During the NATO bombings in Serbia and Kosovo the propaganda machine of the media in the West, with a few noble exceptions, obediently put forward the line that it was necessary to concentrate the armed might of the nineteen most powerful nations of the world, in order to stop the "ethnic cleansing" of the Kosovar Albanians. All the news was aimed at justifying everything NATO was doing.
At the time we published a series of articles explaining the real reasons for the bombing: to impose the strategic interests of Western imperialism on the Balkans. When we wrote these articles we were "going against the stream", especially in countries like Britain where the barrage of propaganda was enormous. Many honest workers and youth may have been taken in by this propaganda and may even object to us calling it "propaganda", but propaganda it was, nevertheless.
On 16th January ITV (a British TV channel) broadcast a documentary by Jonathan Dimbleby which confirms everything we said throughout the bombing campaign. It is a pity it was shown late on a Sunday evening, so we think it worthwhile to highlight the most significant parts of the programme and to quote at length from Dimbleby himself.
His mission was to "find out if there really was a victory in Kosovo, whether good did triumph over evil." Dimbleby shows how, in reality, the bombing destroyed the basic infrastructures that make for a civilised existence, both for the Albanians and the Serbs.
He describes K-for (the UN troops) as the "military wing of a colonial governor, better known as the Security Council of the United Nations," and shows how it is only the presence of 50,000 NATO and UN troops from 23 different countries that is preventing a new explosion of violence.
NATO lies exposed
The most interesting parts of the documentary are those where Dimbleby exposes the lies of NATO. We all remember how we were led to believe that possibly hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians had been massacred by the Serb forces. In one scene we see corpses of those killed being dug out, and Dimbleby's comment is, "In the early days of the war, as if to justify the bombing of Belgrade, NATO fuelled speculation that the massacres in Kosovo had been apocalyptic in scale. But the evidence so far, with just over 2000 bodies recovered, suggests that the final toll will be far lower than some of the wilder claims fostered by war time propaganda."
Of course even the killing of one innocent civilian is unjustified, but as he points out, "by comparison with atrocities committed elsewhere in the world, the Kosovo killings, though dreadful, were clearly on a modest scale, and, for me at least, a dubious pretext for turning most of this region into rubble." As he points out the message that had to be got across was: "Something must be done. Do it now!"
The Rambouillet provocation
He explains how the so-called Rambouillet Accords were worded in such a way that no country could have accepted them. He says that at Rambouillet, NATO delivered a "take it or leave it ultimatum" which involved autonomy for Kosovo and a referendum three years later on self-determination, a chance for the Albanians of Kosovo to achieve outright independence.
But, he adds, "Any lingering chance of a deal finally collapsed when the allies inserted a last minute clause into the Rambouillet Accords giving NATO freedom of movement not only in Kosovo but throughout Serbia, and complete immunity from all Yugoslav law. Serbia rejected NATO's ultimatum as a gross violation of national sovereignty, well aware that this would mean war."
And what about the argument, pushed so vehemently by NATO spokespersons at the time, that it was all necessary to save lives? Dimbleby explains that, "NATO had no mandate from the UN, a violation of international law, which the allies justified by claiming that the purpose of the campaign was to avert a humanitarian disaster. But so far from being averted, the disaster was compounded. As NATO intensified its onslaught against Serbia, Milosevic accelerated the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. This was the very opposite of what the bombing was supposed to achieve... NATO had expected Milosevic to crumble under the aerial onslaught. He didn't."
Dimbleby admits what we pointed out at the time. It was only thanks to the Russian intervention that a deal was brokered. He also shows that the withdrawal of Serb troops "was very far from that rabble which NATO spin doctors had predicted." He also explains that Milosevic withdrew his troops only after having "extracted two remarkable concessions": NATO no longer insisted on the right to enter Serbia "at will", but it also revoked the promise of a referendum on independence and confirmed that Kosovo would remain a "constituent part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia".
