The bilingual weblog that dares to go
beyond "ideas" and "opinions"
to see what lies hidden underneath

Contact the Webmaster

Iraq: A View from Kosovo

(The English text of the International Herald Tribune article follows this brief introduction in French about the arguments we've all heard before)

Nous avons tous entendu les arguments, marqués de cynisme ou de dégout : "Give peace a chance" "Les bombes ne peuvent pas apporter la démocratie" "Une attaque militaire va menacer la stabilité régionale" "Les Etats-Unis utilisent leur muscle militaire pour établir leur domination" "Ils n'ont pas prouvé leurs accusations" "On ne peut pas bombarder tout régime qui ne vous plait pas" "En fait, Washington veut dominer les ressources naturelles du pays (le pétrole, etc)" "On risque la troisième guerre mondiale, on va tous créver"

L'Irak? Non, c'etait la Yougoslavie, et la moindre des choses que l'on peut dire, c'est qu'il n'y ait pas beaucoup de ces prédictions qui se soient réalisées. (Par ailleurs, on entendait les mêmes arguments en Afghanistan, au Panama, à Grenade, chaque fois en fait que Washington utilise ses forces militaires, mais il semblerait que ce soit aussi seulement quand c'est Washington qui utilise ses armées qu'on les entend, et aucune autre nation.)

Dans un article dans le International Herald Tribune, l'éditeur d'un journal réputé des Balkans explique en quoi l'expérience yougoslave dément les craintes des activistes occidentaux. Pour ceux dont l'anglais est faible, un lien en bas de cette page renvoie vers un texte du même Veton Surroi en français.

Remember Kosovo

To topple tyrants, it takes bombs

Veton Surroi
International Herald Tribune
11 February 2003

The writer, editor and publisher of the newspaper Koha Ditore, was a leading player in Kosovo's resistance to the Milosevic regime in 1999. This comment was distributed by Tribune Media Services International.

PRISTINA, Kosovo — If I were a member of the Iraqi opposition today, I would feel as I did five years ago, when I listened to the arguments, mainly from Europeans, about why military force should not be used against Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia.

The argument back then were similar to today's: "Give peace a chance." "Bombs cannot bring democracy." "A military attack will threaten regional stability." "The United States is using its military muscle to establish domination."

Each of these arguments was proven wrong in the case of Kosovo. After Milosevic failed to grasp his last option for a peace deal at the Rambouillet negotiations, France and Germany were compelled to join the strong-willed American-British partnership to stop genocide in Kosovo.

Though peace was given a chance through European-sponsored negotiations, Milosevic only used those talks to entrench his position in Kosovo. In the end, it was the bombing of Serbia that stopped genocide of Kosovars and ultimately allowed the return of almost a million refugees to their homes.

Bombs alone, of course, did not bring democracy, but they were a precondition for it: Kosovo has had the opportunity for the first time in its history to build democratic institutions. The debacle that brought NATO bombs raining down on Serbia was the beginning of Milosevic's end. Today, Serbia is painfully and patiently building a democratic state.

The United States has not established its domination; in fact, it has more or less left this area to the European Union and the United Nations through its protectorate in Kosovo.

How does this compare to the run-up to a possible war with Iraq? The key reasons for opposing the war with Iraq have shifted over the weeks. First, key European powers stressed that they would oppose unilateral U.S. action and called for the blessing of the United Nations. Now that Security Council Resolution 1441, to which the Europeans agreed, authorizes de facto actions against Saddam Hussein's regime, they raise other arguments that range from "the case is not proved" to "you cannot bomb any regime you dislike" to "this whole business is about America dominating Iraq's oil fields."

My experience in Kosovo with Milosevic suggests that the argument ought to be the other way around: Does anyone realistically believe that Saddam Hussein will leave power through his own will or through a democratic electoral process? If he doesn't relinquish power in one of these ways, is there any other way in which the damage he is inflicting, not least against his own people, can be stopped?

