Covering up NATO’s Balkan Bombing Blunder

Av Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 61 – April 14, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Western leaders are busy re-writing history to justify their Balkan bombing blunder. The change in information, rhetoric and explanations since the bombings started on March 24 is literally mind-boggling. Most likely they fear they have opened a very dark chapter in history and may be losing the plot.

One way to make failure look like success is to construct a powerful media reality and de-construct real reality. That’s the essence of media warfare and that’s what happens now,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“For instance, you must have noticed that the The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA or UCK, which existed some weeks ago and allegedly participated in Rambouillet now suddenly never existed. The 13-months war in Kosovo/a also conveniently has been expurgated.

The last few days President Clinton, prime minister Blair, NATO General Wesley Clark, foreign secretary Cook, foreign minister Fischer, secretary Albright, defence minister Robertson and other Western leaders have explained to the world why NATO bombs Yugoslavia. They made no mention of KLA or the war. Their speeches are surprisingly uniform. Their main points are:

• We have evidence that Yugoslavia, i.e.President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse Kosovo/a of all Albanians.

• One proof of this plan is that some 700.000 have been driven over the borders; it would have been many more, if not all 2 million Albanians, had NATO not taken action. [Read more…]

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Rambouillet: A process analysis

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 54 – February 21, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“The Plan being discussed at Rambouillet is a formalistic, legal document. Its provisions may be needed, but it doesn’t contain any ideas on how to make peace among the citizens who are to live with it when implemented. Their voice is not heard, their needs are not dealt with in the Plan. Most of the delegates in Rambouillet are not representative of the citizens. The “mediators” have no professional education as mediators. The idea that Kosovo’s problems can be solved in two weeks is absurd. Rambouillet militates against all we know about human psychology and trust-building.

So, once again politics fool media and media fool world public opinion. And people in Kosovo will have to wait for peace as long as the vagabonds in Beckett’s drama wait for Godot…” says Dr. Jan Oberg upon returning from TFF’s 34th mission to ex-Yugoslavia, this time to Skopje, Belgrade and the troubled Kosovo province.

 

1. The preparation

When wars are fought thousands of trained soldiers are mobilised, highly trained experts and sophisticated technologies activated. When peace is to be created, the world lets one man – in the case of Kosovo, US ambassador Christopher Hill with a few assistants – shuttle back and forth between some of the parties. When Yugoslavia insisted on Kosovo being an integral part of its territory and the Albanians insisted that it is their independent state, ambassador Hill drew a line – not a circle or a ball – and explained to them, not unlike a father to two quarrelling children: “The compromise I allow you is ‘self-government.’ He thought that was fair, that this would be in the interests of the parties. Thus, he and the Contact Group set up the framework for the future of Kosovo’s 1,5 million or so inhabitants and the rest of Yugoslavia, around 10 million people. Nobody ask them how they would like the future to be.

 

2. The process

Perhaps it is all too complex but there are not only the Serbian and Yugoslav governments in Belgrade and the Albanians in Kosovo. Presumably, 15-20% of the people in Kosovo are NOT Albanians. The Kosovo Serbs have not been given an opportunity to voice their independent opinion. Cynically speaking, of course, that doesn’t matter much because nobody, least of all the ‘conflict managers’ in Rambouillet, expect them to stay in areas of Kosovo under ‘self-governing’ Albanian majority rule. No Serbs live in areas now controlled by KLA.

The fatal mistake was to believe that negotiations will create trust. They won’t. It works the other way: some trust-building must happen BEFORE people meet at the negotiation table.

 

3. The threats

All this – predictably – did not work. The Contact group then issued ultimatums and put NATO’s prestige at stake: Come to Rambouillet, sign our document, or face air-strikes. Air-strikes! ? [Read more…]

Questions before bombing Serbia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 47 – October 1, 1998

Originally published here

 

“What on earth would be the POLITICAL AIM of bombing Serbia now? Violence has been used by both parties for almost a year. Some 250.000 people may already be displaced, homes and towns torched and destroyed. KLA is defeated and Serbia’s government has declared that the war is over, provided KLA’s military struggle does not resume.

Before the UN Security Council, NATO or other actors in the international ‘community’ decides to carry out air strikes throughout Serbia, it would be wise to ponder a few questions, problems and risks and come up with some answers. I offer some of both in what follows,” says Jan Oberg who, with his TFF colleagues, has conducted analyses and served as a citizen diplomat in the region since 1992.

 

• IF WE BELIEVE NATO MILITARY INTERVENTIONS WOULD STOP THE KILLING, ETHNIC CLEANSING AND MASSACRES, WHY HAS IT NOT HAPPENED LONG AGO?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: 
1) The international “community” is not a community when it comes to managing conflicts. There are too many solid national interests and the EU is divided internally with Germany and the UK being more interventionist than the rest. And they cannot act without the United States. 2) Bombings of Serb facilities will unavoidably be interpreted as a support to (violent) secessionism. Thus, Kurds, Palestinians, Turk Cypriots, people in the Basque province and in Chechenya, to mention some, may be encouraged – and the West doesn’t exactly want that. 3) It can’t be done without ignoring the Russians – but they are on their heels anyhow. 4) Perhaps no bombings is really contemplated; it’s all a game. But then there is a public relation problem vis-a-vis citizens: why do statesmen solemnly declare their moral outrage, threaten tough measures and thereby create expectations worldwide about resolute action – fully well knowing that they won’t do anything? 5) Powerful actors may see it fit to wait and “fail” with preventive diplomacy in order to present military options as “necessary.”

 

• IS THIS COMPATIBLE WITH INTERNATIONAL LAW?
POSSIBLE ANSWERS: 
1) It is probably the first time NATO bombs a sovereign, recognised state in support of a movement whose stated aims are complete independence and integration with a neighbouring state. 2) Bombings would [Read more…]