Peace through Sanctions? Sanctions against Yugoslavia Have Heightened Tensions, Punished Innocent Civilians, and Helped Spark the Kosovo Tragedy

By Gottstein, Ulrich | Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Peace through Sanctions? Sanctions against Yugoslavia Have Heightened Tensions, Punished Innocent Civilians, and Helped Spark the Kosovo Tragedy


Gottstein, Ulrich, Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy


In 1945, when World War II came to an end, more than 50 million people had been killed and many countries were devastated. At the time, we hoped the rest of the 20th century would be without any war. Great wars soon broke out, however, in spite of the added risk of nuclear war. Worldwide, conflicts continued to erupt, in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Latin America, Africa, the former Soviet Union, Iraq and Iran, Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Syria, the Persian Gulf, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.

The greatest powers in the world and the combined strength of the United Nations have not been able to create lasting peace. We live in fear that wars will break out again and again if international policy does not change. "We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive," warned Albert Einstein 55 years ago. The urgency of his message increases with each passing day.

Military-Industrial Complex

In all countries, but especially in the highly industrialized ones, the military industry reaps the greatest profits from war. The military-industrial complex plays a highly effective economic and political role in ensuring the persistence of war. Every sort of weapon is avidly produced and sold, from pistols to assault rifles, artillery, mines, tanks, missiles, bombs, and war planes. Even nuclear weapons find their way into the black market. All wars are waged with these weapons, and despite the economic bankruptcy and extremely high debt of most of the Third World, these countries spend a large proportion of their budgets on military equipment. Those of us in the West who provided that technology cannot proclaim our innocence.

Moreover, the 185 member nations of the United Nations let wars start and continue without any serious diplomatic interference, advice, or warnings as long as our own fate or political interests are not in jeopardy. For example, during the 8-year war between Iraq and Iran, sparked by Iraqi aggression, both nations received financial, military, and logistic support from the United States and other Western countries. The military industry profited greatly from this long war. And when thousands of Kurds in Iraq were killed by Iraqi poison gas in 1988, there was no enduring outcry and no punishment or embargo. The United States' support for Saddam Hussein continued, as he was an adversary of Iran, an enemy of the United States.

Another example of Western indifference to wars that pose no obvious threat to the great nations is the ongoing war, begun in 1984, by Turkey against its own 20 million Kurds. During this brutal war, massive and systematic violations of human rights occur regularly. More than 3,000 villages in southeast Anatolia have been destroyed, more than 25,000 people have been killed, and about 2 million refugees have been scattered inside and outside Turkey. Those who dare mention Kurdish history and the right of the Kurdish people to speak their language and live in cultural and regional autonomy inside Turkish borders risk imprisonment. Nearly every day, human-rights advocates, like the president of the Turkish Human Rights Association, Akin Birdal, as well as journalists and book authors and editors have been sent to jail.

Article 39 of the charter of the United Nations states that "massive and systematic violations of human rights constitute a threat to peace. This was the rationale behind sanctions imposed on Rhodesia, South Africa, Iraq, Haiti, and Yugoslavia.' Why have no sanctions been imposed on Turkey? Because it is a member of NATO, and because nuclear weapons are deployed there. Turkey is also an arena for Western politics in the Middle East. Therefore, Turkey gets continuous financial and military support and uses it to wage war against the Kurds.

Ministries for Peace

All countries have ministries of defense; but in reality, they should be called ministries of war. The task of defense ministries is to maintain a strong army prepared at any time to fight in a defensive or offensive war, at home or far away. …

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Peace through Sanctions? Sanctions against Yugoslavia Have Heightened Tensions, Punished Innocent Civilians, and Helped Spark the Kosovo Tragedy
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