the legal battle:


The Defendants' List of Documents:

[the next step - 22 May 1992]

Bosnia, Serbia and the West

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

Western Interference, not Serbian aggression, is responsible for the war in Bosnia.

'It is the most exclusively Serbian federal army that is chiefly to blame for the fighting in Croatia. In Slovenia and now in Bosnia Herzegovina·When President Bush mounted the task force that drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, he acted in the name of a new world order. The same arguments apply to Yugoslavia where Mr Milosevic is using force to hold territory that is not his in the name of Serbia and of communism·At the very least it is time for the West to ensure the rigorous enforcement of military and economic sanctions against Serbia.' (Evening standard, 18 May 1992)

The Western media has portrayed the current bloodletting in Bosnia Herzegovina as exclusively the product of Serbian aggression. Even more than in the Croatian conflict, the war in Bosnia has been used to promote anti-Serbian sentiment. The European Community has constantly pressured Belgrade and introduced sanctions against the Serbian rump of the Yugoslav federation. Britain and America have pushed to suspend Yugoslav membership of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) because it 'can in no way be described as meeting CSCE standards or commitments'. Politicians and commentators alike have presented Serbs as barbaric, bloodthirsty and uncivilised.

In fact, the war in Bosnia, as that previously in Croatia, is the product less of Serbian aggression than of Western interference. While the initial impetus to conflict in Yugoslavia came with the attempt by the old Stalinist bureaucracy to use ethnic divisions to bolster its rule as it lost its grip on the country, it was the impact of the market and of Western Intervention that transformed these rivalries into bitter war. At the same time, Western pressure on Serbia has forced Belgrade to defend its interests through military means, further accelerating the process of disintegration.

The demise of Stalinism in Yugoslavia, as throughout Eastern Europe, has led not to the end of the East-West divide but its recreation in a new form. The division of Europe between a capitalist West and a Stalinist East has been transformed into a division of Europe between a relatively prosperous West (which includes privileged areas of the old Stalinist bloc) and the bulk of Eastern Europe which remains on the periphery of the capitalist system and maintains a third world-like relationship with the world economy. Nowhere is this more evident than in Yugoslavia.

In Yugoslavia the northern republics of Croatia and Slovenia have benefited from the spread of market forces and have been reintegrated much better into the world economy. The southern republics remain impoverished having gained little from the market. The differential impact of the market encouraged Croatia and Slovenia to break away from the rest of the federation in order to maintain their privileged position. The two northern republics fomented nationalist rivalries, militarised the conflict with Serbia as a way of drawing in the West and aggressively promoted the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Not only did the economic impact of the market enforce the de facto partition of Yugoslavia but Western political considerations accelerated the disintegration of the federation. None of the Western powers desired the demise of Yugoslavia - indeed they initially worked to maintain a unitary state fearing precisely the kind of chaos and instability now visited upon the region - but one it was clear that Yugoslavia was falling apart the West's political strategy simply accelerated the process.

For the Western powers, Croatia became a symbol of European 'civilisation' and 'freedom' and its war with Serbia was portrayed as the defence of European values against the barbarian hordes. Germany, in particular, was keen to promote Croatian nationalism as a way of consolidating its sphere of influence, legitimising its foreign and diplomatic aims, and helping to rewrite its own past by normalising Croatia's fascist history.

But the logic of fragmentation did not end with the secession of Croatia and Slovenia. The weakening of Belgrade's authority and the fomenting of ethnic divisions rent apart the rest of Yugoslavia too. Bosnia Herzegovina voted for separation and won EC recognition as an independent state. The divisions that had destroyed the federation did not magically stop at Bosnia's borders. In a state composed of three main groups - Croats, Serbs and Muslims - there was an explosion of inter-ethnic strife. A population which had lived peacefully together for the past half century now found itself in the middle of a bloody civil war.

The cynicism with which ethnic divisions are being manipulated is best illustrated by the attitude of Croatia to the Bosnian conflict. Initially, Croatia backed the Muslims against the Serbs and encouraged Bosnia Herzegovina to break away from Belgrade, hence weakening central authority. Now, Croatia is, in effect, working with Serbia against the Muslims to effect a partition of Bosnia and enhance its control of the region.

The scapegoating of Serbia by the West has itself created further fragmentation. Politically and diplomatically isolated, the Serbs have been forced to play their one strong card - military strength - to defend their interests. Far from the war being the result of Serbian aggression, Serbia is being forced desperately to defend its interests through military means.

The manner in which the Yugoslav conflict has spun out of control, and its impact on the rest of Europe, has deeply worried the West. For the imperialists, the key issue is the need for someone to impose order on the region. But no power has got the capacity to do so. The inability of either the EC or the United Nations to enforce a ceasefire demonstrates the lack of control the West has over the conflict. There is little possibility of a Gulf-like intervention, especially given the divergent Western interests in the area. Having unleashed the forces that have led to the fragmentation of Yugoslavia, the West can do little but watch the carnage continue.

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