The Current Bombings:
Behind the Rhetoric

By Noam Chomsky


There have been many inquiries concerning NATO (meaning primarily US) bombing in connection with Kosovo. A great deal has been written about the topic, including Znet commentaries. I'd like to make a few general observations, keeping to facts that are not seriously contested.

There are two fundamental issues: (1) What are the accepted and applicable "rules of world order"? (2) How do these or other considerations apply in the case of Kosovo?


(1) What are the accepted and applicable "rules of world order"?

There is a regime of international law and international order, binding on all states, based on the UN Charter and subsequent resolutions and World Court decisions. In brief, the threat or use of force is banned unless explicitly authorized by the Security Council after it has determined that peaceful means have failed, or in self-defense against "armed attack" (a narrow concept) until the Security Council acts.

There is, of course, more to say. Thus there is at least a tension, if not an outright contradiction, between the rules of world order laid down in the UN Charter and the rights articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UD), a second pillar of the world order established under US initiative after World War II. The Charter bans force violating state sovereignty; the UD guarantees the rights of individuals against oppressive states. The issue of "humanitarian intervention" arises from this tension. It is the right of "humanitarian intervention" that is claimed by the US/NATO in Kosovo, and that is generally supported by editorial opinion and news reports (in the latter case, reflexively, even by the very choice of terminology).

The question is addressed in a news report in the NY Times (March 27), headlined "Legal Scholars Support Case for Using Force" in Kosovo (March 27). One example is offered: Allen Gerson, former counsel to the US mission to the UN. Two other legal scholars are cited. One, Ted Galen Carpenter, "scoffed at the Administration argument" and dismissed the alleged right of intervention. The third is Jack Goldsmith, a specialist on international law at Chicago Law school. He says that critics of the NATO bombing "have a pretty good legal argument," but "many people think [an exception for humanitarian intervention] does exist as a matter of custom and practice." That summarizes the evidence offered to justify the favored conclusion stated in the headline.

Goldsmith's observation is reasonable, at least if we agree that facts are relevant to the determination of "custom and practice." We may also bear in mind a truism: the right of humanitarian intervention, if it exists, is premised on the "good faith" of those intervening, and that assumption is based not on their rhetoric but on their record, in particular their record of adherence to the principles of international law, World Court decisions, and so on. That is indeed a truism, at least with regard to others. Consider, for example, Iranian offers to intervene in Bosnia to prevent massacres at a time when the West would not do so. These were dismissed with ridicule (in fact, ignored); if there was a reason beyond subordination to power, it was because Iranian "good faith" could not be assumed. A rational person then asks obvious questions: is the Iranian record of intervention and terror worse than that of the US? And other questions, for example: How should we assess the "good faith" of the only country to have vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on all states to obey international law? What about its historical record? Unless such questions are prominent on the agenda of discourse, an honest person will dismiss it as mere allegiance to doctrine. A useful exercise is to determine how much of the literature -- media or other -- survives such elementary conditions as these.


(2) How do these or other considerations apply in the case of Kosovo?

There has been a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo in the past year, overwhelmingly attributable to Yugoslav military forces. The main victims have been ethnic Albanian Kosovars, some 90% of the population of this Yugoslav territory. The standard estimate is 2000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In such cases, outsiders have three choices:

(I) try to escalate the catastrophe

(II) do nothing

(III) try to mitigate the catastrophe

The choices are illustrated by other contemporary cases. Let's keep to a few of approximately the same scale, and ask where Kosovo fits into the pattern.

(A) Colombia. In Colombia, according to State Department estimates, the annual level of political killing by the government and its paramilitary associates is about at the level of Kosovo, and refugee flight primarily from their atrocities is well over a million. Colombia has been the leading Western hemisphere recipient of US arms and training as violence increased through the '90s, and that assistance is now increasing, under a "drug war" pretext dismissed by almost all serious observers. The Clinton administration was particularly enthusiastic in its praise for President Gaviria, whose tenure in office was responsible for "appalling levels of violence," according to human rights organizations, even surpassing his predecessors. Details are readily available.

In this case, the US reaction is (I): escalate the atrocities.

(B) Turkey. By very conservative estimate, Turkish repression of Kurds in the '90s falls in the category of Kosovo. It peaked in the early '90s; one index is the flight of over a million Kurds from the countryside to the unofficial Kurdish capital Diyarbakir from 1990 to 1994, as the Turkish army was devastating the countryside. 1994 marked two records: it was "the year of the worst repression in the Kurdish provinces" of Turkey, Jonathan Randal reported from the scene, and the year when Turkey became "the biggest single importer of American military hardware and thus the world's largest arms purchaser." When human rights groups exposed Turkey's use of US jets to bomb villages, the Clinton Administration found ways to evade laws requiring suspension of arms deliveries, much as it was doing in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Colombia and Turkey explain their (US-supported) atrocities on grounds that they are defending their countries from the threat of terrorist guerrillas. As does the government of Yugoslavia.

Again, the example illustrates (I): try to escalate the atrocities.

