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Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Propaganda System

Elsewhere we have written that the breakup of Yugoslavia “may have been the most misrepresented series of major events over the past twenty years.” But the far bloodier and more destructive invasions, insurgencies, and civil wars that have ravaged several countries in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa over the same years may have been subjected to even greater misrepresentation. To a remarkable degree, all major sectors of the Western establishment swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down.

Jeremiah Wright in the Propaganda System

Beginning in March 2008 and extending through the last Democratic primaries of early June, the United States witnessed the most brazen demonization in its history of a person based on his race, his creed, and his ties to a presidential candidate. One major purpose behind these attacks was to use the demonized figure to discredit the politician. But participation in the attacks also fed the voracious, twenty-four-hour-aday media appetite, and quickly took on a life of its own. When we look back at the ugly spectacle then taking place, the evidence suggests that, despite much optimism about narrowing racial divides and an emerging “post-racial” consciousness, something much closer to the opposite had gripped America.

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part I)

A Study in Inhumanitarian Intervention (and a Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse)

The breakup of Yugoslavia provided the fodder for what may have been the most misrepresented series of major events over the past twenty years. The journalistic and historical narratives that were imposed upon these wars have systematically distorted their nature, and were deeply prejudicial, downplaying the external factors that drove Yugoslavia’s breakup while selectively exaggerating and misrepresenting the internal factors. Perhaps no civil wars—and Yugoslavia suffered multiple civil wars across several theaters, at least two of which remain unresolved—have ever been harvested as cynically by foreign powers to establish legal precedents and new categories of international duties and norms. Nor have any other civil wars been turned into such a proving ground for the related notions of “humanitarian intervention” and the “right [or responsibility] to protect.” Yugoslavia’s conflicts were not so much mediated by foreign powers as they were inflamed and exploited by them to advance policy goals. The result was a tsunami of lies and misrepresentations in whose wake the world is still reeling.

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part II)

Jump to Part: I, III, IV | Glossary | Timeline

3. The UN in NATO’s Service

A striking feature of U.S. policy since the collapse of the Soviet deterrent is the frequency with which it relies on the Security Council and the Secretariat for its execution—before the fact when it can (Iraq 1990–91), but after the fact when it must (as in the cases of postwar Kosovo and post-invasion Afghanistan and Iraq). Even though the Security Council never authorized these last three major U.S. aggressions, in each case the United States secured degrees of council assent and ex post facto legitimation.

No Security Council resolution has ever condemned these U.S. wars as contrary to the UN Charter or recognized the rights of the Serbs, Afghans, and Iraqis to resist alien subjugation. Instead, after each of these “supreme international crimes,” the Security Council simply revised its extant mandates to accommodate the supreme international criminal, and instructed the Secretariat to mitigate their inhumanitarian consequences.

But this process did not begin with operations Allied Force, Enduring Freedom, or Iraqi Freedom. Long in the making, one root traces back to the Security Council’s earliest responses to Iraq’s August 1990 invasion of Kuwait; the unremitting devastation of Iraq, including the genocidal sanctions regime, has borne the UN’s seal ever since.40 The other traces back to the massive UN involvement in Yugoslavia during the first-half of the 1990s, when the Council fielded the largest number of blue-helmeted troops ever (close to 40,000 at its peak in 1995) in its most costly mission to date ($5 billion).41

Neither UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s An Agenda for Peace (June 1992) nor its Supplement (January 1995) advocated “humanitarian” war, much less the right to take sides in civil wars; and yet before the end of the decade, “humanitarian” war and the related notion of a “responsibility to protect” had been placed near the top of his successor Kofi Annan’s agenda. “The logic of peace-keeping flows from political and military premises that are quite distinct from those of enforcement,” the Supplement asserted. “To blur the distinction between the two can undermine the viability of the peace-keeping operation….”42

The UN struggled to respect this distinction throughout the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. But as the United States became the dominant player in these theaters, it pushed the UN’s “peacekeeping” mandate toward “enforcement”—toward becoming a “party to the conflict,” invariably taking sides against the Serbs of Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia itself.

Even at the time of the crisis in late May 1995, when two hundred UN personnel had been taken hostage by Bosnian Serb forces following NATO air strikes against them, Boutros-Ghali insisted that “UNPROFOR is not a peace-enforcement operation,” and blamed the demands that it act on the “ambiguities” and “confusion” that followed from the frequent reference by Security Council resolutions to Chapter VII of the charter.43

But just three months later, when NATO conducted an extensive bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs, the distinction was obliterated. In To End A War, his memoir of the time he spent as the chief U.S. negotiator for Bosnia, Richard Holbrooke recounts an episode when Kofi Annan, then the head of UN peacekeeping, “won the job” to succeed Boutros-Ghali some fifteen months before the event. With Boutros-Ghali “unreachable on a commercial aircraft,” Annan “instructed the U.N.’s civilian officials and military commanders to relinquish for a limited period of time their authority to veto air strikes in Bosnia. For the first time in the war, the decision on the air strikes was solely in the hands of NATO.” The result was Operation Deliberate Force, the “largest military action in NATO history.”44

The United States and NATO had found a crack in the door, and rushed through it. In a very short period—maybe three months at most—the UN went from a peacekeeping to a warmaking mode in Bosnia, with NATO its enforcer. As one U.S. National Security Council officer later described Annan, he “[understood] that the U.S. military is not the enemy.”45

In contrast with Boutros-Ghali, whom Washington denied a second five-year term,46 Annan’s long tenure can only be understood as a recognition of his willing service to the United States and NATO. In what Michael Mandel calls an “emotional defense of unilateral interventionism, using Kosovo as the example of the next intervention,” Annan warned in June 1998 that “all our expressions of determination to never again permit another Bosnia…will be cruelly mocked if we allow Kosovo to become another killing field.”47

Seven months later, before the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, Annan expressed the “hope that we,” but “particularly those with the capacity to act,” in his words, “were beginning to draw the right lessons from the experience in the Bosnian war—about such critical factors as credibility, legitimacy and the morality of intervention and non-intervention.” But “there is only one way in which we can prove that we have done this: by applying those lessons practically and emphatically where horror threatens.”48

The “right lessons” were immediately applied by NATO. Within forty-eight hours, it issued its second order “authoriz[ing] air strikes against targets on [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] territory,”49 and from March 24 through June 10, made good on it. Subsequently, when Serbia and Montenegro tried to initiate legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice against ten of the states then attacking it, the court ruled that it “manifestly lacks jurisdiction” to entertain the complaint. The court “cannot decide a dispute between States without the consent of those States to its jurisdiction.” Since the “United States observes that it ‘has not consented to jurisdiction…and will not do so,’” the court was left with no alternative but to conclude that it was powerless.50 Thus does the real culture of impunity remain unchanged.

Both Kofi Annan’s “We the peoples” (March 2000) and his In Larger Freedom (March 2005) support this shift to UN warmaking on “humanitarian” grounds. “The fact that we cannot protect people everywhere is no reason for doing nothing when we can,” “We the peoples” asserts, with NATO’s war fresh in mind. “[W]e must embrace the responsibility to protect,” the latter stresses, “and, when necessary, we must act on it.”51 Of course, when it turned out that “those with the capacity to act” were also those doing the killing, Annan adapted well, with silence and even acceptance of the new realities created by the killers, his de facto masters. Nor are we aware of any cases in which Western advocates for the “responsibility to protect” have ever turned this alleged principle back against the states they call home—even when these states invaded other countries, killing, terrorizing, and torturing their populations. As always, selectivity and double standard remain the rule.

4. The ICTY in NATO’s Service

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was established by the Security Council in May 1993.52 This was done on the basis of the claim that such an institution was needed under Chapter VII to help restore “international peace and security,” despite the absence of a single paragraph in the UN Charter granting the Security Council powers which include judicial rights. Not only was this resolution ultra vires, an excellent case can be made that the real purpose behind the ICTY’s founding was to use an alleged interest in “justice” to prevent peace, and to advance U.S. objectives in the Balkans, all of which required the use of force and breaking of the peace.

The creation of the ICTY followed by only five months a December 1992 speech by Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger that called for a “second Nuremberg” to bring to trial named villains, mainly Serb leaders, including Milosevic.53 It was organized mainly by U.S. initiative, with its staff referring to Madeleine Albright as the “mother of the Tribunal”54 it has been funded and largely staffed—and with high-level personnel vetted—by U.S. and NATO officials; and it has functioned consistently as a dispenser of faux-justice and moralistic opprobrium, while serving as a real public relations and political arm of NATO. As NATO spokesman Jamie Shea pointed out during the 1999 bombing war, NATO countries “established” and “are amongst the majority financiers” of the tribunal, and support its activities “on a daily basis.” Asked whether NATO recognizes the ICTY’s jurisdiction over its bombing activities, Shea replied that “when Justice Arbour starts her investigation, she will because we will allow her to….I am certain that when Justice Arbour goes to Kosovo and looks at the facts she will be indicting people of Yugoslav nationality and I don’t anticipate any others….” And when pressed on the same point the very next day, Shea replied: “We are the upholders, not the violators, of international law.”55 Shea’s remarks on this NATO-ICTY relationship have never been reported by the New York Times; nor were they reported by any establishment daily newspaper at the time.56

York University professor of international law Michael Mandel argues convincingly that the ICTY’s main function was to allow a claimed pursuit of justice to avoid the settlement of the armed conflicts until NATO’s objectives could be met. With the ICTY’s help, Serb targets were more fully demonized, and their leaders declared untouchables at the negotiating table. ICTY president Antonio Cassese openly bragged about how ICTY indictments had prevented the Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and general Ratko Mladic from participating in negotiations at Dayton in 1995—“Let us see who will sit down at the negotiating table now with a man accused of genocide,” Cassese told L’Unita newspaper. Such brazenly politicized use of indictments was a prime modus operandi of the ICTY. The most spectacular was the indictment of Milosevic and four others in May 1999, in the midst of NATO’s seventy-eight-day bombing war on Yugoslavia. One thing that made it so was the openness with which chief prosecutor Louise Arbour admitted to the political objective of blocking Milosevic as a possible negotiator. At the press conference in late May 1999 to announce the initial indictments for Serb conduct in Kosovo, Arbour stated frankly that the “evidence upon which this indictment was confirmed raises serious questions about their suitability to be guarantors of any deal let alone a peace agreement.”57 But perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that this indictment was compiled hastily, on the basis of unconfirmed “evidence” supplied to her office by the United States and United Kingdom, and issued just when NATO was coming under criticism for having turned to targeting Serbia’s civilian infrastructure. Thus the ICTY was providing a public relations cover for NATO war crimes carried out within the framework of NATO’s UN Charter violation of aggression—the “supreme international crime”!

Amusingly, one of the most telling pieces of evidence of ICTY servitude to NATO is the contrast between the initial indictment for Kosovo and the prosecutor’s refusal even to investigate NATO’s conduct during the bombing war. By its statute the ICTY is obligated to indict any party operating in the former Yugoslavia if presented with plausible prima facie evidence of its participation in war crimes. Michael Mandel submitted a three volume dossier of such evidence regarding NATO to the ICTY prosecutor in May 1999; but in contrast with the next-day service on behalf of allegations of Serb crimes following the Racak massacre in January,58 it took the prosecutor some fourteen months to report back that “neither an in-depth investigation related to the bombing campaign as a whole nor investigations related to specific incidents are justified.”59 The new chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said that she was “very satisfied that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or unlawful military targets by NATO during the bombing campaign….The prosecutor judged these to be genuine mistakes on the part of NATO.”60 How this conclusion could be reached without an investigation is problematic. It also flies in the face of open admissions by NATO officials of deliberate targeting of civilian facilities, and rapidly accumulating evidence that such targets were struck extensively. And Amnesty International had no trouble in identifying NATO war crimes.

Del Ponte had commissioned an internal study of the question that openly acknowledged reliance on NATO press releases, declared reliable. One of its more interesting features was its statement that with only 495 dead and 820 civilians wounded in “documented instances” from NATO bombings, “there is simply no evidence of the necessary crime base for charges of genocide or crimes against humanity.”61 Recall that the “crime base” for the initial indictment of Milosevic was 344 deaths, unverified by the ICTY, but nonetheless regarded as sufficient to bring the indictment.62 We are dealing with an institution that can’t even keep its propaganda straight. But then again it doesn’t have to: The establishment media never called attention to this comical double standard or recognized the service that it provides NATO, immunizing its extension of the bombing war to civilian facilities. Nor was Carla Del Ponte discredited as an authority and truth-teller. Instead we find the Nation magazine’s UN correspondent Ian Williams asserting that a speech by Del Ponte before the Security Council was itself sufficient to “put questions concerning the death toll [in Kosovo] to rest.”63

5. The UN, ICTY, and the Srebrenica Massacre

The UN and ICTY played central roles in the institutionalization of the Srebrenica massacre as the mark and proof of Serb criminality and “genocide” in Bosnia—a “terrible crime,” in Kofi Annan’s words, and “the worst on European soil since the Second World War.”64 It was clear by mid-July 1995 that several thousand of Srebrenica’s male population had escaped to Bosnian Muslim-held territory, and some even to Serbia; it was also clear that unknown numbers had died in fierce fighting. The claim that 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males had been executed there was based on a Red Cross news alert that its office in Tuzla had fielded 8,000 missing person requests: 5,000 for “individuals who apparently fled the enclave before it fell,” plus 3,000 for “persons reportedly arrested by the Bosnian Serb forces.”65 At that point in mid-September 1995 there were only a few reports of the kind of opportunistic killings that accompany war, along with allegations of mass executions. But in a remarkable propaganda coup, the thousands of escapees and the deaths from fighting were forgotten and the 8,000 quickly became victims of execution and genocide. Furthermore, unlike other cases where early inflated and speculative estimates of deaths were gradually revised downward in the light of emerging hard evidence—as with estimates of Kosovo Albanians killed during NATO’s bombing war, or the deaths at the World Trade Center on 9/1166—this initial 8,000 figure for the missing, now executed, males of Srebrenica has never been revised from its initial very problematic level. It has remained firm and unchallengeable, despite the fact that nothing close to confirming evidence has been forthcoming.

By the time of the 2001 judgment in the trial of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic on charges that included “genocide,” six years of forensic searches of Srebrenica-related gravesites had produced 2,028 sets of individual remains (“conservatively estimate[d],” the court noted).67 Nonetheless the court managed to conclude that the “total number” of Bosnian Muslim males executed was “likely within the range of 7,000–8,000,” and that the deaths of even 7,000–8,000 military-aged males in this particular region of far eastern Bosnia constituted “an intent to destroy in part the Bosnian Muslim group.”68 Krstic was guilty of “genocide.”

With this tortured decision, political to its core, the court ruled that “genocide” could and did occur in one small town, although the perpetrators bussed the women and children to safety, and the court confessed its uncertainty about how many of the missing really were executed, and how many were killed in battle. In effect, the court simply guessed that a majority of the missing were executed. “[T]he evidence given by witnesses, as corroborated by the forensic and demographics evidence presented by the OTP, strongly suggests that well in excess of 7,000 people went missing following the take-over of Srebrenica,” one sentence reads. “The correlation between the age and sex of the bodies exhumed from the Srebrenica graves and that of the missing persons support the proposition that the majority of missing people were, in fact, executed and buried in the mass graves.”69 As Michael Mandel writes, a “majority of a maximum of 7,000–8,000 would put the maximum executed closer to 4,000”—or roughly one-half that of the standard view.

“[S]o why the exaggerated numbers?” Mandel asks. He answers:

Because the tribunal wasn’t really interested in the murder charges. They were after the big prize of genocide, a much more difficult case to make in these circumstances, so the higher the number of dead the better. My computer tells me that the tribunal used 33 times more space in their judgment trying to establish the genocide charge than the murder charge, even though the result for Mr. Krstic would have been the same.70

The Srebrenica massacre took place in the month before Operation Storm, Croatia’s devastating attack and ethnic cleansing of some 250,000 Serbs from the Krajina, with over 1,000 civilians killed, including over 500 women and children—no women and children were bussed to safety by the perpetrators, as they were at Srebrenica—and more than 2,000 missing.71 It is likely that more civilians were killed in this campaign than following the fall of Srebrenica, but this was given cursory treatment by the Western media, and has never been regarded as a case of “genocide.” On the contrary, the immediate and unrelenting focus on the fate of Srebrenica’s male population facilitated this U.S.-approved and supported cleansing campaign. Cees Wiebes recounts an occasion in August 1995, when the “[UN Military Observers] in Zagreb organized a press conference on large-scale human rights violations by the Bosnian Croats during the recently completed Operation Storm (carried out with U.S. assistance). The room was full of journalists and things were just about to start when an official from the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb suddenly entered and announced that a press conference was about to begin at the embassy where information would be released on aerial photos of possible mass graves around Srebrenica. The room emptied immediately.”72

Madeleine Albright’s performance before the Security Council had the same diverting impact. On the afternoon when the Council met to adopt resolutions on Croatia as well as Bosnia, Albright reminded the Council not to “forget the tragedy and outrages perpetrated earlier in Bosnia against the eastern enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa…the magnitude of the suffering they caused…[as] many as 13,000 men, women and children…driven from their homes….”73 In fact, she used the phrase “we must not forget” five different times during her remarks—each time directed at Srebrenica and Zepa and the Bosnian Serbs. The “dead were not killed in the heat of battle, they were not killed in self-defence and they were not killed by accident,” Albright insisted; “they were systematically slaughtered on the instructions of the Bosnian Serb leadership.” This is at best a half truth as it is clear that unknown but large numbers were killed in battle. Furthermore, those killed in Krajina were not killed in the heat of battle, in self-defense, or by accident, and the proof of the Croat leadership’s role in these killings and the driving of many more than “13,000 men, women and children from their homes,” with U.S. support, is clear.

In August 2005, Croatia’s government declared the tenth anniversary of Operation Storm a “Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day.”74 That is, Croatia was officially celebrating the single largest ethnic cleansing in Europe since the Second World War. Srebrenica was treated rather differently: In Bosnia on the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, dignitaries from Western states and the UN gathered at the new Srebrenica Memorial at Potocari to solemnly commemorate and “pay tribute to the victims of a terrible crime—the worst on European soil since the Second World War” (Kofi Annan).75 Can you imagine the Western response if Serbia declared the tenth anniversary of Srebrenica a “Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day”? But nobody in the West noticed the Croatian declaration, just as annual celebrations of Operation Storm during previous years had been unremarked.

The asymmetry in how the Srebrenica massacre and Operation Storm have entered the Western canon is enlightening. Srebrenica is regularly described as the “worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World War”—this formula is routine. As regards Operation Storm, at an August 2005 ceremony in Belgrade to mark its tenth anniversary, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica referred to it as the “biggest ethnic cleansing since World War Two,” and nobody has put forward a claim of a larger forced transfer during the Balkan wars. However, as the tenth anniversaries of both events came and went in 2005, the English-language print and wire services referred to Srebrenica as the worst atrocity (or greatest massacre) in Europe since the Second World War literally hundreds of times; whereas the same print and wire services carried a description of Operation Storm as the greatest expulsion or transfer or ethnic cleansing in Europe since the Second World War a grand total of fifteen times, and but twice in print, none in the United States or Britain.76 Srebrenica is almost never mentioned without defining it as Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War, whereas Operation Storm is virtually never described as Europe’s largest ethnic cleansing since the war. Once again, political bias on the worthiness and unworthiness of the victims dictates attention and indignation.

Another point worth noting is that Operation Storm was very much a return to Second World War–style ethnic cleansing and mass murder, when the Axis-created Independent State of Croatia (1941–45), headed by Croatian fascist Ustashe leader Ante Pavelic, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Serbs (and many Jews and Gypsies), while large numbers also died in fighting or fled. As Nebojsa Malic has noted, although it took half a century for Serb numbers to recover from this wartime decimation, the newly independent Republic of Croatia was able to carry out another series of decimation operations with critical U.S. aid in the years 1992–95, with its culmination in Operation Storm. “Tudjman made Pavelic’s dream to rid Croatia of Serbs a reality,” Malic writes. “It seems everything is in the choice of allies.”77 And dependent on the silence and de facto cooperation of the humanitarian interventionists and international community.

6. The Bosnia ‘Genocide’ Hangs on Despite Painful Revisionism from within the Establishment

Accusing critics of “denying” atrocities is a popular technique of derogation. Another tested device is to charge them with “revisionism.” Every time assertions of fact move closer to unwanted truths, the moral and emotional bona fides of the “Holocaust” are raised as if a shield to deflect them aside. When one of the present authors began writing critically about the role that Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge was playing in the “reconstruction of imperial ideology,” it became clear that to raise doubts about the uses to which widely circulated and sometimes dubious information was then put would be met with the charge of “apologetics for Pol Pot” and worse.78 Three decades ago, it was argued that “The propaganda system has been committed to eke what profit it could from the misery of Cambodia. Questions of truth are secondary.”79 The treatment of Yugoslavia since 1991 corroborates this criticism in full. After the forensic investigators who followed NATO into Kosovo unearthed dramatically fewer bodies than anticipated, Michael Ignatieff, writing in the New York Times, dismissed as “revisionist” anybody who, on the basis of this lack of evidence, concluded that NATO had lied.80 Rather than answer the critics, the critics were dismissed with a rhetorical ploy.

Charges that Bosnian Serbs or ethnic Serbs in general had perpetrated crimes against humanity and genocide were made early and often during Yugoslavia’s breakup. A critical pillar of support for these charges was the number of Bosnian Muslim civilians alleged to have been killed by Serbs, their fate regularly described in the most lurid fashion. “Genocidal Serb aggression began in Croatia in the summer of 1991…[then] moved to Bosnia in [the] spring 1992 and escalated sharply,” U.S. Representative Frank McCloskey (D.-IN) wrote on New Year’s Eve 1992. “Serb forces in Bosnia have killed between 128,000 and 200,000 persons—almost one in 10 Bosnian Muslims.” Attending talks in Geneva during the first week of 1993, Bosnian Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic repeated the 200,000 figure, and added that the Muslim women of Bosnia had been subjected to the “most massive raping in human history.’’ Speaking in Washington D.C. shortly thereafter, he repeated the 200,000 figure again; in remarks before the Carnegie Endowment, he stated that “In the last nine months, more than 200,000 people have been killed in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which means approximately almost 1,000 per day.”81 Within forty-eight hours, Izetbegovic’s claim had been reported by the Washington Post, National Public Radio, Associated Press, the London Independent, and the New York Times.

Coming just months after the previous summer’s reports of Serb-run concentration and even death camps, and deposited within a journalistic setting primed to believe the worst horrors about Serbs, the 200,000 figure soon became a floor below which estimates seldom dipped, but frequently exceeded. (Richard Holbrooke opens To End A War with the assertion that “Between 1991 and 1995, close to three hundred thousand people were killed in the former Yugoslavia,” and he continued to repeat the 300,000 figure in the days after Milosevic’s death.) The gullibility quotient was very high, despite the fact that the numbers were unverified and emanated from a biased source that regularly disinformed as it strove to gain Western interventionary support. Many journalists embraced the disinformation. “There is no attempt here to be objective towards the perpetrators of Bosnia’s ethnic carnage or those who appeased them,” Ed Vulliamy proclaimed at the outset of his book Seasons in Hell, which proceeded to find “echoes” and “political resonances” with the “Nazi project” everywhere the Serbs took up arms; by July 1993, Vulliamy added, the Serb project had produced “hundreds of thousands of Muslims dead….” “The Serbs came, they slaughtered, they conquered, while the world looked on,” David Rieff stated in 1995. “As I write, the genocide is all but complete.”82

Language and imagery derived from the Nazi’s attempt to destroy Europe’s Jews were applied on a regular basis to events in Bosnia from the summer of 1992 onward, then reprised in Kosovo beginning in early 1998 (see section 10). In both accounts the perpetrators and victims were defined according to ethno-religious categories: Serbs against “Bosniaks” and “Kosovars.” Armed conflicts were translated into strictly racist pogroms; victory lay not in the surrender of an enemy but in the cleansing or purifying of the victim-race from the Serbs’ living-space. The series of indictments of Milosevic et al. for Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo illustrate well the role that the example of the Nazis played for the ICTY, and shared by historians and journalists. Thus the two indictments for Bosnia portray the civil wars from their very inception as one gigantic, ethno-religiously motivated conspiracy carried out by Serbs against the rest of Yugoslavia’s peoples: “The purpose of this joint criminal enterprise was the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs, principally Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large areas of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina….”83

Counts 1 and 2 of the Bosnia indictments charge Milosevic et al. with “genocide or complicity in genocide,” based on an assumed 200,000 or more deaths in the context of a series of civil wars. Lower estimates by others with intelligence access, such as that by former State Department official George Kenney, who put the total “in the tens of thousands, including civilians,”84 were ignored.

However, in conflict with the party line, researchers for the Demographic Unit of the Prosecutor at the ICTY, and with the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center, independently produced estimates of total war-related deaths on the order of 100,000 on all sides. In the first study, by Ewa Tabeau and Jakub Bijak, only some 55,000 deaths out of a total of 102,622 were found to have been civilians, including over 16,000 Serbs; the remaining 47,000 deaths were members of military groups.85 In the ongoing work of the second, a group of some twenty researchers headed by the Bosnian Muslim lawyer Mirsad Tokaca, the total number of deaths caused by Bosnia’s civil wars have been estimated at 97,207 on all sides, of which 57,523 were soldiers at the time of death, and 39,684 civilians.86 These most certainly are not negligible numbers. But they are far less dramatic than 200,000 Bosnian Muslim deaths (or more), and far less satisfactory if one is eager to make a case for “genocide,” and to justify the intense focus on this theater of conflict as opposed to others, some of which have seen mortality rates running to seven digits.87 Also, though Bosnian Muslim civilian deaths were possibly twice that of Serb deaths (or approximately 31,000), some of the Muslim deaths occurred in fighting between Croat and Muslim forces as well as intra-Muslim fighting.88 Furthermore, 16,000 Serb civilian deaths are not negligible—indeed, this fact alone contradicts the party line implication that the Serbs were uniquely killers and not major victims. As we show later (section 9), the number of Serbs who remain uprooted by these conflicts exceeds that of any other ethnic group; and the number of Serbs denied the chance to return to areas from which they were driven dwarfs their rivals.

The substantial downward revision of war-related deaths in Bosnia came as a shock to the media and commentators long versed in repeating cliché lies. Only grudgingly have the inflated figures begun to give way to the more authoritative 100,000; and rare is the admission that years of erroneous reporting require a fundamental rethinking about the nature of what had been reported before.

Most incorrigible of all has been what we call the Bosnia genocide lobby—a set of institutions and individuals funded by Western governments, the partisan billionaire George Soros, and the established NGO-networks, whose members see their task as guarding the standard narrative against serious challenges. For the lobby, the ultimate authority on whether Serbs committed “genocide” in Bosnia is the ICTY, an “international court established by the United Nations”—hence regarded as an independent body, despite massive evidence to the contrary (see section 4 and section 7). The lobby’s members regularly use the charge of “denial” and “revisionism” to deride any questioning of the party line, treating skepticism as intolerable. While such techniques have worked in regards to the Srebrenica massacre, the findings of Tabeau and Bijak as well as the Research and Documentation Center are harder to dismiss as “revisionism,” much less “denial.” In this case the chosen route has been silence, a route also taken by the mainstream media.

To test this, we ran database searches of fourteen different English-language print media for mentions of the principals identified with this research (Ewa Tabeau, Jakub Bijak, and Mirsad Tokaca) in connection with their important findings.89 Through May 2007, there had been only one mention anywhere in our media universe: The February 13, 2006 London Independent reported that “Mirsad Tokaca, the head of the Centre, funded and financed by Norway, finalised a list of 100,000 citizens of Bosnia killed in the war.”90 Despite the heavy use of the earlier high numbers, and the important conclusions that they supported, these new research efforts were not found to be newsworthy. Even when the Research and Documentation Center released its updated work in a June 2007 document titled the Bosnian Book of the Dead, the same print media devoted a total of 251 words to the event, despite veteran researcher Patrick Ball’s assessment that the data are “better than any I’ve worked with so far.”91 But like all previous downward revisions, the latest told the wrong story.

Following the death of Slobodan Milosevic in March 2006, the present authors carried out a series of database searches to determine which death tolls were then being reported for the wars in Bosnia or the former Yugoslavia altogether.92 We found that the inflated figure of 200,000 or something greater was used in at least 202 different items (i.e., news reports, obituaries, editorials, and op-eds), and the more recent establishment finding of 100,000 in only 13. In at least 126 different items the death toll was reported to have been 250,000 (99 items in all) or 300,000 (27 items). For the U.S. media alone the ratio was 76 to 2 in favor of the higher numbers rendered obsolete by the new establishment studies. It is testimony to the deep-seated bias of the media that the death toll issued by relatively scholarly establishment sources was not yet able to displace the old and higher figures whose origins date back to Bosnian Muslim officials not noted for scruple. The journalists hate to abandon numbers that have fitted their biases so well.

In another egregious case, during a guest appearance on PBS’s Charlie Rose Show in June 2007, ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte stated that “more than 300,000” civilians had died as a result of the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, deaths the responsibility for which she attributed to Slobodan Milosevic. As a purveyor of the standard narrative, and herself a chief protagonist in the West’s intervention in the former Yugoslavia, Del Ponte can get away with intellectual murder here and anywhere else. (For her remarks on NATO’s innocence of any war crimes in its 1999 bombing war, see section 4.) Rather than recognizing the deeply political nature of Del Ponte’s office and calling her to account for such outlandish assertions, Rose introduced her as a “relentless pursuer of justice,” and treated her with groveling respect.93

We find it interesting that in the West, the million or more Iraqi deaths from the “sanctions of mass destruction” and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths that have followed the 2003 U.S. invasion are never presented as “genocide” or events that “we must not forget,” and don’t merit the indignation of Ed Vulliamy, David Rieff, Samantha Power, and the mainstream media. The driving out of 250,000 Serbs from Croatia, and killing several thousand of them, doesn’t even rate the designation of “ethnic cleansing,” let alone genocide. The hundreds of thousands of Serbs killed by the Independent State of Croatia’s Ustashe regime at Jasenovac and other prison camps during the Second World War—some estimates run to 600,00094—and the 16,000 Serb civilians killed in Bosnia 1992–95 are effectively disappeared, while the 31,000 Muslim civilians killed in the latter years are elevated to world class status as victims of genocide. In short, these are words to be used only when describing the crimes of U.S. enemies, with suitable attention and indignation to be provided in parallel.

