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National coordinator of Campaign for Labor Rights In addition to mobilizing around corporate campaigns, legislation and codes of conduct, the work of the anti-sweatshop movement also includes opposing the economic, military and repressive structures which make the global sweatshop possible. In that context, I am writing to ask for your support for the June 5 […]

WHY WORKING PEOPLE MUST OPPOSE U.S./NATO WAR IN THE BALKANS

by Trim Bissell

National coordinator of Campaign for Labor Rights

In addition to mobilizing around corporate campaigns, legislation and codes of conduct, the work of the anti-sweatshop movement also includes opposing the economic, military and repressive structures which make the global sweatshop possible. In that context, I am writing to ask for your support for the June 5 emergency mobilization to stop the war in the Balkans.

Working people have many reasons to oppose U.S. military intervention in the Balkans.

The U.S. military is not a humanitarian institution. It intervenes to promote corporate interests. The U.S. promoted bloody conflicts in Central America, resulting in deaths, disappearances and displacements on a scale dwarfing anything now occurring in the Balkans. The U.S. School of the Americas trains the worst human rights abusers in the Western Hemisphere and honors its most notorious graduates in a “Hall of Fame.” The U.S. continues to arm Turkey, a NATO ally guilty of atrocities against the Kurds far worse than what was being done to the Kosovars before the NATO bombing. Under the guise of anti-drug efforts, the U.S. is rapidly increasing its military involvement in Colombia, where the government is closely tied to paramilitaries which target unionists and human rights advocates.

We should be wary of blanket recommendations that the situation in Kosovo be resolved through negotiations, without first discussing what is to be negotiated. The Rambouillet plan proposed by the U.S. State Department, combined with policies already mandated by the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund (IMF), require the region to yield its political, military and economic sovereignty. NATO bombing is rapidly de-industrializing the former Yugoslavia, as part of a larger strategy to relegate the region to a Third World role, namely, providing cheap labor, cheap raw materials and open markets.

People of conscience condemn attacks on civilian populations, whether those attacks are against Albanians or against Serbs. It is quite another matter to suppose that U.S./NATO military force is the solution to any problem in the former Yugoslavia. The plight of the Kosovars has increased in proportion to NATO activity in the region. While the U.S. government moves thousands of military personnel and vast quantities of weapons with ease, Kosovar refugees are left to huddle in squalid camps, their misery providing further pretext for continuing the war effort.

It is doubtful whether any change in regimes resulting from the NATO intervention will lead to an increase in prosperity, democracy or worker rights. Economic policies imposed by the IMF contributed significantly to social/political breakdown which in turn propelled the region into armed conflict. At this point, there does not seem to be any way to offer meaningful proactive solidarity with democratic forces in the region. The most helpful thing we can do now is to oppose intervention by the U.S. military – which has an appalling record on human rights – in a situation where human rights abusers already abound.

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