Archive through October 28, 1999
Only the lifting of sanctions can save the Balkans from Nato's folly
Robin Cook's wasteland
This week the Nato commander in Kosovo, Sir Mike Jackson, ended his
tour of duty and went on holiday. He handed over to a German, but the
reality is that Nato's newest colony is now ruled by Agim Ceku, the KLA
army commander. An Albanian and former Croatian brigadier, Mr Ceku is
being investigated for war crimes against Serbs in Krajina in 1993-95. Britain
supports Mr Ceku's rule on the flimsy grounds that his subordinates are "even
worse". There is no reason to doubt this judgment.
The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, once promised to disarm the KLA. The
idea of Mr Cook disarming Mr Ceku of so much as the time of day is
laughable. Nato's war aim of policing a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo is
also laughable. All Nato has achieved is to return the Albanian refugees to
their homes and help Mr Ceku to power. The KLA, formerly a terrorist
minority faction in Kosovo, runs every town and village hall. As for the third
of the population who were Serbs and Gypsies before the bombing started,
Mr Ceku has "cleansed" three quarters of them, some 200,000 people
beaten and bombed from their homes into neighbouring Serbia. When
General Wesley Clark last week told CNN that Nato policy was "Serbs out,
Albanians in", he meant it.
Serb villages have been burnt under the eyes of Nato troops. According to
the Serb patriarchate, 52 Serb Orthodox churches have been classified as
destroyed since Nato's arrival. When Serb forces left Kosovo in June, Tony
Blair and Bill Clinton promised that Serb civilians and culture would be
protected. They have not kept that promise. Of course, stopping revenge
killings was going to be hard. That is what the Serbs said in confronting
KLA terrorism last year. The difference is that Nato thought it could do
better, bombing its way to "multi-ethnicity".
A week in Yugoslavia has subjected me to constant propaganda, almost all
of it from enemies of Mr Milosevic. They make a pathetic and disparate
group, their nightly demonstrations in central Belgrade no more impressive
than a half-hearted student rally. Only one thing unites them, that Nato's
bombing of civilian targets this spring was an outrage as cruel as any ethnic
cleansing, and that continued sanctions are counter-productive. "You won,
we lost, we were punished: why continue the war?" they cry with one voice.
Belgrade and the second city of Novi Sad are today desperate sights. Nato's
bombing of bridges has left the Danube eerily empty of traffic. Giant
contorted mounds of concrete and steel form incongruous dams and rapids,
aimed in Nato's words to "close for 20 years" what was Europe's greatest
waterway. Refineries, office blocks, factories, skyscrapers, stand gaunt,
blackened and twisted at the turning of every street. The bombing of
Belgrade's executive offices, hospitals, radio stations, factories, trains and
buses was patently anti-civilian.
I am all for hard-headedness in foreign policy and have seen many an act of
war. But to find British forces attacking hospitals because they might contain
soldiers, or dejected factories because their owners might be Milosevic
supporters, or the old Victorian bridge at Novi Sad because a fuel truck
might cross it, challenges even my realpolitik. I kept wondering what Robin
Cook or Clare Short or even Tony Blair would have made of such
operations were they in opposition. The Defence Secretary, George
Robertson, wrote in The Times last month that they were justified to rid
Kosovo of Serbs without loss of British lives. Does that end justify the
IRA-style cluster bombing of Nis marketplace?
Yet the bed is made. Yugoslavia may be politically "off message", but Britain
is party to installing a regime in Kosovo whose hands are as dirty as Mr
Milosevic's. Mr Cook may not be about to ship Mr Ceku off to The Hague,
or even make him protect the few remaining Serbs in Kosovo. He has
chosen Mr Ceku as his ally and is party to the results. But in doing so he has
given a green light to the next bunch of separatists, in Yugoslav's last
remaining republic of Montenegro. They are about to stage an independence
referendum. They argue that any British Foreign Secretary who can back Mr
Ceku of all people can hardly refuse military support to the outcome of a
democratic vote. Has not Mr Cook done just that in East Timor?
Montenegro awaits his bombers over Belgrade.
Mr Cook would, of course, prefer to see Mr Milosevic go. Indeed, he
believes that sanctions must remain in place until that great event occurs. As
with the bombing, the legal basis for Mr Cook's economic aggression is
unclear. Mr Milosevic has abided by the terms of the Kosovo withdrawal (as
Mr Cook has not). He is regularly called a dictator, but he is twice elected
and has not indicated any wish to suspend the constitution, under which he
stands down in 2001. Serb politics may be chaotic, but they are not
moribund. Freedom of speech is extreme and the press is free. Mr Milosevic
and his colleagues may be indicted for war crimes, but only a fool could see
this as a helpful step towards early elections and exile.
Sanctions have left the roads of Serbia empty of traffic, its airports desolate,
its fuel stations closed and its formal economy in ruins. The mayors of
Serbia's 36 cities met in Budapest last week to plead with Europe for relief,
on the reasonable ground that every one of them is anti-Milosevic. Sanctions
hurt them, but put added power in the hands of the regime. Foreign exchange
and black market petrol are controlled by Mr Milosevic's mafia. As in Iraq,
sanctions make the rulers rich and everyone else, the professionals, the
merchants and the workers, poor. They pollute the political economy and
degrade public order. The Marxist in Mr Cook seems to think sanctions
encourage the workers to rise up in revolt. They do the opposite. They
increasingly offer Mr Milosevic an excuse for extra-constitutional action. I
could not find a single person in Yugoslavia who regarded sanctions as
anything but counter-productive.
I would lift sanctions on Yugoslavia at once, all of them. I would wreck Mr
Milosevic's black market with trade, not with bombs. I would cheat his
buddies of their fuel franchises and illicit currency rackets, and rebuild the
bridges and privatised factories with outside cash. I would reopen links to
universities and schools. Nato's blocking of the Danube must be ended.
Europe's biggest army of refugees - a third of them fleeing Nato-controlled
territory - are now in freezing barracks, hostels, schools and sports stadiums.
They need humanitarian work, not just humanitarian aid. Work is what Mr
Cook is denying them.
Ask any opposition politician what lifting sanctions would mean and they
reply: "Milosevic would declare a victory, and be gone inside a year."
Yugoslavia may be a nation in ruins, but it is not immune to the democratic
nourishment of trade and outside contact. It is a sort of democracy and can
deal with Mr Milosevic without Mr Cook's cackhanded help, as it almost did
Needless to say, there are many conspiracy theorists in Belgrade to doubt if
Nato really wants any change. They think that Nato leaders like a few
monsters about the globe. While Mr Milosevic is in power, Nato need not
pay for bomb damage or risk inquiries into civilian deaths. It can continue to
"Balkanise" the Balkans. Besieged nations need paranoia to boost their
morale. If they cannot be loved, they need to be hated in a bigger cause.
But Yugoslavia is not victim of any Great Game. It is a victim of two
mistakes, one by its own rulers, the other by Nato. It is just another poor
country lifted from obscurity by Western meddlers, given a public thrashing
and dropped back in the bin. When the bombing stopped, Nato merely
shrugged and turned elsewhere. The Danube "blocked for 20 years"? Who
Spinning for victory /DailyTelegraph,16 Octobar 1999
Spinning for victory
Four months ago the war in Kosovo ended. But
pictures of victorious soldiers and smiling civilians
that were beamed round the world belied a narrow
escape. Edward Stourton describes how Nato nearly
lost the media war
APRIL 15, 1999. It was the low point of what he was to look back on as
the worst week of the Kosovo war, and Jamie Shea, Nato spokesman, was
still at his desk in Brussels at 11 at night when the call came through from
Washington. It was an old friend, now working for Bill Clinton's National
Security Council. "Jamie," he said, "I wanted to tip you off that I've just been
listening in on a phone call between Tony Blair and President Clinton. Their
conclusion is that you need help, and your life is about to change."
It was not until the next day, when Shea received another call, this time from
Downing Street, that he understood what change would mean. Alastair
Campbell, Blair's press spokesman, was on his way from London, and he
was bringing a blueprint for a revolution. The world's most powerful military
machine was now to be directed not by soldiers but spin doctors.
The way they penetrated the heart of Nato's operation is the untold story of
the Kosovo campaign: "The fact that we were successful in our media
operation," one White House official who was seconded to work in Brussels
claimed to me, "ultimately led Milosevic to capitulate."
Nato had embarked on the air campaign
three weeks before with a weakness in its
political armoury that could have proved
fatal. There was always a risk that the
Alliance's unity of purpose would crack
because of the politics in play in its 19
member states, but the resources dedicated
to selling the war to the people were
derisory. Jamie Shea bubbles with energy,
and is blessed with a gift for the crisp
phrase; the combination of an academic
mind (a doctorate in modern history from
Oxford) and a down-to-earth manner (East
London upbringing, son of a
sewing-machine engineer) made him a
highly effective communicator. But he had
only a tiny staff, and in the early days of the
conflict he was fighting a debilitating
bureaucratic battle on the home front.
He faced a press corps 300- to 400-strong and ravenous for up-to-date
information. But he could offer them only what had come through the military
reporting process, and that was so cumbersome that most of his news was
stale before he could deliver it. It might take four or five hours before pilots
were fully debriefed after a mission. Their reports would be compiled locally,
then sent up the chain of command to Shape (Supreme Headquarters of
Allied Powers in Europe). Shape is at Mons, 45 minutes from Nato itself,
and because of the military suspicion of open phone lines, an officer from the
media department - usually Colonel Konrad Freytag, a punctilious German -
would drive up the motorway to Brussels each afternoon with his bag of
goodies for the daily briefing. By the time Shea stood before the press at
3pm, Belgrade had had a clear run at dictating the day's news agenda.
Shea felt the military were giving the information war a low priority. "They
had to have an organisation on the military side which could find things out
quickly," he says, adding, in a slightly catty aside directed at the media office
at Shape, "With the military, what counts is rank. If you have a four-star
general saying he needs the facts, you get them rather more quickly than if
you have a lieutenant-colonel." The system, he said, needed "a lot of
In the Kosovo campaign, Nato's political masters, especially Bill Clinton,
were determined to minimise risk. Airpower alone was to be used; high
altitudes would protect the pilots, while technology provided the precision.
But the strategy that gave Nato command of the air delivered command of
the airwaves to the enemy; and no one was prepared for that. Nato's images
of the war would always be one stage removed - those now-familiar grainy
cockpit video shots that seem so much less real than the "virtual reality" of
most modern computer games. By contrast, the close-up images of the
battlefield were Belgrade's to control.
When the big broadcasters began to report regularly from Serbia, Nato's
inability to provide first-hand information from the ground left its media team
even more exposed. The experience left many of them with a deep-seated
contempt for the way the Western media reported from the Serb side. Let
them talk for a while, and the venom begins to flow.
General Wesley Clark, Nato's Supreme Commander, routinely took time off
from the war effort to shout at the television screen in general and CNN in
particular. The press, he told me, acted "under compellance" to "satisfy the
masters in Belgrade".
On April 14 came the defining moment in the information war. Nato planes
flying from Aviano, in northern Italy, made two attacks near the town of
Djakovica in southern Kosovo. One of the targets turned out to be a column
of refugees heading for the Albanian border.
The Bajrami family were typical of those travelling the Djakovica to Prizren
road that day. Since being driven from the family farm by Serb police a
month before, Rukmani, her two sons, their wives and 12 children had been
on the move, internal refugees. On the morning of April 14, the Serbs forced
them to join this convoy, several miles long, heading for the Albanian border.
Nato's attack came without warning. At 12.19 GMT or "Zulu" in
military-speak, American F16s flying at high altitude dropped the first of nine
500lb laser-guided GBU bombs. Ferat Bajrami was driving a tractor near
the front of the convoy. He was killed the moment he was hit and his body
was blown on top of his children. His brother, Sokol, lost his hand but
somehow managed to stop his own tractor and take cover in the field by the
By mid-afternoon Serb forces were reporting 80 dead. Even today, some
Nato officials maintain there were military vehicles mixed in with the civilian
tractors and trailers, but there seems little independent evidence to support
that. Sokol Bajrami told me, "The convoy stretched a long way, but up front
there were no police."
