War Crimes Reply
None of my alleged "misstatements" are misstatements, as I will try to show with brevity, with only the reply on Racak at all extensive. Roger Lippman is a protagonist in the Balkan wars, his role being to report and feature anything putting his side (NATO and its clients) in a good light and the enemy and target (the Serbs) in a bad light. As a protagonist he is also a propagandist, who suppresses as well as selects, and regularly decontextualizes to score points. Dubious witnesses are passed off without challenge; inconvenient ones are ignored. He has going for him the fact that enormous resources have been poured into making the case that he wants to make, allowing him to speak about evidence in "tremendous detail," when much of that "evidence" is an incessant repetition of claims by a very limited number of witnesses with an axe to grind (including those who have negotiated "plea bargains").
Lippman cites for documentation of a massacre of 45 civilians at Racak, the "independent investigators" of Human Rights Watch and the EU's Forensic Experts Team. In general in his critiques Lippman's independent investigators are not very independent. Human Rights Watch was a protagonist in the Balkan Wars, always urging intervention by force and, most famously, issuing a report on NATO's bombing of Serbia that denied any NATO war crimes (Amnesty International, much more independent, found them in plenitude). HRW's report on Racak was one of the most outrageous ever-coming late, interviewing with complete gullibility 14 Kosovo Albanian witnesses from a KLA-dominated village, who claimed to have seen the massacre. But a French reporter, Christophe Chatelet, a journalist from Le Monde, arrived at Racak on the very afternoon of the attack, and was told by OSCE personnel that nothing of interest had happened (Le Monde, Jan. 21, 1999). On the following day Chatelet and Le Figaro reporter Renaud Girard looked at the video made by AP photographers who had been invited to witness the events and saw nothing suggestive of a massacre. The photographers and video have been kept unavailable since then. Those 14 witnesses showed themselves only to HRW, not to the truly independent observers, who might have been inclined to take issue with their accounts.
OSCE and the photographers had been invited by the Serbs to accompany their attack on Racak, a KLA stronghold, an amazing thing to do if they were intending to slaughter civilians. Amazing also that they left dozens of bodies to be found and capitalized on by the KLA and William Walker, especially when, on other occasions we are expected to believe that bodies were buried and in some cases reburied and even transported in refrigerated trucks hundreds of miles to hide Serb crimes from a watching world. The alternative, which I believe is true, is that the KLA collected the bodies of dead KLA fighters and put them in the gully, counting on the Western establishment to swallow a massacre, which Albright and company eagerly desired to provide the casus belli for a long-planned attack.
The EU Forensic team study of Racak has never been released, which is suggestive of its conclusions, as the EU was hardly a neutral and "independent" body. The team leader of that study, Helena Ranta, has spoken about Racak with great discomfort and hesitation, and contradicted herself frequently. She was under great pressure from William Walker and EU officials to toe the party line, and she has looked foolish. On one occasion, with obvious reluctance, she declared that the Racak deaths were a "crime against humanity," but quickly followed this by saying that killing one individual was a crime against humanity (the media left out this followup statement). At one point she said that the victims appeared to be unarmed civilians, but in testimony before the Tribunal in the Milosevic case she retreated. She limited herself to saying that "At the time-at that time, there was no indication of them being anything but unarmed civilians." (p. 17727) In fact, she explicitly denied having claimed any "executions" ("I never used the word 'executed'." [p. 17770]) Her hedging reflected the fact that in the Tribunal hearings she had been made well aware of the fact that some of the autopsied bodies were dressed in ways that suggested that they had been fighters, and in her press conference in Pristina back in 1999 she noted that "medicolegal investigations cannot give a conclusive answer to the question of whether there was a battle or whether the victims died under some other circumstances." This conflicts with her ambiguous statement before the Tribunal as well as her earlier statement that "They were most likely killed where they were found," a statement based on hearsay, and offered despite the fact that she didn't arrive on the scene until a week later and acknowledged that there had been no "chain of custody" of the bodies.
