of the BHHRG monitored the parliamentary and presidential elections held
in Serbia in Autumn 1997. Their report, published on the Group's web page,
reached the following conclusions:
serving two consecutive terms as president of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic
the Yugoslav Federation's constitution by not altering (or ignoring) its
provisions to seek a third term in office. He next stood for election as
president of Yugoslavia itself. Such respect for constitutional propriety
has not been
observed by everyone in the region: ["Democratic, Western oriented"
- according to Western press] Slovenia's president, Milan Kucan, has served
three terms in office in spite of the country's constitutional requirement
that the state president should only be elected twice. In other post-communist
countries (Georgia, for example) the terms of the constitution have been
strained to allow the incumbent to continue holding office.
.. Although BHHRG observers
found many shortcomings in the Serbian election process these were no more
serious than those observed in other places - the Yugoslav republic of
Montenegro, for example, which was hailed as exemplary by other international
monitoring groups. ...
.. Allegations have always
been made that there is no media pluralism in Serbia. Before the war there
were several opposition newspapers as well as radio and TV outlets. Numerous
anti-Milosevic foreign-funded NGOs [NATO-Nazi NGOs! Our comment.] also
operated in the country. By May 1999 much of the opposition media
had been closed down. However, large numbers of people receive foreign
television programmes via cable and satellite and, contrary to the received
wisdom, are aware of the situation of the Kosovan Albanians.
of the BHHRG failed to detect signs of the sort of behaviour associated
with a classic dictatorship while in Belgrade. People openly criticize
Milosevic - but not for the war. Many say they never voted for his
party the SPS but while the country is under attack they must stand together
whatever their political persuasion. Some, like Vuk Draskovic, [interviewed
by the BHHRG] criticize the Kosovan Albanians for boycotting elections
and thus giving the SPS a free rein. The 40 or so seats allocated to them
in the Serb parliament might have been won by the opposition which would
have severely reduced - or eliminated - the SPS's hold on power. He also
pointed out that opposition politicians favoured by the West, like Zoran
Djindjic, had forfeited any further chance of gaining public support by
leaving the country - Djindjic is in Montenegro with the West's other favourite,
President Milo Djukanovic. "He [Djindjic] will only be able to come
to power on the top of an American tank" says Draskovic who has stayed
in the country throughout the war.
that a war is on, police presence in the city is minimal. Even the
police who asked to examine the BHHRG's cameras were courteous and unthreatening.
Ordinary people were friendly and keen to point out that they did not blame
ordinary British citizens for the bombs that were falling on their country
every day. In both Bulgaria and Romania members of the Group were followed
by local police; crossing the Romanian border took three times as long
as crossing into and out of Serbia proper.
WILL THE SERBS BEND?
everyone we spoke to had endured some aspect of the bombing. People
talked about being thrown out of bed [after the bombing of the Socialist
Party headquarters, for example]; of the powerful winds that blow through
a building after a particularly heavy raid pulling the person into a vortex
and seemingly towards the epicentre of the attack. Door and window frames
break loose and the building shakes. One day there was even an earthquake
in Belgrade after an air raid on the city.
Marija S. a Belgrade housewife
is typical. She lives in a small, three-room apartment with her husband,
two children, younger brother and elderly parents. Her father has Alzheimer's
disease but she had to move him and her mother away from their home in
the vicinity of some of the heaviest bombing. Marija and her husband have
not worked since before the war and live on meagre savings. Pensions for
elderly people are paid late and not in full. Children all over Serbia
have not been to school for the past two months.
worst time for the family was when the first graphite bombs were used and
the electricity failed. Not only power but also water pumping facilities
are affected when this occurs. Nevertheless, they are not giving in nor
do they expect the government to bend on their behalf. Anyway, the
authorities have become better organized than ever before and the electricity
problems are sorted out quite quickly and efficiently.
There is no shortage of food.
Unlike many people in the West, Serbs do not live on a diet of fast-food.
