War Bad, Peace Good: Why NATO Stinks
Bombs do not promote human rights, but
acting upon one’s conscience does.
By Michelle Z. Chen
The crisis in Kosovo is not the first time the nation has been at war for all the wrong reasons, nor is it likely to be the last. It is a sad example of the government and media’s remarkable ability to distort the truth in order to paper over the political reality that the United States military is the aggressor and has been for decades.
President Clinton’s liberal use of the term “ethnic cleansing” tragically misses the point; our bombs, the primary cause of the massive flow of refugees across war-torn borders, have actually accelerated the decimation of the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo. The disturbing images of Kosovar refugees shown on the nightly news would quite possibly not exist if were it not for NATO air raids that have made the region even more unlivable than before. The recent and questionably accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia is another disgraceful example of just how ruthless and haphazard NATO has been in carrying out a supposedly peaceful mission.
The American media has labeled Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic “The New Hitler.” But a closer look at the situation in the Balkans reveals that although Milosevic may be a dictator, to equate his military efforts against the Kosovo Liberation Army with Hitler’s systematic murder of millions is to downgrade the widespread atrocities of the Holocaust. The Kosovo conflict is in essence a civil war, and though certainly horrific, it is not comparable to the Third Reich’s infamous conquest of Europe. Furthermore, the KLA, a terrorist group based right here in the US, has not exactly had a spotless record in terms of human rights abuses.
It is interesting to note that years ago, before the US got involved with the turmoil in Yugoslavia, the media’s coverage of the Kosovo crisis was considerably less sympathetic to the KLA. In 1987, the New York Times reported, with a much more negative slant than is evident in news coverage today, that this nationalist army was responsible for ethnically motivated rioting, rape, murder, and other acts of anti-Serb terrorism throughout Yugoslavia. That the mainstream media has since then completely realigned with the side that best serves government interests should prompt public skepticism, yet many Americans continue to believe that the US is reacting responsibly to a “Humanitarian Crisis.” History, however, points to a dangerous pattern in America’s military endeavors: The government acts not out of compassion for oppressed peoples, but out of its desire to dominate the international political arena. Examples of this unilateral approach to foreign policy include the senseless bloodshed of the Vietnam War, the military and economic devastation of Iraqi civilians, and numerous covert government operations to depose democratic foreign regimes that threatened our superpower status.
Another belief propagated by the media is that Milosevic refused to negotiate over the revocation of Kosovo’s autonomy and that bombing was a last resort. In fact, the terms of the proposed Rambouillet accord read more like an ultimatum than an attempt at reconciliation. The Rambouillet text could easily be interpreted as an encroachment upon any nation’s sovereignty; they included immunity for NATO personnel from arrest and government investigation, control over the media of the Yugoslavia, and unrestricted NATO access throughout the country, “including associated airspace and territorial waters.” There is also evidence that NATO refused to consider Milosevic’s demand to have the United Nations oversee the peacekeeping efforts, and deliberately restricted the role of Yugoslav leaders in the meetings preceding the bombing.
Further proving how detrimental to the peace process foreign intervention has been in the Balkans, the plan to use military action to oust Milosevic has backfired at the expense of both Kosovars and Serbs. Ironically, the war intensified hatred for NATO, particularly the US, while strengthening Milosevic’s support base. The bombings have actually contributed to the decline of the pro-democracy movement in Yugoslavia.
One of the most harrowing symbols of the hypocrisy and cruelty of this war is the bombing of a state-run television station in Yugoslavia. NATO justified the attack by claiming that the station spread anti-NATO propaganda, but even if this were true, the destruction of a nation’s information network by a foreign power is a gross violation of freedom of speech—a right that Americans fiercely guard. The public should be appalled that a so-called humanitarian military effort has been reduced to a propaganda war that attacks the infrastructure upon which millions of Serbian civilians rely.
The Serbians are not the only people being kept in the dark about the conflict in Kosovo. Although NATO may have temporarily emerged “victorious,” having bombed the Serbs into submission, Americans must not let themselves be deluded by those in power. Bombs do not promote human rights, but acting upon one’s conscience does. Through demonstrating and educating their peers, people can replace blind patriotism with moral responsibility. Public opposition to NATO’s aggression must persist until a fair and just resolution is achieved, and with the cooperation of the international community, a long-term, peaceable solution may not be out of reach.
To get involved with the opposition to military action in Kosovo, contact:
War Resisters League
339 Lafayette Street New York, NY 10011
International Action Ctr.
39 West 14th Street #206
New York, NY 10012 (212) 633-6646
If you’re feeling audacious, you might even want to contact the President:
President Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500