A Turning Point


May 27 was a crucial turning-point in the war. On that day, NATO announced the commitment of over 100,000 troops to the borders of Yugoslavia - enough for an invasion. On the same day, the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia announced the indictment of Milosevic for war crimes. The timing clearly shows the subordination of this supposedly impartial body to the war aims of the Western powers.

Like Austria-Hungary's demands on Serbia which started world war one, the Rambouillet dictat, which demanded that NATO troops have a free run of Yugoslavia, immune from prosecution for any crimes committed, was intended to be unacceptable. Then the appointment of Agim Ceku, one of the organizers of the massacre of Serbian civilians in Krajina, to the leadership of the Kosova Liberation Army, was also planned to push Serb buttons. Finally, the warrant against Yugoslavia's president topped off an escalating series of provocations designed to sabotage hopes of peace.

Clinton refused to halt the bombing even for a day in response to the reasonable requests and dire warnings of Viktor Chernomyrdin, a joint committee of US Congress and the Russian Duma, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson, the Pope, and even some member governments of NATO. He ignored the US Congress and provoked the world's second and third nuclear powers. On June 3, Clinton responded to an agreement by Yugoslavia to withdraw all its forces from part of its national territory by continuing the bombing. Even the fact that the war has obviously achieved the opposite of all its stated aims has had no effect on the bombing except to increase it - raising questions about what the real war aims are.

What can stop the war?

Politicians can't stop the war. On May 25, congressmen pointed out that it was now illegal under the War Powers Act for Clinton to continue bombing Yugoslavia. His response was to escalate it. The fact that the attack on Yugoslavia is in violation of the UN Charter doesn't bother him unduly either.

Politicians are opposing the war just enough to cover their butts if it turns out badly, without actually stopping it. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) said "If I have one constituent who comes back in a body bag, I want to be able to look their family in the eye and tell them we tried everything we could before their son or daughter gave their lives for our country".

As long as the armed forces obey the Commander in Chief, he can ignore the law. He can also ignore public opinion - he's not standing for re-election. He can ignore peaceful demonstrations. He can ignore letters and petitions. The only thing he can't ignore is a real struggle against war, which threatens the foundations of government. This has happened in recent American history. The Vietnam war was stopped by mutinies, riots, strikes and numerous other manifestations of working class resistance: an amorphous but effective movement.

Whatever our analysis of the cause of this particular war - calculated class interest or imperial arrogance gone mad - history shows that only mass resistance can halt the war machine. It's difficult to be more specific. Mutinies of conscripts helped bring world war one to a close, but this seems unlikely among NATO soldiers today. We should not be too dogmatic about the exact tactics to be used. Mass disobedience of various kinds - blocking roads and railroads and so on - needs to be extended to include actions similar to those carried out by environmentalists who burned down a new ski resort in Colorado this last winter.

The production of analyses of the situation in Yugoslavia, such as those on Wildcat's website, is also an important part of the anti-war struggle. Calling for workers on both sides to express solidarity with each other is politically correct, but harmless. Concrete action against NATO, by far the most dangerous player in the game, is what is needed. Because war is so unpredicable, it's important for its opponents to be fairly open to new tactics, which means cooperating with other peace-lovers of various stripes to see if they have anything to contribute. Most of the arguments against the war are pathetic, but this does not mean we can afford to dismiss the movement which contains them. The Vietnam War was not stopped by a movement with the right arguments. This movement can certainly not afford to limit itself to granola-eating pacifists. There are millions of people out there who have never opposed a war before, but oppose this one.

Nevertheless, we should not be so open as to lose our awareness of political operators of the left and right who try to limit our activity to harmless protest, using movements like this for their own benefit. During the Gulf War, the organizers of the demonstrations in San Francisco led the cops to some of the more militant demonstrators who were breaking store windows. We must oppose the peace police.

War can easily misfire on its perpetrators. The widespread opposition to the war from within the ruling class may not be able to stop it, but it does show serious doubt that it will succeed. It took years before politicians began to oppose the Vietnam war. This war has already provoked large-scale opposition. NATO's credibility is questioned daily. With a few more mistakes, and a more active resistance to the war, the apparent triumph of the west could turn into a Phyrric victory. The last twenty years have seen an overal decline in the struggle against war and poverty on a worldwide scale. This could be a turning point.

Hell No - We Won't Go - We Won't Die in Kosovo

Wildcat, June 3, 1999

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