Interventions- Grenada and Yugoslavia

Chris Burford cburford at
Mon Jul 31 08:50:52 MDT 1995

> Of course the
> US did invade and conquer Grenada in accordance with the pattern
> described here. Not only were they able to avenge Maurice Bishop
> but perhaps slightly more importantly for them, they were able to
> dispose of the marxist New Jewel Movement.

Thanks to Jerry and Matt for clarifying my ironical remark here, with
a very concrete and dialectical analysis of what happened. Indeed
the US and other governments do not always reveal their motivation,
but they are influenced be presentational issues, and the mishandling
of internal contradictions in the New Jewel Movement gave them a good

This exchange further illuminates the limits of big power interventions,
whether it is sending in the cavalry, the gunboats, or the airborne;
whether itis Vietnam or Afghanistan. It looks like Russia is being
forced to reconsider in Chechnya.

What is characteristic however of "great power" interventions in
former Yugolsavia is that they can only think of bougeois state structures
and not of civil society. They cannot think of dropping a crate of arms to
the defenders of Zepa. Instead they have secretly been condoning the
great strengthening of the Croat army, which is now poised to impose
its demands on the Krajina Serbs partly using the fall of Srebrenica and
Zepa as an excuse. Either way troops may go in who even if they harbour
half the bitterness of the Serbs, means they will commit
further tortures, rapes and executions.

What is needed is conflict-management to enhance what is best in civil
society. Very important lessons were learned in South Africa, which could
have suffered ten times the number of deaths that did occur, with ethnic
cleansing on a vast scale. If the UN were really serious they would send
Thabo Mbeki or Judge Goldstone to Yugoslavia.

Take rape for example. It is not only traumatic, it feeds the cycle of
personal violence.

Thanks for the tip yesterday about the peacenet conference yugo.antiwar,
I have just had a dip. A couple of days ago the Bosnian Serb commander
Mladic, dismissed the possibility that distraught Muslim women had been
raped in Zepa, because "we are too picky".

Now there is a place for playing deadpan with enemies, different to
that with friends. Despite the fact that extreme violence including
rape has been part of the Serb fascist policy of ethnic cleansing, they
are now at the stage where it may be counterproductive for them to be
too widely accused of rape. A network of communications needs to be set
up with their cooperation, including hotlines, to reduce both the reports
and the trauma of atrocities whenever the front shifts. A few million
dollars invested in this would productive but it would be an
investment in civil society, and largely that is not how bourgeois
governments think. The Helsinki Human Rights Group might be the sort of
organisation that could host.

The House of Representatives is due to debate the lifting of the arms
embargo. Because everything is done by signals it is better this is passed
than that it is not passed. It is not silly that there is a conditional
clause in this proposal. It is silly that the conditional clause is that
the Bosnian Government should wait twelve weeks to be overrun before it
can have arms to defend itself. The conditional clause should be that
the supply of arms, not necessarily on a large scale, should be on
condition that the recipients respect the Geneva convention, participate
in measures to monitor this, and participate in conflict resolution

Letters to this effect could shape thinking now, which would be translated
into action later.

Even at this stage, co-ordinated action could reduce the death toll by
an order of magnitude of tens of thousands. This is an example of the
battle of hegemony of ideas. We are at a disadvantage but we are not
powerless. The bourgeoisie has done appallingly badly. We can show we
can do better based on democratic and socialist principles, and give a

Chris Burford, London.

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