File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1999/bhaskar.9904, message 58

Date: Sun, 25 Apr 1999 21:45:20 -0500
Subject: BHA: Chomsky on Legality and NATO Crimes

          Chomsky's reply to Bogdan Denitch
          Sun, 25 Apr 1999 11:13:37 -0500 (CDT)
          "C. G. Estabrook" <>


Date: 04/24/99

Bogdan Denitch writes in a message forwarded to the ZNet forum system,
reply to my comments there, that there are "a few problems with Noam's
reply." I'll run through his criticisms in this reaction, again in the
public forum system.

(1) "To begin with the number of Albanians dead is a great deal higher
than 2000."
        Bogdan is referring to my (accurate) statement that according to

NATO, 2000 people had been killed (on all sides) in the year prior to
bombing that began on March 24. Bogdan's objection to this (true)
statement is that AFTER the bombing that he supported, the number of
Albanian dead increased substantially, which I am sure is true -- a
problem that he should face, evidently. But that leaves no problem with
accurate reiteration of NATO's version of the events of the year
the bombing.  Note that there was no ambiguity or unclarity about the
statements to which he is referring.

(2) "Serbian repression in Kosovo does not date to Rambuillet but to
when the Milosevic regime started its crack down on Kosovo."
        Bogdan misstates the facts (which he knows very well -- much
better than I). Serbian repression goes back much further than 1987, and

there has been "bitter conflict between Serbs and Albanians in and over
Kosovo going way back" (quoting myself). The major change, as I
was from 1989 when the Milosevic regime effectively rescinded autonomy
Kosovo. I then reviewed the later stages, much too briefly but
as far as it went.  The second charge therefore has no more more merit
than the first.
        I might add something I didn't get around to discussing.
also rescinded autonomy in Vojvodina, the home of the Hungarian
There, in response to the NATO bombing that Bogdan supported, the very
promising democratic opposition has now predictably rallied in support
the government, its leaders now saying that by devastating Vojvodina and

attacking the rest of the country, "NATO showed they only understand the

policy of violence." Bogdan might want to explain why he disagrees with
the democratic opposition that has been destroyed, at least for the
present, by the policies he advocated, and urges that we must trust NATO

military force to impose a solution (I return to his position on this

(3) "For ten long bitter years the Albanian resistance was non-violent;
neither the Milosevic regime nor the oposition nor the international
community used that time to negotiate anything at all. Kosovo, alas,
became a problem when a minority of Albanians took up arms."
        Apart from the fact that he has the dates wrong, as noted,
is simply repeating the remarks of mine that he has read. Namely, "In
reaction to the effective rescinding of autonomy [from 1989], a movement

took shape, headed by Rugova, which established a parallel government,
surely with the intention of ultimate independence, a longstanding goal
the Albanian population of Kosovo, now an overwhelming majority," but
"impressive campaign" was disregarded by the West.
        To add more (discussed further in an article forthcoming in Z),
the nonviolent movement was completely sold out by the US at Dayton,
which many Kosovars recognized that the US understands nothing but force

-- just as the Vojvodina democratic opposition now understands that, by
bitter experience, though Bogdan crucially disagrees.
        Proceeding, in reaction to the western sellout, the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA) began to gain support, and in February 1998
out its first serious attack against Serbian police stations, actions
officially condemned as "terrorist" by the US, which also officially
condemned the KLA as "without any question a terrorist group."
        To allay further misrepresentation, I am saying nothing here
the accuracy of the US characterization of the KLA, any more than I was
saying anything about the accuracy of NATO's account of the pre-bombing
violence when I (accurately) reported it. That's a distinct question. I
simply reporting the official position of the United States, the country

that Bogdan (explicitly) recommends that we must trust to impose a
solution by force.
        To return to problem (3), when Bogdan's misdating is corrected,
is repeating what I wrote, and this problem vanishes as well.

(4) Bogdan writes that we must dispense with "this legalism about
jurisdiction on Kosovo."
        That is, we must send to the trash can the fundamental
of world order, international law, and treaty obligations concerning
sovereignty, tearing up this "scrap of paper," as a German Chancellor
famously said. And once we dispense with "this legalism," we then adopt
the only really existing alternative: the powerful will act as they
        That is not an uncommon stand among the rich and powerful. But
is strongly opposed by most of the world, who recognize that with all
their faults, the principles of world order afford the weak at least
limited protection against predatory states (they are of no value to the

rich and powerful, who do what they want anyway). They do not always
afford protection, of course. Thus the UN, World Court, etc., could do
nothing about Washington's attack against South Vietnam (then all of
Indochina), its terrorist wars in Central America, the Russian invasions

of Hungary and Afghanistan, Israel's (US-backed) invasions and terror in

Lebanon, and on, and on. But limited protection is not the same as no
        My own expressed view, to which Bogdan is responding, is that we

should not simply "adopt the standards of Saddam Hussein" and dismiss
principles of world order as a ridiculous "legalism" (Bogdan's word, and

his expressed view). Rather, we should take them seriously, and also
recognize that "there is at least a tension, if not an outright
contradiction, between the rules of world order laid down in the UN
Charter and the rights articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights ... The issue of `humanitarian intervention' arises from this
tension." And the history of "humanitarian intervention," and the US
reaction to authentic cases, will be dismissed only by those who insist
that facts are irrelevant to understanding and choices.
        The tension/contradiction provides an appropriate context for
Kosovo, and innumerable other cases like it: the Kurds in Turkey, to
a case of atrocities in the '90s that are vastly more serious in human
cost than anything attributed to Milosevic in Kosovo before the NATO
bombings (I'll put off the comparison after the bombing, though it is
worth undertaking) -- and that differ crucially from Kosovo in two
respects: (a) these atrocities have been given decisive military and
diplomatic support by the US and hence could easily be mitigated or
terminated, and (b) they remain unprotested here, greatly to our shame,
while we follow Washington's marching orders and focus attention
laser-like on its chosen case: Kosovo.
        Here Bogdan and I do differ. He rejects my stand that we should
take the principles of world order and treaty obligations seriously,
recognizing and attending to the tension/contradiction between the
of sovereignty and protection of human rights. His objection makes sense

only on one assumption: that the principles of world order, treaty
obligations, etc., should be dismissed as "a scrap of paper," and we
should adopt the only actually existing alternative, namely, the
do as they wish, while the mainstream of intellectuals (as always)
it as right and just, whatever it turns out to be, later complaining if
turns out to be too costly. I don't think I need cite examples, for
or anyone else.
        Note that these are the alternatives. If Bogdan has a third one
mind, it would be interesting to hear it.
        His further comments have no relation whatsoever to anything I
wrote, so I will not discuss them.
        Bogdan does have his own proposal: that NATO military forces,
the UN or any other neutral authority, must impose a solution by force.
must therefore trust the US and its NATO associates to do the right
not the UN. If he can present the reasons for his conclusion, that would

be a constructive contribution. It would also be a constructive
contribution for him to explain why he supported the NATO bombing which
(predictably) led to a vast escalation of atrocities, the destruction of

the democratic dissident movements in Yugoslavia that were the best hope

for ridding the world of their elected leader Milosevic, and other
deleterious consequences too well-known to mention. To repeat, it would
a constructive contribution for him to justify his support for the
(with its predictable consequences) and his reliance on the US to impose
just and fair solution, while dismissing the UN and others. But it is
a constructive contribution to falsify the statements of those who
disagree with him, and to respond to arguments that he invents and
attributes to them.
        Noam Chomsky
        Message URL:*index?message=13060

     --- from list ---


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005