UPDATE: It occurred to me only after I posted the blog below that it is an apt reminder on the 12th anniversary of the end of the war and the start of our occupation of Serbia — June 10, 1999. In addition to the additional significance of that date (the day the Prizren League adopted the plan to create a Greater Albania in 1878 and the day in 2007 that Bush flew to Albania to give the nod for the Kosovo theft), I’ve learned today, thanks to Aleksandra Rebic, that June 10th was also the start of the Mihailovic “trial” in 1946.

In an Israel National News article that I missed during the 2009 Gaza war, writer Martin Sherman explained how NATO’s war against Serbia can be used against the internationals who terrorize Israel and Serbia:

Proportionality and hypocrisy: Why are military ops in Gaza, Kosovo judged by wildly disparate criteria? by Martin Sherman

“There is always a cost to defeat an evil. It never comes free, unfortunately. But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher.” — Jamie Shea, NATO spokesman, BBC News, May 31, 1999

It was in these words that the official NATO representative chose to respond to criticism regarding the numerous civilian casualties incurred by the alliance’s frequent air attacks during the war in Kosovo between March and June of 1999. He insisted NATO planes bombed only “legitimate designated military targets” and if civilians had died it was because NATO had been forced into military action. Adamant that “we try to do our utmost to ensure that if there are civilians around we do not attack,” Shea emphasized that “NATO does not target civilians…let’s be perfectly clear about that.”

However, hundreds of civilians were killed by a NATO air campaign, code named “Operation Allied Force” - which hit residential neighborhoods, old-aged sanatoriums, hospitals, open markets, columns of fleeing refugees, civilian buses and trains on bridges, and even a foreign embassy.

Exact figures are difficult to come by, but the undisputed minimum is almost 500 civilians deaths (with some estimates putting the toll as high as 1500) - including women, children and the elderly, killed about in 90 documented attacks by an alliance that included the air forces of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Holland, Italy, Turkey, Spain, the UK, and the US. Up to 150 civilians deaths were reportedly caused by the use of cluster-bombs dropped on, or adjacent to, known civilian areas.

By contrast, the military losses inflicted by NATO on the Serbian forces during almost 80 days of aerial bombardment, unchallenged by any opposing air power, were remarkably low - with most estimates putting the figure at less than 170 killed.

Meanwhile, NATO forces suffered no combat fatalities! This was mainly due to the decision to conduct high altitude aerial attacks which greatly reduced the danger to NATO military personnel in the air, but dramatically increased it for the Serbian (and Kosovar) civilians on the ground. Moreover, the civilian populations of the countries participating on Operation Allied Force were never attacked or - even threatened - in any way by Serbian forces.

The significance of all this for Israel, beset as it is by a maelstrom criticism and censure regarding its military campaign in Gaza, should be starkly apparent. It raises three trenchant issues which it would fail to address to its great detriment:

1. The irrelevance of proportionality in military engagements
2. The unlimited hypocrisy of international politics
3. The disastrous incompetence of Israeli international diplomacy

The issue of proportionality, or rather, the alleged lack thereof, has been the basis for the fierce condemnation of Israel’s conduct in its military operations in Gaza because the number of Palestinians casualties far outweighs that of Israeli ones. However, the conduct of military operations in Kosovo by many of Israel’s present detractors shows that this was never a consideration or constraint which they felt bound by.

Quite the contrary, the very modus operandi they adopted - i.e. high altitude bombing - demonstrates that they deliberately aspired to disproportionality. As noted, this ensured an almost zero casualty rate among their own combatants but inevitably resulted in less accurate targeting of alleged military objectives on the ground, exposing a virtually defenseless civilian population to far greater danger and far higher casualties.

All of this serves to underscore vividly the crass hypocrisy of Israel’s critics. Indeed, in stark contrast to NATO’s willful disregard for enemy civilians, the IDF has often placed Israeli soldiers in mortal peril to prevent Palestinian civilians from being harmed. Furthermore, Israel’s use of military might has invariably been in response a tangible threat - or actual assault - on its citizens.

