"The struggle of people against power," wrote Milan Kundera,
"is the struggle of memory against forgetting." The idea that
the Nato bombing has to do with "moral purpose" (Blair) and
"principles of humanity we hold sacred" (Clinton) insults both
memory and intelligence. The American attack on Yugoslavia began
more than a decade ago when the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund set about destroying the multi-ethnic federation
with lethal doses of debt, "market reforms" and imposed
Millions of jobs were eliminated; in 1989 alone, 600,000 workers,
almost a quarter of the workforce, were sacked without severance
pay. But the most critical "reform" was the ending of economic
support to the six constituent republics and their recolonisation
by Western capital. Germany led the way, supporting the breakaway
of Croatia, its new economic colony, with the European Community
giving silent approval. The torch of fratricide had been lit...
In spite of his part in the blood-letting of Bosnia, Milosevic, the
"reformer", became a favourite among senior figures in the US State
Department. And in return for his co-operation in the American
partition of Bosnia at Dayton in 1995, he was assured that
the troublesome province of Kosovo
was his to keep. "President Milosevic,"
said Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy, "is a man we can do business
with, a man who recognises the realities of life in former
Yugoslavia." The Kosovo Liberation Army was
dismissed by Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright as "no more than terrorists".
Last October, the Americans drafted a "peace plan" for Kosovo that
that was pro-Serbia, giving the Kosovans far less autonomy and
freedom than they had under the old Yugoslav federation.
But this deal included, crucially for the Americans, a Nato military
presence. When Milosevic objected to having foreign troops on his
soil, he was swiftly transformed, like Saddam Hussein, from client
to demon. He was now seen as a threat to Washington's post-cold war
strategy for the Balkans and eastern Europe. With Nato replacing
the United Nations as an instrument of American global control,
its "Membership Action Plan" includes linking Albania, Macedonia,
Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. Like Poland, Hungary and the Czech
Republic before them, these impoverished countries will be
required to take part in a "22 billion weapons" buildup. The
beneficiaries will be the world's dominant arms industries of the
US and Britain - the contract for fighter aircraft alone is worth
pounds 10 billion.
Like the 1991 "moral crusade"
in the Gulf, which slaughtered more
than 200,000 people, including the very minorities the West claimed
to be protecting, the terror bombing of Serbia and Kosovo provides
a valuable laboratory for the Anglo-American arms business. Mostly
unreported, the Americans are using a refined version of the
depleted uranium missile they
tested in southern Iraq, where
leukaemia among children and birth deformities have risen to match
the levels after Hiroshima. The RAF is using the BL755
"multi-purpose" cluster bomb,
which is not really a bomb at all
but an air-dropped land-mine: readers will recall the Blair
government's "ban" on land-mines. Dropped from the air, the
BL755 explodes into dozens of little mines, shaped liked spiders.
These are scattered over a wide area and kill and maim people who
step on them, children especially.
Britain's new military-industrial-arms trade, which Margaret
Thatcher built and the taxpayer subsidises through "soft loans"
to dictatorships, is central to the "Blair project". Each time
New Labour has sought to bring big business into the fold, arms
companies or their representatives have been at the head of the
queue. A New Labour backer is Raytheon, manufacturer of the
Patriot missile and currently under contract to the Ministry of
Defence to build tanks. More arms contracts have been approved
by the Blair government than by the Tories; and two-thirds of
arms exports go to regimes with appalling human rights records -
such as the dictatorship in Jakarta, which is currently
deploying death squads in East Timor.
Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that British-supplied small
arms have caused in East Timor the equivalent of the Dunblane
massacre many times over. Last year, the Defence Secretary,
George Robertson, intervened in a Courtaulds Aerospace deal
for armoured vehicles, headed for Indonesia's Kopassus special
forces whose commander, General Prabowo, he described (in a
letter to Robin Cook) as "an enlightened officer, keen [on]
human rights". Kopassus is the Waffen SS-style force that
spearheaded the invasion of East Timor, murdered five
journalists and is responsible for the worst atrocities in the
illegally occupied territory. When Prabowo's father-in-law, the
tyrant Suharto, was toppled from his throne last year, the
general was also sacked.
no bombs will fall on Jakarta. They might hit the local offices
of British Aerospace (supplier of machine guns and Hawk fighter
bombers) and the Defence Export Sales Organisation, the Blair
government's official merchants of death who, as Thatcher used
to say, "are batting for Britain".