In 1999, the U.S. national security state --
which has been involved throughout the world in subversion, sabotage,
terrorism, torture, drug trafficking, and death squads -- launched
round-the-clock aerial attacks against Yugoslavia for 78 days, dropping
20,000 tons of bombs and killing thousands of women, children, and men.
All this was done out of humanitarian concern
for Albanians in Kosovo. Or
so we were asked to believe. In the span of a few months, President
Clinton bombed four countries: Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq repeatedly, and
Yugoslavia massively. At the same time, the U.S. was involved in proxy
wars in Angola, Mexico (Chiapas), Colombia, East Timor, and various other
places. And U.S. forces are deployed on every continent and ocean, with
some 300 major overseas support bases -- all in the name of peace,
democracy, national security, and humanitarianism.
While showing themselves ready and willing to
bomb Yugoslavia on behalf of an ostensibly oppressed minority in Kosovo,
U.S. leaders have made no moves against the Czech Republic for its
mistreatment of the Romany people (gypsies), or Britain for oppressing the
Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, or the Hutu for the mass murder of
a half million Tutsi in Rwanda -- not to mention the French who were
complicit in that massacre. Nor have U.S. leaders considered launching
"humanitarian bombings" against the Turkish people for what their leaders
have done to the Kurds, or the Indonesian people because their generals
killed over 200,000 East Timorese and were continuing such slaughter
through the summer of 1999, or the Guatemalans for the Guatemalan
military's systematic extermination of tens of thousands of Mayan
villagers. In such cases, U.S. leaders not only tolerated such atrocities
but were actively complicit with the perpetrators -- who usually happened
to be faithful client-state allies dedicated to helping Washington make
the world safe for the Fortune 500.
Why then did U.S. leaders wage an
unrestrainedly murderous assault upon Yugoslavia?
The Third Worldization of
Yugoslavia was built on an idea, namely that
the Southern Slavs would not remain weak and divided peoples, squabbling
among themselves and easy prey to outside imperial interests. Together
they could form a substantial territory capable of its own economic
development. Indeed, after World War II, socialist Yugoslavia became a
viable nation and an economic success. Between 1960 and 1980 it had one of
the most vigorous growth rates: a decent standard of living, free medical
care and education, a guaranteed right to a job, one-month vacation with
pay, a literacy rate of over 90 percent, and a life expectancy of 72
years. Yugoslavia also offered its multi-ethnic citizenry affordable
public transportation, housing, and utilities, with a not-for-profit
economy that was mostly publicly owned. This was not the kind of country
global capitalism would normally tolerate. Still, socialistic Yugoslavia
was allowed to exist for 45 years because it was seen as a nonaligned
buffer to the Warsaw Pact nations.
The dismemberment and mutilation of
Yugoslavia was part of a concerted policy initiated by the United States
and the other Western powers in 1989. Yugoslavia was the one country in
Eastern Europe that would not voluntarily overthrow what remained of its
socialist system and install a free-market economic order. In fact,
Yugoslavs were proud of their postwar economic development and of their
independence from both the Warsaw Pact and NATO. The U.S. goal has been to
transform the Yugoslav nation into a Third-World region, a cluster of weak
right-wing principalities with the following characteristics:
- incapable of charting an independent
course of self-development;
- a shattered economy and natural resources
completely accessible to multinational corporate exploitation, including
the enormous mineral wealth in Kosovo;
- an impoverished, but literate and skilled
population forced to work at subsistence wages, constituting a cheap
labor pool that will help depress wages in western Europe and elsewhere;
- dismantled petroleum, engineering, mining,
fertilizer, and automobile industries, and various light industries,
that offer no further competition with existing Western producers.
U.S. policymakers also want to abolish
Yugoslavia's public sector services and social programs -- for the same
reason they want to abolish our public sector services and social
programs. The ultimate goal is the privatization and Third Worldization of
Yugoslavia, as it is the Third Worldization of the United States and every
other nation. In some respects, the fury of the West's destruction of
Yugoslavia is a backhanded tribute to that nation's success as an
alternative form of development, and to the pull it exerted on neighboring
populations both East and West.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, Belgrade's
leaders, not unlike the Communist leadership in Poland, sought
simultaneously to expand the country's industrial base and increase
consumer goods, a feat they intended to accomplish by borrowing heavily
from the West. But with an enormous IMF debt came the inevitable
demand for "restructuring," a
harsh austerity program that brought wage freezes,
cutbacks in public spending, increased unemployment, and the abolition of
worker-managed enterprises. Still, much of the economy remained in the
not-for-profit public sector, including the Trepca mining complex in
Kosovo, described in the New York Times as "war's glittering prize
. . . the most valuable piece of real estate in the Balkans . . . worth at
least $5 billion" in rich deposits of coal, lead, zinc, cadmium, gold, and
That U.S. leaders have consciously sought to
dismember Yugoslavia is not a matter of speculation but of
In November 1990, the Bush administration pressured Congress into passing
the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, which provided that any
part of Yugoslavia failing to declare independence within six months would
lose U.S. financial support. The law demanded separate elections in each
of the six Yugoslav republics, and mandated U.S. State Department approval
of both election procedures and results as a condition for any future aid.
