NATO’s “humanitarian” trigger


Jan Slakov

Date: Sun, 11 Apr 1999 21:25:29 -0700
From: Rycroft and Pringle <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Peace Canada-- NATO's Humanitarian Trigger


Special (extra) ZNet Commentary
March 24, 1999

NATO's Humanitarian Trigger

By Diana Johnstone

               From James Rubin to Christiane Amanpour, the broad range of
government and media opinion is totally united in demanding
       that NATO bomb Serbia. This is necessary, we are told, in order to
"avert a humanitarian catastrophe", and because, "the only
       language Milosevic understands is force"... which happens to be the
language the U.S. wants to speak. 

       Kosovo is presented as the problem, and NATO as the solution. 

       In reality, NATO is the problem, and Kosovo is the solution. 

       After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO needed a new excuse for
pumping resources into the military-industrial
       complex. Thanks to Kosovo, NATO can celebrate its 50th anniversary
next month by consecration of its new global mission:
       to intervene anywhere in the world on humanitarian grounds. The
recipe is easy: arm a group of radical secessionists to shoot
       policemen, describe the inevitable police retaliation as "ethnic
cleansing", promise the rebels that NATO will bomb their enemy
       if the fighting goes on, and then interpret the resulting mayhem as
a challenge to NATO's "resolve" which must be met by
       military action. 

       Thanks to Kosovo, national sovereignty will be a thing of the past
-- not of course for Great Powers like the U.S. and China,
       but for weaker States that really need it. National boundaries will
be no obstacle to NATO intervention. 

       Thanks to Kosovo, the U.S. can control eventual Caspian oil pipeline
routes between the Black Sea and the Adriatic, and
       extend the European influence of favored ally Turkey. 

       Last February 23, James Hooper, executive director of the Balkan
Action Council, one of the many think tanks that have
       sprung up to justify the ongoing transformation of former Yugoslavia
into NATO protectorates, gave a speech at the
       Holocaust Museum in Washington at the invitation of its "Committee
of Conscience". The first item on his list of "things to do
       next" was this: "Accept that the Balkans are a region of strategic
interest for the United States, the new Berlin if you will, the
       testing ground for NATO's resolve and US leadership. [...] The
administration should level with the American people and tell
       them that we are likely to be in the Balkans militarily
indefinitely, at least until there is a democratic government in Belgrade." 

       In the Middle Ages, the Crusaders launched their conquests from the
Church pulpits. Today, NATO does so in the Holocaust
       Museum. War must be sacred. 

       This sacralization has been largely facilitated by a post-communist
left which has taken refuge in moralism and identity
       politics to the exclusion of any analysis of the economic and
geopolitical factors that continue to determine the macropolicies
       shaping the world. 

       Jean-Christophe Rufin, former vice president of "Doctors Without
Borders" recently pointed to the responsibility of
       humanitarian non-governmental organizations in justifying military
intervention. "They were the first to deplore the passivity
       of the political response to dramatic events in the Balkans or
Africa. Now they have got what they wanted, or so it seems.
       For in practice, rubbing elbows with NATO could turn out to be
extremely dangerous." 

       Already the call for United Nations soldiers to intervene on
humanitarian missions raised suspicions in the Third World that
       "the humanitarians could be the Trojan horse of a new armed
imperialism", Rufin wrote in "Le Monde". But NATO is something

       "With NATO, everything has changed. Here we are dealing with a
purely military, operational alliance, designed to respond to
       a threat, that is to an enemy", wrote Rufin. "NATO defines an enemy,
threatens it, then eventually strikes and destroys it. 

       "Setting such a machine in motion requires a detonator. Today it is
no longer military. Nor is it political. The evidence is
       before us: NATO's trigger, today, is... humanitarian. It takes
blood, a masssacre, something that will outrage public opinion so
       that it will welcome a violent reaction." 

       The consequence, he concluded, is that "the civilian populations
have never been so potentially threatened as in Kosovo
       today. Why? Because those potential victims are the key to
international reaction. Let's be clear: the West wants dead
       bodies. [...] We are waiting for them in Kosovo. We'll get them."
Who will kill them is a mystery but previous incidents
       suggest that "the threat comes from all sides." 

       In the middle of conflict as in Kosovo, massacres can easily be
perpetrated... or "arranged". There are always television
       crews looking precisely for that "top story". 

       Recently, Croatian officers have admitted that in 1993 they
themselves staged a "Serbian bombing" of the Croatian coastal
       city of Sibenik for the benefit of Croatian television crews. The
former Commander of the 113th Croatian brigade
       headquarters, Davo Skugor, reacted indignantly. "Why so much fuss?"
he complained. "There is no city in Croatia in which
       such tactical tricks were not used. After all, they are an integral
part of strategic planning. That's only one in a series of
       stratagems we've resorted to during the war." 

