As Slobodan Milosevic fought for his political life in Belgrade, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright condemned him and expressed support for his opposition—while at the same time acting as if the State Department would do everything in its power to help Milosevic survive.
“Kostunica not Clinton administration’s man,” reported UPI’s Martin Sieff on September 25, a day after the Yugoslav presidential election. The former professor is “far from welcome to the Clinton administration”:
Kostunica is not pro-American. He is as virulent a critic of recent U.S. policies as Milosevic himself. And he has said he is determined not to give an inch on the Kosovo issue . . . From the Clinton administration’s point of view, the trouble with Kostunica is precisely that he does appear to . . . express the democratic aspirations of the Serbian people. The only trouble is that they are not the aspirations that the Clinton administration would like them to be.
Sieff’s assessment was supported by a stream of otherwise inexplicable official “leaks” from Washington about the millions of dollars supposedly given by the U.S. government to the opposition in Serbia. The opening shot came on September 19, just five days before the election, in a front-page story in the Washington Post that seemed to reinforce Milosevic’s contention that the opposition was in the pay of the Western powers. The story was swiftly translated into Serbian and carried by the Milosevic-controlled media. Opposition supporters were outraged. As Reuters reported from Belgrade on September 26:
“We do not need their help. Statements like this are not helping the opposition at all, ” said Gordana, a 35-year-old civil engineer. “If they want Milosevic to leave, they should keep quiet,” she said. “They should remember that although the majority of citizens are against Milosevic, we have not forgotten that they bombed us.”
One of the three leading French dailies, Liberation, reported on September 23 that American “confessions” of covert support to the opposition were a boon to Milosevic, who constantly accused his political opponents of being a fifth column:
On that pretext he represses . . . unfriendly media or organizations. All admittedly were flooded [with] European and American money. “Faxes, surveys, polls, plane tickets, photocopiers, seminars abroad, media . . . All that is paid by us, and back-up stations in Hungary,” testifies a former employee to the State Department, who had worked on the assistance to the Balkans . . .
On September 29, as the post-election struggle in Belgrade intensified, American diplomats in Budapest provided the Associated Press with more pro-Milosevic ammunition. As the AP’s George Jahn reported from the Hungarian capital:
The United States funneled $35 million to opponents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in little more than a year as part of efforts to weaken him that culminated in his apparent electoral defeat . . . . U.S. diplomats in the region say much of the American money was spent on computers for human rights groups, transmitters for independent B2-92 radio and other non-governmental radio stations and other basics for student organizations and labor unions, such as fax machines and telephones. The funds even paid for a rock band that played at events to mobilize voters ahead of the Sept. 24 elections . . . More money appears to be on the way. The House of Representatives passed a bill Monday authorizing $60 million for further pro-democracy activities in Serbia.
In fact, that bill—H.R. 1064—was designed to continue the sanctions regardless of whether Milosevic fell from power. Under H.R. 1064, the sanctions are to be kept in place until Milosevic’s successor complies with every demand from Washington, including the delivery of all indicted war criminals to The Hague. The intent of the bill was apparent from the comments made by Sen. Joseph Biden (DDE) when he introduced it:
To be blunt: respect for Dayton and cooperation with The Hague Tribunal must be litmus tests for any democratic government in Serbia. . . . [If] Mr. Kostunica comes to power and thinks that his undeniable and praiseworthy democratic credentials will enable him to pursue an aggressive Serbian nationalist policy with a kinder face, then we must disabuse him of this notion . . . Should our West European allies choose to embrace a post-Milosevic, democratically elected, but ultra-nationalistic Serbia, then I would say to them good luck . . .
When Russian President Vladimir Putin invited both Milosevic and Kostunica to Moscow on October 2, the Associated Press immediately reported the State Department’s demand that Russia turn Milosevic over to The Hague Tribunal upon his arrival in Moscow, quoting State Department spokesman Philip Reeker:
“There’s an indictment that calls for any country to hand him over to The Hague. We expect the indictment to be followed,” he said. Asked how Putin’s offer to mediate could take shape if the moment Milosevic showed up he would face extradition to The Hague, Reeker said: “That’s a question for Putin and Milosevic to discuss. We believe [Milosevic] should be out of power, out of Serbia and in The Hague to face justice. Period.”
