth to consider Kosovo
as a mythic, moral center, a cultural icon, an integral element in the Serbian
"We are for Slobo because he is for us," Velimir Djurica told
Time magazine from his plumbing stall in Belgrade's black market.
"The foreign boot must not be on us."
PRESIDENT CLINTON has attempted to portray the NATO intervention
in moral and humanitarian terms, but his reasoning--when scrutinized closely--doesn't
hold up. NATO bombs--and possibly ground troops--are justified to end the
slaughter of innocent civilians, to cease a genocidal purge of ethnic Albanians,
he says. The use of massive--and primarily American--firepower and the whole-cloth
destruction of the Serbian and Kosovar infrastructure is the big stick Clinton
says will convince Milosevic to mend his ways.
But there is no proof, no reasonable track record to show that air strikes
will be effective and it appears that, at this early stage (I write this
in the middle of April), based on the reports from the international press,
that Milosevic is bunkering down, that he is expecting national and nationalist
opinion to remain on his side.
"No nation, no matter how badly attacked from the air is going to rally
to the attackers," Palestinian scholar Edward Said writes in an essay
on Z Magazine's Web site (www.zmag.org).
"If anything, Milosevic's regime is now strengthened. All Serbs feel
that their country is attacked unjustly, and that the cowardly war from
the air has made them feel persecuted."
The heavier we bomb, the more recalcitrant he becomes, the more defiant,
the more he targets the Kosovars.
"In one incident, 70 men were lined up next to a river and mowed down
with machine guns into the water," John Daniszewski wrote in the Los
Angeles Times of the massacres that followed the first bombings. "In
another, 25 men, women and children were herded into a basement and shot
and slashed to death. In a third, 20,000 villagers were forced to concentrate
in a tiny hamlet, where they were bombed by a low-flying aircraft that left
scores dead and many wounded."
We have entered a vicious cycle in which Serbian persecution of Kosovo's
ethnic Albanian minority is followed by bombs, which is followed by an escalation
in anti-Albanian violence and more bombing. And with each turn of this horrible
wheel, with each rotation that ratchets up the terror and violence, comes
a intensification of the rhetoric. Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair strike moral poses and bellow ultimatums, compare Milosevic to Hitler
and portray the NATO mission as one that will prevent even worse destruction
down the road. Milosevic, for his part, stands defiant, accusing the west--and
in particular the U.S.--of being the aggressor and dragging his people along
behind him in his quest to be the region's strong-arm leader.
STILL, WHAT OF the half-million refugees streaming across the borders
into Albania and Montenegro? What of the mass killings, the genocide? What
of the human toll of not acting, of not stepping in to stop the slaughter?
We must do all we can to help the refugees, to find them shelter, to protect
them against violence. But we must not delude ourselves into thinking that
this is what the bombings are about.
Humanitarian concerns are not what compelled the Clinton Administration
to the air, are not the real impetus behind the bombings. A commitment to
global economic stability is.
The Turkish government has been systematic in its suppression of its Kurdish
minority, with estimates placing the number of Kurds who fled to Diyarbakir
as the Turkish army devastated the countryside at more than a million. But
the Clinton Administration remained silent there, standing by its ally,
the single largest importer of American arms and a country its sees as a
counterweight against the Muslim Middle East.
And it has remained silent in Rwanda, in Laos, in any number of hotspots
around the globe where it sees no immediate economic interest. And it has
come to the aid of the repressive Colombian government against its own people,
has backed dozens of dictatorships, where the dollars dictate that American
force be withheld.
SO WHAT TO DO? First, end the bombing. "Despite the desperate
efforts of ideologues to prove that circles are square, there is no serious
doubt that the NATO bombings further undermine what remains of the fragile
structure of international law," writes Noam Chomsky (Z Magazine
He points out that the decision to bomb essentially was made by the Clinton
Administration, with support from Great Britain, and that NATO members had
grave misgivings, with France seeking a UN Security Council authorization
for the deployment of a peacekeeping force and other NATO countries--Italy
and Greece, in particular--concerned about the fallout. But the U.S. forced
the issue, insisting that NATO had a right to act unilaterally, isolating
the Russians, who preferred that a diplomatic approach be considered, and
placing itself above the authority of the United Nations and the World Court.
This, Chomsky argues, quoting Samuel Huffington, makes the United States
a rogue superpower, giving rise to the possibility that "coalitions
may arise to counterbalance" American force in the future.
"On pragmatic grounds, then, the stance should be reconsidered,"
he writes of the bombing. "Americans who prefer a different image of
their society might call for a reconsideration on other than pragmatic grounds."
This is not to say that nothing can or should be done. In an essay posted
on the Institute for War and Peace Reporting Web site (www.iwpr.net), a
Yugoslavian human rights activist (whose name was withheld to protect his
relatives in Serbia) is calling for a "comprehensive strategy to change
the political tide towards a democratic--and in the Balkans that necessarily
means a regional--agenda."
"A key step would be to shift responsibility for the Balkans to Europe.
