Since only a small percentage of Americans have much sense of American history (if any), these articles which have been highly researched and factual are a must read for any concerned American
To find out what the American people were not told about the events in Yugoslavia and the region, Project Censored provided more rich reading. The number-six story in Censored 2000 was one that the alternative media reported widely on: the attack on Yugoslavia “coincidentally” served numerous private interests.
That issue became one of contention in leftist circles. Kosovo has large deposits of lead, zinc, silver, gold and other lucrative ores. The Yugoslavian government’s mining company owned the mines. The capitalists did not have their hands on it yet. Ripping Kosovo from Serbia nearly guaranteed that the capitalists will own it. That part of the “freedom” deal the Kosovo Albanians are getting has received little notice in the American press. Those mines, however, are tiny compared to another goal of the capitalists. There is about five trillion dollars of oil sitting underneath the Caspian Sea region, and the United States has been busy negotiating rights to that oil, while cutting out local powers such as Russia and Iran. Yugoslavia sits on a favored route for the projected pipeline from the region, and is one more reason the capitalists want to control the Balkans. Breaking Yugoslavia into pieces is a good way to do it. It is another divide-and-conquer tactic. Noam Chomsky downplayed the strictly economic aspect of the Kosovo intervention, likening our intervention to that of a Mafia Don: he may terrorize the shopkeeper for protection money, but the terror is more important than the money, as it helps keep all shopkeepers in line with the program. What did Al Capone want more of, money or power? To those he abused, it did not really matter.
The number-ten Project Censored story of 1999 was that the entire Kosovo intervention was a set up from the beginning. The negotiations with Milosevic’s Serbia were a sham. The U.S.-produced Rambouillet “agreement” and Milosevic’s refusal to sign it was the official reason that NATO bombed Yugoslavia. The U.S. did not negotiate in good faith. The Rambouillet proposal was one that no sovereign nation would agree to. The agreement gave NATO personnel unlimited power in the region and complete immunity from any crimes they might commit. Appendix B of the proposal gave NATO personnel “free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), including associated airspace and territorial waters.” Clauses 11 and 15 granted NATO “the use of airports, roads, rails and ports without payment (and) the right to use all the electromagnetic spectrum.” The proposal granted NATO arbitrary arrest and detention powers. In short, the Rambouillet proposal turned all of Yugoslavia (not just Kosovo) into occupied territory, a new colonial holding of the U.S. and friends. That “fine print” was not reported in the U.S. media, as Milosevic and the Serbs were vilified. As Yugoslavia rejected the Rambouillet proposal, it stated that it would work toward Kosovo self-management. That also went unreported in the mainstream media, and the day after Yugoslavia refused to ratify the Rambouillet proposal, while proposing its own counteroffer (Yugoslavia had already made their own proposals, some quite generous, which were immediately dismissed by the U.S. and not reported by our media, just like we treated Iraq), NATO began bombing them.
Dan Goure, of the Center of Strategic and International studies stated,
“The administration went to Rambouillet basically to arrange a trap for Milosevic. It was a no-win situation for him and frankly, Albright was trying to find a pretext for bombing. They told the Kosovar Albanians that if they signed and Milosevic didn’t, they’d bomb Serbia. Rambouillet was not a negotiation, it was a setup, a lynch party.”
A U.S. diplomat frankly admitted after the bombs began dropping that NATO deliberately “raised the bar” high enough at Rambouillet so Milosevic would not sign, because Serbia “needed to be bombed.” Those with the best weapons need not truly negotiate: simply deliver your ultimatum, then attack.
A senior official of the French foreign ministry told Eric Rouleau, the former French ambassador to Turkey, that the Rambouillet document was unacceptable. Even Henry Kissinger stated that “Rambouillet…was…an excuse to start bombing.”
Although the U.S. media endlessly played up the “genocide” that precipitated the bombing of Yugoslavia, there is no credible evidence of such a “genocide.” Project Censored’s number-twelve story of 1999 was the lack of credible evidence of genocide before, during or after the bombing. While U.S. officials and press were throwing around numbers such as 100,000 (U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen) and 500,000 (U.S. State Department) dead or missing, in the aftermath of the U.S. bombing, with forensic teams (such as an eager FBI team, among others) looking for all those mass graves, the final tally was about two thousand people killed, with most being buried individually. The NATO bombing killed about two thousand civilians. Ironically, the U.S.-led bombing may have killed more people than the “genocidal” Serbs did. Just who was being “saved?”
