Magazine article Tikkun

The Ethics of the War in Kosovo: Stop U.S. Intervention; an Interview with Noam Chomsky

Magazine article Tikkun

The Ethics of the War in Kosovo: Stop U.S. Intervention; an Interview with Noam Chomsky

Article excerpt

The Ethics of the War in Kosovo: Stop U.S. Intervention; An interview with Noam Chomsky

We hope by the time you read this that the war will be over and many of the issues raised in this discussion resolved. Yet we believe the deeper issues are difficult, and we know that members of our community have come out on both sides of them. Reflecting that divide, we first present the ideas of Noam Chomsky, who opposes the U.S. intervention, followed by our editor Michael Lerner, who supports the war only if it goes the full distance of creating a safe and meaningful return for Kosovar refugees and puts serious constraints on the Serbian ability to re-ignite this struggle.

The following piece includes statements made by Noam Chomsky as part of an essay he wrote on the Z Magazine website on March 27, 1999, and representative statements he made in an interview with Michael Lerner on April 5, 1999.

TIKKUN: Many Jews believe that the intervention by the United States in Kosovo is a humanitarian act which deserves our support.

CHOMSKY: Then they are deluding themselves.

The right of humanitarian intervention, if it exists as a category in international law, is premised on the "good faith" of those intervening. That assumption of good faith is based not on their rhetoric but on their record, in particular their record of adherence to the principles of international law, World Court decisions, and so on. But if we look at the historical record, the United States does not qualify.

To be sure, there has been a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo in the past year, overwhelmingly attributable to Yugoslav military forces. The main victims have been ethnic Albanian Kosovars, some 90 percent of the population of this Yugoslav territory. The standard estimate is two thousand deaths and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

But let's look at the U.S. record.

Consider, for example, Colombia.

In Colombia, according to State Department estimates, the annual level of political killing by the government and its paramilitary associates is about at the level of Kosovo, and refugee flight primarily from their atrocities is well over a million. Yet Colombia has been the leading Western hemisphere recipient of U.S. arms and training even as violence there increased through the 1990s. Our assistance is still increasing, now under a "drug war" pretext dismissed by almost all serious observers. The Clinton administration was particularly enthusiastic in its praise for Colombian president Gaviria, whose tenure in office was responsible for "appalling levels of violence" according to human rights organizations, even surpassing his predecessors.

Or consider Turkey, a neighbor to the former Yugoslavia.

By a very conservative estimate, Turkish repression of Kurds in the 1990s falls in the category of Kosovo. Over a million Kurds fled to the unofficial Kurdish capital, Diyarbakir, from 1990 to 1994 as the Turkish army was devastating the countryside. The year 1994 marked two records: it was, according to Jonathan Randal who reported from the scene, both "the year of the worst repression in the Kurdish provinces" of Turkey and the year when Turkey became "the biggest single importer of American military hardware and thus the world's largest arms purchaser." When human rights groups exposed Turkey's use of U.S. jets to bomb villages, the Clinton administration found ways to evade laws requiring suspension of arms deliveries, much as it was doing in Indonesia and elsewhere.

Colombia and Turkey explain their (U.S.-supported) atrocities on grounds that they are defending their countries from the threat of terrorist guerrillas--as does the government of Yugoslavia.

I could supply many other recent examples of the moral fiber behind U.S. foreign policy directions (consider, for example, the effects of our economic boycott of Iraq, where it is estimated that about five thousand children die a month from the malnutrition and malnutrition-related diseases brought on by the UN embargo insisted upon by the United States). …

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