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  1. See, e.g., Hans C. von Sponeck, A Different Kind of War (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006).
  2. In the fifty-one months between the September 25, 1991, date on which Res. 713 was adopted (it initiated an arms embargo on Yugoslavia), and the December 21, 1995, date of Res. 1035 (to help enforce the Dayton Accords), the Security Council devoted 27 percent of its resolutions to the former Yugoslavia—more to this one theater of conflict than to any other during a comparable period in UN history, including Iraq.
  3. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Supplement to An Agenda for Peace (S/1995/1), January 3, 1995, pars. 35–36.
  4. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 982 (1995) and 987 (1995) (S/1995/444), May 30, 1995, par. 16. This important document expressed the fears then rampant inside the UN that UNPROFOR had violated its peacekeeping mandate (i.e., strict neutrality) and become a party to the conflict (i.e., against the Bosnian Serbs).
  5. Richard Holbrooke, To End A War, rev. ed. (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 99–103. See also Tim Ripley, Operation Deliberate Force: The UN and NATO Campaign in Bosnia 1995 (Lancaster: Centre for Defence and International Security Studies, 1999).
  6. Perry Anderson, “Made in USA,” The Nation, April 2, 2007.
  7. In his memoirs of the five years he spent as Secretary-General, Boutros-Ghali recounts a conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who told him, after his rejection by the United States: “You symbolize the United Nations, and the American Congress is hostile to the United Nations. You are also blamed for trying to control American military power. You used the ‘dual key’ to oppose NATO air strikes against the Serbs. Your stance was very badly perceived by military circles in Washington.” Unvanquished (New York: Random House, 1999), 332–33.
  8. Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder (Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2004), 106–07; Kofi Annan, “Secretary-General Reflects on ‘Intervention’ in Thirty- Fifth Annual Ditchley Foundation Lecture” (SG/SM/6613), June 26, 1998.
  9. Kofi Annan, “Secretary-General calls for unconditional respect for human rights of Kosovo citizens” (SG/SM/6878), January 28, 1999, emphasis added.
  10. “Statement by the North Atlantic Council on Kosovo,” NATO Press Release (99)12, January 30, 1999.
  11. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia v. United States of America, International Court of Justice, Order of June 2, 1999, pars. 19–31. Each of Yugoslavia’s other nine complaints eventually was dismissed according to the same reasoning: The one naming Spain on June 2, 1999, and the other eight on December 15, 2004.
  12. Kofi Annan, “We the Peoples” (A/54/2000), March, 2000, esp. 42–53, here 48; and In Larger Freedom (A/59/2005), March, 2005, par. 135.
  13. UNSC Res. 827, May 25, 1993. Par. 2 states that the Security Council’s “sole purpose” in establishing the ICTY is “prosecuting persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the territory of the former Yugoslavia….”
  14. Elaine Sciolino, “U.S. Names Figures It Wants Charged with War Crimes,” New York Times, December 17, 1992.
  15. Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, “Remarks at the United States Supreme Court,” Press Release, ICTY, April 5, 1999.
  16. NATO Daily Press Briefings, May 16 and 17, 1999, http://www
  17. Aside from the circulation that transcripts of NATO’s daily press conferences received over the M2 Presswire, the only contemporaneous report to have quoted any part of Jamie Shea’s comments on the NATO–ICTY relationship appears to have been Farhan Haq, “Milosevic Indictment Heralds New Era,” Inter Press Service, May 27, 1999. Haq also quoted Robert Hayden: “Mr. Shea clearly knows that he who pays the piper calls the tune.”
  18. See Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, esp. 117–46; Antonio Cassese’s interview with L’Unita was reported in “Karadzic a Pariah, Says War Crimes Tribunal Chief,” ANP English News Bulletin, July 27, 1995; “Statement by Justice Louise Arbour, Prosecutor” (JL/PIU/404-E), ICTY, May 27, 1999.
  19. On January 16, 1999, the day after FRY forces had organized an action at the KLA-dominated Kosovo town of Racak, accompanied by invited OSCE observers and AP photographers, and had fought a battle there with KLA fighters, some 40-45 bodies were found in different locations, approx. twenty of them in a single ravine. U.S. and OSCE official William Walker rushed to the scene, declared it a massacre, and got ICTY prosecutor Louise Arbour to announce on the same day that she had “launched an investigation into the most recent massacre in Kosovo” without her having seen the bodies or received any further information. There is serious doubt as to whether this was a massacre at all, as no such evidence was found there by the OSCE observers, the AP photographers, or a French reporter present on the day of the battle and the bodies were found only after the KLA had returned to Racak. For discussions of this controversy, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “CNN: Selling NATO’s War Globally,” in Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman, Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis (Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2000), 117–19; Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, 238–44; and Mandel, How America Gets Away with Murder, 72–80; 134–36.
  20. Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, 176–206; Carla Del Ponte, Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, ICTY, June, 2000, par. 90.
  21. Barbara Crossette, “U.N. War Crimes Prosecutor Declines to Investigate NATO,” New York Times, June 3, 2000.
  22. Del Ponte, Final Report, par. 90.
  23. Louise Arbour, Prosecutor of the Tribunal Against Slobodan Milosevic et al. (IT-99-37), ICTY, May 22, 1999. See scheduled A–G, which list 344 “persons known by name” alleged to have been killed in Kosovo.
  24. Ian Williams, “Revisionism: The Numbers Game in Kosovo,” Toronto Star, November 23, 1999.
  25. Kofi A. Annan, “May we all learn and act on the lessons of Srebrenica” (SG/SM/9993), July 11, 2005.
  26. See “Former Yugoslavia: Srebrenica: help for families still awaiting news,” ICRC News, September 13, 1995, http://; “8,000 missing, presumed dead, from fallen enclave,” Agence France Presse, September 14, 1995; Maud S. Beelman, “Red Cross Says 8,000 People from Fallen Safe Area Are Missing,” Associated Press, September 14, 1995; “8,000 Muslims Missing,” the New York Times, September 15, 1995, reprinting the AP report. Also see the entry for “Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Annual Report 1995, ICRC, May 31, 1996, par. 16,
  27. At their peak, estimates of deaths caused at the World Trade Center in New York City reached as high as 6,886; but this was eventually reduced to 2,749. See Ula Ilnytzky, “Report drops trade center death toll by three, to 2,749,” Associated Press, January 23, 2004.
  28. Judge Almiro Rodrigues, Judgment in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic (IT-98-33-T), ICTY, August 2, 2001, par. 73. We add here that the 2,028 estimate was based on exhumations in whole or in part of twenty-three Srebrenica-related gravesites through 2001. We believe that there are at least twenty more “known” sites that have yet to be exhumed, although presumably less “promising.” See Dean Manning, Witness Statement, Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic (IT-02-54-T), November 24, 2003, pars. 27–29.
  29. Judgment in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, par. 84; par. 598.
  30. Judgment in Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic, par. 82.
  31. Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, 156.
  32. See, e.g., “Notification regarding anniversary of Serbs suffering in the aggression of Croatian army on the Serb Krajina in the August 95,” as posted to the Web site of the Veritas Documentation Information Center (last accessed June 23, 2007), http://www.veritas .org.yu. Veritas reports 1,883 ethnic Serbs killed during Operation Storm through the end of August, 1995. At tenth anniversary ceremonies in Belgrade, various survivor groups that represent former Krajina Serbs estimated as many as 2,627 Serbs had gone missing in the Krajina between 1991 and 1995. See “Patriarch Pavle holds memorial service for Serb victims of operation Oluja,” August 4, 2005,
  33. Wiebes, Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992–1995, 337.
  34. “The situation in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina” (S/PV.3564), UN Security Council, August 10, 1995, 6.
  35. “Serbia, Croatia mark 10th anniversary of Krajina Serb expulsion,” RIA Novosti, August 6, 2005; “‘Oluja’ 10 years on—Serbs mourn while Croats celebrate,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 4, 2005; and Zoran Radosavljevic, “Croats cheer 1995 army triumph, reach out to Serbs,” Reuters, August 5, 2005.
  36. Kofi A. Annan, “May we all learn and act on the lessons of Srebrenica” (SG/SM/9993), United Nations Secretary-General, July 11, 2005.
  37. We based these findings on searches carried out with three databases: Factiva (“All Sources”), NewsBank (“North America”), and Nexis (“Major Papers,” “Magazines and Journals,” and “Wire Services”). Our search parameters were: “Srebrenica” and “world war” for the period July 1–31, 2005; and “Operation Storm” and “world war” for the period August 1–31, 2005. Note that our point is very conservative: The disparity in the media’s treatment of Srebrenica and Operation storm is actually greater than “scores of times” and “15 times” suggests.
  38. Nebojsa Malic, “Remembering the Storm,”, August 4, 2005,
  39. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, After the Cataclysm (Boston: South End Press, 1979), esp. 135–294; and Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, 2nd Ed. (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002), esp. 260–96. Also see Edward S. Herman, “Pol Pot, Faurisson, and the Process of Derogation,” in Carlos P. Otero, ed., Noam Chomsky, Critical Assessments, vol. 3, Anthropology (New York: Routledge, 1994), 598–615.
  40. Chomsky and Herman, After the Cataclysm, 292.
  41. Michael Ignatieff, “Counting Bodies in Kosovo,” New York Times, November 21, 1999.
  42. U.S. Rep. Frank McCloskey, “The US Is Appeasing Fascism and Genocide,” Christian Science Monitor, December 31, 1992; John A. Callcott, “Bosnia-Herzegovina peace talks break for five days,” United Press International, January 4, 1993; “Remarks of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic to the Carnegie Endowment,” Federal News Service, January 8, 1993.
  43. Ed Vulliamy, Seasons in Hell (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), xi; 43; Rieff, Slaughterhouse, 17.
  44. Carla Del Ponte, Prosecutor of the Tribunal against Slobodan Milosevic (IT-01-51-I), ICTY, November 22, 2001, pars. 5–9.
  45. George Kenney, “The Bosnian Calculation,” New York Times Magazine, April 23, 1995.
  46. Ewa Tabeau and Jakub Bijak, “War-related Deaths in the 1992–1995 Armed Conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” European Journal of Population 21, (June 2005):187–215; here 209; and n. 12, 213. These numbers are arrived at as follows: Tabeau and Bijak give 16,700 as their best “guesstimate” for Serb civilian deaths in the Bosnian wars (see their n. 12, 213). Taking this as a reasonable estimate in a murky field, we can make a further rough estimate of Bosnian Muslim civilian deaths by taking the Tabeau- Bijak total of Bosnian civilian deaths, 55,261, subtracting out the 16,700 Serbs plus 8,294 Croat and “Other” civilian deaths, giving us a Muslim civilian total of 31,000. The Croat–Other numbers are obtained by applying Tabeau and Bijak’s ratio of Croat–Other deaths to total deaths that they use in an alternative calculation (see their table 5, 204). It should be noted that Tabeau and Bijak were working for the ICTY and testified for the prosecution during the Milosevic trial, so that their biases, if they exist, are not likely to show up in inflating Serb casualties. Last, we should also note that Milan Bogdanic, one of the co-directors of the Institute for Missing Persons of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has reported the recovery of 3,251 sets of remains from as many as sixtythree “mass graves” containing Serbs, activities that have aroused zero interest in the Western media (see “Serb officials say mass grave discovered in northwestern Bosnia,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, February 21, 2006).
  47. See Mirsad Tokaca et al., “Status of Database by Centers,” Research and Documentation Center, Also see Nidzara Ahmetasevic, “Bosnia’s Book of the Dead,” Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, June 21, 2007; and Christian Jennings, “Book of Dead names nearly 100,000 victims,” The Scotsman, June 22, 2007.
  48. See, e.g., B. Coghlan et al., “Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” The Lancet (367), January 7, 2006, 44–51. Already over three years old, this study concludes that “about 3.9 million people have died as a result of the conflict between August, 1998, and April, 2004.”
  49. See Brendan O’Shea, Crisis at Bihac (Gloucestershire, U.K.: Sutton Publishing, 1998).
  50. The databases used were Factiva and Nexis. The media universe consisted of the mass-circulation dailies Boston Globe, Financial Times, The Guardian/Observer, The Independent, New York Times, The Times (London), Toronto Globe and Mail, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post, and the weekly magazines The Economist, Maclean’s, and Newsweek, for all regular publication dates through May 31, 2007.
  51. Vesna Peric Zimonjic, “Five years on, Milosevic is still in the dock,” The Independent, February 13, 2006.
  52. Aida Cerkez-Robinson, “Research shows many estimates of Bosnian war death toll were severely inflated,” Associated Press, June 21, 2007. The Financial Times devoted 77 words to the RDC’s downward revisions, the New York Times 102, and the Guardian Weekly 72.
  53. See Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Milosevic’s Death in the Propaganda System,” in Peter Phillips, ed., Censored 2007 (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006), 387–88. The databases used were Factiva and Nexis. The media universe consisted of large numbers of English-language sources deriving from wire services (including AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters, and many others), European, Canadian, and U.S. print, TV, and radio, and other regions (e.g., Australia, though by no means only), and covered the eleven day period beginning with Milosevic’s death on March 11, 2006.
  54. “A Discussion With Carla Del Ponte,” The Charlie Rose Show, June 20, 2007.
  55. According to The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, “Some six hundred thousand people were murdered at Jasenovac, mostly Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and opponents of the Ustasa regime” (740). Israel Gutman, ed. (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Publishing House, 1990), vol. 2, 739–40.

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part III)

Jump to Part: I, II, IV | Glossary | Timeline

7. The Milosevic Trial

The four-year trial of Slobodan Milosevic was the culmination of ICTY service to the NATO program in the Balkans. It was designed to show the world by an elaborate procedure leading ultimately to the conviction of the top Serb leader—the first head of state in modern times to be indicted, seized, and tried in this fashion—that the “judgment and opprobrium of history awaits the people in whose name their crimes were committed,” as Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger said in 1992.95 As with the ICTY overall, this trial was supposed to “help shape how current and future generations view the wars and in particular Serbia’s role in them,” as the advocates for this brand of “international justice” at Human Rights Watch clearly understand.96 This required the framing of indictments around the Serbs’ unique guilt for wars dating back to the summer of 1991, when Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence, with NATO’s 1999 violation of the UN Charter vindicated on moral grounds that allegedly preempt the Charter’s restrictions on the use of force.

But the ICTY’s assault on Milosevic started out clumsily, with the hasty indictment for Kosovo in May 1999 clearly designed to meet a PR need by providing a distraction from NATO’s bombing of Serb civilian facilities—itself a violation of international law. Another problematic justice move was the kidnapping of Milosevic and his shipment to The Hague in June 2001, in violation of Yugoslav Constitutional Court decisions. Justice was compromised further by the belated extension of the indictments during Milosevic’s incarceration, first to cover Croatia (October 8, 2001) and finally Bosnia (November 22, 2001).97 The last of these was especially important to the ICTY, as it made possible bringing the charge of “genocide” against him for the first time. It was likely that this followed from the court’s conviction of Radislav Krstic for “genocide” in the Srebrenica case three months earlier, and the prosecution’s assessment that a charge of “genocide” would be impossible to sustain on the basis of events in Kosovo alone, where the estimated toll from the seventy-eight-day bombing war had fallen from a peak NATO charge of 500,000 Albanian deaths to well under the final but still inflated estimate of 11,000.98 There was also the problem that NATO might have been responsible for as many Kosovo deaths as was the Serb army, raising questions of why Milosevic but not Clinton and Blair should be in the dock. This could be circumvented by linking Milosevic to Croatian and Bosnian casualties, even if belatedly, and with evidence still to be gathered—but in a justice system where charges often came first, with evidence hopefully to follow, this was routine.