In 1984, Ronald Reagan authored U.S. National Security Decision Directive 133, which was eventually declassified and released. It stated, among other sobering revelations, that the United States would strive to “promote a trend toward an effective, market-oriented Yugoslav economic structure.” That may sound innocent enough, but coupled with the now admitted (even bragged about by Reagan and others) secret plan to destabilize and overthrow the Soviet Empire with a “quiet revolution,” bringing Eastern Europe back to the “world market,” it boded ill for Yugoslavia’s future. The U.S. had targeted the Yugoslavian economic system for destruction, to replace it with capitalism.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a series of economic events that caught many nations in its maw. In the late 1960s, communist nations began borrowing from Western banks to finance their industrial expansion. By itself, it was no great error, but then came the oil price shocks of the 1970s, where oil prices were raised by OPEC in 1973, and escalated again in 1979, which set off a huge spiral of inflation, which, among other economic disasters, led to the U.S. Savings and Loan Scandal. The West went into a recession, imports from the communist and developing nations were squeezed off with protectionism, oil prices kept skyrocketing and nations such as Yugoslavia found themselves deeper in debt all the time. Ironically, the new “petrodollar” deposits of the OPEC nations largely funded the bank loans. Many conspiracy theories surround that situation, and more than a few of them might be true.
The debt burden became crushing for many nations. Then the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rode to the “rescue.” The IMF is infamous for imposing “Structural Adjustment Programs” (SAPs). The IMF has imposed SAPs on dozens of nations, so they can repay their loans.
In the Third World nations, the deal was much worse than the communist nations received. In communist nations, the loans generally went to productive activity that benefited the domestic population. In the Third World nations, the loans all too often went to luxury items for the elite, public works projects that did not benefit the average citizen (but benefited Western capitalists), or the money went straight into the dictator’s Swiss bank account. When it came time to repay the loans, the dictators did not empty their Swiss bank accounts, and the elite did not sell their Mercedes luxury sedans bought with the loans.
The SAPs are notorious for how they restructured the national economies of the subject nations. Instead of growing food for domestic consumption, they had to grow food for export to the United States, to earn “foreign exchange.” SAPs played a major role in that situation. Under the SAPs, social spending is slashed for education, medical care, housing, affordable food, and so on. For instance, the African nations of Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Niger and Tanzania spend more than twice as much money servicing their foreign debt as they spend for primary medical care, nations where children are starving, illiterate, etc. To the people in those devastated nations, what is happening is merely colonialism with new rhetoric. They still do not eat the food they grow. Their nation’s resources, whether they are crops, mining products, timber or their labor, still end up going to the imperial powers, while the common people starve and live in destitution. About the only difference is that they get to fly their own flag. Flags are not edible, unfortunately.
The IMF and World Bank are officially United Nations institutions, but as with the United Nations itself, the rich and powerful dominate them. Western banks, particularly American, control the IMF and World Bank. One can find many people in the IMF, World Bank and other neocolonial institutions such as the CIA, Peace Corps, USAID, etc., who think they are truly helping those who are subject to their policies. A Ralph McGehee waking up to what really happens is rare in such institutions, and of course, there are those who know exactly what their institutions really do, but it is unacceptable to publicly admit the real game, but John Perkins broke ranks and did in 2004.
Pre-breakup Yugoslavia surely had plenty of ethnic tension, but if people are not on the brink of survival, different ethnic, religious, racial and cultural groups can generally live together in peace and even harmony. It is when they are pitted against one another, each trying to survive, that it gets ugly. World War II was born of the Great Depression, where anti-Semitism not only reached genocidal proportions in Germany, but also reached its all-time high in the rest of Europe and America, to even increase in America during the Jewish Holocaust. When times are difficult in America, we hear strident anti-immigration rhetoric. Economic strain is a common factor in American divorce. The Berga concentration camp showed how quickly American soldiers could come to look and act like concentration camp inmates.
In much milder circumstances, during my days with Dennis I saw more than my fair share of people acting dishonorably and criminally when they felt their jobs were in jeopardy. With the pressure on, otherwise valuable employees stole anything that was not nailed down, broke into our facilities to steal, and even held items for ransom. Losing a job one had held for a few months was tame compared to what the Yugoslavian people endured under the IMF’s ministrations, as the United States covertly attempted to bring Yugoslavia into the “world market.” For a further illustration of converting the communists to capitalism, see the “success” story of the Western capitalists and Russia since 1990, where the life expectancy of a Russian man declined by ten years, an awesome statistic only seen before during war, plague or famine.
