INCONSISTENCY IS THE PRIVILEGE
OF THE POWERFUL
- thoughts prompted by the Kosovo crisis
Grattan Healy BEMech MBA
29th March 1999
While the bipolar world of the Cold War was permanently tense, often violent, and always inimical to the weak, the current unipolar world seems even worse, if Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan, or Yugoslavia are anything to go by. Much has been written on this, and for the determined, Noam Chomsky is masterful in his: World Orders, Old and New (Pluto, London, 1994), and onemight also consider his latest thoughts on Kosovo. Since neither model leads to world peace, another model is clearly needed, and understandable talk of restoring bipolarity, via the EU, or a Russia-China-India alliance, hinted at in the last few days, seems misplaced.
The people of the world somehow hope that the UN is the model we need, even with all of its weaknesses. That would however imply that the UN would itself be democratic, and somehow could contain the US and its allies, not to mention all of the other rogues around the planet. The air strikes on Kosovo this week remind us of the contempt that the US shows for this idea, and they may even be designed in part to shake off the last remnants of any such containment. The UN fig-leaf has finally been removed, revealing the excitement that the allies feel about invading other countries whose regimes they dont like, for their own gratification. How is its authority to be restored with respect to, say, Iraq, Israel, or any other subject of UN disapproval, even if the US also disapproves? More or less since its inception, we have had an a la carte UN, where powerful members use the UN institutions only when it suits them.
And the excuse that the allies did not bring the Kosovo matter to the UN Security Council, because China and Russia would have vetoed a resolution calling for military action against Serbia, only serves to highlight both the arrogance of the US and her allies, and the primary weakness of the UN - the 5 permanent members of the Security Council. All other members of the UN must now call for an end to the paradox whereby the most powerful rogues on the planet can block valid UN initiatives which are against their interests. The special UN Assembly being called now by Russia should be taken as an opportunity to initiate this fundamental and essential change.
It was suspicious from day-one of the Yugoslavia crisis that the Serbs were painted as the bad guys, and everyone else seemed ok. The unilateral recognition in 1991 by Germany and the Vatican, followed by the rest of Europe and the USA, of an independent Croatia within unstable borders, with a discontent minority, was not just a breach of international law, but also a recipe for disaster, as it legitimized what can only be described as 'ethnic secession', while the motivations for that decision are somewhat more worrying, with their hints of history. That decision cast the die of public, media and political perceptions, and we are living with the inevitable consequences, and will do for some time. Germany maintains her grudge against Serbia, and her interests in Croatia, and Germanys allies, with just about everyone else, are willing to go along with the convenient demonization of the Serbs. It has to be emphasized however that it is not that the Serbs are innocents by any means, as we know from the Bosnian war, but that the Croats, Bosnian muslims as well as the Albanian Kosovars are not innocents either, contrary to how they are portrayed.
Yugoslavia appears to have been a reasonable attempt at a progressive multi-ethnic federation, which was however unprepared for either the death of Marshall Tito in 1980 or the end of the Cold war in 1989/90. A cynical, but nevertheless plausible, interpretation of the evolution of Yugoslavia since then could see events as stages in a gradual takeover of the various Yugoslav states, piece-by-piece, by Western interests, with Serbia being the most reluctant and therefore the last to give in.
Following the departures of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia, Montenegro is moving gradually towards secession, and Kosovo may well be seen, from both sides, as the end game for Serbia (though there are possible tensions in both Voivodina and Sandzak). That is why this is, and will continue to be, particularly vicious, with every conceivable propaganda device being employed to augment the ruthless violence on both sides.
Truth being the first victim of war, one must stand back and try to extract the snippets of truth from the enormous volume of nonsense put out on all sides in any conflict, and this one is no exception. A basic question is: who has the superior propaganda machine? That, without question, is in the hands of the West, and under the dominant influence of the NATO countries, with its Western ideological bias, so that it is in all likelihood even less reliable than the paltry attempts of the Serbians, especially as the rest of the world needs the Western media to channel the Serbian output to it.
