Socialist Worker special
THE POUNDING of Serbia by NATO forces has driven home to millions the full horror and destruction of war. NATO military intervention is supposed to help the Albanians in Kosovo. In reality it has made their plight worse. It has provided a new and violent twist to the war on the ground and thrown up new casualties.
Western leaders say that fighter jets and cruise missiles, and the violence they inflict, are the only way to bring peace to the region. In Britain Tony Blair and defence secretary George Robertson are backing the war against Serbia. So too are MPs like Ken Livingstone and papers like the Guardian. They all justify this by saying that Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic is a "New Hitler" and must be stopped.
But Hitler was the leader of the world's second largest industrial power when he smashed the German workers' movement and took over in 1933. Serbia is a minor country with a totally devastated economy which produces less than Tunisia. Hitler was a beacon for reactionaries all across the world and had the military power to threaten any other state. Serbia could not even totally defeat its smaller neighbours like Croatia and Bosnia during the recent wars.
Milosevic is one of many leaders who have emerged since the collapse of Eastern Europe after 1989. He is a former banker who turned into a raving nationalist in order to make a career for himself as popular opposition to the regime grew. His politics are hard right wing but he is not a fascist. In fact he is the Serbian version of the Tory Norman Tebbit rather than the Serbian Hitler.
The West was happy to support the local equivalents of Milosevic during the wars that followed the break up of Yugoslavia. Franjo Tudjman, the president of Croatia, adopted the symbols of the Croatian Ustashe regime which was allied with Hitler against Serbia during World War Two. Tudjman denied that the Nazis killed six million Jews. He tried to crush all internal opposition and fiddled election results. None of this stopped first Germany and then the United States backing him. The US regarded Milosevic as a useful man to implement the Dayton peace agreement at the end of the war in Bosnia in 1995. Richard Holbrooke, chief US negotiator, described him as "a man we can do business with, a man who recognises the realities of life in former Yugoslavia."