President Bill Clinton and Yugoslavia
excerpted from the book
Lying for Empire
How to Commit War Crimes With
A Straight Face
by David Model
Common Courage Press, 2005, paper
Orwellian bastardization of language was never more evident than
when the bombing of Serbia was called a humanitarian campaign.
In an Orwellian inversion of language where war becomes peace
and hate becomes love, Clinton defined the bombing of Serbia as
a humanitarian campaign when, in fact, the United States and other
NATO leaders were engaged in a campaign to break up the Socialist
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under the pretext of stopping ethnic
cleansing. The SFRY was guilty of preserving its socialist approach
to social and economic policy after the breakup of the former
Soviet Union. Michael Parenti explained, in To Kill a Nation The
Attack on Yugoslavia, that:
... Yugoslavia (FRY) remained the only
nation in the region that would not voluntarily discard what remained
of its socialism and install an unalloyed free-market system...
It also proudly had no interest in joining NATO. The US goal has
been to transform the FRY into a Third World region, a cluster
of weak right-wing principalities
... One test of U.S. intentions in the
bombing of Serbia is to compare the atrocities in Kosovo to those
occurring in Turkey at the same time. Since 1980, Turkey has been
committing atrocities against its Kurdish population with $15
billion of arms from the United States. Forty thousand Kurds have
been killed and two million rendered homeless. Before the NATO
bombing of Serbia began, 2000 people had been killed as a result
of the civil war in atrocities in Kosovo to those occurring in
Turkey at the same time. Since Serbia. If the U.S. was pursuing
humanitarian goals why was it not only turning a blind eye to
the atrocities perpetrated against the Kurds but also arming Turkey?
... Evangelos Mahairas, in The Breakup of Yugoslavia, states that:
Beginning in 1990 Germany and the United
States sought and achieved the breakup of Yugoslavia... The United
States was interested in the more recently established States
(Bosnia, Serbia, the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia) which
controlled the only route from east to west and north to south
through the Balkan mountains. The Balkan area, along with Romania,
Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Arab Nations, forms a European-Middle
East Bloc, which the United States wants to control... for the
complete exploitation of the great oil resources of the Caspian
As Yugoslavia was reeling from its economic
crisis and ethnic tensions, the United States and other European
nations implemented a number of strategies to advance its breakup.
The National Endowment for Democracy and the CIA supported conservative
separatist groups in the republics with campaign money and advice.
Under pressure from the Bush Administration, Congress passed the
1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act which authorized assistance
only to the individual republics and not to the Yugoslavian government.
Arms shipments and military advisors were dispatched to Slovenia
and Croatia which were the first two republics to secede from
the federation. Evangelos Mahairas, in The Breakup of Yugoslavia,
The United States funded the states so
as to dissolve the federation. The U.S. also supported parties
and movements that would promote the process... In 1993, American
officers undertook training of the Croatian army, which was now
armed by the United States.
... NATO had been partly responsible for atrocities against the
Serbs in Croatia but would later blame the Serbs for atrocities
against Albanians in Kosovo. According to Michael Parenti, in
To Kill a Nation:
In early August 1995, Croatian forces
launched the bloodiest offensive of the war, breaking the Serbian
defences in Krajina, killing thousands of Serb citizens, and sending
225,000 fleeing for their lives... US-NATO planes destroyed Serbian
radar and anti-aircraft defenses, and jammed Serbian military
communications, leaving the skies open for the Western trained
and funded Croatian air force to bomb Serbian defenses and strafe
refugee columns. Trapped Serbian civilians, pouring into Bosnia,
were massacred by Croatian and Muslim artillery.
The atrocities against the Serbs in Croatia
were at least as horrifying as anything that occurred in Kosovo
later. In Crimes Without Punishment, Vojin Dabic and Ksenija Lukic
During the inter-ethnic war in the republic
of Croatia 1991-1996 Croatian armed forces liquidated more than
ten thousand Serbs... However, instead of talks scheduled for
that day [between Serbs and Croatians] they [Serbs] received bullets,
because the Croatian policemen, as soon as they left their vehicles,
started to shoot at houses in the centre of the village... The
aim is clear-to intimidate local Serb populations for the purpose
of ethnic cleansing.
