Yugoslavia 1999


18 Canadian fighter jets participated in NATO’s 78-day bombing of Serbia in the spring of 1999. The CF 18s dropped 530 bombs in 682 sorties — approximately 10 percent of NATO’s bombing runs. Hundreds died during the bombing and hundreds of thousands were displaced in a war that contravened international law.

Contrary to the mainstream media’s characterization of the campiagn, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia spurred the ethnic cleansing they claimed to be curbing. Noam Chomsky writes: “The State Department’s analysis showed that ‘the crimes of [Serbian president Slobodan] Milosevic’s willing executioners’ were not a motive for the bombing: the crimes followed the bombing, according to the State Department’s definitive case against Milosevic, and were precipitated by it, it is only rational to assume.”

NATO leaders claimed humanitarian motives for bombing Serbia but their actions were largely driven by frustration with Yugoslavia’s failure to follow US and Western European imposed economic and political changes. “It was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform — not the plight of Kosovar Albanians — that best explains NATO’s war,” wrote John Norris, assistant to Strobe Talbott, who was the US official responsible for diplomacy during the war and who wrote a glowing introduction to Norris’s book.

Canadian Supreme Court Judge Louise Arbour, who presided over the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), played an important role in justifying NATO’s bombing of Serbia. Just prior to the bombing Arbour brought along the international media for a stunt where she claimed Milosevic was blocking her from investigating a massacre in the Kosovar village of Racak. Subsequent investigations into what happened at Racak were inconclusive despite widespread reporting of a Serbian massacre. This “massacre” was an important part of NATO’s justification for bombing. While quick to blame Serb leaders for human rights violations, Arbour ignored evidence of Western leaders’ crimes.