In a vivid illustration of the sluggishness of Nato's internal information-flow,
Jamie Shea was tipped off about the strike by a journalist friend who rang
from Belgrade. The Supreme Allied Commander got his first hint of trouble
when he turned on CNN.
The way General Clark reacted to those first Serb pictures showing what
seemed to be civilian victims of Nato planes, sounds suspiciously like panic.
There was an interview with American radio booked into his diary for that
afternoon, and just before he went on the air, one of his staff rushed in with
the transcript of a Serb radio transmission Nato had just intercepted. On the
basis of this raw intelligence, General Clark publicly accused the Serbs of an
act of extreme brutality; he said they had opened fire on the civilians in the
refugee column, in revenge for Nato's strike on Serb forces north of
It was simply not true. The radio conversation Nato had intercepted had
been mistranslated. It was, Clark told me lamely, all a question of "the use of
indefinite articles and some other things in the translation itself".
Nato had a significant fund of goodwill to draw on; most of the
correspondents trusted Jamie Shea. But in the days that followed, the
Alliance ran through that trust like a spendthrift. Clark's blunder was a bad
start; the following day's briefing made things worse.
On April 15 a lieutenant-colonel from the media department at Shape
appeared at Nato bearing a video tape of an American pilot's debriefing
The pilot had been in action above Djakovica on the day the refugee convoy
was hit. The picture could not be shown because it was judged that it might
endanger the officer, but his voice had been cleared for use at the briefing.
The press assumed they were listening to the voice of a pilot who had
bombed the main refugee column, and so did Jamie Shea; they were not.
Quite how this extraordinary confusion arose is still unclear. Shea rather
generously puts it down to an excess of military zeal. "They watched CNN
and the BBC - they wanted to help me and they tried to get me anything they
could." The effect was to add to the impression of deliberate deception by
The tensions between the military at Shape and the civilians at Nato came to
a head under the pressure. Two days after the bombing, Brigadier General
Giuseppe Morani, the colourless Italian who stood at Jamie Shea's side for
many of the daily briefings, appeared with yet another explanation of what
had happened. Shea looked through the text, decided it would only add to
the confusion and stopped Morani from using it.
Relations with the press were deteriorating rapidly. Mark Laity, the BBC's
defence correspondent, who was based in Brussels throughout the conflict,
had been promised, "Today you're going to get the story." When it did not
come out, the official who had tipped him off was "literally red-faced with
rage". "We couldn't tell it," he said to Laity. "We were blocked."
It was not until Monday, April 19, five days after the convoy bombing, that
Nato finally admitted what its planes had done. It was bad enough that the
Alliance was killing the people it was supposed to be protecting; over that
weekend, as the military struggled to get the story straight, there was a strong
suspicion that it was prepared to lie about it too.
The Djakovica incident forced Bill Clinton and Tony Blair to recognise that
Nato's press operation could prove to be the Alliance's Achilles heel.
Support for the bombing campaign among its members had been tentative
from the start. The war was now three weeks old and some governments -
especially the Social Democrats' coalition in Germany, which was engaged in
its first offensive military action since the Second World War - were growing
increasingly nervous about public opinion. Another PR disaster like this could
have catastrophic political consequences. Alastair Campbell took the
Eurostar to Brussels.
On the train, he sketched out an
organisational chart; Jamie Shea kept a
copy in his office drawer as a souvenir
when the war was over. The new Media
Operations Centre - or MOC, as it
became known in a military culture
addicted to acronym - was to be
structured to cover every conceivable front
in what was now to be fought as a
full-scale information war.
The Campbell blueprint broke down the
work into distinct, snappily named
sections. "Rebuttals" and "Talking Heads",
for example, were to monitor Allied and
Serbian media output; "Lines" and "Article
factory" to generate soundbites and copy
for military and political leaders (see box).
It was an ambitious project, and it needed
staffing. One of those who found himself
packing his bags for Brussels at 24 hours'
notice told me, "Alastair Campbell put out
a call to his counterparts in Bonn, Paris
and Washington and said, 'Give me your
best and your brightest.' "
The new team pulled down walls at Nato
to build themselves an operational centre -
to the horror of Brussels bureaucrats -
and, with the political clout provided by
the backing of Blair and Clinton, forced
the military to hand over its most sophisticated communications equipment.
Unsurprisingly, the revolution was bitterly resented in some quarters at
Shape. The information team there felt they had been "marginalised" by the
way Campbell "turned everything over". Some members of the Media
Operations Centre would bypass Shape altogether if they needed to;
Colonel P J Crowley, for example, would simply ring a friend at the
Pentagon if he wanted to know something quickly.
But it was the intrusion of political professionals that really irked the military.
"Alastair Campbell's arrival tainted Nato's credibility," one officer told me.
"The same apparatus that can win an election can't win a war." One member
of the Downing Street team spent most of the remainder of the war at
General Clark's side, even attending the conferences at which Nato's
commanders discussed their bomb targets so that he could prepare the press
strategy for the following day.
The MOC's work soon acquired a wider political dimension. One of
Campbell's innovations was "The Grid". In twice-daily conference calls
between Brussels and the key national capitals, the MOC team co-ordinated
the diaries of Nato's national leaders to ensure maximum media impact. They
also co-ordinated the "message", so that the Alliance's political leadership
would speak with one voice. Presidents and prime ministers, generals and
foreign secretaries were having the themes of their public pronouncements
and the way they organised their time directed from the MOC's offices at
No one imagined Milosevic would hold out for as long as he did, and as
doubts about the air war took root, the MOC team proved its value. When
Nato planes made other mistakes, such as bombing the Chinese Embassy,
the Nato press machine put the lessons of Djakovica to good use. The
relentlessly upbeat bomb-damage assessments pumped out to the press in
Brussels also took some of the momentum from the growing campaign for a
Once Milosevic had capitulated, Nato admitted that its estimates of the
number of tanks and artillery pieces destroyed were, to put it politely,
optimistic. While the outcome was in the balance the spin doctors were
briefing for all they were worth. Mark Laity recalls querying the figures when
they "started ramping up the results". "They said, 'Oh, it's different from
previous wars. You know, we've got videos, we're doing much more careful
examination." Laity was persuaded. By the time the truth came out, it no
General Clark and Alastair Campbell got on well when they first met at the
height of the Djakovica convoy crisis. The extent of the general's conversion
to the spin doctor's creed may be judged from this astonishing statement:
"The right way to fight a propaganda offensive is not with more propaganda,"
he told me. "It's to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and
do it as rapidly as possible. But you need some smart people who can tell
you what piece of truth you are looking for." The truth, it seems, is a little like
one of those high-tech bombs his pilots were carrying; it simply needs
precision engineering to perform properly. Campbell and his team were not,
Clark insists, spin doctors, they were "people who understood which pieces
of information were important to provide to the public".
On his subsequent trips to Brussels, Alastair Campbell was accorded the
singular privilege of staying at Clark's chateau in Belgium.
Correspondent: How the War Was Spun, BBC2, 6.50pm tonight
This is an old article but a very good point for some of the people on this board that are operating on the basis of a "broken record" and twist the truth one more time, to my, so called advantage.
And just so you know : I`m sick of you Albanians who are sacrifying the lives of innocent Albanians and others, just to satisfy your hunger for other countries land.
Gordana Burazer, Belgrade
The view from Belgrade
13 April 1999
SIR - Both myself (a Serb) and my
Croatian husband have been in total
opposition to our president and his
regime for the last 10 years. We
were, like many people here, very
much against the war in Croatia and
Bosnia - I don't know how many
protests and demonstrations we
participated in. The last one was a
big protest all over Serbia in the
winter of 1997, against the rigging of
local elections. As far as I know,
most countries supported us,
especially Western countries, those
who are bombing us now.
But now, for Nato, all of us in this
country are Milosevic, we are not
people with the same rights as all
other nations. We are targets and
rats who must live in basements if
we want to stay alive. Do you know
how many people in Yugoslavia are
behind Milosevic? Based on the
results of the last election, only 25
per cent of the population in Serbia
support him and his party. 100 per
cent of us are targets.
Nato says that it hits only military
targets. This is one big lie. I can
send you a list of all the factories
which don't exist any more and they
had nothing to do with the army.
Many villages have been destroyed
too, in some of them there were only
Albanian people. Why bomb
schools? Why bomb our ancient
medieval monasteries which are
under the protection of UNESCO?
People must know something about
our history. Serbia has always had
problems with Albanians in its
history. The Albanians always
wanted Kosovo as their country,
they didn't want live in Albania
because Albania was very poor
under Enver Hodza and Kosovo is
rich, with many natural resources.
But Kosovo has been Serbian land
for centuries; we have died so many
times in history for that land. In fact,
Serbia was born there. The real
name of Kosovo is not just Kosovo
but "Kosovo and Metohija". This
other part of the name means
"monastery land" and in the past it
belonged to our church.
When the old Yugoslavia was
created, after World War II, the
Albanians were granted autonomy.
During that time, the percentage of
Serbian people in Kosovo dropped
from 50 per cent to 10 per cent.
When Tito died, the Albanians
started to torture the rest of the
Serbs very openly, with the result
that many Serbs left Kosovo.
Milosevic used this fact to justify his
decision to discontinue the
autonomy of the Albanians (whilst
leaving their rights to have schooling
in their language, to have their own
TV and radio stations and to be
bound by the same law as the
Then the war in Croatia started and
everybody forgot Kosovo. The
Albanians used that time to
organise a parallel country and
government, schools, universities
and finally the KLA as their army.
They used all of Milosevic's sins, all
the anti-Serb feeling he produced in
the world, and now we are all
Because Nato has attacked our
country and is killing our people, we
are all united together and Milosevic
is stronger then ever. There is no
more opposition. After this, if I
survive this destruction of my
country, I will be again against
Milosevic, but now I can't be.
Nowhere and never has force been
able to stop local dictators: you
must leave Milosevic to us. The
world must find some other way to
solve this problem, as while we have
missiles in our sky we will not
surrender and not negotiate.
Nobody should forget this, I had to post it again,
though I cannot imagine people not being aware of it by now.
"Suitboy on Wednesday, October 13, 1999 - 04:24 pm:
WARNING!! WARNING!! WARNING!! WARNING!!
For those who need to be reminded, RFE/RL stands for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
Neither are free or independent media. They are fully funded and staffed by the United States government
and totally infiltrated by the Central Intelligence Agency.
STRATFOR KOSOVO UPDATE
October 17, 1999
WHERE ARE KOSOVO'S KILLING FIELDS?
1. The Justification for War
2. The Claims Grow
3. The Investigation
4. What Happened?
During its four-month war against Yugoslavia, NATO argued that Kosovo was a land wracked by mass murder; official estimates indicated that some 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in a Serb rampage of ethnic cleansing. Yet four months into an international investigation bodies numbering only in the hundreds have been exhumed. The FBI has found fewer than 200. Piecing together the evidence, it appears that the number of civilian ethnic Albanians killed is far less than was claimed. While new findings could invalidate this view, evidence of mass murder has not yet materialized on the scale used to justify the war. This could have serious foreign policy and political implications for NATO and alliance governments.
The Justification for War
On Oct. 11, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Republic of Yugoslavia (ICTY) reported that the Trepca mines in Kosovo, where 700 murdered ethnic Albanians were reportedly hidden, in fact contained no bodies whatsoever. Three days later, the U.S. Defense Department released its review of the Kosovo conflict, saying that NATO's war was a reaction to the ethnic cleansing campaign by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. His campaign was "a brutal means to end the crisis on his terms by expelling and killing ethnic Albanians, overtaxing bordering nations' infrastructures, and fracturing the NATO alliance."
