Speech by Brian Becker, Co-Coordinator of the Commission of Inquiry, at the July 31, 1999 New York City Independent Commission of Inquiry Hearing to Investigate U.S./NATO War Crimes Against the People of Yugoslavia.


We would like to open the closing plenary session of the Independent Commission of Inquiry to Investigate U.S./NATO War Crimes Against the People of Yugoslavia. We will hear in this session from Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general, who will present a 19-count indictment of President Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and other high officials in the U.S. government and military and NATO officials for Crimes Against Peace, War Crimes, and Crimes Against Humanity.

The United States government leaders speak so piously about human rights in countries that they have decided to attack. This is part of war propaganda, but it is also designed to divert attention from their own history.

We all learn in school and the government leaders tell us and it’s repeated in the media that the United States became a rich and powerful country because of the so-called "magic of the free market." Because of the purported virtues of capitalism. Or sometimes they tell us it’s because of their love for democracy, or "the rule of law." These supposed virtues are supposed to have lead to such a spontaneous and creative outpouring of human energy that it made the United States a wealthy and powerful country.

But what is the truth? For more than three centuries U.S. capitalism grew largely from the accumulation of wealth from slave labor. Millions and millions of African people worked as slaves, as human chattel, and it was their unpaid labor that led to a vast accumulation of capital and wealth. Was this slavery legal according to U.S. law? Yes it was. But do we consider it any less of a crime against humanity? Of course not. In the United States slavery was legal, but the system of slavery was a criminal affront to humanity.

The rulers in the United States speak in the name of legality and about the rights of national minorities. But they neglect to mention that the wealth of this country was also derived from the theft and the genocidal ethnic cleansing of millions of Native Indian people. They neglect to mention that these Indian people were deliberately massacred throughout the continent of North America and that the few survivors were forced into reservations, deprived of their language, and of their culture. It was the theft of their rich, bountiful land that made the corporate establishment of the United States very rich indeed. How dare these same forces lecture the people of Yugoslavia and denounce the government in Yugoslavia and Serbia for failing to uphold the national minority rights of Albanian people in Kosovo.

The United States and NATO launched this war against the Yugoslav people in 1999 for about the same reason they invade Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Phillipines in 1898-99. They want to turn Central and Eastern Europe into a haven for a new kind of colonial domination. They don’t care about the lives of working people in Yugoslavia any more than they did about the rights of workers and farmers in Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the Philippines. Colonialism, the negation of soveriegnty and independence must be considered by history to be one of the great crimes against humanity.

And look what’s happening today in Kosovo under U.S./NATO occupation.

Who should be held responsible for the cascading violence sweeping through Kosovo?

The reign of fascist terror in Kosovo against Serbs, Roma people and pro-Yugoslav ethnic Albanians is now in full swing. As reports of murder, beatings and house burnings have finally filtered into the Western media, local refugee officials in Kosovo report that over 80,000 people have fled in the last three weeks.

Yugoslav officials estimate that another 70,000 Serbs had fled Kosovo during the 78 days of NATO bombing.

Until the U.S./NATO occupation forces entered Kosovo on June 8, the village of Belo Polje was an entirely Serb town. Today it lies in smoldering ruins. Soldiers wearing the uniform of the Kosovo Liberation Army murdered Serb civilians, and then looted and torched the whole village, according to June 28 dispatches from a San Francisco Chronicle reporter at the scene in Belo Polje.

NATO soldiers did nothing to stop the mayhem, the Chronicle reported.

It is the KLA that initiated the insurgency to separate Kosovo from Yugoslavia. Their history of fascist terror is well substantiated. Even the New York Times carried a long piece by Chris Hedges on June 25 documenting the KLA’s murderous role.

But State Department spokesperson James Rubin blandly responded, "We simply don’t have the information to substantiate that there was a KLA-leadership directed program of assassinations and executions."

U.S./NATO responsible for massacres

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of people made refugees during the NATO bombing campaign, thousands more people of all nationalities were killed.

How many did the United States lose in combat? None.

By all objective historical standards this would qualify as one of the great massacres in the modern epoch.

These warplanes dropped more than 23,000 missiles and bombs on a country of 11 million people. U.S. military planners selected all but one of the bombing targets. The U.S. said it would keep bombing until the Yugoslav government allowed thousands of NATO troops to occupy Kosovo.

Now the Yugoslav government has relented. The maintenance of "law and order" has fallen to the U.S./NATO occupiers. It is they who are fully responsible for the reign of terror and murder being directed against the minority Serb and Roma populations and the pro-Yugoslav ethnic Albanians being killed by the KLA for "collaborating" with the Yugoslav government.

In fact, it was the same constellation of forces—pro-Yugoslav Serbs, Roma, Albanian, Croatian and Slovenian people—who constituted the anti-fascist Partisan movement that defeated Hitler’s massive invasion 50 years ago.

U.S. seeks overthrow of President Milosevic

There is a political and strategic motive behind U.S. and NATO support for the KLA terror campaign.

Clinton and the other NATO leaders are hoping that a huge influx of Kosovan Serb refugees into Serbia will help destabilize the Yugoslav government of Slobodan Milosevic.

The U.S. hopes that the anger of the Serb refugees from Kosovo will be deflected from NATO to President Milosevic for his signing of the agreement that NATO forced on him.

This strategy involves a most insidious calculation. The CIA hopes to manipulate the most direct victims of the NATO bombing campaign into an anti-Milosevic political opposition movement orchestrated by the same Western governments that bombed them in the first place.

The top priority for Clinton and the other imperialist leaders is to engineer his overthrow. They have authorized CIA operations to carry out this destabilization campaign while telling the people of Yugoslavia they "will not get one red cent" to rebuild their devastated country until they topple the government.

In fact, war-torn Yugoslavia will be the victim of economic sanctions.

The massive bombing of Yugoslavia’s factories, bridges, communications systems and electrical grid is a specific military tactic designed to enhance the destructive impact of post-war economic sanctions.

This is precisely the strategy that U.S. military planners carried out against Iraq. Nine years later more than 1.7 million Iraqi civilians have perished from hunger and malnutrition-related diseases.

Why is the U.S. corporate establishment and CIA hellbent on overthrowing the Milosevic government?

President Bill Clinton said that the U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was in response to the refusal of Yugoslavia to sign the Rambouillet "peace agreement." That agreement stipulated that "The economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free-market principles [and] ... there shall be no impediments to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital to and from Kosovo."

That’s technical treaty language. But Bill Clinton put it into popular terms when he explained the U.S. aims with the war: "If we are going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be the key; that’s what this Kosovo thing is all about ... its globalism versus tribalism."

Milosevic and the Yugoslav government had put definite impediments on the free movement of capital in Kosovo and in all the other parts of Yugoslavia as well. It is the unfettered flow of capital and investment that Clinton refers to when he talks about "globalism." Although the socialist publicly-owned sector of the economy has been damaged over time from decentralization and economic sanctions, public ownership still exists in thousands of factories and enterprises in Yugoslavia.

While Clinton has to put Corporate America’s agenda in the Balkans in popular terms, New York Times writer Thomas Friedman is able to put Wall Street’s brutal class interests in the war in blunter language.

"For globalization 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—McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps," Freidman wrote in the March 28 New York Times.

While the Milosevic government is not pursuing a revolutionary communist policy, it drew the anger of the United States and other imperialist governments when it acted to slow down and resist the wholesale privatization of industry, banking, and trade as demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

This trend was widely noted in Western media accounts in 1996.

"Milosevic is harking back to the political control promised by that old Communist star on his presidency building ...[he] is revoking some privatization and free-market measures," stated an article in the June 6, 1996, Christian Science Monitor. A month later, the July 18, 1996, New York Times complained about Milosevic’s determination to "keep state controls and his refusal to allow privatization."

The Aug. 4, 1996, Washington Post carried a piece against Milosevic that was even more explicit. "Milosevic failed to understand the political message of the fall of the Berlin Wall," the Post quotes Konstantin Obradovic, deputy director of the Belgrade Center for Human Rights. He is one of the "democratic opposition" seeking to oust the Yugoslav government.

"While other Communist politicians accepted the Western model, and moved in the direction of the rest of Europe, Milosevic went the other way. That is why we are where we are today."

After the collapse of the USSR and the socialist bloc governments in Eastern Europe, the United States has aggressively moved into the region to create a patchwork of new military and economic arrangements, organizations and treaties to insure U.S. domination over the entire area of southern and eastern Europe.

The expansion of NATO to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic puts these countries under a Pentagon-dominated military chain of command. Tens of thousands of U.S. and other NATO troops now occupy the former Yugoslav republics of Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia and Macedonia, as well as Kosovo and Albania.