(C) Laos. Every year thousands of people, mostly children and poor farmers, are killed in the Plain of Jars in Northern Laos, the scene of the heaviest bombing of civilian targets in history it appears, and arguably the most cruel: Washington's furious assault on a poor peasant society had little to do with its wars in the region. The worst period was from 1968, when Washington was compelled to undertake negotiations (under popular and business pressure), ending the regular bombardment of North Vietnam. Kissinger-Nixon then decided to shift the planes to bombardment of Laos and Cambodia.

The deaths are from "bombies," tiny anti-personnel weapons, far worse than land-mines: they are designed specifically to kill and maim, and have no effect on trucks, buildings, etc. The Plain was saturated with hundreds of millions of these criminal devices, which have a failure-to-explode rate of 20%-30% according to the manufacturer, Honeywell. The numbers suggest either remarkably poor quality control or a rational policy of murdering civilians by delayed action. These were only a fraction of the technology deployed, including advanced missiles to penetrate caves where families sought shelter. Current annual casualties from "bombies" are estimated from hundreds a year to "an annual nationwide casualty rate of 20,000," more than half of them deaths, according to the veteran Asia reporter Barry Wain of the Wall Street Journal -- in its Asia edition. A conservative estimate, then, is that the crisis this year is approximately comparable to Kosovo, though deaths are far more highly concentrated among children -- over half, according to analyses reported by the Mennonite Central Committee, which has been working there since 1977 to alleviate the continuing atrocities.

There have been efforts to publicize and deal with the humanitarian catastrophe. A British-based Mine Advisory Group (MAG) is trying to remove the lethal objects, but the US is "conspicuously missing from the handful of Western organisations that have followed MAG," the British press reports, though it has finally agreed to train some Laotian civilians. The British press also reports, with some anger, the allegation of MAG specialists that the US refuses to provide them with "render harmless procedures" that would make their work "a lot quicker and a lot safer." These remain a state secret, as does the whole affair in the United States. The Bangkok press reports a very similar situation in Cambodia, particularly the Eastern region where US bombardment from early 1969 was most intense.

In this case, the US reaction is (II): do nothing. And the reaction of the media and commentators is to keep silent, following the norms under which the war against Laos was designated a "secret war" -- meaning well-known, but suppressed, as also in the case of Cambodia from March 1969. The level of self-censorship was extraordinary then, as is the current phase. The relevance of this shocking example should be obvious without further comment.

I will skip other examples of (I) and (II), which abound, and also much more serious contemporary atrocities, such as the huge slaughter of Iraqi civilians by means of a particularly vicious form of biological warfare -- "a very hard choice," Madeleine Albright commented on national TV in 1996 when asked for her reaction to the killing of half a million Iraqi children in 5 years, but "we think the price is worth it." Current estimates remain about 5000 children killed a month, and the price is still "worth it." These and other examples might also be kept in mind when we read awed rhetoric about how the "moral compass" of the Clinton Administration is at last functioning properly, as the Kosovo example illustrates.

Just what does the example illustrate? The threat of NATO bombing, predictably, led to a sharp escalation of atrocities by the Serbian Army and paramilitaries, and to the departure of international observers, which of course had the same effect. Commanding General Wesley Clark declared that it was "entirely predictable" that Serbian terror and violence would intensify after the NATO bombing, exactly as happened. The terror for the first time reached the capital city of Pristina, and there are credible reports of large-scale destruction of villages, assassinations, generation of an enormous refugee flow, perhaps an effort to expel a good part of the Albanian population -- all an "entirely predictable" consequence of the threat and then the use of force, as General Clark rightly observes.

Kosovo is therefore another illustration of (I): try to escalate the violence, with exactly that expectation.

To find examples illustrating (III) is all too easy, at least if we keep to official rhetoric. The major recent academic study of "humanitarian intervention," by Sean Murphy, reviews the record after the Kellogg-Briand pact of 1928 which outlawed war, and then since the UN Charter, which strengthened and articulated these provisions. In the first phase, he writes, the most prominent examples of "humanitarian intervention" were Japan's attack on Manchuria, Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia, and Hitler's occupation of parts of Czechoslovakia. All were accompanied by highly uplifting humanitarian rhetoric, and factual justifications as well. Japan was going to establish an "earthly paradise" as it defended Manchurians from "Chinese bandits," with the support of a leading Chinese nationalist, a far more credible figure than anyone the US was able to conjure up during its attack on South Vietnam. Mussolini was liberating thousands of slaves as he carried forth the Western "civilizing mission." Hitler announced Germany's intention to end ethnic tensions and violence, and "safeguard the national individuality of the German and Czech peoples," in an operation "filled with earnest desire to serve the true interests of the peoples dwelling in the area," in accordance with their will; the Slovakian President asked Hitler to declare Slovakia a protectorate.

Another useful intellectual exercise is to compare those obscene justifications with those offered for interventions, including "humanitarian interventions," in the post-UN Charter period.

In that period, perhaps the most compelling example of (III) is the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978, terminating Pol Pot's atrocities, which were then peaking. Vietnam pleaded the right of self-defense against armed attack, one of the few post-Charter examples when the plea is plausible: the Khmer Rouge regime (Democratic Kampuchea, DK) was carrying out murderous attacks against Vietnam in border areas. The US reaction is instructive. The press condemned the "Prussians" of Asia for their outrageous violation of international law. They were harshly punished for the crime of having terminated Pol Pot's slaughters, first by a (US-backed) Chinese invasion, then by US imposition of extremely harsh sanctions. The US recognized the expelled DK as the official government of Cambodia, because of its "continuity" with the Pol Pot regime, the State Department explained. Not too subtly, the US supported the Khmer Rouge in its continuing attacks in Cambodia.

