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Support Kosovar People's Right To Self-Determination!
By Barry Romo, Joe Miller and Bill Branson
The bombs have stopped dropping on Serbia and Kosovo, but the tragic consequences of Serbian nationalism, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, have not disappeared.
More than 750 thousand Kosovars, almost all Muslim, will be living under plastic sheets this winter, not because of earthquakes or other environmental causes, but because of Serbian aggression. The actual toll in lives, those killed, tortured and raped, will probably never be known. But Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church has been shocked by the available evidence of these atrocities. He decided to break the silence by declaring many of his countrymen guilty of horrific crimes. It is important to remember that the Serbian church is not an evangelical ministry but a cultural and nationalistic church that has not spoken out against oppression of Muslims before.
It must also be remembered that the Serbian apartheid policies against Muslims were far worse than Jim Crow in America or apartheid in South Africa. For more than a decade, Muslim Albanians were denied all civil service jobs, from garbage collector to university professor. In Milosevic's move toward a "Greater Serbia" he denied all civil, cultural and political rights to the people who lived in Kosovo for more than a thousand years.
Even though NATO was victorious and the genocidal Serbian military and militia were expelled, justice still has not been served. The United Nations and NATO have not set up a war crimes tribunal to deal with criminals. There is still no civil or political rule by the 95% Muslim population. This has led to individual retribution by Muslim victims of Serb atrocities in an attempt to take justice into their own hands. We have seen this before, from Rwanda to Cambodia.
VVAW has always sided with an oppressed people's right to self-determination and independence. We have consistently stood with the people of Vietnam to East Timor. Guided by a principle of freedom, we do not believe that people should be slaughtered or held in national captivity because of boundaries set by nationalists or imperialists. Of course, this is not a blank check. For example, we would not have supported the South's right to secede for slavery, or Rhodesia's right to apartheid.
We have never cared about the so-called "legality" of any war. If a war is just we support it, and if a war is unjust we oppose it, no matter the Constitution or the UN resolution. Korea and the Gulf War were both "legal" by U.S. and UN legalities, and yet no one in VVAW would have supported those unjust conflicts.
In Cambodia, the Vietnamese drove out the genocidal Pol Pot dictatorship. This went against "accepted" international conventions and the UN Charter. However, the oppression of the Cambodian people and the righteousness of the Vietnamese offensive in the real world stood above abstract law.
For more than thirty years, VVAW has stood for a reality not tied to abstract legalisms and excuses. We have supported black people's rights even when the law denied them. We supported Native American rights at Wounded Knee even when U.S. law denied them. Human rights, REAL rights, REAL people suffering and dying are the basis of our political reality and our social justice activism, not the abstractions of a third year law student or some pompous academic.
Barry Romo, Bill Branson and Joe Miller are all members of the VVAW National Office.