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The Horror and the Stupidity of the War in Yugoslavia

After weeks of agonized brain-wracking, I have finally discovered the logic behind the NATO/US offensive against the Serbians: They will bring peace to the Balkans by destroying or exiling everyone there. They will bring human rights to the region by ensuring that there won't be any human beings there to have rights.

It's the only thing that makes sense. I mean, people say the bombing is occuring because we need to punish Slobodan Milosevic for his war crimes... but then why are we committing war crimes to do it? By sending US forces out there for as long as he has, the Clinton administration has broken US Constitutional law, the US War Powers Act, and the regulations laid out in the Geneva Convention, amongst other laws. NATO is also guilty of violating international law by doing this. So I can't see how we can be teaching people that war crimes are bad if we're joining the Milosevic bandwagon in committing them.

We say we're protecting the Kosovars–so by starting the bombing, we've escalated the destruction of their homeland (caused by us as well as Serbia) as well as pretty much driven the Kosovars out of Kosova. If anything, we've actually achieved what Milosevic wanted all along–most of Kosovo is now rid of the Albanians. I can see why he might be obstinate in negotiations–if he gets it just right, we'll do all the ethnic cleansing for him.

People ask, what else could be done? Well, before the bombing started, a lot could have been done. Most governments (and admittedy and very unfortunately NGOs and grassroots peace and human rights organizations) somehow overlooked both Milosevic's oppression of the ethnic Albanians and the nonviolent rebellion movement in Kosova AND the movements for democracy in Serbia. The past has shown us that supporting these movements with conflict resolution training, time, people, and money–heck, even just with the public declaration of support by a government or large organization–that the people can overthrow the dictators and achieve an effective and often permanent peace, especially if that support continues after the government has changed over. These things take time, but I think that empowering the people to take their nation's matters into their own hands is worth it. Other intitiatives could have been made... the government could have used some of its money and time and a little effort to promote defection from the Serbian army–we could have done a lot to weaken morale and numbers in the army, especially if we offered education and employment elsewhere. It could have been done with the money spent the first couple weeks during the war. Even sending peacekeeping forces to Kosovo and or forces to Belgrade to arrest Milosevic to try him for war crimes would have been more acceptable... I think there would have been far fewer losses that way, particularly civilian losses.

Of course, the bombing has made these and other nonviolent and less violent solutions pretty much impossible now, and all we've achieved is a world's hatred for the US and NATO (I was at an anti-bombing rally in DC a few days ago. Every non-American tourist passing by cheered us). We've created a horrible refugee situation which should have been anticipated but was barely planned for. Both essential city infrastructure and important cultural centers have been destroyed. Depleted uranium from the missile heads is now contaminating the soil and waterways–this is a still-radioactive cancer causing substance that has a half life of approximately 4 billion years. Sometimes I wonder if NATO and the US hasn't stopped bombing because they don't want to have to face the horrors that will follow–and god forbid if they are made responsible for cleaning it up. If victory (or defeat) is achieved, it will be at the cost of thousands of innocent Serbian lives (people who could not control the actions of their leader) both now and in generations to come. If there is a victory, it will be one surrounded by fruitless death, suffering, and hatred for both the Serbian and Kosovar people. I wonder how NATO and US officials will be able to live with themselves when this is all over, especially when better planning and better strategy may have been able to eliminate much of this horror. But maybe this is what they wanted all along.

I pray only that this comes to an end soon. I hope negotiations are held responsibly, thoughtfully, with the interests of the Serbians and the Kosovars at heart, not at the heart of Clinton's and the NATO generals egos. But somehow, I doubt that's going to happen.  

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All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard