Morality's Avenging Angels
Morality's Avenging Angels
Part I: Introduction
Operation Allied Force was not a moral venture. It was, however, carried out in the name of an humanitarian action on behalf of the Kosovo Albanians, and it won support in the NATO-bloc countries by a widespread belief in the authenticity of its moral goals. But such goals are contradicted by the nature of states and the kinds of forces that determine state policy; by the compelling evidence of other, non-humanitarian ends shaping NATO policy; by the character of the leadership of the dominant NATO powers; and by the actual results of the war.
States are not moral institutions and their foreign policies are shaped by economic and political interests and strategic considerations, not by humane values. When humanitarian crises abroad receive attention within a society, and the government responds to them, as the U.S. and several other NATO-power governments did in 1998-1999, it is necessary to explain the source of that attention, which regularly turns out to be serviceable to larger material and political interests and not unwelcome to the policy-making authorities. Conversely, the same point can be made as regards the lack of attention to humanitarian crises where focused attention would be objectionable to those powerful interests shaping policy. Neither a random process nor the scale of human rights abuses can explain the Great Power officials', media's, and parallel New Humanitarians' virtual neglect of mass killings and ethnic cleansings of the Kurdish population in
NATO's "humanitarian war" against
From January 1, 1998 through the June 10 end of the war, perhaps as many as 7,000 people were killed in Kosovo on all sides,2 and the war itself produced a refugee crisis six times worse than that of 1998, causing some 863,000 ethnic Albanians to flee the province, along with 100,000 ethnic Serbs and other minorities, and with another 590,000 people displaced internally (OSCE, 1999a). In the words of Canadian OSCE observer Rollie Keith, NATO's war "turned an internal humanitarian problem into a disaster" (Keith, 1999), and according to U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Yugoslavia Jiri Dienstbier "has not solved any human problem, but only multiplied the existing problems" (Dienstbier, 2000b). Furthermore, war-related destruction and environmental damage throughout
It has also been documented that the NATO powers, the
President Clinton said at the time that the aims of the war were to bring "stability" to the region, to end the "ethnic cleansing" of the Kosovo Albanians, thus allowing the refugees to return to their homes, and the people to live together based on "the principle of multi-ethnic, tolerant, inclusive democracy" (Clinton, 1999); but the much greater second-wave of refugees was produced during the bombing, and the war both inflamed and entrenched ethnic hatreds. These unnecessary catastrophes were followed by a postwar ethnic cleansing by KLA cadres, killing large numbers (well over a thousand) and causing the flight of an estimated 330,000 ethnic non-Albanians (Dienstbier, 2000a: Par. 43). All of this was contrary to both
powers (NATO, the European Union, and dozens of NGOs) in the name of "democracy." But it is an "artificially multi-ethnic" state with its multi-ethnicity shrinking steadily by voluntary exit and ethnic cleansing, and with "sham elections" covering over the absence of either local authority or democratic institutions (Hayden, 1998; Chandler, 2001).
Finally, by supporting and providing a home base for the KLA, NATO has made Kosovo a haven for organized crime and the drug trade, and allowed other incarnations of the KLA to launch serious insurgencies within
In short, the consequences of NATO's war provide overwhelming evidence that, from an humanitarian perspective, the war was a disaster, taking a heavy human toll and exacerbating ethnic hatred, and wreaking havoc throughout the region.
Part 2: The New Humanitarians to the Barricades
Despite this sorry record, and despite the traditional aversion of human rights advocates and the Left to war as a policy option, one of the most striking features of NATO's war against Yugoslavia was the support given to it by intellectuals, human rights officials, lawyers and jurists, and "advocacy journalists" (see Philip Hammond's chapter), a number presenting themselves as "on the Left," who accepted the official claim that NATO's main objective was humanitarian. This of course gave them ready access to the mainstream media, where they complemented official sources and the media's own war-supportive biases, and helped put the war in a good light.
The defining characteristics of the New Humanitarians are that (1) they take sides, and have done so in parallel with NATO policy; (2) they reject traditional humanitarianism's principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence, non-violence, and the provision of care; and (3) they advocate a "humanitarian" right to intervene by state violence to terminate human rights abuses. In the balance of this section we will discuss briefly who they are, their commitments, and their sources of influence. In Part 3 we will deal in more detail with their views and analyses of events in the Balkans.
Among the New Humanitarians, and the set that we will study most intensively, are Timothy Garton Ash, Vaclav Havel, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignatieff, Tim Judah, Mary Kaldor, Bernard Kouchner, Aryeh Neier, David Rieff, Geoffrey Robertson, Kenneth Roth, and Susan Sontag. But there are many others worthy of mention, including M. Cherif Bassiouni, Antonio Cassese, Ivo Daalder, Bogdan Denitch, Richard Falk, Richard Goldstone, Philip Gourevitch, Roy Gutman, Michael Glennon, JÃ¼rgen Habermas, David Held, Louis Henkin, Paul Hockenos, Stanley Hoffman, Bernard-Henri Levy, Andrew Linklater, James Mayall, Martha Minow, Michael O'Hanlon, Diane Orentlicher, Steven Ratner, David Rohde, William Shawcross, Brian Urquahart, Ruth Wedgwood, Marc Weller, Nicholas J. Wheeler, and Ian Williams. The 40 individuals listed here fall into a number of sometimes overlapping categories: Havel is a an intellectual and political leader, at least eight have worked for governments or NATO-related organizations involved in Balkan policy (Cassese, Goldstone, Daalder, Havel, Hockenos, Kouchner, O'Hanlon, Urquahart), four are or have been affiliated with human rights organizations (Kouchner, Neier, Orentlicher, and Roth), 11 are or have been journalists, 20 are academics, seven of the academics are professors of law (Bassiouni, Falk, Henkin, Orentlicher, Ratner, Wedgwood, Weller), one is a lawyer (Robertson), and Sontag is a free-floating artist and writer.