Even before the kidnapping and revamped indictments, and throughout the trial, the proceedings were compromised by a steady barrage of ICTY prosecutor and other officials’ public charges against the man on trial, a further demonization process intended to build support for the ICTY and its operations, but incompatible with a fair trial. However, it was compatible with the political purposes of the trial, with the fact that finding Milosevic guilty was built into the ICTY by design. As John Laughland points out, the ICTY is a “prosecutorial organization” whose “whole philosophy and structure is accusatory.” This is why its judges gradually accepted a stream of rulings damaging to the defense and to the possibility of a fair trial—including allowing hearsay evidence, secret witnesses, and closed sessions (the latter two categories applicable in the case of 40 percent of the Milosevic trial witnesses). ICTY rules even allow an appeal and retrial of an acquitted defendant—“in other words, the ICTY can imprison a person whom it has just found innocent.”99

The trial moved ahead while the “evidence” was still being assembled. Most of it was provided by scores of alleged witnesses to alleged crimes, a large majority of it hearsay, and almost none of it bearing on Milosevic’s decision-making or distinguishing his actions from what could have been said against Izetbegovic, Tudjman, or Bill Clinton. Laughland shows very persuasively that the inordinate length of the trial was in no way related to Milosevic’s performance, a false claim repeated many times by the mainstream media; it was based on the fact that this was a political trial that inherently demanded massive evidence, and the prosecution, struggling to make a concocted case plausible, poured it on, trying to make up for lack of any evidence to support their charges by the sheer volume of irrelevant witnesses who could testify to suffering during the civil wars.100

A key element in the prosecution case was the belated charge that Milosevic was involved in a “joint criminal enterprise” (JCE) with Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia to rid themselves of non-Serbs by violence, looking toward that Greater Serbia. The JCE concept is not to be found in prior law or even in the ICTY Statute. It was improvised to allow the finding of guilt anywhere and anytime. You are part of a JCE if you are doing something bad along with somebody else, or are attacking the same parties with somebody who does something bad. With that common end you don’t even have to know about what somebody else is doing to be part of the JCE. Laughland has a devastating analysis of this remarkably elastic doctrine, and notes that Milosevic probably would have been convicted based on its catch-all—or catch anyone—expansiveness.101 Of course it fits much better the joint Clinton, Blair, and NATO enterprises in Yugoslavia, or the Croats’ U.S.-supported ethnic cleansing of Serbs from the Krajina in August 1995. But there is nobody to enforce the JCE against them, whereas we have the ICTY to take care of U.S. and NATO targets!

On the one hand, Milosevic won that trial in a substantive sense. In this victory, he was helped along by the fact that this was a political show trial, that the case against him was laughable and much weaker than cases that might have been brought against Clinton, Blair, Tudjman, or Izetbegovic, that it was badly mismanaged, and that despite a severe courtroom and media bias against him, Milosevic was able to expose many of its vulnerabilities, which live on in the ICTY’s massive database—even if how the current generation views the trial has not been shaped by them.

On the other hand, the ICTY not only killed Milosevic,102 but with the help of the Western media and intellectuals his substantive victory remains missing and unaccounted for, while the demonization and the claims about his drive to create a “Greater Serbia” stand tall.

8. Humanitarian Intervention, the Rise of al-Qaeda, and the Surge of Islamic Fundamentalism in the Balkans

Completely ignored until the events of 9/11, another consequence of the humanitarian wars in the Balkans was the stimulus they provided to Islamic fundamentalism and to the al-Qaeda network. Between the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in early 1989 and the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, no other theater of conflict inspired a greater commitment of Mujahedin and jihad resources than wartime Bosnia.103 As we’ve seen, Izetbegovic had long advocated an Islamic state in the Balkans; and both the Bosnian Muslim Army and later the KLA used Mujahedin volunteers along with an organizational infrastructure whose roots reached back to some of the major U.S. campaigns of the 1980s in what Richard Aldrich calls an “Iran-Contra style operation” and “one of the dirtiest wars of the new world disorder.”104 But the Clinton administration overlooked the regressive ideology of its “assets,” and supported and participated in the importation of vast quantities of arms and up to 4,000 Mujahedin to fight in Bosnia,105 just as the Carter and Reagan administrations had done in Afghanistan from 1979 on. This gave al-Qaeda a foothold in the Balkans. But more important, it provided a rallying cry and recruitment tool that was unsurpassed until the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.106

These aspects of taking the side of the Bosnian Muslims have always been awkward for the humanitarian war propagandists, but they became more so after 9/11. The U.S. government’s official 9/11 Commission Report claims that at least two of the nineteen suicide hijackers, Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar, both Saudis who perished when they crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, “were already experienced mujahideen” who “had traveled together to fight in Bosnia in a group that journeyed to the Balkans in 1995.”107 More revealing was the itinerary of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a Pakistani whom the 9/11 Commission called the “mastermind” and “chief manager of the ‘planes operation.’” Khalid Sheik Mohammed served at least two tours of duty in Bosnia. “In 1992, KSM [Khalid Sheik Mohammed] spent some time fighting alongside the mujahideen in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations,” and again in 1995 “to join the Bosnia jihad.”108 The commission also reported that Osama bin Laden’s “network” included “a ‘services’ branch in Zagreb” as well as “an office of the Benevolence International Foundation in Sarajevo, which supported the Bosnian Muslims in their conflict with Serbia and Croatia….”109

Despite the huge focus on 9/11 and al-Qaeda, these links have seldom been featured in the mainstream media. The Serbs, of course, were complaining about the brutality of the “foreign fighters” (or “Turks”) as early as 1992, including the beheadings practiced against residents of Serb villages in eastern Bosnia, within striking distance of the Srebrenica enclave; an official attempt by the government in Belgrade to document these activities in the communes of Bratunac, Skelani, and Srebrenica during the first twelve months of the war in Bosnia was ignored when delivered to the Security Council in May 1993.110 Nor were the media and ICTY interested in them. Instead the focus of their concern was on Bosnian Muslims as a unique victim category, and Clinton’s and the West’s generous if belated service to these underdogs.

Unquestionably, had such ties been traceable to Milosevic and the other members of the “joint criminal enterprise,” Clinton, Blair, Del Ponte, Simons, Vulliamy, and others would have featured them and drawn the appropriate conclusions about the forces of evil helping to “shape a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives” and “fuel the spread of the jihadist movement.”111 But given that the linkages were to the good guys, silence has prevailed.

9. The Impact of the ‘Humanitarian’ War

While the social costs borne by the so-called “transitional” countries of Europe were great, in the balance sheet of human development Yugoslavia’s civil wars and the “humanitarian intervention” brought about the ultimate reversal. Yugoslavia went from an upper-middle-income country of 23.8 million people and a ranking of 34th in the newly minted Human Development Index (HDI),112 to a disappearance from the charts, not to be heard from since. Other European countries whose 1990 HDI rankings were very near Yugoslavia’s were Czechoslovakia and Hungary (slightly higher), and Portugal and Poland (slightly lower). We recognize the problems caused by gaps in data about the former republics/independent states for several years after 1990, and the risks inherent in drawing comparisons between them and other countries not at war. Nevertheless, it is revealing that by 2004, Slovenia’s per-capita GDP and HDI ranking were higher than for each of these four European countries (the Czech Republic taking the dissolved Czechoslovakia’s place), while the same measures for Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia lagged far below, the latter two substantially so.113

As for Serbia and Montenegro (which in 2007 no longer exists, just as Serbia itself may soon undergo the amputation of Kosovo), though some “basic indicators” began turning up for it at the UN Development Program by 2001, at no time was its HDI ranking estimated, and for years its data were consigned to the same underworld of countries that includes Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Liberia, and Somalia. This juxtaposition of the fates of the old Yugoslavia’s northwest and southeast reminds us of a passage in Warren Zimmermann’s Origins of a Catastrophe, about how, “in their drive to separate from Yugoslavia” in the late 1980s, the Slovenes “simply ignored the twenty-two million Yugoslavs who were not Slovenes.” In Zimmermann’s judgment, “They bear considerable responsibility for the bloodbath that followed their secession.”114 Alone among their former brothers in unity, the Slovenes plucked the fruits of secession at their ripest, largely escaping the civil wars of the 1990s. By 2006 they enjoyed per-capita GDP that had climbed to 80 percent the EU’s average,115 full EU and NATO membership (2004), and soon thereafter conversion to the euro (2007). And in a supreme irony, Slovenia now contributes troops to at least four different theaters occupied by NATO—Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo (i.e., inside Serbia)—and has “more troops abroad in NATO missions per capita than any other member of the alliance.”116

Although the Republic of Serbia and ethnic Serbs in general remain the designated villains in the standard narrative of Yugoslavia’s dismantling, many of the consequences of the wars contradict the role in which they’ve been cast.

Table 1:
Refugees and internally displaced persons in the former Yugoslavia, as of January 1, 2005a
Column 1:
Refugees by country of origin
Column 2:
Refugees by country of asylum
Column 3:
Internally displaced persons
Column 4:
Total number of refugees and displaced persons by host country

a Compiled from Nada Merheb et al., The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), annex 2, “Total population of concern to UNHCR, end-2004,” 211; annex 4, “Refugee population by country of asylum,” 214–16; and annex 5, “Refugee population by origin, 1995-2004,” 217–20.

b Refers to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

What is more, Serbia-Montenegro hosted the third-highest refugee population in the entire world (as a percentage of its total population), just behind Chad, which happens to share a border with the three Darfur states in the western Sudan; Bosnia-Herzegovina ranked twenty-fifth overall, hosting only one-fifth the Serbia-Montenegrin percentage of refugees.117 Taking into account both refugees and internally displaced persons (columns 2 and 3), we see that Serbia-Montenegro was the host of 534,837 uprooted persons overall, 38 percent more than Bosnia-Herzegovina, widely regarded in Western commentary as the severest victim of the wars of “ethnic cleansing.”

A long-term pattern also appears evident: Some of the refugee and internally displaced person crises in the former Yugoslavia were reversed over time; others, however, proved more permanent. At the time of Dayton (December 1995), 769,753 refugees had fled from Bosnia, and 245,572 from Croatia;118 nine years later, the number of refugees from Bosnia stood at 229,329, a reduction of 70 percent; Croatia’s was 215,474, a reduction of only 12.3 percent. Clearly large numbers of refugees have been returning to Bosnia, but very few to Croatia. This suggests that some “ethnic cleansings” may reach much more deeply into the fabric of Balkan history than others.

In the most dramatic case, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) once boasted that the 1999 “Kosovo crisis produced possibly the fastest mass exodus and rapid return of refugees in modern history,” when some “860,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovars fled or were deported to neighbouring states within weeks [of the onset of NATO’s war] and then returned just as quickly later in the year.” But, the UNHCR added, the “first exodus-return of ethnic Albanians [was] followed by a second massive flight of 230,000 Serbs and Roma as the fortunes of war changed dramatically”119—and just like the refugees who fled Croatia through 1995, very few of these have returned to Kosovo. Once again, this suggests that some “ethnic cleansings” are more reversible than others; and that in the former Yugoslavia, the deciding factors are not only the ethnicity of the victims and perpetrators but also whether foreign powers advocate on their behalf—and if so, which foreign powers. Is it not odd that the one republic which allegedly organized the wars of ethnic cleansing has suffered the greatest long-term refugee burden, and hosts the greatest number of uprooted persons overall?

NATO’s “humanitarian” war exacted no less fearful a toll. Aside from the perhaps 1.5 million people uprooted during the three months it was waged, the material damage was considerable. Serbia-Montenegro had already been subjected to extensive sanctions dating back to May 30, 1992, along with highly theatrical condemnation and isolation around the world. The ruthless bombing campaign in 1999 not only killed and injured several thousand people (including large numbers of Kosovo Albanians120), but in a targeting pattern reminiscent of the U.S. strategy during the first Iraq war,121 it struck a severe blow to Serbia’s infrastructure (electrical plants, bridges, factories), causing yet more economic hardship, unemployment, and pollution. A postwar assessment by the UN Environment Program identified at least four “hot spots”—in or near Pancevo, Kragujevac, Novi Sad, and Bor, where oil refineries and petrochemical plants had been destroyed.122

Particularly hard hit were the provincial cities. “All our cities were bombed, especially the cities where the opposition is greatest,” the mayor of Nis told the Washington Post. “Now, how do you explain to the people who voted for democratic reforms, who rallied against Milosevic, how do you explain that, well, the Western democracies bombed and killed you, and now they don’t want to help you rebuild?” The same bewilderment was expressed by the mayor of Pancevo: “NATO had to understand what they were doing to us, because these factories were built by American and European firms. They could not have been ignorant of the environmental damage.”123 Of course NATO understood. But we are aware of no advocate for this “humanitarian” war who has ever shown the slightest understanding that NATO’s target selection bore zero correlation to the plight of the Kosovo Albanians. Or that its real purpose was progressively to disable Serbian society at large, to take over Kosovo, and to effect regime change—all missions accomplished.

The June 1999 end of the war, the Security Council resolution and treaties giving the Secretariat the power to establish a UN government in Kosovo, the rapid return of the refugees, and the ouster of Milosevic in October 2000 were all supposed to bring economic revival and democratic renewal. But none of it happened. The neoliberal rules imposed by the new, NATO-friendly government of Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic led to extensive privatizations and foreign takeovers of business properties, layoffs, more severe unemployment, and negligible economic growth. As of 2006, Serbia’s GDP remained at only 60 percent its 1989 level, when it was roughly the equivalent of Yugoslavia’s average, and the republic still functioned as part of Yugoslavia’s integrated economy. Serbia’s per capita GDP in 2006 amounted to only one-fifth that of Slovenia; and its unemployment rate stood at 31 percent.124 The government remains hostage to the ICTY for failing to meet the quota of indictees that it ought to have arrested and turned over for trial, one of the obstacles to the promised land of EU membership (and possibly a further loss of independence). The largest vote-getter in this badly splintered society is Vojislav Seselj’s Serbian Radical Party; in January’s elections, his nationalist party received almost 29 percent of the vote, more than any other in a campaign where the party platforms distinguished themselves by whether they were “pro-Western” and “pro-EU” or pro-Serb.125

In the two regions that were the main supposed beneficiaries of humanitarian intervention, the result in one (Bosnia) has been a failed mini-state and NATO-power neocolony, administered by a “High Representative” appointed by the EU, with official unemployment around 45 percent and one-quarter of the population living in poverty, splintered ethnically into two statelets that are held in place by coercion only, and with much corruption and crime.126 In the other (Kosovo) the result is a failed province and further NATO-power neocolony, administered by a “Special Representative” appointed by the UN Secretary-General, with official unemployment at roughly 50 percent and massive organized crime, still seething with intense ethnic hostility, its internal ethnic cleansers (Albanians) pressing for independence, but it is still occupied by NATO, and home to perhaps the largest U.S. military base in Europe.127

In both of these regions, there has been top-down foreign rule; and in the name of their captive populations a phalanx of administrators has imposed neoliberal regimes without their subjects’ consultation. In both, moreover, privatization and foreign investment are featured, along with glowing promises and poor results. In both, the privatizations have been corrupt, contributing to clientalism, the deepening of the informal markets of the war years, and the institutionalization of organized crime, particularly in Kosovo. In the latter, we have a fear-dominated state “that is falling into the grip of Albanian organised crime gangs,” with “a burgeoning trade in illicit petrol, cigarettes and cement. Prostitution and drugs are also popular staples of the black economy.”128 The “macroeconomic reforms” imposed by the external rulers have indeed managed to “clear away the debris of the formerly socialist economy and open up the [countries] to international markets and investment,” in the words of a former High Representative for Bosnia,129 and with clear application to both experiments in neocolonial engineering. But by every decent measure of human development and liberation, these externally imposed regimes have been historic failures—except to the robbers.