Aid would go only to the separate republics, not to the Yugoslav
government, and only to those forces whom Washington defined as
"democratic," meaning right-wing, free-market, separatist parties.
Another goal of U.S. policy has been media
monopoly and ideological control. In 1997, in what remained of Serbian
Bosnia, the last radio station critical of NATO policy was forcibly shut
down by NATO "peacekeepers." The story in the New York Times took
elaborate pains to explain why silencing the only existing dissident
Serbian station was necessary for advancing democratic pluralism. The
Times used the term "hardline" eleven times to describe Bosnian Serb
leaders who opposed the shutdown and who failed to see it as "a step
toward bringing about responsible news coverage in
Likewise, a portion of Yugoslav television
remained in the hands of people who refused to view the world as do the
U.S. State Department, the White House, and the corporate-owned U.S. news
media, and this was not to be tolerated.
The NATO bombings
two government TV channels and dozens of local radio and television
stations, so that by the summer of 1999 the only TV one could see in
Belgrade, when I visited that city, were the private channels along with
CNN, German television, and various U.S. programs. Yugoslavia's sin was
not that it had a media monopoly but that the publicly owned portion of
its media deviated from the western media monopoly that blankets most of
the world, including Yugoslavia itself.
In 1992, another blow was delivered against
Belgrade: international sanctions. Led by the United States, a freeze was
imposed on all trade to and from Yugoslavia, with disastrous results for
the economy: hyperinflation, mass unemployment of up to 70 percent,
malnourishment, and the collapse
of the health care system.3
Divide and Conquer
One of the great deceptions, notes Joan
Phillips, is that "those who are mainly
responsible for the bloodshed in Yugoslavia -- not the Serbs, Croats
or Muslims, but the Western powers --
are depicted as saviors."4 While pretending to work for
harmony, U.S. leaders supported the most divisive, reactionary forces from
Croatia to Kosovo.
In Croatia, the West's man-of-the-hour was
Franjo Tudjman, who claimed
in a book he authored in 1989, that "the
establishment of Hitler's new European order can be justified by the need
to be rid of the Jews," and that only 900,000 Jews, not six million, were
killed in the Holocaust. Tudjman's government
adopted the fascist Ustasha checkered flag and anthem.5
Tudjman presided over the forced
evacuation of over half a million Serbs from Croatia between 1991 and
1995, replete with rapes and summary executions.6 This included
the 200,000 from Krajina in 1995,
whose expulsion was facilitated by
attacks from NATO war planes and missiles. Needless to say, U.S. leaders
did nothing to stop and much to assist these atrocities, while the U.S.
media looked the other way. Tudjman and his cronies now reside in obscene
wealth while the people of Croatia are suffering the afflictions of the
free market paradise. Tight controls have been imposed on Croatian media,
and anyone who criticizes President Tudjman's government risks
incarceration. Yet the White House hails Croatia as a new democracy.
In Bosnia, U.S. leaders supported the Muslim
fundamentalist, Alija Izetbegovic, an active Nazi in his youth, who has
called for strict religious control over the media and now wants to
establish an Islamic
Izetbegovic himself does not have
the support of most Bosnian Muslims. He was decisively outpolled in his
bid for the presidency yet managed to take over that office by cutting a
mysterious deal with frontrunner Fikret Abdic.7 Bosnia is now
under IMF and NATO regency. It is not permitted to develop its own
internal resources, nor allowed to extend credit or self-finance through
an independent monetary system. Its state-owned assets, including energy,
water, telecommunications, media and transportation, have been sold off to
private firms at garage sale prices.
In the former Yugoslavia, NATO powers have
put aside neoimperialism and have opted for out-and-out colonial
occupation. In early 1999, the democratically elected president of
Republika Srpska, the Serb ministate in Bosnia, who had defeated NATO's
chosen candidate, was removed by NATO troops because he proved less than
fully cooperative with NATO's "high representative" in Bosnia. The latter
retains authority to impose his own solutions and remove elected officials
who prove in any way obstructive.8 This too was represented in
the western press as a necessary measure to advance democracy.
In Kosovo, we see the same dreary pattern.