World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) activities devastated Yugoslavia’s economy, which helped lead to its breakup. Inflation skyrocketed, industrial production declined, unemployment climbed and many companies went bankrupt. Project Censored’s number-twenty story for 1999 was how the media covered up that situation. That kind of U.S.-imposed economic stress is a standard neocolonial tale. What America did to Chile, with Nixon ordering his henchmen to make the Chilean economy “scream,” as a prelude to overthrowing their government, is another example. The most knowledgeable observers in Yugoslavia all admitted that economics was the biggest problem that Yugoslavia faced before it disintegrated.
Rounding out Project Censored’s Balkan-related stories for 1999, story twenty-two was about how the U.S. and Germany armed and trained the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), who were portrayed as the freedom fighters of Kosovo. Very interestingly, in 1998 U.S. Special Envoy to Yugoslavia Robert Gelbard said that without a doubt the KLA was a “terrorist group.” He was not the only American official to state that opinion. When the KLA became useful for U.S. interests, they received a quick image change and became “freedom fighters.” Very ironically, the very “terrorists” in Afghanistan that we bombed in 1998 and 2001 were the “freedom fighters” that we armed and incited to take on the Soviet military. Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted in a 1998 interview with a French magazine that the Afghanistan “freedom fighters” were actually armed and incited by the U.S. before the Soviet Union intervened in Afghanistan. Brzezinski called it the Soviet Union’s “Vietnam,” and gleefully said that it led to the Soviet Union’s breakup. Freedom fighters one day, terrorists the next, or vice versa; it can be confusing to be a U.S. propagandist.
As with mercenary groups everywhere, the worst enemies the KLA had were often its own members. In May 2000, more than twenty KLA leaders were assassinated by other KLA members, with most murders probably being initiated by KLA chief Hashim Thaci, buddy of NATO general Wesley Clark. It was like an internecine Mafia gang war. The KLA is partly composed of a highly unsavory mix of soldiers of fortune and other criminals; some prominent members were not even Albanian. Some of the KLA’s favorite murder targets were Kosovar Albanians who were trying to peacefully negotiate with Serbia. Those “freedom fighters” in Kosovo appear to be more like mercenaries that the U.S. and its allies trained and armed. As with the Contras, the mountain fighters of Cambodia and others, the KLA appears to be another pawn of U.S. ambition. It is another standard CIA ploy. The American public was not treated to that possibility by the mainstream media.
The evidence is overwhelming that the U.S. media misrepresented and demonized Milosevic and the Serbs before and during the NATO bombing, which is a typical U.S. propaganda tactic. During the 1999 bombing, I was buying groceries one day, and there was Newsweek magazine at the checkout stand. On its cover was a picture of Milosevic, with the headline announcing, “The Face of Evil.” That was a headline worthy of the tabloids.
The disintegration of Yugoslavia was a bloody affair, with all sides (Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Albanians, etc.) committing heinous atrocities. To single out the Serbs as the bad guys was a convenience for U.S. propagandists. While Milosevic was no angel, the Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman, was openly fascist. He wrote a 1989 book that justified Hitler’s Holocaust of the Jews (in his words, Europe needed to be “rid of the Jews”), and he was friendly with some of the worst Nazi-aligned Croatian war criminals of World War II. He once told a crowd that he thanked god that his wife was not a Serb or a Jew. He originally was a seemingly responsible historical revisionist regarding how many people died at the hands of the Nazi-aligned Croatian government during World War II, but his scholarship eventually degenerated into outright Holocaust denial and Holocaust apologetics. He eventually took the position that less than a million Jews died during the Final Solution. The Muslims suffered greatly during Yugoslavia’s breakup, perhaps more than any other single group, but they were also no angels, apparently bombing their own people and trying to blame it on the Serbs, as even admitted by UN investigators. When Serbs overran Muslim positions during fighting, they found that Muslim soldiers were collecting the heads of fallen Serbian soldiers. Those headhunting soldiers were often the same ones that the U.S. trained in Afghanistan to create the “trap” for the Soviet Union.
