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War: It's just a pretext away (lessons from Yugoslavia)

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Anyone viewing international events with even a shred of objectivity knows that the U.S. government is just a pretext away from bombing Iran. American history, after all, is teeming with convenient provocations that created an opening for military intervention. Here's one instructive example: "We should remember what happened in the village of Racak back in January," President Bill Clinton told the press on March 19, 1999. "Innocent men, women, and children taken from their homes to a gully, forced to kneel in the dirt, sprayed with gunfire-not because of anything they had done, but because of who they were." U.S. diplomat William Walker concurred during his mission to verify Serbian (Yugoslav) war crimes. "From what I saw," Walker said, "I do not hesitate to describe the crime as a massacre, a crime against humanity. Nor do I hesitate to accuse the government security forces of responsibility." Clinton and Walker were talking about an alleged massacre of 45 Kosovo Albanians on January 15, 1999. As the Washington Post explained: "Racak transformed the West's Balkan policy as singular events seldom do." With tales of ethnic cleansing having swirled around the Balkans for nearly a decade, the region was ripe for U.S. exploitation. The "bad guys" were given one chance to avoid attack: The Rambouillet Accord, which appeared to be nothing more than a provocation. "The document stipulated that NATO troops would have unimpeded access throughout all of Yugoslavia, not just Kosovo," says journalist Seth Ackerman. "NATO would administer Kosovo's new political system, take control of all local broadcast media and prepare for a referendum on Kosovo's independence after three years. This provision contradicted the U.S. negotiators' earlier promise that Kosovo would remain part of Yugoslavia." "We deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept," explained U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Greg Elich is the author of Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit. "Interestingly," he says, "the accord also specified that 'the economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles,' a provision that hinted at the real motivations for Western intervention. U.S. diplomats introduced these harsh proposals on the final day of talks at Rambouillet, aiming to reverse the course of events. Up until then, throughout more than two weeks of talks, the Yugoslav delegation had agreed to the entire peace package, suggesting only that UN troops enforce the agreement rather than NATO. It was war the U.S. wanted, not peace." Demonized Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic predictably (and understandably) balked and a 78-day, U.S.-led NATO air assault was initiated in the name of humanitarianism. "The humanitarian justifications are ludicrous," says Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. "The casualties among Serb civilians in the first three weeks of this war (were) higher than all of the casualties on both sides in Kosovo in the three months that led up to this war, and yet those three months were supposed to be a humanitarian catastrophe." "Up until the NATO bombings began in March 1999, the conflict in Kosovo had taken 2000 lives altogether from both sides, according to Kosovo Albanian sources," reports author Michael Parenti. "Yugoslavian sources put the figure at 800. Such casualties reveal a civil war, not genocide." In the midst of the illegal bombardment, America's leaders never missed an opportunity to spin. "We severely crippled the (Yugoslav) military forces in Kosovo by destroying more than 50 percent of the artillery and one-third of the armored vehicles," Declared Defense (sic) Secretary William Cohen. One year later, a U.S. Air Force report revealed a different story: Original Claim: 120 tanks destroyed Actual Number: 14 Original Claim: 220 armored personnel carriers destroyed Actual Number: 20 Original Claim: 450 artillery pieces destroyed Actual Number: 20 Original Claim: 744 confirmed strikes by NATO pilots Actual Number: 58 The report also found that the Yugoslav military fooled U.S. technology with simple tactics like constructing fake artillery pieces out of black logs and old truck wheels. One vital bridge avoided destruction from above when, 300 yards upriver, a phony bridge was erected out of polyethylene sheeting. NATO pilots bombed the fake bridge several times. Confronted with this evidence, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon went deeper into spin mode: "We obviously hit enough tanks and other targets to win." Postscript: One year after a bombing campaign that the New York Times called "a victory for the principles of democracy and human rights," a team of Finnish pathologists was sent to Kosovo to investigate the Racak massacre. As Stephen Gowans writes, the pathologists found "none of the bodies were mutilated, there was no evidence of torture, and only one was shot at close range. Thirty-seven of the corpses had gunpowder residue on their hands, suggesting that they had been using firearms, and only one of the corpses was a woman, and only one was under 15 years of age." Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at
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