The blistering invective of Slobodan Milosevic’s opening statement to the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague, was beamed triumphantly around the globe. Between the lines of his sensational lambasting of the NATO bombardment of his country, lurks a powerful indictment of current international jurisprudence and NATO’s geopolitical designs in the Balkans (and ultimately globally).
This feisty former president stands accused of crimes against humanity in Croatia (1991) and Kosovo (1998-99), and of genocide in Bosnia (1992-95), which resulted in 150,000 deaths, 3 million people displaced and tens of thousands tortured and raped in an orgy of “medieval savagery”. With a background of legal studies at the University of Belgrade, he is conducting his own defense rather courageous (or foolhardy) considering that he faces life imprisonment if convicted on any one of 66 counts. He claims defiantly that the basis and process of the tribunal is illegitimate; that he is on the receiving end of “victor’s justice”; and that he will be acquitted by the “jury of world public opinion”. The Hague tribunal, which is the forerunner of the UN’s long overdue International Criminal Court, will be at pains to prove its legitimacy while it is destined to languish in the shadow of the towering jurisprudence of the Nuremberg tribunal.
Milosevic’s passionate tirade against the 78-day NATO bombing campaign was augmented with large numbers of gruesome photographs of charred and mutilated bodies, alleging that “the aim of the aggression was obviously to break the whole nation – to throw Serbia back to the stone age” and accusing NATO of genocide. He enumerated a litany of atrocities to support his contention, including the bombing of residential areas, medical and other essential facilities, etc. He added rather significantly that the goal was “destroying the country and ensuring a new colonialism”.
Without articulating it directly, one gets the sense that he is equating the NATO agenda with the US goal of “full-spectrum dominance” in the economic, military and political spheres; and more specifically, corporate-driven globalisation. NATO’s ostensible “humanitarian concerns” in the Balkans and the rest of the Third World is now being seen for what it truly is: a load of pathetic hogwash. Even the San Francisco Chronicle was forced to admit that “the answer likely has little to do with ‘stopping the killing’ and much to do with the expansion of NATO and its post-Cold War global role” (24 March, 1999). It was merely a pretext for enforcing this triple dominance. Let us explore this thesis further: Karen Talbot’s brilliantly incisive analysis is instructional.
NATO’s justification for launching the bombardment was Milosevic’s refusal to sign the Rambouillet ‘peace agreement’. The extremely short time allowed for the negotiation of complex issues, the ultimatum for Yugoslavia to sign away its sovereignty, and the added demand that NATO troops be deployed in the province, ensured that Milosevic would be unable to comply the trigger for the commencement of the onslaught. The cynical hand of the military-corporate complex is patently obvious in the naked militarism. When the venerable New York Times says quite brazenly that “for globalism to work, America can’t be afraid to act like the almighty superpower that it is The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist” (28 March, 1999), the true agenda is thrown into stark relief. The elimination of national sovereignty would then allow transnational corporations (TNCs) “unimpeded access to acquire investments, cheap labour and consumers,” and to assail human rights and the environment with impunity.
Even a cursory analysis of wars waged by major powers or alliances on Third World states over the past decades will show that these were perpetrated on behalf of TNCs, which usually realized astronomical profits. William Cohen, the Defense Secretary said quite blatantly at Microsoft Corporation in Seattle that “the prosperity that companies like Microsoft now enjoy could not occur without having the strong military that we have.” In Yugoslavia the effect of the NATO bombardment was to swell the “already bloated US military budget” by a further $20 billion (to $288b as opposed to $245b for total domestic spending), and to rake in billions of dollars for the military-industrial TNCs, at the expense of the unsuspecting American tax-payer. The top three weapons manufacturers-Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon-“now receive among themselves over $30 billion per year in Pentagon contracts [and] are actively engaged in shaping U.S. foreign and military policies.”
