NATO Bombs Will Encourage Repression

Knut Rognes (knrognes@online.no)
Sat, 27 Mar 1999 14:40:20 +0100

KK-Forum,

her er mer om bombingens virkninger. Noe for Erik Solheim

Hilsen Knut Rognes
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NATO Bombs Will Encourage Repression
By Eric D. Gordy Date: 03-26-99

President Clinton has emphasized humanitarian concerns as a prime rationale
for the NATO bombing of Serbia. In fact, the Serbian regime will only use
the bombing as an excuse to step up repression and consolidate its power.
Given this pattern one might even ask whether the U.S. views Milosevic as
an enemy or as a partner. PNS commentator Eric D. Gordy is a sociologist at
Clark University who has lived and worked in Serbia.

When President Clinton explained the reasons for bombing Serbia to the
American public, he emphasized humanitarian concerns, and argued that the
United States could not afford to let repression in Serbia continue. Yet
judging from the responses of the Serbian regime to international actions
and threats of action, the bombing is likely to have just the opposite effect.
The last time the United States and NATO threatened air strikes against
Serbia, the bombing did not take place. But the regime responded by banning
the broadcast of independent news programs and then forcibly closed three
independent newspapers and rammed a new Law on Public Information through
the Parliament.
The Law on Information imposes drastic financial penalties on news media
for any infractions. It requires charges to be heard by a court within two
days, and sentences to be handed down one day after that. It requires the
fines to be collected immediately. If media outlets are not able to pay the
fines, police confiscate their publications and equipment.
This time, the threat of bombing has turned out to be real, and the
regime's response has been more severe. In the morning before the bombing
began, police closed down Radio B-92, the only independent radio station in
Belgrade, and arrested Veran Matic, the station director. During the first
day of the attacks, the regime used the state of emergency to prevent
foreign journalists from filing reports, to harass them and keep them away
from sites which were targeted for bombing, and to deport several of them.
More repression should be expected. The government in Montenegro has
refused to support Serbia's military adventure in Kosovo and its parliament
has refused to accept the state of war declared by the Yugoslavian federal
government. Expect Milosevic to take the opportunity to disqualify the
Montenegrin government as traitors and to try to depose them.
Vojislav Seselj, the neofascist deputy prime minister of Serbia, built his
political career as an organizer of paramilitary groups in Croatia and
Bosnia. He has a history of engaging in physical attacks on his political
opponents. Expect these attacks to intensify, and expect public figures
whom Seselj and his supporters consider to be insufficiently patriotic to
be arrested, harassed and beaten.
The attacks being carried out by the Yugoslav army and the Serbian police
against the civilian population in Kosovo will not be affected by the NATO
air strikes. These are low-tech repressions, and the destruction of missile
silos, radar stations and airports will not degrade the ability of their
perpetrators to act in the least. Expect the repression in Kosovo to
intensify, as the passion of the perpetrators is enhanced by their sense of
victimhood. The fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) will be
equally encouraged by the sense that they now enjoy strong international
military and political support.
The bombing has fulfilled the dream of every right-wing nationalist in
Serbia, by offering them the opportunity to justify any repressive measure
on the grounds of defending the country against a powerful alliance.
Milosevic and Seselj will have no difficulty persuading people in Serbia
that they ought to feel bitter and angry.
Bombing is the most recent of a series of measures advocated by the United
States to punish the Milosevic regime, all of which have had the effect of
helping the regime consolidate its power. Economic sanctions have worked to
prevent the opponents of nationalist hysteria from communicating with one
another across the borders which divide them. Threats of force have given
the regime a stick with which to beat political opponents who have tried to
insist that Serbia has something to gain by cooperating with international
powers. The open political support which the United States has offered the
KLA has persuaded even moderates in Serbia that there is no place the
country can turn for impartial mediation.
Since the beginning of the wars in the former Yugoslavia, it has been
unclear whether the United States regards Slobodan Milosevic as an enemy or
a partner. Ironically, the effect of every effort to isolate him as an
enemy has been to consolidate his status as a partner. The current bombing
campaign is no exception.

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