Decline of The West
by George Szamuely

March 24, 2001

Kosovo Anniversary of Shame

Today is the two-year anniversary of NATO’s murderous onslaught on Yugoslavia. However tedious it may seem, we should remind ourselves again and again just how outrageous and despicable an act this was. NATO attacked a small country that posed no threat to anyone. This act of aggression violated innumerable Articles of the United Nations Charter. It violated the NATO Charter. It violated the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties since it came on the heels of the Rambouillet "negotiations" in which the Serbs had been asked to sign an agreement or face bombing.

Most shocking of all it flagrantly violated the Helsinki Accords which had been signed with great fanfare less than 25 years earlier. Here are just a few of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act that NATO threw into the wastepaper basket:

(a) II The participating States will refrain in their mutual relations, as well as in their international relations in general, from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State…

III The participating States regard as inviolable all one another’s frontiers as well as the frontiers of all States in Europe and therefore they will refrain now and in the future from assaulting these frontiers….

VI The participating States will refrain from any intervention, direct or indirect, individual or collective, in the internal or external affairs falling within the domestic jurisdiction of another participating State…


NATO’s bombing, moreover, was directed almost exclusively at civilian targets. Hospitals, buses, retirement homes, schools, markets, town centers, apartment buildings, refugee convoys all went up in smoke. Yugoslavia’s military, however, remained largely intact. Without question this was a violation of the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention I. Nineteen countries – the greatest military force in the world – ruthlessly bombed a nation of 9 million. The only crime this small nation had committed was to try to prevent its further disintegration and to hold on to its cultural and historic legacy. The bombing was cheered on by the media and by many of the West’s intellectuals. Here was bombing they could support – terrorism undertaken for the noblest of purposes. US-led NATO was arriving as a knight in shining armor to rescue the Kosovo Albanians, the damsel in distress. The syrupy, self-serving, fairy-tale quality of this story did not diminish its plausibility as hack after hack repeated it adding his own embellishments to the brew. Clinton and his twerpy sidekick, Tony Blair, promulgated the new doctrine of humanitarian intervention. The Western powers would intervene anywhere at any time to save people from persecution. This, of course, was nothing more than the latest variant on Western imperialism. A bunch of wealthy and powerful countries self-righteously arrogate to themselves the right to inflict terror and mayhem on lesser peoples. We have a divine right to bomb countries that are too weak even to shoot our planes down. They must learn to do as they are told. Happily, we get to define the terms. Murder and the leveling of ancient cities we will label "humanitarianism."


When the 11-week bombing spree ended Yugoslavia was littered with tens of thousands of depleted uranium shells. 5000 people were dead. Bridges, factories, schools and hospitals had been destroyed. Hazardous waste had been let loose on the country. NATO marched into Kosovo and proceeded to run it as a colony. Yugoslav state property was seized and parceled out among international fat cats. The tales told to justify the attack were quickly shown to be lies. There had been no "genocide." There were no mass graves. There was no Serb plan to expel Kosovo’s Albanians. The Albanians were fleeing NATO’s bombs, not marauding Serbs. But the truth does not matter – only power does. The Serbs were left defeated and demoralized. Ten years of sanctions, media-orchestrated hatred and bombing had taken their toll. Serbia’s politicians saw nothing wrong with taking bribes from foreign powers, from the very powers that had wrought such havoc on their country. A proud nation would soon become a supplicant nation. The Serbs were forced to undergo one humiliation after another to win the approval of their cruise-missile -armed benefactors. They are on probation and have to keep reporting to NATO, their probation officer, to demonstrate progress.

