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How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids

Those Incubator Babies, Once More?

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

As the US stepped up its bombing raids against Yugoslavia, Harold Koh,assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, calledthe leaders of several US human rights groups to a hastily arranged meetingat his offices in Foggy Bottom. Koh started the session by telling the groups’leaders, who included Amnesty International-USA’s head Dr. William Schulz,that he was sorry that the administration could not support the extraditionof Pinochet. He stressed that while Madeleine Albright cared deeply abouthuman rights matters, the Defense Department had quashed the idea. But,Koh said, there was good news. Albright had convinced the Defense Departmentand Clinton that human rights concerns should be the driving force behindthe bombing of the Serbs. Koh said he hoped the human rights groups wouldenthusiastically support the mission and promised that if they did, Albrightmight even meet with them in person in the near future.

Amnesty International has obediently hopped to State’s tune, saying ina press release “violations of human rights lie at the heart of thecurrent conflict in Kosovo, and have done so ever since it developed duringthe 1980s. It is therefore essential that the effective protection and promotionof human rights should be the centerpiece of any agreement to be reachedon Kosovo.” On March 29, the group called for increases in militaryintelligence operations on the ground in Kosovo. Human Rights Watch hasalso pressed the cause of military intervention, using their Kosovo HumanRights Flash to draw attention to Serbian abuses. After a week of unrelentingmissile attacks in Yugoslavia and Kosovo, none of the Human Rights Watchreports included any tallies of civilian casualties from the NATO bombings.Care Yugoslavia, an Australian humanitarian aide group, said that over thefirst week, NATO bombing raids had killed at least 15 ethnic Kosovars, whenits bombs hit a refugee camp

A person who attended the meeting tells CounterPunch he was shocked thatmany of the leaders endorsed Koh’s rationale. “Human rights is justanother affinity cause to be used by Clinton and Albright when it suitsthem, rather than consistently and broadly”. he said. “Indeed,human rights concerns could be used as an excuse for extra-legal militaryactions that bypass the security council and/or Congress.”

Readers may recall that one particularly successful propaganda campaignagainst Iraq saw US government operatives using Amnesty International toadvance the false and easily disprovable story that Iraqis had murderedover 300 Kuwaiti babies in August, 1990, by tossing them out of their incubatorsand letting them die on the floor. It’s not at issue here whether or notIraqi or Serb forces are brutal. It’s a matter of how human rights organizationswillingly become instruments of state policy. Somalia offers a particularlyvivid example of this.

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NATO, Sieg Heil!

It’s bracing to see the Germans taking part in NATO’s bombing. It lendsmoral tone to an operation to have the grandsons of the Third Reich willing,able and eager, to drop high explosive again, in this instance on the Serbs.To add symmetry to the affair, the last time Serbs in Belgrade had highexplosives dropped on them was in 1941 by the sons of the Third Reich. Tobring even deeper symmetry, the German political party whose leader, Schroeder,ordered German participation in the bombing is that of the Social Democrats,whose great grand-fathers enthusiastically voted credits to wage war in1914, to the enormous disgust of Lenin, who never felt quite the same wayabout social democrats ever after. Whether in Germany or England or Franceall social democratic parties in 1914 tossed aside previous pledges againstwar, thus helping produce the first great bloodletting of our century. Today,with social democrats leading governments across Europe-Schroeder, Blair,Jospin, Prodi-all fall in behind Clinton. This is, largely, a war most earnestlysupported by liberals and many so-called leftists.

There’s been some patronizing talk here about the Serbs’ deep sense of”grievance” at the way history has treated them, with the implicationthat the Serbs are irrational in this regard. But it’s scarcely irrationalto remember that Nazi Germany bombed Belgrade in the Second World War, orthat Germany’s prime ally in the region, Croatia, ran a concentration campat Jasenovac where tens of thousands of Serbs – along with Jews and gypsies- were liquidated. Nor is it irrational to recall that Germany in more recentyears has been an unrelenting assailant of the former Yugoslav federation,encouraging Slovenia to secede and lending determined support to Croatia,in gratitude for which Croatia adopted, on independence in 1991, the Germanhymn, “Danke Deutschland”.

So much for Serb feelings about Germany. Serbia has some reason to feelsimilar resentment towards the United States. The biggest single ethniccleansing of the mid-1990s in the former Yugoslavia was conducted by Croatiaunder the supervision of the United States, whose military generals andCIA officers issued targeting instructions to Croatian artillery for theethnic clearing. The targets were Serbs, living in Serbian territory, inthe Krajina. Heading the Croatian cleansers was president Franjo Tudjman,who has rehabbed Nazi war criminals. Yet somehow it is Serbia’s Milosevicwho is demonized here as Hitler.

In 1999 Bill Clinton more or less left the UN’s secretary general, KofiAnnan, to find out from CNN about NATO’s decision to bomb. The US game,abetted chiefly by Blair’s UK, is to make NATO the arbiter of Europe’s bordersand “security”, and to boycott the UN as a forum.

The twentieth-century illusion of air power is once again being exposed.Now come demands for ground troops and a route march into deeper madness,wider killing and misery. The only chance is rising protest from Americans,from the world community, from dissident countries in NATO with calls fora cease-fire and a genuine, UN peace-keeping force in Kosovo with no troopsfrom the contending parties and their allies. Absent that, why not a drivefor impeachment of Bill Clinton, on serious grounds at last, for abusingCongress’s war-making powers and also his sworn duty to uphold the internationaltreaties to which the US has set its name.”

Pick the Warmonger

A quiz: Which US rep said: “At this point I support the NATO sponsoredair-strikes that are currently taking place.” And which US rep said:”This is not a proud moment for America…as bad as the violence istowards the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, our ability to police and stop allethnic fighting around the world is quite limited, and the efforts are quitesimply not permitted under constitutional law.”Yes, the first is fromthe brass-lunged armchair bomber of Vermont, Bernard Sanders and the secondfrom Ron Paul, libertarian from Texas. How long will the long-sufferingprogressives of Vermont tolerate their hypocritical rep without rebuke?.CP