The New Humanitarians very openly and quickly "chose sides," many of them entering the lists during the struggle within
The New Humanitarians have been members of a network of like-minded people who are often friends who work in coordination with government officials and government-linked thinktanks, bonding and hobnobbing among themselves in
conferences and being fed information by U.S. and Bosnian Muslim officials.4 They review one another's books and cite and laud one another as authorities profusely.5 Sometimes, they work together in establishment operations such as the Independent International Commission on Kosovo (Richard Falk, Richard Goldstone, Michael Ignatieff, Mary Kaldor, Martha Minow), the International Crisis Group (William Shawcross), the American Academy in Berlin (Paul Hockenos), George Soros' Open Society Institute (Aryeh Neier), and offshoots of these and similar institutions. The first three groups are heavily funded by NATO governments, and have on their boards numerous NATO government officials, past and present. Indeed, the important human rights group Human Rights Watch, which was vocally supportive of NATO's war against the Bosnian Serbs and later Serbia itself, takes money from the U.S. government and has on its board a number of U.S. government officials, past and present.6
Rieff lauds Ignatieff's "close relations with such important figures in the West's political and military leadership as Richard Holbrooke and Gen. Wesley Clark" (Rieff, 2000b), and in his book Virtual War, Ignatieff acknowledges his debt to Holbrooke, Clark, and former Hague chief prosecutor Louise Arbour, among others (Ignatieff, 2000a: 6). It is clear that the New Humanitarians are members of an establishment that includes NATO, the Hague Tribunal, and human rights group officials, as well as the mainstream media, which treats them as authentic and objective experts. Their privileged access to the media, which they share with their comradely friends in the State department and Pentagon, helps produce a media echo chamber in which few opposing views or even corrections of error can be heard.
Having chosen sides, and made a simple-minded identification of the people doing evil and those who are innocent victims of the evildoers, the New Humanitarians take an extremely narrow view of humanitarian and human rights issues. This was true in the Bosnian wars, and it continued in Kosovo, where the welfare of the Kosovo Albanians, as seen by the Albanians themselves, has been the New Humanitarians' main if not exclusive standard of appraisal. The obverse has been a dehumanization of the Serbs in a process that
approaches racism, evidenced by the fact that their writings show them to be minimally troubled by the wartime and postwar hardships and ethnic cleansings suffered by the Krajina Serbs or by the Serbs, Roma, Turks, Jews, and other ethnic minorities of Kosovo.
Bernard Kouchner, the New Humanitarian proconsul in post-bombing Kosovo, stated in public to the Albanians, "I love all peoples, but some more than others, and that is the case with you." He also said that "You have fought for a better Kosovo, a Kosovo where
people can lead a peaceful and happy life." But in reply to a Kosovo Serb who asked why the West couldn't stop the violence by the "liberated" Albanians, and allow people to live together, Kouchner stated that "I know the history of the Serbian people....We know well that because of the evils to which the Albanian people were subjected, a common life is not possible at this time" (Kouchner, 1999c). This staggering expression of bias, with the Serbs (and other non-Albanians) apparently not "people," and his de facto alliance with the KLA--under Kouchner the KLA was incorporated into the Kosovo Protection Corps, its war
criminal leaders Hashim Thaci and Agim Ceku given honored status7--helps explain Kouchner's complaisance at the massive ethnic cleansing under his New Humanitarian rule in Kosovo.
Kouchner is not alone. Almost uniformly the New Humanitarians use the word 'Kosovar' to mean an ethnic Albanian inhabitant of Kosovo only, and their concern for the mistreatment of non-Albanians has been minimal. Thus Ian Williams can write at the war's end about the urgency of resettling the "Kosovar refugees," while at the same time suggesting that the "Serbian population of Kosovo, like that of Krajina, will probably and wisely take the road back to Serbia. And in five years, there will be an independent Kosova" (Williams,
1999a). Some ethnic cleansings are outrageous; others are entirely acceptable.
What has driven the New Humanitarians into supporting a series of cruel and devastating Great Power wars over the past decade? We have no doubt that most of them have done this with the best of motives, even if they have been, as we firmly believe (and attempt to show below), badly misguided, self-deceived, and atrocious analysts and historians. Some have been overwhelmed by the portrayals of one side's suffering and victimization as filtered through an effective propaganda system, including many working "on the scene" in Sarajevo. Also important, with the old Soviet threat no longer available, it is useful to find an area where villains abuse innocent victims allegedly seeking to maintain a multi-ethnic democracy (Bosnia) or struggling for self-determination (Kosovo).
There is also an economic factor: Money is available from NATO governments and establishment institutions like George Soros' network of foundations to human rights groups, scholars, and journalists who follow the NATO party line. Furthermore, the selling of articles, books and news reports is conditioned on feeding into accepted perspectives. Those that meet the quickly established consensus will sell; those that contest it will not and may even be vilified as "apologists for Milosevic."
Part III: The New Humanitarians As Propaganda Agents of NATO
As we have noted, the New Humanitarians have focused on Yugoslavia, and their alignment there with those opposing the Serbs was in complete accord with U.S. and NATO policy.8 It is interesting to observe, also, that massive human rights abuses in countries supported by the NATO powers, such as Turkey, Indonesia in East Timor, Colombia, and Israel in its Occupied Territories, received slight or zero attention from the New Humanitarians. Thus, a large sample of the recent mainstream media publications of 12 leading New Humanitarians that dealt with human rights issues, shows that while they concerned themselves with the Yugoslav conflicts in 101 articles, human rights issues relating to East Timor, Israel, Colombia and Turkey were mentioned, briefly, in only three.9
The selectivity of U.S. and NATO human rights policy flies in the face of the New Humanitarians' claim that human rights "has taken hold not just as a rhetorical but as an operating principle in all the major Western capitals on issues that concern political crisis
in poor countries and failing states" (Rieff, 1999b), and that "the military campaign in Kosovo depends for its legitimacy on what fifty years of human rights have done to our moral instincts...strengthening the presumption of intervention when massacre and deportation become state policy" (Ignatieff, quoted in ibid.). Why do these "instincts" shrivel and why does the "operating principle" cease to work for massacre and deportation in East
Timor, Colombia, and elsewhere? Rieff cites Aryeh Neier's "eloquent" reply, that "a human rights double standard where powerful countries like China are concerned does not mean nothing has changed" (ibid.). But Indonesia, Colombia, Israel and Turkey are not powerful countries, and their exemption suggests that the moral instinct is easily overridden, that there is no "operating principle" at all, and that we must look for factors other than a new morality to explain the Kosovo intervention.
