Socialist Worker answers your questions
NO. THE Western bombing of Serbia makes a wider war across the Balkans more likely. It could have a tinderbox effect throughout the region, pulling many millions of people into conflict. It will encourage nationalist politicians in countries such as Hungary to open up dozens of border disputes and target minorities. They will think they have the West's backing against Serbia.
The Western-backed ex-leader of Albania is agitating in the north of the country for war against Serbia. The bombing already threatens to lead to the break up of Macedonia. The Albanian people are spread across six statesAlbania itself, Kosovo, Montenegro, southern Serbia, Greece and Macedonia. They make up over a fifth of the two million people who live in Macedonia. They have demanded separation from Macedonia and to be part of Albania. The break up of Macedonia would draw in neighbouring states. Bulgaria claims much of Macedonia as "Southern Bulgaria". Any wider war would draw in the region's two biggest powersTurkey and Greece. Greece is the second most militarised country in the world.
WAR BETWEEN the world's biggest powersthe US, Russia and Chinais highly unlikely. But NATO's intervention in the Balkans has considerably raised the tensions between them. Russia and China oppose bombing Serbia, for their own strategic interests. They are talking about refusing to agree new limits on nuclear and other weapons with the US. The US is making conflict with China and Russia more likely by telling them that they have to bow down and accept its domination.
SERBIAN POLICE and army units have conducted a vicious war against the Kosovo Liberation Army for the past 12 months. Some 2,000 KLA fighters and Albanian civilians have been killed. The Serbian army has behaved in the same way as every other state that says it is "fighting terrorism". Its methods are very similar to those of the Turkish army in Kurdistan. But it has not yet inflicted as much suffering as the US did in the Vietnam War where it killed two million and destroyed thousands of villages.
The aim of Serbian policy until last week was not to physically drive the Albanians from Kosovo. Such a policy made no sense even to Milosevic. The province was so poor that Serbs from other regionsfor instance refugees from Krajina refused to settle there. The war has, however, lead to real ethnic cleansing, as Serbs drive out Albanians they see as allies of the countries that are bombing them.
The media also speak of "genocide". They compare Serbia's behaviour to Nazism's treatment of the Jews. The Nazis meticulously drew up lists of every Jew in their empire and carted them off to the mass mechanised murder of the gas chambers. The Serbian forces have murdered groups of Albanian civilians in order to frighten others away from supporting the KLA or to make them flee certain areas.
It is a barbarous policy. But to equate it with the Nazi Holocaust is to insult the memory of the millions who died at Hitler's hands. Again, the one thing that might bring such a horrific policy closer is the war. It is creating such bitterness among very large numbers of ordinary Serbs that there is a danger some will turn to fascists like Arkan and Seselj who are even more right wing than Milosevic.
ALBANIANS IN Kosovo responded to repression after 1989 by boycotting elections and setting up an unofficial parallel parliament. US president George Bush refused to even meet the Kosovan leaders. They were ignored in the US brokered Dayton agreement which was imposed on Bosnia in 1995. It cemented ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and shored up Tudjman, Milosevic and the other nationalist leaders. Only then did the Kosovo Liberation Army emerge. It did what the IRA in Northern Ireland and the PKK in Turkey didlaunched a guerilla war.
In response Milosevic poured paramilitary police and troops into Kosovo. Foreign secretary Robin Cook and the US State Department denounced the KLA as "terrorists" 12 months ago. US secretary of state Madeleine Albright hinted at bombing both the KLA and Serbian forces last year. The West opposes the Kosovans' call for independence. But the KLA has fallen into the trap of calling for Western intervention. It has also attacked Serb civilians in Kosovo alongside Serbian forces.
THE WORLD'S great powers have militarily intervened in the Balkans for over 120 years. Every intervention has brought misery, creating more divisions between ordinary people.
NATO IS not a force for peace. It was formed in 1949 as a military alliance to patrol the world in the interests of the United States and its friends. It included Portugal, run by the openly fascist dictatorship of Salazar. At the centre of NATO from the beginning was the threat of nuclear annihilation held over the rest of the world.
Two years ago it was NATO "peacekeepers" who disarmed Albanian workers when they rose in revolt against their own corrupt ruling class. There is strong evidence that NATO backed the right wing coup in 1967 in Greece and supported the military governments in Turkey. NATO has helped channel arms to US-supporting forces in various parts of the world. NATO bombing of Serbs in 1995 was timed to coincide with a Bosnian and Croat offensive which drove tens of thousands of Serbians from their homes.
THE US and Britain are deliberately ignoring rules they themselves drew up. The great powers set up the UN at the end of World War Two. They promised it would solve problems between countries peacefully. Since they dominatedand still dominateits proceedings, it was only able to act on the rare occasions they were in agreement with each other. So it did nothing to stop the horror inflicted by France on Indochina and Algeria, by the US on Vietnam, by China on Tibet, or by Russia on Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan.
Its resolutions have not stopped the US aiding Israel's occupation of parts of Lebanon or the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. It was not able to stop the US, Russia, and to a smaller scale, Britain, France and China, building horrific stockpiles of nuclear weapons through the cold war years.