The murderous hypocrisy of the United States regarding Yugoslavia was breathtaking. Not only was everything about the NATO intervention illegal (NATO was the fig leaf the U.S. used when it was obvious that the UN would never approve of the U.S. bombing Yugoslavia), the rationale fed the American people does not survive the barest scrutiny. The issue was supposedly Kosovo gaining its freedom. The bloodiest war in U.S. history was fought over the right of states to secede from the Union. The U.S. recently supported the extremely bloody Russian campaign to keep Chechnya from seceding. Puerto Rico has a much more legitimate reason to secede from the U.S. than Kosovo had for seceding from Serbia, yet the CIA and other organizations devoted a great deal of effort toward derailing Puerto Rican movements for freedom from the United States, and remember the Turkish Kurds.
In the final analysis, the conclusion is clear: the United States systematically destroyed Yugoslavia, although America does not deserve all the credit. Germany and Great Britain were also instrumental. Undoubtedly, the people of Yugoslavia all played their part, being divided and conquered. I respect the perspective of American “radicals” more than any other commentators I have read. Few other commentators even discuss the U.S. motivation. Michael Parenti’s To Kill a Nation is the best work I have seen regarding the U.S. role in the breakup of Yugoslavia. Brief, tightly argued, impeccably documented, Parenti’s book is devastating.
In reviewing the serious scholarship regarding Yugoslavia, I either found them agreeing with Parenti’s thesis (but not devoting much detail to the issue), or ignoring the issue altogether, as Allcock did in his Explaining Yugoslavia. Christopher Bennett’s Yugoslavia’s Bloody Collapse laid a great deal of Yugoslavia’s woes at Milosevic’s feet, yet admitted that the Western policy toward Yugoslavia “has been determined in advance, and is based on the domestic political considerations of the great powers, not an analysis of Yugoslav affairs.” Misha Glenny, who does not see things the way Parenti does, and operates from various Western establishment assumptions (which nearly all mainstream journalists do), and whose work is light on dealing with the economic aspects of what has happened to Yugoslavia, fully admitted that the region’s economic problems are directly related to the Great Powers’ past militarily interventions. Glenny wrote that the military interventions led to the ethnic conflicts, and that NATO’s military adventure will probably be no different in effect, if not intent, than other Great Power interventions. Parenti’s focus is not on who are the bad guys in the Balkans, but what the United States’ role was, and its motivation for intervening. Every attack I have seen on Parenti’s work, most notably from the right wing, fails to comprehend that distinction. That same “misunderstanding” has been directed toward Noam Chomsky’s work countless times. How much do they truly misunderstand that distinction, and how much of their criticism is a knowing misrepresentation of Parenti’s work, which is also the straw man logical fallacy? History is on Parenti’s side.
Studying the history of the Catholic Church, European colonialism for the past several centuries, the American medical establishment, the energy industry, and so on, self-interest is always the primary motivation, and the means used are remarkably similar. Whether it is the Catholic Church and its Inquisitions, the Albigensian Crusade and other Holy Wars, or the American medical inquisitions, imprisonments and outright murders of doctors who present alternatives to the cut/burn/poison cancer treatment paradigm, or the energy industry wiping out all the alternative energy sources that they cannot monopolize, the pattern is quite clear. It is all about wealth and power, and the powerful always conjure noble-sounding rhetoric about how selfless their oppressive actions are. People who believe the rhetoric are either ignorant, deeply deluded, or they get something out of the deal, usually economically, which often abets their ignorance and delusions.
The Catholic Church was the self-proclaimed custodian of Jesus’ message, which was obviously all about love. As it sought wealth and power, the Catholic Church became the antithesis of Jesus’ message. The American medical establishment is the self-proclaimed custodian of America’s health. As it has sought wealth and power, it now delivers the exact opposite of health, its treatments harming and killing its patients instead of healing them. The United States is the world’s self-proclaimed leader, with its rhetoric stating that it exports freedom and democracy to the world. As it has sought wealth and power, it has come to export the exact opposite. Oppression and poverty are its two principal exports.
