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What is the point of Nato? : Robert Fisk


'An Atlantic alliance that has brought us to this catastrophe should be wound up'

How much longer do we have to endure the folly of Nato's war in the Balkans? In just 50 days, the Atlantic alliance has failed in everything it set out to do. It has failed to protect the Kosovo Albanians from Serbian war crimes. It has failed to cow Slobodan Milosevic. It has failed to force the withdrawal of Serb troops from Kosovo. It has broken international law in attacking a sovereign state without seeking a UN mandate. It has killed hundreds of innocent Serb civilians - in our name, of course - while being too cowardly to risk a single Nato life in defence of the poor and the weak for whom it meretriciously claimed to be fighting. Nato's war cannot even be regarded as a mistake - it is a criminal act.

It is, of course, now part of the mantra of all criticism of Nato that we must mention Serb wickedness in Kosovo. So here we go. Yes, dreadful, wicked deeds - atrocities would not be a strong enough word for it - have gone on in Kosovo: mass executions, rape, dispossession, "ethnic cleansing", the murder of intellectuals. Some of Nato's propaganda programme has done more to cover up such villainy than disclose it.

And, as we all know, the dozens of Kosovo Albanians massacred on the road to Prizren were slaughtered by Nato - not by the Serbs as Nato originally claimed. But I have seen with my own eyes - travelling under the Nato bombardment - the house-burning in Kosovo and the hundreds of Albanians awaiting dispossession in their villages.

But back to the subject - and perhaps my first question should be put a little more boldly. Not: "How much longer do we have to endure this stupid, hopeless, cowardly war?" but: "How much longer do we have to endure Nato? How soon can this vicious American-run organisation be deconstructed and politically 'degraded', its pontificating generals put back in their boxes with their mortuary language of 'in-theatre assets' and 'collateral damage'"?

And how soon will our own compassionate, socialist liberal leaders realise that they are not fighting a replay of the Second World War nor striking a blow for a new value-rich millennium? In Middle East wars, I've always known when a side was losing - it came when its leaders started to complain that journalists were not being fair to their titanic struggle for freedom/ democracy/human rights/sovereignty/ soul. And on Monday, Tony Blair started the whining. After 50 days of television coverage soaked in Nato propaganda, after weeks of Nato officials being questioned by sheep-like journalists, our Prime Minister announces the press is ignoring the plight of the Kosovo Albanians.

The fact that this is a lie is not important. It is the nature of the lie. Anyone, it seems, who doesn't subscribe to Europe's denunciations of Fascism or who raises an eyebrow when - in an act of utter folly - the Prime Minister makes unguaranteed promises that the Kosovo Albanians will all go home, is now off-side, biased - or worthy of one of Downing Street's preposterous "health warnings" because they allegedly spend more time weeping for dead Serbs than the numerically greater number of dead Albanians (the assumption also being, of course, that it is less physically painful to be torn apart by a Nato cluster bomb than by a Serb rocket-propelled grenade).

President Clinton - who will in due course pull the rug from under Mr Blair - tells the Kosovo Albanians that they have the "right to return". Not the Palestinian refugees of Lebanon, of course. They do not have such a right. Nor the Kurds dispossessed by our Nato ally, Turkey. Nor the Armenians driven from their land by the Turks in the world's first holocaust (there being only one holocaust which Messers Clinton and Blair are interested in invoking just now).

Mr Blair's childish response to this argument is important. Just because wrongs have been done in the past doesn't mean we have to stand idly by now. But the terrible corollary of this dangerous argument is this: that the Palestinians, the Armenians, the Rwandans or anyone else cannot expect our compassion. They are "the past". They are finished.

But what is all this nonsense about Nato standing for democracy? It happily allowed Greece to remain a member when its ruthless colonels staged a coup d'etat which imprisoned and murdered intellectuals. Nato had no objection to the oppression of Salazar and Caetano - who were at the same time busy annihilating "liberation" movements almost identical to the Kosovo Liberation Army. Indeed, the only time when Nato proposed to suspend Portugal's membership - I was there at the time and remember this vividly - was when the country staged a revolution and declared itself a democracy.

Is it therefore so surprising that Nato now turns out to be so brutal? It attacks television stations and kills Serb journalists - part of Milosevic's propaganda machine, a "legitimate target", shrieks Clare Short.

And what about the Chinese embassy? Did the CIA really use an old map? Or did the CIA believe that - because Mira Markovic (the wife of the Yugoslav President) had such close relations with the Chinese government that both she and President Slobodan Milosevic might be sleeping in the Chinese embassy. Nato, remember, had already targeted the Milosevic residence in an attempt to assassinate him. It had already - according to one disturbing report - tried to lure the Serb minister of information to the Serb television headquarters just before it was destroyed.

So why not the Chinese embassy? Would Nato do anything so desperate? Well, Nato is desperate. It is losing the war, it is destroying itself.

As for General Wesley Clark, the man who thought he could change history by winning a war without ground troops, we have only to recall his infantile statement of last month about President Milosevic.

"We are winning and he is losing - and he knows it," General Clark told us.

He did not explain why Mr Milosevic would need to be told such a thing if he knew it. Nor did he recall that he had once accepted from General Ratko Mladic - the Bosnian Serb military leader whose men were destroying the Muslims of Sarajevo - a gift of an engraved pistol. Nor, of course, did General Clark remind us that General Mladic and his colleague Radovan Karadjic remain free in Bosnia - which is under the firm control of Nato troops.

Nor are we going to be given the good news which this war portends for General Clark's most loyal allies, the arms manufacturers of our proud democracies. Boeing hit a 52-week high last week with stock trading at just under $44 (#27) British Aerospace share prices have gained a 43 per cent increase since Nato's bombardment commenced. The British government said on Tuesday that "military operations" were costing #37m "excluding munitions". Now why, I wonder, did this figure exclude munitions?

All of which makes me wonder, too, if this disastrous war isn't going to be the end of Nato. I hope so. As a citizen of a new, modern Europe, I don't want my continent led by the third-rate generals and two-bit under-secretaries who have been ranting on our television screens for the past 50 days. I don't want Europe to be "protected" any longer by the US. If that means the end of the Atlantic alliance, so be it.

Because an Atlantic alliance that has brought us to this catastrophe should be wound up. Until it is, Europe will never - ever - take responsibility for itself or for the dictators who threaten our society. Until then, Europe will never lay its own lives on the line for its own people - which is what the Kosovo Albanians need. Until Nato is dead, there will never be a real European defence force. And until Nato is dead, there will be no need to seek the international mandate from the United Nations which "humanitarian action" needs.

And the UN, ultimately, is the only institution the poor and the sick and the raped and the dispossessed can rely on. Nato troops are not going to die for Kosovo. So what is the point of Nato?

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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