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Date:  Sat, 8 May 1999 18:29:08 +0900
From: Michael Kepinski
To: Multiple recipients of NETSOURCE-L  <netsource-l@mail.think.service>
Subject:  [NS] A speech worth reading carefully

Thank you to Sid Shniad <shniad@sfu.SPAMTRAP.ca> for posting this article!

The U.S. and NATO's New World Disorder in Kosovo

Misha Kokotovic, Asst. Professor UC San Diego

Presentation to the World Affairs Council of San Diego May 5, 1999

I would like to start by thanking the World Affairs Council and its
program co-chair Mr. Fred Nathan, as well as the San Diego Union Tribune,
for organizing and sponsoring this event. And I want to thank all of you
for coming tonight. We are a month and a half into a devastating U.S. and
NATO war on Yugoslavia, and while there has certainly been plenty of media
coverage, there have not been enough opportunities like this one for
Americans to discuss the objectives, methods, and consequences of the war
being waged in our name.

As is perhaps obvious from my name, I am originally from Yugoslavia,
though I have not been back there for at least 20 years. I have, however,
closely followed the destruction of my country of origin over the last 10
years, and have kept in touch with relatives there, most of whom are
currently in Belgrade undergoing NATO bombardment. They, and I, have
consistently opposed Slobodan Milosevic since he rose to power, and we
hold him largely (though not solely) responsible for the destruction of
Yugoslavia over the last decade. So, my opposition to the U.S. and NATO
war on Yugoslavia should in no way be construed as support for Milosevic,
his government, or its policies.

Tonight I would like to address five points. I will begin by briefly
summarizing the situation on the ground in Kosovo in the months before the
NATO air war began. That is, the situation which has been used to justify
the war. Second, I want to raise the question of the need for foreign
military intervention in Kosovo. Third, I will argue that if such
intervention was required, only a body representative of the entire
international community could have legitimately authorized it, and only a
force with a consistent record of defending human rights might have had
the moral authority to carry out it out. The U.S. and NATO, unfortunately,
meet neither of these conditions. Fourth, I want to review the officially
stated "humanitarian" objectives of the war, and compare them to its
actual effects so far. And finally, I have a few comments about the new
global role the U.S. is attempting to define for NATO, in part through the
war on Yugoslavia.


The situation on the ground in Kosovo was much messier than U.S. and NATO
war propaganda would have us believe. NATO intervened in an internal armed
conflict between Yugoslav security forces and the separatist Kosovo
Liberation Army, which is estimated to have several thousand well armed
fighters. In 1997 and 1998, the KLA repeatedly attacked Yugoslav security
forces as well as civilians, both Serbs and those Albanians it considered
Serb "collaborators." By the summer of 1998 the KLA had gained control of
40% of Kosovo, and the Yugoslav Army responded with an offensive of its
own. In pursuit of their war against the KLA guerillas, Yugoslav security
forces drove some 200,000-300,000 Albanian civilians from their homes,
making them internal refugees. In addition, there is general agreement
that about 2000 people were killed in the year before the U.S. and NATO
began bombing. Sources differ, however, as to whom this total of 2000 dead
includes. Does it include all those killed on both sides, Yugoslav
soldiers and police as well as KLA guerillas? Or does it refer, rather, to
the civilian dead only? Or just to the Albanian civilians killed? Either
way, it was a human rights nightmare, but sadly not a unique one.


The question is, did this internal conflict, horrible as it was, require
foreign military intervention? Was such outside intervention justifiable?
I do not pretend to have a definitive answer for you, but I do believe
that more effort should have been put into negotiations before resorting
to violence. What went on at the Rambouillet talks was more of an
ultimatum than a negotiation. Whatever one might think of Milosevic and
his government, no head of state could reasonably have been expected to
sign a document like the one presented to Yugoslavia at Rambouillet, which
authorized NATO occupation not only of Kosovo, but of the entire country.
I would also point out that if Kosovo required foreign military
intervention, then there are several other regions in the world where we
should be intervening as well, for Kosovo is hardly a unique situation.
Turkey's repression of its Kurdish minority and its war against the
Kurdish separatist guerillas of the PKK are quite comparable. Yet instead
of intervening in Turkey on behalf of the PKK, which it considers a
terrorist group, the U.S. recently helped Turkey arrest and extradite PKK
leader Abdulah Ocalan. There is clearly a double standard at work here.


But let us assume that foreign military intervention was required in
Kosovo. If that was the case, then only a body representative of the
entire international community could legitimately have authorized such an
intervention. NATO, however, is not such a body. It does not represent the
international community as a whole. It is, rather, an exclusive club of
mostly powerful, mostly wealthy northern nations. In addition, NATO is
supposed to be a defensive alliance, and Yugoslavia had not attacked, nor
even threatened, any other country. NATO clearly had no jurisdiction in
the Kosovo conflict.