What is even more interesting is the adaptation of the New Humanitarians to the human rights double standard. Even if commercial and other power-related interests weaken the new morality for political leaders, why must the New Humanitarians replicate this double standard? Shouldn't they be struggling to offset the corrupting forces and make human rights the real operating principle? Shouldn't they be campaigning on behalf of East Timorese and other long-standing victims of Western collusion with human rights violators? That they don't do this, but instead join the bandwagon geared to Western interests and convenience, raises serious questions about their own clearly politicized human rights concerns and whether these really serve to advance human rights.
When confronted with the fact that they seem to give little attention to U.S.- and NATO-protected human rights abuses, the New Humanitarians have given a variety of responses. One is that Yugoslavia was in "Europe's backyard," and being so close, attracted
attention. David Rieff quotes approvingly Clinton's statement that NATO acted to prevent "the slaughter of innocents on its doorstep" (Rieff, 1999b). But Turkey is not only on Europe's doorstep, it is a member of NATO itself, and the interests of the United States and its willingness to intervene with force has been global (e.g., the Korean and Vietnam wars; the U.S. interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc.).
A second New Humanitarian response has been that "you can't do everything," and we may therefore have to be satisfied with what is "politically possible" (Rieff, 2000a). It does not bother them that their efforts are so well coordinated with those of the imperial
powers; and it seems not to occur to them that governments perfectly happy to work with major ethnic cleansers such as Suharto and the Turkish generals may have non-humane agendas in the "politically possible" places, or that the governments' real agendas might contaminate the outcomes (and a number of them acknowledge that the effects of the Kosovo war were disappointing and may threaten similar humanitarian ventures elsewhere) (Ash, 2000a). The New Humanitarians also neglect the fact that their own intense and indignant focus on unapproved villainy (i.e., the Serbs in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo) may deflect attention from sometimes large-scale approved or acceptable villainy (i.e., Turkey's treatment of its Kurds), thereby making it easier to do nothing or even support ethnic cleansing in the latter cases. In the latter cases, also, it might be possible to control abuses without resort to war, by simply terminating or threatening to terminate support.
Advocating War as a Humanitarian Instrument
As noted, traditional humanitarianism demanded strict neutrality and impartiality, with a mission of assisting victims of conflict. The New Humanitarians not only cast aside these principles, they supported NATO's resort to war against Yugoslavia, often with great
enthusiasm. As Michael Ignatieff has written, in certain circumstances "the international community has to take sides and do so with crushing force" (Ignatieff, 2000c).
The idea that war can serve a humanitarian end, and the very concepts of "humanitarian war" and "humanitarian bombing" (e.g., Held, 1995: 219-286; Falk, 1998: 49-107; Linklater, 1998: 179-212), would seem outlandish not only in terms of traditional notions of humanitarianism, but also in the light of historical experience with war. Wars produce a cycle of violence and counter-violence that is hard to contain, and a great deal of cruelty, misery, and destruction. That war can be a useful means to humanitarian ends assumes a degree of control, knowledge, restraint, and nobility of Great Power objectives that we may call Military Utopianism (e.g., as is implicit in Kaldor, 1999). The New Humanitarians have scanted discussion of postwar Kosovo, perhaps because it illustrates so well the coarsening and brutalizing effects of war, which as Dienstbier says has "only multiplied the existing problems."
The New Humanitarians have argued that moral imperatives override the problematic means, ignoring not only the historic record of warfare but also the moral significance of employing dubious means in serving alleged higher ends. They also ignore the possibility that moral imperatives may be manipulated and misperceived, with the result that the means serve immoral or amoral ends (e.g., NATO's desire to punish the Serbs and to achieve
certain political and geopolitical goals).
Advocating the Abrogation of the Rule of Law
The New Humanitarians have had to deal with the awkward fact that NATO's war against Yugoslavia violated international law at many levels--most importantly, the U.N. Charter's prohibition of war as an instrument of policy except in self defense, the barring of
intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states, and NATO's violations of the rules of war in its attacks on civilian facilities and use of illegal weaponry (see chapter 2 and 8 above).10
They have dealt with this mainly by either ignoring the matter entirely or accepting that "human rights" and "morality" must sometimes be allowed to override the law. The memorable phrase of the International Commission was that the NATO war was "illegal but legitimate" (IICK, 2000; 2001), with NATO presumably righting wrongs outside the law as a kind of global Robin Hood. Vaclav Havel claims that NATO's war took place "out of respect for the law, for a law that ranks higher than the law that protects the sovereignty of states" (Havel, 1999). In this same speech Havel also claims, falsely, that this was the first war ever waged "in the name of principles and values." Bernard Kouchner takes it for granted that morality overrides the law, and he even proposes "preemptive" intervention by the NATO powers prior to anticipated immoral actions (Kouchner, 1999b).
Apparently overwhelmed by their eagerness to support NATO's intervention on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians, the New Humanitarians have been oblivious to the dangers of abandoning the rule of law. Along with their blasé treatment of the selectivity of human rights attention by the Great Powers, and of those Powers' actual support of serious human rights abuses in "friendly" states, this opening of the gates for the Great Powers to ignore the rule of law represents a major human rights regression that bodes ill for the future.
Acceptance of the NATO Powers as Humanitarian Instruments
Along with their acceptance of the abandonment of the rule of law, the New Humanitarians have all affirmed their faith in the United States and other NATO powers as the instruments of humanitarian service, some reluctantly, others without any seeming
skepticism. Michael Ignatieff bases it on the argument that "only the United States can muster the military might necessary to deter potential attackers and rescue victims" (Ignatieff, 2000a). He has no doubts that this military might will be appropriately used; his
only problem is that while "principle commits us to intervene...[it] forbids the imperial ruthlessness necessary to make intervention succeed" (Ignatieff, 1998).
