Anorak News | It never was genocide in Kosovo: truth emerges on Tony Blair’s moral war

It never was genocide in Kosovo: truth emerges on Tony Blair’s moral war

by | 7th, February 2015

kosovo blair


Remember when Tony Blair took the country to war in the Balkans? Just as in Iraq, this too was a moral crusade to spare the world from evil. Britain’s part in the Blakans war chimed with Tony Blair’s aim to give the country a unifying identity based on sound morals. In 1999, the then Prime Minister opined:

 ‘We need to find a new national moral purpose for this new generation. People want to live in a society that is without prejudice, but is with rules. Government can play its part, but parents have to play their part. There’s got to be a partnership between Government and the country to lay the foundations of that moral purpose.’

Blair was talking abour the young and pregnant, who needed to be made aware that their choices were morally wrong. But he could have easily been talking about Iraq and the Balkans. Blair was hawkish on war against the Serbs and their leader Slobodan Milošević.

Blair explained why?

There were big strategic interests that would have justified intervention in their own right. But I felt that this was the closest thing to racial genocide that I’ve seen in Europe since the Second World War. I didn’t feel that we could simply stand aside from that if we had the means, which we did, to intervene and to stop it.

In 2006, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic died of a heart attack at a detention centre in The Hague, where he was facing war crimes charges, including genocide. He never took the stand to answer the charge of fomenting and exercising genocide.

The allegation of genocide never was tested.

Blair was interviewed on his reasons for war by Fontline magazine:

These situations are always really tight and difficult decisions, and there were points in time when it looked quite difficult, but I was convinced that once we started it, we had to finish it. If we hadn’t done so, it would have really given encouragement to dictators everywhere. Once you’re in a situation like that, you have to see it through, which we did. If we stood aside and let those people be displaced in that way, with many of them brutally murdered and killed and just done nothing, it would have made our whole job a lot more difficult in a whole series of different ways.

I was quite struck afterwards by the number of people from different parts of the world who said to me, “Look, it was important that you did that.” It was important–not just that NATO delivered a series of demands, said it would back them up with force, delivered those demands, and the realization of them–but also that that type of ethnic cleansing was not allowed to continue unchecked.

You had to decide what the consequences of losing would be. The consequence of losing would not just be appalling for the people in Kosovo. Those refugees would have stayed, and heaven knows what would have happened to the region. But NATO’s credibility would have been incredibly damaged. Then the next time, say, if Saddam gets out of his box, or somebody like that, and we say we’re going to take action, people would say, “Well, prove it.”

NATO did not have the backing of the United Nations Security Council. The intervention in Kosovo was an illegal war. But it was morally correct. After all, Blair wanted to stop the genocide. And he was keen to show everyone the moral way to do the right thing.

As William Rees-Mogg wrote in the Times:

Where the UN fails, it must be open to individual nations to act to remove a genocidal or torturing regime, such as that of Milosevic or Saddam Hussein.

He later added:

Since 1945, the conventions on torture and genocide have opened a wider right to use force; there is a general right to arrest those responsible for torture or to intervene to prevent genocide. That was the justification for the Nato intervention in Kosovo.

In 2004, he told us:

The only clear case in international relations for armed intervention had been self-defence, response to aggression. But the notion of intervening on humanitarian grounds had been gaining currency. I set this out, following the Kosovo war, in a speech in Chicago in 1999, where I called for a doctrine of international community, where in certain clear circumstances, we do intervene, even though we are not directly threatened.

I said this was not just to correct injustice, but also because in an increasingly inter-dependent world, our self-interest was allied to the interests of others; and seldom did conflict in one region of the world not contaminate another.

We acted in Sierra Leone for similar reasons, though frankly even if that country had become run by gangsters and murderers and its democracy crushed, it would have been a long time before it impacted on us. But we were able to act to help them and we did.


It was good. We wer good. We were morally sound. David Clark, s Europe adviser at the Foreign Office, 1997-2001, said:

Kosovo should be remembered as an example of western nations using their power, however imperfectly, to do something good and necessary.

Sound morals and a conviction to stop genocide defeated the criminal behavior of the Slobodan Milosevic regime. The West beat genocide. So. To this week’s news:

A 17-judge panel ruled that Serbia and Croatia both committed crimes against the other but did not intend to destroy each other’s people during the wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Presiding judge Peter Tomka of Slovakia and the panel at International Court of Justice ruled that neither Croatia nor Serbia committed genocide during the wars sparked by the breakup off the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.. The International Court of Justice said Serb forces did commit widespread crimes in Croatia early in the war, but they did not amount to genocide. The 17-judge panel then ruled that a 1995 Croat offensive to win back territory from rebel Serbs also featured serious crimes, but did not reach the level of genocide.

Tuesday’s decision was not unexpected, as the U.N.’s Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, a separate court also based in The Hague, has never charged any Serbs or Croats with genocide in one another’s territory.

That moral crusade to defeat savagery and genocide looks a little less certain. The moral parable to justify war is a little less clear. And it matters. Because Tony Blair saw and presented Bosnia and Kosovo as part of his model world. A mission that led to the invasion of Iraq…


Posted: 7th, February 2015 | In: Key Posts, Politicians, Reviews Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink