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NATO Aggression in Yugoslavia - through the prism of Historical Parallels

"We Protest - Before civilized society we declare that our barbaric enemies, rather than submit to our demands, placed their own women and children beneath the bombs falling from our aircraft." What is being satyrized here? The "wordfucking" briefings in Brussels? No, this was written much, much earlier, by the Czech writer Karel Chapek. "That we don't want war is proven by the fact that we are fighting without declaring war."

Now this "aphorism of the absurd" comes neither from Clinton nor from Albright (who recently notified the world that America "does not intend to declare war on Yugoslavia"). Again the author is Chapek and he had in mind Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo. Right up to the end, he continued as best he could - with sarcasm - his personal, unequal battle against the cruelty and hypocrisy of fascism, whose undeclared wars in Asia, Africa and Europe started the second world war. But could Chapek have imagined that this politics of the absurd, which stunned him in 1938, would be repeated again and again.


It is now fashionable to compare Serbia with Vietnam.

I do have something to say both on the similarities and on the differences, after all, I was there at the height of the American bombing; but, first, let's compare the Czechoslovak Crisis of 60 years ago with Kosovo; they are as alike as two peas in pod.

As a "moral-ethical" cover for "Plan Grun [Plan Green]" Hitler invented an "oppressed national minority," that is to say, ethnic Germans settled in a compact area of the Czech province of Sudetenland near the border. "We need look no further than the abuse of three and one half million Germans," announced Goebbels. "I will not put up with circumstances where German minorities are oppressed in Czechoslovakia and elsewhere." threatened Hitler. Now transpose the Sudetenland with Kosovo today; Clinton, Blair, Schroeder and Solana might easily mistake these quotations for their own.

In the course of constructing the Sudetenland crisis the phenomenon of Goebbels propaganda machine, with its motto "The more monstrous the lies - the easier they are to believe," matured. And although Goebbels' successors in NATO have surpassed the level of the Nazi furore, the techniques are the same: 15th of September 1938; they lied about "the burning of cities and towns by the Czechs," about "300 dead," and "tens of thousands of refugees," already by the 28th they had flown into a rage over "120,000 refugees." Although the Nazi fantasies never achieved the level of verbal subterfuge in such phrases as "ethnic cleansing" and "humanitarian catastrophe," the pioneer in the battle against these mythical sins of the Slavs was, of course, Hitler.

To provoke and inflame tensions, Hitler received the chief of the Sudetenland Nazis, Heinlein, in order that in discussions about "autonomy", on each occasion, completely unacceptable demands could be put before the Czechoslovak administration. In exactly this way the Americans are directing the Albanian separatists (formed, by the way, on the model of the Sudeten "Volunteer Corps").

Taking Kosovo away from Yugoslavia is roughly comparable to taking the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. In capitulating to the "battle against ethnic cleansing," they were to lose (including territories seized on the quiet by their "good neighbours," Poland and Hungary) 30% of their land and 35% of their population. More important, they lost their historical boundaries and their will to defend themselves; half a year later, the Nazi troops marched into Prague, almost in parade formation, and it was as if an independent country in Central Europe had never existed. In fact, the underlying objectives are also identical: the minimum program is the destruction of a sovereign state in Europe, the maximum program the preparation of a large scale invasion along the lines of "Drang nach Osten [Push to the East]."

NATO's operation "Decisive Force" plagiarized Hitler's "Plan Grun." With one exception; then they didn't go as far as bombing. But this was not out of the goodness of Hitler's heart; Czechoslovakia's allies (England and France) betrayed them and the authorities refused Soviet help for political reasons, but, having calculated the unequal balance of forces, to battle alone frightened them. Germany had 75 divisions, they had "only" 35. Here the similarity between Kosovo and the Sudetenland crisis breaks down and other parallels and associations arise.


