"Pro-Serb-Nationalism"/"Pro-Milosevic" Baiting and the Death ofYugoslavia

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Sun Apr 4 07:36:01 PDT 1999

-----Original Message----- From: Jim heartfield <jim at heartfield.demon.co.uk> To: lbo-talk at lists.panix.com <lbo-talk at lists.panix.com>

>The Kosovans have been campaigning for autonomy since the 1970s. But
>somehow their cause only seems to catch anyone's attention when Nato
>starts a war against the Yugoslav federation. It is always preferable to
>dress up your endorsement of the full might of the US and British
>military in bogus sympathy for a benighted minority. But who now writes
>about the plight of the Kurds, Marsh arabs, Miskito Indians? The victim
>status of these minorities was of interest to the Western Press only for
>so long as it was a convenient stick to beat the Yugoslavs, Iraqis, and

But then, this is not a debate between "the Western Press" and anyone else, but a debate between various leftists with a disagreement on a specific intervention. There are many leftists who for years have talked about the plight of Kosovans, Kurds, and the range of those suffering human oppression.

Now, NATO has taken up the cause of one of these oppressed groups, no doubt for selective imperialistic reasons, but a cause human rights activists have been documenting and advocating for years. There is an argument that it is better that genocide happen against all peoples equally, without giving a special break to those suffering ethnic clensing or genocide at the hands of NATO's enemies.

It may be better to let such people die, rather than strengthen the power of imperialist hegemons - the argument being that the power of that imperialism causes more suffering in aggregate than the specific mass murder this selective use of power may prevent. That is a hard-headed anti-imperialist view that has plausibility.

But aside from the speculativeness of that dynamic, it is as easy to see a counter-dynamic. The very raising of humanitarian concerns in one place puts pressure to deal with the mass murder and genocide committed by allies of the hegemon. Jim asks about the fate of the Kurds. Well, others have asked the same question in recent weeks. There have been hundreds of articles with comparisons of the fate of the Kurds to the Kosovans in the last few weeks -- which is all to the good. In fact, there are many realpolitick establishment folks who have opposed NATO's Kosovo operations precisely because raising human rights issues is a double-edged sword.

And, to be honest, it sometimes is not clear that those raising concerns about massacres and murder ignored by the West are raising it on behalf of those oppressed, or merely as an ideological club against NATO and the US.

For example, if Turkey was overthrown by an Islamic nationalist regime and in the upheaval, the Kurds declared independence in Eastern Turkey, leading to another mass round of murder of the Kurds by the Turkish military. If NATO intervened on behalf of the Kurds then, would those opposing Kosovan intervention also oppose intervention on behalf of the Kurds?

If anti-interventionists would oppose NATO then, which would be consistent as an anti-imperialist position, they should not also play the game of faux-human rights concern as if the problem is NATO is not doing enough intervention.

--Nathan Newman

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