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The Kosovo Crisis
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The New Rome & The New Religious Wars
By Gregory R. Copley, Editor
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version of this article.
“No nation is fit to sit in judgment on any other nation.”
— Woodrow Wilson, 1915
“I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people.”
— Edmund Burke, 1775
Conflict is normally initiated as a response to the demands of national interests. National interests are usually defined as those things necessary for the survival, stability or prosperity of the state. The evolution of civilization has meant that, before a decision is taken to launch a conflict, there is today, in most cases, the availability of a greater foundation of factual intelligence, and more pragmatic — or at least more broadly-based — analysis of national requirements, conducted by professionals working within evolved frameworks to ensure dispassionate objectivity. The ramifications of the use of certain weapons technologies have always played a rôle in the decisionmaking process. Today, given the unparalleled destructive scope of weapons, it is rational to assume that considerations of the environmental, political, economic and social damage of a conflict would be weighed heavily before conflict was engaged.
The entire process of the consideration of conflict as a means to resolve differences between civilized societies, then, should have a weight of logic, an understanding of history, and a grasp of the ramifications for future generations. Once the process concludes, and the decision to engage in conflict is taken, that decision and the rationale for it are believed to be sound, or else why would the decision have been taken?
In other words, belief in the correctness of the decision is based on factual reporting and analysis, weighed in the matrix of national interest.
But what if the belief came first, and the supposed basis for this belief was never subjected to the rigorous analytical and logical process which is today regarded as fundamental before the destructive power of modern weapons is employed?
In such a case, we would have a war prosecuted as a war of belief, which, if not based on empirical analysis derived from sound intelligence and historical understanding, coupled with political experience, becomes, literally, just another “religious war”.
Robert Eisenman, the famous scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls, wrote in his recent book, James, The Brother of Jesus: “One must be able to divorce one’s faith, on the one hand, from one’s critical faculties and historical judgment on the other ... Otherwise, one will be unable to make any real progress on the road to discovering the historical reality behind the period before us.” His words, in discussing the events around the period of the origins of Christianity, are equally apt today.
We are today at a strange confluence of history, when some 2,000 years after the Jewish War (66-73 CE) against Rome, we see the emergence of a new power acting in a similar fashion to the Rome of that period. Then, and earlier, the Jews rebelled against Rome and against other overlords, to protect their religious beliefs, in a process which ultimately led to the Christianization of the Roman Empire. But the Romans also fought out of belief in themselves and against any who dared to challenge. The suppression and the responses were very much based upon belief systems rather than merely on the matter of national or imperial interests. On many occasions, it is true, Rome fought to protect its interests and to project its power. But when Rome was globally unchallenged, as it was during its occupation of Jerusalem and the old Jewish kingdoms, it used power for vengeance, and often on the personal whims of emperors such as Nero (54-68 CE) or his successor, Vespasian.
The reality was, ultimately, that Rome could ill-afford the luxury of ill-conceived and gratuitous mis-use of its might. There were consequences for all its actions. Indeed, in the wars today between the factions of Christianity — and in many ways the current Balkan war is (separate from the involvement of extreme radical Islamists) a fight between Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism, a fact totally missed in nominally secular Western Europe and the US — linger as a direct result of the political warfare which characterized the Roman attempts to dominate and seduce the various Jewish sects of 2,000 years ago.
Religious wars were once again the norm in medieval Europe, and, for that matter, much of the rest of the world during the Middle Ages. Today, it is easy to look back on such conflicts as being cruel and wasteful, based as much on superstition, ignorance and jingoism as on a productive pursuit of national objectives. As history progressed through the creation of the modern nation-state with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and then the Industrial Revolution, wars became more a matter of national interests. These national interests — and indeed the framework of state-to-state alliances — were often built around geographical or social-ideological parameters.
The ideological wars of the 20th Century, while they may appear as “belief system wars”, were nonetheless wars of competing national interests. The ideologies may superficially be compared with religions, but where they differed from religious belief is that the ideologies were grounded in human methods of societal management, not divine ones. As such, the ideological wars represented, to a greater degree than the religious wars, conflicts between lifestyles and economic systems. [This is also true to a degree of the religious wars, but ideological wars fought over which system had the best claim on the future management of societies; religious wars tended to focus on which form of status quo was better.] Of course, all societies have retained the need to value their ideologies as being “morally superior” in the prosecution of war (ie: religiously correct in some sense, whether formal religions were used or not).
Even so, society evolved — or is supposedly evolving — beyond the age of the purely ideological war, into a global framework in which national interests are defined by a more lassaiz faire approach, under which sovereign identities were supposedly respected, and under which a variety of approaches to lifestyles, economic systems and the like were tolerated. The theme in the late 20th Century, when it became clear that the Western version of civilization had “won” the Cold War, was supposedly one of tolerance for the systems, views, religions and customs of others. Indeed, it appeared as though civilization had indeed progressed well beyond the need to even think in terms of religion as a basis for conflict. Those who still considered religious belief as the basis for waging war — such as the radical Islamists (not to be confused with the mainstream Muslim states) — came to be regarded as backward and barbaric.
And yet we are now witnessing a return to what might be called “the religious war” era. The West, which ostensibly pioneered the progress to more “rational” behavior, now appears to be spearheading an approach to war and strategic affairs which is based solely around unsubstantiated beliefs, and around the voodoo of pseudospeciation. Pseudospeciation is that phenomenon by which individuals and groups protect their sense of identity by viewing other groups as “less than human”, and therefore less worthy of consideration, more able to be disregarded and destroyed.
As Nobel Prize-winning author Elias Canetti pointed out, society as a whole feels the need to witness, and therefore participate in, the execution of outcasts (such as murderers). By reinforcing who are the outcasts, the circle of society feels superior, comforted.
But pseudospeciation is not a basis of rational, civilized management of society, nor today a valid system for the prosecution of wars. It is a form of rabid exclusionism which is identical to racism, not founded on any rational evidence. It is a blood lust, fueled by jingoism and war dances. Today, the war dances are the arcade-game visions of laser-guided destruction shown on television and the ritualized posturing of leaders to create the televised images of power.
That is the basis on which the President of the United States, William Clinton, using the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as his vehicle, began a major military and political assault on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in late March 1999. However — and this cannot be stressed too strongly — the evidence shows that this began very much as the action of President Clinton (rather than the US Government or NATO), and was taken against the advice of professional intelligence and defense analysts.
Once such a decision is taken — to commit the country to war — there is generally, in the US, a closing of ranks as politicians and generals, intelligence analysts and the media, all fall in behind the Commander-in-Chief.
It is virtual political suicide for any US politician to appear to oppose the basis for the deployment of troops into combat lest the country appear divided and the forces seem to be unsupported at home. President Clinton knows this, and has repeatedly used the gambit of the deployment of US forces “into harm’s way” in order to quell opposition at home, particularly if the “opposition” appears to have a major problem to present to him.
[Similarly, the US media, for a variety of complex reasons, generally moves in the same fashion, in a bloc, which would lead outsiders to believe that a uniform censorship had been imposed.]
Despite this, at the time of writing (April 9-25, 1999), domestic US opposition to the Clinton decision was mounting. What was significant was that at the same time, the Clinton Administration spearheaded the resumption of military strikes against Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein. This had all the hallmarks of a situation whereby, if Clinton was forced to scale back operations against Yugoslavia — and certain negative information started to return to the front pages of US newspapers — there would be another military campaign to re-capture the media attention and continue to offer some kind of protection for the President from criticism while “our boys are at risk”.
There were several major threats to Clinton domestically during this period. One, which came to a head on April 12, 1999, was connected with the civil law suit brought against the President by Paula Jones, who alleged that the President had sexually accosted her. A ruling on April 12 by Judge Susan Webber Wright stated that Pres. Clinton had deliberately lied in his legal responses on the case, and damages were awarded against him. The matter was also referred to the Arkansas Bar to rule on whether Clinton, a lawyer by profession, would be disbarred from the legal profession.
The other, and far more serious matter, concerned the impending revelation of the details of dealings between the intelligence services of the People’s Republic of China and the Clinton-Gore White House. The 700-page Cox Report was, as President Clinton ordered the ramping up of military actions against Yugoslavia, awaiting declassification and release. The results of this would have been devastating to Mr Clinton and to the hopes of election (to the Presidency) of the current Vice-President, Al Gore.
Given the previous use by Pres. Clinton of force abroad to distract from the legal processes at home, it would be naïve in the extreme to believe that this, his most serious problem yet (involving, as it does, matters which could be construed as treasonable), would not have been sufficient cause for him to begin a war abroad.
It is equally logical that the US defense establishment would not wish to face this fact. There is little it can do to resist the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, even when the C-in-C’s judgment is open to question. Better to buy the lie and head off to battle.
The Clinton Administration has, as this journal has noted in the past, always had “enemies” ready to be raised at a moment’s notice, to be used to distract attention. In the matter of Kosovo, given the personal animosity to the Serbs held by Secretary of State Madeline Albright and US Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith, it was not difficult to keep a case against Yugoslavia ready for elevation to the spotlight. It is equally interesting that the far more strategically-important conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, still underway, has failed to receive the same attention from Mr Clinton.
Equally, the horrific and very easily-documented slaughter of innocents by the present Rwandan Government of Vice-President Paul Kagame goes unnoticed in the Clinton White House. The sporadic separatist conflict in southern Mexico receives no attention at all. The Sudanese civil war is referred to in passing; the Sierra Leone civil war — a human tragedy of enormous scale — goes without comment. And there are others.
No, the Kosovo situation was the easy target; the one already primed in the media to offer the most opportunity for Mr Clinton’s purposes. It was a natural.
In a meeting with this writer on April 19, 1999, in Belgrade, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic posed the rhetorical question: “Can it be possible for a country, such as the United States, to be a democracy at home, and to be anti-democratic abroad?”
To seek historical precedents we need only look at Imperial Rome and Britain during its imperial phase.
In the 11-12 1992 edition of this journal, I wrote: “Incoming President Clinton will be tempted to take fast, populist decisions on the Balkans crisis, and these could be fatal for any chances for peace there.” The same article noted: “Bill Clinton campaigned for the US Presidency without touching on strategic issues. Now he must learn to lead the US through the most dangerous global morass for perhaps 70 years.”
That was 6½ years ago, and few outside Yugoslavia were aware even where Kosovo was. In the February-March 1994 edition of this journal, some five years ago, staff writer T. W. (Bill) Carr wrote:
“Other areas, perhaps with even greater potential for ethnic conflict [than northern Serbia], are Kosovo and the Sanjak region of Yugoslavia. Here the problem is an explosive mixture of religion and nationalism with roots reaching back in remote history and the Tito era. Adjacent to Kosovo is Muslim Albania from whence came 95 percent of the present day population of Kosovo.”
“Tito’s parents were from Croatia and Slovenia, and during his Administration, Tito maintained power in Yugoslavia, not just by holding back economic development within Serbia, but by taking positive action to counter the strength of the ethnic Serbs; a strength which is derived from the size and geographical spread of the Serbrian population.”