Since defence (especially with a powerful system of fortifications such as those built by Czechoslovakia in the Sudetenland) is easier than the attack, and taking account of the fact that her army was better armed, the sides in 1938 can be assessed as roughly equal. And if Benes, then the President of Czechoslovakia, considered resistance to be impossible, why then was Milosevitch so stubborn in a situation of such glaring inequality of forces? Did he seriously imagine that the dwarf Serbia could actually oppose a monster like NATO? Here the parallel with Vietnam intrudes.

When I see on the screen shots from Yugoslavia, the abandoned farms bring to life links in my memory to Ham Jong, to the desert of broken bricks and tiles where the town of Tanh Hoa once stood, to bits of human bodies after the bombing of the suburbs of Hanoi and... to the opening ceremony for the Art Museum just after that bombing. This last memory helps to clarify the apparent paradox of the rock concerts between bombing runs in the square in Belgrade.

Just as today the NATO horde, using a thousandfold superiority of forces, is methodically destroying the fruits of the centuries long labour of the Serbian people, trying to wipe from the face of the earth one of the oldest Slavic civilizations, so too, thirty years ago, the USA vowed "to bomb North Vietnam back to the stone age" (the exact formulation of general Lime(?), then commander of the US airforce). The natural reaction is to mobilize one's spiritual energy, to demonstrate to the world (and more importantly to one's self) one's moral superiority in the face of such cruel and senseless punishment.

When their spirits are high, people are capable of getting used to and even adapting to bombs, which become just another part of everyday life; like the extreme cold of the arctic and the enervating heat of the equator. In Vietnam (just as today in Serbia) not one undamaged bridge remained, but traffic on the roads continued unimpeded, because in the thickets near the river banks were hidden pontoon bridges waiting for the cover of night to be set up. In one small village I noticed kids with mats made of straw rope protecting their backs like a rucksack. It turns out that these were protection... against bombs! When the bombers arrived, the kids didn't panic, they crouched down and the mats served both as camouflage and as protection from slow-flying shrapnel. Another village invented the "buffalo muzzle," a woven basket to stop the livestock from feasting on the garden seedlings during an air raid while the farmers were in the trenches. And the fishermen, out for a catch, kept well stocked with line. They dragged it behind them and could easily hide in the waves from the sights of the American "aces."

Another important sign of unity and preparedness was that the whole country bristled with gun barrels. Traveling more than a thousand kilometers in a "gazikie," [a type of Soviet car] everywhere, in the fields, in peasant huts, in schools, I saw rifles. I knew that, close by, in thoroughly camouflaged positions were concealed anti-aircraft guns and ground to air missiles. More than three thousand American airplanes were shot down by the Vietnamese in ten years of undeclared war. The circumstances surrounding the destruction of one of them I will set forth here from my own notes.

I arrived at the seaside village of Kun Ban the day after a battle had occurred. "We were having a meeting," said the secretary of the village party, Ho Dinh Huan. "We were considering how to repair the supply of fresh water to the fields. At 13:10 we heard the roar of aircraft. We ran out. There were four of them and from the rear end of one of them spewed a stream of fire and smoke. In the sky two parachutes appeared and we raced down to the sea. It was low tide and the boats lay about 300 meters from the water. There, many of our home guard had already gathered and were dragging the boats out by hand. The airmen were in an inflatable boat. We fired a volley into the air and, in their language, shouted "Hands Up!" One raised his hands. The other did not. We fired again. He raised only one hand. He seemed to be wounded."

To get out to the enemy airmen took only 15 minutes, the return journey took 2 hours because of air attacks. Fifteen of them including two hydroplanes! They attacked the 28 men (not counting the prisoners) in the boats who had 15 rifles and two machine guns. But from the shore heavy anti-aircraft fire was directed against the foreigners. "At 16:25 the boats docked," the secretary concluded his account "but they continued bombing the village until 22:00."

Taking revenge on the peasants, the enemy ploughed the newly sown rice paddies with bombs and rockets and destroyed the village road. But there were no human losses, unless you count that airman for whom two hours without medical attention proved fatal.

