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
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.