Many of the New Humanitarians are aware that these powers have a dubious record in supporting regimes of murder, and they occasionally acknowledge that such cases can be found today (Turkey, East Timor), but this has not curbed their willingness to rely on the NATO powers to do good by military intervention. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, never questions the NATO powers as instruments of human rights, but only urges them to more aggressive action (Roth, 1997). Christopher Hitchens even suggests that their past crimes further justify their new humanitarian role: If we did wrong earlier, "does this not double or triple our responsibility to remove them [bad men] from power. Do 'our' past crimes and sins make it impossible to expiate the offense by determined action?" (Hitchens, 2001a).
Acceptance of the Tribunal as Legitimate and Judicial
All of the New Humanitarians accept the ICTY as a legitimate judicial body dispensing justice--for Neier, establishing the Tribunal was "the most important step by the United Nations to protect human rights since it adopted the Universal Declaration," and the claim that the Tribunal is a "tool of the U.S." he dismisses as unworthy of refutation (Neier, 1998). The New Humanitarians do not discuss the Tribunal's NATO-power origination, purpose, funding, and staffing; its less than stellar adherence to Western legal standards; or its record of service to NATO in pursuing war criminals selectively and coming to NATO's rescue in times of public relations need (Hayden, 2000; Skoco and Woodger, 2000; Johnstone 2002). Ignatieff says that "The great virtue of legal proceedings is that their evidentiary rules confer legitimacy on otherwise contestable facts" (Ignatieff, 1997), but he never examines the evidentiary rules of the Tribunal or evaluates the criticisms made of them--he takes their merits as unchallengable; he knows a priori that the Tribunal does not dispense "victor's justice" (Ignatieff, 2000d).
Apart from expressing approval, neither Ignatieff nor his comrades discuss the Tribunal's indictment of Milosevic on May 24, 1999, which gave NATO a public relations boost by a diversion of attention from NATO's escalating bombing of Serbian civilian
infrastructures. This remarkable politicization of a supposed judicial body did not bother the New Humanitarians at all, nor did the Tribunal's refusal even to investigate the numerous claims of NATO's violations of law (with its refusal based on NATO press releases for information) (Mandel, 2001). Having taken sides, legal abuses by the forces of morality were of no interest to them. The moral ends justified the means.
In fact, the very politicization of the Tribunal has served the New Humanitarians well. They regularly cite its findings as definitive confirmation of what they want to prove in their campaigning. Thus David Rieff cites Tribunal indictments of Karadzic and Mladic "FOR GENOCIDE" as showing what a determined West could have done at any time to bring justice to the Balkans (Rieff, 1995: 260-61). Ian Williams cites numbers produced by Carla Del Ponte on deaths in Kosovo as the final authority that "should have put questions concerning the death toll to rest" (Williams, 1999b). Rieff points out that national sovereignty no longer protects human rights abusers, "as Slobodan Milosevic learned when at the height of the Kosovo conflict, he was indicted for war crimes by an international tribunal at the Hague" (Rieff, 1999b). Rieff just takes it for granted that this was an act carried out by a wholly independent dispenser of justice--its public relations service to NATO during the bombing of Serbia is unmentioned, perhaps never even strikes this war enthusiast and propagandist.
New Humanitarians' Abuse of Historical Evidence: (1) Acceptance of
the Demon Theory of Balkan History
Almost uniformly, the New Humanitarians explain developments in the Balkans in terms of a demon theory of history, or what Lenard Cohen calls the "paradise lost/loathsome leaders perspective" that has characterized much of the literature on the breakup of
Yugoslavia since 1989-1991 (Cohen, 2001: 380ff). Milosevic, virtually single-handedly, pursuing his dream of a Greater Serbia, was responsible for the disintegration of Yugoslavia, was the originator and predominant employer of ethnic cleansing in the region, and refused any peaceful avenues in favor of violence. Ash speaks of his "poisoned, but calculating mind" (Ash, 2000), and Rieff says that Milosevic "had quite correctly been described by U.S. officials...as the architect of the catastrophe" (Rieff, 1999b). The New Humanitarians repeatedly refer to Milosevic's speeches of April 24-25, 1987, and June 28, 1989, as allegedly announcing his ethnic cleansing program. Tim Judah refers to Milosevic's responsibility for wars in "Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo: four wars since 1991 and the result of these terrible conflicts, which began with the slogan 'All Serbs in One State' is
the cruelest irony" (Judah, 2000).
This is not history, but convenient mythology. The breakup of Yugoslavia was driven mainly by German and elite Croatian and Slovenian incentives to separation, and from 1991 and earlier the Serbs were designated the enemy and were on the defensive. There was no "war" in Slovenia--the Yugoslav army, which had a legal right to fight against a Slovenian secession, did not do so, but withdrew from the Republic after ten days of skirmishes. Much of the fighting and killing resulted from the insistence of the West on preserving Bosnia-Herzogovina as a single entity under Muslim minority control, and the failure there and in Croatia to allow large ethnic minorities to shift from being parts of artificial Republics to less threatening associations (Woodward, 1995; Hayden, 1999; Chandler, 2000; Johnstone, 2002).
Milosevic supported many initiatives for resolving these problems, coming into regular conflict with the Bosnian Serb leadership as a result. His 1987 and 1989 speeches did not call for a Greater Serbia; instead, they promised to protect Serbians (i.e., inhabitants of Serbia, not merely ethnic Serbs) and called for ethnic toleration (Milosevic, 1987; 1989). Opportunistic, demagogic, ruthless, he was, but he failed to meet the demon role fixed by NATO, its media, and the New Humanitarians. Judah's statement that it all began with the slogan "All Serbs in One State" is not "cruel irony," it is a gross misrepresentation of both the dynamics of those cruel conflicts and the literal language used by Milosevic.
