News & Politics

Operation Allied Farce?

President Clinton is being hailed by many as a hero -- we are told his bombing "worked," the Yugoslavian army has agreed to withdraw from Kosovo and the Kosovar Albanians will presumably be allowed to return to their homes. Trouble is, essentially the same agreement with Yugoslav president Milosevic could have been achieved without the bombing. Where the reason for America's latest war much more sinister than we've been lead to believe?
President Clinton is being hailed by many as a hero -- we are told his bombing "worked," the Yugoslavian army has agreed to withdraw from Kosovo and the Kosovar Albanians will presumably be allowed to return to their homes. Clinton, as in his favorite movie "High Noon," is being celebrated as having stared down a bully and saved the day.Trouble is, essentially the same agreement with Yugoslav president Milosevic could have been achieved without the bombing. Flash back to March 23, before NATO unleashed its bombing runs and cruise missiles on Yugoslavia. Back then, the U.S., through its Balkan envoy Richard Holbrooke, was demanding that Milosevic sign the Rambouillet text or be bombed. Milosevic refused, saying that he would not submit his country to occupation. The agreement now reached is quite different from Rambouillet and in many respects it is NATO -- and not Yugoslavia -- that has changed its position.Most importantly, Appendix B of Rambouillet stated that "NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation, or detention by the authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia... NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated air space and territorial waters" -- that is, precisely what Milosevic feared, the legal basis for the occupation of all of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo. In contrast, the current agreement says that the international force will "operate without hindrance in Kosovo," not all of Yugoslavia.Nor does the current agreement call for the force to be under NATO auspices. Rather, it will be under the United Nations, and with a Russian contingent, something totally different than Rambouillet. Steven Erlanger of The New York Times reported that "just before the bombing, when [the Serbian parliament] rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of a United Nations force to monitor a political settlement there." The question remains: Why wasn't this possibility perused if the administration was really interested in peace?Phyllis Bennis, author of "Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN" and a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, said, "This agreement might have been achievable months earlier, without the devastation of Yugoslavia and the escalation of the anti-Albanian 'ethnic cleansing' in Kosovo wrought by NATO's bombing campaign." Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, says Rambouillet was an ultimatum "impossible for [Milosevic] to accept. NATO [has] now diluted its demands but, to justify [its] bombing, claims Milosevic capitulated."Whatever the pecking order in the military chain of command between the UN, NATO and Russia, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees -- not NATO -- will be in charge of getting the Kosovar Albanians back to their homes. This could empower the UN, or it could be laying at its door a disaster should the repatriation effort sour.Perhaps the most important difference between Rambouillet and the current agreement for the Kosovar Albanians is that Rambouillet called for a referendum after three years on the fate of the Serbian province, meaning independence was on the table. That now has been dropped and the fate of the province is in doubt.Perhaps the future is most in doubt for the Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo, who make up about ten percent of the population and who could be "ethnically cleansed" like many of their fellow Serbs in Croatia were. The leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which the current agreement calls on to disarm, actually took part in the ethnic cleansing of the Serbians in Croatia.Milosevic did get a worse deal than Rambouillet in some ways -- he won't be able to have thousands of troops in Kosovo, only hundreds. That fact could further compel many of the Serbians in Kosovo to leave while they still can. Also, in the course of the war, Milosevic was branded a war criminal by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. However, without Appendix B of Rambouillet, which allowed NATO to detain individuals in Yugoslavia, the prospects for his being brought to justice seem slim.When queried about whether NATO's actions -- targeting electrical facilities, broadcast stations, factories and other civilian structures -- don't also constitute a war crime, NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea replied: "NATO is the friend of the Tribunal... NATO countries are those that have provided the finances to set up the Tribunal, we are among the majority financiers." Says Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, "Mr. Shea clearly knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune."Could Clinton, who floated that he was "ministering" to Monica Lewinsky when he was denying his affair with her a year ago, once again be hiding behind moral rhetoric to cover up for his own deeds? Clinton waged an illegal war, what Walter Rockler, a former prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, called "a war of aggression... the supreme international crime" -- all the while invoking the name of humanity.What then was the reason for the bombing? Both Cohn and Hussein Ibish, foreign policy analyst with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, point to the Pentagon's first major "post-Cold War" planning document, "Defense Planning Guidance for Fiscal Year 1994-99," leaked to The New York Times in 1992. That document stated that "we must seek to prevent the emergence of European-only security arrangements which would undermine NATO... It is of fundamental importance to preserve NATO as the primary instrument of Western defense and security, as well as the channel for U.S. influence and participation in European security affairs." These analysts view the bombing of Yugoslavia largely as a way to extend NATO's life and thus U.S. control over European affairs. This would imply that the war was an extraordinarily Machiavellian plan: that is, if it really helps NATO by giving it a new lease on life and doesn't discredit it.The Rambouillet scandal implies that this war would be a comical farce, were it not for the fact that what has resulted is the death of thousands, the expulsion or displacement of nearly a million and the destruction of much of the infrastructure of Yugoslavia. If hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died from a devastated infrastructure and sanctions are any indication, Yugoslavia's plight may have its worst days ahead of it, not behind.Sam Husseini is Communications Director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. (www.accuracy.org)

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