Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 11:14:39 PDT

Ecological Catastrophe Hits Yugoslavia

by Mitchel Cohen, of the Red Balloon Collective
and Brooklyn Greens, Green Party of New York


"We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express 
their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons." - 
President William Jefferson Clinton, after the shootings at Columbine H.S.,
Colorado, as the Clinton-led NATO forces bombed Belgrade

Early in April, a leader of the Yugoslavian Green Party warned that NATO 
missiles were beginning to contaminate the water supply for much of Eastern
Europe. "I warn you that Serbia is one of the greatest sources of 
underground waters in Europe and that the contamination will be felt in the
whole surrounding area all the way to the Black Sea," Branka Jovanovic 
reported from Belgrade.

Her worst fears have apparently come true.

On the first day of the NATO air strikes, March 24, the municipality of 
Grocka was hit where the Vinca nuclear reactor is situated. The site 
contains a great stockpile of nuclear waste. No US media reported this.

The municipality of Pancevo was hit, in which the petrochemical factory and
a factory for the production of artificial fertilizers are situated. They 
were bombed again two weeks later.

The municipality of Baric was also hit. Baric houses a large complex for 
the production of chloride, using Bhopal technology.

"It is not necessary for me to explain what the blowing up of one of such 
factories would represent," Jovanovic says. "Not only Belgrade, which is 
situated at a distance of 10 kilometers, but the rest of Europe would be 

On the second day of bombings, a chemical factory in the Belgrade suburb of
Sremcica was bombed. Also hit was a rocket fuel storage area, causing 
releases into the surrounding area and water.

Branka also reports that four national parks were bombed, and that the 
depleted uranium weaponry first used against Iraq, responsible for 
thousands of cases of leukemia and other cancers in children, is now being 
used against Yugoslavia..

Meanwhile, McDonald's has reopened 3 of its eight restaurants in Yugoslavia.


In mid-April, NATO Air Commander David Wilby said that NATO was sick of the
Serb propaganda televised to every household and warned that unless Serb 
Television broadcast three hours of US programming in the daytime and 
another three hours in the evening, the TV station would be blown up.

On April 22, without a second thought, NATO bombed the main Serb TV station
. Scores of workers were in the building at the time, as many as 100 or 
more, mostly technicians. Fifteen or so are thought to have been killed. 
One reporter said the scene was reminiscent of the Oklahoma City bombing, 
and wondered, "Why didn't they just bomb the transmission tower on a nearby
mountaintop, which would have minimized civilian casualties and done a far 
more effective job?"

Serb TV was knocked off the air for all of a few hours before resuming 
broadcasts from another location. So were CNN and the BBC, which shared the
facilities. But the bombing provided NATO with a "victorious" lead story on 
evening newscasts in the US. Of course, most of the details were left out.

British reporter John Simpson, World Affairs editor for the BBC, fills in 
some of those details: "Less than 12 hours after the attack that destroyed 
his television station, Zarko was back at work, satelliting our report 
about the attack to London. "I was lucky" he said. ... 'My shift ended at 
11 on Thursday night.'

"I had seen what had happened to the control room where he used to work. If
his shift had ended at 4 am, as it normally did, it would have been his body
in the mass of rubble and wiring on the floor instead of somebody else's. 
But Zarko lived to broadcast another day. ...

"When, shortly after 2 am on Friday, my room in the Hyatt Hotel lurched 
with a series of explosions, my first thought was for Zarko. When, in the 
greyness of Friday's dawn, my team and I judged it safe enough to drive 
round to the television station to film the aftermath, it was Zarko I was 
thinking about as the firemen clambered over the heaps of rubble, listening
for the sound of human voices.

"He had been the only person at the television station who was actively 
pleasant to foreigners; the only one who would put himself out to help you;
the only one who seemed to care whether or not your report reached its 
destination, and was glad when it did.

"It was Zarko, his eyes red with fatigue and several days' stubble on his 
chin, who listened with patience to my complaints about the high 
temperature in the dreadful little studio, now rubble too, where I had to 
do my live question-and-answer sessions into the Nine O'clock News. It was 
he who managed to find an electric fan to bring the temperature down to the
merely unbearable; who, as a last resort, called up the large, bad-tempered,
blonde make-up woman to put some powder on my sweating face.

"I saw the make-up woman again on Friday morning. Or, to be more exact, I 
saw her foot. It was sticking out at a strange angle from the heap of 
crumbled brick and plaster that was all that was left of her room. ...

"Should the television station, as opposed to its transmitters, have been 
hit? Should the make-up woman have paid the ultimate price for the 
propaganda of people so high up in the system that she would never have 
been allowed to put powder on their foreheads?"