Dr. Kostunica responded by accusing the United States of placing the destiny of one man ahead of the fate of an entire nation. Many in the Russian media were even more blunt. “Washington has thereby done Mr. Milosevic one more service: He now has a pretext for not traveling to Moscow,” commented the pro-Western Kommersant on October 4.
Ultimately, the subterfuge didn’t work: The people of Serbia took matters into their own hands and threw Milosevic out. Within days, however, Mrs. Albright, Robin Cook, and other supporters of last year’s NATO bombing started claiming credit for Milosevic’s downfall. But as Simon Jenkins wrote in the Times of London (October 7), it was not the bombing, the sanctions, or the posturing of NATO politicians that got rid of Milosevic; in fact, his fall was impeded by Western intervention:
[O]utsiders such as [British Foreign Secretary] Mr Cook should stop rewriting history to their own gain. They did not topple Mr. Milosevic. They did not bomb democracy into the last Communist dictatorship in Europe. They merely blocked the Danube and sent Serb politics back to the Dark Ages of autocracy. The fall of Mr. Milosevic began with an election that he called and then denied, spurring the electors to demand that the army respect their decision and protect their sovereignty. For that, Yugoslavia’s democracy deserves the credit, not Nato’s Tomahawk missiles.
This assessment was echoed by the BBC’s John Simpson, writing in the Sunday Telegraph on October 8:
The kind of people who made last Thursday’s revolution [were] depressed in equal measure by the careless savagery of the Nato bombing and the sheer nastiness of the Milosevic regime.
While Serbia’s misery has abated, the less fortunate people of Iraq continue to be squeezed between the Western hammer and their ruler’s anvil. We now learn from Scottish sources that their experience of “careless savagery” included the deliberate poisoning of Iraq’s water supplies by the allies during the Gulf War. According to the Sunday Herald (September 17):
The US-led allied forces deliberately destroyed Iraq’s water supply during the Gulf War—flagrantly breaking the Geneva Convention and causing thousands of civilian deaths. Since the war ended in 1991 the allied nations have made sure that any attempts to make contaminated water safe have been thwarted . . . Thomas J. Nagy, Professor of Expert Systems at George Washington University with a doctoral fellowship in public health, told the Sunday Herald: “Those who saw nothing wrong in producing [this plan], those who ordered its production and those who knew about it and have remained silent for ten years would seem to be in violation of Federal Statute and perhaps have even conspired to commit genocide.”
Professor Nagy obtained a detailed seven-page document prepared by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Entitled Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities, it was issued the day after the war started and circulated to all major allied command officers. The document reported that Iraq had gone to great trouble to provide a supply of clean water to its population, but it had to depend on importing specialized equipment and purification chemicals. The report then stated:
Failing to secure supplies will result in a shortage of pure drinking water for much of the population. This could lead to increased incidents, if not epidemics, of disease and certain pure-water dependent industries becoming incapacitated . . . Full degradation of the water treatment system probably will take at least another six months.
According to the Sunday Herald, Iraq’s eight multipurpose dams were repeatedly hit during the Gulf War, smashing the infrastructure for flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation, and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major pumping stations were destroyed, as were 31 municipal water and sewage facilities—20 of them in Baghdad, resulting in sewage pouring into the Tigris. Water-purification plants were incapacitated throughout Iraq. Thousands of civilians died as a result of those attacks. The paper concluded:
Water-borne diseases in Iraq today are both endemic and epidemic. They include typhoid, dysentery, h e p a t i t i s , cholera and polio (which had previously been eradicated), along with a l i t a n y of others . . . Chlorine and essential equipment parts needed to repair and clear the water system have been banned from entering the country under the UN “hold” system.
The Iraqis may derive some comfort from the knowledge that the allied governments are equally secretive regarding the suffering of their own people. The Sunday Times reported on September 3 that “tens of thousands” of British and American soldiers are dying from exposure to radiation from depleted uranium (DU) shells fired during the Gulf War:
The findings will undermine the British and American governments’ claims that Gulf War syndrome does not exist and intensify pressure from veterans on both sides of the Atlantic for compensation . . . Once inside the body, DU causes a slow death from cancers, irreversible kidney damage or wastage from immune deficiency disorders. In the UK more than 400 veterans are estimated to have died from “Gulf War syndrome .”