Couldn't all this have been averted?
It is on this question that Dimbleby makes the most significant statement of his documentary: "It was a remarkable outcome, and it surely isn't unreasonable to ask what might have happened if the same terms had been on offer before the war as after it. If NATO had not insisted on freedom of movement throughout Serbia, and if Milosevic had been told that an autonomous Kosovo would remain within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, might we have avoided all that misery, bloodshed and destruction?"
And what about a "democratic" and "multiethnic Kosovo"? He asks the question if Kosovo is "free" and his answer is that it clearly is not. He visits Pristina and finds that ethnic cleansing of the Serb minority has taken place and continues to take place on a massive scale. He visits a hospital and finds that not only are the staff totally Albanian, but there are also no Serb patients to be found anywhere! The Serb population is too frightened of going to the hospital. They are terrified of KLA intimidation. In fact those among the staff who would be prepared to treat Serbs would be risking their lives at the hands of the KLA.
Now the Serbs are being "ethnically cleansed"
Dimbleby goes on to explain that, "Since the end of the war there has been ethnic cleansing in Kosovo on a monstrous scale, an outrage which K-for failed to arrest, that the leaders of NATO's moral crusade have ignored, and from which the Western media, for the most part, has averted its gaze." He points out that 150,000 Serbs, 75% of the original population, have been "cleansed". The rest live in enclaves, in theory "protected" by K-for troops. As he says, K-for is, in reality, paralysed and cannot stop the rape, murder and pillage. One Serb woman is shown preparing to leave the house she had lived in for forty years, and she expresses her anger at the West: "The world doesn't care about us!"
The aim of the UN had been to create a local police force, made up of both Albanians and Serbs, but that is impossible in the given conditions. At the same time, as a British Army officer explains, the risk is that the Albanians begin to see NATO as the enemy! The Albanians want independence, but NATO is not going to let them have it, (as we explained in several articles at the time).
A colonial dictatorship
So what is the real role of NATO in Kosovo? Dimbleby confirms what we always maintained, when he says that, "Instead of a government, there's K-for and the UN. In effect, a colonial dictatorship, an administration which is benevolent, but also invested with absolute power..." On the "benevolence" of a force that killed some 2,000 civilians we would have some doubts! But in the essentials what he says is absolutely true: what we have in Kosovo is a dictatorship, a NATO protectorate, whose aim is to defend the strategic interests of western imperialism. It is not there to defend the interests of the ordinary people, the Serb and Albanian workers and peasants.
The KLA have not disarmed. Only a tiny fraction of their arms have been handed in and NATO is powerless to find all the remaining armoury. The nationalists on both sides have committed terrible crimes against the peoples of Kosovo. This has created mutual hatred on both sides.
At the end of the documentary Dimbleby seems to have no hope for Kosovo. He says, "For me there has been no victory of good over evil here, and so far there is very little to celebrate... Anyone who thinks that this venture represents the triumph of an ethical foreign policy, or is the blueprint for a new world order should, I believe, think again. As it is, we, that is the Western allies, are here for a very long time to come."
Dimbleby has all the shortcomings of a liberal bourgeois news reporter. He cannot see the underlying causes of the conflict. But he at least exposes a lot of the spin we had to endure during the bombing campaign. He points to the truth. Of course all this is shown late on a Sunday evening months after the events. When it really counted, the evening news bombarded us with propaganda, but at least we can use this documentary to show that the Marxists had the courage to tell the truth in the heat of the bombing campaign, when it really counted.
We must also go beyond simply denouncing the lies of NATO. We must offer an alternative to the peoples of the Balkans. That can only be achieved on the basis of a struggle to unite the workers of different nationalities in a common struggle against the real enemies, the capitalists, the Mafia and the ex-Stalinist bureaucrats, who are all responsible, who have all played the nationalist card to divide the workers along ethnic lines, in order to more easily remain in power. But for this we suggest you read, or re-read the material we published during the bombing campaign itself.