NATOâ€™s War on Yugoslavia: Ten Years Later
In the chilling conclusion of the Serbian play The Professional, a paranoid and abusive Stalinist interrogates an innocent man accused of pro-Western sympathies. Bloody from beatings and tied-up to a chair for a crime he did not commit, the victim is offered a benevolent compromise by his torturer:
“Let’s make a deal, shall we? We’re both reasonable men. I’ll forgive you for having beaten you, and you confess to being a spy and tell me who your contacts are.”
To say that US/NATO attitudes towards
“For anyone playing close attention to the events leading up to the campaign, it was pretty obvious that the independence- seeking Kosovo Liberation Army - which, according to the CIA, was a terrorist organization - and its retained U.S.-based, public-relations support had played the West like a Stradivarius. This culminated with NATO volunteering to be the KLA's air force” (Globe & Mail, November 22, 2006).
Accomplishments included several thousand deaths (overwhelmingly civilians), hundreds of thousands of refugees, the destruction of scores of hospitals, schools, apartment complexes and other civilian infrastructure, and a calamitous intensification of violence towards Kosovo residents of all ethnicities. As is common in US wars, the long-term effects on the mental health of the affected populations are not even considered worthy of interest. Most major newspapers and news channels neglected to even mention the anniversary of the war, while the extent of its human cost is ignored altogether.
Having endured 78 days of incessant bombing, the traumatized Serbian population failed to recognize NATO’s benevolence at the time, and their ignorance continues to this day: notwithstanding popular support for EU integration, between 50% and 80% of the population has opposed
The reaction is less mysterious to those who remember the war. Belgrade Deputy Mayor Radmila HrustanoviÄ‡, for her part, commemorated the 10th anniversary by laying wreaths on the grave of Milica RakiÄ‡, a three-year-old girl killed in her home by NATO bombs. She was one of hundreds of children slaughtered by US/NATO bombs, many of whose bodies were so thoroughly torn to shreds as to make identification impossible. Hrustanovic noted that:
“They called those murders ‘collateral damage’. She [Milica] was an innocent victim of bombardment and it is hard to forgive her three years of life, nor can that be forgotten. Milica is a symbol of the agony of the people who suffered for 78 days. Ten years later, we were hoping someone would account for what they have done. The murder of Milica and so many others warrants at least an apology” (B92 3/24/09).
An apology that has never even been contemplated by any NATO country, despite overwhelming evidence from human rights groups that NATO used depleted uranium and cluster bombs illegally against civilians. In addition to the installment of the US’s largest military base in Europe – Camp Bondsteel – the US eventually realized a status of so-called “independence” for Kosovo, at a tremendous cost for non-Albanians in the province (over 250,000 fled after 1999), and in violation of UN Security Council resolution 1244 that maintained the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." After a farcical negotiation process, the “final status talks” were scrapped in favor of a unilateral declaration of “independence” on February 17, 2008. Predictably, this action had the same effect on
What emerged could appropriately be called a “failed state” of Kosovo, but its quasi-state status (remaining unrecognized by the UN) and its utter dependency on the US/NATO military presence make the term slightly misleading. The failed entity, to be sure, has become the undisputed center for drug and human trafficking, arms smuggling and organized crime in all of
“a civil war society in which those inclined to violence, ill-educated and easily influenced people could make huge social leaps in a rapidly constructed soldateska” (“Kosovo auf Deutsch,“ Balkananalysis, 18 November 2007).
Even if the tendencies towards the formation of a “Greater Albania” through a unification of
As with most of recent Balkan history, discussing
NATO’s notorious claim of intervention for the sake of preventing genocide, and the accompanying lies about casualty figures, were being exposed even before the campaign began. The Independent International Commission on Kosovo’s report noted very early on that the US’s conduct before, during and after the war was the decisive cause of humanitarian disasters that could have been avoided. The State Department had claimed that up to half-a-million Kosovo Albanians were murdered in the period preceding the bombing – a figure that has magically shriveled to 2000 deaths over the entire year preceding the war. Refugee numbers have similarly been reduced to a fraction of what was initially claimed. A decade later, the exaggerations have been proven ludicrous, but no revision of the standard history is even attempted in the
The 1999 war’s greatest legacy, however, was the precedent it set for American foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. Post-9/11 military excursions into the
Thankfully, propaganda about the NATO bombing and the Yugoslav tragedy in general is not omnipresent. A Wall Street Journal editorial notes the legacy of the Kosovo debacle for