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An Anti-Genocide Position Is No "Blank Check"!
By Bill Branson, Barry Romo & Joe Miller
What, NATO is bombing someone again, and VVAW has not taken a national position? Why do many of us support this NATO action, even with reservations? How can we make sense of the great equivocator, Bill Clinton, taking such action against the Serbs?
We already know that fighting fascists is correct, and we already know that we can't trust our rulers. The bombing must be seen as a long-delayed response to the genocide that has been carried out by Milosevic since the late 1980s. Certainly, there is no more reason to trust the rich in this situation than we had in the Gulf War. The difference here is that we must force them to go as far as necessary.
From Little Rock, to trying rogue cops, to "don't ask, don't tell," the rich have never gone far enough in correcting real social evils. This time, we must say: "You haven't gone far enough!"
VVAW's work concerning problems within Yugoslavia is not new. We have done security and training for the Bosnian Muslims since the early 1990s. We know the history of this region. In fact, it must be said that there is no longer a Yugoslavia, there is only the fascist regime of Milosevic who has used "ethnic cleansing," mass rape and murder as political tools to extend and solidify his power.
Milosevic has just been indicted for his documented slaughter and rape in Kosovo. In Bosnia he organized the systematic mass rape of 35,000 women, 5,000 of whom were forced to bear Serb children. This is the first known use of such tactics in modern history.
As for Kosovo, we have all seen the satellite photos of mass graves and the smuggled video from the Kosovar Muslims. The heart-rending pictures of hundreds of thousands of refugees, driven like cattle by the Serb army, have haunted us for weeks. Word from the beleaguered aid workers has now finally begun to come through. There is consistent testimony about massacres, mass rapes, beatings, and burning of villages coming from these refugees. And yet there is disbelief. Why, in the face of so much evidence?
When we watched civil rights workers in the 1950s and 1960s get attacked by police dogs, beaten by cops, and hit with the powerful streams from firehoses, did we disbelieve our eyes then? When we saw television reports of cops attacking anti-war demonstrators during the Vietnam War, did we doubt our eyes and call it all a corporate "plot" to manipulate us? We believed the video of Rodney King being beaten by the L.A. cops. We believed that Abner Louima was raped by New York cops.
In Kosovo, we have seen the evidence of 850,000 "Louimas," yet many refuse to believe the testimony or the photos. Strangely enough, our right-wing political hacks and the bulk of the "left" are linked in their unwillingness to believe the consistent stories from hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees.
It is not only the Republican politicians and the American Legion who are siding with the Serb fascists. Why is it that the outcries of the left and most of the "progressive" media conveniently leave out the pleas of the Kosovars for self-determination? When you see the pictures of Serbs in the rubble, complaining about not being able to access the Internet every day or about how difficult it is to find cigarettes, are these sights followed by an update on the ethnic cleansing? Where are the extensive interviews with survivors of this holocaust?
Why is it that the Republicans, who have supported every military adventure in the last century, are now opposed to any effective attack on Milosevic? There is no oil in Kosovo. The lives of women and children have never really been a concern to the rich. The refugees are Muslims, though of white European descent. And the rich ruling class is split. Many of them support Milosevic as a local "strong man," much as their kind supported Hitler, Mussolini, Marcos, and Pinochet.
Why is the left out in "right field"? If you don't back the NATO bombing, what are you going to actually do to stop the genocide of the Kosovar people? In the real world Milosevic has already succeeded in killing or displacing half of the population of Kosovo. If the bombing is stopped without his complete agreement to the NATO demands, he will have a free hand to dispose of the rest of the Kosovars. Are we to abandon the Muslims in 1999 as the Jews were abandoned to the Nazis in the 1930s? The American left has grown accustomed to looking at the position of NATO and, in a knee-jerk response, taking the opposite side. It has failed to analyze the total reality of the current situation. This intellectual bankruptcy is killing the people of Kosovo.
So, what is the solution? We should support the NATO peace plan to stop the genocide immediately. Only then should we stop the bombing. Milosevic must be tried for war crimes without any plea bargains or immunity. If the Serb people fail to string him up by his ankles like Mussolini, then someone else should do it for them. Finally, we should support self-determination for Kosovo and back it up with massive military force.
Bill Branson, Barry Romo and Joe Miller are all part of VVAW's National Office.