Milosevic 'war crimes' trial will boost U.S. intervention
Workers are target of Washington's pressure on Yugoslavia
BY PATRICK O'NEILL
U.S. crews prepare B-1 warplanes during NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999. Washington will use 'war crimes' show trial of Milosevic to justify its military and political intervention in Yugoslavia, where there are now thousands of U.S. occupation troops.
Bowing to economic and diplomatic pressure applied by the U.S. government and its allies, the government of Serbia turned over former president Slobodan Milosevic to imperialist forces on June 28 to stand trial before the "war crimes tribunal" in The Hague, Netherlands, established under the auspices of the United Nations. Washington has raised the banner of "war crimes" against Milosevic and other political figures as part of its propaganda campaign to justify U.S. and NATO military intervention in the Balkans.
The U.S. military played a central part in the June 28 operation. Serbian government officials handed the former president over at the U.S. air base in Tuzla, Bosnia, which is used by U.S. occupation troops in that region of Yugoslavia. From there Milosevic was flown on a NATO plane to a military facility near The Hague.
Milosevic was brought before the tribunal July 2 to face charges of "crimes against humanity" in Kosova. The charge by the UN court points to the forced deportation of 740,000 Albanians and the deaths of hundreds of people by Serbian government forces under the Milosevic regime in 1999.
That year, Washington seized on incursions into Kosova by Serb paramilitary forces and special military forces to launch a 78-day NATO bombing assault on targets in Serbia and Kosova. Using cluster bombs and other munitions, U.S. and British warplanes rained destruction on factories, power plants, bridges, and working-class neighborhoods. The offensive devastated the country's economy and hit the industrial working class particularly hard.
Following this bombing campaign, a U.S.-led military occupation force was established in Kosova. It was after NATO launched this war that the Hague tribunal, at U.S. insistence, issued the "war crimes" indictment against Milosevic in order to lay the basis for seizing him and conducting a trial to further U.S. aims in the region.
The UN indictment contained "a conspicuous change," a July 3 New York Times article noted. "Any mention of the NATO bombing of Kosovo has been relegated to the penultimate page in a section called 'additional facts.' The original indictment, two years ago, noted at the beginning that NATO had begun 'launching air strikes' on March 24, 1999--before the occurrence of almost all the crimes with which Mr. Milosevic is charged."
Capitalist politicians pleased with arrest
U.S. capitalist politicians in the United States were jubilant at Milosevic's extradition. President George Bush described it as a "very important step."
Payoff for the Belgrade politicians came the next day, when a number of imperialist governments pledged a total of $1.28 billion in aid at a "donors' conference" in Brussels. Washington promised around $180 million, after spending months threatening to boycott the gathering unless Milosevic was extradited.
The federal Yugoslav government, which groups politicians from the republics of Serbia and the less populous Montenegro, virtually collapsed in the controversy surrounding the move.
Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica called Milosevic's transfer "illegal and unconstitutional," and protested that Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic had not informed him of the decision. Kostunica pointed to a June 28 decision of Yugoslavia's Constitutional Court opposing an extradition order. Both had until recently insisted that Milosevic be tried in Yugoslavia.
Dismissing the judges' ruling, Djindjic ordered and organized the handover, asserting that the government had been forced to take a "difficult but morally correct" decision. "To stop the cooperation with the Hague tribunal...would have had major negative consequences for the present and future of our country," he said.
U.S. officials had brought heavy pressure on the Serbian regime to hand over Milosevic, wielding U.S. economic aid as a club.
Pro-Milosevic forces organized several protests against the extradition, including one of 10,000 on June 29.
Most Yugoslav working people interviewed in the big-business media have voiced little sympathy for the chauvinist politician. On the other hand, many have also expressed misgivings at his extradition.
Some of those interviewed remarked that Milosevic had been sold for the promise of $1 billion in international funds. "There is a lot of truth in that," said Milodrag Pesic, 75, a resident in Pozarevac quoted by the New York Times. "They are going to give us some money. But it is nothing."
Natasa Popovic, a young woman working at a newsstand in Pozarevac, said Milosevic should be judged by Serbs for any war crimes, not an international tribunal in the Netherlands. At the same time, she expressed concern about the threat of continuing imperialist sanctions.
Milosevic's refusal to acknowledge his defeat in last year's elections sparked widespread opposition that had been building over time among working people. It led to a general political strike and mass protests led by miners and other industrial workers last October. Milosevic was forced to step down after more than a decade of rule marked by disastrous wars throughout Yugoslavia, repressive police-state methods in Serbia, and brutal imperialist military intervention spearheaded by the U.S. armed forces.
