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Land underscores Yugoslav atrocities in reaction to Methodist bishops

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While the United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops has called on NATO and Yugoslavia to end their warring, and evangelical leader Charles Colson has written in USA Today that NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia fails to meet “just war” criteria, Southern Baptist leader Richard Land is continuing to remind:
“If the 20th century has taught us anything, it is that brutal aggression — unchecked and unpunished — increases the possibility of future aggression geometrically,” Land said, referring to the “genocidal ethnic cleansing” directed by Yugoslav Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic against ethnic Albanians in the country’s Kosovo province. Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“NATO would not be bombing if Milosevic has not visited upon the European continent scenes we have not seen since World War II,” Land said in a statement released to Baptist Press May 18. “Mr. Milosevic’s policies have led directly to the death of 250,000 people in this decade alone,” counting the atrocities in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
According to U.N. statistics as of May 19, roughly 750,000 Kosovars have been forced to flee Yugoslavia by Milosevic’s forces since late March when the NATO bombing began.
The United Methodist Church’s Council of Bishops, in a resolution adopted May 7, stated:
“While we condemn the processes of ethnic cleansing, weep for its victims, and condemn its ideology and practice, we note that the bombing, while failing to alter this evil reality, has intensified the suffering of real people, our sisters and brothers, who are representative of different sides in this conflict. Governments posture while people die.
“Thus, noting the flood of refugees, the suffering of all concerned and the failure of war to bring peace with justice, we:
“Call upon Slobodan Milosevic to cease the practice and refute the ideology of ethnic cleansing, NOW;
“Call upon NATO to cease the bombing and the denial of the delivery of essential goods to the people of Yugoslavia, NOW;
“Call upon all political leaders to gather as one under U.N. guidelines so as to negotiate a just peace; and
“Call upon our church, the interfaith community, and the United States government and the governments of NATO to initiate an immediate ‘Marshall Plan’ for the suffering people of the Balkans.”
Colson, meanwhile, described NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia as “woefully” failing some criteria of “just war” theory.
In a just war, for example, “the probability of success must be sufficiently clear to justify the costs,” Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and a prominent evangelical author and speaker, wrote in USA Today April 29.
“This is where justification for this [NATO] adventure falls flat,” Colson wrote, noting the Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly warned President Clinton the war with Yugoslavia could not be won solely by a bombing campaign.
“Yet [Clinton] went ahead anyway,” Colson wrote.
Colson noted: “… with the national pride that the Serbs have invested clearing Kosovo of Albanians, it’s arrogant folly to think that they will desist because we blow up a few of their buildings.
“The Serbs are motivated by pre-modern drives that we post-moderns cannot understand,” Colson continued. “We are bourgeois, comfort-loving consumerists who have tantrums when our VCRs break down or when the line at the fast-food drive-through is too long. We are incapable of understanding people who think their lives are well spent dying in defense of their clans’ territorial claims.”
Among other statements by Colson concerning “just war” theory:
— Because a just war must be a last resort, intensified economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, as reportedly urged by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should have been attempted before resorting to bombing, Colson wrote.
— “… we are not preventing suffering in proportion to what we are causing,” Colson contended. “As anyone should have reasonably expected, our attacks only emboldened Milosevic, resulting in more suffering and more ethnic Albanians being driven from their homes.”
Colson pointed to “eerie parallels” with the Vietnam War: “a faraway threat, a U.S. president with boundless confidence in government’s power to solve any problem, the promise of a quick solution with little danger to Americans, a gradual escalation and, finally, the argument that we’ve gone too far to back out. Only time will tell whether the analogy will play out.”
“I can only pray that voices of conscience so strong a generation ago will be raised before it is too late,” Colson wrote.
Land, in his statement, voiced concern the Methodist bishops’ resolution seems to permit “an implicit moral equivalency between NATO’s response and Milosevic’s massacres, group rape and genocidal ethnic cleansing — there is no moral equivalency.”
Describing what he would regard as a “just peace,” Land said it is one “in which Mr. Milosevic is forced to withdraw all of his forces from Kosovo. And [it] is a peace in which the Kosovars are aided and assisted in returning to their homes and, through a plan similar to the Marshall Plan, Kosovo is rebuilt and the Kosovars are allowed to determine their own political fate through self-determination as expressed in an internationally monitored and supervised plebiscite in which all citizens of Kosovo are allowed to freely participate.
“Also, a just peace requires Mr. Milosevic to be removed from power,” Land said, “and to stand trial before an appropriate international tribunal for crimes against humanity for his crucial role in planning, aiding and abetting mass execution, mass rape, ethnic cleansing and the forced removal of nearly a million Kosovars from their homes and villages.”
After Milosevic’s removal, a plebiscite also should be held in the remainder of Yugoslavia in which the citizens would “select those by whom they would be governed. At that time, there should be a plan similar to the Marshall Plan for the new Yugoslavia to help rebuild the damage done by NATO bombing as a consequence of the barbaric Milosevic regime.”
Concerning “just war” theory, Land acknowledged the NATO action “has not necessarily met [all of the criteria] to this point in time. For instance, at a bare minimum, there needs to be a clear and unambiguous joint resolution by the Congress of the United States in support of armed intervention in the Balkans” in order to meet “the legitimate authority test” for the use of U.S. armed forces.
Land cited a disagreement with Colson over the latter’s question of using force against Yugoslavia and not against Sudan or East Timor over massive atrocities in those countries.
“We probably should have and could have responded as a world community to the savagery and ethnic cleansing that has occurred in the Sudan, Rwanda and East Timor,” Land said. “What is different in the Balkans, and thus clearly calls the world community to act, is the very real possibility that the genocidal ethnic cleansing that Mr. Milosevic has visited upon the Kosovars could very easily escalate into a southeast European war or worse. … [I]f America and her NATO allies do not decisively deal with him, it will perhaps be a fatal encouragement to the would-be Milosevics who remain in waiting around the globe ever-ready to leap to the forefront and seize power during times of great upheaval and distress such as is currently being experienced in Russia.
“A Russian Milosevic armed with the still formidable and frightening, albeit somewhat deteriorated, remnants of the military machine leftover from the former Soviet Union would be a truly dangerous prospect and could endanger the lives of tens of millions of people in Russian, Europe and even the United States,” Land said.

Dwayne Hastings contributed to this article.