August 21, 2000
Note from the Editor: Dominique Moisi, deputy director of the Paris-based Institut Francais des Relations Internationales, wrote in the Financial Times (March 29, 1999): "Just as the 19th century came to a close with the outbreak of the first world war in 1914, the war that has started in Kosovo, Europe's first since 1945, marks our true entrance into the 21st century. That we should be entering a new era in the same tragic way we did the previous one, and more or less in the same place, is highly symbolic... The events taking place there reflect the changing clout of the various international actors..." "The United States is clearly the sole 'hyper power', an imbalance that could prove damaging."
"To whom now, is NATO accountable?" Rebecca Sumner, a freelance journalist, implicitly answers this question by thoroughly analyzing the "hidden agenda that has paved the way for NATO's unaccountable abuse of power in the future [as well as currently]." Here is yet another nail in the coffin of humanitarianism.
You will find a series of related links at the end of the article.
As the events in Kosovo unfolded, few questioned the imperative for war.
But the obscurities of the Rambouillet negotiations reveal a hidden agenda;
one that has paved the way for Nato's unaccountable abuse of power in the
future. Here is what we were never told.
There was Nato, an overtly American-led and militaristic organisation, engaging in a war from which it apparently stood to gain very little. We might object to the propaganda and deplore the civilian killings, but few of us questioned the fundamental imperative for war. Wrong-footed, we stood about bemused, reluctantly agreeing with Glenys Kinnock when she argued that here, at last, was a justifiable Western intervention.
Milosevic had killed 2000 civilians in the year leading to Nato's bombings. We were bombarded with pictures of dying Kosovar Albanians. The enemy was demonised in the most emotive terms, playing on our cultural devastation from World War II. Indeed, Blair claimed the Nazi holocaust as his motivation (Newsweek) and Clare Short denounced the Labour MPs who requested a parliamentary vote as "equivalent to the people who appeased Hitler."
We were the forces of light. Our motive; humanitarianism. Yet the humanitarian argument is famously flawed; the very governments using it supported the single greatest case of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia in the 1990s - in Krajina, 1995. America and Britain - who spearheaded the Kosovo campaign - perform atrocities globally, aiding the persecution and killing of Kurdish, East Timorese, Columbian and Iraqi people - and a host of others.
Nevertheless, we were at last on The Right Side, protecting the rights and lives of the innocent. Well, some of them. According to the Yugoslav Provisional Assessment of Destruction and Damages (unpublished in Britain), Nato's bombing killed several thousand civilians; "Nearly eight hundred thousand civilians were forced to flee Millions have been exposed to poisonous gasses Almost 2.5 million citizens have no means to sustain minimal living conditions." Destroyed infrastructure - including 480 educational establishments, 365 religious centres and 34 hospitals - forms a depressingly extensive list.
As the campaign rolled out, it increasingly appeared to be a tragic parody of humanitarianism. Jamie Shea's assertion that actions were efficiently directed against military hardware was absurd. After we were told that two-thirds of Serbia's MiG-29s and 40% of its tanks had been destroyed, media coverage showed three-quarters of the MiG-29s and 95% of the tanks intact. As the truth about civilian casualties emerged (three to four times more civilians than soldiers were killed), Alistair Campbell lashed out at the media for reporting them. We entered the realm of Orwellian doublespeak, brilliantly captured by Jeremy Hardy; "Some say that the humanitarian disaster caused by Nato's humanitarian intervention can only be resolved by all-out ground humanitarianism." (The Guardian)
But war is bloody. Kosovar Albanians were being murdered. We had to do something. Ludicrous logic aside (if the aim is to save lives, surely not escalating the violence is preferable to escalating the violence), there is no realistic basis for the assumption that intervention will reconcile these ethnic groups. If the lessons of Bosnia are noted, it will do just the opposite. Indeed, the present levels of violence in Kosovo reveal reconciliation as untenable - at least for a generation or two.
The most disturbing flaw in the humanitarian argument is this; the powerful define 'humanitarian' to suit their needs. Thus America simultaneously supports the killing of Turkish Kurds and independence for Iraqi Kurds. And thus, troops rush to protect Albanian Kosovars while the UN peace-keeping forces protecting Rwandan Tutsis (over half a million of whom were being murdered) were stepped down - at the insistence of the US.
