15 January 2009

Clinton (& Blair), NATO, Kosovo & Gaza

On March 24, 1999, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) began Operation Allied Force against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That evening, President Bill Clinton explained to the American people that the NATO air campaign was intended to avoid "an even crueler and costlier war"; "to prevent a wider war in Europe"; and to "seriously damage the Serbian military's capacity to harm the people of Kosovo."

Describing the Serbian Army's assault, he stated: "This is not war in the traditional sense. It is an attack by tanks and artillery on a largely defenseless people...Our mission is clear: to demonstrate the seriousness of NATO's purpose so that the Serbian leaders understand the imperative of reversing course; to deter an even bloodier offensive against innocent civilians in Kosovo and, if necessary, to seriously damage the Serbian military's capacity to harm the people of Kosovo. In short, if President Milosevic will not make peace, we will limit his ability to make war."
(President Bill Clinton, address to the nation, Washington, D.C., March 24, 1999)

Tony Blair had said much the same the day before, on 23 March 1999: "We must act to save thousands of innocent men, women and children from humanitarian catastrophe."

Blair described the emergency: "Let me give the House an indication of the scale of what is happening: a quarter of a million Kosovars, more than 10 per cent of the population, are now homeless as a result of repression by Serb forces... Since last summer 2000 people have died." (Blair: 'We must act - to save thousands of innocent men, women and children,' The Guardian, March 23, 1999)

No mention was made of Serbia's right to defend its ethnic population from attacks by the KLA, described by President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, as, "without any questions, a terrorist group.". Indeed George Robertson, then UK Defence Secretary and later NATO Secretary General, stated before the House of Commons that until mid-January 1999, "the Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA] was responsible for more deaths in Kosovo than the Serbian authorities had been". (Quoted, Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Routledge, 2003, p.56)

Presumably, and to avoid charges of rank hypocrisy, we can now expect a NATO blitz of Israel?

Please see the latest Media Lens alert for a more in depth analysis here:

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