nettime's_indigestive_system on Sat, 3 Apr 1999 23:13:37 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> yugoslavia/nato digest [gurciullo, halkia (chomsky), poliakov]

Sebastian Gurciullo / Nicola Nixon
          Why Serb nationalism? [a restatement]
Matina Halkia <>
          Re: Dear Europe: From Uri Avnery
          [includes chomsky, 'the current bombings']
Zana Poliakov <>
          Re: The Sound of B92 banned

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Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 19:25:26 +1000
From: Nicola Nixon <>
Subject: Why Serb nationalism?

The list moderator wrote:

[this is where moderation gets really hard, because it
     involves conflicting interests--and not just 'individ-
     ual' interests. as the belligerents in the war are be-
     ginning to learn, war has a way of reproducing itself.
     please ask yourself whether you want to start causing
     or furthering war on this list too. --cheers, t]

I realise that my rhetorical questions may have been
interpreted as purely inflamatory, however that was not my
intention. I did intend to provoke thought though, and
solicit a more balanced discussion of the current situation.

Perhaps we can restate my concerns in a less provocative
manner, as we feel that these concerns should be discussed,
and more importantly, communicated to whoever in Serbia has
access to this list and is willing to engage with these
concerns. It is worth repeating these concerns because they
have become the central issue of this conflict, namely, the
ethnic cleansing that is now taking place in Kosovo. It is
the primary reason why the crisis is intensifying and
raising the spectre of a massive humanitarian disaster in a
far wider European conflict.

It is understandable that citizens of Serbia are angry about
the current NATO bombardment of their country.

It is also understandable that such anger may entail
cynicism about the purpose of this severe military action
(wag the dog etc).

It is also reasonable to expect that many people within
Serbia who are otherwise critical of the current Milosevic
dictatorship feel they have no other choice but to defend
their goverment's response to this situation.

Nobody can blame people who are under massive military
attack from being angry, scared, and bitter, nobody can
blame people who are worried about a bomb falling on their
house or that of a close relative from feeling extremely
disillusioned about the intentions of NATO and wanting to
defend their country.

What we find disturbing, however, is the dismissal,
justification, or support, of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo as
a result of all this ill feeling in the name of the defence
of the Serbian "nation".  Yes, we are taking the 'ethnic
cleansing', mass deportations and summary executions in
Kosovo as a fact.  On the scale that they are being reported
they are undeniable, no matter whether you also retain a
cynicism towards the ways that the Western media represent
the situation or not. It would be extremely paranoid and
deluded to maintain that a global media conspiracy is
somehow been organised against the Serbian "nation".
Whatever the limitations of the western press, it is diverse
and not under the sole control of ONE PERSON (as in Serbia).
There is also a vast amount of information on the internet.
Is it not disturbing that no western reporters are permitted
into Kosovo, except under the strict supervision of the
Serbian authorities?

What we don't understand is why it is that the messages that
are being received from Serbs on nettime, seem to assume
that to be cynical and even angry at NATO for the aggression
of the bombings, that they are currently the victims of,
prevents them from being angry at Milosevic's government for
what he is perpetrating on Kosovan albanians?

Support of Serbian nationalism or the Milosevic government
now equals support for war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

If any of this makes sense to you, please talk to us...

Sebastian Gurciullo
Nicola Nixon

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Date: Fri, 2 Apr 1999 13:48:02 +0200
From: Matina Halkia <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> Dear Europe: From Uri Avnery

Dear Uri, 

I see your point. Thanks for reminding us all that there are people who
believe this war is right for the right reasons. Unfortunately the
context, rationale and true motives of this war are not the ones you
espouse. Kosovo is not an oil producing part of the world and therefore
the obvious context in that sense is missing.  However, looking closely
at the established practice of foreign policy of certain countries in
other parts of the world does not justify the objective of this war as
one of reestablishing world order and world justice (at least in the
exact sense of the word, and not in some subjective, partial
interpretation of it).  The lack of obvious US interests in that area,
doesn't mean the abscence of those. Practice and custom in fact
indicate that this is highly unlikely --- I mean the abscence of
economic and political motives totally unrelated to the just
humanitarian causes you support. 

