Subject: MADRE's Talking Points on Yugoslav Crisis
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 1999 17:02:34
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MADRE, an international women's human rights organization, strongly condemns the US war against Yugoslavia and calls for a halt to the NATO bombing. We abhor the atrocities committed by Serb forces in Kosovo and the extreme ethno-nationalism propagated by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic: more than 2,000 Albanian Kosovars were killed and over 400,000 made homeless even before the NATO attack this year.

But bombing has never achieved a reduction of violence and the current war is no exception. The air strikes will not end Milosevic's persecution of Albanian civilians in Kosovo. US officials stated from the start that bombing can only "degrade," and not stop Yugoslav military capability. Furthermore, as US and NATO leaders themselves predicted, the bombing has spurred Milosevic to step up ethnic cleansing and a last-ditch effort to eradicate the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), fighting on behalf of the area's Albanian majority. The only guaranteed outcome of a bombing is mass killing and economic and social devastation for years to come.

While the bombing is unacceptable, a halt to the air strikes will not end the genocide being waged against Albanians in Kosovo. This is a crisis which must be addressed by the international community, through the General Assembly of the United Nations and not through NATO, which is a Western military alliance being used to pursue US and Western European strategic interests.


What is the root of the crisis?

The Balkan war of the early 1990's left a fragmented Yugoslavia consisting of two republics, Serbia and Montenegro, and the small pon global standard for governing states' conduct. Without it, people would have even fewer protections against the abuses of government and no basis upon which to claim human rights.

The UN Charter provides legal barriers to states' use of force, which promote diplomatic negotiations over violence. When the US scorns these provisions, it sets a dangerous precedent of lawlessness and undermines the principle of countries working together to resolve disputes (i.e., multi-lateralism).

The US is being aptly described as a "rougue superpower," accountable only to its own narrowly defined interests and quick to destroy anyone that stands in its way. This year alone the US has bombed Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and now Yugoslavia, escalating violence, disease, poverty, and ecological destruction worldwide.


Why does the US care about Kosovo??

Unlike other conflict areas where the US ignores communal violence (like Rwanda, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Algeria), Kosovo is situated at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East: It holds a strategic interest for the US.

The humanitarian crisis in Kosovo provides a smokescreen for military intervention that will secure long-term US control over the Balkans. Clinton has spoken about the "moral imperative" of defending Kovoso's population and its trampled autonomy. Human rights abuses in Kosovo are real and very serious. But we must ask why comparable abuses committed by Russia in Chechnya, the Turks in the Kurdish areas, and the British in Northern Ireland do not warrant the same lofty rhetoric.

For that matter, we could ask why the creation of 350,000 Serb refugees by Croatia in 1995 was not labeled a humanitarian crisis and why the US chose to ignore ethnic cleansing by a NATO ally and label the same atrocities in Kosovo "genocide.


What is the purpose of NATO?

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, made up of 19 European countries, the US and Canada, was formed by the US in 1949 to "deter and defend against" Soviet military might.

Most of the world viewed NATO as an offensive military coalition from the start, created to threaten, and if necessary, attack, Socialist bloc countries.

NATO also provided a much-needed vehicle for the reintegration and rearmament of post-Nazi Germany, a critical US ally throughout the Cold War and in the current bombing.

NATO fuels the military industrial complex and the arms industry worldwide. The B-2 bombers used in the current attacks, for example, were built at a cost of over two billion each. NATO's recent expansion to Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic is estimated to generate nearly $100 billion in weapons sales over the next 10 years.


Why is NATO being used for this war?

The US has become increasingly dissatisfied with the UN as a vehicle for asserting its foreign policy. The structure of the Security Council makes US will subject to veto by other nations, most notably Russia and China. NATO, on the other hand, is an exclusive military club with the newly declared prerogative to disregard the UN, making it, as Madeleine Albright has said, the US "institution of choice" (New York Times, 10/18/98).

NATO lost its raison d'etre when the Cold War ended. But instead of dismantling the organization, the US broadened its mandate and membership. NATO has been transformed from an alliance that functioned inside the territories of its member states to a force that can pursue the interests of those states outside their borders -- and even interfere in the internal affairs of non-member states. Now that the "threat of communism" has been eradicated, humanitarianism has become the new rallying cry of military intervention. Kosovo is the first real test of this new NATO mission.

The bombing is being waged just in time for NATO's 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington on April 23. This is an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the need for ongoing funding for NATO, even as the US slashes budgets for social welfare programs at home and around the world.


What is the larger US strategy in the Balkans??

Using NATO to assert a US-led military presence in the Balkans is seen as a way to secure the twin elements of US policy in Eastern and Central Europe: a) to prevent any reversal of the "reforms" that dismantled the region's communist governments; b) to lock these countries into a third world economic role dictated by the US and Western Europe: namely, to provide cheap labor, raw materials and markets to US and Western European corporations.

Transferring the resources of the former Soviet Union to Western interests is a top priority of the US. Chevron has already signed a deal for rights to the vast oil deposits of Kazakhstan. Such multi-billion dollar endeavors require some assurance of regional stability: NATO is seen as the guarantor.

"Stability" on US terms requires that regional leaders be subservient to Western interests. Milosevic has repeatedly overstepped his bounds by refusing to allow a US army base in Yugoslavia and resisting the incorporation of Yugoslavia into a global neoliberal economic order.

US aims in the Balkans are facilitated by a fragmented, warring Yugoslavia. Enforced economic restructuring (which has become a dominant means of US intervention worldwide) is more easily imposed on small, separate countries, as in the Caribbean, than on large countries, like China, or on federations, like the Former Yugoslavia (a key reason for the original dismantlement of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s).


Where should concerned people focus support?

Neither Milosevic nor the KLA deserve support.

Milosevic was a war criminal even before he instigated massacres and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. But opposition to Milosevic need not translate into support for the NATO bombing.

The KLA espouses an ultra-nationalist ideology and a program of ethnic cleansing that differs from Milosevic mainly in that the KLA lacks the power to enforce its reactionary vision. But condemnation of the KLA does not mean accepting Milosevic's brutality in Kosovo.

We must move beyond a yearning for "good guys" in the Yugoslav scenario and remember that behind the various political formations and armed groups are communities of people. In Kosovo, whole towns and villages are being burned out and butchered. In Serbia, people are being terrorized by a NATO bombing because of the intransigence of their government.

But in both Kosovo and Serbia there are still some people who insist on a democratic, non-nationalist and multi-ethnic solution to the crisis. These are the people who MADRE is supporting.

We call on the US to halt the NATO bombing immediately. We call on the international community to:



MADRE has worked for 15 years with community-based women's organizations worldwide to provide emergency relief, health care & human rights advocacy to communities in crisis.

MADRE has worked with multi-ethnic, democratic women's organizations in the Former Yugoslavia since 1993.

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