As this paper is being written, across the Atlantic Ocean, in Kosovo, there are missiles being fired, houses burning, and people dying. But to understand this senseless war, one must look at how it started.
As was seen in the U.S.S.R and Checkoslovakia, due to different nationalities, regions of countries demand sovereignty and independence. This was how it all started in Kosovo, dominated by an Albanian population. Even after receiving autonomy, Albanian terrorist acts continued, carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). They seeked independence and perhaps even joining the greater Albania. The Yugoslavian army was forced to enter and control these terrorist acts. Then came NATO
Driven by atrocity stories of brutality by the Yugoslavian army, NATO decided to take matters into their own hands. The bombing, on the large part an American operation, began on March 24th, 1999. These military actions received immediate opposition from a few non-NATO member countries, headed by Russia. Russia, taking the role of a peacekeeper, vowed not to fight to defend Serbia, relieving many of the fear of World War 3.
The very involvement of NATO in Yugoslavia raises some ethical, moral and political issues. What business does this organization have in entering a civil war in an independent country? NATO violated the UN Charter of prohibition against the use of force against a member state of the UN. Taking a much-criticized tactic of bombing selective targets in Kosovo, the strategy for NATO appeared to be “bomb and hope.”
Hoping for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to back down and issue orders for a retreat of his troops, NATO continued the destruction of strategic targets, as Russia called for a suspension, if not a halt to the bombing. But it wasn’t the bombing of military installations that got NATO in deep waters. It was the “civilian casualties” that followed, which seemed inevitable from the start. On April 12th and 14th, off-course missiles resulted in 92 civilian deaths. Two buses were destroyed on different occasions as they were crossing targeted bridges; 34 and 17 people died respectively, as dozens of others were injured. On April 27th a missile slammed into a civilian Serbian town, killing 20. Other unsuccessful air strikes saw the destruction of a hospital, a house near the capital of NATO ally Bulgaria and a Chinese embassy. U.S. President, Bill Clinton, could not apologize his way out of thousands of Chinese protesting the NATO air strike. Perhaps one of NATO’s biggest mistakes was the destruction of Belgrade’s RTS TV studio. As an obvious attempt to shut down the Serbian propaganda, NATO violated the journalistic and human right of freedom of speech. This incident jeopardizes the safety of all journalists, because they have now become targets themselves.
As 11 million Serbs live in fear of being bombed, the Western media concentrates on the trauma suffered by the Albanian refugees. Leaving the country by hundreds of thousands the Albanians are said to be victims of ethnic cleansing. Nobody stops to think that maybe they’re running from NATO air strikes and not from Serbian soldiers. There are no refugee programs for the innocent Serbs who got caught up in this terrible war. They have nowhere to run. Quotes like “campaign of terror” and “brutal actions” circulate the American press when referring to the Serb military. Atrocity stories of rape and torture are numerous. There was even an article on a study conducted by American psychologists stating that Milosevic is mentally unstable. In other words it is an attempt to create a “mad villain” to fight against. How did they come to this conclusion when they’ve never even met him?
Upon examining the Canadian papers it becomes apparent that most of the opinionated pro NATO articles come from the United States. Articles appearing in The Gazette by ways of New York , Washington and other American press agencies contain stories vilifying the Serbs and attempts to justify NATO’s involvement. However, editorials and articles written by Canadian journalists and columnists are not so one sided. They question NATO’s strategy, publish interviews with Serbs on location and propose alternate solutions to the war. Overall, I would have to say that The Gazette is doing a good job remaining more or less neutral, while publishing articles covering both sides of the story. One could see that as the bombing went on and there was no end in sight, there was more and more articles appearing promoting the side of the Serbs and questioning NATO’s actions. Assuming that all Canadian newspapers are informing their readers in more or less the same way as the Montreal Gazette, I would say that Canadians are well informed on the crisis and are aware of the issues and events in Kosovo. However, the readers must not always believe what they read, and should remain cautious when examining articles that appear one sided. Canadians should draw their own conclusions on the subject and maybe doing a little research on both sides of the story would be useful. After all their country is also involved.
Canada’s involvement in the crisis, although not to the extent of the United States, is present. Since Canada is a member of NATO it is not a surprise that they would militarily support the campaign. But Canada doesn’t have to follow blindly the U.S., England and France. The Canadian government should be more concerned of what the people think and whether the public opinion is on their side before jumping in headfirst. Do we really want to see Canadian soldiers die in a far-off country in the name of NATO? Not many of us are even sure if it will change anything there. But the Canadian troops have been already sent down with Jean Chretien reassuring us that they’re going only as “peacekeepers” and not as ground troops. However, there is an obvious possibility of them getting involved in a serious armed conflict with the Serb army. We must ask ourselves if this is our war to fight. In my opinion, Canada should continue to accommodate the refugees, give financial support to the hungry and the needy in Kosovo, but not get involved militarily.
So who is the “villain” in Kosovo? The barbaric Serbs? The independence seeking Albanians? NATO? According to The Transnational Foundation for Peace NATO attacks are killing 3 times as many civilians a day as were killed by the warring Serbs and Kosovars in the 12 months before the bombing began. Support for NATO bombing had approval of 61% in the 11 NATO-member countries, and 78% opposed the military action with only 12% approval in 6 non-NATO countries surveyed . We must keep in mind that NATO-member countries are exposed to NATO propaganda, as the non-member countries would have a clearer view of the truth in their papers. Although the end to this war does not appear to be close, one thing to me is clear: NATO should have attempted a more diplomatic approach. It is much easier to unleash a war than put out it’s fire.