The Journal of History     Winter 2003     TABLE OF CONTENTS
Behind NATO's Bombardment of Yugoslavia
Part 2 of a 3 part series

By Mitchel Cohen

The UN now estimates that, in the year leading up to the bombing, the so-called "genocide" in Kosovo consisted of a grand total of, at most, 2,000 people killed, on all sides. Where is the "genocide"? More people were killed by NATO in the bombings than had been killed by the Serb Army, Serb paramilitaries, KLA soldiers, Albanian paramilitaries and police actions in Kosovo in the entire preceding year, put together. This is not to say that atrocities were not committed, especially as warfare erupted internally between the Yugoslav authorities and the Kosovo Liberation Army ­ the "national liberation army" of a sector of the Albanian majority in Kosovo ­ and low-level repression of Albanian Kosovars exploded into a major tragedy after NATO began bombing Yugoslavia. But the assertion that these 2,000 deaths constituted "genocide" or "ethnically based" killing is simply false; the dead were mostly victims of armed skirmishes in a nasty civil war.

This climate of orchestrated hysteria enabled NATO to permanently station troops in a region that had kept them out. It was promoted by the Clinton-Blair-Shroeder axis, in order to rationalize the bombardment under a declaration of "humanitarian" warfare to stop "ethnic cleansing." Forget that hundreds of thousands of ethnic Serbs had been brutally expelled from the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995 with US support and that, to this day, they remain displaced or in refugee camps inside Yugoslavia, victims of the largest and yet unheralded "ethnic cleansing" in the region since World War II. Forget that the primary "ethnic cleansing" in the region, after the forced displacement of Serbs from Krajina, was a US/British plan called Vance-Owens, which set up "safe havens" ("reservations") for ethnicities. This was applauded by NATO allies as a good thing back in the mid-1990s. Forget that NATO-member Turkey drove more than one million Kurds from their villages, to say nothing of that country's prior genocide of two million Armenians or its occupation and partition of Cyprus. Turkey, as a leading member of NATO, continues to enjoy the support of the US government and is one of the largest recipients of US weapons of mass destruction on the planet. Forget that almost all of the 250,000 non-Albanians returning to their homes in Kosovo ­ and many Albanians as well, who do not support the KLA ­ have now been driven out by KLA death-squads, and that more than 400 Serbs, Jews, Roma and anti-KLA Moslems have been murdered outright, under the watchful eyes of NATO "peacekeepers." And forget that German finance capital was instrumental in the break-up of multi-ethnic Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, which set the stage for what are now incorrectly portrayed as "eternal ethnic hatreds" and warfare.

Politically, the bombardment of Yugoslavia was, for Clinton, a high-stakes gamble. In this war the NATO alliance came within perhaps three to four weeks of breaking apart ­ too narrow a margin on which to hinge political support for the globalization of capital and the New World Order as main facets of US global strategy. This explains why President Clinton was desperate for a quick agreement. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright trumpeted this approach right from the start: "I don't see this as a long-term operation. I think that this is ... achievable within a relatively short period of time." (Madeleine Albright, March 24). Compare that to her comments three weeks later, as the lengthening bombardment threatened to spin altogether out of control: "We never expected this to be over quickly. The President himself has said, 'This is not a 30-second commercial.' We are in there for a long time" (Madeleine Albright, April 19, 1999). Regardless of "spin" (that is, "lies"), after 79 days of bombing, the US government, led by Clinton, Gore, Albright, Cohen and Berger, was forced to settle for less ­ at least on paper ­ than it had called for under the ultimatum issued at Rambouillet.

As stipulated in a relatively unknown clause of the now infamous Rambouillet Ultimatum which the US State Department attempted to impose on the people of Yugoslavia prior to the commencement of bombing, "the economy of Kosovo shall [henceforth] function in accordance with free market principles" (Article I, Chapter 4a). One might rightly ask what such an economic construct is doing in a political document pertaining to ending internecine hostilities. President Clinton went even further on the subject in a little known but telling statement made the day before he ordered NATO to begin bombing Yugoslavia: "If we are going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key. ... That's what this Kosovo thing is all about." (The Nation, Apr. 19, 1999)

That, of course, was also the understanding promoted by former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, whose military plane crashed (some say it was shot down) over Yugoslavia four years ago. Aboard that publicly funded plane were dozens of millionaire corporate executives, military personnel and defense contractors whose companies had contributed generously to the Clinton/Gore campaign, and who were now looking to recoup their "investments" by exploiting the break up of Yugoslavia and its vast natural resources and cheap skilled labor, for their own private corporate gain and expansion of their markets.