Although I have my reservations in the effectiveness of military action
in general, I agree with you that sometimes it is necessary to take
arms to oppose oppressing governments and power structures. I also
agree with you that the international community has responsibilities.
One way to fulfill these responsibilities is by safeguarding the
function and power of international institutions whose mission is
exactly that. It is true that these  haven't always had a record of
effective action. That is why we  need to enhance and improve their
role. There is a danger in endorsing the right of the powerful to
implement their subjective view of world order in lieu of the
international organizations. 

I submit here for the proof of my argument Noam Chomsky's analysis on
the practice and custom in the foreign policy of certain NATO members.

       [deHTMLified by moderator, apologies for any mistakes.--tb]

The Current Bombings:

   Behind the Rhetoric

By Noam Chomsky

There have been many inquiries concerning NATO (meaning primarily   US)
bombing in connection with Kosovo. A great deal has been written about
the topic,   including Znet commentaries. I'd like to make a few
general observations, keeping to facts   that are not seriously

There are two fundamental issues: (1) What are the accepted and  
applicable "rules of world order"? (2) How do these or other
considerations   apply in the case of Kosovo?

(1) What are the accepted and applicable "rules of world order"?

          There is a regime of international law and international 
          order, binding on all states, based on the UN Charter and 
          subsequent resolutions and World Court decisions. In brief, 
          the threat or use of force is banned unless explicitly 
          authorized by the Security Council after it has determined
          that peaceful means have failed, or in self-defense against 
          "armed attack" (a narrow concept) until the Security Council 

There is, of course, more to say. Thus there is at least a tension,  
if not an outright contradiction, between the rules of world order laid
down in the UN   Charter and the rights articulated in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UD), a   second pillar of the world order
established under US initiative after World War II. The   Charter bans
force violating state sovereignty; the UD guarantees the rights of  
individuals against oppressive states. The issue of "humanitarian
intervention"   arises from this tension. It is the right of
"humanitarian intervention" that is   claimed by the US/NATO in Kosovo,
and that is generally supported by editorial opinion and   news reports
(in the latter case, reflexively, even by the very choice of

The question is addressed in a news report in the NY
Timesitalic> (March 27), headlined "Legal Scholars Support Case for
Using Force" in Kosovo (March 27). One example is offered: Allen
Gerson, former counsel to the US mission to the UN. Two other legal
scholars are cited. One, Ted Galen Carpenter, "scoffed at the 
Administration argument" and dismissed the alleged right of
intervention. The third is Jack Goldsmith, a specialist on
international law at Chicago Law school. He says that critics of the
NATO bombing "have a pretty good legal argument," but "many people
think [an exception for humanitarian intervention] does exist as a
matter of custom and practice." That summarizes the evidence offered
to justify the favored conclusion stated in the headline.

Goldsmith's observation is reasonable, at least if we agree that  
facts are relevant to the determination of "custom and practice." We
may also   bear in mind a truism: the right of humanitarian
intervention, if it exists, is premised   on the "good faith" of those
intervening, and that assumption is based not on   their rhetoric but
on their record, in particular their record of adherence to the  
principles of international law, World Court decisions, and so on. That
is indeed a   truism, at least with regard to others. Consider, for
example, Iranian offers to intervene   in Bosnia to prevent massacres
at a time when the West would not do so. These were   dismissed with
ridicule (in fact, ignored); if there was a reason beyond subordination
to   power, it was because Iranian "good faith" could not be assumed. A
rational   person then asks obvious questions: is the Iranian record of
intervention and terror worse   than that of the US? And other
questions, for example: How should we assess the "good   faith" of the
only country to have vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on  
all states to obey international law? What about its historical record?
Unless such   questions are prominent on the agenda of discourse, an
honest person will dismiss it as   mere allegiance to doctrine. A
useful exercise is to determine how much of the literature   -- media
or other -- survives such elementary conditions as these.

