A Debate on U.S. Actions in the Balkans, the Independence of Kosovo, the Iraq Sanctions and Humanitarian Intervention

JEREMY SCAHILL: I find it very interesting that the Bush administration is talking about international law and how international law needs to be upheld for the protection of the US embassy. That certainly is true, but notice the selectivity of when the Bush administration chooses to recognize that there actually is international law. I mean, this is an administration that refuses to support any kind of an effective and independent international criminal court, preferring to support these sort of ad hoc tribunals, which have been used against Yugoslavia and certainly with Rwanda.
In the case of Hillary Clinton, what’s particularly interesting is that she and her advisers, which include many of the key figures involved with the original bombing of Yugoslavia and, in fact, the architects of much of US policy in the 1990s toward Yugoslavia, people like Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke, that Clinton holds this up as a sort of successful US foreign policy or international action.
And I think it’s important to remember that this declaration of independence from Kosovo was immediately supported by the Bush administration and many powerful countries in the world. I was recalling during the 2000 elections in the United States, being in Serbia and people joking that the worst thing that could happen to us is that Al Gore would be president, because then we’ll have the Democrats continuing to focus on us, and if Bush is president, he’ll ignore us. And, well, of course, Bush immediately recognized Kosovo, and that sort of seals the deal, in a sense.
But it’s important to remember how we got to this point. I mean, Samantha was talking a little bit about the broader context here. The fact is that this was sort of Clinton’s Iraq, in a way. He bombed Yugoslavia for seventy-eight days with no United Nations mandate. I was at the UN the night that it began, and Kofi Annan was sort of beside himself that the action had been taken so swiftly, this military action, seventy-eight days of bombing of Yugoslavia under the auspices of NATO.
Wesley Clark was the commander of those operations, the Supreme Allied Commander. They bombed a Serbian television station, killing sixteen media workers; some of them were media workers, some of them were makeup artists, others were engineers. They directly targeted passenger trains and then fabricated a video afterwards to make it seem as though it was a split-second decision. They killed thousands of civilians.
And the fact was that the exaggerations of what was happening in Kosovo by William Cohen, the Defense Secretary at the time, who talked about a million missing people—then it was scaled back to 100,000, then 50,000, then 10,000, and now the official number is that there were 2,700 people that were killed, and there’s been no determination of their ethnicity. Now, I can tell you from being on the ground in Kosovo that some of the worst violence that occurred, slaughtering of Albanians, happened after the NATO bombing began. And the fact was that the US sabotaged the work of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in the weeks leading up to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.
And I think that what we have to understand here is that this is where the sort of liberals, like Hillary Clinton, come together with the neocons, because there are a lot of similarities between what happened in Yugoslavia and what happened in Iraq, with the lead-up to the war, the disregard for international law or international consensus, and then the outright killing of civilians under the auspices of a humanitarian intervention. read full debate at Democracy Now


One response to “A Debate on U.S. Actions in the Balkans, the Independence of Kosovo, the Iraq Sanctions and Humanitarian Intervention

  1. I wanted to post a response from my friend mick collins at another site (Lenin’s Tomb) because its so cogent and useful, factually.

    “… will not be dampened by some banal facts, but when history becomes something en-soi and pour-soi, like the self-reflecting, free-floating mind, which feels itself liberated from the laws of the physical universe, it turns into ‘para-history’ (i.e., history with its feet off the ground). This especially seems to apply with everyone’s disparaging of the murdered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    Not to tear up your dark Superman comic book version of the man, but Milosevic was duly elected twice as President of Serbia (from 1989 to 1997). So at the time of the so-called wars of secession or, a worse misnomer, civil wars in Yugoslavia, the Republic over which he presided, Serbia, was never involved as a party to any of these wars–other than as a haven for more Yugoslav refugees of every nationality and ethnicity and confession than any other place on earth. At one time in the last days of the war in Bosnia, there were more Yugoslav Muslims in Serbia than in Bosnia. But Milosevic had no command or control over the JNA, the principal target of the Western-sponsored aggression to break-up Yugoslavia.

    After his second term, because of constitutional term limits, Milosevic could not and would not stand for reelection. A most undictatorial style for an ‘autocrat’ who had just won the confidence of the West by representing his (il)legally neutralized Bosnian homologues at the Dayton Peace talks and trading political authority for peace–a very anemic peace based on the very robust lie that the West would not interfere in Serbian affairs like Kosovo.

    Milosevic was then named by the National Assembly to be President of what was left of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). But being what he had become, he gave this normally ceremonial office new-found power and prestige, in the media, at least.

    However, he was succeeded as President of Serbia by Milan Milutinovic, and it was President Milutinovic who had authority over the territorial defense of Serbia, including its southern most province of Kosovo.

    This division of labor may not phase your anile attempts at turning the last days of Yugoslavia into a Dallas on the Drina soap opera, but this last plot-point might put Milosevic and his role in this history into tighter focus.

    When in early 2000, after a whirlwind reconstruction of the national infrastructure following the 1999 NATO terror-bombing, Western-sponsored agitation brought about early elections, at his instigation and for the first time in the modern history of Yugoslavia, Milosevic put the office of President of SFY up for popular vote. I’m sure he was confident of winning, but no good authoritarian, no self-respecting tyrannical dictator, would take this kind of chance.

    And as the West continues to demonstrate its inablity to construct a fluent narrative in which it can play the force for good with any consistency, so did it catch itself beneath a nasty political cleft-stick: Milosevic could certainly not be allowed to win this election–some $77 million was thrown at the needy and the greedy in the Serbian shyster trade to make sure the quisling G17 would carry the day. But, then, Milosevic could not be allowed to lose a legal election either–and then return to lead his Socialist Party of Serbia as the righteously popular opposition. Hence the intervention of the ICTY and the world’s longest war crimes trial comme unmerited history course.

    It all ended in another grotesque Western self-sodomization: After four years of feckless blathering and effete legal puzzle-playing, the ICTY and its NATO minders were faced with another piss-stinking moral cul-de-sac. They couldn’t acquit Milosevic–though they had proven nothing but the barrenness of their own souls. And they certainly had not even the slightest evidentiary basis for a conviction–even on further reduced charges like the specious Joint Criminal Enterprise. There was only one way to deal with this, one more fine mess they’d gotten themselves into, and by now it had become second nature for these crave criminal madmen.

    They just murdered him. And now you all, and Carla Del Ponte and Bill Schabas and Flo ‘the dirty ol’ ‘ho’ Hartmann and Droopy Dick Holbrooke and Wes ‘dude, I’m so high’ Clarke and, the real cowards’ coward, Bill Clinton, are free to squeak on and on about how reponsible for this and how bloody for that President Milosevic was. But who’s really got the stanky cum of bad faith on their breath here?

    – Now, Kosovo will be a garrison state for NATO (and the US) and have almost zero authority over its own affairs. But then when gun and heroin running gangsters are the puppet leaders, it hardly matters anyway.

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