The finding by The Hague's investigators and the assertion by the Pentagon raise an important question. Four months after the war and the introduction of forensic teams from many countries, precisely how many bodies of murdered ethnic Albanians have been found? This is not an exercise in the macabre, but a reasonable question, given the explicit aims of NATO in the war, and the claims the alliance made on the magnitude of Serbian war crimes. Indeed, the central justification for war was that only intervention would prevent the slaughter of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population.
On March 22, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons, "We must act to save thousands of innocent men, women and children from humanitarian catastrophe, from death, barbarism and ethnic cleansing by a brutal dictatorship." The next day, as the air war began, President Clinton stated: "What we are trying to do is to limit his (Milosevic's) ability to win a military victory and engage in ethnic cleansing and slaughter innocent people and to do everything we can to induce him to take this peace agreement."
As NATO's first intervention in a sovereign nation, the war in Kosovo required considerable justification. Throughout the year, NATO officials built their case, first calling the situation in Kosovo "ethnic cleansing," and then "genocide." In March, State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters that NATO did not need to prove that the Serbs were carrying out a policy of genocide because it was clear that crimes against humanity were being committed. But just after the war in June, President Bill Clinton again invoked the term, saying, "NATO stopped deliberate, systematic efforts at ethnic cleansing and genocide."
The Claims Grow
Indeed, as the months progressed, the estimates of those killed by a concerted Serb campaign, dubbed Operation Horseshoe, have swollen. Early on, experts systematically generated what appeared to be sober and conservative estimates of the dead. For example, prior to the outbreak of war, independent experts reported that approximately 2,500 Kosovar Albanians had been killed in the Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign.
That number grew during and after the war. Early in the campaign, huge claims arose about the number of ethnic Albanian men feared missing and presumed dead. The fog and passion of war can explain this. But by June 17, just before the end of the war, British Foreign Office Minister Geoff Hoon reportedly said: "According to the reports we have gathered, mostly from the refugees, it appears that around 10,000 people have been killed in more than 100 massacres." He further clarified that these 10,000 were ethnic Albanians killed by Serbs.
On Aug. 2, the number jumped up by another 1,000 when Bernard Kouchner, the United Nations' chief administrator in Kosovo, said that about 11,000 bodies had already been found in common graves throughout Kosovo. He said his source for this information was the ICTY. But the ICTY said that it had not provided this information. To this day, the source of Kouchner's estimates remains unclear. However, that number of about 10,000 ethnic Albanians dead at the hands of the Serbs remains the basic, accepted number, or at least the last official word on the scope of the atrocities.
Regardless of the precise genesis of the numbers, there is no question that NATO leaders argued that the war was not merely justified, but morally obligatory. If the Serbs were not committing genocide in the technical sense, they were certainly guilty of mass murder on an order of magnitude not seen in Europe since Nazi Germany. The Yugoslav government consistently denied that mass murder was taking place, arguing that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was fabricating claims of mass murder in order to justify NATO intervention and the secession of Kosovo from Serbia. NATO rejected Belgrade's argument out of hand.
Thus, the question of the truth or falsehood of the claims of mass murder is much more than a matter of merely historical interest. It cuts to the heart of the war - and NATO's current peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. Certainly, there was a massive movement of Albanian refugees, but that alone was not the alliance's justification for war. The justification was that the Yugoslav army and paramilitaries were carrying out Operation Horseshoe, and that the war would cut short this operation.
But the aftermath of the war has brought precious little evidence, despite the entry of Western forensics teams searching for evidence of war crimes. Mass murder is difficult to hide. One need only think of the entry of outsiders into Nazi Germany, Cambodia or Rwanda to understand that the death of thousands of people leaves massive and undeniable evidence. Given that many NATO leaders were under attack at home - particularly in Europe - for having waged the war, the alliance could have seized upon continual and graphic evidence of the killing fields of Kosovo to demonstrate the necessity of the war and undercut critics. Indeed, such evidence would help the alliance undermine Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, by helping to destroying his domestic support and energizing his opponents.
As important, no one appears to really be trying to recover all of the Kosovo war's reported victims. Of the eight human rights organizations most prominent in Kosovo, none is specifically tasked with recovering victims and determining the cause of death. These groups instead are interviewing refugees and survivors to obtain testimony on human rights violations, sanitizing wells and providing mental health services to survivors. All of this is important work. But it is not the recovery and counting of bodies.
It is important to note that a sizable number of people who resided in Kosovo before the war are now said to be unaccounted for - 17,000, according to U.S. officials. However, the methodology for arriving at this number is unclear. According to NATO, many records were destroyed by the Serbs. Certainly, no census has been conducted in Kosovo since the end of the war. Thus, it is completely unclear where the specific number of 17,000 comes from. There are undoubtedly many missing, but it is unclear whether these people are dead, in Serbian prisons - official estimates vary widely - or whether they have taken refuge in other countries.
The dead, however, have not turned up in the way that the West anticipated, at least not yet. The massive Trepca mines have so far yielded nothing. Most of the dead have turned up in small numbers in the most rural parts of Kosovo, often in wells. News reports say that the largest grave sites have contained a few dozen victims; some officials say the largest site contained far more, approximately 100 bodies. But the bodies are generally being found in very small numbers - far smaller than encountered after the Bosnian war.
Only one effort now underway may shed light on just how many ethnic Albanian civilians were - or weren't - killed by Serb forces. The ICTY is coordinating efforts to investigate war crimes in Kosovo. Like human rights organizations, the tribunal's primary aim is not to find all the reported dead. Instead, its investigators are gathering evidence to prosecute war criminals for four offenses: grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, violations of the laws of war, and genocide and crimes against humanity. The tribunal believes that it will, however, be able to produce an accurate death count in the future, although it will not say when. A progress report may be released in late October, according to tribunal spokesman Paul Risley.
Under the tribunal's guidance, police and medical forensic teams from most NATO countries and some neutral nations are assigned to investigate certain sites. The teams have come from 15 nations: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. The United States has sent the largest team, with 62 members. Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom have each sent teams of approximately 20. Most countries dispatched teams of fewer than 10 members.
So far, investigators are a little more than one quarter of the way through their field work, having examined about 150 of 400 suspected sites. The investigative process is as follows: ICTY investigators follow up on reports from refugees or KFOR troops to confirm the existence of sites. Then the tribunal deploys each team to a certain region and indicates the sites to be investigated. Sites are either mass graves - which according to the tribunal means more than one body is in the grave - or crime scenes, which contain other evidence. The teams exhume the bodies, count them, and perform autopsies to determine age, gender, cause of death and time of death all for the purpose of compiling evidence for future war crimes trials. The by-product of this work, then, is the actual number of bodies recovered. The investigations will continue next year when the weather allows further exhumations.
In the absence of an official tally of bodies found by the teams, we are forced to piece together anecdotal evidence to get a picture of what actually happened in Kosovo. From this evidence, it is clear that the teams are not finding large numbers of dead, nothing to substantiate claims of "genocide."
The FBI's work is a good example. With the biggest effort, the bureau has conducted two separate investigations, one in June and one in August, and will probably be called back again. In its most recent visit, the FBI found 124 bodies in the British sector of Kosovo, according to FBI spokesman Dave Miller. Almost all the victims were killed by a gunshot wound to the head or blunt force trauma to the head. The victims' ages were between 4 and 94. Most of the victims appeared to have been killed in March and April. In its two trips to Kosovo since the war's end, the FBI has found a total of 30 sites containing almost 200 bodies.
The Spanish team was told to prepare for the worst, as it was going into Kosovo's real killing fields. It was told to prepare for over 2000 autopsies. But the team's findings fell far short of those expectations. It found no mass graves and only 187 bodies, all buried in individual graves. The Spanish team's chief inspector compared Kosovo to Rwanda. "In the former Yugoslavia crimes were committed, some no doubt horrible, but they derived from the war," Juan Lopez Palafox was quoted as saying in the newspaper El Pais. "In Rwanda we saw 450 corpses [at one site] of women and children, one on top of another, all with their heads broken open."
Bodies are simply not where they were reported to be. For example, in July a mass grave believed to contain some 350 bodies in Ljubenic, near Pec - an area of concerted fighting - reportedly contained only seven bodies after the exhumation was complete. There have been similar cases on a smaller scale, with initial claims of 10 to 50 buried bodies proven false.
Investigators have frequently gone to reported killing sites where only to find no bodies. In Djacovica, town officials claimed that 100 ethnic Albanians had been murdered but reportedly alleged that Serbs had returned in the middle of the night, dug up the bodies, and carried them away. In Pusto Selo, villagers reported that 106 men were captured and killed by Serbs at the end of March. NATO even released satellite imagery of what appeared to be numerous graves, but again no bodies were found at the site. Villagers claimed that Serbian forces came back and removed the bodies. In Izbica, refugees reported that 150 ethnic Albanians were killed in March. Again, their bodies are nowhere to be found. Ninety-six men from Klina vanished in April; their bodies have yet to be located. Eighty-two men were reportedly killed in Kraljan, but investigators have yet to find one of their bodies. What Happened?
Killings and brutality certainly took place, and it is possible that massive new findings will someday be uncovered. Without being privy to the details of each investigation on the ground in Kosovo, it is possible only to voice suspicion and not conclusive proof. However, our own research and survey of officials indicates that the numbers of dead so far are in the hundreds, not the thousands. It is possible that huge, new graves await to be discovered. But ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are presumably quick to reveal the biggest sites in the hope of recovering family members or at least finding out what happened. In addition, large sites would have the most witnesses, evidence and visibility for inspection teams. Given progress to date, it seems difficult to believe that the 10,000 claimed at the end of the war will be found. The killing of ethnic Albanian civilians appears to be orders of magnitude below the claims of NATO, alliance governments and early media reports.
How could this have occurred? It appears that both governments and outside observers relied on sources controlled by the KLA, both before and during the war. During the war this reliance was heightened; governments relied heavily on the accounts of refugees arriving in Albania and Macedonia, where the KLA was an important conduit of information. The sophisticated public relations machine of the KLA and the fog of war may have generated a perception that is now proving dubious.
What is clear is that no one is systematically collecting the numbers of the dead in Kosovo even though such work would only help NATO in its efforts to remain in Kosovo and could possibly topple Milosevic. What can be learned of the investigations to date indicates deaths far below expectations. Finally, all of this suspicion can be easily dispelled by a comprehensive report by NATO, the United Nations, or the United States and other responsible governments detailing the findings of the forensic teams, and giving timeframes for completion and results. It is unclear that, even if the ICTY releases a report soon, it will address all these issues. The lack of an interim report indicating the discovery of thousands of Albanian victims strikes us as decidedly odd. One would think that Clinton, Blair and the other leaders would be eager to demonstrate that the war was not only justified, but morally obligatory.
It really does matter how many were killed in Kosovo. The foreign policy and political implications are substantial. There is a line between oppression and mass murder. It is not a bright, shining one, but the distinction between hundreds of dead and tens of thousands is clear. The blurring of that line has serious implications not merely for NATO's integrity, but for the notion of sovereignty. If a handful - or a few dozen - people are killed in labor unrest, does the international community have the right to intervene by force? By the very rules that NATO has set up, the magnitude of slaughter is critical.
Politically, the alliance depended heavily on the United States for information about the war. If the United States and NATO were mistaken, then alliance governments that withstood heavy criticism, such as the Italian and German governments, may be in trouble. Confidence in both U.S. intelligence and leadership could decline sharply. Stung by scandal and questions about its foreign policy, the Clinton administration is already having difficulty influencing world events. That influence could fall further. There are many consequences if it turns out that NATO's claims about Serb atrocities were substantially false.
I apologize in advance for the length of this post. However, I think EVERYONE concerned with the tragedy of Yugoslavia needs to read the entire article thoughtfully and carefully.
