Tragedy in three acts — Analysis
The fact that perpetrators of the 1999 bombing remain unrecognized and not punished is an affront to international justice.
NATO bombarded Serbia twenty-three years earlier. This was the first round in a 78 day illegal war on aggression that would continue for the rest of the year. The repercussions are still affecting the lives of people all over the world.
The Encounter, Act 1.
It was a chance meeting – two men who had crossed paths in Iraq two years past, now running into each other on a stretch of highway connecting Kosovo to Macedonia. It was March 20, 1999. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), monitors, were being removed from the areas they were assigned. This was due to diplomatic talks between Serbia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
British troops of the KVM were stopped at the border to Macedonia and Kosovo. They waited for clearance before crossing the border. One of the British observers included a retired Royal Marine Officer who previously worked with UNSCOM in Iraq to oversee the destruction of Iraqi weapons-of-mass destruction programs. While he and his fellow observers waited, he watched as other vehicles driven by members of the US observer contingent drove in the opposite direction – into Kosovo. At the wheel of one of these vehicles was a familiar face – a man who was known as ‘Kurtz’.
Kurtz, a man with a lot of experience and brought to UNSCOM mid-1997 in order to provide operational planning leadership. ‘Kurtz’, of course, was not his real name, but rather a nickname derived from the fact that with his shaved head, walrus mustache, and weathered face, he looked like a combination of Robert Duvall’s Colonel Kilgore and Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz in the movie ‘Apocalypse Now’. His wide-brim Stetson and cowboy boots were perfect for his role. He also had a constant wading of chewing tobacco in his cheek.
Kurtz was chosen for the job partly because of his experience in covert operations. His most recent assignment prior to coming on board at UNSCOM was preparing diplomats for E&E – escape and evasion – from hostile situations. Due to the sensitive nature of UNSCOM’s operations in Iraq, such training was considered ideal for inspectors who might encounter hostile situations.
But Kurtz’s background had been his undoing. He was, so to speak, too ‘black’, or covert, for his own good. Even though he had been performing admirably in Iraq, Washington’s managers started to panic in October 1997 when Baghdad was getting worse. Kurtz was expelled from Iraq. It was bitter irony – the one man who was best equipped to deal with a hostage situation, to keep not only himself but other, less fully-trained personnel alive and well, was being withdrawn in haste out of fear of his being taken hostage.
Kurtz became UNSCOM property once he was assigned. The US couldn’t just snap its fingers to bring Kurtz home. And they did. The US ambassador Bill Richardson called Richard Butler, the Australian diplomat heading UNSCOM to meet with him at the US Mission. “One of the personnel provided to you [Kurtz],”Richardson claimed, “is a bit too exposed by the current situation, and we feel that it would be best for us all if he were withdrawn at this time.”
Kurtz, the British officer and I were both assigned to the Iraqi team. After Richardson’s meeting, Butler called me to his office. “The man’s CIA,”He said it to me. “The Americans want him out.”
Kurtz returned to action as soon as the Kosovo Monitoring Mission left Kosovo. It seemed that the Americans wanted Kurtz back, with his impressive skills in covert operations.
The role played by the CIA in the OSCE KVM is quite controversial – at a time when the US and NATO were accusing the Serbian government of committing atrocities, the CIA was using the cover provided by the OSCE observer mission to coordinate with fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army who were engaged in a guerilla war with the Serbian military. Serbian operations in response to CIA-directed KLA attacks were being characterized by the West as ‘genocide’, and used to justify a planned NATO aerial bombardment of Serbia.
These facts went against the US-NATO narrative that there was an orchestrated campaign of ethnic cleansing by Serbians. British OSCE observers had a clear understanding of the complicated reality inside Kosovo. This was where legitimate Serbian military operations were described against KLA forces as “massacres of innocent civilians”By the Western media. But the truth was sometimes difficult to see. That is why on March 20, 1999 the British observation contingent left Kosovo while Kurtz and the other CIA officers entered.
Act two: The Phone call
March 24, 1999. 9:20am. An aid makes a call to Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin Situation Room. Call goes through and aid transfers the phone number to Bill Clinton. He is the 42nd president. Conversation began with a horrible notification. Clinton stated that the leaders of NATO included himself. “have decided we have to launch air strikes against military targets in Serbia soon.”
Clinton observed that Slobodan Miloevic, Serbia’s leader, was the real problem. “He has displaced 30,000 more people just since last Friday,”Clinton stated. “He is killing innocent people. We have reports of summary executions.”Unspoken is Kurtz’s role in creating these conditions. Clinton continued. “He [Milosevic] has basically told Russian, EU, and American negotiators that he doesn’t care what any of us think.”
Clinton became irritated by all the consequences that he had triggered when CIA was unleashed on Kosovo. “My God, they [the Europeans] have nightmares they’ll [the Serbs]Repetition Bosnia with all its instability and all the problems. It will spread from Kosovo, Macedonia, to Albania and eventually engulf the entire south flank. It is a very serious matter of concern. They are right to be worried about it.”
Again, left unsaid was the fact that the very scenario that was giving the Europeans nightmares had been carefully crafted by the CIA, at Bill Clinton’s direction.
Yeltsin wasn’t buying any of it. “It is easy to throw bombs about,” he said, dismissing Clinton’s characterization of the problem and proffered solution. “It is intolerable because of the hundreds of thousands of people who will suffer and die.”
Yeltsin warned Clinton that any NATO strike would have dire consequences. “In the name of our future, in the name of you and me, in the name of the future of our countries, in the name of security in Europe, I ask you to renounce that strike, and I suggest that we should meet somewhere and develop a tactical line of fighting against Milosevic, against him personally. We are smarter, more experienced and can find a solution. This should be done to improve our relationships. That should be done for the sake of peace in Europe.”
The Russian leader’s pleas fell on deaf ears. “Well, Boris,”Clinton responded, “I want to work with you to try and bring an end to this, but I don’t believe there is any way to call off the first round of strikes because Milosevic continues to displace thousands of people every day… I don’t want this to be a great source of a split between Russia and Europe and Russia and the US. It has been too much. There are too many economic and political things for us to do together, and I regret this more than I can say.”
The American president was outright lying to his Russian counterpart – the events in Kosovo were unfolding along the lines of a carefully scripted game plan that had been in motion for some time. Because the US had shaped the story through the CIA to ensure war was inevitable, war was certain. Worse still, in order to achieve this NATO goal, the US president willingly sacrificed relations with Russia. Yeltsin’s closing remarks emphasized this fact.
“[O]ur people,” Yeltsin lamented, “will certainly from now on have a bad attitude with regard to America and NATO. It was difficult for me, as a politician, to get people to vote in favor of the West. But I did it, and I now have to regret that decision. We are now facing a difficult and difficult path of contacts if I fail to convince the President. Goodbye.”
The Bomb, Act 3
Javier Solana (a Spanish diplomat), was the secretary general for NATO and authorized an aircraft to start bombing targets in Serbia. F/A-18s of the Spanish Air Force became the first plane to strike Serbia with bombs.
There are several things that stand out when examining the legality of Spain’s use of force against Serbia in 1999. As a United Nations member, Spain must adhere to the Charter. When it comes to the use of force, the UN Charter is quite clear – there are only two acceptable conditions under which such force might be legitimately employed by a member state. A resolution under Chapter VII of UN Charter authorizes an enforcement action for international peace and security. Another is Article 51, which enshrines the Charter’s inherent right to self-defense for individuals and groups.
As Spanish bombs fell on Serbian soil, two things were quite clear – there was no Chapter VII resolution in existence which authorized an enforcement action against Serbia, and Serbia had committed no act of aggression against either Spain or its NATO allies that would justify any claim of self-defense in explaining the Spanish (and NATO) military assault on Serbia.
The Spanish Air Force launched an illegal war against aggression by bombing Serbia with its bombs. “To initiate a war of aggression,”The International Military Tribunal’s judges met in Nuremburg for the purpose of judging the Nazi Germany crimes. “is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulative evil of the whole.”
Spain wasn’t alone that night – aircraft from the air forces of the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, and other NATO members participated in this “supreme international crime.”Each nation responsible for the Serbian attack is guilty, if taken individually.
It’s not all bad news! It seems that NATO had created a new legal argument around the idea it was entitled to anticipate. CollectiveThe UN Charter Article 51 provides for self defense and it is hereby confirmed that the right to do so was fully exercised. “normative expectation that permits anticipatory collective self-defense actions by regional security or self-defense organizations where the organization is not entirely dominated by a single member.”NATO assumes, in spite of the apparent fact it is dominated by America, that NATO is such an organization. “a number of powerful states, three of which are permanent members of the Security Council.”
NATO’s claim that it is credible “anticipatory collective self-defense,”However, the Kosovo Crisis is a humanitarian catastrophe infused with elements genocidal that created a moral need for intervention.
Kurtz was the man, along with other CIA operatives, who worked under authority from the President of the United States Bill Clinton to make conditions in Kosovo for the creation of a narrative that would allow NATO to fabricate its new legal justification to attack Serbia.
NATO has a problem because its legal foundation was built on lies. Once one realizes how the CIA played a role in preparing NATO’s script to support its actions, the fiction that NATO was an independent organization is shattered. Only the fact that the NATO script used outright lies about the alleged crimes of Serbia to justify NATO military intervention underscores how criminal the whole enterprise.
There is no escaping the fact that when the first bomb dropped by the Spanish Air Force on Serbia that evening 23 years ago to this date impacted on the ground, Spain and every other member of NATO had committed the “ultimate crime.”
It is a tragedy of international justice that this crime has not been punished. It is an example of the hypocrisy in nations that this crime has not been punished. This crime is responsible for the global disaster that has led to US-NATO relations and Russia’s current situation.
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