War Crimes as Spectator Sport


Refugees are now providing accounts of “throat cutting, cutting out eyes, cutting off breasts, nose, fingers, hands and/or feet, slicing of body parts, and carving of Serb nationalistic marks on the chest, forehead, or other parts of the body.”

—Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
The Washington Post, April 22

Serbian paramilitaries reportedly rampaged through two ethnic Albanian villages last Sunday, killing as many as 40 people, including four or five young women who were raped and then executed, refugees said today.

The New York Times, April 25

Even after American military involvement in Vietnam increased, it took a considerable amount of time before most Americans had a clear, vivid sense of the killing and other atrocities there—on both sides.

But in 1999, at the very beginning of the bombing to “save” the people of Kosovo from ethnic cleansing (George Orwell should be alive), there has been no escaping the daily and indeed hourly news of the results of that calamitous rescue operation. Death rains not only on the ethnic Albanians being “cleansed,” but also on civilians in Yugoslavia and even Bulgaria.

None of us can say we do not know what is going on in terms of rampant violations of the most fundamental human rights. But there will be additional devastating effects from the great NATO adventure that generals Bill Clinton and Tony Blair are commanding.

Already, as The Nation reported in its May 10 issue, “There are credible reports from Belgrade of NATO strikes on petrochemical plants, as well as in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant. And both Britain and the United States include in their Yugoslav war arsenal depleted uranium weapons, which have been linked to leukemia and birth defects in the Persian Gulf region since Desert Storm.” These environmental degradations know no borders, as the Serbs say.

So deformed children and slowly dying parents will be part of the long-range harvest of our maximum leader’s “humanitarian” strategy. Just about every expert in military matters warned that massive bombing would not accomplish our goals, whatever they were. But Clinton refused to listen.

In the same issue of The Nation, Alexander Cockburn—a Voice alumnus—writes that, as part of an effort to make the punishment of Yugoslavia and its inhabitants more severe, there will be “ever-increasing resort to cluster bombs, which are cheap.” And the “dumb” bombs to be used cause more injuries than the “smart” bombs.

“Cluster bombs,” Cockburn continues, “tend to kill civilians, not soldiers. About 25 percent of them fail to detonate, thus littering the terrain with land mines for years to come.”

The Serbs have already planted land mines of their own along their borders, and these have killed Kosovo refugees attempting to reach safety from Milosevic’s hit men in SWAT teams and death squads.

A footnote: When most nations finally agreed not long ago to destroy all land mines and never to use them again, the most significant holdout was the United States—by order of William Jefferson Clinton.

Friends of mine tell me it is wrong to call what’s happening “genocide.” It’s only “ethnic cleansing.” I ask them what number of corpses has to be reached to justify a less antiseptic term than “ethnic cleansing.” No one has given me the magic number yet.

In meticulous, systematic interviews with refugees, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe collected “testimonies of torture” and stories of “victims separated from the group and later found dead or not accounted for” (The New York Times, April 24).

And in the April 22 Washington Post, there is a report that a Kosovo Liberation Army “guerrilla unit…came across the bodies of 35 men, women, and children in one group and 13 in another group—all of whom were reportedly killed on the night of March 26, two days after NATO air strikes began.”

If any of their relatives survive, I doubt it will be a comfort for them to be told that it was not genocide.

Arianna Huffington (New York Post, April 24) provides a telling example of the true loyalties that will be part of Clinton’s legacy. It will not be found in his presidential library. She writes:

“There has been no White House call to corporate America to allocate some of its record profits to support the refugees—only an appeal to support the NATO celebration.

“It cost a quarter of a million dollars to reserve a place on the board of directors of the summit host committee [for the celebration]—dominated by the same communications and defense companies that spend millions of dollars on lobbying each year.” Among the military manufacturers paying for the “honor” were Boeing, GM, Honeywell, TRW, AmeriTech, and DaimlerChrysler.

That obscenity aside, what can be done to remedy Clinton’s disaster? The only hope I can see is to intensify pressure on Russia to push for a partition of Yugoslavia that will create a truly independent Kosovo state. Widespread chaos in the countries near Russia would hardly be in its interest, especially when chaos is increasingly the norm at home.

Moreover, Russia is in great need of continued financial help from the West.

But why would Milosevic bend? Well, he can’t afford to lose Russia as an ally—unless he’s prepared to commit personal and national suicide. That’s possible, too. Remember der Führer.

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