March 24, 1999

NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia

On March 24, 1999, bombs started raining down on Belgrade as NATO commenced its criminal attack on Yugoslavia. Using the pretext of a humanitarian intervention, the United States and the big powers of Old Europe, especially Germany, France and Britain, joined by Canada and all NATO members at that time, engaged in an air war and wanton destruction. 

More than 80 per cent of NATO's bombardments were directed at civilian targets, residential areas, workplaces, clinics and schools. More than 50,000 rounds with depleted uranium created long-term health problems and contamination of the environment. The bombing of chemical production facilities contaminated both the population and the environment, while the use of cluster bombs and mines have continued to kill and maim people years later. Even the Embassy of the People's Republic of China was bombed, killing two embassy staff.

The war of aggression against Yugoslavia served as a precedent for obliterating international law. NATO violated its own founding charter, the Helsinki Final Act of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Charter of the United Nations in launching this war. Yugoslavia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, guaranteed by the UN Charter, was ignored and blatantly bombed away in the case of this United Nations founding member state.

Canada's "contribution" to the commission of these war crimes in the former Yugoslavia was substantial. At that time it held the Chair of the United Nations' Security Council, to which no country submitted any resolutions to get approval for the bombing of Yugoslavia. It participated in a grand way in the staged pretexts of a humanitarian crisis used in an attempt to legitimate by-passing the institutions, such as the UN, established in the post-war period. Canada itself contributed 18 CF-18 Hornets and ground crews for the sorties. Canadian planes flew 682 sorties at an estimated cost of $54.5 million, dropping a total of 530 bombs, of which 361 were laser guided. Just weeks prior to the war, Canada bought an emergency supply of 300 bombs from the U.S. military. Canadian pilots carried out 10 per cent of the bombing raids. This was Canada's role in NATO's "humanitarian intervention."

Canada at the time was pushing and making a lot of noise about then Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy's "human security agenda," the content of which was picked up by NATO to suit its purposes for future interventions, and became its "Responsibility to Protect" doctrine.

NATO's war against Yugoslavia marked its first open military engagement since its formation but this is not all. It was a definite turning point in the commission of crimes against humanity which switched from covert actions to open violations of the international rule of law.[1] For instance, it marked the first non-covert attempted assassination of a head of state in Europe. The military bombing of the radio and television studios in Belgrade, repeated on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, gave rise to the NATO doctrine that any journalist, media worker or media outlet who is not working for NATO is an enemy propagandist and a military target. Since this assault on freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of conscience, the number of journalists and press photographers killed in action has spiralled.

In spite of all the pretexts used to justify the war and the wanton destruction it caused, NATO used the war to proclaim its intention to carry out global wars of destruction and occupation and, subsequently, regime change. The aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan and the global "war on terror" launched after 9/11 provide ample proof of NATO's "humanitarianism."

The plans for a "Greater Middle East," the interference in Sudan, Tibet and the Caucasus, campaigns against Zimbabwe, Cuba, Somalia and Lebanon, the subsequent destruction of Libya, aggression against Syria as well as constant threats of war directed at Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the acts of aggression and sanctions against Venezuela as well as engineering coups d'état against Haiti, Bolivia, Honduras and Peru, amongst others, and the U.S.-proxy war against Russia using Ukraine all show that the "new world order" based on achieving U.S. striving for domination by using force, has left a sea of devastation and human misery in its wake. The path NATO set in Yugoslavia violates the UN Charter and international rule of law which are based on renouncing the use of violence to sort out conflicts between nations.

Indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets by NATO included the Serbian Ministry of the Interior (left) and Serbia Radio Television.

The criminal NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, as is the case with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the destruction of Libya and the assassinations of their leaders and regime changes, failed to unite the U.S. bureaucracy. Factional fights have intensified manifold and the U.S. is on the verge of open civil war at home while it intensifies its warmongering and preparations for a war on a massive scale abroad. What are called liberal democratic institutions no longer function to sort out differences within the ruling class. The more the rulers rule by decree, the more they claim they are defending democracy, human rights and what they call a rules-based order.

Canada has succumbed lock, stock and barrel to U.S. demands to integrate the Canadian economy and resources into U.S. war production and devote more and more resources to NATO, the militarization of culture and life and to criminalizing opposition to this both at home and abroad. The U.S. brooks no negotiations of any kind, even within the NATO bloc. It is holding massive war exercises in the Asia Pacific and other places to make sure the armed forces of every country are integrated under U.S. Command as has been achieved in the case of Canada, Poland, and the Italian Special Forces amongst others. It demands that countries pay for the upkeep of U.S. bases and forces on their territories, and that these forces be permitted to act with impunity through so-called Status of Forces Agreements signed with countries such as south Korea and Japan. All of it is done in the name of peace, freedom and democracy and shows the peoples the dangers which lie ahead and the need to not only get their countries out of NATO and to dismantle it but to fight to make all countries zones for peace.

Clearly, the tragedy unleashed with the brutal and criminal bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 in the name of "human security" and "humanitarian" pretexts, was just the beginning of the crimes we have witnessed the U.S. and its NATO war alliance commit since then. 

All efforts must be made to smash the attempts of the imperialists and their spokespersons and agencies within each country to disrupt the unity of the people against wars of destruction and regime change. All those desiring peace are called on to unite in action to give rise to anti-war governments which do not permit these crimes against humanity. All official open and covert means used to cause disruption of the peace movement and spread disinformation so that the people cannot bring the power of their numbers and organization to bear and which spread disinformation must be foiled.


1. In his book The Globalization of NATO (Clarity Press, 2012), Madhi Darius Nazemroaya points to the significance of the Yugoslav war for NATO.

"Yugoslavia was a turning point for the Atlantic Alliance and its mandate. The organization moved from the guise of a defensive posture into an offensive pose under the pretexts of humanitarianism. Starting from Yugoslavia, NATO began its journey towards becoming a global military force. From its wars in the Balkans, it began to broaden its international area of operations outside of the Euro-Atlantic zone into the Caucasus, Central Asia, East Africa, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian Ocean. It has virtually turned the Mediterranean Sea into a NATO lake with the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, while it seeks to do the same to the Black Sea and gain a strategic foothold in the Caspian Sea region. The Gulf Security Initiative between NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council seeks to also dominate the Persian Gulf and to hem in Iran. Israel has become a de facto member of the military organization. At the same time, NATO vessels sail the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. These warships are deployed off the coasts of Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen as part of NATO's objectives to create a naval cordon of the seas controlling important strategic waterways and maritime transit routes.

"[...] NATO has clearly played an important role in complementing the U.S. strategy for dominating Eurasia. This includes the encirclement of Russia, China, Iran, and their allies with a military ring subservient to Washington. The global missile shield project, the militarization of Japan, the insurgencies in Libya and Syria, the threats against Iran, and the formation of a NATO-like military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region are components of this colossal geopolitical project. NATO's globalization, however, is bringing together a new series of Eurasian counter-alliances with global linkages that stretch as far as Latin America. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) have been formed by Russia, China, and their allies as shields against the U.S. and NATO and as a means to challenge them."

Ottawa, March 28, 1999

Montreal, April 3, 1999

Ottawa, April 4, 1999.

Toronto, April 17, 1999

Windsor, April 17, 1999

Memorial to the children killed by NATO's aggression against Yugoslavia,
Tasmajdan Park, Belgrade, Serbia.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 2 - March 2023

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