by Sara Flounders, International Action Center, 1995

This pamplet is part of the forthcoming book, NATO in the Balkans: Voices in Opposition

The recurring media image of Yugoslavia in the United States and Europe is of desperate people fleeing local war and ethnic hatred or living a precarious existence dependent on United Nations convoys for their next meal.

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, this is the largest refugee population in the world. By 1994 figures, there are over 3.7 million war refugees in the former Yugoslavia. The war has taken its toll on all participants in the struggle. Of the refugees, 44% are Muslim, 36% are Serbs and 20% are Croatian. The enormous human suffering represented in these cold statistics cannot be calculated.

The very names Bosnia and Serbia are now associated with "ethnic cleansing," mass rape, atrocities and age-old national hatreds.

U.S. involvement, UN troops and NATO forces are depicted as peacekeepers or neutral forces that are carrying out humanitarian or diplomatic missions. When UN officials, NATO generals, and U.S., British, French or German diplomats meet it’s to discuss the newest peace plan. Every measure is always described as being based on deep concern over how to end the fighting.

Is the civil war raging in Yugoslavia a case of spontaneous combustion caused by "ancient ethnic hatreds" burning out of control? Is the U.S. government an innocent bystander? Is the real problem presidential indecision about how to defend a small, oppressed Bosnian Moslem government targeted by the new fascists of the 1990s—the Serbs?

Age-old ethnic hatred among small nationalities didn’t just explode into modern-day barbarism. Rather, war exists in the region as a result of the intervention of outside powers. In this process the U.S. has been neither an innocent bystander nor a neutral party.

A closer examination of the root causes of the incredibly destructive civil war raging in the region yields a completely different picture.

The reality is that the U.S. government lit the fire in the Balkans. At every stage Washington has acted as an arsonist pouring gasoline on the flames.

The greatest responsibility for the dismemberment of Yugoslavia and the resulting civil war lies with the U.S. government. It was not an accident or an oversight. It was a policy decision.

Each step the U.S. has taken has widened the war and increased divisions in the region.


Origins of the breakup—a U.S. law

Control of the purse strings

European Intervention

Rewriting history

Casting the Serbs as fascists

The rape charge

Control through division in Bosnia

The CIA role in Bosnia

UN leaks information on U.S. role

Use of war propaganda

U.S. support for Croatian invasion of Krajina

"Safe areas" launching pads for U.S. war

The pretext for NATO bombs

"End the arms embargo" means widen the war

War is called peace

Inter-imperialist rivalry

Sanctions: Economic domination of the region

The Pentagon plan

Operation Balkan Storm

The only solution—U.S. out

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