“He moved Serbs out of their religious heartland, Kosovo, the place where they had fought their most historic battle against the Ottoman Turks. At the same time, Tito encouraged Albanian Muslims to move into the area vacated as a means of soliciting favor from Middle East Muslim countries. When subsequent discriminatory action and violence drove Serb families out of Kosovo he did nothing to prevent the exodus. Today [February-March 1994], a situation prevails where US officials say that if Serbia ‘invades’ Kosovo then the West must attack Yugoslavia using the full might of NATO. It seems that these [US] officials do not realize that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. How can a country attack itself?”
“In effect, what they really mean is that self-determination is paramount; Principle Eight overrules Principle Three of the Helsinki Accords. This is the direct opposite of the situation in the Krajina, where the same [US] officials say Croatia’s Hitler/Tito-generated borders are paramount; Principle Three overrules Principle Eight. Is it any wonder that the Serbs feel aggrieved and are bewildered by Western logic, or rather the lack of it?”
“Just like the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Albanian Muslims draw encouragement from Western statements and threats against Yugoslavia over Kosovo.”
Carr went on to say: “Trouble will only erupt [in Kosovo] as a result of provocative action by the Muslim population within Kosovo, or from outside interference. In such circumstances, Yugoslavia has a choice of action. It can withdraw from its own territory, or it can take forceful action to suppress civil unrest, knowing full well that the latter will result in heightened media attention on a massive scale, followed by political demands for the UN Security Council to take military action against Yugoslavia.”
Significantly, in 1995, a year after this report by Bill Carr, US officials, including US Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith, and retired senior US military officers (acting in contravention to rules forbidding their work as mercenaries for a foreign power), worked directly with the Croatian Government to support the Croatian “ethnic cleansing” of the Krajina region — which had been Serb occupied for some 500 years — forcing some 250,000 ethnic Serbs from their homes and lands. The media was not present. The dead — and there were many of them — were not counted. The quarter-million-plus refugees were forgotten, and remain forgotten although they still have not been given international support.
Before the partition of Yugoslavia, ethnic Serbs owned more than 60 percent of the land of what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina. Under the ultimate settlement, in which they were unwilling participants, their landholding shrank dramatically. They were, in large part, thrown from their lands, and many remain as refugees. There has been no outcry for them.
This writer covered parts of the war during the early 1990s, and saw only one side of the conflict covered by the general media. The damage to the Serbs; the reduction of their lands, and the flow of their people into homelessness was never covered.
In 1929, Serbs constituted 61 percent of the Kosovo population. They remained a majority until World War II, during which many were killed or driven from their homes by the German occupiers and/or their neo-nazi allies among the Kosovo and Bosnian Muslims [who provided enough volunteers for an SS division to fight, also, on the Soviet front].
After 1945, the Tito (communist) Government made it illegal for Serb refugees to return to their homes in Kosovo. Over the next five decades, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants poured across the badly-policed border with Albania. These were economic refugees, fleeing the poor management of the Stalinist Albanian Government into a more liberal economic system which, although bad by Western European standards, was — and still is — vastly better than in Albania.
There is a general impression internationally that the region of Kosovo and Metohija — usually referred to internationally just as Kosovo — is populated solely (or predominantly) by people of Albanian origin. This is misleading. There are 20 separate ethnic communities living in the area: or were until the NATO bombings began on March 24, 1999. There are, in fact, 26 separate national communities living in Yugoslavia, making it the most multi-national, multi-religious state in the Balkans.
There are some 2,500 Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches in Kosovo and Metohija, of which about 1,200 were built between the Eighth and 19th Centuries and which are classified as international treasures. Kosovo is the home of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the official residence of the Orthodox Patriarch.
As well, it is worth noting that literally every place name, river name, and so on in Kosovo and Metohija is of Serbian linguistic origin; there are no “Albanian” names there, given the history of the region. Kosovo itself means “a field of black birds” [Kos is a black bird]. The name Metohija means “the land of the monastery”.
These facts give some idea of the spiritual identity of the region with Serbian beliefs, as well as the most important fact that Kosovo was the birthplace of the Serbian nation, the site of its defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and its eventual freedom from Turkish domination.
And while Serbs within the Yugoslav Federation have no problem with granting a high degree — even “an unparalleled degree”, as one senior Yugoslav leader told this writer — of autonomy to the Albanian-origin community in Kosovo, it is inconceivable that any Yugoslav leader would contemplate the kind of independence for Kosovo which was planned by the Rambouillet “agreement” which was unilaterally thrust on the Yugoslavs in 1999. It was absolutely known by the Clinton Administration that the wording of this ultimatum, which had been published two days before it was delivered to the Yugoslav delegation in Rambouillet in a KLA journal, was expressly designed to be rejected by Belgrade, thus providing the political excuse for the commencement of US-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. The fact that all of the real parties to the Kosovo dispute had already, on March 15, 1999, signed an accord which would have given the requested autonomy was disregarded because the US supported only the KLA solution, knowing that it had “its” air force — that is, the air forces of NATO — to help enforce its will.
There was considerable under-estimation by the KLA and by the White House, however, of the determination of the Yugoslavs to resist such pressure.
The Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosove (UCK) or Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has several “parents” — including the Iranian and Bosnia-Herzegovina governments — and several important “midwives-cum-doting aunts”, including the United States, Croatian and Turkish governments and a wide range of individuals. The KLA would not be the significant factor it is today in the Kosovo crisis, however, had it not been for the blessing of the United States Clinton Administration, and for the direct and indirect support given to it by the Clinton Administration.
It now seems clear that the US Clinton Administration and the German Government have been actively supporting the KLA since 1992 with weapons, training, intelligence and, most importantly, significant political encouragement. The final turning point in KLA fortunes came when US special envoys Richard Holbrooke and Peter Galbraith posed in 1998 for pictures with the KLA leadership, thereby cementing the endorsement. Ironically, the KLA has its origins in the stalinist/leninist/maoist Albanian Party of Labor of the late Albanian leader Enver Hoxha. Today, although clearly of a maoist bent — its leader, Adem Demaci, uses the maoist clenched fist salute constantly — it also uses the appeals of nationalism and religion to win converts among the Kosovar Albanians.
Gradually, following the end of the stalinist era in Albania in 1992, the KLA, by now mainly operating out of Germany and among the expatriate Albanian Kosovars, as well as inside Albania, began drifting more toward becoming a purely criminal organization, almost totally preoccupied with narcotics trafficking and extortion to sustain itself. Not much has changed since then, apart from the addition to the KLA’s persona of political-military support from the Iranian Government and then from the US and German governments.
In a landmark report — Italy Becomes Iran’s New Base for Terrorist Operations — written for Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy in late 1997, and published in the April-May 1998 edition, Senior Editor Yossef Bodansky noted: “[B]y late 1997, the Tehran-sponsored training and preparations for the Liberation Army of Kosovo (UCK — Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves — in Albanian; OVK in Serbian), as well as the transfer of weapons and experts via Albania, were being increased. Significantly, Tehran’s primary objective in Kosovo has evolved from merely assisting a Muslim minority in distress to furthering the consideration of the Islamic strategic access along the Sarejevo-to-Tiranë line. And not only by expanding and escalating subversive and Islamist-political presence can this objective be attained.”
“In the Fall of 1997, the uppermost leadership in Tehran ordered the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps; the Pasdaran] High Command to launch a major program for shipping large quantities of weapons and other military supplies to the Albanian clandestine organizations in Kosovo.”
“... [B]y early December 1997, Iranian intelligence had already delivered the first shipments of hand grenades, machineguns, assault rifles, night vision equipment, and communications gear from stockpiles in Albania to Kosovo ... the Iranians began sending promising Albanian and UCK commanders for advanced training in [Iranian-controlled] al-Quds forces and IRGC camps in Iran. Meanwhile, weapons shipments continue. Thus Tehran is well on its way to establishing a bridgehead in Kosovo.”
The report detailed the KLA’s requirements for men and equipment, and outlined the KLA’s proposed theaters of operations.
The report further went on to say that the KLA’s radical wing was considering the assassination of the leader of the moderate Democratic League of Kosovo (DLK), Dr Ibrahim Rugova, and Fehmi Agani, the DLK deputy chairman, and blaming Belgrade for the killings. Dr Rugova, however, escaped assassination and remained in Yugoslavia to help negotiate a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis. Even after the NATO bombings began on March 24, 1999, he remained in Yugoslavia to help negotiate an end to the crisis, a move which has led KLA sources to “leak” to the media the fact that Dr Rugova was, in fact, “a virtual prisoner” of the Yugoslav Government, something which Dr Rugova’s visibility in the Yugoslav media should have dispelled.
Dr Rugova’s position, however, is not one which the US Clinton Administration wishes to hear. The US committed itself to the KLA, and therefore to trying to break off Kosovo — with its 20 ethnic groups, not just the Kosovar Albanians — into a separate state. So the thought that Dr Rugova was “a virtual prisoner” remained in the media interpretation, blessed by the Clinton White House. Either because of political commitment, or to simplify the public’s perceptions, the Clinton Administration has promoted the view that the KLA represents those Kosovo residents of Albanian origin. Clearly, the KLA does not. The KLA has for some years based its revenue collection on extorting money from expatriate Kosovars under the threat of assassination of their relatives at home, and on drug trafficking and violence aimed largely at the Kosovo people themselves.
The KLA is the principal proponent of the “greater Albania” philosophy, under which the organization first hopes to achieve an independent Kosovo under its control and then to use that base to take over Albania itself, given that Albania is currently in a virtual state of anarchy. Before that stage is reached, however, the swelling Albanian minority in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM) would be targeted for either complete takeover or for the “Albanian part” to be targeted for “independence”. These are objectives which the KLA does not bother to hide. However, the German and US administrations have chosen to ignore these objectives, and the ongoing criminal activities of the organization.
As noted, the KLA, supported since 1992 by the US and Iran — who are, in fact, strategic opponents, given the Iranian clerical administration’s structural incompatibility with the West — received much support and training from the radical Muslim leadership of Bosnia-Herzegovina, under President Alija Izetbegovie. It may be a matter of some significance that during 1992, before William Clinton became US President, he signed, as Governor of the US State of Arkansas, an “initiative” with the “Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina”. In response, the Bosnians “pronounce[d] the month of April 1992 as ‘The Month of Bosnia-Berzegovina and Arkansas’”. The Official Gazette of the Bosnians, in February 1992, published the following item, dated February 15, 1992: “On acceptance of the initiative of the governor of the state of Arkansas, on establishment of close cooperation with the Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina: The initiative of the governor of the state of Arkansas on establishment of close cooperation between the Socialist Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the field of culture, education, economy, science and other forms of cooperation is hereby accepted.”
The implications for the KLA are apparent in this closeness.
Ironically, the KLA’s head of élite forces, Muhammed al-Zawahiri, is the brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the military commander for Saudi-born terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden. The US Clinton Administration has, of course, declared bin Laden “public enemy number one” for his alleged involvement in the bombing of the two US embassies in East Africa in 1998. And Ayman al-Zawahiri has been implicated in the assassination attempt in 1995 against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Little wonder that numerous US policy analysts, even those who are hostile to Yugoslavia as a basic stance, are extremely uncomfortable with the Clinton Administration’s close ties with the KLA.
