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"Peace" in the Balkans

Karl Dallas - 4 June 1999

The world has just become a more dangerous place. The "peace" deal imposed upon Yugoslavia legitimises the use of force to ensure that what USA says goes throughout the world, and places us all in a similar position to that of 1938, when Chamberlain came back from Munich waving his piece of paper, declaring "peace in our time". The world was at war not 12 months later.

The situation puts new and complex demands upon those who have campaigned for the peaceful solution of international problems, not the least being to use whatever forces we can mobilise to ensure:

  • Protection for Serb minorities, not only in Kosovo but also in Croatia and Bosnia;
  • Return of ALL refugees, not only ethnic Albanians, but also those who have been ethnically cleansed from other parts of the former Yugoslavia; * An international humanitarian aid fund to assist in rebuilding Yugoslavia, outside the control of the bankers and money-men; * A reassessment and re-establishment of the peace forces, so we can act more effectively the next time (and there WILL be a next time) the bully boys of USA and UK flex their muscles anywhere else in the world.
It appears that the peacekeeping force to be established in Kosovo will include NATO (and therefore US) forces. Anyone who thinks that they will be even-handed in their treatment of ethnic Albanians and Serbs should recall the technical and strategic support given by the US to Croatian forces involved in the ethnic cleansing of Krajina four years ago. A report in the New American magazine highlighted this:

"As Croat forces began their attack, U.S. aircraft under NATO command destroyed Serbian radar and anti-aircraft defences in the region. American EA-6B electronic warfare aircraft patrolled the skies in support of the unfolding offensive, jamming communications between Serb units. Croatia admitted to suffering only 118 dead or wounded, as compared to an estimated 14,000 civilian casualties among the Serbs. An AP dispatch filed during the offensive reported that Croat forces shelled and strafed columns of Serb refugees."

There will be rich pickings for the international money-men in the rebuilding of Yugoslavia, and experience of their "aid" to other devastated parts of the world shows that while the financial community will do well out of it, the benefits to the supposed recipients will be hedged around with conditions that will destroy any vestige of their independence. This, of course, was the object of the entire military exercise. There is already talk of requiring "democratic restructuring" of Yugoslav society (for which read, the tyranny of the market) before any aid will be offered.

This outcome has a sort of inevitability about it, but at least we should begin mobilising alternatives right now, without delay.

Most of all, we need to examine critically the totally inadequate response of the peace movement throughout the entire crisis. Demonstrations were organised, yes, but turnouts were minimal, in comparison with the millions who took to the streets to protest against the Vietnam war and for the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Where was the non-violent direct action? In UK, a few brave women invaded a base, but where was the massive blockade of places like Fairford which might actually have had some effect on the bombing, if more than the brave hundred who turned up on May 28 had put themselves on the line.

We need also to become less dependent upon the vagaries of career politicians who might find it useful to use the peace movement to cultivate grassroots support as they climb up the political ladder, only to become more gung-ho than the generals when the chips are down. Paddy Ashdown and Robin Cook are obvious examples in UK, German Greens who "reluctantly" supported the bombing are also significant in this regard.

It is no use pointing the finger at their cynicism and hypocrisy: if we depend upon ANY charismatic figures for our campaigns, this will always happen, because it is in the nature of the charismatic to fall by the wayside when things get tough. We need a mass movement that does not rely on the vagaries of human nature for its success.

These are just a few unstructured and random thoughts on the latest news. No doubt others will be able to make clearer and more effective analyses. But time is short, the tasks are urgent. The "peace" deal does not relieve us of the necessity to develop the struggle; it makes it more urgent.

Karl Dallas
West Yorkshire

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