Is there a comparison between the air fire power of the American 7th Fleet and the home guard of the village of Kun Ban? Well, in gaining the upper hand in the duel, the home guard gave the Americans convincing proof of a truth, which is being demonstrated each day by the Serbs; air superiority is not victory. On the other hand, at that time the inequality of forces between the dwarf and the monster was significantly offset by the help of the USSR, which provided the anti-aircraft missiles. And here, alas, the parallel between the US wars against Serbia and Vietnam breaks down.


Irritated by the thoughtlessness of the British premier in the parliamentary debates on the war with Russia (which was then relabelled in history as the "Crimean War"), Marx, more than a century and a half ago, wrote that in distinction from Shakespearean tragedy which "nowhere entrusts to the fool the task of delivering the prolog in an heroic drama,... Lord Aberdeen played the role if not of the English jester then at least in Italian pantaloons." The Sudeten and Kosovo crises however show that the jester at the helm creating tragedy, is not in the least unusual in our own times.

It would be interesting to know how Marx (had he lived to see it) would have reacted to the pronouncements of another English premier, Macdonald, "England is a Lady. Ladies are pleased by the aggressive activities of men, on condition that they are kept secret. Therefore act tactfully

and we will not interfere." This was "British-Pantaloons" answer to a probe from Mussolini on the introduction of Italian troops into Ethiopia. Just a little later, the "Lady" conducted herself even more outrageously, insistently pushing Czechoslovakia to "compromise" with Hitler. So, was it just cynicism, the fools epigram "Peace in our Time!" intoned by an even later Prime Minister of Great Britain, Chamberlain, at the airport on his return from Munich, where the activities of England and France had given Hitler a mandate not just to annexe the Sudetenland but to unfold the second world war, among whose first victims, they themselves would be?

So we must insist to our "democrats," that the point of departure for acts of war in the European theatre in the second world war, was not the German-Soviet non-aggression pact concluded in 1939, but the Munich discussions of 1938! The elite of the "western democracies" ignored the process of the globalization of fascist aggression with astonishing thoughtlessness. There you have it. Now a sinister troupe of clowns has returned to the world political stage in the shape of Clinton, Blair and Solana, who, with jesters grimaces, commit unthinkable crimes at the same time that Chernomyrdin and Yavlinski exhort the Serbs to submit to the Germans, because the Russians won't help them.

The farce at Rambouillet was played out according to the Munich scenario. There too Russia played an empty role and the main protagonist Yugoslavia (just as at Munich, Czechoslovakia) was cast as an extra, ultimately forced to sign documents which it was not even permitted to consider. But Yugoslavia said "No!" But what if they had agreed?

There is also a point to asking the reverse question, what if Czechoslovakia had rejected their diktat at Munich? In such a case, it would of course have suffered destruction and taken casualties but, possibly, it could have repelled aggression and remained a sovereign nation. And then Hitler, having seized neither territory nor a powerful complex of weapons factories (which were left to him intact, with equipment and personnel) might perhaps not have risked falling upon Poland, France and the USSR. That is to say there might never have been a second world war.

And if Vietnam had not chosen the path of extreme sacrifice, not undertaken the unequal battle? Might not the aggressor, in such a case, have been further emboldened, might a new atomic world war not have been unleashed?

And finally, as to Serbia? What if she had submitted to manipulation at Rambouillet, not taken the path of sacrifice (or if, not receiving outside help, was seen to be squashed under NATO boots)? Then, I fear, there would be no avoiding developments along the lines of events after Munich, then, swiftly, a new "Drang nach Osten [Push to the East]" would wash over Russia in a configuration of forces extremely unfavourable to her.

In standing up for the inviolability of her borders, Yugoslavia defends not only herself but also us. And even Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgars and Poles, for whom a continuation of the betrayal of peace following the Sudeten-Kosovo precedent, would mean crushing territorial losses (even Bulgaria has an active Turkish minority, Slovakia a Hungarian one, who would be considered by their arrogant and larcenous neighbours as "ethnic Germans."

With its proud "No!" to the American-NATO monster, Serbia defends the structures of world peace established after the second world war and defends one of the last bastions of humanity on the path to the third world apocalypse.

Andrei Krushinski

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