One indication of progress would be the extent to which they are now ready to sign on to NATO’s lies: that the bombing was all the fault of Slobodan Milosevic, that the Serbs simply got their just desserts and that NATO’s bombing was "humanitarian." Consequently the new Serb regime must show contempt for the rule of law as flagrant as NATO’s or Carla del Ponte’s. Belgrade is evidently making progress fast. At NATO’s behest, on February 13, the new authorities in Belgrade arrested Dragoljub Milanovic, the former head of Serbian State Television and Radio (RTS). He was accused of being responsible for the deaths of the 16 RTS employees killed in NATO’s attack. NATO, of course, is anxious to shift responsibility for this war crime on to the Milosevic regime. Not that NATO gives a damn about war crimes. But killing journalists is bad public relations. As every single one of NATO’s lies unravels, the cry that Milosevic must immediately be shipped off to The Hague becomes ever shriller. The inevitable conviction and life imprisonment of Milosevic will then serve as retrospective justification for NATO’s aggression. It is shameful that the Belgrade regime is playing along with this self-serving charade.


It is outrageous enough that the victim of a bombing attack should be blamed for the bombing attack. Even worse is the Belgrade Government’s contempt for the most basic rights of citizens. Milanovic was denied bail and has now been in prison for more than 5 weeks without as yet having been charged with anything. It was only after his arrest that the prosecution began its "investigation." Having taken testimony from 52 witnesses who all denied that Milanovic knew of the bombing in advance, the Court decided to extend his detention so that it could hear from Carla del Ponte herself. Del Ponte claims she has evidence that Milanovic knew of the bombing attack in advance. So far she has come up with nothing. But then evidence has never been the Hague Tribunal’s forte. Del Ponte shrieks and stamps her feet, demanding that Slobodan Milosevic be surrendered to The Hague. Yet the evidence that the former Yugoslav leader committed "war crimes" is laughable. For instance, the indictment lists, among many other crimes, the so-called "massacre" at Racak. Every investigation into Racak, including the recent Finnish one, has found that there was no "massacre," merely a firefight between Yugoslav forces and the KLA. Yet this makes no difference to del Ponte. Incidentally, the Milosevic indictment asserts that he is responsible for something like 300 Albanian deaths. Even if that were true, this would still be fewer than the deaths on NATO’s hands.

In any case, the Court ruled that Dragoljub Milanovic had to be detained so as to prevent him from "influencing" witnesses. Quite how he would "influence" Carla del Ponte the Court however never spelled out. But he is to remain in prison while Carla del Ponte takes her sweet time to uncover the "evidence." In other words, there is virtually no prospect of release since del Ponte has no "evidence." The most basic protections against arbitrary arrest were tossed aside as easily NATO tossed aside international law.


That Milanovic knew in advance the exact date NATO would strike the RTS headquarters defies common sense. Consider the following: It was reported at the time that two days before the bombing, CNN had been tipped off about the impending attack. CNN was advised to remove its facilities from the building immediately, which it did. The day before the attack, the Serbian Information Minister Alexander Vucic received a faxed invitation from the "Larry King Live" show to appear on CNN. The producers wanted him in the studio at 2:30 am. They suggested he arrive half an hour early for make-up. Vucic accepted the invitation but was delayed and arrived late. NATO’s bombs struck the building at six minutes past two. One of the missiles exploded in the make-up room where a young Serb assistant was burned to death. Leave aside for the moment CNN’s sinister role in the commission of a war crime – an issue no one has bothered to investigate at all. What is significant is that the Minister accepted the invitation and was on his way there. Moreover, the CEO of RTS was working late that night and left less than an hour before the bombs struck. These are the actions of people who, unlike CNN, are clearly unaware of impending attack. If you know a building is to be bombed you stay away and not try to fine-tune your arrival or departure time.

Since the case against Milanovic is patently absurd, the authorities have now launched an investigation into his "abuse" of office. They have yet to specify what exactly "abuse" means. Doubtless, they will think of something while the open-ended investigation continues. And Carla del Ponte is sure to offer some suggestions.


