June 2017


In berating UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn for not having shown the “moral courage” to support the unprovoked 1999 attack on Serbia, Conservative MP Dominic Raab misses the irony when he writes that Mr Corbyn’s pacifism is “no way to defend Britain or international law.” (“Pacifist or not, Jeremy Corbyn is not fit to be labelled the heir to Robin Cook,” May 12)

But no one was attacking Britain or any member of the ostensibly defensive NATO alliance when it ganged up on Yugoslavia — breaking not only every international norm and law to do it but a number of postwar agreements, and for good measure rearranging the international order that European and American blood was spilled to establish.

Thanks to our inscrutable and ultimately self-defeating Balkan wars — based on the always prudent doctrine “Well do something!” — a precedent was set (among others that have backfired in Ossetia and Crimea), that the international community can decide a parcel of a sovereign state’s land no longer belongs to it. Mr Corbyn’s “pacifism” in 1999 is precisely the way to defend Britain and international law.

Even Mr Corbyn’s wrongheaded bandwagon desire to see Bashar al-Assad prosecuted for war crimes isn’t wrongheaded enough for Mr Raab, who wants to altogether take down this lone stabilizing force in Syria. Mr Raab also wrote of Mr Corbyn’s willingness “to collaborate with Russia and China” — as if it’s worse than collaborating, as we are, with the people who slaughter us regularly.

Richer still, Mr Raab adds that the late Foreign Secretary Robin Cook “would have shuddered at Mr Corbyn’s recent questioning of UK military support for our NATO ally, plucky Estonia, faced with the real menace of Vladimir Putin on its doorstep.” I shudder to think that Mr Raab wrote this with a straight face, given that scholars have been warning us for years that former Soviet satellites have a psychological need to treat Russia as the enemy and we shouldn’t buy into it. For almost a decade already, some have been mockingly putting forth a hypothetical that “The United States is serious about risking a thermonuclear war for the sake of, say, Estonia’s border with Russia.” And yet here is Mr Raab bringing the joke — rather verbatim –to life.

Moral courage isn’t going after an easier, less threatening target when you’re too cowardly to deal with the real but more intractable enemy. A.k.a. the Clinton formula, which didn’t treat the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as an act of war but did go after an eastern European country for securing its borders in the midst of an insurgency by domestic and foreign terrorists. Incidentally, Slobodan Milosevic — in whose Hague plight Mr Raab delights — was quietly exonerated last year, a decade after fatally succumbing to the toll of our collective lynching. (The tribunal wasn’t able to show even the intent of “genocide and ethnic cleansing” in Kosovo.) As a member of a government that took part in an attack justified through vilification of him, MP Raab should have noticed.

As for Mr. Raab’s contrasting Mr. Corbyn with Robin Cook as the standard-bearer, that is perhaps the saddest part. Naturally, Raab ignores Nicholas Rufford’s Oct. 31, 1999 article in The Sunday Times of London “Cook accused of misleading public on Kosovo massacres.” Cook had cooked the numbers, you see, parroting that paragon of integrity Bill Clinton’s “100,000 dead” slander in order to justify the NATO bombing. Forensic pathologist Emilio Perez Pujol — whose Spanish team expected to perform 2,000 post-mortem examinations — ended up doing 187 and estimated the total number of dead would come to 2,500. (In the end, it was 2,108, on both sides,“including lots of strange deaths that can’t be blamed on anyone in particular,” Pujol said.)

The following month the UN added that some deaths were caused by the bombing itself, and some by gun battles between the Albanian insurgents and the Serbs. “The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia,” the Times article continued, “reported earlier this month that the notorious Trepca mines in Kosovo, where 700 ethnic Albanian bodies were reportedly hidden, contained none…Alice Mahon, the Labour MP who chairs the Balkans committee, said yesterday… ‘When you consider that 1,500 civilians or more were killed during Nato bombing, you have to ask whether the intervention was justified.’” Upon Cook’s death in August 2005, Canadian former ambassador to Yugoslavia, James Bissett, pointed out that Cook “resigned over the invasion of Iraq without UN approval, but took the lead in bombing Serbia without that approval, because he was not independently minded enough to stand up to Madeleine Albright.”

Perhaps most insidious was a factoid that emerged during the Bosnia portion of the Milosevic trial, just a month before the defendant died in his cell. In February 2006, Balkanalysis quoted the pro-intervention IWPR: “The disinterest of Western leaders in the full reality of the wars in Yugoslavia reappeared with one telling vignette. When speaking about Bosnia, [Former UK Guardian journalist Eve-Ann] Prentice spoke of a visit to Pale, where ‘she was surprised to find that a large number of non-Serb refugees were being given shelter there. Before she actually visited Bosnia she had believed what the rest of the media told her about the Serbs….She recounted one occasion where she tried to convince Robin Cook to visit Pale so that he could see for himself that non-Serbs were living freely in the Bosnian-Serb capital. Cook, who was on a fact finding mission, told her that he would not visit Pale because he thought the Serbs were “monsters.”’”

The great conundrum today for the sane — namely those who, like Mr Raab, resent Mr Corbyn’s apologism for Hamas, but unlike Mr Raab see nothing kooky about Mr. Corbyn’s wanting to close down bellicose NATO (whose casus belli disappeared in 1991 which is why it so used Yugoslavia) — is that there is No One.

Ever since we started treating Slavs as a bigger threat than jihadists — feigning fear over a manufactured threat while being too scared to even admit fear over a real threat — a messy world has become messier still. No government and no individual in the world can straighten out the tangled web we’ve woven.

Double Standards and the Benefit of the Doubt

A page one story in the May 3 edition of the Fauquier Times (“Fauquier man seeks truth of attack on USS Liberty 50 years ago”) uncritically accepts as an established fact that the Israelis deliberately attacked the USS Liberty, an American intelligence-gathering vessel, on June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War.

Responsible journalism would have required at least a pro-forma reference to 50 years of Israeli assertions that the attack was a mistake — that the Liberty was thought to be an Egyptian ship. This letter is not an attempt to rehash the facts of the case. Rather, it’s an exploration into double standards. Who gets the benefit of the doubt and who doesn’t?

I was in Vietnam on June 8, 1967, so I have no firsthand knowledge of the Liberty incident, but I know something of the chaos of war. On May 7, 1999, Bill Clinton bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, a building that was sitting in one place and not moving around the ocean. This was during a leisurely 78-day elective war against the Serbian people, who posed no threat to the United States, not a frantic struggle for survival against an enemy bent on your annihilation.

Accidental American bombings of Afghan and Yemeni civilians have become almost too numerous to mention, so I’ll note only four. On Oct. 3, 2015, the United States bombed the Kunduz Trauma Center in Afghanistan, run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 and wounding more than 30. Four days previously, the doctors had contacted U.S. military officials, reconfirming the precise location of the hospital. On July 6, 2008, the United States bombed a wedding procession in Deh Bala, Afghanistan, killing 47 civilians, 39 of them women and children, and wounding nine. On Nov. 3, 2008, a U.S. airstrike on a wedding party at Wech Baghtu, Afghanistan, killed 37 civilians along with a number of Taliban. And on Dec. 12, 2013, a U.S. drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen’s al-Baydah Province killed some 15 civilians (accounts differ) and wounded about 24 others.

Why is the world ready to believe that Americans currently operating with the latest technology make honest mistakes but resolutely insist that Israelis who operated a half-century ago with 1950s-era French technology could not possibly have made a mistake?

Louis Marano, The Plains