Covert Action Quarterly
Spring-Summer 1999 # 67
SEEING YUGOSLAVIA THROUGH A DARK GLASS:
POLITICS, MEDIA, AND THE IDEOLOGY OF GLOBALIZATION
By Diana Johnstone
Years of experience in and out of both mainstream and alternative media have made me aware of the power of the dominant ideology to impose certain interpretations on international news. During the Cold War, most world news for American consumption had to be framed as part of the Soviet-U.S. contest. Since then, a new ideological bias frames the news. The way the violent fragmentation of Yugoslavia has been reported is the most stunning example.
I must admit that it took me some time to figure this out, even though I had a long-standing interest in and some knowledge of Yugoslavia. I spent time there as a student in 1953, living in a Belgrade dormitory and learning the language. In 1984, in a piece for In These Times,1 I warned that extreme decentralization, conflicting economic interests between the richer and poorer regions, austerity policies imposed by the IMF, and the decline of universal ideals were threatening Yugoslavia with "re-Balkanization" in the wake of Tito’s death and desanctification. "Local ethnic interests are reasserting themselves," I wrote. "The danger is that these rival local interests may become involved in the rivalries of outside powers. This is how the Balkans in the past were a powder keg of world war." Writing this took no special clairvoyance. The danger of Yugoslavia’s disintegration was quite obvious to all serious observers well before Slobodan Miloševic arrived on the scene.
As the country was torn apart in the early nineties, I was unable to keep up with all that was happening. In those years, my job as press officer for the Greens in the European Parliament left me no time to investigate the situation myself. Aware that there were serious flaws in the way media and politicians were reacting, I wrote an article warning against combating "nationalism" by taking sides for one nationalism against another, and against judging a complex situation by analogy with totally different times and places.2 "Every nationalism stimulates others," I noted. "Historical analogies should be drawn with caution and never allowed to obscure the facts." However, there was no stopping the tendency to judge the Balkans, about which most people knew virtually nothing, by analogy with Hitler Germany, about which people at least imagined they knew a lot, and which enabled analysis to be rapidly abandoned in favor of moral certitude and righteous indignation.
However, it was only later, when I was able to devote considerable time to my own research, that I realized the extent of the deception–which is in large part self-deception.
I mention all this to stress that I understand the immense difficulty of gaining a clear view of the complex situation in the Balkans. The history of the region and the interplay of internal political conflicts and external influences would be hard to grasp even without propaganda distortions. Nobody can be blamed for being confused. Moreover, by now, many people have invested so much emotion in a one-sided view of the situation that they are scarcely able to consider alternative interpretations.
It is not necessarily because particular journalists or media are "alternative" that they are free from the dominant interpretation and the dominant world view. In fact, in the case of the Yugoslav tragedy, the irony is that "alternative" or "left" activists and writers have frequently taken the lead in likening the Serbs, the people who most wanted to continue to live in multi-cultural Yugoslavia, to Nazi racists, and in calling for military intervention on behalf of ethnically defined secessionist movements3–all supposedly in the name of "multi-cultural Bosnia," a country which, unlike Yugoslavia, would have to be built from scratch by outsiders.
The Serbs and Yugoslavia
Like other Christian peoples in the Ottoman Empire, the Serbs were heavily taxed and denied ownership of property or political power reserved for Muslims. In the early years of the nineteenth century, Serb farmers led a revolt that spread to Greece. The century-long struggle put an end to the Ottoman Empire.
The Habsburg monarchy found it natural that when one empire receded, another should advance, and sought to gain control over the lands lost to the Ottoman Turks. Although Serbs had rallied to the Habsburgs in earlier wars against the Turks, Serbia soon appeared to Vienna as the main obstacle to its own expansion into the Balkans. By the end of the nineteenth century, Vienna was seeking to fragment the Serb-inhabited lands to prevent what it named "Greater Serbia," taking control of Bosnia-Herzegovina and fostering the birth of Albanian nationalism (as converts to Islam, Albanian feudal chieftains enjoyed privileges under the Ottoman Empire and combated the Christian liberation movements).
Probably because they had been deprived of full citizens’ rights under the Ottoman Turks, and because their own society of farmers and traders was relatively egalitarian, Serb political leaders throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were extremely receptive to the progressive ideals of the French Revolution. While all the other liberated Balkan nations imported German princelings as their new kings, the Serbs promoted their own pig farmers into a dynasty, one of whose members translated John Stuart Mill’s "On Liberty" into Serbian during his student days. Nowhere in the Balkans did Western progressive ideas exercise such attraction as in Serbia, no doubt due to the historic circumstances of the country’s emergence from four hundred years of subjugation.
Meanwhile, intellectuals in Croatia, a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire increasingly rankling under subordination to the Hungarian nobility, initiated the Yugoslav movement for cultural, and eventually political, unification of the South Slav peoples, notably the Serbs and Croats, separated by history and religion (the Serbs having been converted to Christianity by the Greek Orthodox Church and the Croats by the Roman Catholic Church) but united by language. The idea of a "Southslavia" was largely inspired by the national unification of neighboring Italy, occurring around the same time.
In 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire seized the pretext of the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand to declare war and crush Serbia once and for all. When Austria-Hungary lost the world war it had thus initiated, leaders in Slovenia and Croatia chose to unite with Serbia in a single kingdom. This decision enabled both Slovenia and Croatia to go from the losing to the winning side in World War I, thereby avoiding war reparations and enlarging their territory, notably on the Adriatic coast, at the expense of Italy. The joint Kingdom was renamed "Yugoslavia" in 1929. The conflicts between Croats and Serbs that plagued what is called "the first Yugoslavia" were described by Rebecca West in her celebrated book, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, first published in 1941.
In April 1941, Serb patriots in Belgrade led a revolt against an accord reached between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Nazi Germany. This led to Nazi bombing of Belgrade, a German invasion, creation of an independent fascist state of Croatia (including Bosnia-Herzegovina), and attachment of much of the Serbian province of Kosovo to Albania, then a puppet of Mussolini’s Italy. The Croatian Ustashe undertook a policy of genocide against Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies within the territory of their "Greater Croatia," while the Germans raised SS divisions among the Muslims of Bosnia and Albania.
In Serbia itself, the German occupants announced that one hundred Serbian hostages would be executed for each German killed by resistance fighters. The threat was carried out. As a result, the royalist Serbian resistance (the first guerrilla resistance to Nazi occupation in Europe) led by Draña Mihailovi¦ adopted a policy of holding off attacks on the Germans in expectation of an Allied invasion. The Partisans, led by Croatian communist Josip Broz Tito, adopted a more active strategy of armed resistance, which made considerable gains in the predominantly Serb border regions of Croatia and Bosnia and won support from Churchill for its effectiveness. A civil war developed between Mihailovi¦’s "Chetniks" and Tito’s Partisans–which was also a civil war between Serbs, since Serbs were the most numerous among the Partisans. These divisions between Serbs–torn between Serbian and Yugoslav identity–have never been healed and help explain the deep confusion among Serbs during the breakup of Yugoslavia.
After World War II, the new Communist Yugoslavia tried to build "brotherhood and unity" on the myth that all the peoples had contributed equally to liberation from fascism. Mihailovi¦ was executed, and school children in post-war Yugoslavia learned more about the "fascist" nature of his Serbian nationalist Chetniks than they did about Albanian and Bosnian Muslims who had volunteered for the SS, or even about the killing of Serbs in the Jasenovac death camp run by Ustashe in Western Bosnia.
After the 1948 break with Moscow, the Yugoslav communist leadership emphasized its difference from the Soviet bloc by adopting a policy of "self-management" supposed to lead by fairly rapid stages to the "withering away of the State." Tito repeatedly revised the Constitution to strengthen local authorities, while retaining final decision-making power for himself. When he died in 1980, he thus left behind a hopelessly complicated system that could not work without his arbitration.4 Serbia in particular was unable to enact vitally necessary reforms because its territory had been divided up, with two "autonomous provinces," Voivodina and Kosovo, able to veto measures taken by Serbia, while Serbia could not intervene in their affairs.
In the 1980s, the rise in interest rates and unfavorable world trade conditions dramatically increased the foreign debt Yugoslavia (like many "third world" countries) had been encouraged to run up thanks to its standing in the West as a socialist country not belonging to the Soviet bloc. The IMF arrived with its familiar austerity measures, which could only be taken by a central government. The leaders of the richer Republics–Slovenia and Croatia–did not want to pay for the poorer ones. Moreover, in all former socialist countries, the big political question is privatization of State and social property, and local communist leaders in Slovenia and Croatia could expect to get a greater share for themselves within the context of division of Yugoslavia into separate little states.5
At this stage, a gradual, negotiated dismantling of Yugoslavia into smaller States was not impossible. It would have entailed reaching agreement on division of assets and liabilities, and numerous adjustments to take into account conflicting interests. If pursued openly, however, it might have encountered popular opposition–after all, very many people, perhaps a majority, enjoyed being citizens of a large country with an enviable international reputation. What would have been the result of a national referendum on the question of preservation of Yugoslavia?
None was ever held. The first multiparty elections in postwar Yugoslavia were held in 1990, not nationwide in all of Yugoslavia, but separately by each Republic–a method which in itself reinforced separatist power elites. Sure of the active sympathy of Germany, Austria, and the Vatican, leaders in Slovenia and Croatia prepared the fait accompli of unilateral, unnegotiated secession, proclaimed in 1991. Such secession was illegal, under Yugoslav and international law, and was certain to precipitate civil war. The key role of German (and Vatican) support was to provide rapid international recognition of the new independent Republics, in order to transform Yugoslavia into an "aggressor" on its own territory.6
The political motives that launched the anti-Serb propaganda campaign are obvious enough. Claiming that it was impossible to stay in Yugoslavia because the Serbs were so oppressive was the pretext for the nationalist leaders in Slovenia and Croatia to set up their own little statelets which, thanks to early and strong German support, could "jump the queue" and get into the richmen’s European club ahead of the rest of Yugoslavia.
The terrible paradox is that very many people, in the sincere desire to oppose racism and aggression, have in fact contributed to demonizing an entire people, the Serbs, thereby legitimizing both ethnic separatism and the new role of NATO as occupying power in the Balkans on behalf of a theoretical "international community."
Already in the 1980s, Croatian and ethnic Albanian separatist lobbies had stepped up their efforts to win support abroad, notably in Germany and the United States,7 by claiming to be oppressed by Serbs, citing "evidence" that, insofar as it had any basis in truth, referred to the 1920-1941 Yugoslav kingdom, not to the very different post-World War II Yugoslavia.
The current campaign to demonize the Serbs began in July 1991 with a virulent barrage of articles in the German media, led by the influential conservative newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). In almost daily columns, FAZ editor Johann Georg Reismüller justified the freshly, and illegally, declared "independence" of Slovenia and Croatia by describing "the Yugo-Serbs" as essentially Oriental "militarist Bolsheviks" who have "no place in the European Community." Nineteen months after German reunification, and for the first time since Hitler’s defeat in 1945, German media resounded with condemnation of an entire ethnic group reminiscent of the pre-war propaganda against the Jews.8
This German propaganda binge was the signal that times had changed seriously. Only a few years earlier, a seemingly broad German peace movement had stressed the need to put an end to "enemy stereotypes" (Feindbilder). Yet the sudden ferocious emergence of the enemy stereotype of "the Serbs" did not shock liberal or left Germans, who were soon repeating it themselves. It might seem that the German peace movement had completed its historic mission once its contribution to altering the image of Germany had led Gorbachev to endorse reunification. The least one can say is that the previous efforts at reconciliation with peoples who suffered from Nazi invasion stopped short when it came to the Serbs.
In the Bundestag, German Green leader Joschka Fischer pressed for disavowal of "pacifism" in order to "combat Auschwitz," thereby equating Serbs with Nazis. In a heady mood of self-righteous indignation, German politicians across the board joined in using Germany’s past guilt as a reason, not for restraint, as had been the logic up until reunification, but on the contrary, for "bearing their share of the military burden." In the name of human rights, the Federal Republic of Germany abolished its ban on military operations outside the NATO defensive area. Germany could once again be a "normal" military power–thanks to the "Serb threat."
