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Public inquiry in Canada re; NATO bombing
Letter to a Canadian MP, useful links to articles on the situation in Kosovo prior to and after the NATO bombing.
November 8, 1999
I am sure you remember numerous media reports from this spring, often accompanied by disturbing graphical images, about atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo. These reports were critical factor in obtaining a lukewarm support for Canada's participation in the NATO's 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
As soon as the military operations were finished, several NATO countries, Canada included, sent huge forensic investigation teams to search for evidence of mass murder and genocide. The idea behind this prompt and coordinated action was to find the evidence before they could be tampered with and, also, to use the findings to reassure the public about the need for this unprecedented action that has violated several key international documents and treaties.
However, approximately five months into that investigation, a very different picture is beginning to emerge. The information is getting out very slowly, partly because of an apparent effort by the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia), UNHCR, KFOR (UN and NATO peacekeepers) and other organizations to "not enter into the numbers game" as an ICTY official told TV Ontario. All these investigating teams have apparently found a few hundreds of bodies so far. According to the US think tank agency Stratfor, so far approximately 150 mass graves have been investigated and about 500 bodies were found. Although there is still about 250 suspected mass graves to be investigated, those completed so far were believed to be the worst ones.
According to Stratfor, it is possible that "both governments and outside observers relied on sources controlled by the KLA, both before and during the war." They furhter elaborated by saying that "governments relied heavily on the accounts of refugees arriving in Albania and Macedonia, where the KLA was an important conduit of information". They added that "The sophisticated public relations machine of the KLA and the fog of war may have generated a perception that is now proving dubious." More on this report can be found at http://www.stratfor.com/crisis/kosovo/genocide.htm.
The view described in the Stratfor report is much more credible after the recent CBC National's correspondent Nancy Durham discovered that one of her key "eyewitness" stories was a hoax. The KLA fighter in the centre of this story admitted that she had lied when she earlier told the same journalist that she witnessed the killing of her 5-year old sister by Serbs. More details on this story can be found at http://www.tv.cbc.ca/national/pgminfo/kosovo3/rajmonda.html.
Based on the (lack of) evidence found so far, many other reports are beginning to appear that also question the validity of claims that a genocide was committed in Kosovo. On November 4, 1999, a story by the name "The final death toll in Kosovo? It's sinking fast" appeared in National Post, reprinted from The Spectator. In the story, the author, John Laughland argues that claims about mass murders were overblown. He wrote that "the 'Biggest mass grave' was found to contain 7 bodies -- not 350". More on this story can be found at http://www.nationalpost.com/news.asp?s2=world&f=991104/118852.html.
On October 29, 1999, the TVO's Diplomatic Immunity discussed the lack of evidence of mass killings in Kosovo. The moderator explained that, in spite of their best efforts, they could not get an official figure on the number of bodies found in all mass graves to date.
On November 3, 1999, The Toronto Star published a story by Richard Gwyn in its Opinions section, entitled "No genocide, no justification for war on Kosovo". In it, Mr. Gwyn highlights a stark contrast between the number of dead and missing in Kosovo as provided by various NATO leaders and the actual number of bodies recovered so far. He went on to say that "All of those claims may have been an honest mistake. Equally, they may have been a grotesque lie concocted to justify a war that NATO originally assumed would be over in a day or two, with Milosevic using the excuse of some minimal damage as a cover for a surrender, but then had to fight (at great expense) for months." He concludes that if there was no genocide, there would be no justification "for a war inflicted by NATO on a sovereign nation." The complete article can be found at http://www.thestar.com/thestar/back_issues/ED19991103/opinion/index.htm.
On November 7, 1999, another story, "Kosovo's 'genocide': Where are the bodies?", by Lorrie Goldstein, appeared in the The Toronto Sun. In the story, the author suggests, based on the current progress with excavation of suspected mass graves, that there is a possibility "that NATO bombs may have actually killed at least as many civilians as Serbian paramilitaries did". She concludes that, if this proves to be true, it "would undermine the moral imperative of the war and suggest NATO intervened for self-interest".
There are many similar stories in the European press.
