Record of Britain and US

"The West defends murderous regimes if it suits its interests, then demonises them if they step out of line"

Propping up mass murderers

TONY BLAIR and US president Bill Clinton say the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo is to bring about justice and to protect the oppressed Albanians. But for decades the West has backed mass murderers and torturers so long as they fitted in with its interests. These tyrants have acted in a manner similar to, and often much worse than, the Serbian regime. Blair and Clinton accuse Serbia's Milosevic of killing 2,500 people in Kosovo. But the West happily supports governments which have butchered hundreds of thousands.

In the 1960s and 1970s the US fought a war against ordinary people in Vietnam. One million were killed in Vietnam and another million in Cambodia. During that war the US used, on a more horrific scale, the methods it now accuses Milosevic of using—search and destroy patrols, burning villages and driving out thousands of people. Britain used the same means against those who revolted against the empire, for example in Malaya.

THE POVERTY people were reduced to in Belgrade in the 1980s (above) lies behind the build up of nationalist tension. The price of one B-2 Stealth bomber could have wiped out that poverty

The US has murdered opponents, fixed elections and intervened throughout Central and South America to defend right wing forces which pushed US profit and power. Some 75,000 people were killed by US backed death squads in El Salvador. Today the West defends murderous regimes if it suits its interests, then demonises them if they step a little out of line. Saddam Hussein in Iraq went from being a "hero" in the war against Iran to a villain when he was seen to threaten US oil interests.

There are many other examples:


In 1965 the US backed General Suharto in sweeping away the slightly left wing government of Indonesia. All the Western powers now terrorising Serbia applauded his victory. At least 500,000 were killed by Suharto and his allies in the immediate aftermath of the coup. When Portugal withdrew from its colony of East Timor in 1975, the Indonesian army occupied it. The airforce bombed villages indiscriminately and used heavy artillery against rebel movements and their civilian supporters. Suharto's men killed probably 120,000 of the 650,000 people in the country.

US president Ford and his secretary of state, Kissinger, visited Suharto the day before the invasion and nodded it through. No task force was dispatched to free East Timor. Up until today the West has provided the weaponry that lets the Indonesian regime maintain its grip on East Timor.


In 1975 the Portuguese colonialists were driven from the central African state of Angola. Right wing forces, particularly Jonas Savimbi's UNITA, attempted to bring down the MPLA government which came to office as a result of the uprising that defeated Portugal. The US was determined to stop a left wing government controlling the country.

From the beginning of the Angolan civil war the CIA channelled arms to UNITA. In 1981, when President Reagan took office, the US government swept away a Congressional ban on openly sending arms to movements like UNITA. The result plunged Angola into 20 years of bloodshed. The Angolan war has already claimed 750,000 lives. Two thirds of those killed were children. UNITA specialised in attacks on civilians and sowing landmines in villages. Over 65,000 people have had limbs amputated as a result.


The West has backed Israel, the only certain nuclear power in the Middle East, for 50 years. Yet Israel is responsible for horrors far greater than anything that has happened in Kosovo. At the birth of the state the Israeli government used terror to drive out 750,000 Palestinians. In a series of wars against its Arab neighbours Israel has always been able to rely on support from the United States.

The US has not only handed over hundreds of millions of dollars of aid but also directly intervened in military conflicts on Israel's side, such as in the 1973 war. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon. Tens of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese were slaughtered as refugee camps were bombed to rubble. Israel deliberately targeted hospitals with phosphorus and cluster bombs. During two major invasions in 1993 and 1996 the Israelis killed hundreds of civilians.

Today some people argue that perhaps the US can do good in Kosovo even if not elsewhere. But the record of imperialism shows a consistent pattern where profit and power come first and ordinary people come nowhere.

What is the alternative?

THERE IS an alternative to the crazy waste of lives and resources caused by this war. We have to fight for a world where dictators are abolished and useful production replaces the technology of death.

But to get this sort of decent society we need to get rid of the capitalist system and those who run it. The struggle from below is the real solution to the problems in the Balkans and elsewhere. But the NATO bombing is making life harder for the opposition in Serbia. If a foreign country dropped bombs on London and killed hundreds of people, the first reaction of the vast majority would be to back "our" government, however right wing it was.

Before the NATO bombing Financial Times journalist Guy Dinmore reported that there were many small protests by the mothers of Serbian conscripts against the war in Kosovo. They asked why Milosevic's son Marko, who owns a nightclub and likes sports cars, was not drafted to fight. Now those voices have been drowned out. Forces which are even more rabidly nationalist than Milosevic—like paramilitary chief Arkan, who butchered civilians in Bosnia—hope to gain support after years on the margins.

Whenever a war starts it seems like there is "national unity". But twice in the last decade Serbian people have risen against Milosevic. In April 1991, during the previous war, 700,000 workers went on strike in Serbia. Milosevic had to use tanks to defeat them. Then in 1996 students and workers filled the streets of Belgrade for weeks demanding more democracy and improved living conditions. There was real hope that Milosevic would be toppled.

Some sections of the opposition began to discuss freedom for Kosovo as one of their demands. That movement was defeated, partly because the Western backed leaders of the opposition remained wedded to nationalist politics. The movement showed that Milosevic could be removed by his own people. But NATO is making that process more difficult.