Should the deaths of 10 civilian train passengers lead to a rethinking of the Nato bombing strategy?

Wednesday April 14, 1999
The Guardian

Alice Mahon, Labour MP for Halifax and chairman of the Committee for Peace in the Balkans

Yes, I certainly think it should. It is not just this 10 who have died. There have been over 300 civilian deaths, many of them women and children. These are not the targets that Nato is supposed to be after.

The world's first humanitarian war has turned into a huge humanitarian disaster. What is humanitarian about the bombing of civilians on passenger trains, or car workers trying to protect their jobs by sitting-in, or by dropping cluster bombs and munitions containing radioactive depleted uranium which will ensure that thousands of the country's children Serbs and Albanians alike will suffer from disease and malnutrition long after the war is over?

I don't think that Nato can call this a successful campaign when the Kosovans have lost their country and the Serb population carries terrified children and elderly people into cellars night after night.

It is clear that Nato is intent on bombing roads, water facilities, electricity stations and factories, and a massive destruction of infrastructure. It becomes clear that a European country is being bombed into the stone age in front of our eyes.

Our only hope rests on getting some sanity into international affairs, getting the UN and the Russians involved, getting the tragic refugees home, and to stop bombing an innocent population, many of whom were marching in their thousands against Milosevic and are now behind him.

Talking, negotiation, compromise will end this madness. Not bombing.

John Pilger, war correspondent and film-maker

George Robertson claims he and Tony Blair approve every target. So who approved the bombing of a civilian railway bridge? Who approved the bombing of the Zastav car factory when Nato knew there were 10,000 protesters inside? Who approved the bombing of the centre of Pristina in Kosovo and the entirely civilian town of Novi Sad and the mining town of Aleksinac?

The children of the woman lying beneath the rubble would like to know, Secretary of State. And the parents of the Kosovan babies who will be born deformed or with leukaemia, will want to know why 'our' pilots are using depleted uranium missiles when you claim to be bombing in order to save them.

These people are expendable. They are 'collateral damage' which is a craven term invented by the Americans to disguise the slaughter in Vietnam.

What Robertson and Blair and Cook are not telling the British public is that the same US military that 'degraded' two million Vietnamese, mostly people they, too, claimed to be protecting, are about to do something similar to Serbia and Kosovo unless civilised voices are heard loud and clear and that this is the shape of wars to come.

The attack on Serbia has nothing to do with humanitarian help and everything to do with Nato demonstrating its power by disciplining an uppity tyrant who didn't obey orders. Inexcusably, that truth has been the first casualty.

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