NATO’s onslaught was a continuation of the relentless anti-Serb and pro-Albanian policy the US Government set in motion as early as 1992. The United States sought systematically to weaken, and perhaps dismantle, Serbia while backing the Moslems of Bosnia and Albania. Serb nationalism was to be crushed; Albanian or Moslem nationalism was to be encouraged. While the United States was fighting tooth and nail to maintain in being the fictional state of Bosnia and to thwart the will of the Serb half of it to leave and join up with Serbia proper, it was promising the Kosovo Albanians a referendum on independence. Territorial integrity was to be respected only if it was at the expense of the Serbs. Albania came to be seen as the lynchpin of US expansionist policy into Central Asia. Albania would be NATO’s new Eastern Mediterranean flank, a more reliably pro-American satellite than Greece. The Albanian port of Vlore would also be the final destination of oil from the Caspian before being shipped to Western markets.

As the recent article by Mirko Dakovic and Boro Miseljic points out, by June 1992 Albania had already been admitted to the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. "The growing military ties between the two countries," they write, "would eventually be grounded into a military agreement in 1993, which became known as the Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation. The agreement enabled the United States to use the Albanian military base Perlat, 35 miles southwest of Tirana, which became the first military facility to be used by the United States in a post Communist country. Consequently, at the end of the Cold War, Albania would become the first Central and Eastern European State to request membership in NATO." There was also growing defense cooperation between Albania and Turkey, clearly encouraged by the United States. Throughout the past decade Albania has given NATO free use of its air, sea, and land facilities during for military operations in the Balkans. Albania has also participated in innumerable military exercises with NATO.


As soon as the United States arrived in Kosovo it began to sponsor Albanian terrorists in Macedonia and Serbia. They were armed and trained by the CIA, and their offshoot, the British SAS. This has been reported in the European media, but not in the United States. Ostensibly the United States was doing it to undermine the rule of Milosevic. This is what a recent story in the Observer claims: "The United States secretly supported the ethnic Albanian extremists now behind insurgencies in Macedonia and southern Serbia. The CIA encouraged former Kosovo Liberation Army fighters to launch a rebellion in southern Serbia in an effort to undermine the then Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic." But this is absurd. Overthrow of Milosevic was not the primary US motivation. If it were, why encourage an insurgency in Macedonia, which had been nothing if not a faithful satellite of the United States?

The National Liberation Army terrorists cross the border into Macedonia from Kosovo several times a day every day without the slightest interference from US forces. It is clear evidence of continuing US collusion with the KLA. Here is a story from the Times: "Despite assurances from NATO officers in KFOR that the NLA will find no haven in Kosovo, the guerrillas’ cross-border supply routes appear brazenly obvious. In the US sector, mule columns of supplies have been climbing almost nightly in the past weeks through beech forests up the mountains to reach NLA groups in ethnic Albanian villages such as Brest and Malino in western Macedonia." The idea that Americans are afraid to get into hand-to-hand combat with the Albanians on account of the so-called "body-bag syndrome" is risible. Americans do not need to get into hand-to-hand combat. They have so much powerful and sophisticated weaponry they could obliterate the KLA without so much as a cut finger. As the United States demonstrated during the bombing two years ago, there is very little suffering that we are not prepared to inflict on others. How about using helicopter gunships on the KLA? Tanks? Mortars? Heavy artillery? The sadistic American has suddenly been replaced by the timid American. The Macedonians are not buying it. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski lost control the other day and tore into his supposed NATO protectors. The West was helping to create "a new Taliban in Europe." NATO powers, he went on, were refusing to recognize that the terrorists were coming from Kosovo. The United States and Germany knew the identities of guerrilla leaders and could stop them if they wanted to.

Instead, while NATO leaders flap their arms helplessly and explain apologetically that they have no mandate to get involved in the fighting in Macedonia, they urge the Skopje government to make more and more concessions to the Albanians as if the war were a civil rights struggle rather than the drive to create the Greater Albania. Meanwhile, NATO is already putting out the story that the Macedonian government has no hope of winning this war, thereby creating the conditions for the NATO takeover of Northern Macedonia prior to its being handed over to Kosovo. It is the next stage in America’s reorganization of the Balkans – a project uncannily similar to that of Hitler. Wait for the coming offensive against the Bosnian Serb Republic.

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