A 15-Year Murder Spree

“The notion of a ‘humanitarian war’ would have rang in the ears of the drafters of the UN Charter as nothing short of Hitlerian, because it was precisely the justification used by Hitler himself for the invasion of Poland just six years earlier.” —Michael Mandel

Fifteen years ago, NATO was bombing Yugoslavia.  This may be difficult for people to grasp who believe the Noah movie is historical fiction, but: What your government told you about the bombing of Kosovo was false. And it matters.

While Rwanda is the war that many misinformed people wish they could have had (or rather, wish others could have had for them), Yugoslavia is the war they’re glad happened — at least whenever World War II really fails as a model for the new war they’re after — in Syria for instance, or in Ukraine — the latter being, like Yugoslavia, another borderland between east and west that is being taken to pieces.

The peace movement is gathering in Sarajevo this summer. The moment seems fitting to recall how NATO’s breakout war of aggression, its first post-Cold-War war to assert its power, threaten Russia, impose a corporate economy, and demonstrate that a major war can keep all the casualties on one side (apart from self-inflicted helicopter crashes) — how this was put over on us as an act of philanthropy.

The killing hasn’t stopped. NATO keeps expanding its membership and its mission, notably into places like Afghanistan and Libya.  It matters how this got started, because it’s going to be up to us to stop it.

Some of us had not yet been born or were too young or too busy or too Democratic partisan or too caught up still in the notion that mainstream opinion isn’t radically insane.  We didn’t pay attention or we fell for the lies.  Or we didn’t fall for the lies, but we haven’t yet figured out a way to get most people to look at them.

Here’s my recommendation.  There are two books that everyone should read.  They are about the lies we were told about Yugoslavia in the 1990s but are also two of the best books about war, period, regardless of the subtopic.  They are: How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity by Michael Mandel, and Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions by Diana Johnstone.

Johnstone’s book provides the historical background, the context, and analysis of the role of the United States, of Germany, of the mass media, and of various players in Yugoslavia.  Mandel’s book provides the immediate events and a lawyer’s analysis of the crimes committed.  While many ordinary people in the United States and Europe supported or tolerated the war out of good intentions — that is, because they believed the propaganda — the motivations and actions of the U.S. government and NATO turn out to have been as cynical and immoral as usual.

The United States worked for the breakup of Yugoslavia, intentionally prevented negotiated agreements among the parties, and engaged in a massive bombing campaign that killed large numbers of people, injured many more, destroyed civilian infrastructure and hospitals and media outlets, and created a refugee crisis that did not exist until after the bombing had begun.  This was accomplished through lies, fabrications, and exaggerations about atrocities, and then justified anachronistically as a response to violence that it generated.

After the bombing, the U.S. allowed the Bosnian Muslims to agree to a peace plan very similar to the plan that the U.S. had been blocking prior to the bombing spree.  Here’s U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali:

“In its first weeks in office, the Clinton administration has administered a death blow to the Vance-Owen plan that would have given the Serbs 43 percent of the territory of a unified state. In 1995 at Dayton, the administration took pride in an agreement that, after nearly three more years of horror and slaughter, gave the Serbs 49 percent in a state partitioned into two entities.”

These many years later it should matter to us that we were told about fake atrocities that researchers were unable to ever find, any more than anyone could ever find the weapons in Iraq, or the evidence of plans to slaughter civilians in Benghazi, or the evidence of Syrian chemical weapons use.  We’re being told that Russian troops are massing on the border of Ukraine with genocidal intentions. But when people look for those troops they can’t find them. We should be prepared to consider what that might mean.

NATO had to bomb Kosovo 15 years ago to prevent a genocide? Really? Why sabotage negotiations? Why pull out all observers?  Why give five days’ warning? Why then bomb away from the area of the supposed genocide?  Wouldn’t a real rescue operation have sent in ground forces without any warning, while continuing diplomatic efforts?  Wouldn’t a humanitarian effort have avoided killing so many men, women, and children with bombs, while threatening to starve whole populations through sanctions?

Mandel looks very carefully at the legality of this war, considering every defense ever offered for it, and concludes that it violated the U.N. Charter and consisted of murder on a large scale.  Mandel, or perhaps his publisher, chose to begin his book with an analysis of the illegality of the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and to leave Yugoslavia out of the book’s title.  But it is Yugoslavia, not Iraq or Afghanistan, that war proponents will continue pointing to for years to come as a model for future wars — unless we stop them.  This was a war that broke new ground, but did it with far more effective PR than the Bush administration ever bothered with.  This war violated the UN Charter, but also — though Mandel doesn’t mention it — Article I of the U.S. Constitution requiring Congressional approval.