The blatant disregard for any semblance of proportionality by democratic belligerents and the shameless hypocrisy of their self-righteous and misplaced criticism of Israel highlight a crucial deficiency…in the overall structure of its international strategy: the incompetence - indeed impotence - of Israeli diplomacy. For the documented data on the conduct of the war in Kosovo by the world’s leading democracies should provide ample material with which to resolutely rebuff much of the pompous tirade of condemnation being hurled at Israel today.

I’m glad Mr. Sherman brought up the civilian deaths caused by NATO, and makes the point that the operation was designed to be disproportionate and imprecise while we suffered no casualties of our own from such great heights. Even with this, however, he understates the case. NATO didn’t just hit a lot of civilians. It TARGETED them. Eventually, Jamie Shea, Wesley Clark, Gen. Michael Short, and Sen. Joe Lieberman admitted this fact — the latter two boasting about it. But it goes even deeper still: When NATO found pockets in Kosovo where the Albanians hadn’t yet fled or were returning (which of course belies the claim that the Serbian plan was to empty Kosovo of its Albanian inhabitants), NATO bombs would TARGET those Albanians. (This was in furtherance of the earlier KLA-NATO-coerced exodus of Albanians and others — Albanians for one reason, and others for another: “How NATO Staged Albanian Flight during 1999 Bombing“; “Driven from Kosovo.”)

A report related to the general targeting of civilians by NATO, no longer available online, from Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR):

Serb General Blames NATO for Kosovo Casualties: Serbs and Albanians fled their homes because of NATO attacks, Vladimir Lazarević tells court.
By Marija Radovanovic in Belgrade (TU No 525, 9-Nov-07)

The man who commanded Serbia’s army in Kosovo during the war against separatist rebels denied this week that troops had forced Albanians from their homes, blaming NATO for the civilian casualties and the refugees.

As he testified in his own defence this week, Lazarevic denied having ordered his troops to use murder, rape, harassment, destruction of property and other forms of intimidation to force Albanians to leave the province….

“Both Serbs and Albanians were leaving their homes due to daily NATO attacks,” he said, adding that his units strictly obeyed the rules of war and did their best to help the surviving civilians, to enable evacuations and to even give blood transfusions.

“I personally ordered my commanders to leave all of their ongoing actions and get engaged in helping the wounded.”

…Of the more than 2,000 NATO attacks in the Kosovo region, he said 37 per cent were deliberately aimed at civilian targets.

Momčilo Bakrač, Lazarević’s lawyer, denied a mass campaign of terror had been unleashed in Kosovo.

“Although crimes did happen during the Kosovo war, they were isolated and individual acts, and by no means systematic,” he said.

Lazarević said operations in Kosovo during 1999 were intended solely to defend the province against Albanian terrorist organisations in the regions of Podujevo, Dragobilja and Drenica, and to, in his words, “neutralise terrorist actions” and “to clear the region of Albanian terrorists”.

More damningly still, we have this from the Birmingham Post of May 25, 1999:

ALLIES KILL HUNDRED IN AIR RAID ON ‘STAGING POST’ PRISON

At least 100 people were killed and 200 injured in NATO attacks on a prison in Kosovo… All buildings of Dubrava prison were destroyed and the bodies were still lying in the prison’s courtyard…An investigating judge from Pec, Mr. Vladan Bojic, accused NATO of committing the most massive murder of prisoners in modern civilization and confirmed an investigation had began.

…The Serb Media Centre said Mr. Bojic himself was slightly injured in a second raid on the prison on Sunday….NATO said an attack did take place on the prison. It said the target was legitimate because the grounds were being used as a barracks and staging area by Serbian special police accused of atrocities against ethnic Albanians. […]

There was no follow-up, at least that I’m aware of, as to whether this ‘atrocities’ charge too fell apart like 99% of the other tales, but unless we’re slow learners or trapped — as most Americans seem to be when it comes to the Balkans — in a “Groundhog Day” scenario (or “50 First Dates” or “Clean Slate“), where every new day is not built on what we’ve learned in previous days and so the same day just keeps repeating — it’s probably safe to assume there was a reason for the lack of follow-up to this story too.

