Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Revisiting NATO atrocities in Yugoslavia after 15 years

I think it is timely to recall the illegal actions of NATO in bombing Yugoslavia to bring about the secession of Kosovo.

Another referendum. Another war.

This is a two-part documentary just released by RT

Revisiting NATO atrocities in Yugoslavia after 15 years

Fifteen years after NATO's 78-day bombardment of Yugoslavia, memories of the bombing still haunt present-day Serbia. NATO killed over 2,000 people, hundreds were civilians, 88 were children. Serbs ask 'why?' above all. Why did NATO smash their cities, kill their children, bomb hospitals and schools? RT presents 'Zashto?' (Why?) on the trauma of terror in Serbia.

Part one

Part two

Some more context - 

The Continuing Legacy of Depleted Uranium Poisoning in Yugoslavia

Effects of DU in Yugoslavia


In the 78 days of NATO bombing in March-June 1999 during Operation Allied Force, the best estimates are that 30 tonnes of DU were dropped throughout Serbia (including Kosovo). In March 2000, NATO admitted to having fired 31,000 DU rounds - mainly from A10 warplanes, but the Yugoslav authorities estimate 50,000 DU rounds.

Unproven suspicions that the US tested new DU-based bunker-buster missiles containing over a tonne of DU each (see Dai Williams report, in Weaponisation of DU
may mean the actual amount of DU used was much higher.The US was the only NATO country to use DU in the Balkans.

In total, NATO flew about
 35,000 sorties (a third of them bombing missions), fired 550 cruise missiles and dropped about 23,000 bombs. The proportion of "precision" munitions was 35%, considerably up from Desert Storm, but still far from the sterile video game portrayed by NATO's PR frontmen.

In July 1999, Ramsey Clark's IAC commenced war crimes hearings against NATO

NATO spokesmen long refused to specify where DU rounds had been fired, before belatedly providing limited maps in March 2000. This was their first official acknowledgement of the use of DU, and the maps identified 28 locations in Kosovo, but none in Serbia proper, even though DU has been reliably discovered there.

After the war, UNEP formed a task force to assess the impact of the war. However, due to NATO's delay in disclosing DU sites, they were initially reduced to conducting a review of published literature. They finally travelled to Kosovo in November 2000, but 
only sampled 11 of 112 reported DU target sites, and did not visit the rest of Serbia. The sites they sampled had already been visited by NATO troops (and almost certainly cleaned) beforehand. Furthermore, the sites disclosed by NATO were all the targets of A10 raids, and UNEP did not sample any missile or bomb sites. In view of the Dai Williams report suggesting the use of prototype bunker busters with large amounts of DU, this may be a significant omission.

Other critics have alleged that UNEP used geiger counters that were incapable of detecting alpha particles, which are the primary radioactive emission of DU.

Articles by the Geneva-based journalist, Robert James Parsons, in the San Francisco Examiner on 1st May 2000 and in The Nation on 9th April 2001 trace the politics of the DU cover-up in Yugoslavia.

The latter article refers to a NATO admission of using 
10 tonnes of DU on hardened Serb bunkers, and Robert Fisk had already reported a NATO admission that some cruise missiles contained DU, in The Independent on 22nd November 1999

The so-called "Balkans Syndrome" caused a brief but intense media furore in Europe in late 2000, when NATO peacekeepers began to fall ill. The term had actually been coined in advance by Felicity Arbuthnot, in anticipation of what would surely follow any US bombing campaign.

As of January 2001, 
six Italian peacekeepers had died of leukemia 
(Counterpunch, says eight by February 2001) after serving in the Balkans, as did five Belgians from various cancers, four Frenchfour Hungarians(although Hungarian TV blamed the Serbs for spreading DU !) two Dutchtwo Spaniardsone Portuguese and one Czech. Many other cases of cancer have been reported by European troops - see Canadian CBC TV20% of the 17,000 Belgian troops who served in the Balkans throughout the 1990s, were reporting health problems by September 2000 - Tanjug

On 27th April 2002, the Italian RAI TV station reported 7 deformed births among soldiers who had served in the Balkans.

