By GERRY FOLEY
As NATO has stepped up its bombing of Yugoslavia and more and more shifted the focus to economic and social targets, antiwar sentiment has been growing in the neighboring countries.
These countries-Italy, Greece, Hungary, and Rumania-would inevitably be directly affected by any land assault on Yugoslavia. But they are already feeling the effects of the massive bombing.
Rumania has a right-wing government that aspires to NATO membership and has given the Western alliance permission to overfly its territory in order to attack Yugoslavia. But the pollution caused by the NATO bombing has already become an explosive issue in the country.
Acid rains have started to occur in southeastern Rumania threatening forests and agriculture. Leaves have been falling from plants and trees.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported a statement by the Rumanian minister of the environment, Romica Tomescu, on May 26 deploring the dangers of war-caused pollution: “In the long term, negative effects are to be feared on animals and the population, as well as the aquatic life in the Danube and the Black Sea.”
In Mehediniti in the south, which faces the Serbian oil port of Prahovo, hit repeatedly by NATO, villagers have been complaining of dizziness and headaches.
The Rumanian minister reported a drastic increase in hydrocarbons (oil) and heavy metals in the Danube. The concentration of zinc is 20 to 50 times the acceptable level. Even so, the Rumanian Ecological Convention has begun a law suit against Tomescu, accusing him of underestimating the war damage to the environment and of “doing nothing to protect the population.”
AFP noted a headline by the daily Jurnulul National that proclaimed, “Rumania is threatened by an environmental catastrophe, while the authorities pretend they know nothing about it.”
Bulgaria, which also has a right-wing government that aspires to membership in NATO, reported the eighth oil slick on the Danube. Nearly all the Danube bridges that had linked Serbia to Bulgaria and Rumania have been destroyed.
Italian fishermen protest bombing
Excess NATO bombs jettisoned in the Adriatic have alarmed Italian fishing industry workers. The Italian daily Il Manifesto reported May 21 that two bombs were caught in nets only two miles off the Italian coast, in shallow sandy-bottomed waters:
“They were thrown back into the sea on the orders of the Grado port authorities. They marked the spot with a buoy … It will be the job of the Ancona naval base to deactivate them.
“These bombs were certainly not part of those that [Premier] D’Alema got reassurances about from NATO. If, there were only 143 bombs, as said yesterday, they were certainly not part of the 100 to 108 bombs jettisoned in deep water, nor those that were supposed to be dropped 30 miles from the coast.”
The fishermen have begun to organize protests. Il Manifesto of May 25 reported that the economy of coastal towns dependent on trawling for shellfish have been wrecked. The tourist industry vital to the coastal towns of the Adriatic countries has also been paralyzed.
In its May 29, issue, Il Manifesto reported that a new alert had been issued about jettisoned bombs in another area. The Italian government has called for a “voluntary halt” to fishing from June 4 to July 15, and offered some compensation. But the fishing industry is not convinced that the compensation can be depended on or will be enough.
At the conclusion of the national assembly of the fishing industry, the president of the Fishermen’s League of the Marche, Daniel Palestini, said there was only one solution to the problem, “It is the war that has to halt, to end, otherwise it will become a tragedy in every sense.”
More insidious and longterm than the chemical pollution and even lost bombs, however, is the impact of missiles lined with depleted uranium, which have been mainstays since the Gulf War. Depleted uranium, or Uranium 238, has a half life of 4.5 million years.
The Hungarian daily Nepszabatsag pointed up the radiation danger in its April 23 issue, citing articles in the German TV magazine Monitor and the daily Suddeutsche Zeitung.
The writers described the evidence of damage to the health both of American soldiers exposed to depleted uranium and the Iraqi population.
Hungary is one of the possible bases for a land invasion of Serbia. NATO planes are based there, and Italian troops and war materiel have recently been shipped there, despite assurances from the Hungarian government leaders that they will not allow their country to be used as a launching pad for an invasion.
The Hungarian press has been expressing astonishment at the brutality and the apparent indiscriminate character of the NATO bombing of Vojvodina, the part of Yugoslavia bordering Hungary and where there is a large Hungarian minority.
For example, Nepszabatsag wrote May 31: ” On Saturday and Sunday [May 29-30], NATO planes staged an unprecedentedly severe bombing of Vojvodina. … After a series of deafening explosions, the population rushed in panic into the streets. This was the eighth time North Atlantic Pact strategists have hit the Vojvodina TV station, with two-and-half-ton bombs. The building crumbled at the second bombing. Now for the first time, this weekend, nearby residences were damaged….”
“This attack on the Danube bank seems rather senseless. … The people living there can only guess what the real target was.”
This example just downriver along the Danube obviously does not inspire much enthusiasm among Hungarians for getting involved in NATO’s war against Yugoslavia.
In the case of Greece, a long-standing member of NATO, the public opinion polls show an overwhelming 96 percent of the population against NATO’s war on Yugoslavia.