Kosovo : The Truth According
to Noam Chomsky Linguist and political commentator Noam Chomsky gave this interview recently, in which he attempted to cut through the NATO bluff about the war in Kosovo, and expose the truth about the motives of the West.
Interviewer: Let's define some of the language we are hearing around this war. Can you comment on the use of the terms 'humanitarian crisis'genocide ', and 'ethnic cleansing' as they are being applied to Kosovo?
Noam Chomsky: Well, for starters, the concept called 'humanitarian crisis' has a technical meaning, which does not have much to do with what might reasonably be assumed to be the defining criteria of the term. The technical meaning of humanitarian crisis is a problem somewhere that threatens the interests of rich and powerful people. That is the essence of what makes it a crisis. Now, any disturbance in the Balkans does threaten the interests of rich and powerful people, namely, the elites of Europe and the US. So when there are humanitarian issues in the Balkans, they become a 'humanitarian crisis'. On the other hand, i f people
The technical meaning of humanitarian crisis is a problem somewhere that threatens the interests of rich and powerful people. slaughter each other in Sierra Leone or the Congo, it's not a humanitarian crisis. As a matter of fact, Clinton just refused to provide the relatively puny sum of $100,000 for a peace-making force in the Republic of the Congo, which might well have averted a huge massacre. But those deaths do not constitute a humanitarian crisis. Neither do the many other deaths and tragedies to which the US directly contributes: the massacres in Colombia, for example, or the slaughters and expulsions of people in south-eastern Turkey, which are being carried out with crucial support from Clinton. Those aren't humanitarian crises. But Kosovo is a crisis because i t is in the Balkans.
Now, the term 'genocide', as applied to Kosovo, is an insult to
Indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic and supporters.
the victims of Hitler. In fact, it's revisionist to an extreme. I f this is genocide, then there is genocide going on all over the world. And Bil l Clinton is decisively implementing a lot of it. I f this is genocide, then what do you call what is happening in the south-east of Turkey? The number of refugees there is huge; it's already reached about half the level of Palestinians expelled from Palestine.
I f it increases further, it may reach the number of refugees in Colombia, where the number of people killed every year by the army and paramilitary groups armed and trained by the United States is approximately the same as the number of people killed in Kosovo last year.
'Ethnic cleansing', on the other hand, is real. Unfortunately, it's something that goes on and has been going on for a long time. It's no big innovation. How come I' m living where I am instead of the original people who lived here? Did they happily walk away?
Int : So human rights abuses in Kosovo are termed a 'humanitarian crisis' by the world's most powerful state. But how did we get from that to all-out war?
Civilian train in Kosovo accidentally bombed by NATO.
NC: Well, let's look at the situation from the US point of view: There's a crisis, what do we do about it? One possibility is to work through the United Nations, which is the agency responsible under treaty obligations and international law for dealing with such matters. But the US made i t clear a long time ago that i t has total contempt for the institutions of world order, the UN, the World Court, and so on. In fact the US has been very explicit about that. This was not always the case. In the early days of the UN, the majority of countries backed the US because of its overwhelming political power. But that began to change when decolonisation was extend-
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 4, July 1999 KOSOVO : TH E TRUT H ACCORDIN G T O NOA M CHOMSK Y
ed and the organisation and distribution of world power shifted. Now the US can no longer count on the majority of countries to go along with its demands. The UN is no longer a pliant, and therefore no longer a relevant, institution. This proposition became very explicit during the Reagan years and even more brazen during the Clinton years. So brazen that even right-wing analysts are worried about it. There is an interesting article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, an establishment journal in the US, warning Washington that much of the world regards the US as a "rogue super-power" and the single greatest threat to their existence. In fact, the US has placed itself totally above the rule of international law and international institutions. There is an interesting article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, an establishment journal in the US, warning Washington that much of the world regards the US as a urogue super-power" and the single greatest threat to their existence.
NATO at least has the advantage of being pretty much under US domination. Within NATO there are differences of opinion, so when there was a question last September of sending unarmed NATO monitors into Kosovo, every NATO country (with the possible exception of Britain) wanted the operation authorised by the UN Security Council as is required by treaty obligation.
