By NAT WEINSTEIN
When news of the bombing by a U.S. warplane of a caravan of tractors, carts, and trucks loaded with Albanian refugees hit the mass media on April 15, American imperialism’s “humanitarian” facade began to crumble.
The first response of the NATO commander, U.S. General Wesley K. Clark, was to claim he had evidence it was the Serbs who had shot up the refugees after allied pilots attacked military vehicles nearby. That lie was quickly punctured when the alleged source of his evidence, a United Nations relief agency official, refuted Gen. Clark’s version of the event.
What followed was a string of more lies and distortions designed to cover up the criminal acts of President William Jefferson Clinton and his bipartisan capitalist government’s undeclared war on Yugoslavia.
But this incident, nevertheless, raised to a boil the already simmering division growing within the ranks of America’s ruling capitalist class and among its imperialist allies.
Starting early in April, formerly hawkish supporters of the bombing have been sounding warning cries of alarm. Not, of course, because of any concern for human life and justice, but only because some of capitalism’s leading figures are beginning to fear that U.S. and world imperialism may well be headed toward a major military “victory” that contributes to losing the war-what historians would characterize as a Pyrrhic victory.
Thus, by April 16 and 17, sections of the U.S. ruling class began openly questioning their war policy and started finger-pointing in an attempt to escape responsibility for what they now are beginning to believe was a disastrous miscalculation that had begun with virtually unanimous approval of the capitalist class and its mass media monopoly.
But, as the saying goes: “Those the gods would destroy, they first make mad!” So, even as they realize their mistake, they appear to be plunging deeper into the quagmire by widening the war-with consequences no one can foresee.
As we shall see in a moment, however, their real fear is that if body bags start coming home, the great majority of the American people will rise up in a mass antiwar movement as they did in the Vietnam era.
But first, listen to these comments by the dyed-in-the-wool pro-imperialist New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal, in his April 16 column. It appeared the day after of U.S. bombing of refugees was reported in the mass media.
The article is headed, “Lessons of Kosovo.” Rosenthal writes:
“The way adults of any intelligence can find out how well they are dealing with a crisis, personal or national, is to ask themselves two questions. Would we do the same things again if we had the chance? If not, what do we now do to get out of this mess?…
“Would we again bombbombbomb [sic] the capital of the Serbs, who thought of themselves as far more our friends than [Milosevic’s]? So far this has produced three major results: humiliating the Serbs forever, turning friendship into enmity, and persuading many to rally around a man they detest and fear.
“Would we be roaming around again with a diplomatic begging cup asking Russia, the same addled country that we pity, or any other country that will answer the phone, to find a way out for us? … While we are stuck in the bloody mud of the Balkans, about 35 million other victims of despotism are in exile or tormented at home, victims of dictatorships we enrich.
“As former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said on ABC: “At the back of my head I have to ask whether some of this isn’t racist. I really mean that.”
Thus, with the 20-20 vision of hindsight, Rosenthal announces, belatedly, that Clinton’s bipartisan government made a big mistake.
An op-ed contribution on the same page by John R. Kosich, chairman of the House Budget Committee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, writes with similarly acute hindsight. In a piece titled, “ENDGAME: Give Mediation Another Try,” he joins those pointing the blame for the mounting calamity elsewhere.
The following couple of sentences from Kosich’s op-ed piece gets his current viewpoint across. He writes:
“Those who have called for ground troops have not specified the goal. Is it to take Kosovo, fortify it and occupy it for years, perhaps decades, against the Serbian threat? Or should the goal be to conquer all of Serbia, with incalculable consequences for wider Balkan stability?…
“A realistic mediation needs the efforts of neutral parties. We need to involve the Russians, not only because of their influence with Serbia, but also because we must reward, not spurn, President Boris Yeltsin….”
The congressman clearly means, give the bankrupt Russian economy cash on the barrel-head in return for Yeltsin’s help in saving American and world imperialism from a terrible political defeat with very damaging social, economic, and military consequences for American and world capitalism.
(But, whatever aid they can or will give will not stop the Russian economy from sliding further down toward chaos and a mass worker uprising.)
And that’s not all! Also on this same page in The Times is a column by Thomas L. Friedman, someone not known for his commitment to justice and fair play. This one also echoes the theme in the other two pieces-albeit with the nasty polemical style of this pompous capitalist propagandist and is appropriately titled, “Our Buddy, Boris.” Friedman writes:
“Trust me, the Dow would not be at 10,000 for long if the Russians were opposing NATO in Yugoslavia with more than just hot air. … This is why even a half-dead, stone-cold-drunk Boris Yeltsin is still an enormous asset for the U.S.”
All three pieces are more or less typical of the thinking of an important section of the capitalist class. They clearly are beginning to believe that there is no good way out for U.S. and world imperialism’s current misadventure in Yugoslavia.
They are desperately seeking someone or something to extricate them from the corner they painted themselves into. Yeltsin seems to them, at least for now, to be their best bet.
And the April 20 Times featured on its front page a story underscoring this development, headlined: “Clinton Phones Yeltsin to Urge a Kosovo Force: Russian Presence Seen as Helpful to Peace.”
But Yeltsin can’t work miracles either. Like his imperialist allies he knows that his options are extremely constricted by the masses of ordinary Russians. Russia’s great working-class majority have had no reason to be happy about their suffering since the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy made the decision in 1985 to restore capitalism, which then led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and social and economic chaos!
In the meantime, world imperialism-especially the only superpower left in the world-is stuck in a quagmire, indelibly stamped: Made in the USA.