There is no doubt that the involvement of the two brothers al-Zawahiri in the two movements is not coincidental. Ben Works, director of the Strategic Research Institute of the US, noted: “There’s no doubt that bin Laden’s people have been in Kosovo helping to arm, equip and train the KLA. ... [T]he [US] Administration’s policy in Kosovo is to help bin Laden. It almost seems as if the Clinton Administration’s policy is to guarantee more terrorism.”
Noted strategic analyst and columnist, former US Army Colonel Harry Summers, said on August 12, 1998, that in Kosovo, the US found itself “championing the very Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups who are our mortal enemies elsewhere”.
The KLA’s criminal activities are well-known in Europe, but in nearby Italy, they are of greatest concern, because increased war will make its first impact on the European Union’s prosperity by affecting Italy. In the first two weeks of January 1999, alone, there were nine murders carried out in Milan by KLA assets. The line between the KLA and the other purely criminal Albanian mafia elements is now indistinguishable.
And yet this is the group favored by the Clinton Administration (and as a result by the Blair Administration in the UK) over the moderate Kosovo Albanian leaders who have always sought to create a situation in which Yugoslavs of Albanian origin could live, pray and work in harmony alongside the other 25 Yugoslav nationalities. Indeed, Clinton and Blair deliberately overturned a workable agreement signed by all Yugoslav parties in Kosovo so that the KLA-written “Rambouillet Accords” could be served up as an ultimatum to the Yugoslav Government.
Agim Gashi, 35, an ethnic Albanian from the Kosovo capital, Pristina, was, until his recent arrest, the major drug dealer in Milan. In a March 15, 1999, article (ie: before the bombing began) by writer William Norman Grigg, an Italian police telephone intercept was cited in which Gashi urged his Turkish heroin suppliers to continue shipments during the holy Muslim period of Ramadan. Gashi said that the continuation of the shipments was for the sake of an important cause: “To submerge Christian infidels in drugs.” But at least part of the billions which Gashi made from the narcotics trade went to buy a variety of weapons for the KLA. Most of the weapons were from pirated Russian stocks, ironically. Today, Russia is trying to reinforce Yugoslavia in the fight against the KLA and NATO.
Grigg’s article continued:
Most people cling to their belief in fiction — that is to say things which may be suppositions or direct lies, or myths, or things for which realistic substantiation has not been provided — far more passionately than they cling to their belief in “truth”; that is, fact-based or evidentially-based realities. Partly this is because belief in things which have been accepted as “fact” can be modified by the production of newer facts, without affecting the ego, or sense of self-worth of the individual. Beliefs which are based on faith alone, and which accord with some sense of correctness within the individual’s own logic system (but which are not necessarily rooted in facts or evidence), are cleaved close to the breast. That is because, in order to have faith and to believe based merely on a command to believe a given thing involves committing one’s sense of identity. To doubt one’s beliefs casts doubt on one’s sense of identity, and identity is the key to self-esteem and survival.
Once a target audience believes in something, based, say, on the statement of a credible leader or leaders, backed by trusted institutions, it is difficult to dislodge that belief even though massive and overwhelming evidence is produced. And when a leader, supported by various institutions, creates belief based on a direct lie in a confused situation, where refutative evidence is difficult to produce (or cannot be heard in the clutter of blood-lust and zeal), then it can reasonably be expected that the truth may never prevail. Or it may emerge so late as to be of little value. In some instances, it takes the passage of considerable time, perhaps generations, before societies can accept that certain historically-held beliefs were false, and based solely on lies.
In order to move societies in the direction leaders wish them to go, it is necessary to appeal to belief systems. In normal times, the entreaties of leaders are subject to a process of debate and logical evaluation by target audiences and by key opinion-shapers. In times of urgency, disaster, chaos or national emergency, the normal pattern of critical evaluation is lost as the need to confront a perceived common threat dominates the entire society. Clearly, under such circumstances, leaders (and situations) often cannot tolerate the delay, division and hesitancy caused by a process of debate. It is easier to coalesce the minds of the leader’s target audiences by crystallizing the argument in such a way that debate is not even considered. If a lie moves the audience in the desired fashion, then a lie is often used.
Often, it is true that “the bigger the lie, the more easier to sway the audience”; a lie so overwhelming in its audacity that it is inconceivable to believe that it could be undertaken. This is often justified by the claim that the end justifies the means.
But what if the leader’s desired ends are themselves open to question? Or what if, by using lies to achieve ends, injustices are committed or societies irrevocably changed for the worse? And if the leader is from a democratically-based system of government, is he ethically able to use such “big lie” tactics and still claim to be the legitimate leader of an electorally-based state?
Most experienced policy professionals would say that it is sometimes necessary to be “economical with the truth” in order to preserve security, morale or the process of speedy decisionmaking. But that is very different from basing an entire strategic posture on a bedrock of lies, promoted in such a way as to create a destructive set of beliefs in the minds of one’s own citizens or foreign target audiences.
What we are seeing now in the so-called Kosovo Crisis is the use of “the big lie” technique on such a massive and repeated scale, primarily by the Clinton White House, that it has laid the foundation for the destruction of a stable global environment. That is in the medium-term. In the short-term, it is leading rapidly into a war with no meaningful goals, no prospect for an easy resolution, and with costs which will severely damage the economies not only of Yugoslavia, but also Western Europe (indeed all NATO countries) and Eastern Europe for some time to come.
To protect the ethnic Albanian population which had taken over Kosovo? That is, for humanitarian reasons? If humanity cries, do not the refugees of Sierra Leone (who have been more harshly hit and in greater numbers in the currently ongoing war) have a claim to this humanitarian relief? Or the people suffering in the Sudanese civil war? Or the tens of thousands of dead and wounded and displaced in an equally senseless war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, still underway? Or the Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims forced out of their homes since 1991? As many as a million of them were forced to flee into the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where they have been accommodated without assistance (in any real sense compared with the support for the Albanians) from the international community for up to eight years already.
What about the millions of Afghan refugees forced into Pakistan?
What is it about the Kosovar Albanians — who fled for economic reasons from Albania to the protection and prosperity of Yugoslavia in increasing numbers since 1929, but who do not call themselves “Yugoslavs” — which demands greater charity and humanity than the millions of dead, displaced and brutalized Rwandese?
We must assume that there is more to this selectivity than merely the horror of “that brutal dictator” (as Milosevicwas called by US Secretary of State Madeline Albright). [Ms Albright conveniently forgot that Mr Milosevic, although in many ways unpopular before the bombing, was voted into office in elections which would have passed muster in the US, and he received a higher percentage of this democratic vote than President William Clinton received in the United States. He was helped at that time by the fact that the opposition was not sufficiently united; today, however, as members of the former opposition say: “There is no opposition; we are united to resist aggression.”]
The biggest lie has been the one unspoken: the reality that the entire effort of invading Yugoslavia had nothing directly to do with Yugoslavia or the Kosovo problem. The truth is that any credible and sustainable (ie: medium-duration) catastrophe which would divert the media and political attention away from the serious charges facing the Clinton White House would have been acceptable. Of course, only a military conflict would fit the bill: only under circumstances of “war” can the President credibly expect that divisive domestic issues be put aside.
But if this conflict has been sparked by several big lies, as well as playing on the massive ignorance of Western societies as to the history of the region, it has been sustained by an ongoing litany of lies on the part of the Clinton and Blair administrations and by NATO. This is not a comment made idly; this writer has been covering international security affairs for almost four decades and has never seen such a scale and audacity of lying as is now the case. Even the Soviets, the masters of disinformation, rarely seemed to match this current atmosphere of “say anything to get through the day”.
One case in point was the bombing by NATO aircraft of four Kosovo refugee convoys in one day during the week of April 11-17, 1999. The attention focused around one of the convoys — the one which Yugoslav authorities first reached, and filmed, and to which they brought journalists later — which at first NATO denied attacking. NATO authorities at first said that it could have been attacked by Yugoslav Super Galeb fighters, flying low. Gradually, however, the NATO spokesmen had to retreat, a step at a time, from that position, although always maintaining that “some Yugoslav aircraft” could have been in the area and added to the carnage. NATO released video and audio tapes which they later admitted were, in fact, not connected with the incident at all. Then they released stories about how difficult it was to identify targets from 15,000 feet. However, it is clear from the unscrambled voice communications between the USAF F-16 fighter and the EC-130 AWACS that the pilot could identify the ground traffic and questioned his AWACS controller about the target's validity.
The four convoys were made of Kosovars who were returning to their homes in the Dakovica area of Western Kosovo-Metohija, not far from the Albanian border. They were moving away from the Albanian border, not attempting to “flee” from the “ethnic cleansing”. Given that the Clinton Administration has made it clear that Kosovars cannot be allowed to re-settle their lands without NATO supervision, this phase of the bombing war was not going as planned. The continuation of the NATO strategy depended upon the continuing horror and tragedy of the refugees fleeing into Albania and Macedonia.
NATO spokesmen, including the politically ambitious NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark, said: “We may never know what really happened.” Clearly, that is not true.
It is usual and necessary, in a combat situation, for military personnel to believe in their mission; that they are “the good guys” and the others are “the bad guys”. During the Vietnam War, US service personnel had a variety of slang names for their North Vietnamese and Viet Cong opponents, other than just NVA (North Vietnamese Army) and VC. It was part of the “them and us” syndrome. Note the slang used in the air war: “red MiGs”. The implication is that the opponents, or defenders, are “communists” — the dreaded bogey of the Cold War — flying MiGs, the ubiquitous Soviet-era fighter synonymous with “the enemy”, just as Messerschmitts were synonymous with “nazis”.
Clearly, the Yugoslav Air Force does have some MiGs, but it also has locally-made aircraft. And since 1948, Yugoslavia certainly was not a communist state of the type of, say, East Germany, Hungary, Poland or Czechoslovakia, all now members of NATO (with their own MiGs still in service).
The jargon is symptomatic of pseudospeciation, the mind-set of racism which groups automatically adopt to sustain their belief systems. Even a former US Ambassador to NATO, speaking on BBC TV in the UK on April 22, 1999, said that NATO must dispose of the last pocket of communism in Europe before European progress could continue. If that is so, then Albania — the new ally of NATO — should worry: it still sustains, where it has any government at all, a communist structure by any other name. So, too, does Croatia, which prides itself on being philosophically in the camp of Western Europe. Croatia, despite the fact that it has had less external constraint than Yugoslavia, has achieved far less in the way of privatization of commerce and industry. Croatia is a State-dominated economy, with dramatically less freedom of speech, movement and religion, than is Yugoslavia.
And yet the impression of Yugoslavia as a “communist bastion” is being perpetuated in the West. The Yugoslav populace is baffled by the West’s view of it, and as reluctant as it is to embrace the friendship of Russia, it feels that it has little option: the Orthodox peoples must stay together in the face of anti-Orthodox hatred. This complements the belief among many in Yugoslavia that the Vatican is heavily-involved in the attempt to isolate them.