Authors who write about how “confused” American foreign policy can be have usually fallen for the false assumption that America’s leaders are trying to help the people beyond its shores (the self-serving myth of our “blundering efforts at doing good”), or those writers may be propagandists themselves. If one understands the true goals of American foreign policy, the picture no longer appears confusing. In brief, the goals are:
• Dominating the entire world political-economic system with what is variously called global capitalism, corporate capitalism, etc., which is largely dominated by American-based transnational corporations;
• Preventing any alternatives to that system to exist or flourish, and destroying any that exist;
• Preventing the appearance of any regional powers or nations that can threaten the supremacy of capitalism or the United States, and destroying any that exist;
• Lining the pockets of the defense contractors and others who essentially own America’s politicians.
Our politicians even tacitly admit such goals. In their second presidential debate, George Bush the Second and Al Gore fielded the question of American foreign policy. They laid out their mentality clearly, and I never heard a word of dissent in the media toward their stance. Both made it clear that in American foreign policy, the most important question is always, “What is in the best interests of America?” That is always the salient question. The interests of those who America “intervenes with” or bombs are not in the equation; the clearly stated attitude is “What’s in it for us?” It is the epitome of the self-serving mentality, and America apparently agreed with them, as I did not hear a word of dissent. What Gore and Bush did not say is that “America” really means their constituency, and it is not the American people, but those they are beholden to, such as all those corporations that bankrolled their campaigns. What a breath of fresh air it would have been for one of them to say, “Justice for us and those we deal with is my goal.” Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate for president, would have talked about justice, but he was forcibly removed from even being on the premises for the debates, even as a spectator, although he was invited by the media to attend.
With the true goals being completely self-serving, the “underdeveloped” nations and those nations that escaped capitalism’s clutches during the Cold War have received a predictable and systematic treatment by the IMF, World Bank, CIA, U.S. Marines and so forth. For the Third World nations, keeping them where they are, enslaved to the industrialized nations is the program. For those nations that strayed from the fold during the Cold War, they are being turned into exploitable domains, a process that Michael Parenti calls “Third Worldization.”
The contours of Third Worldization are:
• Preventing any nation from charting an independent course of self-development;
• Making their natural resources open for capitalistic exploitation;
• In the case of Eastern Europe, the goal is to also have a pool of literate and skilled workers (who also happen to be white) who will toil for minimal wages for Western corporations, in what has been called “the race for the bottom,” which is a global phenomenon;
• Wipe out any independent industries that can compete with the West’s, which is a standard colonial strategy, such as the British in India or the Spanish in Mexico.
Third Worldization is a process of turning the entire planet into a readily exploitable pool of cheap labor, cheap resources, cheap imports and obscene profits for the capital class. If somebody is one of that system’s few winners, life is relatively good. So far, the winners in this system comprise less than 10 percent of the industrialized world’s population (a few percent of the world population, at best), with the biggest winners literally being less than one thousand human beings, who possess more wealth than the poorest half of humanity, for a wealth ratio of millions-to-one. People who live in the imperial heartland, in a situation similar to what ancient Rome’s citizens enjoyed, also derive benefits in the form of cheap commodities, brought in from the imperial hinterlands. That bribe keeps them from challenging the system too strongly. Therefore, Americans enjoy cheap oil, bananas, coffee, tin, shoes, clothes, toys, wood, food and the like. This dynamic is quickly leading to the inhabitability of planet earth; as such rapacity devastates the environment as well as human beings. Naturally, the reaction of the capitalist class (and its servile academics) is to lie about the devastation or cover it up, push it onto the subject peoples and lands as much as possible, and maintain a “strong” military to keep the subject peoples in submission, and call it “defense,” in the best tradition of Orwell.
For instance, in the United States the environmental movement slowed down the chain saws and oil drilling. The reaction by U.S. industry has been to import more oil and chop down the forests in Chile and New Zealand, as they literally ship their logs to mills in Oregon for processing, and oil imports doubled since 1973, to reach more than half of American consumption.
In 1991, chief economist for the World Bank, Lawrence Summers, signed an internal memo that encouraged the bank to promote the migration of the “dirty industries” to the less developed nations. Summers’ rationale was that since the workers in those nations earn far less than workers in the developed nations, the health problems and deaths they would endure from those “dirty industries“ would be less costly than the misery and death that would be inflicted on the industrialized world’s workers. Summers wrote, “the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.” The memo was eventually leaked, to widespread public condemnation. What kind of public disgrace and career scuttling did Summers endure? In 1999, Bill Clinton promoted him to be the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.
