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Making the Crime Fit the Punishment
by Diana Johnstone
(Originally posted 6 January 2000
Re-posted 17 March 2002)

The order of events is strange. On March 24, 1999, the NATO forces led by the United States began an eleven-week-long punishment of Yugoslavia's President, Slobodan Milosevic, which amounted to capital punishment for an undetermined number of citizens of that unfortunate country. Two months later, on May 27, the U.S.-backed International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia issued an indictment of Milosevic for "crimes against humanity" having occurred after the punishment began. Then, in late June, the Clinton administration dispatched 56 forensic experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to Kosovo to gather material evidence of the crimes for which Milosevic and five of his colleagues had already been indicted and for which his country had already been severely and durably punished.

The FBI had no instructions to search for evidence of crimes as such, including those that might have been committed by, say, armed rebels fighting against the established government of Yugoslavia. The only crimes of interest were those for which Milosevic had previously been accused, and all evidence was assumed in advance to point to his guilt.

Thus the world entered the new age of humanitarian vigilante power.

At the end of World War II, a world political system was put in place to outlaw war. In its triumph as sole superpower destined to govern the world, the United States is currently striving to replace the system that outlaws war by a system that uses war to punish outlaws. Who the outlaws are is decided by the United States. Alongside economic globalization, this vigilante system corresponds to a dominant American world view of a capitalist system inherently capable of meeting all human needs, marred only by the wrongdoings of evil outcasts.

At home and abroad, the social effort to bring everybody into a community of equal rights and obligations is abandoned in favor of universal competition in which the rich winners exclude the losers from society itself. On the domestic scene, as the rich get richer, the well-to-do escape from the very sight of the poor by moving into gated communities, social programs are cut, while prisons and execution chambers fill up. Punishment, even vengeance, are popular values.

Twenty years ago, the United Nations and its agencies provided a political forum for discussions of such matters as a "new economic order" or a "new information order" that might seek to narrow the enormous gap between the rich Atlantic world and most of the rest of the planet. All that is past, and today, the United Nations is instrumentalized by the United States to pursue dissident States which it has chosen to brand as rogues, terrorists or criminals. Capitalist competition is being forced onto the entire world as the supreme law by new bodies such as the World Trade Organization. NATO-land is a gated community whose armed forces are being prepared to intervene worldwide, at the bidding of Washington, to defend members' interests, in the name of the war against crimes against humanity.


The NATO war against Yugoslavia marks a great leap forward toward the depoliticization and criminalization of international relations. In the case of the similar war against Iraq, the regime of Saddam Hussein was in fact a military dictatorship, which did in fact violate international law by invading Kuwait (leaving aside eventual extenuating circumstances), and the United States did obtain a mandate from the United Nations Security Council for at least some (but not all) of its military operations. In the case of Yugoslavia, the military operations were carried out without U.N. mandate against a state with an elected civilian government, which had not violated international law.

NATO's war, directed from Washington, was intended as a pure demonstration that the United States could make or break the law. For it was Yugoslavia, which had not violated international law, that was branded a criminal State. Already on November 5, 1998, the American presiding judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, described Yugoslavia as "a rogue state, one that holds the international rule of law in contempt". During the bombing, U.S. and British leaders regularly compared Milosevic to Hitler. And afterwards, the U.S. Senate on June 30 adopted a bill describing Yugoslavia as "a terrorist State", in the total absence of any of the usual criteria for such a designation. The United States is free both to commit crimes, and to criminalize its adversaries. Might is sure of being right.

"A Clinton Doctrine of humanitarian warfare is taking place", rejoiced (1) columnist Jim Hoagland, a leading voice in the chorus of syndicated columnists who have nagged away at the President to get up the gumption to lead NATO through the Balkans into a brave new millennium. This "doctrine" is not quite as spontaneous as it is made to seem by the media chorus which portrays Uncle Sam as a reluctant Hamlet generously stumbling into greatness.

Since the end of the Cold War, United States leaders have been searching for a grand new design to replace the containment doctrine developed after World War II. To this end, the oligarchy that formulates American foreign policy has been hard at work in its various exclusive venues such as the Council on Foreign Relations, private clubs, larger assemblages such as the Trilateral Commission (which specializes in the great American ruling class art of selective co-optation and conversion of potential critics), and a myriad of institutes, foundations and "think tanks", overlapping with a half dozen of the most prestigious universities and, of course, the boards of directors of major corporations and financial institutions. All are united by an unshakable conviction that what is good for the United States (and the business of the United States is business) is good for the world. American policy-makers may be more or less generous or cynical, crafty or forthright, but all necessarily share the conviction that the system which has made America great and powerful should be bestowed on the rest of an often undeserving and recalcitrant world. There is no conflict between this conviction and ruthless pursuit of economic self-interest; they are part of the same mindset.

None better epitomizes the combined power and good conscience of American capitalism than the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, founded in 1910 by the Scottish-American steel king Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) who recycled part of his vast rags-to-riches fortune into philanthropic enterprises. It is fitting that in formulating the Doctrine of Humanitarian Warfare now attributed to Clinton, a major ideological role appears to have been played by the Carnegie Endowment under the presidency of Morton I. Abramowitz (2).

The Importance of War Crimes

In May 1997, three months after taking office as U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Korbel Albright created a new post, ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. The creation of the post indicated the crucial importance of "war crimes" in Albright's foreign policy. Two days later, crime was linked to punishment as she delivered her first policy speech on Bosnia to senior military officers aboard an aircraft carrier in the Hudson River. These gestures showed that the first woman Secretary of State was out to demonstrate the serious meaning of her famous remark, "What's the use of having the world's greatest military force if you don't use it?"

Albright and the man named to the new "war crimes" post, David Scheffer, were putting into practice new policy concepts they had helped develop before Clinton was elected President, and before the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, when they had been part of what a privileged observer (3) recently described as "a small foreign policy elite convened by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to change U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War."

During the last years of the Bush administration, the Carnegie Endowment for Peace was confronting the major question raised by the collapse of the Soviet bloc: what new mission could save NATO, the necessary instrument for U.S. leadership in Europe? And it found an answer: humanitarian intervention. Reports by group members Albright, Richard Holbrooke and Leon Fuerth "recommended a dramatic escalation of the use of military force to settle other countries' domestic conflicts." (4)

The Carnegie Endowment's 1992 report entitled "Changing Our Ways: America's Role in the New World" called for "a new principle of international relations: the destruction or displacement of groups of people within states can justify international intervention". The U.S. was advised to "realign" NATO and the OSCE to deal with these new security problems in Europe.

Release of this report, accompanied by policy briefings of key Democrats and media big shots, was timed to influence the Democratic presidential campaign. Candidate Bill Clinton quickly took up the rhetoric, calling for Milosevic to be tried for "crimes against humanity" and advocating military intervention against the Serbs. However, it took several years to put this into practice.

At the Carnegie Endowment, as member of a study group including Al Gore's foreign policy advisor Leon Fuerth, David Scheffer had co-authored (with Morton Halperin) a book-length report on "Self-Determination in the New World Order" which proposed military intervention as one of the ways of "responding to international hot spots". A major question raised was when and to what end the United States should become involved in a conflict between an established state and a "self-determination" -- i.e. a secessionist -- movement. Clearly, the question was not to be submitted to the United Nations. "The United States should seek to build a consensus within regional and international organizations for its position, but should not sacrifice its own judgment and principles if such a consensus fails to materialize"(5).

In general, the authors concluded, "the world community needs to act more quickly and with more determination to employ military force when it proves necessary and feasible"(6). But when is this?

When a self-determination claim triggers an armed conflict that becomes a humanitarian crisis, getting food, medicine, and shelter to thousands or millions of civilians becomes an inescapable imperative. A new intolerance for such human tragedies is becoming evident in the post-Cold War world and is redefining the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states (7).

Now, in theory, this sounds almost indisputable. However, in practice the question becomes one not of theory but of facts. When does a crisis in fact correspond to this description, and when, on the contrary, can it simply be made to seem to correspond to this description?

In the official NATO version, vigorously endorsed by mainstream media, the Kosovo war was precisely an instance when "a self-determination claim triggers an armed conflict that becomes a humanitarian crisis..." However, there is considerable, indeed overwhelming evidence that the "self-determination claim" quite deliberately provoked both the "armed conflict" and the "humanitarian crisis" precisely in order to bring in, not humanitarian aid, but military intervention from NATO on the pretext of humanitarian aid. For there was never any need of NATO intervention in order to provide food, medicine and shelter to civilians within Kosovo or before the NATO bombing. The "humanitarian crisis" was a mirage until NATO triggered it by the bombing.

But in the culture of images, temporal relationships are easily obscured. What came before or after what is forgotten. And with temporal relationship, cause and effect are lost, along with responsibility.

Can Kosovo be detached from Serbia? "The use of military force to create a new state would require conduct by the parent government so egregious that it has forfeited any right to govern the minority claiming self-determination"(8). But who decides that conduct is sufficiently "egregious"?

Clearly, Madeleine Albright was so eager to put these bold new theories into practice that she worked mightily to make the crime fit the punishment.

Morton Abramowitz himself, who as Carnegie Endowment President nurtured Albright, Holbrooke, Fuerth, Scheffer and the others as they jointly developed Clinton's future doctrine of "humanitarian warfare", has also played an active role. In 1997, he passed through the elite revolving door from the Carnegie Endowment to the Council on Foreign Relations. He has contributed his wisdom to a new, high-level think tank, the International Crisis Group, whose sponsors include governments and omnipresent financier George Soros. The ICG has been a leading designer of policy toward Kosovo.

Putting into practice the hypothesis of "a self-determination claim triggering an armed conflict", Abramowitz became an early advocate of arming the "Kosovo Liberation Army"(UK). At Rambouillet, Abramowitz discreetly coached the ethnic Albanian delegation headed by UK leader Hashim Thaqi (9).

Back in February 1992, before civil war broke out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, television producer John B. Roberts II was asked to design a publicity campaign to gain public support for the soon-to-be-published Carnegie Endowment recommendations. When he saw that "Changing Our Ways" proposed "the revolutionary idea that a U.S.-led military first strike was justified, not to defend the United States, but to impose highly subjective political settlements on other countries", that it "discarded national sovereignty in favor of international intervention", Roberts "began to regret [his] efforts to build publicity for the report" (10).

One way or another, the "revolutionary idea" has been widely propagated during the 1990s. Humanitarian intervention was an idea whose time had come because it met a certain number of perceived needs. It provided a solution to the problem formulated by Senator Richard Lugar, that once the Cold War ended, NATO must be "either out of area or out of business". A new missionary mission not only kept NATO alive, thereby nourishing a vast array of vested industrial and financial interests, primarily but not solely in the United States, it also could be seen as a potential instrument to defend less broadly perceived geostrategic interests without submitting them to public controversy.

Humanitarian Realpolitik

When Madeleine Albright took over the State Department from Warren Christopher in early 1997, her promotion was presented to the public more as a personal success for a woman than as a corporate success for a policy design. At its most informative, The New York Times (11), mentioned influential policy-makers as if they were benevolent uncles ready to give encouragement to a lady. Three months after she took office, it was reported: "Ms. Albright has reached out for advice. She has talked with Zbigniew Brzezinski; the departing president of the Carnegie Endowment, Morton Abramowitz; the philanthropist George Soros; and Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations."

If Abramowitz may be considered the minence grise behind the whole "humanitarian intervention" policy, Brzezinski provided a geostrategic rationale. Brzezinski has no inhibitions about using high principles in the power game. In Paris in January 1998 to promote the French edition of his book, The Grand Chessboard, he was asked about an apparent "paradox" between the fact that his book was steeped in Realpolitik, whereas, in his days as National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Brzezinski had been the "defender of human rights".

Brzezinski waved the paradox aside. There is none, he replied. "I elaborated that doctrine in agreement with President Carter, as it was the best way to destabilize the Soviet Union. And it worked"(12).

Of course, it took more than nice words about human rights to destabilize the Soviet Union. It took war. And Brzezinski was very active on that front. As he told a second French weekly (13) during his book promotion tour, the CIA had begun bank-rolling counter- revolutionary Afghan forces in mid-1979, half a year before the Soviet Union moved into Afghanistan on a "stabilizing" mission around New Year's Day 1980. "We did not push the Russians into intervening, but we knowingly increased the possibility that they would. That secret operation was an excellent idea. The effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap."

Brzezinski rightly felt he could be forthright about such matters as humanitarian entrapment in Paris, where the policy elite admires nothing so much in American leaders as unabashed cynical power politics. This admiration is most acute when the French are offered a share in it, as was the case with Brzezinski and his book. France, wrote Brzezinski, "is an essential partner in the important task of permanently locking a democratic Germany into Europe", which means preventing Germany from building its own separate sphere of influence to the East, possibly including Russia -- a connection that Brzezinski's policy recommendations are designed to forestall at all costs. "This is the historic role of the Franco-German relationship, and the expansion of both the EU and NATO eastward should enhance the importance of that relationship as Europe's inner core. Finally, France is not strong enough either to obstruct America on the geostrategic fundamentals of America's European policy or to become by itself a leader of Europe as such. Hence, its peculiarities and even its tantrums can be tolerated"(14).

These assurances may contribute to explaining the mystery -- as it was widely perceived in other countries -- of France's strong support to NATO's Kosovo war, second only to Britain and in disharmony with reactions in Germany and Italy. That is, the French elite had been given to understand this war as part of the Brzezinski design for a transatlantic Europe giving France a politico-military leadership role offsetting Germany's economic predominance.

Brzezinski frankly sets the goal for U.S. policy: "to perpetuate America's own dominant position for at least a generation and preferably longer still". This involves creating a "geopolitical framework" around NATO that will initially include Ukraine and exclude Russia. This will establish the geostrategic basis for controlling conflict in what Brzezinski calls "the Eurasian Balkans", the huge area between the Eastern shore of the Black Sea to China, which includes the Caspian Sea and its petroleum resources, a top priority for U.S. foreign policy. In the policy elites of both Britain and France, perpetuation of Trans-Atlantic domination could be understood as a way of preventing a Russo-German rapprochement able to dominate the continent.

Along with Jeane Kirkpatrick, Frank Carlucci, William Odom and Stephan Solarz, Brzezinski has joined the anti-Serb crusade in yet another new Washington policy shop, the "Balkan Action Council", calling for all-out war against Yugoslavia over Kosovo.

In the Brzezinski scheme of things, Yugoslavia is a testing ground and a metaphor for the Soviet Union. In this metaphor, "Serbia" is Russia, and Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, etc., are Ukraine, the Baltic States, Georgia and the former Soviet Republics of "the Eurasian Balkans". This being the case, the successful secession of Croatia and company from Yugoslavia sets a positive precedent for maintaining the independence of Ukraine and its progressive inclusion in the European Union and NATO, which he sets for the decade 2005-2015 as a "reasonable time frame".

The little Balkan "Balkans" appear on a map on page 22 of The Grand Chessboard interestingly shaded in three gradations representing U.S. geopolitical preponderance (dark), U.S. political influence (medium) and the apparent absence of either (white). Darkly shaded (like the U.S., Canada and Western Europe) are Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Medium shading covers Slovakia, Moldavia and Ukraine as well as Georgia and most of the "Eurasian Balkans". Glaringly white, like Russia, are Yugoslavia and Greece. For Brzezinski, Belgrade was a potential relay for Moscow. Serbs might be unaware of this, but in the geostrategic view, they were only so many surrogate Russians.

Cultural Divides and Caspian Oil

Samuel Huntington's notion of "conflict of civilizations", by identifying Orthodox Christianity as a civilization in conflict with the West and its famous "values", has offered an ideological cover for the "divide and conquer" strategy, which has less appeal, but is not incompatible with, the "humanitarian" justification. It has been taken up by influential (15) writer Robert D. Kaplan, who sees a "real battle" that is "drawn along historical-civilizational lines. On the one side are the Turks, their fellow Azeri Turks in Azerbaijan, the Israelis and the Jordanians [...]. On the other side are those who suffered the most historically from Turkish rule: the Syrian and Iraqi Arabs, the Armenians, the Greeks and the Kurds"(16). It is not hard to see whose side the United States must be on in this battle, or which must be the winning side.

Kaplan places Kosovo "smack in the middle of a very unstable and important region where Europe joins the Middle East" while "Europe is redividing along historic and cultural lines"(17).

"There is a Western, Catholic, Protestant Europe and an Eastern Orthodox Europe, which is poorer, more politically unsettled and more ridden with organized crime. That Orthodox realm has been shut out of NATO and is angrier by the day, and it is fiercely anti-Moslem", Kaplan declares.

An oddity of these "cultural divide" projections is that they find the abyss between Eastern and Western Christianity far deeper and more unbridgeable than the difference between Christianity and Islam. The obvious short, three-letter explanation is "oil". But there is a complementary explanation that is more truly cultural, relating to the transnational nature of Islam and to the importance of its charitable organizations. Steve Niva (18) has noted a split within the US foreign policy establishment between conservatives (clearly absent from the Clinton administration) who see Islam as a threat, and "neo-liberals" for whom the primary enemy is "any barrier to free trade and unfettered markets". These include European leaders, oil companies and Zbigniew Brzezinski. "Incorporating Islamists into existing political systems would disperse responsibility for the state's difficulties while defusing popular opposition to severe economic `reforms' mandated by the IMF. Islamist organizations could also help fill the gap caused by the rollback of welfare states and social services...", Niva observed.

In any case, all roads lead to the Caspian, and through Kosovo. Kaplan publicly advises the nation's leaders that an "amoral reason of self-interest" is needed to persuade the country to keep troops in the Balkans for years to come. The reason is clear. "With the Middle East increasingly fragile, we will need bases and fly-over rights in the Balkans to protect Caspian Sea oil. But we will not have those bases in the future if the Russians reconquer southeast Europe by criminal stealth. Finally, if we tell our European allies to go it alone in Kosovo, we can kiss the Western Alliance goodbye"(19).

Looking at a map, one may wonder why it is necessary to go through Kosovo to obtain Caspian oil. This is a good question. However, U.S. strategists don't simply want to obtain oil, which is a simple matter if one has money. They want to control its flow to the big European market. The simple way to get Caspian oil is via pipeline southward through Iran. But that would evade U.S. control. Or through Russia; just as bad. The preferred U.S. route, a pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan has been rejected as too costly. Turkey has vetoed massive oil tanker traffic through the Bosporus on ecological grounds. That leaves the Balkans. It seems the U.S. would like to build a pipeline across the Balkans, no doubt with Bechtel getting the building contract -- former Bechtel executive and Reagan administration Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger is a leading Kosovo warhawk. Bechtel has already obtained major contracts in Tudjman’s Croatia. It is interesting that the Danube, likely to fall under German control, has been blocked for serious transport by NATO's bombing of Serbia's bridges.

On the way to the Caspian, the next stop after Yugoslavia could be the big prize: Ukraine, which like the other former Soviet Republics is already under U.S. influence through NATO's "Partnership For Peace". Early this year, asked by a German magazine whether NATO should be the world policeman, NATO commander Wesley Clark observed that the "countries on the Caspian Sea are members of the `Partnership for Peace'. They have the right to consult NATO in case of threat." Clark "didn't want to speculate on what NATO might then do..."(20).

Scenarios Reach the TV Screen

As television producer Roberts recalls, it was a Ukrainian friend who, seeing the implications for his own country of the Abramowitz humanitarian war plans, set him to worrying. "If the U.S. endorsed this new foreign policy principle the potential for international chaos was immense. Real or trumped up incidents of destruction or displacement would be grounds for Russian or American military intervention in dozens of countries where nothing like a melting pot has ever existed."

"Real or trumped up" -- that is the question. For once so much is at stake -- nothing less than the future of the greatest power the world has ever seen -- events are all too likely to follow the imaginary scenario laid out by the policy planners.

This can happen in at least three ways.

1 - Reality imitates fiction. It is a common human psychological phenomenon that people see what they are looking for, or have been led to expect to see, often when it is not there. This happens in countless ways. It may account for desert mirages, or apparitions of the Virgin, or simple errors of recognition that occur all the time.

When reporters unfamiliar with the country are sent into Bosnia or Kosovo to look for evidence of "Serbian war crimes", and only evidence of Serbian war crimes, that is what they will find. And if Croats, Muslims and Albanians who are fighting against the Serbs know that that is what they are looking for, it will be even easier.

If they are expecting, say, Serbs to be criminals, everything Serbs say or do will be interpreted in that light, with greater or less sincerity. Every ambiguous detail will find its meaning.

2 - Evidence will be trumped up. This is an age-old practice in war.

3 - Circumstances can be arranged to incite the very crimes that the power wants to be able to punish. In police language, this is called entrapment, or a "sting" operation, and is illegal in many countries, although not in the United States.

The Kosovo scenario has been advanced in all three ways.

Military intervention may be justified "when a self-determination claim triggers an armed conflict that becomes a humanitarian crisis", wrote Scheffer and Halperin.

The much-praised non-violent movement of Ibrahim Rugova could not meet this criterion. It failed precisely because it was not a movement for political equality but a movement for secession. A non-violent movement for political equality can find many active ways to illustrate its exclusion and press its demands for inclusion. But the goals of the Albanian movement were not inclusion but complete independence from the existing State. To show their rejection of Serbia, Kosovo Albanians in the Rugova period refused to use the democratic rights they had, boycotted elections, refused to pay taxes, and even set up their own parallel schools and public health service. The odd thing is that this movement of passive resistance was met for the most part by passive resistance on the part of the Serbian State, which allowed Dr Rugova to go about his business (obviously in defiance of Serbian laws) as "President of the Republic of Kosova", let people get away with not paying taxes and did not force children to attend Serbian schools. Certainly, there were numerous instances of police brutality, although their extent is hard to judge, inasmuch as Kosovar Albanian Human Rights Groups notoriously exaggerated such incidents in order to claim that their people were being brutally oppressed -- a claim which was not accepted by the German government (21), incidentally, despite its support to the separatist movement. But in reality, internal separatism was too easy. The two communities grew ever farther apart, but peacefully. There was an impasse.

That impasse was broken by the UK/KLA, acting with the backing of the United States. The strategy was summed up by Richard Cohen (22):

The KLA had a simple but effective plan. It would kill Serbian policemen. The Serbs would retaliate, Balkan style, with widespread reprisals and the occasional massacre. The West would get more and more appalled, until finally it would, as it did in Bosnia, take action. In effect, the United States and much of Europe would go to war on the side of the KLA.

It worked.

This version perhaps gives the KLA/UK a little too much credit. The United States has been watching Kosovo closely for years, and there are strong indications that it both passively and actively assisted the armed rebels in their humanitarian sting operation. The KLA did indeed kill Serbian policemen, as well as a number of civilians, including ethnic Albanians who failed to boycott the Serbian state. But in between these killings and the Serb retaliation, "Balkan style", there was a very significant encouragement from Richard Gelbard, acting as U.S. proconsul for former Yugoslavia. Normally, Gelbard's visits to Belgrade were marked by utterances berating Serbian authorities for not doing Washington's bidding in one respect or another. But on February 23, 1998, Gelbard visited Pristina and declared publicly that the KLA/UK was indeed "unquestionably a terrorist organization".

To the Serbs, this simply seemed to be recognition of what to them was an obvious fact. Naively believing that the United States was, as it continued to declare, sincerely opposed to "international terrorism", Serbian authorities took this remark as a green light to do what any government normally does in such circumstances: send in armed police to repress the terrorists. After all, they were not hard to find. Unlike guerrillas in most conflicts, they made no effort to conceal their whereabouts but openly proclaimed that they were hanging out in a number of villages in the Drenica hill region. Far from heading for the hills when the police approached, the UK let civilians who didn't want to get shot head for the hills while they themselves hunkered down at home, sometimes with a few remaining family members, and shot it out with police. This suicidal tactic may have stemmed from the fact that Albanian homes often double as fortresses in the traditional blood feuds, but could not withstand Serbian government fire power. In any case, the results were enough dead Albanians in their villages to enable Madeleine Albright and her chorus of media commentators to cry "ethnic cleansing". It was not "ethnic cleansing", it was a classic anti-insurgency operation. But that was enough for the trap to start closing.

It is easy to imagine how the same scenario could enfold again in some remote area of the "Eurasian Balkans", where folk customs are not frightfully different from those of the Albanians.

How to Get the Job of U.N. Secretary General

The Abramowitz-Albright policy for Yugoslavia has been used as the event, the fait accompli, to complete a major institutional shift of power. Institutions based on the principle of decision-making equality between nations (the United Nations, its agencies, and the OSCE) have been drastically weakened. Others, effectively under U.S. control (NATO, the International Criminal Tribunal), have enlarged their scope, under the heading of a vague new entity, the "international community".

The first target of this shift has of course been the United Nations. Already weakened by the successful U.S. undermining of U.N. agencies such as UNESCO and UNCTAD which threatened to promote alternative and more egalitarian concepts of "globalization", the United Nations has been reduced by the conflict in Yugoslavia to a rubber stamp to be used or ignored by the United States as it chooses.

Certainly, responsibility for weakening the United Nations is widely shared among world powers, but the United States' role in this demolition enterprise has nevertheless been outstanding. Far from trying to help the United Nations seek an even-handed solution to the Yugoslav crisis, the Clinton administration used its influence to secure decisions of benefit to its own chosen clients, the Bosnian Muslims and the Albanian secessionists. In Bosnia, United Nations forces were given impossible missions: hanging around deceptively declared -- deceptively because never demilitarized -- "safe areas", as fighting continued. Their inevitable, not to say programmed, failure could be, and has been, trumpeted as "proof" that only NATO can carry out a proper peace-keeping mission.

A significant high point in the United States' reduction of the United Nations to a pliant tool came on August 30, 1995, when the United Nations momentarily relinquished its control over Bosnian peace-keeping to NATO, a.k.a the Pentagon, in order to let the United States bomb the Bosnian Serbs.

For Washington, the primary significance of this bombing had less to do with the people of Bosnia than with U.S. power. According to Richard Holbrooke, this was correctly grasped by columnist William Pfaff who wrote the next day: "The United States today is again Europe's leader; there is no other."

In his memoir To End a War, Richard Holbrooke recounted this proud achievement and lavishly praised the United Nations official who made it possible: the Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan, then in charge of peacekeeping operations.

Madeleine Albright, at the time the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was carrying on a "vigorous campaign" in favor of bombing the Serbs. Luck smiled: "fortunately, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali was unreachable [...], so she dealt instead with his best deputy, Kofi Annan, who was in charge of peacekeeping operations. At 11:45 a.m., New York time, came a big break: Annan informed Talbott and Albright that he had instructed the U.N.'s civilian officials and military commanders to relinquish for a limited period of time their authority to veto air strikes in Bosnia. For the first time in the war, the decision on the air strikes was solely in the hands of NATO -- primarily two American officers [...]"

"Annan's gutsy performance in those twenty-four hours was to play a central role in Washington's strong support for him a year later as the successor to Boutros Boutros-Ghali as Secretary General of the United Nations. Indeed, in a sense Annan won the job on that day"(23).

Bosnia was the main reason for getting rid of Boutros-Ghali. "More than any other issue, it was his performance on Bosnia that made us feel he did not deserve a second term -- just as Kofi Annan's strength on the bombing in August had already made him the private favorite of many American officials", Holbrooke explained. "Although the American campaign against Boutros-Ghali, in which all our key allies opposed us, was long and difficult [...] the decision was correct, and may well have saved America's role in the United Nations."

How to Sabotage the OSCE

With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was widely favored to succeed both the dismantled Warsaw Pact and NATO as an all-inclusive institution to ensure security, resolve conflicts and defend human rights in Europe. This naturally encountered opposition from all those who wanted to preserve and expand NATO, and with it, the leading U.S. role in Europe -- that is, from many important officials in many NATO countries, especially Britain and the Netherlands, as well as the United States itself.

On the eve of the Kosovo war, the tandem of Richard Holbrooke and Madeleine Albright once again moved to cripple a rival to NATO and clear the way for NATO bombing.

On October 13, 1998, under threat of NATO bombing, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke got Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign a unilateral deal to end security operations against armed rebels. The agreement was to be monitored by 2,000 foreign "verifiers" provided under the auspices of the OSCE. Fromthe start, opinions in Europe were divided as to whether this Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) marked an advance for the OSCE or a kiss of death, designed to prove the organization's impotence and leave NATO as the uncontested arbiter of conflicts in Europe.

The mission's fate was sealed in favor of the second alternative when the European majority in the OSCE was somehow persuaded to accept U.S. diplomat William Walker to head the KVM. Walker was a veteran of Central American "banana republic" management, who had collaborated with Oliver North in illegally arming the "Contras" and had covered up murderous state security operations in El Salvador as U.S. ambassador there during the Reagan administration.

Walker brought in 150 professional mercenaries from the Arlington, Virginia-based DynCorp which had already worked in Bosnia, drove around in a vehicle flying the American flag, and did everything to confirm what his French deputy, Ambassador Gabriel Keller, described as the "wide-spread conviction in Serbian public opinion that the OSCE was working under cover for NATO, [...] that we acted with a hidden agenda" (24).

That impression was shared by many members of the KVM. A number of Italians, whose comments were published anonymously in the geostrategic review LiMes, accused the Americans of "sabotaging the OSCE mission". Said one: "The mission in my view had two primary aims. One was to infiltrate personnel into the theatre with intelligence tasks and for special forces activities (preparatory work for a predetermined war). The other was to give the world the impression that everything had been tried and thus create grounds for public consent to the aggression we perpetrated"(25).

According to Swiss verifier Pascal Neuffer: "We understood from the start that the information gathered by OSCE patrols during our mission were destined to complete the information that NATO had gathered by satellite. We had the very sharp impression of doing espionage work for the Atlantic Alliance"(26).

KVM members have criticized Walker and his British chief of operations, Karol (John) Drewienkiewicz, for rejecting any cooperation with Serb authorities, for blocking diplomatic means to ensure human rights, for controlling the mission's information flow, and most serious of all, for using the mission to make contact with UK rebels and train them to guide NATO to targets in the subsequent bombing (27). Since the Serbs were quite aware of this activity, as soon as the bombing began on March 24, Serb security forces set out to root out all suspected UK indicators. These operations are very probably at the heart of what NATO has described as ethnic cleansing.

However, prior to the bombing, KVM members testify to a low level of violence, as well as a pattern of UK provocations. According to Keller, "every pullback by the Yugoslav army or the Serbian police was followed by a movement forward by [UK] forces [...] OSCE's presence compelled Serbian government forces to a certain restraint [...] and UK took advantage of this to consolidate its positions everywhere, continuing to smuggle arms from Albania, abducting and killing both civilians and military personnel, Albanians and Serbs alike."

By the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999, an increasingly audible split was taking place within the KVM between Walker and most of the Europeans. Every incident was an occasion for Walker and the U.S. State Department to denounce the Serbs for breaking the truce, and to accuse Milosevic of violating his commitment. The Europeans saw things differently: the Albanian rebels, with U.S. encouragement, were systematically provoking Serb attacks in order to justify NATO coming in on their side of the conflict.

In mid-January, Walker settled the score with his European critics by bringing the world media over to his side. This was the political significance of the famous "Racak massacre". On January 15, Serb police had carried out a pre-announced operation, accompanied by observers and television cameras, against UK killers believed to be hiding out in the village of Racak. As the Serbs swept into the village, the UK gunmen took refuge on surrounding high ground and began to fire on the police, as TV footage showed. But the Serbs had sent forces around behind them, and many UK fighters were trapped and shot. After the Serb forces withdrew that afternoon, the UK again took control of the village, and it was they who led Walker into the village the next day to see what they described as victims of a massacre. It may be, as Serb authorities claimed and many Europeans tended to believe, that the victims were in fact killed in the shootout reported by the police, and then aligned to give the appearance of a mass execution, or "massacre".

In any case, the extremely emotional public reaction by the high-profile head of the KVM, condemning the Serbs for "a crime against humanity", "an unspeakable atrocity" committed by Serbs "with no value for human life", ended any possible pretense of neutrality of the OSCE mission.

Walker's accusations were quickly taken up by NATO politicians and editorialists. A complex conflict was reduced to a simple opposition between Serbian perpetrators of massacres and innocent Albanian civilian victims. The UK and its provocative murders of policemen and civilians were to all intents and purposes invisible. Presented as a gratuitous atrocity, "Racak" became the immediate justification for NATO war against Yugoslavia.

In Kosovo itself, KVM members have testified, after Racak the Serbs were totally convinced that the OSCE was working for NATO and began to prepare for war, while the UK became still more aggressive. KVM members have also complained of the fact that Walker evacuated the mission to Macedonia on March 20, five days before the bombing began. This way, no outside observers were there to see exactly what did happen when the bombing began, much less try to prevent it. Walker’s leadership had effectively removed all pressure or incentive for either side to show restraint.

"In the history of international missions it would be hard to find such a chaotic and tragically ambiguous enterprise", concluded an Italian participant.

How to Obtain Justice

The importance of crimes in this new world order was highlighted by the establishment in May 1993 of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). This tribunal was established by Security Council resolution 827 under its Article 29 which allows it to set up "subsidiary bodies" necessary to fulfill its peacekeeping tasks. It is more than doubtful that the framers of the United Nations statutes had a criminal tribunal in mind, and many jurists consider resolution 827 to be an usurpation of legislative and judicial powers by the Security Council. In fact, this act went contrary to over forty years of study, within the framework of the United Nations, of the possibilities for setting up an international penal tribunal, whose jurisdiction would be established by international treaty allowing States to transfer part of their sovereign rights to the tribunal. The Security Council's ICTY went over the heads of the States concerned and simply imposed its authority on them, without their consent.

Last April 5, as NATO was bombing Yugoslavia, the ICTY's presiding judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald (a former U.S. federal judge in Texas) told the Supreme Court that the Tribunal "benefited from the strong support of concerned governments and dedicated individuals such as Secretary Albright. As the permanent representative to the United Nations, she had worked with unceasing resolve to establish the Tribunal. Indeed, we often refer to her as the `mother of the Tribunal'".

Because it is also located in The Hague, very many well-informed people confuse the Tribunal with the International Court of Justice, or at least believe that, like the ICJ, the ICT is a truly independent and impartial judicial body. Its many supporters in the media say so, and so do its statutes. Article 32 of its governing statute says the Tribunal's expenses shall be borne by the regular budget of the United Nations, but this has been persistently violated. As Toronto lawyer Christopher Black points out, "the tribunal has received substantial funds from individual States, private foundations and corporations". The United States has provided personnel (23 officials lent by the Departments of State, Defense and Justice as of May 1996), equipment and cash contributions. More money has been granted the Tribunal by financier George Soros' Open Society Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the United States Institute for Peace, set up in 1984 under the Reagan administration and funded by Congressional appropriations, with its board of directors appointed by the U.S. President.

The Tribunal is vigorously supported by the Coalition for International Justice (CIJ), based in Washington and The Hague, founded and funded by George Soros' Open Society Foundation and a semi-official U.S. lawyers' group called CEELI, the Central and East European Law Institute, set up to promote the replacement of socialist legal systems with free market ones, according to Christopher Black.

Last May 12, ICTY president Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, said that: "The U.S. government has very generously agreed to provide $500 000 and to help to encourage other States to contribute. However, the moral imperative to end the violence in the region is shared by all, including the corporate sector. I am pleased, therefore, that a major corporation has recently donated computer equipment worth three million dollars, which will substantially enhance our operating capacity."

Moreover, during the bombing, Clinton obtained a special $27 million appropriation to help the Tribunal, especially in collecting anti-Serb testimony from Albanian refugees along the borders of Kosovo. Finally, Clinton has offered a bounty of $5 million for the arrest of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Ethnic Divisions, Unified Empires

An extremely significant feature of the humanitarian intervention policy is its emphasis on collective in contrast to individual rights.

"In the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet empire," runs the summary of Self-Determination in the New World Order, "new nations are emerging rapidly, and more and more ethnic groups are pushing for independence or autonomy." So the question is "how the United States should respond". The authors "propose criteria for decision makers who are weighing whether to support groups seeking self-determination, to offer political recognition, or to intervene with force."

This approach has practically nothing to do with democracy, and everything to do with empire construction. Although the words "democracy" and "democratic" are still used, they tend increasingly to be without meaning other than to designate favored client leaders or groups in countries of interest to the United States. Certainly, Hashim Thaqi, the UK leader who counts Madeleine Albright's spokesman James Rubin (husband of CNN's Christiane Amanpour) among his fans (28), is scarcely more "democratic" than Milan Milutinovic, elected President of Serbia, indicted with Milosevic by Albright's "International War Crimes Tribunal". In fact, the selection of particular groups, ethnic or social, as clients, is the traditional way in which a conquering empire can reshape social structures and replace former elites with its own.

The imperial project is becoming increasingly open. Protectorates are being established in Bosnia and Kosovo, President Clinton is vigorously calling for the illegal overthrow of the legally elected Yugoslav president.

Totally disregarding the feelings and wishes of the real, live people who live there, Robert Kaplan announced (29) that "there are two choices in the Balkans -- imperialism or anarchy. To stop the violence, we essentially have to act in the way the great powers in the region have always acted: as pacifying conquerors." Like the Romans and the Austrian Habsburgs, "motivated by territorial aggrandizement for their own economic enrichment, strategic positions and glory."

Merely to suggest that the United States might "intervene with force" on behalf of an ethnic group seeking self-determination is to cause trouble. There are potentially hundreds of such groups not only in the former Soviet Republics but throughout Africa and Asia. The prospect of U.S. military intervention will, on the one hand, encourage potential secessionist leaders to push their claims to the point of "humanitarian crisis", in order to bring in the Superpower on their side. By the same token, it will encourage existing states to suppress such movements brutally and decisively in order to prevent precisely that intervention. A vicious cycle will be created, enabling the single Superpower to fish selectively in troubled waters.

The concept of "ethnic group" rests on the notion of "identity". If individual identity is problematic, group identity is even more so. That is, just as individuals may have multiple or changing "identities", groups may have changing compositions as people come and go from one "identity" group to another. Especially in the modern mobile world, ethnic identity is therefore a highly questionable basis for claim to political recognition in the form of an independent State. The forceful affirmation of "ethnic identity" tends to strengthen traditional patriarchal structures in places such as Kosovo, at the expense of individual liberation. Stress on ethnic identity enforces stereotypes, mafioso structures and leadership by "godfathers".

Foreign policy based on ethnic identity has notorious antecedents: it was precisely the policy employed by Adolf Hitler to justify his conquest of the same Eastern European territories that Brzezinski now watches so attentively. Both the takeover of Czechoslovakia and the invasion of Poland were officially justified by the need to protect allegedly oppressed German minorities from the cruel Czechs and Poles. The British government's understanding for Herr Hitler's concern about Germans in Czechoslovakia is the real "Munich". Before invading Poland, Hitler had the SS manufacture an "incident" in which wicked Poles stormed an innocent German-language radio station in order to desecrate it with their barbarous Slav language. The dead body left on the scene to authenticate the incident was in fact a prison convict in costume.

In Yugoslavia, Hitler "liberated" not only Germans but also and especially Croats and (in conjunction with fascist Italy) Albanians, long selected as the proper Randvlker to receive German protection, the better to crush the main historic adversary, the Serbs, the people who more than any other had fought for independence from Empires. (The Serbs themselves as they became "Yugoslavs" were less and less unified around Serbian identity, even if they have continued to pay for it.)

Making policy by distinguishing between "friend" and "enemy" peoples is pure Hitlerism, and this is what the Anglo-American NATO leaders are now doing, while ironically pretending to reject "Munich".

History As Melodrama

The media that recount Balkan ghost stories to the "children" (30) back in NATOland rarely go into detail about the peculiarities of these various customs and situations. Popular culture has prepared audiences for a simpler version. The pattern is the same as in disaster movies, outer space movies, etc: there is always the trio of classic melodrama: wicked villain, helpless victim (maiden in distress) and heroic rescuer. Same plot. Over and over. Only in the Abramowitz humanitarian war plan, the trio is composed of ethnic entities or nationalities. There is the "good" ethnic group, all victims, like the Kosovar Albanians. Then there is the "bad" ethnic group, all racist hatred, ethnic cleansing and even "genocide". And finally, of course, there is Globocop to the rescue: NATO with its stealth bombers, cruise missiles and cluster blade bombs, its depleted uranium and graphite power-plan busters. A bit of fireworks, like the car chase at the end of the movie.