Such a belief is not unreasonable given the
The fact that Clinton insisted on keeping up the bombing campaign through Orthodox Easter inevitably made Serbs draw parallels with the nazis in World War II. It was on April 6, 1941, Palm Sunday, that the Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade when the Yugoslavs hesitated to surrender. Some 5,000 people died, virtually all civilians.
For a comprehensive understanding of this era it is necessary to read, among other things, The Web of Disinformation: Churchill’s Yugoslav Blunder, by the late Dav Martin [Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1991]. Read it, and weep.
The endless trail of disinformation, or just plain lies, continues at all levels during the current conflict. In 1992, when this writer was visiting Yugoslavia on one of the many assignments into the conflict zone, he was told repeatedly by Serbs: “We know that the truth will come out and that people will remember that we have always been the allies of the West, and that we would never do the things the media is saying about us.” History is written by the winners, however; and victory is as much the product of the pen as of the sword.
The US, hoping to obtain a bargaining tool to win the release of the three US soldiers held captive as Prisoners of War by the Yugoslavs, sent a mission inside Yugoslavia in April 1999 to capture a Yugoslav officer. This they did, snatching a 20-year-old lieutenant. But the US Government, unwilling to admit to having ground forces inside Yugoslavia, said that the KLA had captured the officer and turned him over to the US. A small lie, but one which points to the fact that the Clinton Administration is reluctant to admit the forward posture of its ground forces.
State Department spokesman James Rubin, who is married to CNN television news reporter Christiane Amanpour, constantly talks of “compelling evidence” of “Serb atrocities”, but in fact never actually details the “compelling evidence”. In some case, circumstantial evidence is shown, and then later the “conclusions” from this evidence are portrayed as coming from incontrovertible proof.
The “compelling evidence” of vast atrocities is not evident on the ground, other than the tragedy of the scattering of refugees which began when the bombing of their places of work and their homes began. Paul Watson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Canadian journalist with The Los Angeles Times, is one of the few reporters actively covering events on the ground on Kosovo, where he was already in place when the bombing began on March 24. In an interview with Canadian Broadcasting radio on April 13, 1999, he said: “It is very hard to hide an anarchic wholesale slaughter of people. There is no evidence that such a thing happened in Pristina [the Kosovo capital].”
“I have spoken personally to people who have been ordered to leave their homes by police in black. I’ve also spoken to people who are simply terrified.”
He added: “I see a pretty clear pattern of refugees leaving an area after there were severe air strikes.”
Not just in Kosovo, but all over Yugoslavia. This writer has also seen refugees on the move, their red tractors pulling carts with families aboard, leaving places such as Pancevo after the bombings; trying to find a place in the country away from the war.
Watson noted: “I do not think that NATO member countries can, with a straight face, sit back and say they don’t share some of the blame for the wholesale depopulation of the country. If NATO had not bombed, I would be surprised if this sort of forced exodus on this enormous scale would be taking place.”
NATO spokesman and US State Department spokesman James Rubin picked up, on March 29, on reports that three key Kosovo Albanian leaders, one of whom was involved in the negotiations over Kosovo at Rambouillet had been “executed” by Serb forces. Rubin said that the US would “avenge” their deaths. However, the three — Fehmi Agani, who was at Rambouillet; Baton Haxhiu, editor of Koha Ditore, a Kosovo Albanian newspaper; and Dr Ibrahim Rugova, the only elected leader of the Kosovo Albanians — were all very much alive. Dr Rugova, in particular, was seen on television on many occasions following the allegation, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported on the safety of the others.
Neither Rubin nor NATO amended their story; Rubin, even after the news of the three mens’ continued wellbeing, still insisted on “avenging their deaths”. Given the earlier (1997) plan by the KLA to kill the moderate Rugova, it would seem that the lives of these three Kosovo Albanian leaders is in danger again, from the KLA. Certainly, the US has backed KLA-leaked reports that Dr Rugova is “a virtual prisoner” of the Yugoslav Government, something he effectively seems (as at this writing in late April 1999) to disavow every time he is seen in public in Belgrade.
Perhaps one of the biggest “tactical lies” being perpetuated as the bombing campaign continues was the failure by the US and NATO to announce their own battlefield casualties. If the US is to be believed, it has lost only one aircraft in the war (to April 25, 1999). The reality is that far more aircraft had already been lost by NATO to that point. Aircrews and ground troops had been killed and captured, according to reliable intelligence reaching this journal. The specific details are discussed below, but, if verified, this means that the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff lied under oath in his testimony in April before the US Congress.
The US argued, at Nuremberg after World War II, that “just following orders” was insufficient defense against a charge of war crimes. But are the victors subject to the same laws?
The disingenuous manipulation of evidence by NATO spokesmen was evident in the release of totally unrelated air traffic tapes in the matter of the attacks on Kosovar civilian convoys (cited above). It has also been evident on other occasions, such as when, on April 18, 1999, Clinton Administration and NATO officials released reconnaissance photographs which they cited as “evidence” of “mass graves”, which, as The New York Times of April 19 said, were “raising fears of atrocities” by the Serbs. This “evidence” showed an area near Izbica, in Kosovo. The earlier photograph showed no markings on a field; the second showed rows of marks: “the mass graves”.
However, even to someone not skilled in photo-interpretation there were flaws in the comparison. The earlier photograph, which the releasers implied was taken just before the second, was clearly taken quite some time before the second. Indeed, there are differences in buildings which could not have occurred overnight. As well, the symmetrical rows of “graves” in the later photograph clearly would not be graves, given that “mass graves” imply large holes with many bodies, not neat, cemetary-like plots. But when it is discovered that the marks are something else, the story is likely to be an item of only passing interest, submerged in the mounting complexity of a war already taken to a new level.
But the “compelling evidence” of “mass graves” will have done its job for Clinton.
Conflict resolution usually comes only in one of two forms: a victory in which “peace” is imposed upon a beaten enemy; and a mutual victory in which each side feels that honor and national objectives have been satisfied. The Serbs were overrun in Kosovo, their most holy territory, by the Turks at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389; they did not, however, submit to the Turkish overlords, eventually fighting for, and gaining, their independence again in the early 19th Century in one of the first major wars against feudalism.
So today’s Serbs are unlikely to accept the alienation of their lands; certainly any forced division of Serbian territory would result in years — even centuries — of conflict in one form or another.
So “victory” for the two contestants in the current Balkan war is seen as, on the one hand, the perpetuation of national sovereignty, and on the other hand as a final end to communism in Europe. The NATO states also see “justice” for the Kosovar Albanians as part of the equation, even though the NATO 1999 military approach has been largely responsible for the destruction of Kosovo’s economic and social viability.
Given that a cessation of military activity and embargoes by NATO against Yugoslavia would restore that country’s sense of sovereignty, and that some kind of symbolism that Yugoslavia embraces Western market economics could be found, there is very little distance to travel from the present impasse to a sense of victory on both sides. It is true, however, that Western leaders (particularly Clinton and Blair) have indicated that only the departure from office of President Milosevicwould mark the transformation from the ancien regime to the “new world order”.
The problem with that requirement for NATO’s “victory” is that the Yugoslav people, previously in varying degrees hostile to their President, have now (because of NATO) rallied around him, and would reject the imposition of a NATO edict demanding the President’s removal from office.
On April 22, 1999, a Russian Government delegation led by former Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin held meetings with the Yugoslav President. The New York Times the next day reported that the Yugoslav Government “appeared to give very little ground”, but in fact he agreed to “an international presence [in Kosovo] under United Nations auspices”, a significant point, if the US was not fundamentally suspicious of the UN.
Underlying the entire conflict resolution process is the fact that the US Clinton Administration does not really have any idea what should constitute victory. On the one hand, it has said that victory means re-settlement of the Kosovo Albanians under an autonomous, if not independent, state. On the other, it has said that victory could not be achieved if Yugoslav President Milosevicremained in office.
Basically, however, Clinton has consistently moved the goalposts, so that any response given by the MilosevicGovernment would be unacceptable. Clinton needs the war to continue for his own reasons, and certainly he needed to get through the NATO 50th anniversary Summit in Washington DC on April 23 looking “statesmanlike”. He certainly did not wish the Chinese intelligence/funding scandal, discussed in the Cox Report, to diminish his stature at a time when he is trying to create an historic “legacy”.
World War III would be a significant legacy!
Columnist Charles Krauthammer, writing in The Washington Post on March 26, 1999, confirmed that the Clinton objectives going into the bombing lacked coherence. Discussing Clinton’s speech on March 24, Krauthammer said: “For incoherence and simple-mindedness, for disorganization and sheer intellectual laziness, it is unmatched in recent American history.” He added: “It is not forgivable to send American men and women into battle in the name of a cause one can barely elucidate.” The columnist sharply criticized Clinton’s attempts to equate Milosevicwith Hitler. “But if Serbia's Milosevic is Hitler, how come this Hitler has been our peace partner in the Dayton Accords these past three years now? Never mind. When in doubt, play the Hitler card. No matter how ridiculous the analogy. After all, Serbia has no ambitions to rule a continent, nor the power to do so.”
Significantly, Clinton has always chosen small, relatively weak opponents when he has needed “bad guys” to take the media attention away from his problems. As we noted in this journal earlier, he has no intention of allowing anyone on the enemies list to make peace. He has always needed to be able to resurrect a villain on command. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi and Yugoslavia’s Milosevichave been his targets of choice.
So it is probably fair to say that Clinton has no wish to end this conflict as long as he has need of distraction from the intelligence/funding scandal as outlined in the Cox Report, now awaiting release. So the Yugoslavs can do little to appease Clinton (and therefore NATO). The answer is that Clinton is seeking a prolonging of the war at as little cost — and as much noise — as possible. If he is forced out of the Kosovo crisis, he must immediately resurrect another crisis. The US has already resumed bombing of Iraq, “just in case”.
That is the Clinton rationale. Not all of his Administration, nor his allies, have the same rationale. There is a geopolitical perspective in Washington which says that US dominance in the Balkans, via Albania, is essential if the US is to retain any strategic influence in a Europe which could soon be dominated by a homogeneous political entity — and economic rival — in the form of the European Union.
There are other, more human considerations, too. People close to Clinton say that he has made it clear that his “legacy”, or the memory of his presidency, will not be one in which his impeachment over the ramifications of a tawdry sex scandal dominate history. Some of his associates (their own sense of history also involved) say that Clinton would rather be remembered as the US president who took the US and NATO into a major war — with all that this entails — than be either a forgotten president, or one discredited by tawdriness and illegality.
What, then, constitutes “victory” for Clinton? It is unlikely that the US Congress would suppress (or be able to suppress) the Cox Report with its apparently damning evidence of White House culpability in the campaign-funds-for-strategic-favors scandal.
Just how damning is the evidence against Clinton with regard to the passing of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technologies to the People’s Republic of China? Enough for the Clinton Administration to use every lever of authority at its disposal to stop the declassification of the Cox Report and other inter-agency reports on the matter. The White House has called in every agency it can think of, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (FIAB) to put roadblocks in the way of declassification of the 700-page Cox Report.
