steve rhodes on Sun, 20 Jun 1999 21:01:58 -0700

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Syndicate: Fisk stories and column

Robert Fisk has a couple of stories on how the
damage to the Serbian military wasn't as much
as NATO claimed.  Unfortunately, the urls
may only be good for a day (though they may
be mirrored on some sites).  He also has
a stong column which will follow.

 How fake guns and painting the roads fooled Nato
 by Robert Fisk, Independent  (6-21-99)

 Serb army 'unscathed by Nato' 
 by Robert Fisk, Independent  (6-21-99)

Robert Fisk - Was it rescue or revenge?
Independent  (6-21-99)

Bestialisation is an unpleasant sport. The Serbs bestialised the 
Albanians for years. Terrorists, mafia, communists, Marxists, 
murderers. Officially directed at the Kosovo Liberation Army, 
these epithets came to be applied to the entire Kosovo Albanian 
community. And when General Nabojsa Pavkovic warned that "settling 
scores... is what we'll do if our country is attacked from the air 
or the ground," the Albanians knew what to expect. The moment Nato 
commenced its blitz against Yugoslavia, the harassment of the Kosovo 
Albanians turned into persecution, and the atrocities into mass murder. 

But now it is we who are doing the bestialising. Nazis, Gestapo, 
blood-stained thugs, genocidal. The Serbs. In just a few short 
sound-bites, we are now bestialising a whole people. Serbs Out, 
Nato In, Refugees Back. That was how George Robertson - with 
appalling simplicity and even more awful results - summed up 
the west's ambitions in Kosovo earlier this month. And sure 
enough, the Serbs are moving out. At least 50,000 Serb civilians 
- half the remaining Serb population of the province - have already 
fled the homes that Messrs Clinton and Blair promised to protect. 
Perhaps half the gypsy population of Kosovo have fled with them on
 their wooden carts and ponies. Serbian Kosovo is turning into 
Albanian Kosovo. 

True, it was Serb forces - not the KLA - which dispossessed the 
Albanians of Kosovo. Serb forces executed the Albanian men of 
countless villages across the province. The KLA have committed 
atrocities, but not on this scale. Yet it remains a sad and 
devastating fact that the vast majority of war crimes - almost 
the entire mass dispossession and "ethnic cleansing" of Albanians 
- occurred after Nato had begun its war. 

Had we been prepared to intervene on land at the beginning - at 
the cost, no doubt, of Nato soldiers' lives - countless murdered 
Albanians would still be alive. And had we attempted to sort out 
the whole Kosovo crisis when the Albanians first appealed for our 
help at Dayton in 1995 - when Richard Holbrooke and his chums told 
them to get lost - the last three months' bloodbath might never have 
occurred, and hundreds of thousands of dispossessed Albanians would 
still be in their homes 

Moral outrage is a very powerful emotion. I felt it a year ago when 
I saw the Serb police looting houses in the village of Comerane. I 
felt it a few days' later when a Serb police officer threatened to 
rape an Albanian woman who was travelling with me. I felt it when 
The Independent's own Albanian interpreter emerged from the heart 
of darkness just over a week ago with a frightful story of her two 
months' persecution in Kosovo. I knew what to expect when British 
KFOR troops entered the MUP police headquarters in Pristina and 
found their collection of baseball bats, strapped bed, knuckledusters. 

Because I have visited another identical police station with a 
torture basement. Indeed, I have been interrogated on the first 
floor, surrounded by policemen holding identical baseball bats. 
And that police force was engaged in the persecution, dispossession 
and - with the help of that nation's armed forces - the burning of 
villages and the murder of their ethnic inhabitants. But readers 
who fear another Nato bombing campaign can relax. This police station 
happened to be in a city called Diyarbakir, and the country whose 
police forces are involved in torture and murder is called Turkey. 
And Turkey is a member of Nato, supporting - albeit without enormous 
enthusiasm - our righteous war against Serbia. And Turkey is not 
(quite) in Europe. Hence the need for our masters to say that we are 
discovering war crimes unknown "in Europe" since the Second World War. 

