The war expands as the atrocities do

Kosovo: Serbia's `cease-fire' lacks credibility until Kosovars return home in peace and security.

April 07, 1999

WITH half of Kosovo's Albanians homeless and a half million driven from the country, the cease-fire called by President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia is a patent falsehood.

Belgrade said that operations against the Kosovo Liberation Army had ceased. In fact, Serbia was killing, robbing and expelling Kosovar civilians, making the statement hollow propaganda designed solely to justify a NATO cease-fire.

U.S., British and NATO responses made clear that the Kosovars must return home in peace and that an international force guarantee their security. NATO must not accept an ethnically cleansed Kosovo as a fait accompli.

Now, when Nazi thefts of six decades ago are being dealt with in the courts, is not the time to ratify the methodical Serbian theft of Kosovar Albanian property as an irrevocable fact. The stripping of identity from homeowners and bank account holders must be reversed before talk of a cease-fire.

President Clinton began the U.S. participation in NATO's bombing campaign with a pledge not to use ground troops. That was bad strategy for dealing with Mr. Milosevic, even if thought politically necessary to bring Congress along. Now opinion has turned.

As the parallel to the Holocaust becomes inescapable, more than half of the American people polled and growing numbers of Republicans in Congress want ground troops committed. Criticism of Mr. Clinton is growing because a few days of bombing did not reverse the fiendish depopulation of Kosovo.

This clamor omits two facts. The first is that the war is has escalated with the deployment of Apache attack helicopters in Albania, a non-NATO country, and the likelihood of casualties and rescue missions to follow.

The second is that while the bombing cannot take effect as swiftly as ethnic cleansing, neither would any ground campaign the Pentagon might favor. The U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait in February 1991 came nearly six months after Iraq's occupation of that country and five weeks after the bombing of Iraq military targets began. A quick diversion might be sent into Kosovo; it would not overwhelm the enemy as Operation Desert Storm did.

The depopulation of Kosovo is a dreadful atrocity and catastrophe in the heart of Europe, brought about by a purposeful and evil dictator. There were no attractive policy options a month ago, including doing nothing, and there are no easy ones now. Staying the course for the purposes proclaimed remains the least unacceptable.

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