5. The Mind-set of Racism and Lies
The jargon is symptomatic of pseudo-speciation, the mind-set of racism which groups automatically adopt to sustain their belief systems. Even a former US Ambassador to NATO, speaking on BBC TV in the UK on April 22, 1999, said that NATO must dispose of the last pocket of communism in Europe before European progress could continue. If that is so, then Albania the new ally of NATO should worry: it still sustains, where it has any government at all, a communist structure by any other name.
So, too, does Croatia, which prides itself on being philosophically in the camp of Western Europe. Croatia, despite the fact that it has had less external constraint than Yugoslavia, has achieved far less in the way of privatization of commerce and industry. Croatia is a State-dominated economy, with dramatically less freedom of speech, movement and religion, than is Yugoslavia.
And yet the impression of Yugoslavia as a "communist bastion" is being perpetuated in the West. The Yugoslav populace is baffled by the Wests view of it, and as reluctant as it is to embrace the friendship of Russia, it feels that it has little option: the Orthodox peoples must stay together in the face of anti-Orthodox hatred. This complements the belief among many in Yugoslavia that the Vatican is heavily-involved in the attempt to isolate them.
Such a belief is not unreasonable given the rôle of the Catholic Church in Croatia during World War II. But then, the Croatian Catholic church is barely recognizable as the same faith practiced elsewhere. But when German Catholics spearheaded the funding and military aid for Croatia before and after the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991-92, the old fears of the Serbs returned. They had lost 1.7-million of their people to Croatian "ethnic cleansing" (the phrase is a Croatian one) in the Croatian Ustae concentration camps and summary killings of 1941-45. The Serbs, along with the Jews they tried to protect, were among the proportionately greatest victims of World War II.
The fact that Clinton insisted on keeping up the bombing campaign through Orthodox Easter inevitably made Serbs draw parallels with the nazis in World War II. It was on April 6, 1941, Palm Sunday, that the Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade when the Yugoslavs hesitated to surrender. Some 5,000 people died, virtually all civilians.
For a comprehensive understanding of this era it is necessary to read, among other things, The Web of Disinformation: Churchills Yugoslav Blunder, by the late David Martin [Published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1991]. Read it, and weep.
The endless trail of disinformation, or just plain lies, continues at all levels during the current conflict. In 1992, when this writer was visiting Yugoslavia on one of the many assignments into the conflict zone, he was told repeatedly by Serbs: "We know that the truth will come out and that people will remember that we have always been the allies of the West, and that we would never do the things the media is saying about us."
History is written by the winners, however; and victory is as much the product of the pen as of the sword. The US, hoping to obtain a bargaining tool to win the release of the three US soldiers held captive as Prisoners of War by the Yugoslavs, sent a mission inside Yugoslavia in April 1999 to capture a Yugoslav officer. This they did, snatching a 20-year-old lieutenant. But the US Government, unwilling to admit to having ground forces inside Yugoslavia, said that the KLA had captured the officer and turned him over to the US. A small lie, but one which points to the fact that the Clinton Administration is reluctant to admit the forward posture of its ground forces.
State Department spokesman James Rubin, who is married to CNN television news reporter Christiane Amanpour, constantly talks of "compelling evidence" of "Serb atrocities", but in fact never actually details the "compelling evidence". In some case, circumstantial evidence is shown, and then later the "conclusions" from this evidence are portrayed as coming from incontrovertible proof.
The "compelling evidence" of vast atrocities is not evident on the ground, other than the tragedy of the scattering of refugees which began when the bombing of their places of work and their homes began. Paul Watson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Canadian journalist with The Los Angeles Times, is one of the few reporters actively covering events on the ground on Kosovo, where he was already in place when the bombing began on March 24. In an interview with Canadian Broadcasting radio on April 13, 1999, he said: "It is very hard to hide an anarchic wholesale slaughter of people. There is no evidence that such a thing happened in Pristina [the Kosovo capital]." "I have spoken personally to people who have been ordered to leave their homes by police in black. Ive also spoken to people who are simply terrified." He added: "I see a pretty clear pattern of refugees leaving an area after there were severe air strikes." Not just in Kosovo, but all over Yugoslavia. This writer has also seen refugees on the move, their red tractors pulling carts with families aboard, leaving places such as Pancevo after the bombings; trying to find a place in the country away from the war.
Watson noted: "I do not think that NATO member countries can, with a straight face, sit back and say they dont share some of the blame for the wholesale depopulation of the country. If NATO had not bombed, I would be surprised if this sort of forced exodus on this enormous scale would be taking place."
NATO spokesman and US State Department spokesman James Rubin picked up, on March 29, on reports that three key Kosovo Albanian leaders, one of whom was involved in the negotiations over Kosovo at Rambouillet had been "executed" by Serb forces. Rubin said that the US would "avenge" their deaths. However, the three Fehmi Agani, who was at Rambouillet; Baton Haxhiu, editor of Koha Ditore, a Kosovo Albanian news-paper; and Dr Ibrahim Rugova, the only elected leader of the Kosovo Albanians were all very much alive. Dr Rugova, in particular, was seen on television on many occasions following the allegation, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported on the safety of the others. Neither Rubin nor NATO amended their story; Rubin, even after the news of the three mens continued well-being, still insisted on "avenging their deaths".
Given the earlier (1997) plan by the KLA to kill the moderate Rugova, it would seem that the lives of these three Kosovo Albanian leaders is in danger again, from the KLA. Certainly, the US has backed KLA-leaked reports that Dr Rugova is "a virtual prisoner" of the Yugoslav Government, something he effectively seems (as at this writing in late April 1999) to disavow every time he is seen in public in Belgrade.
Perhaps one of the biggest "tactical lies" being perpetuated as the bombing campaign continues was the failure by the US and NATO to announce their own battlefield casualties. If the US is to be believed, it has lost only one aircraft in the war (to April 25, 1999). The reality is that far more aircraft had already been lost by NATO to that point. Aircrews and ground troops had been killed and captured, according to reliable intelligence reaching this journal. The specific details are discussed below, but, if verified, this means that the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff lied under oath in his testimony in April before the US Congress.
Insufficient Defense Against a Charge of War Crimes: "just following orders"
The US argued, at Nuremberg after World War II, that "just following orders" was insufficient defense against a charge of war crimes. But are the victors subject to the same laws?
The disingenuous manipulation of evidence by NATO spokesmen was evident in the release of totally unrelated air traffic tapes in the matter of the attacks on Kosovar civilian convoys (cited above in part "Scale and Audacity of Lying"). It has also been evident on other occasions, such as when, on April 18, 1999, Clinton Administration and NATO officials released reconnaissance photographs which they cited as "evidence" of "mass graves", which, as The New York Times of April 19 said, were "raising fears of atrocities" by the Serbs. This "evidence" showed an area near Izbica, in Kosovo. The earlier photograph showed no markings on a field; the second showed rows of marks: "the mass graves".
However, even to someone not skilled in photo-interpretation there were flaws in the comparison. The earlier photograph, which the releasers implied was taken just before the second, was clearly taken quite some time before the second. Indeed, there are differences in buildings which could not have occurred overnight. As well, the symmetrical rows of "graves" in the later photograph clearly would not be graves, given that "mass graves" imply large holes with many bodies, not neat, cemetary-like plots. But when it is discovered that the marks are something else, the story is likely to be an item of only passing interest, submerged in the mounting complexity of a war already taken to a new level. But the "compelling evidence" of "mass graves" will have done its job for Clinton.