IT IS clear to millions of people that the NATO air strikes have failed to achieve any positive result whatsoever. Faced with a massive humanitarian crisis in the Balkans that is clearly growing, all sorts of people are now calling for NATO to send ground troops to Kosovo. Some are on the right wing, who believe the integrity of NATO is at stake. Others are so moved by the refugee crisis they put their faith in any action.
But ground troops would be a disaster. They would only escalate the catastrophe. We would see two modern armies fighting over every inch of the area, razing much of it to the ground and with horrific casualties on all sides. It would make it impossible for the refugees to return to their country. Such a conflict could last for years, a replay of the war in Bosnia which saw ethnic cleansing and massacres taking place on all sides.
A ground war could well provoke other groups to fight, like Serbs in Macedonia. This could inflame the entire Balkan region when there is already political turmoil in Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania as a result of the air strikes. If the ground troops entered via Macedonia it could pull Greece and Turkey into the war. If troops landed at sea and entered Kosovo through Albania, there is only one road they could take. It passes through several tunnels and crosses two rivers. It could easily be made impassable by experienced Serbian forces, more used to war and more familiar with the terrain. It would not be a walkover like the war against Iraq in 1991. A ground war, like the current air war, would increase the humanitarian chaos.
There is only one alternative, and that is to stop the bombing now.
Former CND leader Bruce Kent put the anti-war message at last week's 600 strong public meeting in central London. Kent shared the platform with Paul Foot, Tony Benn, John Pilger and others. The meeting was so large that an overspill meeting had to be organised and speakers even addressed over 100 on the steps outside
NO MAJOR newspaper is against NATO's bombing campaign. Only a handful of politicians, like Labour MP Tony Benn and the Scottish National Party's leader Alex Salmond, oppose it. Yet still around a third of people want the bombing to stop, with many others uneasy about what is going on.
The government knows that the minority clearly against the war could grow rapidly and it has launched a disgraceful smear campaign against Alex Salmond. He called the bombing an "unpardonable folly" and also quite rightly demanded that the same amount as is being spent on the military should be spent on the refugees. Foreign secretary Robin Cook said this meant Salmond is standing "side by side" with Slobodan Milosevic and is "the toast of Belgrade".
Such slurs are based on the notion that anyone who criticises NATO is by definition in favour of everything done by the Serbian leader. Cook would have been very angry in 1991 if anyone had suggested that his criticisms of the bombing of Iraq made him "the toast of Baghdad" and an ally of Saddam Hussein. Yet even the Labour supporting Daily Record, which also tore into Salmond, has been forced to admit that his predictions are right. On Tuesday it said, "Despite upbeat briefings from Washington and London the mission has singularly failed in its primary objectiveto protect the ethnic Albanians. Quite the reverseNATO's bombing has unleashed a flood of refugees."
There are millions of people in Britain who stand against the avalanche of pro-war propaganda. We need to keep up the arguments, meetings and protests against the bombing.
Custard Factory, Gibb St, off High St Deritend, 8pm. Speakers: Mick Rice (Labour councillor), John Rees (SWP), trade union speakers, pro-democracy Serb
Bradford Resource Centre, 17-21 Chapel St, 8pm. Speakers: Joe Cardwell (SWP), Rachel Julian (CND), Green Party, Labour Party councillor
Friends Meeting Hse, River St, 7.30pm. Speakers: Jacqui Freeman (SWP), CND, Labour Party councillor, Green Party
Working Men's Club, Cox St, 8pm. Speakers: Chris Harman (SWP), Dave Nellist, Amanda Richards (Trades Council), Campaign Against the Arms Trade
West Yorkshire Playhouse, nr Leeds bus stn, 8pm. Speakers: Mac McKenna (SWP), local MP, Green Party, CND
Hackney: Ann Tayler Centre, off Westgate St, 7.30pm. Speakers: Alex Callinicos (SWP), Mike Rosen (author), Kurdish representative, Refugee Advice Council
Haringey: Labour and Trade Union Club, Wood Green, 7.30pm. Speakers: Chris Bambery (SWP), CND, Haringey Trades Council, Kurdish representative
Islington: Central Library, Fielding Cres, 7.30pm. Speakers: Mark Steel (SWP), Lionel Tripper (CND), NUT, Green Party
Lambeth: Assembly Rms, Town Hall, Acre Lane, Brixton, 7.30pm. Speakers: John Pilger, Julie Waterson (SWP), Vicla Pantelik (Serb opposed to Milosevic), Nick Venedi (Lambeth UNISON assistant branch secretary)
International Community Centre, Mansfield Rd, 7pm. Speakers: Dave Hayes (SWP), Ken Coates (MEP), pro-democracy Serb
TGWU Bdg, Islington, city centre, 7.30pm. Speakers: Bob Waring MP, Rae Street (national vice-chair CND), Mark Steel (SWP), Liverpool docker
Methodist Central Hall, Oldham St, 7.30pm. Speakers: Bruce Kent (CND), Frank Allaun (former Salford Labour Party MP), John Nicholson (Greater Manchester Socialist Alliance), Norma Wilson (CND), Julie Waterson (SWP)
Royal Station Hotel, 7.30pm. Speakers: Helen Rogers (SWP), CND, NUM, Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Unity Community Centre, Preston, 8pm. Speakers: Jacqui Freeman (SWP), Trades Council, CND
PLUS: Eamonn McCann on Rosemary Nelson * 25 years since the Portuguese Revolution * Jackson Pollock
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