Fwd: MADRE's Talking Points on Yugoslav Crisis

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Fri Apr 2 15:16:57 PST 1999

From: Madre1998 at aol.com Date: Fri, 2 Apr 1999 17:02:34 EST Subject: MADRE's Talking Points on Yugoslav Crisis To: madre at igc.org MIME-Version: 1.0 Reply-To: Madre1998 at aol.com


MADRE, an international women's human rights organization, strongly condemns the US war against Yugoslavia and calls for a halt to the NATO bombing. We abhor the extreme ethno- nationalism promulgated by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the gross human rights violations committed by his forces: more than 2,000 Albanian Kosovars were killed and over 400,000 made homeless before the NATO attack this year.

But bombing has never achieved a reduction of violence and the current war is no exception. The air strikes will not end Milosevic's persecution of Albanian civilians in Kosovo. US officials stated from the start that bombing can only "degrade," and not stop, Yugoslav military capability. Furthermore, as US and NATO leaders themselves predicted, the bombing has spurred Milosevic to step up ethnic cleansing and a last-ditch effort to eradicate the Kosovo Liberation Army, fighting on behalf of the area's Albanian majority. The only guaranteed outcome of a bombing is mass killing and economic and social devastation for years to come.

While the bombing is unacceptable, a halt to the air strikes will not end the genocide being waged against Albanians in Kosovo. This is a crisis which must be addressed by the international community, through the United Nations and not through NATO, which is an exclusive Western military alliance being used to pursue US and Western European strategic interests.

What is the root of the crisis? The Balkan war of the early 1990's left a fragmented Yugoslavia consisting two republics, Serbia and Montenegro, with the small province of Kosovo (which is 90% ethnically Albanian) inside the borders of Serbia. The break-up of Yugoslavia as a peaceful, multi-ethnic republic fueled extreme ethno-nationalism in many communities engulfed by the war. In 1989, President Milosevic revoked the autonomous status that Kosovo had been granted in 1974. Since then his regime has brutally suppressed the cultural and political rights of the Albanian majority in Kosovo. In response, the Albanian Kosovars developed a mass, non-violent independence movement, which the West categorically ignored even as Serb repression escalated. As a consequence, more and more people were drawn to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an ultra-nationalist armed group that effectively derailed the non-violent movement.

Why did the situation deteriorate this year? Last fall, the US State Department drew up the Rambouillet peace plan that included the deployment of 28,000 NATO troops (4,000 of them US soldiers) in Yugoslavia. It is difficult to imagine any sovereign leader allowing a foreign army to replace his troops on their own territory. This was the dominant Serb perception of the US demand. Milosevic rejected the Rambouillet plan. The US then issued an ultimatum: capitulate or submit to NATO bombing. But an ultimatum is a double-edged sword. Like Milosevic, the US was left with only two choices: bomb or be perceived as making empty threats.

Is the bombing legal? Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter states clearly that only the UN Security Council can mandate the use of force. Without UN authorization, the NATO bombing is flatly illegal.

Why didn't the US seek a UN mandate to bomb?

Russia and China, which both oppose NATO's attack as a bid for Western hegemony, have veto power in the Security Council. Secretary of State Albright has acknowledged that the Security Council would not have endorsed the air strikes (ABC News, 3/23). The UN may authorize the use of force against threats to international peace. But Kosovo is inside Yugoslavia - a sovereign country. The crisis is therefore widely regarded as an internal Yugoslav conflict not subject to UN intervention.

Why does it matter if the bombing is illegal?

However flawed, the UN Charter represents the only agreed-upon global standard for governing states' conduct. Without it, people would have even fewer protections against the abuses of government and no basis upon which to claim human rights.

The UN Charter provides legal barriers to states' use of force, which promote diplomatic negotiations rather than violence. When the US scorns these provisions, it sets a dangerous precedent of lawlessness and undermines the principle of countries working together to resolve disputes (i.e., multi-lateralism).

The US is being aptly described as a "rogue superpower," accountable only to its own narrowly defined interests and quick to destroy anyone that stands in its way. This year alone the US has bombed Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and now Yugoslavia.

Why does the US care about Kosovo?

Unlike other conflicts areas (Rwanda, Sierra Leone, East Timor), where the US has ignored communal violence, Kosovo is situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East: It holds a strategic interest for the US.

