Crisis in Yugoslavia: Interview with Ramsey Clark
Founder of the International Action Center
Former United States Attorney General
October 6, 2000
New York City, U.S.A.
[The following interview was translated and published in DAN, a daily newspaper published in Montenegro, Yugoslavia. DAN was also the publisher of the Serbo-Croation edition of the IAC's book, NATO in the Balkans.]
- After the destruction of the bipolar structure of the international community the USA has played the main role on the world political scene. What is the essence of their political strategy towards Europe, and what is the role of the U.S. in the events now unfolding in Yugoslavia?
The policies of the U.S., since the end of the Cold War are complicated and vast. They involve an intent to dominate and the use of international organizations to advance U.S. economic and geopolitical interests. They also include the conversion of NATO into a surrogate military police force for globalization and U.S. world economic domination.
- Which factors were prevailing in the dissolution of Yugoslavia - internal or external ones?
The great tragedy of Yugoslavia in the last decade of the 20th Century has not been one of individual leadership. It's been the deliberate dismantling of Yugoslavia, which is one of the few countries in the world formed on an idea. Most are formed on a purely power basis. But the idea of Yugoslavia was that with all the diversity, with all the human problems and poverty, only in unity--through federation--could you have sovereignty, and independent economic development based on local interests rather than on foreign exploitation.
Yugoslavia showed it could work, even under extreme difficulty during the Cold War and between World War 1 and World War 2. It's probably the only thing that can work for the welfare of the people there.
Yugoslavia was deliberately dismantled. It continues to be further broken apart by U.S. and other foreign interests who want to divide and conquer the country economically. They want to exploit its resources, its people, its markets; and the consequences have been a human disaster from Slovenia to Macedonia.
What's needed is a larger Balkan federation that includes more than just the six former republics. But what you have is the disintegration of even those. Ninety percent of trade, commercial and economic activity of the six republics was internal in 1990. No republic is sufficient by itself to survive as a strong independent sovereign nation or people.
The breaking up of Yugoslavia is a tragedy from many standpoints and the tragedy isn't over.
- What was the role of the Pentagon in the destabilization and final dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia?
The Pentagon is the military arm of U.S. policy. It doesn't dictate policy but implements it. Both policymaking and the means for implementing it are considerably bigger than the Pentagon.
One the most direct roles of the Pentagon was the genocidal bombing of Yugoslavia. Those were Pentagon planes up there. A few of them might have been British or from some other NATO country, but the Pentagon was overwhelmingly responsible for the planes and the targets chosen, as well as for the destruction and many people killed.
Washington wanted NATO in there as an umbrella to deflect anger at the U.S. They wanted young people from the European NATO countries to be the enforcers on the ground. The Clinton White House doesn't want U.S. soldiers to come in harms way--it could cause protests in the streets. Because of this the Pentagon was able to carry out the aggression against Yugoslavia and cause great destruction with virtually no U.S. casualties.
It's easy when your planes are flying so high that it become hard to get hit. You don't ever set foot on the soil but you send missiles and planes that bomb away overwhelmingly at civilian targets.
It was a staggering disaster for Serbia and Montenegro and the Kosovo area of Serbia. It was a disaster for all the peoples there--all of them suffered.
There's been a deliberate policy--and the Pentagon played a role in this--to set Muslim against Orthodox Christian Serbs. The idea of having Slavic peoples and Muslim peoples--even though the Muslims in Yugoslavia are Slavs--fight each other is something that we've seen and its one of the great dangers. When you think about Bosnia the Muslims and the Orthodox Serbs suffered terribly, and they didn't benefit at all in Kosovo.
This policy has gone a long way. There were 25 million people in Yugoslavia in 1990 and now within Montenegro and Serbia you have just around 11 million. And now within Serbia itself you have attempts to divide the nationalities into three or four different sections by external forces that are pressing them to divide and spin off.
- What do you think about the expansion of the NATO alliance to the Eastern European countries and also to the former Soviet Republics?
NATO itself is one of the most dangerous international organizations that exists. Before any expansion into Eastern Europe NATO involved the great colonial powers. It involved rich countries and almost totally white Caucasian young men who are still a very small part of the world's population.
