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Is this really a grand NATO victory?

(includes related article on the European Union's position on the Kosovo conflict)(North Atlantic Treaty Organization's war in Kosovo)

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By: Noam Chomsky

New Statesman, 14 June 1999

The US has assisted ethnic cleansing in Turkey and has provoked it in Kosovo. So what, asks Noam Chomsky, are we supposed to celebrate?

On 24 March, US-led Nato air forces began to pound the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo. On 3 June, Nato and Serbia reached a peace accord. The US declared victory, though the bombing was to continue until the victors determined that their interpretation of the accord had been imposed.

From the outset the bombing had been cast as a matter of cosmic significance, a test of a new humanism, in which the "enlightened states" (Foreign Affairs magazine) opened a new era of human history guided by "a new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated" (Tony Blair). The enlightened states are the US and its British associate and perhaps also others who enlist in their crusades for justice.

Apparently the rank of "enlightened states" is conferred by definition. One finds no attempt to provide evidence or argument, certainly not from their history. "From the start, the Kosovo problem has been about how we should react when bad things happen in unimportant places," the global analyst Thomas Friedman explained in the New York Times as the accord was announced. He proceeded to laud the enlightened states for pursuing his moral principle that "once the refugee evictions began, ignoring Kosovo would be wrong . . . and therefore using a huge air war for a limited objective was the only thing that made sense".

But concern over the "refugee evictions" could not have been the motive for the "huge air war". The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees registered the first refugees outside Kosovo on 27 March (4,000), three days after the bombings began. The toll increased until 4 June, reaching a reported total of 670,000 in Albania and Macedonia, along with an estimated 70,000 in Montenegro and 75,000 who had left for other countries. The figures, which are unfortunately all too familiar, do not include the unknown numbers who have been displaced within Kosovo, some 200,000-300,000 in the year before the bombing, according to Nato, and a great many more afterwards.

So the "huge air war" precipitated a sharp increase of ethnic cleansing and other atrocities. That much has been reported consistently by correspondents on the scene. The same picture is presented in the two major documents that seek to portray the bombing as a reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. The most extensive one, provided by the US State Department in May, is suitably entitled Erasing History: ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; the second is the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic and associates by the International Tribunal on War Crimes in Yugoslavia. Both documents hold that the atrocities began "on or about 1 January"; in both, however, the detailed chronology reveals that atrocities continued more or less as before until the bombing led to a very sharp escalation.


 

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