But for more than 50 years it did make the great powers pretend to keep to the rule that they would not invade another country merely because they disliked what a government was doing. This rule provided the alleged justification for the war against Iraq after it occupied Kuwait in 1990. The US and Britain argued that Kuwait was a "sovereign country" and had to be "liberated" by "the world community" at the cost of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi liveseven though Kuwait had no democracy and power lay in the hands of a single family.
Now the US and the other NATO powers are openly flouting that rule. If they get away with doing so, they will feel even more confident to attack other governments they do not like. And other powers will feel able to act in the same way. The UN has never stopped the world being a dangerous place. The new NATO policy will make it even more dangerous.
WHEN THE West has intervened directly, claiming humanitarian motives, it has always brought disaster.
WESTERN PEACEKEEPERS torture a Somali
At the end of 1992 US marines landed in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia in east Africa. President Bush said they were there to stop famine and end civil war. At first the 28,000 United Nations troops were welcomed by the local population. But the feeling that they had been rescued soon turned to hatred. Western troops made no fundamental difference to the amount of food supplied. The soldiers' cruelty to local people also strengthened the hold of the Somali "warlords" they were supposed to disarm. Night after night US helicopter gunships swooped over Mogadishu raining rockets and bullets. The number of Somalis butchered will never be knownbut it was certainly thousands.
Last year three Belgian paratroopers faced a court martial on charges that they had tortured and murdered Somali civilians, including children. Pictures showed Belgian soldiers roasting a Somali child alive over a fire. Canadian troops on the UN mission were shown to have murdered a Somalian who had crawled into their camp looking for food.
In December 1989 US troops invaded Panama in Central America. This time the excuse was the behaviour of the country's head of state, Manuel Noriega. Noriega had once been on the payroll of the United States. A succession of US presidents ignored his links with the drug trade and his vicious suppression of any opposition. But by the late 1980s he had become an embarrassment and was vilified and held up as an excuse for invasion.
"Operation Just Cause" involved 26,000 US troops. Noriega was defeated but US artillery and bombs devastated large parts of Panama City, particularly the poorer areas. The US admitted there were over 200 civilian deaths. But recent research has shown that thousands more were killed, perhaps as many as 7,000.
KOSOVO IS one of the poorest areas in Europe. It is so poor that Serbs who were driven out of Croatia in 1995 refused to be settled there. Over the centuries Kosovo has been mainly populated by Albanians and Serbs. For much of the time they have spoken each other's languages. The balance between the two populations has constantly shifted. Albanians now make up about 90 percent of the population of Kosovo and Serbs about 10 percent.
Throughout Kosovo's history larger states have played off Albanians against Serbs. Kosovo was ruled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire up to the end of the 19th century. Under Serbian control at the end of the 19th century a Serb elite was favoured. Then the Italians dominated and backed Albanians against Serbs. The Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, and World War One, brought renewed Serb ascendency. In World War Two Germany and Italy exploited Albanian grievances to try and turn them against the Serbs. After World War Two Kosovo was again made part of Serbia in the wider federation of Yugoslavia. The Albanians were treated as second class citizens, just like the Catholics in Northern Ireland at the time.
Economic stagnation in the late 1960s spurred nationalist movements. The Yugoslav state was forced to grant greater freedoms to Albanians in Kosovo and other groups in Yugoslavia to try and hold the state together. For a period middle class Albanians got most of the small number of good jobs. Most people remained poor. As economic crisis deepened in the late 1980s Milosevic exploited the feeling of Serbs in Kosovo that they had been pushed aside. The Kosovan Albanians faced systematic repression after Milosevic stripped them of their autonomy in 1989.
THE KURDISH minority in Turkey face oppression every bit as savage as that meted out to the Albanians in Kosovo. But Turkey is a member of NATO and a key ally of the US and Israel. So the West arms Turkey, ignores atrocities against Kurds and helped it kidnap Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan this year. His arrest has brought a wave of repression against Kurds and socialists in Turkey. TULAY KOCAK, editorial director of the socialist paper Workers' Democracy, was arrested last week for publishing an article about the Kurds. This is a shortened version:
"SINCE Ocalan was brought to Turkey there has been an attempt to create a holiday atmosphere in Turkey. The media tries to make us forget our most basic problems and tells us that they are over and at last we will be able to be comfortable. The cause of the war that has killed 30,000 people, 15 times the number who have died in Kosovo, is not the so called "baby murderer" Ocalan.
The reasons for this war are the non-recognition of a people's ethnic and cultural identity, poverty, unemployment and oppression. Those who try to maintain these conditions are responsible for the war, not those who rebel against them. In this war about 27,000 Kurds living in the area have died and up to 3,500 security personnel. Over 21,000 of the dead were militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), up to 5,000 civilians and 1,000 village guards.
There is a Kurdish question in Turkey, however much it is denied here, and it cannot be described as the "terrorism of one or two bandits". The media do not even mention that the Kurds live in the poorest region of the country and are treated like second class citizens. The Kurds are put on trial for defending their most basic democratic and cultural rights. Over three million Kurds have been forced to abandon their villages because they were accused of supporting the PKK. Half a million Kurds have been forced out. Kurds living in the big cities in Turkey are drowning in unemployment and poverty.
How can we possibly have any interest in the oppression of a people we live and work alongside? The force that is oppressing them is exploiting us. What Karl Marx said 150 years ago is our guiding light: "No nation that oppresses another can itself be free"."