The NATO countries have by far the largest and richest armies and the most advanced weaponry and technology, primarily from the U.S. NATO is a threat to the vast majority of the population of the world--the beautiful darker-skinned people, and others. They seem to be natural born killers when you look at the insensitivity with which they unleash their technology.
I remember a New York Times columnist talking about the bombing last year. I think he reflected exactly what the Pentagon or what NATO was saying: "Surrender or we'll destroy you. If you want to be bombed back to 1990, 1750 or 1372 we can do that, pick your date. You'd better surrender or we'll level you."
- Is there any justification for the aggression of the worlds most powerful countries against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia?
Of course not--not against Yugoslavia or any other country. If we can't find countries that will stand up against such aggression our situation and our future is going to be a human disaster. Look at how long it's taken other countries to begin to stand up for Iraq.
Yugoslavians know better than others what it's like to have a high tech all-out aerial bombardment of your country. Iraq was devastated by 110,000 aerial sorties--88,500 tons of bombs, which was the equivalent of 7-1/2 Hiroshimas, but most countries didn't really stand up for Iraq. Only now within the last few weeks have foreign countries started to break the blockade, which has killed a million and a half people.
The blockade against Iraq--though more severe--was the same type of sanctions that were imposed on Yugoslavia. U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright has already said that the sanctions on Yugoslavia will not end, even with a change in the government there, until every demand of the U.S. is fulfilled
It's been ten death-giving years in Iraq and finally we now see France, the Russian Federation, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates flying food and doctors and supplies to help relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people.
We have to reach out to nations everywhere, particularly the poorer nations of the world, to unify against this type of aggression.
- What is your opinion about the proceedings of the International Tribunal for the War Crimes Committed on the territory of former Yugoslavia in the Hague?
The indictments of Milosevic and other Yugsolav officials were before the same International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia--a body that is unlawful. If you want a world based on principle and law it has to be abolished.
The U.N. Charter doesn't provide for an international criminal tribunal focused on a single country or a number of countries. The Security Council has no power to create such a court, which is used primarily by the U.S. to pursue its enemies. That's war by other means, pure and simple.
The countries that convened the U.N.--particularly the victorious nations from WWII--would never have formed it if they dreamed the U.N. would have an international criminal tribunal in which they could be held accountable. They don't mind prosecuting others, but they don't intend to be prosecuted themselves.
That's why the U.S. refuses to join in the treaty currently in process. A treaty is a current agreement--any nation can agree to one. But if there's to be an international criminal tribunal the U.N. can't create it. It has to be done by the agreement of nations--by a treaty which nations have the power to make. The U.S., however, won't sign such a treaty. It has refused to even consider it.
Mass public hearings of NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia have taken place in cities all over the world. Can you tell us something more about the aims of those actions?
The IAC in New York was the sponsor of a wide-ranging series of evidentiary-gathering hearings all over the world about war crimes against Yugoslavia. The U.S. was charged, along with the United Kingdom, Germany, and other NATO countries that participated in voting for NATO's involvement or in providing arms or airbases or other logistical support for the assault on Yugoslavia.
The evidence was gathered from all over the world, including Yugoslavia. It was considered by judges from many nations--non-governmental lay people. All of the defendants were found guilty of all charges. They included Nuremberg Principle violations of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. They also comprised Geneva Convention prohibitions against assaults on civilians-- making civilians the direct objects of attack--assaults on facilities that are essential to civilian lives, and assaults on inherently dangerous facilities. They were found guilty of virtually every war crime on the books.
- Is there any way to stop the process of international lawlessness that we are witnessing today?
There's obviously no easy way, but that doesn't mean the struggle is hopeless. There's rarely been in history such a concentration of power in the hands of such a comparatively small part of the world's population, particularly the U.S. There's never been such a concentration of power and monopoly of military technology and sophisticated weaponry. This includes nuclear arms and the capacity to destroy whole populations.
There's also never been such a monopoly of the means of communication. The U.S. government's control of the international media is in fact unprecedented. This can be devastating because people don't know what to think--they're not encouraged to think, they're not given the facts. The U.S. can reach into a country and brainwash people everywhere.
