Morality? Don't make
                                                   me laugh 

                                                   John Pilger sees only one Balkan winner:
                                                   the arms trade 

                                                   Tuesday April 20, 1999 


                                                   'The struggle of people against power,' wrote
                                                   Milan Kundera, 'is the struggle of memory against
                                                   forgetting.' The idea that the Nato bombing has to
                                                   do with 'moral purpose' (Blair) and 'principles of
                                                   humanity we hold sacred' (Clinton) insults both
                                                   memory and intelligence. The American attack
                                                   on Yugoslavia began more than a decade ago
                                                   when the World Bank and the International
                                                   Monetary Fund set about destroying the
                                                   multi-ethnic federation with lethal doses of debt,
                                                   'market reforms' and imposed poverty.

                                                   Millions of jobs were eliminated; in 1989 alone,
                                                   600,000 workers, almost a quarter of the
                                                   workforce, were sacked without severance pay.
                                                   But the most critical 'reform' was the ending of
                                                   economic support to the six constituent republics
                                                   and their recolonisation by Western capital.
                                                   Germany led the way, supporting the breakaway
                                                   of Croatia, its new economic colony, with the
                                                   European Community giving silent approval. The
                                                   torch of fratricide had been lit and the rise of an
                                                   opportunist like Milosevic was inevitable.

                                                   In spite of his part in the blood-Ietting of Bosnia,
                                                   Milosevic, the 'reformer', became a favourite
                                                   among senior figures in the US State Department.
                                                   And in return for his co-operation in the American
                                                   partition of Bosnia at Dayton in 1995, he was
                                                   assured that the troublesome province of Kosovo
                                                   was his to keep. 'President Milosevic,' said
                                                   Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy, 'is a man we
                                                   can do business with, a man who recognises the
                                                   realities of life in former Yugoslavia.' The
                                                   Kosovo Liberation Army was dismissed by
                                                   Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as 'no
                                                   more than terrorists'. Last October, the
                                                   Americans drafted a 'peace plan' for Kosovo that
                                                   that was pro-Serbia, giving the Kosovans far less
                                                   autonomy and freedom than they had under the
                                                   old Yugoslav federation.

                                                   But this deal included, crucially for the
                                                   Americans, a Nato military presence. When
                                                   Milosevic objected to having foreign troops on his
                                                   soil, he was swiftly transformed, like Saddam
                                                   Hussein, from client to demon. He was now seen
                                                   as a threat to Washington's post-cold war strategy
                                                   for the Balkans and eastern Europe. With Nato
                                                   replacing the United Nations as an instrument of
                                                   American global control, its 'Membership Action
                                                   Plan' includes linking Albania, Macedonia,
                                                   Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia. Like Poland,
                                                   Hungary and the Czech Republic before them,
                                                   these impoverished countries will be required to
                                                   take part in a 22 billion weapons' buildup. The
                                                   beneficiaries will be the world's dominant arms
                                                   industries of the US and Britain - the contract for
                                                   fighter aircraft alone is worth pounds 10 biIIion.

                                                   Like the 1991 'moral crusade' in the Gulf, which
                                                   slaughtered more than 200,000 people, including
                                                   the very minorities the West claimed to be
                                                   protecting, the terror bombing of Serbia and
                                                   Kosovo provides a valuable laboratory for the
                                                   Anglo-American arms business. Mostly
                                                   unreported, the Americans are using a refined
                                                   version of the depleted uranium missile they
                                                   tested in southern Iraq, where leukaemia among
                                                   children and birth deformities have risen to match
                                                   the levels after Hiroshima. The RAF is using the
                                                   BL755 'multi-purpose' cluster bomb, which is not
                                                   really a bomb at all but an air-dropped land-mine:
                                                   readers will recall the Blair government's 'ban' on
                                                   land-mines. Dropped from the air, the BL755
                                                   explodes into dozens of little mines, shaped liked
                                                   spiders. These are scattered over a wide area and
                                                   kill and maim people who step on them, children
                                                   especially.

                                                   Britain's new military-industrial-arms trade, which
                                                   Margaret Thatcher built and the taxpayer
                                                   subsidises through 'soft loans' to dictatorships, is
                                                   central to the 'Blair project'. Each time New
                                                   Labour has sought to bring big business into the
                                                   fold, arms companies or their representatives
                                                   have been at the head of the queue. A New
                                                   Labour backer is Raytheon, manufacturer of the
                                                   Patriot missile and currently under contract to the
                                                   Ministry of Defence to build tanks. More arms
                                                   contracts have been approved by the Blair
                                                   government than by the Tories; and two-thirds of
                                                   arms exports go to regimes with appalling human
                                                   rights records - such as the dictatorship in Jakarta,
                                                   which is currently deploying death squads in East
                                                   Timor.

                                                   Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that
                                                   British-supplied small arms have caused in East
                                                   Timor the equivalent of the Dunblane massacre
                                                   many times over. Last year, the Defence
                                                   Secretary, George Robertson, intervened in a
                                                   Courtaulds Aerospace deal for armoured
                                                   vehicles, headed for Indonesia's Kopassus special
                                                   forces whose commander, General Prabowo, he
                                                   described (in a letter to Robin Cook) as 'an
                                                   enlightened officer, keen [on] human rights'.
                                                   Kopassus is the Waffen SS-style force that
                                                   spearheaded the invasion of East Timor,
                                                   murdered five journalists and is responsible for
                                                   the worst atrocities in the illegally occupied
                                                   territory. When Prabowo's father-in-law, the
                                                   tyrant Suharto, was toppled from his throne last
                                                   year, the general was also sacked.

                                                   The parallels with Kosovo and East Timor are
                                                   striking. However, no bombs will fall on Jakarta.
                                                   They might hit the local offices of British
                                                   Aerospace (supplier of machine guns and Hawk
                                                   fighter bombers) and the Defence Export Sales
                                                   Organisation, the Blair government's official
                                                   merchants of death who, as Thatcher used to say,
                                                   'are batting for Britain'.


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