Stop The Bombing
By Dave Kettenhofen & John Lindquist
VVAW has a proud history of opposing wars, and we feel this new war in the Balkans shouldn't be any different. VVAW should oppose the U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, it should oppose the ethnic cleansing of the Albanians by the Serbs, and under no circumstances should it support the introduction of U.S. combat ground troops.
History usually plays a great part in understanding why wars break out in certain areas. Our total lack of understanding of the history of Vietnam helped our country make the decisions it made in the 1950s and 1960s. Our lack of knowledge of the Balkans should not allow us to make the same mistakes in the 1990s.
Our country and NATO are violating international laws in attacking Serbia over Kosovo, which is part of the sovereign independent state of Yugoslavia. It is a violation of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter that prohibits the use of force against a sovereign state where it has not attacked another state outside its borders. If this issue had been submitted to the UN Security Council, it most likely would have been vetoed. NATO knows this and therefore has bypassed the Security Council.
It is a violation of NATO's charter. No member of NATO was attacked, so how can this "defensive organization" act? The so-called Rambouillet agreement is a violation of the 1980 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which prohibits the use of coercion and force to compel any state to sign a treaty or agreement. Yugoslavia was being asked to sign or be bombed. If the result of the bombing is recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, it will be a violation of international law that prohibits the recognition of provinces that unilaterally declare independence against the wishes of the federal authorities.
This position of opposing the bombing does not condone ethnic cleansing, Serbian atrocities or war crimes. There are Serbs guilty of these crimes. But ethnic cleansing has taken place on all sides in the Balkans. Six hundred thousand Serbs were cleansed out of Croatia in 1995. Tens of thousands on both sides were cleansed in Bosnia. Albania, with Kosovo adjoined to it, sided with Nazi Germany in W.W.II and committed mass killings and cleansings of Serbs. Only the Serbs fought the guerrilla war against the Nazis. These blood feuds go back over five hundred years, fighting the Ottoman and Austria-Hungarian empires. The State Department has reported that 2,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in Kosovo during the past year. In the same period 1,300 Serbians were killed. We should not pick sides here.
We don't bomb Turkey for the Kurds. We don't bomb England because of Northern Ireland. We don't bomb Indonesia because of Timor. The list goes on. Why do we choose to bomb in Yugoslavia?
Last, but not least, let's not forget the impending new round of disabled veterans. Our government sure did a lot to help the atomic vets. We know how much help Agent Orange vets received. Gulf War Syndrome vets are still fighting for their benefits. A possible big, long war in the Balkans will overwhelm the VA.
We, as an organization, have waited far too long to make our position known about this war. Our long delay sends the message that we condone the bombing of Yugoslavia and the future use of ground troops. Bombing the Serbs as "payback" for atrocities committed against the Albanians has only served to further escalate the cycle of atrocities. The U.S./NATO slaughter of Kosovar refugees and Serbian civilians and the destruction of Yugoslavia's infrastructure is an atrocity! This is not a question of taking a position on events in which the U.S. is not directly involved. These are our bombs, this is our military, and these are our tax dollars at work. We supposedly have a voice in what our country does; the blood is on our hands. War is not the answer.
VVAW's position should be:
- Stop the bombing, no war in the Balkans.
- Ethnic cleansing and violence on both sides must stop.
- The needs of the refugees, especially the volume of people since the bombing began, must be met.
- This whole big mess must be settled by negotiations using the UN.
Dave Kettenhofen is a VVAW national coordinator from Milwaukee and
John Lindquist is coordinator of the Milwaukee Chapter .