Still trying to retroactively cover their rears on the civilian-targeting front, NATO countries such as the U.S. have even sent out their operatives and minions to announce before the international tribunal that there’s “No such thing as civilian target, says U.S. expert“:

“What civilian targets, there’s no such thing, targets are always military,” [U.S. colonel Geoffrey] Corn told the panel of judges [during the trial (concluded last month) of Croatian general Ante Gotovina], and went on to explain that it is always up to military commanders to appraise whether the expected military gains would outweigh possible civilian losses.

He likened the August 1995 Croatian military onslaught against ethnic Serb areas, known as Operation Storm, to the 1999 NATO attacks on Serbia, saying that orders to shell targets in the Krajina towns of Knin, Obrovac, Gračac and Drvar were comparable to NATO’s attacks, carried out with hundreds of cruise missiles and bombs, against Belgrade.

Indeed! And not defensible in either case. Yet here we have it from the horse’s mouth — defending the very crimes Sherman points out that the heavy-handed NATO is guilty of. (As the person who posted the above item asked: If civilian victims are no such things, then why did the U.S. make such a fuss
about the Bosnia and Kosovo war zones to begin with? Especially given that the Serbian war effort was far more surgical than NATO’s, with soldiers risking their lives much as the IDF does with door-to-door operations to weed out hostiles.)

I’ve been waiting more than a decade for people to finally start citing, as Sherman has done, that NATO war to say “Piss off.” First, I thought the Republicans would use it against the Democrats when the latter objected to the Iraq war on the basis that Saddam Hussein hadn’t attacked us, as well as on the basis that the Iraq war would anger the Muslim world and create more terrorists — peaceniks who supported a Democrat allying us with al Qaeda and arming and training terrorists just three years earlier simply didn’t have a leg to stand on. But the moderate Right being too shallow, and too programmed to react to a debate rather than set the terms of it, hadn’t bothered looking at the aftermath of the Democrats’ last war once cued by the liberal media to move on. Conservatives simply followed the media’s orders like the rests of the herd, and because no sustained investigation of that conflict has been conducted by any government, NGO, newspaper, court or other institution, the Right still believes all the old information that the otherwise distrusted MSM originally fed it.

In hindsight, of course, the fact that Republicans didn’t help their pro-war arguments by using the Kosovo example, is neither here nor there, given that Iraq turned out to be not about winning or Westernizing, but about submitting and Islamisizing. Ever since Iraq, rather than spend our time and resources civilizing barbarians, we’ve accepted to barbarize civilization.

I’ve also been waiting for Israel and its defenders to start using the example of the 1999 Operation Allied Force, not only to protect Israel from the precedent set by that operation, but to tell hypocritical Israel critics to buzz off — as Sherman has done. Fortunately, someone else in Israel caught on and filed this lawsuit: “Israeli Human Rights Group to Sue NATO for Attacking Serbia.” (See also “MK Eldad: Charge Spanish Officials with War Crimes in Serbia.”)

Of course, the exercise of pointing out double standards between what NATO countries are allowed to do and what their targets are allowed to do is laughable — since double standards are the whole point.

In 2001 six Yugoslav citizens brought a suit against NATO to the European Court for Human Rights, over the 16 civilians that NATO targeted and killed when it bombed Belgrade TV, the case being that the attack breached Europe’s human rights charter. The court threw the case out on the grounds that the country attacked wasn’t a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights — even though the listed defendants were. (What was problematic, however, was that the two most guilty NATO members were excluded from the complaint — U.S. and Canada — since they were also not signatories.)

