"Many of the weapons being used contain depleted uranium, which will spread deadly radioactive dust throughout the region, contaminating for generations water, soil and crops. It may come as a surprise to many Canadians to realize Canada is the major supplier of depleted uranium to the U.S. military complex." — James Bissett
Monday, May 31, 1999
It is time for NATO's political leaders to admit their unjust and
unnecessary war against Yugoslavia has been a colossal failure. It is
time to put an immediate end to the bombing before ground troops
are engaged and the war escalates. For 69 days the democratic
countries of the West have been systematically smashing to pieces a
modern European state. None of NATO's objectives has been
achieved. The air strikes have degenerated into a war of annihilation
against the Serbian people.
Yugoslavia is a small country with a population of less than 10
million people of whom approximately 65% are of Serbian origin.
Even before the bombing, its economy had collapsed as a result of
economic sanctions. Its leader was unpopular, and in the last
municipal elections in Belgrade his party received less than 20% of
the vote. It was a country that presented no threat either to its
neighbours or to European security.
Despite this, our NATO leaders — without consulting their
parliaments or their people — have chosen to bomb Yugoslavia into
submission. There should be no misunderstanding about this.
NATO is using the most dreadful weapons of modern warfare:
cluster bombs and cruise missiles. Many of the weapons being used
contain depleted uranium, which will spread deadly radioactive dust
throughout the region, contaminating for generations water, soil and
crops. It may come as a surprise to many Canadians to realize
Canada is the major supplier of depleted uranium to the U.S.
NATO's unprovoked attack is a blatant violation of every precept
of international law. It is a violation of the Final Act of the
Conference On Security and Co-operation in Europe, signed in
Helsinki in August, 1975, which reaffirmed respect for sovereign
equality, the inviolability of frontiers, the peaceful settlement of
disputes, non-intervention in internal affairs, and the avoidance of
the threat or use of force. It is a violation of NATO's own treaty by
which it undertakes "to settle any international dispute ... by
peaceful means ... and to refrain from the threat or use of force in
any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."
Some apologists for NATO, including our own foreign minister,
feebly try to justify the NATO bombing by arguing ethnic cleansing
in Kosovo had to be stopped. Prior to March 24, the Yugoslav
military, using classic counter-insurgency tactics, did burn and
destroy villages in Kosovo suspected of harbouring KLA rebels,
and many of the unfortunate inhabitants of these villages were killed
or displaced — but there was no mass expulsion from Kosovo. As
has been verified by OSCE monitors who were on the ground in
Kosovo, the mass expulsion of Albanians took place after the
The Yugoslav army is forcing the Albanians out of Kosovo as a
strategy of war. In anticipation of a NATO ground invasion, the
Yugoslavs do not wish to fight against the world's most powerful
military force while at the same time surrounded by a hostile
population. In war, the friend of your enemy is your enemy. It is not
a humane strategy, but then neither is the use of cluster bombs.
If NATO felt compelled to intervene militarily in what was a
relatively low-grade armed rebellion in Yugoslavia, why then did it
not follow the rules and go before the United Nations Security
Council seeking authority to intervene? We are told NATO did not
do so because it was assumed Russia or China might have vetoed
such an action. But this is precisely why the founders of the UN
stipulated that before there could be intervention in a sovereign state
there must be agreement by all five of the great powers. It was
considered that intervention without unanimity might involve armed
conflict between or among the five themselves.
Today some NATO leaders scorn the UN and tell us human rights
must prevail over sovereign rights. Yet none of them are able to
suggest new rules to replace the ones in place. Those who express
concern about this are regarded as old-fashioned, but is it
old-fashioned to assume that until new laws are proclaimed the old
ones should be respected?
It may be some of our NATO leaders are not old enough to
remember that the founders of the United Nations had lived through
two cataclysmic world wars in less than 20 years. They had
witnessed the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic
bombs. Those who drafted the United Nations framework for
world peace and security did so in the conviction of one simple
truth, that if mankind were to survive it had to learn at all costs to
put an end to war and to learn to settle disputes by peaceful means.
To their everlasting shame, our NATO leaders have chosen war
over peace in Kosovo. They have abandoned diplomacy in favour
of bloodshed. They have taken us back to the Cold War and the
arms race. They have smashed the framework of world security.
They have guaranteed that we will start the new century as we did
this one, with killing and carnage. They have left us with a terrible
legacy. With six months to go before the millennium, they have
taken us back to barbarism.
James Bissett is former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia
The above letter originally appeared online at:
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