Number 9
                 March 16, 2019

20th Anniversary of NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia

NATO War Crimes Committed Under
Humanitarian Pretext

NATO bombing of Belgrade, Serbia begins, March 24, 1999.

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.

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 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 and freedom of conscience, the number of journalists and press photographers killed in action has spiralled.

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

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 aggression and occupation and, subsequently, regime change. The aggressions 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 and the current acts of aggression against Venezuela, show that the imperialists' "new world order" based on achieving their striving for domination by using force, has left a sea of devastation and human misery in its wake. The path NATO set violates the UN Charter and international rule of law which are based on renouncing violence.

This 20th anniversary of the criminal NATO bombing of Yugoslavia comes at a time NATO commemorates the 70th anniversary of its founding with plans to keep the alliance together in the context of sharpening contradictions between the U.S. and big powers of Old Europe and the crisis in Britain over Brexit. The foreign ministers of NATO countries are getting together at a summit in Washington, DC from March 30 to April 7. At this summit the U.S. imperialists will issue more threats for NATO members to submit to their demands without question, failing which it has threatened to leave NATO, a situation that would put the aggressive military bloc into another phase of existential crisis. The U.S. will brook no negotiations of any kind, even within the NATO bloc. It wants the armed forces of the NATO countries to be integrated under U.S. Command as has been achieved in the case of Canada, Poland and now with the Italian special forces. It demands that countries pay for the upkeep of U.S. forces stationed on their territories, the costs of U.S. bases and that they be given impunity, as in the so-called Status of Forces Agreements signed with countries like 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 dismantle NATO and get out of NATO 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 are witnessing the U.S. imperialists and NATO commit today. 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 imperialist wars of aggression 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 should 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."

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From TML Archives

Vigorously Condemn NATO's Aggression Against Yugoslavia! End Canadian Involvement Now!
Demand that NATO Be Dismantled!

Protest against Canadian participation in NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, Ottawa, April 4, 1999.

The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) vigorously condemns the criminal aggression unleashed against Yugoslavia by the aggressive NATO military alliance under the auspices of the U.S. imperialists and other big powers. CPC(M-L) condemns the Chrétien Liberals for involving Canadian planes and forces in this criminal action and demands that Canadian forces be immediately withdrawn, that Canada get out of NATO and that NATO be dismantled.

Canada calls itself a peace-loving nation. It presently has the chair of the Security Council. It is duty-bound to support the established principles of international law. This means Canada must oppose the use of force or threat of the use of force in international affairs, foreign interference into the internal affairs of sovereign nations, and the creation of pretexts under the guise of high ideals to justify what cannot be justified.

This aggression under the auspices of NATO marks the first time in its fifty-year history as an aggressive military alliance that NATO has attacked a sovereign country in outright violation of established principles and international law. The use of NATO is also to circumvent the United Nations Security Council so as to bypass the veto power of both Russia and China which oppose the use of force against Yugoslavia. Furthermore, historically the control of the Balkans has been central to the control of Europe. The U.S. is seeking to establish its hegemony over all of Europe, while the other big powers in Europe, especially Britain, Germany and France are seeking to establish their own prerogatives over Europe in contention with U.S. imperialism. The contention of the big powers over control of the Balkans so as to control Europe escalated into World War One. They are seriously endangering the cause of world peace once again, besides committing barbaric crimes against the peoples of the region.

CPC(M-L) also calls on the Canadian workers, women and youth to condemn the Hitlerite propaganda of the U.S. imperialist chieftain William Clinton and the likes of Tony Blair and Jean Chretien who declare that the aggression is a "moral imperative" to "bring peace and stability" to the region, "avert a human catastrophe" and "defend human rights." It is the interference of the big powers which is behind the suffering of the peoples of the region. They are the ones which finance, arm and incite different factions so as to make sure their interests are served.

A precondition for peace in the region is to demand that the big powers withdraw from the region and leave the peoples to sort out their affairs themselves. It is a big lie that when the peoples are left to sort out their own problems themselves, they resort to fratricidal war; it is an integral part of the Hitlerite technique that if you repeat a lie often enough, it will be believed.

