Imperialist War,
Imperialist Peace Talk

Revolutionary Worker #1006, May 16, 1999

"I made him an offer he couldn't refuse."

The Godfather

Last week, while the missiles and bombs kept pounding Yugoslavia, the U.S. government was negotiating the details of the arrangements it expects to impose after the war on Kosovo and Yugoslavia. But the U.S. was not negotiating these details with Yugoslavia, and it was not even consulting the Kosovar Albanian people (who the U.S. claims to be helping with its war). These were negotiations among the imperialist godfathers--they were exploring what they all agreed on, and what they didn't. They were deciding who would be involved in occupying Kosovo and who would be calling the shots on that turf after the bombing stops.

On May 6, a Kosovo agreement was announced in Bonn, Germany by the foreign ministers of the "Group of 8." This G-8 is a framework for high-level summit conferences of the top imperialist powers of the world. In addition to the main NATO imperialists--the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Germany--this G-8 includes Japan and Russia.

The most significant thing about this G-8 announcement is that Russia endorsed a plan for an armed international force that would occupy Kosovo. The U.S. and NATO have long been trying to force Yugoslavia to agree to such an armed occupation force. This would serve U.S. imperialist interests by making sure that war and instability do not continually break out in that province and upset the plans and alliances the U.S. has in that part of the world. Before now, Russia backed Yugoslavia in its confrontations with NATO. Now Russia's Yeltsin government has dropped its opposition to foreign occupation of Kosovo--and the U.S. and NATO agreed to include Russian and Ukrainian troops in that new occupying force.

In short, an imperialist deal was worked out in Germany: The U.S. and the other NATO powers agreed to allow the Russian ruling class to have a continuing say over developments in the Balkans--and in exchange, the Russian ruling class was quite willing to help push the Yugoslav government to accept the demands of the NATO imperialist powers.

At the same time, a problem has broken out in the U.S. attempts to marshal international support from major world governments: while the G-8 agreement urges the Chinese government to endorse the position taken by the world's imperialists, a U.S. bomber attacked the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Three Chinese citizens were killed and many were wounded. This has triggered waves of angry anti-American demonstrations in major cities across China. Tens of thousands of students besieged the U.S. embassy in Beijing in the largest political protest in China since the rallies at Tiananmen 10 years ago.

Meanwhile the Bombing Continues

In The Godfather, whenever the top mobster made an "offer you can't refuse," it was backed up by the unspoken threat of murder. The current U.S./NATO approach is even less subtle: They murder day and night with their bombs and missiles.

A "diplomatic track" is offered to Yugoslavia--while the "military track" punches holes in the Yugoslav economy, infrastructure and military--and takes a heavy toll on the masses of people. As we go to press, a U.S. F-16 staged a shocking attack on a hospital complex in Nis, the third largest city of Yugoslavia, using sophisticated U.S. cluster bombs that spray deadly anti-personnel shrapnel over a large area. TV footage showed many Yugoslav people hit near the hospital while carrying their groceries home from a street market. People interviewed on the street insisted there was no military target anywhere nearby.

This is their "offer you can't refuse": do business our way or die. If Yugoslavia accepts the control and dominance of NATO (and above all the U.S.) it will be allowed to return to business as usual--maintain formal rights to Kosovo and even be integrated back into the U.S.-dominated world order. Reject the NATO proposal--and prepare to be bombed back toward the stone age, refinery by refinery, bridge by bridge, even hospital by hospital.

Seeing the IMPERIALISM of NATO's "Baby Boom" Commanders

This whole war exposes once again that people like Clinton and Gore (and their European counterparts/allies like Germany's Gerhard Schröder and Britain's Tony Blair) may use certain social and cultural symbols of their '60s generation--but that fundamentally their outlook and objectives are not "generational" but are shaped by the interests, requirements, and objectives of a class and a system of which they are representatives. This explains why there is such a difference between how people like Clinton acted during the Vietnam war--before becoming a high-ranking representative of this system--and how he acts now.

And it explains why there is still a significant gap between the way most of that '60s generation feels about Pentagon bombings and U.S. interventions and the eagerness with which the Clinton-Gore government launches its "cruise missile" attacks at countries all over the world--from Iraq to Sudan, Afghanistan and now Yugoslavia.