Edward Herman, whose work stacks up against anyone’s regarding U.S. foreign policy and its context in world events, deeply studied the breakup of Yugoslavia, the kangaroo court that Milosevic found himself in during the summer of 2001 (he and Noriega are the only two heads of state behind bars), and other aspects of recent U.S. interventions. Herman noted that the serious scholarship regarding Yugoslavia’s breakup also weighs important factors that the American propaganda machine has not touched, namely:
1. A strong central government was needed to hold the nation together in the face of Yugoslavia’s deep regional and ethnic fragmentation.
2. The roots of Yugoslavia’s economic crisis of the 1990s were easily traceable the 1982 deflationary economic policies that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund imposed.
3. The collapse of the Soviet Union removed the motivation of the West to keep supporting the central Yugoslavian state.
4. Germany and Austria encouraged Slovenia to secede from Yugoslavia, without any democratic vote or provision for the welfare of Slovenia’s large Serbian minority.
5. The West and Western Badinter Commission would not allow threatened ethnic minorities to withdraw from the new secession states.
6. The U.S. and the West encouraged Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Muslim population to try establishing a state under its control, while the local Serbian and Croatian residents were opposed to it and fearful.
7. The U.S. and NATO supported Croatia and its massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs in Krajina.
8. Milosevic supported many diplomatic initiatives that were foiled, largely because of U.S. meddling (such as encouraging Muslim inflexibility), such as the Owen-Vance and Owen-Stoltenberg plans.
I recently read that the term most applicable to the United States’ campaign of murder and terror waged across the planet for the past fifty years is “politicide,” which means killing people because they have a different political persuasion. It richly applies to the Korean and Vietnam wars, America’s devastation of Central America, America’s support for Suharto and other butchers, and so on. I would like to introduce a new term. What the United States has done to Yugoslavia (and also the Cold War efforts against many nations) can be called “econocide,” which means destroying any economic system that is not global, corporate capitalism. We are even doing it to our own economy, with the drive to privatize everything from prisons to Social Security. The evidence for econocide regarding Yugoslavia is impressive. The Confederation of Trade Unions of Serbia published a list of 164 factories destroyed by the NATO bombings. Every single one was state-owned. Not one foreign-owned facility was targeted for bombing. Buildings that displayed such corporate logos as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola received zero damage. When Michael Parenti visited Yugoslavia after the bombings, he was truly impressed when he saw that the NATO bombings badly damaged the state-run Hotel Yugoslavia, making it uninhabitable, while the Hyatt Hotel, with a bomb-inviting all-glass facade, did not receive a scratch. It does not get much clearer than that, regarding what the real goals of the NATO bombing were. Destroy all the state-owned institutions, and leave the corporate-owned ones alone. Then the neoliberals can crow about how socialism “does not work.”
Montenegro is notable for being the only region that really tried holding Yugoslavia together with Serbia. Already, the capitalists are digesting Montenegro, with institutions such as USAID at the effort’s forefront. Montenegro is undergoing intensive Third Worldization as I write this, virtually handing over its sovereignty to American-based transnational corporations. Montenegro is currently about the poorest place in Europe, and is about to get poorer, except, of course, for the plutocratic elite.
Panamanian scholar José de Jesús Martínez expressed his amazement that Americans could be so “stupid” as to believe the media propaganda about why America invaded Panama. I was rendered nearly speechless by the mindlessness of some I knew regarding events in Yugoslavia. A twenty-five year friendship ended when my patience ran out with a friend who called me one morning to cheer the violence, thinking that the United States was “saving” Kosovo with its bombs. When he called me, he voiced the rationale made by butchers throughout history: those people they are about to bludgeon “only understand violence.” He was the same person who called me in a rage about the Iraqi incubator story. His life has been a continual quest to find examples of justified violence. He thought he finally found it in our bombing of Yugoslavia. Although he realized that the media lied to him many times in the past on matters of war, he thought that Yugoslavia was an exception. He ended the friendship, stating that I did not respect his opinion on the “helpful” violence that we were inflicting on Yugoslavia.
World opinion was united that the U.S. was committing a great crime against the people of Yugoslavia with its attack. It violated Yugoslavia’s sovereignty as well as international law. That globally held understanding was not to be found in America’s mainstream media.