It is important that the Canadian people think things out for themselves and take an active stand in opposing these Hitlerite lies and the use of pretexts to carry out wanton aggression and slaughter and create the conditions for a third world war. The peoples of the Balkans played an extremely heroic role during World War Two against fascist aggression, contributing in no small way to defeating the axis powers and bringing the war to an end.

It is the peoples who are decisive in establishing peace and they must be left alone to sort out their problems themselves. So long as the peoples play a passive role, the big powers will continue to dictate their fate and create the danger of another slaughter of worldwide proportions. Peace will only come to the Balkans when all the imperialist forces are thrown out of the region and the peoples are left to settle their affairs themselves without foreign interference.

Demonstrate Against this Aggression and Canada's Involvement and Demand that
the Norms of International Relations Be Upheld by Canada!
NATO and All Foreign Powers, Out of the Balkans!
End Canadian Involvement Now!
Leave the Peoples of the Balkans to Settle Their Own Affairs!
Get Canada Out of NATO! Dismantle NATO!

(TML Weekly)

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Impact of NATO's "Humanitarian" Bombings,
the Balance Sheet of Destruction in Yugoslavia

Amply documented, the bombings of Yugoslavia are not strictly aimed at military and strategic targets as claimed by NATO. They are largely intent on destroying the country's civilian infrastructure as well as its institutions.

According to Yugoslav sources, NATO has engaged around 600 aeroplanes of which more than 400 are combat planes. They have flown almost 3,000 attack sorties, "with 200 in one night alone against 150 designated targets." They have dropped thousands of tons of explosives and have launched some 450 cruise missiles.

The intensity of the bombing using the most advanced military technology is unprecedented in modern history. It far surpasses the bombing raids of World War II or the Vietnam War.

The bombings have not only been directed against industrial plants, airports, electricity and telecommunications facilities, railways, bridges and fuel depots They have also targeted schools, health clinics, day care centres, government buildings, churches, museums, monasteries and historical landmarks.

Infrastructure and Industry

Left: heating plant in Belgrade bombed by NATO; right: a bombed bridge in Novi Sad.

According to Yugoslav sources: "road and railway networks, especially road and rail bridges, most of which were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, suffered extensive destruction." Several thousand industrial facilities have been destroyed or damaged with the consequence of paralysing the production of consumer goods. According to Yugoslav sources, "By totally destroying business facilities across the country, 500,000 workers were left jobless, and 2 million citizens without any source of income and possibility to ensure minimum living conditions." Western estimates as to the destruction of property in Yugoslavia stand at more than U.S.$100 billion.

Bombing of Urban and Rural Residential Areas

Villages with no visible military or strategic structures have been bombed. Described as "collateral damage," residential areas in all major cities. The downtown area of Pristina (which includes apartment buildings and private dwellings) has been destroyed. Central-downtown Belgrade -- including government buildings -- have been hit with cluster bombs and there are massive flames emanating from the destruction. According to the International Center for Peace and Justice (ICPJ): "No city or town in Yugoslavia is being spared. There are untold civilian casualties. The beautiful capital city of Belgrade is in flames and fumes from a destroyed chemical plant are making it necessary to use gas masks."

Civilian Casualties

Both the Yugoslavia authorities and NATO have downplayed the number of civilian casualties. The evidence amply confirms that NATO has created a humanitarian catastrophe. The bombings are largely responsible for driving people from their homes. The bombings have killed people regardless of their nationality or religion. In Kosovo, civilian casualties affect all ethnic groups. According to a report of the Decany Monastery in Kosovo received in the first week of the bombing:

"Last night a cruise missile hit the old town in Djakovica, mostly inhabited by Albanians, and made a great fire in which several Albanian houses were destroyed ..." In short, NATO attacks are nothing but barbarous aggression which affects mostly the innocent civilian population, both Serb and Albanian.