The example tells us more about the "custom and practice" that underlies "the emerging legal norms of humanitarian intervention."

Despite the desperate efforts of ideologues to prove that circles are square, there is no serious doubt that the NATO bombings further undermine what remains of the fragile structure of international law. The US made that entirely clear in the discussions leading to the NATO decision. Apart from the UK (by now, about as much of an independent actor as the Ukraine was in the pre-Gorbachev years), NATO countries were skeptical of US policy, and were particularly annoyed by Secretary of State Albright's "saber-rattling" (Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe, Feb. 22). Today, the more closely one approaches the conflicted region, the greater the opposition to Washington's insistence on force, even within NATO (Greece and Italy). France had called for a UN Security Council resolution to authorize deployment of NATO peacekeepers. The US flatly refused, insisting on "its stand that NATO should be able to act independently of the United Nations," State Department officials explained. The US refused to permit the "neuralgic word `authorize'" to appear in the final NATO statement, unwilling to concede any authority to the UN Charter and international law; only the word "endorse" was permitted (Jane Perlez, NYT, Feb. 11). Similarly the bombing of Iraq was a brazen expression of contempt for the UN, even the specific timing, and was so understood. And of course the same is true of the destruction of half the pharmaceutical production of a small African country a few months earlier, an event that also does not indicate that the "moral compass" is straying from righteousness -- not to speak of a record that would be prominently reviewed right now if facts were considered relevant to determining "custom and practice."

It could be argued, rather plausibly, that further demolition of the rules of world order is irrelevant, just as it had lost its meaning by the late 1930s. The contempt of the world's leading power for the framework of world order has become so extreme that there is nothing left to discuss. A review of the internal documentary record demonstrates that the stance traces back to the earliest days, even to the first memorandum of the newly-formed National Security Council in 1947. During the Kennedy years, the stance began to gain overt expression. The main innovation of the Reagan-Clinton years is that defiance of international law and the Charter has become entirely open. It has also been backed with interesting explanations, which would be on the front pages, and prominent in the school and university curriculum, if truth and honesty were considered significant values. The highest authorities explained with brutal clarity that the World Court, the UN, and other agencies had become irrelevant because they no longer follow US orders, as they did in the early postwar years.

One might then adopt the official position. That would be an honest stand, at least if it were accompanied by refusal to play the cynical game of self-righteous posturing and wielding of the despised principles of international law as a highly selective weapon against shifting enemies.

While the Reaganites broke new ground, under Clinton the defiance of world order has become so extreme as to be of concern even to hawkish policy analysts. In the current issue of the leading establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, Samuel Huntington warns that Washington is treading a dangerous course. In the eyes of much of the world -- probably most of the world, he suggests -- the US is "becoming the rogue superpower," considered "the single greatest external threat to their societies." Realist "international relations theory," he argues, predicts that coalitions may arise to counterbalance the rogue superpower. On pragmatic grounds, then, the stance should be reconsidered. Americans who prefer a different image of their society might call for a reconsideration on other than pragmatic grounds.

Where does that leave the question of what to do in Kosovo? It leaves it unanswered. The US has chosen a course of action which, as it explicitly recognizes, escalates atrocities and violence -- "predictably"; a course of action that also strikes yet another blow against the regime of international order, which does offer the weak at least some limited protection from predatory states. As for the longer term, consequences are unpredictable. One plausible observation is that "every bomb that falls on Serbia and every ethnic killing in Kosovo suggests that it will scarcely be possible for Serbs and Albanians to live beside each other in some sort of peace" (Financial Times, March 27). Some of the longer-term possible outcomes are extremely ugly, as has not gone without notice.

A standard argument is that we had to do something: we could not simply stand by as atrocities continue. That is never true. One choice, always, is to follow the Hippocratic principle: "First, do no harm." If you can think of no way to adhere to that elementary principle, then do nothing. There are always ways that can be considered. Diplomacy and negotiations are never at an end.

The right of "humanitarian intervention" is likely to be more frequently invoked in coming years -- maybe with justification, maybe not -- now that Cold War pretexts have lost their efficacy. In such an era, it may be worthwhile to pay attention to the views of highly respected commentators -- not to speak of the World Court, which explicitly ruled on this matter in a decision rejected by the United States, its essentials not even reported.

In the scholarly disciplines of international affairs and international law it would be hard to find more respected voices than Hedley Bull or Louis Henkin. Bull warned 15 years ago that "Particular states or groups of states that set themselves up as the authoritative judges of the world common good, in disregard of the views of others, are in fact a menace to international order, and thus to effective action in this field." Henkin, in a standard work on world order, writes that the "pressures eroding the prohibition on the use of force are deplorable, and the arguments to legitimize the use of force in those circumstances are unpersuasive and dangerous... Violations of human rights are indeed all too common, and if it were permissible to remedy them by external use of force, there would be no law to forbid the use of force by almost any state against almost any other. Human rights, I believe, will have to be vindicated, and other injustices remedied, by other, peaceful means, not by opening the door to aggression and destroying the principle advance in international law, the outlawing of war and the prohibition of force."

Recognized principles of international law and world order, solemn treaty obligations, decisions by the World Court, considered pronouncements by the most respected commentators -- these do not automatically solve particular problems. Each issue has to be considered on its merits. For those who do not adopt the standards of Saddam Hussein, there is a heavy burden of proof to meet in undertaking the threat or use of force in violation of the principles of international order. Perhaps the burden can be met, but that has to be shown, not merely proclaimed with passionate rhetoric. The consequences of such violations have to be assessed carefully -- in particular, what we understand to be "predictable." And for those who are minimally serious, the reasons for the actions also have to be assessed -- again, not simply by adulation of our leaders and their "moral compass."





 コソボに対するNATO(といっても主として米軍によるものだが)の空爆については、多くの質問が出されている。この問題に関しては、Zネットの上の報道を含め (訳注1)、すでに多くの文章が書かれている。私としては、まだ正面から論ぜられていない事実に限って二、三の一般的考察をしてみようと思う。


(1) 一般に認められている妥当な「世界秩序にかんする基準」とは何か?








  (T) 悲惨な事態をさらに激化させる

  (U) 何もしない

  (V) 事態を緩和させる


(A) コロンビアの事例



(B) トルコの事例




(C) ラオスの事例





 (T)と(U) のその他の事例については省略しよう。それは枚挙にいとまがなく、そしてまた、とりわけ残忍な生物学兵器という手段を用いたイラク民間人に対するすさまじい大量殺戮のような、はるかに重大な悲惨な事態についても、ここでは触れない。一九六九年、イラクの児童が五年間のうちに五〇万人も殺されたことについて、全国放送のテレビで意見を求められたマドレーヌ・オルブライトは、「実につらい選択です。」しかし「この代償はそれに見合うだけの価値を持っています」という意見をのべた。現在でも、毎月約五千人の児童が殺されているとの評価が続いている。そしてその代償は、今なお「それに見合うだけの価値をもっている」というわけだ。クリントン政権の「道徳的羅針盤(コンパス)」が、ついにそれにふさわしい形で機能しつつある模様について、ただただ恐れ入るしかないような雄弁を読まされるときには、こういったような事例も思い浮かべるのもいいだろう。コソボの事例などはまさにそうしたものである。

 いったい、このコソボの事例は何を明示しているのか? NATOによる空爆の脅しは、予想された通り、セルビア軍による残虐行為の急激な増加をもたらし、また国際問題の専門家の離反をももたらした。そしてこのこともまた、セルビア軍の行為のエスカレーションという同じ結果をもたらしたのはもちろんであった。ウェズリー・クラーク最高司令官は、NATOが空爆すれば、それ以後、セルビア人のテロと暴力が強化されるだろうということは「まったく予見できることだ」と公言した。そして事態はまさにそうなった。テロ行為は初めて首都のプリスチナ市にまで広がったし、農村部における村落の大規模な破壊、暗殺、膨大な難民の流れの発生、おそらくアルバニア系住民の大部分を追放しようとする試みなどについて、信用できる報告がいくつもある。そのすべては、このNATOの脅しとそれに続く実際に武力行使の「まったく予見可能な」結果であり、クラーク将軍が正しくものべた通りであった。







 現在、この紛争地域に地理的に近ければ近いほど、ワシントンが武力行使に執着していることへの反対が強くなっている。それはNATO内部においてさえもしかりである(ギリシャおよびイタリー)。フランスは、元来、NATOの平和維持軍展開を、国連安保理事会の決議によって権威づける(authorize)よう求めていた。だがアメリカは、「NATOは国連から自立して行動できるようになるべきだという立場」(国務省当局の説明)に固執して、その要求をにべもなくはねつけた。アメリカは、NATOの最終文書の中に、「権威づける」(authorize) というあとあとまで問題の種になるような言葉を含めることを拒絶したのだ。それは、国連憲章と国際法とには、いかなる形にせよ、権威を与えることを嫌ったからである。そして「是認する」(endorse) という用語を使うことだけを許した(ジェイン・パーレス、『ニューヨーク・タイムズ』二月一一日号)。同様に、イラクに対する爆撃も、それが実行された特定のタイミングですらもが、国連に対する侮辱の露骨な表現であった(訳注3)。また、それより数カ月前に、アフリカの一小国の薬品生産力の半分を破壊した行為にも、もちろんこれが当てはまる(訳注4)。それは、「道義的羅針盤(コンパス)」がたまたま正しい方角からはずれたことを示すような出来事などではない。かりに、この事件が、事実からして「慣行」実施の決定が適切だと考えられる場合だとするならば、それはただちに万人注視の下で再検討されるはずの記録であることは言うまでもない。




 そうした再考慮は、コソボにかんしてどうすべきかという問題をどこに置くのであろう? 実は答えを出さぬままにしておくのである。アメリカは、自ら明白に認めているごとく、残虐行為と暴力をいっそう激化させる行動をとるというコースを選んだ――しかも、それはあらかじめ「予見可能な」道だったというわけだ。その行動のコースとは、国際秩序の制度に対して、さらにもう一つの打撃を加えるものでもあった。この国際秩序の制度は、弱者に対して、略奪をこととするような国家からの、少なくともある限定されたものにせよ、確実に保護を与えているものなのだ。長期的に見た場合、結果は予測不能である。まず妥当と思えるような一つの観測としては、「セルビアに落とされる爆弾の一つ一つが、またコソボでなされる民族的殺人行為の一つ一つが、ある種の平和のうちにセルビア人とアルバニア人とが互いに隣り合わせに暮らすことを不可能になるだろうということを示している」という説である(『フィナンシャル・タイムズ』三月二七日号)。ありうべき長期予想の結果のうちのいくつかは、きわめて醜悪なものであって、それはこれまで気づかれていなかったことではない。






 Zネット → http://www.zmag.org/

 「満州国建設にあたって日本が後ろ盾をした中国人」というなら、これは満州国皇帝に擬せられた溥儀のことをさすわけだが、しかし溥儀は中国国民党の指導者ではなかった。ここは Chomsky (あるいは、彼が引用しているMurphy) が、日本が一九四〇年に南京に作った傀儡中華民国政府の主席に担いだ王兆銘のことと混同したのかもしれない。汪兆銘は、国民党左派の指導者であり、蒋介石のライバルでもあった。


 このアフリカの一小国とはスーダンのこと。昨年八月七日、ケニアのナイロビの米大使館付近で爆発が起き、米国人を含む 二四七人が死亡、同時刻にタンザニアのダルエスサラームの米大使館でも爆発、一〇人が死亡した。アメリカはこれを、イスラム過激派のやったことだとした。スーダンはイランとの関係が深く、イスラム過激派に自国領土使用を認めていることなどを理由、米国はスーダンを「国際テロ行為支援国家」と認定した。そして、八月の米大使館爆破を契機に、その報復と対米テロを抑止するためだとして、アフガニスタン領土内の「テロ組織の訓練施設」とスーダン国内の「化学兵器施設」に対し、八月二〇日、トマホーク巡航ミサイルの攻撃を加えた。これに対し、スーダンは、攻撃を受けた施設跡を公開、「化学兵器施設」などではなく、薬品工場だったとして強く反発した。

(訳 吉川 勇一)


市民の意見30の会・東京 (http://www.jca.apc.org/iken30/News2/N54/N54-11.html)


Kosovo Peace Accord
(Z, July '99)

By Noam Chomsky

On March 24, U.S.-led NATO air forces began to pound the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY, Serbia and Montenegro), including Kosovo, which NATO regards as a province of Serbia. On June 3, NATO and Serbia reached a Peace Accord. The U.S. declared victory, having successfully concluded its "10-week struggle to compel Mr. Milosevic to say uncle," Blaine Harden reported in the New York Times. It would therefore be unnecessary to use ground forces to "cleanse Serbia" as Harden had recommended in a lead story headlined "How to Cleanse Serbia." The recommendation was natural in the light of American history, which is dominated by the theme of ethnic cleansing from its origins and to the present day, achievements celebrated in the names given to military attack helicopters and other weapons of destruction. A qualification is in order, however: the term "ethnic cleansing" is not really appropriate: U.S. cleansing operations have been ecumenical; Indochina and Central America are two recent illustrations.

While declaring victory, Washington did not yet declare peace: the bombing continues until the victors determine that their interpretation of the Kosovo Accord has been imposed.

>From the outset, the bombing had been cast as a matter of cosmic significance, a test of a New Humanism, in which the "enlightened states" (Foreign Affairs) open a new era of human history guided by "a new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated" (Tony Blair). The enlightened states are the United States and its British associate, perhaps also others who enlist in their crusades for justice.

Apparently the rank of "enlightened states" is conferred by definition. One finds no attempt to provide evidence or argument, surely not from their history. The latter is in any event deemed irrelevant by the familiar doctrine of "change of course," invoked regularly in the ideological institutions to dispatch the past into the deepest recesses of the memory hole, thus deterring the threat that some might ask the most obvious questions: with institutional structures and distribution of power essentially unchanged, why should one expect a radical shift in policy -- or any at all, apart from tactical adjustments?

But such questions are off the agenda. "From the start the Kosovo problem has been about how we should react when bad things happen in unimportant places," global analyst Thomas Friedman explained in the New York Times as the Accord was announced. He proceeds to laud the enlightened states for pursuing his moral principle that "once the refugee evictions began, ignoring Kosovo would be wrong...and therefore using a huge air war for a limited objective was the only thing that made sense."

A minor difficulty is that concern over the "refugee evictions" could not have been the motive for the "huge air war." The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported its first registered refugees outside of Kosovo on March 27 (4000), three days after the bombings began. The toll increased until June 4, reaching a reported total of 670,000 in the neighboring countries (Albania, Macedonia), along with an estimated 70,000 in Montenegro (within the FRY), and 75,000 who had left for other countries. The figures, which are unfortunately all too familiar, do not include the unknown numbers who have been displaced within Kosovo, some 2-300,000 in the year before the bombing according to NATO, a great many more afterwards.