If a country is powerful, its legitimacy to enforce 'humanitarianism' rests not on its previous record but on its rhetoric. Whilst no amount of pretty speaking could save Iran from ridicule when it offered to prevent massacres in Bosnia, America - aided by a handful of spin doctors and a steady stream of graphic pictures - led Nato to intervene in a 600 year-old civil war in Kosovo, with absolutely no mandate.
Humanitarianism is the card up the sleeve of post-Vietnam Western governments; it is not a genuine motivation for war.
A more plausible motive was containment; until refugees looked set to destabilise the region, Nato seemed uninterested. Regional turbulence however, was unlikely to cause quite as much disruption as did Nato's containment effort, which seriously aggravated the Russians and Chinese and looked for a while likely to spark World War III.
A cynic might add economic motivations. War forced the Nato states to massively increase their arms expenditure as well as underlining the need for long-term military spending. And then, as US Secretary of State Albright said, "What good is this marvellous military force if we can never use it?"
These imperatives themselves are nothing new - despite the smoother-than-ever marketing that accompanied the bombing (we are consumers of war - just ask The Sun). The real precedent that has been set is more sinister.
According to international law - and Nato's founding documents - Nato must be subordinate to the UN and comply with international law. In Kosovo however, the Alliance waged war without declaring war (illegal), used cluster bombs (outlawed for exceptional inhumanity) and repeatedly refused to subordinate their actions to the UN.
Other aspects of international law are more problematical. On the one hand, the rights of individuals against oppressive states are guaranteed (lending the claim of 'humanitarian bombing' tenuous legitimacy). On the other, the use of force - unless it is in self-defence or authorised by the Security Council after it has determined that peaceful means have failed - is outlawed.
Nato was obviously acting neither on humanitarian grounds nor in self-defence. But peaceful means - hadn't they failed? We all heard that the Rambouillet negotiations collapsed after Serbia refused to co-operate.
The full text of the Rambouillet Accord was unknown until it was published on the Internet a few weeks into the war. The Contact Group (who led the talks) had agreed to remain silent. When it was finally brought to the attention of two of the most senior officials in the German foreign ministry, they were "completely surprised"; the text was "completely new" to them.
Yugoslavia's participation was conditional; it was assured that military measures would only be discussed after Kosovan autonomy had been signed off. Accordingly, the Rambouillet document avoided military references. "We have accepted the text," said Serb President Milan Milutinovic "and are ready to grant broad autonomy to Kosovo."
On the last day of initial negotiations, the final draft was presented with a new appendix. Appendix B demanded that Yugoslavia relinquish its sovereignty, subjecting the whole country (including Montenegro and Serbia) to Nato occupation:
"Nato personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities"
Nato also demanded unconditional immunity from any criminal and disciplinary action, use of all streets, airports and ports and broadcasting rights across the whole electro-magnetic spectrum.
This incredible appendix went unreported - to the public and politicians alike. The US State Department's fact sheet (Understanding the Rambouillet Accords) and The Foreign Office's message to diplomats summarising the Accord both omitted any mention of it.
On February 23, the co-Chairmen of the talks (Robin Cook and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine) released a statement saying the accord "respect[ed] the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." The negotiations, they said, had launched a process "bringing together those long divided". In fact, the Serb delegation had repeatedly been refused the opportunity to be 'brought together' with the Kosovar Albanians; the delegations did not once meet, despite Serbian requests to do so.
One might reasonably argue that delaying the military issue would have played into the hands of the Serbs, who could later refuse an international presence. Here lies the crux of the matter; the Serbs were willing to have an international presence - as long as it was not Nato. A UN force was approved. To peacefully secure Kosovo's autonomy, the West only had to offer UN rather than Nato forces.
On 24 February, Cook was interviewed by Radio 4. "We put very strong pressure on the Serb side to recognise that it had to have an international military presence... We want it to have a Nato command structure."
These extraordinary circumstances suggest the 'peaceful negotiations' were designed to provide a pretext for war. In fact, the groundwork had been laid months before. In August 1998, the US Senate Republican Policy Committee commented; "Planning for a US-led Nato intervention in Kosovo is now largely in place. The only missing element seems to be an event - with suitably vivid media coverage - that could make the intervention politically saleable That Clinton is waiting for a 'trigger' in Kosovo is increasingly obvious."
