Debate: Pilger wrong on Yugoslavia

Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) fighters.

In his latest article “New threats of war and fascism” (GLW #1045), John Pilger gives a distorted account of the wars in the former Yugoslavia.

He condemns the “criminal record” of the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), but seems to absolve the Serbian government of any wrongdoing.

In reality Serbian chauvinism, promoted by the Slobodan Milosevic's government, was central to the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s amid the collapse of the Soviet bloc. The formation of the KLA was a response to the chauvinist politics of the Serbian regime.

The Albanians of Kosova, which was at that time part of Serbia, were treated as second-class citizens. The result was that some of them took up arms to fight for independence.

Thus Milosevic is responsible for the Kosova war, as well as contributing to the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. He was not the only leader to blame, but given Serbia's military predominance, he was the main culprit.

Milosevic also began the privatisation of Serbian industry, something Pilger does not mention.

After Milosevic had done the dirty work of promoting chauvinism, thereby contributing to the breakup of Yugoslavia, the United States government sought to remove him. They wanted a new Serbian government with leaders who were less discredited by involvement in ethnic violence.

It is not unusual for the US rulers to encourage the overthrow of a regime they have previously supported, if it has outlived its usefulness. The Diem regime in Vietnam is an example Pilger would be very familiar with.

Milosevic's repression in Kosova gave the US a pretext to wage war on Serbia. The Serbian defeat led to growing discontent with Milosevic, who was overthrown shortly afterwards. The US was also able to occupy Kosova and ensure a pro-imperialist regime there.

In the 19th century, Lord Palmerston said that British imperialism had neither permanent friends nor permanent enemies, only permanent interests. The same applies to the US today.

[Chris Slee is a member of the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne.]

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