It seems rediculous, and frankly dangerous, that NATO is allowed, for example, to repeat, unquestioned, that it targets only military installations, and yet in the same briefings justify destroying TV stations and killing journalists (something Amnesty International has specifically condemned) and now 'turing out the lights' by bombing power stations - where does this argument end, water supplies, roads, food supplies?
With this in mind, what might we note, or where possible, conclude?
1. Since we know we are being bamboozled, we are entitled to question everything we are told, even when we also know that after the event facts will emerge to prove us wrong in our doubts about certain points.
2. It is most likely that no-one has the complete picture, even with all of our incredible technology, mainly because the air strikes drove out any remaining independent monitoring or reporting from the war zone in particular, but also because of the propaganda put out by both sides, which they even appear to believe themselves.
3. The human disaster is undoubtedly very serious, with so many displaced people, and claims of murder victims. But the endless descriptions of atrocities are not supported by any real evidence, other than images of burning homes, dubious aerial photographs and verbal accounts from some Albanian refugees, and it now appears that even these descriptions are not consistent. Refugees report that the KLA use terror tactics to recruit the Albanians, so that the disappearance of the men, and the burning villages may represent a struggle between the warring sides for those men. They also say they are fleeing the NATO bombings (see the news items on the Decani monastery homepage, especially The Sunday Times, March 28 '99, "Truth chokes on the fog of war", by Tony Allen-Mills). Also the numbers of refugees were being stated early on, without qualification, as being up to half-a-million, while this was deliberately misleading and therefore suspicious, since it included those who left over a much longer period. Yet all of this is the basis for the statements of so-called fact by NATO spokespersons, and for the justification of this whole so-called humanitarian mission, involving illegal un-mandated bombing of an internationally recognized sovereign state. And it is reluctantly accepted now by NATO, but obvious to anyone with any common sense that the NATO bombings have increased the refugee problem, either directly, or as result of escalated attacks by the Serbians, or conflict between the Sertbs and the KLA, all in the absence of any independent observation. If one is to follow the overall logic, this flood of refugees further justifies more bombing, and so on ad infinitum. In desperation, NATO spokespersons are now referring to genocide, so as to justify their actions, and to try to make them legal.
4. The KLA fits the usual description that we are given of a terrorist organization, in this case an illegal army within a recognized state, which actually started the fighting in Kosovo so as to bring about secession of that part of the Yugoslav Federation, backed up by outside interests. We are continually lectured by the US and others about such organizations, alongside drug mafia and assorted international criminals, and promised that they are being fought and will be eliminated. And yet here is the USA having in effect totally reversed its position of hostility to the KLA to one of supporting them, even arming them, and in a sense providing their air-cover! On the other hand the USA just arranged to have the leader of the PKK, Öcalan, handed over to the brutal Turkish regime that he has been fighting in a similar manner. However, that state is a fellow NATO member, which by the way has no hesitation in transgressing its neighbours borders, something Serbia has not quite done. As has often been said, the definition of terrorist organization needs some adjusting, as it has a tendency to depend which side you are on. This kind of blatant inconsitency is the privelege of the powerful. Bill Clinton cannot simultaneously argue that NATO 'had to' act in Kosovo and yet cannot act in every such conflict. NATO clearly chooses which ones to intervene in, based on its own, or in fact US, interests.
The KLA have been invited onto CNN, and even to speak at press conferences arranged by the British Foreign Minister, Robin Cook, as spokespersons for the Kosovars, ignoring the official spokespersons, like Ibrahim Rugova, who have pursued a peaceful strategy. They are relied upon as independent commentators on what is going on in Kosovo, and are in regular direct telephone contact with US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. They have alleged without evidence that the Serbians have established concentration camps and rape camps in Kosovo, to add more fuel to the raging fire. If the Serbians are trying to keep the Albanian men away from the KLA, it is admittedly conceivable that they are killing them, or possibly holding them in camps, and one can imagine various scenarios for these camps and what would go on there. But in truth, we simply still do not know what is actually going on in Kosovo, or even in Yugoslavia as a whole.
