Summarizing the Case Against the Bombing
By ZNeter Gar Lipow


Stop the bombing now. Cruise missile humanitarianism has multiplied the number of Kosovar Albanian homeless and dead, without saving one life, or stopping one atrocity. By highest estimates, the Kosovo civil war drove 400,000 ethnic Albanians from their homes in 1998; 30,000 of these fled Kosovo. The first two weeks of the bombing increased this to over one million homeless Kosovars; more than 400,000 of whom fled Kosovo. From March 26th through April 13th, NATO escalated the atrocities to double those in the whole year of 1998.

NATO bears the same responsibility a police officer does in a hostage situation – the responsibility not to get the hostages killed by charging at the kidnapper in a macho frenzy. The CIA and Pentagon both warned our government that it would provoke massacres before it dropped the first kind and cuddly bomb. Milosevic rose to power, in part, by stirring up Serbian nationalist sentiment over Kosovo.

Before our fighter jets flattened large portions of Serbia, Milosevic did not have everything his own way. There was a strong democratic opposition in Yugoslavia, and a strong opposition press. Milosevic was not in a position to completely ignore public opinion. It is far from sure that he could have escalated the level of atrocities.

The first bomb that came close to killing a Yugoslav child changed this. As would happen in the U.S. if bombs were falling on New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle, Yugoslavians rallied ‘round the flag. So long as NATO bombs fall on the suburbs and railways of Yugoslavia, there is no atrocity Milosevic can commit which will cost him popular support. War is freedom for tyrants.

In Kosovo, Serbia, and throughout Yugoslavia, NATO aims tenderhearted explosives at oil refineries, power plants, television stations, and office buildings – and quite often misses. It has admitted to unintentionally bombing residential suburbs, civilian factories, a passenger rail car, and part of a convoy of Albanian refugees. Pilots of British Harriers, tired of frequent misses, have turned to cluster bombs, which spray humanitarian shrapnel over a wide area.

In spite of claims to surgical precision, this amounts to indiscriminate terror bombing. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) who initially supported the bombing now opposes it for just this reason.

In the April 9, 1999 New York Times he writes: “… the destruction of the civilian infrastructure of Yugoslavia has become part of the strategy to end the war on Kosovo… We are bringing down terror on the Serbian people … the Serbian people will never accept a peace with the ethnic Albanians as long as we are dropping bombs on their heads….”

This war threatens more than the population of former Yugoslavia. It threatens the stability of the entire region. Albania, perhaps the poorest country in Europe is overwhelmed by the refugee influx. Macedonia, which already has a strong Albanian minority, fears becoming another Kosovo.  As of this writing, the Yugoslav military had crossed an international border to take over a small Albanian village. The Balkans were historically flashpoints for major wars, because major powers got involved in local disputes.

Well, we had to do something didn’t we?

Actually we didn’t. In our own lives, when confronted by a problem, how many of us would choose making things worse as an alternative to doing nothing?

But, in fact, there were alternatives. The New York Times of April 8, 1999, writing of the failed Rambouillet negotiations said “In a little-noted resolution of the Serbian Parliament just before the bombing, when that hardly independent body rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of U.N. forces to monitor a political settlement there.” Milosevic had accepted most U.S. demands during Rambouillet negotiations except NATO monitors. If he was willing to accept U.N. monitors instead, should we not have explored the possibility before we began bombing?

There still are alternatives. Stop the bombing. Forget ground troops. Start real negotiations. Involve the U.N., and what remains of the democratic Yugoslav opposition. Some armed third party will probably be needed to enforce whatever solution is agreed to, and protect all groups in Kosovo from ethnic cleansing. But both sides of the conflict must agree to such enforcers. We could also provide more aid to the refugees, actually give them refuge if needed. We should also remember that the Yugoslav army currently enforces the death penalty for avoiding service in their military, and offer refuge to Serb draft resistors and deserters.

Some people, admitting that bombing is useless, are supporting ground troops instead. A strong U.S. force on the ground will make everything all right. After all, even if we made a well-meaning blunder in this case (no doubt dragged into the situation by our NATO allies), doesn’t the U.S. generally do the right thing in foreign policy?

Well, no it doesn’t.

The idea that we were “dragged into this” by NATO is wrong to begin with. In the context of this war, the U.S. is NATO. Other NATO countries provide bases, and some of the military force. But the U.S. leads NATO. The U.S has made essentially all the decisions, both military and diplomatic.

The U.S. may be the best place it the world to live, but people outside the U.S. would just as soon not have us involved in their civil wars. Most of the world winces when it hears the U.S. is about to take action. Our humanitarian sanctions against Saddam Hussein manage to kill about 5,000 Iraqi children each month.  We’ve been bombing Iraq for years; no doubt the Iraq government will fall any day now.

In retaliation for terrorist bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa, we managed to bomb a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan responsible for producing most of Sudan’s prescription drugs. At the time, we claimed it was partially owned by Bin Laden and helped produce nerve gas. It later turn out that Bin Laden had no ownership stake in the plant (direct or indirect) and the chemicals we thought to be a nerve gas precursor were actually used in the making of beneficial drugs. Oops! Sorry ‘bout that!

Recent humanitarian catastrophes in which we did not intervene include: 80,000 dead in Algeria, 10,000 dead in the Ethiopian-Eritrean war within the past month, 820,000 dead in Rwanda during the last five years, 1.5 million dead in Sudan during the last 15 years.

Worse, we ignore atrocities by our client states, states we could simply order to stop the killing, NATO member Turkey has killed more than 40,000 Kurds (the same ethnic group we are bombing Iraq, as you read this, to protect) using weapons it bought from the U.S.

East Timor was an independent country until Indonesia took it over in 1975, killing 200,000 people (more than 1/3rd of the population). Indonesia launched the invasion hours after President Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with Indonesian dictator Suharto. The U.S. then doubled military aid to Indonesia, blocked the UN taking effective enforcement action, and continued to sell new weapons, particularly helicopters for the next two decades. Since 1975, the United States has sold more than $1.1 billion worth of weaponry to Indonesia. The latest massacre in East Timor took place a few days ago, when paramilitaries armed by the Indonesian government slaughtered a church full of refugees.

In short, given the U.S. record, there is no reason to expect a ground force invasion will have superior results to our current policy of better living through bombing. Negotiations are not glamorous. Rambo would have single handedly ended the war. John Wayne would have taken along some sidekicks. But in the real world, negotiations are the only way to save the lives the Kosovar Albanians – especially if we decide that the occasional Serbian life has value as well.

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