The Washington Times of April 26, 1999, in an editorial entitled And the spying goes on, confirmed this. “For months now, the Administration has been battling the Rep. Cox and his committee to keep these details secret.” The Cox Report was due to be released by the end of March 1999 (the subject of the report had become publicly known in April 1996), but because of the Administration’s pressures this was postponed until the end of April 1999, with the later understanding that the ongoing conflict would enable the Clinton White House to further obfuscate and delay release.
“Given the national security consequences of the revelations as well as the president’s propensity to avoid any responsibility, it is now more imperative than ever that the Cox Report be promptly declassified,” The Washington Times editorial said.
This is the scandal which eclipses the Monica Lewinsky matter which led to Clinton’s impeachment by Congress.
So, if a “legacy other than scandal” is the goal of President Clinton, then he must attempt to continue the distractions, which means the fighting. There is the prospect of switching the combat to a less-difficult “threat”, such as Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and there is evidence that this option has been well-considered.
It may well be, failing all else, that the US Congress will be required to determine what constitutes “victory”. All agree, at least nominally, that NATO cannot survive as a viable strategic instrument if it fails to achieve its “objectives” in the war against Yugoslavia. There were still a few in government in NATO states who, in late April 1999, clung to the belief that air power alone could force compliance by the MilosevicGovernment to the NATO terms. But these were only, literally, the naïve, with no understanding of military history. No major strategic campaign has been won by air power alone.
There are others who believe that the insertion of ground forces into Yugoslavia, or even just the Kosovo-Metohija region, is an unfortunate necessity to achieve compliance. But they, too, are naïve: a Yugoslav abandonment of the most sacred heartland of the Serb people will not happen. Germany inserted 700,000 troops into Yugoslavia in 1941-45, and failed to successfully control the country. NATO is not prepared to do even that much.
Similarly, because the Serbian people see that they have been so maligned by the peoples (US, UK and France) whom they once suffered to defend in two World Wars, and accused of so many atrocities that they know have been committed against them as a people in the past, they will not surrender up even President Milosevic, as much as some of them may have disliked him in the past.
Furthermore, Yugoslavia’s military capabilities have hardly been touched, despite the bombing campaign (or perhaps because the bombing has been directed largely at civilian economic targets). So a military “victory” would not be possible without a massive, and unrealistically large, cost to NATO in economic, manpower and time terms.
What will be necessary is for NATO (or rather Clinton, because NATO will follow) to “re-define victory”, if victory is to be achieved. The concern in even the anti-Clinton circles of NATO is that without a victory, NATO’s future credibility and viability will be lost. This is in great part true, and it is an additional reason why many senior members of the US and NATO military forces are quietly extremely angry at Clinton.
So a US Congressional re-definition of “victory” must consider the long-term ramifications for NATO. It seems likely that the Yugoslavs, themselves extremely anxious for a cessation of hostilities and a resolution to the Kosovo crisis, will be only too happy to assist in this.
The visit to Belgrade on April 18-21, 1999, by US Congressman Jim Saxton (Republican, New Jersey), under the auspices of the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA), the publisher of this journal, was therefore an important breakthrough in attempting to wrest control of the strategic agenda from the Clinton march toward Armageddon. Not surprisingly, Congr. Saxton returned to Washington to face outright hostility from the Clinton Administration and skepticism from the media and some other members of Congress, all well-steeped in the propaganda version of the conflict.
At first, a curious media besieged Rep. Saxton, requesting that he speak on CNN’s Larry King Live, and other prime time network television news shows. But, following a 45-minute telephone harangue of the Congressman by Secretary of State Albright, State Department pressure ensured that the networks withdrew their invitations for the Congressman to speak. Few in the Washington media want to jeopardize their access to the White House or State Department.
But despite this, the chance to grasp at peace attracted many, and the option — begun by the Saxton initiative — was opened. Debate emerged into the open.
It goes without saying that if the international reporting on the Kosovo conflict was correct then certain “facts on the ground” would be very different from what they have really proven to be. It had been stated that NATO forces had, by mid-April 1999, destroyed the Yugoslav Armed Forces’ capability to wage war. The problem began with the original premise of the US Clinton Administration that the Yugoslav Government of Slobodan Milosevicwould fall into disarray and compliance once the White House committed US and NATO military forces into combat against Yugoslavia.
US analysts are known to have told the White House that once air strikes began against Yugoslavia, as they did on March 24, 1999, then refugees in massive numbers would begin to flee from Kosovo into neighboring countries. There were, before the air strikes began, no refugees in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and only a few (those connected with the UCK) in the anarchic northern areas of Albania. There is no question but that the White House had been told unequivocally by its own intelligence services that a massive refugee flight from Kosovo would begin with the bombing. The White House chose to ignore this advice.
This writer returned to Yugoslavia to compare the media coverage with the facts on the ground. This particular passage was written, on April 19, 1999, at 22.35hrs, as air raid sirens were wailing throughout Belgrade. What was discovered “on the ground” was a very different reality to that being promoted by the US and UK administrations.
Civilian Targets: Despite claiming victory for the destruction of Yugoslavia’s oil refining capability, the US and NATO failed to disclose the reality of their air strikes. This writer saw the results of some of the strikes. In the city of Pancevo, virtually a suburb of Belgrade, air strikes had repeatedly hit the oil refinery, the fertilizer factory and the petrochemical plant — all among the largest installations of their type in South-Eastern Europe — and an aircraft manufacturing facility.
The damage was indeed enormous, but, despite repeated claims that only military-related targets were being hit, it was clear that at Pancevo, and at many other locations in Yugoslavia, strictly and unequivocally civil targets were being struck. This, given the precision of the targeting, indicated that the conduct of the war and its objectives were very different than those being cited by the White House.
By April 19, 1999, a conservative estimate concluded that 400,000 to 500,000 Yugoslavs (not counting the Kosovo refugees) out of the appr. 11-million population had directly lost their employment because of the destruction of their factories. This meant that some two-million people were without income. But indirectly, the impact on employment was far greater. When the 300,000 car-a-year automobile factory — the one which made the Yugo car — was destroyed, for example, all of the component makers were themselves “hit”: they lost their customer, forcing their own closure or cutbacks.
At Pancevo alone, some 10,000 people were thrown out of work, and the city began to empty as children were sent to stay with relatives in the country, and those rendered jobless took their families in search of safety.
The air strikes against the oil refinery may have been understandable, given that a legitimate military or strategic target is indeed the fuel supply which services the Armed Forces. But it was struck, on one of the attacks, on the first day of the Orthodox Easter, a pointed reminder that the Clinton White House — which had hesitated to launch strikes against Iraq during the Muslim Ramadan holy period of fasting — cared little for the sentiments of the Orthodox communities worldwide. This did not pass unnoticed among the 300-million Orthodox Christians around the world.
The total value of the damage in Pancevo was about $1.3-billion, some $650-million of this at the oil refinery, which was hit a total of three times (by April 19, 1999). [Total cost of the war to the Yugoslav infrastructure during the first 30 days of bombing is estimated at $100-billion.] The flames at the Pancevo oil refinery, soaring 20 meters into the air, and billowing black smoke continued unabated two days after the last of the strikes.
The nearby HIP Petrochemija petrochemical plant was also severely hit, and the careful strikes were not an accidental spillover from the hits on the oil refinery. Several facts are important with this. There was clearly no strategic or military value to the HIP plant; it was purely a strike to deliberately create hardship and unemployment. This target, and scores (perhaps hundreds) of other air strikes at civilian targets throughout Yugoslavia, demonstrates clearly that the strategic objective presumably dictated by the Clinton White House is the punishment of the Yugoslav population, not (as is stated repeatedly) the “destruction of Milosevic’s military machine”.
This directly contradicts US Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s statements to the Yugoslav people, in Serbo-Croat, that she “loves” the Serbian people and does not wish to punish them for the alleged misdeeds of their Federal President. Regardless of President Clinton’s motives, Secretary Albright clearly harbors enormous animus toward the Serbian people, although those who knew her in Belgrade before and after World War II can recall no incident which might have colored her judgment of Yugoslavia.
But specifically the strike against HIP Petrochemija highlighted the gratuitous campaign against the civil population, rather than military targets. HIP manufactures chlorine for use in PVC. Had chlorine stockpiles been hit, then Pancevo would have lost its entire population to the toxic outflow into the atmosphere. HIP executives, working with town officials, feared air strike damage when the attacks began and worked feverishly to process and move the chlorine. Moving it untreated would have been difficult and would have merely led to further problems.
Luckily, at the last minute, the facility was largely emptied of chlorine when the strikes occurred.
On March 24, 1999, however, a Romanian train was at Pancevo railway yard when air strikes began hitting targets less than a kilometer away. About 800 tonnes of chlorine was aboard the train. Had it been hit, most of Belgrade’s population would have been killed by the toxic outflow. As it was, the levels of toxicity in the atmosphere after the waves of strikes in Pancevo were many times higher than the safe level.
Not all of the toxins came from the oil refinery or the petrochemical plant.
A major fertilizer plant, not far from the refinery and the HIP plant, was also hit: another clear civil target. Here, had the plant’s liquid ammonia stockpiles been hit, the environmental damage would have been enormous, as in the case of the chlorine. As it was, there was sufficient chlorine and liquid ammonia, coupled with the petroleum which was hit, to create the high toxicity levels in the city and to produce an enormous, lingering cloud which was moving toward Belgrade. The wind shifted and much of the cloud dissipated into the upper atmosphere to flow over other parts of Europe.
The fertilizer plant was hit on Western Easter, April 4, killing several workers and injuring dozens more. Ironically, this day was as sacred to the city as Orthodox Easter: a large Slovak and Hungarian population lived near the facility and worked in it. The Reformist and Evangelical Christians from these two communities spent their Easter in mourning.
City officials and civilians we spoke with in Pancevo said that they believed that the US targeting of their town’s highly-volatile products was evidence of a US policy of genocide toward the Serbs. Why else would they risk such “collateral damage” which could have cost literally millions of lives in the greater Belgrade metro area?
Pancevo was not left alone with the destruction of these three facilities. An aircraft manufacturing facility, Utva Lola Corporation (a joint State/worker owned company like the petrochemical and fertilizer plants) on the edge of the city was completely destroyed by repeated Cruise Missile attacks, starting early in the air war. The facility produced only agricultural aircraft at this stage, although during the previous era — under the now-defunct Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) — it produced the Arao indigenous fighter aircraft, an example of which still sits as a monument at the factory gates.
This facility, at a stretch, could be considered at least a potential military target. Certainly it could have serviced military aircraft. The factory was hit four times, with damage estimated at $450-million [the capital investment in the plant, high for a facility to make agricultural aircraft, reflected its military aircraft origins]. In the process, some 100 homes were hit, many destroyed. We saw the damaged houses, and the tractor-towed carts of families moving out of the town and into the hoped-for safety of the countryside.
The general impression is that this is an area populated solely by Serbs. But Serbia is home to some 26 ethnic groups, only one of which — the Kosovo Albanians — has some members which refuse to call themselves “Yugoslav”. The Pancevo area is no different: it is home to some 20 ethnic groups. The spires of the churches of a half-dozen different Christian sects dot the city.