(2) How do these or other considerations apply in the   case of Kosovo?

There has been a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo in the past 
 year, overwhelmingly attributable to Yugoslav military forces. The
main victims have been   ethnic Albanian Kosovars, some 90% of the
population of this Yugoslav territory. The   standard estimate is 2000
deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In such cases, outsiders have three choices:

(I) try to escalate the catastrophe
(II) do nothing
(III) try to mitigate the catastrophe

The choices are illustrated by other contemporary cases. Let's keep  
to a few of approximately the same scale, and ask where Kosovo fits
into the pattern.

(A) Colombia. In Colombia, according to State Department estimates,  
the annual level of political killing by the government and its
paramilitary associates is   about at the level of Kosovo, and refugee
flight primarily from their atrocities is well   over a million.
Colombia has been the leading Western hemisphere recipient of US arms
and   training as violence increased through the '90s, and that
assistance is now increasing,   under a "drug war" pretext dismissed by
almost all serious observers. The   Clinton administration was
particularly enthusiastic in its praise for President Gaviria,   whose
tenure in office was responsible for "appalling levels of violence,"  
according to human rights organizations, even surpassing his
predecessors. Details are   readily available.

In this case, the US reaction is (I): escalate the atrocities.

(B) Turkey. By very conservative estimate, Turkish repression of  
Kurds in the '90s falls in the category of Kosovo. It peaked in the
early '90s; one index   is the flight of over a million Kurds from the
countryside to the unofficial Kurdish   capital Diyarbakir from 1990 to
1994, as the Turkish army was devastating the countryside.   1994
marked two records: it was "the year of the worst repression in the
Kurdish   provinces" of Turkey, Jonathan Randal reported from the
scene, and the year when   Turkey became "the biggest single importer
of American military hardware and thus the   world's largest arms
purchaser." When human rights groups exposed Turkey's use of US   jets
to bomb villages, the Clinton Administration found ways to evade laws
requiring   suspension of arms deliveries, much as it was doing in
Indonesia and elsewhere.

Colombia and Turkey explain their (US-supported) atrocities on  
grounds that they are defending their countries from the threat of
terrorist guerrillas.   As does the government of Yugoslavia.

Again, the example illustrates (I): try to escalate the atrocities.

(C) Laos. Every year thousands of people, mostly children and poor  
farmers, are killed in the Plain of Jars in Northern Laos, the scene of
the heaviest   bombing of civilian targets in history it appears, and
arguably the most cruel:   Washington's furious assault on a poor
peasant society had little to do with its wars in   the region. The
worst period was from 1968, when Washington was compelled to undertake 
 negotiations (under popular and business pressure), ending the regular
bombardment of   North Vietnam. Kissinger-Nixon then decided to shift
the planes to bombardment of Laos and   Cambodia.

The deaths are from "bombies," tiny anti-personnel   weapons, far worse
than land-mines: they are designed specifically to kill and maim, and  
have no effect on trucks, buildings, etc. The Plain was saturated with
hundreds of   millions of these criminal devices, which have a
failure-to-explode rate of 20%-30%   according to the manufacturer,
Honeywell. The numbers suggest either remarkably poor   quality control
or a rational policy of murdering civilians by delayed action. These
were   only a fraction of the technology deployed, including advanced
missiles to penetrate caves   where families sought shelter. Current
annual casualties from "bombies" are   estimated from hundreds a year
to "an annual nationwide casualty rate of   20,000," more than half of
them deaths, according to the veteran Asia reporter Barry   Wain of the
Wall Street Journal -- in its Asia edition. A conservative estimate,
then, is   that the crisis this year is approximately comparable to
Kosovo, though deaths are far   more highly concentrated among children
-- over half, according to analyses reported by   the Mennonite Central
Committee, which has been working there since 1977 to alleviate the  
continuing atrocities.

