Intervention in Kosovo
TFF PressInfo 74
Stereotyping and discrimination
Recent Albanian extremist violence against Serbs is reported with 'understanding,' presented as (justifiable) revenge for what Serb police, military and paramilitary units did. But the media which told the story this way, never 'explained' that Serb ethnic cleansing after NATO started bombing could be 'understood' as (justifiable) anger at what THEY saw as the destruction of their entire country commissioned or demanded - as it was - by moderate as well as extremist Kosovo-Albanians.
Everybody knows that humanitarian aid should be based on needs only. But people living in Yugoslavia shall not receive any assistance 'as long as Milosevic is at the helmet.' One wonders whether the international human rights community is on collective holiday? Since the early 1990s, Serb human and minority rights were never cared for to the extent e.g. Croatian, Bosniak and Albanian rights were.
In social science, stereotyping can be defined as 'a one-sided, exaggerated and normally prejudicial view of a group, tribe or class of people, and is usually associated with racism and sexism.' Stereotypes are often resistant to change or correction from countervailing evidence, because they create a sense of social solidarity. Is it so unlikely that the United States and NATO did just a bit of stereotyping to maintain alliance credibility and solidarity?
From the perspective of world democracy it is a huge setback that the United Nations is now an organisation that is invited to 'endorse' NATO action rather than serve as the body that expresses the will of the international community - all of it. Decisions are increasingly debated and made in less transparent forums such as G7, the Contact group, Davos and, who knows - Bilderberg - and crisis management conducted on cellular phones. The G7 in effect wrote UN SC Resolution 1244.
The term 'international community' was part of the propaganda. In fact, it signifies some ten state leaders and foreign ministers, not even all 19 NATO members. IF the international community were truly the actor here, why was the United Nations - with ten times more members than NATO - not the central discussion forum, the central actor, the central negotiator, why is the present mission not established and run by the UN?
Rhetorics only compounded this slide towards authoritarianism: Suddenly, when the West had no need for Milosevic, he was called a dictator, a serial ethnic cleanser etc. and there is now a draft in the US to designate Yugoslavia status as a terrorist state. Repeatedly, phrases were used like: 'The US has stated...' or 'We have made it abundantly clear that...' - meaning that everybody else has to agree. 'Milosevic knows what he has to do, and he knows which number to call if he wants bombs to stop.' 'These conditions must be met before we will even consider stopping the bombing.' The stronger sets the rule of the game, to humiliate.
Conspicuously, virtually all mass graves now found in the Kosovo province are products of atrocities committed AFTER March 24 when NATO started bombing. Contrary to what Western leaders tell us, eager as they are to justify their Balkan bombing blunder, this does not prove that NATO stopped an already ongoing mass expulsion or genocide.
Contrary to what NATO told the world, few today believe that the bombing of Yugoslavia was not a violation of the NATO charter and not an aggression. (Many seem to think that that is OK given the monstrous policies of the Belgrade regime). Few believe that there is more stability in Europe today than before March 24. Few believe that it is right to kill so many innocent civilians and that NATO was not at war. Hard evidence also tell that we were fooled by NATO when its spin doctors presented fantastic military successes stories. Funnily enough, many still cling to the belief that NATO did not release a humanitarian catastrophe but, rather, stopped one.
The international human rights community has been rightfully attentive to the human rights violations against the Kosovo-Albanians and woefully ignorant (with exceptions such as Amnesty International and the British Helsinki Human Rights Group) about the human rights of Serbs everywhere, including Kosovo. Furthermore, it is particularly deplorable that the human rights community, particularly in the United States and other NATO countries, has had no more to say about NATO's flagrant, systematic - and much larger - human rights violations. Throughout the Balkan crisis, we have seen human rights organisations and advocates moving dangerously near to 'political correctness' either by a) speaking about politics and advocating bombing and political measures outside their field of expertise, b) keeping silent about certain groups' human rights that did not fit into the conflict-management of the West, or c) keeping equally silent about the human rights violations of NATO."
In a violent world and a violence-prone time like ours, I do not think that politically correct peace research is peace research. Perhaps, in this case, it was particularly difficult to strive for analytical objectivity because NATO's project was spearheaded by statesmen and ministers who once upon a time were socialists, peace and anti-NATO activists, liberals and social democrats - some still professing to be. In short, from traditions rather critical to militarist policies.
The relevant question remains," ends Oberg, "how we can learn to approach conflicts as complex matters encompassing elements of history, structures, culture and psychology that must be applied specifically to each case. The intellectual and moral challenge remains how to handle conflicts with the least violence possible."
© TFF 1999
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