Socialist Worker exclusive interviews

Anti-Milosevic Serbs speak out

SOCIALIST WORKER spoke to several people from Serbia, now living in Britain, about why they oppose both the NATO bombing and Slobodan Milosevic's regime.

"MIROSLAVA" (not her real name) lives in Sheffield.

"I grew up as a Yugoslav. I was born in Kosovo, spent my childhood in Croatia and also lived in Novi Sad in Vojvodina. Nationality does not determine me. I was a teacher and I left the country because I didn't agree with Milosevic. My first boyfriend was Hungarian and my husband is half Croat, half Serb.

"I marched against Milosevic and I know that NATO's bombs will only strengthen him"

"When the nationalism started rising, I tried to fight it in the classroom. I tried to teach literature from writers from Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. I refused to teach only in the cyrillic script, which Milosevic made law. So we decided to leave—to lose our friends, family and country. Every opposition to Milosevic has been destroyed by the bombing. Eventually people would have risen to get rid of him. But that seems impossible now. People are going along with Milosevic. All independent newspapers and radio have been closed. Milosevic can unite people behind him.

"From the beginning the media in the West has been biased. People here don't know about what has happened to Serb refugees from the war in Croatia and Bosnia. My parents lived in Croatia. My father's family had lived there for hundreds of years. But now Croatia is ethnically clean. My father had five minutes to pick up his false teeth, jump out of the window and flee on the road from Croatia to Serbia. There was no fuss in the UK newspapers. I'm not defending any side. Everybody has bloody hands. But I feel a deep injustice at the way Serbs are presented in the papers."

MAYA lives in Glasgow. She took part in the huge demonstrations in Serbia which threatened to topple Milosevic in 1996. She says, "The bombing is not helping the Albanians or ordinary Serbs. The bombs in Belgrade are hitting the very people who have demonstrated against Milosevic. I was a student in Belgrade and I demonstrated every day for three months. We shut down our schools. We were oppressed by Serbian forces and we marched every single day. I feel outraged."

MILAN CVEPKOVIC also lives in Glasgow. "The bombing has to stop. It has escalated the refugee crisis and it is illegal. I am from Belgrade. I have lost contact with my family now, but I know they spent ten days in a shelter. Electricity, heating and primary schools have all been hit. I never voted for Milosevic or any politician. For me it is about human people—Albanians, Serbs, whatever."

MILICA is a Bosnian Serb. She says, "The bombing makes me angry and scared. But it is not just the bombing itself. It is the new world order that scares me. NATO is bullying. It is showing sheer power. I wouldn't be in the refugees' skin for anything, to feel that fear. Milosevic should go. In 1992 I protested against him, but now the bombing has bolstered him. War is a machine for making money, and people are the cheapest piece of the machinery of war.

"The war in Bosnia was awful. I saw a lot of civilians killed, on all sides. But the Western media say only the Serbs were killers. People automatically hate me because I am a Serb. People in the canteen at college leave the table when I say I am a Serb. We are supposed to hate all Croatians and Albanians but my boyfriend is half Croat, half Serb. I don't care if someone is Serb or Croat or Muslim or Albanian as long as they are normal."

SASHA, a Croatian Serb, says, "The bombardment should stop." I would like to see a big protest movement against the bombing. Milosevic has only been strengthened by this. How can they say this war is humanitarian? It is still a war and people will die. My mother spent years in a basement hiding from bombs during the war in eastern Croatia. "I don't trust a single politician. I did not trust Milosevic from the beginning."

NATO lets slip real war aims

ALBRIGHT: new role for NATO

"THE CREDIBILITY of NATO". That was the frank admission of Richard Holbroke, US special envoy to the Balkans, about NATO's real war aims. He let slip a truth, one echoed by many other Western leaders, that gives the lie to all NATO leaders' talk of fighting a "humanitarian war".

The war is about asserting US power and profit. Madeleine Albright, US secretary of state, clearly spelt this out last December: "The threats we face today come from a number of different sources, including areas beyond NATO's immediate borders. NATO must be better equipped to respond to crises. It is sometimes better to deal with instability when it is still at arm's length."

The US has been determined to show that it is the world's number one ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. That is why the US has massively increased arms spending despite the end of the Cold War. NATO spent a staggering $400 billion on its arms budget last year. That was double that of all the former Eastern Bloc countries, China, North Korea, the rest of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa put together.

In an excellent article in last week's New Statesman Bill Hayton summed up what NATO's stance now is. Any country that threatens US interests and steps out of line faces "a $400 billion riot squad". Last December Walter Slocombe, the US under-secretary of defence, even said the US would be prepared to use nuclear weapons to get its way. "I'm not necessarily saying that NATO should use nuclear weapons in response to a threat or use of chemical or biological weapons against some non-member country, although I wouldn't totally rule it out," he said.

Even pro-war commentator Martin Woollacott wrote in the Guardian this week, "America is proposing that NATO be remade as an instrument of world policy, taking on rogue states, terrorists, drug smugglers, and international criminals across a broad swathe in Africa, the Middle East and beyond."

The reasons behind the bombing of the Balkans are the same as those behind the Gulf War against Iraq in 1991. Today the US also has its eyes on the rich oilfields around the Caspian Sea. The US has increased its military operations in the countries bordering the Caspian Sea. Last year the US sent 3,000 paratroopers to hold joint military exercises with Kazakhstan and is now planning to locate a military base in Azerbaijan.

Clark's mates

GENERAL Wesley Clark is the head of NATO forces. He fought in the Vietnam War. He also toured universities in Britain in the late 1960s, at the height of the anti-war movement, arguing in favour of the Vietnam War. In recent years Clark was part of the negotiations during the war in Bosnia. He hit it off with Serb military leader Ratko Mladic. Mladic later gave Clark an inscribed pistol to seal their friendship. Clark also made friends with Slobodan Milosevic. During negotiations of the Dayton agreement at the end of the Bosnian war the two spent an evening over a bottle of Scotch carving Bosnia up using a virtual reality mock up.