Manifest Destiny in the Balkans
Hidden Behind a Cloak
by K. Sheeram
photo/War Resisters League
The Apache helicopter awaiting action in Yugoslavia is perhaps the perfect symbol for what U.S.-led NATO is doing in the Balkans. The good guys, NATO, we are told, are bombing the daylights out of Yugoslavia in order to prevent ethnic cleansing by the Hitler of the Month, Milosevic.
A look at history, though, reveals that the "good guys" are nothing but a gang of thugs -- heads of former colonial and current imperialist powers responsible for most of history's genocides, ethnic cleansings, and pillages.
In the area encompassed by what is the United States today, between 1500 and 1900, the Native American population was decimated from about 12.5 million to less than 250,000. In the Americas and the Caribbean, about 100 million of the estimated 125 million Native Americans were systematically slaughtered following the arrival of Columbus.
This genocide continues to this day. According to historian Ward Churchill, "Between the 1880s and the 1980s, nearly half of all Native American children were coercively transferred from their own families, communities, and cultures to those of the conquering society." In 1975, the U.S. government admitted that it was conducting involuntary sterilizations that affected about 40 percent of Native American women in the United States.
This same colonial mentality was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 75 million African slaves en route to the Americas. Today, the descendants of slaves in the United States are being criminalized and incarcerated in record numbers, with one in three Black men between the ages of 15 to 29 either behind bars, on parole or awaiting trial.
Between 1880 and 1920, French colonialists wiped out two-thirds of population of what is today the Congo. In the 1880s, Belgian colonialists, under King Leopold II, were responsible for the genocide of 10 million people in the region that is today the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).
Between 1899 and 1902 U.S. forces, led by General Arthur MacArthur killed more than half a million Filipinos struggling for independence.
Soon after, another white icon, Winston Churchill, then Secretary of State at the British War Office, had this to say about the use of chemical weapons on Iraqis revolting against British rule: "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using (it) against uncivilized tribes."
That is just the tip of the bloody iceberg, but for those who consider all this to be ancient history and irrelevant to current war against Yugoslavia; There are plenty of recent mass murders to go around.
In 1965 U.S.-backed General Suharto overthrew Sukarno in coup that killed about a million people.
In the 1970s and '80s, the US -backed Guatemalan government killed more than 200,000, mainly indigenous, people. "Clinton went to Guatemala and apologized for this," says Sheridan Murphy, Executive Director of the Florida chapter of the American Indian Movement. "So why doesn't NATO simply ask Milosevic to apologize for his ethnic cleansing?"
In Vietnam, the U.S. killed an estimated 1.5 million Vietnamese. The U.S. carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos, between 1969 and 1975, killed an estimated 1 million civilians. Another 1 million or so died due to the subsequent starvation following the devastation to Cambodian agriculture.
As Edward Herman put it in a 1997 Z Magazine article:
"Henry Kissinger's role in the Cambodian genocide, Chile, and East Timor, makes him a first class war criminal, arguably at least in the class of Hitler's Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop, hanged in 1946."
Instead, Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.
Since World War II, the United States has bombed 25 different countries and invaded, toppled governments, or otherwise intervened 40 different times in other countries. The U.S. sells more weapons than any other country in the world. In short, it is the greatest purveyor of violence and death on earth.
Germany's genocide of more than six million Jews and Gypsies is of course, well known to us. It was in the wake of that ethnic cleansing that the Geneva Convention was passed by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Incredibly, the term genocide didn't exist before 1944. Only when whites targeted other Europeans for liquidation did the colonialists find it necessary to condemn a practice that had been the hallmark of European civilization for more than 450 years.
Not surprisingly, it took the United States 40 years to ratify the Geneva Convention, albeit with the following self-serving caveat:
"Nothing in the Convention requires or authorizes legislation or other action by the United States of America prohibited by the Constitution of the United States as interpreted by the United States."
The list of genocides perpetrated by countries that lead NATO is endless, and there is no shortage of bloody dictators backed by the U.S. and European powers, but there is one ongoing genocide that must be mentioned. It is the U.S.-forced "genocide by sanctions" of Iraqis. Since they were imposed in 1991, the sanctions have killed 1.5 million Iraqis -- about six percent of the population. More than half of those killed are children.