By April 19, 1999, it was estimated by Yugoslav authorities that some 1,000 of their citizens had been killed by the bombing and some 6,000 more wounded. Given the extent of the damage seen by this writer, the claims are not difficult to believe.
Some 200 schools had been hit to at least some degree, and schools with about 800,000 students were closed because of the war, and had been since March 24. No-one wants to risk a full strike on a school filled with children.
A pipeline on one of the five destroyed Danube bridges carried water to some 600,000 people. The heating plant in Novi (New) Belgrade was destroyed, cutting off steam heating to about half of Belgrade. A few months earlier, such an attack would have led to widespread death and suffering in the bitter Balkan winter. These things we saw.
NATO Losses and the Military Costs: It is clear from the amount and quality of intelligence received by this journal from a variety of highly-reputable sources that NATO forces have already suffered significant losses of men, women and materiel. Neither NATO, nor the US, UK or other member governments, have admitted to these losses, other than the single USAF F-117A Stealth fighter which was shown, crashed and burning inside Serbia.
The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had denied, about a month into the bombing, that the US had suffered the additional losses reported to Defense & Foreign Affairs.
[Post-conflict assessments of losses on both sides leave an accurate position of battle damage still impossible to assess. What seemed clear at the end of the conflict, however, was the fact that Yugoslav losses were dramatically lower than claimed by NATO during the conflict, a fact which was admitted by NATO after the war. NATO losses, on the other hand, were clearly significantly higher than NATO acknowledged, but to what extent is unknown. High-level US and other NATO sources did confirm to this Service, however, that some damage, particularly to non-US aircraft, was being kept secret. — Ed., October 1, 1999.]
By April 20, 1999, NATO losses were believed to stand at approximately the following:
Several other NATO aircraft were reported down after that date, including at least one of which there was Serbian television coverage. The aircraft reportedly include three F-117A Stealth strike aircraft, including the one already known. One of the remaining two was shot down in an air-to-air engagement with a Yugoslav Air Force MiG-29 fighter; the other was lost to AAA (anti-aircraft artillery) or SAM (surface-to-air missile) fire. Given the recovery by the Yugoslavs of F-117A technology, and the fact that the type has proven less than invincible, the mystique of the aircraft — a valuable deterrent tool until now for the US — has been lost.
At least one USAF F-15 Eagle fighter was believed to have been lost, with the pilot, reportedly an African-American major, alive and in custody as a POW.
At least one German pilot (some sources say two men, implying perhaps a Luftwaffe crew from a Tornado) was believed to have been captured.
There is also a report that at least one US female pilot had been killed.
In one instance in the first week of the fighting, an aircraft was downed near Podgorica. A NATO helicopter then picked up the downed pilot, but the helicopter itself was then shot down, according to a number of reports.
Losses of US and other NATO ground force personnel, inside Serbia, were also reported to have been extensive.
A Yugoslav Army unit ambushed a squad climbing a ravine south of Pristina, killing 20 men. When the black tape was taken from their dog-tags it was found that 12 were US Green Berets; eight were British special forces (presumably Special Air Service/SAS). This incident apparently occurred within a week or so of the bombing campaign launch.
It is known that other US and other NATO casualties have, on some occasions, been retrieved by NATO forces after being hit inside Yugoslavia. At least 30 bodies of US servicemen have been processed through Athens, after being transported from the combat zone.
At least two of the helicopters downed by the Yugoslavs were carrying troops, and in these two a total of 50 men were believed to have been killed, most of them (but not all) of US origin.
Certainly, the US has lost to ground fire and malfunction a number of Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. At least some of these have been retrieved more or less intact, and the technology has been immediately reviewed by Yugoslav engineers. More than one told this writer that the technology was now readily able to be replicated in Yugoslavia.
The war has cost Alliance members in other ways, too. There is enormous disaffection with the US Armed Forces. For a start, to prosecute even the smallest expansion of the war requires the call-up of Reserve and National Guard units. The personnel from these units have civilian jobs, and, as with the US involvement in S-FOR in Bosnia-Herzegovina, being called up for active duty in the Balkans seems to be an open-ended thing. This is not the type of national emergency for which most of them signed-on.
On top of that, there are questions about the wisdom of the orders they are receiving, and a total lack of clear strategic (let alone military) objectives. One serving career mid-level military officer in the US told this writer: “I am incredibly appalled at this war, or whatever it is, and the lack of strategic thought; the bungling, stumbling blind policies which have led to this [situation], and the murderous impact on not just the Serbs and Kosovars, but on the concepts of conflict resolution and sovereignty.”
The officer continued: “I am very upset, and while I have been vocal in my small world, and many agree with me, I am part of a system that is stumbling as best it can to implement the failed brainwork of the NCA [National Command Authority; the President] and SecState [Secretary of State], and General [Wesley] Clark [Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, for NATO], too. Why haven’t the military leadership stepped up and put their job on the line for common sense.”
The problem is not confined to the US forces. In Britain, a near mutiny was reported aboard the carrier HMS Invincible. And as news of very real NATO casualties emerge, morale will decline. Meanwhile, those who have any knowledge of the facts know that since 1948, Yugoslavia, particularly under Tito, has been preparing to fight, literally, World War III. NATO heavy armor may indeed roll easily across the Albanian border, or down across the fertile plains of Vojvodina from Hungary, right into Belgrade. But most of Yugoslavia is mountainous, and the mountains filled with underground fuel supplies, ammunition factories, probably oil refineries, buried hangars and roads which become airstrips.
And those in the US Armed Forces believe that the Clinton White House, from the President — an anti-Vietnam War protester and conscription dodger — and First Lady down to the young Clintonite staffers, hate the US Armed Forces with a passion. It is clear that the determination of the Yugoslavs to defend their country has strengthened; after all, they have nowhere else to go. But already the morale of the NATO forces is declining.
The Refugee Burden Inside Serbia: What has not been discussed in the international media is the fact that Yugoslavia has already been bearing what is one of the biggest refugee burdens, per capita, of any country in the world. Almost 1-million refugees from the earlier cycles of war — since 1991-92 — have fled into Yugoslavia, mostly Serbia. These include not only Bosnian Serbs and Croatian Serbs, but also Croatian Catholics and Muslims who feared for their safety in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
Yugoslavia has received no substantial international aid to support, re-settle or accommodate these refugees. Many have been absorbed into the society.
With the start of the Kosovo bombings by NATO, about one-third of the total refugee flow did not move toward the Albanian or Macedonian borders, but rather moved further up into Serbia. Some, of course, went into the Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro. Those moving into Serbia did so largely to escape the KLA, and by late April 1999 it was clear from interviews with some Kosovar Albanian men of fighting age who had fled the bombing into Albania proper that they wished to return to their Kosovo homes rather than be forced to stay in the camps and face coercion by the KLA.
Bombing the Refugees into Compliance: There is very little doubt but that the bulk of the refugee problem relating to the Kosovo dispute is the result of the NATO bombing exercise. There are those who claim that the Yugoslav Government initiated a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” under the cover of the bombing, but there is little real evidence to support this. Indeed, every time the US Administration, the UK Government or NATO have talked of “compelling evidence” they never actually showed it. The television coverage of understandably distraught refugees coming across the borders into Albania and Macedonia told the tale, requiring only a few words of “interpretation”, often from genuinely concerned humanitarian workers who had already bought the argument about “ethnic cleansing”.
That is not to say that atrocities, other than those very real atrocities committed by air power, did not occur. There may well be evidence that violations of human rights occurred on all sides. But it is known through hard intelligence that the KLA intended to use “the KLA Air Force” — NATO — as the cover for its ground operations. These operations were mostly based around intimidation of the people in whose name the KLA was ostensibly fighting: the Kosovo Albanians.
The view, propagated by outside observers (who had never been into the area or studied it), that “the Serbs” wanted to “cleanse” Kosovo of “ethnic Albanians” is ludicrous. There were 20 national groups living in Kosovo, all in relative harmony most of the time. That the residents of Albanian origin caused most of the problems for the Yugoslav authorities is well-known, but the problems mostly stemmed from the fact that many were illegal immigrants from Albania, in Yugoslavia for economic reasons. By the 1990s, however, there was a new generation of Albanian Kosovars, born in Yugoslavia, not in Albania.
For the most part, the Yugoslav Government was (and claims still to be) happy to have them in the country; after all, one third of all Yugoslavs are not Serbs, in any event. As noted earlier, Serbia is the most multinational, multi-religious state in the Balkans.
So when it appeared that a massive exodus was occurring as a result of the bombing (aided by the actions of the KLA and, presumably, some by-now angered Serbian paramilitary groups), it was clear to the Yugoslav Government that the problem was enormous. “We do not want Kosovo emptied of people,” many Yugoslavs have told me in different ways, “even though there is now much anger between the Serbs and the Albanians, who each blame the other for the bombing and the terror.”
So Yugoslavia attempted during the first 30 days of the bombing to close the Albanian and Macedonian borders, in order to persuade Kosovars to return to their homes. When the exodus was in full swing, US and NATO authorities — supported by the sanctimonious voices of such politicians as British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, a man embroiled in personal ethical scandals — claimed that it was as a result of Serbian “ethnic cleansing”. When the refugee flow slowed, the same officials claimed that it must be because “the Serbs” were holding the refugees as “human shields”.
Clearly, from the Clinton viewpoint, no action taken by the Yugoslavs could be allowed to be seen as normal or reasonable.
Inevitably, when the flow of rhetoric had numbed the Western audiences, the predictable cry of “rape camps” went up from left-wing sources, who felt that such a crime must be taking place, given the fact that “the Serbs” were “less than human”. It is worth noting that the original claims of “rape camps” in the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict were proven false, and the journalists who originally propagated the stories did so on speculation, not on fact. But the mud stuck.
It is probably true that rapes have occurred during the current conflict. Certainly, the KLA, having worked with the Bosnians and Iranians during the earlier psychological war, knew that they had to have rapes in order to get attention. But in such an instance, the natural, or logical suspicion, for such activities would fall on the KLA rather than the Serbs, who are so keenly attuned to the horror of an accusation they have faced before.
It is also relevant to note that the statistics for Yugoslavia for the crime of rape are on a par with the rape statistics for most Western countries. Is the implication of the propaganda that something special triggers “mass rapes” and “rape camps” among people not normally so disposed?
The NATO (mainly US) bombings of the Kosovar tractor and car convoys noted earlier in this report began at a time when the refugees were starting to move back toward their homes. Many had realized the futility of crossing the border. So the four convoys hit that day were all comprised of Kosovars returning home, not “fleeing the Serbs”. It could be argued that for the Kosovars of all nationalities to arrive at a settlement and to stop running from the bombs would represent a disaster for the Clinton policy.
We are aware that the US Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department each warned the Clinton Administration that the bombing would trigger a mass flight of the population of Kosovo. It was initially believed by professional intelligence analysts and defense officers in the US that the Clinton team had ignored the warning because of naïveté. But this was not so.
