Nat'l Writers Union: Kosovo resolution
Source Doug Vaughan
Date 99/05/27/11:46

The proposed resolution (see below) is a muddled hash of misdirected
enthusiasms and hidden sympathies, some of which I share and so propose we
clarify and debate:

1. The resolution must, in its body, establish a basis in fact for the
claim that NATO has "targeted journalists." This should be done by using
their own words (Gen. Clark or Jamie Shea explaining policy of targeting,
e.g., state-run TV Srpska, which was bombed at least twice.)

NATO's policy is in fact contradictory: They claim never to intentionally
target civilians, and to regret the inevitable but minimal "collateral
damage" which is justified on a choice of evils theory: Civilian casualties
are a necessary but lesser evil in the effort to protect the helpless
Kosovars. Or so the argument goes. But what's scary is the subtext lurking
in the rhetorical rubble: The justification for the attack on the TV
station was that it was housed in a building that also held the
headquarters of Milosevic's political party. These are "legitimate" targets
(that is, you won't get accused of a war crime for attacking them) only if
one accepts the premise that Milosevic is the moral equivalent of Hitler,
and his party -- or at least its extreme nationalist wing, the fascist
Chetniks it has absorbed since the collapse of Yugoslavia -- are analogous
to the Nazis. Then, of course, anything goes. And that's exactly the
argument the Serb nationalists (including TVSrpska) use against the KLA,
denounced in Serbian propaganda as pro-German terrorists. The latter
proposition at least has some factual validity, as the European Union's own
anti-drug agency suggests. But it hardly justifies attacks on civilians. In
short, the Nuremberg principle has been stood on its ear by NATO, on its
head by Serbia.

NATO's post-debacle "after action" excuse for hitting Serb TV, casualties
be damned, portrayed the employees as something akin to Goebels: They
apologized for ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, hence, they got what they
deserved. NATO's policy is guilt (or at least punishment) by association
-- much like Goebbels'. It rests on the notion that journalists who are
citizens of other states are enemy propagandists and ideological partisans
in support of their own government's evil policy. This may be true in fact
in a given particular case (say, US television commentators or big-paper
reporters on the invasion of Panama, or the Gulf War), but who's to judge?
The rules of war, weak and unenforceable as they are, evolved precisley to
take such decisions out of the hands of the soldiers and their commanders.
NATO's line is unacceptable as an exception to the rule against inflicting
harm against non-combatants because it would invite reciprocal targeting of
journalists on any "side" of a conflict on the basis of the perception of
any other side. Rules of war were invented to mitigate the generalized
barbarism of the generals and their political commanders-in-chief. Its very
survival threatened by total war, the species has painfully evolved the
self-protective mechanism of piecemeal pacifism, to the point of outlawing
wars of aggression, torture and killing of prisoners, and targeting of
civilians. So, additionally, reference should be made to the appropriate
articles of the various conventions to which the US is a signatory, even
though it has waged war, without declaring it so, in yet another cowardly
evasion of its own supposed constitutional requirements.

2. Who are these "various parties"? If this is not merely an offhand
pretense at even-handedness, the parties should be specified, as should
their "atrocities and other crimes" -- such as...? The Serbian regime has
also "targeted" journalists -- for harassment, beatings, expulsions -- on
the grounds of providing aid and comfort to the foreign aggressors, but in
contravention of Yugoslav and international law. Do we condemn this? What
about Croatian persecution of journalists? Or do we dodge this with
vagueries to avoid controversy?

3. The clarity of the resolution is further compromised by references to
"sovereignty" and "surrounding sovereign republics" (elsewhere rendered as
"other sovereign nations" [sic])-- without suggesting why this concept is
significant to the argument against killing reporters or other
non-combatants. The presumed rationale is the international legal precept
which bars states (not "nations") from intervening in the internal affairs
of other states whose sovereignty over particular territory is mutually and
reciprocally recognized; e.g., Serbian control of Kosovo. The principle of
non-intervention was designed to protect the weaker states from the
stronger, but it has gradually come to be conditioned on the right of
self-determination and the duty of all states to protect the rights
universally guaranteed to all persons. NATO acknowledges Serbian/Yugoslav
sovereignty over Kosovo, but claims a right of humanitarian intervention to
protect the rights of Albanian Kosovars to self-determination and freedom
from persecution from Serbian authorities, who claim only to be exercizing
legitimate sovereign authority to protect their national territory from
secession instigated from abroad. I regard the former claim as a specious
and casuistical justification for an illegal war, the latter as an excuse
for the oppression that triggered Kosovar separatism. But the case has to
be made.

