Questions to Bill Clinton in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 81 – November 22, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“Given that democratic countries have free and independent media, President Clinton’s visit to Kosovo on November 23, would be a golden opportunity to take stock of the US-lead Western policies to bring peace to the region.

Here is a selection of questions with some media advisory. In other words, if I imagine I was a journalist and had been granted an interview this is what I would focus on,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

 

(1) Mr. President, US warplanes bombed Yugoslavia and the Kosovo province with you as the Chief Commander of US forces. Does it worry you that the whole campaign was justified and conducted on the basis of what has turned out to be grossly mistaken or falsified information about a genocide planned by Belgrade?

[During the campaign, President Clinton, Secretary Cohen, and Secretary Albright are on record with figures of between 10.000 and 100.000 missing and probably killed in consequence of the alleged plan by Milosevic, Operation Horseshoe. However, the Hague Tribunal has recently revealed that, so far, 2.108 bodies have been identified – of more than one ethnicity and dead from different causes; in short, not all Albanians massacred by Serbs. From a human point, of course, this is a great relief. But it raises serious issues as to of the information and intelligence basis on which decisions with far-reaching consequences are made. And it begs the question: what is world public opinion informed about and what not, and who produces information for what purposes].

 

(2) What are your thoughts by the fact that NATO, with your country in the lead, killed at least 2.000 innocent civilians in Serbia due to stray missiles and bombs? You have apologised to the Chinese people for bombing their embassy. Did you consider the possibility personally to apologise to the relatives or, for instance, pay a compensation of some kind? And how do you feel about the indictment of you, your Secretaries and all other NATO leaders to the Hague War Crimes Tribunal?

[Click here for the  indictment of NATO leaders. Click here for the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic and four other leaders for, among other things, being responsible for the death of 340 people during the Kosovo war] .

 

(3) Mr. President, the American Camp Bondsteel here at which you celebrate Thanksgiving Day with your soldiers, is said to be the largest US military facility the US has built from the ground-up since Vietnam. I have three questions about it: a) what long term strategic aims does this huge investment serve, and b) how is it possible to build such a facility on territory which, according to concurrent legal judgment – and all UN resolutions – belongs to the sovereign, recognised state of Yugoslavia whose integrity you are also obliged to respect? And c) are you not sending a very strong signal that Kosovo’s future status is somehow already settled by fait accompli?

[Camp Bondsteel is described in a November 22 Christian Science Monitor article. [2014: Read about it here, editor].The base is gigantic, 775 acres, costs US $ 36.6 million, has every convenience and facility needed for its 6.300 US soldiers, including two chapels and a mobile Burger King; the way it is constructed is said to be indicative of a multi-year engagement and wider-than-Kosovo aims].

 

(4) It is hardly wrong to say that the US was sympathetic to the plight of the Albanians and cultivated the leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army, LDK/UCK, such as the present self-appointed prime minister of this province, Mr. Hacim Thaci. Are you disappointed by the fact that these allies of yours – I think we can call them that since KLA and NATO helped each other – are also responsible for an ethnic cleansing policy that has driven 234.000 legitimate non-Albanian citizens out of the province, according to UNHCR figures? If so, what do you do now during your visit to put enough pressure on Hacim Thaci and his military and civilian colleagues to ensure that you can say what you said about the Albanian refugees in Macedonia and Kosovo: we are going to bring them back to a safe environment.

 

(5) I have a follow-up to that with a somewhat different angle: according to the UN mandate that KFOR, UNMIK, OSCE operate on, Kosovo’s citizens and their multi-ethnic composition should be protected. However, the 234.000 have left under the very eyes of these missions being present on the ground. I am sure that you, as the single most responsible leader, regret this failure, given that this is the biggest and most heavily armed peacekeeping mission ever – and the ultimate test of NATO in that role. In which ways does America and its NATO and UN allies intend to change the structure and function of the entire Kosovo operation before it decays beyond repair?