The highest incidence of leukaemia cases seems to have been among the Mediterranean troops (Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) assigned to western Kosovo, one of the heaviest bombing locations (see Dai Williams report in Weaponisation section, for significance of this - the only DU usage admitted by NATO was the A10's 30mm bullets, but he suspects massive DU-based bunker busters were also used). US and UK troops were allocated to less heavily bombed regions.

In response, Portugal withdrew its contingent, saying they would not be allowed to become "uranium meat", 400 Norwegian peacekeepers refused to sign service contracts for service in Kosovo, and Greece offered all its peacekeepers the option of withdrawing.

NATO peacekeepers had their food and drink flown in from outside, and Dutch and German soldiers were specifically ordered not to eat local produce. Dutch soldiers stationed around Pritzen sent all their clothing and equipment back to Holland for decontamination (allegedly due to asbestos decontamination, but their vehicles ended up in a radiation decontamination plant).

The UN High Commission for Refugees, the main coordinator of aid to Kosovo, quietly decided to refrain from sending pregnant staff to Kosovo, and to offer staff there the option of reassignment.

America's response to the increasing concern was delivered by 
Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Her advice to Europeans in February 2001 was not to be "excessively nervous and hysterical" about DU (this of course, is the same humanitarian who had told Lesley Stahl of CBS in 1996, that half a million dead Iraqi children was "worth it").

NATO's Kosovo war only used 5-10% of the DU munitions fired at Iraq in 1991, but the British MoD still saw fit to warn its personnel in Kosovo to stay clear of DU-affected areas, unless wearing full protective clothing. Naturally, no such warning was issued to returning refugees - Felicity Arbuthnot - Sunday Herald, 02 August 1999

Only in 2001, did the US warn Kosovar children not to play on destroyed tanks.

As in the Gulf, western public concern was more focussed on the soldiers who had participated in the DU assault on Yugoslavia, than it was on the real victims - the people of Yugoslavia and the Balkans. Indeed, 
the UN was careful not to record Yugoslav cancer cases. Also as in the Gulf, the use of DU was just one element in the cocktail of biochemical warfare unleashed by the US, and the war was widely dubbed an act of ecocide.

See 31 January 2001 article - other reports also speak of the bombing of Pancevo releasing 8 tonnes of mercury into the Danube. The number of miscarriages in Pancevo doubled in the months after the bombing, and pregnant women were advised to get abortions.

Some researchers reported an 
8-fold increase in radioactivity in both Macedonia and Bulgaria, while airborne uranium dust was detected in Greece and Hungary.

In April 2000, Yugoslav officials reported radiation levels of up to 235,000 Bq/kg (1,000 times the safe level) in areas of Serbia proper.

This makes it all the more suspicious that NATO's colleagues in UNEP failed to find any DU contamination in Kosovo.

Reuters - 22 April 2000
Hiroshima daily's special report - describes one of the 235K Bq/kg hot spots

Of course, local civilians are even more subject to the same radiation sources that killed the NATO peacekeepers, but that is less reported.

BBC, 15 January 2001 - report of cancers and birth deformities in Kosovo
18 January 2001, Athens News Agency (quoted by Chinese People's Daily) - Serbian scientists report 200% cancer increase in bombed areas of Serbia, and 30% nationwide

Centre for Reasearch on Globalisation - reports January 2001 claim by Yugoslavia's BETA news agency, of a 200% increase in leukemia in Northern Kosovo  


It is estimated that 3 tonnes of DU were dropped on Bosnia in 1994-95, when NATO bombed the Bosnian Serbs at the tail-end of the Bosnian war, in Operation Deliberate Force (for once, an honest appellation). In December 2000, NATO admitted to having fired 11,000 DU rounds in that campaign. In total, NATO dropped about 1,000 bombs, and fired 23 cruise missiles.

After the requisite incubation period, the Bosnian Serb Republic now reports a
 five-fold increase in cancer since the mid-90s bombing campaign, with the same recent exponential increase that had been previously seen in Iraq (E.g. cancer cases in the major town of Banja Luka have more than doubled from 1999 to 2000).

