Fundamental to justifying the present NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is the vilification of Serbians and their government as neo-Nazi perpetrators of rape, murder, and genocide. This image first emerged years ago during the Bosnian conflict, and has become completely entrenched now in the rhetoric of Western governments and press. How accurate is it?
In a comprehensive and informative 1998 essay published in the quarterly journal DIALOGUE, Diana Johnstone (former European editor of IN THESE TIMES, and former press officer for the Greens in the European Parliament) challenges the fundamental assumptions upon which the present NATO bombing campaign is based: First, that the Serbs have been pursuing a policy of “ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo (although she fails to mention the Serbs did pursue such a campaign in Bosnia. Remember Srebrenica?). Second, that the Kosovar separatist groups are victims who have only taken up arms in reaction to brutal oppression by the Milosevic regime.
After placing accepted stereotypes and assumptions about the facts on the ground in Kosovo in doubt, Johnstone goes on to argue how Western policy toward the former Yugoslavia has encouraged, rather than alleviated, ethnic divisions and violence. Just as was the case during the first stages of the Croatian and Slovenian secession, Johnstone points out, in regard to Kosovo the US officially opposes altering boundaries (establishing an independent Kosovo), yet it “opposes any use of force to prevent a breakup.” She concludes that these positions are contradictory and encourage animus on both sides instead of peace and compromise.
The article also offers an analysis of the historical claims to Kosovo, and a detailed account of the various separatist factions operating in Kosovo and their origins. While the entire article would doubtless strike supporters of Kosovar autonomy as pro-Serb, these sections may be particularly offensive. Johnstone points out many things you don’t hear in the Western press, such as the allegations that the Kosovar separatists (or terrorists, depending on your perspective) have committed 152 “assassinations” since 1996, their targets being primarily Serbian government officials, but also including Albanian “collaborators.” “No government on earth,” she concludes, “could be expected to remain passive in the face of armed bands that have claimed 152 lives over two years – least of all the government in Washington.” (Of course, she also doesn’t mention any Serb killings of Kosovar Albanian leaders and their “collaborators.”)
Whether you agree or disagree with her assertions, Johnstone brings a unique perspective to an underinformed Western media culture which too often uses oversimplification to justify violence, such as the present bombing campaign.
[Ed Note: Diana Johnstone’s views on the former Yugoslavia are strictly her own.]
For an understanding of the Kosovo crisis that goes beyond CNN pyrotechnics, here are some useful sources from around the Web. — JB
Breaking News and International Coverage
Out There News
Reports from the Kosovo frontlines, including interviews with Kosovar pacifist leaders, a deep historical backgrounder, and on-site reportage and photos.
Russia, U.S. Clash Over NATO Bombs (AP)
Not receiving much media attention is the fact that the U.N. Security Council has once again been bypassed by the U.S. and its allies. Under international law, the U.N. Security Council is the only body with the power to authorize the use of force, except in the case of self defense, by one U.N. member-state against another. Two permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, as well as current member India, have spoken out against the bombings. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also gently pointed out that the NATO strikes are, well … illegal.
BBC News: Kosovo
The BBC’s special report on Kosovo is extensive, but certainly slanted toward a pro-bombing perspective.
Though it suffers from an overdone, CNNesque name (“Crisis in Kosovo: Drumbeats of War”), this site, put together by Common Dreams (the Yahoo! of progressive media), is the best place we’ve found to get wider-ranging viewpoints on the attacks (scroll at the way down to “Views”).
On The Ground
NPR Youth Radio
Links to NPR’s three-part series about an ongoing e-mail correspondence between Finnegan Hamill of Youth Radio and a Kosovar teenager. The series has been getting some mainstream media attention (CNN is reportedly picking up the story) and, more importantly, my mother called to say how much she liked it.
The Party Line
Although it’s tough to get through to NATO’s official site these days, this is the place to access NATO press releases on the bombings.
U.S. State Dept.: Situation in Kosovo
Find out exactly what you need to be skeptical about, straight from the source.
Kosovo Crisis Center
This advocacy group supporting the cause of Kosovar independence offers breaking news, background on the struggle, and documentation of Serbian atrocities (including photos).
Pro-Albanian radio provides daily news reports from Kosovo in English. RealAudio or text available. The translations add a little levity to the mostly grim content.