5. The negotiations in France now appear to have been a complete farce, but farce with malice. The Northern Ireland peace process gave us an idea of just what is required to get two (or worse still three) warring factions to sit down together to negotiate and how long, tedious, unpredictable and questionably fruitful the whole process can be. When the various sides actually agree, they sign an Agreement, and not under threat of immediate war. All of these ideas were absent from the so-called 'Rambouillet' peace talks. The draft Agreement was drawn up by a not-disinterested party, taking account of the wishes of one side, and then foisted on the other under threat of war. The conditions in it are totally unacceptable to a sovereign state, which would rather be bombed than sign itself out of existence. NATO repeatedly claimed that the Serbs would have to sign the so-called Agreement, then realizing their mistake, asserted that they would have to reach an agreement within the Rambouillet framework, and by now may realize that forcing anyone to sign an agreement in this way invalidates the agreement in any case. This is very telling about the NATO attitude, which is basically that of a bully, and yet we are meant to think of this as international diplomacy?
6. NATO continually states that a ground-war is out, and yet to anyone with any sense, unless a cease-fire is quickly negotiated, a ground-war now seems inevitable, such are the conditions created by NATO. It is just that the demand for it has not yet reached fever pitch, and therefore it cannot be politically justified. It is far more likely that it was intended all along, and that is the real reason why there are now 10,000 NATO troops in Macedonia, waiting for the right conditions, so as to proceed with the plan to bring about the secession of Kosovo by force. As the Serbians have said: either they accept NATO troops by agreement (under the so-called Interim Agreement) or they get them anyway by force.
We are witnessing a disaster, but not only of the humanitarian kind presented to us. It is hard to escape the conclusion, even without real proof, that their is a much bigger NATO game here, in the very fine historical tradition of Euro-American colonialism. Whatever the goal is, the stakes must indeed be very high, to risk the outrage of Russia, China and India, no longer minor world players, effectively pushing them in the direction of world war. At this stage one can speculate, and many are doing so. Whatever the motivation, it is likely that both the Serbs and Albanians, and even the US's fellow NATO members, are pawns in that game.
The motivations that might lie behind this extraordinary action could be a combination of:
- the US need to 'demonize' an enemy to justify enormous military spending (more and more concentrating on 'remore warfare', which is easier to prosecute due to limited US casualties), one of the few disadvantages to them of their domination in a unipolar world;
- NATOs or in fact the US's, need to show who is 'boss' and who is 'right' (however selectively or inconsistently) to keep others, including the UN, and even the EU, in their places, including testing EU 'loyalty';
- NATOs 50th anniversary, coinciding with its change of its self-given mandate to include 'out-of-area' actions, something not envisaged in the North Atlantic Treaty itself which concentrated on 'defence';
- demonstrate the new weapons, so as to assist the arms trade, especially as the main arms exporters happen to be the main instigators of the present conflict;
- control of oil, very often a major underlying motivation for war, this time in the Caspian Sea area, though this implies a longer term plan to control the Balkans, Turkey, and the Caucasus, and maintain the favour of the Islamic world (noting that the Albanian Kosovars are Muslim!), elements of which are already in place, combined with denial of Russia and Ukraine, which might partly explain their annoyance;
- division of Yugoslavia into little 'statelets' to assist the completion of the Westernization, economically and ideologically, of central Europe, leading to the gradual Westernization of eastern Europe and ultimately Russia - ie: globalisation;
- European, but primarily German interests in the Balkans, dating, at least, from the failed turn of the century German efforts to create a Berlin-Baghdad railway through Serbia, for oil, to close ties with Croatia, particlularly during and since the second World War.
Events have a habit of taking on their own momentum, once the decision to attack is made. NATO will now be forced to send in ground-troops if only to save face, not just for the safety of the Albanians. And where might that lead? A decision by Russia or Ukraine to arm the Serbs? Only time will tell. But in the end the talking will have to start, and the sooner the better.
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created May '98, last modified 4.5.99