Geert Lovink on Sat, 22 May 1999 19:32:14 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> (fwd) Mladjan Dinkic: Group of 17: Even Democratic Countries Kill

Even democratic countries kill civilians, don't they?

Mladjan Dinkic,
University of Belgrade,
Department of Economics
Coordinator of Group 17*

Two and a half years ago I was one of hundreds of thousands of
people who protested against Milosevic's regime in the streets of
Belgrade after the electoral fraud. We demanded justice and
democratic future for Serbia. Many protesters carried the German
and American flags, symbolically expressing their wish for Serbia
to become a part of modern Europe and join the world trends. It
was a terribly cold and snowy winter, but the people gathered
every day; often at minus 10-15 degrees, and, as if in a trance,
marched towards the goal they deeply believed in - the victory of
democracy. This evening I am one of two million citizens of
Belgrade who do not sleep, but listen to the banging of the bombs
of all sorts trying to tell the explosions of NATO missiles from
the Yugoslav Army flak. While writing this I wonder whether our
former champions will pursue their bombing for as many days as we
used to protest, wishing somehow to get closer to them.

It is depressing that NATO countries, whose democracy and civic
institutions represent the most valuable achievement, have decided
to teach a small European country a lesson and send it a political
message through bombs and aggression, instead of supporting its
economic reforms and democratic developments. Does anyone know why
NATO bombs Yugoslavia? Do those who know really believe that it is

NATO politicians keep repeating that the goal of the military
action is to punish the so-called Milosevic's war machinery and to
prevent a humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. That effort has resulted
in the killing of over 1,000 civilians so far. Parts of
residential districts have been razed to the ground (Aleksinac,
Surdulica, Cuprija, Vranje, Pristina, etc.). Many industrial
facilities have been destroyed, as well as a great deal of
transportation, telecommunications and other infrastructure
networks. NATO has also bombed hotels, buses, trains, TV stations
and refugee convoys. It does not take much reckoning to realize
that the destruction of factories, bridges and other civilian
installations has brought no damage, political or otherwise, to
Mr. Milosevic, but only to the citizens of Yugoslavia, whose
president Mr. Milosevic happens to be. President Milosevic has not
worked in the destroyed factories. He rarely crossed the
demolished bridges. Ordinary people - guards, technicians,
editors, etc. were killed in the television building wreckage.
Some of them tried in vain to pull out from under the ruins,
begging their colleagues outside for help, over the cellular
phones. They were burnt alive before the rescue teams managed to
arrive. Few days ago, a stray shell killed a three-year-old girl
in a neighboring district while she was sitting on her potty in
the bathroom, getting ready for bed. The TV is now showing the
dead bodies of two people in a street in the center of Belgrade;
killed when a restaurant called "Zlatni ovan" (Golden Ram) was hit
and reduced to a shambles of bricks and beer crates. So, things
are not so nice and morally clean, despite NATO's efforts to
present them as such at its press conferences. Hiding behind the
personality of president Milosevic in front of its public, NATO is
actually retaliating against all citizens of Yugoslavia. It is
both impossible and unnecessary to analyze who has suffered the
most: Serbs, Albanians, Montenegrins...All those, whose protection
was invoked to start the war have now become its victims. Facts
prove that everything NATO has done so far is completely opposite
to its alleged interest in humanitarian issues. Prior to NATO
aggression on 24 March 1999, there was no humanitarian catastrophe
in Kosovo. The Albanians were complaining about their political
and legal status in Serbia, demanding more rights, even secession
from Serbia, but they have never been existentially endangered.
No TV station in the world at that time screened pictures of
endless convoys of Albanian refugees from Kosovo, because none
existed. They emerged when the first NATO bombs started to drop. I
think that NATO politicians were aware of what was going to
happen, but nevertheless ordered the air strikes against
Yugoslavia. Without much of a guilty conscience a horrible
humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and
Albania has been produced, and after enormous economic destruction
all citizens of Yugoslavia have become victims in need of
humanitarian assistance.

After a month and a half of daily bombing of Yugoslavia, it is
absolutely clear that the scope of material destruction of
economic and other civilian targets has little to do with military
operations NATO formally refers to as an excuse for what it does.
Important parts of industry have been either completely destroyed
or heavily damaged: oil refineries, chemical plants, fertilizer
production, car manufacturing, construction machinery factories,
tobacco processing, household appliances industry, etc. Around 30
bridges have been torn down. Citizens of Novi Sad, one of the most
beautiful cities in Yugoslavia and the capital of the province of
Vojvodina, are forced to cross the river Danube by ferry and to
use water brought in by tanker trucks. NATO destroyed all three
bridges in this city (and thus also disrupted the water supply
system), although Novi Sad is located some 500 km from the border
with Kosovo. One of the most famous Yugoslav musicians who lives
in Novi Sad, has recently said: "Had I known that any bridge in
Novi Sad caused the suffering of Albanian children in Kosovo, I
would have destroyed it myself." The democratic opposition marked
a landslide victory at the elections in Novi Sad two years ago and
Milosevic's party had almost no representatives in the city
parliament. I wonder how the citizens of Novi Sad, one of the most
developed and most civilized cities in Yugoslavia until now, will
come to terms with the fact that they have actually been reverted
to the stone age by that same democratic West they gravitated
towards until yesterday.