Someone can be demonized without being heard in their own defense, and the truth can never be found by looking at a television screen. So we live under this terrible monopoly of power and communications, and economic power too with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
It's going to take enormous courage and sacrifice, as well as great imagination and discipline in forms of organizing and unifying. We have to struggle with all our might to unite worldwide resistance to domination and exploitation. Power is in the people. The question is one of will, understanding, courage, commitment and sacrifice. If the people can unify we will overcome.
- What was the role of the media in the Yugoslav crisis?
The U.S./NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was devastating, but the function of the Western media has probably been more harmful. The power of the big-business media to shape opinion internationally--in the U.S., in Western Europe and other parts of the world--is just astounding in how effectively it was used to demonize Slavic peoples, especially the Serbs of Yugoslavia.
It takes a long time to unlearn prejudices. Once they are implanted they become hard to root out. We implanted huge racial prejudices in the U.S. to justify slavery, and we still find it's a lot harder than weeding the garden to get the racists out.
People of African descent in our country have been demonized like the Serbs, and the racists are still everywhere. The media create prejudices and "demons" by simply repeating stories night after night on television and radio, in the newspapers and magazines, and every place else.
Within Serbia and Montenegro you can see how divisive the media was and how demoralizing it can be to see what others are saying about you. Before the bombing I was there. I could see the effects of the sanctions, coupled with the effect on the people of seeing on foreign television the prejudices being stirred up against them.
It makes you feel like you're alone in the world and nobody loves you. But many many people love Yugoslavia. We love the people there; we remember how courageous you've been. We know and are inspired by your fierce courage and strength, how you resisted the Nazis and what a price you paid for it. The media can make you doubt even your own soul and inner strength, but that doesn't mean their divisive tactics will always continue to work.
- How do you evaluate the role of the United Nations in the framework of the so-called new world order?
We hope that the U.N. will become independent and act more objectively, since we need it. Right now it's pretty much the captive of the U.S., but it doesn't always have to be that way.
It's harmful to every human being on earth for the U.N. to be that way, including the people of the U.S. This is true because when you realize what your country has done, and continues to do around the world, it destroys your own spirit if you don't resist. It also puts you in jeopardy since it's getting harder for U.S. citizens to travel abroad. We're not received with open arms in many parts of the world.
We have to work to make the U.N. more effective even though, as we saw with Yugoslavia, it was more independent than NATO. The U.S., in fact, didn't go to the U.N. because it could not, as it did with Iraq, unite that body to support the aggression on your country.
It did that easily with NATO, but in doing so it caused NATO to violate not only the North Atlantic Treaty but also the U.N. Charter. Nevertheless, the U.N. should not have permitted that. We need an independent reformed U.N. that abolishes the Security Council and that empowers self-financing. As long as the U.N. is dependent on contributions from countries like the U.S. it will be hard to function since it will never know whether its going to get its money or not.
- How would you define the policy of sanctions and complete international isolation of those countries that want to find their own way to the future, and what are its consequences?
Comprehensive general sanctions that impact on the economy of a nation need to be seen as a weapon of mass destruction. They hit poor people hardest and first, and they're genocidal.
If that can't be seen from the history of Iraq then we can't see anything. Sanctions have killed more than a million and a half people there--mostly children. The second largest age group was the elderly. The people who are most vulnerable to sickness and weakness and who need nutrition are the ones who die first.
Control through the threat of sanctions exceeds any control achieved by the actual application since you can terrorize a country just by threatening sanctions. This is because people don't want to suffer as they've seen others suffer.
It's therefore imperative that we abolish the use of economic sanctions. When you think about it, you can't sanction a rich country because they'll laugh all the way to the bank. They'll have plenty of food, oil, soap powder--whatever is needed. You can't sanction a country that has the physical power to transport the goods and services that it needs from other places. Only "weak" countries--those that can't resist militarily or compete economically--will be victimized by sanctions.
- Does FR Yugoslavia, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro, fit into the new political concept of the so-called international community regarding relations in Southeastern Europe?
Yugoslavia, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro fits into the geopolitical plans of the U.S., and to a lesser degree NATO countries, because it's there, strategically located, and this has to be addressed.
U.S./NATO plans involve the division and subjugation of countries in the region. Dividing them makes them more easily controlled and exploited, and the future will be greater poverty.
The per capita income of the six former republics of the SFRY is today less than half of what it was ten years ago. They're half as well off collectively. Serbia and Montenegro are even worse than that.
The same is generally true though with most of Eastern Europe, so we shouldn't be mislead. Bulgaria today is worse off economically. Poland seems to be doing better to many people, but per capita income there is 40% of what it was, maybe less. The Russian Federation has around 30% less per capita income than in 1990. This has been a real human disaster.
It's clear that the new concept for the Balkans is to divide, exploit and further impoverish. The idea that there will be more real aid once a country conforms to the demands of the U.S. and its International Monetary Fund is contrary to everything that's ever happened after they intervened. This is true whether it's little Grenada, Panama, Viet Nam, Nicaragua, or any other country. They have been continuously harassed, or kept under direct and/or indirect sanctions and further impoverished.
- How do you see the demands of the leadership of Montenegro for a "redefinition of relations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia?
Basically, only the people directly involved can decide the details of their relationship. What I passionately believe is that without a strong federation not only of Montenegro and Serbia but of the six former republics and beyond that, the region will remain poor. It will remain foreign dominated and become more so economically.
It will be afflicted with violence particularly between Muslims and Slavs. There are more than a 300 million Slavs in the world, and we've seen the deliberate fomenting of violence between Slavs and Muslims who number one billion. We've seen it in Afghanistan, Dagistan and Chechnya and in some of the larger predominantly Muslim republics on the southern tier of the former Soviet Union, and of course in Bosnia, Kosovo and throughout the Balkans.
Without unity, as we said in our revolutionary war, "we'll either hang together or we'll hang separately," even though, since then, we have gotten "too big for our britches." [Transcriber's note: this could be translated as being too big and arrogant. Britches mean, literally, "pants."--PC]
- The problem of Kosovo as a factor of destabilization of Yugoslavia - has it had, in the last two years, an internal character or was it created by the USA and Germany?
The entire disintegration of Yugoslavia has been caused overwhelmingly by external forces. They are numerous, but the two principal violators are Germany and the United States, and the consequences for the region have been a human disaster.
Kosovo itself, which is now under NATO occupation, had every opportunity to expect to live in peace, grow in prosperity and develop its peoples and resources for its own good. This was true until foreign influences set the people against themselves, and today you can't find anyone who has benefited.
You may think at the moment if you're KLA that you might be on top, but on top of what and at what cost? How many members of your families did you loose? How many homes did your friends loose? How long will it take you to get back to where you were if you ever do, and is this a humanely acceptable way to do it even if you could?
Tens of thousands of Serbs, Roma and others have been ethnically cleansed from Kosovo, under the watchful eyes of the mighty occupation armies. This shows that NATO didn't intervene there for humanitarian reasons and that this claim is hypocritical.
- Was the Rambouillet agreement an acceptable solution for the Kosovo problem? Do you think that by accepting it, FR Yugoslavia could have prevented the aggression against it? What is the main effect of the Dayton agreement? Has it solved the problems in the Balkans or has it meant the establishment of U.S. domination on the territories of the former Yugoslavia?
It's sad to see countries or peoples bullied into agreements that are on their face moral outrages.
When I think of the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian people who are suffering from violence today even more than the Yugoslavs, it breaks my heart. Since the Oslo Accords there's been nothing but deterioration politically, socially, and economically for the Palestinians. Yet a coalition of powerful interests forced them into it just as they forced Yugoslavia into the Dayton Accords. These accords, including the Rambouillet scheme, were unnatural "agreements" that would foment violence. They also violated the idea of peoples' independence and the sovereignty of their nations.
Any country that has a large foreign military population on its soil is not free--that is a truism. And both of those accords contemplated foreign troops on Yugoslav soil. But they ought to be out of there, just as U.S. money ought to be out of politics there. If the future of Yugoslavia is to be determined by the financing of political parties by the United States, then you might as well give up and deed the country over to General Motors, Coca Cola and Burger King.
- What was the role of the USA in the military strenghtening of Croatia, in Operation Storm, which had as a consequence a massive exodus of Serbian people from Krajina?
In time we'll know a lot more, but we know from Richard Holbrook's autobiographical account of that period that while Washington was saying to Croatia "don't do it," Holbrook and others in Zagreb were saying "drive the Serbs out." How much protest did you hear internationally in what was the biggest single ethnic cleansing in the last 50 years in the Balkans? None! The cleansing from Krajina of the Serb population was in fact ignored or applauded internationally. So it's another interplay between media presentation and the use of force for the West to have its way.
The Twentieth Century has been marked by many different ideas, but a majority of them have not been confirmed by history. Why do you think?
Populations everywhere are manipulated by ideas that often have no validity. There's a French saying that I've always liked, "Nothing is so cruel on Earth as the murder of a beautiful idea by a brutal gang of facts." If we look at the facts you'll see that many of the fictions that have been imposed on people are false and harmful.
Let's talk about democracy, which is a difficult concept. People think the U.S. is the greatest example of democracy. But the U.S. is not a democracy at all; it's a pure plutocracy--a government of wealth. Elections here have nothing to do with the will of the people. They are in fact a minor contest between representatives of the plutocracy vying for power; the poor of the country are left out.
I'm not talking about just the billions of dollars that have been spent on political campaigns. The U.S. has spent almost as much on the election campaign in Yugoslavia as it has on its own presidential campaign this year. That's an economic fact that ought to be investigated. You're not free if a foreign power is buying your elections. The same is true of us in the U.S.; we can't be free as long as rich capitalists continue to buy our elections, and of course that's exactly what they do.
You might not have heard of the presidential candidate Ralph Nader. He has worked in the interests of consumers, poor people, and the ecology for years. But he doesn't get to participate in the debates, and he won't get a significant vote. If by democracy you mean government should follow the needs and interests of the people then the U.S. is not a democracy even with elections held here periodically.
Washington has, moreover, used elections to take over other countries. They basically stole Nicaragua from the Sandinista government by pumping in money to the opposition, unifying it, and sending in death squad terrorists--not unlike the KLA. They were trained and financed to destroy villages and kill Nicaraguans. The U.S. then told them that if they wanted peace and "prosperity" they had to elect the opposition. In the meantime, the media was given over to the opposition and they were given money and other communications resources. It worked, the opposition won, and now the Nicaraguans are living in abject poverty.
We also tried to steal Angola through the ballot box--through an abuse of democracy. We told the Dos Santos government that they had to have an election. Then we told them they couldn't hold the voting until they dismantled two-thirds of the army. They did it and the government won at the polls. But the U.S.-backed opposition led by Jonas Savimbi immediately attacked with an enormous military force and overran two-thirds of the country, which the government is still fighting to win back.
We're told that there's only one idea in economic life that works and that's capitalism. Every country has to convert to capitalism and do what the World Bank and the IMF says. You've got to privatize--open up to "free trade." But the countries that have done that have been absolutely devastated.
In the former Soviet Union, for example, the people there had jobs, homes, medical care, education, a decent economy, but now they've lost all of that. They have no health care system, and their schools are falling apart. They have few jobs, lost their homes. They have had to sell their private possessions just to make out. The country is an economic basket case.
The Ukraine is worse, and the same is true of countries in the Western Hemisphere. We take a country like Peru and we tell it to borrow money from the IMF and privatize--to do what the World Bank says. But the poor have gotten poorer there, and President Fujimori sits on the necks of the people with his economic policies, and police and military power backed by Washington.
We have to examine these ideas for ourselves and decide what's best for the children. But we have to do it in the face of a media that tries to tell us there's only one way--and with nuclear intimidation and the threat of starvation from sanctions hanging over our heads.
When the U.S. government can't manipulate elections--and they are masters at it--they'll instigate a military coup like they did in Guatemala in the 1950s, in Chile in the 1970s and in Haiti in 1991, to name a few places.
- What did the 20th Century bring in terms of the development of human civilization, especially for the peoples of the Balkans?
