Kim Scipes on Sat, 10 Apr 1999 23:44:04 +0200 (CEST)

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Van: Kim Scipes <>

April 8, 1999


A veteran of the US Marine Corps (1969-1973) and still a member of Viet Nam
Veterans Against the War (VVAW), I had been reading numerous posts on our
network whereby other vets were supporting the bombing of Yugoslavia.  I
posted the following note, and thought it might be worth sharing it with a
larger audience.

Undoubtedly, this will get cross-posted:  my apologies in advance.  Feel
free to pass this on as widely as possible.  AND LET'S STOP THIS FUCKING WAR


Dear Folks on VVAW Net:

I have been reading comments posted on the net re Kosovo, and I've been
surprised to see people supporting the US/NATO campaign.

I can understand the very great desire to stop the killing in Kosovo that
has been done by the Serbian forces.  Milosevic certainly deserves trial as
a war criminal, at the very least.  I do not minimize the killing, the
violence done by the Serbs against the ethnic Albanians--it is terrible.  I
in no way support the Serbian war on the ethnic Albanians.

At the same time, however, I think we are being subjected to a very heavy
propaganda effort by the US government and the media.  The reason I say this
is because a very complex situation is being presented as being very simple:
the Serbs are the aggressors, they are killing the ethnic Albanians inside
Kosovo, and therefore, as caring human beings, we need to use aircraft (and
VERY soon, ground troops) to stop the genocide.  Boom, boom, boom.  Hell,
let's run down to the recruiting office and re-up!

The problem is that this IS a very complex situation and to try to
understand it, we must confront the complexity.  By saying it is a complex
situation, I in no ways am minimizing the violence.  I just saying that you
cannot apply a simple solution to a complex situation:  to collapse
situations of great complexity into simple "morally correct" positions are
signs of ideology and not of any historical or situational accuracy.

My knowledge of the situation in Yugoslavia was really very limited until
about a week ago.  Like all of us, I wanted to stop the killing.  What
should I do?  First of all, THE thing I learned from Viet Nam was that to
NEVER accept anything the US Government says about its efforts overseas
without first trying to understand the situation in as great detail as
possible--in other words, in foreign affairs, I assume the government is
guilty of lying until they are proven innocent.  Unfortunately, this stance
has been proven its value again and again and again....

I began surfing the web to find information, trying to make sense of what
was going on.  The best single site I've found has been that of Z Magazine:
<>.  They have devoted a lot of effort and a wide range of
thinking to understand what's going on.  But I've been reading messages on
VVAW Net, and others that have come my way.  I've also found the Washington
Post has a fairly good site re the Balkans, with some pretty good historical

The thing that has become quite clear to me is that we are being lied to,
yet again.  (I hope to post my short "understanding" in the next day or
two.)  Everyone says that the key event that has led to the situation today
in Kosovo has been the 1989 action by the Serbs rescinding the autonomy
previously given the province.  But, no one has said WHY the Serbs did this.
Well, the organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found and
posted a 1988 article from the New York Times--i.e., published before
autonomy was rescinded--which examined the extensive violence going on in
Kosovo by ethnic Albanians against the Serbs.  The violence had developed to
such an extent that people were predicting a civil war in the province.

In other words, folks, the human rights violations going on in Kosovo have
been initiated by ethnic Albanians against the Serbs as well as by the Serbs
against the ethnic Albanians.  As far as I can tell, it was the violence by
the ethnic Albanians that initiated the Serbian response, although in no way
do I accept that as an acceptable response.

In other words, whether you agree with my understanding or not, the issue is
much more complex than we've been led to believe.  The ethnic Albanians, for
better or worse, have been ACTORS in this situation, not just passive
VICTIMS as has been presented ad nauseum by the government and media.  See
the April 2 article from the NY Times--one of the few that suggests there's
more going on than what we've been told--that follows.

And then we must ask why we've been given such a simple "understanding":
why has the government been lying to us on this???  Until we understand the
complexity, we are (once again) being led around by our noses by the US
Government.  Burn me once, shame on you; burn me twice, shame on me.

Now, let me shift my focus.

The US/NATO war effort has been a terrible disaster--all accounts are that
the refugee flood has developed since the beginning of the bombing.  But,
despite statements that "we had no idea this might happen," the reality is
that the CIA told governmental leaders that this was a real possibility once
the bombing started.  The reality is that no governmental leader really
gives a shit about the "ordinary" ethnic Albanians in Kosovo or any where
else--they are using the situation for larger purposes.  That is true of the
nationalist ethnic Albanian "leaders" in and around the KLA [Kosovo
Liberation Army], as well as the Serbian "leaders," and that is especially
true of the "leaders" of the US Government and NATO.  In other words,
Milosevic should have a LOT of company in the war crimes trial--specifically
including William Jefferson Clinton and Anthony Blair!

