The real reasons why we are bombing Yugoslavia

Guest editorial by Chuck Sher, Argus Courier, Petaluma, CA
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999

The current bombing of yet another sovereign country by U.S.-led forces is being justified on humanitarian grounds-U.S. leaders claim that we must stop the Serbs from a policy of ethnic cleansing and even genocide. But before you accept our government's claim at face value, let's take a look at U.S. actions, or inaction, and see what they reveal.

If humanitarian concern was the real motivation for U.S. actions then why is our government not bombing Turkey for the brutal repression of their Kurdish population? Is it because Turkey is useful to the U.S. as an ally? Why is our government supplying arms to the Columbian government so they can commit thousands of politically motivated murders every year? As Noam Chomsky writes, "Columbia and Turkey explain their (U.S. supported) atrocities on grounds that they are defending their countries from the threat of terrorist guerrillas. As does the government of Yugoslavia."

All sides in the Yugoslav civil wars (not just the Serbs) have committed atrocities. But can we believe reports of massacres of Kosovars (used as the rationale for intervention by the U.S. but disputed by Le Monde and Le Figaro, among other European newspapers) when they come from the lips of NATO inspector William Walker, who was Ollie North's underling and then U.S. ambassador to El Salvador during the late 1980s and who did nothing while U.S.-trained death squads terrorized that country?

Why does our government not protest as Palestinians are slowly but surely squeezed out of Arab East Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions which forbids an occupying power from importing its own population into territories captured in an armed conflict? Why does the U.S. not support the East Timorese in their struggle to free themselves from a genocidal Indonesian occupation of their country? And on and on. In each of these cases, the U.S. finds it useful to its geopolitical aims to let human rights abuses go unnoticed.

Going back in history, we find that the U.S. record is clear-it bombs or invades any country it feels like, supports the worst Third World dictators, and then claims "humanitarian" motives as a fig leaf to cover our government's real motivations-to ever-increase the power of U.S. financial or geopolitical interests around the world. From the illegal and useless bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan; to the deaths of over a million innocent Iraqi civilians in the last eight years due to malnutrition and water-borne diseases (caused by U.S.-led sanctions); to the invasion of Panama, a sovereign nation, causing thousands of civilian deaths in direct violation of international law; to the murder of hundreds of thousands of peasants in Guatemala and El Salvador by their military forces, supported and trained by our government; to a real "scorched earth" policy which killed three million Vietnamese during the Vietnam War; to the original "ethnic cleansing" of Native Americans from their ancestral lands here-the U.S. has no moral authority to point a finger at anyone.

Once you have eliminated humanitarian concerns as the motive for the U.S. bombing in Yugoslavia it becomes easier to find the real reasons. First, the U.S. has decided that NATO is a more pliant military tool than the U.N., Kosovo being a case in point-the U.N. would never have authorized an armed attack on Serbia but NATO would and did, at the U.S. government's request. This is a direct violation of international law and the U.N. charter, as well as NATO's own charter which stipulates that NATO is to be a purely defensive alliance. But being the world's only superpower means you never have to say you are sorry, or justify your actions according to the rule of law.

Second, there are potentially trillions of dollars of oil in the Caspian Sea region which Western corporations want to control. Instead of a pipeline going through Iran or Russia, the U.S. plan is to build a pipeline through the Balkans and in order to do that we need compliant regimes who will do what they are told.

Thirdly, U.S. policy in the Balkans, as elsewhere, is motivated by the Pentagon's need to have some rationale for spending almost $300 billion dollars every year so that it can be the unelected policeman of the world, on behalf of U.S. corporate interests. Is this where you want your hard-earned tax dollars to go?

Finally, Yugoslavia was a relatively successful socialist country under Tito and therefore a threat to the ideological hegemony of the U.S. Starting in the 1989, the IMF and the World Bank (both controlled by U.S. financial interests), forced Yugoslavia to largely dismantle their public sector. This, along with U.S.-sponsored economic sanctions, has resulted in the disintegration of much of the Yugoslav economy, their GNP falling by as much as 50% from 1990 to 1993. This in turn has led to extreme poverty, mass unemployment and the flaring up of ethnic tensions which had been under control since World War II.

In fact, this has been the U.S. plan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. At that point it became clear to U.S. geopolitical planners that the Yugoslav government (unlike the other Eastern European "socialist" governments imposed by force after WWII) was not going to voluntarily give up the gains they had made under the 45 years of Marshall Tito's independent socialist government. Therefore it had to be forcibly dismantled so that big business interests could have complete and unfettered access to all of the region. In the Foreign Appropriations Bill of 1990 the U.S. Congress,without warning or justification, stated that all aid, credits or loans from the U.S., the IMF and World Bank to Yugoslavia would be cut off in six months.

Also demanded in this bill was separate elections in each of the six Yugoslav republics, including U.S. State Dept. approval of election procedures and results, before aid to the separate republics would be resumed. Six months later, to the day, the current period of civil war began, starting with the secession of Croatia and Slovenia, then the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Serbs out of Croatia (with U.S. aid and approval and without a murmur of protest from U.S. media) and the civil war in Bosnia, in which the U.S. found it convenient (but totally biased) to demonize the Serbs, as they are again being demonized in Kosovo. Thus much of the blame for the suffering leading up to the present situation in Kosovo can be put squarely at the door of the U.S government and the corporate interests who are its real policy-makers

Americans are not a heartless people but we have been trained to accept our government's stated positions (endlessly repeated in the mainstream media) as being the gospel truth. But you don't have to be one of the sheep. Find other sources of information about the realities behind the official "news". Read Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Z Magazine and The Nation and listen toPacifica radio stations if you have one in your area. For in-depth information on Kosovo, check out ZNet on the Internet at and Ramsey Clark's International Action Center at, two marvelous resources for alternative articles on many subjects. You owe it to your fellow man to find out the truth of what your tax dollars are doing in Yugoslavia and around the world.

Chuck Sher is a small-business owner and political activist in Petaluma, CA

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