These Bombs Don't Help

By Veran Matic


April 1, 1999

BELGRADE, Serbia -- The air strikes against Yugoslavia were
supposed to stop the Milosevic war machine. 

In fact, the bombing campaign has jeopardized the lives of more than
10 million people and set back the fledgling forces of democracy in
Kosovo and Serbia. 

The bombing demonstrates how powerless President Clinton and the
Western alliance are to avert a human catastrophe in Kosovo. The
protection of a population under threat is a noble duty, but it requires
a clear strategy and a coherent endgame. 

As the situation unfolds on the ground and in the air, it is apparent that
there is no such strategy. Instead, each missile that hits the ground
exacerbates the humanitarian disaster that NATO is supposed to be

It's not easy to stop the war machine once its power has been unleashed.

Even before NATO's announcement yesterday that it would make
targets of Government buildings in Belgrade, analysts were asking
whether the air strikes were really about saving Kosovo Albanians.
Now Serbs are doubly suspicious. Just how far are NATO members
prepared to go? What happens if the war spreads? All of these
terrifying questions must be answered, although I suspect that few will
want to live with the historical burden of having answered them. 

The same questions crowded my mind as I sat in a Belgrade prison
on the first day of the NATO attack, detained for eight hours when the
Government shut down my radio station. Whiling away the time in the
cell I shared with a murder suspect, I asked myself what the West's
aim was for "the morning after." The image of NATO taking its finger
off the trigger kept coming to mind. I've seen no indication so far that
gives me hope. 

My friends in the West keep asking me why there is no rebellion here.
Where are the people who poured onto the streets every day for
three months in 1996 to demand democracy and human rights?
Zoran Zivkovic, the opposition Mayor of the city of Nis, answered that
the other day: "Twenty minutes ago my city was bombed. The people
who live here are the same people who voted for democracy in 1996,
the same people who protested for a hundred days after the
authorities tried to deny them their victory in the elections. They voted
for the same democracy that exists in Europe and the United States.
Today my city was bombed by the democratic states of the U.S.A.,
Britain, France, Germany and Canada! Is there any sense in this?" 

Most of these people feel betrayed by the countries that were their

They are now compelled to take up arms and join sons who are
already serving in the army. With the bombs falling all around them,
nobody can convince them that this is only an attack on their
Government and not their country. 

Only weeks before the air strikes began, NATO's Secretary General,
Javier Solana, suggested establishing a "partnership for prosperity" in
the Balkans. Then, in a rapid U-turn, he gave the order to attack. 

With these attacks, it seems to me, the West has washed its hands of
the people -- Albanians, Serbs and others -- living in the region. Thus
the sins of the Government have been visited on the people. 

NATO's bombs have blasted the germinating seeds of democracy out
of the soil of Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro and insured that they
will not sprout again for a very long time. The pro-democratic forces in
the Bosnian Serb republic have been placed in jeopardy, and with
them the Dayton peace accords. NATO's intervention has also set the
stage for a local war against Montenegro's pro-democracy President,
Milo Djukanovic. 

President Clinton should call off this attack now, and then begin
negotiations aimed at securing the right to a peaceful life and
democracy for all the people in Yugoslavia, regardless of their ethnic

Veran Matic is editor in chief of the independent station Radio B-92.
Back to texts' page
Back to index page

This page has been visited times.