Sunday, February 24, 2008

Why the Serbs Hate Us

If you look more deeply into how the United States (and NATO) have treated Serbia and Kosovo since Bill Clinton's little war of 1999, it should be no wonder why there is so much animosity toward the United States within Serbia. The following three articles provide some perspective on Serbia and Kosovo; the first was written once Clinton's 3-month-long bombing campaign began; the second is from last year describing the continuing horrors resulting from the bombing campaign; the third is a report just released about the lack of justice within Kosovo since the bombing started. This tragedy is just another illustration, among an endless supply of examples, of how war does not bring peace or justice. To once again quote Bobby Kennedy, "violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul."


Bombing Serbia To Prevent A Wider War Is Not Only Hypocritical But Also Insane
by Robert M. Hayden
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
March 28, 1999

On March 24, the United States led NATO into the first campaign of military aggression against a sovereign state in Europe since World War II. It did so against the principles of international law and of the United Nations charter. It also did so against the rulings of the Nuremberg trials, which declared that "to initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime."

That NATO is an aggressor is not in doubt. While hardly a "republic" under the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is clearly a state with internationally recognized borders. NATO is attacking that state militarily, brazenly, although Yugoslavia has not attacked or even threatened any NATO country.

To be sure, Serbian forces have attacked ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, a province that has been part of Serbia since 1913. While Kosovo had a very mixed population in the past, during the years of its "autonomy" under ethnic Albanian rule (1974-1989), it became almost 90 percent Albanian. The Serbian police have been brutal in response to an armed uprising by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which began to attack Serb police and to murder Serb civilians in 1997.

The resulting conflict has been horrible and tragic. It is hardly unique in the world, however, nor even particularly noteworthy in terms of victims. For example, the Turkish campaigns against the Kurds in Turkey and in Iraq have killed far more people and destroyed far more villages than the Serb campaigns in Kosovo. Yet NATO is not bombing Turkey (which is, of course, a NATO member).

Perhaps the niceties of international law may be forgotten if the cause is right. But what is the cause?

President Clinton has said that we are attacking Yugoslavia to protect the Albanians there from a Serb offensive, to prevent a wider war, to uphold our values, to protect our interests and to advance the cause of peace. Yet few actions could be less likely to produce these results than the massive assaults now being conducted on Serbia.

Protect the Albanians? It was clear before NATO's aggression that the most likely result of air attacks would be an increase in fighting in Kosovo, and this has happened. The Serbs, committed to holding onto their territory, have increased their attacks on the KLA. The KLA, having gained NATO as its air force, has increased its attacks on the Serbs. Caught in the middle are the people of Kosovo, who are now fleeing the increased fighting. Thus NATO has caused a new wave of refugees.

Prevent a wider war? As the increasing flows of refugees reach Albania and Macedonia, they threaten to disrupt those fragile states. Macedonia is particularly vulnerable, since relations between the Slav Macedonian majority and ethnic Albanian minority there are already uneasy. On the second day of NATO attacks on Serbia, thousands of demonstrators, waving Macedonian flags, attacked the American Embassy, and the Macedonian government stated that anti-NATO sentiment was increasing.

So much for, to use Bill Clinton's words, "defusing the Balkans powder keg." Uphold our values? Which values? Isn't international law one of our values?

Here, the relevant comparison is with Iraq, where the United States conducted the Gulf war because Saddam Hussein had invaded a neighboring state, thus changing borders by force. In Kosovo, the United States has led NATO into attacking a sovereign state, thus threatening to change borders by force.

Or perhaps the "values" are the need to protect civilians from military attack. In that case, the United States will need to put Turkey on its target list, not to mention Israel, which has attacked civilians in Lebanon (part of which it also occupies) with some frequency for many years now.

Of course, Bill Clinton referred to "genocide" in his speech justifying the attacks on Yugoslavia. Yet in Kosovo, about 2,000 people have died in two years, in the course of the brutal repression of an armed insurrection. This is a condition usually called "civil war." Tragic, yes. Incidents of war crimes, almost certainly. But "genocide," no. This is an insult to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

Do our values include terrorizing the innocent populations of Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Nis and other Serbian cities? Do they include damaging the power and water supplies of these people? Do they include destroying the livelihood of these people? Are our values, in fact, the same as those we condemned during the siege of Sarajevo by the Serbs (and failed to notice during the siege of Mostar by the Croats)?

Advance the cause of peace? Increasing conflict, and radically increasing the risk of even greater war, seems an odd way to achieve this goal.

Advance our interests? Perhaps. But what are our interests in this case? Bill Clinton has not said. And when we know what they are, will they justify the violations of international law and the betrayal of our supposed values that are manifested by NATO's massive aggression against Yugoslavia? In a transparent display of hypocrisy, President Clinton has said that NATO is not waging war against the people of Yugoslavia, but against their government. Can anyone believe that people under attack will hate anyone other than the attackers?

NATO's aggression has betrayed those who oppose Milosevic's dictatorship, thus strengthening the rule of the man whom Bill Clinton accurately described as "a dictator who has done nothing since the cold war ended but start new wars and pour gasoline on the flames of ethnic and religious division."

There is now a new arsonist in the volatile Balkans: NATO

Copyright © 1999 Pittsburg Post-Gazette Publishing.

Nato comes clean on cluster bombs
Eight years on, Serbia is finally told where munitions fell
by Brian Brady
The Independent
September 16, 2007

Nato chiefs will this week finally tell the Serbian government where they drop-ped thousands of cluster bombs during the Kosovo campaign, more than eight years after the bombardment finished.