The country's fields are properly husbanded and fresh produce is widely
available from peasant markets. Cars and buses are running, no doubt fuelled
by the large amount of illegal petrol that is reaching the country.
The BHHRG also visited the
Mufti of Belgrade who lives next to the city's only mosque. Despite the
fact that the war is (ostensibly) being fought on behalf of Muslim Albanians
the Mufti thinks it an attack on all Muslims as well as Serbs: "We
understand American politics from what went on in Sudan, Afghanistan and
Somalia. We understand now better than before". Like many people he
also attacked Clinton as an "immoral cowboy". ...
are fully aware of what is happening in Kosovo but would argue about
the causes of the tragedy there. This means that they are criticized by
Western commentators for being heartless. However, the remorseless nature
of the bombing (sirens warning of an attack wail twice a day) and the unpredictable
way the bombs fall mean that people's minds are, understandably, directed
towards their own plight. Although Serbs have often displayed a tendency
to self-pity they have a case when they point out that c.200,000 [actually
at least 500,000] Serbs were expelled from the Krajina in 1995 without
a similar outpouring of indignation. Bitterness about the treatment of
the Krajina Serbs often flares up. A hard-working representative from the
Yugoslav Red Cross pointed out that Kosovan refugees in Montenegro were
receiving aid to the value of 300DM per month last year whereas neighbouring
Krajina Serbs got c.30DM worth of goods. [Ten times less!]....
REPORT ON THE HUMANITARAIN
SITUATION BY THE YUGOSLAV RED CROSS
8, 1999 the Yugoslav Red Cross reported that since the bombing started
on 24th March more than 700 civilians have been killed and 6400 have been
injured. Obviously, this does not take into account what has happened since
including the dreadful casualities that resulted from the NATO bombing
on 13th May.
The largest number killed
or wounded are from Aleksinac, Surdulica, Dakovica-Prizren, Orahovac, Cacak,
Grdelica gorge, Kragujevac, Koris, Valjevo, Nis, Kragujevac and Belgrade.
Many of the wounded will be invalids for the rest
of their lives. An inevitable consequence of the bombing is that
a large number of people have lost their homes. The largest number of private
apartments destroyed are in Aleksinac, Surdulica, Nis, Novi Sad, Cacak,
Cuprija, Prokuplje, Kursumlija, Kraljevo and Belgrade.
destruction of factories and places of work has left 500,000 people without
jobs. If their families are included, this means that c. 2 million people
will be affected by this economic
catastrophe for the forseeable
In Novi Sad more than 90,000
people are without running water as pipes were destroyed when the bridges
were bombed. Added to this are the difficulties of transport and communication.
The destruction of the heating plant in Novi Belgrade will leave that part
of the city without heat in the winter if it cannot be repaired (or reconstructed)
have been hit and patients
killed; health clinics are destroyed in the bombing. The clinic in Aleksinac,
for example, which served over 60,000 people was wiped out. Disruption
of electricity means that high-tech. equipment (scanners etc.) in hospitals
are unusable. Medicines are in short supply.
Children gave not gone to
school since the war began and many
schools have been bombed. Children
are also among the victims some dying in horrific circumstances.
500,000 live below the subsistence
level, mostly pensioners. The Red Cross fears that their means to operate
soup kitchens will not stretch to the numbers they fear will be in need
of them, particularly when winter comes. Pensions are paid late.
There are large numbers of
internally displaced people both in Serbia proper and Kosovo _ the Red
Cross says there are c. 1.2m. Fear of bombing has caused over one million
people to relocate to the country or to be with friends. Added to which
are the existing 500,000 refugees from Krajina some of whom (11,500) went
to Kosovo and have endured displacemen twice now. Within Kosovo itself
the Red Cross estimates that 250,000 people a re internally displaced.
politicans and NATO spokesmen repeatedly deny that the war is directed
at civilians. The opposite is true: this is a war directed [at civilians...
