WHAT IS to be the fate of the tens of thousands of refugees created by the NATO bombing? The British government says that it has gone to war to protect the Kosovan Albanians. Yet up to now virtually nothing has been done by the NATO member governments to help those fleeing the bombing. Indeed a row broke out between the US and the British government after President Clinton said that he was in favour of airlifting some refugees out.
Clinton's "generosity" was somewhat limited. None of the refugees would have stepped onto US soilthey were to be dumped on the US military base at Guantanamo in Cuba. But even Clinton's airlift "solution" was too much for New Labour. Writing for the Sunday Telegraph Blair said, "We must try, if possible, to avoid dispersing these people round Europe." Clare Short said that airlifting refugees was "irrelevant". But refugees are already being "dispersed" around Europe. One of the poorest countries in Europe, Albania, has received 155,000 refugees. Of course no refugees should be forced anywhere. But that should not become an excuse for the West to effectively close its borders.
Blair has promised just £20 million in aid. It is peanuts compared to the amount being spent on military hardware. SNP leader Alex Salmond rightly says that £10 million is the cost of just one salvo of cruise missiles. It has been down to aid agencies and welfare groups to launch appeals for the refugees. Why can't the military war machine praised by the government be fully used to help the refugees?
Robin Cook says he wants to create "safe havens" for the Kosovan Albanians on the border of Kosovo. This has been tried before, by the allied forces after the Gulf War. "Safe havens" for the Kurds in northern Iraq turned out to be inhospitable barren strips of land where refugees scratched out an existence. As soon as it was convenient the West abandoned them and they were left to rot in stateless squalor. One of the reasons the government is so reluctant to welcome refugees is that it is currently passing a bill through parliament designed to stop refugees claiming asylum in Britain.
The Mail last week became a master of contortions when it said, "The Mail today urges the government to ensure that Britain takes its fair share of these tragic people. That may seem an unusual view from a newspaper which has campaigned so long and so hard for a more robust approach to bogus asylum seekers." Such hypocrisy! If the asylum bill goes through, how many other refugees in the future will be labelled "bogus" and treated like criminals?
THE MONEY being spent on humanitarian relief for the Kosovan refugees is a tiny fraction of that being spent on the bombing. NATO's bombs have created a crisis in one of the poorest areas of Europe.
NATO GENERALS have promised "nights of fire" as they prepare to escalate the bombing campaign. Last week NATO cruise missiles slammed into targets in Belgrade just 100 yards away from a maternity hospital. They could have caused horrific casualties. NATO says that these attacks are justified because its missiles are accurate to within a few feet. There is clear evidence that such claims are dangerous nonsense.
NATO missiles have not just missed their targets. They have missed the country they were aimed at. Last week a NATO missile landed in Elov Dol, Bulgaria. Two NATO missiles also exploded close to the Albanian capital, Tirana, hundreds of miles away from their target. As NATO leaders get more desperate they will hit out at any target so they can claim "success". On Monday NATO bombs hit a residential target in the town of Aleksinac, where five people were killed and 30 wounded.
NATO generals admitted last week that they had killed nine Bosnian Serb women and children in a refugee centre. Eight were killed when war planes hit refugee accommodation near the city of Nis. These Serbs had been driven out of Bosnia during earlier wars. Already NATO targets have included a bridge, a television tower and a railway tunnel in the Ibar Valley, a bridge and factories at Novi Sad, a tobacco factory in Nis, a heating plant in Belgrade and an oil depot in Pristina.
THE TERRIBLE effects of repeated Western bombing are shown by the horror that grips Iraq today. A report by a United Nations panel last week found that Iraq has slipped from "relative affluence" before the Gulf War of 1991 to "massive poverty" today. During that war Western bombs did not just hit military targets. They pounded Iraqi infrastructure, including water treatment plants, clinics, schools, hospitals and communications centres.
Now the UN report says that as a result:
Between 5,000 and 6,000 Iraqis die every month as a result of the continuing UN sanctions.
A FORMER United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq admitted last week that the US government manipulated the inspectors so it could bomb Iraq. Scott Ritter claims Richard Butlerthe head of UNSCOMallowed the organisation to become a tool of US military strategy. Ritter says the US government sent in agents in the guise of engineers to plant monitoring devices. He says Unscom was told to back off when the US did not want to have a military confrontation with Iraq and then to go in hard when the US wanted to go to war. Ritter also says the air strikes last December were deliberately provoked to undermine UNSCOM so the US could keep up sanctions.