We had trouble reaching most of the links to Yugoslavian sites (due, of course, to the multi-ton bombs that are being dropped around the country) but here are a few we reached successfully:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
On this official site, you can read the Yugoslav government’s press releases on the breakdown of the peace negotiations and get a sense of their perspective that the Kosovo conflict is a battle against terrorism. There’s information about the hardships suffered under U.N. sanctions (imposed in 1992) and the plight of Serbian refugees (yeah, we didn’t think there were any, either).
Pro-Serb radio based in Belgrade has daily news reports in English. Take a quick look at the transcripts and you’ll find plenty of material that would be pretty funny if it wasn’t backed up by an army that’s started three wars in the last nine years: “The criminal, terrorist, perfidious and cowardly attack by NATO’s army on Serbia … represents proof of the neo-Nazi policy of the United States and its satellites.”
Atlantic Monthly: A New Iron Curtain
In this 1996 piece, Anatol Levin presents an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding NATO’s expansion and search for a post-Cold-War identity. Levin is particularly concerned with how an expanded NATO will affect Western relations with Russia, an issue launched back into the news this week since Russia opposes the NATO bombing of its longtime friend, Serbia. The current scenario, including reports of Russian arms being shipped to Yugoslavia, is enough to give shivers to anyone who knows the history of WWI.
When NATO began bombing targets in Kosovo on Wednesday evening, we asked several experts whose views aren’t well represented in mainstream media to weigh in with their thoughts on the attacks.
— The MoJo Wire
Michael Simmons, director of European Programs, American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization for peace and social justice):
The U.S.-led decision to bomb Serbia is the result of a failed policy that should be judged not only by what has been done, but what has not been done. Moreover, the current NATO policy could have negative ramifications on the international community, beyond the continent of Europe.
Article 5 of the NATO charter states that NATO is an alliance that protects the territory of member states when attacked. The bombing by NATO is the first step toward a shift articulated by the Clinton administration that NATO policy should also be to protect the interests of its member states. This allows NATO to become a worldwide police force.
The short-term impact of the bombing will be to strengthen Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. It will drive Serbs who have been opposed to his policy to support him in the name of nationalism and against aggression from an external source. As innocent Serbs die, Milosevic will also have an excuse to silence domestic critics. Moreover, the war is being fought by conventional means and, at best, the bombing will leave the Serbian forces with an army that will still maintain the capacity to assault Kosovo.
Throughout the war in Yugoslavia, the West has undermined the United Nations. Milosevic was allowed to attack the safe havens in Bosnia, kill U.N. officials, and violate U.N. mandates. The bombing of Serbia, another a violation of U.N. mandates, further compromises the U.N. in this and other crises, while allowing Russia to send military support to Serbia. At this point, the policy options are limited.
However, the international community should still seek out anti-war opposition leaders in Serbia, including Montenegro and Vojvodina (the Hungarian section of Serbia). The Serbian delegation to any future peace talks should be as diverse as the Albanian delegation was in France. The international community should also commit to a massive infusion of capital as an incentive to both sides to seek a compromise solution.
Doug Hostetter, international secretary, Fellowship of Reconciliation (an interfaith group dedicated to nonviolence):
As NATO prepares for the bombings of Serbia and Kosovo, I can only think of the terrible waste of material and human resources — for NATO, Serbia, and Kosovo. We need to learn to use our brains rather than our substantial brawn when dealing with dictators around the world.
Yes, it is clear that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is using the Yugoslav army and Special Police to commit acts of genocide against the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo, just as he did against the ethnic Muslim and Croat majority in Bosnia seven years ago. But the answer is not to kill more innocent people to punish Milosevic for his killing of innocent people.
We oppose NATO air strikes in Kosovo and Serbia. Air strikes will only increase hostilities, further frustrating the possibility of peace in the region. Air strikes also will not necessarily serve the stated goal of protecting civilians, since Kosovars who have been forced from their homes and villages could be further isolated from relief efforts or harmed directly.
The FOR is concerned also for the safety of Serbian soldiers, NATO pilots facing Serb anti-aircraft weapons, and civilians in Kosovo and in Serbia. Bombing will strengthen extremists in Serbia and Kosovo and greatly weaken the forces of moderation in Albanian and Serbian communities in Kosovo, as well as the democratic opposition within Serbia.
It is past time for the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal to deal directly with Milosevic. His arrest would do far more to protect the civilians of Kosovo and to secure lasting peace in the region than air strikes, which will likely be counterproductive.
We urge the U.S. and other nations to encourage the War Crimes Tribunal to immediately indict and issue a warrant for the arrest of Milosevic and all others responsible for the slaughter of Kosovar civilians; to advocate strongly against NATO air strikes; and to pursue other creative, nonviolent, long-term solutions to the crisis.
