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Date:  Thu, 20 May 1999 12:19:55 +0900
From: Hendrik
To: Multiple recipients of NETSOURCE-L <netsource-l@mail.think.service>
Subject:  [NS] PeaceWork: On the Eve of War, NATO's Humanitarian Trigger

On the Eve of War, NATO's Humanitarian Trigger

by Diana Johnstone

From James Rubin to Christiane Amanpour, the broad range of government and
media opinion is totally united in demanding that NATO bomb Serbia. This is
necessary, we are told, in order to "avert a humanitarian catastrophe," and
because, "the only language Milosevic understands is force"... which
happens to be the language the US wants to speak.

Kosovo is presented as the problem, and NATO as the solution.

In reality, NATO is the problem, and Kosovo is the solution. After the
collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO needed a new excuse for pumping
resources into the military-industrial complex. Thanks to Kosovo, NATO can
celebrate its 50th anniversary next month by construction of its new global
mission: to intervene anywhere in the world on humanitarian grounds. The
recipe is easy: arm a group of radical secessionists to shoot policemen,
describe the inevitable police retaliation as "ethnic cleansing," promise
the rebels that NATO will bomb their enemy if the fighting goes on, and
then interpret the resulting mayhem as a challenge to NATO's "resolve"
which must be met by military action.

Thanks to Kosovo, national sovereignty will be a thing of the past - not of
course for Great Powers like the US and China, but for weaker States that
really need it. National boundaries will be no obstacle to NATO

Thanks to Kosovo, the US can control eventual Caspian oil pipeline routes
between the Black Sea and the Adriatic, and extend the European influence
of favored ally Turkey.

Last February 23, James Hooper, executive director of the Balkan Action
Council, one of the many think tanks that have sprung up to justify the
ongoing transformation of former Yugoslavia into NATO protectorates, gave a
speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington at the invitation of its
"Committee of Conscience." The first item on his list of "things to do
next" was this: "Accept that the Balkans are a region of strategic interest
for the United States, the new Berlin if you will, the testing ground for
NATO's resolve and US leadership....The administration should level with
the American people and tell them that we are likely to be in the Balkans
militarily indefinitely, at least until there is a democratic government in

In the Middle Ages, the Crusaders launched their conquests from the Church
pulpits. Today, NATO does so in the Holocaust Museum. War must be sacred.

This sacralization has been largely facilitated by a post-communist left
which has taken refuge in moralism and identity politics to the exclusion
of any analysis of the economic and geopolitical factors that continue to
determine the macropolicies shaping the world.

Jean-Christophe Rufin, former vice president of "Doctors Without Borders"
recently pointed to the responsibility of humanitarian non-governmental
organizations in justifying military intervention. "They were the first to
deplore the passivity of the political response to dramatic events in the
Balkans or Africa. Now they have got what they wanted, or so it seems. For
in practice, rubbing elbows with NATO could turn out to be extremely

Already the call for United Nations soldiers to intervene on humanitarian
missions raised suspicions in the Third World that "the humanitarians could
be the Trojan horse of a new armed imperialism," Rufin wrote in Le Monde.
But NATO is something else. "With NATO, everything has changed. Here we are
dealing with a purely military, operational alliance, designed to respond
to a threat - that is, to an enemy," wrote Rufin. "NATO defines an enemy,
threatens it, then eventually strikes and destroys it. "Setting such a
machine in motion requires a detonator. Today it is no longer military. Nor
is it political. The evidence is before us: NATO's trigger, today, is...
humanitarian. It takes blood, a massacre, something that will outrage
public opinion so that it will welcome a violent reaction."

The consequence, he concluded, is that "the civilian populations have never
been so potentially threatened as in Kosovo today. Why? Because those
potential victims are the key to international reaction. Let's be clear:
the West wants dead bodies. [...] We are waiting for them in Kosovo. We'll
get them." Who will kill them is a mystery but previous incidents suggest
that "the threat comes from all sides."

In the middle of conflict as in Kosovo, massacres can easily be
perpetrated... or "arranged." There are always television crews looking
precisely for that "top story."

Recently, Croatian officers have admitted that in 1993 they themselves
staged a "Serbian bombing" of the Croatian coastal city of Sibenik for the
benefit of Croatian television crews. The former Commander of the 113th
Croatian brigade headquarters, Davo Skugor, reacted indignantly. "Why so
much fuss?" he complained. "There is no city in Croatia in which such
tactical tricks were not used. After all, they are an integral part of
strategic planning. That's only one in a series of stratagems we've
resorted to during the war."

