avatar
Letter to Bernie Sanders


In the Dayton agreement, the U.S. gave Milosevic a free hand in Kosovo in exchange for

a settlement in Bosnia.

The U.S. has consistently opposed sending ground forces into Kosovo, even as the

destruction of the Kosovar people escalated. (While I do not personally support such an

action, it would, in sharp contrast to current U.S. policy, provide at least some

likelihood of halting the attacks on the Kosovo Albanians.)

According to The New York Times (4/18/99), the U.S. began bombing Yugoslavia with no

consideration for the possible impact on the Albanian people of Kosovo. This was not for

want of warning. On March 5, 1999, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema met with

President Clinton in the Oval Office and warned him that an air attack which failed to

subdue Milosevic would result in 300,000 to 400,000 refugees passing into Albania and then

to Italy. Nonetheless, "No one planned for the tactic of population expulsion that

has been the currency of Balkan wars for more than a century." (The New York Times,

4/18/99). If the goal of U.S. policy was humanitarian, surely planning for the welfare of

these refugees would have been at least a modest concern.

Even now the attention paid to humanitarian aid to the Kosovo refugees is totally

inadequate, and is trivial compared to the billions being spent to bomb Yugoslavia.

According to the Washington Post (4/30/99), the spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency in

Macedonia says, "We are on the brink of catastrophe." Surely a genuine

humanitarian concern for the Kosovars would be evidenced in massive emergency airlifts and

a few billion dollars right now devoted to aiding the refugees.

While it has refused to send ground forces into Kosovo, the U.S. has also opposed and

continues to oppose all alternatives that would provide immediate protection for the

people of Kosovo by putting non- or partially-NATO forces into Kosovo. Such proposals have

been made by Russia, by Milosevic himself, and by the delegations of the U.S. Congress and

the Russian Duma who met recently with yourself as a participant. The refusal of the U.S.

to endorse such proposals strongly supports the hypothesis that the goal of U.S. policy is

not to save the Kosovars from ongoing destruction.

Less violent alternatives: On 4/27/99 I presented you with a memo laying out an

alternative approach to current Administration policy. It stated, "The overriding

objective of U.S. policy in Kosovo — and of people of good will — must be to halt the

destruction of the Albanian people of Kosovo. . . The immediate goal of U.S. policy should

be a ceasefire which halts Serb attacks on Kosovo Albanians in exchange for a halt in NATO

bombing." It stated that to achieve this objective, the United States should

"propose an immediate ceasefire, to continue as long as Serb attacks on Kosovo

Albanians cease. . . Initiate an immediate bombing pause. . . Convene the U.N. Security

Council to propose action under U.N. auspices to extend and maintain the ceasefire. . .

Assemble a peacekeeping force under U.N. authority to protect safe havens for those

threatened with ethnic cleansing." On 5/3/99 you endorsed a very similar peace plan

proposed by delegations from the US Congress and the Russian Duma. You stated that

"The goal now is to move as quickly as possible toward a ceasefire and toward

negotiations." In short, there is a less violent alternative to the present U.S. air

war against Yugoslavia.

High probability of halting the evil: Current U.S. policy has virtually no probability

of halting the displacement and killing of the Kosovo Albanians. As William Safire put it,

"The war to make Kosovo safe for Kosovars is a war without an entrance strategy. By

its unwillingness to enter Serbian territory to stop the killing at the start, NATO

conceded defeat. The bombing is simply intended to coerce the Serbian leader to give up at

the negotiating table all he has won on the killing field. He won’t." (The New York

Times, 5/3/99) The massive bombing of Yugoslavia is not a means of protecting the Kosovars

but an alternative to doing so.

Minimizing the consequences of violence. "Collateral damage" is inevitable in

bombing attacks on military targets. It must be weighed in any moral evaluation of

bombing. But in this case we are seeing not just collateral damage but the deliberate

selection of civilian targets, including residential neighborhoods, auto factories,

broadcasting stations, and hydro-electric power plants. The New York Times characterized

the latter as "The attack on what clearly appeared to be a civilian target."

(5/3/99) If these are acceptable targets, are there any targets that are unacceptable?

The House Resolution (S Con Res 21) of 4/29/99 which "authorizes the president of

the United States to conduct military air operations and missile strikes in cooperation

with the United States’ NATO allies against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia"

supports not only the current air war but also its unlimited escalation. It thereby

authorizes the commission of war crimes, even of genocide. Indeed, the very day after that

vote, the Pentagon announced that it would begin "area bombing," which the

Washington Post (4/30/99) characterized as "dropping unguided weapons from B-52

bombers in an imprecise technique that resulted in large-scale civilian casualties in

World War II and the Vietnam War."

It was your vote in support of this resolution that precipitated my decision that my

conscience required me to resign from your staff.

I have tried to ask myself questions that I believe each of us must ask ourselves: Is

there a moral limit to the military violence you are willing to participate in or support?

Where does that limit lie? And when that limit has been reached, what action will you

take? My answers led to my resignation.

Sincerely yours,

Jeremy Brecher

 

Leave a comment