Albert Cevallos, Balkans Program coordinator for the International Crisis Group (headed by former Senator George Mitchell, ICG is a private group dedicated to preventing and resolving global crises):
With the collapse of the Kosovo peace process, the massive build-up of Serbian forces and heavy weaponry in and around Kosovo, and the evacuation of humanitarian organizations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) monitors — even as a quarter-million civilians remain displaced — NATO must begin planning beyond the immediate aerial assault that began Wednesday. This includes the deployment of ground troops in the wake of air strikes.
Indeed, the use of bombing to bring Serbia back into the peace process is acceptable, but only as one step on the road to peace.
Following air strikes, an armed, international ground presence is essential to safeguard civilians: Albanians, Serbs, and international humanitarian-aid workers alike. Deprived of the stabilizing effect of the OSCE verifiers and relief organizations, the possible responses of the warring parties to NATO air strikes will inevitably put both the Albanian majority and the Serb minority in Kosovo at tremendous risk and could lead to a sharp escalation of hostilities. Reprisals from Serbian military and paramilitary forces, as well as counterstrikes by an emboldened Kosovo Liberation Army, will take their toll, as has been the case throughout the last year of conflict, most punishingly on the civilian population.
While NATO bombing cannot protect the civilian population of Kosovo, it will provide the means to a necessary end: the deployment of a protective NATO force even without a peace agreement. NATO should make immediate plans for such a deployment, even if it must take place in a non-permissive environment. Rapid NATO deployment is the critical link to a successful implementation of any peace accord.
Watching the bloodbath in Kosovo that could follow NATO air strikes would be the worst possible way to celebrate the Western alliance’s 50th birthday.
Once on the ground, NATO must ensure that the return of Kosovo’s displaced goes unhindered and that issues such as justice and human rights are front and center in any reconstruction process.
According to a new article in today’s ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS , Tobacco giant Brown & Williamson (B&W) developed a cigarette in 1974 that, when smoked, gave off the odor of marijuana. Apparently, tobacco executives came up with the chronic-scented cowboy killer because “the aroma of marijuana is easily recognized and difficult to cover up, a marketable product of similar aroma should have great appeal to marijuana smokers.” The idea being that one could explain away the smell of genuine pot smoke by producing one of B&W’s cheeba-smelling cigs.
The article, by David Hanners, goes on to reveal other unusual Mary Jane/tobacco connections, including tobacco companies’ trade-marking of weedy-sounding names for cigarettes, such as “Acapulco, Aztec Gold, Dealers Choice, Hit Hard and High Time.” The article does not mention whether or not Cheech Marin played a role as a market research analyst.
Hanners even throws in a couple of totally off-point pro-pot comments, including a quote from the executive director of NORML (you go David). Curiously, he fails to answer the one question we at MoJo really wanted to know:
If B&W was testing different tobacco combinations in an attempt to come up with the one that smelled the most like burning marijuana, what substance were they using as the control for their experiments?
Yvonne Margarula, a traditional leader of the Mirrar clan of Australian aborigines, says that she would rather go to jail than pay the $500 fine the Australian government has ordered her to pay. Over 500 people were arrested last year in a six-month blockade protest of the newly-constructed Jabiluka uranium mine, located inside the Kakadu national park in Australia’s Northern Territory. The park is owned by aboriginal groups, who were joined in opposition to the mine by environmental and anti-nuclear groups, reports the ENVIRONMENT NEWS SERVICE.
In 1982, Margarula’s father leased the land to the Commonwealth and approved the construction of the mine, which will be administered by Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) Ltd. However, aboriginal groups say the land is sacred to them. They hope to block the mine’s progress, and have delayed until 2001 the first scheduled operations. The surrounding park has been declared a World Heritage site by the United Nations.
Margarula was convicted of trespassing and fined $500 when she was found sitting on top of an ERA shipping container on the mine site last May. Anti-mine slogans had been written on the container. According to the prosecuting attorney, the Northern Territory Land Rights Act “only gives [aboriginal traditional owners] the right to land in accordance to aboriginal tradition.” In other words, aborigines may not prevent other uses of the land. Magistrate John Lowndes concurred, ruling that Margarula was only entitled to walk onto her land to carry out traditional Aboriginal customs. Margarula lost her appeal on March 12th. She has three months to pay the fine or she will be jailed.