The humanitarian crisis in Kosovo provides a smokescreen for military intervention that will secure US influence over the Balkans. Clinton has spoken about the "moral imperative" of defending Kosovo's population and its trampled autonomy. Human rights abuses in Kosovo are real and very serious. But we must ask why comparable abuses committed by Russia in Chechnya, the Turks in the Kurdish areas and the British in Northern Ireland do not warrant the same lofty rhetoric.

What is the purpose of NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, made up of 19 European countries, the US and Canada, was formed by the US in 1949 to "deter and defend against" Soviet military might.

Most of the world viewed NATO as an offensive military coalition from the start, created to threaten, and if necessary, attack, Socialist bloc countries.

NATO also provided a much-needed vehicle for the reintegration and rearmament of post- Nazi Germany, a critical US ally throughout the Cold War and in the current bombing.

NATO has served as a cornerstone of the military industrial complex and the arms industry worldwide. The B-2 bombers used in the current attacks, for example, were built at a cost of over two billion each. NATO's recent expansion to Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic is estimated to generate nearly $100 billion in weapons sales over the next 10 years.

Why is NATO being used in this war?

NATO lost its raison d'etre when the Cold War ended. But instead of dismantling the organization, the US broadened its mandate and membership. NATO is being transformed from an alliance that functioned inside the territories of its member states to a force that can secure the interests of those states outside their borders -- and interfere in the internal affairs of non- member states. Kosovo is the first real test of this new mission.

On April 23, NATO's 50th anniversary summit will take place in Washington, D.C. The bombing is considered an ideal demonstration of NATO's new Post Cold War mission.

The US has become increasingly dissatisfied with the UN as a vehicle for asserting its foreign policy. The structure of the Security Council makes US will subject to veto by other nations, most notably Russia and China. NATO, on the other hand, is an exclusive military club with the newly declared prerogative to disregard the UN, making it, as Madeleine Albright has said, the US "institution of choice" (New York Times, 10/18).

What is the larger US strategy in the Balkans?

Using NATO to assert a US-led military presence in the Balkans is seen as a way to secure the twin elements of US policy in Eastern and Central Europe: a) to prevent any reversal of the "reforms" that dismantled the region's communist governments; b) to lock these countries into an economic role dictated by the US and Western Europe. (In the post-Cold War order, former Soviet bloc countries are relegated to the same role as the Third World, namely, to provide cheap labor, raw materials and markets to benefit the elite in the US and Western Europe.)

Transferring the resources of the former Soviet Union to Western interests is a top priority of the US. Chevron has already signed a deal for rights to the vast oil deposits of Kazakhstan. Such multi- billion dollar endeavors require some assurance of regional stability: NATO is seen as the guarantee.

"Stability"on US terms requires that regional leaders be subservient to Western interests. Milosevic has repeatedly overstepped his bounds by refusing to allow a US army base in Yugoslavia and resisting the incorporation of Yugoslavia into a global neoliberal economic order.

Where should concerned people focus support?

Neither Milosevic nor the KLA deserve support.

Milosevic was a war criminal even before he instigated genocide in Kosovo. But opposition to Milosevic need not translate into support for the NATO bombing.

The KLA espouses an ultra-nationalist ideology and a program of ethnic cleansing that differs from Milosevic mainly in that the KLA lacks the power to enforce its reactionary vision. But condemnation of the KLA does not mean accepting Milosevic's brutality in Kosovo.

We must move beyond a yearning for "good guys" in the Yugoslav scenario and remember that behind the various political formations and armed groups are communities of people. In Kosovo, whole towns and villages are being burned out and butchered. In Serbia, people are being terrorized by a NATO bombing because of the intransigence of their government.

But in both Kosovo and Serbia there are still some people who insist on a democratic, non- nationalist and multi-ethnic solution to the crisis. These are the people who MADRE is supporting. We call on the US to halt the NATO bombing immediately.

We call on the international community to:

Provide humanitarian support to the refugees through democratic, multi- ethnic opposition groups.

Deploy UN forces in Kosovo to end the genocide and prevent renewed violence.

Indict Milosevic as a war criminal under the UN Genocide Convention.

MADRE has worked for 15 years with community-based women's organizations worldwide to provide emergency relief, health care & human rights advocacy to communities in crisis. MADRE has worked with multi-ethnic, democratic women's organizations in the Former Yugoslavia since 1993.

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