Uncontroversially, the "huge air war" precipitated a sharp escalation of ethnic cleansing and other atrocities. That much has been reported consistently by correspondents on the scene and in retrospective analyses in the press. The same picture is presented in the two major documents that seek to portray the bombing as a reaction to the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. The most extensive one, provided by the State Department in May, is suitably entitled "Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo"; the second is the Indictment of Milosevic and associates by the International Tribunal on War Crimes in Yugoslavia after the U.S. and Britain "opened the way for what amounted to a remarkably fast indictment by giving [prosecutor Louise] Arbour access to intelligence and other information long denied to her by Western governments," the New York Times reported, with two full pages devoted to the Indictment. Both documents hold that the atrocities began "on or about January 1"; in both, however, the detailed chronology reveals that atrocities continued about as before until the bombing led to a very sharp escalation. That surely came as no surprise. Commanding General Wesley Clark at once described these consequences as "entirely predictable" -- an exaggeration of course; nothing in human affairs is that predictable, though ample evidence is now available revealing that the consequences were anticipated, for reasons readily understood without access to secret intelligence.

One small index of the effects of "the huge air war" was offered by Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies of the University of Pittsburgh: "the casualties among Serb civilians in the first three weeks of the war are higher than all of the casualties on both sides in Kosovo in the three months that led up to this war, and yet those three months were supposed to be a humanitarian catastrophe." True, these particular consequences are of no account in the context of the jingoist hysteria that was whipped up to demonize Serbs, reaching intriguing heights as bombing openly targeted the civilian society and hence required more fervent advocacy.

By chance, at least a hint of a more credible answer to Friedman's rhetorical question was given in the Times on the same day in a report from Ankara by Stephen Kinzer. He writes that "Turkey's best-known human rights advocate entered prison" to serve his sentence for having "urged the state to reach a peaceful settlement with Kurdish rebels." A few days earlier, Kinzer had indicated obliquely that there is more to the story: "Some [Kurds] say they have been oppressed under Turkish rule, but the Government insists that they are granted the same rights as other citizens." One may ask whether this really does justice to some of the most extreme ethnic cleansing operations of the mid '90s, with tens of thousands killed, 3500 villages destroyed (seven times the number in Kosovo, according to Clinton's "victory address"), some 2.5 to 3 million refugees, and hideous atrocities that easily compare to those recorded daily in the front pages for selected enemies, reported in detail by the major human rights organizations but ignored. These achievements were carried out thanks to massive military support from the United States, increasing under Clinton as the atrocities peaked, including jet planes, attack helicopters, counterinsurgency equipment, and other means of terror and destruction, along with training and intelligence information for some of the worst killers.

Recall that these crimes have been proceeding through the '90s within NATO itself, and under the jurisdiction of the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, which continues to hand down judgments against Turkey for its U.S.-supported atrocities (several in 1998). It took real discipline for participants and commentators "not to notice" any of this at the celebration of NATO's 50th anniversary in April. The discipline was particularly impressive in the light of the fact that the celebration was clouded by somber concerns over ethnic cleansing -- by officially-designated enemies, not by the enlightened states that are to rededicate themselves to their traditional mission of bringing justice and freedom to the suffering people of the world, and to defend human rights, by force if necessary, under the principles of the New Humanism.

These crimes, to be sure, are only one illustration of the answer given by the enlightened states to the profound question of "how we should react when bad things happen in unimportant places." We should intervene to escalate the atrocities, not "looking away" under a "double standard," the common evasion when such marginalia are impolitely adduced. That also happens to be the mission that was conducted in Kosovo, as revealed clearly by the course of events, though not the version refracted through the prism of ideology and doctrine, which do not gladly tolerate the observation that a consequence of the "the huge air war" was a change from a year of atrocities on the scale of the annual (U.S.-backed) toll in Colombia in the 1990s to a level that might have approached atrocities within NATO/Europe itself in the 1990s had the bombing continued.

The marching orders from Washington, however, are the usual ones: Focus laser-like on the crimes of today's official enemy, and do not allow yourself to be distracted by comparable or worse crimes that could easily be mitigated or terminated thanks to the crucial role of the enlightened states in perpetuating them, or escalating them when power interests so dictate. Let us obey the orders, then, and keep to Kosovo.

A minimally serious investigation of the Kosovo Accord must review the diplomatic options of March 23, the day before "huge air war" was launched, and compare them with the agreement reached by NATO and Serbia on June 3. Here we have to distinguish two versions: (1) the facts, and (2) the spin -- that is, the U.S./NATO version that frames reporting and commentary in the enlightened states. Even the most cursory look reveals that the facts and the spin differ sharply. Thus the New York Times presented the text of the Accord with an insert headed: "Two Peace Plans: How they Differ." The two peace plans are the Rambouillet (Interim) Agreement presented to Serbia as a take-it-or-be-bombed ultimatum on March 23, and the Kosovo Peace Accord of June 3. But in the real world there are three "peace plans," two of which were on the table on March 23: the Rambouillet Agreement and the Serb National Assembly Resolutions responding to it.

Let us begin with the two peace plans of March 23, asking how they differed and how they compare with the Kosovo Peace Accord of June 3, then turning briefly to what we might reasonably expect if we break the rules and pay some attention to the (ample) precedents.

