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Kosovan victims of ethnic cleansing queue for food. Inset: NATO spokesman Jamie Shea fielding

awkward questions from journalists.

same level of crisis as Turkey or other places.

Nevertheless, it was necessary, as the Clinton foreign policy team kept stressing, to preserve the credibility of NATO. Now, when they talk about credibility, they are not talking about the credibility of Denmark or France. The Clinton Administration doesn't care about those countries' credibility. What they care about is the credibility of the United States. Credibility means fear: what they are concerned with is maintaining fear of the global enforcer, namely, the US. And that's much more important than the fate of hundreds of thousands of Kosovars, or whatever other consequences are incurred. So the US and NATO have helped to create a humanitarian catastrophe by knowingly escalating an already serious crisis to catastrophic proportions.

Int : Some people say that unless American soldiers start being shipped home in body bags, there will not be a serious anti-war effort in the US. What is your assessment of that?

NC: I don't agree with that at all. I mean, look at the history. During the 1980s there was overwhelming opposition to US atrocities in Central America. As a matter of fact, opposition was so strong that the Reagan Administration had to back off and resort to using international terrorist networks like the Contras to carry out its policies. And there were no Americans in body bags then. Today there's strong opposition to US support for Indonesian slaughter in East Timor, and there are no American body bags. I f you look at the opposition to the Vietnam War, Americans were of course being killed, but that was by no means the decisive factor. I think that the notion that only dead American soldiers wil l inspire a peace movement - in other words, that people are motivated only by self-interest - is US propaganda. It's intolerable for the propaganda system to concede that people might act on moral instinct, which is in fact what they do.

Int : How do you reconcile that view with the fact that, according to polls at least, the majority of Americans would support an escalation of the war, for example, through the deployment of NATO ground troops?

NC: You have to keep in mind what these people are hearing. The public is getting its marching orders from Washington. And these orders are to disregard all other atrocities, even ones much worse that Kosovo, especially in places where the US is involved. Focus your attention only on this disaster and pretend to yourself that the crisis is all about one evil man who is carrying out genocide. This is what we are being told by our media day and night. It's effective. Most people accept the marching orders. Then they say we've got to do something, like send ground troops.

The Pentagon and the European forces are strongly against it , mainly for technical reasons. I mean, it would be a catastrophe. Sounds easy to send ground troops, but think about it. First of all, it would not be easy to get them in, and would most probably take months to get them ready. It would mean facing a major guerrilla war that would probably level the whole region. That's what happens when you send in ground troops and cause greater catastrophes. I t would simply escalate the atrocities.

Int : What steps do you think people who oppose this war should take now?

NC: There is no question that people of conscience must take action against this. What can we do to end this war? Same thing as always, there's no magical trick. It requires education, explanation, organising, demonstrating, exerting pressure... all things that we know. And this is very hard to do; it's not like flipping on a light switch. It takes work.n This interview was first printed in The Activist peace magazine, in June 1999.


The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 4, July 1999 Excrement Happens For centuries, society has been faced with a problem: what to do with the vast volumes of human waste produced by its population. Treated properly, human excreta can be a natural and beneficial fertiliser. But today, across the industrialised world, we are paying the price for two centuries of a 'get rid of it ' approach to human wastes - and our soil is being poi­soned as a result. By Peter Montague.

Ho w I t Al l Bega n Humans began to lead a settled life, growing crops to supplement hunting and gathering, only about 10,000 years ago. For all time before that, humans "deposited their excreta - urine and faeces on the ground, here and there, in the manner of all other land creatures."1 The soil and its communities (including plants, small animals and micro-organisms) captured almost all of the nutrients in animal excrement and recycled them into new components for soil. In this way, the nutrients were endlessly recycled within the soil ecosystem and largely kept out of surface water.

As a result, what we call 'pure water' is low in nutrients, particularly the major nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus. Because these conditions have existed for a very long time, life in lakes, rivers and oceans is accustomed to the relative absence of these nutrients. Over the past couple of billion years, life has flourished in this low-nutrient environment, growing complex and interdependent in the process - an aquatic condition we call 'clean' and 'healthy'.

When a body of water is suddenly inundated with nutrients especially nitrogen and phosphorus - things change drastically. One or a few organisms flourish and begin to crowd out the others. We can all recall seeing a body of water that is pea-soup green from overgrowth of algae. Such a water body is clearly sick, choked, its diversity vastly diminished.

Today, much of the surface water of the planet is in a state of il l health because of misplaced nutrients. And a main contributing culprit is misplaced human excreta.

Eas t an d West : Conflictin g View s o n Sewag e Managemen t Long ago, human civilisations split into two camps regarding the management of excreta. Many Asian societies recognised the nutrient value of 'night soil' (as i t became known). For several thousand years, and up until very recently, Asian agriculture flourished by recycling human wastes into croplands.

The opposing camp, particularly in Europe, had ambiguous feelings about human waste - was i t valuable fertiliser or was it a nasty and embarrassing problem to get rid of?

In Europe, a pattern evolved: the first stage was urinating and defecating on the ground near dwellings. As population density increased, this became intolerable and the community pit evolved. For privacy, this evolved into the pit privy or 'outhouse' - a structure for privacy atop a hole in the ground. Despite what many people may think, the pit privy is not environmentally sound - i t deprives the soil of the nutrients in excrement, and by concentrating wastes it promotes pollution of groundwater by those same nutrients.

Before the advent of piped water in the late 18th century, Euro-

Algal blooms in the oceans are often a result of sewage pollution.

pean towns stored excreta in cesspools (lined pits with some drainage of liquids) or in vault privies (tight tanks without any drainage). The 'night soil' was removed by 'scavengers' and was either taken to farms, or dumped into pits in the ground or into rivers. In general, Europeans never developed a clear and consistent perception of the nutrient value of excrement, as Asians had done.

In ancient Rome, the wealthy elite had indoor toilets and running water to remove excrement via sewers. Later, European cities developed crude sewer systems - usually open gutters but sometimes covered trenches along the centre or sides of streets - though

The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 4, July 1999