In the US the news is simple: NATO bombers, we're told, hit and crippled 
Yugoslavia's oil refineries yesterday. Yea! Go NATO! Root for the home team
! The news is well-scrubbed so that no blood leaks. But here's how Tom 
Walker, reporting from Belgrade for the London Times on April 19, tells the

"A towering cloud of toxic gases looms over Belgrade after warplanes, on 
the 25th night of the NATO onslaught, hit a petrochemicals plant in the 
northern outskirts of the city.

"An ecological disaster was unfolding yesterday after NATO bombed a 
combined petrochemicals, fertilizer and refinery complex on the banks of 
the Danube in the northern outskirts of Belgrade.

"A series of detonations that shook the whole city early yesterday sent a 
toxic cloud of smoke and gas hundreds of feet into the night sky. In the 
dawn the choking cloud could be seen spreading over the entire northern 

"Among the cocktail of chemicals billowing over hundreds of thousands of 
homes were the toxic gas phosgene, chlorine and hydrochloric acid. Workers 
at the industrial complex in Pancevo panicked and released tons of ethylene
dichloride, a carcinogen, into the Danube, rather than risk seeing it blown 

"At least three missile strikes left large areas of the plant crippled and 
oil and petrol from the damaged refinery area flowed into the river, 
forming slicks up to 12 miles long. Temperatures in the collapsing plant 
were said to have risen to more than 1,000 degrees centigrade. Asked about 
the hazard from chemical smoke, NATO said there was 'a lot more smoke 
coming from burning villages in Kosovo.' "

Meanwhile, a former OSCE monitor, Rolly Keith, is disputing reports of "
genocide" and "ethnic cleansing." Keith, a long-time worker in 
international security teams, said that during his time in Kosovo there 
were no burnings of villages or mass murders. The monitors were forced to 
leave by NATO shortly before the bombardment began.

New claims by US officials that they've discovered mass graves, this time 
at Izbica, are also meeting skepticism, although these challenges to NATO's
statements are not reported in the US press.

"It appears that there have been about 150 individual graves dug and filled
there since mid-March," writes the Strategic Issue Research Institute's 
Benjamin Works. "As with the group burial at Pusto Selo, shown in Monday's 
New York Times, there is no attempt by Yugoslav authorities to hide the 
burials and one expects the circumstances are well documented. ... The 
buildings around the burial appear to be intact, rather than burned out, 
despite NATO allegations that 400 villages have been torched. These group 
burials are not mass graves. ... The new graves are oriented towards Mecca,
as Muslim custom is to bury the head toward that Holy city. This would 
indicate the presence of Muslim clergy at the internments."

There is little evidence, Works continues, that these and other alleged 
examples of "genocide" are "anything other than retail death caused by a 
nasty little civil war." The Strategic Issues Research Institute points to 
the absence of satellite images documenting the allegations of large 
concentration camps in soccer stadiums, of 400 burned-out villages, of a 
pattern of butchery of tens of thousands. "Show [us] the pictures," the 
researchers insist.

Elizabeth Dole, Republican candidate for President of the US, made a 
high-profile visit to the refugees on the Macedonian border. "Just before 
she went on air with a FoxNews reporter and an innocent little victim girl,
" the Institute reports, "Fox had to shift the camera angle so as not to 
show a group of young Albanian men playing basketball just behind her left 
shoulder." Male Albanian Kosovars, said to have been either murdered by the
Serbs by the hundreds of thousands or conscripted by the KLA, keep showing 
up very much alive in the photos taken in the refugee camps -- when the 
camera angle does not interfere with the image intended for transmission.

Meanwhile, in Pancevo, at least 50 residents were reported suffering from 
poisoning due to the bombings of refineries, fertilizer facilities and a 
vinyl chloride and ethylene plant. Huge quantities of toxic matter such as 
chlorine, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer were released. 
Transformer stations were also heavily damaged and very toxic transformer 
oil flowed out. The Health Ministry could not find enough gas masks to 
distribute. Residents were told to breathe through scarves soaked in sodium
bicarbonate as a precaution against showers of nitric acid.

"This is our worst nightmare," said Miralem Dzindo. "By taking away our 
fertilizer they stop us growing food, and then they try to poison us as 

"By burning down enormous quantities of naphtha and its derivatives, more 
than a hundred highly toxic chemical compounds that pollute water, air and 
soil are released" endangering the entire Balkan ecosystem, said New Green 
Party scientist Luka Radoja. Dr. Radoja points out that the NATO bombing is
happening just as many crops vital for survival are supposed to be planted: 
corn, sunflower, soy, sugar beets and vegetables. As a result, the planting
of 2.5 million hectares of land has been halted.