The delegations agreed to meet again on 15 March. On 5 March, Cook and Vedrine "emphasise[d] that an invited international military force is an integral part of the package Those who put obstacles in the way will be held responsible."
Yugoslavia faced a harsh choice; to either relinquish its sovereignty or reject the entire Accord.
On March 17, the Yugoslav Deputy Premier Markovic stated; "The Serbian Government delegation has not received any answer to the question - why the draft can no longer be amended. The talks have been conducted in a manner contrary to any normal method of negotiation."
The Serbs refused to sign up. Surprisingly, the Kosovar Albanians also refused, later signing on March 18. Cook and Vedrine released another statement; "In Paris, the Kosovo delegation seized [the] opportunity... Far from seizing this opportunity, the Yugoslav delegation has tried to unravel the Rambouillet Accords." Nato had its justification.
Milosevic sent this response; "We stay with our strong opinion to solve the problems in Kosovo... The fact that negotiations did not take place in Rambouillet and in Paris does not mean that we should give up."
On 24 March, the Yugoslav parliament proposed a UN monitor in Kosovo and Nato began bombing.
If the Rambouillet Accords were orchestrated to justify a war, and if the motive was not humanitarian, what was Nato's objective? Looking back at the facts, a picture emerges:
1. Nato went to great lengths to prepare the war
2. Nato broke international law on several counts
3. For the first time, Nato acted beyond its jurisdiction (its member states)
4. Nato refused to subordinate itself to the UN
A quick survey of global events and opinion elucidates this picture:
The US refused France's call for a UN Security Council resolution to authorise the deployment of peace-keepers, insisting "Nato should be able to act independently of the United Nations". German plans for handing control to the UN were given similarly short shrift.
On May 15, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, spoke out against Nato, saying that the use of force "must be under the authority of the United Nations". The conference was not reported.
Marco Boni, South African foreign affairs spokesman, said; "The erosion of the UN Charter and the authority of the UN Security Council cannot be tolerated." Former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger commented that sending Nato forces constituted an "exceeding of the Nato authority and of the international law without precedent."
In this light, it would not be ludicrous to question whether Nato's aggression was really aimed at Yugoslavia, or at international law and the UN. At every possible instance, the Alliance undermined the UN, which - to some degree - checks US powers. By obfuscating the Rambouillet negotiations, Nato forced the hand of international bodies, promoting its own powers from being defensive of its members to being aggressive and borderless.
Once the Cold War - and Nato's raison d'etre - was over, the Alliance set about creating a new role for itself. A few years later, Nato has acted beyond the remit of its own member states, international law and its founding documents, waging war on a sovereign country without any mandate. Since the end of the Cold War, Nato has - at US urging - been expanded.
The timing corresponds perfectly with Nato's announcement of its 'New Security Agenda'. On March 9 2000, Dr. Javier Solana, Nato's Secretary General, spoke in London; "The old security agenda, over Nato's first 40 years, was based on a relatively simple strategic imperative: territorial defence. It was a passive, reactive agenda, imposed by the dictates of the Cold War. We are now, thankfully, rid of this straitjacket And with this change, we can shape the security agenda, not be driven by it. We can lift our sights higher. Today, Nato is setting the security agenda in ways we could only dream of a decade ago."
Effectively, Nato has - in our names - conducted a war against international law on Serbian soil. The victory has not been 'peace' in Kosovo; the intervention has killed thousands, escalated violence and exacerbated a situation that is likely to take generations to resolve.
Rather, Nato's victory has been the brilliantly orchestrated precedent that has been set. The UN has been humiliated and sidelined and Nato is acknowledged as the world's greatest power. The facts beg a terrifying question: To whom now, is Nato accountable?
Rebecca Sumner, a freelance journalist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published with the written permission from the author. This article was first published by the London Daily, a newspaper and guide from London, England, UK
Text of the Interim Agreement for Peace on Self-government in Kosovo as proposed in Rambouillet, France, on February 23, 1999
The infamous Appendix B
Bringing Democracy to Bosnia-Herzegovina by Gregory Elich - The darker reality of humanitarianism
A Signature for Posterity by Gilles d'Aymery - Would the US Government have signed the Interim agreement had it applied to the USA?
Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath