When I contacted Norma Brown about her writing an opinion on this administrations plans to attack Syria in response to Syria’s apparent use of chemical weapons in their civil war (posted here yesterday), I sent her a link to the New York Times article, Air War In Kosovo Seen as Precedent in Possible Response to Syria Chemical Attack. I knew from some of her first posts at Ooobie on Everything that she had been in Kosovo in her capacity as a then US Foreign Service Officer and that she had strong opinions about NATO’s interdiction there. I was interested in what she would have to say about Kosovo being used as a precedent for sojourn into the Syrian conflict. So, let’s see what Norma Brown has to say on the subject.
Kosovo and Syria: Two Convenient Lies
By Norma Brown
I just read a NYT article on how apt the use of the Kosovo precedent would be as a justification for the bombing of Syria. Here is what the author wrote:
Kosovo is an obvious precedent for Mr. Obama because, as in Syria, civilians were killed and Russia had longstanding ties to the government authorities accused of the abuses. In 1999, President Bill Clinton used the endorsement of NATO and the rationale of protecting a vulnerable population to justify 78 days of airstrikes.
That is probably as simplistic and yet useful an explanation of what Kosovo was ostensibly about as you can find. The Western establishment despised Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for his defiance and his role in the bloodshed that ravaged Bosnia as Yugoslavia broke apart. Even more importantly, Milosevic, unlike his unindicted co-conspirator Franjo Tudjman, had no Big Power protection. The leaders of key Western nations wanted him out of power despite the peace agreement that left both the Croat and Serb presidents in power and not cooling their heels in a posh cell at the International Court. And Serbia was vulnerable. It had been long ostracized and punished for its role in the war by the denial of significant aid and too little humanitarian assistance. In that case, NATO was working on a war plan long before Bill Clinton’s personal immersion in scandal made bombing Serbia seem like a good idea.
Kosovo was the first clear case where NATO acted as an aggressor against a sovereign nation not at war with any other country using human rights as a rationale. NATO had deployed throughout Kosovo under cover of the observer missions and still could not provide a reason for NATO to act. The Serbs knew that was what NATO wanted and were anxious not to give them an excuse. Of course it was impossible to control: the Kosovar Albanians would attack Serbs — military, official or civilian – and the Serbs would strike back. Both sides committed violations of human rights. But that was an inconvenient truth for NATO, which wanted a convenient excuse, whether truth or a lie. And it got one at last with the discovery of about a dozen dead civilians in an isolated Kosovar Albanian village. The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, US Ambassador William Walker, pronounced the case a massacre and identified the culprits, the Serbs. All that despite the fact that there were neither eyewitnesses nor any investigation into what happened. The real culprit was at least as likely to have been Albanian guerrillas as Serbs, but no matter. With this flimsy bit of evidence against Serbia, NATO decided the country had no right to sovereignty and NATO had full right to begin nearly three months of 24-hour bombing runs with the usual collateral damage (including the Chinese Embassy). The rationale was a right to act for humanitarian reasons, one of the expanded powers NATO assumed after the Warsaw Pact ended and Russia sank to its knees. We cared enough about those poor civilians in Kosovo to bomb Serbia, but not enough to prepare a humanitarian reception for them when they fled under NATO bombs. You can decide for yourself how moved we were by humanitarian need.
The trigger point in Syria is the use of chemical weapons. We know that because the bonehead with his dirty shoes on the furniture in the Oval Office warned the whole world that this was a big, fat red line. There have been several other incidents of cw use in Syria, but no evidence of either what was used or who used it. Doesn’t matter. The US neo-interventionists are thirsting to start another righteous war against the uncivilized and the unconquered, rub a little horse-manure in Russia and Iran’s faces, and plant the increasingly sullied and tattered US flag in all sorts of places where our nation is despised.
And that brings me to the part about Russia’s interests being a reason for the US to act by force. My only response to this is, what a surprise. The US has never broken out of the Cold War mindset and the unimaginative and boringly predictable interventionist lobby needs a Big Foe to get Americans worked up. But here is a news break: Russia aka USSR had strong influence in the Middle East prior to its Time of Troubles; they hand-crafted the groups that acted as role models for today’s Al Qaeda and created pivotal leaders like Arafat. Those roots didn’t die just because Russia was temporarily out of commission. Today Russia is seeking to renew ties in the region and strengthen those with its steadfast allies. This is what responsible governments do. They seek allies. Why is it so outrageous if Russia does so as well? And why on earth should it be a foundational precept for constant war? Will we start bombing every country where Russia is active?
As an aside, and perhaps an example of the high-handedness that now characterizes our foreign policy, I remind my readers that the USG rejected Russia’s use of the “Kosovo Precedent” with relation to its set-to with Georgia and asserted that Kosovo was a unique case and could not serve as any kind of a precedent. I guess they have had a change of heart.
I said before and repeat: all of this war-mongering on the part of our government is a mockery of international relations and it all started under Bill Clinton. Who gave a handful of nations the right to pick and choose the victims of our great technological savagery? Who gave us, the USA, the right to decide who was a good leader and who a poor or evil one, or who can carry out fifty kinds of mischief and corruption without punishment from NATO and who has to be killed or humiliated or removed? When did international law go by the side of the road – was it about the same time that the US Constitution did so, too?
The US sense of moral superiority has become its downfall. Now we cannot turn around without spying in someone else’s country behavior we don’t approve of. So we squander our moral standing (now entirely gone) and our treasure and even the lives of our children. And all the time, the USG has itself become increasingly despotic and oppressive and deserving of forced removal. We are like object lessons in self-deception and corruption. All that matters to us anymore is that people around the world jump when we say jump. Our only goal anymore is power, getting more and keeping it all. What a tragedy we are.
I never thought the US would replace Russia as the ugly arrogant ideologue contemptuous of other peoples’ rights. But here we are. At home individual rights and religious rights and all kinds of other rights are under simultaneous attack; and abroad we attack the rights of other countries to settle their own problems. Then we’ll try to stuff our own culture down the throats of the conquered, and expect statues erected to our heroic actions. And when we have a Benghazi or Christians under extreme attack in Egypt or a 9/11 – our government will be profoundly saddened and shocked.
I don’t know what folly our government is planning in Syria, but one thing is for sure: it won’t be to our credit and it won’t be to our advantage. The hounds of war are loose and at the world’s throat.