The New Humanitarians regularly trace history back to a Serb action--frequently misrepresented--and stop there. Michael Ignatieff writes that "We were driven from our homes in the Croatian Krajina, Serbs will tell you. True enough, but only after the Slobodan Milosevic regime had tried to strangle Croatian independence at birth" (Ignatieff, 1999b). Note the straightforward apologetics for massive ethnic cleansing, based on a prior set of
events long since terminated; the Croatian ethnic cleansing was carefully planned and extremely brutal, and was not against Milosevic but Serb citizens of Croatia. The Serbs "will also tell you" that there was a mass killing of Serbs by Croats at Gospic in September 1991, and that there is a history of Croat genocidal behavior against Serbs during World War II that caused them to fear an independent Croatia, but that is history inadmissible for Ignatieff.
Misuse of Historical Evidence: (2) "Genocide" in Bosnia
The views of many of the New Humanitarians were shaped in the wars over Bosnia, where they gathered in Sarejevo to fight for the "multi-ethnic Bosnia" and against "nothing less than genocide" (Sontag, 1995). Their distortions of history and ongoing fact in this conflict are legendary:
1) Repeated allegations of Serb genocide and repetition of the number 200,000 or 250,000 dead, provided by the Bosnian Muslim government and contradicted by all independent authorities and the CIA itself (Kenney, 1998; Johnstone, 2002).
2) Rape inflation based again on contaminated sources, with the added unsupported claim that Bosnia Serb rapes were "by army order" (Sontag, 1995; Johnstone, 2002).
3) Repeated naming of towns in which Muslims or Croats were killed by Serbs--
Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Banja Luka, Sarejevo, Mostar, Tulza, Srebrenica--with a systematic failure to mention the prior large-scale Muslim and Croat slaughters of in-town or nearby Serb civilians (Rooper, 1997; Pumphrey, 1998; Bogdanich and Lettmayer, 2000).
4) A mythical representation of the Izetbegovic government as "actually committed to the rule of law" and multi-ethic tolerance--"it was in defense of the ideal of a multinational, multiconfessional Bosnia that the Bosnians shed their blood" (Rieff, 1995: 248-49, 260-61).
This ignores not only their acceptance of thousands of radical Muslims from the Middle East and elsewhere, but also Izetbegovic's own explicit commitment to Muslim political domination; in his words, "There is neither peace nor coexistence between the 'Islamic religion' and non-Islamic social and political institutions....Having the right to govern its own world, Islam clearly excludes the right and possibility of putting a foreign ideology into practice on its territory" (quoted from his 1970 Islamic Declaration in Johnstone, 2002). These sentiments, never repudiated, are never cited by the New Humanitarians.
5) Rationalizing the refusal to negotiate a settlement along the lines of the Vance-Owen and later Owen-Stoltenberg peace plans, which Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs accepted, on the ground that "the United States could not support a plan that 'rewarded' ethnic
cleansing to such an extent" (Rieff, citing Madeleine Albright, 1995: 255).
6) That the mutual ethnic cleansing was a result of the NATO powers' encouragement of the disintegration of the "multi-ethnic" Yugoslav state, and their refusal to allow threatened minorities to withdraw from artificial Republics that they distrusted, is outside the realm of New Humanitarian understanding.
It is also interesting to note how benignly the New Humanitarians treat the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Krajina in 1995, carried out by the Croatian army, with active U.S.
assistance. While admitting it was the largest ethnic cleansing of the Balkan wars, Ash refers to it neutrally as "a large ground offensive--by Croatian troops" (Ash, 2000b). None of the New Humanitarians have called the bombing-war response by Yugoslavia "a large ground offensive." For none of them was the Krajina ethnic cleansing a "humanitarian disaster," rather, implicitly, a just reward.
Misuse of Historical Evidence (3): Misrepresentations Regarding
"Ethnic Cleansing" in Kosovo
Some New Humanitarians, such as Denitch and Williams, contend that Serb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo prior to the bombing was massive, whereas others like Ash, Rieff, Hitchens, Judah and Ignatieff make the flight and expulsions during the bombing war the
crucial mark of Serb ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Several problems confront those claiming pre-bombing ethnic cleansing. One is that it is not supported by any official document, including those of the State Department, OSCE, British House of Commons Defense Review, or any of the three indictments of Milosevic. Indeed, prior to the bombing the German Foreign Office had even denied that the refugee flows constituted a case of ethnic cleansing, contending that "[The] actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military opponent and its actual and alleged supporters" (Canepa, 1999). Ash claims that "Serb forces started systematic cleansing as the Kosovo Verification Mission pulled out, just before the bombing started" (Ash, 2000b), but he offers no evidence for this charge, nor does anybody else. Ash fails to mention that the mission was withdrawn only four days before the bombing began, with the Serbs fully aware that a bombing war was about to start. He also fails to note that the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission reported no serious incidents between January 15 and March 20, the day of their withdrawal.
Another problem for the New Humanitarians is the post-bombing acknowledgement that the United States had given support to the KLA prior to the bombing, which aided and encouraged the KLA to provoke the Serbs in order to justify forceful NATO intervention. The New Humanitarians have ignored such considerations. Michael Ignatieff did, however, refer to the KLA murder of six Serb teenagers, saying: "Doubtless a KLA provocation, intended to goad the Serbs into overreaction and then to trigger international intervention.
The Serbs responded by killing 45 civilians in Racak in mid-January. The international community duly intervened. Yet it is worth asking why the KLA strategists could be absolutely certain the Serbs would react as they did. The reason is simple....only in
Serbia is racial contempt an official ideology" (Ignatieff, 1999b).
We may note first that for Ignatieff the KLA killing was only a "provocation," not a murderous act to be severely condemned. Note also that although there is serious evidence that the Racak incident was arranged into a "massacre" following a furious battle, and is therefore of questionable authenticity, Ignatieff takes it as unquestionably valid. On the certainty of the Serb reaction, provocations such as those carried out by the KLA produce similar responses in civil conflicts everywhere, so that Ignatieff's blaming it on Serb racism is nonsensical for that reason alone. But it also flies in the face of Serb tolerance of Albanians in Belgrade, along with Roma--in contrast with Kosovo Albanian intolerance of both in NATO-occupied Kosovo.