Bombing has been a failure--as anyone with any knowledge of war would have
foretold.  The only way to get rid of an "opponent" is through ground
invasion--and as we all know, that doesn't always work, either.  (Hello,
Viet Nam!)  But a ground invasion is the only way to have a chance of making
that work.

Are we, individually and collectively, willing to support our troops in
Kosovo in a war that, at best, will take years to win?  By any account, the
Yugoslav army is a crack, well-trained army that has been preparing over the
last 50 years to defend every rock in that country--they were especially
scared of Soviet attack.  It certainly hasn't cracked under the US/NATO
bombing.  Not only that, but their discipline in keeping their radar turned
off in face of US/NATO bombing has been impressive--by keeping their radar
off, US electronics cannot pinpoint it.  That's one reason why the bombing
has had such a limited affect against military units.  Yeah, we can bomb
hell out of cities and bridges, but the war ain't against cities and

I'm sorry to have gone on so long.  The more I learn about the situation,
the more I get pissed.  We can argue about what this war is about--I
personally think it's about expanding US influence into this area of the
world, and probably onto the Caspian Sea area where there are great amounts
of oil--but I think any investigation will allow us to agree:  this isn't a
war against genocide or any other good thing, no matter how "well" it is
presented as such. Viet Nam-era vets--whether we were in-country or not--are
the last ones that should accept such nonsense.

Kim Scipes
USMC, 1969-73

PS:  For an excellent analysis of the US and NATO in a larger geo-political
context, I highly recommend "Why is NATO in Yugoslavia?"  by Sean Gervasi.
It was delivered to the Conference on the Enlargement of NATO in Eastern
Europe and
the Mediterrenean, in Prague, January 13-14, 1996. In the excerpt that drew
my attention to the article, Gervasi was identified as a "frequent
contributor to Covert Action Quarterly, and taught in Belgrade at the
Institute of International Politics and Economics in the 1980s. He died in
July 1996."  The paper is located at

The New York Times April 2, 1999



By Elizabeth Olson

GENEVA -- A report to the U.N. Human Rights Commission on
Thursday accused both Yugoslav and Albanian forces of
committing numerous killings and other atrocities in Kosovo before
NATO began its airstrikes.
Jiri Dienstbier, a former foreign minister of Czechoslovakia,
gave the U.N. group, which is holding its annual meeting here, a
report on Kosovo that strongly criticized Yugoslav forces, noting
that he was alarmed at "consistent disregard by Serbian state
security forces of both domestic and international standards
pertaining to police conduct and treatment of detainees." Kosovo is
a province of Serbia, which with neighboring Montenegro forms
Dienstbier said, however, that human rights violations by both
the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians were common. "It happened in
Kosovo many times for both sides," Dienstbier said, citing
abductions, murders and arbitrary arrests. He has been investigating
human rights in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina since
March 1998.
Last fall, he said, "concentrations of corpses and evidence of
massacres, including massacres of civilians," were discovered. The
badly mutilated bodies of 14 Kosovo Albanians, including six
women, six children and two elderly men, were found in a forest in
the Drenica region, he said.
The Kosovo Liberation Army, on the other hand, which is
fighting for independence for the ethnic Albanian majority in the
province, conducted paramilitary tribunals and was believed to be
responsible for the abduction and execution of civilians and police
officers, he said. In two locations, Klecka and Glodjane, there were
more than 40 bodies that Yugoslav authorities said were Serb
civilians who had been kidnapped and killed by the KLA soldiers.
And all over Serbia, he said, "persons are arbitrarily detained by
the police for questioning or held in pretrial detention longer than
the period mandated by law." Such detainees are routinely denied
access to lawyers, Dienstbier said, and also to personal doctors, a
practice that he said is significant because state-employed
physicians do not report injuries sustained during police questioning
and also do not provide sufficient medical treatment.
In response, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia gave the
commission what it called "information on terrorist activities and
provocations by the Albanian separatists in Kosovo."
Branko Brankovic, a representative of the Yugoslav
government, said that between Oct. 13, 1998, and Feb. 21, 1999,
there had been 827 attacks and provocations in Kosovo, including
290 against civilians and 537 against officials. These attacks, he
said, killed 99 people, including 80 civilians.
Since the Rambouillet peace talks, he said, people have been
killed and wounded daily except for the period from Feb. 11 to Feb.
17, 1999.
In light of the fighting and brutality in Kosovo in the past
weeks, Mary Robinson, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees,
said Thursday that a special investigation would begin next week to
assess the reports of ethnic cleansing.
Ms. Robinson said she would send Dienstbier to investigate
"reports of a vicious and systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing
conducted by Serbian military and paramilitary forces in Kosovo."
"The gravity of these reports underlines the need for impartial
verification of the allegations," Ms. Robinson said.
Human rights monitors are also being reassigned and sent
immediately to interview refugees to evaluate the human rights
situation in the battered province, she added.

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