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

The Dangers of Environmental Contamination

Refineries and warehouses storing liquid raw materials and chemicals have been hit causing environmental contamination. The latter have massively exposed the civilian population to the emission of poisonous gases. NATO (with its) air strikes on the chemical industry is intent on creating an environmental disaster, "which is something not even Adolf Hitler did during World War II." According to the Serbian Minister for Environmental Protection, Branislav Blazic, "the aggressors were lying when they said they would hit only military targets and would observe international conventions, because they are using illegal weapons such as cluster bombs, attacking civilian targets and trying to provoke an environmental disaster." A report by NBC TV confirms that NATO has bombed the pharmaceutical complex of Galenika, the largest medicine factory in Yugoslavia located in the suburbs of Belgrade. The fumes from this explosion have serious environmental implications. ... The supply of drinking water to the inhabitants of Belgrade is also getting difficult after the drinking water facility at Zarkovo was bombed.

Hospitals and Schools

NATO has targeted many hospitals and health care institutions, which have been partially damaged or totally destroyed. These include 13 of the country's major hospitals. More than 150 schools (including pre-primary day care centres) have been damaged or destroyed. According to Yugoslav sources, more than 800,000 pupils and students do not attend schools in the wake of the war destruction. There are almost no pre-school institutions (nurseries and day-care centres) which are operational.

Churches, Monasteries and Historical Landmarks

NATO has also systematically targeted churches, monasteries, museums, public monuments and historical landmarks.

"The targets of the attacks on historical and cultural landmarks have included the Gracanica monastery, dating back to the 14th century, the Pec Patriarchate (13th century), the Rakovica monastery and the Petrovarardin Fortress, which are testimony to the foundations of the European civilization, are in all world encyclopedias and on the UNESCO World Heritage list."

The Use of Weapons Banned by International Convention

The NATO bombings have also used weapons banned by international convention. Amply documented by scientific reports, the cruise missiles utilize depleted uranium "highly toxic to humans, both chemically as a heavy metal and radiologically as an alpha particle emitter." Since the Gulf War, depleted uranium (DU) has been substituted for lead in bullets and missiles. According to scientists "it is most likely a major contributor to the Gulf War Syndrome experienced both by the veterans and the people of Iraq." According to radiobiologist Dr. Rosalie Bertell, president of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health:

"When used in war, the depleted uranium (DU) bursts into flame [and] releases a deadly radioactive aerosol of uranium, unlike anything seen before. It can kill everyone in a tank. This ceramic aerosol is much lighter than uranium dust. It can travel in air tens of kilometres from the point of release, or be stirred up in dust and resuspended in air with wind or human movement. It is very small and can be breathed in by anyone: a baby, pregnant woman, the elderly, the sick. This radioactive ceramic can stay deep in the lungs for years, irradiating the tissue with powerful alpha particles within about a 30 micron sphere, causing emphysema and/or fibrosis. The ceramic can also be swallowed and do damage to the gastro-intestinal tract. In time, it penetrates the lung tissue and enters into the blood stream. ... It can also initiate cancer or promote cancers which have been initiated by other carcinogens."

According to Paul Sullivan, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center:

"In Yugoslavia, it's expected that depleted uranium will be fired in agricultural areas, places where livestock graze and where crops are grown, thereby introducing the spectre of possible contamination of the food chain."

The New York based International Action Center called the Pentagon's decision to use the A-10 "Warthog" jets against targets in Serbia "a danger to the people and environment of the entire Balkans." (Truth in Media, April 10, 1999). In this regard, a report in from Greece "registered an increase in levels of toxic substances in the atmosphere of Greece, and said that Albania, Macedonia, Italy, Austria and Hungary all face a potential threat to human health as a result of NATO's bombing of Serbia, which includes the use of radioactive depleted uranium shells." (See Truth in Media, April 10, 1999).

The Plight of the Refugees

What is not conveyed by the international media, is that people of all ethnic origins including ethnic Albanians, Serbs and other ethnic groups are leaving Kosovo largely as a result of the bombing.

There are reports that ethnic Albanians have left Kosovo for Belgrade where they have relatives. There are 100,000 ethnic Albanians in Belgrade. The press has confirmed movements of ethnic Albanians to Montenegro. Montenegro has been portrayed as a separate country, as a safe-haven against the Serbs. The fact of the matter is that Montenegro is part of Yugoslavia.

70th Anniversary of Founding of North Atlantic Treaty Alliance
All Out to Make Canada a Zone for Peace!

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