Yet another problem for the New Humanitarians like Ash, Rieff, Ignatieff, Judah and Hitchens, who focus on the flight and expulsions during the bombing war, is that the bombing itself precipitated the forcible response. These authors reply that an "Operation Horseshoe" was already in the works designed to do the same anyway, and was only accelerated by the bombing. But Operation Horseshoe was never mentioned prior to the bombing, and has been exploded as a propaganda fraud (Loquai, 2000). The rapid Serb response showed that they were expecting a NATO attack and were prepared to counterattack if necessary, while at the same time their negotiating position always included acceptance of a large international observer force, incompatible with implementation of an Operation Horseshoe. It is an interesting fact that the New Humanitarians have never pointed to the rapid NATO bombing response following the failure at Rambouillet as demonstrating a NATO intention to carry out a bombing war. This reflects deep bias.
Still another problem for New Humanitarian apologetics is that there is evidence that the KLA and NATO were fighting the war in coordination, and that Serb attacks and expulsions were concentrated in strong KLA areas and were therefore based on military demands and strategy (Erlanger, 1999; Pearl and Block, 1999). There is also evidence that a higher percentage of Kosovo Serbs than Albanians fled during the bombing period, which calls into question a simple Serb expulsion theory of flight and refugees. The New Humanitarians deal with these awkward considerations by ignoring them. Ignatieff states that "Milosevic decided to solve an 'internal problem' by exporting an entire nation to his impoverished neighbors," and he also describes it as a "most meticulous deportation of a civilian population," and "a final solution of the Kosovo problem," statements that would be
hard to surpass for misrepresentation (Ignatieff, 2000a: 86-87, 78-79, 84).
A final problem is that the postwar evidence on killings has not supported the inflated claims of NATO officials, which ran up to 500,000. The New Humanitarians are never critical of NATO officials for having made those wildly exaggerated claims, which did help
make the moral case for devastating Serbia, and their sole preoccupation has been to protect the wartime image that Serb crimes were immense and constituted "ethnic cleansing" and even "genocide." Ignatieff calls "revisionists" those who challenged the NATO claims, and accepts that 11,334 bodies should be found, based on Tribunal estimates, which rested on "Western intelligence sources, eyewitness statements and evidence taken from surviving
family members" (Ignatieff, 1999c). He says that whether those bodies will be found "depends on whether the Serb military and police removed them." Possible inflation from the Tribunal and its sources he ignores by rule of deep bias. He also never mentions the
possibility that many of the bodies might have been of soldiers killed in fighting; he never mentions that the KLA was fighting a war in collaboration with NATO; and he never discusses how 11,334 (as yet unrecovered) bodies are to be reconciled with his own and
official claims of "genocide."
Misuse of Historical Evidence (4): Misrepresenting Rambouillet
At Rambouillet the NATO powers presented Yugoslavia with an ultimatum: Surrender or be bombed. Eventually, they assured the failure of the negotiations by inserting a proviso in the proposed agreement that would have required Yugoslavia to allow NATO to
occupy not just Kosovo but all of Yugoslavia (Kenney, 1999).
This is awkward for the New Humanitarians as it puts them into the position of approving bombing and war as punishment and sanctioning a resort to war by a refusal to compromise or negotiate. The New Humanitarians have handled this by either ignoring the matter altogether or accepting a NATO-friendly and false version of history. David Rieff asks, "How eager is he [Milosevic] to allow NATO troops into a portion of his country's sovereign territory, as called for by the Rambouillet agreement?" (Rieff, 1999a). But Appendix B called for NATO troops to occupy all of Yugoslavia. Rieff's misrepresentation was never corrected by him or by the New York Times. Michael Ignatieff interpreted the failure as based on the fact that Milosevic "thought that he could call NATO's bluff, could risk a bombing" because he could "withstand" maybe a week's bombing (Ignatieff, 2000d). Again, no mention of the "bar" being raised because Serbia "needed a little bombing," but putting it all on the demon, and getting away with this on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Tim Judah acknowledged Appendix B, but he made it into a "sort of military wish list," even if "more expansive than the norm" (Judah, 2000a: 210). He did not mention the State Department official's explanation that suggests NATO's intent to bomb, nor does he consider that this might point to the reason for insertion of the controversial clause.
New Humanitarian Apologetics for NATO's War Crimes
The New Humanitarians have dealt with NATO war crimes mainly by evasion. Many of them like Rieff, Kouchner, Havel and Hitchens simply never discuss them, either considering them insignificant or justified by virtue of NATO's humanitarian enterprise. Shawcross praises NATO profusely for its unprecedented willingness to assist Albanian refugees--"It is, to say the least, unexpected for one of the parties to a combat to undertake vast humanitarian aid of this sort" (Shawcross, 1999). Nowhere does he recognize that NATO's decision to bomb is what produced the refugees.
Christopher Hitchens stated that "The NATO intervention repatriated all or most of the refugees and killed at least some of the cleansers. I find I have absolutely no problem with that" (Hitchens, 1999), ignoring the fact that NATO's intervention helped expatriate the refugees in the first place. As more than "cleansers" were killed by NATO, Hitchens' failure to mention them, and his complete disinterest in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Krajina or any need to repatriate them, displays a bias that can accommodate any NATO illegalities, if directed against the proper evildoers.
Ash describes a number of NATO killings of civilians as "errors," based on highly disputable claims by NATO itself. But he also acknowledges the "deliberate acceptance of civilian casualties" in the bombing of Serbian broadcasting facilities, bridges and trains, and other civilian infrastructures; and that the intentional destruction of Belgrade's electrical power grid not only damaged "the morale" of the population but also "meant that patients on life-support systems and babies in hospital incubators had their power cut off" (Ash, 2000b). He displays no indignation here and uses no condemnatory language: This was only an "acceptance" of civilian casualties, not deliberate killing by any poisoned minds. And he never gives figures on casualties or destruction, nor does he ever point out that these NATO actions violate international legal prohibitions against targeting civilian facilities and therefore constitute war crimes.