One of the major propaganda coups of the war was a set of photos
which ostensibly corroborated Western claims that Serb forces
in Bosnia were forcing Muslims into concentration camps. Photographers
used a small shed enclosed by a barbed-wire fence in Trnopolje
refugee camp to fabricate one of the most damning images of the
war. Journalists and photographers stood inside the barbed-wire
enclosure shooting pictures of Muslim men who stood outside the
fence, thus creating the impression that these Muslims were behind
the barbed-wired fence of a concentration camp. One photo in particular
of an emaciated man, Fikret Alic, which evoked images of Nazi
death camps, appeared on the cover of Time magazine. Slobodan
Konjevic, a Serb suffering from tuberculosis who was arrested
for looting appeared on the cover of Newsweek as another emaciated
prisoner of a concentration camp.
Mention of Bosnia now evokes the horror
of genocide perpetrated against Bosnian Croats and Muslims by
Bosnian Serbs. Genocide in Bosnia was part of the justification
for the bombing of Serbia a few years later and for charging Serbian
leaders with genocide in Bosnia. There was no justification for
the charges because there was no genocide. Western leaders and
media invented the genocide. To strengthen the myth, Bosnia hired
Ruder Finn, an American public relations firm which boasted that
they had successfully turned world opinion against the Serbs.
Marjaleena Repo, in Demonizing the Serbs (CounterPunch, 1999),
The PR firm was piling hoax upon hoax...
There are.., countless stories maligning the Serbs to further
the ends of military intervention. These stories and photos of
"genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" (a la Hitler)
in a civil war, in which Serbs are guilty as sin and others are
their innocent victims, are repeated ad nauseam by western reporters
without the slightest evidence, and have provided the ground for
the public's (hopefully only temporary) acceptance of the illegal
and brutal war against the sovereign nation of Yugoslavia.
This was not the first time a U.S. administration
had hired a public relations firm to lie on their behalf, in effect
privatizing government lies.
The heavy US-led NATO bombing of Serbian
targets in Bosnia forced the Serbs to capitulate and to seek an
end to the war. The bombing was relentless and was not restricted
to military targets. Sixty aircraft flew more than 1000 sorties
in the first 50 hours and bombed the towns of Lukavica and Tuzia
and Serbian suburbs in Sarajevo. Maurice Williams, in Bombing
Campaign in Bosnia Intensifies (The Militant, September 25, 1995),
Washington has stepped up its imperialist
assault in Bosnia on positions held by Serbians loyal to Belgrade.
After two weeks of intense NATO bombing, dozens of warplanes,
mainly from the United States, have flown 3,200 sorties L pounding
military targets but also inflicting increased civilian casualties.
... the province of Kosovo waged a fierce battle for independence.
The conflict was rooted in the fact that Kosovo was inhabited
mostly by ethnic Albanians and partly by Serbs and the Serbs were
opposed to separation from the republic of Serbia within the Yugoslavian
To understand the clash between ethnic
Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo, it is essential to know the historical
context in which the Albanians in Kosovo sought more and more
independence from the FRY. This history will also illuminate the
magnitude of Clinton's lies about the nature of the atrocities
During World War II, the Albanian fascist
militia had expelled 70,000 Serbs from Kosovo and brought in roughly
the same number of Albanians from Albania. Albanian nationalist
sentiment in Kosovo was strong and to placate the ethnic Albanians,
Yugoslav leader Tito declared Kosovo an autonomous region, though
still a province of Serbia. This was put into effect by a new
constitution which, in 1974, granted additional powers to the
provinces. Only Tito's authority held in check further nationalist
efforts to become independent.
The ongoing conflict between Albanians
and Serbs in Kosovo ultimately provided the necessary justification
for the bombing of Serbia under the spurious pretext of humanitarian
In 1989, Slobodan Milosevic became president of Serbia and immediately
implemented a new constitution restoring authority to Belgrade,
reversing the powers granted to Kosovo in the 1974 constitution.
When Kosovar Albanians ardently protested against the change on
March 28, 1989, police opened fire on the crowd killing at least
In July 1989, further restrictions were
imposed on the Albanians when the Serbian parliament passed the
Law on the Restriction of Property Transactions which prohibited
Albanians from buying real estate without the approval of a state
commission run by the Serbian Ministry of Finance.