The Clinton team wanted to create a steady stream of refugees in order to justify prolonging the bombing. And they relied on the KLA to help in this regard.
It could equally be argued that the Clinton team (speaking here of Clinton, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeline Albright, not the professionals) wanted a state of ongoing bombing to continue without significant ground force involvement. This would be a low-cost (in human terms), low-risk way to achieve their aims. But clearly it was a policy which could not be sustained. The Armed Forces of the US, and NATO, inevitably would insist on either withdrawal or “completion” of the job.
Environmental Pollution: The environmental damage caused by the bombing of Yugoslav oil refineries, petrochemical plants and fertilizer facilities alone is obvious. As well, of course, the dropping of 10,000 tonnes of ordnance by the NATO aircraft in the first 30 days of the assault also leaves a legacy to be dealt with over many years, as the ordnance problem in post-war Cambodia demonstrated. But in addition to this, even by Day 30 of the bombing, oil was seeping into the Danube from destroyed Yugoslav facilities. An oil slick some 15km long and some 20 meters wide was already damaging the ecology of the river.
Disruptions to Trade: Apart, of course, from the disruptions to Yugoslav trade, the destruction by NATO of at least five major bridges across the Danube meant that this important river no longer was open for international traffic. Clearance could take six months after the conclusion of hostilities.
The closure of the Danube shuts off one of the most important trade links across Europe, literally cutting off cargo movement from Western Europe to Eastern Europe. This is in many ways a slightly less-significant parallel to the closure by Israel of Egypt’s Suez Canal during the 1967 Six Day War. Then, commercial sea traffic was forced to go around the Southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope instead of through the Canal. This meant the construction of new types of ships, longer transit times and therefore significantly higher costs for goods forced to make the longer voyage.
The same will be true of the East-West trade which relied on the Danube artery. The cost to Germany, Austria, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria and, of course, Yugoslavia, will be significant. And other countries which relied on the Danube as part of an East-West freight link will also be affected.
For all that journalists deny that it influences their judgment, wars sell newspapers and increase broadcast news ratings. Journalists and editors will note that they have nothing to do with the business aspect of their news mediums. And, for the most part, this is true. However, while the profit motive may be disregarded by the journalists and editors, the competitive desire to take the lead in a news environment means that there is an urge to report the most sensational news possible.
“Dog Bites Man” is not news; “Man Bites Dog” is news. So it is important that news stress the negative, or the sensational.
Few Western media editors are prepared to “go against the flow” of popular belief on any subject. And once the Balkan wars began again with the break-up of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991-92, the propaganda wars initially hammered the Serbs, who were totally ill-equipped to deal with the Western media phenomenon.
The poor impression of the Serbs — their pseudospeciation — although ignoring the reality of history, has remained over the past eight years. It was all too easy to revive the shibboleths of the anti-Serb. When Clinton wanted a villain, the Serbs were ready-made.
It is for that reason that Clinton, and NATO, have been able to propose demands which are totally outside the realm of civilized state behavior. This includes the demand that the sovereignty of a state be compromised: the UN Charter specifically discusses the inviolability of borders, for example. As well, when Clinton ordered the attack on Presiden’ Milosevic’s home on April 22, 1999, he blatantly violated US law which prohibits targeting a foreign head-of-state. This was immediately dismissed with the glib statement that the attack was not on the Yugoslav leader but on his “command and control facilities”.
Much of the histrionic and unsubstantiated propaganda has been accepted by a news-gathering community which, despite minor grumblings, accepts the legitimacy and credibility of governments. It often takes much for journalists to believe that the most powerful are not always the most truthful.
But when Clinton ordered the air strike on the headquarters of Serbian television on April 23, 1999, it proved too much for most foreign correspondents who were in Belgrade to cover the war. Indeed, despite being in Belgrade, most had been anti-Serb and reflected the attitudes of the news organs in their own countries. A large gathering of foreign journalists was held at the Belgrade Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest the TV station bombing and the targeting of journalists. The journalists recognized that when they are targeted then the attackers are usually unwilling to hear free debate. Even those journalists hostile to the Serbs felt that the strike could just as easily been directed at the transmitters, not at the newsrooms.
It may well be that the strike on Serbian TV, which cost 10 lives and many wounded, will be one of the worst moves of the Clinton team, even though other strikes caused more civilian damage. As it transpired, Serbian TV was back on the air again within six hours: the only real impact of the strike, apart from ending 10 lives and damaging many more, was the fact that Clinton may have finally made the enemies who count: those in the media. Indeed, the foreign press in Belgrade had not anticipated that NATO SACEUR General Wesley Clark would go against his NATO colleagues and order the strike on Serbian TV. Those who know Clark’s “fine sense of political reality” knew that he would obey the White House, however. And, significantly, Serbian authorities expected it, which is why they were ready to go on the air again so quickly.
It is not too early to learn some military, strategic and military-political lessons from the current “NATO war” against Yugoslavia. Indeed, if we wait until the conflict has ended, there is a good chance, as with all wars, that the “lessons” will be learned only partly, or that the key problems will be overlooked by the world community because the “lessons” will be derived from the writings of the most powerful state(s) which survive the war. I do not say “victors”, because should the war progress through to a major ground war then there will be no victors. That, indeed, is one of the “lessons”: avoid wars without clearly achievable and finite military and political objectives.
From the defender’s viewpoint, the objectives are easier to define: survival as a nation, survival with viability, survival with a sense of national honor, minimization of casualties, retention of sovereign credibility, and so on.
Some of the military lessons clearly available at present include:
1. The lessons of coalition warfare: The air operations against Yugoslavia, at least for the first month, went well for NATO, despite the fact that it was an ad hoc conflict, with no goals and no real military objectives. It produced neither the military nor political goals which the politicians said they sought, but that was not the fault of the military, who clearly had little say on much of the target selection.
But the coordination of aircraft, and particularly the use of airborne sensors and command and control, was effective.
The NATO administrative machinery, involved in its first war in 50 years, worked well. Secrecy of operations, and particularly on operational problems, was good. There seemed to be good airspace management, with little confusion, despite the fact that a wide range of forces were being thrown into the mix without any real planning. So
2. The cost of the loss of technology: There must be some concern over the loss of advanced technology. It is easy for US military leaders to dismiss the loss of an F-117 Stealth fighter as being “20 year-old technology”, and a Tomahawk Cruise Missile as “12 year-old technology”, but the fact remains that it is the most current US operational technology. There is no doubt, given the components recovered by the Yugoslavs from downed US weapons, that both Yugoslavia and Russia could within months field weapons of equal complexity to the Tomahawk.
Is NATO yet ready to deal with such weapons if the conflict lingers, or resurfaces in a year or two from, say, a coalition led by Russia?
And if a rival to the F-117 cannot be easily produced, then defenses against it are now clearly becoming easier to devise. Similarly, the helicopter-borne forces, which fared so well in the Gulf War, are now clearly very vulnerable, despite the fact that Yugoslavia has not been using very advanced weapons. The old 23mm and 57mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) systems have done well, as have older missiles, such as the SA-3.
3. The strategic cost of loss of mobility in other theaters: Today, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has some 200 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) each capable of taking a nuclear, chemical or biological load, in the area immediately facing the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. When the PRC last threatened to invade Taiwan, three years ago, it had only 50 such MRBMs in the region. And then the US — even with the Clinton Administration fairly kindly-disposed toward Beijing and diffident toward Taipei — had two major assets in the region: Defense Secretary Bill Perry and a couple of carrier battle groups.
Today, Perry (who put the carriers into the Strait of Taiwan to deter the PRC) has retired, reportedly disgusted with the Clinton White House failure to support its treaty commitments (such as those to Taiwan). And there are no US carrier battle groups off the North-East Asian littoral. At the same time, the DPRK (North Korea) is strengthening its military command and is provocatively testing long-range ballistic missiles over Japan. The DPRK has abandoned any real pretense over the matter of its deployment of operational nuclear weapons.
So there is little which the US could do to meet its treaty obligations to defend Taiwan and South Korea if, even now, the PRC and DPRK decided to take what they have long said they would, one day, take: Taiwan and South Korea.
The constraints on US force flexibility will be total if the US is forced to commit to a major ground campaign in Yugoslavia. Even now, the US has thrown away most of its remaining stand-off strike weapons, the Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, in the current campaign against Yugoslavia. The result is that the US, if it is forced to fight in Asia (and its forces in South Korea are automatically committed if the North comes across the DMZ), then it must fight nose-to-nose, or it must decide early-on to go nuclear.
Significantly, if a major war is undertaken against Yugoslavia, then it must be assumed that there would be as much as a 90 percent chance that war would break out in Asia, in either Korea, or between the PRC and ROC. And North Korea and the PRC believe that they could now win a quick victory in their respective campaigns. That is, in fact, more likely than the prospect that NATO could win quickly in Yugoslavia.
But that is not all. The lack of US mobility means that other wars are likely to emerge. Some form of confrontation would almost certainly re-emerge in the Middle East. Perhaps several. Iraq could easily go into Kuwait again, and possibly also end the Western embargo on its military operations in the north and south of the country.
Iran could easily move to either topple the Saudi Government, or coerce it into a compliant state which would augur very badly for Egypt and Jordan, in particular. It would be expected that such a scenario would also entail a re-escalation of radical activities within Egypt, and among the Palestinians. Israel would almost certainly react rapidly and decisively.
And within NATO itself (as discussed below), a Greek-Turkish confrontation would be very probable, with Greece finally moving to oust the Turks from Cyprus.
Almost certainly, there would be hitherto unconsidered eventualities. The entire world could boil, with no, or few, US or NATO assets available to project Western power.
4. The cost of warfighting assets: Most NATO countries, but particularly the US under the Clinton presidency, have dramatically reduced real defense spending since 1991. The US subsequently expended much of its Reagan and Bush era ordnance in the Gulf War and then in subsequent “police actions”. More Cruise Missiles were launched against Iraq in the years following the Gulf War than in the war itself, showing in hindsight just how prudent the campaign in 1991 had been in the actual expenditure of high-cost weapons.
The service life of most key NATO weapons and support systems has been reduced because of the increased wear-and-tear caused by the existing air operations against Yugoslavia, and, in the case of the US, by its deployments against Iraq in recent years.
The most modern and capable coalition of armed forces in the world — NATO — now has fairly mature weapons systems in service, many in need of replacement. On the other hand, the military capabilities of the PRC, DPRK and even Russia are once again improving. The relative balance between NATO and its potential adversaries is now very different than it was, say, five years ago.
5. The cost to NATO’s survivability: Behind the façade of unanimity at NATO’s 50th Anniversary summit in Washington DC on April 23-24, 1999, there was enormous concern and considerable mutual hostility among some members. France, finally back into a leadership rôle in the military wing of NATO, is clearly (but quietly) horrified at the cavalier use of the Alliance in Yugoslavia.
The new members of the Alliance — Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland — had viewed NATO as a club which would both protect them from a revival of Russian imperialism and at the same time admit them to the Western economic circle. Thus far, the cost to each of them in economic and political terms has been considerable. Far from being members of a safe club, they are now expected to engage in NATO’s war against their near-neighbor.