New Humanitarian Neglect and Misrepresentation of Inhumanitarian
Developments in NATO-Occupied Kosovo
As with NATO's war crimes, the New Humanitarians have largely evaded addressing the inhumanitarian developments in NATO-occupied Kosovo. Like the mainstream media, they have failed to report and reflect on the massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Roma and others, which violates U.N. obligations under Security Council Resolution 1244, and also contradicts the alleged humanitarian aim of the war. They were exceedingly indignant about the alleged ethnic cleansing in Kosovo before and during the bombing, but the real, ecumenical ethnic cleansing under NATO occupation doesn't upset them at all. Rieff says that "for the first time in the post-cold-war period ethnic cleansing was reversed" (Rieff, 1999d). He apologizes for this as "the law of revenge," and says that "the Serbs are leaving, and there is very little the United Nations or KFOR can do to stem the exodus" (ibid.) Note the benign language for this "reversed" ethnic cleansing--the Serbs "are leaving" in an "exodus," with no mention of a thousand of more killed or disappeared as an exit inducement, whereas the wartime flight of the Kosovo Albanians was a monstrous and evil thing.
Rieff says that war permitted the return of the "Kosovars" (i.e., Kosovo Albanians), "a tremendous accomplishment." But the war was by his own admission the thing that drove them out. Also, that wartime flight created much hatred and a spirit of revenge, but Rieff and his fellow New Humanitarians never point out that the war made reconciliation impossible and brought "the law of revenge" into play. Rieff mentions the hatred of Serbs by the Albanians, but he never suggests that this was seriously increased by the war he supported.
Rieff even misleads with his "law of revenge," because, as Jiri Dienstbier points out, "What is happening in Kosovo is not some sort of revenge of ordinary ethnic Albanians" against the remaining Serbs--it is a highly organized, systematic policy of expulsion carried out by "Albanian extremists" (Dienstbier, 2000c), protected by NATO and implementing that minority's long drive for an ethnically pure Kosovo and Greater Albania.
Why 40,000 U.N. troops couldn't do anything about this latest round of ethnic cleansing Rieff fails to explain. Ash also notes the reverse ethnic cleansing of Serbs "under the very noses of NATO troops," although failing to mention the ethnic cleansing of Roma, Turks, and others also (Ash, 2000a). But while Serbia's alleged ethnic cleansing justified NATO's bombing for Ash, he does not suggest that this severe case of "reverse" ethnic cleansing should be curbed perhaps by a bit of NATO bombing!
Ash, following the NATO party line claiming that the intervention was based not only on humanitarian concerns but "a longstanding fear for the 'stability' of the region," mentions that while Kosovo was "liberated" it remained "an almighty mess." But he fails to
acknowledge that NATO's interventions from 1991 on destabilized Yugoslavia and the region, and that the "almighty mess" in Kosovo is not only unstable, it has provided the KLA with a base to destabilize Macedonia in the interest of a "Greater Albania," a real aim that
the New Humanitarians have never recognized, in contrast with their preoccupation with the mythical aim of a "Greater Serbia."
Ash, at least, honestly recognizes that Kosovo under NATO is "an almighty mess," and that not only Serbs, but "Albanian women are afraid to go out at night in Pristina, for fear of being kidnapped into forced prostitution by the Albanian mafia, which has moved
into the province with a vengeance" (Ash, 2000a). Rieff, on the other hand, like Hitchens, Ignatieff, and Williams, a more committed and unrestrained propagandist, says "There is something magical and heartening about walking through the streets of Pristina...and seeing young people who grew up fearful in a Serb police state finally getting to behave like normal teenagers" (Rieff, 2000b).
The New Humanitarians have been openly committed activists, serving what they perceived to be moral causes in the Balkans, and portraying events there through the prism of these commitments and political aims. We believe that we have shown that their reporting
and commentaries on developments during and leading up to the Kosovo war, and after its conclusion, have been so biased as to constitute war propaganda rather than objective news and minimally balanced commentaries.
The New Humanitarians did not lead NATO on and press them to do things NATO did not want to do; on the contrary, they followed and put a moral gloss on NATO choices that were evident from the beginning of the 1990s if not earlier, and that were clearly rooted in geopolitical and internal political interests and forces. The New Humanitarians provided a moral cover and helped produce an echo chamber and bandwagon support for intervention, and in fact biased that intervention away from negotiations and toward the use of force.
In the New World Order, with an unchallenged superpower pursuing global interests, there has been a strong tendency for the United States and its allies to use force to achieve their geopolitical ends. There is not the slightest reason to believe that this use of force will be directed toward advancing human rights, although that will surely be part of the cover as it has been in the past. This is new order imperialism, even if not characterized by direct
imperial rule. By helping sustain that moral cover, and sanctioning the abandonment of the rule of law in the purported interest of human rights, the New Humanitarians have served as a political and propaganda arm of the new imperialism.
1. On NATO's real objectives, see Chomsky (1999); Simma (1999); Johnstone (2000); MccGwire (2000); and Johnstone (2002).
2. We caution that estimates of deaths both during and after the war vary, and no definitive accounting has yet to be produced. Our own very tentative estimate of the approximate maximum total number of deaths derives from the combined total of known deaths based on bodies recovered within Kosovo during and after the war as of 2000 (3,658) and the International Committee of the Red Cross's total of people missing and unaccounted for (3,525, of which 2,746 were ethnic Albanians, and 779 from other ethnic groups). See (Del Ponte, 2000; and ICRC, 2001a; 2001b; 2001c). It would seem highly improbable for the actual total to exceed the sum of these numbers, and, with the likelihood of duplication of names across both lists of the dead and the missing, may very well turn out to be considerably less.
3. According to former State Department Yugoslav Desk officer George Kenney, after Rambouillet, an U.S. government official told him "the United States 'deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could accept'. The Serbs needed, according to the official, a little bombing to see reason" (Kenney, 1999).
