Issue 231 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published June 1999 Copyright © Socialist Review
Yes, [Milosevic] must be stopped. But bombing the people of his country is exactly the wrong way to stop him. In fact, it has only strengthened him. There was a growing dissident movement in Yugoslavia before the war, and every letter I get from these brave souls tells me that the bombing has set back their struggle so far that they worry they will be stuck with Milosevic for a long time. We did not consult the anti-Milosevic movement in advance to see if they would like our help in the form of 10,000 bombing sorties. Anyone who remembers Vietnam knows that sordid logic and insanity. We have strengthened Milosevic and destroyed his opposition. Happy now? Friends, Milosovic must be stopped. But bombing does not work. It has never worked. It didn't work in Iraq--Saddam is still in charge no matter how many bombs we have dropped. It didn't work in Vietnam. During the Xmas week of 1972 the amount of bombs we dropped on North Vietnam was half the tonnage of bombs dropped on England during the Second World War. That didn't work, so one month later we gave in and announced our complete pull out. What a sad, pathetic man Bill Clinton is. Though many have criticised him for dodging the draft, I actually admire the fact that he refused to go and kill Vietnamese. Not all of us from the working class had that luxury, and tens of thousands died for no damn reason. For this 'anti-war' president to order a misguided, ruthless and cowardly attack from the air is a disappointment of massive proportions.
I think ultimately there will be a negotiated settlement and probably a partition of Kosovo. Once the bombing stops--as it has to stop--all of the leaders who have supported it will be in trouble. My own feeling is that governments will change in Italy, Germany and Bulgaria for a start, and I think there will be trouble in other countries. Blair will not suffer any electoral problems initially because of his incredibly large majority in the House of Commons, because parliament has been totally bypassed, but I think that the shine on Blair's image will really be very tarnished. People will perceive him as a politician with blood on his hands.
When the bomb went off in Old Compton Street, Mr Blair described it as a barbaric act. When cluster bombs go off in Serbian marketplaces, cutting children into pieces, we are told that such an act is being taken on behalf of 'civilisation against barbarism'. Mr Blair is clearly having a wonderful time. But if Britain remains America's poodle, she is now a vicious and demented poodle. The Nato action is in breach of its own charter and outside all recognised parameters of international law. Nato is destroying the infrastructure of a sovereign state, murdering hundreds of civilians, creating widespread misery and desolation, and doing immeasurable damage to the environment. Underneath the demonisation and the hysteria, there is an agenda. What is it? It is certainly not what it purports to be. Neither Clinton nor Blair gives a damn about the Kosovan Albanians, despite their tears. This action is yet another brutal and blatant assertion of US power, using Nato as its missile. This 'new aggressive' Nato is helping to fulfil one thing and one thing only--American domination of Europe. The true danger to world peace is not former Yugoslavia, but the United States.
The prime minister is in a terrible difficulty because the air war has failed. Only an invasion holds out any prospect of the success they wanted and Clinton won't let it happen--the Senate won't let it happen. Then they hoped to go to the UN and use the Russians as a link, and then they bomb the embassy in Belgrade, and now the Chinese say they won't accept anything that doesn't involve the stopping of the bombing. So I should think they are absolutely desperate, because in effect they will have to negotiate with Milosevic. There will be an international force--maybe Chinese or Russian troops, maybe Indian or Pakistani troops--but it won't be Nato troops. Labour members are very uneasy but dare not speak out, and there is no doubt that the unease among Labour MPs is growing. If you had an absolutely free vote in the House of Commons, I'm not sure you would get a majority in support of the war--this is one reason why Blair doesn't want it put to the House of Commons.
It is quite clear that the war is not helping anyone. Kosovans are still dying and the amount of killing has escalated since the war began. People are now wondering if this is the beginning of World War Three. Blair likes to claim that he has the whole population behind him, but I'm not sure he is right. We had a debate recently at Oxford University. It was difficult to find a pro-war speaker--one person who had been in favour of the war and was going to speak then changed his mind. The person who did eventually speak in favour was very unconfident. Few people actually said they thought the war was right. The movement against the war is much more political than the anti-fees campaign. You can't come out against the war unless you are political. I cannot see this being resolved easily. No one knows where this is going to end but it can all blow up into an incredibly dangerous situation. This makes the anti-war movement more important. We need people to stand up and say, 'No to war!'
I am against the war--bombing never solved anything. As a historian of war and propaganda I have learnt that bombing is overrated, inhumane and militarily ineffective. Everything that has happened since it started has proved these points. They are killing the very people they said they were going in to save. People are fleeing from Kosovo not so much because of the Serbian ethnic cleansing, although I have no doubt that some of that took place, but because of the bombing and the destruction of the infrastructure. The opposition to the war is growing day by day as people learn about it. Politicians decide to make war and the moment they have made that decision they set the agenda. Once a government decides to wage war it takes a while for people to realise what's happening and hear the other side of the story. I think in the end Milosevic will be happy to accept a United Nations force so long as it doesn't comprise Nato troops--no sovereign government is going to have the troops of 19 other countries based on its territory. So a UN peacekeeping force of Chinese, Russians, Indians and all sorts of people is possible.
