BY NAT WEINSTEIN
The current U.S.-led imperialist assault on Yugoslavia, ostensibly aimed to save Kosovo and Kosovars from Milosevic’s oppression, is nothing of the sort.
The demolition of ethnic Albanian cities in Kosovo by American missiles and bombs is in itself proof that the goals of U.S.-dominated NATO forces serve other than humanitarian ends.
Moreover, U.S./NATO “precision bombing,” allegedly intended to “degrade Milosevic’s military capacity,” has been directed against such “military targets” as Yugoslavia’s bridges, refineries, electric power plants-its entire industrial infrastructure.
Even the water supply has been shut down in Yugoslav cities, including in Kosovo, because its flow to consumers depends on electrically powered pumps. When bombed powerhouses are repaired and electricity restored, U.S./NATO bombs blast it down again.
And to top off the bombing of powerhouses, frozen foods in refrigerators are spoiling and the sewage system is blocked.
On May 25, the NATO commander, U.S. Gen. Wesley K. Clark, announced plans to expand bombing to all industrial plants, which even he concedes contribute nothing to Yugoslavia’s military potential.
The targeted destruction alone, not counting so-called “accidents,” will add years to the misery of the peoples in the Balkans, as well as among Yugoslavia’s trading partners in Eastern and Western Europe.
But the “accidental” and “collateral” destruction of Kosavar refugee caravans and villages-as well as residential areas and hospitals in densely populated cities-is no accident! It is deliberately calculated to terrorize the peoples of both Kosovo and Serbia.
The aim of these barbarous acts of rank terrorism is two-fold:
First, to stampede Kosovars out of Kosovo so that the managed news media can portray the terrible suffering of ethnic Albanian refugees on the electronic and printed media as justification for their war of economic and political conquest.
And second, to break the entire Yugoslav civilian population’s will to resist American imperialism’s “New Order,” in the hope it will cause their victims to turn their fire, in anguished desperation, on the Milosevic government.
But despite the mass media’s propaganda barrage placing exclusive responsibility for the suffering of Yugoslavia’s peoples on Milosevic, mass public opinion is decidedly shifting to the view that it is the bombing, starting two months ago, that played the major part in forcing Kosovars to run for their lives.
Moreover, the mounting threat of getting caught between NATO and Yugoslav troops when an invasion is launched, as seems ever-more likely, has transformed Kosovo into a no-man’s land with Serbs and ethnic Albanians alike running for their lives.
But there is a method behind Clinton’s and world imperialism’s seeming madness, reflecting their longer-term strategic goal.
The unmistakable message being sent to all the world’s peoples by the destruction of Yugoslavia is either to accept the edicts of the chief executioner of international “law and order”-presently incarnated in the person of President William Jefferson Clinton-or be bombed back to the Stone Age.
Media lets real views of U.S. victims leak out
The May 21 New York Times reported the reaction of a woman living near a hospital demolished by a guided missile in Belgrade the day before. She reportedly said that “nothing NATO did would any longer surprise her.”
Then, referring to two women wounded while giving birth in the hospital at the moment the bombs struck, she said bitterly, “This is of course a military target if you just take the longer view. In 20 years or so, these babies will be soldiers.”
And a report appearing in the May 24 edition of the same newspaper, in sharp conflict with most of its other Yugoslav war news, was allowed to leak through the heavy-handed barrage of one-sided pro-U.S./NATO war propaganda.
The article, “Belgrade’s People Still Defiant, but Deeply Weary,” by Steven Erlanger, varies from reports by Clinton and others that mass demonstrations and troop desertions had begun and that Yugoslavia’s masses were beginning to demand an end to the war on NATO’s terms.
Erlanger, who appears to be the main correspondent of The New York Times stationed in Belgrade, provides readers with a summary of many interviews with ordinary people in that city that contradict Clinton’s claim.
Parents wait anxiously for the war to end and their sons to return from the front; the civilian casualties and material destruction steadily mount; strangers ask a foreigner, “When will all this end,” as if anyone really knows; Serbian jokes, if anything, are becoming darker.
But it is weariness that hangs heavily in the air, notdefeatism. The citizens of Belgrade, interviewed by the dozen this last week, feel that they are right to be fighting for Kosovo. Some express shame at what they have heard about the purging of ethnic Albanians; most express anger at Western support for the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army. They are proud of their war, of their brave if inevitably futile defense against all the might of NATO….
[Another person is interviewed by the reporter:] “For anyone who has spent more than five days in Serbia, and wasn’t drunk all the time-which is hard, but spies should be sober for at least half-an-hour a day-it should have been obvious that the bombing would set off a humanitarian catastrophe and empower this government, maybe forever,” he said….
