NY Forum: ‘NATO’s War on the Balkans and US Foreign Policy’

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NEW YORK-On June 30, Socialist Action held a forum here on “NATO’s War on the Balkans and U.S. Foreign Policy.” About 125 people attended.

In order to ascertain genuine information from eye-witnesses and journalists who are concerned with the truth, the organizers called upon four speakers to conduct the forum-Pacifica Radio commentators Jeremy Scahill and Amy Goodman; Turkish economist Sungar Savran; and Marilyn Vogt-Downey, a journalist on Eastern European affairs and members of Socialist Action.

The first speaker, Vogt-Downey, presented the historical background to the situation in Yugoslavia. Her speech appears in full, beginning on this page.

The second speaker on the panel was Pacifica Radio correspondent Jeremy Scahill. He had just returned from six weeks in Yugoslavia, where he covered the U.S./NATO bombing as well as the occupation of Kosovo.

Scahill also reported daily from Baghdad in the weeks leading up to the U.S. bombing of Iraq in December 1998. After witnessing the horrible bombings there (the weapons used in Kosovo are very similar), one might think that Scahill would not be shocked by what he saw in Kosovo. But that is not the case.

The cluster bombs employed in Kosovo explode in the air into smaller bombs that, upon reaching the ground, shred everything in sight-including human beings. “It was an unimaginable sight!” Scahill said. “The most awful thing I have ever witnessed.”

“One morning at 11 a.m. in the marketplace, 17 people shopping for food were shredded to death. The air was polluted-a fire from a plant raged for 14 hours, and people could not breathe. Oil from a destroyed refinery spilled and polluted the drinking water.”

In Scahill’s opinion, we are now looking at a situation in Yugoslavia similar to that in Northern Ireland; the violence will continue. Three separate factions-the KLA, NATO troops, and the Serbian paramilitary face each other.

The third speaker was Sungar Savran, a Turkish economist and visiting professor at the New School for Social Research. He spoke movingly about the struggle of the Kurdish people against persecution by the Turkish government.

Savran described Turkey’s involvement in NATO’s war against Yugoslavia. He said that Turkey and its ally Israel are interested in extending oil pipelines from central Asia through the Black Sea into the Balkans. Both countries are working for a hegemonic alliance over central Asia.

He pointed out the irony of Turkey’s appearance of fighting with NATO against ethnic cleansing by the Serbs while at home they are doing just that against the Kurdish people.

Amy Goodman, the last speaker on the program, is well known as the co-host of “Democracy Now!” and “Wake-Up Call” on Pacifica Radio.

Amy Goodman

Goodman began her talk, “The Media and the War,” by quoting Noam Chomsky’s succinct observation that “the media manufactures consent.” She pointed out that during the first two weeks of the war (the first weeks are the most crucial in news broadcasts), there was merely a single time on “Nightline,” Ted Koppel’s program on ABC-TV, when a voice of opposition to the war was allowed.

Goodman struck several humorous notes describing a journalists’ dinner that she and Scahill attended in order to receive citations for the prize-winning radio documentary, “Drilling and Killing,” which they had made about the role of the big oil corporations in Nigeria.

The Clinton administration’s spokesperson on the Balkans, Richard Holbrooke, addressed the gathering. When Goodman and Scahill attempted to question Holbrooke about the Rambouillet agreement-which contained a clause that NATO was to be allowed to have free movement in all of Yugoslavia-Holbrooke refused to answer.

“I wasn’t there,” he said, and walked away.

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