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Monday. May 31, 1999 - by James Bissett, National Post (5-31-99) http://www.nationalpost.com/commentary.asp?f=990531/2661631
It is time for NATO's political leaders to admit their unjust and unnecessary war against Yugoslavia has been a colossal failure. It is time to put an immediate end to the bombing before ground troops are engaged and the war escalates. For 69 days the democratic countries of the West have been systematically smashing to pieces a modern European state. None of NATO's objectives has been achieved. The air strikes have degenerated into a war of annihilation against the Serbian people.
Yugoslavia is a small country with a population of less than 10 million people of whom approximately 65% are of Serbian origin. Even before the bombing, its economy had collapsed as a result of economic sanctions. Its leader was unpopular, and in the last municipal elections in Belgrade his party received less than 20% of the vote. It was a country that presented no threat either to its neighbours or to European security.
Despite this, our NATO leaders -- without consulting their parliaments or their people -- have chosen to bomb Yugoslavia into submission. There should be no misunderstanding about this. NATO is using the most dreadful weapons of modern warfare: cluster bombs and cruise missiles. Many of the weapons being used contain depleted uranium, which will spread deadly radioactive dust throughout the region, contaminating for generations water, soil and crops. It may come as a surprise to many Canadians to realize Canada is the major supplier of depleted uranium to the U.S. military complex.
NATO's unprovoked attack is a blatant violation of every precept of international law. It is a violation of the Final Act of the Conference On Security and Co-operation in Europe, signed in Helsinki in August, 1975, which reaffirmed respect for sovereign equality, the inviolability of frontiers, the peaceful settlement of disputes, non-intervention in internal affairs, and the avoidance of the threat or use of force. It is a violation of NATO's own treaty by which it undertakes "to settle any international dispute . . . by peaceful means . . . and to refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."
Some apologists for NATO, including our own foreign minister, feebly try to justify the NATO bombing by arguing ethnic cleansing in Kosovo had to be stopped. Prior to March 24, the Yugoslav military, using classic counter-insurgency tactics, did burn and destroy villages in Kosovo suspected of harbouring KLA rebels, and many of the unfortunate inhabitants of these villages were killed or displaced --but there was no mass expulsion from Kosovo. As has been verified by OSCE monitors who were on the ground in Kosovo, the mass expulsion of Albanians took place after the bombing.
The Yugoslav army is forcing the Albanians out of Kosovo as a strategy of war. In anticipation of a NATO ground invasion, the Yugoslavs do not wish to fight against the world's most powerful military force while at the same time surrounded by a hostile population. In war, the friend of your enemy is your enemy. It is not a humane strategy, but then neither is the use of cluster bombs.
If NATO felt compelled to intervene militarily in what was a relatively low-grade armed rebellion in Yugoslavia, why then did it not follow the rules and go before the United Nations Security Council seeking authority to intervene? We are told NATO did not do so because it was assumed Russia or China might have vetoed such an action. But this is precisely why the founders of the UN stipulated that before there could be intervention in a sovereign state there must be agreement by all five of the great powers. It was considered that intervention without unanimity might involve armed conflict between or among the five themselves.
Today some NATO leaders scorn the UN and tell us human rights must prevail over sovereign rights. Yet none of them are able to suggest new rules to replace the ones in place. Those who express concern about this are regarded as old-fashioned, but is it old-fashioned to assume that until new laws are proclaimed the old ones should be respected?
It may be some of our NATO leaders are not old enough to remember that the founders of the United Nations had lived through two cataclysmic world wars in less than 20 years. They had witnessed the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs. Those who drafted the United Nations framework for world peace and security did so in the conviction of one simple truth, that if mankind were to survive it had to learn at all costs to put an end to war and to learn to settle disputes by peaceful means.
To their everlasting shame, our NATO leaders have chosen war over peace in Kosovo. They have abandoned diplomacy in favour of bloodshed. They have taken us back to the Cold War and the arms race. They have smashed the framework of world security. They have guaranteed that we will start the new century as we did this one, with killing and carnage. They have left us with a terrible legacy. With six months to go before the millennium, they have taken us back to barbarism.
James Bissett is former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia (1990-1992).
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