The United States and Security Council, with Russia so far dissenting, are pressing for a quasi- and Bosnia-like “independence” for Kosovo, with the clear aim of eventual full independence from Serbia. This full independence will come when Kosovo finally achieves the goal of being a “multi-ethnic society, governing itself democratically and with full respect for the rule of law,” in the words of the UN’s Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.130 But under NATO auspices, and after the impact of the NATO war, Kosovo has not only witnessed a huge ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians, but in March 2004 had an outburst of Kosovo Albanian violence reminiscent of the German Kristallsnacht. The remaining minorities in Kosovo are fear-ridden, and dissident Albanians dare not speak up.131 Even the 2005 report by Kai Edie for the UN noted that “the overall return process has virtually come to a halt,” and that “as many or more Kosovo Serbs are leaving Kosovo than are returning.”132 Yet we must have independence for the Kosovo Albanians, and no partition of territory between Serbs and Albanians. And in Bosnia we must keep the three hostile nations together under one “multi-ethnic” roof, even though this doesn’t work, and they don’t want it. The arbitrariness and irrationalities here boggle the mind. But as the under secretary of state for political affairs explained to Congress in April, “The cornerstone of [U.S.] policy in this region has long been the promise of integration of the Balkan countries with NATO and the European Union.”133 And as always, what the United States says, goes.

We should recall here President Clinton’s statement in April 1999 that what “we and our allies have been fighting for in the Balkans is the principle of multiethnic, tolerant, inclusive democracy,” and “against the idea that statehood must be based entirely on ethnicity.”134 It is understandable that neither the politicians, media pundits, nor humanitarian intervention intellectuals refer back to this claim and discuss it in evaluating the war itself, their analysis of the case for humanitarian war, and the prospects of Kosovo. In fact, they have all put the entire background into the black hole, except for snippets of misrepresented history of Serb villainy and Kosovo Albanian victimization.

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  1. Elaine Sciolino, “U.S. Names Figures It Wants Charged with War Crimes,” New York Times, December 17, 1992.
  2. Sara Dareshori, Weighing the Evidence, Human Rights Watch, December 2006, 5.
  3. At the time of Milosevic’s June 28, 2001, transfer to the Scheveningen prison at The Hague, the only indictment he faced was the initial one for Kosovo (May 22, 1999).
  4. The charge of “genocide” appears in both the initial and the amended indictments of Milosevic for Bosnia, but in none of the three indictments for Kosovo, and none of the three indictments for Croatia.
  5. John Laughland, Travesty (Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2007), 97 and passim. Also see Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder, chaps. 4–5, 117–75; Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, 91–109; and Hans Köchler, Global Justice or Global Revenge? International Criminal Justice at the Crossroads (New York: Springer- Wien, 2003), annex 1, 353–56.
  6. Laughland, Travesty, chaps. 5–6, 88–124.
  7. Laughland, Travesty, 110–24. Also see David Chandler, The ‘Butcher of the Balkans’? (University of Westminster, UK, 2006), This paper was drafted at the request of Milosevic’s defense team. But since Milosevic predeceased its submission, it was never formally submitted.
  8. Laughland, Travesty, 203–04.
  9. We use the terms “Mujahedin” and “jihad” with a great deal of caution, and note, for example, the Western media’s frequently prejudicial usage of these terms to denigrate “their” religiously motivated foreign fighters or mercenaries in contradistinction to “our” business-like professionals.
  10. Richard J. Aldrich, “America used Islamists to arm the Bosnian Muslims,” The Guardian, April 22, 2002.
  11. Wiebes, Intelligence and the War in Bosnia, 1992–1995, 207–08.
  12. See, e.g., Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda (New York: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2003); Robert A. Pape, Dying to Win (New York: Random House, 2005); and Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, “The Iraq Effect,” Mother Jones, March/April, 2007.
  13. Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, The 9/11 Commission Report (Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States) (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2004), 155.
  14. The 9/11 Commission Report, 147; n. 5, 488.
  15. The 9/11 Commission Report, 58.
  16. See Memorandum on War Crimes and Crimes and Genocide in Eastern Bosnia (Communes of Bratunac, Skelani and Srebrenica) Committed Against the Serb Population from April 1992 to April 1993 (A/48/177–S/25835), May 24, 1993.
  17. See “Excerpt from the National Intelligence Estimate,” Washington Post, September 27, 2006, which reproduced the “Key Judgments” section of “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.”
  18. Mahbub ul Haq et al., Human Development Report 1991 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), table 1.1, 15. The HDI for this year combined national income per capita, longevity, and knowledge, i.e., literacy rates and years of schooling.
  19. Kevin Watkins et al., Human Development Report 2006 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), table 1, 283–86.
  20. Warren Zimmermann, Origins of a Catastrophe (New York: Times Books, 1996), 71.
  21. G. Schäfer, ed., Europe in Figures (Luxembourg: Statistical Office of the European Communities, 2007), table 6.1, 152.
  22. Christopher Condon, “A leap to international visibility,” Financial Times, December 13, 2006. Also see Richard Bernstein, “Slovenia Strides Westward and Does Not Look Back,” New York Times, July 26, 2006; and Christopher Emsden, “With Slovenia, ECB Will Add a Hawk,” Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2006.
  23. Nada Merheb et al., The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), annex 7, 224. These rankings are based on the number of refugees per 1,000 inhabitants living in a country of asylum as of December 31, 2004. For every 1,000 inhabitants, Chad hosted 26.7, Serbia and Montenegro 26.3, and Bosnia-Herzegovina 5.7. Although more current data are not available, the breakup of Serbia and Montenegro in 2006 likely increased Serbia’s percentage, i.e., by subtracting Montenegro’s approx. 630,000 population from the total.
  24. For the numbers dating from 1995, see Merheb et al., The State of the World’s Refugees 2006, annex 5, “Refugee population by origin, 1995–2004,” 217–20. Space limitations prevent us from including these numbers in the table.
  25. “Serbia and Montenegro: Kosovo,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees. See “The Balkans” Web site hosted by UNHCR,
  26. We are referring to multiple bombing raids on Kosovo Albanian convoys in April and May 1999. In the last of these (at least that we know of), at Korisa on May 13, several dozen were killed, and several dozen more wounded. See Amnesty International, “Collateral Damage” or Unlawful Killings? Violations of the Laws of War by NATO during Operation Allied Force, June 6, 2000, esp. sections 5.2 and 5. 7. And for a detailed account of earlier bombing raids, see Robert Fisk, “Convoy of the Damned,” The Independent, November 28, 1999.
  27. As the Washington Post reported in 1991, target selection during the first Iraq war was aimed at “disabling Iraqi society at large.” “The worst civilian suffering…has resulted not from the bombs that went astray but from precision guided weapons that hit exactly where they were aimed—at electrical plants, oil refineries and transportation networks.” In the words of a confidential source who “played a central role in the air campaign,” so-called “Strategic bombing…strikes against ‘all those things that allow a nation to sustain itself.’” Barton Gellman, “Allied Air War Struck Broadly in Iraq; Officials Acknowledge Strategy Went Beyond Purely Military Targets,” Washington Post, June 23, 1991.
  28. Pekka Haavisto et al., The Kosovo Conflict (Balkans Task Force, UN Environment Program: October 1999), esp. 29–61.
  29. William Booth, “Milosevic Foes Appeal to West To Help Serbia,” Washington Post, July 6, 1999; Chris Hedges, “Serbian Town Bombed by NATO Fears Effects of Toxic Chemicals,” New York Times, July 14, 1999.
  30. See “Background Note: Serbia,” Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, October, 2006; also see the entry for “Serbia” in the CIA’s World Factbook 2007.
  31. David Vujanovic, “Ultra-nationalist win clouds Serbia’s future,” Agence France Presse, January 22, 2007; Beth Kampschror, “Serb elections complicate Kosovo issue,” Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2007; and Dusan Stojanovic, “Serbian Radical Party Riding High,” Associated Press, January 24, 2007.
  32. See “Background Note: Bosnia,” Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, February, 2007; also see the entry for “Bosnia and Herzegovina” in the World Factbook 2007, Central Intelligence Agency.
  33. Michael Pugh, “Crime and Capitalism in Kosovo’s Transformation,” in Tonny Brems Knudsen and Carsten Bagge Laustsen, eds., Kosovo between War and Peace (New York: Routledge, 2006).
  34. Tom Walker, “Rampage of the mafia may delay Kosovo independence,” Sunday Times, April 9, 2006; Bojan Pancevski, “Report damns West’s record in reviving Kosovo,” Daily Telegraph, March 19, 2007; and Svante E. Cornell and Michael Jonsson, “Creating a state of denial,” International Herald Tribune, March 23, 2007.
  35. Paddy Ashdown, “BiH Open for Investments,” Office of the High Representative for Bosnia- Herzegovina, December 9, 2003. Ashdown uttered these words while attending a conference in London to promote Bosnia to foreign investors.
  36. Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (S/2007/168/Add.1), March 26, 2007, General Principles, Article 1.1.
  37. See, e.g., Christian Brunner, “The Situation of Internally Displaced Persons in Serbia and Montenegro,” ICRC, May, 2005; “IDPs from Kosovo,” Global IDP Project, Norwegian Refugee Council, September 22, 2005; and “Position on the Continued International Protection Needs of Individuals from Kosovo,” UNHCR, June, 2006.
  38. Kai Eide, A comprehensive review of the developments in Kosovo (S/2005/635), October 7, 2005, par. 52; par. 54.
  39. R. Nicholas Burns, “The Outlook for the Independence of Kosovo,” U.S. Department of State, April 17, 2007.
  40. Bill Clinton, “Remarks by the President to the American Society of Newspaper Editors,” Federal Documents Clearing House, April 15, 1999.

The Dismantling of Yugoslavia (Part IV)

Jump to Part: I, II, III | Glossary | Timeline

10. The Role of the Media and Intellectuals in the Dismantlement

Media coverage of the Yugoslav wars ranks among the classic cases in which early demonization as well as an underlying strong political interest led quickly to closure, with a developing narrative of good and evil participants and a crescendo of propaganda steadily reinforcing the good-evil perspective. This was the case after the shooting of Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1981, where dubious evidence of Bulgarian-KGB involvement was quickly accepted by the New York Times and its mainstream colleagues, and only plot-supportive evidence was of interest to the media thereafter. They remained gulled for years.135

In the case of Yugoslavia, the gullibility quotient has been breathtakingly high: Only material that conformed to the reigning victim-demon dichotomy would be hunted down with tenacity and reported; material that contradicted it, or that served to weaken and disconfirm it, would be ignored, discounted, excluded, even attacked. In her Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power writes that by the spring of 1992 (the period of the earliest serious fighting in Bosnia), some U.S. diplomats had become “eager to see a Western military intervention” there. But, she adds, they “needed help from American reporters, editorial boards, and advocacy groups,” and help wasn’t forthcoming. Everyone was too “even-handed” and “neutral” (in Power’s judgment), and far too few portrayed the war “as a top-down attempt by Milosevic to create an ethnically pure Greater Serbia,” reducing the likelihood of intervention.

And then in early August 1992,

the proponents of intervention within the U.S. government gained a weapon in their struggle: The Western media finally won access to Serb concentration camps. Journalists not only began challenging U.S. policy, but they supplied photographic images and refugee sagas that galvanized heretofore silent elite opinion. Crucially, the advocates of humanitarian intervention began to win the support of both liberals committed to advancing human rights as well as staunch Republican Cold Warriors, who believed the U.S. had the responsibility and the power to stop Serb aggression in Europe.136

We believe that Power’s time-frame misdates the shift by Western intellectuals and journalists into the good-versus-evil mode by 18–24 months. Nevertheless, her basic point is well-taken—and we find it amusing that she chose the claim of Milosevic’s “attempt…to create an ethnically pure Greater Serbia” to illustrate what from the standpoint of military interventionists was judged to be lacking in media coverage. Something was required that was unambiguously evil, and some power great enough to righteously smite it. Also simple storylines and committed storytellers were needed. That is to say, propaganda and willing propagandists, including politically attached journalists and intellectuals like Samantha Power.

Power herself takes it as a self-evident truth that Milosevic initiated the wars in a quest for an “ethnically pure Greater Serbia,” a finding that, as we have pointed out, is ideological history, denied even by ICTY prosecutor Geoffrey Nice (see section 7). Power also refers to the importance of Western access to Serb “concentration camps” and related “images,” “skeletal men behind barbed wire” and “Holocaust echoes.” “Journalists generally reported stories that they hoped would move Western policymakers, but pundits and advocates openly clamored for more,” she notes. “The public commentary aided [pro-intervention] dissenters within the bureaucracy. They began filtering much of what they read and saw through the prism of the Holocaust.”137

Nowhere does Power contest the use of these emotionally laden words and images for the events of 1992. She doesn’t mention that the Bosnian Muslims and Croats also had such camps, which were of no interest to Western journalists, although there is no evidence that abuses there were not at least as great as those in Serb camps.138 She also fails to mention that the key “image,” that of the emaciated Fikret Alic at Trnopolje, first circulated by the Independent Television Network on August 6, 1992, and which Power says “concentrated grassroots and elite attention and inflamed public outrage about the war like no postwar genocide,”139 was later revealed to have been staged. In fact, it was taken not at a “concentration” but a transit camp; Alic, the main subject of these images, had been suffering from a long-term illness when he was found, and was unrepresentative of the other prisoners who can be seen standing around him. Although at the moment the images were recorded, a barbed-wire fence physically was standing in between the camera and its subject, the barbed wire enclosed no one at the camp; instead, the angle from which the images were recorded conveyed the false impression that the subject was imprisoned behind barbed wire at an encampment—hence the full-page “Belsen 92” story on the cover of the August 7 Daily Mirror (London), and on the following week’s editions of Newsweek and Time (August 17), among hundreds like them. This monumental misrepresentation was a powerful propaganda instrument for the war-makers, but it was the misrepresentation of fact that concentrated attention, along with the deliberate allusions to Nazi Germany—not the circumstances at the camp.140 Years after its exposure, Samantha Power still fails to recognize that it was a fraud.

We may note also that Samantha Power justified NATO’s 1999 bombing war against Serbia on the grounds that it “likely saved hundreds of thousands of lives.” “As high as the death toll turned out,” she writes, “it was far lower than if NATO had not acted at all.” She then mentions “Serbia’s atrocities in Operation Horseshoe,” a campaign presumably preempted by NATO’s war, “ensuring the return of 1.3 million Kosovo Albanians….”141 Actually, the death toll in Kosovo turned out to be low; perhaps when Power was writing her book, she still took as truth the hugely inflated estimates of her government (i.e., “from a low of 100,000…up to nearly 500,000”142). She fails to note British Defense Secretary George Robertson’s admission that the KLA killed more people in Kosovo prior to the bombing war than had the Serbs; she overlooks the fact that so-called “Operation Horseshoe” is well established as a fraud;143 and she remains enamored with NATO’s great “humanitarian” war of 1999, even though the 1.3 million ethnic Albanians who returned to Kosovo after NATO stopped bombing were the same 1.3 million who had been uprooted during the bombing. This is Pulitzer Prize-winning work on a topic in which anything goes—as long as it supports the standard narrative.

A Pulitzer Prize for international reporting on Yugoslavia was given to John F. Burns of the New York Times in 1993 for his articles on the “destruction of Sarajevo and the barbarous killings” in Bosnia, but especially for his articles profiling the confessions of Borislav Herak, a Bosnian Serb who, after capture by the Muslim side, admitted to large numbers of killings and rapes.144 Burns took Herak’s confessions at face value, but suppressed the fact that Herak had also accused the Canadian head of UNPROFOR, General Lewis MacKenzie, of rapes and murders in a local brothel.145 Mentioning this would have made Herak’s other confessions about killing and raping Muslims seem less credible, so Burns simply avoided it. Several years later, Herak recanted and several of his alleged victims turned up alive.146 But these revelations about Burns’s work during his busy year in Bosnia never appear to have taken any shine off his Pulitzer.

Burns shared the 1993 Pulitzer for international reporting with Newsday’s Roy Gutman, acclaimed for “reporting that disclosed atrocities and other human rights violations….” Gutman was an early and energetic purveyor of the Serb “concentration camps” story;147 in Power’s “A Problem from Hell,” his work is singled out for praise as among the most forceful to draw comparisons between the Bosnian Serbs and the Nazis.148 Gutman’s reporting was lurid and emotive, as when he repeatedly used the term “death camps,” and told of prisoners “slaughtered” by the thousands. But Gutman’s 1992 work on the camps was never based on direct observation, but rather alleged witness evidence that itself was frequently second- or third-order hearsay.149 In one of his more celebrated dispatches, in the same week that the Fikret Alic photo went into circulation, Gutman recounted some truly harrowing scenes described to him by the Bosnian Muslim Alija Lujinovic of “throats slit,” “noses cut off,” and “genitals plucked out” at one of the camps. Then Gutman permitted this man he was interviewing to confirm the story for him: “I saw it with my own eyes,” Lujinovic said.150

Roy Gutman also led the charge over alleged Serb “rape camps” and rape as a massive, deliberate, and uniquely Serb instrument of state policy, although he carried out this campaign in close coordination with Bosnian Muslim and Croatian propaganda agencies.151 These charges reached a frenzied level in early 1993, with the media and women’s groups mobilized and calling for action against these horrors, and their service to the Serb demonization process rivaled that of the Fikret Ali photo at Trnopolje. The number of Bosnian Muslim women allegedly raped by the Serbs ranged from 20,000 to 60,000 or more, based entirely on a small number of claimed victims plus unverified hearsay and wild extrapolation. One of the media agents for this story (Charles Lane) belatedly mentioned that “too many reporters quoted the Bosnian government’s patently unconfirmable claim that 50,000 Muslim women were raped by the Serbs.”152 But the media didn’t insist on confirmation—they sought emotionally supercharged stories about atrocities, and only when the atrocities could be attributed to Serbs. There is not a shred of evidence for the lower-end claim of 20,000 rapes. Nor that the Serbs had established an “archipelago of sex-enslavement camps…and program of systematic mass rape,” as the Crimes of War volume maintains.153 Nor that rapes by Serb forces were more substantial than by Bosnian Muslim or Croat forces—or anything more than crimes of opportunity. In fact, the Serbs put together a larger dossier of hard evidence of rapes of Serb women in the form of affidavits and documented testimonies than did the Bosnian Muslims, but the media were not interested. As with every other major theme of these wars, the rape allegations were a propaganda coup—and media failure—of the first magnitude.154

A third Bosnian war-based Pulitzer was awarded in 1996 to David Rohde of the Christian Science Monitor for his “on-site reporting of the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica.” Rohde’s performance was reminiscent of what we witnessed several years later in the interplay between the media and official U.S. and UK claims about Iraq’s WMD programs and ties to al-Qaeda—including Rohde’s closeness to official sources he cited but never named, and his willingness to conduit their allegations. Starting out in Zagreb, Rohde was prompted by “American officials” whom, he claims, faxed him “spy-satellite photos” of the alleged sites of atrocities near Srebrenica and Zepa. In Rohde’s first report on what he found there (August 18, 1995), he wrote that the “physical evidence was grim and convincing,” and included a “decomposing human leg protruding from the freshly turned dirt,” empty ammunition boxes, the scattered personal effects of Muslims associated with Srebrenica, and human feces and blood at a soccer stadium. For his second report one week later (August 25), the Christian Science Monitor introduced it by saying Rohde’s previous account had “confirmed U.S. charges of a massacre based on spy satellite photos.” Nothing in Rohde’s first report had confirmed anything; and in this second report, Rohde recounted the fanciful tale about how, on a trek to Banja Luka and Pale to interview “Serbian refugees who had fled Croatia,” he had gotten lost but ended up “near the area shown in the photos” that had been faxed him earlier.

Rohde’s next major reports (October 2 and 5) were built out of interviews with displaced persons in Muslim-controlled Tuzla. But now he added the authority of “senior UN officials close to The Hague-based International War Crimes Tribunal” who, he wrote, “confirmed the findings” of Rohde’s original August 18 report, and told him that an “overwhelming amount of physical evidence of what could be the single largest war crime in Europe since World War II lies along a 20-mile network of roads in eastern Bosnia” (October 5).155 But though Rohde’s single decomposing human leg, of unidentified origin, and empty ammunition boxes, “confirmed” for his editors, the ICTY, and the Pulitzer Prize committee, some 8,000 executions, mass graves near Srebrenica, and Europe’s worse massacre since the Second World War, other than repeating what official sources within the prosecutorial nexus between the United States and ICTY were alleging, and reporting that these same sources later “confirmed” what turned up under Rohde’s byline, Rohde himself found nothing.

Reporting from Bosnia alone produced three Pulitzers in the 1990s (John Burns, Roy Gutman, and David Rohde); if we add Samantha Power’s 2003 prize for “A Problem from Hell,” which devotes a larger share of its approximately 620 pages to the former Yugoslavia than any other topic, four Pulitzers have been awarded on the basis of these wars, twice as many as any other conflict during the 1990s. The work of all four winners is replete with graphic accounts of atrocities perpetrated by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims during the 1992–95 war, Power’s 2002 book includes atrocities perpetrated by Serbs against Kosovo Albanians as well. There is little or no interest in anything else; and all four violate every principle of substantive objectivity. Pulitzers for work in Yugoslavia at least show a consistency in service to U.S. policy, if not to truthfulness and integrity.

Burns and the New York Times maintained that the confessed crimes of Borislav Herak were a microcosm of the whole, and showed what the civilized world was up against in Bosnia. It is not clear how this one villain and his acts—which turned out to be fabricated—provided the basis for such generalizations, or why anyone should assume that in a civil war these kinds of horrors would be confined to one side but not the other. But where there is a strong demand for stories about the atrocities and uniquely evil and threatening nature of an official enemy, Western journalists have never been shy about supplying them.

An even more dramatic case concerns the well-publicized videotape of the execution of six Bosnian Muslim captives by the “Scorpions” unit affiliated with Bosnian Serb forces some time in the summer of 1995. This video was introduced during the defense phase of the Milosevic trial.156 Although immediately called “sensationalism” by the amicus curiae attorney Steven Kay, and never admitted as evidence at trial, its mere showing was widely taken as proof of Milosevic’s responsibility for the events depicted in it, as well as the larger Srebrenica massacre. Tim Judah and Daniel Sunter called the video the “smoking gun”“the final, incontrovertible proof of Serbia’s part in the Srebrenica massacres in which more than 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered.” The New York Times noted that “reporting about the video has dominated mainstream news media. Analysts say the cassette is the most significant piece of evidence to shape Serbian public opinion since the end of the Balkan wars of the 1990’s.” The event “ripped away the veil of secrecy and denial of Serbian military operations in Bosnia during the 1992–95 war, particularly the massacre of as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys in and around Srebrenica,” the Washington Post reported. “No longer was it possible to label atrocity tales as Bosnian Muslim propaganda amplified by inventive foreign correspondents, as many Serbs had done for a decade.”157 As in the Burns-Herak case, or Gutman’s use of atrocity stories told by camp survivors, the assumption that one can generalize from these six killings, which took place over a hundred miles from Srebrenica, and where the integrity of the tape has been challenged, to the alleged execution of 7,500 or 8,000 Muslim males at Srebrenica, is more than problematic.

It is also revealing that comparable videotapes showing Bosnian Muslim or Croatian perpetrators of atrocities against Serbs exist but have drawn minimal attention, led to no broad generalizations, and were of little interest to the ICTY. The most notable are the tapes of killed and beheaded Serbs proudly shown by Naser Oric, the Bosnian Muslim commander at Srebrenica, to Western reporters while his forces still had their base there. As Bill Schiller of the Toronto Star wrote:

I sat in his living room, watching a shocking video version of what might have been called Naser Oric’s Greatest Hits. There were burning houses, dead bodies, severed heads and people fleeing. Oric grinned throughout, admiring his handiwork. “We ambushed them,” he said. The next sequence of dead bodies had been done in by explosives: “We launched those guys to the moon,” he boasted. When footage of a bulletmarked ghost town appeared without any visible bodies, Oric hastened to announce. “We killed 114 Serbs there.” Later there were celebrations, with singers with wobbly voices chanting his praises.158

Visits to Naser Oric’s residence were reported once by John Pomfret in the Washington Post, and twice by Schiller in the Toronto Star,159 but the subject was quickly dropped and led to no reflections on what it implied about the nature of the Bosnian Muslims, let alone inferences about other mass killings by this proud warrior, or about his superiors back in Sarajevo. It is also of interest that despite this tape and admitted killing of 114 Serbs in just one place, Oric was not indicted until 2003, and then only on the relatively minor charges of mistreatment of prisoners and failure to restrain the soldiers serving under him.160

And there are other tapes. In early August 2006, Serbian and Croatian television began playing videotapes that allegedly depict scenes shot at various stages of Operation Storm. One shows the “Croatian army’s ‘Black Mamba’ unit and the Bosnian military’s ‘Hamze’ squad killing and abusing Serb soldiers and civilians.” A second shows the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina Fifth Corps Commander Atif Dudakovic “ordering his troops to torch Serb villages in northwestern Bosnia in September 1995. ‘I’m ordering the village to be torched….Torch everything without exception,’ Atif Dudakovic…shouted in the film that showed houses in flames.” A BBC report translated Dudakovic ordering: “[B]urn that village….Burn, burn everything….Go on, burn everything in your wake!” But when asked during its weekly press briefing whether the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) “was conducting an investigation” into these matters, spokesman Anton Nikiforov “stated that it was regrettable that the tape had surfaced now just as the OTP had finished its investigative mandate.” Through early 2007, the ICTY had not indicted Dudakovic, although Sefik Alic, a subordinate of Dudakovic who also appears in the video, has been arrested on charges related to it.161 Is it not interesting how videotapes such as these, and Naser Oric’s impressive series, are not “important” to the ICTY or Western media and humanitarian war intellectuals, in contrast with the Scorpions tape, and allegedly come too late for action, just as the long-awaited (and perhaps nonexistent) indictments of Tudjman and Izetbegovic were never served during their lifetimes?

This all follows a broad pattern in the coverage and treatment of Yugoslavia, where only evidence fitting the accepted demon-victim design would be looked for and reported, and with the gullibility quotient exceedingly high. This is why the early claim of 200,000 or more Bosnian Muslim deaths was quickly institutionalized around the start of 1993, and why the eventual finding of only some 100,000 deaths on all sides by ICTY and NATO-government sponsored sources has only slowly, incompletely, and reluctantly crept into the media. It is why the official U.S. claims of 100,000, 225,000, and 500,000 Kosovo Albanian male deaths during the seventy-eight-day bombing war have never been ridiculed, and why the eventual finding of only some 4,000 bodies after one of the great forensic searches of all time has not been publicized and analyzed, along with the claim of “genocide” in both Bosnia and Kosovo.162 It is why George Robertson’s statement that the KLA had killed more people in Kosovo than the Yugoslav government prior to the bombing war, and the evidence of U.S. support for the KLA during the prewar struggle, has not been reported in the New York Times (etc.). Such information would undercut the institutionalized claim that the NATO war was based on unprovoked genocidal acts by the Serbs.

You won’t read in the New York Times (etc.) that the Romani and Ashkali minorities still living in Kosovo are exceedingly worried about the prospects of independence to Kosovo with full Kosovo Albanian control. They were never ethnically cleansed by the Serbs, but they have been relentlessly attacked in NATO-occupied Kosovo with the former KLA now in the police force. Under NATO authority some 12,500 Roma homes were destroyed by the returning Kosovo Albanians, and as Paul Polansky reports, “The massive ethnic cleansing and internal displacement of Roma in Kosovo…translates to a decrease of 75% of the prewar Romani population, primarily in the summer months of 1999 when the triumphant ethnic Albanian population (re)possessed Kosovo under the protection of KFOR [Kosovo Force] ‘peacekeeping’ forces. These vast numbers of frightened and desperate Roma were driven from Kosovo in spite of the fact that there were over 300 international NGOs providing humanitarian aid and assistance on the ground in Kosovo during this period.” Polansky believes that “independence” will result in the flight of most of the remaining Roma from Kosovo.163 But this doesn’t fit the narrative, so it isn’t news fit to print.

It is also worth repeating that the stunning abandonment of the crucial charge about the Milosevic-Serb drive for a “Greater Serbia” by the ICTY prosecutor during the Milosevic trial on August 25, 2005, was never reported in the New York Times or elsewhere in the mainstream media; and as we have noted, the charge remains intact as a truth in the media and among human rights intellectuals, even though never really believed by the prosecutor. They need it, just as they must stay away from the real and large-scale ethnic cleansings in Croatia and Kosovo by the good guys and the evidence that the charge of “genocide” in both Bosnia and Kosovo was based on hugely inflated and one-sided claims.

Another anomaly in the demonization process is that despite the claims of Milosevic’s ultra-nationalist and killer-manager role, during the long trial and intense search for his ugly words and orders to kill, nothing was uncovered: Not one line in which he displayed a hatred and intolerance towards members of the other “nations” in Yugoslavia or a single order to commit criminal acts. The claim of Ed Vulliamy that Milosevic and his wife spoke contemptuously of “mongrel races” is almost certainly disinformation.164 Tudjman and Izetbegovic did make explicit statements that betrayed their eagerness and intent to get rid of the Krajina Serbs (Tudjman) and unwillingness to accept any “non-Islamic political institutions” within Bosnia (Izetbegovic). But these statements were by clients of the West, hence any of their remarks about ethnically cleansable races and mongrel political institutions are not cited by Marlise Simons and Ed Vulliamy or used by the ICTY to prepare indictments for a “joint criminal enterprise.”

