by Gilles d'Aymery
(Swans - August 1, 2005) With respect to the Balkans, reader Bob Wrubel writes, "Most of my friends, of course, see right through the propaganda that justified the war on Iraq, and understand the neo-liberal goals being pursued there, but can't seem to believe the same factors could have been at work in Yugoslavia." This phenomenon has perplexed me for years. Why is it that people who question the honesty of the US government in relation to international adventures abandon all sense of critical thinking on the matter of the Yugoslav tragedy? People doubt their government and challenge its underlying motives for almost every deed. They'll question 9/11, Afghanistan, Gulf War I, Gulf War II, Vietnam, Pearl Harbor, the Spanish War, etc., etc., etc., and come to the evidence that these wars (or events) were not kosher; but with Yugoslavia the official narrative is swallowed hook, line, and sinker... There seems to be a general amnesia, as though a mental block was keeping people away from any doubt -- there were victims and blood-leeching aggressors, period.
Everybody would agree that Judith Miller, to take but one example within the mainstream media, was part, knowingly or not, of the campaign of disinformation that led to Iraq II. Then, what about Marlise Simons, Barbara Crossette, Carlotta Gall, Thomas "give-war-a-chance" Friedman, Steven Erlanger, Jane Perlez -- and this list only accounts for part of the New York Times Balkans-reporting contingent? Or think of CNN's Christiane Amanpour who ended up marrying Mrs. Albright's cherubim, James Rubin. Disinformation in Iraq but truth telling in Yugoslavia?
Careful observers remember how Gulf War I was framed. In particular, they are aware of the PR campaign undertaken by the likes of Hill & Knowlton and how the "incubators" story played a large role in the march to that war. They may also recall how the Spanish War began and the part Mr. Hearst and his news empire played in the setup. Hill & Knowlton and Ruder Finn, two prominent PR firms, were intrinsically weaving their web of deception during the Yugoslav wars (and there were many other lobbying firms such as Arnold & Porter, Burson-Marsteller, Global Enterprises Group Inc., Hunton & Williams, etc.).
The "Circle of Deception" abounded in the Balkans, as it did before and after with remarkably similar patterns -- viz. the June 1986 Bob Dole Senate Concurrent Resolution #150 or the involvement of the National Endowment for Democracy as early as 1988. Yet, only in the Balkans do so-called inquisitive minds forsake reasoning and espouse the sanctioned storyline. No circumspection, no doubt, no critical analysis.
Dare object, advance reasoned arguments, refuse to demonize one party, offer a more complex narrative, and accusations of one-sidedness, genocidal apologia, "Islamophobia," are tossed about like hate-filled grenades. Ed Herman, in the wake of his excellent piece on Srebrenica, was deemed an "ageing crackpot and increasingly anti-Islamic conspiracy theorist" by some nutty ideologue.
There's no easy defense against mud slinging... For the record -- and my record is an open book -- I have not singled out any party, blamed any "group" or religion in the Balkans for the Yugoslav tragedy; neither the Croats, nor the Muslims of Bosnia, nor the Albanians of Kosovo; but, indeed, I have refused to follow the pack that in groupthink fashion has perennially laid the blame on the Serb doorsteps. I don't recall Alma Hromic, Swans' proficient contributor on that disaster, ever singling out any group or religion for the mayhem that engulfed her beloved Yugoslavia. To those whose langue de bois is the ordnance of predilection, I suppose it makes little difference. We are guilty of not following the sanctioned storyline and of abetting "evil."
That so-called anti-imperialists and antiwar activists ended up supporting military interventions in the Balkans, promoted a neo-liberal strategy to carve up Yugoslavia, swallowed the PR manipulation, and, while demonizing one side, were complicit in fanning the flames of religious discord, remains a mystery -- but it's no wonder they have to resort to rhetorical slanders in order to keep justifying their lack of objectivity and paucity of critical thinking.