...rumours abounded that the
KLA a shadowy organization with ties to Albanian leftist groups in Switzerland
and Germany was preparing to launch an armed struggle. The US was rumoured
to be promoting and financing it from an early stage. Many, including the
moderate Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, (and some Western journalists)
speculated that this was Milosevic-inspired disinformation. [Our comment:
this link to see how countless Western press spread the same "rumors".
Is Western press also filled with Milosevic "Milosevic-inspired disinformation"].
Others saw it as the natural response to the Ghandi-esque policies of Rugova
which had failed to deliver full independence.
1998 the violence worsened. Policemen, Serb officials and even Albanian
"collaborators" were killed by KLA snipers and, according to
the UNHCR, 90 Serbian
villages were ethnically cleansed
in the course of the year. Reprisals were taken against those considered
to be members of the organization. This involved the use of scorched earth
tactics whereby houses (in the case of Kosovo this often turned out to
be large compounds) were burned down to flush out the terrorists. However,
compared with Bosnia, where thousands were killed in a week during the
early part of the war in 1992 only 1700 Albanians
(mainly fighters) 180 Serb policemen and 120 Serb soldiers were killed
in Kosovo last year. The regime in Belgrade has not been stupid: it knew
that it was being provoked into massive retaliation and refused to respond
in the required manner.
killings in Kosovo were still the West's best hope of provoking the fall
of the Milosevic regime even though the conflict was of low intensity compared
with many other places in the world. By February the parties gathered
at the chateau of Rambouillet
in France to discuss peace. At the last moment, when it looked as though
some agreement might be reached the Americans handed
the Serb delegation an annex to the final document demanding freedom of
movement (and much else) to NATO troops and personnel not only in Kosovo
but throughout the whole of Yugoslavia. No sovereign state would have accepted
such terms. Naturally, they were rejected
not just by Milosevic but by a vote in the Serbian parliament.
The scene was set for the air campaign to begin.
.. Perhaps the diplomatic
players believed their own propaganda. Christopher Hill, the US ambassador
to Macedonia, was confident that Milosevic would cave in before the first
bombs fell despite being told by well-informed Serbs that this was not
going to happen. It is unsurprising in these circumstances that the NATO
allies were unprepared for what followed.
With such confusion and a
cavalier belief in the likelihood of Serb capitulation at the last minute,
NATO went to war. Despite attempts by CNN among others to talk up the conflict
by showing what purported to be the large movement of refugees from Kosovo
in the preceding months few appeared to have moved
out of the province before March 24th. There were no camps before then.
After the bombing began huge numbers of refugees flooded out of the province.
The rest is history.
THE SOUTH EAST EUROPEAN
The dissolution of Yugoslavia
in 1991 displeased the West as did the emergence of little nations with
their motley collection of individual ethnic minorities. Officials at the
US Department of State began to envisage a renewed federation - something
more ambitious than the former Yugoslavia because it would include countries
like Romania, Albania and Bulgaria. In fact, it would resemble something
very similar to the Stalin Dimitrov Plan scotched by Tito in 1948 [but
now under NATO-Nazi monetary and military control].
According to the idea's proponents,
such a Federation would work more effectively if it was composed of ethnically
pure units. So, Bosnia itself was destroyed as a multi-ethnic state and
put together again as an uneasy federation of ethnically-based groups.
Croatia still has Serbs in Eastern Slavonia but complaints about the treatment
of this minority persist - even if they have been put on the 'back-burner'
while Croat cooperation is sought in the Kosovo war. Anyway, Croatian
nationalism has been even less popular with the international community
than the Serb variety. Although the Milosevic regime was responsible for
waging war on these two countries during the early nineteen nineties the
West never tried convincingly to stop this happening.
