Kosovo And Iraq
Kosovo And Iraq
The truth about the invasion of
"It was 95 per cent charade. And they all knew it: Bush, Blair, Howard." (Quoted John Pilger, 'Universal justice is not a dream', ZNet,
One might think that exposÃ©s of this kind would lead the media to take a fresh look at some of the US-UK governments' earlier claims justifying war. Consider, for example, the 78-day NATO assault on
What is so striking about the US-UK government case for war against
"Looking back over 12 years, we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable... to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil." ('Tony Blair's speech', The Guardian,
In similar vein, Blair described the war with
Blair also referred last year to the lessons of "history":
"We can look back and say: there's the time; that was the moment; for example, when
"But it wasn't clear at the time. In fact at the time, many people thought such a fear fanciful. Worse, put forward in bad faith by warmongers." (Ibid)
Four years earlier, in March 1999, British defence Secretary, George Robertson, insisted that intervention in Kosovo was vital to stop "a regime which is bent on genocide." A year later, Robertson also conjured up the ghost of Nazism to justify NATO's action:
"We were faced with a situation where there was this killing going on, this cleansing going on - the kind of ethnic cleansing we thought had disappeared after the second world war. You were seeing people there coming in trains, the cattle trains, with refugees once again." (ITV, Jonathan Dimbleby programme,
President Clinton referred to "deliberate, systematic efforts at... genocide" in Kosovo. (Quoted, John Pilger, introduction, Phillip Knightley, First Casualty, Prion Books, 2000, p.xii)
In a speech in
"The principle of non-interference must be qualified in important respects - war crimes and acts of genocide can never be an internal matter." (Blair, The Guardian,
This rhetoric depicting "genocide", even a kind of Holocaust, in Kosovo certainly merits comparison with the claim that British bases in
So how did the keen and critical intellects of the 'free press' - backed up by vast research and investigative resources - respond? Did they scrutinise and challenge these extraordinary claims as they so patently failed to do with regard to the Iraqi WMD 'threat'?
We Can Do 1389 - The Media Get In Line
"The liberal press - notably the Guardian and Independent - backed the war to the hilt (while questioning the tactics used to wage it) and lent critical weight to the government's arguments." In so doing, the media "revealed how willingly deceived it is by government rhetoric on its moral motives." (Curtis, Web of Deceit, Vintage, 2003, pp.134-5)
Thus, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: "the prize is not turf or treasure but the frustration of a plan to empty a land of its people". It was "a noble goal". (Freedland, 'No way to spin a war', The Guardian,
A Guardian editorial described the war as nothing less than "a test for our generation". (March 26, 1999)
The attack was intended to stop "something approaching genocide", Timothy Garton Ash insisted. (Garton Ash, 'Imagine no
The Mirror referred to "Echoes of the Holocaust." (Quoted, Pilger, op., cit, p.144)
The Sun urged us to "Clobba Slobba".
The New Statesman's John Lloyd wrote that the war showed "the most powerful states are willing to fight for human rights". (July 5, 1999)
As British bombs rained on
'Brave, bold, visionary. Whatever became of Blair the ultra-cautious cynic?' (April 4, 1999)
'Hail to the chief. Sorry, Bill, but this time we're talking about Tony.' (May 16, 1999)
Marr declared himself in awe of Blair's "moral courage", adding: "I am constantly impressed, but also mildly alarmed, by his utter lack of cynicism."
A subsequent BBC documentary on the alleged Serbian genocide, 'Exposed' (BBC2,
Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times:
"Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverising you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too." (Friedman, The New York Times,
A Nexis database search showed that in the two years 1998-1999 the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek and Time used the term "genocide" 220 times to describe the actions of Serbia in Kosovo. In the ten years 1990-1999 the same media used the same word just 33 times to describe the actions of
Pure Invention - The Kosovo "Genocide"
So how real was the Serbian genocide in Kosovo compared, say, to the threat of Iraqi WMD? And did this alleged mass abuse of human rights justify the 78 days of NATO bombing that claimed 500 Yugoslav civilian lives, causing an estimated $100 billion in damage, striking hospitals, schools, major industrial plants, hotels, libraries, housing estates, theatres, museums, farms, mosques, trains, tractors, bridges and power stations?
