Why Labor Should Oppose NATO's War Against Yugoslavia

by Jon Flanders

The AFl-CIO has spent a great deal of time in recent years opposing trends in international trade and economic policy that adversely impact workers. It has taken note of the downward spiral of wages and working conditions that constitute the "race to the bottom" happily being led by the huge international corporations like GE, Sony, and a whole slew of their profit-hungry brethren.

At the same time, there have been efforts to shake off the legacy of the Cold War AFL-CIO policies, which more often than not, pitted its representatives against third-world labor movements, with disastrous outcomes now becoming apparent in places like Mexico and Central America, all in the name of "fighting communism."

Now a huge new foreign policy issue looms, the NATO led war against Yugoslavia. In its policy statement, the AFL-CIO implicitly sides with NATO and Washington, condemning Serbian crimes against labor leaders and refugees, concluding...."The AFL-CIO calls upon the international community to make protection of civilians and of human rights a priority of the NATO operations and to declare that the continuing atrocities in Kosovo constitute war crimes on the part of Serbian political and military leaders, as well as those who are taking innocent lives in this senseless slaughter".

Nowhere in the official statement is there any analysis of the background of the break-up of Yugoslavia, the role of international financial agencies like the International Monetary Fund, and the machinations of the corporate titans in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Given the time and energy spent in opposing the Clinton administration on NAFTA and Fast Track, shouldn't the official representatives of workers in the United States spend a little time researching an issue like the Balkan crisis, before uncritically jumping on Clinton's war wagon? Why should this administration be any more trustworthy in the Balkans than it has been in Mexico? Should labor's agenda be driven by an endless stream of Albanian refugee pictures on CNN, which could just as easily come from the territory of NATO member Turkey, where hundreds of thousands of Kurds have been driven from their homes? Pictures do not always tell the whole story.

I don't claim to be a Balkan expert, but like a lot of workers today, I have a computer and a modem, and even a cursory search of the web, and a couple of email list memberships bring in a vast amount of information on this crisis, much of which easily discredits the Clinton "humanitarian bombing" of Yugoslavia.

I contend that the evidence shows that NATO and US policy in Yugoslavia is being driven by the same interests that created modern Mexico, a place close enough for us to see the hellish consequences of capitalist greed run amok.

The long range plans of the wealthy powers that lead NATO, is a corporate driven agenda to turn Eastern Europe, and eventually Russia, into a vast