There have been efforts to publicize and deal with the humanitarian  
catastrophe. A British-based Mine Advisory Group (MAG) is trying to
remove the lethal   objects, but the US is "conspicuously missing from
the handful of Western   organisations that have followed MAG," the
British press reports, though it has   finally agreed to train some
Laotian civilians. The British press also reports, with some   anger,
the allegation of MAG specialists that the US refuses to provide them
with   "render harmless procedures" that would make their work "a lot
quicker and   a lot safer." These remain a state secret, as does the
whole affair in the United   States. The Bangkok press reports a very
similar situation in Cambodia, particularly the   Eastern region where
US bombardment from early 1969 was most intense.

In this case, the US reaction is (II): do nothing. And the reaction  
of the media and commentators is to keep silent, following the norms
under which the war   against Laos was designated a "secret war" --
meaning well-known, but   suppressed, as also in the case of Cambodia
from March 1969. The level of self-censorship   was extraordinary then,
as is the current phase. The relevance of this shocking example  
should be obvious without further comment.

I will skip other examples of (I) and (II), which abound, and also  
much more serious contemporary atrocities, such as the huge slaughter
of Iraqi civilians   by means of a particularly vicious form of
biological warfare -- "a very hard   choice," Madeleine Albright
commented on national TV in 1996 when asked for her   reaction to the
killing of half a million Iraqi children in 5 years, but "we think  
the price is worth it." Current estimates remain about 5000 children
killed a month,   and the price is still "worth it." These and other
examples might also be kept   in mind when we read awed rhetoric about
how the "moral compass" of the Clinton   Administration is at last
functioning properly, as the Kosovo example illustrates.

Just what does the example illustrate? The threat of NATO bombing,  
predictably, led to a sharp escalation of atrocities by the Serbian
Army and   paramilitaries, and to the departure of international
observers, which of course had the   same effect. Commanding General
Wesley Clark declared that it was "entirely   predictable" that Serbian
terror and violence would intensify after the NATO bombing,   exactly
as happened. The terror for the first time reached the capital city of
Pristina,   and there are credible reports of large-scale destruction
of villages, assassinations,   generation of an enormous refugee flow,
perhaps an effort to expel a good part of the   Albanian population --
all an "entirely predictable" consequence of the threat   and then the
use of force, as General Clark rightly observes.

Kosovo is therefore another illustration of (I): try to escalate the  
violence, with exactly that expectation.

To find examples illustrating (III) is all too easy, at least if we  
keep to official rhetoric. The major recent academic study of
"humanitarian   intervention," by Sean Murphy, reviews the record after
the Kellogg-Briand pact of   1928 which outlawed war, and then since
the UN Charter, which strengthened and articulated   these provisions.
In the first phase, he writes, the most prominent examples of  
"humanitarian intervention" were Japan's attack on Manchuria,
Mussolini's   invasion of Ethiopia, and Hitler's occupation of parts of
Czechoslovakia. All were   accompanied by highly uplifting humanitarian
rhetoric, and factual justifications as well.   Japan was going to
establish an "earthly paradise" as it defended Manchurians   from
"Chinese bandits," with the support of a leading Chinese nationalist, a
far   more credible figure than anyone the US was able to conjure up
during its attack on South   Vietnam. Mussolini was liberating
thousands of slaves as he carried forth the Western   "civilizing
mission." Hitler announced Germany's intention to end ethnic   tensions
and violence, and "safeguard the national individuality of the German
and   Czech peoples," in an operation "filled with earnest desire to
serve the true   interests of the peoples dwelling in the area," in
accordance with their will; the   Slovakian President asked Hitler to
declare Slovakia a protectorate.

Another useful intellectual exercise is to compare those obscene  
justifications with those offered for interventions, including
"humanitarian   interventions," in the post-UN Charter period.

In that period, perhaps the most compelling example of (III) is the  
Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978, terminating Pol Pot's
atrocities, which   were then peaking. Vietnam pleaded the right of
self-defense against armed attack, one of   the few post-Charter
examples when the plea is plausible: the Khmer Rouge regime  
(Democratic Kampuchea, DK) was carrying out murderous attacks against
Vietnam in border   areas. The US reaction is instructive. The press
condemned the "Prussians" of   Asia for their outrageous violation of
international law. They were harshly punished for   the crime of having
terminated Pol Pot's slaughters, first by a (US-backed) Chinese  
invasion, then by US imposition of extremely harsh sanctions. The US
recognized the   expelled DK as the official government of Cambodia,
because of its "continuity"   with the Pol Pot regime, the State
Department explained. Not too subtly, the US supported   the Khmer
Rouge in its continuing attacks in Cambodia.

The example tells us more about the "custom and practice"   that
underlies "the emerging legal norms of humanitarian intervention."

Despite the desperate efforts of ideologues to prove that circles   are
square, there is no serious doubt that the NATO bombings further
undermine what   remains of the fragile structure of international law.
The US made that entirely clear in   the discussions leading to the
NATO decision. Apart from the UK (by now, about as much of   an
independent actor as the Ukraine was in the pre-Gorbachev years), NATO
countries were   skeptical of US policy, and were particularly annoyed
by Secretary of State Albright's   "saber-rattling" (Kevin Cullen,
<italic>Boston Globe</italic>, Feb. 22). Today, the more   closely one
approaches the conflicted region, the greater the opposition to
Washington's   insistence on force, even within NATO (Greece and
Italy). France had called for a UN   Security Council resolution to
authorize deployment of NATO peacekeepers. The US flatly   refused,
insisting on "its stand that NATO should be able to act independently
of the   United Nations," State Department officials explained. The US
refused to permit the   "neuralgic word `authorize'" to appear in the
final NATO statement, unwilling to   concede any authority to the UN
Charter and international law; only the word   "endorse" was permitted
(Jane Perlez, NYT, Feb. 11). Similarly the bombing of   Iraq was a
brazen expression of contempt for the UN, even the specific timing, and
was so   understood. And of course the same is true of the destruction
of half the pharmaceutical   production of a small African country a
few months earlier, an event that also does not   indicate that the
"moral compass" is straying from righteousness -- not to speak   of a
record that would be prominently reviewed right now if facts were
considered relevant   to determining "custom and practice."

It could be argued, rather plausibly, that further demolition of the  
rules of world order is irrelevant, just as it had lost its meaning by
the late 1930s. The   contempt of the world's leading power for the
framework of world order has become so   extreme that there is nothing
left to discuss. A review of the internal documentary record  
demonstrates that the stance traces back to the earliest days, even to
the first   memorandum of the newly-formed National Security Council in
1947. During the Kennedy   years, the stance began to gain overt
expression. The main innovation of the   Reagan-Clinton years is that
defiance of international law and the Charter has become   entirely
open. It has also been backed with interesting explanations, which
would be on   the front pages, and prominent in the school and
university curriculum, if truth and   honesty were considered
significant values. The highest authorities explained with brutal  
clarity that the World Court, the UN, and other agencies had become
irrelevant because   they no longer follow US orders, as they did in
the early postwar years.

One might then adopt the official position. That would be an honest  
stand, at least if it were accompanied by refusal to play the cynical
game of   self-righteous posturing and wielding of the despised
principles of international law as a   highly selective weapon against
shifting enemies.

While the Reaganites broke new ground, under Clinton the defiance of  
world order has become so extreme as to be of concern even to hawkish
policy analysts. In   the current issue of the leading establishment
journal, Foreign Affairs, Samuel Huntington   warns that Washington is
treading a dangerous course. In the eyes of much of the world --  
probably most of the world, he suggests -- the US is "becoming the
rogue   superpower," considered "the single greatest external threat to
their   societies." Realist "international relations theory," he
argues, predicts   that coalitions may arise to counterbalance the
rogue superpower. On pragmatic grounds,   then, the stance should be
reconsidered. Americans who prefer a different image of their   society
might call for a reconsideration on other than pragmatic grounds.

