American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
How to Think About War, or A Pox on Both Your Houses
Jean Grossholtz works in the Women's Studies Department at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA, She addressdd this aritcle to the group Diverse Women for Diversity.
Images of young boys in wooly hats, pictures of Madeline Albright deplaning some place in the Balkans, hints that Yugoslavia is about to accept a peace agreement, headlines that the Kosovos have walked out, then they come back and all of a sudden the bombs are falling? What happened? How could this happen? What have I missed?
The first clue was probably a report in the New York Times on July 11 1998 from Chris Hedges describing the Kosovo Liberation Army's new arsenal of weapons which, he says, has given the KLA the edge. They are said to be getting help and training facilities from the Albanians, but Albania is near bankruptcy. These weapons are coming from outside, from Germany and the United States. We are familiar with these kinds of armies that appear in trouble spots when the United States is engaged in "negotiations." The classic case is of course the contras in Nicaragua but there are others.
The second clue was a clear statement of intent from the Balkan Action Council, in February of this year. Their director, James Hooper, in a public speech at the Holocaust museum, said it was necessary to accept that the Balkans "are a region of strategic interests for the United States, the new Berlin if you will, the testing ground of NATO's resolve and US leadership." These kind of groups also appear when the United States is involved in "negotiations"-when it is playing its "peace keeper" role.
The third clue was the content of the "negotiations" themselves. No, the US did not want to divorce Kosovo from Yugoslavia. They were protecting the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. Or were they? The negotiations at Rambouillet required that Kosovo have self government, but a government run by a NATO-appointed chief and a NATO force headed by a commander with full authority to act against any "potential threat." It seemed even the Kosovars had some trouble with that.
What lies behind this so-called "ethnic conflict" is, as usual, economics. Who is to control the rehabilitation of Yugoslavia and its incorporation into the new world order of the global trade regime? Who is to control its oil fields and their outlet to the Caspian Sea so important to Germany? Who is to control the Stari Trg mining complex of Kosovo one of the key bases of Yugoslavia's industrial growth?
Michel Chossudovsky, Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa, defined the situation very clearly in an article he wrote in 1996. He noted that the conventional wisdom of western diplomats and governments is that the problems in the Balkans are historical, that ethnic and religious divisions drive the Balkan states to excessive and aggressive nationalism. We have heard these statements regularly since the first moments of this conflict. However, Chossudovsky writes:
"Drowned in the barrage of images and self serving analysis are the economic and social causes of the conflict. The deep-seated economic crisis, which preceded the civil war, has long been forgotten. The strategic interests of Germany and the US in laying the groundwork for the disintegration of Yugoslavia go unmentioned, as does the role of the external creditors and international financial institutions."
Chossudovsky describes in great detail the ways in which the international financial community has contributed to the simmering conflict and has essentially destroyed the economy. "While the world's attention is focused on troop movements and cease fires," transnational corporations, creditors, and international financial institutions have been collecting on Yugoslavia's external debt in ways that are all too familiar to those watching the work of the globalized economy: collecting Yugoslavia's debt while transforming the Balkans into a safe haven for global capitalism, dismantling the welfare state, destroying workers' power, and weakening the industrial base.
Chossudovsky reports a key event, which makes clear the way these financial forces worked to exacerbate so-called ethnic conflicts.
"The economic therapy (launched in January 1990) contributed to crippling the federal-state system. State revenues, which should have gone as transfer payments to the republics and autonomous provinces, were instead funneled toward servicing Belgrade's debt with the Paris and London clubs. The republics were largely left to their own devices thereby exacerbating the process of political fracturing. In one fell swoop, the reformers had engineered the demise of the federal fiscal structure and mortally wounded its federal political institutions. The IMF-induced budgetary crisis created an economic fait accompli which in part paved the way for Croatia's and Slovenia's formal secession in June 1991."
One more example of the political effects of globalization and the tragedies that ensue. And also one more example of what women must do if we are to protect diversity, people, and the planet.
It was clear from the beginning that this conflict provided a welcome opportunity for NATO and the US to push their role as protectors of the "peace." Having named themselves international judges, juries, and police in Iraq and Bosnia, they have now taken on the existence and future of Kosovo and thus of Yugoslavia. The use of these "sanitized" weapons that miraculously do not kill real people, but only the bad guys and their property is meant to pacify any popular opinion that maybe this is not the right thing to do. Many Americans counting the millions of dollars in missiles pounding into Yugoslavia wonder about the usefulness of this enterprise. Those of us who value the earth, wonder also about the long term effects of this warfare and about the wholesale waste of precious resources. So it is important that they control the press and TV, that they support and encourage war movies to prepare us for these events, make them into evening entertainment-not real, not bloody, not really important.
As women, I think we must change our tactics. It is not reasonable to think that putting women into public office and into the structures and mentalities designed by corporations and by governments controlled by those corporations will change the priorities. Our issues do not stop at our nation's boundaries. Neither the Serbian women nor the Kosovar women are safe or "winning" in this conflict. Women know that, as can be seen by the numbers of women who have organized peace movements in Latin America, Ireland, the Middle East. Watch the women from Bosnia who were raped and abused in Serbian prisons and listen to them say, "These were our friends, our neighbors. We did not hate them; we did not see our differences as so important." Read Bapsi Sidhwa's novel Cracking India, the story of a group of friends of various ethnicities and classes and what happened to them at the time of the partition. Outside forces transform local interrelations. The virulent hatred inspired by ethnic difference is not a normal community response but is created by political and economic forces from outside. It is here, in the middle of these emerging hatreds, that women need to stand. We must be there in force when this begins to happen. We need to predict events and get in place before they occur. We need to be at the doorstep of NATO demanding information and a voice. We need to tell our sisters all over the world what is really happening, identify the agents of control and greed behind it, and do it in time to stop these events. There are no winners when violence occurs.