An added bonus is that the battles also serve as free advertising for the military corporates just think of the effect engendered by CNN’s exhaustive coverage of the pin-point accuracy of the satellite-guided ‘smart bombs’! Raytheon spokesperson, David Shea, enthused: “We are expecting the Kosovo conflict to result in new orders downstream.” The spectacular rise in the share prices of the major military-industrial TNCs bears testimony to this fact; and so does the spate of mergers and acquisitions.
The military intervention was preceded by a softening-up phase which included economic and political destabilization. Since the 1980s, shortly before the death of Marshal Tito, structural adjustment regimes have been imposed by the IMF and World Bank, with the resultant “disintegration of the industrial sector and the piecemeal dismantling of the Yugoslav welfare state . with all its predictable social consequences” (Michel Chossudovsky). The reforms included currency devaluation, wage freezes, cuts in government social spending and the elimination of socially-owned worker-managed companies. The austerity measures led to widespread strikes and social turmoil.
When Milosevic started rejecting these regimes, the New York Times asserted that “there has been little improvement in the Serbian economy, largely because of the determination of Mr Milosevic, a former Communist, to keep state controls and his refusal to allow privatization” (18 July, 1996). The US Congress was outraged and responded by cutting off all aid and loans, and imposing harsh economic sanctions, which caused further damage to the economy, thereby “laying the groundwork for the break-up of Yugoslavia.”
As happened in Germany in the early 1930s, the socio-economic devastation was a fertile breeding-ground for the rise of far-right and nationalist elements which then fueled the ethnic strife. The hypocrisy of the West’s ‘humanitarian concerns’ about the ethnic cleansing perpetrated against the Kosovo-Albanians is clearly visible when viewed from this angle. The final nail in that hypocritical coffin is the fact that no such concern was accorded to the hundreds of thousands of Serbs expelled from Croatia and the thousands who died in 1995, nor to the flood of refugees from the KLA’s drive for an ethnically pure Kosovo, while NATO troops stood by and took no steps to prevent it.
One of the major draw-cards for the TNCs has been the abundant natural resources of the Balkans, Kosovo possessing the richest mineral resources in Europe, including gold, silver, lead, zinc and cadmium. Serbia also has large deposits of minerals and oil. The New York Times again salivated nauseatingly that: “the sprawling state-owned Trepca mining complex [in Kosovo], the most valuable piece of real estate in the Balkans, is worth at least $5 billion . A number of unofficial partition plans have been drawn up for Kosovo all raising the question of who would control an important northern mining region.”
The corporations were ecstatic about the “allure of enterprises to be privatized at bargain prices, and the anticipation of exploiting very cheap highly skilled labour potentially available to work in sweatshop conditions.” The despicable Rambouillet ‘agreement’ called for privatization of the entire economy, allowing TNCs to easily plunder the large state-owned industries in Kosovo. Because of Yugoslavia’s strong socialist economy, 65% of all firms were state-owned or cooperatives providing rich pickings for the Western corporations when these were forcibly privatized.
Another cynical aspect of the NATO assault is the “lucrative business of destroying and rebuilding.” American tax-payers again had to foot the bill for reconstructing the shattered infrastructure, while these public funds were diverted ingeniously into the profit columns of the construction TNCs.
But the final common denominator always appears to be OIL. Another major cause for the conflict is the fact that “the Balkans are strategic for the transshipment of oil and gas to Europe and beyond.” There are many pipelines in the eh . pipeline, including: Romania to Trieste on the Adriatic coast; Bourgas on the Black Sea to Vlore on the Adriatic; and from Russia to Central Europe through Serbia. The oil TNCs have been frantically lobbying and bribing their respective governments for favourable outcomes in this arena which assures gargantuan profits.
Now if Milosevic has the presence of mind to flesh out these and other crucial geopolitical issues in his inimitable manner, he could conceivably place NATO and the global corporations in the dock; expose the alleged allegiances of the tribunal; and strike a powerful blow for elevated international jurisprudence.
The world watches with bated breath!