Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor
at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
(ICTY), announced the other day that she would not be opening
an investigation into NATO. "I am very satisfied,"
she explained, "that there was no deliberate targeting
of civilians or unlawful military targets by NATO."
This was hardly shocking news. Back in December she had
already reassured an anxious Clinton administration that
"NATO is not under investigation." The tribunal
is what it has always been: an obedient creature of the
United States. In clear violation of Article 32 of its statute
it gets funding from the U.S. government. Prosecuting NATO
would thus have brought about its swift demise.
NATO's violations of international law were so blatant
and outrageous that fat Carla had to make at least a show
of "investigating." Her report exonerating Clinton,
Blair, Schroder and the rest of last year's band of
heroes is so laughably implausible that only the dim bulbs
of the Wall Street Journal editorial page could find
comfort in it. Take cluster bombs, resorted to with some
frequency by NATO. "There is no specific treaty provision
which prohibits or restricts the use of cluster bombs,"
del Ponte's report announces cheerfully. Well, yes.
But the tribunal has not always taken this view, at least
not when it came to the Serbs. In 1995, the tribunal indicted
Milan Martic, president of the now-defunct Serb Republic
of Krajina, charging him with "violating the laws and
customs of war" for ordering a missile attack on Zagreb.
What made it a war crime was that the missiles were fitted
with cluster bomb warheads. According to the indictment,
a missile can be "fitted with different warheads to
accomplish distinct tasks: either to destroy military targets
or to kill people. When the [missile] is fitted with a cluster
bomb'...it is an anti-personnel weapon designed only
to kill people." Martic was a war criminal because
he launched an "unlawful attack against the civilian
population and individual citizens." So how is he different
from NATO? Ah, Martic's missile "landed in an
area with no military objectives nearby... [It] was not
designed to hit military targets but to terrorize the civilians
of Zagreb. There is no indication cluster bombs were used
in such a fashion by NATO." Really?
is how U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Short explained NATO
strategy last May to The Washington Post: "If
you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your
house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to
work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next
20 years, I think you begin to ask, Hey, Slobo, what's
this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?'''
Sounds like terrorizing civilians to me. NATO's strategy
was directed at civilians and at nothing else. Hospitals,
buses, retirement homes, schools, markets, town centers,
apartment buildings, refugee convoys all went up in smoke.
Yugoslavia's military, however, remained intact.
del Ponte, her voice resonant with insincerity, insists
that NATO only went after legitimate military targets. Take
the bombing of the Grdelica railroad bridge, which led to
the destruction of a passenger train and the death of at
least 12 people. Nothing wrong with that, she cries. The
bridge was being used as a resupply route by Serb forces
in Kosovo. The pilot simply did not see the passenger train
coming. "Realizing the bridge was still intact, the
controller picked a second aim point on the bridge at the
opposite end from where the train had come and launched
the second bomb." So the pilot knew that he had hit
a passenger train, yet he came back to dump a second bomb
on the dead and injured. Carla del Ponte has no problems
with that. Nor is she concerned that the attack was carried
out in broad daylight when "collateral damage"NATO's
beloved phrasewas likely to be at its highest. Del
Ponte is evidently unaware of Articles 51(4) and (5) of
the 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention I.
These prohibit indiscriminate attacks. Such attacks would
bombardment by any methods...which
treats as a single military objective a number of clearly
separated and distinct military objectives [and] (b) an
attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of
civilian life." As for that brave pilot, who completed
his mission, he was clearly in violation of Article 57 (2b)
of Protocol I: "An attack shall be cancelled or suspended
if it becomes apparent that the objective is not a military
one or is...expected to cause incidental loss of civilian