Reaction to NATO strikes are varied
Area legislators and residents are mixed on whether the United States should be involved in the NATO air strikes against Yugo-slavia.
David Stewart, a Western Nevada Community College anthropology professor, is an Eastern Orthodox Christian, as are the Serbian people. Stewart said he feels the U.S. government and the U.S. people do not have all the information.
Stewart studied anthropology at the Berkeley campus of the University of California and taught anthropology at he University of Calgary for 25 years.
“I’m certainly not an authority on the subject, but I feel some aspects haven’t been made aware of,” Stewart said. “The Rambouillet Peace Accord in Paris didn’t state officially the long-term goal was independence for Kosovo. It officially states Kosovo would become an autonomous country, but still be part of Serbia.”
Kosovo is now a province of Yugoslavia.
Stewart, who lives part of the year in Gardnerville, and part of the year in Berkeley, Calif., said he didn’t think that if the U.S. officials were being honest with themselves about their reasons for getting into this war, they weren’t being honest with the American public.
“I’m playing the devil’s advocate here, but the Kosovo Liberation Army was responsible for a lot of attacks on Serbian military and police before the Serbian attacks,” he said. “People have to understand how important Kosovo has been in Serbian history.”
The history of the area has always been one of division and conflict, he said, often, with Serbians bearing the brunt of the attack.
Beginning in the 1300s, the Ottomans invaded and controlled the area for hundreds of years, he said.
“The area was Orthodox Christian long before Muslims came to the region. The dream has always been to make it Christian once again because it is an integral part of the cultural history,” Stewart said. “Now, with the Serbs expelling the Muslims, in a sense, they are trying to win a battle lost thousands of years ago – not that that excuses the awful things that are happening there.”
Stewart said to understand the Serbian point-of-view, Americans also have to understand Yugoslavia was the target of Nazi Germany air strikes during World War II.
“German bombed Belgrade on their Easter Sunday,” He said.
The Eastern Orthodox Easter Sunday is this weekend.
“For them, this is reliving the terrible atrocities during the Second World War,” he said. “There’s no way to understand what’s going on there without an understanding of at least 600 or 700 years of historical understanding.”
Douglas High School government and history teacher Randy Green said his classes have discussed the historical significance of the current situation in Kosovo, but he said teen-agers today are more concerned with themselves.
“The most asked question is, do I think the draft will be put into place again,” Green said.
However, he said the current events in the Balkans did serve as a good lesson for the students.
“It was a great lesson about the structure and function of international agencies and what goes into the decision to use force against atrocities in another nation. We certainly didn’t try to justify the actions of the Serbs, but we looked at the history that has produced the mindset of the people there and that’s hard for Americans to do,” he said.
Students also discussed the lack of complete information from government-run media organizations in Serbia.
“We talked about the Serbian perspective in that environment of controlled media. If all you know is some big country is suddenly bombing your country, of course they would instantly become your enemy,” Green said.
Korean and Vietnam veteran Dick Creley, retired Navy pilot and service officer of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8583, said he supports the air strikes in Serbia.
“I’ve been following the propaganda they’ve (media) showed on television,” Creley said. “I didn’t like Hitler and I didn’t like Castro. I think we have to do what’s being done. That’s what we’ve got the services for. I know a lot of bleeding hearts out there are saying our boys are going to get hurt, but if that’s what you get paid for, you’ve got to do it.”
Sen. Harry Reid’s press secretary, Jenny Backus, said she has rarely talked to the senator in the four days he has been in South America discussing trade and economics.
Before he left he expressed concern over sending in ground troops, Backus said, and for the welfare of troops already there.
“The bottom line is he is concerned about supporting the troops over there. A lot of those fighting the air campaign are from Nevada air bases and he just wants everyone to remember the troops over there,” she said.
A press release from the Nevada Office of the Military reported several members of the Nevada Air National Guard will be leaving to support the NATO troops in Europe.
Major Cindy Kirkland said there are two intelligence officers there and one on the way, who are working with the humanitarian effort there. There are also four more guardsmen who are working with the images gathered by aircraft in over the Balkans. The pictures are sent back to Beale Air Force Base in California, and those officers interpret what the targets are and do damage assessment.
Backus said Reid supported the effort if America was part of a larger NATO mission.
“He supported the air strikes because he was concerned about the possible genocide going on and he wants to support NATO. His feeling has been we need to give the air strikes time to work. We need to back the military experts as we go into this operation,” Backus said.
Closer to home, state Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville, said he didn’t support the NATO aggression, but Sen. Lawrence Jacobsen, R-Minden, said it was important to support the troops.
“I don’t think we should get involved in this long-time civil war situation. Anything I’ve heard has not convinced me this is a world safety issue. I just don’t see any reason for us to get involved unless NATO and the government isn’t telling us something,” Hettrick said.
Jacobsen said anytime U.S. troops are risking their lives, the public needs to support them.
“It’s my personal opinion that as long as we’ve got troops over there, there is no alternative but to support them all the way,” he said.