The Independent, 5-13-99

Robert Fisk - What is the point of

'An Atlantic alliance that has brought
us to this catastrophe should be wound

How much longer do we have to endure
the folly of Nato's war in the Balkans?
In just 50 days, the Atlantic alliance
has failed in everything it set out to
do. It has failed to protect the Kosovo
Albanians from Serbian war crimes. It
has failed to cow Slobodan Milosevic.
It has failed to force the withdrawal
of Serb troops from Kosovo. It has
broken international law in attacking a
sovereign state without seeking a UN
mandate. It has killed hundreds of
innocent Serb civilians - in our name,
of course - while being too cowardly to
risk a single Nato life in defence of
the poor and the weak for whom it
meretriciously claimed to be fighting.
Nato's war cannot even be regarded as a
mistake - it is a criminal act.

It is, of course, now part of the
mantra of all criticism of Nato that we
must mention Serb wickedness in Kosovo.
So here we go. Yes, dreadful, wicked
deeds - atrocities would not be a
strong enough word for it - have gone
on in Kosovo: mass executions, rape,
dispossession, "ethnic cleansing", the
murder of intellectuals. Some of Nato's
propaganda programme has done more to
cover up such villainy than disclose

And, as we all know, the dozens of
Kosovo Albanians massacred on the road
to Prizren were slaughtered by Nato -
not by the Serbs as Nato originally
claimed. But I have seen with my own
eyes - travelling under the Nato
bombardment - the house-burning in
Kosovo and the hundreds of Albanians
awaiting dispossession in their

But back to the subject - and perhaps
my first question should be put a
little more boldly. Not: "How much
longer do we have to endure this
stupid, hopeless, cowardly war?" but:
"How much longer do we have to endure
Nato? How soon can this vicious
American-run organisation be
deconstructed and politically
'degraded', its pontificating generals
put back in their boxes with their
mortuary language of 'in-theatre
assets' and 'collateral damage'"?

And how soon will our own
compassionate, socialist liberal
leaders realise that they are not
fighting a replay of the Second World
War nor striking a blow for a new
value-rich millennium? In Middle East
wars, I've always known when a side was
losing - it came when its leaders
started to complain that journalists
were not being fair to their titanic
struggle for freedom/ democracy/human
rights/sovereignty/ soul. And on
Monday, Tony Blair started the whining.
After 50 days of television coverage
soaked in Nato propaganda, after weeks
of Nato officials being questioned by
sheep-like journalists, our Prime
Minister announces the press is
ignoring the plight of the Kosovo

The fact that this is a lie is not
important. It is the nature of the lie.
Anyone, it seems, who doesn't subscribe
to Europe's denunciations of Fascism or
who raises an eyebrow when - in an act
of utter folly - the Prime Minister
makes unguaranteed promises that the
Kosovo Albanians will all go home, is
now off-side, biased - or worthy of one
of Downing Street's preposterous
"health warnings" because they
allegedly spend more time weeping for
dead Serbs than the numerically greater
number of dead Albanians (the
assumption also being, of course, that
it is less physically painful to be
torn apart by a Nato cluster bomb than
by a Serb rocket-propelled grenade).

President Clinton - who will in due
course pull the rug from under Mr Blair
- tells the Kosovo Albanians that they
have the "right to return". Not the
Palestinian refugees of Lebanon, of
course. They do not have such a right.
Nor the Kurds dispossessed by our Nato
ally, Turkey. Nor the Armenians driven
from their land by the Turks in the
world's first holocaust (there being
only one holocaust which Messers
Clinton and Blair are interested in
invoking just now).

Mr Blair's childish response to this
argument is important. Just because
wrongs have been done in the past
doesn't mean we have to stand idly by
now. But the terrible corollary of this
dangerous argument is this: that the
Palestinians, the Armenians, the
Rwandans or anyone else cannot expect
our compassion. They are "the past".
They are finished.

But what is all this nonsense about
Nato standing for democracy? It happily
allowed Greece to remain a member when
its ruthless colonels staged a coup
d'etat which imprisoned and murdered
intellectuals. Nato had no objection to
the oppression of Salazar and Caetano -
who were at the same time busy
annihilating "liberation" movements
almost identical to the Kosovo
Liberation Army. Indeed, the only time
when Nato proposed to suspend
Portugal's membership - I was there at
the time and remember this vividly -
was when the country staged a
revolution and declared itself a

Is it therefore so surprising that Nato
now turns out to be so brutal? It
attacks television stations and kills
Serb journalists - part of Milosevic's
propaganda machine, a "legitimate
target", shrieks Clare Short.

And what about the Chinese embassy? Did
the CIA really use an old map? Or did
the CIA believe that - because Mira
Markovic (the wife of the Yugoslav
President) had such close relations
with the Chinese government that both
she and President Slobodan Milosevic
might be sleeping in the Chinese
embassy. Nato, remember, had already
targeted the Milosevic residence in an
attempt to assassinate him. It had
already - according to one disturbing
report - tried to lure the Serb
minister of information to the Serb
television headquarters just before it
was destroyed.

So why not the Chinese embassy? Would
Nato do anything so desperate? Well,
Nato is desperate. It is losing the
war, it is destroying itself.

As for General Wesley Clark, the man
who thought he could change history by
winning a war without ground troops, we
have only to recall his infantile
statement of last month about President

"We are winning and he is losing - and
he knows it," General Clark told us.

He did not explain why Mr Milosevic
would need to be told such a thing if
he knew it. Nor did he recall that he
had once accepted from General Ratko
Mladic - the Bosnian Serb military
leader whose men were destroying the
Muslims of Sarajevo - a gift of an
engraved pistol. Nor, of course, did
General Clark remind us that General
Mladic and his colleague Radovan
Karadjic remain free in Bosnia - which
is under the firm control of Nato

Nor are we going to be given the good
news which this war portends for
General Clark's most loyal allies, the
arms manufacturers of our proud
democracies. Boeing hit a 52-week high
last week with stock trading at just
under $44 (?27) British Aerospace share
prices have gained a 43 per cent
increase since Nato's bombardment
commenced. The British government said
on Tuesday that "military operations"
were costing ?37m "excluding
munitions". Now why, I wonder, did this
figure exclude munitions?

All of which makes me wonder, too, if
this disastrous war isn't going to be
the end of Nato. I hope so. As a
citizen of a new, modern Europe, I
don't want my continent led by the
third-rate generals and two-bit
under-secretaries who have been ranting
on our television screens for the past
50 days. I don't want Europe to be
"protected" any longer by the US. If
that means the end of the Atlantic
alliance, so be it.

Because an Atlantic alliance that has
brought us to this catastrophe should
be wound up. Until it is, Europe will
never - ever - take responsibility for
itself or for the dictators who
threaten our society. Until then,
Europe will never lay its own lives on
the line for its own people - which is
what the Kosovo Albanians need. Until
Nato is dead, there will never be a
real European defence force. And until
Nato is dead, there will be no need to
seek the international mandate from the
United Nations which "humanitarian
action" needs.

And the UN, ultimately, is the only
institution the poor and the sick and
the raped and the dispossessed can rely
on. Nato troops are not going to die
for Kosovo. So what is the point of


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