In February 1999, one month before the start of NATO bombing, a report released by the German Foreign Office noted that "the often feared humanitarian catastrophe threatening the Albanian population has been averted". In the larger cities "public life has since returned to relative normality." (Quoted, Mark Curtis, op., cit, p.136)
Another German report, exactly one month before the bombing, refers to the CIA-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) seeking independence for Kosovo from
"Events since February and March 1998 do not evidence a persecution program based on Albanian ethnicity. The measures taken by the [Serbian] armed forces are in the first instance directed towards combating the KLA and its supposed adherents and supporters." (Ibid, p.136)
Following the war, NATO sources reported that 2,000 people had been killed in Kosovo on all sides in the year prior to bombing. George Robertson testified before the House of Commons that until mid-January 1999, "the Kosovo Liberation Army was responsible for more deaths in Kosovo than the Serbian authorities had been". (Quoted, Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Routledge, 2003, p.56)
This is supported by Nicholas Wheeler of the
Far from averting a humanitarian crisis, it is clear that NATO bombing caused a massive escalation of killings and expulsions. The flood of refugees from Kosovo, for example, began immediately +after+ NATO launched its attack. Prior to the bombing, and for the following two days, the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported no data on refugees. On March 27, three days into the bombing, UNHCR reported that 4,000 had fled Kosovo to the neighbouring countries of
A study by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
A House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee investigating the war concluded:
"It is likely that the NATO bombing did cause a change in the character of the assault upon the Kosovo Albanians. What had been an anti-insurgency campaign - albeit a brutal and counter-productive one - became a mass, organised campaign to kill Kosovo Albanians or drive them from the country." (Ibid, pp.137-8)
The media response was to exactly reverse cause and effect suggesting that bombing was +justified+ as a way of halting the flood of refugees it had in fact created. Philip Hammond of
Robert Hayden of the
"We may never know the true number of people killed. But it seems reasonable to conclude that while people died in clashes between the KLA and Yugoslav forces... the picture painted by Nato - of a systematic campaign of Nazi-style genocide carried out by Serbs - was pure invention." (Hammond and Herman, op., cit, p.129)
In other words, the US-UK assault on
Responding to Alastair Campbell's accusation of press cynicism over the Kosovo intervention (another familiar theme from the 2003
"If you want to know why the public supported the war, thank a journalist, not the present government's propagandist-in-chief." (Quoted, Charles Glass, 'Hacks versus flacks', Z Magazine,
The Guardian's Maggie O'Kane wrote:
John Simpson of the BBC joined the fray:
"Why did British, American, German, and French public opinion stay rock-solid for the bombing, in spite of Nato's mistakes? Because they knew the war was right. Who gave them the information? The media." (Ibid)
So much for 'neutral and 'objective' reporting. As a result, Blair is now able to use the lie of Kosovo to justify more recent killing. In a speech earlier this month, Blair said of the
"The real point is that those who disagree with the war, disagree fundamentally with the judgement that led to war. What is more, their alternative judgement is both entirely rational and arguable. Kosovo, with ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians, was not a hard decision for most people; nor was
Kosovo was "not a hard decision for most people" because awkward facts pointing to something other than a "battle between good and evil" were kept well out of sight.
Postscript - A Silver Lining
We are eager to avoid the impression that the alliance of state violence and media servility +always+ results in tragedy, death and disaster - sometimes there are happy endings.
While covering the Kosovo crisis, CNN's leading foreign correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, married James Rubin, chief public relations official of the US State Department. Amanpour had announced that her future husband's war was for "the first time... a war fought for human rights". And, after all, "only a fraction of 1 percent of the bombs went astray". (Quoted, Hammond and Herman, op., cit, p.113)
The BBC's defence correspondent, Mark Laity, may not have found love during his coverage of NATO's slaughter, but he did subsequently accept the post of press secretary to the NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, who had also moved on from his position as British Defence Secretary.
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