This is complicated by the way Clinton cloaks the murderous acts of his government in talk of "humanitarianism"--and by the fact that in countries like Iraq and Yugoslavia, the governments are themselves reactionary and brutally oppressive. And today many in the "'60s generation" who opposed U.S. aggression in Vietnam are confused about the role of the U.S. in the world and do not see clearly that U.S. military intervention today cannot do any good for the people of the world. The U.S. ruling class is literally getting away with murder--hiding its own imperialist aims--and pretending to be rescuing people.

An Imperialist Peace

The U.S. ruling class has justified its attacks on Yugoslavia by saying that NATO jets were needed to protect the Albanian Kosovars from mistreatment. But the U.S. worked its deal out with fellow imperialists. The U.S. intends to impose that deal on the Albanian Kosovars, just as it intends to impose it on the Yugoslav government.

The G-8 ministers endorsed two key proposals the U.S. has been making: First, that Kosovo would remain part of Serbia. And second, that the Kosovo Liberation Army (the UCK, in the Albanian language) will be disarmed. The UCK has strongly supported the NATO bombing campaign and still insists that a NATO occupation of Kosovo will (somehow) help the masses of people there.

It is by no means sure yet that the Milosevic government will accept this G-8 framework--though there have already been favorable statements from Belgrade. But clearly the agreement itself is designed to reach an agreement with the Yugoslav government--which the U.S. has always believed would be the most dependable way of serving its goals for the region. The U.S. is more than willing to accept Yugoslav and Serbian claims to Kosovo (regardless of what the Kosovo Albanians think)--providing the Yugoslav/Serbian government proves willing to bow before "the cop of the world."

The U.S. government demands on Yugoslavia (and now the new G-8 agreement) contain language about establishing some "self-government" in Kosovo. But, in practice, this means that the armed forces of the occupying imperialists will hand-pick a government of Albanians who embrace the imperialists' vision of what must happen in this region. Already the Kosovo Albanian political figure Ibrahim Rugova is being promoted as a candidate to head the future government--because he is acceptable to both the various imperialists and the central Yugoslav government.

Meanwhile, NATO is making plans to ensure that no armed forces exist among the Albanian Kosovars that might challenge or disrupt their final plan for "stabilizing" Kosovo. The day after the G-8 agreement was announced, the three-star U.S. general commanding troops in Albania was remarking that his forces seemed less likely to be used against Serbian/Yugoslav troops --but that it even looked like guerrilla forces in Kosovo might turn out to be the "biggest problem" for U.S. plans in the region.

Collusion and Contention

The future of the G-8 agreement remains to be seen. There is much disagreement remaining among the powers that signed it. Russia has injected itself into the Balkan war in order to assert its own imperialist interests and now it has offered its help to end the war on terms useful to the U.S.--but those two goals are hardly identical.

The imperialist powers now agree to occupy Kosovo--once the bombing has forced the Yugoslav army to pull out. But they do not yet have agreement on whose troops will be stationed where and, more importantly, who will ultimately command those forces. The U.S. insists that the core of the occupying troops will be under NATO (meaning ultimately U.S.) command. Russia, on the other hand, insists that the United Nations should be in command--which means that Russia would have a decisive say in operations and objectives.

This whole agreement has nothing to do with saving Albanian Kosovars and everything to do with U.S. imperialist goals to dominate. Russia has been brought "into the tent" of the U.S. operations by giving it some influence in the future of the Balkans. Meanwhile this is intended to stabilize the region so that the U.S. and its West European allies can pursue their larger goals: of integrating the most valuable parts of the former Soviet empire into their spheres of influence.

The G-8 agreement shows, once again, that the NATO powers are waging imperialist war (and now, together with the Russian ruling class, planning an imperialist peace) that serves their interests--not the interests or desires of the masses of people in Kosovo or in the larger Balkan region. To the ruling classes of the U.S., NATO, and Russia, the masses of people in Kosovo and the whole Balkan region are little more than pawns, peons and useful backdrops for photo ops and war propaganda. They talk of peace while the bombing goes on. And the bloody peace they are discussing is rooted in the domination of whole peoples and the exploitation of working people and resources all over the world.

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