The point here is that although terrible things undoubtedly happened in Kosovo, there is still a clear distinction between atrocities, killings and internally displaced people on one hand and mass murder and genocide on the other. However, this distinction is only as clear as it has been presented to the public by their governments and the media. Somehow, that distinction got blurred in most NATO countries and the consequence may well be that thousands of people lost their lives and millions may loose their confidence in the integrity of their government and NATO alliance as a whole.
By blurring that line, the term "genocide" was not only regularly used by the media but also by Canadian government officials. For example, on April 12th, 1999, the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons: "Mr. Speaker, the position of the Canadian government is that we want all criminals who have caused the genocide in Serbia and in the neighbouring nations to face the trial that is called by the international community."
In response to a question from the NDP Leader Ms. McDonough, the PM went on to say : "Despite the agreement of the Russians on the Rambouillet conditions, he [the Yugoslav President Milosevic] refused to sign and kept with his policy of pushing the Kosovars out and killing probably hundreds of thousands of them. That is why we have to maintain pressure on him with intensification of the air strikes. "
Asked by Mr. Bachand (PC) if it is now official that the genocide is going on in Kosovo, the PM tried to clarify the differences between the frequently used terms. He said: "When there is a lot of ethnic cleansing, it becomes genocide-it is all a matter of terminology-and those responsible must face the consequences of their crimes against humanity. "
The same day, later in the evening, liberal MP Mr. Clifford Lincoln, splitting his debate time with fellow MP Mr. Lynn Myers, said: "?most of us are torn apart by the necessity to resort to weapons for a cause we feel is just, while at the same time realizing that it was brought upon by the revolting genocide going on in Kosovo, where every passing day brings sad pictures of massacres of thousands of innocents victims, mostly women and children. "
More on this "take note" debate that set "base level" for the future similar sessions, can be found at http://www.parl.gc.ca/cgi-bin/36/pb_chb_hou_deb_ind.pl?36:1:e:205_1999-04-12.
These discussions, accompanied with similar media reports and powerfull images, sometimes apparently designed to trigger fading memories of the WWII (e.g. civilians being carried away in box cars), resulted in many thousands of deaths and in almost total destruction of the infrastructure and manufacturing base of Yugoslavia.
According to a recent UN briefing (http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/1999/19991104.allenpressconf.doc.html ), the percentage of the population living on a monthly income of less than US $60 had increased from 33 per cent in July 1998 to 60 per cent in September 1999. Those most at risk were pensioners, urban poor, single-parent households and families with more than three children. The national health insurance fund was on the verge of collapse, which had serious implications for the poor, who would have less access to health, and is an issue of particular concern in view of the coming winter. The number of Internally Displaced People was estimated at 220,000 persons. Due to lack of resources (rooms, classes, furniture and teaching materials), only 50 percent of IDP children were enrolled in primary school.
The fate of these people is largely unresolved. They have been promised safety and security under the KFOR protection. Soon after KFOR took control of the province, it became painfully obvious that they cannot deliver on that promise. Hardly a day went by that one or more of these people were not killed. Just two weeks ago, a Bulgarian UN official was murdered while walking on the street in Pristina, simply because he was mistaken for a Serb.
The final outcome of this safety fiasco was that 90% of non-Albanian population have been forced to leave the province. We may officially refer to them as Internally Displaced People, but essentially, they are refugees. Unfortunately, western countries are in no hurry to help these people, arguing that their political leadership includes suspected war criminals. They fail to recognize that there are many different forms of assistance, and by using a combination of them, these political concerns can be addressed while still enabling thousands of IDP children to exercise their right to go to school.
All the issues mentioned above are in direct or indirect connection with our participation in the NATO bombing campaign. By writing this letter to my MP and copying it to other MP's and the media, I am requesting that a public inquiry be established that would review all aspects of these important and complex issues. The inquiry would provide a thorough and independent review of our policies and actions related to the Kosovo conflict. It would cover both the period when the combat y to war? Should we have a vote in parliament before we send our troops into war?
- What, if any, assistance should we provide to countries who cannot sustain their population as a direct or indirect consequence of the war we participated in and prevailed, inflicting huge damage to people and infrastructure of the country?
Mr. Eggleton, please let me know what is your personal position about this inquiry as well as that of our government.
Return to the 'NATO Bombing - has it brought peace to the Balkans?' Alert.