|ARMS TRADE RESOURCE CENTER
CURRENT UPDATES: JUNE 4, 1999
This e-mail, which is longer than usual, will focus on the situation in Kosovo, provide a report back from the Hague Appeal for Peace meeting, and pass on some useful web resources. Contact Frida Berrigan at if you want further information on issues discussed in this e-mail. Let us know if you are finding these materials to be useful in your work, or if there are other issues you’d like us to cover in future e-mails.
If a settlement is reached in the next few weeks, the NATO public relations machine will shift into high gear, arguing that it was their bombing campaign that forced Milosevic to the bargaining table and ended the killing in Kosovo. Critics of the war need to be ready to provide our own perspectives to the media and the public. Here are our main talking points on the war:
1) Nato’s bombing campaign in Kosovo is illegal, and sets a dangerous precedent. Under the United Nations charter, military intervention in the affairs of a sovereign state requires authorization by the Security Council. NATO never sought authorization for its bombing campaign. Under the War Powers Act, United States forces are not allowed to be engaged in hostilities overseas for more than 60 days without authorization from Congress. The air war – which relies heavily on U.S. combat planes, pilots, and transport equipment – has been going on for more than two months with no Congressional authorization. Over two dozen members of Congress, including Tom Campbell (R-CA) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), have sued to end the war under the War Powers Act, but their case has yet to be heard.
Resources on Kosovo and International Law: See the Institute for Public Accuracy web site, at (see especially their press releases of May 27, 1999, entitled”War Crimes?”; and their release of May 25, 1999, “War Powers Violation Today?”); or go to the web site of Demilitarization for Democracy, at to get a copy of Caleb Rossiter’s excellent new op-ed, “Nato’s Air War. Effective? Perhaps. Illegal and Immoral? Definitely.”
2) Violating the laws of war is not the right way to stop war crimes. There is no question that Milosevic’s campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo is a crime against humanity, and that it must be stopped. The question is how best to stop the killing. As Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times pointed out in a recent interview on CBC radio in Canada, the NATO bombing raids have actually made it easier for Milosevic and his thugs to carry out their campaign of ethnic slaughter in Kosovo:
“I don’t think NATO member countries can, with a straight face, sit back and say they don’t share some of the blame for the wholesale depopulation of this country. If NATO had not bombed, I would be surprised if this sort of forced exodus on this enormous scale would be taking place.”
The high rate of civilian casualties caused by the NATO bombardment of Kosovo and Serbia further undermines any notion that the air war has a “humanitarian” purpose. Fred Kaplan of the Boston Globe has suggested that at least 1,200 civilians have been killed since NATO started its air war, and that the number of civilian casualties per ton of bombs dropped is greater than during the height of the Vietnam War. The reason for the higher civilian casualty rates is simple: more NATO bombing raids are taking place in heavily populated areas, so that even if most of the bombs are close to their intended targets, those that miss the mark and are more likely to hit adjoining apartment buildings, offices, hospitals, old age homes, public markets, and other places where civilians congregate. Add to this the fact that NATO has been consciously targeting civilian infrastructure, including bridges and electric power stations, and it is quite possible that the death toll from NATO bombing could mount for months and years to come, as people die of disease and starvation caused by the demolition of Serbia’s economy (as has been happening for many years in Iraq). THE KILLING OF CIVILIANS BY NATO BOMBS IS NOT A “MISTAKE.” IT IS A LOGICAL AND PREDICTABLE OUTGROWTH OF THE WAY NATO HAS CHOSEN TO WAGE THE WAR.
NATO’s air war is all the more outrageous when one considers the kinds of bombs being employed, such as cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells. A number of trade magazines have suggested that NATO has employed the new, “improved,” CBU-87 cluster bomb in Kosovo. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly the CBU-87 spreads bomblets and shrapnel over an area as large as 25 football fields. Early in the bombing campaign, Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times reported from the emergency room in the main hospital in Kosovo’s main city, Pristina, that doctors were seeing record numbers of people who had been maimed or lost limbs as a result of either being hit by a cluster bomb blast or stepping on unexploded bomblets that didn’t explode when the bombs were originally dropped. According to research from Human Rights Watch, which did a report on May 11th calling for an end to the use of cluster bombs in Kosovo, a number of children in Kosovo were wounded when they picked up the colorful canisters that hold the bomblets from a cluster bomb, thinking they were toys. Meanwhile, according to accounts in both the Independent of Britain and the International Herald Tribune, the fishing fleets in several Italian coastal towns have been grounded because fisherman were bringing up explosive cluster bomb fragments in their nets. Unbeknownst to the Italian government, NATO had been using the coastal waters off of Italy to jettison unused ordnance (including cluster bombs) on the way back from training missions and bombing raids.
