The Importance of War Crimes-3
In May 1997, three months after taking office as U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Korbel Albright created a new post, ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. The creation of the post indicated the crucial importance of "war crimes" in Albright's foreign policy. Two days later, crime was linked to punishment as she delivered her first policy speech on Bosnia to senior military officers aboard an aircraft carrier in the Hudson River. These gestures showed that the first woman Secretary of State was out to demonstrate the serious meaning of her famous remark, "What's the use of having the world's greatest military force if you don't use it?"
Albright and the man named to the new "war crimes" post, David Scheffer, were putting into practice new policy concepts they had helped develop before Clinton was elected President, and before the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, when they had been part of what a privileged observer recently described as "a small foreign policy elite convened by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to change U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War."
During the last years of the Bush administration, the Carnegie Endowment for Peace was confronting the major question raised by the collapse of the Soviet bloc: what new mission could save NATO, the necessary instrument for U.S. leadership in Europe? And it found an answer: humanitarian intervention. Reports by group members Albright, Richard Holbrooke and Leon Fuerth "recommended a dramatic escalation of the use of military force to settle other countries' domestic conflicts."
The Carnegie Endowment's 1992 report entitled "Changing Our Ways: America's Role in the New World" called for "a new principle of international relations: the destruction or displacement of groups of people within states can justify international intervention". The U.S. was advised to "realign" NATO and the OSCE to deal with these new security problems in Europe.
Release of this report, accompanied by policy briefings of key Democrats and media big shots, was timed to influence the Democratic presidential campaign. Candidate Bill Clinton quickly took up the rhetoric, calling for Milosevic to be tried for "crimes against humanity" and advocating military intervention against the Serbs. However, it took several years to put this into practice.
At the Carnegie Endowment, as member of a study group including Al Gore's foreign policy advisor Leon Fuerth, David Scheffer had co-authored (with Morton Halperin) a book-length report on "Self-Determination in the New World Order" which proposed military intervention as one of the ways of "responding to international hot spots". A major question raised was when and to what end the United States should become involved in a conflict between an established state and a "self-determination" -- i.e. a secessionist -- movement. Clearly, the question was not to be submitted to the United Nations. "The United States should seek to build a consensus within regional and international organizations for its position, but should not sacrifice its own judgment and principles if such a consensus fails to materialize".
In general, the authors concluded, "the world community needs to act more quickly and with more determination to employ military force when it proves necessary and feasible". But when is this?
When a self-determination claim triggers an armed conflict that becomes a humanitarian crisis, getting food, medicine, and shelter to thousands or millions of civilians becomes an inescapable imperative. A new intolerance for such human tragedies is becoming evident in the post-Cold War world and is redefining the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states.
Now, in theory, this sounds almost indisputable. However, in practice the question becomes one not of theory but of facts. When does a crisis in fact correspond to this description, and when, on the contrary, can it simply be made to seem to correspond to this description?
In the official NATO version, vigorously endorsed by mainstream media, the Kosovo war was precisely an instance when "a self-determination claim triggers an armed conflict that becomes a humanitarian crisis..." However, there is considerable, indeed overwhelming evidence that the "self-determination claim" quite deliberately provoked both the "armed conflict" and the "humanitarian crisis" precisely in order to bring in, not humanitarian aid, but military intervention from NATO on the pretext of humanitarian aid. For there was never any need of NATO intervention in order to provide food, medicine and shelter to civilians within Kosovo or before the NATO bombing. The "humanitarian crisis" was a mirage until NATO triggered it by the bombing.
But in the culture of images, temporal relationships are easily obscured. What came before or after what is forgotten. And with temporal relationship, cause and effect are lost, along with responsibility.
Can Kosovo be detached from Serbia? "The use of military force to create a new state would require conduct by the parent government so egregious that it has forfeited any right to govern the minority claiming self-determination". But who decides that conduct is sufficiently "egregious"?
Clearly, Madeleine Albright was so eager to put these bold new theories into practice that she worked mightily to make the crime fit the punishment.
Morton Abramowitz himself, who as Carnegie Endowment President nurtured Albright, Holbrooke, Fuerth, Scheffer and the others as they jointly developed Clinton's future doctrine of "humanitarian warfare", has also played an active role. In 1997, he passed through the elite revolving door from the Carnegie Endowment to the Council on Foreign Relations. He has contributed his wisdom to a new, high-level think tank, the International Crisis Group, whose sponsors include governments and omnipresent financier George Soros. The ICG has been a leading designer of policy toward Kosovo.
Putting into practice the hypothesis of "a self-determination claim triggering an armed conflict", Abramowitz became an early advocate of arming the "Kosovo Liberation Army"(UÇK). At Rambouillet, Abramowitz discreetly coached the ethnic Albanian delegation headed by UÇK leader Hashim Thaqi.
One way or another, the "revolutionary idea" has been widely propagated during the 1990s. Humanitarian intervention was an idea whose time had come because it met a certain number of perceived needs. It provided a solution to the problem formulated by Senator Richard Lugar, that once the Cold War ended, NATO must be "either out of area or out of business". A new missionary mission not only kept NATO alive, thereby nourishing a vast array of vested industrial and financial interests, primarily but not solely in the United States, it also could be seen as a potential instrument to defend less broadly perceived geostrategic interests without submitting them to public controversy.