Now aid war hits refugees

Share
Related Topics
WHAT A bargain the war in Kosovo was. Governments have been keeping the details of the cost to themselves. For strategic reasons, you understand. But a US think-tank, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has done the sums and estimates that the 11-week bombing campaign cost somewhere between $2.3bn (pounds 1.4bn) and $4bn. This does not include the $2.8m a day it costs to keep an aircraft-carrier group at sea but it does embrace the 450 Tomahawk missiles fired by Nato ships - at $1m a piece - and the 90 conventional air-launched cruise missiles (CALCMs to the initiated), which cost $2m each because they had to be converted to ordinary warheads from the nuclear ones they were designed to carry. By comparison, the B-52s' high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs, of course) were cheap at $340,000 a go, and smart bombs a snip at $50,000 a throw.

These, of course, were just what the euphemism specialists who coined the phrase "collateral damage" call the "incremental" charges - those which are additional to the cost of having an army hanging around not doing very much at home. But, you see, it was all a lot cheaper than the Gulf war because the mileage between Nato bases and Yugoslavia is significantly shorter than the distances which had to be flown against Saddam. In any case, if you set the total expenditure against the combined revenues of the governments of Nato (which last year was $6,592bn) you will see that the direct military cost will hardly be noticeable to the West: if Britain ended up paying for one-tenth of the Kosovo venture that would be just 1 per cent of our government revenues.

All of which makes it even more mystifying to discover that, now the time has come to stump up the cash for getting the refugees back to their homes, the money seems suddenly to have dried up. With more than 850,000 Kosovars on the move - in the largest spontaneous return of refugees history has ever recorded - the UN High Commissioner for Refugees last week disclosed that his agency had received only $140m of the $400m requested to get people back home before winter sets in. The Geneva-based agency says it has enough money in the bank to keep the operation going for just another two weeks. UNHCR is on the verge of bankruptcy. Worse still, the head of the UN Development Programme has revealed that part of the little which is going to Kosovo is being siphoned off from funds destined for aid projects in Africa.

This newspaper spoke out strongly against the war on Kosovo as the bombs fell. We felt there were alternatives to war which had not been fully explored. But we have never cast doubt on the good faith of leaders such as Tony Blair in conducting it. Not everyone was as high-minded as the British Prime Minister. Behind much of the belligerence lay the attitude revealed in the writing of people like Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist who conducts the paper's twice-weekly lesson on foreign affairs. Milosevic, he said, had to be told: "Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverising you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too." It was a rebarbative stance. It sent the same message to the people of Serbia as the one Milosevic sent to the Albanians - or Hitler to the Jews, since everyone seems to have been so fond of Second World War analogies during this conflict. It was this: you are all the same, you are all vicious, you are all guilty, you must all be punished.

This, of course, was not the vindictive message of Western governments. They should now underscore that fact by galvanising their officials to make the cash flow as readily for relief as it did for munitions. The cost of the UNHCR operation is a measly $10m a week. No million-dollar technology is needed - just tents, blankets, mattresses, plywood, window frames, nails and tools so the refugees can begin repairing at least part of their homes to provide shelter before the harsh Balkan winter begins. If we could afford the war, we can afford the peace.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I’m not sure I fancy any meal that’s been cooked up by a computer

John Walsh
Labour leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech on his party's plans for the NHS, in Sale, on Tuesday  

Why is Miliband fixating on the NHS when he’d be better off focussing on the wealth gap?

Andreas Whittam Smith
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness