The International Strategic Studies Association organized a fact-finding mission from Washington DC to Yugoslavia on April 18-21, 1999. The purpose was for the Association and a key US Congressman to determine to a greater extent factors important to future policymaking with regard to the war being prosecuted against Yugoslavia. ISSA worked with a Yugoslav NGO, the Institute for Geopolitical Studies, in facilitating the mission.
US Congressman Jim Saxton (Republican, New Jersey), an ISSA Life Member and Chairman of the US House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare (and member of the House Armed Services Committee; and Vice-Chairman of the Joint [House-Senate] Economic Committee), participated in the mission, along with the Director of the Task Force on Terrorism, Yossef Bodansky.
The mission delegates met with key Yugoslav officials and politicians, at the highest levels, including the Foreign Minister. As well, contacts were made with non-governmental individuals in Yugoslavia, and an assessment was made of NATO bombing damage in the greater Belgrade area.
B. What was discovered was:
1. The Flow of Refugees: The international media, because it is largely on the external borders of Yugoslavia, has seen only the flow of refugees out of the country, to Albania and Macedonia. However, some one-third of the Albanian Yugoslav and other ethnic group refugees appear, in fact, to be fleeing further into Serbia, to avoid the Kosovo Liberation Army. Yugoslavia has already been burdened since 1992 with almost one-million refugees from Bosnian Serb areas and Croatian Serb areas, as well as Croatians and Muslims fleeing into Serbia-proper from what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia.
2. There is no doubt but that the NATO bombings in Kosovo and in the rest of Serbia have contributed heavily -- perhaps overwhelmingly -- toward the outflow of refugees, not only the Kosovar Albanians but many other ethnic groups who have been forced on the road with the destruction of their homes or their livelihoods.
3. There are some 26 different ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, and some 20 different ethnic groups living in the Kosovo region. Within Yugoslavia, some one-third of the population is not of Serbian origin, and this makes it the most multi-cultural, multi-religious state in the Balkan region.
4. We saw extensive destruction of civilian targets, many of which could not be justified by NATO as military targets nor vital to the maintenance of a Yugoslav strategic power base. Given the widespread damage to these purely civilian targets which we saw, including the direct destruction of homes, it is not difficult to believe the claims of the Yugoslav Government that some 400,000 to a half-million people have been thrown out of work because of the destruction of their workplaces. This means that some 2-million Yugoslavs of all ethnic origins are without income, out of a population of some 10+-million people.
5. Justification for bombing civilian targets has now been given that these facilities were owned by relatives of President Milosevic, but the vast majority of these factories were either State-owned, privately-owned by non-Milosevic family members or, for the greater part, owned jointly by the State and by the workforces of the various factories. As a result, this has directly contributed to an attack on the average Yugoslav family.
6. There was no evidence to support the contention that the Yugoslav warfighting capability has been overwhelming broken by the sustained NATO bombing campaign. Rather, the bombing has driven the Yugoslav people to put aside their political differences and to unite in the face of an externalthreat, much as would be the case if the United States was attacked. We met with people who have, in the past, been totally opposed, politically, to President Milosevic. Today, they are working completely with Mr Milosevic to defend their country. So the intention of the bombing to break the Yugoslav people away from Mr Milosevic has totally failed, and shows no sign of succeeding.
7. The cost in terms of human casualties from the NATO bombing have largely been civilian: between 500 and 1,000 dead, with several thousand injured. Military personnel casualties have been minimal.
12. There has, in fact, been considerable progress toward reaching a political solution acceptable to all moderate parties. And, of course, we except from the definition «moderate parties» the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, which derived from the communist origins of the former Albanian stalinist leaders and which today is funded largely by narcotic trafficking into Western Europe and through extortion. It has been a mistake for the West to support the KLA now, when moderate Kosovar Albanian leaders have been committed to a political solution to the tragedy. Equally, attempts to discredit moderate Kosovar Albanian leader Dr Ibrahim Rugova are counter-productive to achieving a peaceful and lasting solution to the problem. The fact that Dr Rugova's enormous courage in remaining in Yugoslavia to seek such a solution is now being dismissed by allegations that he is «a virtual prisoner» only serve to reinforce the hand of the KLA, which has previously been labeled a terrorist force by the United States, and remains so today. [The matter of KLA terrorism and the prospect of Yugoslav special operations in a wider war are both matters which have been the subject of considerable study by the US House of Representatives Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, chaired by Congressman Saxton.]
13. We received strong indications from the very senior officials with whom we met -- and clearly the messages which we received were sanctioned by Mr Milosevic himself -- that virtually all the substantive demands for Kosovo's future autonomy within Yugoslavia could be met, and met quickly, provided negotiations could resume. As a result, we need to undertake a careful step-by-step approach toward peace and we need to see some substantive evidence of commitment and goodwill on the part of the Yugoslavs. I believe that this will be forthcoming.
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