Allied commanders have bowed to mounting pressure from foreign governments and pressure groups and will hand over full coordinates for the hundreds of bombing sorties. Belgrade hopes this could pinpoint thousands of unexploded munitions still littering parts of the country.

The pledge from Nato's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (Shape) will end a delay condemned by human rights groups and described as "shameful" by one British minister.

The US, Britain and Holland are believed to have dropped more than 2,000 cluster bombs – containing 380,000 sub-munitions – during Operation Allied Force, the three-month campaign to end Serb oppression in Kosovo in 1999. The RAF dropped 531 RBL755 cluster bombs, designed principally to destroy tanks and other armoured vehicles.

But furious condemnation erupted after at least 23 Serb civilians were killed by cluster munitions during the campaign. Since the operation, the Allied forces have admitted the bombs had a failure rate of at least 5 per cent, meaning up to 20,000 unexploded bomb-lets may be strewn across Serbia and Kosovo.

The sub-munitions are designed to explode immediately or burst to deposit anti-personnel devices over an area the size of several football pitches.

A conference this year heard that at least six Serbs – including three children – had been killed by exploding cluster munitions since 1999, and 12 people, six of them children, wounded. In the most notorious incident, five ethnic Albanian children were killed during the campaign, when seven youngsters picked up one of the "yellow killers", thinking it was a toy.

Serbian officials report that up to 23 square kilometres in six areas suffer "cluster contamination". Agriculture and development are banned in several rural areas.

But British ministers confessed this summer that, despite Serb requests, the co-ordinates of RAF bombing raids had not been given to Belgrade. Baroness Royall of Blaisdon said Britain had given the information to Nato, but it had not been passed on. She added: "I do think it is rather shameful."

Tory peer Lord Elton, a leading campaigner against the bombs, said ministers had confirmed in mid-May that the co-ordinates had been supplied to Nato and Nato "would in due course hand them to Serbia". He added: "That's eight years for children to blow their feet off. Why can't we send our co-ordinates direct and get others to do the same?".

Now critics claim it may be too late recover thousands of ageing, unstable munitions. The UK has contributed £86,000 to the Serbian Mine Action Centre for equipment; in Lebanon, Britain gave £2.7m to help the clean-up after the Israeli attack last summer.

A Foreign Office spokes-man said: "Nato now have everything they need and intend to share it with the Serbs in the next week."


Kosovo (Serbia): Lessons to be learned
Amnesty International
January 29, 2008

As the European Union (EU) prepares to make a decision over its responsibilities with regard to Kosovo, Amnesty International warns that war crimes and crimes against humanity from the conflict in the late 1990s must not be left unpunished.

The organization calls on the international and Kosovo authorities to conclude and make public the results of a review of the work of the international and local judiciary in bringing those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and inter-ethnic crimes to justice and to make public all judgments and court documents concerning such crimes.

"Hundreds of cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity (including rapes and enforced disappearances), as well as other inter-ethnic crimes remain unresolved seven years after the UN began its efforts to rebuild the Kosovo judicial system. Hundreds of cases have been closed, for want of evidence that was neither promptly nor effectively gathered. Relatives of missing people report that they have been interviewed too many times by international police and prosecutors new to their case, yet no progress is ever made," said Sian Jones, Amnesty International's researcher on Kosovo.

Amnesty International delegates visited Kosovo in between November and December 2007 and talked with members of the EU Planning Team, officials from the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo -- including those responsible for the police and judiciary -- and with local and international non-governmental organizations monitoring the international prosecutors and judiciary. The delegates ascertained that trials continue to be delayed due to the lack of international judges and prosecutors, a massive backlog of prosecutions, and the failure to protect witnesses effectively and to provide the necessary support to victims of rape and other crimes of sexual violence which continues to prevent prosecutions coming before the courts.

After the 1999 conflict in the Kosovo province of what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the criminal and civil justice system collapsed. Although the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had jurisdiction over Kosovo, it was clear that it would only be able to try a very limited number of cases. Therefore, the UN established the International Judges and Prosecutors Programme to incorporate a limited number of foreign judges and prosecutors into the local criminal justice system.

Amnesty International's report, Kosovo (Serbia): The challenge to fix a failed UN justice mission, examines and compares the performance of the programme with international law and standards concerning the right to fair trial and the rights of victims to justice and full reparations. It draws lessons to be learned when developing and implementing future initiatives, including recommending the incorporation of an international component into collapsed national judicial systems.

"Regrettably, the performance over more than seven years of the International Judges and Prosecutors Programme has failed to meet expectations. Local prosecutors and judges are still not prepared for cases involving crimes under international law. Legal reforms essential for such cases still have not been enacted into law. No date has been set for completing the rebuilding of the justice system so that it can operate without a continuing international component," said Sian Jones.

Amnesty International said that the model of internationalizing national courts by importing, on a temporary basis, experienced international staff to work alongside national staff in all parts of the collapsed or damaged national justice system is still one that could prove effective in the long-term to investigate and prosecute large numbers of crimes under international law, provide reparations to victims and re-establish the rule of law through a reconstituted judicial system.

Sadly however, the structure and operation of the International Judges and Prosecutors Programme have been so flawed from its inception that the example in Kosovo cannot serve as a model for internationalizing national judicial systems without major changes.

Amnesty International's report makes a series of comprehensive recommendations for immediately pressing essential reforms which aim to assist both the EU, in their planning to ensure international judges and prosecutors deliver the benefits they promised to bring to the Kosovo justice system, and the UN, in planning any future transitional justice assistance.

Unless these recommendations are implemented as expeditiously as possible, the prospects for a durable peace in Kosovo in which the human rights of all are fully respected will be seriously endangered.


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