Ranta has retreated further since than, saying recently that there should be an investigation of the fighting at Racak, suggesting that bodies had been moved around there, criticizing Walker for asserting that there had been a massacre, asking "why the Tribunal is not interested in" the number of Serbs killed at Racak, and calling into question the poor procedures followed in gathering evidence (Markus Bickel, "Work of the Hague Tribunal in Racak Case Criticized," Berliner Zeitung, Jan. 17, 2004). She now recognizes the possibility that many or all of the bodies found were fighters, consistent with the evidence of gunpowder residues on the fingers of most of them. While Ranta retreats, and the OSCE continues to refuse to release the EU report, three forensic doctors on the EU team finally did publish an account of their findings in an article on the Racak evidence, "Independent forensic autopsies," in the Forensic Science International in 2001. These analysts reported finding a bizarre set of bullet paths that do not fit a picture of a firing squad mowing down a row of standing people. They also found only one example of a body that had been subjected to "close-range firing." The authors also stated that the Yugoslav and Finnish teams discussed the autopsy findings "in full professional consensus...In both groups the final conclusions were equally strong." These analysts denied any capacity to determine whether the bodies were of "unarmed civilians."
These comments by the three Finnish forensic experts are worth more than those of Helena Ranta, who was under intense pressure from William Walker, the U.S. official who had orchestrated the "massacre" claims, and the OSCE, to give the desired politically correct answers. I would say the "independent" evidence supports the staged event model, not the party line model.
For the rest of Lippman's critique under the heading Racak, there is no doubt that the Serbs killed many Albanians and that there was a significant flight of Albanian civilians. But he suppresses the fact that the KLA was also doing a lot of killing, deliberately trying to provoke the Serbs so as to bring NATO into the fighting, and they were being helped by the CIA. High British officials repeatedly stated that until Racak, "the Kosovo Liberation Army was responsible for more deaths in Kosovo than the Serbian authorities had been" (Defense Minister George Robertson, March 24, 1999); that is, the KLA accounted for a majority of the estimated 2000 killed in Kosovo in the prior year. Nicholas Wheeler estimated that the Serbs had killed 500 Albanians prior to the NATO bombing, leaving 1,500 to the KLA's account. Lippman also suppresses the fact that an agreement with the Serbs in October 1998 caused them to withdraw their army-after which most of the refugees returned, a thousand OSCE observers were on the scene and conflict was greatly reduced. Racak was needed to give the Clinton administration and KLA the excuse for war, and they got it, with help from the Tribunal and media. As Albright said to Sandy Berger on hearing of Racak: "Spring has come early this year." I don't think Roger Lippman has ever cited this quote, which would be inconsistent with his consistent apologetics for NATO operations, including war crimes.
Lippman's claim that the killings in the Srebrenica area occurred "without a battle" is a serious misstatement of fact: the Bosnian Muslim 28th regiment had been in Srebrenica and engaged in major fighting as they tried to escape to Muslim territory, a point admitted by every serious analyst of that struggle, and as I noted the Serbs lost hundreds in the fighting. There were many graves hastily put together that mainly contained bodies killed in the warfare, a fact that makes Lippman's attempt to make all the dead people victims of executions the inexcusable work of a propagandist. Furthermore, the exact provenance of many of the dead bodies is not at all clear; thousands of bodies have been buried in Bosnia after conflicts other than that at Srebrenica in July 1995, and after five or more years who they were and how they died is impossible to say (and thousands of Serbs have been killed in the Bosnian wars).
As in Kosovo (but not in East Timor, and not in Croatian Krajina and the parts of Bosnia where Serbs were massacred in approved ethnic cleansing processes) enormous resources have been put into grave excavation, just as they have been invested in Tribunal work, all thoroughly geared to a NATO political agenda. But the results have been puny; there are no "6000 bodies of civilian massacre victims"-there have been considerably fewer bodies found in the Srebrenica vicinity (and not one satellite picture has been produced that shows grave digging and trucking for reburial), and absolutely no identification of those found as "civilians" or "massacre" victims-as opposed to soldiers, probably including Serbs, killed in action in July 1995 or possibly at some other date.