Greece, an Orthodox Christian country (like much of Yugoslavia and Cyprus), has felt itself isolated by the Yugoslav conflict and has refused to align itself against Serbia.
Italy, which has had a strong domestic civil reaction against deployment in the Yugoslav conflict, knows it would suffer enormously (perhaps more than any other NATO country except Greece) if the fighting escalated. Italy has already suffered enormously from the overflow of Albanian and Kosovar refugees, and from the large upsurge in criminal activities caused by Albanians and their Iranian (and other) sponsors.
The negative economic impact on Greece and Italy alone may be enough to tax the overall economic harmony of the European Union (EU). But the strains may finally pit Greece and Turkey against each other, given that some Turks feel that Turkey has an historical interest in re-projecting Islam into the Balkans. The attempted break-up of Yugoslavia and the FYR of Macedonia to create Albanian enclaves directly affects Greece, which would be forced to seriously consider attempting to appropriate the non-Albanian part of the FYR of Macedonia, if only to protect the inhabitants from being totally swallowed into “Greater Albania”. The degradation of the situation from that point is not entirely predictable.
Considerably more research needs to be undertaken into the ramifications of conflict expansion for NATO. The Washington summit speeches talked about “creating a new mission for NATO”, and about “projecting and protecting shared ideals”. But that was not the purpose of NATO, which was optimized as a defensive alliance, not an offensive one.
The reality is that NATO still does not have a true strategic mission. The use of NATO for the Yugoslav exercise at the insistence of Clinton, and with the seemingly mindless support from the UK’s Blair, only reinforces that reality. It is apparent to all that the protection of Kosovar refugees, if that is the present rationale for taking the world to war, is a fairly flimsy platform for “projecting and protecting common ideals”.
So it must be assumed that the Yugoslav adventure will hurt NATO more than help it, quite apart from the prospect of all the other costs and the possible overflow of conflict to other regions. It is feasible that, even if escalation to a ground war is abandoned and the air war ends by, say, July 1, NATO may still not survive the damage done to it.
Clinton, Blair and NATO Secretary-General Javier Solano spent most of their careers blindly opposing NATO. Now that they have it within their grasp, they are mis-using it and thus may achieve their original objective: to destroy it.
6. Managing Unexpected Human and Asset Losses: One of the things which NATO did successfully in the first 30 days of the air campaign was to maintain very effective secrecy on the loss of the human and material assets in the war, discussed earlier in this report.
This “success”, however, is almost certain to backfire. Certainly, the Yugoslavs are aware of the NATO losses, so the secrecy cannot be sustained on the grounds that “enemy” knowledge of the facts would hamper NATO’s ability to prosecute the war. Rather, the secrecy was deemed essential to stem opposition to the war from within NATO societies.
Clearly, most US planners went into the campaign against Yugoslavia with the feeling that the enemy would be easier to defeat even than Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. This is the price of victory over Iraq: excessive confidence.
This journal has been covering the Balkans conflict closely since 1992 and we have had a great many contacts since that time with US intelligence and military officers who were baffled by our analysis. There was an almost fatalistic willingness to believe the West’s own propaganda about the situation in the Balkans, rather than to read history, or to attempt to understand the peoples of the region.
This is still the case.
The constant NATO, US Defense Department, US State Department and White House briefings about how “Yugoslavia’s military capability has been severely degraded” and about how “we have hit Milosevicwhere he lives” have been exercises in self-delusion and have been viewed with amazement in Belgrade.
What will happen now, when the truth of NATO casualties begins to emerge? Will this cause the US and European publics to say “enough is enough”? Or will it cause outrage and the demand that the matter must now be settled by war?
7. The cost of burdening military leaders with political objectives: NATO is a military alliance, designed and tasked to fulfill military functions as directed by the Alliance political leadership. Why, then, are people such as NATO SACEUR Gen. Wesley Clark, and the US and UK chiefs of staff, and even the NATO public affairs officer, Jamie Shea, making statements of a political nature against Yugoslav leaders?
These officials have left themselves open to complicity in the political mistakes of their elected leaders. A decade ago, no NATO official would have dared engage in the kind of self-justifying political statements of the type which Clark and Shea, in particular, have engaged.
What this has done is to make it more difficult for NATO military leaders to plan a strategic “exit strategy” from the conflict. Early in the war, when blood-lust was up, it may have seemed a fairly acceptable posture. Today, it has all the hallmarks of General Custer’s comments about Chief Sitting Bull, just before the battle of Little Big Horn.
In a sense, by abandoning professional neutrality, the defense leadership, including the civilian defense ministers/secretaries, have made it more difficult for them to advocate coherent and rational policies for the conduct of the war. They are now bound up in their political masters’ path, something which does not help them to guide those same political masters to the best possible courses of action.
8. The loss of prestige: The late strategic philosopher Dr Stefan Possony, who co-founded this journal with me in 1972, said that prestige was the credit rating of nations. He meant that in many ways. Deterrence, for example, is totally dependent on the prestige of a defensive system. That prestige derives from perceptions about professionalism of operational capability, about strategic conduct, and, very often, about being on “the right side”. It is significant that during the Cold War, the US was often admired and respected by the average Soviet citizen, and certainly by the citizens of the Warsaw Treaty Organization states, A number of those Warsaw Pact states moved rapidly at the Cold War’s end to join the US-led Western economic structure and NATO.
Polls in Russia in mid-April 1999 showed 98 percent of Russians opposed to NATO’s action against Yugoslavia. And former Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Anatoliy Chubalas told the BBC on April 22, 1999, that a unified Russia — unified by the current conflict — saw NATO as a predatory organization.
Russians, he said, feared the West as never before; nuclear war was never closer than now. There was a general perception, he said, that after Iraq and Yugoslavia, Russia was the next to be vilified by the West and targeted as an enemy.
The loss of Western prestige over the past seven years goes well beyond Russia, however. Clearly, India and Pakistan feel that they can no longer rely on Western arbitration and have opted to finally make public their commitment to strategic defense systems of their own. Terrorist groups, such as that of Osama bin Laden, appear to hit the US at will.
In the Eritrea-Ethiopia dispute, now underway, Eritrea virtually threw out senior US envoys even when those envoys were trying to help Eritrea. Ethiopia treated the envoys little better.
So in a sense, NATO leaders are correct when they insist on a victory for the Alliance in the conflict with Yugoslavia. A military defeat would signal even more chaos. But a victory with some compassion is what is needed, and quickly, if NATO is to retain credibility and the moral high ground. Perhaps it is already too late for that.
But there can be no question: NATO and the US-led West will have no future, no real power (and will face decline, opposition and loss of markets) if the war is not ended quickly and if the West does not take an even-handed approach to major issues for the foreseeable future.
The restoration of prestige — reputation — is difficult after mistakes have been made of this magnitude and morals compromised.
The Houston Chronicle on March 28, 1999, published an insightful article on the Kosovo situation. The article, by Dr Ronald L. Hatchett, Director of the Center for International Studies at the University of St. Thomas, was entitled Would You Sign This Agreement?, and dealt with the peace accord on Kosovo put forward by the US and its allies at Rambouillet, France. The treaty which was put forward at the last minute was not what the Yugoslav Government had been told it would be. As a result, the Belgrade delegation had no option but to refuse to sign it, as was presumably the intention of US Secretary of State Madeline Albright. The uncompleted Rambouillet Accords noted:
“Kosovo will have a President, Prime Minister and Government, an Assembly, its own Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and other Courts and Prosecutors.”
“Kosovo will have the authority to make laws not subject to revision by Serbia or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including levying taxes, instituting programs of economic, scientific, technological, regional and social development, conducting foreign relations within its area of responsibility in the same manner as a Republic.”
“Yugoslav Army forces will withdraw completely from Kosovo, except for a limited border guard force (active only within a five kilometer border zone).”
“Serb security forces [police] will withdraw completely from Kosovo except for a limited number of border police (active only within a five kilometer border zone).”
“The parties invite NATO to deploy a military force (KFOR), which will be authorized to use necessary force to ensure compliance with the Accords.”
“The international community will play a rôle in ensuring that these provisions are carried out through a Civilian Implementation Mission (CIM) (appointed by NATO).”
“The Chief of the CIM has the authority to issue binding directives to the Parties on all important matters as he sees fit, including appointing and removing officials and curtailing institutions.”
“Three years after the implementation of the Accords, an international meeting will be convened to determine a mechanism for a final settlement for Kosovo on the basis of the will of the people.”
The Accords, had they been signed by the Yugoslav Government, would have meant an immediate effective removal of Kosovo from Yugoslavia. The Yugoslav delegation had been prepared to hand over autonomy to Kosovars in day-to-day matters, including religious, education and health care matters and local government operations. The Yugoslav delegation, however, was told: sign the “surprise” version of the Rambouillet Accords or face immediate NATO bombing. Could any Yugoslav have signed such an agreement?
Effective control of the media by the Clinton White House ensured that the prevailing opinion before the start of the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia was that the Yugoslav Government had rejected all attempts to negotiate an agreement on the future of Kosovo. The so-called Rambouillet Accords had been offered to the Yugoslavs and rejected, leaving NATO no option but to start aerial bombardment on March 24, 1999. But that was far from the truth.
On March 15, 1999, meeting in Paris, the key parties to the problem had already reached and signed an “Agreement for Self-Government in Kosmet [Kosovo and Metohija]”. The agreement was signed in the Albanian, English, Romany, Serbian and Turkish languages. For the Yugoslav side it was signed by Prof. Dr Ratko Mlarkovic (Vice-President of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and head of the Republic of Serbia delegation); and Prof. Dr Vladan Kutlesic (Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). For the Kosovo and Metohija side it was signed by Sokolj Cuse (Democratic Reform Party of Albanians); Faik Jashari (Kosovo Democratic Initiative); Vojislav Zivkovic (national community of Serbs and Montenegrins); Zaynelabidin Kureys and Guljbehar Sabovic (national community of Turks); Ibro Vail (national community of Goranles); Refik Senadovic (national community of Muslims); Ljuann Koka (national community of Romanies); and Cerin Abazi (national community of Egyptians).
Strategic Policy has obtained a copy of the Agreement which was conducted under the auspices of the members of the Contact Group (and in light of the Contact Group ministerial meeting in London on January 29, 1999) and the European Union. It recognizes “the need for democratic self-government in Kosmet, including full participation of the members of all national communities in political decisionmaking”.
The Agreement offers literally everything demanded by the Kosovo community except the demand by the KLA, which drafted the so-called Rambouillet Accords which were never discussed at all with the Yugoslav Government before being presented to it as à fait accompli two days after the ultimatum had been published as “the final agreement” in a KLA newspaper in Albania. The Paris Agreement had been the work of moderates and would have effectively blocked the KLA terrorist organization from achieving its goal: total secession of Kosovo and Metohija.
It gave full internal autonomy to the Kosovars; a free press; unfettered access to international organizations; an independent assembly; an independent judiciary; full control over local (and locally-appointed) police; and much more. What was important was that this was an agreement which satisfied all main communities in Kosovo.
With this already agreed, was there justification for a military attack?
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