The fact remains that there really is a very serious Kosovo problem. It has
existed for well over a century, habitually exacerbated by outside powers
(the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the Axis powers during World War
II). The Serbs are essentially a modernized peasant people, who having
liberated themselves from arbitrary Turkish Ottoman oppression in the 19th
century, are attached to modern state institutions. In contrast, the
Albanians in the northern mountains of Albania and Kosovo have never really
accepted any law, political or religious, over their own unwritten "Kanun"
based on patriarchal obedience to vows, family honor, elaborate
obligations, all of which are enforced not by any government but by male
family and clan chiefs protecting their honor, eventually in the practice
of blood feuds and revenge.

The basic problem of Kosovo is the difficult coexistence in one territory
of ethnic communities radically separated by customs, language and
historical self-identification. From a humanistic viewpoint, this problem
is more fundamental than the problem of State boundaries.

Mutual hatred and fear is the fundamental human catastrophe in Kosovo. It
has been going on for a long time. It has got much worse in recent years.

Two factors stand out as paradoxically responsible for this worsening -
paradoxically, because presented to the world as factors which should have
improved the situation.

1. The first is the establishment in the autonomous Kosovo of the 1970s and
1980s of separate Albanian cultural institutions, notably the Albanian
language faculties in Pristina University. This cultural autonomy, demanded
by ethnic Albanian leaders, turned out to be a step not to reconciliation
between communities but to their total separation. Drawing on a relatively
modest store of past scholarship, largely originating in Austria, Germany,
or Enver Hoxha's Albania, studies in Albanian history and literature
amounted above all to glorifications of Albanian identity. Rather than
developing the critical spirit, they developed narrow ethnocentricy.
Graduates in these fields were prepared for the career of nationalist
political leader, and it is striking the number of literati among Kosovo
Albanian secessionist leaders. Extreme cultural autonomy has created two
populations with no common language.

In retrospect, what should have been done was to combine Serbian and
Albanian studies, requiring both languages, and developing original
comparative studies of history and literature. This would have subjected
both Serbian and Albanian national myths to the scrutiny of the other, and
worked to correct the nationalist bias in both. Bilingual comparative
studies could and should have been a way toward mutual understanding as
well as an enrichment of universal culture. Instead, culture in the service
of identity politics leads to mutual ignorance and contempt.

The lesson of this grave error should be a warning elsewhere, starting in
Macedonia, where Albanian nationalists are clamoring to repeat the Pristina
experience in Tetova. Other countries with mixed ethnic populations should
take note.

2. The second factor has been the support from foreign powers, especially
the United States, to the Albanian nationalist cause in Kosovo. By
uncritically accepting the version of the tangled Kosovo situation
presented by the Albanian lobby, American politicians have greatly
exacerbated the conflict by encouraging the armed Albanian rebels and
pushing the Serbian authorities into extreme efforts to wipe them out.

The "Kosovo Liberation Army" (UCK) has nothing to lose by provoking deadly
clashes, once it is clear that the number of dead and the number of
refugees will add to the balance of the "humanitarian catastrophe" that can
bring NATO and US air power into the conflict on the Albanian side.

The Serbs have nothing to gain by restraint, once it is clear that they
will be blamed anyway for whatever happens.

By identifying the Albanians as "victims," and the Serbs as the villains,
the US and its allies have made any fair and reasonable political situation
virtually impossible. The Clinton administration in particular builds its
policy on the assumption that what the Kosovar Albanians - including the
UCK - really want is "democracy," American style. In fact, what they want
is power over a particular territory, and among the Albanian nationalists,
there is a bitter power struggle going on over who will exercise that power.

Thus an American myth of "US-style democracy and free market economy will
solve everything" is added to the Serbian and Albanian myths to form a
fictional screen making reality almost impossible to discern, much less
improve. Underlying the American myth are Brzezinski-style geostrategic
designs on potential pipeline routes to Caspian oil and methodology for
expanding NATO as an instrument to ensure US hegemony over the Eurasian
land mass.

Supposing by some miracle the world suddenly turned upside down, and there
were outside powers who really cared about the fate of Kosovo and its
inhabitants, one could suggest the following:

1. stop one-sided demonization of the Serbs, recognize the genuine
qualities, faults, and fears on all sides, and work to promote
understanding rather than hatred;

2. stop arming and encouraging rebel groups;

3. allow genuine mediation by parties with no geostrategic or political
interests at stake in the region.


PeaceWork, May 1999, published by the American Friends Service Committee
Web: http://www.afsc.org/pwork/0599/0503.htm

Abut the author:
Diana Johnstone was the European editor of In These Times from 1979-'90,
and press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament from
1990-'96. She is the author of The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe in
America's World (London/New York, Versa Schucken, 1984) and currently
writing on the former Yugoslavia.


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