Further south, multi-ethnic
Macedonia weighed down by the influx of ethnic Albanians into its territory
is threatened with disintegration and there are signs that the Macedonian
minority in Bulgaria is flexing its muscles. Watch for a possible change
of borders there. Both Romania and Albania have minorities that could secede
from the central authorities.
fomentors of such a policy need to deal with weak and pliable states. [Our
comment: "Weak states" are usually called - Banana Republics,
or colonies]. This Serbia has failed to be. Although the Serbs will
often resort to elaborate historical myths and tiresome nationalistic rhetoric
they are less likely to be pushed around, as has been amply proved. In
fact, the West's bullying has actually toughened
Belgrade's stance on Kosovo. Whereas before 24th March 1999 many
people would have abandoned the province they now see it is as being inextricably
tied up with their own survival.
Of course, the US desire to
reinvent the former Yugoslavia is also tied to economic considerations
including the ambition to control oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia
and the Caucasus region via the Black Sea. [Our comment: NATO's mass murder
throughout ex-Yugoslavia was "Strictly business - nothing personal"
- as Mafia boss would explain in "Il Padrino" movie.] Whether
the Russians, who have been somewhat supine in the Kosovo conflict, will
also accept such acts of economic imperialism remains to be seen.
of thousands of people have been rendered homeless and many others maimed
and killed as a result
of the West's political machinations and military blunders
since 24th March 1999. NATO leaders' pronouncements that this conflict
is about human rights seems to be a cruel and dishonest fig leaf put forward
to hide strategic ambitions in the Balkans.
Hague War Crimes Tribunal is unlikely to be a forum for objective justice,
as presently composed. Far from promoting the rule of law the Tribunal
is controlled by NATO countries: the chief judge is American, the
chief prosecutor Canadian. Until NATO took sides in this conflict this
was not necessarily a flaw of the Tribunal but now its impartiality must
This means that no one from
a NATO country is likely to face prosecution for war crimes - such as alleged
breaches of the Geneva Convention. However, the words of Major-General
Curtis LeMay who spearheaded the bombing of Japan in World War 11, including
the dropping of the first atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki could be
prophetic: "I wasn't particularly worried about getting the job done.
I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal".
It remains to be seen who will win this war and what the response of countries
like China will be to the outcome.
Even if the conflict stops
with a carefully crafted NATO 'victory' the region will remain unstable
with more wars - between Albanian and Albanian, for example - possible.
The followers of Ibrahim Rugova and those of the KLA are already deeply
distrustful of one another - the former are alleged to control large sums
of money collected as taxes from the Albanian diaspora over the past few
years. The KLA, according to the Wall Street Journal (20/5/99) would dearly
like to gain access to these funds. Either side could be joined by Albanians
from Albania proper who support one side or the other as well as different
political formations in Albania itself. And, far from having their hands
burnt, it is also likely that the period of reconstruction
that will, inevitably, follow the conflict will offer Western governments
fresh opportunities for meddling in the internal politics of Serbia and
the rest of the Balkans. Large numbers of consultants, analysts
and experts will descend to 'rebuild' the country - and its neighbours.
There will be rich rewards for those who do what the donors want. A major
sticking point for Western politicians in the past has been Serbia's failure
to enter into the right kind of business deals [the "deals" that
would make Serbia - Western colony]; all these issues will be on the table
In other words, there is little
optimism that much good will come out of the tragic war over Kosovo. Other
places have been watching events in the Balkans with interest. For example,
a Polish diplomat publicly stated that neighbouring Belarus 'met all the
conditions' for a similar invasion by the West. And during the recent presidential
campaign in Slovakia, people have been told by state and private media
that if they vote for Vladimir Meciar the country will meet the same fate
as Yugoslavia. In the Caucasus region there is unease about the future
of disputed regions like Nagorno Karabakh.
The question is: will the
United States and its allies have the stomach for taking on any more adventures
of this kind? If they do, the world could face the
nightmare predicted in George Orwell's 1984 with small, low-grade
wars going on all the time while people become dehumanized, impoverished
and ultimately reduced to meaninglessness. THE END.