One Year Ago, Kosovo
by Margaret Wyles
As skillfully outlined in Swans, the facade of "humanitarian" intervention has been erased, and the true purpose of our endeavor - historical expansion eastward and Caspian oil - revealed. For those of us who initially bought the lie, or didn't care to investigate further, this may come as a surprise. But my guess is that most readers of Swans were not surprised, and now suspect that the Yugoslav government will again be provoked into some form of retaliatory action against KLA intrusion into Serbia, and that such retaliation will be used to conjure up images of an impending holocaust, providing KFOR with an excuse to stay beyond the one year term of the original agreement. Ho hum. Old story. Very old story.
In the 15th Century, as Columbus and his men walked onto the shores of the Caribbean, they were happily greeted by Arawakan Indians who willingly shared what they owned, bringing food, water and gifts. They did not understand weaponry, as evidenced by the fact that they cut themselves on the knives presented to them by the Spanish. One wonders what went on in the minds of the soldiers, no doubt hungry and exhausted from a long trip over the Atlantic as they walked in the warm clear water on to white sandy beaches, greeted by naked men and women in good physical condition and a relaxed attitude toward life. The kind of paradise dreamed of by college students on spring break as they make their way to Daytona Beach, Florida.
What made them relinquish the embrace of earthly happiness for the promise of eternal salvation and a few pieces of gold? Had their hearts been so filled with cynicism and greed that they couldn't hold to the possibility that people could indeed live together harmoniously, sharing, delighting in the company of others, not needing for much.
It's amazing with what little effort paradise can be obliterated. As Columbus assessed the situation, "With 50 men, we could subjugate them and make them do whatever we want." Attempts were made to make use of the natives as slaves, but finally, it was death that proved the ultimate subjugator. In less than 20 years, all but 60,000 of the original 3 million would be dead, and within 40 years, not one Arawakan Indian would remain.
The precursor of capitalism had moved outward from its European origin and had begun its forward thrust into the womb of the Americas.
We are horrified to read this truth and we imagine that we've changed - that our hearts would cry out in protest against such brutality. Perhaps it is true. Perhaps that is why we were not shown the bodies of the children whose soft flesh was ripped apart by metal and plastic as bombs rained down on Yugoslavia. Perhaps that is why we were told, and wanted to believe, we were attempting to avert an impending human catastrophe, rather than create one. Perhaps that is why we did not send soldiers into the fields to look into the eyes of the enemy, but provided them the distance of 15,000 feet so they would not have to see either. Even now, we are reluctant to look at the pictures of the dead.
I've seen those pictures. The severed heads and limbs, the vacant eyes, the stark reality of lives terminated by weapons of mass destruction. Our weapons. Not the weapons of some madman dictator crazed fool. We are the masters. We are the owners of the weapons of mass destruction. Indeed 50 men could again subjugate a whole nation.
I recall seeing the Yugoslav people defiantly standing on the bridges, daring NATO to bomb civilians. Were they so unlike the Arawakan Indians, defenseless, unable to believe that they would be slaughtered for merely being in the way? Were they so foolish as to believe the world would not tolerate such a one-sided massacre? U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright responded to a question about the morality of thousands of Iraqi children dying as a result of sanctions by saying that this is the price we have to pay. Pay for what, she did not explain. And who is the "we" that has to pay the price? "We" as taxpayers have paid some price, trying to keep all the military plates spinning around the world. But "we" were not bombed back to the Stone Age. "They" were - "they" who stand in the way of the men in the shadows whose business interests "they" would circumvent.
What were the true targets of our endeavor? Despite what our stated aims were, the Yugoslav Army was left almost intact. So what did we destroy? Dr. Michael Parenti paid a visit to Yugoslavia after the bombing and reports the following interesting details:
"The facilities destroyed by air attacks were mostly publicly owned...The huge, state-run Hotel Yugoslavia was made uninhabitable by NATO missiles, while the corporate-owned Hyatt Hotel, with its even more imposing all-glass facade - suffered not a scratched window. Buildings that displayed highly visible rooftop advertising signs that read "Panasonic," "Coca-Cola," "Diner's Club International," and "McDonald's" ...survived perfectly intact."
"The city of Aleksinac and additional socialist strongholds in southern Serbia were bombed especially heavily, with many civilian deaths. Leaders from Aleksinac and several other cities in Serbia's "Red Belt" were convinced that they were pounded so mercilessly primarily because they were socialist, a suspicion reinforced by the fact that the region contained almost no heavy industry."
Coincidence? Does it not make sense that this was, in addition to a grab for territory, an ideological war as well? A final stamping out of what remained of the socialist experiment in Europe. The creation of yet another military stronghold, this time in Eastern Europe, with an eye to Russia. Can we still not imagine that people can live and work together, in support of, rather than in competition with, each other? Are we still so steeped in our cynicism and greed that we have closed our hearts forever to possibility?
Had the war lasted 3 days, as NATO had hoped, we might not have had to play our hand so obviously and the truth might still remain hidden among the lies. Perhaps history will record that the Yugoslav people, in holding out helplessly for 78 days, turned the tide against a relentless U.S. dominated imperialism.
In any event, we won't be fooled again.
This Week's Other Articles
After the Fall - by Antony Black
Cut, Paste and Run - Kosovo's Partition in the Cards - by Gilles d'Aymery
Iraq: Letter to the Editor - by Drew Hamre
Easter 1916 - A Poem by William Butler Yeats
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath