by Harold Pinter (7-09-00)
On June 10th the British activist group, The
Committee for Peace in the Balkans, held their Second
International Conference on the NATO bombing of
Serbia. This is the text of the speech by
I'd like to read you an extract from Eve-Ann Prentice's powerful and important book about the NATO action in Serbia, One Woman's War.
"The little old lady looked as if she had three eyes. On closer inspection, it was the effect of the shrapnel which had drilled into her forehead and killed her. One of her shoes had been torn off and the radishes she had just bought at the market lay like splashes of blood near her outstretched hand.
"At first, the dead had seemed almost camouflaged among the rubble, splintered trees and broken glass but once you began to notice them, the bodies were everywhere, some covered in table cloths and blankets, others simply lying exposed where they had fallen. There was barely a square inch of wall, tree, car or human being which had not been raked by shrapnel. Houses which had been pretty hours before, with picket fences and window boxes bursting with blooms were now riddled with scars from the strafing. Widows in black leant on their garden gates, whimpering into handkerchiefs, as they surveyed their dead neighbours lying amid the broken glass, gashed trees, smouldering cars and crumpled bicycles. Plastic bags lay strewn near many of the dead, spilling parcels of fruit, eggs and vegetables, fresh from the market but now never to be eaten.
"It was Friday 7th May 1999 in the southern city of Nis and NATO had made a mistake. Instead of hitting a military building near the airport about three miles away the bombers had dropped their lethal load in a tangle of back streets close to the city centre. At least thirty-three people were killed and scores more suffered catastrophic injuries; hands, feet and arms shredded or blown away altogether, abdomens and chests ripped open by shards of flying metal.
"This had been no 'ordinary' shelling, if such a thing exists. The area had been hit by cluster bombs, devices designed to cause a deadly spray of hot metal fragments when they explode. The Yugoslav government had accused the Alliance of using these weapons in other attacks which had cut down civilians but the suggestion had been mostly laughed to scorn in the West."
The bombing of Nis was no 'mistake'. General Wesley K Clark declared, as the NATO bombing began: "We are going to systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately - unless President Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community - destroy these forces and their facilities and support". Milosevic's 'forces', as we know, included television stations, schools, hospitals, theatres, old people's homes - and the market-place in Nis. It was in fact a fundamental feature of NATO policy to terrorise the civilian population.
I would ask you to compare those images of the market place in Nis with the photographs of Tony Blair with his new- born baby which were all over the front pages recently. What a nice looking dad and what a pretty baby. Most readers would not have connected the proud father with the man who launched cluster bombs and missiles containing depleted uranium into Serbia. As we know from the effects of depleted uranium used on Iraq, there will be babies born in Serbia in the near future who won't look quite so pretty as little Leo but they won't get their pictures in the papers either.
The United States was determined to wage war against Serbia for one reason and one reason only - to assert its domination over Europe. And it seems very clear that it won't stop there. In showing its contempt for the United Nations and International Law the UnitedStates has opened up the way or more "moral outrage", more "humanitarian intervention", more demonstrations of its total indifference to the fate of thousands upon thousands of people, more lies, more bullshit, more casual sadism, more destruction.
And the government of Great Britain follows suit with an eagerness which can only merit our disgust. We are confronted by a brutal, ruthless and malignant machine. This machine must be recognised for what it is and resisted.