The U.S. gave aid and encouragement to violently right-wing separatist
forces such as the self-styled Kosovo Liberation Army, previously
considered a terrorist organization by Washington. The KLA has been a
longtime player in the enormous
heroin trade that reaches to Switzerland,
Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Norway, and
Sweden.9 KLA leaders had no social program other than the
stated goal of cleansing Kosovo of all non-Albanians, a campaign that had
been going on for decades.
Between 1945 and 1998, the non-Albanian Kosovar
population of Serbs, Roma, Turks, Gorani (Muslim Slavs), Montenegrins, and
several other ethnic groups shrank from some 60 percent to about 20
percent. Meanwhile, the Albanian population grew from 40 to 80 percent
(not the 90 percent repeatedly reported in the press), benefiting from a
higher birth rate, a heavy influx of immigrants from Albania, and the
systematic intimidation and expulsion of Serbs.
In 1987, in an early untutored moment of
truth, the New York Times reported: "Ethnic Albanians in the
Government have manipulated public funds and regulations to take over land
belonging to Serbs. . . . Slavic Orthodox churches have been attacked, and
flags have been torn down. Wells have been poisoned and crops burned.
Slavic boys have been knifed, and some young ethnic Albanians have been
told by their elders to rape Serbian girls. . . . As the Slavs flee the
protracted violence, Kosovo is becoming what ethnic Albanian nationalists
have been demanding for years . . . an 'ethnically pure' Albanian region.
. . ."10 Ironically, while the Serbs were repeatedly charged
with ethnic cleansing, Serbia itself is now the only multi-ethnic society
left in the former Yugoslavia, with some twenty-six nationality groups
including thousands of Albanians who live in and around Belgrade.
Demonizing the Serbs
The propaganda campaign to
demonize the Serbs
fits the larger policy of the Western powers. The Serbs were targeted for
demonization because they were the largest nationality and the one most
opposed to the breakup of Yugoslavia. None other than Charles Boyd, former
deputy commander of the U.S. European command, commented on it in 1994:
"The popular image of this war in Bosnia is one of unrelenting Serb
expansionism. Much of what the Croatians call 'the occupied territories'
is land that has been held by Serbs for more that three centuries. The
same is true of most Serb land in Bosnia. . . . In short the Serbs were
not trying to conquer new territory, but merely to hold onto what was
already theirs." While U.S. leaders claim they want peace, Boyd concludes,
they have encouraged a deepening of the war.11
But what of the atrocities they committed?
All sides committed atrocities, but the reporting was consistently
one-sided. Grisly incidents of Croat and Muslim atrocities against the
Serbs rarely made it into the U.S. press, and when they did they were
accorded only passing mention.12 Meanwhile Serb atrocities were
played up and sometimes
as we shall see. Recently, three
Croatian generals were indicted by the Hague War Crimes Tribunal for the
bombardment and deaths of Serbs in Krajina and elsewhere. Where were U.S.
leaders and U.S. television crews when these war crimes were being
committed? John Ranz, chair of Survivors of the Buchenwald Concentration
Camp, USA, asks: Where were the TV cameras when hundreds of Serbs were
slaughtered by Muslims near Srebrenica?13 The official line,
faithfully parroted in the U.S. media, is that the Serbs committed all the
atrocities at Srebrenica.
Before uncritically ingesting the atrocity
stories dished out by U.S. leaders and the corporate-owned news media, we
might recall the five hundred premature babies whom Iraqi soldiers
laughingly ripped from incubators in Kuwait, a story repeated and believed
until exposed as a total
fabrication years later. During the Bosnian war
in 1993, the Serbs were accused of having an official policy of rape. "Go
forth and rape" a Bosnian Serb commander supposedly publicly instructed
his troops. The source of that story never could be traced. The
commander's name was never produced. As far as we know, no such utterance
was ever made. Even the New York Times belatedly ran a tiny
retraction, coyly allowing that "the existence of 'a systematic rape
policy' by the Serbs remains to be proved."14
Bosnian Serb forces supposedly raped anywhere
from 25,000 to 100,000 Muslim women. The Bosnian Serb army numbered not
more than 30,000 or so, many of whom were engaged in desperate military
engagements. A representative from Helsinki Watch noted that stories of
massive Serbian rapes originated with the Bosnian Muslim and Croatian
governments and had no credible supporting evidence. Common sense would
dictate that these stories be treated with the utmost skepticism -- and
not be used as an excuse for an aggressive and punitive policy against
The mass rape propaganda theme was
resuscitated in 1999 to justify NATO's renewed attacks on Yugoslavia. A
headline in the San Francisco Examiner tells us: "SERB TACTIC IS
ORGANIZED RAPE, KOSOVO REFUGEES SAY." Only at the bottom of the story, in
the nineteenth paragraph, do we read that reports gathered by the Kosovo
mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe found
no such organized rape policy. The actual number of rapes were in the
dozens "and not many dozens," according to the OSCE spokesperson. This
same story did note that the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal sentenced a Bosnian
Croat military commander to ten years in prison for failing to stop his
troops from raping Muslim women in 1993 -- an atrocity we heard little
about when it was happening.15
The Serbs were blamed for the
infamous Sarajevo market massacre of 1992. But according to the report leaked out
on French TV, Western intelligence knew that it was Muslim operatives who
had bombed Bosnian civilians in the marketplace in order to induce NATO
involvement. Even international negotiator David Owen, who worked with
Cyrus Vance, admitted in his memoir that the NATO powers knew all along
that it was a Muslim bomb.16 However, the well-timed
fabrication served its purpose of inducing the United Nations to go along
with the U.S.-sponsored sanctions.