The great miscalculation
Clinton’s declared policy when U.S. capitalism led NATO into the quagmire was based on the empty promise that Milosevic’s crimes against Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian’s right to self-determination would be brought to a halt and that no U.S. troops would be required to bring “peace” to the region.
Now, the plight of the Kosovars is far worse, not better; and massive American casualties now appear to be in the cards.
Clinton’s bipartisan government’s miscalculation was to believe that all that was necessary to bully Milosevic into capitulation was to make a believable threat-a sort of Mafia-like “offer he couldn’t refuse.” But to make such a threat believable, Clinton had to back up the threat by twisting the arms of his NATO allies to approve an attack on Yugoslavia from the air if the president of Yugoslavia did not agree to 28,000 troops in Kosovo to guarantee by force the other terms of the agreement.
It is of crucial importance to remember that President Milosevic-rightly or wrongly-had already informally agreed to all the other “peace” terms laid out at the Rambouillet conference, including his acceptance of 1800 unarmed international inspectors to monitor the deal. And to top it off, he agreed to also allow overflights by NATO spy planes-like in Iraq-even though he surely could see where that got Saddam Hussein, and where it would get him.
The U.S. demand to place 28,000 fully armed NATO troops was a “peace” offer that Milosevic had to refuse. And the facts show that the overwhelming majority of Serbs agreed with his decision.
Even the considerable numbers of Serbs who opposed and still oppose Milosevic’s crimes against the Kosovars and other ethnic minorities-crimes that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia-have solidly united behind Milosevic’s decision. However, it’s important to note that they are not supporting Milosevic, they are opposing the U.S./NATO imperialist war on the people of Yugoslavia.
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to foresee what 28,000 troops in Kosovo would mean to any remaining right of Serbian working people to determine their own affairs.
The fact is that even though all of the former Yugoslav republics had opened up their economies to capitalist penetration, they still, to one degree or another, retain essential control over their nationalized economies and still restrict unfettered penetration by world capitalist imperialism.
The plain fact is that the real motive for the assault on Yugoslavia is not to make Kosovo safe for Kosovars, but to make the entire region safe for unfettered capitalist investment.
How Serbs see Rambouillet
This is how the masses of Serb working people must see it: The Rambouillet “peace” would put 28,000 NATO troops inside Kosovo. They would be armed with the most extensive and powerful arsenal ofweapons of mass destruction on the planet earth.
And once inside Kosovo, US/NATO troops could hardly be restricted to escorting returning Kosovar refugees back in and protecting them from Milosevic. Nothing, at that point, could stop the entry of 10 or more times the initial deployment of 28,000 armed-to-the-teeth “peacekeepers.”
And once inside, nothing could stop NATO from expanding existing Kosovo airfields as a massive new staging area for U.S. bombers to force all the republics of the former Yugoslavia to remove any remaining barriers to “free trade”; that is, for the unrestricted expansion of imperialist capital into the region.
However, even after Milosevic refused to attend the so-called “peace conference,” U.S. intelligence agencies counseled Clinton and other leaders of the bipartisan capitalist government that just the threat of bombing would make Milosevic capitulate.
And when Milosevic refused to go to Rambouillet, much less sign on to the deal, they advised Clinton and Co. to go ahead and be assured that, at worst, Milosevic would cry “uncle!” after the first load of bombs were dropped.
The all too real danger, now, is that the main sectors of the American ruling class will say, “we’re in too deep, we can’t retreat now, let’s go for broke and bomb Yugoslavia back into the stone age!”
But there is another force in this country and in the world that is far more powerful than the criminal rulers of world capitalism. That is the masses of ordinary people who have absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose from this imperialist military campaign.
Refugees flee Milosevic and NATO bombing
The initial outrage by ordinary Americans at the crimes of Milosevic’s chauvinist assault on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo began shifting along with the escalating bombing of Yugoslavia-especially the U.S. bombing of fleeing Kosovars.
The undeniable facts show that before the bombing there had been “only” tens of thousands fleeing Milosevic. But after the bombing began, hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees, along with thousands of Serbs, began fleeing for their lives to escape U.S./NATO bombs, and worse, to avoid getting caught between Serbian and invading NATO armies.
Credit the ordinary people inside the belly of the U.S. imperialist monster to see through the one-sided, distorted, and false reporting in the capitalist mass media.
At this writing, there have been virtually no demonstrations in support of the bombing, while opponents of the U.S./NATO war on Yugoslavia are already in the streets in cities around the country loudly chanting such slogans as: “Clinton, Clinton, what do you say? How many kids did you kill today!”
This and other Vietnam-era slogans clearly indicate that this rising wave of opposition to U.S. imperialist policy is profoundly influenced by the lessons of Vietnam and reinforced by the ongoing imperialist decimation of Iraq.
As in the Vietnam War, the protesters see their government destroying Kosovo to save it from Serbia and destroying Serbia to save it from Milosevic.
But unlike Vietnam, it only took weeks, not years, for their outrage at Clinton’s military intervention to begin impelling the American people into the streets in opposition to the assault on Yugoslavia’s civilian population and its industrial infrastructure-its people’s means of making a living to support themselves and their children.
The task before those of us here in the belly of the monster who are in the vanguard of the fight against war and for social, economic, and political justice is clear: Our job is to help mobilize the American people to stop the horrific destruction of Yugoslavia.
If we succeed, it will allow our counterparts in Yugoslavia to stop Milosevic’s criminal violation of proletarian internationalism and human solidarity.
From there, Serbian workers and their allies will be able to go on to rebuild their socialized economy on the basis of a democratic workers’ confederation of socialist republics.