The United Nations, on the other hand, could have authorized a legitimate
intervention, but the U.S. and NATO ignored the UN because they knew
Russia and China would likely veto a military intervention in Kosovo. The
U.S. and the NATO nations that sit on the UN Security Council no doubt
expect their own vetoes to be honored, but evidently consider the UN an
organization that deserves respect only when it suits them. This kind of
behavior can only erode what little we have of the international rule of
law. A U.S.-led NATO also had no moral authority to intervene in Kosovo. A
force which violates national sovereignty on human rights grounds must
itself have a consistent record of support for human rights if it is to
avoid the charge of hypocrisy. The U.S., however, has very little
credibility in this area. I have already mentioned the case of Turkey,
where the U.S. has supported, and continues to support, a government
engaged in the violent repression of an ethnic minority. In Guatemala, the
U.S. installed a military dictatorship in 1954 and supported its various
incarnations over the next 40 years, despite the military's massacre of
some 200,000 mostly indigenous Guatemalans, 100,000 of them in the early
1980's alone. The UN human rights commission for Guatemala described this
as genocide, and during his recent visit to Guatemala, President Clinton
apologized for the U.S.'s role in it. In Mexico, the U.S. has supported
the Mexican government's war on indigenous Zapatista guerillas in Chiapas,
who certainly have at least as many, if not more, grievances against the
Mexican state as the Albanians have against Milosevic's government. And a
final example more directly related to the present case: the U.S. did
nothing to protest the Croatian Army's 5-day blitzkrieg in August 1995, in
which some 200,000 Serbs were "ethnically cleansed" from the Krajina
region of Croatia. The U.S., in fact, had advised, trained and supplied
the Croatian Army. (Milosevic, I might add, did nothing, demonstrating
that he is perfectly willing to sacrifice Serbs when it suits him.)


But perhaps these questions of international law and moral authority are
mere niceties, time consuming formalities we can not afford when faced
with human rights emergencies. Perhaps the U.S.-led NATO war should be
judged instead by its publicly stated "humanitarian" objectives and the
degree to which these have been achieved. Judged by these more practical
criteria, the war is a disaster so far, and threatens to become even more
disastrous the longer it lasts.

The air war against Yugoslavia was necessary for 3 reasons, the U.S. and
NATO initially claimed:

1) to protect Albanians in Kosovo from further Serb attack 2) to prevent
the destabilization of the entire region 3) to weaken Milosevic

The bombing campaign, however, has been an abject failure on all three
counts. It has, in fact, accomplished just the opposite of its stated

1) by exposing the Albanians in Kosovo to an intensified Serb attack in
retaliation for the NATO air strikes

2) by producing a mass exodus of 1.5 million refugees from Kosovo, which
threatens to overwhelm neighboring countries such as Macedonia and Albania

3) by uniting the Yugoslav population in defense of their country and thus
undermining internal opposition to Milosevic Let's take a closer look at
each of these consequences of NATO's air war. First, the NATO bombing has
only increased the killing in Kosovo. By forcing the withdrawal from
Kosovo of unarmed international observers from the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (who have expressed great bitterness
about this), and by putting Serbs in a position in which they had nothing
left to lose, the NATO bombing has created a situation in which Yugoslav
security forces can act with impunity. It has, in fact, created the ideal
conditions for "ethnic cleansing" to proceed unhindered. As a result, far
more people have died and been forced from their homes in the last 6 weeks
than in the entire year before the U.S. and NATO began bombing. In
addition, NATO admits (as of April 4th) to 159 civilian victims of the
bombing itself, both Serbs and Albanians, whom it refers to as "collateral
damage." The real number is probably higher, and these direct victims of
NATO will multiply as the target selection is expanded to include more and
more civilian facilities, and as B-52's are deployed to carpet bomb the
country. The "collateral damage" of NATO's air war may soon exceed the
2000 dead of the original conflict between Yugoslav security forces and
the KLA's guerilla army. Second, the NATO air war is destabilizing the
region rather than promoting stability. The Albanian refugees fleeing
intensified Serb attack have poured into impoverished neighboring
countries, which do not have the resources to accommodate them. The U.S.
and NATO are, fortunately, though rather belatedly, providing some
assistance to relieve the heart wrenching scenes of human misery we see
each night on the news. This, however, is only a temporary solution. The
official goal is to return the refugees to Kosovo, but will the bombing
leave anything for them to return to? The war has also brought the U.S.
into confrontation with Russia, and plays into the hands of Russian
ultra-nationalists at a moment when Russia itself seems none too stable.
Such provocation of Russia seems particularly ill-advised with Russian
parliamentary and presidential elections coming up in the next year.