The U.S. also dominates the Southeastern Europe Cooperative Initiative (SECI) which is planning for the reorganization of the newly-privatized sectors in energy, oil and petroleum, telecommunications, scientific research and banking.

The SECI is planning for the integration of the region’s economic infrastructure into the arteries of U.S.-dominated finance and banking. Nine of the eleven member states of the SECI were formerly part of the socialist bloc countries. Greece and Turkey are the exceptions.

Yugoslavia, under Milosevic, is the only country in the region that has refused to participate in the SECI and its program for the outright imperialist takeover of the region.

This is why the U.S. calls Milosevic "intransigent." This is why the opposition "economists" in Belgrade known as Group 17 have denounced the Milosevic government as "illegitimate."

These darlings of Western bankers have proposed an alternative to the IMF to Yugoslavia’s public ownership sector once Milosevic could be removed. Who are they?

"The Group 17 gathers 20 most-distinguished Yugoslav economists employed at the universities, banks, consulting agencies and international financial instutions, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund," reads the mission statement of the group.

Why are they opposed to Milosevic? Because he has acted as a brake to the full-scale capitalist restoration in Yugoslavia.

One of the latest statements of the Group 17 says it all: "A new phase in the process of transition to a market economy throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is beginning." However, "it is extremely well known that this transition in Yugoslavia is practically stopped," the statement complains.

The indictment of President Milosevic as a "war criminal" by a specially created U.S.-dominated kangaroo court in The Hague should be understood by progressives as part of the larger imperialist plan to crush Yugoslavia and any other Eastern European country that resists the U.S./NATO take over of the region.

One can look at Kosovo today to get a clear understanding of what kind of

government the U.S. would create if it succeeds in ousting Milosevic

Fascist-like invasion 50 years later

The KLA are thugs. Without U.S., German and Albanian government support their 1997 insurgency would never have gotten off the ground.

The KLA is the ideological heir of the Albanian nationalist movement that collaborated with Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascist invasion during World War II. It is a story that was rarely reported in the U.S. media. But the cause of Albanian Kosovo nationalism—that is, to make the multi-ethnic Kosovo a "pure" Albanian state—was a theme of the 1941 German and Italian fascist invasion.

The Nazis administered Albania and Kosovo as a single unit during World War II. As a counterweight to the strong Serb presence in the Partisan anti-fascist guerrilla army led by Tito, Hitler promoted Albanian nationalism.

The Germans bombed Belgrade in 1941 and they killed more than 1.3 million Serbs and hundreds of thousands from other nationalities before they were driven out by the heroic Partisan struggle.

Today, the German contingent of the NATO occupation force represents the first use of German troops in Yugoslavia in 54 years.

So it came as a surprise to some Western journalists that pro-KLA forces in Kosovo would give such a hearty welcome to the German troops.

"This is a second liberation," Ali Majo, 68, a native of Prizren in southern Kosovo told Los Angeles Times staff writer Marjorie Miller on June 17. "I can’t describe how it felt when we saw German soldiers come here again."

Majo told the reporter how he had first seen the Nazi forces bomb Partisan guerrilla positions. "After that ... we all shouted ‘Hitler.’ We were proud of the German soldiers because they liberated us from the Serbs."

Role of the Independent Commission of Inquiry to Investigate US/NATO war crimes

The people of Yugoslavia stood up to 78 days of the most massive bombings. Their courage and steadfastness were and still are a source of a great inspiration. The U.S. hopes to demoralize these heroic people by the use of economic sanctions and by organizing a CIA destabilization campaign with the so-called democratic opposition. How can the same governments that dropped thousands of bombs and missiles on the people of Yugoslavia feign concern for their lives? Any opposition backed by the NATO governments is simply a tool of foreign aggression carried out by other means.

The Independent Commission of Inquiry intends to set the record straight. The U.S. and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia is the grossest violation of democracy, of human rights, and we will show that it is Clinton and the other NATO leaders who should stand trial for their war crimes.

But the Independent Commission of Inquiry is not simply looking backwards. We must acknowledge that crimes are being committed today in Kosovo by NATO’s KLA puppets. We must tell the truth about this criminal conduct.

Moreover, we want to educate and mobilize the public in the NATO countries to organize against the criminal behavior of the governments in their countries. During the Vietnam War, the mobilization of a people’s movement became a decisive factor in exposing and then stopping U.S. aggression in southeast Asia. This is the great and historic task of this commission and this movement.

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