4 dicembre 1999

Il Tribunale contro la NATO a Vienna

cronaca da "Workers World":

Austrian regime guilty of aiding U.S.-NATO war crimes

On Dec. 4, the 300 participants of the Dec. 4 Vienna Tribunal against the Austrian Regime for Aiding the NATO Aggression found leading members of the Austrian regime guilty.

The daylong tribunal at the Technical University in downtown Vienna had many points in common with war crimes hearings held in Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece and nine U.S. cities.

But the Vienna Tribunal also highlighted issues unique to Austria. For example, that a regime can aid an aggressive war without taking part in it directly. Also, that the European Union's rapid-strike force also threatens to drag the Austrian population into a war.

Speakers representing the international movement to bring charges against U.S.-NATO leaders included Zoran Stojanovic, professor of criminal law at Belgrade University and Ralph Hartmann, former ambassador of the German Democratic Republic in Belgrade. Hartmann, the author of a book about the Balkans crisis, also represented the German Tribunal against the NATO war.

John Catalinotto spoke as a representative of the International Action Center. Catalinotto repeated Ramsey Clark's earlier assertion that NATO was an aggressive military pact and must be abolished.

IAC founder Clark's 19 charges against U.S. and other NATO political and military leaders have been used as a model for other tribunal hearings around the world, including the one in Vienna.

Other international witnesses included Gordana Brun from the Environmental Ministry of Serbia, who testified about the role the U.S.-NATO war played in destroying the environment and its consequences for the health and living conditions of the peoples of the Balkans.

Cedomir Prlincevic, chairperson of the Jewish Community of Kosovo, also testified. He explained that not only did right-wing Kosovo Albanians drive out all non-Albanians--including Albanians who oppose the Kosovo Liberation Army--from Kosovo, but NATO's United-Nations sanctioned occupation forces did nothing to stop it.

Austrian regime's guilt

The Yugoslav-Austrian Solidarity League, which had mobilized tens of thousands in Vienna--mostly immigrants from Yugoslavia--against the war, called for the tribunal.

Many Austrian anti-war organizations and individuals participated, including the Austrian Peace Movement, the Communist Party of Austria and the Revolutionary Communist League.

A series of Austrian witnesses pointed out the specific steps the regime had taken that made its leading members guilty of aiding NATO's war crimes.

Austria's constitution commits the country's political leaders to strict neutrality in any international conflict. Jurist Walther Leeb had little difficulty showing that the regime had violated its own basic laws through its support for NATO's aggressive war.

In addition, in 1991 Austria, led by then-Foreign Minister Alois Mock had quickly joined Germany in recognizing the right-wing regimes in Slovenia and Croatian that split from Yugoslavia. Writer Hannes Hofbauer outlined Austria's role for the last 10 years in the destruction of Yugoslavia.

Peace researcher Wilfried Graf explained how the Rambouillet Accord contained a military appendix that allowed NATO troops to occupy all of Yugoslavia. As a result, the accord could only be rejected by the Belgrade government. Washington purposely set up this ploy to justify the start of bombing raids.

An Austrian politician, Former European Union Special Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, delivered this ultimatum to the Yugoslavs. In doing so, Petritsch was guilty of setting up the provocation that launched NATO's 79-day bombing campaign.

Others showed that the Austrian regime allowed NATO access to its air space and transport to carry on the war.

At the end of the day, a jury of five progressive Austrians found the Austrian regime--especially Chancellor Viktor Klima, Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schüssel and Defense Minister Werner Fasslabend--guilty, along with Petritsch and Mock.

After a wide-ranging discussion, the assembly seconded the guilty verdict with only four abstentions and no contrary votes.

European rapid-reaction force

The tribunal's guilty verdict also accused the Austrian regime of damaging that country's neutrality and threatening its population by working toward participation in a European rapid-reaction force. "The European Union will be militarized," the jury said, "and the role of Austria in the planned intervention army will be presented as a fait accompli."

West European political leaders have proposed a European military force that can operate independent of NATO; that is, of Washington. Just like NATO, however, the European "rapid-reaction force" is aimed at imposing imperialist demands on oppressed countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The Austrian regime, without openly challenging the country's traditional neutrality, nevertheless has indicated it would cooperate with such a force.

The jury's statement and its importance were underlined by the news from Helsinki, Finland on Dec. 11 that European leaders okayed the creation of this rapid-reaction military force, a contingent of 60,000 troops that could be operational by 2003.

U.S. Defense Minister William Cohen has often made clear that Washington prefers Europe to increase military spending but keep its forces completely subservient to the Pentagon. The Europeans should buy U.S.-made weapons and provide cannon fodder for U.S.-led interventions, according to Cohen.

The future of the European force vis-à-vis NATO is still uncertain. Its role will undoubtedly be a source of conflict between Washington and the European capitals. But there are no doubts about its oppressive class character.

U.S. anti-imperialists can only welcome the Austrian anti-war fighters' statement that they are ready to confront the European Union's military just as they do NATO. And U.S. anti-war activists should likewise fight U.S. militarism and U.S. hegemony by demanding NATO be abolished.

Anti-Serb racism

Progressives in the United States are aware of the vicious anti-Serb agitation by the U.S. government and media last spring. The Austrian government and media repeated the same slanders, except that in Austria these slanders built on a long history of anti-Slav and especially anti-Serb racism.

The Austrian ruling class had joined Germany in aggression against Serbia in the two world wars, both of which Austria and Germany lost. Anti-Serb racism is strong in Austrian ruling-class ideology, just as anti-Arab racism is in the U.S.

In addition, Yugoslavs, mostly from Serbia, are currently the largest immigrant group in Austria. And a right-wing politician, Jörg Haider, has raised his party's vote to 30 percent and won second place in parliament based mainly on anti-immigrant appeals. While any analogy oversimplifies, Haider could be called roughly the Austrian equivalent of Patrick Buchanan, but with more success at the polls.

Left-wing media representatives at the tribunal rightly accused the government and the big-business Austrian media of slander against a people--the Serbs--in their war propaganda.

It was thoroughly progressive that the anti-imperialist forces in Austria had joined in solidarity with the Yugoslav community to fight against the U.S.-NATO war. The group held almost daily demonstrations, one as large as 28,000 in a city of fewer than 2 million.

Solidarity with Mumia

When the Austrian left held a demonstration last April in solidarity with U.S. political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, hundreds of people from the Yugoslav community in Vienna joined the protest.

John Catalinotto ended his talk by describing the heroic role of Abu-Jamal in helping build solidarity with Yugoslavia against U.S.-NATO aggression when the well-known political prisoner wrote a letter opposing the war last spring.

Catalinotto also praised the solidarity that immigrant Yugoslavs in Vienna showed toward Abu-Jamal by joining the demonstration for him.

"With that kind of international solidarity, we can build a new and better world," Catalinotto concluded.

The following day, in Kassel, Germany, the IAC and the Berlin tribunal movement spoke to 300 people from 100 German peace organizations at the Kassel Peace Council. The assembly endorsed the tribunal movement in Germany.

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