ZNet Commentary
April 5, 1999

A few points on the Kosovo situation
By Howard Zinn

1) Milosovic and his Serb forces are committing atrocities.

2) Bombing won't help, but will only make things worse -- and that is already evident. Indeed, as the NY Times has it this morning (Thursday), the Administration was told by CIA and Pentagon people that bombing would speed up Milosovic's "ethnic cleansing", but it went ahead anyway. This means that not only was Clinton deceiving the public when he said his aim in bombing was to help the people of Kosovo, but that he embarked on the bombing campaign with a reckless disregard for what would happen to the Kosovars as a result. The bombing will only create more victims, on both sides. Innocent Yugoslav civilians will die, so that both Kosovars and Serbians end up as victims of our policy.

3) The Kosovo Liberation Army may not represent the wishes of the Kosovar people, because it decided to turn to armed struggle to gain independence, ruthlessly putting their countrymen at risk, when a more protracted non-violent campaign of resistance was already going on and should have continued. I think of South Africa, where a decision to engage in armed struggle would have led to a bloody civil war with huge casualties, most of them black. Instead, the African National Congress decided to put up with apartheid longer, but wage a long-term campaign of attrition, with strikes, sabotage, economic sanctions, international pressure. And it worked.

4) The United States does not have a humanitarian aim in this situation -- its foreign policy has never been guided by such concerns, but by political power, economic interest, and sometimes a motive more elusive, like machismo (we want to show the world we are #1!, as present after president has reiterated during and after Vietnam).

5) The hypocrisy of the Clinton Administration is evident, with just a bit of recent history. For instance. When Chechnya rebelled, desiring independence from Russia just as Kosovo wants it now, and the Russian army moved in, doing terrible things to the people there, Clinton did not oppose this. Indeed, in fielding one reporter's question, he compared the situation to the American Civil War, where Lincoln would not permit the Confederacy to succeed. (Will a statue of Yeltsin be erected alongside Lincoln's in D.C.?)

6) There is no sensible military solution to the ethnic cleansing going on, because it could only be stopped by putting in a large ground force, which would mean a full scale war, in which the present violence would be multiplied greatly.

7) What is happening to the Kosovo people is heartrending, and and now with the bombing we are adding Serbian victims to the lists of casualties. I think the only solution is a diplomatic one, forgetting the treaty the U.S. tried to force on Serbia. It will take a new agreement, in which the
Kosovites will have to settle for some form of autonomy, but no guarantee of independence. A compromise in order to have peace. The only way this diplomatic solution can come about is through the intercession of Russia, which is the only important power with influence over the Serbs.

8) As a minor point (since any reference to international law is futile -- it has been rather worthless for fifty years); the United States is violating the U.N. Charter by what it is doing.It is also violating the U.S. Constitution which requires a declaration of war, and we are certainly waging war.

9) NATO should be abolished. It is a military alliance at a time when we should be discarding military solutions, and its very existence encourages military solutions.

10) To my surprise I was invited to be on an NBC Cable News program tonight (Saturday), and I was able to make a few points: that violent solutions only multiply whatever evil they are claimed to counter; that when the solution to a problem is elusive, you must at least start with one principle, the one told to medical students: "Do no harm." The U.S. and NATO (which is the
creation of the U.S.and does its bidding) are floundering, and in the course of that doing enormous damage to human beings. It will require the citizens of the NATO countries -- especially in the U.S. -- to shout their protest at what is going on, and to demand a diplomatic solution. When a nation issues ultimatums, it leaves no room for compromise, and insures that war will continue. We learned from Vietnam: the ruthlessness of leaders, the stupidity of "experts", must be countered by the courage, good sense, and persistence of the citizenry.

the end