Probably out of its concern for the people, NATO attacked several
chemical industry targets in the vicinity of Belgrade, which
stored extremely poisonous materials (Petrohemija, Azotara -
Pancevo, Prva Iskra - Baric), consciously risking a global
environmental catastrophe which could have resulted in poisoning a
huge number of people. Although a Bhopal-like tragedy has been
initially avoided, the degree of air pollution by toxic vapors
from the destroyed factories has yet to be established. It is
depressing that NATO could be so cold-blooded allowing the use of
depleted uranium bombs, which might have dreadful consequences for
the health of citizens, similar to those seen after the Gulf war.
Radioactivity in Yugoslavia is said to have increased by 10%
today. We wish to convince ourselves that it is still within the
normal limits. I don't know whether to cry or to laugh when I
listen to the German foreign minister, Mr. Joschka Fischer,
representative of the Green party, who strongly supports the
return of refugees to a radioactively contaminated and completely
ruined Kosovo.

Who actually benefits from this war? Of course, NATO soldiers, who
have been polishing their missiles for years, and could hardly
wait to finally use them. All sorts of weapons the world has ever
produced are being tested on us these days. NATO has been given an
opportunity to study the results of their effects, while the
Russians have probably learned some interesting data by analyzing
the use of their weaponry by the Yugoslav defense. I doubt it that
either were shaken by the fact that human beings, who are
incidentally called Serbs and Albanians, have been sacrificed in
the experiment. On the contrary, I presume that they all had fun.
Just remember the expressionless face of NATO spokesman, Mr. Shea,
while he declared his "deep regret" over the inevitable collateral
damage, after a few missiles killed 70 Albanians in a refugee
convoy in Kosovo, or 50 Serbs in a train set ablaze on the
Nis-Pristina road, or 30 people in a charred bus in Grdelicka
gorge, or 15 people in the state TV building in Belgrade, or…It
is not easy to accept the fact that NATO should think of ordinary
citizens of Yugoslavia merely in terms of a possible collateral

The war in Yugoslavia certainly works in favor of the U.S.
defense industry and its numerous subcontractors. They have seen a
real boost. In a month, the stocks of cruise missile producer
(Raytheon) and airplane manufacturer (Boeing) have gone up by 20%,
while Boeing obtained new orders worth 8.8 billion dollars.

European partners within NATO have so far sustained only damage
(with the exception of Great Britain). Regardless of what certain
analysts try to prove, it is absolutely clear that the Kosovo
crisis has added to the significant drop in the value of the euro
against the US dollar. Among the NATO countries, Greece and Italy
are bearing the brunt of economic consequences, and if the
conflict is prolonged and intensified, the coming tourist season
would be a total disaster. Hungary, Austria and Germany are
particularly affected by the lack of navigation along the Danube,
since the concrete structures of the demolished bridges block the
passage of the ships. The increase in costs due to using
alternative routes to transport goods comes up to 300%. NATO
operations are also threatening the economies of the neighboring
countries, primarily Macedonia and Albania, as well as Bulgaria,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Romania. That is the reason
for the plans already prepared by the WB and IMF to provide
financial support for the economic renewal of these countries
ranging between 1 and 2,5 billion dollars (the precise amount is
to be defined in accordance with the duration of the war).

Naturally, Yugoslavia, the direct victim of NATO aggression, is
sustaining the greatest economic losses. In only a month, the
total losses caused by NATO attacks, measured in terms of the GDP,
are greater than those inflicted on the country during the second
World War. The Yugoslav GDP in 1999 could be reduced by 25% to
50%, depending on the duration of the war. Until a month ago, many
Yugoslav economists warned that because of its extremely misled
economic policy, Yugoslavia would need 15 years to reach the level
of economic development it had in 1989. Today, after the NATO
bombing, it will probably take 10 years to reach the level we had
only a month ago.

The destruction of industrial facilities has left hundreds of
thousands of workers jobless. The already high unemployment rate
of around 27% before this war could quickly double. With its
industry destroyed and per capita income unlikely to exceed
$1,000, Yugoslavia will not be able to sustain even the current
low level of health and social security or the existing level of
education. Millions of people in Serbia, impoverished workers and
their families will be left without guaranteed income and will
qualify for humanitarian assistance. Unless they quickly receive
it, primarily in the form of new job openings, there will be an
outpour of economic refugees from Yugoslavia to the developed
Western countries. No visa regimes, controls or embargos will be
able to prevent hundreds of thousands of people to seek refuge
from poverty by leaving Yugoslavia forever. The developed
countries, which are themselves facing a serious problem of
unemployment and immigrants intake, are unlikely to benefit from

