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Issue 1641 10 April 1999
War leads to catastrophe

TONY BLAIR and Bill Clinton told us the war against Serbia was going to bring an end to the horror in Kosovo. But every bomb NATO has dropped has made the suffering worse. There are now 20 times more refugees than a fortnight ago. Hundreds of thousands are stranded on the borders of Macedonia without shelter, food or medical facilities. Yet the powers that carried out the bombing quibble about who should pay for basic care for the refugees.

Driven from their homes in Kosovo

Bombed from their homes in Serbia

The number of people dead has multiplied. Many have been killed by Serbs driven by the nationalistic fervour created by the bombing. Many more people will be killed this week as NATO bombs civilian targets such as bridges, railways, power plants and now residential areas. Yet on Tuesday the British and US governments refused even to consider the Serbs' offer of a ceasefire.

NATO's bombs do not distinguish between soldiers and civilians, between adults and children or between pro-Milosevic Serbs and anti-Milosevic Serbs. Blair and Clinton say they are not responsible for this horror. They say they did not know a refugee crisis would happen and that Milosevic would drive the Kosovan Albanians out . But their original justification for the bombing was that he was already doing so on a massive scale. They cannot have it both ways. Neither can those who have rushed to support them—newspapers from the Tory Daily Mail to the Labour weekly Tribune, politicians from Tory William Hague to Labour's Ken Livingstone and Michael Foot. They have all helped bring about a terrible catastrophe.

These people say there is no alternative but to step up the war. But that will make things worse and lead to more deaths, more refugees and more ethnic cleansing. The war could also spread to neighbouring countries. The bombing has strengthened Milosevic. It has pushed those who once demonstrated against him to line up behind him, as they cower in shelters each night with planes overhead. Clinton and Blair knew this would happen. Senior generals told Clinton in the weeks before NATO launched its air attack that bombing would not work. They said the US could have used "non-military levers" to bring peace to Kosovo. Even today senior generals say they are "doubtful" if air strikes can stop the violence. But Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, told the generals that "losing Kosovo" would "damage US interests in Europe" and threaten "US leadership in NATO".

Concern with the interests of the ordinary people of Kosovo was never anywhere near the top of Clinton and Blair's agenda. They are much more concerned with boosting NATO's power to act anywhere in the world. How can NATO's leaders claim to be "humanitarian" when they arm rulers in Turkey and Indonesia who treat the Kurds and the people of East Timor just as Milosevic treats the Kosovans? The bombing has created an even worse catastrophe. Everyone should demand it stops now.

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