The ICTY was a PR and faux-judicial arm of NATO, designed to serve its diplomacy and war, as was even acknowledged by former State Department lawyer Michael Scharf: “The tribunal was widely perceived within the government as little more than a public relations device,” and a “useful policy tool” that could be used to “isolate offending leaders diplomatically…and fortify the international political will to employ economic sanctions or use force.”165 Scharf of course saw nothing wrong with creating and using this tool for U.S. political ends, and neither did the mainstream media and humanitarian war intelligentsia. The ICTY was a weapon of the good guys, therefore politicization and an abandonment of rules of decent judicial practice were ignored. It has been an absolutely uniform practice of the U.S. media to treat the ICTY as an unbiased judicial institution seeking justice. Its clear political role is so thoroughly accepted and internalized it isn’t even noticed. The way the Western establishment media treat the ICTY surely rivals the manner in which the Soviet media treated their own show trials of 1936–37. (For a case study of the New York Times’s coverage of the Milosevic trial that makes this point, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Marlise Simons on the Yugoslavia Tribunal: A Study in Total Propaganda Service,” ZNet, 2004,

The left and liberal media in the United States did little better than the mainstream in reporting and analyzing the dismantlement of Yugoslavia; and they sometimes did worse. For the most part they simply avoided the difficult questions. The demonization of the Serbs had worked well, had been implanted early, and liberals and much of the left were swept along before they had thought much about these events. By the late 1990s, In These Times replaced their outstanding reporter and Balkans expert Diana Johnstone with Paul Hockenos, a man who had worked for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Bosnia and followed the mainstream narrative undeviatingly. Milosevic stood on the verge of creating “an ethnically compact Greater Serbia,” Hockenos wrote several weeks into NATO’s 1999 war. “In the course of three Balkan wars, the Serbian leader has redrawn the region’s demographic map and destabilized southeastern Europe for decades to come….Even if Serbia lies in ruin at his feet, Milosevic stands as testimony that a fascistic policy of carving ethnic nation-states from multiethnic countries is a viable project in contemporary Europe.”166

Until the summer of 1999, The Progressive largely bypassed the former Yugoslavia. Its first major article was entrusted to Mary Kaldor (September 1993), a member of the “Europe begins in Sarajevo” school and later advocate for NATO’s 1999 war against Serbia. “The international community’s failure to save Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina is a monumental betrayal of fundamental human values,” she opened. Inverting reality, Kaldor found that the “international community…has been completely unwilling…to intervene politically in this war.” She thus missed the decisive earlier interventions that supported the secessions and the perversity of the Badinter Commission’s rulings, among other matters. However, The Progressive did publish important critiques of NATO’s 1999 war as it wound down and shifted into the occupation phase, including a fine statement by Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, one of the decent left voices in American politics; it also published an analysis of the role that private military corporations had played in arming and training “Clinton’s Contras,” better known as the KLA.167

Aside from Alexander Cockburn, whose work on this front continues to shine,168 The Nation suffered greatly from the fact that columnist Christopher Hitchens had taken a dive by the early 1990s, just in time for this major European conflict; in one memorably bad passage out of dozens, Hitchens wrote that these were wars “between all those who favor ethnic and religious partition and all those who oppose it”good versus evil, with the columnist distinguishing himself by taking the side of the good.169

The Nation has also suffered from the fact that its UN correspondent Ian Williams not only counts himself a partisan of the humanitarian brigades but is rabidly anti-Serb; the mix has produced a toxic mess. “Nor can [the conflict in Kosovo] be treated as an internal Yugoslav affair,” Williams wrote as early as March 1998, just after the ICTY’s chief prosecutor Louise Arbour had publicized her first warning to the Serbs. “Belgrade’s behavior…is on the verge of triggering the duties of signatories to the Genocide Convention. Allowing Milosevic to get away with his suppression of human rights in Kosovo in 1989 led directly to the massacres in Bosnia by the cruel methods now employed in Kosovo.” Thirteen months later, Williams teamed-up with Bogdan Denitch to defend NATO’s war. “Those who want an immediate NATO cease-fire owe the world an explanation of how they propose to stop and reverse the massive ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in light of Milosevic’s history as a serial ethnic cleanser and promise-breaker,” they wrote. Later, while mocking the “apologists for genocide” (i.e., people who opposed NATO’s war) who had participated in a Nation Institute/Pacifica Radio “teach-in” in Los Angeles, Williams reminded his readers that “Milosevic had started and lost one war in Slovenia and another in Croatia, and had caused the deaths of a quarter of a million people in the inconclusive Bosnian war….I am more concerned about deliberate genocide in Kosovo than NATO accidents.”170 This material is breathtaking for its ignorance as well as crude apologetics for imperial aggression and violations of the UN Charter (and Williams is the Nation’s UN correspondent).

Perhaps most disappointing of all, The Nation suffered from the fact that in the late 1990s, its highly respected contributor and editorial board member Richard Falk followed the pack regarding the circumstances in Kosovo, and even went on to serve as an apologist for NATO’s 1999 war.171 Falk was a principal in the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, which was organized in the immediate aftermath of the war by the government of Prime Minister of Göran Persson of Sweden, and went on to coin the empire-friendly phrase “illegal but legitimate” to sum up its take on the aggression.172 In Bosnia, Falk writes, “diplomatic responses exhibited an unwillingness to mount a credible interventionary challenge to the Serbian operations,” as the UN “was severely limited by its mandate of impartiality, an astonishing posture in view of the genocidal behavior on display.”173 Falk appears unaware of the diplomatic responses of the Clinton administration in sabotaging the Lisbon accord and its successors, and its military responses in helping arm the Bosnian Muslims and Croatians and helping bring thousands of Mujahedin to fight in Bosnia. He swallows the claims of genocidal behavior (on one side only) in Bosnia just as he inflates it for Kosovo and ignores the facts about KLA killings in Kosovo and U.S. aid to the KLA in the run-up to the bombing war. Here he was adopting a position similar to the Kosovo Commission, which acknowledged that NATO’s war “was not legal because it contravened the Charter prohibition on the unauthorized use of force,” and expressed its concern over the “growing gap between legality and legitimacy that always arises in cases of humanitarian intervention.” Nevertheless it concluded that the illegality of NATO’s war proves that the law itself is “inadequate,” and emphasized the “need to close the gap between legality and legitimacy,” as NATO’s need to wage “humanitarian” wars will continue to arise.174

But it was just as clear on March 24, 1999 (as it was on September 11, 2001, and March 19, 2003) that—when it comes to questions of war and peace, U.S. power, and “why international law matters”175—for the left to reject a fixed, consensually attained, rule-governed system in favor of flexible, ad hoc, readily manipulable “norms” will bring about less a normative revolution than a counterrevolution. In other words, if you give the supreme international criminal an inch, it will take a mile. We need look no further than the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to see what formulas like “illegal but legitimate” mean in real-world terms: They offer neither an advance “beyond Westphalia,” to use a phrase popular among the “humanitarian” war-sect, nor an end of impunity, but provide yet another cover for the “option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security,” in the words of the September 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy.176 “Old wine, new bottles,” as Noam Chomsky put it.177

The Nation did run an important article by George Kenney in June 1999, in which he cited a U.S. official’s admission that the “bar” had been raised high enough at the Rambouillet peace conference to assure rejection by the Serbs; as the official put it, the “Serbs needed a little bombing.” But by July 2003 the magazine had regressed, devoting an issue to “humanitarian intervention” that included no important dissident voice on Yugoslavia, but several party liners such as Falk, Samantha Power, Mary Kaldor, David Rieff, and Swedish official Carl Tham, all of whom had supported NATO’s 1999 war.178

Sadly, truly left critiques of the foreign interference, military interventions, and outright war and occupation that the former Yugoslavia has endured have been scarce. One major exception was Z Magazine and the more encompassing ZNet, which ran lengthy reviews of four outstanding critical works on Yugoslavia: Diana Johnstone’s Fools’ Crusade, Michael Mandel’s How America Gets Away With Murder, Peter Brock’s Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting, and John Laughland’s Travesty.179 Z also published a series of articles that called into question the standard narrative and media coverage of Yugoslavia. Another important exception was Monthly Review and its affiliated Monthly Review Press, which published Johnstone’s book in the United States, had a strong trio of critical articles during the NATO bombing war in 1999 (“Forget humanitarian motives. This is about U.S. global hegemony.”180), and in the following year ran John Rosenthal’s rejection of the “hyperinflationary use of the term ‘genocide’” to mobilize the “humanitarian” brigades.181 Jean Bricmont’s recent Humanitarian Imperialism takes up the same torch.182 MR’s editorial comments have also been highly critical of Western policies in Yugoslavia, recognizing their place in the wider process of imperialist expansion. One more exception to this left failure was CovertAction Quarterly, which had a series of critical articles by Diana Johnstone, Sean Gervasi, several by Gregory Ehlich and by the present writers, and articles by Karen Talbot, Michel Chossudovsky, and Michael Parenti.183

Despite these exceptions, the failure of the left in the United States and elsewhere in dealing with Yugoslavia has been egregious, reflecting the power of the standard narrative, while also reinforcing it.

11. Final Note

Yugoslavia’s breakup was driven by both internal and external factors. Of major importance were the economic disparities that no amount of state planning and redistribution ever countered. Over four decades, the rich regions grew richer, and the poor poorer; and these disparities tended to parallel Yugoslavia’s republican as well as its ethnic structures. The depression of the 1980s and the loss of the wartime generation of leaders left fewer defenders of socialism as well as federalism. Pressure for terminating both rose sharply in Slovenia and Croatia; the republics of the haves no longer wanted the burden of the have-nots and the federal structure that administered it. Contrary to the standard narrative, the nationalisms of the Slovenes and Croats, coupled later with the aims of the Izetbegovic faction in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Albanian nationalists within the impoverished province of Kosovo, proved more important to the whole process than did the rise of Slobodan Milosevic or Serb nationalism.

But Western interference also contributed greatly to the dismantlement of Yugoslavia. Slovenia and Croatia, then Bosnia-Herzegovina, and several years later Kosovoall were encouraged to “dissociate” (to use a term that was popular in Slovenia), and each recognized that the West, and in particular the United States, could be mobilized to their cause. By encouraging the secession of republics, but flatly ruling out some comparable form of self-determination or secession for the Serb minorities who feared for their security in the newly independent states of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Western powers ensured that the conflicts would become open wars with all their brutality and ugliness. Worse, by blocking settlements to these armed conflicts from Lisbon in early 1992 until Dayton in late 1995, and then again by crafting proposals to ensure Belgrade’s rejection at Rambouillet in early 1999, the United States and its allies kept the first series of wars churning for four bloody years, while in the latter case establishing the pretext for NATO’s war and takeover of southern Serbia.

When NATO started bombing what was left of Yugoslavia in March 1999, foremost among the reasons Bill Clinton cited in justification of the war was “to protect thousands of innocent people in Kosovo from a mounting military offensive.” Jürgen Habermas asserted that “[T]he intervening states are attempting to vindicate the claims of those whose human rights are being trampled by their own government.” Vaclav Havel told the Canadian parliament that the “war places human rights above the rights of the state…as both conscience and international legal documents dictate.” At war’s end, Tony Blair added by way of epilogue that “We now have a chance to build a new internationalism based on values and the rule of law.” And in a commentary about the “need for timely intervention by the international community when death and suffering are being inflicted on large numbers of people,” Kofi Annan admitted that the humanitarian principle at stake here “will arouse distrust, scepticism, even hostility” in some quarters. But, he added, “on balance we should welcome it.”184

But this entire intellectual and moral construct was a fraud; and that it found as many advocates as it did tells us more about the grip of imperial ideology, ignorance, and potent propaganda in the West than anything about the new norms of the wished-for cosmopolitan order. In the very beginning were the big lies about Milosevic’s “ultra-nationalism” and quest for a “Greater Serbia.” Once established, the good-versus-evil dichotomy was reinforced by the discriminatory rulings of the Badinter Commission and scores of Security Council resolutions; by the creation of a political tribunal to punish the wicked and affirm the justness of the intervening powers; by the telling evidence of which side NATO bombed and which side it did not; and by years of news coverage and commentary that took their cues from all of the above. The good-versus-evil dichotomy—with NATO avenging the innocent, and now trying to liberate oppressed people and build states on two continents—may have suffered serious blows when Croatia expelled Serbs from the Krajina in 1995 in what was numerically the largest cleansing of the wars. And then again under the protection of NATO from 1999 on, with Serbs and Roma fleeing Kosovo in the greatest ethnic cleansing as a percentage of a population these wars have seen. But, it was reinforced by the events following the evacuation of the Srebrenica “safe area” in July 1995, a symbol of ultimate evil that is recited time and again in the work of the ICTY and the “never again” chorus.

When in late August 1995, Kofi Annan, an under secretary in charge of peacekeeping, handed the “key” to NATO to launch a bombing war against the Bosnian Serbs, the UN transferred its exclusive Chapter VII right to make war to the most powerful band of international aggressors and law-breakers the world has ever known. So brazen was this coup against the charter that three years later, as the same band of aggressors was threatening Serbia, it declared that it already possessed the Chapter VII right to enforce a Security Council resolution demanding that “all parties…cease hostilities…in Kosovo.” And when one month after the start of the bombing war, in April 1999, this band held its fiftieth anniversary summit in Washington, it told the rest of the world that from then on, if it ever turns out that they want to make war, but fail to gain the Security Council’s blessings, it won’t matter. They will still make war.185

It should come as no surprise that political leaders of all kinds welcome changes that weaken the constraints on their ability to act. Nor should anyone be surprised by the intellectual labors in the contemporary era to distinguish the justness of “our” interventions from the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide perpetrated by others. Some endeavors are as old as Adam; and these truisms ring particularly true among the richest and most powerful states, where the interests, motives, and above all resources to use force are heavily concentrated, along with ever-growing opportunities and temptations.

We know of no instance in which advocates for “humanitarian” war and the “responsibility to protect” recognize that the principles they expect the world to embrace must apply equally to their enforcers as to the states they are to be enforced against—or that, in Hans Kelsen’s words, “Only if the victors submit themselves to the same law which they wish to impose upon the vanquished States will the idea of international justice be preserved.”186

No humanitarian interventionist has ever suggested that the U.S. and UK threat and use of force against Iraq triggered a “responsibility to protect” Iraqis from their invaders, or called for the use of force by a “coalition of the willing” to bring to a halt the destruction that ensued—“until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security,” as Article 51 prescribes. On the contrary, the only “never agains” around which we’ve observed the “humanitarian” war-sect mobilizing are the ones that advance an imperial agenda—never that run counter to it. The Bosnian Serbs, Yugoslavia in Kosovo, and the Sudan in Darfur (to name three examples). But the focus is never on the United States in Vietnam and Iraq, Indonesia in East Timor, Israel in the West Bank and Lebanon, or the NATO bloc collectively in Afghanistan.

In the International Committee of the Red Cross’s classic formulation (which the present authors fully accept), humanitarianism is “impartial, neutral and independent,” and its sole “mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of war and internal violence and to provide them with assistance.” What humanitarianism clearly is not is war, and no truly liberal or leftist approach to the issues of war and peace would ever forget this. But when it comes to the former Yugoslavia, left and liberal voices led the way. Those on the left recognize the enormity of the lying that helped insulate U.S. and UK policymakers during their preparation to seize Iraqi territory, the depth of ideology required for educated Westerners to speak of a “war on terror” or a “clash of civilizations” without laughing, and so on. These lies and the structure of false beliefs that undergird them have not fared too well lately—at least to a point. In this respect, the contrast with the as yet far more impregnable edifice of lies that serves and protects the Western interventions in the former Yugoslavia—and which laid the ideological foundations for the U.S. role in Iraq and for future so-called humanitarian interventions—is stark indeed.

