Bombings – incompatible with humanitarian concerns

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 60 – March 24, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“NATO’s unwise, counterproductive and non-legal bombing of sovereign Yugoslavia is justified by President Bill Clinton, EU and other Western leaders and media with reference to humanitarian concerns. Supposedly air strikes serve to stop ethnic cleansing, future massacres, refugee flows, and prevent innocent children and women from being killed. Diplomatically expressed, this comes from the marketing department. Bombings will produce what it purports to prevent,” says Dr. Jan Oberg, TFF’s director, right after the bombing campaign has started. According to Oberg, this argument lacks credibility for the following reasons:

 

NO VIOLENCE-PREVENTION

Why did the West do absolutely nothing before this crisis became violent? There were many opportunities for a negotiated solutions. TFF, for instance, has suggested a variety of options since 1992 that could have prevented violence and the killing we’ve seen the last year. In no other conflict has there been so many early warnings and so little preventive diplomacy. Kosovo’s catastrophe was among the most predictable of all. It is intellectual nonsense that ‘everything else has been tried and NATO bombings was the only option left.’

 

HUMANITARIAN WORK MADE IMPOSSIBLE BY NATO THREATS

The immediate consequence of the threats of NATO air strikes is that OSCE’s Verification mission had to be withdrawn and that almost all humanitarian organizations withdrew to protect their staff. More refugees are now running over the border to Macedonia. With fewer ears and eyes on the ground, its free for all sides – NATO included – to step up the killing.

 

THIS WILL MAKE SERBS AND ALBANIANS HATE EACH OTHER (MORE)

NATO bombings will be perceived as a punishment of Serbs and a clear support to Albanian hardliners. Serbs will feel that it was the Albanian side that called this hell upon them. Thus, the little hope we may have had about Serbs and Albanians living peaceful together or as trustful neighbours in the foreseeable future, is now gone. Producing hate is the opposite of a humanitarian effort.

 

MANY MORE DIE IN OTHER CONFLICTS, WITH NO HUMANITARIAN CONCERN?

The Kosovo war has caused the death of about 2.000 people during the last year. This is serious, every human life is sacred. However, the international community has chosen NOT to intervene in the following when: 80.000 have been killed in Algeria; perhaps 10.000 in the Ethiopian-Eritrean war the last couple of weeks; 820,000 in Rwanda the last five years; 1.500,000 in Sudan the last 15 years; more than 1 million people have died because of the Western sanctions against the Iraqi people; perhaps as many as 500,000 have died in Burma since 1948.

 

THE WORLD’S REAL HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS ARE NOT ADDRESSED

An estimated 100.000 people’s die PER DAY, around the world – not in wars but because they lack the most basic such as water, clothes, shelter, food, medicine. 100 mill people have no home; there are already some 40 million refugees; 70 Third World countries have lower standards of living today than 30 years ago; at least 800 million people go hungry to bed. In money terms, a fraction of the world’s military expenditures could alleviate most of that suffering.

 

THERE IS ALWAYS MONEY FOR WEAPONS BUT NOT FOR HUMAN BEINGS

The world’s military expenditures – NATO making up most of it – equals the combined income of the 50% poorest of the world’s population. Pentagon alone spends 20 times more than the entire budget of the United Nations. And the UN – the world’s most important humanitarian organization – is completely ignored in the Kosovo conflict and, these very days, forced out of Macedonia. When will the media begin to ask what this type of ‘peace’-making costs – and what we could do in terms of real relief and peace for a similar sum?

 

THERE HAVE LONG BEEN LARGER HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS IN YUGOSLAVIA

250.000 citizens are now displaced inside Kosovo or refugees in Macedonia – about 10% of the Kosovo-Serbs and 10% of the Kosovo-Albanians. They certainly need help. But so do the 650.000 mostly Serb refugees (according to UNHCR) who have fled from Croatia, Bosnia and elsewhere during the dissolution of ex-Yugoslavia, about half of them ethnically cleansed from Croatia in 1995. from Croatia. It’s Europe’s largest refugee problem – largely going unnoticed.

 

SANCTIONS CREATE HUMANITARIAN PROBLEMS

Why has the West upheld various types of sanctions against the people of Yugoslavia since 1991? The majority of citizens suffer one way or the other from that, not the least the sick and the pensioners. They and everybody else will stand behind President Milosevic in this crisis.

 

IS THIS RHETORIC AIMED TO CONVINCED WOMEN?

All the ‘soft’ humanitarian coating of this type of militarist policies is probably an attempt to convince women, soldiers’ and pilots’ wives and mothers and the general do-good sentiment in the American public. But will they still believe this when the casualty figures rise?

Says Dr. Oberg: “Our thoughts go to all friends and colleagues of the foundation, Serbs, Albanians, Macedonians and others in all of the region, innocent good-hearted people who are again to pay the price for ‘politics’ and power game by their own leaders and the international community’s leaders. Citizens in NATO countries were not heard either. Thus, I draw the following conclusion about this type of B-52 humanitarianism,” says Dr. Oberg:

1) Humanitarian concerns is the rhetoric of the smiling Western crocodile. It is either deliberate misinformation or a view based on incomplete analysis. There is no global political will to do something about humanitarian problems where they really exist.

2) In Kosovo, we risk blowing up a low-casualty war to become a major war and creating a tenfold larger humanitarian catastrophe.

3) It seems the only humanitarian problems in which there is a political will to do something are those which seem fit for ‘NATO treatment’ – in short, it is faked.

4) What a wonderful world it would be if the world’s most powerful nation, its president and its allies WERE determined TO DO SOMETHING to alleviate suffering around the world.

5) Now the combination of their limited creativity, their unlimited cocksureness and overwhelming military power threatens to only increase the world’s humanitarian problems.”

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