The Tribunal-NATO effort has had to depend heavily on Serb confessions. Lippman mentions two Bosnian Serbs admitting to planning and implementation of a massacre. He omits several facts: (1) the main one admitted lying; (2) both of them were plea-bargaining, so were getting reduced sentences in exchange for their confessions; (3) neither of them had actually witnessed any executions. The use of confessions under plea-bargaining, and the widespread evidence of witness coaching in Tribunal operations, is a scandal. But it doesn't bother Lippman.
Lippman also cites the further cooperation of the Bosnian Serb authorities in disclosing massacre sites and admitting responsibility for crimes. He fails to mention that those authorities have been under huge pressure from NATO authorities to confess, admit guilt, and cooperate, with the threat of serious political and economic reprisals. Such evidence obtained under coercion, is worthless, but it illuminates a corrupt process of establishing a politically desired "truth."
False Quote from the State Department:
Lippman says that I erred in citing a State Department claim of 500,000 Kosovo Albanians killed. Lippman is wrong once again: the State Department made the claim in an official press release of release of April 19, 1999, in which it is stated that "Their number ranges from a low of 100,000, looking only at the men missing from among refugee families in Albania, up to nearly 500,000, if reports of widespread separation of men among the IDPs within Kosovo are true."
Note the immense fabrication that places the minimum number of Albanian males killed, and only by April 19, at 100,000. This is a genuine lie machine in operation.
Why question these details at this late date?
This one is funny. At this late date it is perfectly OK for Lippman and his allies to propagate and try to drive home these details, but it is improper to question them. I'm sure Lippman would have said the same at an earlier date-he wants a free ride for his officially-approved propaganda. He cannot allow that he could possibly be wrong, so any challenge is unreasonable. If my claims are not "false," and I believe they are not false, they are urgently needed to contest Lippman's official line and disinformation.
You can be sure that Lippman will never mention that those victimized Albanian people, or at least the KLA and its supporters, have committed massive crimes under NATO auspices, driving out not only ordinary Serb civilians (with well over a thousand killed) but innocent Roma and other minorities. That is real ethnic cleansing, and Kosovo is now a drug and women-trade capital of Europe. For a good recent account that you won't find referred to by Lippman, see Jan Oberg, PressInfo # 195, Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research (March 29, 2004, http://www.transnational.org/pressinf/2004/Pi195_KosovoEmbarass.html ), and PressInfo #197 (April 29, 2004, http://www.transnational.org/pressinf/2004/pi197_KosovoEnd.html ).
Thousands of Serbs were killed in Western Bosnia and in Croatian Krajina in the years 1992-5, the latter a really massive ethnic cleansing, but under U.S. auspices. Lippman is indignant at my alleged "denial" of Serb crimes, but his own denial of NATO, Bosnian Muslim, Croatian, and Kosovo Albanian crimes is for some reason entirely reasonable.
In fact, I don't deny Serb crimes at all, and believe that they were serious and should be condemned and prosecuted. But I don't spend much time on them because that is the sole preoccupation of the Lippmans and a huge Western propaganda apparatus, who focus on them exclusively and with the integrity of the State Department's 1999 report on 100,000 up to 500,000 murdered Albanian males, and do this within the framework of an ugly political agenda. That agenda involves not "justice for the Albanians," but rather putting the NATO war in a good light, apologizing for NATO and other non-Serb crimes, and keeping the Serbs in dire straits and that entire area impoverished and destabilized. His pretended interest in the Albanians is fraudulent, as they are doing poorly in Kosovo and Bosnia, and are worried about many other things than inflicting further damage on the Serbs.