Two years earlier, Belgrade went to the International Court of Justice to stop the NATO attack and was rejected, with the ICJ ruling that Yugoslavia had no standing (i.e. that it wasn’t a member of the UN, since its membership had been put on hold during the country’s breakup — never mind that it was a founding member). Quoting Diana Johnstone from 1999:

A few liberals timidly criticized the NATO bombing on the imaginary grounds that it might provoke Serbian “terrorism”. In reality, throughout the air strikes there was never the slightest hint of any propensity on the part of Serbs to take up terrorism. On the contrary, Serbs were notably shocked by the flagrant violations of the legal order constructed primarily by the very Western powers who were now violating it, and a number of Yugoslavs both in Serbia and in the Diaspora, have tried to seek legal redress. The Yugoslav government itself tried on April 29 to institute proceedings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against NATO governments for a broad range of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Western media, in brief reports, let it be known that such an initiative was “not serious”. It was finally thrown out of court because the Genocide Convention, the legal basis for Belgrade’s suit, has never been recognized by the United States as applying to itself, although Washington is willing to let it apply to others.

In 2003, however, the ICJ easily agreed to hear the genocide case that Bosnia’s wartime Izetbegovic regime filed in 1993 against Yugoslavia for the “siege” of Sarajevo, deciding it had jurisdiction and that Serbia was subject to it, and “rejecting Yugoslavia’s claim that it does not fall under the court’s jurisdiction” — the very basis that the European Human Rights Court had used to throw out the 2001 suit on behalf of NATO’s TV station victims. So, suddenly the non-existent, has-no-standing, non-state of Yugoslavia — as it had been in 1993 — was nonetheless suable, and in 2003 no less, with “Yugoslav lawyers argu[ing] that the nation was readmitted as a new state in 2000.” At least that was the standard phrasing used by the AP when in fact Yugoslavia had been stripped of its UN status in 1992 (staying on the member roll as a technicality), and after the 2000 coup the new government applied for membership as a new country, which Serbia-Montenegro was granted. This is a FACT, not something “Yugoslav lawyers argue.” So a new country was being held responsible for what Yugoslavia did or didn’t do while it had no standing as a UN member. It’s all very “Alice in Wonderland”: a country is recognized as existing or treated as non-existing, depending on the needs of the New World Order. (In the end, the case became about Srebrenica in 1995 rather than Sarajevo in ‘92-’93, as one count after another got tossed out for lack of substance. Against all odds, trends, and political pressures, in 2007 the court determined that Serbia was not guilty of committing genocide, only of not doing enough to prevent a genocide by the Bosnian Serbs — a genocide whose designation as such the court did not investigate but merely accepted the International Criminal Tribunal’s word for it.)

In another example, the ICJ also easily accepted to hear Croatia’s genocide suit against Serbia in 2008, and the whole tango was replayed: “[Serbia] said the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was not party to the UN’s genocide convention nor even a member of the UN when the complaint was filed [in 1999]. Most of the alleged crimes were committed before the current republic was formed, it also argued. However, ICJ judge Rosalyn Higgins said the 17-strong panel had dismissed Serbia’s challenge to the court’s competence.

Serbia’s expectations were based on an ICJ ruling of 2004 when the court ruled it could not try Serbia’s case against ten NATO countries….But more recently, the ICJ said it had the jurisdiction to hear the genocide case brought by Bosnia-Herzegovina against Serbia.

And, finally, we also have the example of both the ICTY and EULEX claiming no jurisdiction when it comes to the murder-for-organs that the KLA was engaging in before, during and after the Kosovo war.

But it is a loathsome practice the way the U.S., while insulating itself from these Orwellian international institutions, zealously wields them as a weapon against others, ensuring that while we — for now — are spared the Kafka existence, others are living the nightmare. It has come to a point where international justice surpasses even the predictable levels of farce, as the above-cited Johnstone article illustrates:

Nobody doubts that the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia initiated on March 24, 1999, were in flagrant violation of international law on numerous counts…On May 7, a team of lawyers from Canada and Europe submitted a brief to Louise Arbour, the Canadian chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, accusing U.S. and other NATO officials of war crimes including “wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity, attack, or bombardment, by whatever means, of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings”…

This and a number of other initiatives by international jurists pointing to the illegality of the NATO action were widely ignored by mainstream media. Instead, considerable space was given to pundits developing the notion of “humanitarian intervention” which henceforth, it was said, superseded the outworn notion of “national sovereignty”.