The Rambouillet Agreement called for complete military occupation and substantial political control of Kosovo by NATO, and effective NATO military occupation of the rest of Yugoslavia. NATO is to "constitute and lead a military force" (KFOR) that "NATO will establish and deploy" in and around Kosovo, "operating under the authority and subject to the direction and political control of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) through the NATO chain of command"; "the KFOR commander is the final authority within theater regarding interpretation of this chapter [Implementation of the Military Agreement] and his interpretations are binding on all Parties and persons" (with an irrelevant qualification). OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) has formal jurisdiction over civilian aspects of the agreement, in coordination with KFOR -- an occupying army, hence in a position to determine what happens. Within a brief time schedule, all Yugoslav army forces and Ministry of Interior police are to re-deploy to "approved cantonment sites," then to withdraw to Serbia, apart from small units assigned to border guard duties with limited weapons (all specified in detail). These units would be restricted to defending the borders from attack and "controlling illicit border crossings," and not permitted to travel in Kosovo apart from these functions.

"Three years after the entry into force of this Agreement, an international meeting shall to be convened to determine a mechanisms for a final settlement for Kosovo." This paragraph has regularly been construed as calling for a referendum on independence, though that is not specifically mentioned.

With regard to the rest of Yugoslavia, the terms for the occupation are set forth in Appendix B: Status of Multi-National Military Implementation Force. The crucial paragraph reads:

 8. NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.The remainder spells out the conditions that permit NATO forces and those they employ to act as they choose throughout the territory of the FRY, without obligation or concern for the laws of the country or the jurisdiction of its authorities, who are, however, required to follow NATO orders "on a priority basis and with all appropriate means." One provision states that "all NATO personnel shall respect the laws applicable in the FRY...," but with a qualification to render it vacuous: "Without prejudice to their privileges and immunities under this Appendix, all NATO personnel...."

It has been speculated that the wording was designed so as to guarantee rejection. Perhaps so. It is hard to imagine that any country would consider such terms, except in the form of unconditional surrender.

In the massive coverage of the war one will find little reference to the Agreement that is even close to accurate, notably the crucial article of Appendix B just quoted. The latter was, however, reported as soon as it had become irrelevant to democratic choice. On June 5, after the peace agreement of June 3, the press reported that under the annex to the Rambouillet Agreement "a purely NATO force was to be given full permission to go anywhere it wanted in Yugoslavia, immune from any legal process," citing also the wording (New York Times; also others). Evidently, in the absence of clear and repeated explanation of the basic terms of the Rambouillet Agreement -- the official "peace process" -- it has been impossible for the public to gain any serious understanding of what was taking place, or to assess the accuracy of the preferred version of the Kosovo Accord.

The second peace plan was presented in resolutions of the Serbian National Assembly on March 23. The Assembly rejected the demand for NATO military occupation, and called on the OSCE and the UN to facilitate a peaceful diplomatic settlement. It condemned the withdrawal of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission on March 19 in preparation for the March 24 bombing. The resolutions called for negotiations leading "toward the reaching of a political agreement on a wide-ranging autonomy for Kosovo and Metohija [the official name for the province], with the securing of a full equality of all citizens and ethnic communities and with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." Furthermore, though "The Serbian Parliament does not accept presence of foreign military troops in Kosovo and Metohija,"

The Serbian Parliament is ready to review the size and character of the international presence in Kosmet [Kosovo/Metohija] for carrying out the reached accord, immediately upon signing the political accord on the self-rule agreed and accepted by the representatives of all national communities living in Kosovo and Metohija.The essentials of these decisions were reported on major wire services and therefore certainly known to every news room. Several database searches have found scarce mention, none in the national press and major journals.

The two peace plans of March 23 thus remain unknown to the general public, even the fact that there were two, not one. The standard line is that "Milosevic's refusal to accept...or even discuss an international peacekeeping plan [namely, the Rambouillet Agreement] was what started NATO bombing on March 24" (Craig Whitney, New York Times), one of the many articles deploring Serbian propaganda -- accurately no doubt, but with a few oversights.

As to what the Serb National Assembly Resolutions meant, the answers are known with confidence by fanatics -- different answers, depending on which variety of fanatics they are. For others, there would have been a way to find out the answers: to explore the possibilities. But the enlightened states preferred not to pursue this option; rather, to bomb, with the anticipated consequences.

Further steps in the diplomatic process, and their interpretation in the doctrinal institutions, merit attention, but I will skip that here, turning to the Kosovo Accord of June 3. As might have been expected, it is a compromise between the two peace plans of March 23. On paper at least, the U.S./NATO abandoned their major demands, cited above, which had led to Serbia's rejection of the ultimatum. Serbia in turn agreed to an "international security presence with substantial NATO participation [which] must be deployed under unified command and control...under U.N. auspices." An addendum to the text stated "Russia's position [that] the Russian contingent will not be under NATO command and its relationship to the international presence will be governed by relevant additional agreements." There are no terms permitting access to the rest of the FRY for NATO or the "international security presence" generally. Political control of Kosovo is not in the hands of NATO, Serbia, or the OSCE, but of the UN Security Council, which will establish "an interim administration of Kosovo." The withdrawal of Yugoslav forces is not specified in the detail of the Rambouillet Agreement, but is similar, though accelerated. The remainder is within the range of agreement of the two plans of March 23.

