Ostracism of war as a means of politics

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Tue Apr 6 14:30:47 PDT 1999

At 22:25 05/04/99 +0200, Hinrich wrote:

>Those who support the war of aggression against Yugoslavia charge the
>opponents to this war of not answering questions about atrocities. An
>example for the conclusion of such an argumentation:
>>I consider the war of the Albanians of Kosovo for their independence to be
>>a just war.
>>It is quite right that public ministers should be carefully
>>cross-questioned about their evidence. But I consider that there is an
>>important element of truth to Scharping's assumption, which Hinrich did not
>>answer. Kosovo has been treated as one large concentration camp with the
>>Albanian population driven over the border.

The truth of these questions can only to a limited degree be thrashed out on an e-mail list. The important test is one of practice. It is in this respect that I think Hinrich's post is important. I would like to here more about how the struggle goes in Germany.

I object to being characterised as one who supports the war of aggression against Yugoslavia.

There is of course more than one war going on.

The war of the Albanians of Kosovo for their independence and for their right to self-determination is a just war. I believe that an imperialist policy of *appeasing* fascist attacks on that right, is imperialist.

If the western states have a proportionate policy in support of the Albanians right to self determination and do not oppress other nations in the process, that too is just.

I have made clear I do not think a widespread bombing campaign is just, and is a reflection of the imperialist character of NATO's strategy, which has now become more dominant.

>We do not have to speculate about atrocities in the - as Wallerstein calls
>it "low-level" [1] - civil war in Kosovo. And we do not have to speculate
>about atrocities with several hundreds of thousands victims at earlier
>stages of the high-level civil war during the process of breaking up the
>Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We know for certain that there have been
>atrocities and victims both in the civil war in Kosovo and at earlier
>stages of the civil war in former Yugoslavia. And we know for certain that
>the atrocities were aggravated after NATO started the bombing of the
>sovereign state of Yugsolavia. This aggravation - more violent terror
>against civilians, higher death-toll in all parts of Yugoslavia, more
>refugees and more expellees in and outside Kosovo - was deliberately
>accepted by both the military leaders of NATO and its respective political
>organs, including governments and parliamentary majorities of the NATO
>member states, by starting the war of aggression - regardless of whether in
>the tactical form of air warfare without or including ground troops. War
>victims and the huge number of refugees are now used by the NATO - and
>hence by the German defence minister Scharping (SPD) - to justify the war
>of aggression once more and in order to continue to divert the attention
>from the violation of international law. And I am not surprised that
>justifying a "just war" a person tends to exaggerate only one part
>(atrocities committed by one side in the former negotiations and their
>aggravation by military intervention) and to keep quiet about the other
>part (new terror and bloodshed against civilians).
>I repudiate the constant insinuations of those who back the NATO war of
>aggression that the opponents to this war would not notice the atrocities
>of a civil war, that they would not condemn these atrocities committed by
>all participating sides, and that they consistently would have backed or
>would back the politics of the Milosovic regime.

Discussion of atrocities in general obscures the political character of the war. To call events in Kosovo merely a civil war is to obscure the fact that the Albanians were fighting for their right to self-determination. The Serb nationalists were fighting to crush that by a war directly against a civilian population.

I accept however that Hinrich would not back the politics of the Milosevic regime and would never have thought that of him.

>And I repudiate the constant comparisons of atrocities in a situation of
>civil war to the type of concentration camps and extermination camps run by
>the Nazi regime. The atrocities in a civil war are worse enough - you do
>not have to exaggerate them. The comparison of these civil war atrocities
>to the holocaust is used by the supporters of the war of aggression in
>order to get another argument by devious means. And this comparison does
>not gain more persuasiveness when it is done by a member of the current
>German social democratic and green party coalition government which
>alarmingly has no sense of history.

We differ.

I do not accept that fascism can be committed only by the biggest imperialist powers.

I consider Muslims the new Jews. Our commitment to civil rights is measured in how vigilant we are in striving to protect the civil rights of the least advantaged group.

I oppose appeasement of fascism that oppresses them.

I object to action which however is imperialist oppression of other nations in turn.

>Those who are now backing the NATO war of aggression will have to
>politically justify *all* the results of this wrong method to solve a
>political, economical, social, and juridical conflict, especially the new
>instability within the international political institutions (UNO, OSCE) due
>to the renewed and continuing violation of international law which now have
>opened all doors to the expansion of the current war and to repetitions of
>this inhuman way of conflict resolution.

I do not back a "NATO war of aggression", but this formula seems to me to be a recipe for appeasement. The seed of the crimes against humanity in Kosovo were sown several years ago when the western powers tried to contol the situation in Bosnia for their own imperialist self interest, while the civilian population of Sarajevo was being shelled for months on end.

>I disapproved and I am still disapproving of the bombing of Belgrade, Novi
>Sad and Pristina by any "international community" as a means to solve the
>political, social, and military conflicts within Yugoslavia.

I think it is clear that the Serbian government is not immediately going to pull its troops out of Kosovo as a result, and the continued destruction of the Serbian economy is also unaccpetable.

>I keep to the conviction that war has to be ostracized as a means or method
>of politics. The undeclared war of aggression against Yugoslavia must be
>stopped immediately.
>The obvious lack of success of the military attacks must be taken as an
>opportunity to return to and to resume political means in order to strive
>for non-violent solutions by negotiations.
>I support the following political demands (seen on a statement circulating
>for signing within the German trade union movement):
>*** immediate stop of the bombings
>*** immediate stop of persecutions and expulsions in Kosovo
>*** Summoning a Balkan conference with the participation of
>representatives of all concerned states and representatives of all national
>communities of the states concerned
>*** regulation of conflict under United Nations control
>*** effective emergency relief for all refugees in and outside Kosovo.
>Hinrich Kuhls

I welcome on this list point 2, because that means support for the right to self-determination of the Kosovans. I do not see how the peace campaign can be prosecuted against the bombing without demanding this too.

I differ in that I think war cannot be ostracised. I unite in that I think the *emphasis* must be on other ways of resolving real conflicts.

>PS - Note:
>[1] "Juridically, the bombing is an act of aggression. It is totally
>unjustified under international law. The Yugoslav government did nothing
>outside its own borders. What has been going on inside its borders is a
>low-level civil war into which the U.S. and other powers intruded
>themselves as mediators. The mediation took the form of offering both sides
>an ultimatum to accept a truce on dictated terms, to be guaranteed by
>outside military forces. At first, both sides turned this down, which upset
>the U.S. very much. They explained to the Kosovars that they couldn't bomb
>the Serbs unless and until the Kosovars accepted the truce terms. The
>Kosovars finally did so, and now the U.S./NATO are bombing."
>Immanuel Wallerstein:
>"Bombs Away!" - Comment No. 13, April 1, 1999

I think this is a penetrating criticism of the imperialist top-down approach of imposing themselves as mediators. I am in support of conflict resolution methods, which have had some success in Ireland, but fortunately they were not backed up by a threat of NATO action.

It would have been more honest of NATO to have upheld the Kosovans right to a referendum to independence if they wished, but to be open that NATO did not have the ability to ensure Kosovan safety themselves.

The New York Times has carried articles from Pentagon sources saying that they had warned that the Serb nationalists were likely to try to clear Kosovo of Albanians quickly. The delayed arrival of Apache helicopters suitable for fighting just in Kosovo, while NATO intensifies bombing against the economy of Serbia as a whole, is an imperialist way of trying to support Kosovo's right to self-determination.

Chris Burford


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