The whole concept of ethnic war as pretext for U.S. military intervention implies this division of humanity between "good" and "bad" nationalities, between "oppressor" and "victim" peoples. Since this is rarely the case, the story is told by analogy with the famous exceptional cases where the categories fit: Hitler and the Jews being the obvious favorite. Every new villain is a "Hitler", every new ethnic secessionist group to be used as pretext for new NATO bases is the victim of a potential "Holocaust". At this rate, the two terms will cease to be proper nouns and become general terms for the new global Guignol.

Starting with the pretense of militant anti-racism, "humanitarian intervention" finishes with a new racism. To merit all those bombs, the "bad" people must be tarnished with collective guilt. At the G8 summit in Cologne in June, Tony Blair clearly adopted the doctrine of collective guilt when he declared that there could be no humanitarian aid for the Serbs because of the dreadful way they had treated the Kosovar Albanians. With their incomparable self-righteousness, the Anglo-American commanders are leading this new humanitarian crusade to extremes of inhumanity.


(1) Jim Hoagland, "Developing a Doctrine of Humanitarian Warfare", International Herald Tribune, June 28, 1999.

(2) A former U.S. Ambassador to Thailand, Abramowitz served as Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research in the Reagan administration. In January 1986, he took part in an interesting mission to Beijing alongside top CIA officials with the purpose of persuading China to support supplying Stinger missiles to Islamic Afghan rebels in order to keep up pressure on the Soviet Union, even as Gorbachev was trying to end the Cold War. In the mid-1990s, he was part of a blue ribbon panel sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations which advised the Clinton Administration to loosen restrictions on CIA covert operations such as dealing with criminals, disguising agents as journalists, and targeting unfriendly heads of State.

(3) John B. Roberts, "Roots of Allied Farce", The American Spectator, June 1999.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Morton H. Halperin & David J. Scheffer with Patricia L. Small, Self-Determination In the New World Order, Carnegie Endowment, Washington,D.C., 1992; page 80.

(6) Ibid, p.105.

(7) Ibid, p.107.

(8) Ibid, p.110.

(9) Charles Trueheart, "Serbs and Kosovars Get Nudge From Their Hosts To Speed Up Peace Talks", International Herald Tribune/Washington Post, February 9, 1999: "On Monday, the Kosovo Albanians won a small tactical victory when their American advisers, initially barred by conference hosts, were allowed to visit them at the chateau. They included two former U.S. diplomats, Morton Abramowitz and Paul Williams."

(10) John B.Roberts, op.cit.

(11) Steven Erlanger, "Winning Friends for Foreign Policy: Albright's First 100 Days", The New York Times, 14 May 1997.

(12) "Il n'y a pas de paradoxe. J'ai mis au point cette doctrine en accord avec le prsident Carter, car c'tait la meilleure faon de dstabiliser l'Urss. a a march." L’Evnement du jeudi, 14 January 1998.

(13) Le Nouvel observateur, 14 January 1998, reported by AFP.

(14) Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, BasicBooks, New York, 1997, p.78.

(15) Kaplan's 1993 book Balkan Ghosts was notoriously read by President Clinton, who, however, had to be chided later by the author for having drawn the wrong conclusion. That is, Clinton's initial conclusion was to stay out of the Balkans, whereas Kaplan has, he explained, always been an interventionist.

(16) New York Times/International Herald Tribune, 23 February 1999.

(17) Robert D.Kaplan, "Why the Balkans Demand Amorality", The Washington Post, 28 February 1999.

(18) Steve Niva, "Between Clash and Co-Optation: US Foreign Policy and the Specter of Islam", Middle East Report, Fall 1998.

(19) The Washington Post, 28 February 1999.

(20) Stern, 4 March 1999.

(21) In mid-April, 1999, the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA) obtained and distributed to news media official documents from the German foreign office showing that in the months leading up to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the foreign office had repeatedly informed administrative courts of the various German Lnder that there was no persecution of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo or the rest of Serbia. Example: Intelligence report from the Foreign Office, January 12, 1999, to the administrative Court of Trier, "Even in Kosovo an explicit political persecution linked to Albanian ethnicity is not verifiable. The East of Kosovo is still not involved in armed conflict. Public life in cities like Pristina, Urosevac, Gnjilan, etc. has, in the entire conflict period, continued on a relatively normal basis." The "actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military opponent and its actual or alleged supporters." These reports were published in the German daily junge welt on 24 April 1999.

(22) Richard Cohen, "The Winner in the Balkans Is the KLA", Washington Post/International Herald Tribune, 18 June 1999.

(23) Richard Holbrooke, To End a War, Random House, New York, 1998, p.103.

(24) "The OSCE KVM: autopsy of a mission", statement delivered by Ambassador Gabriel Keller, principal deputy head of mission, to the watch group on May 25, 1999.

(25) Italian military participant "Romanus", in LiMes 2/99, cited by il manifesto, 19 June 1999.

(26) La Libert, Genve, 22 April 1999, and Balkan-Infos No.33, Paris, May 1999.

(27) Ulisse, "Come gli Americani hanno sabotato la missione dell’Osce", LiMes, supplemento al n.1/99, p.113, L’Espresso, Rome, 1999.

(28) "Throughout the Kosovo crisis, Mr.Rubin personally wooed Hashim Thaci, the ambitious leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army", the Wall Street Journal reported on June 29, 1999, even going so far as to "jokingly promise that he would speak to Hollywood friends about getting Mr.Thaci a movie role."

(29) Robert D.Kaplan, "Why the Balkans Demand Amorality", The Washington Post, 28 February 1999.

(30) Peter Gowan, in "The Twisted Road to Kosovo", Labour Focus on Eastern Europe, Number 62, Spring 1999, explains (p.76) that the foreign policy elite discuss the sordid realities of power politics in a closed arena, and "not in front of the children", that is, the citizenry of the NATO-land countries, who are regaled with versions that appeal to their values and ideals.


* How does police behavior in Seattle resemble NATO behavior in Yugoslavia? Click on Masks! or go to

* Misleading from the Start is a critique of some of the techniques by which the media misinforms us about events at home and abroad.

* For a critique of the mass grave stories which NATO used to justify bombing Yugoslavia, click on Spinning the Kill or go to

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