Just as oil corporations' profits went through the roof during and after the Gulf War in 1991, during NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia weapons manufacturers' stock prices increased dramatically as well. From March 24 to May 24, 1999, Rockwell International (manufacturer of the B-1 bomber): +48%; Boeing Aircraft (manufacturer of the B-52 Stratofortress, KC-135 Stratotanker): +30%; Raytheon Systems (manufacturer of the Tomahawk cruise missile, AGM-88 HARM Missile, Patriot anti-missile): +37%; Lockheed Martin (manufacturer of the F-117A Nighthawk, F-16 Falcon): +18%; Northrop Grumman (manufacturer of the B-2 bomber, EA-6B Prowler): +16%. [Sources: U.S. Department of Defense, May 24, 1999. New York Stock Exchange, May 24, 1999.]

At stake, at the time of Brown's death, were $5.1 billion in reconstruction funds (that figure has now quadrupled), with the World Bank scheduled to raise $1.8 billion in 1996 alone. Brown's journey was emblematic of U.S. strategy in the Balkans, namely, as Counterpunch (April, 1996) put it, "to bring the region firmly into the American sphere of military and commercial interest. His was the tour to cash in the investment and bring home the trophies."

And so, the armed might of the U.S., Germany, and England destroyed Yugoslavia's supply of drinking water, water pumping stations, purification plants and power plants, electrical grids, television and radio antennas, refineries and energy producing facilities, foreign embassies, bridges, roads, factories, airports, and cultural and religious monuments, decimating the civilian infrastructure as well as devastating the environment. Weapons containing depleted uranium smashed into the soil and bombarded people's homes, spreading radiation and mayhem. As has occurred in Iraq, Albanian and other Kosovar refugees returning to their homes can expect cancer rates, particularly in children, to skyrocket in the region over the next few years, and the work of women, especially ­ as women are typically care-givers in patriarchal society, especially to children and in the home ­ will be made much harder, pressuring against breaking free of gender-defined roles and enabling capital to extract even greater amounts of value from their unpaid labor in the home.

The US/NATO bombed Yugoslavia's petrochemical plants, chemical fertilizer factories, oil refineries, fuel storage tanks and power plants. Deadly chemicals spilled out of them and into the rivers and soil. Clouds of toxic chemicals swept the countryside and cities, poisoning the agriculture and ecosystems not only in Yugoslavia but in the surrounding countries. Thousands of unexploded cluster bombs (which act as landmines) now dot the entire region, and periodically explode, taking off a human limb here, an eye there, and down the road an entire body.

Indeed, the danger from mines and unexploded bombs in Kosovo is far greater than previously thought, and casualties have soared by the hundreds every day. In an article in the New York Times ("Mines and Unexploded Bombs Wreak Death and Mayhem in Kosovo," Aug. 6, 1999), Carlotta Gall writes from Pristina that "by far the most dangerous are the volatile British ­ and U.S. ­ made cluster bombs, which have been found in almost every part of the province and have already caused some terrible accidents."

With winter coming on in Yugoslavia, there is no fuel for heat. US officials have publicly stated that they hope to use the cold and hunger to break the resistance of the Yugoslavian people and force them to accept the privatization of all public projects and utilities called for at Rambouillet. But in October this strategy was thwarted, as the first of massive shipments of heating oil arrived from China, breaking the US embargo.

To make sense of all of this we must, as always, start by putting the politics of corporate America, and particulary big oil, back on the agenda. "No Blood For Oil" rings as true for Yugoslavia as it did for Iraq, and critics of US policy would do well to "follow the oil". As always, the politics of oil is the key to understanding US policy, or at least the starting point.

Mitchel Cohen is a founding member of the Red Balloon Collective (1969) at State University New York Stony Brook, and organizes with the Brooklyn Greens, Green Party of New York.


The Journal of History - Winter 2003 Copyright © 2003 by News Source, Inc.