Third, the NATO air war has succeeded in destroying much of Yugoslavia's
military and civilian infrastructure, but has done nothing to weaken
Milosevic. It has, in fact, only strengthened him as Yugoslavs have
rallied to the defense of their country. The NATO attack on Yugoslavia has
made internal opposition virtually impossible, and Milosevic has taken
advantage of the bombing to eliminate his opponents. The owner of two
independent newspapers critical of Milosevic, for example, was gunned down
in the streets of Belgrade recently. My cousins, who participated in
massive opposition rallies against Milosevic two years ago, are reluctant
to discuss the internal political situation with me when I call because
they assume the phones are tapped.

The U.S. and NATO now appear to be targeting Milosevic himself by bombing
at least one of his residences. There is a great irony to this, for the
U.S. and other NATO countries have at one time or another tacitly
supported the man they now demonize as the incarnation of Hitler. In the
late 1980's, for example, Margaret Thatcher hailed Milosevic as a Boris
Yeltsin style "reformer." And two years ago in the winter of 1996-1997,
when some 200,000 Yugoslavs took to the streets of Belgrade to protest
against Milosevic, the U.S. did nothing to help them drive him out. Some
support for the opposition movement at that time might have rid the
country of Milosevic, but the U.S. provided none.

The U.S. and NATO war on Yugoslavia, then, has failed miserably to meet
any of its publicly stated "humanitarian" objectives, and has in fact
accomplished quite the opposite. It has, in short, made a bad situation
infinitely worse. This was perfectly predictable, and it is impossible to
believe that U.S. and NATO planners were unaware of the likely
consequences of the air war. Indeed, in recent weeks U.S. officials have
indicated that they are not surprised by the results of the war. These
statements, if they are to be believed, are astonishing, for they reveal
that the U.S. and NATO launched this war fully aware that it would achieve
the opposite of its publicly articulated goals. One can only conclude that
the stated "humanitarian" objectives of the war are not the real ones, or
at least not the most important ones.


And indeed, the U.S. and NATO's public rhetoric has shifted in recent
weeks. While the increasingly less convincing "humanitarian"
justifications continue, we have heard more and more about how crucial
this war is to the survival of NATO. NATO, formed as a defensive alliance
against possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe, lost its reason for
being with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The U.S., however, has been
striving ever since to redefine this Cold War relic in a way that would
ensure continued U.S. hegemony over all of Europe. According to recent
statements by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense
William Cohen, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and others, in a
globalized world, threats to NATO members' interests can come from
anywhere, not just Europe. NATO's new role is to defend against such
perceived threats, and even situations which it believes might become
threats, wherever they may originate. Moreover, the new NATO, we are told,
will defend not only its material interests, but also "our values." Thus,
when no plausible material interest can be articulated, "values" will be
pressed into service, as in the case of Kosovo, where, nonetheless, the
U.S. and NATO have shown wanton disregard for the values they claim to be

Now, however much I may agree with the values espoused, this strikes me as
an extremely dangerous rationale for armed aggression. Countless horrors
have been perpetrated in the name of imposing the "correct" values on
those who are alleged to lack them. Vague talk of potential threats and
the defense of values can and will serve as a blanket authorization for
any U.S. and NATO intervention anywhere in the world. What is being
proposed is the transformation of NATO from a defensive alliance into a
Globocop on a moral crusade, in which an unrepresentative body, an
exclusive club of wealthy and powerful countries, arrogates to itself the
right to police global values. A dangerous precedent is being set in
Kosovo, one which threatens to further undermine the only institutions of
international law we have and replace them with the imperial logic of
might makes right. Even this is being done badly, for NATO has allowed
itself to be maneuvered into a corner by Milosevic, such that the fate of
the alliance now appears to rest in the hands of a third rate demagogue at
the head of a dismembered and bankrupt Balkan nation. This, perhaps, goes
further toward explaining the increasing ferocity of NATO's war, than do
its ostensibly "humanitarian" objectives.

Milosevic has in recent days expressed a willingness to accept an unarmed
UN peacekeeping force in Kosovo, and has made the goodwill gesture of
releasing 3 U.S. POW's. Rather than dismiss this gesture or interpret it
as an act of desperation and an indication of imminent capitulation, for
this would be to misread Milosevic yet again, the U.S. and NATO should
reciprocate, as Jesse Jackson has suggested. The Rev. Jackson has also
demonstrated that successful negotiations with Milosevic are possible.
This war must stop. It has gone on too long and accomplished nothing but
senseless death and destruction. Diplomacy was never really given a chance
before the air war commenced, and it is time now for an immediate
suspension of the bombing and a return to negotiations. In his recent
comments on the Columbine High School killings in Colorado, President
Clinton pleaded that "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." It seems to me that the President's statement
describes equally well the way out of the conflict with Yugoslavia, and we
should hold him to it.

Thank you.

"Music is what makes us human. Songs are as important as our daily bread."

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