"The lack of fuel for agricultural machines will have catastrophic results,
because it leads to hunger of the entire population. When you add to this 
the poisoning of the water, air and soil the catastrophe becomes a 

"As an expert who has spent his entire work-age on the fields of this 
up-until-now ecologically pure part of Europe, I am a witness to the 
disappearing of the most beautiful garden of Europe," Radoja said, sadly.

According to Miralem Dzindo, an airstrike three nights ago "had grazed a 
tank containing 20,000 tons of liquid ammonia. If that had gone up in 
flames, he said, much of Belgrade would have been poisoned. ... The 
pollution in the Danube and in the atmosphere over Belgrade 'knows no 
frontiers' and he warned neighbouring countries that the poison clouds 
could soon be with them." (London Times, April 19, 1999)

Indeed, the chief inspector of the Macedonian Ministry of Environment, 
Miroslav Balaburski, said that furans and dioxins released by bomb 
explosions are being carried long distances. The pollution is entering 
Macedonia by air and by the river Lepenec which crosses the border between 
Macedonia and Yugoslavia, according to Zoran Bozinovski, a speaker for the 
Center for Radioisotopes, a Macedonian government institution based in 
Skopje. And Ivan Grozdanov, a chemist at the center, made the further point
that the burning aircraft fuel is the primary source of stratospheric 
nitrogen oxides which are severely damaging the ozone layer.


Some of the most intense reporting is being done by Robert Fisk for the 
London Independent. Here is an excerpt, filed on April 17th after NATO 
planes bombed a column of Albanian Kosovar refugees while denying, at first
, responsibility:

"This atrocity is still a mystery to NATO. Perhaps I can help.

"When you stand at the site of a massacre, two things happen. First, you 
wonder about the depths of the human spirit. And then you ask yourself how 
many lies can be told about it.

"The highway of death between Prizren and Djakovica -- on which the Serbs 
say NATO slaughtered 74 Kosovo Albanian refugees in a series of bombing 
raids -- is no different.

"Only hours after I slipped on a dead man's torso near an old Turkish 
bridge, less than a day after I stood by the body of a young and beautiful 
girl -- her eyes gently staring at me between half-closed lids, the bottom 
half of her head bathed in blood -- I watched James Shea, NATO's spokesman,
trying to explain yesterday why NATO still didn't know what had happened on 

"All those torn and mangled bodies I had just seen -- the old men ripped in
half and blasted into a tree at Gradis, the smouldering skeleton with one 
bloody, still flesh-adhering foot over the back of a trailer at Terezick 
Most, the dead, naked man slouched over the steering wheel of a burnt 
tractor -- all, apparently, were a mystery to NATO. ...

"NATO 'thinks' it bombed a tractor on a road north of Djakovica. Indeed, 
NATO's military spokesman would say yesterday only that it was 'possibly' a
tractor. Mr. Shea -- or "Jamie" as he enjoins us to call him -- says he is 
still trying to find out what happened to the 74 refugees. NATO needs more 
time, he tells us, to assess what it bombed and did not bomb.

"Well perhaps I can help Jamie to speed up his enquiries. Of the four 
air-strike locations, I have visited the first three -- at Velika Krusa, 
Gradis and Terzick Most -- and they run consecutively from east to west 
along the Prizren-Djakovica road. At the third, I came across four bomb 
craters. I saw -- and in some cases collected -- a number of bomb and 
missile parts. At Gradis, I came across part of a missile circuit board, 
its congealed wiring attached to a plate which contains a manufacturer's 
code. ... "SCHEM 872110 () 96214ASSY8721122 - MSN 63341 (remaining figures 
obscured by detonation damage).

"It shouldn't take NATO armaments experts more than a few hours to find out
where that code came from -- indeed what aircraft carried and fired that 
missile. [Fisk is writing just as NATO is intentionally playing a video of 
the wrong pilot, from a different bombing mission on air to explain the 
strike.] Its pilot -- if it was a NATO bomb -- will then be able to explain
why he fired it.

"At Velika Krusa, I found the fusings of an aerial bomb next to a smashed 
trailer containing the belongings of 35 Albanian refugees, four of whom -- 
all women -- were killed in this air strike." Fisk then goes on to list 
serial numbers from half-a-dozen other bomb fragments found at various 
sites. "Most of the shrapnel was so sharp that it cut the hands of those 
who touched it. The corpses showed what happened when the bomb parts 
shredded them alive.

"One of the bodies lying in a field at Terezicki Most -- that of a man in 
his 40s -- had the top of his head cut cleanly off, along with his brain 
and eyes so that his face had turned into an actor's mask. A middle-aged 
woman in a purple pullover and brightly flowered skirt with her eyes open 
and pale waxen face, had had her neck cut open."