When this war ends, the whole of the Balkans will need economic
assistance from the developed countries. It is the only way to
create lasting stability in this region. While it is positive that
programs of economic assistance for the neighboring countries have
already been prepared, it is paradoxical that they do not include
Serbia at all. It appears that all these "poor" countries sustain
damage but not us. Leaving Serbia isolated is a grave error which
will sooner or later provoke a new war disaster. When you punish a
disobedient child, there are limits you must not cross or you risk
creating a future criminal. One wonders if Germany would be
economically so strong and stable as it is today without the
program of reconstruction within the Marshall Plan. One also
wonders whether the disintegration and terrible inter-ethnic wars
in the former Yugoslavia could have been avoided had the West
granted the loans of only 4 billion dollars promised to the last
Prime Minister of Yugoslavia Ante Markovic, who hoped in vain
until the last moment. That amount, certainly small for the
developed countries, might have changed the history of my country.
A weak economy and social insecurity of the people provide the
most suitable ground for irrational thinking and rapidly
developing tensions among nations. I strongly believe that this
was one of the main reasons for the violent disintegration of the
former Yugoslavia, which also brought about the present war
madness. I learned about similar situations by studying history,
but now I have experienced one myself, and I do hope that such
huge mistakes will not happen again.

Without extensive foreign assistance Yugoslavia will certainly be
unable to recover. There will be enough food, as always, thanks to
the fertile soil and God, notwithstanding the government's
blundering agricultural policy. So, people will survive, but
everything else…I hate to think that the reconstruction and
development of Yugoslavia as well as the future of its young
generations will mostly depend on the money of those who are
bombing it now.  Unfortunately, reality is not always as we wish
to see it. On the other hand, although I distrust the generosity
and humanity of the developed Western countries, I believe in
their ability to calculate the indirect costs they are bound to
sustain owing to the irrational NATO policy. There are always the
current and the future victims of a war. I assume that - guided by
its own interests rather than by good deeds - the West will sooner
or later realize that it is better to assist Yugoslavia then to
bear the costs it made itself.  It is, therefore, realistic to
expect international aid in the reconstruction of infrastructure,
social programs, and perhaps assistance in overcoming the balance
of payments and budget difficulties.

A major part of this assistance should be donated by the European
Union countries. Although their culpability for the present war
destruction is not the greatest (with the exception of Great
Britain), they might be exposed to the largest economic and social
costs because of the foreseeable uncontrollable inflow of
immigrants from Yugoslavia. I have recently made a public
recommendation to our government to see the chance to pull out
from poverty in a strong connection with European Union countries,
primarily Germany, Italy and France, of course when this war is
over. These countries have always been the most important trade
partners of Yugoslavia. It will also be in their interest to
rebuild the infrastructure first, and then make direct
investments.  Naturally, nobody will invest in a country that has
no bridges, railways and roads. But one should take into account
that unless the destroyed bridges over the Danube are rebuilt
there will be no international river transport and many countries
will incur heavy losses. Taking this into consideration, once the
economic interests prevail over an irrational war logic, all
problems will be easily resolved.

With its aggression on a sovereign country NATO has undoubtedly
violated many provisions of the international law. But, punishing
a whole nation and sacrificing its future are contrary not only to
the legal, but also to the moral tradition of Europe. I therefore
believe that sooner or later the developed countries of the West
will seize an opportunity to demonstrate their basic principles. I
pray that justice, democracy and humanity are expressed as
described in books and political pamphlets. I am aware that such a
picture does not correspond to the reality, but it is still nice
to believe in it. It should not be forgotten that only a month ago
many people in my country sincerely believed in the principles of
Western democracy and were ready to fight for them politically. I
can only hope that, not counting NATO itself, some civic
institutions have remained in NATO countries. I cannot believe
that the money from the huge NATO budget has managed to corrupt
all Western politicians and destroy the common sense of the whole
public opinion in Europe and the USA.

The largest part of the world will forget the things I am writing
about here the very moment when the horrible pictures of innocent
civilian victims and refugee convoys disappear from the TV
screens. Many things will no longer be important. After all, I am
sure that NATO strategists have never been interested either in
the Albanians and their rights or in the problem of democracy in
Serbia and the rights of its citizens. It appears that the only
goal NATO has always had is the deployment of its troops in

After so many civilians have been killed, I do not know whether
this military power will reach its goal, directly or indirectly or
why should it be so important to reach it. I believe that the
alleged interest in the people and human rights, democracy and the
future of this region, is a great farce indeed.  When Serbia
refused to accept what had been determined by someone's strategic
plans long ago, when it refused to give up the sovereignty over
its own territory, the bombs, the destruction and the killing of
innocent citizens all begun. Obviously, even democratic countries
kill civilians, don't they?  

* The Group 17 gathers 20 most distinguished Yugoslav economists
employed at universities, banks, consulting agencies and
international financial institutions (WB and IMF). The Group 17
has been urging swift and comprehensive economic reforms and
democratization in Serbia and Montenegro. It is led by two
coordinators: Veselin Vukotic, chief architect of economic reforms
in Montenegro and Mladjan Dinkic, author of economic bestseller
"The Economics of Destruction". More about Group 17 at our


tel/fax:+381 11
624-669; 636-491
"Belgrade today, your town tomorrow..." The New World Order

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