"EVERY BOMB that lands here strengthens Mr Milosevic." That was how BBC correspondent John Simpson described NATO's bombing of the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Simpson says he has never seen such support for Milosevic. "The bombing here is supposed to show the Serbian people that Slobodan Milosevic has led them astray. It isn't working." He is right. NATO'S war has united people behind the Serbian leaderthe opposite effect to what NATO's leaders claim.
Simpson says that in Belgrade some of the angriest about the bombing are "the young twenty-somethings who speak English, admire Britain and the US, and have demonstrated angrily against President Milosevic in the past. "They now feel utterly betrayed." Vesna is a 21 year old student and a member of the opposition. She has faced death threats from the government, which has branded her an "enemy of Serbia". She told reporters, "The country is united around Milosevic because he's represented as a great messiah who is going to save the Serbian people, and NATO is represented as the destroyer of the Serbian nation."
NEW LABOUR, like the Tories in the 1991 Gulf War, wants to stop us hearing the truth about the war. The government has attacked:
The government stopped Paxman from interviewing Tony Blair about the war last week. Radio 4 bosses banned a programme last weekend depicting life for people in Belgrade. The programme's maker, Tim Llewellyn, said, "They panicked and the BBC is about trying not to be nasty to the authorities these days."
THE LABOUR government claims it is bombing the Balkans to save the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo. But its treatment of refugees from Kosovo and elsewhere is scandalous. The second largest group of asylum seekers in detention centres and prisons across Britain are classified as Albanians. Refugee groups say the Home Office deliberately classifies Kosovans as Albanians to make it harder for them to claim asylum.
Is that what happened when 30 refugees were deported after a raid on a factory in Altherstone in Coventry? The immigration department says they "claimed to be Kosovan but they were Albanians". The town is in immigration minister Mike O' Brien's constituency. He has justified New Labour tightening up asylum laws, saying in November 1998, "As there is no distinct nationality of Kosovan, those claiming to be Kosovan are usually to be found among nationals of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. "Some claiming to be Kosovan are in fact Albanian."
On Thursday of last week, as NATO bombs were launched on the Balkans, home secretary Jack Straw insisted on the deportation of a Kosovan refugee. Thankfully the appeal court threw out the deportation order in this case.
WE CONDEMN NATO's decision to bomb Serbia. Every Western involvement in the Balkans for more than 100 years has acted to heighten nationalist conflict in the region. We condemn President Milosevic's dirty war in Kosovo, but the bombing of Serbia will not stop the suffering of Albanians in Kosovo. The plight of the Kosovans is not uppermost in the minds of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. The government is initiating asylum legislation which will make it more difficult for refugees from the war in Kosovo to find refuge in this country. In the run up to the Scottish and Welsh elections we will be putting the case for an end to the war, for welfare not warfare, and for internationalism.
THE press who have been scapegoating Kosovan refugees are now running stories about their plight to justify the bombing.
"FANCY A night at a £125 a night hotel, complete with colour TV, en suite bathroom, laundry and valeting service? It's not the kind of luxury most of us can afford. Unless, of course, we happen to be a refugee from Kosovo."
"TORMENT: Kosovan Albanian refugee children."
"The tale of these two victims of oppression [Kosovan refugees in Macedonia] mirrors that of thousands of others whose lives have been blackened by the Kosovo conflict."