top of page

Kosovo War

The Kosovo War took place in 1999.


I became concerned and even shocked about the war as it developed. It was presented to the world by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Madeleine Albright as humanitarian action, but it became clear that it was nothing of the kind.


The effects of the bombing of of the Kosovo


The most powerful military alliance in the world conducted the most intensive bombing campaign in the history of warfare. The target? Serbia, the poorest and most miserable country in Europe.


For eleven weeks the war dominated the media. Since then the immense tragedy and crime of the war have faded from public view. Yet the desperate human consequences, and the long-term costs remain. The moral and military principles which guided the NATO campaign go unchallenged and unexamined. (NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was set up as a purely defensive alliance.)


Starting on 24 March 1999 the war was a 78 day concerted action by the air forces of 13 of NATO’s 19 member nations. It was the first time in the fifty years’ existence of NATO that its forces had been used aggressively - in direct conflict with the terms of its own treaty which specifically recognises the United Nations as the principle organisation responsible for peace and security in the world.

The effects of the bombing of Serbia

In eleven weeks the NATO air forces flew over 36,000 sorties and dropped over 23,000 bombs and missiles on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia, Vojvodina, Kosovo, and Montenegro). These included 400 cruise missiles, cluster bombs, and highly toxic depleted uranium bombs.

Targets included the military forces, bases and equipment of the Serbian army. In addition the bombing damaged or destroyed 144 major industrial plants including all Yugoslavia’s oil refineries, fuel storage facilities, car and motorcycle factories, pharmaceutical and fertiliser factories, rubber factories. The bombing of some of these released large quantities of dangerous chemicals into the environment, created an oil slick on the Danube 20 kilometres long, and put 600, 000 people out of work.

Damaged or destroyed were several thousand homes (mainly in Belgrade, Nis, Cuprija, Aleksinac and Pristina), 33 clinics and hospitals, 340 schools, 55 road and rail bridges. The River Danube was blocked; some of the bridges were hundreds of miles from the scenes of the racial expulsions and were vital trade links to the rest of Europe. Also attacked were 12 railway lines, 5 civilian airports, 6 trunk roads, 10 TV and radio stations and 24 transmitters; power stations were put out of action; sewage treatment plants were damaged; water supplies were cut off.

Five thousand civilians were injured; 1400 adult civilians were killed, 600 children were killed, 600 military and police personnel were killed. As a result of the murder, harassment, violence, and destruction of homes carried out by the returning Kosovo Albanians there are now about 150,000 further refugees (mainly Serbs and Roma) in Serbia who have fled from Kosovo. "Ethnic cleansing" has not been halted. There are now [year 2000]10,000 unexploded bombs scattered throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


Serbia is now the most polluted, damaged, distressed, politically unsettled, and poverty-stricken country in Europe. It is an humanitarian disaster area and has the highest UNHCR budget of any country in the world.

David Roberts 2000


Aleksinac, Serbia, 1999, where three civilians were killed when a NATO pilot aimed to bomb the Deligrad barracks some distance away.

Bombing Kosovo, legal and moral issues

NATO transforms its rule book

When NATO bombers bombed Yugoslavia no NATO country had been attacked or even threatened by Yugoslavia. Self defence is the only acceptable reason for waging war under the UN Charter which 193 nations have signed up to.


The NATO Treaty which governs the military actions of NATO countries also only permitted war in self defence.

How NATO changed its rules to allow wars of aggression


However, this was changed without it being brought to the attention of the public or even members of the British parliament on 24 April 1999 when a new NATO agreement was signed in Washington.

NATO ministers agreed to act illegally under the UN Charter and wage war for a variety of non-defensive purposes. The bombing of Yugoslavia was a practical demonstration of this new willingness to act illegally. It is often claimed that the bombing, though illegal, was carried out to avert a humanitarian crisis. In fact, thousands of bombs dropping on a country itself causes a humanitarian crisis, and the flight of both Serb and Albanian refugees from the Kosovo province began after the start of the bombing.


The first victim of war is morality. Wars are always failures -  failures of diplomacy, failure to see the interest of the enemy is tied up with ourselves, failure to understand that we are all bound together as members of the human race.


The fighter in any war faces difficult moral questions. Anyone who believes that organised aggression by states may sometimes be wrong has some serious thinking and explaining to do about this military action.


Sadly, some people have unswerving faith in their leaders, believe that they can do no wrong, and therefore have no need to question any of their actions.

The role of taxpayers who fund wars


People who pay taxes that fund wars and live in countries that declare war on others cannot evade their moral responsibility. Do they condone aggression by pretending that nothing has happened or do they take steps to make their opposition to violence abundantly clear to their government and other people.

See the NATO page and NATO Strategic Concept.

bottom of page