Washington has wielded both the carrot and the stick in its dealings with the new government. In October, after Milosevic was ousted, President William Clinton lifted an oil embargo and flight ban, and Congress voted to supply $100 million to Serbia, with the proviso that the government cooperate in the apprehension of those deemed war criminals by U.S. officials. To date, Belgrade has extradited only Milosevic, the most prominent political figure on the list.
Imperialists dangle 'aid'
Lawrence Napper, U.S. ambassador to Brussels and Washington's coordinator for East European assistance, said the money pledged would support "Serbia and Montenegro in their bid to break with the past and build a democracy and market economy," according to Reuters news agency.
"Democracy and market economy" are the terms used by imperialist spokespeople to refer to the effort to integrate Yugoslavia more deeply into the world capitalist market.
The Financial Times of London noted the "ambitious programme for reform" touted by the Belgrade government, including "privatisation, restructuring of banking...and development of the private sector."
The deputy prime minister in the federal government, Miroljub Labus, said that, in addition to the $1 billion already offered, a further $3 billion assistance will be required over the next four years. He reported that the country's foreign debt stands at more than $12 billion dollars, or 80 percent of the gross domestic product. "We need a period of stability, of at least six months, to press ahead with reforms," he said.
The long-term goal of Washington and its imperialist allies is to weaken and ultimately overthrow the workers state in Yugoslavia. Overturning the noncapitalist property relations and the working-class solidarity that are a product of the Yugoslav revolution of the 1940s, however, is an objective that the imperialist powers would only be able to achieve by direct military intervention. That goal has been the driving force of the U.S.-NATO interventions in Yugoslavia over the past decade, first in Bosnia--where U.S. occupation troops also remain stationed--then in Kosova, and now in Macedonia.
U.S. troops intervene in Macedonia
Washington stepped up its intervention in Macedonia June 25, when its troops escorted several hundred Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrilla forces from the town of Aracinovo. A 31-vehicle U.S. convoy took the guerrillas, who retained their arms, to villages near the Kosova border. The soldiers were deployed from among the 700 U.S. troops, which form part of a 3,000-strong force stationed in Macedonia as backup for NATO's "KFOR" occupation force in Kosova.
The Macedonian government agreed to suspend its bombardment of the village to allow the operation. Its three-day offensive, using tanks, artillery, and helicopter gunships, splintered a cease-fire agreed with the NLA a couple of weeks before.
This was the first active involvement by U.S. forces inside Macedonia since clashes between the NLA forces and the Macedonian government broke out in February. Troops from NATO's "KFOR" occupation force in Kosova, with U.S. forces in the fore, have backed up the actions of the Macedonian military by clamping down on rebel activity in border areas.
The action sparked a large protest by Slav nationalist forces in Skopje that evening. Army reservists, active duty soldiers, and paramilitary forces were among the thousands who gathered. Some brandished arms as they condemned European Union officials, NATO, and Macedonian president Boris Trajkovski, who had publicly defended the operation. Leaders of the protest opposed negotiations with representatives of Albanian-led parties over the status of the Albanian nationality.
In reality, the U.S. troops achieved what the Macedonian government offensive had failed to do--to dislodge the NLA forces from the town, which lies on the outskirts of the capital, Skopje.
The guerrilla leaders agreed to the evacuation after negotiations led by Javier Solana, the chief foreign policy and security representative of the European Union. Spokespeople for the NLA have declared support for the intervention of NATO forces in the Macedonian conflict.
The events also illustrated the tactical disagreements between the Macedonian government and diplomats for the imperialist powers over how to counter Albanian demands. In Macedonia, Kosova, and Serbia, Albanians face discrimination in many facets of society. While backing up and assisting the Macedonian regime's military campaign, the imperialists have demanded the government undercut support for the guerrillas by drawing official Albanian figures into ongoing negotiations and holding out a promise of action against inequality.
Albanian political parties in Macedonia have joined a coalition cabinet where they are pressing their Slavic-majority partners to agree to carry out some reforms benefiting the Albanian population. So far, however, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski has sought to crush the guerrillas by relying overwhelmingly on force.
On June 20 the NATO command approved a plan to send a force of up to 5,000 troops to Macedonia with the task of disarming the guerrillas in the event of a more lasting cease-fire. "The European NATO members, probably led by the United Kingdom, are expected to make up the bulk of the force," reported the June 21 Wall Street Journal. The governments of Spain and Germany have offered troops.
The U.S. government joined in the unanimous decision. The troops will be engaged in "setting up points where [the guerrillas'] weapons can be received," said Secretary of State Colin Powell. While Washington has not committed any troops at this stage, President George Bush said, "I take no option off the table in terms of the troops. We're a participant in NATO." On June 28 Bush banned fund-raising for the NLA in the United States.
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