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Credibility


Noam Chomsky

At

a talk earlier this year, Chomsky was asked — "Kosovo—what are the

interests driving intervention? What do you foresee for the people of the

region?"

This

was his answer…

We

can start by saying what the intervention was not motivated by. It was not

motivated by humanitarian concern; I think that is overwhelmingly obvious at

this point. There is now a rich mine of documentation from sources of the kind

I’ve just mentioned which demonstrate that, up until the bombing, Kosovo was a

pretty ugly place, in fact, not unlike Colombia, though probably not as bad. But

nothing special was happening in the period before the bombing. The place was

teeming with monitors, European monitors, the international human rights

organizations, the ICRC, the UNHCR, etc., and their reports are available, to a

large extent, and they’re pretty clear. In the last two-month reporting period

before the bombing, they estimate more than one violent death a day, which is

bad (on both sides, incidentally, these are distributed–Serbs, Albanians, some

of the Albanians being killed by Albanians). Ugly, but not changing; and, in

fact, nothing special happening.

The

bombing was then undertaken, with the expectation that it was going to sharply

escalate atrocities. We now have a record of where it escalated atrocities from

the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who gave a detailed

documentation of what happened afterward. Their conclusion is that the

atrocities took place as anticipated, primarily in areas of guerilla activity

and potential invasion routes. Ugly and horrible and war crimes and everything

else, but not all that surprising when you bomb some country and you threaten to

invade them. That was the anticipated consequence of the bombing. It’s been

kind of inverted now in the rendition, so what you read is that they were

carrying out ethnic cleansing so we had to bomb to stop ethnic cleansing. Just

take a look at the record; it’s exactly the other way around. The ethnic

cleansing followed the bombing, and it was the anticipated consequence of it,

and for ugly, but intelligible reasons. You might ask yourself what would be

happening here, let’s say, if a guerilla army based in Mexico were killing

policemen, civil servants, civilians, etc., with supplies coming in from Mexico,

in an effort to try to recover for Mexico the territory that was stolen from it

not all that long ago. How would you react around here? How would the United

States react? You don’t have to bother saying.

What

the NATO Commander, General Clark, said at the time turns out to be very

accurate. As the bombing started, Clark informed the press that it was

"entirely predictable" that atrocities would sharply increase. We now

know how sharply they increased because we know what they were before and what

they were afterward. A couple of weeks later he informed the press again that

the purpose of the bombing never had anything to do with ethnic cleansing; that

was not a concern of the political leadership or of the military command that

was implementing it. Now in retrospect, that’s pretty much what is the case.

So I think we can wipe out that argument, that it was humanitarian in

intent—it wasn’t. So what was it? That’s the question.

Well,

here we go from fact, which you can verify, to speculation, which you can only

just guess, because we don’t have internal documents. So if you want my

speculation, I think there’s now more evidence for it, but it’s still

speculation because we don’t have documents of internal planning. If you take

a look back at that time, you’ll notice that two arguments were given for the

bombing. The first argument was that we had to stop ethnic cleansing. That

can’t possibly be right—just take a look at the factual record. The second

argument that was given is more plausible, in my view, and that is that it was

necessary to maintain the credibility of NATO. Well, I think that’s plausible,

but you have to translate it. Like most things in political rhetoric, you’ve

got to do a little work on it.

When

the U.S. and Britain talk about the credibility of NATO, what do they have in

mind? I mean, are they worried about the credibility of Norway? The credibility

of Italy? Belgium? I don’t think so. They’re worried about the credibility

of the United States and its attack dog, which is what England has become. It

basically is a highly militarized state that is sent out to attack people. So

the U.S. and its attack dog, it’s their credibility that’s at stake.

With

whom? It’s a wide audience. For one thing, with Europe. Part of the reason, I

suspect, for shifting the arena of confrontation from diplomacy to violence is

that that’s where the U.S. and Britain reign supreme. If you can bring NATO

in, it’s a U.S., secondarily British, operation. If it’s a matter of

diplomacy, the United States doesn’t hold any cards any stronger than Germany

or France or anyone else.

There’s

been a significant conflict between Europe and the United States over the

emerging shape of the world. They don’t agree on everything. Putting NATO in

the forefront is a way of putting the United States in the forefront. The United

States doesn’t dominate Europe, but it does dominate NATO. If Europe were to

move toward a security system from, say the Atlantic to the Urals, the way

France and some in Germany have proposed, that’s going to marginalize the

United States in European affairs. If Europe stays under NATO control, the U.S.

is going to run it. So part of the credibility that was involved, I think was

credibility of U.S. power, vis-a-vis Europe.

But

then it’s much broader than that. Serbia, like it or hate it, it’s the one

part of Europe which has not subordinated itself to the U.S. picture of what

things should look like, and it’s got to go. And if it turns out to be

disobeying orders, as it was doing, then all the more reason why it’s got to

go. Here, credibility in another sense enters. If you want to understand that

form of credibility, just go to your favorite Mafia don and ask him what

credibility means. If a local storekeeper doesn’t pay protection money, you

don’t just send somebody to collect the money, you make an example of him

because you have to establish credibility. You send in goons and beat him to a

pulp, or something like that. That establishes credibility. Then others

understand they’d better listen. That’s credibility, and it you look through

the record, that’s the kind of credibility that has to be established all the

time, not just by the Mafia don, but by the global Mafia don as well. Whoever it

may be, and in the last half-century it’s been mostly the United States–and

now, dramatically. I think that’s the sense in which credibility had to be

established. You have to show who’s boss. You have to "domesticate

aspirations," as the Jesuits in San Salvador learned, the surviving ones,

because aspirations contrary to the wishes of the powerful will not be tolerated

and efforts to pursue them will lead to very severe consequences. My guess is

that that range of considerations is probably what underlies planning in this

case, as in many others. But, let me say again, that’s speculation. Until the

documentary record may come out, long after I’m gone, we’re not going to

have any clear evidence about this, I expect.

 

 

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