And even if one hates the leader of the state, he said, “first comes the war-we’ll vote later.” [Emphasis added]
Erlanger goes on to report that Serbs no longer believe that NATO ever bombs in error, even if the damage is to the Chinese embassy or a hospital: “Psychological warfare,” said a doctor named Zivko, demands attacks on hospitals, trains, and buses “to demoralize the people.”
The reporter paraphrases the doctor’s account: “There is, as among lab animals, a kind of rapid adaptation to the war. Belgrade is bombed in fits and starts, which Serbs are convinced are timed to any improvement in the prospects for peace.
“Either NATO doesn’t want peace, or it bombs from frustration. No one thinks that attacks on electricity supplies are militarily justifiable, rather than simply an effort to demoralize civilians.”
Erlanger reports the concerns of another man about his son who is serving in the army in Kosovo.
The father fears for his son but is very proud of him. He describes his son’s horror at seeing a column of ethnic Albanians being marched around Kosovo under the control of the police. He reports his son describing the cries and tears of Albanian children who were on the road. “We gave them all we had, all our food,” his son tells his father, “but we couldn’t do anything about it.”
The reporter writes that the father obviously wants to believe the best of his son, but there was no reason to doubt his account. “The regular army has behaved well,” the father said. “But they will be happy just to come back home.”
Since this report appeared, Erlanger and others in the media have provided other reports confirming broad support by ordinary people for Yugoslavia’s resistance to imperialism’s violation of its own right to self-determination.
And no less important is the clear implication in these reports that after NATO aggression is defeated, then the peoples of Yugoslavia will deal with Milosevic and his criminal cohorts.
The Belgrade home of Slobodan Milosevic after NATO bombed it.
A negotiated peace?
Up until May 21, Clinton had left the job of drumming up support for sending NATO troops into Kosovo to Tony Blair, the so-called “New Labour” prime minister of Great Britain.
It was reported on that day, however, that Clinton came significantly closer to authorizing an invasion of Yugoslavia by troops on the ground. He urged NATO to mobilize 50,000 troops on Yugoslav borders for the purpose of “protecting and escorting” ethnic Albanian refugees back into Kosovo.
But with classic Orwellian doublespeak, Clinton declared that troops would be sent in only after Milosevic caves in and gives his “permission” for sending NATO “peacekeepers” into Kosovo, or-get this!-when NATO decides that Yugoslav troops “are no longer able to give organized and effective resistance.”
The terms dictated to Milosevic contained in the Rambouillet treaty amount to demanding Yugoslavia’s unconditional surrender since it provides for absolutely no limitations on NATO troops entry into any part of Yugoslavia they see fit!
Those terms are now widely believed to be unachievable through negotiation. And barring the unlikely event of a capitulation by the Yugoslav government or its peoples, such a “peace” could only be imposed after a decisive Yugoslav military defeat on the ground-with all that that implies-or by a vast expansion of bombing on a scale rivalling the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
President Clinton and his bipartisan warriors appear to be aware that they have a tiger by the tail and can’t let go. This has apparently impelled them toward embarking on one of American imperialism’s most desperate gambles since the time in 1964 when the Vietnam War was escalated into a major war by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s staging of the Tonkin Gulf incident.
That’s the meaning of the U.S./NATO decision to mobilize NATO troops on the borders of Yugoslavia. It’s the kind of threat that cannot be taken back, since it has a chance of working only if Milosevic accepts, not 28,000 troops as provided by Rambouillet, but 50,000 heavily armed troops with bases for warplanes and helicopters inside Kosovo.
As unacceptable as that must be to the Milosevic government, Clinton approved an action that makes it next to impossible for Milosevic to agree to a negotiated “peace.”
On May 27, it was announced that the International War Crimes Tribunal is preparing to indict Slobodan Milosevic for atrocities and mass deportations, and maybe, crimes against humanity and genocide. And on the next day, Milosevic and four of his aides were indicted!
Such a decision by this tribunal could not have been made without the tacit approval of the U.S. government. And few will believe reports “leaked” by Clinton administration sources that while Clinton fully approved the indictment of Milosevic he was not too happy with the decision.
The meaning of that seems to be explained by Clinton’s declaration that the war-crimes indictments would not stop him from a negotiated settlement of the war even with a war criminal. That obviously is more of Clinton’s style of doublespeak-i.e., the methodology of covering every arrogant ultimatum with a modicum of moderation.
The Clinton administration can, of course, still accept a “compromise” settlement with Milosevic, but only if it constitutes a clear defeat for Milosevic. If not, American and world imperialism would lose any remaining possibility to use NATO as a force for imposing the rule of world imperialism.