 

(6) Mr. President, in every speech you have held also on this tour, you emphasise human rights, general humanitarian concerns and freedom. Now, there are almost 1 million refugees in Serbia – many more in fact than there were Kosovo-Albanian refugees in Macedonia and Albania. They have fled from Croatia, Bosnia and now Kosovo, driven away for exactly the same reasons you stated repeatedly at the time about the Albanian victims: “not because of anything they have done, but because of who they are.” Yugoslavia and Serbia is in deep crisis because of political blunders and economic mismanagement, that is true, but also because of NATO’s destruction and many years of sanctions and exclusion from the international community. A humanitarian catastrophe cannot be excluded this winter. How do you reconcile your personal commitment to humanism and moral leadership with actively preventing that THESE human beings are helped? Do you see any historical evidence that this is the way to overthrow authoritarian leaders?

 

(7) In your own speeches before the bombing campaign, you emphasised that a major goal apart from stopping a genocide was to create stability in the Balkan region. I think quite a few diplomats and security experts would agree that neither Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, nor Bosnia and Croatia for that matter, are more secure now than before March 24. Rather, less so. I think many would be grateful for your guidance as to where and when the Balkan situation has improved in any proportion to the political, moral, military and economic investment we have made here?

 

(8) Do you intend to compensate, one way or another, Macedonia and Albania for America’s/NATO’s use of their territory and facilities? I mean in more substantial terms than “keeping the door open” for later – much later – membership of NATO?

 

(9) You have stated time and again, Mr. President, that you are proud that America intervened both in Bosnia and here. And it did so, for sure, forcefully and with determination – so much so, it seems, that EU countries are now starting a ‘turbo-militarization’ with aims such as military-industrial and -political integration, common policies, EU-WEU fusion – in short, big steps towards a European army. The reason? They think they looked timid compared with America! They want to be able to fix problems in their own backyard. Now, I think I am not offending anyone by saying that the United States of America has antagonised the Chinese and the Russians a bit – NATO expansion, the Ballistic Missile Defence plans, the Test Ban policy, bombing of Yugoslavia, the failed economic aid, the oil pipeline agreement you just signed in Istanbul, Georgia’s future NATO membership, the ‘noise’ about Chechenya… – well, you know the list much better, of course. Do you also sometimes feel that the US has taken the lead to such an extent that it has antagonised its European friends and that this could backfire, that they are now somehow turning away from the Atlantic dimension. Even Tony Blair’s UK seems to want Europe to become more and more of a super power and less dependent on the US?

 

(10) Finally – and you have been extremely generous with your time – I would like to ask you a question that has only indirect bearings on the Balkans. Wherever you go you promote human rights, freedom and democracy. I am sure that the right to privacy and freedom of speech is absolutely essential central in your thinking. Therefore, I can’t help asking you: how come the US has developed technology that permits it to listen and automatically register not only e-mail and fax traffic worldwide but also – now – the human voice as we speak on phones with each other. It is done by your National Security Agency, but – sorry if you think this is a naive question – does the United States have to feel so insecure? I relate it also to the fact that US defence for the year 2000 will be more than three times greater than the combined military spending of China, Russia, and the rogue states Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea and Cuba?

The tapping of communication was reported recently by The Independent. The military expenditure figures were reported by The Christian Science Monitor [Links no longer accessible, but the NSA scandal is well-known by 2014, editor].

 

“Well, only carefully chosen people get the opportunity to ask the President of the United States questions. But we can ask ourselves questions and ponder the answers such as: why on earth are questions like these not asked by those who do get the chance? And why are they not analysed and debated much more in our local and global media?

Philip Knightly has stated that war’s first victim is truth. Peace researcher Johan Galtung maintains that complex understanding is its second victim. It seems to me that war’s third victim is self-criticism – and thus we prevent ourselves from learning about the real motives behind wars as well as the alternatives to war,” ends TFF’s director.

 

 

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