Saddam Hussein is as much a threat to international humanitarian law, regional stability, and world peace as Milosevic was. Yet, while the Balkans' butcher is on trial for crimes against humanity, at The Hague, his fellow tyrant is being given the benefit of the doubt in Baghdad.

That's where war enters. If my experience is any guide, war — the most terrible of human activities — will nevertheless depose Saddam's regime and create conditions for democracy for the people of Iraq. Since Saddam is of the same ilk as Milosevic, we know something about them both: Only falling bombs will shake them from their hold on power.

Once this happens, though, a new set of questions will emerge. What will happen in a post-Saddam Iraq? What will be the nature of international rule? What kind of transition toward democracy can take place in a sovereign Iraq? And how will this kind of rule affect the surrounding ruling order?

If I were a member of the Iraqi opposition, or for that matter an interested party from the West or the region, this is when I would start worrying. The past months have been spent on a debate whether to go to war against Saddam. That debate is now essentially over, as the number of forcces in the operating theater have reached a point of no return.

I know from my experience in Kosovo that the day after comes far earlier than you expected. The opposition must be prepared to take up the cause for which the battle was won.

The world ought to recall how the war for Kosovo unfolded and how Europe's unfounded fears never materialized. One should remember from the case of Milosevic that it takes military might to topple tyrants, after everything else has failed.

© Veton Surroi

(Please go to the bottom of this page to link to Koha Ditore's photos of some of Milosevic's victims [the bloodied corpses weren't done in by U.S. forces, what a relief!] and to read the disclaimer.)
Pourquoi proteste-t'on contre la guerre en Irak? Parce qu'elle entraîne mort d'hommes et parce qu'elle provoque des tragédies pour la population, n'est-ce pas? C'est très bien, mais pourquoi, dès lors, proteste-t'on seulement quand les morts impliquent les USA et les engins de l'armée américaine? La réponse comme quoi une bombe est plus mortelle et dangereuse qu'une machette semble un peu "off" quand on considère que les bombes américaines en Afghanistan ou en Irak ont tué bien moins de gens que les machettes des Hutus, et que les militaires américains ont usé de bien plus de discrétion que ces mêmes Hutus.

Pourquoi ne voit-on pas les rues occidentales se remplir de milliers (de millions!) de manifestants quand il s'agit : du génocide rwandais (800.000 morts), de la guerre éthiopienne-eritréenne (100.000), de la "logique de guerre" (nucleaire!) indienne/pakistanaise, ou des "dérapages" de la part d'hommes du type Slobodan Milosevic, Idi Amin Dada, Robert Mugabe (invité récent de Jacques Chirac), ou... Saddam Hussein? Entre autres...

Les victimes de ces conflits/régimes doivent-ils s'estimer heureux que l'artillerie lourde d'une force militaire (lire l'armée US) n'ait pas ete impliquée dans leur sort?

Voici un lien au journal Koha Ditore, avec les photos des victimes de la police du régime de Milosevic. Ceux qui auront le courage de les regarder pourront dire si la mort d'homme est moins tragique quand elle n'implique pas les bombes US et d'autres armes de l'arsenal militaire américain.

Après, on ne devrait pas trop s'étonner que Veton Surroi a écrit un article qui s'appelait Au Kosovo, la guerre c'est la paix

Disclaimer: "Guest authors" is a section devoted to articles in the press I have found particularly wise and challenging. As a rule, I do not post an article without contacting its writer and/or publisher and adding their websites to my Links page. In any case, the principle is only to give excerpts with all the necessary hyperlinks to find the URL page of the original publication, article in full, and author's website. In the case of Veton Surroi, however, repeated attempts to contact the Koha Ditore editor met with failure, e-mails asking both and the International Herald Tribune and Tribune Media Services International for a hyperlink to the original texts on either site went unanswered, and searches for the text and the author's website on search engines proved fruitless. That is why I am posting the article in full. If anybody can provide me with a hyperlink to the original text and/or Veton Surroi's website and/or email address (or his real address), I would greatly appreciate it.

© Veton Surroi