Resources on the consequences of the air war in Kosovo: As usual, a good place to start is by checking out Paul Watson’s dispatches from Kosovo on also, the web site of Mother Jones magazine has an article on the use of cluster bombs in Kosovo, at Also check the Human Rights Watch web page for their May 11th press release, “NATO Use of Cluster Bombs Must Stop,” at
3) Given good faith negotiations and an emphasis on preventive measures, a settlement could have been reached in Kosovo without months of bombing, hundreds of civilian deaths, and billions of dollars in military expenditures: Last August, Alexander Vershbow, the U.S. representative to NATO, put forward a proposal for a joint U.S.-Russian peace plan for Kosovo that the two nations would have brought to the United Nations Security Council for approval. The Clinton Administration, distracted by the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the upcoming House impeachment proceedings, ignored Vershbow’s plan. Instead, they let the Kosovo issue languish for months, until Madeleine Albright and other administration hardliners took charge with an approach that basically involved threatening to bomb Milosevic unless he accepted the Rambouillet accords. Since both Milosevic and the Serbian parliament were firmly on record against the basic terms of these accords – which involved allowing NATO troops not only in Kosovo but throughout the territory of the former Yugoslavia – the Rambouillet talks quickly turned into an exercise in finding a formula that the Kosovo Liberation Army could agree to so that the bombing of Milosevic could begin. Washington wrongly assumed that Milosevic would quickly cave in after a few days or weeks of bombing, and that the Kosovo problem would be wrapped up in time for the NATO 50th anniversary bash in Washington, which was held in late April.
Two months, billions of dollars, and thousands of lives later, NATO and Milosevic are coming to terms on a peace accord that probably could have been concluded WITHOUT a NATO bombing campaign, if the U.S. and it’s Western European allies had been truly willing to negotiate. On issues such as the composition of a Kosovo peacekeeping force (which will now be under UN auspices, as the Serbian government had originally requested) and the role of other major powers such as Russia (which played a central role in negotiating the peace after being excluded from the decision about whether to go to war in the first place when NATO bypassed the United Nations Security Council at the outset of the bombing campaign), more NATO flexibility in late 1998 and early 1999 could have achieved a settlement very similar to the one that is now being contemplated.
As the press and the public debate the lessons of Kosovo, lesson one should be that rather than increasing the military budgets of NATO member states, it is time to invest in preventive diplomacy – through institutions like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations. The OSCE’s conflict prevention unit gets a paltry $2 million per year, the price of two of the hundreds of cruise missiles that were lobbed at Belgrade during the air war. Given more support, better training, and a more creative diplomatic backup, the OSCE might have been able to head off the war in Kosovo before the bombings and the mass killings and deportations occurred. Similarly, if the United States were willing to use the United Nations as it was intended to be used – as the primary arbiter of major international disputes – a Kosovo settlement could have been brokered via legal, legitimate channels rather than NATO’s illegal bombing campaign. The first step towards reinvigorating the UN is to demand that the Clinton Administration and Congress pay the United States’ back dues, which could be done for less than the cost of one of the $2 billion per copy B-2 bombers that were utilized in the war in Kosovo. Finally, organizations and individuals concerned about peace in the Balkans should demand that the U.S. and its NATO allies invest as much in promoting peace and postwar reconstruction in the region as they spent on the war effort. The Kosovo budget supplemental that passed the U.S. Congress in May included $12 billion for the Pentagon (much of it for items that had nothing to do with the war) and less than $1 billion for Kosovo refugees. And President Clinton has already said that he thinks the Europeans should pay most of the reconstruction costs. If the United States is to be known as something more than the country that drops the bombs (and sells the weapons), Congress must be persuaded to spend much
Resources on the costs of the war in Kosovo versus the costs of investing in conflict prevention: If you haven’t looked at it already, you might want to start with Bill Hartung’s article in the May 10th issue of The Nation, “Beyond Kosovo: Preventive Diplomacy,” available at You can also get a hard copy from us by mail if you’d like. On how Congress has used Kosovo as an excuse to load up on military pork, see several good recent analyses in the military budget section of the Council for a Livable World’s web page, at And for a running tally of the costs of the war, see the web site of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, at And for more background on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other institutions aimed at preventing conflicts rather than fighting wars, see the excellent work of Daniel Plesch, Julianne Smith, Martin Butcher, Tasos Kokkinides, and the other analysts who work with the British American Security Information Council (BASIC). BASIC’s web site is at
Report from the Hague Appeal for Peace
The Hague Appeal for Peace brought together representatives of the following international campaigns, several of which were officially launched during the Hague conference:
In addition to the launch of these campaigns, more than 400 sessions took place on themes covering the Root Causes of War/Culture of Peace; International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and Institutions; Prevention, Resolution and Transformation of Violent Conflict; and Disarmament and Human Security. In response to the concerns of many of the assembled, special sessions on the war in Kosovo were added to the schedule, making immediate and palpable the need for peace in our world.
Both the opening and closing ceremonies were momentous and historic occasions with a host of distinguished speakers including U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Queen Noor of Jordan, Nobel Peace prize winners Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor and Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala, and an inspirational videotaped speech from Aung San Suu Kyi, the imprisoned Burmese leader and Nobel laureate.
For many, however, the excitement of hearing their heroes speak was eclipsed by the excitement of connecting with activists from throughout the world, all of whom share a vision of peace, but have different ways to realize that vision. We have so much to learn from one another!!! We are still a long way from having a unified global peace movement that can make quick decisions and act in unison in times of crisis, but there’s no question that the most successful peace activities in recent years have been campaigns with international participation, such as the successful effort to create a global treaty banning anti-personnel land mines. So, if the Hague meeting helped some people and organizations make connections that will result in better international cooperation among non-governmental organizations working for peace and justice, so much the better. We certainly have plenty of work to do.
For more information on the HAP conference and future events visit the Hague Appeal web site at www.haguepeace.org