the legal battle:


The Defendants' List of Documents:

[the next step - 5 June 1992]

Targeting Serbia

The legal documents so far:

The original letter from ITN's solicitors

Statement of Claim from ITN

The Defence

Two-Ten Statement in Open Court

The Reply

>The Defendants' List of Documents

America is using the Bosnian crisis to try to reassert its international authority. Germany, which led the international response to the war in Croatia, has been forced to take a more backseat role. The shifting international context of the Yugoslav conflict reflects the lack of cohesion on the world stage. What has been constant throughout the war in Yugoslavia, however, has been the demonisation of Serbia - and radical support for Western intervention.

The decision by the United Nations to impose sanctions on Serbia has moved the Yugoslav conflict to a new stage. The dynamic behind the fighting in Bosnia is the same as that in Croatia - the fragmentary tendencies unleashed by the collapse of the Stalinist bureaucracy and the differential impact of market forces. However, the degree of Western intervention has dramatically escalated and the international context in which the conflict takes place has shifted.

In Croatia, the Western nation leading the international response was Germany. In Bosnia, the USA is making all the moves. The changing international aspect is a product not of any developments in the Yugoslav conflict, but of the uncertain balance of power in the new world order.

Germany used the war in Croatia to project itself on the international stage. Bonn's aggressive support for Croatian independence became a vehicle through which it could promote a foreign policy independently of other Western powers. Germany used the war to increase its influence in the region and to legitimise its wider diplomatic and military aspirations. The result was that the USA was largely sidelined in the conflict. Indeed America, and the rest of the European Community, were forced to accept Germany's lead in shaping the Western response to the war.

Now America is using the Bosnian conflict to reassert its international leadership role. Washington has effectively bounced the EC and the UN into taking precipitate action against Serbia. Secretary of state James Baker's criticisms of the EC's reluctance to move against Serbia was aimed at putting pressure on Europe to line up behind the USA. America is using the Bosnian conflict to bolster the credibility of Nato and to disparage the claims of alternative organisations such as the Western European Union or the recently announced Franco-German military corps.

The US attempt to rally opinion against Serbia is different from its aim in the Gulf War. In launching Desert Shield, the USA was attempting to maintain its hegemony in world affairs. The fragmentation of international order, and America's loss of authority on the world stage, has progressed much further in the year since the end of the Gulf War. Washington is now concerned not so much to reassert a world leadership role accepted by all as to bring into line Western allies who today are less constrained by American policy and have greater confidence to pursue their own interests.

The shifting international context of the Yugoslav war demonstrates the instability of the world order. No power is capable of fully imposing its authority. Each attempts to use every opportunity to shift the balance of power in its favour. The result is a lack of cohesion in international affairs.

If the international context of the Yugoslav conflict has changed, what has remained constant is the targeting of Serbia. In fact the demonisation of Serbia is far more explicit today than it was during the Croatian conflict.

The Western media presents the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic as a madman, an unreconstructed Bolshevik and a new Saddam Hussein. Serbians are depicted as barbarians and non-European. A particularly vile cartoon in the Independent last week portrayed Serbs as apes, echoing the great British tradition of anti-Irish and anti-black 'humour'.

There is little question that Milosevic is a brutal, self-seeking politician who has manipulated nationalist sentiment to entrench his political power. Serbian troops have certainly been responsible for many atrocities in the region. But, in the context of the Yugoslav conflict, there is nothing unusual in this. The leaders of all the republics - most of them former Stalinist bureaucrats - have manipulated ethnic divisions for political ends. Indeed it was the leaderships in Croatia and Slovenia which did most to foment nationalist rivalry in an attempt to bolster their claims to independence. Not only Serbian troops, but all the various armies and factions, have been involved in bloodshed and atrocities. Croatia has been complicit in the attempt to partition Bosnia. Western commentators have singled out Serbia, not because it is any worse than the other Yugoslav republics, but because it makes a convenient scapegoat against which to rally international opinion.

Just as Western radicals accepted the demonisation of Iraq in the Gulf War and looked to Western intervention to deal with Saddam Hussein, so now they have gone along with the scapegoating of Serbia. Indeed the left has led the chorus of condemnation, supporting the right of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia to 'self-determination' and selectively denouncing Serbian aggression. By supporting nationalist movements in the different republics, radicals were lending support to the manipulation of ethnic divisions. Such manipulation having led to the current conflict, the left now places the blame entirely on Serbia.

Radical commentators such as Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone have attacked Western governments for failing to implement sanctions. As far back as six months ago, the New Statesman published an article calling on Britain to 'bomb Serbia'. Not content with the slaughter in the Gulf, the left now urges the West towards a new bloodbath in the Balkans.

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