Release Date: August 5, 1999
Press Contact: Jon Basil Utley

The Balkans Quagmire

Successful operation or war crime? International hearings hold Clinton, Albright, Cohen responsible

by Jon Basil Utley

NEW YORK -- The Geneva Convention, The United Nations Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, the Helsinki Accords and the U.S. Constitution have all been violated by Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, according to charges filed by the Commission of Inquiry of the International Action Coalition.

Nearly 800 persons participated in the inquiry hearings. Charges are primarily grouped around those of "starting a war," the "deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure" and "violating and destroying the peacemaking role of the United Nations."

There are 19 charges detailed in articles and paragraphs from major international treaties and even the U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 (for planning, announcing and executing attacks intended to assassinate government leaders and selected civilians, e.g. "friends of Milosevic," the Yugoslav president). U.S. commanders and NATO/State Department spokesmen were so ignorant or arrogant about international treaties and laws, according to the charges, that they even publicly boasted of highly illegal actions and destruction of non-military civilian targets. For example, targeting Yugoslav journalists was a violation of Article 79 of the U.N. Charter. Bombing fertilizer plants and a cigarette factory was a violation of the Geneva Convention about hitting non-military targets.

"Inflicting, inciting and enhancing violence between Moslems and Slavs" was one of the charges. Aggravating conflict between Slavs and Moslems and injecting U.S. troops for future actions to control Caucasus oil exports was the argument of committee chairman, Ramsey Clark, former attorney general and a former marine. He argued that the Orthodox and Muslim worlds were potential centers of power that could thwart Washington's "imperialist objectives." It had been pointed out that Washington purposefully brought in Turkish planes (with no military necessity) to bomb Serbian Slavs in what could have been an effort to revive centuries old hatreds from Turkish colonial rule.

Other spokespersons argued all sorts of other economic motives for the U.S./NATO attack, trying to rationalize a reason for it, from promoting sales of American weapons to taking over Kosovo's giant Trepca mining complex. Roland Keith, one of 1,200 former peace monitors, described his experiences in Kosovo before all of them were ordered out so NATO could begin bombing. He said "we were keeping a lid on the violence." He described how 20 minutes into his first mission an accompanying Serbian policeman was shot by a KLA (Albanian) sniper. He said the violence came from Serbs reacting to KLA guerrillas. Keith, a 32-year Canadian army veteran, is a member of the Federal Council of the New Democratic Party in Canada. He argued that if Washington had just offered to remove the economic sanctions against Yugoslavia (which were contributing to the poverty of Kosovo) an agreement might well have been reached.

A main argument of many speakers was that the Yugoslav parliament had already agreed to NATO's key demand for much autonomy and armed U.N. peacekeepers in Kosovo, before the bombing. It was Washington's insistence that Serbia allow NATO troops with extraterritorial legal rights inside Serbia proper that was the stumbling block.

Quoting William Randolph Hearst's old dictum, "You provide the photographs, and I'll provide the war," speakers decried the media's feeding frenzy for atrocity stories after the bombing had started. Speaker and author Michael Parenti argued that it was natural for refugees to flee the bombing as much as from Serbian atrocities in areas of KLA activity. Equally the Air Force bombing of a column of returning refugees was a message, he argued, to the Albanians not to return until Serbia had surrendered. He quoted the German Foreign Office Report that there was no ethnic cleansing in Kosovo prior to the NATO attack, just actions against the KLA guerrillas.

Addressing the question of Serb atrocities, Parenti quoted the New York Times that there was no proof of a conscious Serb policy of rape -- neither in Bosnia nor Kosovo. However, wartime atrocities were done by both sides. The "mass graves" found in Kosovo now add up to maybe 200 persons while the supposed 100,000 dead Albanian males of NATO/U.S. propaganda was just another lie, he said. Brian Becker of the IAC argued that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) which indicted Milosevic was a "phony, kangaroo court which only indicted enemies of Washington" and a court for which the U.N. Charter makes no provision.

Specific allegations of treaty violations by the U.S./NATO operation are numerous. The prime indictment is that of violating the United Nations Charter by attacking a sovereign nation that was innocent of any aggression. NATO also violated Articles 1 and 7 of its own charter that claim it is a defensive organization, only committed to force if one or more of its members are attacked. The NATO Treaty also explicitly recognized "the primary responsibility of the U.N. Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security."

Charge No. 6 was "Killing and Injuring a Defenseless Population Throughout Yugoslavia." This violated the Hague Convention, Art. 22 and 23; Geneva Convention Art. 19; Nuremberg Principle VI a, b, and c; and the U.S. Constitution, Art 1, Sec 8, cl.II.

David Jacobs of the Canadian Lawyers Group said that Clinton's argument about justifying military interventions for "humanitarian" reasons recalled Mussolini's arguments justifying his invasion of Ethiopia to "save them from slavery," or Hitler's claim of occupying the Sudetenland "to save Germans from atrocities." It's just the "same old wolf" of imperialism.

"Starting an Unprovoked War," was the prime charge against the Germans at Nuremberg that the U.S. used to hang Germans. It is part of the Nuremberg Principles subscribed to by Washington. William Rockler, a former Nuremberg prosecutor (Chicago Tribune 5/23), was extensively quoted in the testimonies.

Charges were divided into three categories. First was against those nations' leaders that carried out the attack, the U.S., U.K. and Germany. Second was against those nations which provided bases for the attack, Italy and Turkey. Third was against those NATO governments that voted to participate.

Ramsey Clark referred to Spanish pilots who had refused orders to attack civilian targets. A commission study referred to testimony in the Spanish newspaper, ARTICULO 20, of Captain Martin de la Hoz, "Several times our colonel protested to NATO chiefs about why they select targets which are not military targets.... They are destroying the country, bombing it with novel weapons, toxic nerve gasses, surface mines dropped by parachute, bombs containing uranium, black napalm, sterilization chemicals, spraying to poison crops and weapons of which even we still do not know anything." The United States and President Clinton were singled out as the prime motivator for the war and the "overwhelmingly responsible nation" for its atrocities and legal violations.

The indictment and package of 15 research reports is available from the International Action Center, (212) 633-6646.

[Jon Basil Utley is the Robert A. Taft Fellow in Constitutional and International Studies at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute. He was a former foreign correspondent for the Journal of Commerce and Knight Ridder newspapers.]

[ . . .the script prepared for Yugoslavia is being re-enacted in Afghanistan. Whether Milosevic's trial before the International Court at the Hague or the capture of bin Laden will provide an adequate conclusion to this ideological play-making, remains an open question.--Diana Johnstone, " Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions," Monthly Review Press (November 1, 2002)]

Copyright © 1999 Jon Basil Utley - All Rights Reserved
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