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Common Courage Press
Review by Michael Hardesty
For a couple of months in the spring and summer of 1999 many western liberals thought they were reliving the glorious days of World War IIthe good waras the social democrats of NATO in tandem with the Clinton Administration remorsely bombed the small Balkan country of Yugoslavia in order to stop an alleged genocide of the Muslim Kosovars by the Serb authorities. Pundits ranging from Anthony Lewis of the New York Times to Christopher Hitchens of the Nation to the entire New Republic crowd were crowing over the humanitarian intervention of NATO with the only caveats being that they war hadnt started much sooner on a much larger scale. That the war led to many more than the 2,000 casualties that occurred in the year prior to it was simply evaded as well as the fact that it resulted in a severe escalation of the ethnic cleansing which was the main rationale for the NATO war. Since the war there has been an ethnic cleansing of the Serbs from Kosovo. The U.S. media with a few exceptions went along with the program mindlessly parroting the stale rationalizations for U.S.-sponsored mass murder with a bogus humanitarian fig leaf for cover.
By the end of the war, as Chomsky notes, over 800,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees had fled Kosovo, a number comparable to the original flight of Palestinians in what later became the state of Israel in 1948. In fact, the Serb tactics were similar to those used by the Zionist military forces against the Palestinians in 1948. This was not the history lesson preached by the establishment forces in the media and Congress, however, but was brought up by some of the impolitic sectors of the Israeli right such as Ariel Sharon and echoed by some of his admirers on talk radio. Interestingly enough, the largest single ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia was done by the Croatian-sponsored forces against the Serbs in Krajina under the command of Agim Ceku, who was appointed military commander of the notorious KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) during the NATO war on Serbia. Ceku appears to have carried out another successful ethnic cleansing of the Serbs in Kosovo. Long before the NATO war around 130,000 Serbs had left Kosovo between 1966 and 1989 because of intolerable conditions, according to a New York Times report cited by Chomsky.
New Military Humanism (NMH) is full of factual gems like this that either never made it into the mainstream media or they did but no one seized on their significance. Unlike the mainstream media, Chomsky uniformly condemns atrocities, whether perpetrated by our official enemies or theirs. This is in refreshing contrast not only to the standard media/government line, but also much of what passes for the Left. Two distinct trends emerged on the left, there were the soft left social democrats such as Ian Williams and Christopher Hitchens who would accept at face value the most enormous tales of Serbian genocide and there were the old-line CP-COC types who labored to present Milosevic as a genuine socialist. Some of the pro-Serbian sentiment had a factual basis in the partisan warfare conducted by Marshall Tito and the Communist partisans against the Nazi occupiers of Yugoslavia (who were aided by large sectors of the Croatian population plus many Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians). Even though most historians estimate that anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 Serbs, 30,000 to 60,000 Jews, and others were killed by the Nazi occupiers during WWII, some lefties have engaged in their own particular form of Holocaust denial on this matter. Once an entire people is demonized all the little nuances, truths, and complications of history go out the window. It wouldnt do to see the Serbs as having been victims, even in the past, for that might give rise to historical perspective (such as who was the dominant group in Kosovo in 1940) and cramp the morale of our daily hate the enemy sessions. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times declared that we were at war with the entire Serbian nation and that we could pulverize them back to 1389. As Chomsky points out this sort of ethnic cleansing is an old American tradition.
However, not to fear, some establishment authorities such as Henry Kissinger opposed the NATO war on the grounds that the Balkan populations have no experience with our western concepts of toleration. Chomsky is most effective in comparing our purported moral outrage over Serb treatment of Kosovars and Bosnians with our actual support of even greater atrocities in kind by Turkey against the Kurds, Indonesia against the East Timorese, and Guatemala against the indigenous population.
Eleven of the thirteen European governments that participated in the NATO war on Yugoslavia are run by social democrats. The German Greens disgracefully supported the SPD in the prosecution of that brutal war. Many of the other governments are filled with people who allegedly protested the Vietnam War or the U.S. Euromissiles in the 1980s. How could reasonably sophisticated leaders fall for such facile analogies as the Nazi Holocaust in relation to the situation in Kosovo? As Chomsky has been pointing out for over 30 years more propaganda is actually required in so-called free countries than in authoritarian ones precisely because the use of physical force is more circumscribed. In a democratic nation the population must be emotionally whipped into war fever by obliterating shades of gray into the most simplistic black and white truths. The NATO war was a reversion to the earlier WWII mindset; hence it became another Good War for liberals. Chomsky points out that the Kosovo war was an integral part of U.S. post-cold war strategy to justify our continuing dominance in post-Soviet Europe, indeed the very existence of NATO is at stake here. The military-industrial complex needs a fresh infusion of taxpayer cash. The Third World needs to be periodically reminded of who is boss. There is also the need for the U.S. to define and contain the international order.
It is up to those of us who dont go along with the corporate-media agenda to oppose the policies of empire and advocate a different vision of the future. Arming ourselves with the historical facts, through books like The New Military Humanism, is one of the necessary steps to that different future.
Michael Hardesty is a freelance writer based in Oakland, California who has written for the Washington Post, the Progressive, the National Guardian, and other publications.