Euro-tragedy 1999/2000

Part of the introduction from KOSOVO WAR POETRY

The war in Serbia and Kosovo - A tragedy doubled

The most powerful military alliance the world has ever known, conducted the most intensive bombing campaign in the history of warfare against Serbia, the poorest and most miserable country in Europe.

For eleven weeks the war dominated the media. Since then the immense tragedy and crime of the war have faded from public view. Yet the desperate human consequences, and the long-term costs remain. The moral and military principles which guided the NATO campaign go unchallenged and unexamined.

Starting on 24 March 1999 the war was a 78 day concerted action by the air forces of 13 of NATO’s 19 member nations. It was the first time in the fifty years’ existence of NATO that its forces had been used aggressively - in direct conflict with the terms of its own treaty which specifically recognises the United Nations as the principle organisation responsible for peace and security in the world.

The entire area of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is now, at the outset of the twenty-first century, one of immense human suffering and political uncertainty far worse than the situation before NATO flew in on its so-called humanitarian mission. 

The negotiations in Rambouillet, near Paris, in early 1999, on the status of Kosovo might have been prolonged till agreement was reached. Instead, NATO demanded that Kosovo should be allowed a referendum on total independence and insisted that NATO forces should occupy both Kosovo and Serbia. It was impossible for Milosevic to sign such an outrageous document. Interestingly, NATO, in its desperation to end the war, agreed to drop two of these demands.

Serbia’s suffering before 24 March

Serbia was the victim of "ethnic cleansing" as well as a perpetrator. At the start of 1999 there were 500,000 Serbian refugees in Serbia purged from Croatia (with the backing of the United States) and from Bosnia.

The effects of the bombing of Serbia

In eleven weeks the NATO air forces flew over 36,000 sorties and dropped over 23,000 bombs and missiles on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia, Vojvodina, Kosovo, and Montenegro). These included 400 cruise missiles, cluster bombs, and highly toxic depleted uranium bombs.

Targets included the military forces, bases and equipment of the Serbian army. In addition the bombing damaged or destroyed 144 major industrial plants including all Yugoslavia’s oil refineries, fuel storage facilities, car and motorcycle factories, pharmaceutical and fertiliser factories, rubber factories. The bombing of some of these released large quantities of dangerous chemicals into the environment, created an oil slick on the Danube 20 kilometres long, and put 600, 000 people out of work.

Damaged or destroyed were several thousand homes (mainly in Belgrade, Nis, Cuprija, Aleksinac and Pristina), 33 clinics and hospitals, 340 schools, 55 road and rail bridges. The River Danube was blocked; some of the bridges were hundreds of miles from the scenes of the racial expulsions and were vital trade links to the rest of Europe. Also attacked were 12 railway lines, 5 civilian airports, 6 trunk roads, 10 TV and radio stations and 24 transmitters; power stations were put out of action; sewage treatment plants were damaged; water supplies were cut off.

Five thousand civilians were injured; 1400 adult civilians were killed, 600 children were killed, 600 military and police personnel were killed. As a result of the murder, harassment, violence, and destruction of homes carried out by the returning Kosovo Albanians there are now about 150,000 further refugees (mainly Serbs and Roma) in Serbia who have fled from Kosovo. "Ethnic cleansing" has not been halted. There are now 10,000 unexploded bombs scattered throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbia is now the most polluted, damaged, distressed, politically unsettled, and poverty-stricken country in Europe. It is an humanitarian disaster area and has the highest UNHCR budget of any country in the world.

NATO’s miscalculations

NATO’s targeting was not focused on the military enemy. In fact it became ever more widespread and desperate. No reasonable person could accept that the targeting of civilian infrastructure was anything other than a war against the innocent Serbian civilian population. It brought not peace to Serbia, but death, destruction and misery. The war which NATO leaders claimed was humanitarian used the most advanced military technology to achieve a result that was simply barbaric.

Peace has emphatically not returned to Kosovo. The political situation there is more confused and uncertain than it ever was before. This is in spite of the best efforts of 4,500 foreign troops, 3000 members of an international police force and hundreds of members of humanitarian organisation who are all trying to solve "the problem".

The Kosovo problem, January 2000

The key to beginning to solve the problem is the question of who will run Kosovo.

NATO countries agreed that Kosovo would remain part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Serbia therefore expects to be consulted on the running of the country, but is effectively ignored.

The returning KLA which is now officially disbanded as a military force, and is not elected, took immediate control of the running of the country from early June 1999. The KFOR military force regards itself as the keeper of the peace and the organiser of the state. The elected Democratic League of Kosovo is also sidelined.

In addition there are over 300 non-governmental and governmental organisations dealing with housing, and other basic necessities and offering counselling and comfort.

In the most brutal way possible the returning refugees have made it clear that they cannot, do not and will not accept themselves as having anything to do with the Serbian authorities which have so abused them in the past.

Agreeing a political settlement acceptable to the people of Kosovo is the first step to a long-term solution of the crisis. The tragedy continues.

Extracts from text of introduction from KOSOVO WAR POETRY 

Copyright © David Roberts 2000

Free use for personal study only. Multiple copies are only permitted with the written permission of the author. See the Contact section of this web site.

For information about purchasing the book go to: About Kosovo War Poetry

Copyright © David Roberts 2000

Free use for personal study only.  Making multiple copies is only permitted with the written permission of the author. See the Contact section of this web site.

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