NATO Pushes War Drive Against Yugoslav Workers

By Maurice Williams, The Militant, Vol.60 no.5, 5 February 1996

Last week the Clinton administration stepped up propaganda concerning mass graves in Bosnia as its latest card to reinforce NATO's war drive against the workers and farmers of Yugoslavia. A debate over how fast to push the so-called war crimes investigation has unfolded in the big-business media between the White House and NATO military officials.

On January 21 John Shattuck, U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights, and two officials from the International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague visited areas where thousands of Bosnians were reportedly killed and buried by Belgrade-backed Serb forces. Shattuck said the visit underscored Washington's support for the tribunal and stressed the need for security to investigate the grave sites.

“Security will be needed,” said Shattuck, who emphasized that the NATO occupation force “has a duty under Dayton to provide assistance to war crimes investigators.”

On the other hand, at a January 19 press conference in Brussels U.S. Gen. George Joulwan, NATO's supreme commander, said, “In my instructions we will not be in the position of guarding sites.”

“NATO is not going to provide specific security, or in other words guarantee security, for teams investigating these grave sites,” said U.S. Adm. Leighton Smith, the NATO commander in Bosnia, in a statement issued January 21. Another NATO Post that NATO would not rule out case by case requests for escorting the tribunal and its investigator.

Shattuck toured locations near Srebrenica January 21 accompanied by U.S. State Department security guards and soldiers from the pro-Belgrade army of Bosnian Serb chauvinist leader Radovan Karadzic to investigate eyewitness accounts of mass executions. According to the Financial Times, Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic supplied the Serb guards and assured Shattuck access to any place he desired.

Srebrenica was captured July 11, 1995, by Serbs supported by Milosevic. Survivors of the attack say hundreds of civilians were slaughtered and some 7,000 people are still missing from the area. The war crimes tribunal indicted Serb commander Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karazdic for the slaughter in Srebrenica.

Richard Goldstone, the chief prosecutor for the tribunal issued a request January 16 to Admiral Smith for military escorts to exhume an alleged mass grave. Smith told Goldstone that NATO troops have begun patrolling the grave sites. “If you don’t push me and make me say what I’m going to do, I’ll do a lot,” he said.

Smith implied that he would be able to assist Goldstone after the winter when the 60,000 member occupation force is completely in Bosnia. Joulwan said January 19 that the NATO military operation is “on track” after one month with 35,000 soldiers now in Bosnia.

The major capitalist powers led by Washington are on a war drive against Yugoslavia, with an underlying goal of overturning the workers state there. They aim to use military might to restore capitalist social relations in that country.

The warring parties in Bosnia completed the withdrawal of their troops and heavy weapons from confrontation lines January 19 as required by the Dayton, Ohio, agreement imposed by the Clinton administration. Imperialist soldiers formally established a two-and-a-half-mile occupation zone while NATO commanders inspected a 1,000 mile long cease-fire line.

Meanwhile, Washington has turned up the heat on 200 Muslim fighters viewed as hostile to its occupation force. The Muslim soldiers came to the aid of the Bosnian army when it came under siege four years ago. The New York Times reported that U.S. positions in Bosnia have been put on heightened alert, supposedly because of reports of planned attacks by Muslim groups. Washington has put out the word in the international media that the alleged plans for assaults against its troops are intended as retaliation for the life sentence given to Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel Rahman in a U.S. federal court. Officials say the “mujahedeen” are being kept under tighter surveillance.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke is pressing the Bosnian government to force the Islamic fighters to leave the republic, a provision stipulated in the so-called peace accord. A U.S. military officer said the White House is worried about the fact that the “Bosnian government has offered citizenship to some of the [Muslim fighters] if they marry into Bosnian society. The language of the Dayton accord, however, exempts only those who obtained citizenship before the accord was signed in December.”