The Independent, 5-13-99

War in The Balkans - Fifty days of
bombing in Europe, and the voices of
doubt grow ever louder

After 50 days of bombing in Europe
unprecedented since the Second World
War, Nato's Balkan offensive is
dividing British opinion and opening
new fissures on the political
landscape. Many who supported the war
on day one are now deeply worried about
the failure of the tactics so far. They
fear there is no end in sight. Here we
present a selection of voices

Robert Smith

Executive director of the UK Committee
for Unicef

What has come across all too clearly in
the last 50 days is the simple fact
that children are the most vulnerable
victims in any conflict, with some
500,000 refugee children having already
lost their homes and often their
relatives and friends. These are the
children separated from their families
in the earlier waves of refugees and
those most at risk of deadly diseases
in the camps, often suffering from
trauma having lost any sense of
stability in their lives. Unicef
immunisation, counselling and education
programmes are now in place to make
sure that the children stay healthy and
regain a sense of normality. The impact
on children is not restricted to those
in Albania, Macedonia or Montenegro.
The children of Serbia are affected
too. Many of their schools have shut
down and makeshift education is
starting up in the air-raid shelters
where they spend so much of their time.
Also affected are the children flown in
recent weeks to the UK and other
countries. The contrast between their
treatment and that which refugees in
future can expect is stark. The Asylum
and Immigration Bill, now under
discussion, in future could lead to the
marginalisation of children whose lives
are already turned upside down by the
time they arrive here. Children have a
right to respect and protection.

Harold Pinter


When the nail bomb went off in Old
Compton Street, London, Mr Blair
described it as a barbaric act. When
cluster bombs go off in Serbian market
places, cutting children to pieces, we
are told that such an act is being
taken on behalf of "civilisation
against barbarism". The Nato action is
in breach of its own charter and
outside all recognised parameters of
international law. The United Nations
has been treated with contempt. Nato is
helping to fulfil one thing and one
thing only: American domination of
Europe. The true danger to world peace
is not "former Yugoslavia" but the
United States.

Baroness Warnock


I wish the bombing hadn't started and I
don't believe it ought to have done.
There was no clear objective at the
outset and the situation has now got
out of hand. I fear this is typical of
the way this government, particularly
Blair, rushes into things without
knowing what the outcome is going to
be. Now that it has started, I think
the only objective we could possibly
have is to restore some sort of order
in the Balkans in general and
Yugoslavia in particular. But how that
is achieved, I don't know. It is a
thousand pities that the Nato forces
don't seem to be able to aim their
bombs accurately.

Gore Vidal


Every time I hear the mindless mantra
that the United States, as sole global
nuclear empire, is the one
indispensable nation, I substitute for
indispensable indisposable. How do we
get rid of this mangy tiger that we are
riding with so little grace? It all
began in the cold, Cold War. Nato was
the cosa nostra we used to control
Western Europe until the Soviet Union
folded on us. What to do? Well, first,
let's incorporate their provinces into
our Nato. That is why we are bombing
Yugoslavia where we have no national
interest, while Western Europe has none
either, other than a fear of being
inundated by refugees.

Martin Bell

Independent MP and former war

We had only two choices from the start.
One was to stay all the way out of this
and leave it to diplomacy. The other
was to threaten a full military
intervention, including the use of
ground troops. Instead, Nato is waging
half a war. President Milosevic's
position at home, far from being
undermined, appears to be strengthened.
And the plight of the Albanians in
Kosovo, already desperate before the
bombing, has been worsened immeasurably
as a result of it. Circumstances on the
ground can only be changed by boots on
the ground. We should still be willing
to deploy them there.

Susie Orbach


In my experience the conflict is
causing a fantastic amount of dismay
and has tapped in to feelings of
extreme discomfort and helplessness.
What I have observed is that people
have moved from a feeling of confusion
in the early stages, to being behind
the effort in week three or four, to
feeling this incredible feeling of
dismay now. I think it has
psychological ramifications in the
sense that it is a very unsettling
feeling to have your country involved
in what now looks like a very dangerous
conflict. People are feeling the
situation is now much, much worse and
very non-strategic.

Flt Lt John Nichol

Gulf War veteran and author

When Milosevic was given his third, so
called "final warning" in October last
year I wrote in a newspaper, "air
strikes alone will not solve this
problem" they would be "too little too
late". Six months later and 50 days
into operation Allied Force I take no
pleasure in being proven correct. But
what now? If we truly believe in this
crusade, and I do not believe that we
do, there is only one way to stabilise
Kosovo, that is to put men on the
ground carrying guns. Sadly, whatever
deal is done over the coming weeks will
undoubtedly be a fudge, to our eternal
shame we have done too little, too

Timothy Garton Ash

Historian and fellow of St Antony's
College, Oxford

I have spent the last few days near the
Kosovo frontier, talking to expelled
Kosovars, British troops, Western
diplomats and bewildered Macedonians.
This has strengthened two feelings in
me through the 50 days. The first is
incredulity that the most powerful,
technologically sophisticated military
alliance in the world can be making
such a hash of things. How could they
imagine that this thing would be won by
air power alone? How could they hit the
Chinese embassy by mistake? The
difference between computer war games
and war has been demonstrated for all
to see.

