July 29, 1999


It's easy enough to comprehend the shooting of 14 Serbian farmers in the Kosovan village of Gracko as part of the aftermath of NATO's war against Yugoslavia. These farmers – along with hundreds, perhaps thousands of ethnic Albanians killed by Serbs before, during and after the bombing campaign phase of the war, should be included when all the casualties of this war are toted up.

But there are other casualties whose relationship is not so apparent but real nonetheless. And the impulse of the American government to want to run the world produces what might be called casual casualties of empire the world over.

Alan Bock is Senior Essayist at the Orange County Register and a weekly columnist for WorldNetDaily. He is the author of Ambush at Ruby Ridge (Putnam-Berkley, 1995). His exclusive column now appears every Thursday on Antiwar.com.

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An example of the latter hit the news briefly last week. It seems that since 1965 the U.S. Navy has leased Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island in British Columbia from the province as a torpedo testing ground. Apparently the muddy seabed there makes it feasible to retrieve the torpedoes after testing.

With the lease about to expire, British Columbia's government wants to demand as a condition of renewing the lease a pledge that no nuclear-armed ships enter the strait where the bay is located. But the U.S. Navy has a policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons aboard its ships – which probably but not absolutely means at least some ships entering the strait do carry nuclear weapons.

Since the provincial government is being stubborn about the issue, Canada's federal government hass expropriated the 140-square mile area around Nanoose Bay so it can continue to be used by the U.S. Navy. This has led to bitterness on the part of some British Columbians who complain that their federal government is more concerned about the U.S. government's defense policies than about the concern of Canadians who actually live in the area.

Now I'm not saying that this incident is likely to trigger overt and outright hostility between the United States and Canada of the kind that might jeopardize the peacefulness of what has long been advertised as the longest peaceful and unguarded border in the world. But it does create a completely unnecessary source of friction between two countries whose relations have not always been utopian but have generally been better than merely cordial.

Why insist on keeping that testing station open in the post-Cold War era when the locals in another country object? I submit it is at least in part because of the imperial impulse that drives so many U.S. policy-makers. We might not have communism to kick around anymore but we have responsibilities and burdens. If that means purposely alienating a bunch of Canadians, that's just tough.

So U.S. Canadian relations take a hit – almost certainly not a fatal one, but a hit nonetheless. A significant number of British Columbians now have more tangible reasons to view Washington as arrogant and out of touch – and some will transfer that hostility to American tourists and visitors. Peace and amicability are at least slightly undermined.


Kosovo, with its position between the Middle East and Europe and its tattered levels of civil society and formal government, was a haven for drug smugglers before the war. Indeed, more than one commentator noted that the Kosovo Liberation Army was in part financed by Kosovar Albanian drug smugglers with headquarters in Switzerland and used some of its operations to lend a hand to the drug traffickers.

But the war in Kosovo has turned the province into an outright magnet for international traffickers and mafiosi. More operations have been conducted across the borders with Albania and Macedonia and those borders have become more reliably permeable. The modicum of authority exercised by Serbs in Kosovo has been disintegrated and NATO troops aren't close to establishing their own authority, let alone becoming familiar with the region and its hidden byways. So a bad situation has been made worse.

About 170 people in Kosovo have been killed or injured in the past months in accidents involving land mines and unexploded bombs in Kosovo according to a World Health Organization report. More casual casualties of the imperial impulse.

Then there's the $30 billion in infrastructure damages (most of which will be repaired, when all is said and done, at the expense of the most passive of casual casualties, U.S. taxpayers).


Compared to all this the undermining of the 1999 European Month of Culture, now underway in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as reported in the Christian Science Monitor might seem like a small matter. But there's no question that the war, which destroyed corridors through Yugoslavia between Bulgaria and the rest of the Europe, has turned the festival from a beacon of hope for beleaguered Bulgaria into a bust.

This is especially sad in that Bulgaria, which historically has influenced Thracian, Greek, Roman and Turkish culture, had hoped the Month of Culture would be a significant symbol of the country's reorientation toward the West. In 1992 60 percent of Bulgaria's exports went to Russia but now only 4 percent do. The country groaned under a particularly egregious version of communist dictatorship for years – it was used as something of a "safe house" for international plots and plotters by the KGB – and desperately wants to move in a different direction. It even brought in the University of San Diego Law School's Bernard Siegan, author of Economic Liberty and the Constitution to help fashion a constitution that protected property rights and economic freedom.

But NATO's war cut off land routes between Bulgaria and the rest of Europe. So Bulgaria finds itself in the ironic position of having its hopes of closer ties with Western Europe dashed – at least for the present – by the institution that to some extent symbolizes the very hopes and dreams of westernization many Bulgarians cling to.

Bulgaria was a long way from out of trouble before the latest setback. If it reverts to authoritarianism it won't be solely because of the Kosovo war ruining a little festival. But the war won't have helped.

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