More than 250 Iraqis, mostly children under five, die each day because of starvation and disease induced by the sanctions. Iraq's once-stellar health care system, that guaranteed free medical care for all its citizens, is in shambles. Surgery is routinely conducted without anesthesia. The per capita GNP has dropped from $2,400 before the Gulf War to $247 this year. Of course, the sanctions are necessary, we are told, to get rid of Saddam Hussein, the Hitler of the Month before Milosevic took over.
The claim by U.S.-led NATO that it is bombing Yugoslavia to prevent ethnic cleansing by Milosevic should be met with incredulity. Instead what we hear is the self-righteous cheerleading from the mainstream U.S. media.
Yes, Milosevic and Saddam Hussein are despicable tyrants. But they are part of a long list of dictators and tyrants, most of whom are in power today precisely because of U.S. policies. Besides, if Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and war criminal for his political repression that has killed about 100,000 Iraqis, according to Amnesty International, in what criminal category does that place the likes of George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair? While Hussein came to power in a coup, the latter three were "democratically" elected. But just because they were elected doesn't make them any less responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
When the Americans decide to go after a particular dictator, one needs to look beyond the rhetoric of the official reasons.
According to NATO, in the year preceding the beginning of NATO attacks, 2,000 people died in the conflict in Kosovo. Two months of NATO bombing have already killed the same number of people. Before NATO began its attacks, the fighting in Kosovo had created about 300,000 refugees. (Incidentally, policies of the U.S.-backed and armed Colombian government have resulted in more deaths and a refugee population of more than 1.5 million, but you don't hear a peep out of Washington about that.) The NATO bombings and the predictable Serb reaction to it have propelled that figure to almost one million refugees.
The Rambouillet Accord was worded in order to guarantee its rejection by the Milosevic government. The accord reads in part:
"NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia)."
"This passage sounds like a surrender treaty following a war that was lost .... The fact that Yugoslav President Milosevic did not want to sign such a paper is understandable," said Germany's Berliner Zeitung.
No sovereign nation would ever sign a treaty that voluntarily authorized an occupying force. According to an April 8 New York Times article, "just before the bombing, when [Yugoslavia] rejected NATO troops in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of a United Nations force to monitor a political settlement there."
When other NATO members suggested that a resolution be submitted to the UN Security Council authorizing the deployment of NATO forces, the U.S. rejected the proposal. The way Michael Parenti sees it,
"The dismemberment and mutilation of the Yugoslav federation is part of a concerted policy initiated by the United States and the other Western powers in 1989. Yugoslavia was the one country in Eastern Europe that would not voluntarily overthrow what remained of its socialist system and install a free-market economic order. The U.S. goal has been to transform Yugoslavia into a cluster of weak right-wing principalities ..."
The United States is now the sole superpower in the world. It does not tolerate dissent. The current assault on Yugoslavia is geared toward reasserting its domination of NATO, as well as the rest of world. Maverick regimes such as Yugoslavia and Iraq will not be tolerated. Even the UN Security Council, a highly undemocratic regimen, is no longer adequate. The United States, using NATO as a shield, can and will do anything it wants to, anywhere it pleases.
That was made clear at the 50th anniversary NATO summit in Washington in April. "We have reaffirmed our readiness ... to address regional and ethnic conflicts beyond the territory of NATO members," Clinton said at the summit.
In an op-ed, Siddharth Varadarajan, a Times of India editor, suggests that
"the principles on which its current aggression against Yugoslavia is based ... include: an expanded definition of what constitutes a threat to the security of the 'Euro-Atlantic area,' the subordination of European strategic interests to that of the US, and, above all, the same unilateralism which led NATO to attack a sovereign country in violation of international law."
Such an expanded vision of NATO violates international law as well as NATO's own charter.
As Walter J. Rockler, a Washington lawyer who was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial, pointed out recently in a Chicago Tribune op-ed, the attack on Yugoslavia not only violates the UN Charter, but the judgment of the International Court in Nuremberg Tribunal as well:
"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
"Shouting 'war criminal' only emphasizes that those who live in glass houses should be careful about throwing stones," Rockler adds.
If there is to be any justice in this world, the first step should be to forever ban the United States and its NATO factotums from intervening anywhere in the world. They have repeatedly shown their true colors. Asking the U.S. to fight ethnic cleansing is like asking a serial rapist to administer a rape crisis center.
As a political cartoon, in the Italian newspaper Liberazione, asked: "Why is it the Apache helicopter that the US deploys in the Balkans? Manifest destiny?"
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