The Guardian April 12, 2000

The Kosovo scorecard: one year later

by Kimball Cariou
Editor, People's Voice Peace groups around the world rallied on the first anniversary of the war against Yugoslavia to remember its victims and to renew opposition to US/NATO military domination of our planet. This is a time to consider the consequences of this tragedy, and to act to prevent further aggression.
On March 24, 1999, Canada joined other imperialist powers in a massive bombing campaign against a sovereign state in south-eastern Europe. For 11 weeks, terror fell from the skies over Yugoslavia, killing some 1,800 civilians and inflicting over $60 billion worth of damage to its economy. A large part of Yugoslavia was then occupied by NATO armies, and sanctions were imposed on its people. The main excuse for the NATO attack was the need to protect the Albanian population of the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. NATO officials told the world that the Kosovo Albanians were the victims of genocide; US Defence Secretary William Cohen stated that 100,000 had been massacred. The Serbs were reported to have killed 1,000 Albanians at Trepca, before dumping the bodies into mine shafts, or dissolving them in vats of hydrochloric acid. The entire province of Kosovo, it was said, was one huge forensic site. The reality was quite different. For one thing, the trickle of Albanians from Kosovo during the civil conflict which preceded the NATO attack turned into a flood only when the bombs began to fall. Since the occupation by 40,000 NATO troops began last June, the bulk of the Serb and Romany citizens of Kosovo 230,000 people, according to United Nations estimates have been driven out by extremist Albanian forces, notably the separatist KLA. As for the mass graves of Albanians, none have been found. The Western forensic teams investigating the "horror of Trepca" found no bodies in the mine shafts, and no evidence that the vats had ever been used to dispose of bodies. The public relations campaign against Yugoslavia leading up to the war has also been exposed as exaggerations or outright lies. One of the key examples was the "slaughter" of Albanians by Serb forces in the village of Racak early last year. It turned out, of course, that the US official who "revealed" this "atrocity" to the world was none other than William Walker, who spent years covering up real atrocities by US-backed military regimes in Central America. Then there was the heart-wrenching CBC tale of the brave young KLA soldier whose sister had been "murdered by the Serbs". To the CBC's embarrassment, the dead sister turned up alive and well after the war, or more precisely, after being used as a poster girl in the PR strategy to convince Canadians that we really did need to bomb Serbian children in retaliation. During the bombing campaign, we were repeatedly told that the Milosevic Government was the target, not civilians. That line took a hit when TV footage showed a NATO bomber blowing up a passenger train, killing dozens of civilians. NATO spin-doctors claimed that the pilot had less than two seconds to react when the train came into view. Far less coverage was given to later revelations that the film footage had been manipulated to conceal the reality that the bomber took about seven seconds to decide whether to blow up a passenger train, and then pushed the button. Other NATO lies are still being exposed, although with far less publicity than the original falsehoods received. For example, during the war, allegations that NATO was using depleted uranium weapons in Kosovo were bluntly dismissed as "Serb propaganda". But now NATO has admitted using DU weapons, exposing civilians, troops and aid workers to radiation hazards. George Robertson, the Secretary-General of NATO, in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, has confirmed that NATO used 31,000 rounds of DU ammunition during about 100 missions in Kosovo flown by US A-10 aircraft. Shells tipped with depleted uranium have a greater ability to penetrate tanks and underground bunkers. Pekka Haavisto, head of a UN Balkan environment task force, says that NATO is still holding back crucial data on where and how it used such weapons, which contaminate land and water sources. Haavisto notes that the use of DU weapons in Kosovo was just one-tenth of that used against Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War. So what's the bottom line, one year later? All the evidence points in one direction: that the US and its NATO allies, particularly the social democratic governments of Britain and Germany, fabricated a series of falsehoods to fan hatred of the Serbian people of Yugoslavia. Why? To win public support for the imperialist drive to dismember that country, one of the last holdouts in Europe against rule by the transnational corporations and their agencies, the IMF and World Bank. And what happens next? Anyone who thinks the war against Yugoslavia is over hasn't been paying attention. In recent weeks, the KLA forces which now effectively rule the NATO protectorate of Kosovo have launched military raids into the Presevo Valley in south-eastern Serbia, supposedly to defend ethnic Albanians in that area. The real danger exists that these attacks could spark a wider war, drawing in Macedonia and Greece. When the bombing of Yugoslavia began, many Canadians were convinced to give their support by the claim that this was a "just war". A year later, the conclusion that the war against Yugoslavia was totally unjustified is stronger than ever. Every peace-loving Canadian should demand that Ottawa start pulling this country out of the aggressive NATO alliance, and that Canada should begin paying reparations for the terrible damage we helped inflict upon Yugoslavia. Anything less than such a total change in policy means a cowardly surrender to the aims and strategies of US imperialism.
* * *
People's Voice

Back to index page