International Papers

Disgust in Canada

The NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia was declared “a disaster” Wednesday in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, which could not have condemned it more severely. It has been “an unrelieved disaster not just for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but for the very people the bombing was meant to protect,” it said. The NATO attacks have brought about a wave of righteous nationalism as Yugoslavs rallied behind the man that many of them loathed.

“Safe in their high-tech jets and distant command posts, NATO forces have so far escaped without a single casualty,” the paper said. “It is the Albanians–and of course the Serbs of Yugoslavia too–who are paying the price for the bombing. And what does NATO plan to do about it? Why, bomb some more, of course.” The Globe and Mail said that NATO’s motives had been good–“it wanted to stop Mr. Milosevic, protect the Albanians and save its own reputation in the bargain. Too many times, the West has threatened dire consequences and then done nothing. It is right to feel guilty about acting too late in Bosnia, and not at all in Rwanda. But true atonement requires sacrifice. In expiating its guilt over past failures, the West has instead sacrificed the lives of the helpless civilians of Kosovo. That is unforgivable.”

In interviews published in various European newspapers Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana denied that the NATO attacks had increased the violence in Kosovo. “No, no,” he told Corriere della Sera of Milan, Italy. “NATO’s campaign began specifically to stop the violence. … And we are doing everything we can to stop it.” Corriere also carried an interview Wednesday with President Kiro Gilgorov of Macedonia, who took the same line. Slobodan Milosevic had been planning the “ethnic cleansing” for months, he said. Gilgorov called for NATO humanitarian aid for the Kosovar refugees pouring into his country and said the Russians were the only people in a position to influence Milosevic. The only outcome he ruled out was a world war. “The Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore, so whom would a world war be between?” he asked. “If there is a risk, it is that the conflict will destabilize other countries.”

In the British liberal press, which has been strongly supportive of the bombing campaign, the focus shifted Wednesday to humanitarian aid. The Guardian of London said in an editorial that aid was now the priority. “The same concentration of effort and the same plethora of assets lavished on the aerial war against Serbia must now be applied to the task of housing and caring for the refugees reeling out of Kosovo,” it said. “That no preparations of this kind were made by the governments dealing with Milosevic or by the alliance military staffs as they laid their plans, is worse than a pity. It shows how feckless Europe and America have been in their approach to this crisis, and should at a later time be the subject of a serious inquiry.”

The Independent of London exposed its bleeding heart by filling its entire front page with a picture of two families of refugees under the headline: “This is the reality of the war. Two mothers, five children, seven days of bombing, 250,000 refugees. And no hope.” In an editorial, the Independent called attention to “the other casualty of the bombs”–“the co-operation on foreign policy and military matters which the West and the Russians have developed since the end of the Cold War.” It said the West would have to struggle to reintegrate Russia into international institutions and that the International Monetary Fund should begin this process by providing Russia with a generous loan.

Among the conservative British newspapers, still regarding the use of ground troops as both desirable and a distinct possibility, the Times of London said in an editorial that Milosevic’s “peace” offer to Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had been just “a feint to split the Alliance” and urged the continuation of the war until Milosevic capitulated. But Russian newspapers, published Tuesday before the offer was made and rejected, were enthusiastic about Primakov’s attempt at mediation. Nezavisimaya Gazeta said the conflict had given Russia an opportunity to be a key player again on the international stage, while Moskovsky Komsomolets said that Primakov could not lose out in any event. “If his mission fails, he will have the full moral right to say, ‘I did all I could’; and if he succeeds, the rewards would be tremendous.” The paper went on, “He would not only greatly increase his international standing, but the achievement of any peace, however fragile, in the Balkans would slow the deterioration of Russia’s political situation at home.”

Albanian papers highlighted President Rexhep Meidani’s appeal for international help in dealing with the vast influx of refugees and the establishment of a judicial task force in Albania to investigate Serb atrocities against the Kosovars. The papers were full of patriotic breast-beating. Under the headline “We Must Go to Pristina,” the Democratic Party daily iRilindja Demokratikei called on Albanians to liberate the Kosovar capital from the “wounded beast” Milosevic. The refugees must return to Pristina, it added: “We will go to Pristina. There is no other way.”

In the Middle East, Iraqi writer Abdelamir al-Rakabi warned in the Pan-Arab al-Quds al-Arabi that if NATO’s airstrikes lead to the capitulation of Milosevic, Iraq should prepare for an all-out Anglo-American drive to topple Saddam Hussein. But in the Jordanian daily al-Ra’i, Saleh Qallab argued that this fear is misplaced and should not be used as an excuse for Arabs to oppose the NATO action in the Balkans. Even if NATO has reasons for attacking Yugoslavia, the fact that one of them is to end the slaughter of Kosovar Muslims is a good enough reason for Arabs to support it. “There is no justification whatsoever for constantly invoking the idea that my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” Qallab wrote.

In Israel Wednesday, Ha’aretz condemned the Israeli government for refusing to take sides in the Balkan conflict. It said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon had made only “vague declarations condemning genocide wherever it may be” and that Sharon had refrained from mentioning the Serbs, “as though both sides were massacring each other.” Ha’aretz said it understood why some Israelis felt they owed the Serbs a debt of gratitude for their tenacious opposition to the Nazis during World War II, but added: “A much-persecuted nation, well versed in pogroms, cannot stand on the side, watching an institutionalized process of exterminating civilians based on religion and ethnicity. The Jewish debt to the Serbs from the time of the Holocaust does not justify Jewish apathy to the horrors the Serbs are perpetrating on the Albanians.”

For more Kosovo coverage, click here.