The biggest cluster of cancers is amongst the former population of the 
Sarajevo suburb of Hadzici, which was struck by by several hundred DU projectiles. Now refugees in Bratunac, 10% of this community of almost 4,000 people have died of cancer - CNN, 14 January 2001

There are reports the Bosnian Serb authorities themselves blocked further research on this, under US pressure - Robert Fisk, Independent, 19 January 2001

Ad-hoc Committee to Stop Canada's Participation in the War in Yugoslavia

by Michel Chossudovsky

Amply documented, the bombings of Yugoslavia are not strictly aimed at military and strategic targets as claimed by NATO. They are largely intent on destroying the country's civilian infrastructure as well as its institutions.

According to Yugoslav sources, NATO has engaged around 600 aeroplanes of which more than 400 are combat planes. They have flown almost 3,000 attack sorties,"with 200 in one night alone against 150 designated targets". They have dropped thousands of tons of explosives and have launched some 450 cruise missiles.

The intensity of the bombing using the most advanced military technology is unprecedented in modern history. It far surpasses the bombing raids of World War II or the Vietnam War.

The bombings have not only been directed against industrial plants, airports, electricity and telecommunications facilities, railways, bridges and fuel depots, they have also targeted schools, health clinics, day care centres, government buildings, churches, museums, monasteries and historical landmarks.

Infrastructure and Industry

According to Yugoslav sources: "road and railway networks, especially road and rail bridges, most of which were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, suffered extensive destruction". Several thousand industrial facilities have been destroyed or damaged with the consequence of paralysing the production of consumer goods. According to Yugoslav sources, "By totally destroying business facilities across the country, 500,000 workers were left jobless, and 2 million citizens without any source of income and possibility to ensure minimum living conditions". Western estimates as to the destruction of property in Yugoslavia stand at more than US$ 100 billion.

Bombing of Urban and Rural Residential Areas

Villages with no visible military or strategic structures have been bombed. Described as "collateral damage", residential areas in all major cities. The downtown area of Pristina (which includes apartment buildings and private dwellings) has been destroyed. Central-downtown Belgrade -- including government buildings-- have been hit with cluster bombs and there are massive flames emanating from the destruction. According to the International Center for Peace and Justice (ICPJ):

"No city or town in Yugoslavia is being spared. There are untold civilian casualties. The beautiful capital city of Belgrade is in flames and fumes from a destroyed chemical plant are making it necessary to use gas masks".

Civilian Casualties

Both the Yugoslavia authorities and NATO have downplayed the number of civilian casualties. The evidence amply confirms that NATO has created a humanitarian catastrophe. The bombings are largely responsible for driving people from their homes. The bombings have killed people regardless of their nationality or religion. In Kosovo, civilian casualties affect all ethnic groups. According to a report of the Decany Monastery in Kosovo received in the first week of the bombing:

"Last night a cruise missile hit the old town in Djakovica, mostly inhabited by Albanians, and made a great fire in which several Albanian houses were destroyed ..."In short, NATO attacks are nothing but barbarous aggression which affects mostly the innocent civilian population, both Serb and Albanian.

The Dangers of Environmental Contamination

Refineries and warehouses storing liquid raw materials and chemicals have been hit causing environmental contamination. The latter have massively exposed the civilian population to the emission of poisonous gases. NATO air strikes on the chemical industry is intent on creating an environmental disaster, "which is something not even Adolf Hitler did during World War II." According to the Serbian Minister for Environmental Protection Branislav Blazic, "the aggressors were lying when they said they would hit only military targets and would observe international conventions, because they are using illegal weapons such as cluster bombs, attacking civilian targets and trying to provoke an environmental disaster". A report by NBC TV confirms that NATO has bombed a the pharmaceutical complex of Galenika, the largest medicine factory in Yugoslavia located in the suburbs of Belgrade. The fumes from this explosion have serious environmental implications. "The population is asked to wear gas masks..."
Supply with drinking water for the inhabitants of Belgrade is also getting difficult after the drinking water facility at Zarkovo was bombed.

