What Reporters Knew About Kosovo Talks -- But Didn't Tell

This article is copyrighted, 1999, FAIR

New evidence has emerged confirming that the U.S. deliberately set out to thwart the Rambouillet peace talks in France in order to provide a "trigger" for NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.

Furthermore, correspondents from major American news organizations reportedly knew about this plan to stymie the Kosovo peace talks, but did not inform their readers or viewers.

FAIR's May 14 media advisory, "Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations," (http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kosovo-solution.html) asked whether the media had given the full story on Rambouillet. News reports almost universally blamed the failure of negotiations on Serbian intransigence. The headline over a New York Times dispatch from Belgrade on March 24 - the first day of the bombing - read "U.S. Negotiators Depart, Frustrated By Milosevic's Hard Line."

But the evidence presented in "Forgotten Coverage" suggested that it was U.S. negotiators, not the Serbs, who blocked an agreement.

Now, in the June 14 issue of the Nation, George Kenney, a former State Department Yugoslavia desk officer, reports:

An unimpeachable press source who regularly travels with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told this [writer] that, swearing reporters to deep-background confidentiality at the Rambouillet talks, a senior State Department official had bragged that 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.

In other words, the plan for Kosovo autonomy drafted by State Department officials was intentionally crafted to provoke a rejection from Serb negotiators. In his Nation article, Kenney compares this plan to the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Providing further confirmation of Kenney's account, Jim Jatras, a foreign policy aide to Senate Republicans, reported in a May 18 speech at the Cato Institute in Washington that he had it "on good authority" that a "senior Administration official told media at Rambouillet, under embargo" the following:

"We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing, and that's what they are going to get."

In interviews with FAIR, both Kenney and Jatras asserted that these are actual quotes transcribed by reporters who spoke with a U.S. official. They declined to give the names or affiliations of the reporters.

The revelation that American reporters knew about a U.S. strategy to create a pretext for NATO's war on Yugoslavia - but did not report on it - raises serious questions about the independence of mainstream news organizations.

More reporting is needed on the origins of this war, as well as the opportunities for peace that may have been overlooked.


This release will be updated as new information becomes available.

This media advisory was written by FAIR media analyst Seth Ackerman (mailto:SAckerman@fair.org).

Published June 20, 1999
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