4. As Timothy Garton Ash writes: "When I arrive in the late evening...[at Hotel Tuzla,]...I step into the lift, press the button for the second floor, and at once subside, powerless, into the cellar. The reception committee in the bar consists of Christopher Hitchens, Susan Sontag, and David Rieff. When I join them, Sontag is just saying to Michael Ignatieff, 'I can't believe that this is your first time here." (Ash, 1999: 147).
5. "Garton Ash right again," Tim Judah writes (Judah, 1999); "Superb," Michael Ignatieff says of David Rieff's work , (Ignatieff, 1995); "an immensely wide-ranging intellect," Rieff in turn says of Ignatieff (Rieff, 2000c).
6. Among the Human Rights Watch Board members with ties to the U.S. government, Board member Morton Abramowitz was a high-ranking State Department official, a former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; Paul Goble is the director of the U.S. propaganda news network otherwise known as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Kati Marton is the president of the Committee to Protect Journalists and the wife of Richard Holbrooke; and Warren Zimmermann was the last U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia during its breakup.
7. The KPC, inaugurated in September 1999 and modeled on the U.S. National Guard, was recruited from the KLA. Kouchner stated that it had an "emergency response" function "with a mandate to provide humanitarian assistance." KLA commander Agim Ceku was put in charge, with Kouchner stating at the KFC inauguration "I look to him to lead the new members of the Corps in the footsteps of Cincinnatus, the model citizen-soldier of ancient Rome" (Kouchner, 1999a). Ceku had "masterminded the successful [Croatian] offensive at Medak [in 1993] and in 1995 was one of the key planners of the successful Operation Storm" (Jane's Defense Weekly, 1999). Kouchner must have known this. A few weeks after the inauguration, the ICTY announced it was "investigating Ceku for alleged war crimes committed against ethnic Serbs in Croatia between 1993 and 1995" (Agence France Presse, 1999), though as in the case of the NATO powers, we doubt the ICTY was serious.
8. The New Humanitarians have often criticized NATO, but almost always for its failure to move against the enemy with sufficient speed and force (e.g., Ignatieff, 2000b). This practice of limiting their dissent to a narrow range of themes advocating greater state violence gives their work a false aura of independence and high moral stature, but the sides they chose coincided precisely with those fixed by their political leaders.
9. Data based on a byline search using the Nexis database of 18 print media from the U.S., the U.K., and Canada (i.e., the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Nation, and the New Republic; the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent, and the New Statesman; and the Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Gazette (Montreal), Vancouver Sun, and Calgary Herald) for articles published by our sample of 12 New Humanitarians (i.e., Timothy Garton Ash, Vaclav Havel, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignatieff, Tim Judah, Mary Kaldor, Bernard Kouchner, Aryeh Neier, David Rieff, Geoffrey Robertson, Kenneth Roth, and Susan Sontag) during the period January 1, 1998 through June 30, 2001.
10. See Brownlie (2000).
* Agence France Press (1999b) "Kosovo Commander Denies War Crimes in Croatia," October 12.
* Ash, Timothy Garton (1999) History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s. New York: Random House, 147.
* Ash, Timothy Garton (2000a) "We Are Losing the Peace in Kosovo," Independent, January 18.
* Ash, Timothy Garton (2000b) "The war we almost lost: Was Nato's Kosovo campaign a legitimate response to a humanitarian catastrophe--or did it cause one?" The Guardian, September 4.
* Bogdanich, George and Martin Lettmayer (2000) Yugoslavia: The Avoidable War (documentary film). USA: Frontier Theater Film.
* Brownlie, Ian (2000) "Memorandum submitted by Professor Ian Brownlie," House of Commons, Foreign Affairs: Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence, May 23, [http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmfaff/28/28ap03.htm].
* Beaumont, Peter, Ed Vulliamy and Paul Beaver (2001), "CIA's bastard army ran riot in Balkans," The Observer (London), March 11.
* Canepa, Eric (trans.) (1999) "Important Internal Documents from Germany's Foreign Office Regarding Pre-Bombardment Genocide in Kosovo," [http://www.suc.org/kosovo_crisis/documents/ger_gov.html].
* Chandler, David (1999) Bosnia: Faking Democracy After Dayton. London: Pluto Press, 1999.
* Chandler, David (2000) "Western Intervention and the Disintegration of Yugoslavia," in Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman, Degraded Capability: The Media and the Kosovo Crisis. London: Pluto Press, 19: 30.
* Chandler, David (2001) "Faking Democracy and Progress in Kosovo--BHHRG Report on the Provincial Elections, 17 November 2001," British Helsinki Human Rights Group, [http://www.bhhrg.org/faking_democracy_and_progress_in1.htm].
* Chomsky, Noam (1999) The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press.
* Chomsky, Noam (2000) A New Generation Draws the Line: Kosovo, East Timor, and the Standards of the West. New York: Verso.
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* Cohen, Lenard J. (2001) Serpent in the Bosom: The Rise and Fall of Slobodan Milosevic. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
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* Dienstbier, Jiri (2000a) (E/CN.4/2000/39), March 20, [http://hri.ca/fortherecord2000/documentation/commission/e-cn4-2000-39.htm].
* Dientsbier, Jiri (2000b) in "Dienstbier Criticising NATO Raids, Missions in Kosovo Again," Czech News Agency, March 29.
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* Hitchens, Christopher (1999) "Genocide and the Body-Baggers," The Nation, November 29.
* Hitchens, Christopher (2001a) "Of Sin, the Left, and Islamic Fascism," The Nation (webpage only), September 24, [http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=special&s=hitchens20010924].
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* Ignatieff, Michael (1999b) "Counting Bodies In Kosovo," New York Times, November 21.
* Ignatieff, Michael (2000a) Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond. New York: Metropolitan Books.
* Ignatieff, Michael (2000b) "The Next President's Duty to Intervene," New York Times, February 13.
* Ignatieff, Michael (2000c) "A Bungling U.N. Undermines Itself," New York Times, May 15.
* Ignatieff, Michael (2000d) The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Transcript 6,740, May 31.
* Ignatieff, Michael (2000e) "The Right Trial for Milosevic," New York Times, October 10.
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