ALICE MAHON, the left wing Labour MP for Halifax, visited Serbia two weeks ago to see for herself the impact of the NATO bombing campaign. She told Socialist Worker what she saw:
I WANTED to talk to trade unionists and ordinary people. The first visit was Novi Sad. We arrived there late afternoon and stood on the one remaining bridge with the protesters who were there to protect it. The other two bridges across the Danube had already been blown up. One had carried the water and power supply to the main hospital. People were pretty devastated about that. We were allowed to talk to who we wanted to.
I did pick up some denial about the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. But I also found a lot of sympathy for what was happening to the Albanians. Since I was there NATO has shattered that bridge as well. There were people on the other bridges when they bombed them, so NATO is clearly not worried about civilian deaths. About three quarters of an hour after we left, Novi Sad had the heaviest bombing of the war up to that point. A three year old child was killed during that bombing and many others were injured. We then visited the small town of Cuprija. On 8 April in the early hours of the morning NATO dropped seven bombs and flattened a large part of the residential area. There was one killed, five injured.
We talked to people. I spoke to a dentist and his wife. She had been injured. She was more sympathetic than him over what was happening in Kosovo. She said, "Of course I feel sympathy. I'm homeless. We are sleeping on somebody's floor." He was more bitter. He said, "At least they will get help. We will get nothing. We are the 'hated Serbs'." Then he told us that he had been out on the streets organising opposition to Milosevic two years ago. The mayor told us, "This town did not vote for Milosevic."
These people have been driven into the camp of Milosevic. They did not support him previously. The worse the bombing, the more it weakens the democratic forces. You had a front page saying, "Bombing Has Made Things Worse". What I saw in Yugoslavia shows that is absolutely right.
NOBODY CAN be certain how many people have died and what has been damaged by NATO's bombs. But we are not getting the truth from our newspapers and television. Serbian sources claim that after the first month of bombing:
Some of these claims may be exaggeratedalthough, for example, the death toll Serb sources claim in Aleksinac is lower than that reported by Independent journalist Robert Fisk. But nobody can doubt that the large majority of these reports are essentially true and that they bear witness to a campaign which is hitting ordinary people, not Milosevic's regime.
"THE CHEMICAL tanks ruptured by NATO bombers on the outskirts of Belgrade last week contained a number of lethal pollutants. As the factories burnt, a poisoned rain, containing hundreds of toxic combustion products, splattered Belgrade. Broken tanks and burst pipes poured naphtha, chlorine, ethylene dichloride and transformer oil, all deadly poisons, into the Danube. Oil slicks up to 12 miles long wound their way towards Romania. This, in environmental terms at least, is perhaps the dirtiest war the West has ever fought. A war which targets chemical factories and oil installations, which deploys radioactive weapons in towns and cities, is a war against everyone: civilians as well as combatants, the unborn as well as the living. As such it can never be a just one."
US CLUSTER bombs took the lives of five young boys in Kosovo last week. The dead boys were aged three, nine, 13, 14 and 15. Shrapnel from the bombs seriously injured two other children.
"WHAT IS happening in the Balkans was tested first in Iraq." They are the words of Guardian journalist David Sharrock reporting from Iraq last week. The bombing of Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War destroyed the country's basic infrastructure. Since then sanctions have added further devastation. Infant mortality in Iraq is now the highest in the world according to the UN. Sharrock writes, "The West is conducting a monstrous social experiment on the people of Iraq. A once prosperous nation is being driven into the pre-industrial Dark Ages."
NATO WILL soon be spending more than £40 million a day on its bombing of the Balkans. That is the figure calculated by Bradford University's Department of Peace Studies.
DURING THE Gulf War, Britain and the US used bombs and bullets tipped with depleted uranium (DU). The Atomic Energy Authority predicted that if 50 tonnes of DU dust were released in Iraq 500,000 people would die of cancer. According to the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium some 700 to 900 tonnes of DU were used.
Investigative journalist Felicity Arbuthnot found that the result was a sevenfold increase in leukaemia cancers. Thousands of Iraqi children have also been born without eyes, limbs, brains and genitalia. DU is being used now in US made weapons in the Balkans.
A BOMB dropped near the village of Ribinca in southern Serbia last week injured two civilians. There was a handwritten message on the bomb casing. It said, "Bad times. Isn't it lovely? See you guys, I'm going home. Eric N, Italy."
PLAYWRIGHT JOHN Arden had a statement against NATO's bombing read out at the National Theatre in London on Monday before a performance of his anti-war play, Sergeant Musgrave's Dance. The statement included the following:
"This war can and must be stopped. The lies and hypocrisy can be challenged. Millions of people across the world oppose this bloody war. We all need to act. A national demonstration has been called for Saturday 8 May in London and I would urge you all to be on that demonstration."
A GREEK naval officer was sentenced last week to two and a half years jail, for refusing to take part in a NATO mission in protest at the air strikes against Yugoslavia. Marinos Ritsoudis refused to board a Greek destroyer that was to join a NATO fleet in the Adriatic Sea. He is to appeal against the sentence which was suspended for three years.