But the US flatly refused. It would not allow the use of the word "authorise". It insisted that the UN has no right to authorise any US action. When the issue moved on to negotiations and the use of force, the US and Britain, typically the two warrior states, were eager to use force and abandon negotiations. In fact, continental European diplomats were telling the press that they were annoyed by the sabre-rattling mentality of Washington. So NATO as a whole was driven to the use of force, in part, reluctantly. In fact, the reluctance increases as you get closer to the region. So England and the US are quite enthusiastic, others quite reluctant, and some in-between.
Int : Why was the US so eager to use force?
NC: The reason is obvious. When involved in a confrontation, you use your strong card and try to shift the confrontation to the area in which you are most powerful. And the strong card of the United States is the use of force. That's perhaps the only realm of international relations where the US has a near monopoly. The consequences of using force in Yugoslavia were more or less anticipated. The NATO Commanding General Wesley Dark stated that it was entirely predictable that the bombing would sharply increase the level of atrocities and expulsion. As indeed it did. The NATO leadership could not have failed to know that the bombing would destroy the quite courageous and promising democracy movement in Serbia as indeed it did; and cause all sorts of turmoil in surrounding countries as indeed i t has, though still not at the
Irradiating Kosovo If and when the refugees return to Kosovo, they will not only face devastated homes and Serbian hostility. They will also, in many places, be breathing in radioactive uranium dust from NATO's latest military toys. American scientist and radiation expert Hari Sharma released a study last month showing that about 45,000 people affected by the Gulf War - Western soldiers, Iraqi soldiers and civilians - are likely to end up with fatal cancers as a direct result of the Allied use of depleted uranium, or DU, ammunition during that war. Depleted Uranium is also thought to be responsible for the mysterious 'Gulf War Syndrome' that many veterans of the conflict are suffering from today.
Five hundred thousand people are thought to have been exposed to airborne dust from exploded DU rounds during the Gulf War, radioactive traces of which still show up in urine samples from Allied veterans of the conflict and Iraqi civilians. NATO is now using DU weapons carried by A-10 and 'Warthog' tank-killing aircraft to attack Yugoslav armoured vehicles.
Depleted uranium ammunition was born of a grim, sophisticated battle of wits between designers of weapons developed to destroy armoured vehicles, and designers of armour. In our own era, this has reached such a point of complexity that the precise composition of tank armour is often a state secret, as it is on the U.S. 'Abrams' main battle tank.
When DU weapons were introduced before the Gulf War, they seemed like a solution t o several problems. The nuclear industry liked them because they were a way to dispose of otherwise troublesome waste. Armies liked them because they were cheap and chewed holes in enemy tanks. During the Gulf War, tank crews liked DU because it made them unquestioned masters of the battlefield.
But Hari Sharma argues that exploding DU rounds produce a potent radioactive aerosol that is inhaled by friend, foe and civilian alike and persists in the environment
Uranium is highly pyrophoric, and once it catches fire it keeps burning till it's all gone. In that process, a very fine powder is produced, - a mixture of uranium dioxide and uranium trioxide. These particles become aerosols and travel in the air for long distances. If people are around, the particles are inhaled and end up in the lungs.
Some say that the use of DU violates international treaties. Bev Delong, President of Lawyers for Social Responsibility, says that a 1977 protocol to the Geneva Convention prohibits means of warfare that
"If you are going to use depleted uranium in warfare, it's better to drop an atom bomb and kill 30,000 people instantaneously rather than killing them over 20 or 30 years' for many years after battle has ceased. The key to understanding how that happens is to look at what occurs after a DU round is fired.
Armies chose depleted uranium for antitank rounds because uranium's density almost twice that of lead - transmits kinetic energy to an armoured vehicle better than any other substance that has been used. If a tank is hit accurately, the impact, intense fire and spall, (or fragments of the tank's inner lining) flying around inside it, will kill the crew. And DU rounds destroy tanks much more reliably than anything used previously.
But DU is also extremely damaging to those who come into contact with it.
cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment. The bits of armament that are lying around Iraq are still presumably emitting radioactivity; that could be considered long-term, she says. And Kosovo may go the same way.
Sharma says that "NATO is trying to save Kosovars, but if they leave Kosovo filled with depleted uranium, it's not a happy situation. They [would be] poisoning them. If you are going to use depleted uranium in warfare, it's better to drop an atom bomb and kill 30,000 people instantaneously rather than killing them over 20 or 30 years". - Patrick Cain This article was first published in Now magazine.
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 4, July 1999