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California meetings oppose U.S./NATO intervention in Balkans

By Richard Becker

San Francisco

Well-attended public events opposing the U.S./NATO intervention in Yugoslavia and the Balkans were held in three cities in California the weekend of Feb. 19-21. The meetings, part of a national speaking tour, were co-sponsored by the International Action Center and the Sonoma State University-based Project Censored.

Featured speakers were Michel Collon, a journalist for the Belgian workers' newspaper Solidaire, and Sara Flounders, a national coordinator of the International Action Center. Both have written extensively on the imperialist-engineered breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

At the San Francisco event on Feb. 20, attended by more than 200 people, Flounders and Collon were joined on the podium by author Michael Parenti, Project Censored Director Peter Phillips, Lenore Foerstal of Women for Mutual Security, Gloria La Riva and Richard Becker of the IAC, and Vojin Oklobdzia, a progressive Yugoslavian professor at U.C. Davis.

Other events were held in Los Angeles and at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif.

The San Francisco meeting took place the same day that the U.S. and NATO had declared to be the deadline for the Yugoslav government and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to accept the terms of a "peace agreement." If they did not agree, Washington vowed, NATO would launch air strikes against Yugoslav positions.

The right-wing KLA has been waging a war for more than a year, funded and organized from outside the country, with the aim of seceding from the Yugoslav workers' state.

NATO did not threaten to bomb the KLA if it refused to agree to the plan. The main elements of the NATO proposal were the reestablishment of autonomy for Kosovo, the withdrawal of Yugoslav military forces from the area, and the insertion of more than 35,000 NATO "peacekeepers." The plan meant a massive, U.S.-led NATO occupation of a large part of what remains of Yugoslavia.

But the deadline came and went without the outbreak of bombing. So did a second deadline on Feb. 23.

Now a new deadline has been set for March 15.

The main stumbling block, to Washington's surprise, was the refusal of one faction of the KLA to sign on to the agreement. The KLA delegation at the negotiations, held in France, split. A faction led by Adam Demaci demanded not just autonomy but a referendum on independence within three years.

The U.S. and its NATO allies have succeeded--through civil war, NATO bombing and other forms of military, economic and diplomatic intervention--in breaking up the former socialist federation of Yugoslavia. U.S. troops are now based in several of the newly "independent" states--Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia as well as in neighboring Albania, Hungary, Greece, Turkey and Italy.

The U.S. wants to continue pulling apart what remains of Yugoslavia, but it doesn't want an independent Kosovo. Why? Because it would almost certainly not be independent for long. It would soon become part of a "Greater Albania," which, in addition to the present-day country of that name, would probably also seek to annex parts of Macedonia.

Washington fears this could lead to the destabilization of the entire Balkan region and possibly a war between two NATO "allies," Turkey and Greece. Besides, U.S policy does not favor a "Greater" anything, instead seeking to break up countries into smaller, more controllable and digestible pieces.

The dominant military faction in the KLA, already receiving aid from NATO countries and counting on NATO to serve as its air force, decided to hold out for more favorable conditions. Even direct personal appeals from Albright and NATO's commander didn't win their assent. And without the KLA's agreement, it was impossible for the leading NATO powers to agree on bombing Yugoslavia. The KLA's unexpected position also strengthened Russian opposition to military strikes.

On March 2, however, Demaci announced he was resigning. That was interpreted as clearing the way for the U.S./NATO plan.

Despite their mask of unity, deep differences divide the leading NATO powers. As Michel Collon said in San Francisco, all of NATO agreed in 1991 that Yugoslavia, which was resisting privatization and capitalist takeover of its economy, must be dismantled. But they have never agreed on how it was to be divided up, and that remains true today.

The derailing of plans for a massive U.S./NATO strike on Yugoslavia may be only temporary. The KLA is continuing military operations and the Yugoslav forces are engaging them in small-scale battles.

Undoubtedly, behind the scenes, heavy pressure is being brought to bear to bring the KLA into line, with signs already that this pressure is having the desired effect. The KLA has no chance of winning its struggle without assistance from the outside, from the same imperialist powers with which it is now squabbling. In the end, it seems highly likely that the KLA will come around to the U.S./NATO line.

For that reason, and because imperialist aims in the region have not changed, the danger of a new U.S./NATO war against Yugoslavia remain very real. The anti-war movement in the U.S. and Europe particularly must be prepared to take to the streets. The recent IAC-organized national tour has armed thousands of people with a new and deeper understanding of this crisis.

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