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Dusan Puvacic

             Harold Pinter: "We are bandits guilty of murder"
By Harold Pinter


THE Nato war is a bandit action, committed with no serious consideration of
the consequences, confused, ill thought, miscalculated, an act of
deplorable machismo. Yet, according to opinion polls most British people
support this war, believing we may have a moral duty to intervene and the
moral authority to do so.

What is moral authority? Where does it come from? How do you achieve it?
Who bestows it upon you? How do you persuade others that you possess it?
You don't. You don't have to bother. What you have is power. Bombs and
power. And that's your moral authority. Until the West started negotiating
with the Kosovo Liberation Army, thus bestowing moral authority on its
uprising, the number of people who died in Kosovo through political
violence was fewer than in the preceding decade in Northern Ireland. Think
about that.

The British populace and media have accepted 40 days of bombing in this,
the biggest conflagration since
the Second World War, with surprisingly few questions. Images of the real
and horrible plight of the Kosovo Albanians produce an emotional upsurge
whereby we feel right to intervene, and that somehow contributions to
Kosovo appeals and support for bombing have a moral equivalence.

Not enough questions are asked of the politicians, spin doctors and Nato
commanders and of what they
knew. They knew that when the bombing began, immediate and major ethnical
cleansing by Serbian
paramilitaries was likely to occur as part of a planned operation.
Intelligence reports showed the cleansing
was coming but Nato leaders claim they had no idea it would be on such a
scale. They did not need spy
satellites to learn that as long ago as October, when Nato first threatened
bombing Serbia, Vojislav Seselj,
the loathsome vice-president and suspected war criminal, promised in
parliament that as soon as the first
Nato bomb dropped "all the Albanians would vanish from Kosovo". Contrary to
the usual accusations, President Milosevic is not an all-powerful tyrant.
He managed to stay in power only after losing popular electoral support by
making a pact with opposition hardmen such as Seselj.

Cleansing Kosovo in the event of a Nato attack was the likely price of the
deal with Seselj. Bomb-happy Nato began hurling weapons, and hundreds of
Kosovar refugees, televisual victims, spewed through border posts and on to
our screens. Less than half of British people polled in surveys had
supported bombing when it began. But now Blair and his war party had a war
that people would support.

Nobody disputes that the Kosovar Albanians were brutally expelled. Yet who
asked whether the bombs were dropped responsibly (if bombs can be dropped
responsibly)? Nato pinned the blame for the exodus solely on the Serbs and
they were being cynical with the truth.

A fundamentally inaccurate picture of Serbians has given rise to their
being demonised. It is time to unmask the repeated distortions,
disinformation and plain ignorance propagated by this Government with the
effect of fostering public support for the war. Ministers gave the
impression that Serbs were somehow "to blame" for being bombed because they
supported Milosevic. Yet in the last election, in autumn 1996, Milosevic
was defeated! The bonehead bombing by Nato of a people, as opposed to
strictly military targets, had the consequence of enraging them and
stifling opposition so that Milosevic strengthened his previously tenuous
grip on power.

The Government's mantra is: "We tell the truth. They lie." We are being
spun and managed, and kept on
message with the desperate assertion that this a replay of the Holocaust
and Milosevic is Adolf Hitler. The
trains on to which ethnic Albanians were forced did not lead to gas
chambers but to Macedonia. I cannot see how you can compare "ethnic
cleansing", which is essentially the expulsion of people from a given area,
to the extermination of a race. But if you even question these assertions
you run the risk of being called an appeaser or pro-Serb by Clare Short.

Let us probe some of our lies, such as the one given in writing on April 12
to the International Federation of Journalists that Yugoslav television
would not be bombed. Ten days later it was, with the loss of some two dozen
lives. As Nato "always tells the truth", these civilians had no reason to
expect to die. This was justified by the Nato spokesman, Jamie Shea,
because Belgrade television displayed "tolerance for brutality". "Tolerance
for brutality" - remember that phrase - remember it if this conflict
continues to deepen, remember it if it lasts months or years. Tolerant Tony
Blair shrugged off the deaths,
there were no words of regret. Whatever one might say about Radio
Television Serbia's ugly
output, the Geneva Convention states quite clearly that only civilians
directly involved in hostilities may
be killed. The make-up girl who was killed wielded a powder compact, not a
So we are guilty not only of lying but of murder, and also hypocrisy. We
rightly condemned the killing of the journalist Slavko Curuvija, who wrote
things that Milosevic did not like. But Nato killed Belgrade media workers
for saying things that Nato doesn't like.

It is not the point that Serbian paramilitaries have committed far more
murders. In ignoring the United Nations and all customary guidelines of
international law the "19 democratic nations" (as Nato wrongly calls
itself) may claim the moral authority to intervene on humanitarian grounds
if their own
credentials are beyond question.

Let us cite the record of a Nato member, democratic Turkey: 1.4 million
Kurds cleansed in a repression far worse than Kosovo, including air
bombardment of its own citizens. Furthermore, I will reveal in a television
programme on Tuesday how the Clinton Administration aided ethnic cleansing
in former Yugoslavia in 1995.

If you are going to start a war it is a good idea to have a war aim. Our
media accept each different
pronouncement of "why we bomb" with sleepy equanimity. At first our bombers
went to "prevent a
humanitarian catastrophe" and enforce the Rambouillet agreement from
several miles up. When the
humanitarian catastrophe duly came, the non-compliance of Milosevic meant
Rambouillet was tossed aside. It would be amusing, if it were not so
depressing, to trace, for example, the shifting position on what kind of
peace force we want. As cruise missiles continued exploding to no avail,
Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, began to drop the stipulation that it
should be a Nato or "Nato-led" force. Then, when Russian diplomacy edged
towards the notion of a truly international peace force, this prospect was
duly rejected and the "Nato led force" idea crept back into play. 

On another front, Clinton declared that the arrest and indictment of
Milosevic as a war criminal is a stated aim. Soon after, Robin Cook and
Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State, declared on Breakfast with
Frost that justice, in the shape of arraigning Milosevic, would be a nice
by-product but is not a war aim. 

Is it about getting the Kosovo Albanians back? No air war has ever worked
without a ground assault, nor - if anything were left of Kosovo after a
ground war - would a Nato protectorate be likely to help ethnic Albanians
return. In nearby Bosnia, despite the presence of tens of thousands of Nato
troops, only 78,000 of the 1.2 million people displaced by the war have
been able to return to their

These are the kind of facts we need to be thinking about. This is how we
will come to understand that Tony Blair is leading us in a sanctimonious
crusade that bestows a sheen of moral purpose but is fundamentally hollow.
If we are not to be guilty of hypocrisy by tackling only Milosevic, we risk
a permanent state of global war. Messrs Blair and Clinton will need to
continue like humanitarian sharks, constantly swimming and gobbling up
nasty little minnows as and when they decree. But no bigger
fish like Turkey or China, please!

Then we might really start having to look at ourselves.

Harold Pinter and Stuart Urban, the film-maker, have made the first
programme for British television arguing resolutely against the war.
Counterblast is on Tuesday, BBC2, 7.30pm

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