The outcome suggests that diplomatic initiatives could have been pursued on March 23, averting a terrible human tragedy with consequences that will reverberate in Yugoslavia and elsewhere, and are in many respects quite ominous.

To be sure, the current situation is not that of March 23. A Times headline the day of the Kosovo Accord captures it accurately: "Kosovo Problems Just Beginning." Among the "staggering problems" that lie ahead, Serge Schmemann observed, are the repatriation of the refugees "to the land of ashes and graves that was their home," and the "enormously costly challenge of rebuilding the devastated economies of Kosovo, the rest of Serbia and their neighbors." He quotes Balkans historian Susan Woodward of the Brookings Institution, who adds "that all the people we want to help us make a stable Kosovo have been destroyed by the effects of the bombings," leaving control in the hands of the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army). The U.S. had strongly condemned the KLA as "without any question a terrorist group" when it began to carry out organized attacks in February 1998, actions that Washington condemned "very strongly" as "terrorist activities," probably giving a "green light" thereby to Milosevic for the severe repression that led to the Colombia-style violence before the bombings precipitated a sharp escalation.

These "staggering problems" are new. They are "the effects of the bombings" and the vicious Serb reaction to them, though the problems that preceded the resort to violence by the enlightened states were daunting enough.

Turning from facts to spin, headlines hailed the grand victory of the enlightened states and their leaders, who compelled Milosevic to "capitulate," to "say uncle," to accept a "NATO-led force," and to surrender "as close to unconditionally as anyone might have imagined," submitting to "a worse deal than the Rambouillet plan he rejected." Not exactly the story, but one that is far more useful than the facts. The only serious issue debated is whether this shows that air power alone can achieve highly moral purposes, or whether, as the critics allowed into the debate allege, the case still has not been proven. Turning to broader significance, Britain's "eminent military historian" John Keegan "sees the war as a victory not just for air power but for the `New World Order' that President Bush declared after the Gulf War." Keegan wrote that "If Milosevic really is a beaten man, all other would-be Milosevics around the world will have to reconsider their plans."

The assessment is realistic, though not in the terms Keegan may have had in mind: rather, in the light of the actual goals and significance of the New World Order, as revealed by an important documentary record of the '90s that remains unreported, and a plethora of factual evidence that helps us understand the true meaning of the phrase "Milosevics around the world." Merely to keep to the Balkans region, the strictures do not hold of huge ethnic cleansing operations and terrible atrocities within NATO itself, in its Southeastern corner, under European jurisdiction and with decisive and mounting U.S. support, and not conducted in response to an attack by the world's most awesome military force and the imminent threat of invasion. These crimes are legitimate under the rules of the New World Order, perhaps even meritorious, as are atrocities elsewhere that conform to the perceived interests of the leaders of the enlightened states and are regularly implemented by them when necessary. These facts, not particularly obscure, reveal that in the "new internationalism...the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups" will not merely be "tolerated," but actively expedited -- exactly as in the "old internationalism" of the Concert of Europe, the U.S. itself, and many other distinguished predecessors.

While the facts and the spin differ sharply, one might argue that the media and commentators are realistic when they present the U.S./NATO version as if it were the facts. It will become The Facts as a simple consequence of the distribution of power and the willingness of articulate opinion to serve its needs. That is a regular phenomenon. Recent examples include the Paris Peace Treaty of January 1973 and the Esquipulas Accords of August 1987.

In the former case, the U.S. was compelled to sign after the failure of the 1972 Christmas bombings to induce Hanoi to abandon the U.S.-Vietnam agreement of the preceding October. Kissinger and the White House at once announced quite lucidly that they would violate every significant element of the Treaty they were signing, presenting a different version which was adopted in reporting and commentary, so that when the Vietnamese enemy finally responded to serious U.S. violations of the accords, it became the incorrigible aggressor which had to be punished once again, as it was. The same tragedy/farce took place when the Central American Presidents reached the Esquipulas Accord (often called "the Arias plan") over strong U.S. opposition. Washington at once escalated its wars in violation of the one "indispensable element" of the Accord, then proceeded to dismantle its other provisions by force, succeeding within a few months, and continuing to undermine every further diplomatic effort until its final victory. Washington's version of the Accord, which sharply deviated from it in crucial respects, became the accepted version. The outcome could therefore be heralded in headlines as a "Victory for U.S. Fair Play" with Americans "United in Joy" over the devastation and bloodshed, overcome with rapture "in a romantic age" (Anthony Lewis, headlines in New York Times, all reflecting the general euphoria over a mission accomplished).

It is superfluous to review the aftermath in these and numerous similar cases. There is little reason to expect a different story to unfold in the present case -- with the usual and crucial proviso: If we let it.


Postscript. It is irritating to have one's most cynical expectations verified, but within hours after the preceding was posted on the web, the standard story unfolded: Washington provided its interpretation of the Kosovo Peace Accord (and the subsequent UN Security Council Resolution), radically different from the text and quite similar to the Rambouillet conditions that the US had formally renounced. The media and other commentary adopted Washington's version as The Facts. Events otherwise proceeded on course, and will, with the same proviso.