The near unanimity was all the more surprising in that the "enemy stereotype" of the Serb had been dredged up from the most belligerent German nationalism of the past. "Serbien muss sterbien" (a play on the word sterben, to die), meaning "Serbia must die" was a famous popular war cry of World War I.9 Serbs had been singled out for slaughter during the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia. One would have thought that the younger generation of Germans, seemingly so sensitive to the victims of Germany’s aggressive past, would have at least urged caution. Very few did.
On the contrary, what occurred in Germany was a strange sort of mass transfer of Nazi identity, and guilt, to the Serbs. In the case of the Germans, this can be seen as a comforting psychological projection which served to give Germans a fresh and welcome sense of innocence in the face of the new "criminal" people, the Serbs. But the hate campaign against Serbs, started in Germany, did not stop there. Elsewhere, the willingness to single out one of the Yugoslav peoples as the villain calls for other explanations.
From the start, foreign reporters were better treated in Zagreb and in Ljubljana, whose secessionist leaders understood the prime importance of media images in gaining international support, than in Belgrade. The Albanian secessionists in Kosovo or "Kosovars,"10 the Croatian secessionists and the Bosnian Muslims hired an American public relations firm, Ruder Finn, to advance their causes by demonizing the Serbs.11 Ruder Finn deliberately targeted certain publics, notably the American Jewish community, with a campaign likening Serbs to Nazis. Feminists were also clearly targeted by the Croatian nationalist campaign directed out of Zagreb to brand Serbs as rapists.12
The Yugoslav story was complicated; anti-Serb stories had the advantage of being simple and available, and they provided an easy-to-use moral compass by designating the bad guys.
As the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina got underway in mid-1992, American journalists who repeated unconfirmed stories of Serbian atrocities could count on getting published, with a chance of a Pulitzer prize. Indeed, the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting was shared between the two authors of the most sensational "Serb atrocity stories" of the year: Roy Gutman of Newsday and John Burns of the New York Times. In both cases, the prize-winning articles were based on hearsay evidence of dubious credibility. Gutman’s articles, mostly based on accounts by Muslim refugees in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, were collected in a book rather misleadingly entitled A Witness to Genocide, although in fact he had been a "witness" to nothing of the sort. His allegations that Serbs were running "death camps" were picked up by Ruder Finn and widely diffused, notably to Jewish organizations. Burns’s story was no more than an interview with a mentally deranged prisoner in a Sarajevo jail, who confessed to crimes some of which have been since proved never to have been committed.13
On the other hand, there was no market for stories by a journalist who discovered that reported Serbian "rape camps" did not exist (German TV reporter Martin Lettmayer),14 or who included information about Muslim or Croat crimes against Serbs (Belgian journalist Georges Berghezan for one).15 It became increasingly impossible to challenge the dominant interpretation in major media. Editors naturally prefer to keep the story simple: one villain, and as much blood as possible. Moreover, after the German government forced the early recognition of Slovenian and Croatian independence, other Western powers lined up opportunistically with the anti-Serb position. The United States soon moved aggressively into the game by picking its own client state–Muslim Bosnia–out of the ruins.
Foreign news has always been much easier to distort than domestic news. Television coverage simply makes the distortion more convincing. TV crews sent into strange places about which they know next to nothing, send back images of violence that give millions of viewers the impression that "everybody knows what is happening." Such an impression is worse than plain ignorance.
Today, worldwide media such as CNN openly put pressure on governments to respond to the "public opinion" which the media themselves create. Christiane Amanpour tells the U.S. and the European Union what they should be doing in Bosnia; to what extent this is coordinated with U.S. agencies is hard to tell. Indeed, the whole question of which tail wags the dog is wide open. Do media manipulate government, does government manipulate media, or are influential networks manipulating both?
Many officials of Western governments complain openly or privately of being forced into unwise policy decisions by "the pressure of public opinion," meaning the media. A particularly interesting testimony in this regard is that of Otto von Habsburg, the extremely active and influential octogenarian heir to the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, today member of the European Parliament from Bavaria, who has taken a great and one might say paternal interest in the cause of Croatian independence. "If Germany recognized Slovenia and Croatia so rapidly," Habsburg told the Bonn correspondent of the French daily Figaro,16 "even against the will of [then German foreign minister] Hans-Dietrich Genscher who did not want to take that step, it’s because the Bonn government was subjected to an almost irresistible pressure of public opinion. In this regard, the German press rendered a very great service, in particular the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Carl Gustav Ströhm, that great German journalist who works for Die Welt."
Still, the virtually universal acceptance of a one-sided view of Yugoslavia’s collapse cannot be attributed solely to political designs or to sensationalist manipulation of the news by major media. It also owes a great deal to the ideological uniformity prevailing among educated liberals who have become the consensual moral conscience in Northwestern Euro-American society since the end of the Cold War.
Down With the State
This ideology is the expression in moralistic terms of the dominant project for reshaping the world since the United States emerged as sole superpower after the defeat of communism and collapse of the Soviet Union. United States foreign policy for over a century has been dictated by a single overriding concern: to open world markets to American capital and American enterprise. Today this project is triumphant as "economic globalization." Throughout the world, government policies are judged, approved or condemned decisively, not by their populations but by "the markets," meaning the financial markets. Foreign investors, not domestic voters, decide policy. The International Monetary Fund and other such agencies are there to help governments adjust their policies and their societies to market imperatives.
The shift of decision-making power away from elected governments, which is an essential aspect of this particular "economic globalization," is being accompanied by an ideological assault on the nation-state as a political community exercising sovereignty over a defined territory. For all its shortcomings, the nation-state is still the political level most apt to protect citizens’ welfare and the environment from the destructive expansion of global markets. Dismissing the nation-state as an anachronism, or condemning it as a mere expression of "nationalist" exclusivism, overlooks and undermines its long-standing legitimacy as the focal point of democratic development, in which citizens can organize to define and defend their interests.
The irony is that many well-intentioned idealists are unwittingly helping to advance this project by eagerly promoting its moralistic cover: a theoretical global democracy that should replace attempts to strengthen democracy at the supposedly obsolete nation-state level.
Within the United States, the link between anti-nation-state ideology and economic globalization is blurred by the double standard of U.S. leaders who do not hesitate to invoke the supremacy of U.S. "national interest" over the very international institutions they promote in order to advance economic globalization. This makes it seem that such international institutions are a serious obstacle to U.S. global power rather than its expression. However, the United States has the overall military and political power to design and control key international institutions (e.g., the IMF, the World Trade Organization, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia), as well as to undermine those it dislikes (UNESCO when it was attempting to promote liberation of media from essentially American control) or to flout international law with impunity (notably in its Central American "back yard"). Given the present relationship of forces, weakening less powerful nation-states cannot strengthen international democracy, but simply tighten the grip of transnational capital and the criminal networks that flourish in an environment of lawless acquisition.
There is no real contradiction between asserting the primacy of U.S. interests and blasting the nation-state barriers that might allow some organized defense of the interests of other peoples. But impressed by the apparent contradiction, some American liberals are comforted in their belief that nationalism is the number one enemy of mankind, whereas anything that goes against it is progressive.
Indeed, an important asset of the anti-nation-state ideology is its powerful appeal to many liberals and progressives whose internationalism has been disoriented by the collapse of any discernable socialist alternative to capitalism and by the disarray of liberation struggles in the South of the planet.
In the absence of any clear analysis of the contemporary world, the nation-state is readily identified as the cause of war, oppression, and violations of human rights. In short, the only existing context for institutionalized democracy is demonized as the mere expression of a negative, exclusive ideology, "nationalism." This contemporary libertarian view overlooks both the persistence of war in the absence of strong States and the historic function of the nation state as framework for the social pact embodied in democratic forms of legislative decision-making.
Condemnation of the nation-state in a structuralist rather than historical perspective produces mechanical judgments. What is smaller than the nation-state, or what transcends the nation-state, must be better. On the smaller scale, "identities" of all kinds, or "regions," generally undefined, are automatically considered more promising by much of the current generation. On the larger scale, the hope for democracy is being transferred to the European Union, or to international NGOs, or to theoretical institutions such as the proposed International Criminal Court. In the enthusiasm for an envisaged global utopia, certain crucial questions are being neglected, notably: Who will pay for all this? How? Who will enforce which decisions? Until such practical matters are cleared up, brave new institutions such as the ICC risk being no more than further instruments of selective intervention against weaker countries. But the illusion persists that structures of international democracy can be built over the heads of States that are not themselves genuinely supportive of such democracy.
The simplistic interpretation of the Yugoslav crisis as Serbian "aggression" against peaceful multi-cultural Europe, is virtually unassailable, because it is not only credible according to this ideology but seems to confirm it.
It was this ideology that made it possible for the Croatian, Slovenian, and Albanian secessionists and their supporters in Germany and the United States in particular to portray the Yugoslav conflict as the struggle of "oppressed little nations" to free themselves from aggressive Serbian nationalism. In fact, those "little nations" were by no means oppressed in Yugoslavia. Nowhere in the world were and are the cultural rights of national minorities so extensively developed as in Yugoslavia (including the small Yugoslavia made up of Serbia and Montenegro). Politically, not only was Tito himself a Croat and his chief associate, Edvard Kardelj, a Slovene, but a "national key" quota system was rigorously applied to all top posts in the Federal Administration and Armed Forces. The famous "self-management socialism" gave effective control over economic enterprises to Slovenians in Slovenia, Croatians in Croatia, and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The economic gap between the parts of Yugoslavia which had previously belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, that is, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia’s northern province of Voivodina, on the one hand, and the parts whose development had been retarded by Ottoman rule (central Serbia, the Serbian province of Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia) continued to widen throughout both the first and second Yugoslavia. The secession movement in Slovenia was a typical "secession of the rich from the poor" (comparable to Umberto Bossi’s attempt to detach rich Northern Italy from the rest of the country, in order to avoid paying taxes for the poor South). In Croatia, this motivation was combined with a comeback of Ustashe elements which had gone into exile after World War II.
The nationalist pretext of "oppression" was favored by the economic troubles of the 1980s, which led leaders in each Republic to blame the others, and to overlook the benefits of the larger Federal market for all the Republics. The first and most virulent nationalist movements arose in Croatia and Kosovo, where separatism had been favored by Axis occupation of the Balkans in World War II. It was only in the 1980s that a much milder Serbian nationalist reaction to economic troubles provided the opportunity for all the others to pinpoint the universal scapegoat: Serbian nationalism. Western public opinion, knowing little of Yugoslavia and thinking in terms of analogies with more familiar situations, readily sympathized with Slovenian and Croatian demands for independence. In reality, international law interprets "self-determination" as the right to secede and form an independent State only in certain (mostly colonial) circumstances, none of which applied to Slovenia and Croatia.17
All these facts were ignored by international media. Appeals to the dominant anti-State ideology led to frivolous acceptance in the West of the very grave act of accepting the unnegotiated breakup of an existing nation, Yugoslavia, by interpreting ethnic secession as a proper form of "self-determination," which it is not. There is no parallel in recent diplomatic annals for such an irresponsible act, and as a precedent it can only promise endless bloody conflict around the world.
The New World Order
In fact, the breakup of Yugoslavia has served to discredit and further weaken the United Nations, while providing a new role for an expanding NATO. Rather than strengthening international order, it has helped shift the balance of power within the international order toward the dominant nation states, the United States and Germany. If somebody had announced in 1989 that, well, the Berlin Wall has come down, now Germany can unite and send military forces back into Yugoslavia–and what is more in order to enforce a partition of the country along similar lines to those it imposed when it occupied the country in 1941–well, quite a number of people might have raised objections. However, that is what has happened, and many of the very people who might have been expected to object most strongly to what amounts to the most significant act of historical revisionism since World War II have provided the ideological cover and excuse.
