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Depleted consciousness



By Dr. Radmila Nakarada,
Senior scholar, Institute for European Studies, IES, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
and TFF associate
Professor Miroslav Petulic, Faculty of Law, Belgrade University



The death of KFOR soldiers suspected to be caused by the radiation from depleted uranium used by NATO in bombing Kosovo and Serbia, phenomenon wrongly designated as the "Balkan syndrome", provoked alarm across Europe. Although important, this first wave of public concern remains superficial. It evades fundamental issues. It is the syndrome of global elite's folly.



One of the greatest absurdities marking the end of the millennium, a paradigm of irrational surplus of destruction, is the use of depleted uranium as an instrument of humanitarian intervention (i.e. prevention of humanitarian catastrophe). On the one side of that morbid formula we find the sublime rhetoric: NATO intervention was celebrated as an ethical war, an action stemming out of the deepest respect for human rights and justice. (Vaclav Havel) Sovereignty was rightly subordinated to this higher principle that places the protection of life and freedom of the citizens, minorities above the authority of a nation-state. (Goldhagen). On the other side, and in the name of these superior principles of civilisation, ten deadly tons of depleted uranium has been thrown on the territory of Yugoslavia. The largest amount was thrown on the territory of Kosovo inhabited primarily by the Albanians, the very group whose human rights, freedom and protection of life were the reason the intervention was supposedly undertaken. This deadly operation was performed although the Hiroshima experience paradigmatically demonstrated the link between uranium and malign illnesses. The gruesome link between humanitarian concerns and depleted uranium was established in spite of the well known fact that the 300 tons of depleted uranium thrown in Iraq resulted in the "strange" illness of a number of US soldiers, while in Iraq itself 250,000 civilians have been contaminated and malign illnesses have increased by 30%. After the Gulf war, the repetition of the same drama occurred in Bosnia leading to the registered increase of leukaemia and cancer. The combination of humanitarian rhetoric and pretended ignorance, amnesia well serves the need to get rid of the nuclear waste, to perform an experiment in vivo.



Although the dangerous weapon may well be the cause of irreversible contamination of the soil, water and food, the cause of delayed deaths of innocent civilians, not even an elementary degree of transparency is secured, allowing possible actions to lessen the ill effects. Instead of answering the fateful question why was a weapon with such destructive irreversible potential used by the mightiest army of world against a feeble enemy, and what are its real effects - a labyrinth of lies is created. The issue is presented as a complicated controversy, the ill effects are denied, it is asserted with authority that supposedly no correlation can be established between the uranium bombs and malign illnesses. Instead of answers, cynical comments are offered - all heavy metals are damaging, others even more than depleted uranium and NATO is not a scientific institution.

If no correlation exists, then it is unclear, why was a flyer passed out to NATO soldiers prior to the bombing warning that depleted uranium was toxic, why the precise data on the locations of the bombing was not readily disclosed by NATO? Why did President Clinton prevent a thorough investigation by the UN of the effects of bombing? And there is yet another why. Why are the European allies, participants in the NATO decision-making and the bombing, now simulating to have been "uninformed", "misinformed"? Why are they in their belated concern for the wellbeing of KFOR soldiers now demanding the "truth", evading their previous moral and legal responsibility?

Preserving the false controversy, the uncertainty of correlation, secures the future use of depleted uranium. However, from the standpoint of proclaimed humanitarian concerns and high ethical standards even the slightest doubt concerning such weapons would be sufficient to suspend, outlaw its use. This should become a universal principle in a "world risk society" where the destructive side of technological development is increasing.



The alarm in European countries due to the death of KFOR soldiers seems like a first sign of concern for the destructive consequences of the post-modern war. However, these concerns are by and large limited to the fate of their own soldiers and not to the local population which was the primary target and victim. The fate of local victims, as in the case of Iraq, was not powerful or meaningful enough to provoke serious questions and concerns, storms of protest. Local victims have been time and time again, explicitly or implicitly dismissed as irrelevant collateral damage; human beings are simply turned into living atomic waste. The character of the present uproar, is a testimony of different value placed on human life, of racist blemishes.



The intervention as a whole demonstrates two dramatic facts:

a. That the global, "enlightened" elites are prepared to cause under the banner of highest moral principles irreversible damage, definitely degrade the living conditions of citizens and those not yet born in countries which are the object of their intervention, and even expose segments of own population (soldiers) to deadly dangers.

b. There is no law, no court, social forces, media, public, and no consciousness that can prevent such irrational destruction and hold accountable the perpetrators. These two facts testify that under the present conditions "humanitarian interventionism" produces globalisation with an inhuman face.

In short, the death of KFOR soldiers, and countless anonymous citizens in Iraq, Bosnia, and in the future of Kosovo and Serbia is not the consequences of Balkan or Gulf syndrome, but the syndrome of the global elite's folly.


© TFF 2001  


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