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A New World Order
Guest Article By Rebecca Sumner
As the events in Kosovo unfolded, few questioned the imperative for war.
But the obscurities of the Rambouillet negotiations reveal a hidden agenda;
one that has paved the way for Nato's unaccountable abuse of power in the
future. Rebecca Sumner uncovers what we were never told.
There was Nato, an overtly American-led and militaristic organisation,
engaging in a war from which it apparently stood to gain very little. We
might object to the propaganda and deplore the civilian killings, but few
of us questioned the fundamental imperative for war. Wrong-footed, we stood
about bemused, reluctantly agreeing with Glenys Kinnock when she argued
that here, at last, was a justifiable Western intervention.
Milosevic had killed 2000 civilians in the year leading to Nato's bombings.
We were bombarded with pictures of dying Kosovar Albanians. The enemy was
demonised in the most emotive terms, playing on our cultural devastation
from World War II. Indeed, Blair claimed the Nazi holocaust as his
motivation (Newsweek) and Clare Short denounced the Labour MPs who
requested a parliamentary vote as "equivalent to the people who appeased
We were the forces of light. Our motive; humanitarianism. Yet the
humanitarian argument is famously flawed; the very governments using it
supported the single greatest case of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia in the
1990s - in Krajina, 1995. America and Britain - who spearheaded the Kosovo
campaign - perform atrocities globally, aiding the persecution and killing
of Kurdish, East Timorese, Columbian and Iraqi people - and a host of others.
Nevertheless, we were at last on The Right Side, protecting the rights and
lives of the innocent. Well, some of them. According to the Yugoslav
Provisional Assessment of Destruction and Damages (unpublished in Britain),
Nato's bombing killed several thousand civilians; "Nearly eight hundred
thousand civilians were forced to flee Millions have been exposed to
poisonous gasses Almost 2.5 million citizens have no means to sustain
minimal living conditions." Destroyed infrastructure - including 480
educational establishments, 365 religious centres and 34 hospitals - forms
a depressingly extensive list.
As the campaign rolled out, it increasingly appeared to be a tragic parody
of humanitarianism. Jamie Shea's assertion that actions were efficiently
directed against military hardware was absurd. After we were told that
two-thirds of Serbia's MiG-29s and 40% of its tanks had been destroyed,
media coverage showed three-quarters of the MiG-29s and 95% of the tanks
intact. As the truth about civilian casualties emerged (three to four times
more civilians than soldiers were killed), Alistair Campbell lashed out at
the media for reporting them. We entered the realm of Orwellian
doublespeak, brilliantly captured by Jeremy Hardy; "Some say that the
humanitarian disaster caused by Nato's humanitarian intervention can only
be resolved by all-out ground humanitarianism." (The Guardian)
But war is bloody. Kosovar Albanians were being murdered. We had to do
something. Ludicrous logic aside (if the aim is to save lives, surely not
escalating the violence is preferable to escalating the violence), there is
no realistic basis for the assumption that intervention will reconcile
these ethnic groups. If the lessons of Bosnia are noted, it will do just
the opposite. Indeed, the present levels of violence in Kosovo reveal
reconciliation as untenable - at least for a generation or two.
The most disturbing flaw in the humanitarian argument is this; the powerful
define 'humanitarian' to suit their needs. Thus America simultaneously
supports the killing of Turkish Kurds and independence for Iraqi Kurds. And
thus, troops rush to protect Albanian Kosovars while the UN peace-keeping
forces protecting Rwandan Tutsis (over half a million of whom were being
murdered) were stepped down - at the insistence of the US.
If a country is powerful, its legitimacy to enforce 'humanitarianism' rests
not on its previous record but on its rhetoric. Whilst no amount of pretty
speaking could save Iran from ridicule when it offered to prevent massacres
in Bosnia, America - aided by a handful of spin doctors and a steady stream
of graphic pictures - led Nato to intervene in a 600 year-old civil war in
Kosovo, with absolutely no mandate.