Perhaps dazed by the end of the Cold War, much of what remains of the left in the early nineties abandoned its critical scrutiny of the geostrategic Realpolitik underlying great power policies in general and U.S. policy in particular and seemed to believe that the world henceforth was determined by purely moral considerations.
This has much to do with the privatization of "the left" in the past twenty years or so. The United States has led the way in this trend. Mass movements aimed at overall political action have declined, while single-issue movements have managed to continue. The single-issue movements in turn engender non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which, because of the requirements of fund-raising, need to adapt their causes to the mood of the times, in other words, to the dominant ideology, to the media. Massive fund-raising is easiest for victims, using appeals to sentiment rather than to reason. Greenpeace has found that it can raise money more easily for baby seals than for combatting the development of nuclear weapons. This fact of life steers NGO activity in certain directions, away from political analysis toward sentiment. On another level, the NGOs offer idealistic internationalists a rare opportunity to intervene all around the world in matters of human rights and human welfare.
And herein lies a new danger. Just as the "civilizing mission" of bringing Christianity to the heathen provided a justifying pretext for the imperialist conquest of Asia and Africa in the past, today the protection of "human rights" may be the cloak for a new type of imperialist military intervention worldwide.
Certainly, human rights are an essential concern of the left. Moreover, many individuals committed to worthy causes have turned to NGOs as the only available alternative to the decline of mass movements–a decline over which they have no control. Even a small NGO addressing a problem is no doubt better than nothing at all. The point is that great vigilance is needed, in this as in all other endeavors, to avoid letting good intentions be manipulated to serve quite contrary purposes.
In a world now dedicated to brutal economic rivalry, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, human rights abuses can only increase. From this vast array of man’s inhumanity to man, Western media and governments are unquestionably more concerned about human rights abuses that obstruct the penetration of transnational capitalism, to which they are organically linked, than about, say, the rights of Russian miners who have not been paid for a year. Media and government selectivity not only encourages humanitarian NGOs to follow their lead in focusing on certain countries and certain types of abuses, the case-by-case approach also distracts from active criticism of global economic structures that favor the basic human rights abuse of a world split between staggering wealth and dire poverty.
Cuba is not the only country whose "human rights" may be the object of extraordinary concern by governments trying to replace local rulers with more compliant defenders of transnational interests. Such a motivation can by no means be ruled out in the case of the campaign against Serbia.18 In such situations, humanitarian NGOs risk being cast in the role of the missionaries of the past–sincere, devoted people who need to be "protected," this time by NATO military forces. The Somali expedition provided a rough rehearsal (truly scandalous if examined closely) for this scenario. On a much larger scale, first Bosnia, then Kosovo, provide a vast experimental terrain for cooperation between NGOs and NATO.
There is urgent need to take care to preserve genuine and legitimate efforts on behalf of human rights from manipulation in the service of other political ends. This is indeed a delicate challenge.
NGOs and NATO, Hand In Hand
In former Yugoslavia, and especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Western NGOs have found a justifying role for themselves alongside NATO. They gain funding and prestige from the situation. Local employees of Western NGOs gain political and financial advantages over other local people, and "democracy" is not the people’s choice but whatever meets with approval of outside donors. This breeds arrogance among the outside benefactors, and cynicism among local people, who have the choice between opposing the outsiders or seeking to manipulate them. It is an unhealthy situation, and some of the most self-critical are aware of the dangers.19
Perhaps the most effectively arrogant NGO in regard to former Yugoslavia is the Vienna office of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. On September 18, 1997, that organization issued a long statement announcing in advance that the Serbian elections to be held three days later "will be neither free nor fair." This astonishing intervention was followed by a long list of measures that Serbia and Yugoslavia must carry out "or else," and that the international community must take to discipline Serbia and Yugoslavia. These demands indicated an extremely broad interpretation of obligatory standards of "human rights" as applied to Serbia, although not, obviously to everybody else, since they included new media laws drafted "in full consultation with the independent media in Yugoslavia" as well as permission meanwhile to all "unlicensed but currently operating radio and television stations to broadcast without interference."20
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded by calling on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to "deny Yugoslavia readmission to the OSCE until there are concrete improvements in the country’s human rights record, including respect for freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary, and minority rights, as well as cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia."
As for the demand to "respect freedom of the press," one may wonder what measures would satisfy HRW, in light of the fact that press freedom already exists in Serbia to an extent well beyond that in many other countries not being served with such an ultimatum. There exist in Serbia quite a range of media devoted to attacking the government, not only in Serbo-Croatian but also in Albanian. As of June 1998, there were 2,319 print publications and 101 radio and television stations in Yugoslavia, over twice the number that existed in 1992. Belgrade alone has 14 daily newspapers. Six state-supported national dailies have a joint circulation of 180,000, compared to around 350,000 for seven leading opposition dailies.21
Moreover, the judiciary in Serbia is certainly no less independent than in Croatia or Muslim Bosnia, and almost certainly much more so. As for "minority rights," it would be hard to find a country anywhere in the world where they are better protected in both theory and practice than in Yugoslavia.22
For those who remember history, the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki ultimatum instantly brings to mind the ultimatum issued by Vienna to Belgrade after the Sarajevo assassination in 1914 as a pretext for the Austrian invasion which touched off World War I. The Serbian government gave in to all but one of the Habsburg demands, but was invaded anyway.23
The hostility of this new Vienna power, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, toward Serbia, is evident in all its statements, and in those of its executive director, Aaron Rhodes. In a recent column for the International Herald Tribune, he wrote that Albanians in Kosovo "have lived for years under conditions similar to those suffered by Jews in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe just before World War II. They have been ghettoized. They are not free, but politically disenfranchised and deprived of basic civil liberties."
The comparison could hardly be more incendiary, but the specific facts to back it up are absent. They are necessarily absent, since the accusation is totally false. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have never been "politically disenfranchised," and even Western diplomats have at times urged them to use their right to vote in order to deprive Miloševic of his electoral majority. But nationalist leaders have called for a boycott of Serbian elections since 1981–well before Miloševic came on the scene–and ethnic Albanians who dare take part in legal political life are subject to intimidation and even murder by nationalist Albanian gunmen.24
In order to gain international support, inflammatory terms such as "ghetto" and "apartheid" are used by the very Albanian nationalist leaders who have created the separation between populations by leading their community to boycott all institutions of the Serbian State in order to create a de facto secession. Not only elections and schools, but even the public health service has been boycotted, to the detriment of the health of Kosovo Albanians, especially the children.25
Human Rights Watch’s blanket condemnation of a government which, like it or not, was elected, in a country whose existence is threatened by foreign-backed secessionist movements, contrasts sharply with the traditional approach of the senior international human rights organization, Amnesty International.
What can be considered the traditional Amnesty International approach consists broadly in trying to encourage governments to enact and abide by humanitarian legal standards. It does this by calling attention to particular cases of injustice. It asks precise questions that can be answered precisely. It tries to be fair. It is no doubt significant that Amnesty International is a grassroots organization, which operates under the mandate of its contributing members, and whose rules preclude domination by any large donor.
In the case of Yugoslavia, the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki approach differs fundamentally from that of Amnesty International in that it clearly aims not at calling attention to specific abuses that might be corrected, but at totally condemning the targeted State. By the excessive nature of its accusations, it does not ally with reformist forces in the targeted country so much as it undermines them. Its lack of balance, its rejection of any effort at remaining neutral between conflicting parties, encourages disintegrative polarization rather than reconciliation and mutual understanding. For example, in its reports on Kosovo, Amnesty International considers reports of abuses from all sides and tries to weigh their credibility, which is difficult but necessary, since the exaggeration of human rights abuses against themselves is regularly employed by Albanian nationalists in Kosovo as a means to win international support for their secessionist cause.26 Human Rights Watch, in contrast, by uncritically endorsing the most extreme anti-Serb reports and ignoring Serbian sources, helps confirm ethnic Albanians in their worst fantasies, while encouraging them to demand international intervention on their behalf rather than seek compromise and reconciliation with their Serbian neighbors. HRW therefore contributes, deliberately or inadvertently, to a deepening cycle of violence that eventually may justify, or require, outside intervention.
This is an approach which, like its partner, economic globalization, breaks down the defenses and authority of weaker States. It does not help to enforce democratic institutions at the national level. The only democracy it recognizes is that of the "international community," which is summoned to act according to the recommendations of Human Rights Watch. This "international community," the IC, is in reality no democracy. Its decisions are formally taken at NATO meetings. The IC is not even a "community"; the initials could more accurately stand for "imperialist condominium," a joint exercise of domination by the former imperialist powers, torn apart and weakened by two World Wars, now brought together under U.S. domination with NATO as their military arm. Certainly there are frictions between the members of this condominium, but so long as their rivalries can be played out within the IC, the price will be paid by smaller and weaker countries.
Media attention to conflicts in Yugoslavia is sporadic, dictated by Great Power interests, lobbies, and the institutional ambitions of "non-governmental organizations"–often linked to powerful governments–whose competition with each other for financial support provides motivation for exaggerating the abuses they specialize in denouncing.
Yugoslavia, a country once known for its independent approach to socialism and international relations, economically and politically by far the most liberal country in Eastern Central Europe, has already been torn apart by Western support to secessionist movements. What is left is being further reduced to an ungovernable chaos by a continuation of the same process. The emerging result is not a charming bouquet of independent little ethnic democracies, but rather a new type of joint colonial rule by the international community, enforced by NATO.
Diana Johnstone was the European editor of In These Times from 1979 to 1990, and press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament from 1990 to 1996. She is author of The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe in America’s World (London/New York: Verso/Schocken, 1984) and is currently working on a book on the former Yugoslavia. This article is an expanded version of a talk given on May 25, 1998, at an international conference on media held in Athens, Greece.
1. "The Creeping Trend to Re-Balkanization," In These Times, 3-9 October 1984, p.9.
2. "We Are All Serbo-Croats," In These Times, 3 May 1993, p.14.
3. "Ethnically defined" because, despite the argument accepted by the international community that it was the Republics that could invoke the right to secede, all the political arguments surrounding recognition of independent Slovenia and Croatia dwelt on the right of Slovenes and Croats as such to self-determination.
4. See Svetozar Stojanovic, "The Destruction of Yugoslavia," Fordham International Law Journal, Volume 19, Number 2, December 1995, pp 341-3.
5. For an excellent and detailed account of the economic and constitutional factors leading to the breakup of Yugoslavia, see Susan Woodward, Balkan Tragedy (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1995).
6. Recognition of the internal administrative borders between the Republics as "inviolable" international borders was in effect a legal trick, contrary to international law, which turned the Yugoslav army into an "aggressor" within the boundaries its soldiers had sworn to defend, and which transformed the Serbs within Croatia and Bosnia, who opposed secession from their country, Yugoslavia, into secessionists. This recognition flagrantly violated the principles of the 1975 Final Act (known as the Helsinki Accords) of the Conference on, now Organization for, Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), notably the territorial integrity of States and nonintervention in internal affairs. Truncated Yugoslavia was thereupon expelled from the OSCE in 1992, sparing its other members from having to hear Belgrade’s point of view. Indeed, the sanctions against Yugoslavia covered culture and sports, thus eliminating for several crucial years any opportunity for Serbian Yugoslavs to take part in international forums and events where the one-sided view of "the Serbs" presented by their adversaries might have been challenged.
7. In Washington, the campaign on behalf of Albanian separatists in Kosovo was spearheaded by Representative Joe DioGuardi of New York, who after losing his congressional seat has continued his lobbying for the cause. An early and influential convert to the cause was Senator Robert Dole. In Germany, the project for the political unification of all Croatian nationalists, both communist and Ustashe, with the aim of seceding and establishing "Greater Croatia," was followed closely and sympathetically by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), West Germany’s CIA, which hoped to gain its own sphere of influence on the Adriatic from the breakup of Yugoslavia. The nationalist unification, which eventually brought former communist general Franjo Tudjman to power in Zagreb with the support of the Ustashe diaspora, got seriously underway after Tito’s death in 1980, during the years when Bonn’s current foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, was heading the BND. See Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, Der Schattenkrieger: Klaus Kinkel und der BND (Düsseldorf: ECON Verlag, 1995).