This is a political and historical question which should be faced squarely,
not begged. It is a quite different argument to say that, however (ig)noble
the declared ends (saving the Kosovars, restoring them to their homes),
NATO's means are inappropriate and murderously counter-productive. I
believe we should call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, a halt to
the bombing, a UN peacekeeping force (hence Russian and Chinese
cooperation) to enforce the cease-fire and return of Kosovars to their
homes (and right of Serbs to theirs in Croatia, and vice versa), and UN
supervised plebescite for Kosovo.

4. Which brings us to the roots of the conflict: The "surrounding sovereign
republics" and how they got that way. Presumably, these are Hungary,
Bulgaria, Albania, and Montenegro (an "autonomous" republic with Serbia in
"sovereign" Yugoslavia). The other "sovereign republics" were carved from
multinational Yugoslavia over the past decade by a combination of imperial
(US-German-UK) intervention and nationalist aspiration -- Slovenia,
Croatia, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Macedonia. (For the moment, I resist the
invitation to compare US actions in the civil wars of say, Spain,
Ethiopia/Eritrea, Central America, Angola, Mozambique, Congo 1960 vs.
1997,Timor, Kurdistan, etc. Merely to list the names is to wallow in the
hypocricies -- itself a strong argument that no good can come of the good
intentions our government claims for itself.)

NATO policy rests on the implicit and ultimately racist assumption that
these nationalities cannot and will not live peacably together --
especially in a nominally socialist state -- and must be separated into
smaller ethnically discrete states. For over a century, this strategy has
required "cleansing" each territory of other ethnic groups by the locally
dominant nationality which takes on an increasingly fascist cast in the
name of its own rights and proclaims sovereignty at the expense of others.
The ancient Romans and the modern British called this "divide-and-rule" but
every empire has practiced it: In the Balkans, that means the Ottoman Turks
who favored the converted Muslims over the Orthodox, the Germans who backed
the genocidal Croatian Catholic Ustashi, the Russian succor to the little
brother Serbs, the British playing each against all for oil interests, and
now the neo-liberal triumphalists of NATO, led by the US, in quest of a
pliant Greater Albania. Needless to say, this has no historical basis
beyond the ignominious record of outsiders instigating such intramural
wrangling; it is at best a self-fulfilling prophecy. It should come as no
surprise that this assumption conveniently favors penetration and control
of their economies by the transnational banks and industrial companies
headquartered in the big powers.

5. The clause stating we take no sides is an escape from facing these
difficult issues, which demand a principled response. A simpler, more
forthright formulation would condemn NATO's intervention, which violates
the UN Charter, condemn the predictible consequences, which include the
inevitable casualties among non-combatants, including journalists, in
violation of international law. We should also condemn the Serbian
atrocities against the Albanian Kosovars, including journalists. And we
should condemn the atrocities committed by Albanian separatists against the
minority Serbs within Kosovo. Human rights for humans, not just some

Interested NWU members might take a look at Jim Naureckas's piece in the
May-June issue of Extra! (; Noam Chomsky's analysis in Z
Magazine; the Committee to Protect Journalists is also debating a response.

Resolution______: Human Rights for Journalists

WHEREAS journalists have been targeted for attack during the war in Serbia
and in the surrounding sovereign republics of the former Yugoslavia; and

WHEREAS the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and other parties
have publicly stated that journalists and news organizations are legitimate
targets in warfare; and

WHEREAS Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees
journalists and other citizens "the right to freedom of opinion and
expression," which includes the freedom "to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through
any media and regardless of frontiers;"


1. The National Writers Union condemns the position of NATO and all other
parties who suggest that journalists are legitimate targets in warfare.

2. The National Writers Union condemns the atrocities and other crimes that
have been committed against journalists and other citizens by various
parties during the conflict in greater Yugoslavia.

3. Taking no side in the civil war in Serbia or in other sovereign nations,
the National Writers Union supports the human rights of journalists

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