Nearly every day during the Yugoslavian bombings, NATO admitted that it bombed refugees fleeing the area, towns of the civilians they were “saving,” or other innocents. In a powerfully reported story on October 17, 1999, the London Observer, in conjunction with the Danish Politiken, cited several highly placed NATO sources who stated that the “accidental” American bombing of the Chinese embassy during the Yugoslavia bombing was intentional. The Chinese apparently used their embassy as a radio relay station for the Serbs, after America had destroyed the Serbian communication system. The bomb the U.S. used on the embassy was satellite-guided and could hit you in the chair you are sitting in as you read this. It apparently was not a case of mistaken identity. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting took the U.S. media to task for not reporting that story to the American people, and the New York Times and USA Today have given the media’s standard lame and hypocritical responses. When the story covers U.S. malfeasance, the U.S. newspapers will not give the story one line of ink if they cannot prove it in a court of law, beyond any shred of doubt (and even then, they often will not). If the story is about the crimes of Saddam Hussein or Milosevic, however, any rumor will do, or even fabricated “news.”
As in Iraq, the United States used radioactive weapons on Yugoslavia. Depleted Uranium (DU) is nuclear waste. When U-235 is refined from uranium, U-238 is left over. It is not radioactive enough to make good reactor fuel or nuclear explosives, but works great as a penetrating missile, as DU is 1.6 times as dense as lead. DU is effective at penetrating tanks and other targets, but it is also radioactive for billions of years. DU is one suspected culprit in the Gulf War Syndrome and escalating Iraqi birth defects, as many thousands of people have been exposed to the radioactive debris of those weapons. In one sense, they get creativity points. Why spend billions on burying nuclear waste when America can make bombs from it and drop it on nations it destroys? Recently, America’s European allies expressed surprise and alarm that their soldiers who participated in the NATO bombings were exposed to DU debris. Why were they surprised?
With acts such as bombing Libya and Sudan, invading Grenada and Panama, and especially what America has recently done to Iraq and Yugoslavia, a significant question has been raised. By the definition of the word, what America has done to those nations amounts to torture. To inflict violence on those nations, while giving them no recourse except to do as they are told, amounts to what torturers do.
Particularly disturbing has been watching the world’s most prominent human rights organizations sell themselves out to money and power. Human Rights Watch long ago largely adopted the U.S. interventionist paradigm (i.e., if the U.S. intervenes internationally, it must be for a good cause). That left Amnesty International as the premier mainstream human rights organization. I contributed to them for years. The tribunal at The Hague was set up for prosecuting war crimes. The United States funds it and nearly controls it completely. It is a kangaroo court, particularly used for political ends as the U.S. attacked Yugoslavia. Most aspects of impartial courts have been dispensed with at that tribunal, with breathtaking hypocrisy. When the tribunal indicted Milosevic when the U.S. began bombing Yugoslavia (a nearly unprecedented judicial outrage), it was evident how the court would operate, and the succeeding years confirmed my suspicions. It was with a heavy heart that I began reading Amnesty International’s mailings to me, which campaigned to have Milosevic arrested and tried at that tribunal. Even today, as the kangaroo court aspect of the court is clear to all impartial observers, Amnesty International keeps sending me funds pleas that make clear its unwavering support for that court. Violating Milosevic’s human rights, to pursue human rights, is something right out of Machiavelli, and is always doomed to failure, if justice is its goal. With what has happened at that tribunal, virtually anybody could be tried for “war crimes.” If Milosevic is actually guilty of war crimes, and I would not be surprised, then Clinton and Blair deserve to be sitting alongside Milosevic behind bars, a hundred times over. The tribunal is a winners’ court, however, and winners never face war crimes trials. Amnesty International’s stance was so shocking that I snooped around in the human rights community, asking those whose opinion I respected, and my sentiments were confirmed. I was told that Amnesty International began adopting the U.S. interventionist paradigm during the Gulf War. While they still do some good work, I did not renew my membership.
America’s “humanitarian intervention” probably ended any chance that the Balkans will be at peace during my lifetime. Economically, they have been set back generations, with damage to their infrastructure estimated at many billions of dollars, with Bill Clinton telling the world that the United States would assume little part in rebuilding the nation that it destroyed. With unexploded cluster bombs everywhere, with DU dust everywhere, with toxic spills due to factories being bombed, the bombing of Yugoslavia was a great environmental disaster. The psychological devastation of being bombed and becoming refugees is something that no economist can put a price tag on. John Pilger wrote regarding the Yugoslavian situation, the actions of our leaders and how the media presented it, “George Orwell could not better it.”