Ethnic Albanian members of the neutered
Kosovo assembly declared Kosovo's independence on July 2, 1990.
Serbia then dissolved the Kosovo assembly provoking more strikes
and protests by ethnic Albanians. Members of the former assembly
met secretly, adopted a new constitution for the Republic of Kosovo,
and elected a clandestine government. Three weeks later, the Serb
assembly formally revoked the autonomous status of Kosovo. In
1992, Ibrahim Rugova was elected president of the new clandestine
The apparent lack of progress of the peaceful
protest by Albanians. in Kosovo had driven more radical ethnic
Albanians to form an organization in 1991, the KLA, which would
employ violent tactics to achieve independence for Kosovo. The
KLA grew to 40,000 members by the mid-1990s and directed a terrorist
campaign not only against Serbian targets but also against moderate
Albanians. Their targets included police stations, police vehicles,
local headquarters of the Socialist party, Serbian villagers,
farmers, and officials.
Serbian forces responded more harshly
as the acts of terrorism perpetrated by the KLA escalated. Noam
Chomsky, in The New Military Humanism, explains that:
By February 1998, guerilla operations
reached much greater scale, as the KLA "not only fought Serbian
Army and Interior Ministry police but also gunned down civilians,
killing Serbian mail carriers and others associated with Belgrade."
These events elicited a much harsher Serbian military and police
response, with brutal retaliation against civilians regarded as
supporters of the KLA.
According to Human Rights Watch:
The KLA continued its attacks against
Serbian policemen and civilians in early 1997, especially in the
rural areas, although the group's size, structure, and leadership
remained a mystery... The international community condemned the
rising state violence in Kosovo while stressing its respect for
the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. At the same time, most
west European governments as well as the US condemned as "terrorist
actions" the KLA attacks.
Michael Parenti, in To Kill a Nation,
The KLA directed its terror campaign against
a variety of Serbian targets... in an effort to provoke reprisals,
radicalize other Kosovo Albanians, and raise the level of the
The KLA also targeted Albanians who opposed
the violent secessionist movement, or were members of the Socialist
Party of Serbia.
Two major factors contributed to the growing
strength of the KLA: the drug trade, and support from the U.S.
and other NATO countries. The Balkans narcotic trade became a
major source of funding for the KLA. According to Michel Chossudovsky,
in Kosovo "Freedom Fighters" Financed by Organized Crime:
The multibillion-dollar Balkans narcotics
trade has played a crucial role in "financing the conflict"
in Kosovo in accordance with Western economic, strategic, and
military objectives. Amply documented by European police files
and acknowledged by numerous studies, the links of the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA) to criminal syndicates in Albania, Turkey,
and the European Union have been known to Western governments
and intelligence agencies since the mid-1990s.
Western governments provided support to
the KLA including arms as reported by Michel Chossudovsky, in
Kosovo "Freedom Fighters" Financed by Organized Crime:
According to intelligence analyst John
Whitley, covert support to the Kosovo rebel army was established
as a joint endeavour between the CIA and Germany's Bundes Nachrichten
Dienst (BND)... The task to create and finance the KLA was initially
given to Germany: "They used German uniforms, East German
weapons and were financed, in part, with drug money." According
to Whitely, the CIA was, subsequently instrumental in training
and equipping the KLA in Albania.
In February 1998, President Clinton sent
Robert Gelbard a special envoy to investigate the mounting crisis
in Kosovo. During a press conference he declared that:
The UCK [KLA] is a terrorist group by
its actions. I used to be responsible for counter-terrorism policy
in the American government. I know them when I see them.
When Gelbard visited Belgrade, he applauded
Yugoslavia's cooperation in negotiating the Dayton Accords and
affirmed that the United States was "particularly encouraged
by the support that we received from President Milosevic."
He also said:
The great majority of this violence we
attribute to the police, but we are tremendously disturbed and
also condemn very strongly the unacceptable violence done by terrorist
groups in Kosovo and particularly the UCK-the Kosovo Liberation
Army. This is without any question a terrorist group.