But the alternative, going for broke with whomever and with whatever force Clinton and his closest allies can mount, would be a desperate gamble that-even if won in the short run-would cost imperialism as much or more in the long run.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has already declared he will veto sending in NATO ground troops. This shift by the head of the Social Democratic/Green governmental alliance may well have been a temporary expedient in the face of a major rebellion by rank-and-file Greens at the environmentalist party’s policy-making conference last month.
The action of an outraged rank-and-file Green Party pacifist in smearing the Green foreign minister in Chancellor Schröder’s “red-green” coalition government with a bag of red paint underscores this “socialist”-led capitalist government’s genuine fear of mass antiwar sentiment festering beneath the relative surface calm of European politics.
It also helps explain why Greece, Italy, and other NATO countries are hedging their bets by leaving uncertain which side of the fence they will go when push comes to shove.
All the world’s imperialist powers are weighed down by the legacy of Vietnam and fear that a military adventure in the Balkans precipitating a mass antiwar movement could easily trigger a far wider rebellion against the growing spread of mass unemployment and declining living standards.
But having gambled at the outset that bombing alone would be sufficient to force Milosevic’s compliance with the essential terms of the Rambouillet treaty, now world imperialism has backed itself into a far more costly and risky adventure than before Rambouillet was rejected by Milosevic.
The American people can stop this war!
The American people have already slowed down Clinton and his bipartisan warriors by making evident in many ways their opposition to this war, including the amazingly swift outbreak of antiwar protest demonstrations. Besides, the antiwar demonstrations, which broke out before a single young American soldier has yet been killed, has sent a chill down the spine of the American ruling class.
But evidence that a mass outpouring of millions of antiwar protesters will march, if and when their sons start coming home from the Balkans in body-bags, is being revealed by the mass media-which is controlled lock, stock and barrel by American capitalist imperialism.
It has been forced to acknowledge the existence and the enormous power of antiwar sentiment that has, so far at least, kept the U.S. capitalist government from sending our GIs-who in their great majority are the sons and daughters of the American working class-into Yugoslavia to kill and be killed to make the world safe for capitalist profits.
The mass media allows this sentiment to surface because it knows that concealing it would be worse since there is real sentiment among the ruling class itself that the costs of a ground war in Yugoslavia is a game not worth the candle.
In fact, two breakthroughs of sorts occurred in the last week of May. The first occurred on the nationally syndicated PBS nightly news hour hosted by Jim Lehrer on May24.
A 15-minute segment of this widely watched news program featured a report on the “new antiwar movement.” It amounted to a de facto acknowledgement by this voice of corporate America that the Vietnam syndrome was alive and well and was indeed a force that can stop this war.
That was followed on May 27 when there appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times a letter written by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter titled, “Have We Forgotten the Path to Peace.” Carter, who has been a part of the bipartisan support granted every single imperialist war carried out in his lifetime, is sharply critical of what he considers to be major miscalculations and outright mistakes by his party’s current U.S. president.
Carter states in this article that “our general purposes are admirable: to enhance peace, freedom, democracy, human rights, and economic progress.”
He also says that “the international community has admirable goals of protecting the rights of Kosovars and ending the brutal policies of Slobodan Milosevic.”
But he takes some distance from “the decision to attack the entire nation [which] has been counterproductive, and our destruction of civilian life has now become senseless and excessively brutal. [And that there] is little indication of success after more than 25,000 sorties and 14,000 missiles and bombs, 4000 of which were not precision guided.”
He makes a special point of noting that U.S. “missiles and bombs are now concentrating on the destruction of bridges railways, roads, electric power, and fuel and fresh water supplies. Serbian citizens report that they are living like cavemen, and their torment increases daily….
“NATO leaders now have three basic choices: to continue bombing ever more targets until Yugoslavia (including Kosovo and Montenegro) is almost totally destroyed, to rely on Russia to resolve our dilemma through indirect diplomacy, or to accept American casualties by sending military forces into Kosovo.”
This shows that Carter has been reading the same reports we and millions of others have also read. And after listing many other tactical mistakes, the former president of the United States concludes with this “humanist” indictment of his class:
“The United States’ insistence on the use of cluster bombs, designed to kill or maim humans, is condemned almost universally and brings discredit on our nation (as does our refusal to support a ban on land mines). Even for the world’s only superpower, the ends don’t always justify the means.”
For this leader of American capitalism to publicly state his anguish over his class’s dilemma is further proof that the ruling class is in big trouble. And that the still relatively small vocal antiwar opposition reflects the views of what is becoming the large majority of the American people, who are destined to march by the tens and hundreds of thousands in the streets to stop this war and bring our boys home-alive!
All those who want to stop this calamity should come out and march and protest in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., on June 5! And be prepared to join in every other mass protest action, teach-in, and organizational meeting until this war is stopped!