The 20th Century has brought the most uncivilized and violent acts of human history. There has never been before such disasters caused by human conduct. There were the two world wars, and the Cold War arms race, which impoverished people. There were also the bloody fights that came from the neo-colonial drive to divide and conquer Africa, Asia and the Balkans.
The Balkans had many problems in the 1900s. But the culture was still intact in most places despite the history of oppression by the Ottoman Empire, the Austrio-Hungary Empire and all the rest. These were rich cultures; people knew what and who they were. They loved their traditions, had their own art, music, literature, meaning to life, religious faiths. They had their own philosophy, and could sit around in the evenings or on a bridge across the Drina to talk about life and love and things.
Today there's chaos, the disintegration of institutions, random violence, impoverishment and insecurity. But you have your strength, your people and your history of resistance. If you unite you have a part of the earth that's beautiful, that provides abundant food, natural resources and other essentials of life. If you organize it can be used for your own well being. Your future is largely in your hands, but without unity you will be turned against each other.
- What can we expect in the 21st Century?
What we're seeing is the spread of fomented violence by those who want to divide and weaken. Just look at India, with all its history and more than a billion people, with the Tamils in the south and the terrible violence that's going on there. This 70-million strong population of Tamils is struggling for survival from Sri Lanka up into southern India.
If you go north you find the Casmiris and Pakistanis and the Indian government fighting in some of the most spectacularly beautiful countries in the world. It's hard to find a region there where you don't have conflicts between Muslims and Hindus, Tamils and Buddhists. You can see conflicts all over the world.
In South Africa we hope there will be unity. The government there still faces terrible risks, but under the current leadership--with its many heroic figures--they've been able to hold their country together.
In West Africa you see bloodletting everywhere much of which is promoted from abroad. We all know about Rwanda and the Hutus and the struggle for the Congo.
It must be recognized that if you let foreign governments choose your leaders you will be in for bad times. That's exactly what has been happening in the last half of the 20th Century.
The U.S. chose the Shah for Iran; he was literally imposed. The CIA said it was their greatest accomplishment. The Shah reigned for 25 years, but the people finally rose up and threw him out when they couldn't stand it any more. Over 35,000 people were killed by the Shah's U.S.-trained soldiers and secret police. That's what letting the U.S. choose their leader did for the Iranis after a democratically-elected government was overthrown.
In the Congo, a huge country with enormous natural resources, Patrice Lumumba was elected after independence from a colonial power. But he was soon murdered. His body was found in the trunk of a CIA car. Mobutu was then put in power, and from 1962 until 1997 the people of the Congo were ravaged. Today, you have armed soldiers from 12 different countries fighting in the Congo, some of them in the interests of U.S. big business.
In our hemisphere Salvadore Allende was elected president of Chile. He was a medical doctor who wanted to heal the sick in a country that never had a rural health care program. He started to install them and to make other progressive changes when the U.S. overthrew him in a coup that led to his death. Allende was replaced by General Augusto Pinochet,, one of the major petty tyrants of recent history. More than 5,000 Chileans were killed under the U.S.-backed dictator.
Then there was the elected government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemanala, who was overthrown by the U.S. government. Tens of thousands died as a result, many of them indigenous people of Mayan descent.
It's imperative that people overcome the differences in their communities and regions and unite to protect themselves from foreign domination, which will only mean more violence, suffering and poverty.
What would you like to say to the people of Yugoslavia at this moment?
This time is critical to the future of the heroic peoples of the former Yugoslavia and the entire region. You are peoples with deep and rich cultures who are being eaten up by foreign powers that are skilled at fomenting internal and external violence.
The imperative need for your children and the survival of all that your predecessors and ancestors brought to you depends on the ability to unite and resist foreign intrusion and domination.
It's an extremely difficult time, but you have to resist with all your strength the efforts by rich countries to control your destiny, such as the U.S., Germany, and some of your richer neighbors in Europe.
Stronger ties are needed with your immediate neighbors and the poorer countries in eastern Europe as well as the Slavic people who resisted the U.S. in the Cold War and who today remain the enemy of the U.S. and other NATO powers.
With such unity you can triumph and inspire us all.
posted 9 Oct 2000
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YUGOSLAVIA IN CRISIS
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