When the U.S. decided to support the KLA,
it was done with the complete understanding that they were a terrorist
... the United States was equipping the KLA with very sophisticated
weapons and according to Michael Parenti, in To Kill a Nation:
In 2000, CIA intelligence agents admitted
to the London Sunday Times to having been training, equipping,
and supporting KLA fighters as early as 1998.
On February 6, 1999, the KosovarAlbanians and Serbs were summoned
to a set of meetings with U.S. officials, including Madeleine
Aibright, in Rambouillet France to negotiate a settlement.
... Yugoslavia was willing to negotiate
with the United States and accepted some of the demands of the
Rambouillet Treaty while rejecting others. The Yugoslavs were
prepared to grant Kosovo almost complete independence including
control over religion, education, health care systems and local
government but wanted to retain control over economic and foreign
policy. As well, they wanted to restrict NATO's role in Kosovo
to observation and advice. Predictably, Yugoslavia rejected a
military occupation of Kosovo but the U.S. summarily rejected
all FRY proposals. Therefore, the negotiations were about whether
Yugoslavia would accept all of the U.S. demands or not and face
NATO bombing of Serbia.
Accepting such demands would be problematic
for any sovereign state. The whole process raises the question
of whether the U.S. was really hoping for a settlement or seeking
a pretext for bombing Serbia.
Michael Parenti, in To Kill A Nation, points out that:
The Rambouillet "agreement"
was not an agreement at all, not a negotiated settlement but an
ultimatum for unconditional surrender, a diktat that spelled death
for Yugoslavia and could not be accepted by Belgrade. As John
Pilger wrote, "Anyone scrutinizing the Rambouillet document
is left with little doubt that the excuses given for the subsequent
bombing were fabricated. The peace negotiations were stage managed
and the Serbs were told: surrender and be occupied, or don't surrender
and be destroyed." ...Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
told this [writer] that.., a senior State Department official
had bragged that the United States 'deliberately set the bar higher
than the Serbs could accept.'
As expected, Belgrade refused to sign
the ultimatum disguised as the Rambouillet Agreement. President
Clinton reinforced the myth that the FRY would not sign a peace
agreement when he announced that:
We and our NATO allies have taken this
action after extensive and repeated efforts to obtain a peaceful
solution to the crisis in Kosovo. (CNN, Focus on Kosovo, March
The next day, Clinton reported that:
Our purpose here is to prevent a humanitarian
catastrophe or a wider war. Our objective is to make it clear
that Serbia must choose peace or we will limit its ability to
make war. (CNN, Focus on Kosovo, March 25, 1999)
The propaganda campaign was now complete.
The Serbs had been accused of holding prisoners in concentration
camps, wantonly killing civilians included the widely publicized
Racak massacre, and refusing to sign a peace agreement. The ultimatum
was delivered on March 24 and took effect on June 10, 1999, when
NATO started bombing Serbia to rescue the Lnic Albanians from
The stated intent of the NATO bombing campaign was to avoid civilian
targets to whatever extent possible. William Cohen, Secretary
of Defense, reassured Americans that:
We are attacking the military infrastructure
that President (Slobodan) Milosevic and his forces are using to
repress and kill innocent people. (CNN, Focus on Kosovo, March
These claims must be seen as outrageous
lies in light of the fact that civilian targets were deliberately
bombed including schools, a maternity hospital, and villages all
with no possible military significance.
Madeleine Albright stated that "NATO's
goal is not to hurt innocent people" (CNN, March 24). The
real question is not whether a considerable number of non-military
targets were struck but whether NATO deliberately bombed non-military
There is overwhelming evidence that NATO planners deliberately
targeted non-military targets and civilians. Repeatedly bombing
small villages of no possible military value, a maternity hospital,
bridges of no military value and industrial sites is clear evidence
that the targeting was deliberate. A Spanish pilot who participated
in bombing missions confirmed:
That NATO attacks upon civilian targets
were not usually the result of war "errors" was confirmed
by Captain de la Hoz, who participated in bombing missions, flying
an F-18. Several times his Spanish colonel lodged protests with
NATO chiefs regarding their selection of nonmilitary targets,
only to be rudely rebuffed. "Once there was a coded order
from the North American military that we should drop antipersonnel
bombs over the localities of Pristina and Nis," Captain de
la Hoz commented. "The colonel refused it altogether and,
a couple of days later, [his] transfer order came... All the missions
that we flew, all and each one, were planned by US high military
authorities... They are destroying the country, bombing it with
novel weapons, toxic nerve gas, surface mines dropped with parachutes,
bombs containing uranium, black napalm, sterilization chemicals,
spraying to poison the crops..." (Michael Parenti, To Kill
Some atrocities perpetrated by NATO forces
transcend conventional war crimes. Rescue workers such as ambulance
drivers and paramedics reported that after the initial bombing
while they were engaged in their rescue mission, the NATO planes
would return and bomb the rescue workers and ambulances. I have
witnessed interviews with rescue workers who had suffered a loss
of limbs from the bombing and who described with incredulity the
reappearance of NATO bombers.
The NATO bombing was responsible for an
estimated $100 billion of damage including dozens of bridges,
railways and railway stations, major roads, airports, hospitals
and health care centres, television transmitters, medieval monasteries
and religious shrines, cultural-historical monuments and museums,
hundreds of schools, facilities for students and children, thousands
of dwellings and civilian industrial and agricultural facilities.
An estimated 1,000 civilian men, women and children were killed
and 4,400 more injured as a direct result of the NATO bombing.
The Serbian people and non-military facilities were bombed in
the hope that the Serbian population would rebel against Milosevic.
According to Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar, "NATO's massive bombing
intended to terrorize Serbia into submission..." As well,
Michael Mandel, in the complaint against NATO leaders, concludes
that "...there is ample evidence in the public statements
of NATO leaders that these attacks on civilian targets are part
of a deliberate attempt to terrorize the population to turn it
against their leadership." George Kenney, a former State
Department official, claimed that "Dropping cluster-bombs
on highly populated areas doesn't result in accidental fatalities.
It is purposeful terror bombing."
A French team who were searching for a mass grave containing 150
bodies discovered that it was empty. The International Criminal
Court for the former Yugoslavia, in preparing its case against
Milosevic, sent a team to search for mass graves based on various
reports beginning with the largest graves first. Most of these
so-called mass graves contained only five bodies. One of the more
serious accusations claimed that 1,000 bodies had been thrown
down the shaft of the Trepca mine. The International Criminal
Court for the former Yugoslavia's investigation was unable to
find a single body.
NATO created all these myths, misrepresented
the crisis in Kosovo, demonized the Serbs, set up pseudo peace
negotiations which they torpedoed with unreasonable demands they
knew would not be accepted, intentionally bombed civilian targets
and called the bombing of Serbia a humanitarian war. If the Serbs
had been engaged in authentic ethnic cleansing, why did NATO and
the United States lie? The need for all these lies was to conceal
the truth about the crisis in Kosovo. The crisis was a civil war
with atrocities on both sides, with one side, the KLA, supported
by the U.S. and other Western countries.
While President Clinton and his top advisors were planning to
bomb non-military targets, the President was telling the American
people that NATO forces had a strong commitment to avoid non-military
targets. On April 15, 1999, in a question and answer period with
the American Society of Newspaper Editors in San Francisco, President
Clinton asked the editors:
... to think about the hundreds of sorties
which have been flown in the last three weeks and the small number
of civilian casualties. It should be obvious to everyone in the
world that we are bending over backwards to hit military targets,
to hit security targets, even to hit a lot of targets late at
night where the losses in human life will be minimized. These
efforts have been made, and they have been remarkably successful.
(National Archives and Records Administration, United States Printing
Perhaps President Clinton should have
been asked to explain why cluster bombs were being dropped in
the centre of towns and villages.
It is very clear that President Clinton
lied to justify the bombing of Serbia. It is also clear that he
is guilty of war crimes. He and other NATO leaders inflicted great
suffering and destruction on the Serbian people because their
leaders were attempting to preserve the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The Serbs were by no means innocent of atrocities but neither
were the KLA. The greatest perpetrators of atrocities in Yugoslavia
were the NATO leaders.
The bombing of Serbia and human rights
violations are impeachable offenses. It says something about American
political culture that when a president gets impeached it's for
a lie of little consequence compared to the death he wrought.
President Clinton lied about the atrocities
of the Serbs and the targeting in Serbia to justify an intervention
whose real purpose was to dismantle a country which refused to
cooperate with the U.S. and other Western powers.