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Why we should call for an end to NATO and its bombing

29 May 1999

The Chicago Tribune
May 20, 1999


By Marjorie Cohn.

Marjorie Cohn is an associate professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. This commentary contains excerpts from her keynote speech at the 30-year reunion of the anti-war movement at Stanford University.

Is NATO bombing Kosovo to save ethnic Albanians from the Serbs or to accomplish other less noble goals? NATO tells us the bombs fall to stop reprehensible ethnic cleansing. If that is true, why does NATO's leader, the United States of America, support a government in Colombia whose "cleansing" policies rival those of Slobodan Milosevic's regime in Kosovo? During the past decade, Colombian military and paramilitary violence has killed tens of thousands of civilians. It created nearly as many refugees as the bombing of Kosovo and resulted in the worst human-rights abuses of the early 1990s, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

I believe NATO is exercising military power in Kosovo, not to stop human-rights atrocities, but to establish control of an area that will be important to the economic growth of Western nations in coming decades. NATO formed during the Cold War to protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union. That purpose no longer exists. NATO has not dissolved, however. Rather, NATO has redefined its strategic mission and expanded eastward. A 1992 draft of the Pentagon's Defense Planning Guidance advocated continued U.S. leadership in NATO by "discouraging the advanced industrialized nations from challenging our leadership or even aspiring to a larger global or regional role." One Pentagon author called the U.S. role in NATO "adult supervision."

I believe the bombing in Kosovo is primarily intended to further that U.S. leadership goal.

By reincarnating and expanding NATO and moving its influence eastward, the U.S. is attempting to establish Western domination over rich Caspian Sea oil deposits. Western Europe must expand its influence eastward in order to secure its own Caspian oil supplies. The United States wants to control that process. Would the U.S. expend billions of dollars to bomb Kosovo if that region did not sit strategically between rich oil deposits and U.S. European allies? Analysis of U.S. actions in other troubled parts of the world, such as Colombia, reveals that it would not. Ethnic cleansing should be stopped whenever and wherever it occurs. Unfortunately the U.S. bombing of Kosovo has other selfish motives.

The economic motivation for U.S. military actions in Kosovo may explain why the U.S. is unwilling to commit the ground troops necessary to stop Serb atrocities against the ethnic Albanians. The bombing provides the intended display of strength without risking the political downside of American battlefield casualties. Meanwhile, the people of Serbia suffer.

NATO's air war is aimed not only at military targets, but also Serbia's infrastructure. Bridges, rail lines, civilian airports, oil refineries, factories, construction equipment, media centers, electrical plants and hundreds of acres of forest have been destroyed. A NATO spokesman said, "we can turn the power off whenever we need to and whenever we want to." The lives of premature babies are endangered by blackouts. Civilian casualties are rising. Our "smart" laser-guided bombs have hit hospitals, buses, homes and now the Chinese Embassy.

It is widely acknowledged that air power alone cannot accomplish political or military objectives. Just as the bombing of Vietnam failed to cut off the Ho Chi Minh trail, the bombing of Kosovo has failed to stop ethnic cleansing--which has actually escalated since bombing commenced. The bombs are falling on Kosovo, not to save persecuted people, but rather to help the United States exercise adult supervision over Europe. The bombing must stop.

Copyright Chicago Tribune 5-20-99

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