Where does that leave the question of what to do in Kosovo? It   leaves
it unanswered. The US has chosen a course of action which, as it
explicitly   recognizes, escalates atrocities and violence --
"predictably"; a course of   action that also strikes yet another blow
against the regime of international order, which   does offer the weak
at least some limited protection from predatory states. As for the  
longer term, consequences are unpredictable. One plausible observation
is that "every   bomb that falls on Serbia and every ethnic killing in
Kosovo suggests that it will   scarcely be possible for Serbs and
Albanians to live beside each other in some sort of   peace"
Financial Times, March 27). Some of the longer-term
possible   outcomes are extremely ugly, as has not gone without

A standard argument is that we had to do something: we could not  
simply stand by as atrocities continue. That is never true. One choice,
always, is to   follow the Hippocratic principle: "First, do no harm."
If you can think of no   way to adhere to that elementary principle,
then do nothing. There are always ways that   can be considered.
Diplomacy and negotiations are never at an end.

The right of "humanitarian intervention" is likely to be   more
frequently invoked in coming years -- maybe with justification, maybe
not -- now that   Cold War pretexts have lost their efficacy. In such
an era, it may be worthwhile to pay   attention to the views of highly
respected commentators -- not to speak of the World   Court, which
explicitly ruled on this matter in a decision rejected by the United
States,   its essentials not even reported.

In the scholarly disciplines of international affairs and  
international law it would be hard to find more respected voices than
Hedley Bull or Louis   Henkin. Bull warned 15 years ago that
"Particular states or groups of states that set   themselves up as the
authoritative judges of the world common good, in disregard of the  
views of others, are in fact a menace to international order, and thus
to effective action   in this field." Henkin, in a standard work on
world order, writes that the   "pressures eroding the prohibition on
the use of force are deplorable, and the   arguments to legitimize the
use of force in those circumstances are unpersuasive and   dangerous...
Violations of human rights are indeed all too common, and if it were  
permissible to remedy them by external use of force, there would be no
law to forbid the   use of force by almost any state against almost any
other. Human rights, I believe, will   have to be vindicated, and other
injustices remedied, by other, peaceful means, not by   opening the
door to aggression and destroying the principle advance in
international law,   the outlawing of war and the prohibition of

Recognized principles of international law and world order, solemn  
treaty obligations, decisions by the World Court, considered
pronouncements by the most   respected commentators -- these do not
automatically solve particular problems. Each issue   has to be
considered on its merits. For those who do not adopt the standards of
Saddam   Hussein, there is a heavy burden of proof to meet in
undertaking the threat or use of   force in violation of the principles
of international order. Perhaps the burden can be   met, but that has
to be shown, not merely proclaimed with passionate rhetoric. The  
consequences of such violations have to be assessed carefully -- in
particular, what we   understand to be "predictable." And for those who
are minimally serious, the   reasons for the actions also have to be
assessed -- again, not simply by adulation of our   leaders and their
"moral compass." _

Matina Halkia

Dip.Arch.Eng, MA

Research Scientist

Starlab--Riverland Research ||| Excelsiorlaan 40-42 ||| Zaventem 1930
||| Belgium

Tel: +32.2.721-54-54 ||| Fax: +32.2.721-53-80 ||| email:

An interactive documentary on the land, architecture and people of

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Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 14:50:01 +0200
From: Zana Poliakov <>
Subject: Re: <nettime> The Sound of B92 banned

dear friends whatever is happening here and will happen I've decides to leave
the country...maybe I am a coward, maybe I am not, but there is no future
so it looks that I am a refugee. I was  born as a serb.
but from now on I will be no woman's land.
train are not going anymore, I've heard,
so if anyone is in Bulgaria, Sofia...I would need just a hint of help..
I don't even know where to go, Sarajevo, Budapest, Bucurest, Sofia...some of
the options

thanx in advance
zana poliakov

     [orig message deleted]

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