On one occasion, notes Barry Lituchy, the
New York Times ran a photo purporting to be of Croats grieving over
Serbian atrocities when in fact the murders had been committed by Bosnian
Muslims. The Times printed an obscure retraction the following
We repeatedly have seen how "rogue nations"
are designated and demonized. The process is predictably transparent.
First, the leaders are targeted. Qaddafi of Libya was a "Hitlerite
megalomaniac" and a "madman." Noriega of Panama was
a "a swamp rat," one
of the world's worst "drug thieves and scums," and "a Hitler admirer."
Saddam Hussein of Iraq was "the Butcher of Baghdad," a "madman," and
"worse than Hitler." Each of these leaders then had their countries
attacked by U.S. forces and U.S.-led sanctions. What they really had in
common was that each was charting a somewhat independent course of
self-development or somehow was not complying with the dictates of the
global free market and the U.S. national security
Yugoslav president Slobodan
been described by Bill Clinton as "a new Hitler." Yet he was not always
considered so. At first, the Western press, viewing the ex-banker as a
bourgeois Serbian nationalist who might hasten the break-up of the
federation, hailed him as a "charismatic personality." Only later, when
they saw him as an obstacle rather than a tool, did they begin to depict
him as the demon who "started all four wars." This was too much even for
the managing editor of the U.S. establishment journal Foreign Affairs,
Fareed Zakaria. He noted in the New York Times that Milosevic who
rules "an impoverished country that has not attacked its neighbors -- is
no Adolf Hitler. He is not even Saddam Hussein."19
Some opposition radio stations and newspapers
were reportedly shut down during the NATO bombing. But, during my trip to
Belgrade in August 1999, I observed nongovernmental media and opposition
party newspapers going strong. There are more opposition parties in the
Yugoslav parliament than in any other European parliament. Yet the
government is repeatedly labeled a dictatorship. Milosevic was elected as
president of Yugoslavia in a contest that foreign observers said had
relatively few violations. As of the end of 1999, he presided over a
coalition government that included four parties. Opposition groups openly
criticized and demonstrated against his government. Yet he was called a
The propaganda campaign against Belgrade has
been so relentless that prominent personages on the Left -- who oppose the
NATO policy against Yugoslavia -- have felt compelled to genuflect before
this demonization orthodoxy.20 Thus do they reveal themselves
as having been influenced by the very media propaganda machine they
criticize on so many other issues. To reject the demonized image of
Milosevic and of the Serbian people is not to idealize them or claim they
are faultless or free of crimes. It is merely to challenge the one-sided
propaganda that laid the grounds for NATO's destruction of Yugoslavia.
More Atrocity Stories
Atrocities (murders and rapes) occur in every
war, which is not to condone them. Indeed, murders and rapes occur in many
peacetime communities. What the
media propaganda campaign against Yugoslavia charged was that atrocities
were conducted on a mass genocidal scale. Such charges were used
the murderous aerial assault by NATO forces.
Up until the bombings began in March 1999,
the conflict in Kosovo had taken 2000 lives altogether from both sides,
according to Kosovo Albanian sources. Yugoslavian sources had put the
figure at 800. In either case, such casualties reveal a limited
insurgency, not genocide. The forced expulsion policy began after the NATO
bombings, with thousands being uprooted by Serb forces mostly in areas
where the KLA was operating or was suspected of operating. In addition, if
the unconfirmed reports by the ethnic Albanian refugees can be believed,
there was much plundering and instances of summary execution by Serbian
paramilitary forces -- who were unleashed after the NATO bombing started.
