by ALEX CALLINICOS
"Sweeneys compassion does not seem to reach as far as the civilian victims of the Wests humanitarian bombing"
THE PRO-WAR jackals are still yapping around the heels of John Pilger and other critics of the NATO campaign. The prize for the most contemptible piece so far must go to John Sweeney in last Sunday's Observer.
Sweeney begins by comparing opponents of the war to those who failed to anticipate the Holocaust. He goes on to list some of the victims of a Serbian massacre of Kosovan Albanians at Little Krusha before declaring: "Having met the children, the wives, mothers and grandmothers of Little Krusha, and seen them literally shudder with grief, I find the arguments of some commentators, who condemn NATO aggression but elide its cause, the Serb persecution of ethnic Albanians, utterly obtuse."
Hang on a minute-Sweeney is doing some eliding of his own here. He says that the massacre at Little Krusha took place on 26 March-two days after the NATO bombing campaign began. The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, says Milosevic told him in early March that "if attacked, Serb forces could empty Kosovo in a week". In other words, the massacres and expulsions, vile though they are, have been a response to the bombing. Had NATO not attacked, the Kosovan villagers whose names Sweeney lists might well still be alive.
Undismayed, Sweeney denounces Pilger at length for, among other things, mentioning an anti-war demonstration in Cyprus. "The racism of the Orthodox-whether it be Greek Cypriot, Russian or Serb-towards Muslim Untermenschen [sub-humans] in their countries is not a good argument against" the bombing. So are all Orthodox Christians racist? Doesn't that itself verge on racism? It's too easy to dismiss the massive opposition to the war in countries like Greece and Greek Cyprus on the grounds that the main religion there, like in Serbia, is Orthodox Christianity.
A more obvious reason is the bitter experience they have had of Western policy, whether it be NATO support for the 1967 military coup in Greece, or US and British acquiescence in the Turkish invasion and partition of Cyprus in 1974. But, proclaims Sweeney, "times have changed". The West is now pursuing a foreign policy guided by human rights. Tell that to the Kurds-mostly devout Muslims, incidentally-whose leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is put on show trial by that loyal NATO ally Turkey.
Sweeney's compassion does not seem to reach as far as the civilian victims of the West's "humanitarian" bombing. He denounces Harold Pinter for calling the NATO attack on Serbian TV which killed a makeup artist a "war crime". "No one defends that grotesque killing, a miserable mishap of war," he splutters. That comment alone casts grave doubt on Sweeney's competence as a journalist. Not only did Clare Short repeatedly called Serbian TV a "legitimate target", but Bill Clinton said it was part of Milosevic's "command and control system".
Sweeney concentrates his yapping at Pilger, Pinter, and Tariq Ali, all critics of the war based in London. He does not have the guts to take on the Independent's Robert Fisk. Fisk, probably the greatest war correspondent of our time, has filed report after report from Serbia and Kosovo. In outstanding pieces of angry journalism, he has described the terrible human consequences of NATO's increasingly indiscriminate bombing campaign.
But Sweeney is not interested in these consequences. He gabbles through another list of casualties, this time of the earlier Balkan wars in Croatia and Bosnia, and of repression inside Serbia itself, all "the collateral damage of Milosevic". This assumes, of course, that Milosevic is the sole cause of the suffering in the Balkans over the past decade. This is a convenient piece of pseudo-history, but even if it were fact, Sweeney must still show how bombing the hell out of Serbia will bring these people back.
Rather than engage in argument he prefers to shout, "Kosovo, when we open the mass graves, will be the worst. Pilger, Pinter, and Ali will be shamed as corpse after corpse is dug up, tens of thousands of them."
Time will tell how many victims this war is producing and where. But the greater the final body count, the heavier the responsibility that will lie on the shoulders of the NATO leaders who launched the war-and on creeps like Sweeney who don't mind how low they sink in their efforts to fling dirt at an anti-war movement which history will vindicate.