Humanitarianism is the card up the sleeve of post-Vietnam Western
governments; it is not a genuine motivation for war.
A more plausible motive was containment; until refugees looked set to
destabilise the region, Nato seemed uninterested. Regional turbulence
however, was unlikely to cause quite as much disruption as did Nato's
containment effort, which seriously aggravated the Russians and Chinese and
looked for a while likely to spark World War III.
A cynic might add economic motivations. War forced the Nato states to
massively increase their arms expenditure as well as underlining the need
for long-term military spending. And then, as US Secretary of State
Albright said, "What good is this marvellous military force if we can never
These imperatives themselves are nothing new - despite the
smoother-than-ever marketing that accompanied the bombing (we are consumers
of war - just ask The Sun). The real precedent that has been set is more
According to international law - and Nato's founding documents - Nato must
be subordinate to the UN and comply with international law. In Kosovo
however, the Alliance waged war without declaring war (illegal), used
cluster bombs (outlawed for exceptional inhumanity) and repeatedly refused
to subordinate their actions to the UN.
Other aspects of international law are more problematical. On the one hand,
the rights of individuals against oppressive states are guaranteed (lending
the claim of 'humanitarian bombing' tenuous legitimacy). On the other, the
use of force - unless it is in self-defence or authorised by the Security
Council after it has determined that peaceful means have failed - is
Nato was obviously acting neither on humanitarian grounds nor in
self-defence. But peaceful means - hadn't they failed? We all heard that
the Rambouillet negotiations collapsed after Serbia refused to co-operate.
The full text of the Rambouillet Accord was unknown until it was published
on the Internet a few weeks into the war. The Contact Group (who led the
talks) had agreed to remain silent. When it was finally brought to the
attention of two of the most senior officials in the German foreign
ministry, they were "completely surprised"; the text was "completely new"
Yugoslavia's participation was conditional; it was assured that military
measures would only be discussed after Kosovan autonomy had been signed
off. Accordingly, the Rambouillet document avoided military references. "We
have accepted the text," said Serb President Milan Milutinovic "and are
ready to grant broad autonomy to Kosovo."
On the last day of initial negotiations, the final draft was presented with
a new appendix. Appendix B demanded that Yugoslavia relinquish its
sovereignty, subjecting the whole country (including Montenegro and Serbia)
to Nato occupation:
"Nato personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels,
aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access
throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia including associated airspace
and territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the
right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or
Nato also demanded unconditional immunity from any criminal and
disciplinary action, use of all streets, airports and ports and
broadcasting rights across the whole electro-magnetic spectrum.
This incredible appendix went unreported - to the public and politicians
alike. The US State Department's fact sheet (Understanding the Rambouillet
Accords) and The Foreign Office's message to diplomats summarising the
Accord both omitted any mention of it.
On February 23, the co-Chairmen of the talks (Robin Cook and his French
counterpart, Hubert Vedrine) released a statement saying the accord
"respect[ed] the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." The negotiations, they said, had launched
a process "bringing together those long divided". In fact, the Serb
delegation had repeatedly been refused the opportunity to be 'brought
together' with the Kosovar Albanians; the delegations did not once meet,
despite Serbian requests to do so.
One might reasonably argue that delaying the military issue would have
played into the hands of the Serbs, who could later refuse an international
presence. Here lies the crux of the matter; the Serbs were willing to have
an international presence - as long as it was not Nato. A UN force was
approved. To peacefully secure Kosovo's autonomy, the West only had to
offer UN rather than Nato forces.
On 24 February, Cook was interviewed by Radio 4. "We put very strong
pressure on the Serb side to recognise that it had to have an international
military presence... We want it to have a Nato command structure."
These extraordinary circumstances suggest the 'peaceful negotiations' were
designed to provide a pretext for war. In fact, the groundwork had been
laid months before. In August 1998, the US Senate Republican Policy
Committee commented; "Planning for a US-led Nato intervention in Kosovo is
now largely in place. The only missing element seems to be an event - with
suitably vivid media coverage - that could make the intervention
politically saleable That Clinton is waiting for a 'trigger' in Kosovo is
The delegations agreed to meet again on 15 March. On 5 March, Cook and
Vedrine "emphasise[d] that an invited international military force is an
integral part of the package Those who put obstacles in the way will be
Yugoslavia faced a harsh choice; to either relinquish its sovereignty or
reject the entire Accord.
On March 17, the Yugoslav Deputy Premier Markovic stated; "The Serbian
Government delegation has not received any answer to the question - why the
draft can no longer be amended The talks have been conducted in a manner
contrary to any normal method of negotiation."
The Serbs refused to sign up. Surprisingly, the Kosovar Albanians also
refused, later signing on March 18. Cook and Vedrine released another
statement; "In Paris, the Kosovo delegation seized [the] opportunity... Far
from seizing this opportunity, the Yugoslav delegation has tried to unravel
the Rambouillet Accords." Nato had its justification.
Milosevic sent this response; "We stay with our strong opinion to solve the
problems in Kosovo... The fact that negotiations did not take place in
Rambouillet and in Paris does not mean that we should give up."
On 24 March, the Yugoslav parliament proposed a UN monitor in Kosovo and
Nato began bombing.
If the Rambouillet Accords were orchestrated to justify a war, and if the
motive was not humanitarian, what was Nato's objective? Looking back at the
facts, a picture emerges:
1. Nato went to great lengths to prepare the war
2. Nato broke international law on several counts
3. For the first time, Nato acted beyond its jurisdiction (its member states)
4. Nato refused to subordinate itself to the UN
A quick survey of global events and opinion elucidates this picture:
The US refused France's call for a UN Security Council resolution to
authorise the deployment of peace-keepers, insisting "Nato should be able
to act independently of the United Nations". German plans for handing
control to the UN were given similarly short shrift.
On May 15, UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, spoke out against Nato, saying
that the use of force "must be under the authority of the United Nations".
The conference was not reported.
Marco Boni, South African foreign affairs spokesman, said; ''The erosion of
the UN Charter and the authority of the UN Security Council cannot be
tolerated." Former American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger commented
that sending Nato forces constituted an "exceeding of the Nato authority
and of the international law without precedent."
In this light, it would not be ludicrous to question whether Nato's
aggression was really aimed at Yugoslavia, or at international law and the
UN. At every possible instance, the Alliance undermined the UN, which - to
some degree - checks US powers. By obfuscating the Rambouillet
negotiations, Nato forced the hand of international bodies, promoting its
own powers from being defensive of its members to being aggressive and
Once the Cold War - and Nato's raison d'etre - was over, the Alliance set
about creating a new role for itself. A few years later, Nato has acted
beyond the remit of its own member states, international law and its
founding documents, waging war on a sovereign country without any mandate.
Since the end of the Cold War, Nato has - at US urging - been expanded.
The timing corresponds perfectly with Nato's announcement of its 'New
Security Agenda'. On March 9 2000, Dr. Javier Solana, Nato's Secretary
General, spoke in London (GB); "The old security agenda, over Nato's first 40
years, was based on a relatively simple strategic imperative: territorial
defence. It was a passive, reactive agenda, imposed by the dictates of the
Cold War. We are now, thankfully, rid of this straitjacket And with this
change, we can shape the security agenda, not be driven by it. We can lift
our sights higher. Today, Nato is setting the security agenda in ways we
could only dream of a decade ago."
Effectively, Nato has - in our names - conducted a war against
international law on Serbian soil. The victory has not been 'peace' in
Kosovo; the intervention has killed thousands, escalated violence and
exacerbated a situation that is likely to take generations to resolve.
Rather, Nato's victory has been the brilliantly orchestrated precedent that
has been set. The UN has been humiliated and sidelined and Nato is
acknowledged as the world's greatest power. The facts beg a terrifying
question: To whom now, is Nato accountable?
By Rebecca Sumner, Freelance Journalist