We should keep in mind that tens of thousands
fled Kosovo because of the bombings, or because the province was the scene
of sustained ground fighting between Yugoslav forces and the KLA, or
because they were just afraid and hungry. An Albanian woman crossing into
Macedonia was eagerly asked by a news crew if she had been forced out by
Serb police. She responded: "There were no Serbs. We were frightened of
the [NATO] bombs."21 During the bombings, an estimated 70,000
to 100,000 Serbian residents of Kosovo took flight (mostly north but some
to the south), as did thousands of Roma and other non-Albanian ethnic
groups.22 Were these people ethnically cleansing themselves? Or
were they not fleeing the bombing and the ground war?
The New York Times reported that "a
major purpose of the NATO effort is to end the Serb atrocities that drove
more than one million Albanians from their homes."23 So, we are
told to believe, the refugee tide was caused not by the ground war against
the KLA and not by the massive NATO bombing but by unspecified atrocities.
The bombing, which was the major cause of the refugee problem was now seen
as the solution. The refugee problem created in part by the massive aerial
attacks was now treated as justification for such attacks, a way of
putting pressure on Milosevic to allow "the safe return of ethnic Albanian
While Kosovo Albanians were leaving in great
numbers -- usually well-clothed and in good health, some riding their
tractors, trucks, or cars, many of them young men of recruitment age --
they were described as being "slaughtered." Serbian attacks on KLA
strongholds and the forced expulsion of Albanian villagers were described
as "genocide." But experts in surveillance photography and wartime
propaganda charged NATO with running a "propaganda campaign" on Kosovo
that lacked any supporting evidence. State Department reports of mass
graves and of 100,000 to 500,000 missing Albanian men "are just
ludicrous," according to these independent critics.25
As with the Croatian and Bosnian conflicts,
the image of mass killings was hyped once again. The Washington Post
reported that 350 ethnic Albanians "might be buried in mass graves" around
a mountain village in western Kosovo. Such speculations were based on
sources that NATO officials refused to identify. Getting down to
specifics, the article mentions "four decomposing bodies" discovered near
a large ash heap, with no details as to who they might be or how they
An ABC "Nightline" program made dramatic and
repeated references to the "Serbian atrocities in Kosovo" while offering
no specifics. Ted Kopple asked angry Albanian refugees what they had
witnessed? They pointed to an old man in their group who wore a wool hat.
The Serbs had thrown the man's hat to the ground and stepped on it,
"because the Serbs knew that his hat was the most important thing to him,"
they told Kopple, who was appropriately appalled by this one example of a
"war crime" offered in the hour-long program.
A widely circulated story in the New York
Times, headlined "U.S. REPORT OUTLINES SERB ATTACKS IN KOSOVO," tells
us that the State Department issued "the most comprehensive documentary
record to date on atrocities." The report concludes that there had been
organized rapes and systematic executions. But reading further into the
article, one finds that stories of such crimes "depend almost entirely on
information from refugee accounts. There was no suggestion that American
intelligence agencies had been able to verify, most, or even many, of the
accounts . . . and the word 'reportedly' and 'allegedly' appear throughout
British journalist Audrey Gillan interviewed
Kosovo refugees about atrocities and found an impressive lack of evidence.
One woman caught him glancing at the watch on her wrist, while her husband
told him how all the women had been robbed of their jewelry and other
possessions. A spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
talked of mass rapes and what sounded like hundreds of killings in three
villages. When Gillan pressed him for more precise information, he reduced
it drastically to five or six teenage rape victims. But he admitted that
he had not spoken to any witnesses and that "we have no way of verifying
Gillan noted that some refugees had seen
killings and other atrocities, but there was little to suggest that they
had seen it on the scale that was being reported. Officials told him of
refugees who talked of sixty or more being killed in one village and fifty
in another, but Gillan "could not find one eye-witness who actually saw
these things happening." It was always in some other village that the mass
atrocities seem to have occurred. Yet every day western journalists
reported "hundreds" of rapes and murders. Sometimes they noted in passing
that the reports had yet to be substantiated, but then why were such
stories being so eagerly publicized?