       The fact remains that there really is a very serious Kosovo problem.
It has existed for well over a century, habitually
       exacerbated by outside powers (the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg
Empire, the Axis powers during World War II). The Serbs
       are essentially a modernized peasant people, who having liberated
themselves from arbitrary Turkish Ottoman oppression in
       the 19th century, are attached to modern state institutions. In
contrast, the Albanians in the northern mountains of Albania
       and Kosovo have never really accepted any law, political or
religious, over their own unwritten "Kanun" based on patriarchal
       obedience to vows, family honor, elaborate obligations, all of which
are enforced not by any government but by male family
       and clan chiefs protecting their honor, eventually in the practice
of blood feuds and revenge. 

       The basic problem of Kosovo is the difficult coexistence on one
territory of ethnic communities radically separated by
       customs, language and historical self-identification. From a
humanistic viewpoint, this problem is more fundamental than the
       problem of State boundaries. 

       Mutual hatred and fear is the fundamental human catastrophe in
Kosovo. It has been going on for a long time. It has got
       much worse in recent years. Why? 

       Two factors stand out as paradoxically responsible for this
worsening -- paradoxically, because presented to the world as
       factors which should have improved the situation. 

              1 - The first is the establishment in the autonomous Kosovo
of the 1970s and 1980s of separate Albanian
              cultural institutions, notably the Albanian language
faculties in Pristina University. This cultural autonomy,
              demanded by ethnic Albanian leaders, turned out to be a step
not to reconciliation between communities
              but to their total separation. Drawing on a relatively modest
store of past scholarship, largely originating in
              Austria, Germany or Enver Hoxha's Albania, studies in
Albanian history and literature amounted above all
              to glorifications of Albanian identity. Rather than
developing the critical spririt, they developed narrow
              ethnocentricy. Graduates in these fields were prepared above
all for the career of nationalist political
              leader, and it is striking the number of literati among
Kosovo Albanian secessionist leaders. Extreme
              cultural autonomy has created two populations with no common

       In retrospect, what should have been done was to combine Serbian and
Albanian studies, requiring both languages, and
       developing original comparative studies of history and literature.
This would have subjected both Serbian and Albanian
       national myths to the scrutiny of the other, and worked to correct
the nationalist bias in both. Bilingual comparative studies
       could and should have been a way toward mutual understanding as well
as an enrichment of universal culture. Instead,
       culture in the service of identity politics leads to mutual
ignorance and contempt. 

       The lesson of this grave error should be a warning elsewhere,
starting in Macedonia, where Albanian nationalists are clamoring
       to repeat the Pristina experience in Tetova. Other countries with
mixed ethnic populations should take note. 

              2. The second factor has been the support from foreign
powers, especially the United States, to the
              Albanian nationalist cause in Kosovo. By uncritically
accepting the version of the tangled Kosovo situation
              presented by the Albanian lobby, American politicians have
greatly exacerbated the conflict by
              encouraging the armed Albanian rebels and pushing the Serbian
authorities into extreme efforts to wipe
              them out. 

       The "Kosovo Liberation Army" (UCK) has nothing to lose by provoking
deadly clashes, once it is clear that the number of
       dead and the number of refugees will add to the balance of the
"humanitarian catastrophe" that can bring NATO and U.S. air
       power into the conflict on the Albanian side. 

       The Serbs have nothing to gain by restraint, once it is clear that
they will be blamed anyway for whatever happens. 

       By identifying the Albanians as "victims" per se, and the Serbs as
the villains, the United States and its allies have made
       any fair and reasonable political situation virtually impossible.
The Clinton administration in particular builds its policy on the
       assumption that what the Kosovar Albanians -- including the UCK --
really want is "democracy," American style. In fact, what
       they want is power over a particular territory, and among the
Albanian nationalists, there is a bitter power struggle going on
       over who will exercise that power. 

       Thus an American myth of "U.S.-style democracy and free market
economy will solve everything" is added to the Serbian
       and Albanian myths to form a fictional screen making reality almost
impossible to discern, much less improve. Underlying
       the American myth are Brzezinski-style geostrategic designs on
potential pipeline routes to Caspian oil and methodology for
       expanding NATO as an instrument to ensure U.S. hegemony over the
Eurasian land mass. 

       Supposing by some miracle the world suddenly turned upside down, and
there were outside powers who really cared about the
       fate of Kosovo and its inhabitants, one could suggest the following: 

       1 - stop one-sided demonization of the Serbs, recognize the genuine
qualities, faults, and fears on all sides, and work to
       promote understanding rather than hatred; 

       2 - stop arming and encouraging rebel groups; 

       3 - allow genuine mediation by parties with no geostrategic or
political interests at stake in the region.   

Alan Rycroft & Kealey Pringle / The Bird's Nest Daycare

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