NO to NATO – The US/NATO War in Yugoslavia: Eight Myths
Myth #1. U.S./NATO had to attack “the Serbs” because the Yugoslav government and President Slobodan Milosevic refused to negotiate on Kosovo, a region of Yugoslavia where ethnic Albanians are the majority.
Reality: U.S./NATO bombs are falling on all Yugoslavs: Serbs, Montenegrins, Albanians, Hungarians, Romanis (called Gypsies) and other peoples who make up the multiethnic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. There were no “negotiations.” U.S. officials like Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went out of their way to make this point when “peace talks” were held in France in February. Instead, the U.S. government presented an ultimatum to the Yugoslav government that had three points: 1) Kosovo must be granted autonomy;
2) NATO must be allowed to station 30,000 ground troops in Yugoslavia to ensure this autonomy; and 3) A NATO-conducted referendum for Kosovo’s independence from Yugoslavia would take place within three years.
The Yugoslav government agreed to the first condition, and rejected the second and third, saying they were a gross violation of their sovereignty and the independence of their country. The one breaking point that Yugoslavia refused to negotiate is that they will not allow a foreign occupying army. The only constant U.S. demand was that NATO troops must be based in Yugoslav territory. The U.S. refused to allow the Yugoslav delegation to meet with the Albanian delegation, or even to see 56 pages of the 80-page agreement.
Myth #2. Yugoslavia is the aggressor in this conflict and Milosevic is a “new Hitler.”
Reality: No Yugoslav soldiers, planes or ships are attacking another country. The conflict in Kosovo is an internal issue. Yugoslavia is a small developing country of 11 million people, being attacked by 19 countries, including the biggest military powers in the world, which have a combined population of more than half a billion people. Milosevic has been demonized much like Saddam Hussein was during the war against Iraq. A State Department official admitted: “The demonization of Milosevic is necessary to maintain the air attacks.” (San Francisco Chronicle, March 30, 1999)
Myth #3. Clinton, Albright and the Pentagon generals were moved to action by their concerns about “ethnic cleansing” and human suffering.
Reality: The U.S., Germany and other NATO powers played a key role in breaking up Yugoslavia in 1991-92, arming and supporting secessionist movements. It was the International Monetary Fund that demanded an end to “special privileges” for Kosovo in the 1980s. For 45 years after World War II, the many nationalities that made up Yugoslavia lived together in peace. In the civil wars, which followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, there was much bloodshed and human-rights violations on all sides. The biggest single act of “ethnic cleansing” was the forced removal of 600,000 Serbs from the Krajina region of the former Yugoslav Republic Croatia by the U.S.-trained and armed Croatian military in 1995. More than 55,000 of these Serbs, who were resettled in Kosovo, are among the hundreds of thousands of people made refugees by NATO bombing and the conflict in Kosovo. (Julia Taft, Asst. Secretary of State on C-SPAN, March 29, 1999) The U.S. “concern” about removal of people from their homeland is very selective. This is not surprising: Virtually the entire continent of North America was “ethnically cleansed” of Native people to make way for the U.S. and Canada, two NATO powers. U.S. policy has supported, with arms and money, the removal of Kurdish people in Turkey and of Palestinians, East Timorese, Guatemalan indigenous people—the list goes on.
Myth #4. The U.S./NATO goal is to protect the rights of the predominantly Muslim Albanians in Kosovo.
Reality: U.S. officials pretend to care about the rights of Muslim people in Yugoslavia, while their policy of sanctions and war kills 300 mostly Muslim Iraqis every day—half children under 5 years old.
The Pentagon is not a humanitarian relief agency and the corporate-owned politicians don’t really care about any people—Albanians, Serbs, Kurds, Iraqis, or the poor and working people of this country. This war is killing people of all nationalities in Yugoslavia, and poisoning their land with radioactive depleted uranium (DU) weapons. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, U.S. veterans and their families are suffering from Gulf War Syndrome as a result of depleted-uranium poisoning. The Clinton administration and the Pentagon talk about “supporting our troops” before they go into battle, but then deny medical benefits to veterans who suffer from the after-effects of Agent Orange from Vietnam or DU from Iraq.
