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Synthesis/Regeneration 20   (Fall, 1999)

The Black Radical Congress
Opposes the Bombing of Yugoslavia

National Council of the Black Radical Congress

The following statement was adopted by the National Council of the Black Radical Congress (BRC) on April 18, 1999. [Originally drafted by the International Committee of the BRC].

For African Americans, the Latino community, and other peoples of color in the USA the moral claims of the US in its intervention in Yugoslavia ring hollow. The mass opposition of peoples of color in the USA to police killings, mass imprisonment of youth and the militarization of the streets and communities ensures that the opposition to militarism is deep in the oppressed communities in the USA.

The shooting of Amadou Diallo in New York City and the killing of Tyisha Miller in California brought home to the poor the coast to coast violence against blacks and poor people. This police violence is supported by the campaign against crime since black and brown peoples are supposed to be by nature criminals. Low intensity warfare that had been experimented in Nicaragua and El Salvador is now practiced on a daily basis in the poor communities by SWAT teams. The most overt expression of this militarization of the communities is the plan by the army to carry out exercises in the streets of Oakland, California. The exercises are part of the long-range plan of the Pentagon to fight urban guerrilla warfare in the USA. This leads us to the conclusion that a crucial way to oppose this war is to intensify the opposition to police brutality and militarism.

...this military campaign should provide the catalyst for a worldwide campaign against aggressive military formations such as NATO.

NATO was created as a military alliance between the capitalist powers of Europe, the USA and Canada. The justification for the existence of NATO ended in 1991 at the end of the cold war. In the past three months, the leaders of the US have declared that what is at stake is the "credibility of NATO." This is indeed the case since this military campaign should provide the catalyst for a worldwide campaign against aggressive military formations such as NATO. It is for this reason that one of the fundamental demands of the Black Radical Congress is for the dismantling of NATO.

The bombing of Yugoslavia exposes the fact that organizations such as NATO will carry out illegal acts. The aggression in the Balkans undermines international law, undermines the United Nations as an organization dedicated to world peace and brings to the fore the need for alternatives to the present monopoly over force enjoyed by the USA. Since African Americans also feel the brunt of this force in the form of police violence, it devolves to organizations such as the BRC to lead the opposition to the military campaign of NATO.

In a major sense the war in the Balkans calls on the BRC to bring forth the anti imperialist radical traditions of dominated peoples. It is from within this tradition that the BRC is calling on all progressive forces to condemn the bombings in Yugoslavia, condemn the ethnic cleansing and brutality of Slobodan Milosevic, and to raise their voices to call for a negotiated end to the crisis in Kosovo before this conflagration explodes into the third world war. The BRC calls for negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations. Despite the fact that in the past 10 years the USA has manipulated the UN to do its bidding (such as the bombing of Iraq), the UN remains an instrument for real international deliberation.

The Crisis in Kosovo also reinforces the need for international bodies to try war criminals. It is instructive that in 1998 it was the United States that opposed the formation of a new international criminal court. After one month of deliberations in 1998 more than 100 nations meeting in Rome, Italy voted in the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries for the Establishment of an International Criminal Court on 17 July 1998. The statutes of this new court argued that it is a crime, "if any military operations [are] begun with the knowledge such an attack will cause loss of life and injury to civilians."

The best way to oppose this war is to intensify the opposition to police brutality and militarism in the USA.

Under the statutes of the international criminal court both the present leaders of the USA and those of Yugoslavia would be deterred from military actions and would be forced to seek political solutions to the ethnic and regional problems that beset the peoples of the Balkans. NATO, by militarily intervening in this region, has intensified ethnic antagonisms and postponed the possibilities for democratic and progressive forces to intervene to move the various oppressed peoples towards peaceful solutions to centuries of ethnic rivalry. Africans in the USA and other peoples of color who have borne the brunt of militarism and police brutality know that ethnic and racial chauvinism are tools to divide the poor and oppressed.

The struggle for democracy in multi ethnic and multi racial societies is a totally new terrain where the present leaders of the USA have no experience. It is with this in mind, and with a clear knowledge of the history of US militarism in the world as an imperial force, that the BRC opposes the military intervention in the Balkans and calls for manifestations all over this country to articulate this opposition. This opposition should ensure that there is information in every church, mosque, temple, town hall, library, web site and community center on the issues involved in the war and for people to move away from the war propaganda being fostered by the media.

The best way to oppose this war is to intensify the opposition to police brutality and militarism in the USA.

The BRC calls for the following:

Below, the International Committee spells out the rationale for these demands.

...the peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa have first hand knowledge of the forces who have carried out genocide and have not yet been condemned by any international body.