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  1. See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (Pantheon, 2nd Ed., 2001), xxvii-xxix, and 143–67.
  2. Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell,” (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 268–69.
  3. Power, “A Problem from Hell,” 277–78.
  4. See, e.g., Carl Savich, “Celebici,” Serbianna, November 11, 2003,; “Rape and War,” Serbianna, December 1, 2006, http://serbianna .com; and Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, 71–2.
  5. Power, “A Problem from Hell,” 276. Power adds: “In July 45 percent of Americans had disapproved of U.S. air strikes and 35 percent approved. Now, without any guidance from their leaders, 53 percent of Americans approved, whereas 33 percent disapproved. Roughly the same percentage supported contributing U.S. forces to a humanitarian or peacekeeping mission” (276).
  6. For the original debunking of this image, see Thomas Deichmann, “The Picture That Fooled The World,” LM (formerly Living Marxism), February, 1997. See also Diana Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, 72–3; and Peter Brock, Media Cleansing (Los Angeles: GM Books, 2005), 246–56.
  7. Power, “A Problem from Hell,” 472–73.
  8. See the entry for “Detentions,” in “Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo: Fact Sheet based on information from U.S. Government sources,” U.S. Department of State, April 19, 1999, http://
  9. See Heinz Loquai, Der Kosovo- Konflikt. Wege in einen vermeidbaren Krieg (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2000). In English, Loquai’s title translates as “The Kosovo Conflict: The War That Could Have Been Avoided.” Although NATO launched its war on March 24, 1999, news of the German Defense and Foreign Ministries’ knowledge of “Operation Horseshoe,” alleged to have been a preexisting Serbian plan to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of its Albanian inhabitants, was not publicized until Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer released it on April 6—some thirteen days later. “I have come to the conclusion that no such operation ever existed,” Loquai, a retired Brigadier General in the Bundeswehr, told the London Times. “The criticism of the war [in Germany], which had grown into a fire that was almost out of control, was completely extinguished by [the news of] Operation Horseshoe.” See Franz-Josef Hutsch, “Hufeisenplan– das KriegsrätselKein Zweifel,” Hamburger Abendblatt, March 21, 2000; and John Goetz and Tom Walker, “Serbian ethnic cleansing scare was a fake, says general,” Sunday Times, April 2, 2000.
  10. See, e.g., John F. Burns, “A Killer’s Tale,” New York Times, November 27, 1992; and John F. Burns, “Bosnia War Crime Trial Hears Serb’s Confession,” New York Times, March 14, 1993.
  11. See Brock, Media Cleansing, esp. 163–76.
  12. See Kit R. Roane, “Symbol of Inhumanity in Bosnia Now Says ‘Not Me,’” New York Times, January 31, 1996; Chris Hedges, “Jailed Serb’s ‘Victims’ Found Alive, Embarrassing Bosnia,” New York Times, March 1, 1997; and Jonathan Randal, “Serb Convicted of Murders Demanding Retrial After 2 ‘Victims’ Found Alive,” Washington Post, March 15, 1997.
  13. See, e.g., Roy Gutman, “Prisoners of Serbia’s War,” Newsday, July 19, 1992; Roy Gutman, “Like Auschwitz,” Newsday, July 21, 1992; and Roy Gutman, “Bosnia’s Camps of Death,” Newsday, August 2, 1992. Also see Roy Gutman, A Witness to Genocide (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), which collects all of Gutman’s bylined work for Newsday from November 21, 1991 to June 22, 1993. Gutman’s twentysix- page introduction to this book ranks among the most factually inaccurate and openly prejudicial documents published in the English language.
  14. Power, “A Problem from Hell,” 269–70.
  15. See Brock, Media Cleansing, esp. 85–116.
  16. Roy Gutman, “Bosnia’s Camps of Death,” Newsday, August 2, 1992.
  17. See Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, 78–80.
  18. Charles Lane, “War Stories,” New Republic, January 3, 1994, emphasis added.
  19. Thom Shanker, “Sexual Violence,” Crimes of War, 323.
  20. For full accounts of this remarkable case of demonization and media willingness to report outlandish falsehoods, see Brock, Media Cleansing, 59–72; and Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade, 78–90.
  21. David Rohde, “Evidence Indicates Bosnia Massacre,” Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 1995; “How a Serb Massacre Was Exposed,” Christian Science Monitor, August 25, 1995, emphasis added; “Bosnia Muslims Were Killed by The Truckload,” Christian Science Monitor, October 2, 1995; “Eyewitnesses Confirm Massacre in Bosnia,” Christian Science Monitor, October 5, 1995, emphasis added. Also see Rohde, “Serbia Held Responsible For Massacre of Bosnians,” Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 1995; “Graves Found That Confirm Bosnia Massacre,” Christian Science Monitor, November 16, 1995; “What the US Knows and Won’t Reveal,” Christian Science Monitor, November 16, 1995. Also see his Endgame (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998).
  22. See Milosevic Trial Transcript (IT-02-54), June 1, 2005, 40275ff.
  23. Tim Judah and Daniel Sunter, “How the video that put Serbia in dock was brought to light,” The Observer, June 5, 2005; Nicholas Wood and Marlise Simons, “Videotape of Serbian Police Killing 6 Muslims From Srebrenica Grips Balkans,” New York Times, June 12, 2005; Daniel Williams, “Srebrenica Video Vindicates Long Pursuit by Serb Activist,” Washington Post, June 25, 2005.
  24. Bill Schiller, “Fearsome Muslim warlord eludes Bosnian Serb forces,” Toronto Star, July 16, 1995.
  25. Bill Schiller, “Muslims’ hero vows he’ll fight to the last man,” Toronto Star, January 31, 1994; and John Pomfret, “Weapons, Cash and Chaos Lend Clout to Srebrenica’s Tough Guy,” Washington Post, February 16, 1994.
  26. See Carla Del Ponte, The Prosecutor of the Tribunal Against Naser Oric (IT-03-68-I), March 28, 2003, pars. 22–38.
  27. Tanja Subotic, “Bosnia minister urges action on war crimes videos,” Agence France Presse, August 8, 2006; “TV shows footage of ex-Bosnian army chief ordering torching of Serb villages,” BBC Worldwide Monitoring, August 7, 2005; Anton Nikiforov, “ICTY Weekly Press Briefing,” August 9, 2006; “Bosnian Muslim brigade commander arrested for war crimes,” Agence France Presse, November 2, 2006.
  28. For the 4,000 figure, see “Statement to the Press by Carla Del Ponte” (FH/P.I.S./550-e), ICTY, December 20, 2000, par. 16,; and for the number of missing in Kosovo, see “Over 18,000 persons still missing in the Balkans,” ICRC, August 30, 2006, At the time, the ICRC listed a total of 2,284 persons as “missing” in Kosovo.
  29. Note that estimates of uprooted persons frequently fail to account for large numbers of Roma, who simply never register with any agency. See Paul Polansky, The Current Plight of the Kosovo Roma, Voice of Roma Web site, 2001, 5; 13, Also see Tilman Zulch, Until the Very Last ‘Gipsy’ Has Fled the Country, Society for Threatened Peoples International, Human Rights Report No. 21, (Göttingen), September 6, 1999; and Andrej Grubacic, “Kosovo’s Unworthy Victims,” ZNet, April 30, 2007.
  30. As usage of the phrase “mongrel races” to denigrate an ethnic group contradicts the long-held, publicly expressed beliefs of the late Slobodan Milosevic and his wife Mirjana Markovic, we suspect that Ed Vulliamy’s attribution of this phrase to one or both of them to denigrate Bosnia’s Muslims or the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo is a fabrication. Although we have found a total of five different instances in which the phrase “mongrel races” was attributed to Milosevic and/or his wife, we have been unable to get a single confirmation from any of the three British newspapers in which the articles were published of an authentic, original source for it. Neither the three journalists under whose bylines the articles were published (i.e., Allan Hall, Vicky Spavin, and Ed Vulliamy), nor the three newspapers that published them (i.e., Scottish Daily Record, The Scotsman, and The Observer), have responded to our repeated requests for information about their sources for the alleged quote. (See Allan Hall, “The Glamorous Witch Wife and the Drug Lord Son,” Scottish Daily Record, October 6, 2000; N.A., “Saturday profile: Mirjana Markovic,” The Scotsman, October 7, 2000; Vicky Spavin, “Deadlier than the Male,” Scottish Daily Record, April 5, 2001; Allan Hall, “Power-Mad Couple Who Ruled by Terror,” The Scotsman, June 29, 2001; and Ed Vulliamy, “The Observer Profile: Mira Milosevic,” The Observer, July 8, 2001.)
  31. Michael Scharf, “Indicted For War Crimes, Then What?” Washington Post, October 3, 1999.
  32. Paul Hockenos, “Milosevic Wins Again?” In These Times, May 15, 1999.
  33. Mary Kaldor, “Sarajevo’s Reproach,” The Progressive, September, 1993; Dennis J. Kucinich, “What I learned from the War,” The Progressive, August, 1999; and Wayne Madsen, “Mercenaries in Kosovo,” The Progressive, August, 1999.
  34. See, e.g., Alexander Cockburn, “The Laptop Bombardiers,” The Nation, May 23, 1994; and Alexander Cockburn, “Where Are the Laptop Bombardiers Now?” CounterPunch, March 24/25, 2007.
  35. Christopher Hitchens, “Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia,” The Nation, October 23, 1995. For an indication of Hitchens’ trajectory in recent years, see “A War to Be Proud Of,” Weekly Standard, September 5/12, 2005. Two sentences will suffice: “By the middle of 1990, Saddam Hussein had abolished Kuwait and Slobodan Milosevic was attempting to erase the identity and the existence of Bosnia. It turned out that we had not by any means escaped the reach of atavistic, aggressive, expansionist, and totalitarian ideology.” As is now standard for Hitchens, the four modifiers preceding “ideology” do not refer to Washington or to U.S. conduct globally, but rather to Washington’s official enemies.
  36. Ian Williams, “Kosovo Another Bosnia?,” The Nation, March 30, 1998; Ian Williams and Bogdan Denitch, “The Case Against Inaction,” The Nation, April 26, 1999; Ian Williams, “You can’t negotiate with a war criminal,” Slate, May 27, 1999.
  37. See, e.g., Richard Falk, “Reflections on the War,” The Nation, June 22, 1999; and “Kosovo Revisited,” The Nation, April 10, 2000.
  38. See the Independent International Commission on Kosovo, The Kosovo Report (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 4 and passim.
  39. Richard Falk, Human Rights Horizons (New York: Routledge, 2000), 179–80.
  40. The Kosovo Report, 290–91; 10.
  41. Cf. Richard Falk, “Why International Law Matters,” The Nation, March 10, 2003. Notice that between twenty-four and thirty-six months before this reassessment appeared, Falk had argued not only that in certain cases international law shouldn’t matter, but that the law ought to be rewritten to make everything alright.
  42. George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, esp. chap. 5, eptember 17, 2002.
  43. See Noam Chomsky, Failed States (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006), esp. 79–101.
  44. George Kenney, “Rolling Thunder,” The Nation, June 14, 1999; and “Humanitarian Intervention,” The Nation, July 14, 2003.
  45. See Edward S. Herman, “Johnstone on the Balkan Wars,” Z Magazine, February, 2003; Edward S. Herman, “How America Gets Away With Murder,” Z Magazine, June, 2004; Edward S. Herman, “Media Cleansing,” Z Magazine, January, 2006; and Edward S. Herman, “Travesty,” Z Magazine, April, 2007.
  46. See Monthly Review, June, 1999; here quoting Ellen Meiksins Wood, “Kosovo and the New Imperialism.”
  47. John Rosenthal, “Kosovo and ‘the Jewish Question,’” Monthly Review, February, 2000.
  48. Jean Bricmont, Humanitarian Imperialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2007).
  49. See, e.g., Sean Gervasi, “Germany, the U.S., and the Yugoslav Crisis,” Covert Action, Winter, 1992–93; Michel Chossudovsky, “Dismantling Yugoslavia—Colonizing Bosnia,” Covert Action, Spring, 1996; Ellen Ray and Bill Schaap, “NATO and Beyond,” Covert Action, Spring-Summer, 1999; Diana Johnstone, “NATO’s Parallel Wars,” Covert Action, Spring-Summer, 1999; and Gregory Elich, “The CIA’s Covert War,” Covert Action, April-June, 2001.
  50. Bill Clinton, “In the President’s Words,” New York Times, March 25, 1999; Jürgen Habermas, “Bestiality and Humanity,” in William Joseph Buckley, Kosovo (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 314–15; Vaclav Havel, “Kosovo and the End of the Nation-State,” New York Review of Books, June 10, 1999; Tony Blair, “A New Moral Crusade,” Newsweek, June 14, 1999; Kofi Annan, “Two concepts of sovereignty,” The Economist, September 18, 1999.
  51. See Bruno Simma, “NATO, the UN and the Use of Force, European Journal of International Law 10, no. 1, 1999, And for NATO’s Strategic Concept, adopted in Washington D.C. on April 24, 1999, http://www.nato .int.
  52. Köchler, Global Justice or Global Revenge?, 147.
The Politics of Genocide: Foreword by Noam Chomsky

The Politics of Genocide: Foreword by Noam Chomsky

In this impressive book, Edward S. Herman and David Peterson examine the uses and abuses of the word “genocide.” They argue persuasively that the label is highly politicized and that in the United States it is used by the government, journalists, and academics to brand as evil those nations and political movements that in one way or another interfere with the imperial interests of U.S. capitalism. Thus the word “genocide” is seldom applied when the perpetrators are U.S. allies (or even the United States itself), while it is used almost indiscriminately when murders are committed or are alleged to have been committed by enemies of the United States and U.S. business interests. One set of rules applies to cases such as U.S. aggression in Vietnam, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, Indonesian slaughter of so-called communists and the people of East Timor, U.S. bombings in Serbia and Kosovo, the U.S. war of “liberation” in Iraq, and mass murders committed by U.S. allies in Rwanda and the Republic of Congo. Another set applies to cases such as Serbian aggression in Kosovo and Bosnia, killings carried out by U.S. enemies in Rwanda and Darfur, Saddam Hussein, any and all actions by Iran, and a host of others.

Diana Johnstone on the Balkan Wars

Diana Johnstone’s Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (Monthly Review Press, 2002) is essential reading for anybody who wants to understand the causes, effects, and rights-and-wrongs of the Balkan wars of the past dozen years. The book should be priority reading for leftists, many of whom have been carried along by a NATO-power party line and propaganda barrage, believing that this was one case where Western intervention was well-intentioned and had beneficial results. An inference from this misconception, by “cruise missile leftists” and others, is that imperialism can be constructive and its power projections must be evaluated on their merits, case by case. But that the Western intervention in the Balkans constitutes a valid special case is false; the conventional and obvious truths on the Balkan wars that sustain such a view disintegrate on close inspection

Mergers, Concentration, and the Erosion of Democracy

A new surge of corporate concentration is in process in the United States and abroad, driven in large measure by a restruc- turing of global markets through mergers and acquisitions (M&A~). Announced worldwide merger deals reached $3.4 tril- lion in 1999, an amount equivalent to 34 percent of the value of all industrial capital (buildings, plants, machinery and equip- ment) in the United States in 1999. Of this total, nearly a third were cross-border transactions that involved companies based in different countries, up from an average of one-fourth of all mergers during most of the 1990s