Dogs of War: A View from the British Left

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By TARIQ ALI

Outside NATOland, the situation about the war is extremely serious. The Ukraine was the only country in the world to renounce nuclear weapons and unilaterally disarm. A few weeks ago its parliament voted unanimously to revert to its former nuclear status.

The deputies claimed that they had foolishly believed the United States when it had promised a new norm-based and inclusive security system. NATO’s war on Yugoslavia had destroyed all their illusions.

If Kiev is angry, Moscow is incandescent. The military-industrial complex is one of the best-preserved institutions in the country.

Its leaders have been arguing with the politicians for nearly two years, pleading that they be allowed to upgrade Russia’s nuclear armory. Until March 24 this year they had not made too much headway.

On April 30, a meeting of the National Security Council in Moscow approved the modernization of all strategic and tactical nuclear warheads. It gave the green light to the development and manufacture of strategic low-yield nuclear missiles capable of pin-point strikes anywhere in the world.

Simultaneously, the defense ministry authorized a change in nuclear doctrine. First use is no longer excluded.

In the space of several weeks, Javier Solana and Robin Cook, former members of European Nuclear Disarmament, have re-ignited the nuclear flame. In Beijing, too, the bombing of the Chinese embassy has resulted in a shift away from the no-first-strike principle.

The Chinese refuse to accept that the bombing of their embassy was an accident. They believe that it was a Machiavellian ploy by the war party in Washington to sabotage any peace plan by ensuring a hard-line Chinese veto at the UN.

There are also indications that Moscow and Beijing are discussing new security arrangements. The bombs on Belgrade may well come to be seen as the first shots of a new cold war.

As a result of all this, a great deal of diplomacy is taking place behind closed doors. Britain is not part of it because what it thinks does not really matter. Its leaders are used to accepting decisions made elsewhere.

That is why there is something surreal about Cook’s huffing and puffing and why Blair’s promises to the refugees have a hollow ring.

New Labour and its media-chorus, having unleashed mayhem on Kosovar and Serb alike, should, at the very least, have the decency and moral courage to admit their mistake and call for a halt to the bombing, which, in the words of the Pope’s Easter message this year, has become a “diabolical act of retribution”.

The real tragedy is that the Kosovo for which NATO supposedly went to war in March no longer exists. Its cities and villages are being bombed to smithereens by NATO. Its population is being pushed out by Milosevic.

Even if some of the refugees were to return, a significant proportion, the very people whose talents would be needed to rebuild the region, will probably never go back. Refugees rarely do. Only 10 percent returned to Bosnia.

The scale of disaster is now clearly visible. Every day, as the bombs fall, the situation gets worse. With the exception of Britain, EU countries are pushing for a negotiated settlement, aware that it is the only viable solution.

It could have been achieved some months ago if the U.S. had not insisted on a NATO peacekeeping force.

The New York Times, writing as recently as April 8, 1999, on the failed Rambouillet negotiations, said: “In a little-noted resolution of the Serbian parliament just before the bombing, when that hardly independent body rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of UN forces to monitor a political settlement there.”

In other words, this war has been fought not so much for the safety of the Kosovars, but to assert NATO hegemony and it is now indisputable that it turned out to be a grave miscalculation. NATOland is seriously divided. The isolation of the war party led by Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger in Washington (and supported by Blair and Cook in London) is almost complete.

The German chancellor has ruled out his country’s involvement in any escalation of the war. The Italian prime minister has excluded the use of Italian soldiers in any NATO operation on the ground unless expressly sanctioned by the UN and backed by Russia and China.

The Greek foreign minister has made it clear in public that if Nato sent in troops it would be impossible to use Salonika as a point of landing. In private he has warned that a popular revolt could topple his government if it were to acquiesce in any such plan.

The Hungarian, Czech, and Polish governments, blushing new brides at NATO’s altar, are now pale-faced and nervous, wondering whether they will survive the war. They had married NATO because of the generous dowries that might follow. The rude honeymoon has shocked them.

The French, too, are slowly moving in the German direction, and even General Sir Michael Jackson, the British commander in Macedonia, has told eight different interviewers on radio and television that “we will not go in unless there is an agreement.”

New Labour’s hands are already stained with the blood of innocents. Time to call off the dogs of war and seek the help of non-NATO powers to resolve the conflict.

Reprinted from the May 26 issue of The Guardian (London).

Socialist Action News

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