Crisis strikes all around. Nato is in trouble with the bombing. Opposition to the war can only grow, because the claims of Nato are every day proving more false. This is a war to prevent the ultimate catastrophe, but the ultimate catastrophe has already happened. The second ultimate catastrophe now is the destruction of the Yugoslav economy, and increasingly the killing of Yugoslav citizens. This is a nightmare and a real horror. There should be a negotiated settlement which will ensure that a satisfactory arrangement is reached for the Kosovans as well as the Serbs--that implies negotiations on the ground in which all the parties are represented. Then there will have to be some enforcement agency--which certainly should not be Nato--it should be the UN or OSCE, some acceptable international forum. Not the least of the problems of this war is that the UN has been sidelined and has only been called upon when the alliance found itself in difficulty. The UN system is a poor tool but it is the only international instrument that there is. To act in defiance of it is to remove the only conceivable foundation for international law. The thing we've got to do is stop the war.
I have an awful feeling the bombing will go on and on. It is horrible for the people of Yugoslavia, and it is also creating a wasteland in Kosovo. What sort of home will people go back to after the uranium tipped missiles have been polluting the whole place? Nato must be aware of the disaster they are creating. The government should be brought before the international courts for crimes against humanity. The opposition is growing in this country. I have internet messages all the time against the war and there have been meetings and marches all over the country. None of these are reported in the press because we are in a war situation and they are all censored. I would have thought the opinion is turning quite definitely. I think there is this thing-and it's a horrible phrase--'refugee fatigue'. We just have these stories, on and on and on, and people just get tired. They are very horrible, but on the other hand there is not much doubt that half the refugees are bombed out by British and American bombers. The bombing must be stopped and there must be a ceasefire. What people don't seem to realise is that there is no good having an agreement between Nato and Milosevic. You have a huge refugee problem. The Greeks are not going to allow a united Greater Albania, neither are the Italians. There has to be a Balkan peace conference to try and get people to live together. It has been made exceedingly difficult by all this bombing.
With each passing day, it is becoming clearer that NATO is waging a war not against the Milosevic regime, but against all the peoples of Yugoslavia. There is no justification for Nato's war. This is a criminal act, an act of aggression which is a clear violation of international law. Some people have presented a ground war as a sanitary alternative to bombing. That is a dangerous illusion. Nato troops would be fighting Serbian troops on their home territory. History tells us that the worst kind of brutalities and atrocities are committed, by all sides, in those circumstances. A ground war offers no hope whatsoever for the Kosovans. It will turn their homeland into a wasteland. So far Nato has dismissed all peace initiatives out of hand, and seems now to be bombing and killing for one aim only--Nato dominance of any peacekeeping force. We should stop the bombing, abandon any plans for a ground war and resume negotiations immediately with the aim of forming a genuinely international peacekeeping force. If Nato persists in its present course, the only certain outcome will be death and devastation on an ever increasing scale.
As a deadly rain of hi-tech bombs falls on Yugoslavia, a deadening rain of propaganda falls on Americans--media manipulated lies designed to prime the populace into supporting harsher military measures against a sovereign nation in the name of protecting human rights. Nato is but a fig leaf for American 'interests', and the bombing of Yugoslavia is but a global demonstration of the ruthlessness of the American empire. Let's see how the US responds to 'liberation movements' of the oppressed. When fighters for Puerto Rican independence began to raise their voices, the US didn't support this 'ethnic minority'--they sought (and continue) to crush, incarcerate and silence them. Consider the case of the Palestinians, the Kurds, the East Timorese, the Colombian rebels. Who has the US consistently supported, the oppressed or the US armed governments? This isn't about 'human rights'. It isn't about 'ethnic minorities'. And it also isn't about 'genocide'. It's about establishing who's 'boss' in the next century. The bombing of Serbia is an echo of the bombing of three other countries in the past six months-Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan--and for precisely the same reason: to show that it can be done, no matter what so called 'international law' states. It is to instil terror throughout the world, in order for US capital to institute what former president George Bush tried to but failed-a New World Order.
This is all you'd expect from a war really--lots of people are being killed, displaced and no progress is being made to any sort of solution, and it will probably end in a deal that stores up prospects for future wars. So I'd say it's all going pretty much like a war is supposed to go. The opposition to the war will grow but two things could happen-either a deal will be cut fairly soon, or they will carry on bombing indefinitely, because they can. They can carry on bombing and eventually it will slip out of the news--we're still bombing Iraq and that's slipped out of the news. An awful lot of people are confused. People have been very manipulated because they feel something must be done. Everyone admits that what's happened has made things worse, so the resolve of those who are in favour of the war is starting to fall apart. Ultimately some kind of Yugoslav state would probably be the best reconfiguration, because it was a multiethnic region and the idea of dividing it up into ethnically defined units is absolutely crazy. But I don't see our position as to map out what the future is going to be-our position is to stop the bombing now.