June 10, 2000 International Tribunal for U.S./NATO warcrimes in Yugoslavia
THE ROLE OF THE PORTUGESE GOVERNMENT IN THE NATO INTERVENTION IN YUGOSLAVIA
by Jorge Cadima
Professor Jorge Cadima is a regular contributor on NATO-related subjects in Avante, the weekly newspaper of the Portuguese Communist Party. He spoke on the role of NATO in Portugal since 1949, and on popular resistance to the war inside Portugal, especially in working-class organizations.
If one wants to understand the true nature of NATO, it will pay to consider the case of Portugal. Portugal was one of the twelve countries that signed NATOs founding Treaty, on April 4, 1949. Although the Preamble to the NATO Treaty speaks of "safeguarding the freedom of its peoples, their common heritage and civilization, based on the principles of democracy, on individual freedoms and on the rule of law," the historical truth is that in 1949 Portugal was a fascist dictatorship. Political parties were banned (except for the ruling Fascist Party); opponents of the regime were regularly jailed, tortured, sent to concentration camps or murdered; independent trade unions were closed down; there was censorship of the press and the arts; the political police were ever present; the peoples of Portugals colonial empire were denied their basic right to self-determination. In short, this founding member of NATO had neither democracy, individual freedoms, nor the rule of law. In fact, Portugals participation in NATO contributed to strengthening a regime which had been weakened by the defeat of the fascist powers in World War II. And this regime remained in power for decades. Portugal had the longest fascist dictatorship in Europe, lasting 48 years (from 1926 to 1974). At no time did NATO consider this a problem. NATO and NATO member countries were in fact arming and equipping the Portuguese colonialist and fascist regime, enabling it to wage, a colonial war in its African colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique for almost 15 years.
The April 1974 democratic revolution, which brought democracy and freedom to the Portuguese people and created the conditions in which the peoples of Portugals colonial Empire could finally secure their independence, was the result of our peoples own initiative. Initially spearheaded by the progressive Armed Forces Movement, it immediately became a mass uprising by the people of Portugal. But as far as NATO was concerned, the Portuguese fascist regime could have gone on for another 48 years. In fact, our countrys relations with NATO were only strained after the downfall of fascism. In 1975 NATO seriously considered expelling Portugal from its ranks, considering that the new democratic Portugal was no longer a reliable member.
The historical record shows, in the case of Portugal, as in the case of Greece and Turkey, that NATO is not about defending democracy and human rights. It is an instrument of imperialist domination that seeks to defend profits for big business throughout the world.
Portugals Constitution was quite explicitly violated by our participation in NATOs war of aggression against Yugoslavia. Article 7 of the Constitution, which deals with foreign relations, states that "Portugal stands for the abolition of imperialism, colonialism and any other forms of aggression, domination and exploitation in the relations between peoples, as well as for a general, simultaneous and controlled disarmament, the dissolution of political-military blocks and the establishment of a system of collective security, with a view to creating an international order which can ensure peace and justice in the relations between peoples." But Portugals involvement in NATOs aggression was also a blatant violation of the articles of the Constitution which state how, and for what reasons, Portugal can go to war. Article 135 states that "it is in the powers of the President of the Republic, in international relations, to (...) declare war in case of an effective or imminent aggression, and to make peace, under proposal of the Government, having heard the State Council, and with due authorization by the Assembly of the Republic [Parliament], or, when it is not in session, nor is it possible for it to be immediately convened, by its Standing Committee". None of these conditions existed or were respected. Portugal went to war without being the victim of aggression, and without any of the technical requirements for such a decision ever having been met. Those who have attempted to deny that our Constitution has been violated have done so essentially based on the Orwellian argument that the war was not really a war, but merely the fulfilment of our "duties towards the international alliances to which we belong."
Both in political and military terms, Portugals role in the aggression against Yugoslavia was very marginal. Geographically distant from the war theatre, and with small armed forces, Portugal had very little say in the political and military decisions which led to the war and to its conduct. But these facts do not diminish the political responsibilities of Portugals rulers for having supported and participated in this criminal war of aggressionrulers who, it should be stressed, are all members of Portugals Socialist Party.
Portugal was undoubtedly one of the European countries where opposition to the war against Yugoslavia was strongest. All opinion polls taken during the war were consistent in estimating that some two-thirds of Portuguese citizens opposed the war, the highest such figure for any West European country, apart from Greece. Opposition to the war was expressed in terms of street demonstrations. There were several rallies and marches against the war in front of the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon, as well as in other cities and towns. Opposition to the war was also expressed in numerous public statements condemning the war. Among the organizations which took a clear stand against the war were the largest and more militant trade union central in the country, the Portuguese Workers General Confederation (CGTP) and many individual trade unions; left-wing political parties, such as the Portuguese Communist Party and the Left Block; the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation, womens movements and youth organizations. Among the personalities who (for different reasons, and with different positions) took a stand against the war were some prominent members of the Catholic Church; the three Vice-Chairmen of the Portuguese Parliament; the former Chairman of the UN General Assembly, Diogo Freitas do Amaral; former Prime Ministers and Presidents of the Republic.
Undoubtedly the most important obstacle to the efforts of the peace movement was the barrage of NATO propaganda about the "ethnic cleansing of the Kosovo Albanians." Although this propaganda did not win over the majority of the people to the warmongering positions of NATO, it did manage to confuse, demobilize and silence the opposition of some quarters. The importance of the organized and more stable forms of participation by working people proved to be an element of decisive importance in overcoming the paralyzing effects of such propaganda.
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