In fact, there is absolutely nothing new about appeals to a “higher justice” to excuse violating the law. Nineteenth century imperialist conquests were usually undertaken “to defend” some group or other, and Hitler (the real one) marched into Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland, setting off World War II, in order to rescue allegedly abused German ethnic minorities. Respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity were incorporated into international law after World War II precisely in order to protect weaker nations from humanitarian crusades of this sort.

The big news was, of course, the indictment of Milosevic…Some of the charges were substantially identical to those filed earlier against the officials responsible for the NATO bombing, to wit: “the widespread shelling of towns and villages; the burning of homes, farms and businesses, and the destruction of personal property”.

The indictment of Milosevic and the others was hardly the act of an impartial body, rising above the conflict between mighty NATO and little Yugoslavia. Ms Arbour signed warrants for the arrest of Milosevic and the Serbian leaders on the basis of material turned over to her the day before by a party to the conflict, the United States government…

Part of Arbour’s job as chief prosecutor has been fund-raising in the “international community”, notably among the governments of NATO member states. She and chief Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald (a former Federal Judge in Texas) frequently appear in public with Madeleine Albright (”the mother of the Tribunal” in the words of Judge McDonald, who before the war had already judiciously branded Yugoslavia “a rogue state”) and praise the U.S. for its financial and other support to the Tribunal. When asked on May 17 what would happen if NATO itself were brought before the Tribunal, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea retorted that without NATO countries there would be no such tribunal, since it was the NATO countries which had been in the forefront of getting it set up and which funded and supported its activity on a daily basis. The International Criminal Tribunal gets material as well as political support from the United States government, other NATO governments, financial tycoon George Soros and even private corporations. If the Clinton administration cannot count on “higher justice”, it may get a helping hand from hired justice.

In July, the Connecticut-based International Ethical Alliance also filed charges against President Clinton and Defense Secretary William Cohen for “non-defensive aggressive military attacks on former Yugoslavia”. At the same time, IEA general counsel Jerome Zeifman called for the dismissal of prosecutor Arbour, charging her with “selective prosecution by intentionally failing to consider and act on evidence which incriminates defendants Clinton and Cohen, […] conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, in receiving compensation from funds contributed in whole or in part by governments of NATO; and bias in favor of the attacks by NATO on former Yugoslavia”. Zeifman called for replacement of the prosecutor and recusal of five judges, including McDonald, and selection of a truly independent prosecutor as well as new judges and staff from non-NATO countries who would not be compensated directly or indirectly by funds from NATO countries. Such a truly neutral tribunal, suggested the IEA, could then go on to weigh the charges against leaders on both sides, including Milosevic, Clinton and the rest.

In April 2009 Amnesty International also took note of NATO’s impunity — specifically with regard to the bombing of Serbian Radio-Television: “Ten years after NATO forces bombed the Serbian state television and radio (Radio Televisija Srbije - RTS), no one has been brought to justice for this serious violation of international humanitarian law committed by NATO….”

Closing with some quotes:

Even in Kosovo, I couldn’t escape the sound of Mr. Shea’s voice on satellite TV. It haunted me at the strangest times, denying things I knew to be true, insisting on others that I had seen were false.

Los Angeles reporter Paul Watson

Amid increasing reports of civilian casualties, NATOs top military commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, said the alliance was operating under tight rules of engagement, targeting military sites and not civilians. We know which villages are occupied. We know which are not, and were going exclusively after military targets. We would never do it any other way, Clark said on CNNs Late Edition.

CNN

The 9/11 Commission — notwithstanding its many faults — listed the occasions when Clinton could have ordered an attempt to kill or capture bin Laden based on information provided by CIA officers and on many occasions corroborated by signals intelligence or overhead imagery. On one day in particular, Clinton had the U.S. Air Force drop tons of bombs on the Serbs — who had not harmed or even threatened Americans — while refusing to sanction an attack on bin Laden.

– retired CIA officer Michael F. Scheuer, in a letter to American Conservative magazine, via Greg Pierce at Washington Times, Oct. 9, 2006

How can Western societies that pride themselves in their justice system support such an unaccountable court?

comment poster “Hainer” at Atlas Shrugs blog