In contrast to its public assertions, the
German Foreign Office privately denied there was any evidence that
genocide or ethnic cleansing was a component of Yugoslav policy: "Even in
Kosovo, an explicit political persecution linked to Albanian ethnicity is
not verifiable. . . . The actions of the [Yugoslav] security forces [were]
not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an ethnically defined group,
but against the military opponent and its actual or alleged
Still, Milosevic was indicted as a war
criminal, charged with the forced expulsion of Albanian Kosovars, and with
summary executions of a hundred or so individuals. Again, alleged crimes
that occurred after the NATO bombing had started were used as
justification for the bombing. The biggest war criminals of all were the
NATO political leaders who orchestrated the aerial campaign of death and
As the White House saw it, since the stated
aim of the aerial attacks was not to kill civilians; there was no
liability, only regrettable mistakes. In other words, only the professed
intent of an action counted and not its ineluctable effects. But a
perpetrator can be judged guilty of willful murder without explicitly
intending the death of a particular victim -- as with an unlawful act that
the perpetrator knew would likely cause death. As George Kenney, a former
State Department official under the Bush Administration, put it: "Dropping
cluster bombs on
highly populated urban areas doesn't result in accidental
fatalities. It is purposeful terror bombing."30
In the first weeks of the NATO occupation of
Kosovo, tens of thousands of Serbs were driven from the province and
hundreds were killed by KLA gunmen in what was described in the western
press as acts of "revenge"
and "retaliation," as if the victims were
deserving of such a fate. Also numbering among the victims of
"retribution" were the Roma, Gorani, Turks, Montenegrins, and Albanians
who had "collaborated" with the Serbs by speaking Serbian, opposing
separatism, and otherwise identifying themselves as Yugoslavs. Others
continued to be killed or maimed by the mines planted by the KLA and the
Serb military, and by the large number of NATO cluster bombs sprinkled
over the land.31
It was repeatedly announced in the first days
of the NATO occupation that 10,000 Albanians had been killed by the Serbs
(down from the 100,000 and even 500,000 Albanian men supposedly executed
during the war). No evidence was ever offered to support the 10,000
figure, nor even to explain how it was so swiftly determined -- even
before NATO forces had moved into most of Kosovo.
Repeatedly unsubstantiated references to
"mass graves," each purportedly filled with hundreds or even thousands of
Albanian victims also failed to materialize. Through the summer of 1999,
the media hype about mass graves devolved into an occasional unspecified
reference. The few sites actually unearthed offered up as many as a dozen
bodies or sometimes twice that number, but with no certain evidence
regarding causes of death or even the nationality of victims. In some
cases there was reason to believe the victims were
Lacking evidence of mass graves, by late
August 1999 the Los Angeles Times focused on wells "as mass graves in
their own right. . . . Serbian forces apparently stuffed . . . many bodies of
ethnic Albanians into wells during their campaign of terror."33
Apparently? The story itself dwelled on only one village in which the body
of a 39-year-old male was found in a well, along with three dead cows and
a dog. No cause was given for his death and "no other human remains were
discovered." The well's owner was not identified. Again when getting down
to specifics, the atrocities seem not endemic but sporadic.
Ethnic Enmity and U.S.
Some people argue that nationalism, not
class, is the real motor force behind the Yugoslav conflict. This presumes
that class and ethnicity are mutually exclusive forces. In fact, ethnic
enmity can be enlisted to serve class interests, as the CIA tried to do
with indigenous peoples in Indochina and Nicaragua -- and more recently in
When different national groups are living
together with some measure of social and material security, they tend to
get along. There is intermingling and even intermarriage. But when the
economy goes into a tailspin, thanks to sanctions and IMF destabilization,
then it becomes easier to induce internecine conflicts and social
discombobulation. In order to hasten that process in Yugoslavia, the
Western powers provided
the most retrograde
separatist elements with every
advantage in money, organization,
hired thugs, and the
full might of the U.S. national security state at their backs. Once more
the Balkans are to be balkanized.
NATO's attacks on Yugoslavia have been in
violation of its own charter, which says it can take military action only
in response to aggression committed against one of its members. Yugoslavia
attacked no NATO member.
U.S. leaders discarded
international law and
diplomacy. Traditional diplomacy is a process of negotiating disputes
through give and take, proposal and counterproposal, a way of pressing
one's interests only so far, arriving eventually at a solution that may
leave one side more dissatisfied than the other but not to the point of
forcing either party to war.
U.S. diplomacy is something else, as
evidenced in its dealings with Vietnam, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, and now
Yugoslavia. It consists of laying down a set of demands that are treated
as nonnegotiable, though called "accords" or "agreements,"
as in the
Dayton Accords or
The other side's reluctance to
surrender completely to every condition is labeled "stonewalling," and is
publicly misrepresented as an unwillingness to negotiate in good faith.
U.S. leaders, we hear, run out of patience as their "offers" are
"snubbed." Ultimatums are issued, then aerial destruction is delivered
upon the recalcitrant nation so that it might learn to see things the way
Milosevic balked because the Rambouillet
plan, drawn up by the U.S. State Department, demanded that he hand over a
large, rich region of Serbia, that is, Kosovo, to foreign occupation. The
plan further stipulated that these foreign troops shall have complete
occupational power over all of Yugoslavia, with immunity from arrest and
with supremacy over Yugoslav police and authorities. Even more revealing
of the U.S. agenda, the Rambouillet plan stated: "The economy of Kosovo
shall function in accordance with free market principles."