Every war also violates the Kellogg-Briand Pact.  Mandel, all too typically, erases the Pact from consideration even while noting its existence and significance.  “The first count against the Nazis at Nuremberg,” he writes, “was the ‘crime against peace . . . violation of international treaties’ — international treaties just like the Charter of the United Nations.”  That can’t be right.  The U.N. Charter did not yet exist.  Other treaties were not just like it.  Much later in the book, Mandel cites the Kellogg-Briand Pact as the basis for the prosecutions, but he treats the Pact as if it existed then and exists no longer.  He also treats it as if it banned aggressive war, rather than all war.  I hate to quibble, as Mandel’s book is so excellent, including his criticism of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for refusing to recognize the U.N. Charter.  But what they’re doing to make the U.N. Charter a treaty of the past, Mandel himself (and virtually everyone else) does to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, awareness of which would devastate all arguments for “humanitarian wars.”

Of course, proving that every war thus far marketed as humanitarian has actually harmed humanity doesn’t eliminate the theoretical possibility of a humanitarian war.  What erases that is the damage that keeping the institution of war around does to human society and the natural environment.  Even if, in theory, 1 war in 1,000 could be a good one (which I don’t believe for a minute), preparing for wars is going to bring those other 999 along with it.  That is why the time has come to abolish the institution.

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  • If you want to abolish war , abolish the STATE. There has never been a war without it.

    But OH NOES!! That will be anarchy!

    Really , it can’t get any worse can it?

    • cettel

      Re. your “There has never been a war without it.”:

      There has never been a where without it.
      Everywhere has had a government.
      Libertarianism is a crock, sold by the aristocracy, to whomever in the public will buy the garbage and eat it and say “Yum!”
      But a nation with no government? Ha Ha Ha Ha!
      What aristocrats don’t want you to know is that the real difference is between democracy controlled by the public, versus plutocracy controlled by the aristocracy. It’s about how corrupt the government is, not how big or small it is.
      The more corrupt it is, the more the aristocrats control it. And they don’t want you to know that.

      • dave john

        I think ‘noone special’ is calling for an end to nation states rather than governments per se. And it’s a powerful argument, because without the fictions of national boundaries, there would be no national armies, no national security and no so-called national interest. No us and them.

        Governments have evolved from the courts of warlords, kings and emperors and retain the right of absolute power over their territory and ‘citizen/subjects’ and continue to promulgate the notion that a small elite should ‘govern’ the masses?

        We are people of the world rather than citizens of this or that state.
        We don’t need or want to be governed.

        • cettel

          If that’s what he had wanted, he would have been calling for world government, but he didn’t. He said “abolish the STATE.” That’s the standard line from libertarians, and it means means to abolish government. The alternative libertarian phrase is “Reduce the size of government,” which is the phrase from moderate libertarians. The reason that libertarians want to eliminate or else “reduce the size of” government is that they want to eliminate or reduce the size of their taxes — and libertarianism was cooked up in the 1930s by a small group of centi-millionaires and billionaires who hated FDR and had had to abort their coup-attempt in 1934 to replace him with a puppet modeled upon Hitler and Mussolini. They were fascists. They were led by the DuPont brothers.

          • dave john

            Not all of us who see government as a ill are libertarians. Goverment is a historical practice that humans will hopefully move on from like incest and cannibalism.
            Most of today’s pressing problems have been created by nation states. Can you not see a future without them?

          • dave john

            You’ve pointed me towards Altemeyer’s brilliant work on authoritarianism in which he recounts how war games lead to the total destruction of all life on Earth (for which I’m massively grateful) you chart how the Roman Empire created Christianity to dominate the area 2000 odd years ago, you’ve shown how the Nazis set about killing millions of Jewish folk and done other great work exposing the evil ones. Don’t you think the level of power available to those running nation states is too great to be good for humanity and the wider ecosystem?
            Nation states have given us countless wars, MAD, despots, evil empires, etc. Surely any political system that leads to possible ecocide is wrong. Why should we want to be governed?

  • MuseFuse

    “The notion of a ‘humanitarian war’ would have rang in the ears of the drafters of the UN Charter as nothing short of Hitlerian,because it was precisely the justification used by Hitler himself for
    the invasion of Poland just six years earlier.” —Michael Mandel

    They say that the victors write the history and this quote of Michael Mandel is an assessment based on the victors version of World War 2 history.