8. This point is developed by Wolfgang Pohrt, "Entscheidung in Jugoslawien," in Wolfgang Schneider, ed., Bei Andruck Mord: Die deutsche Propaganda und der Balkankrieg (Hamburg: Konkret, 1997). A sort of climax was reached with the 8 July 1991 cover of the influential weekly Der Spiegel, depicting Yugoslavia as a "prison of peoples" with the title "Serb Terror."
9. The slogan was immortalized in the 1919 play by Austrian playwright Karl Kraus, "Die letzten Tage der Menschheit."
10. Albanians in Albania and in Yugoslavia call themselves "Shqiptare" but recently have objected to being called that by others. "Albanians" is an old and accepted term. Especially when addressing international audiences in the context of the separatist cause, Kosovo Albanians prefer to call themselves "Kosovars," which has political implications. Logically, the term should apply to all inhabitants of the province of Kosovo, regardless of ethnic identity, but by appropriating it for themselves alone, the Albanian "Kosovars" imply that Serbs and other non-Albanians are intruders. This is similar to the Muslim party’s appropriation of the term "Bosniak," which implies that the Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina is more indigenous that the Serbs and Croats, which makes no sense, since the Bosnian Muslims are simply Serbs and Croats who converted to Islam after the Ottoman conquest.
11. The role of the Washington public relations firm, Ruder Finn, is by now well-known, but seems to have raised few doubts as to the accuracy of the anti-Serb propaganda it successfully diffused. See especially: Jacques Merlino, Les Vérités yougoslaves ne sont pas toutes bonnes à dire, (Paris: Albin Michel, 1993); and Peter Brock, "Dateline Yugoslavia: The Partisan Press," Foreign Policy #93, Winter 1993-94.
12. No one denies that many rapes occurred during the civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, or that rape is a serious violation of human rights. So is war, for that matter. From the start, however, inquiry into rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina focused exclusively on accusation that Serbs were raping Muslim women as part of a deliberate strategy. The most inflated figures, freely extrapolated by multiplying the number of known cases by large factors, were readily accepted by the media and international organizations. No interest was shown in detailed and documented reports of rapes of Serbian women by Muslims or Croats.
The late Nora Beloff, former chief political correspondent of the London Observer, described her own search for verification of the rape charges in a letter to The Daily Telegraph (January 19, 1993). The British Foreign Office conceded that the rape figures being bandied about were totally uncorroborated, and referred her to the Danish government, then chairing the European Union. Copenhagen agreed that the reports were unsubstantiated, but kept repeating them. Both said that the EU had taken up the "rape atrocity" issue at its December 1992 Edinburgh summit exclusively on the basis of a German initiative. In turn, Fran Wild, in charge of the Bosnian Desk in the German Foreign Ministry, told Ms. Beloff that the material on Serb rapes came partly from the Izetbegovi¦ government and partly from the Catholic charity Caritas in Croatia. No effort had been made to seek corroboration from more impartial sources.
Despite the absence of solid and comprehensive information, a cottage industry has since developed around the theme. See: Norma von Ragenfeld-Feldman, "The Victimization of Women: Rape and the Reporting of Rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992-1993," Dialogue, No. 21, Paris, March 1997; and Diana Johnstone, "Selective Justice in The Hague," The Nation, September 22, 1997, pp 16-21.
13. See Peter Brock, op.cit., n. 11. See also, Diana Johnstone, op.cit. A Witness to Genocide by Roy Gutman was published by Macmillan in 1993.
14. Martin Lettmayer, "Da wurde einfach geglaubt, ohne nachzufragen," in Serbien muss sterbien: Wahrheit und Lüge im jugoslawischen Bürgerkrieg, Klaus Bittermann, ed. (Berlin: Tiamat, 1994).
15. Interview with Georges Berghezan, 22 October 1997.
16. Jean-Paul Picaper, Otto de Habsbourg: Mémoires d’Europe (Paris: Criterion, 1994), pp 209-210.
17. See: Barbara Delcourt & Olivier Corten, Ex-Yougoslavie: Droit International, Politique et Idéologies (Brussels: Editions Bruylant, Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1997). The authors, specialists in international law at the Free University of Brussels, point out that there was no basis under international law for the secession of the Yugoslav Republics. The principle of "self-determination" was totally inapplicable in those cases.
18. The matter is complex and far from transparent, but there are some grounds to believe that both the Western hostility to and Serbian voters’ support for Slobodan Miloševic and his ruling Serbian Socialist Party, is the fact that his government has been slow to privatize "social property" using the same drastic methods of "shock treatment" applied in other former socialist countries.
19. From his experience in Zagreb, British sociologist Paul Stubbs has written critically about "Humanitarian Organizations and the Myth of Civil Society" (ArkZin, no. 55, Zagreb, January 1996): "Particularly problematic is the assertion that NGOs are ‘non-political’ or ‘neutral’ and, hence, more progressive than governments which have vested interests and a political ‘axe to grind.’ ... This ‘myth of neutrality’ might, in fact, hide the interests of a ‘globalized new professional middle class’ eager to assert its hegemony in the aid and social welfare market place. ... The creation of a ‘globalised new professional middle class’ who, regardless of their country of origin, tend to speak a common language and share common assumptions, seems to be a key product of the ‘aid industry.’ In fact, professional power is reproduced through claims to progressive alliance with social movements and the civil society whereas, in fact, the shift towards NGOs is part of a new residualism in social welfare which, under the auspices of financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, challenges the idea that states can meet the welfare needs of all. ... A small number of Croatian psycho-socially oriented NGOs have attained a level of funding, and a degree of influence, which is far in excess of their level of service, number of beneficiaries, quality of staff, and so on, and places them in marked contrast to those providing services in the governmental sector. One Croatian NGO, linked to a U.S. partner organization, has, for example, received a grant from USAID for over 2 million U.S. dollars to develop a training program in trauma work. The organization, the bulk of whose work ... is undertaken by psychology and social work students, now has prime office space in Zagreb, large numbers of computers and other technical equipment, and is able to pay its staff more than double that which they would obtain in the state sector.
20. At the time, some 400 radio and television stations had been operating in Yugoslavia with temporary licenses or none at all. The vast majority are in Serbia, a country of less than ten million inhabitants on a small territory of only 88,361 square kilometers.
21. Figures from "State Media Circulation Slips," on page 3 of the June 8, 1998, issue of The Belgrade Times, an English- language weekly. There is no doubt that press diversity in Serbia has profited from the extremely acrimonious contest between government-backed media (which are not as bad or as uniform as alleged) and opposition media seeking foreign backing. Without this ongoing battle, the government would almost certainly have managed to reduce press pluralism considerably, but it is also fair to point out that the champions of independent media need to keep exaggerating the perils of their situation in order to attract ongoing financial backing from the West, notably from the European Union and the Soros Foundation. Private foreign capital is also present: The relatively mass circulation tabloid Blic is German-owned.
22. Serbia is constitutionally defined as the nation of all its citizens, and not "of the Serbs" (in contrast to constitutional provisions of Croatia and Macedonia, for instance). In addition, the 1992 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as well as the Serbian Constitution guarantee extensive rights to national minorities, notably the right to education in their own mother tongue, the right to information media in their own language, and the right to use their own language in proceedings before a tribunal or other authority. These rights are not merely formal, but are effectively respected, as is shown by, for instance, the satisfaction of the 400,000-strong Hungarian minority and the large number of newspapers published by national minorities in Albanian, Hungarian, and other languages. Romani (Gypsies) are by all accounts better treated in Yugoslavia than elsewhere in the Balkans. Serbia has a large Muslim population of varied nationalities, including refugees from Bosnia and a native Serb population of converts to Islam in Southeastern Kosovo, known as Goranci, whose religious rights are fully respected, and who have no desire to leave Serbia.
23. After obtaining support from Berlin and the Vatican for war against Serbia, Vienna on July 23, 1914, delivered a 48-hour ultimatum to Belgrade containing a list of ten demands, of which the Serbian government accepted all but one: participation of Austrian officials in suppressing anti-Austrian movements on Serbian territory. This refusal was the official reason for Austria’s declaration of war on July 28, 1914, which began World War I. See Ralph Hartmann, Die ehrlichen Makler (Berlin: Dietz, 1998), pp.31-33. Hartmann, who was East German ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1982 to 1988, sees German policy toward Yugoslavia as a relentless revenge against the Serbs for the events of 1914 which led to the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
24. The March 24, 1998 report of the International Crisis Group entitled "Kosovo Spring" notes that: "In many spheres of life, including politics, education and health-care, the boycott by Kosovars of the Yugoslav state is almost total." In particular, "Kosovars refuse to participate in Serbian or Yugoslav political life. The leading Yugoslav political parties all have offices in Kosovo and claim some Kosovar members, but essentially they are `Serb-only’ institutions. In 1997 several Kosovars accused of collaborating with the enemy [i.e., the Serbian State] were attacked, including Chamijl Gasi, head of the Socialist Party of Serbia in Glagovac, and a deputy in the Yugoslav Assembly’s House of Citizens, who was shot and wounded in November. The lack of interest of Serb political parties in wooing Kosovars is understandable. Kosovars have systematically boycotted the Yugoslav and Serbian elections since 1981, considering them events in a foreign country."
The ICG, while scarcely pro-Serb in its conclusions, nevertheless provides information neglected by mainstream media. This is perhaps because the ICG addresses its findings to high-level decision-makers who need to be in possession of a certain number of facts, rather than to the general public.
Gasi was not the only target of Albanian attacks on fellow Albanians in the Glogovac municipal district, situated in the Drenica region which the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (UCK) tried to control in early 1998. Others included forester Mujo Sejdi, 52, killed by machine-gun fire near his home on January 12, 1998; postman Mustafa Kurtaj, 26, killed on his way to work by a group firing automatic rifles; factory guard Rusdi Ladrovci, ambushed and killed with automatic weapons apparently after refusing to turn over his official arm to the UCK; among others. On April 10, 1998, men wearing camouflage uniforms and insignia of the Army of Albania fired automatic weapons at a passenger car carrying four ethnic Albanian officials of the Socialist Party of Serbia including Gugna Adem, President of the Suva Reka Municipal Board, who was gravely injured; and Ibro Vait, member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and President of the SPS district board in the city of Prizren. Numerous such attacks have been reported by the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug, but Western media have shown scant interest in the fate of ethnic Albanians willing to live with Serbs in a multi-ethnic Serbia.
25. In March 1990, during a regular official vaccination program, rumors were spread that Serb health workers had poisoned over 7,000 Albanian children by injecting them with nerve gas. There was never any proof of this, no child was ever shown to suffer from anything more serious than mass hysteria. This was the signal for a boycott of the Serbian public health system. Ethnic Albanian doctors and other health workers left the official institutions to set up a parallel system, so vastly inferior that preventable childhood diseases reached epidemic proportions. In September 1996, WHO and UNICEF undertook to assist the main Kosovar parallel health system, named "Mother Theresa" after the world’s most famous ethnic Albanian, a native of Macedonia, in vaccinating 300,000 children against polio. The worldwide publicity campaign around this large-scale immunization program failed to point out that the same service had long been available to those children from the official health service of Serbia, systematically boycotted by Albanian parents.
Currently, the parallel Kosovar system employs 239 general practitioners and 140 specialists, compared to around 2,000 physicians employed by the Serbian public health system there. Serbs point out that many ethnic Albanians are sensible enough to turn to the government health system when they are seriously ill. According to official figures, 64% of the official Serbian system’s health workers and 80% of its patients in Kosovo are ethnic Albanian.
