NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia
March 24, 1999
NATO War Crimes Committed Under Humanitarian Pretext
The following article was printed in TML Weekly, March 16, 2019, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 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.
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. 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.
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.”
(TML Weekly No. 9 Supplement, March 16, 2019)