While professing to having been discomforted
by the aerial destruction of Yugoslavia, many liberals and progressives
were convinced that "this time" the U.S. national security state was
really fighting the good fight. "Yes, the bombings don't work. The
bombings are stupid!" they said at the time, "but we have to do
something." In fact, the bombings were other than stupid: they were
And in fact they did work; they destroyed much of what
was left of Yugoslavia, turning it into a privatized, deindustrialized,
recolonized, beggar-poor country of cheap labor, defenseless against
capital penetration, so battered that it will never rise again, so
shattered that it will never reunite, not even as a viable bourgeois
When the productive social capital of any
part of the world is obliterated, the potential value of private capital
elsewhere is enhanced -- especially when the crisis faced today by western
capitalism is one of overcapacity. Every agricultural base destroyed by
western aerial attacks (as in Iraq) or by NAFTA and GATT (as in Mexico and
elsewhere), diminishes the potential competition and increases the market
opportunities for multinational corporate agribusiness. To destroy
publicly-run Yugoslav factories that produced auto parts, appliances, or
or a publicly financed Sudanese plant that produced
pharmaceuticals at prices substantially below their western competitors --
is to enhance the investment value of western producers. And every
television or radio station closed down by NATO troops or blown up by NATO
bombs extends the monopolizing dominance of the western media cartels. The
aerial destruction of Yugoslavia's social capital served that
We have yet to understand the full effect of
NATO's aggression. Serbia is one of the greatest sources of underground
waters in Europe, and the contamination from U.S.
depleted uranium and
other explosives is being felt in the whole surrounding area all the way
to the Black Sea. In Pancevo
alone, huge amounts of ammonia were released
into the air when NATO bombed the fertilizer factory. In that same city, a
petrochemical plant was bombed seven times. After 20,000 tons of crude oil
were burnt up in only one bombardment of an oil refinery, a massive cloud
of smoke hung in the air for ten days. Some 1,400 tons of ethylene
dichloride spilled into the Danube, the source of drinking water for ten
million people. Meanwhile, concentrations of vinyl chloride were released
into the atmosphere at more than 10,000 times the permitted level. In some
areas, people have broken out in red blotches and blisters, and health
officials predict sharp increases in cancer rates in the years
National parks and reservations that make
Yugoslavia among thirteen of the world's richest bio-diversity countries
were bombed. The depleted uranium
missiles that NATO used through many
parts of the country have a half-life of 4.5 billion years.36
It is the same depleted uranium that now delivers cancer, birth defects,
and premature death upon the people of Iraq. In Novi Sad, I was told that
crops were dying because of the contamination. And power transformers
could not be repaired because U.N. sanctions prohibited the importation of
replacement parts. The people I spoke to were facing famine and cold in
the winter ahead.
With words that might make us question his
humanity, the NATO commander, U.S. General Wesley Clark boasted that the
aim of the air war was to "demolish, destroy, devastate, degrade, and
ultimately eliminate the essential infrastructure" of Yugoslavia. Even if
Serbian atrocities had been committed, ...
where is the sense of proportionality? Paramilitary killings in Kosovo
(which occurred mostly after the aerial war began) are no justification
for bombing fifteen cities in hundreds of around-the-clock raids for over
two months, spewing hundreds of thousands of tons of highly toxic and
carcinogenic chemicals into the water, air, and soil, killing thousands of
Serbs, Albanians, Roma, Turks, and others, and destroying bridges,
residential areas, and over two hundred hospitals, clinics, schools, and
churches, along with the productive capital of an entire
A report released in London in August 1999 by
the Economist Intelligence Unit concluded that the enormous damage NATO's
aerial war inflicted on Yugoslavia's infrastructure will cause the economy
to shrink dramatically in the next few years.37 Gross domestic
product will drop by 40 percent this year and remain at levels far below
those of a decade ago. Yugoslavia, the report predicted, will become the
poorest country in Europe. Mission accomplished.
In mid-September 1999, the investigative
journalist Diana Johnstone emailed associates in the U.S. that former U.S.
ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, who had backed Tudjman's
"operation storm" that drove 200,000 Serbians (mostly farming families)
out of the Krajina region of Croatia four years ago, was recently in
Montenegro, chiding Serbian opposition politicians for their reluctance to
plunge Yugoslavia into civil war. Such a war would be brief, he assured
them, and would "solve all your problems." Another strategy under
consideration by U.S. leaders, heard recently in Yugoslavia, is to turn
over the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina to Hungary. Vojvodina has
some twenty-six nationalities including several hundred thousand persons
of Hungarian descent who, on the whole show no signs of wanting to secede,
and who certainly are better treated than the larger Hungarian minorities
in Rumania and Slovakia. Still, a recent $100 million appropriation from
the U.S. Congress fuels separatist activity in what remains of Yugoslavia
-- at least until Serbia gets a government sufficiently pleasing to the
free-market globalists in the West. Johnstone concludes: "With their
electric power stations ruined and factories destroyed by NATO bombing,
isolated, sanctioned and treated as pariahs by the West, Serbs have the
choice between freezing honorably in a homeland plunged into destitution,
or following the 'friendly advice' of the same people who have
methodically destroyed their country. As the choice is unlikely to be
unanimous one way or the other, civil war and further destruction of the
country are probable."