But back to Kosovo, where our moral outrage is at its loudest. In 
our reporting of Kosovo's "liberation", there is no longer any 
mention of the bombing campaign that preceded it. The hundreds of 
Serb and Albanian civilians killed by Nato bombs have been expunged 
from the record. The train at Grdelica, the two hospitals, the Chinese 
embassy, the bridge at Varvarin - with its beheaded priest and its 
female high-school student with her stomach torn out - the housing 
estates in Nis, Surdelica and Cuprija, and the Albanian refugee 
convoy destroyed in April - all must now be forgotten. The evil 
we now uncover makes such matters irrelevant, even if most of that 
evil had not yet been committed when we began our blitz against Yugoslavia. 

Having witnessed much of the war - far too much of the war - I am 
convinced it was unnecessary; that there must have been some way of 
avoiding Nato's brutal bombardment and the wickedness that Serb forces 
unleashed against the Albanians once that bombardment began. True, 
their "cleansing" of Kosovo had already started, but on an infinitely 
smaller scale. And Nato General Wesley Clark's assertion that the 
post-attack onslaught against the Albanians was "entirely predictable" 
still seems to be the height of cynicism. 

I wonder, in the future, whether we can allow a European army to be 
driven by the United States. It was America, courtesy of Madeleine 
Albright, that pushed for this war. It was an American air force 
that took the leading role in bombing a European nation. 

While the Albanians were being assaulted, US Defence Secretary 
William Cohen was referring (on 1 April) to "our gallant forces 
serving on the front line" - forces that were sitting on their 
bottoms in Albania doing nothing. And when the time came for Nato 
troops to move into Kosovo, what was America's role? It wanted 
the safest bit of the province to control, and wasted so much 
time arguing about its right to arrive along with the British 
that the Russians moved in to capture Pristina airport. 

Nato unleashed a war that produced a refugee exodus on a Biblical 
scale. It went on to slaughter hundreds of civilians in order to 
return the refugees, most of whom were in their homes when the blitz 
began. And then it watched the exodus of half of Kosovo's other 
population - the Serbs - whom it was also meant to protect. And 
it then proclaimed a victory. 

This may go down well in the United States, but I don't think 
Europe should suffer this kind of treatment. I don't believe that 
American generals should be in charge of the destruction of a 
European nation, however barbaric its ruler. I don't think think 
the European Union should tolerate any repeat performances. 

Yes, we Europeans are weak. We prefer to let the Americans wield 
the big stick, and to fall into line behind their generals. But 
if we are going to control our own destinies, our future, those 
much trumpeted "values" that Tony Blair keeps talking about, and
 our defence, we've got to do it ourselves. Which means the end 
of Nato and the creation of a real European defence force, one 
which cannot be accused of obeying American orders; a brigade, 
or a division, or an army which - if it really intends to protect 
the innocent and keep the peace - has the moral courage to go in 
on the ground to save life, rather than wait until the lives are 
lost and then punish those responsible. 

There was a moment back in April, early in the bombing campaign, 
when Nato's lie became obvious. "Had we not acted," said President 
Clinton, "the Serb offensive would have been carried out with impunity." 

And there we have it. Ours was a punishment campaign, not a 
preventive action. It was intended to avenge the Albanians, not 
to save them - and to revenge ourselves on the Serbs, I have no 
doubt, for the humiliation we suffered at their hands in Bosnia. 
The Albanian refugees will now return to their "predictably" burned 
homes and the "predictable" mass graves of their loved ones. The 
Serbs will continue to flood out of the province that Nato had 
sworn to preserve. 

And the Americans will continue to make the decisions. Europe 
deserves better. So do the Kosovo Albanians. So do the Serbs. 

Steve Rhodes

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