Fisk describes the massacre relentlessly. He denounces what he views as the
Serbian authorities' "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo, which he sees as a war 
crime. But, as he puts it, "NATO, we are repeatedly told, represents 'us', 
the good moral, decent people who oppose lies and murder. So NATO has a 
case to answer -- for all our sakes. And the evidence lies on that awful 
road with its eviscerated people and its bomb craters."

The day before, April 16th, Fisk's column began: "This is a horror story. 
There are no other words for it. It is the story of massacres along a road 
lined with torched houses and cherry blossoms, of smouldering skeletons and
women cut in half, of a man's head lying in a field with the wind blowing 
his brown hair against the grass, and of corpses lying in a squalid 
hospital nearby.

"NATO did all this, say the Serbs, and it is true that US munitions litter 
the road and fields around here, sometimes within a few inches of corpses, 
body parts, human bones, smashed tractors and trailers, their pathetic 
contents of old clothes, pots and family snapshots lying around them."

America is riveted, for the time being, on the horrible plight of the 
refugees. Are the lives of Serbian civilians -- or even soldiers who are, 
after all, mostly teen-age draftees -- of lesser value? By demonizing "
Serbs," as a people, the propagandists hope to make us accept NATO's 
blowing them to bits. But, in reality, the US government cares not a whit 
for either Albanian or Serb, nor for the half-dozen other ethnicities of 
Kosovo. But we are not the government. Are we to countenance the nearly 
1,000 Serb civilians killed directly by NATO bombings thus far as mere "
collateral damage," "acceptable" casualties of war?

Has Congressional Rep. Jerrold Nadler or any of the other liberal Democrats
lining up along the sidelines and egging on this miserable war ever gone to 
war themselves? For that matter, has the President? Or do they only send 
others, the children of the poor, mostly, to do their killing for them? 
SHAME! Shame on Nadler, on Bernie Sanders, on Sen. Barbara Boxer, on Jesse 
Jackson, and on the other erstwhile "progressives" and their newly 
discovered bloodlust!

"Along miles of the same road were other tractors, some scorched, most 
abandoned, apparently in panic, at the side of the road. The few Kosovo 
Albanians we found spoke of thousands on the road that day -- 14 April -- 
and it appears that they were moving in both directions. ... It wasn't 
difficult for me to imagine the terror on that road. While we were picking 
our way through the corpses of Terezicki Most, NATO planes dropped bombs 
less than a mile away -- cluster bombs from the sound of them -- and a 
series of massive explosions changed the air pressure around us. We watched
the skies. From time to time, we could hear -- but not see -- NATO jets 
power-diving. Columns of dark smoke billowed over the bright green fields. 

"The only victims of these air strikes appeared to be civilians. At 
Terezicki Most, I counted 13 corpses and other body parts. A missile had 
rammed a tractor, setting fire to its trailer and incinerating all inside. 
In the Prizren hospital mortuary, six corpses lay on the concrete floor."

Shame on the leader of the French Greens, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and on 
Joschka Fischer, the Green Party leader and Foreign Minister of Germany, 
who are making this war possible and without whose support the NATO 
bombardment of Yugoslavia would fall apart. Bombing a civilian population; 
destroying their water supply; poisoning their crops -- this is the "Green 
alternative"? No. It is the very essence of modern warfare, of advanced 
technologies specifically designed and utilized to inflict terror and 
ravage human beings and nature alike because they refuse to accede to the 
demands of international capital -- they simply won't do what "we" want?

Just how did the US flag acquire all those "stars" anyway?

This war has nothing whatsoever to do with stopping "ethnic cleansing." (
Some powerful and reliable voices are now emerging, such as that of United 
Nations Lt. General Satish Nambiar, who commanded UN forces in Yugoslavia, 
which challenge the assertions that "ethnic cleansing" was taking place at 
all prior to NATO's unleashed fury.)

Surprisingly, it is Clinton himself, in a little known but telling 
statement made the day before the bombing began, that puts the US/NATO's 
rationale most succinctly:

"If we are going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our 
ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key. ... That's 
what this Kosovo thing is all about." (The Nation, Apr. 19, 1999)

Stop the Bombing!
Stop the War!
No Ground Troops!
US out of NATO!
IMF/ WTO Out of Europe ... and Everywhere! Peace Now.

Mitchel Cohen
2652 Cropsey Avenue #7H
Brooklyn, NY 11214
(718) 449-0037

The writer is a founding member of the Red Balloon Collective (1969) at 
SUNY Stony Brook, and organizes with the Brooklyn Greens, Green Party of 
New York.