The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.7           February 19, 1996 
NATO Troops Step Up Show Of Force In Bosnia
First U.S. GI killed as imperialists escalate war drive  


Heavily armed NATO troops, backed by U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt warplanes, confronted a convoy of 30 Bosnian soldiers outside Mostar February 1 and seized their weaponry. It was the most serious incident since the imperialist military operation in Yugoslavia began. The Bosnian troops had driven into the 2.5- mile zone that separates the warring parties along Bosnia's 600-mile front line. The zone has been imposed by NATO forces since January 19.

"Sometimes a show of force is a good idea," Lt. Col. Mark Rayner, a NATO spokesman, told the Washington Post. The Mostar confrontation was the first use of NATO air power since the Dayton accord was signed December 14.

Another military confrontation ended when French Special Forces killed an alleged sniper in Ilidza, a suburb of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, the same night. A NATO military spokesman claimed the man had threatened the French unit, but was fatally shot before he could fire.

The imperialist bully tactics reflected mounting tensions as the deadline approached for Belgrade-backed Serb forces to exit five suburbs around Sarajevo by February 3. "If we see somebody pointing a weapon at our forces, he will be attacked without warning, no warning shots, no `Drop your weapon,' " declared U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith, the commander of NATO forces in Bosnia.

That day the first U.S. soldier died after an explosion at a military checkpoint near the town of Gradacac, 25 miles north of the headquarters of Washington's troops in the northeastern Bosnian city of Tuzla. The military brass initially said the blast was caused by a land mine, but later the story could not be confirmed.

On February 4 imperialist negotiators in Yugoslavia hammered out a pact to step up the presence of U.S. units in Sarajevo, supposedly under the control of French forces. Ten U.S. GIs with M-16 assault rifles walked throughout the suburb of Ilidza passing out leaflets and putting up posters that explained the new arrangement.

The deal was negotiated supposedly to calm the fears of 70,000 Serbs who live in the suburbs of Sarajevo and are rumored to be ready to flee when the Bosnian government takes over the city March 19 as required by the Dayton agreement imposed by Washington in November. Belgrade-backed Serb police, scheduled to leave February 3, were permitted to remain for 45 days until the next major deadline, March 20.

The Dayton plan called for the warring parties to exchange about 1,500 square miles of land. The plan also outlined the return of oil-rich eastern Slavonia to Croatia, 30 days after 5,000 imperialist troops begin occupying the region sometime in March or April.

Chauvinist Serb forces with support from the regime in Belgrade captured the area in 1991 after Zagreb declared independence. Croatian officials, threatening to retake the territory by force, warned of "the prospect of renewed conflict" if the land is not returned. Meanwhile, the so- called Muslim-Croat federation that is supposed to control 51 percent of Bosnia is on the verge of collapse. Some Croatian authorities in Mostar, the largest city in the federation, rule out reunification with the Bosnians. The city is divided right in the middle between troops from Zagreb and the Bosnian army. "In terms of what we have hoped to achieve - the creation of a joint Croat and Muslim police force - time is running out," stated a senior British police liaison.

Saudi Arabian covert operation
White House officials said they were outraged when the Saudi Arabian government revealed it funded a $300-million covert operation to send arms to the Bosnian government with the knowledge and support of Washington. Clinton administration officials denied the allegations, calling them "preposterous and insulting." Washington was officially committed to enforcing an arms embargo against the warring factions.

In other developments, Bosnian government officials announced February 5 that their forces had arrested Gen. Djordje Djukic, an aide to chauvinist Serb general Ratko Mladic. Djukic, Col. Aleksa Krsmanovic, and six others were captured between January 20 and February 2 and are being held for investigations of alleged war crimes. "There exists evidence that both officers were involved in committing war crimes against civilians," said Bakir Alispahic, chief of the Bosnian security force.

Bosnian Serb officials, angered by the detention, suspended contact with the Bosnian government February 6. They warned that free passage for Bosnians through Ilidza would be stopped if the captives were not released. "If these men are not freed, the Muslims will find themselves once again trapped inside Sarajevo," a pro-Belgrade Serb security official said.

The action has alarmed some NATO military officials, who warned that the dispute could upset imperialist plans. "A small thing like this could have a reaction out of all proportion," stated Brig. Andrew Cumming, the British officer who directs the NATO force's Joint Operations Center. Cumming called the arrests "provocative and inflammatory."

The NATO force in Yugoslavia now numbers 57,000 troops in Bosnia and Croatia, U.S. general George Joulwan, senior military commander of NATO, announced February 3. Joulwan said the entire imperialist occupation force will be in place by February 18 or 19. "The movement of troops has gone extremely well," he crowed.

The NATO military operation aims to lay the groundwork to overthrow the workers state in Yugoslavia that was established through a workers and peasants revolution in 1945. Using massive military firepower the imperialists hope to restore capitalist property relations there.

The character of the workers state in Yugoslavia and the obstacles to capitalist development there were highlighted by a Wall Street Journal writer reporting on a recent gathering of international investors in Belgrade. "Imports and exports are strictly regulated, and key industries are controlled by the state," the writer complained. Even worse, he said, "a law passed last year allows the government unilaterally to renegotiate or renationalize firms that were unofficially privatized."

"I know some foreign investment will be necessary in our country to oil our wheels," said Boro Kovacevic, commercial director for JAT Yugoslav Airlines. "But not for JAT. Not yet. It's not a good way to operate to accept money from abroad and then give away the profits to foreign investors."

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