[Appendix 3.] Genocide And The Fight Against Genocide Internationally

The US media has been at the forefront of calling for the deployment of ground troops by NATO to prevent genocide in Yugoslavia, especially Kosovo. There are reports of brutal murders and of pogroms by the military and para military police of Serbia. The issue is whether the question of genocide is being manipulated and cheapened by the United States and NATO. The massive outpouring of refugees from Kosovo is certainly to be opposed by all progressive forces internationally, but the peoples of Latin America, Asia and Africa have first hand knowledge of the forces who have carried out genocide and who have not yet been condemned by any international body.

What is genocide?

According to the UN convention on genocide adopted in 1948, genocide is, "the intentional mass destruction of a national, racial, ethnic, or religious group." This definition of genocide is familiar to peoples of color who have suffered genocide at the hands of European and US capitalists over the past 500 years. The massive genocide against the native American peoples in this country has been romanticized and legitimized as a component of progress. Hence, certain countries can carry out genocide and have this celebrated in their history. It is for this reason that African Americans do not take the issue of genocide lightly. The massacres and murders of colonized peoples all over the world, (most spectacularly in the Congo where the Belgians massacred more than ten million Africans); but more recently in Rwanda and in Guatemala, did not fall under the category of genocide for the forces of NATO because this genocide was being carried out either by the allies of NATO or with the tacit support of these allies.

Whether genocide or ethnic cleansing is taking place in Kosovo is an urgent matter that cannot be left to the countries of NATO.

In international law there is a major difference between ethnic cleansing and genocide. International law mandates the signatories of the UN convention to intervene once genocide takes place. Ethnic cleansing takes place when the intention of the ethnic cleanser is to eliminate a group from a territory, to drive them out using any means of terror, sexual violence, torture, and other crimes against humanity to get the group to leave. Milosevic and the Serbian extremists may be guilty of ethnic cleansing in the province of Kosovo. Ethnic cleansing, rape, violation, murder and the wanton abuse of human rights must be opposed and those responsible brought to justice. However, for countries like the United States in Guatemala and France in Rwanda that have not come to terms with their complicity in genocide, unilateral intervention of this sort only furthers a selective morality. The reality is that the United States and the UN failed to respond to the real genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 and instead pontificated that "acts of genocide" may have taken place. Whether genocide or ethnic cleansing is taking place in Kosovo is an urgent matter that cannot be left to the countries of NATO.

The Rwanda genocide in 1994 is still a most burning question for Africans everywhere because the authors of the 1994 genocide are still living in France and other European capitals and there is no major international movement to bring these genocidists to justice. Such an international push would call into question the roles of France, the United States and Belgium before and during the genocide. The present Secretary of State of the United States would be one of the officials to be investigated for the role of the international community in the period of the genocide in Rwanda.

Interestingly, as the US began the bombing campaign, the State Department called in certain human rights groups and urged then to blow the trumpet about the genocide in Kosovo. It was then that Human Rights Watch released a report on the complicity of the US and other nations refusing to recognize the slaughter of over 800,000 persons in Rwanda as genocide. This same organization has been defending some of the authors of genocide in their publications. Earlier, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, called for an investigation of the role of the UN before and during the genocide in Rwanda. The BRC wants to go on record that there can be no meaningful investigation while both Kofi Annan and Madeline Albright are in positions of authority in the international community. Otherwise such an investigation would only serve the same purpose that the supposed investigation served for the government of France (that is a cover up of their role). In that investigation, the inquiry absolved the French government and military from any active role in the genocide in Rwanda.

The US has weakened the role of the UN as a genuine force for peace by manipulating this body to bring untold suffering on the children of Iraq. Yet, the UN is the only basis for ensuring world peace and stopping the slow but inescapable path to massive war in the Balkans and beyond.

The Alternatives

The alternative to the present political and economic direction is not a simple task but small steps must be taken to move the political culture away from the celebration of warfare, violence and destruction. The first step must be an intense campaign against the military operations in Yugoslavia. The BRC must take a stand along with all other progressive forces to bring this opposition to every section of the USA society. All representatives of the African American community should be put on notice that the principal task of the moment is to oppose police violence against the youths.

The alternative to the present political and economic system requires a long struggle. It is a democratic struggle that seeks a new mode of politics and a new mode of economic organization. The political experience of the oppressed in this society places it in the central role in charting the alternatives to the present barbarism of the capitalist system. The campaign must be linked to other campaigns. While NATO is celebrating its 50th anniversary in Washington, the Millions Campaign for Mumia should send a strong signal that the fighters for social justice in the USA oppose militarism at home and abroad.

Editor's Note: The full Black Radical Congress statement includes five appendices. Due to space limitations, Synthesis/Regeneration can only include the third appendix here, which deals with the question of genocide. The other appendices include: 1. The Dismantling of Nato; 2. The Struggle of Democratic and Non Violent Forces in Yugoslavia; 4. Revitalizing the United Nations; and 5. Opposing Militarism in the USA.

The Black Radical Congress statement is available at www.blackradicalcongress.com.

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