Stop 'Humanitarian Bombing' by NATO
NATO's intervention in Yugoslavia's civil war not only has accelerated the
"ethnic cleansing" of Kosovo and managed to rally the previously
divided Serbian public around war-mongering President Slobodan Milosevic.
It also threatens to fan nationalist flames in Russia and suck the oxygen
out of United States domestic policy.
The American public started off supporting the bombing runs in Yugoslavia
by a narrow margin. With the pictures of Kosovar refugees streaming across
the borders of neighboring countries, support for the bombing campaign has
increased, along with calls for NATO ground troops to return the Kosovars
to their homes by invasion if necessary.
We are not dismissing the horror of the ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo,
but there is no such thing as a humanitarian bombing campaign. Clinton and
NATO should call off the cruise missiles and look for peaceful alternatives.
Bombing has not forced Milosevic and his army to their knees any more than
it has forced Saddam Hussein and his army to their knees in Iraq. The only
people who have suffered in this campaign are those who are at the receiving
end of the bombs.
Nor is a ground war an acceptable alternative. To stop Milosevic would require
an invasion of upwards of 300,000 NATO troops--and Yugoslavs have a heroic
history of defending their terrain. (Hitler was unable to subjugate Yugoslavia
with 40 divisions of German troops in World War II.) And if NATO sends in
the troops, to what end? To put in power the Kosovo Liberation Army, which
supplanted the moderate democratic Kosovar leadership in favor of armed
rebellion that provoked the current Serbian campaign?
It is almost a footnote that U.S. intervention in Kosovo is illegal under
the charters of NATO and the United Nations as well as the 1973 War Powers
Act, which requires the President to introduce U.S. armed forces into hostilities
"only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory
authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United
States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." There
was no attack by Yugoslavia on NATO member countries or U.S. troops--at
least until after NATO started its bombing runs--and the U.S. government
has pointedly refused to take the matter to the United Nations Security
Council, where Russia would veto a UN-sponsored intervention.
Meanwhile, the billions of dollars spent on the Kosovo bombing must come
from somewhere. Republicans tend to support the military adventure as an
opportunity to reduce spending on domestic programs. Meanwhile, the beneficiaries
of the undeclared war include Lockheed and Boeing, which make the cruise
missiles, and Raytheon, which supplies the laser-guided bombs.
If we're going to spend billions of dollars intervening in foreign countries,
we should spend it on building up the economies of those nations that respect
human rights and fair labor and health standards rather than blowing up
the factories, chemical plants, bridges and highways of nations whose leaders
brutalize their minorities.
For those pacifists who don't want to pay for any more cruise missiles falling
on Serbian children--or any other children around the world--Rep. John Lewis
(D-Georgia) and Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) have reintroduced H.R. 1454, the
Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill, which would create a fund within
the U.S. treasury to receive the taxes of people who cannot pay for war
for religious or moral reasons. Taxes in this fund would be used at the
discretion of Congress only for non-military government programs.
The bill is supported by such groups as the United Methodist Church, the
Presbyterian Church, the U.S. Catholic Conference and the Christian Legal
Society. For more information, call the National Campaign for a Peace Tax
Fund, toll-free 1-888-PEACETAX; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see the web
site at (www.nonviolence.org/peacetax).
Election of Green candidate Audie Bock to the California state assembly
from an Oakland suburb this past month further punctures the myth of two-party
supremacy. Her upset victory against a longtime Democratic officeholder
shows the popular distaste for status-quo politics is still potent, and
that's good news for the independent minded.
Bock will have her work cut out showing that her victory in a low-turnout
special election was not a fluke in a district whose voter registration
is 65% Democratic. Still, her incumbency should boost Green organizing efforts
and encourage "minor" candidates everywhere.
Supporters of alternative political parties have to excel at grassroots
organizing and developing alternative news media, since they cannot raise
big money to buy ads and the establishment news media cannot be trusted
to give a fair and balanced report of political campaigns.
Last year in California, for example, Dan Hamburg, a former Democratic congressman,
ran a disappointing Green race for governor, as he was shut out of financing,
debates and media attention. In those forums where he was allowed to participate,
he impressed observers, but they were too few to make a difference and he
ended up with 1.3% of the vote. In 1996, the news media virtually ignored
Ralph Nader's Green race for president and he also was shut out of candidate
debates despite his national reputation as a consumer advocate. Nader ended
up with about 2.5% of the vote in California and 1% nationwide. Who knows
how many votes he might have received if he had a fair shot at getting his
Remember that Jesse Ventura's successful insurgent campaign for governor
in Minnesota was helped by state funds that matched what he was able to
raise. Meanwhile the expenditures of his Democratic and Republican rivals
were limited. A liberal attitude toward including Ventura in debates also
gave him a boost in credibility. The establishment won't want to repeat
that mistake. Voters must demand it.
Alternative parties could use public financing, fair access to ballots and
proportional representation. None of those initiatives are high legislative
priorities of establishment Democrats or Republicans who, after all, got
elected under the current corrupt system. You can support the effort to
pass the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill, H.R. 417, which Democrats
and moderate Republicans are trying to bring up for another House vote this
spring. As we've said before, it is a modest effort to rein in PACs and
"soft-money" contributions. It won't clean up elections as much
as public financing would, but it would be a step in the right direction.
U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., has introduced H.R. 1173, which would let the
states elect members of the U.S. House from multi-member districts. Proportional
representation would help minorities and alternative political parties elect
representatives. The bill has 12 co-sponsors. A similar bill by U.S. Rep.
Cynthia McKinney, D-Georgia, was bottled up in a House Judiciary subcommittee
Also, Ballot Access News reported that a New Mexico House committee,
on a 4-7 vote, killed a proposed state constitutional amendment that had
passed the Senate and would have provided for preference voting for all
federal and state offices. A Vermont bill for preference voting, which would
do away with runoffs by allowing voters to mark their first and second choices
in the general election, has made no headway with a few weeks remaining
in the legislative session. The Alaska legislature was still considering
a bill to provide for preference voting.
Fair access to ballots also is largely the province of the states. Montana
Gov. Marc Racicot recently signed a bill to lower the number of signatures
required for new parties and independent candidates from 5% of the last
gubernatorial vote (16,039) to a flat 5,000 signatures. However, the West
Virginia Legislature, with neither public hearings nor publicity, doubled
the number of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, to 12,730 signatures,
and excludes signers from major party primaries. The amendment was attached
to a bill that was supposed to toughen campaign finance reporting requirements.
Gov. Cecil Underwood, a Republican, signed it into law on April 7.
-- Jim Cullen
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