Michael Parenti is the author of Against
Besieged, and most recently, History as
Mystery, all published by City Lights Books.
- New York Times, July 8, 1998.
- New York Times, October 10, 1997.
- For more detailed background information
on the stratagems preceding the NATO bombing, see the collection of
reports by Ramsey Clark, Sean Gervasi, Sara Flounders, Nadja Tesich,
Michel Choussudovsky, and others in NATO in the Balkans: Voices of
Opposition (New York: International Action Center, 1998).
- Joan Phillips, "Breaking the Selective
Silence," Living Marxism, April 1993, p. 10.
- Financial Times (London), April
- See for instance, Yigal Chazan's report
in The Guardian (London/Manchester), August 17, 1992.
- See Laura Silber and Allan Little,
Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation (London: Penguin, 1995), p. 211; also
Diana Johnstone, "Alija Izetbegovic: Islamic Hero of the Western World,"
CovertAction Quarterly, Winter 1999, p. 58.
- Michael Kelly, "The Clinton Doctrine is a
Fraud, and Kosovo Proves It," Boston Globe, July 1, 19 99.
- San Francisco Chronicle, May 5,
1999 and Washington Times, May 3, 1999.
- New York Times, November 1, 1987.
- Foreign Affairs, September/October
- For instance, Raymond Bonner, "War Crimes
Panel Finds Croat Troops 'Cleansed' the Serbs," New York Times,
March 21, 1999, a revealing report that has been ignored in the
relentless propaganda campaign against the Serbs.
- John Ranz in his paid advertisement in
the New York Times, April 29, 1993.
- "Correction: Report on Rape in Bosnia,"
New York Times, October 23, 1993.
- San Francisco Examiner, April 26,
- David Owen, Balkan Odyssey, p.
- Barry Lituchy, "Media Deception and the
Yugoslav Civil War," in NATO in the Balkans, p. 205; see also New
York Times, August 7, 1993.
- For further discussion of this point, see
my Against Empire (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1995).
- New York Times, March 28, 1999.
- Both Noam Chomsky in his comments on
Pacifica Radio, April 7, 1999, and Alexander Cockburn in the
Nation, May 10, 1999, referred to Serbian "brutality" and
described Milosevic as "monstrous" without offering any specifics.
- Brooke Shelby Biggs, "Failure to Inform,"
San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 5, 1999, p. 25.
- Washington Post, June 6, 1999.
- New York Times, June 15, 1999.
- See for instance, Robert Burns,
Associated Press report, April 22, 1999.
- Charles Radin and Louise Palmer, "Experts
Voice Doubts on Claims of Genocide: Little Evidence for NATO
Assertions," San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 1999.
- Washington Post, July 10, 1999.
- New York Times, May 11, 1999.
- Audrey Gillan "What's the Story?"
London Review of Books, May 27, 1999.
- Intelligence reports from the German
Foreign Office, January 12, 1999 and October 29, 1998 to the German
Administrative Courts, translated by Eric Canepa, Brecht Forum, New
York, April 20, 1999.
- Teach-in, Leo Baeck Temple, Los Angeles,
May 23, 1999.
- Los Angeles Times, August 22,
- See for instance, Carlotta Gall,
"Belgrade Sees Grave Site as Proof NATO Fails to Protect Serbs," New
York Times, August 27, 1999.
- Los Angeles Times, August 28,
- It is a matter of public record that the
CIA has been active in Bosnia. Consider these headlines: The
Guardian (Manchester/London), November 17 1994: "CIA AGENTS TRAINING
BOSNIAN ARMY"; The London Observer, November 20, 1994: "AMERICA'S
SECRET BOSNIA AGENDA"; The European, November 25, 1994: "HOW THE CIA
HELPS BOSNIA FIGHT BACK."
- Report by Steve Crawshaw in the London
Independent, reprinted in the San Francisco Examiner, July
- See the communication from Serbian
environmentalist Branka Jovanovic: http://beograd.rockbridge.net/greens_from_belgrade.htm;
March 31, 1999.
- San Francisco Examiner, August 23,