This war will cost many billions of dollars, money stolen from housing, health care, education and other social programs. Each cruise missile costs $1 million. The only ones who will benefit from this war will be the military-industrial complex and big business.
The real U.S./NATO goal is to break Yugoslavia into ever-smaller pieces and bomb its people into submission. The Balkans is a strategic region, a crossroads between Western Europe and the oil-rich Middle East and Caspian Basin. The U.S. has established, in only five years, military domination of the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia, as well as Hungary and Albania. The only hold-out has been what is today the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This is the real reason why Yugoslavia has become the target in the Balkans, just as it is the real reason that Iraq has become the target in the Persian/Arabian Gulf region.
Myth #5. U.S. news reports are balanced and impartial, giving us the true story.
Reality: What we see today is a gross distortion of the facts. The media is dominated by big business interests, and functions as a Pentagon propaganda machine. For political purposes, the suffering of only one group, the refugees leaving Kosovo, is shown, while the other Yugoslav victims of the NATO bombing are virtually ignored. The New York Times, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, The Chronicle Examiner, and others have given a very slanted view of events in Yugoslavia, to justify the massive bombing. General Electric, one of the country’s largest military contractors which supplies engines for NATO jet fighters, owns NBC and co-owns MS/NBC.
Myth #6: The U.S. is trying to defend the rights of the people of Kosovo because they have no rights.
Reality: All minorities in Yugoslavia have much greater rights than national minorities have in the United States or in Europe. While bilingual education is under attack from California to New York, Albanians in Kosovo have schools and tuition-free universities in the Albanian language. Medical care is free for all citizens in Yugoslavia. Albanian separatists boycotted the government school system and health care system. To refuse to use what exists is very different from being denied these rights.
The population information commonly given out is also misleading. For example saying that 90 percent of the population is Albanian is not accurate. This figure actually includes all non-Serbs in Kosovo—Romanis, Turks, Egyptians, Goramacs (Serb Muslims from Kosovo) and others. At the Rambouillet talks, the Yugoslav delegation represented not only Serbs, but all of the nationalities in Kosovo, including two Albanians, while the Albanian separatist delegation consisted only of Albanians. The religious differences are also exaggerated. While many Albanians are Muslim, 10 percent of the Serb population is also Muslim. In addition, 25 percent of the Albanian population is Roman Catholic such as Mother Teresa, who was a Kosovo Albanian.
Myth #7: The KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) is a genuine liberation army.
Reality: The KLA is a terrorist force similar to CIA-funded Contras used by the U.S. in Nicaragua in an effort to overthrow the government. NATO uses the KLA to justify sending U.S. troops to occupy and further break up Yugoslavia. The KLA did not exist one year ago. Suddenly, it has the latest high tech weapons.
What kind of liberation struggle calls for the bombing of its own people and for a foreign army of occupation on its soil? This is the KLA demand. The Society of Albanian American Students released a call for a demonstration on Wednesday, March 31 “organized with the invitation of the U.S. State Department to support NATO strikes, and above all, will focus to pressure for Ground Troops in Kosova and Arms for KLA.” Al Gore addressed the crowd. The signs of KLA supporters at rallies organized by the U.S. State Department—”NATO Bombing, Just Do It,” “KLA is NATO”—express the real relationship between the KLA and the U.S. government.
Myth #8: The NATO bombing is not the cause of the refugee crisis.
Reality: There were no waves of refugees until the beginning of the NATO bombing on March 24. The U.S. government used similar scripts of defending civilians and stopping massacres to justify massive bombing campaigns in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Again and again it was the massive bombing that created refugee crises. The London Sunday Times interviewed refugees and found: “Nor was there much fodder for NATO propagandists among the 200 or so refugees waiting to register at a Skopje district police station early on Friday [March 26]. Mirvei, a tall Albanian woman clutching her four-month-old baby, looked bewildered when asked if Serbian troops had driven her out. ‘There were no Serbs,’ she said. ‘We were frightened of the bombs.’”