Hospitals and Schools

NATO has targeted many hospitals and health-care institutions, which have been partially damaged or totally destroyed. These include 13 of the country's major hospitals. More than 150 schools (including pre-primary day care centres) have been damaged or destroyed. According to Yugoslav sources, more than 800,000 pupils and students do not attend schools in the wake of the war destruction. There is almost no pre-school institutions (nurseries and day-care centres) which are operational.

Churches, Monasteries and Historical Landmarks

NATO has also systematically targeted churches, monasteries, museums, public monuments and historical landmarks.

"The targets of the attacks on historical and cultural landmarks have included the Gracanica monastery, dating back to the 14th century, the Pec Patriarchate (13th century), the Rakovica monastery and the Petrovarardin Fortress, which are testimony to the foundations of the European civilization, are in all world encyclopedias and on the UNESCO World Heritage list".

The Use of Weapons banned by International Convention

The NATO bombings have also used of weapons banned by international conventions. Amply documented by scientific reports, the cruise missiles utilize depleted uranium "highly toxic to humans, both chemically as a heavy metal and radiologically as an alpha particle emitter". Since the gulf War, depleted uranium (DU) has been a substitute for lead in bullets and missiles. According to scientists "it is most likely a major contributor to the Gulf War Syndrome experienced both by the veterans and the people of Iraq". According radiobiologist Dr. Rosalie Bertell, president of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health:

"When used in war, the depleted uranium (DU) bursts into flame [and] releasing a deadly radioactive aerosol of uranium, unlike anything seen before. It can kill everyone in a tank. This ceramic aerosol is much lighter than uranium dust. It can travel in air tens of kilometres from the point of release, or be stirred up in dust and resuspended in air with wind or human movement. It is very small and can be breathed in by anyone: a baby, pregnant woman, the elderly, the sick. This radioactive ceramic can stay deep in the lungs for years, irradiating the tissue with powerful alpha particles within about a 30 micron sphere, causing emphysema and/or fibrosis. The ceramic can also be swallowed and do damage to the gastro-intestinal tract. In time, it penetrates the lung tissue and enters into the blood stream. ...It can also initiate cancer or promote cancers which have been initiated by other cancinogens".

According to Paul Sullivan, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center:

"In Yugoslavia, it's expected that depleted uranium will be fired in agricultural areas, places where livestock graze and where crops are grown, thereby introducing the spectre of possible contamination of the food chain."

The New York based International Action Center called the Pentagon's decision to use the A-10 "Warthog" jets against targets in Serbia "a danger to the people and environment of the entire Balkans". (Truth in Media, 10 April 1999). In this regard, a report in from Greece:
"registered an increase in levels of toxic substances in the atmosphere of Greece, and said that Albania, Macedonia, Italy, Austria and Hungary all face a potential threat to human health as a result of NATO's bombing of Serbia, which includes the use of radioactive depleted uranium shells".(April 10, 1999, see Truth in Media, 10 April 1999).

The Plight of the Refugees

What is not conveyed by the international media, is that people of all ethnic origins including ethnic Albanians, Serbs and other ethnic groups are leaving Kosovo largely as a result of the bombing.

There are reports that ethnic Albanians have left Kosovo for Belgrade where they have relatives. There are 100,000 ethnic Albanians in Belgrade. The press has confirmed movements of ethnic Albanians to Montenegro. Montenegro has been portrayed as a separate country, as a safe-haven against the Serbs. The fact of the matter is that Montenegro is part of Yugoslavia.

Michel Chossudovsky
Department of Economics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, K1N6N5
Voice box: 1-613-562-5800, ext. 1415
Fax: 1-514-425-6224
E-Mail: chossudovsky@sprint.ca
Recent articles by Chossudovsky :

On Kosovo: http://www.transnational.org/features/crimefinansed.html
On the break-up of Yugoslavia: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/62/022.html
On the Brazilian financial crisis: http://wwwdb.ix.de/tp/english/special/eco/6373/1.html
On global poverty and the financial crisis:

And finally, the first use of chemical weapons was in Iraq by the British at the behest of Winston Churchill

Chemical Weapons use approved by Churchill.

Winston S. Churchill: departmental minute (Churchill papers: 16/16) 12 May 1919 War Office

"I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference of arguing in favour of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragment of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas."

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