Helping East Timor
The 1999 events in East Timor put America’s “humanitarian” intervention in Yugoslavia in an even clearer light. The United States decisively supported the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and resultant genocide in the 1970s, while most Americans had never heard of the place. During 1999, Indonesia and East Timor were in tumult. First, the looting of Indonesia by Suharto and his cronies, with the virtual enslavement of Indonesia by Western corporations such as oil companies, shoe manufacturers and the like, led to a “debt crisis” whereby the IMF and the United States had to “ride to the rescue,” something that hurt the Indonesian people even worse. The austerity programs imposed by the IMF led to the revolt of the Indonesian people, which toppled the world’s greatest butcher of the late twentieth century.
Reading and watching the American media’s accounts of Suharto’s fall was illuminating. The media virtually never mentioned Suharto’s bloody record, a record built with U.S. assistance in money, arms, and CIA help. Suharto was continually called the “president” in media accounts. America’s media handled him gently. It was like covering Hitler’s fall, calling him “Chancellor Hitler,” and not mentioning what he did to the Jews or how he came to power.
In 1999, East Timor held an election regarding its independence from Indonesia. The citizens overwhelmingly voted for independence, which led to an immediate escalation of military violence in East Timor, often engaged under the facade of vigilantes. It was little different than the paramilitary El Salvadoran death squads that the United States turned a blind eye to during the 1980s. This time, because of the tireless activism of Noam Chomsky and other during the previous twenty years, the slaughter in East Timor did not pass in silence as it did before. The “vigilantes” killed about ten thousand East Timorese people. They terrorized and slaughtered them for several months, while the U.S. quietly stood by and watched. Those events in East Timor made what Milosevic did to the Albanians in Kosovo before the U.S.-led bombings look like a picnic.
While the U.S. government could hardly wait to bomb Yugoslavia, they stood by as East Timor was bludgeoned once more, publicly wringing their hands, but privately supporting it. The surreal aspect of the East Timor situation was that all the British needed to do was stop selling arms to the Indonesian military, or even threaten to stop selling them arms, and they would likely have backed down. At the time, the United States had more than twenty billion dollars in undelivered aid that they promised to Indonesia. Bill Clinton needed only to whisper that what Indonesia was doing to East Timor might jeopardize those U.S. funds, and they would have quickly stopped the slaughter. The analyses of Chomsky, Herman and other radicals were vindicated, and I have never seen an honest and competent attempt to refute their work.
In watching the American media’s treatment of the East Timor situation, I did not see one news account disclose to the public the U.S.’ emphatic support of the East Timorese genocide during the 1970s. That history was invisible in the media accounts. In the Seattle media, for the first time I saw a hint about the conflict in America over U.S. ties to the Indonesian military.[ The article was a whitewash of U.S. involvement. The article quoted one Senate dissident Senate, Tom Harkin of Iowa. Regarding U.S. support for the Indonesian special forces, who were training and arming those “vigilantes,” Harkin was quoted as saying, “I can’t see any benefit to it…what good did it do us?” As with nearly every foreign policy decision the United States has ever made, the question is framed as, “What’s in it for us?” Harkin, one of the few American politicians with some backbone, was candid enough to admit it. The question is never really framed as to how it is helping the people in those nations that we “helped,” not behind closed doors. That is not the game and never has been. When the U.S. reinstalled Aristide in Haiti, they gutted his initial reforms, keeping the Haitian people in the yoke.
With Suharto out of power, Bill Clinton became the world’s leading war criminal. More blood was on his hands than anyone else’s, at least for those who were still adding to their tally, and he was racking up the deaths at a much faster rate than Suharto did. Clinton bombed Baghdad in 1993 as bizarre retribution for an alleged plot to kill George Bush when he was president. With that debut in international violence, Clinton was an able successor to George Bush the First’s criminal ways.
America bombs other nations at will because it is the world’s most powerful nation, and anybody who thinks there is another reason will have to make some compelling and well-founded arguments. The embargo of Cuba (forty years old), the continuing genocidal sanctions against Iraq, the recent bludgeoning of Yugoslavia, Clinton’s complacent acquiescence to mass killing in East Timor and Rwanda, and so on, makes him the bloodiest tyrant since Stalin, Hitler and the Chinese purges. Clinton did it because it is his job. Bush and Reagan would probably have been worse. Killing millions of innocent people comes with the job of being the American president.
End of Part 8