My second feeling is even stronger:
that, having started, we have to see it
through. As you talk to the expellees
you are left in no doubt that we
precipitated (though we did not cause)
their expulsion from Kosovo and so have
a basic duty to create the conditions
in which they can return. Anything else
would be a victory for Milosevic, turn
Macedonia into a permanent crisis zone,
undermine Nato's credibility and
encourage dictators everywhere. If we
can achieve the necessary international
protectorate by negotiation, with the
help of the Russians, that will be
marvellous. But I doubt it. I think we
should long since have started building
up the ground troops. I smell a
dreadful scent of fudge in the air with
both sides claiming victory, half the
expellees never returning and Milosevic
still in power. And the man I would
blame for that - the person I am most
angry with - is William Jefferson

Jonathan Sacks

Chief Rabbi

I support the Nato intervention in
Kosovo and I pray that it succeeds. But
when it's over, all the problems will
still remain. Serbs and Albanians will
still need to live together, each
respecting the freedom of the other,
each willing to move beyond the hatreds
of the past. It can only come from a
long, patient effort of education. When
will we learn that peace doesn't grow
from the barrel of a gun? It's born in
the human hearts, and its seeds are
planted in the stories we teach our

Colonel Bob Stewart

British Commander, Bosnia, 1992-93

That Nato was forced to start bombing
in the first place clearly demonstrated
a failure of politics. The Ministry of
Defence and Nato obviously believed it
would be over quickly. It wasn't.
Moreover, the purpose of bombing was to
save the Kosovo Albanians, which was
inappropriate and a failure. The only
way to protect people in such a
situation is with soldiers on the
ground. The Kosovo Albanians are either
out of the country, dead or hiding in
the hills. Nato has no real options
left: either it continues bombing or it
stops. If we stop, Milosevic has
cleansed Kosovo: he remains in power
and is unlikely to be brought before a
war crimes tribunal. He has recognised
that we have a lack of resolve and is
exploiting that.

The Rt Rev Richard Chartres

Bishop of London

Even though the situation has been
radicalised by the violence, I can
understand why the Government is still
persuaded by the undesirability in such
a volatile part of the world of
altering the international borders of
Kosovo. Now is the moment for spelling
out our hopes for the future of Kosovo.
Our own Prime Minister has insisted on
the need to act in defence of the
growing consensus on the inviolability
of human rights and to act in a way
that is transnational. The nature of
conflict has changed, and it is clear
that the practice of diplomacy must
also develop. There is a need to look
at reform of the UN. If it is true that
the Security Council is paralysed by
its present structure, thenthere must
be pressure for change, led by the
governments of the democratic world.

The Dalai Lama

Buddhist leader

The original intention of the war was
humanitarian. I think it began because
of genuine concern and sympathy for
human rights violations on the Kosovo
people. But the very nature of violence
is that it is unpredictable. There is a
chain of violence, a karma of violence.
This is exactly what is happening now.
The original intention was to limit
violence, but now it is a difficult
situation. Basically, I'm against the
use of violence anywhere, any time.

Ruth Lea

Head of the Policy Unit, Institute of

I have opposed the Nato campaign from
the start. It upsets the post-war
consensus on the rules governing
international relations. The UN charter
lays down unambiguous ground rules for
conduct between sovereign states. If
nations seek to destroy the sovereignty
of other states, they are violating the
charter. Despite this fact, Nato is
bombing the sovereign state of
Yugoslavia. Its motive is to protect
Kosovar Albanians' individual rights.
But in doing so it is effectively
changing the rules of international
engagement. The international community
should have treated the horrors
perpetrated within Yugoslav borders as
a civil war and, as in the tragedy of
Rwanda, provided humanitarian aid. At
least that would have been consistent.

Lt-Col Tim Spicer

Security consultant

So far the aim hasn't been achieved -
genocide is almost complete and
Milosevic is still in power (with
little sign of removal). Rambouillet
has not been signed. Most Kosovans,
except the KLA, have left.

Why? No war has ever been won by air
power alone. Wars are won by combined
arms effort. The only effect of the air
campaigns has been to unite the Serbs
against a common enemy. What next? Of
course a diplomatic solution is the
best answer, providing it is not a
fudge, the plan must be revised to
regain the initiative. This must
include a ground plan to take control
of Kosovo to allow the refugees to
return. This will involve Nato fighting
their way in and must include support
to the KLA, in spite of the criticisms
of that organisation. Milosevic must
not be allowed to divert Nato by

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