International ground forces must be deployed in Kosovo, and these would
be predominantly European. They would administer a protectorate under a
temporary administrator along the lines of the Rambouillet agreement (an
early truce settlement). That would mean both stopping ethnic cleansing
and the humanitarian catastrophe and securing all existing borders. And
they must spur the self-administration of Albanians in Kosovo and the return
There needs to be a concerted effort to investigate and prosecute war criminals--especially
Milosevic--and, as suggested by Edward Said, a "multi-party conference
of all the peoples of former Yugoslavia be called to settle differences
between them on the basis of self-determination for all."
In the meantime, it is important that those of us who see the bombings as
an abuse of American power make our voice heard and that we also work with
relief organizations seeking to help the refugees.
Morally, it is our only choice.
Hank Kalet is a journalist living in South Brunswick, N.J.
For other articles on Kosovo in this month's Progressive Populist,
The Bombing of Kosovo, by Michael Moore
War by Journalism, by Mike Madias
Second, Third and Fourth Thoughts on Kosovo,
by Marty Jezer
Bombing the Baby with the Bathwater, by Veran
The Search for Peace, by Jesse Jackson
Collar Milosevic, Other Criminals, by Joel D. Joseph
War is Hell, by James Galbraith
For other web sites that list information on the situation in Kosovo
(courtesy of The Nation) see:
Yahoo has extensive coverage of the Kosovo conflict, with
archived reports and ongoing coverage from sources such as
the BBC, CNN, C-Span, the New York Times, Pacifica Radio and
the Radio21 Albanian News. They also offer links to
organizations heading relief efforts, pictures of civilian
targets in Belgrade and a BBC map showing the attitudes of
key European countries toward the conflict.
This site is "fast evolving into what is in effect an online
magazine and research tool designed to keep the American
people informed about the U.S.-NATO military onslaught
against the people of Serbia." They post articles on the
conflict, including one that discusses how much of the
humanitarian aid being sent to the refugees is ending up in
the hands of the Albanian mafia, as well as letters from
readers and opportunities for action.
Protest.Net attempts to keep track of the more than 2,500
"leftist and progressive" protests, meetings and conferences
around the world. They offer information about protests
against US policy in the Balkans and in Iraq, as well as
regional listings of protests and a way to create your own
calendar to keep track of events.
JURIST: The Law Professors' Network
Information about the legal issues surrounding NATO
intervention in Yugoslavia, including a piece by Balkan
expert Robert Hayden, who argues that the Clinton
administration's proposal at Rambouillet gave NATO troops a
degree of control in Kosovo that no sovereign nation would
Institution for War and Peace Reporting
This is one of the few places to find dispatches, translated
into English, from dissident journalists within Serbia and
Kosovo, along with other good commentary.
A page of up-to-the-minute articles regarding the current
bombings. The lead piece by Noam Chomsky puts the entire
situation into context, and other pieces posted include Andre
Gunder Frank, Dave McReynolds, Diane Johnstone, Stephen Zunes
and Michael Albert.
Common Dreams News Center
Provides breaking news and views for progressive-thinking
Americans, with ample information on the crisis in Kosovo,
including maps and breaking updates from various news
Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting
FAIR's coverage of the war in Yugoslavia includes "Rescued
from the Memory Hole: Background of Serb/Albanian Conflict."
As the situation in Yugoslavia worsens and many are
questioning the effectiveness of the NATO air strikes, this
group has been founded to try to insure the distribution of
relevant information. This group is called Help B92, in honor
of one of Yugoslavia's most important media entities, Radio
B92, the backbone of the independent news service in
Yugoslavia. Without immediate financial support, this last
source of independent news for the inhabitants of this region
is endangered. A fundraising campaign is underway, with the
objective of sending money and equipment to B92 and other
independent radio stations in Serbia and Kosovo. For further
information check out the site or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help B92 in Amsterdam
The Help B92 team in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, have begun
to compile an archive of news stories in text and in audio to
provide accurate and up-to-date information.
Although banned, Radio B92 is still live on the web, with
breaking news in English.
Human Rights Archives on the Genocide in Bosnia (and now, Kosovo)
A very good Web page with myths-and-facts about Kosovo as
well as copies of International Tribunal reports on war
crimes in the former Yugoslavia. It is put together by
Michael Sells, chair of Haverford College's religion
department and author of The Bridge Betrayed, which analyzes
religion and genocide in ex-Yugoslavia.
Out There News
Reports from Kosovo's frontlines, interviews with Kosovar
pacifist leaders, photos of the destruction and historical
BBC News Online
The BBC offers live audio coverage and many articles on
Kosovo, as well as "Kosovo Conflict on the Web," with BBC
News Online's guide to how the conflict is being represented
on the Web.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NATO's site was unavailable for a while, apparently because
of a daily barrage by thousands of e-mails from hackers in
Belgrade, which made their system crash.
Against the NATO attacks/For the Support of Yugoslavia
This Serb site provides someone's immediate responses to
various Serbian and international news reports, a timetable
of the day's air raids, photos of the destruction in Kosovo
and a child's plea for peace.
How to help:
For updates on many groups that are helping Balkan refugees.
Catholic Relief Services
Box 17090, Baltimore, MD 21203. Phone: (800) 736-3467.
Doctors of the World
375 West Broadway, 4th floor, New York, NY 10012. Phone:
Doctors Without Borders
6 East 39th Street, 8th floor, New York, NY 10016. Phone:
International Rescue Committee
122 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10168. Phone: (877)
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