Stop the genocide, then the bombing

Jesse Jackson: Mission put Americans in his debt but didn't deal with reasons for NATO's actions.

May 04, 1999

WHILE Slobodan Milosevic was clasping hands in prayer with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson on Saturday, his troops were killing, raping, robbing and expelling Albanians from Kosovo.

Mr. Jackson and his companions from other faiths, who flew to Belgrade without U.S. government approval, persuaded Mr. Milosevic to free three U.S. prisoners. These young soldiers, their families and Americans in general will always be grateful, and so they should be.

But NATO was right not to suspend the bombing when Mr. Jackson urged it to do so, "to give peace a chance." Mr. Milosevic did not suspend the wholesale acts of genocide that provoked the NATO action.

The bombing is not about the Serbian capture of three U.S. soldiers on border patrol. It is about massive crimes against humanity committed in the name of a perversion of Serbian nationalism, in order to keep Mr. Milosevic in power and to weaken his rivals.

Mr. Milosevic seized on the Jackson mission after the House of Representatives debacle of indecision over the bombing, in hopes of weakening U.S. unity and NATO resolve.

Mr. Jackson, by offering a friendly voice that can reach President Clinton, added to his remarkable string of successes in freeing young Americans who have been captured by foreign tyrants.

In its resolve, NATO cannot be blind to its own atrocities, whether its mistaken bombing of a civilian bus in Kosovo or its newly proclaimed ability to turn off the lights in Belgrade at will. Bombing brings atrocities. The greater atrocity, though, would be to accept the genocide of Kosovo Albanians as Serbia's sovereign right about which the international community can do nothing.

The most urgent need now is aid for Macedonia, a fragile state of mixed ethnicity, economically crippled and swamped by Serbia's aggression. With more Albanians pouring over the border, with Macedonians out of work because trade with Serbia is cut, with its ethnic balance changed, Macedonia is becoming less hospitable to desperate refugees.

Camps run by Catholic Relief Services and other agencies are overcrowded to the breaking point. Macedonia needs more camps, swift removal of willing refugees to third countries and aid to compensate for the burdens.

While Mr. Jackson was in Belgrade, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was heading to the camps in Macedonia. There and in Albania, the human dimensions of this catastrophe can be understood.

The sooner this is ended the better. Russian mediation has always seemed the right channel when Mr. Milosevic is ready.

Peace means the return of Kosovars to their homeland in peace and security. NATO will not be bought off with less.

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