Biden and ‘anti-war’ Bernie must answer for authorizing Serbia bombings in violation of international law
by Tiana Lowe, Commentary Writer | | June 12, 2019 05:57 PM
The upside of two septuagenarians dominating the Democratic presidential primary is the decades of voting history for the electorate to examine. In light of the 20th anniversary of the end of the Kosovo War, it’s worth asking why then-Sen. Joe Biden and then-Rep. Bernie Sanders voted to authorize Bill Clinton’s bombing campaign against Serbia in violation of international law.
Biden’s role in the Kosovo War fits fairly well within his record:
Biden co-sponsored the Senate resolution authorizing the strikes, which had even less of a legal and ethical backing than the Obama administration’s interference in Libya. Biden full-throatedly cheered Obama’s bid to oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi during the nation’s civil war, even though Congress never authorized the war. In the case of the Serbian bombings, Clinton and NATO violated international law both by specifically targeting civilians and because the U.N. Security Council never authorized the strikes. (The Labour Party of the U.K., which endorsed the campaign, admitted the strikes were indeed illegal.)
But again, Biden’s whole brand is kind-of-illegal wars, so the Serbia thing is fine.
But for Sanders’ brand, bombing Serbia could be a bit more damaging.
Sanders bragged throughout his 2016 campaign that Hillary Clinton had voted for the Iraq War while he hadn’t. Well, the Iraq War was a hell of a lot more justified than bombing journalists and civilians in Serbia. For one thing, the Iraq War was legal. For another, the U.S. also had a vested interest in the region at the time. The entire case for interfering the Kosovo conflict was purely humanitarian, not strategic. So how did Clinton promulgate humanity in the region? He bombed civilians, the epicenter of Belgrade’s media, and the Chinese embassy with three journalists residing in it.
And Sanders backed the entire thing. Though he couched his support for the strikes with a patina of concern and equivocation, he faced ample criticism from his home district. When activists protested the war at his office, Sanders reportedly had them arrested.
His rationale was humanitarian concern. There’s no end of potential humanitarian wars to fight. Venezuela? Cuba? North Korea?
As we can see, Sanders’ backing of the Serbia strikes followed no discernible philosophy.
So, why did Sanders back war? Someone should ask him.