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Crisis 1999
Opinions Archive 1999
The elusive victory

By Ivo Skoric

For me it is unimportant that NATO Operation Allied Force costed more than it is the entire Russia's military budget for this year. Could it be proved that this money helped save human lives, I would say it was well spent. But 220,000 $50,000 bombs and $750,000 missiles later it increasingly and disappointingly seems that Milosevic's armed forces are neither reduced nor substantially hurt. The news that the new barracks were not hit and that only 13 tanks were destroyed are at least disturbing. NATO's target criteria was apparently the un-movability of the target, since Clinton refused to let his airplanes fly below 15,000 feet, and from there only targets that do not move can be seen and hit with accuracy. So, there is a large number of dual-use objects like bridges, railroads, oil refining plants, power plants and TV transmitters that are destroyed, promising a humanitarian disaster in Serbia this winter.

Milosevic, on the other hand, is not removed from the power. Instead he was given more favourable agreement to sign AFTER the bombing than he was presented with before the bombing in Rambouillet: I think everybody noticed by now that Kosovo Albanians lost the clause about the referendum for independence in three years. Clinton now wows how he is not going to give a "red cent" to Serbia while Milosevic is in power. Good. Milosevic is going to make sure that pictures of freezing, starving people from Serbia reach American viewer this winter, perhaps well timed with the beginning of the primaries. Milosevic does not care if his subjects die, as long as this picture provides a good proof of the consequences of the NATO's humanitarian intervention. There are and there will be people demonstrating against him, but, please, have no illusions: his people are weakened by this war, he is not; if they could not get rid off him two years ago, they stand less chances this winter.

Switzerland announced that they are going to freeze Milosevic's assets if they find them, at the time when they could not find them any more. Kosovo Albanians are pouring back in Kosovo, only to find all their property destroyed and looted. Serbs are leaving only to be turned back, since neither Milosevic nor NATO victory would be sustainable if there are Serb refugees from Kosovo. When they come back they find the same: their homes burned and looted by Albanians in revenge. Yugoslav Army left, but there are still armed Serbs sniping around. And there is KLA, that started as a terrorist organization, then became a glorified liberation front that relayed targeting information to NATO and now it is a bitter ex-ally that NATO looks to disarm and dispose off a.s.a.p. There are stories of killing, burning, looting, rape, internal purges and vandalism abound.

NATO was promising Russia participation in Kosovo, while in the meantime making that participation impossible on the ground. Russia then moved into the Kosovo on its own, as a rogue force. Yeltsin and his subordinates gave a series of conflicting statements in reference to that move. The entire stand-off in Prishtina reminds me of the bygone cold war era, very far from the level of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia achieved in Bosnia.

Position of Macedonia is weaker than ever: ostracized by Serbia for offering NATO the stomping ground and ostracized by the Albanians who might want the autonomy there too. The entire region is substantially weakened by the destruction of the Danube trade and devastating influence that the war right before the summer season has on turism. And the only thing KFOR unearths in abundance in Kosovo are minefields and mass-graves, testifying to the enormous level of killing Serb forces were able to carry- out during (and in spite of) NATO bombing.

All this makes me question the validity of names "just war" and "humanitarian intervention." Maybe I fail to see the forest from the trees? Bill Clinton, after Milosevic signed the agreement, said: "I can report to the American people that we have achieved a victory for a safer world, for our democratic values and for a stronger America." I challenge him to prove me everything but the last part of this statement.

As he said that, the State Department announced possibility of closing down embassies in Africa due to the terrorist threat of Osama Bin Laden. During NATO bombing of Yugoslavia both the war between two 'rogue' nuclear powers - India and Pakistan - and the war between the two Koreas (South Korea sunk several North Korea ships) escalated substantially. One of the first orders of business of the new Israeli prime minister, who ascended to power during the last stages of the NATO war against Yugoslavia, was to bomb Lebanese power plants and bridges, mimicking NATO strategy - punishing Lebanon for providing safe haven to the terrorist organization Hezbolah (Hezbolah retaliated surrounding Israeli villages: Barak forgot that Serbia has no land border with the U.S. while Lebanon has one with Israel). Russia is openly discussing upgrading its tactical nuclear capabilities. World to me looks about as safe as during the Cuban missile crisis. Maybe Clinton lives in a different world, I don't know.

We already forgot what's going on in Somalia or Afghanistan - but this does not mean that it stopped. Colombia is on the brink of civil war, with terrorist/liberation forces kidnapping churchfulls of people. Sudan has so widespread problem of child slave trade that even its government started asking for help. Indonesian forces are in the process of ethnic cleansing/genocide over East Timorese population. Russia had pulverized Chechenya. China has denied Tibet. Turkey, which is a NATO member and which continues to ethnically cleanse Turks, did not yet respond to the Kurdish leader's (Ocalan) offer to cease fire for amnesty, renounce violence and accept political fight under Turkish rule (similar deal that Sinn Fein had won in Northern Ireland). Today, the U.S. Coast Guard arrested and placed in the deportation proceedings several young Cubans who risked their lifes to reach this country in a small raft in the tunderstorm. We are very far from the victory for our democratic values. The victory for the humanitarian intervention cannot be accomplished if the rules of humanity do not apply to those, who desire to apply them to others.

On top of that, we live in the world where this story will be untold or at least un-noticed. News that are not accompanied with an image live very shortly. During the war, when Milosevic censored all the images leaving Yugoslavia: we saw only civilian objects being bombed in Yugoslavia - we haven't seen a single military target being hit. And the Yugoslav scores against NATO were repeatedly shown ad nauseam. Since there was only one airplane shot down (or crashed due to technological malfunction) we saw a lot of it. When NATO moved to Kosovo, CNN followed, so we saw a destroyed Serbian museum piece T-55 tank, charcoaled. And we saw that tank over and over, because apparently they couldn't find any other, since mighty Warthogs destroyed mostly inflatable tanks. And we never saw the pilot of the crashed F-117. And we, also, never saw the captured Yugoslav lieutenant (who is now perhaps released and back in Serbia): I find lack of interest among media for those two stories particularly interesting.

There is a lot of unfinished business about this war and I think that it is way premature to call it a victory yet. Source: author

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