It is characteristic of the current age of privatization that the "international community" is ready to ignore a functioning government service and even contribute to a politically inspired effort to bypass and ultimately destroy it. But then, Kosovo Albanian separatists, aware of the taste of the times, like to speak of Kosovo itself as a "non-governmental organization."
These facts are contained in the "Kosovo Spring" report of the International Crisis Group.
26. The ICG "Kosovo Spring" report noted that the two main Kosovar human rights groups, Keshelli and the Helsinki Committee, closely linked to nationalist separatist leaders, "provide statistical data on `total’ human rights violations, but their accounting system is misleading. For instance, of the 2,263 overall cases of `human rights violations’ in the period from July to September 1997, they cite three murders, three `discriminations based on language...’ and 149 `routine checkings.’ By collating minor and major offences under the same heading, the statistics fail to give a fair representation of the situation. K
As Waco is not unrelated to Yugoslavia, neither was it an isolated domestic incident in recent times - e.g., the MOVE firebombing in Philadelphia, the bombing and burning of the SLA house in Los Angeles, the "organized and systematic" attack on members of the Black Panther Party to name just a few. The police in towns and cities across the USA have ceased being the people's protectors and now behave and function more like a paramilitary occupying force
WACO AND AMERICAN MILITARISM
by Ken Freeland
The lead article in the Houston Chronicle's Sunday News Section (September 5, 1999) asks the timely question, "What Happened in Waco?" The article focuses on the intrepid work of filmmaker Mike McNulty, whose Academy Award nominate documentary Waco: The Rules of Engagement did so much to unravel and disseminate the suppressed truth about the behavior of government agents during that Texas tragedy, and writer/attorney David Hardy, whose persistence finally paid off in the recent release of the long-sequestered evidence implicating the FBI in the eventual conflagration, which took some 80 innocent civilian lives.
Both men clearly regard the event as a massacre, with Hardy expressly stating that it illustrates the dangers of turning soldiers into cops: "The militarization of law enforcement." This theme is certainly one we would all do well to contemplate, and while Americans are properly concerned about this horror on our domestic scene, when American lives were at stake, we must not forget that an equal danger lies in our similar tendency to blur this line in our nation's foreign policy.
How many "militarized police actions" has the United States military executed throughout the world since World War II, our last officially declared war? From Korea to Vietnam to Grenada, Panama, Libya, Somalia, Iraq and most recently in Yugoslavia, it is exactly this same attempt to police the world by military means that has characterized our dubious military adventures worldwide. Should we really be surprised when these chickens come home to roost?
On the same day the above-mentioned article appeared in the Chronicle, according to an Agence France Presse report, McNulty told the "Fox News Sunday" talk show, "that he had evidence that FBI sharpshooters were blocking the only exit from the burning building . . . He said that he had footage of 'individuals at the back of the building engaged in a gunfight,' who were blocking the only escape route unmolested by tanks."
As unconscionable as such ruthlessness towards unarmed civilians seems to us, is it really any worse than the deliberate "smart-bombing" of over 400 mostly women and children who huddled in what international law entitled them to consider the safe refuge of the Al-Ameriyah bomb shelter in Baghdad during the Gulf War? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the same principle at work in both cases (the Gulf "War" was never declared either -- it was just another high-tech "police action").
I have just recently returned from Yugoslavia, where, along with a dozen other delegates last month, I observed and documented evidence of NATO's war crimes against that country. What were the "rules of engagement" in that conflict? Not at all different from those of Waco: the same callous disregard for the sanctity of personal property and civilian life was impossible to miss as we witnessed and filmed one bombed-out home, school and factory after another. Like the Waco community, these people were just going about their daily civil life when they ended up receiving the "business end" of the very latest in US military technology.
How could it be any different? Can we Americans really have it both ways: complete disregard for international laws and conventions protecting the lives and property of civilians when it comes to our "enemies," but civil rights considered somehow sacrosanct for our own population? The Pedro Oregons, Rodney Kings, and thousands of other victims of police brutality across the nation continue to rub our noses into undeniable fact: we've transferred our vicious foreign policies of unrestricted non-combatant targeting onto our own civilian population.
The problem posed by Waco cannot help but force its way into the national consciousness, now that the truth has been publicly and officially revealed. But this problem cannot be solved by looking at domestic police policies alone: our self-styled international "militarized police" approach to foreign policy and the illicit tactics that have become inextricably intertwined with them must also be brought to account, and the rule of law recognized on the international as well as the national level.
A vital step in this direction is being made by Texan and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who has issued a 19-count legal indictment against the NATO powers for their own "Waco" in Yugoslavia; for their wanton and well-documented violations of international laws and conventions in the course of that 78-day, no holds barred, unilateral attack on the economic infrastructure of a sovereign country not even at war with us, or with anyone else for that matter. His commission is continuing to collect evidence and to hold hearings nationally and internationally.
I have recently learned that Ramsey is involved in the legal effort to get to the bottom of the Waco tragedy as well. To his mind, at least, there appears to be no qualitative distinction between national and international travesties of justice. His noble efforts on both accounts deserve our widest possible public support, and his example in challenging both types of civilian targeting merits our closest emulation. Only through such efforts can we hope to purge from American life, once and for all, the Wacos, Oklahoma Cities, and Columbine High Schools that, in the end, are the inevitable corollaries of our heedless, escalatory and aggressive foreign policies -- the clear and present dangers created by our runaway militarism
" What began as a slow ramp-up to the Internet quickly took off when Stratfor.com launched the Kosovo Crisis Center on March 24, 1999, the same day that NATO forces began air strikes against Yugoslavia. "
Simply fascinating! phil
Care to explain? What are you refering to? What's the fascination?
>> " What began as a slow ramp-up to the Internet quickly took off when Stratfor.com launched the Kosovo Crisis Center on March 24, 1999, the same day that NATO forces began air strikes against Yugoslavia. "
Simply fascinating! phil <<
Just to distract from the real subjects.
oh! Guess the jokes on me. :o(
Not to fear T'gunn. Stratfor took the name from the "Kosova Cricis Center" sometimes referred to as the "Kosovo Crisis Center". Altavista and other search engines place the word 'stratfor' in front of all references to Stratfor's site to distinguish it form "alb-net's site" I was caught by surprise at first too. phil
" Just to distract from the real subjects. "
Daniela, i'ts only a distraction for some. I did find Stratfo's use of the words "Kosovo Cricis Center" to be mildly interesting. I don't fault their marketing manager. I didn't catch the fact that Stratfor's site was created one year and a couple of months after alb.net's site even tho the Stratfor people indirectly tells everyone so. Only someone very familiar with both sites would likely catch it. phil
WorldNet daily Exclusive
Where are the bodies?
Report: Few 'mass graves' found thus far in Kosovo
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20 1999
By Jon E. Dougherty
© 1999 WorldNetDaily.com
An independent intelligence report issued by a U.S.-based firm says that ethnic Albanians "numbering only in the hundreds" have been
found in mass graves after four months of investigation by, among others, the FBI.
The Stratfor report calls into question the validity of claims made by NATO and the Clinton administration as justification for launching
an air war against Yugoslavia that ultimately led to renewed political tensions with Russia, and a bombed Chinese embassy.
"During its four-month war against Yugoslavia, NATO argued that Kosovo was a land wracked by mass murder," said the report.
"Official estimates indicated that some 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in a Serb rampage of ethnic cleansing."
"Yet four months into an international investigation bodies numbering only in the hundreds have been exhumed," the report said, with
the FBI having found "fewer than 200."
"Piecing together the evidence, it appears that the number of civilian ethnic Albanians killed is far less than was claimed," said the
The report noted that "new evidence could invalidate this view," but so far nowhere near the number of Albanians reported killed by
Serb troops has "materialized on the scale used to justify the war." The report concluded the new evidence "could have serious
foreign policy and political implications for NATO and alliance governments."
The U.S. State Department did not return phone calls seeking comment on the report. But Dave Miller, a spokesman for European
affairs at the FBI, told WorldNetDaily the investigation in Kosovo consisted only of "laboratory support for the International Criminal
"They requested that we look at a finite number of locations, and within those locations there were 124 bodies -- 100 of which have
been identified" so far, he said. "The FBI was not sent there to conduct mass grave exhumations or to locate and find the missing
populace of Kosovo." He added that the FBI's role was to "prove the charges contained in the ICT indictment."
The Stratfor report admitted that "the tribunal's primary aim is not to find all the reported dead. Instead, its investigators are
gathering evidence to prosecute war criminals for four offenses: Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, violations of the laws of
war, genocide, and crimes against humanity."
"The tribunal believes that it will, however, be able to produce an accurate death count in the future, although it will not say when,"
according to Stratfor. However, they noted, "A progress report may be released in late October, according to tribunal spokesman
Controversy about the actual numbers of ethnic Albanians killed by Serbian troops began on Oct. 11, when the International Criminal
Tribunal for the Former Republic of Yugoslavia reported that the Trepca mines in Kosovo, where 700 murdered ethnic Albanians were
reportedly hidden, contained no bodies. "Three days later," the report said, "the U.S. Defense Department released its review of the
Kosovo conflict, saying that NATO's war was a reaction to the ethnic cleansing campaign by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic."
The Defense Department report called Milosevic's campaign "a brutal means to end the crisis on his terms."
However, the tribunal's findings and the Defense Department's assertion served to raise even more concerns about the actual number
of "cleansed" Albanians.
"Four months after the war and the introduction of forensic teams from many countries, precisely how many bodies of murdered
ethnic Albanians have been found?" Stratfor questioned. "This is not an exercise in the macabre, but a reasonable question, given the
explicit aims of NATO in the war, and the claims the alliance made on the magnitude of Serbian war crimes."
"Indeed, the central justification for war was that only intervention would prevent the slaughter of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian
population," Stratfor said, echoing policy statements issued by the Clinton administration and NATO.
On March 22, Stratfor reported, "British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons, 'We must act to save thousands of
innocent men, women and children from humanitarian catastrophe, from death, barbarism and ethnic cleansing by a brutal
dictatorship.'" The following day, when the NATO-led air strikes began, President Clinton told reporters, "What we are trying to do is
to limit his (Milosevic's) ability to win a military victory and engage in ethnic cleansing and slaughter innocent people and to do
everything we can to induce him to take this peace agreement."
In March, State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters that NATO "did not need to prove that the Serbs were carrying
out a policy of genocide because it was clear that crimes against humanity were being committed," said the Stratfor report. In June
immediately following the end of the war, Clinton "again invoked the term, saying, 'NATO stopped deliberate, systematic efforts at
ethnic cleansing and genocide.'"
Since the war's end, Stratfor said, claims of Albanian dead have "swollen."
Before and during the conflict, though, Yugoslavia repeatedly denied that mass murder was occurring. Instead, Belgrade argued that
the Kosovo Liberation Army falsified claims of mass murder in order to justify NATO intervention and the secession of Kosovo from
Serbia. But "NATO rejected Belgrade's argument out of hand," said Stratfor.
"The question of the truth or falsehood of the claims of mass murder is much more than a matter of merely historical interest,"
concluded the report. "It cuts to the heart of the war -- and NATO's current peacekeeping mission in Kosovo."
"Certainly, there was a massive movement of Albanian refugees, but that alone was not the alliance's justification for war," said
In addition to questioning the number of ethnic Albanians allegedly killed by Serb forces, the report calls into dispute the methodology
NATO and the U.S. used to determine that some 17,000 people who previously lived in Kosovo are still missing.
"There are undoubtedly many (Kosovar residents) missing," said the report, "but it is unclear whether these people are dead, in
Serbian prisons -- official estimates vary widely -- or whether they have taken refuge in other countries."
So far tribunal investigators are a little more than a quarter of the way through investigating some 400 reported mass gravesites.
Jon E. Dougherty ( email@example.com ) is a staff writer for WorldNetDaily.
Related link: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/bluesky_dougherty/19991020_xnjdo_where_bodi.shtml