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 sea.

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, notes that:

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 report that:

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), states that:

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), reported that:

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 federation.

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 in Kosovo.

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 intervention.

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 24 persons.

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, reported that:

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 conflict.

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 group.

... 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 24, 1999)

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 Serb atrocities.

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 25, 1999)

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 targets.

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 A Nation)

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 Office)

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.

Lying for Empire

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