    I would like start out with a quote from Winston Churchill, who was in the pockets of a group in England known as the Focus Group prior to World War 2. In Churchill’s autobiography following World War 2 he called World War 1&2 the thirty year war for Britain. Churchill stated that it did not matter what government came to power in Germany,Germany was to be smashed.
    Prior to World War 1, Britain was the hegemonic imperialistic power in the world. Briton controlled the seaways and trade. Germany was growing into a viable industrial competitor in the market place. They were making better engineered products at a fairer price than the British. This made the bankers and the industrialists in England uneasy because their hegemony was being challenged and it required action in their minds, which consisted of a plan to stifle this upstart German competition.
    With the implementation of the Federal Reserve Act in 1914, a broke England had a private central bank that it could borrow from. England now had the funds with which to fight a war in Europe and to subdue this German economic machine that was threatening their dominance. All one has to do is to look up the debt that the British government owed to the United States (Federal Reserve Bank) following World War 1.
    The United States got dragged into this war in Europe because of a deal the Zionists made with the British government for Palestine.Chaim Weizmann made a deal that promised he could get his Zionist co-horts in America to work on the Wilson administration for military assistance for Great Britain in their fight with the Germans. The Balfour Declaration was the carefully worded agreement.
    Samuel Untermyer was a prominent attorney from NYC and a Zionist that got a hold of Wilson’s love letters to his neighbor while he was a Professor at Princeton University. Untermyer blackmailed Wilson into appointing the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis.
    The German army agreed to a halt of the fighting, an armistice, with the guarantee that they would not lose any land. The Allies reneged on the agreement and the British maintained a blockade up to six months after the fighting stopped on German ports which led to food shortages and starvation of Germans. The Germans were coerced into signing the Versailles ‘treaty” with the threat of full military occupation of THEIR land if they refused to sign. The Versailles “treaty” was so bad that Wilson refused to be a party to it and did not sign.
    This treaty redrew the borders of central Europe. It took land from Germany and gave it to Poland creating divide between the German city of Danzig and mainland Germany. It created a country called Czechoslovakia. The Czechs and the Slovakians did not want to be forced together into a country and the Sudetenland Germans were discriminated against and abused by the dominated Czech majority.
    In the land that Poland acquired was an ethnic population of Germans with whom the Poles and the Polish government discriminated against and abused. The abuse of Germans in the newly created Czechoslovakia and the new land that Poland acquired from Germany following World War 1 is a well documented fact but not widely known.
    The British bankers and industrialists were intent on eliminating the German competition for good and they were the main pushers of the Versailles “treaty” along with their junior partners the French. This is what Churchill meant by that it did not matter what government came to power in Germany, Germany was to be smashed. British hegemony was to be maintained through this policy of “Balance of Power”, which was in reality an excuse they used for trying to maintain their dominance.

    Hitler and the German government tried to find a peaceful solution to the problems that ethnic Germans faced in the disputed territory in Poland (land that was unjustly taken from Germany and given to Poland after WW1). Hitler appealed to the League of Nations and British for a resolve of the problems the ethnic Germans were facing with a hostile host population in Poland to no avail. Hostile Poles were antagonizing the Germans in the Summer of 1939 with border crossings in the night with acts of sabotage.
    The Poles felt the Germans did not have much of an army after their neutering following WW1 and with the conditions laid out in the Versailles “Treaty”. The Poles were more deceitful and hostile than the politically correct “mainstream” Historians tell.

    Polish Atrocities Against the German Minority in Poland

  • MuseFuse

    The story of Noah IS historical fiction. The story of Noah was borrowed by Hebrew scribes from the Epic of Gilgamesh. Flood stories were told in numerous cultures around the world with similar accounts of flooding. This flooding, however, was not the result of 40 days and 40 nights of rain. That’s a fairy tale in which the Hebrew scribes came up with. The flooding was the result of the glaciers melting at the end of the last ice age some 11-12 thousand years ago.

    The Flood of Noah and the Flood of Gilgamesh

  • dave john

    Thanks David. As you’ve said so brilliantly in this and other pieces, ‘War is always wrong!’
    Please keep exposing the lies and processes that lead to war and the lies told afterwards to justify the murder and destruction.
    Nothing excuses the taking of a single life.
    War is the ultimate evil.