Three Articles
from The Progressive Response


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THE U.S. ROLE IN THE BALKANS
   
by David Binder and Robert Hayden

WORDS AS PROPAGANDA
    by Edward Herman

WHERE THE MEDIA WENT WRONG COVERING KOSOVO
   
by Jeff Cohen


(Editor's Note: Over the last several months the Foreign Policy in Focus project has solicited speakers and writers on the Kosovo war, all of whom are critics of the U.S.-led NATO bombing, but not all of whom concur in either their analysis of the history or the role and responsibility of the various actors in the Balkans wars. In their thoughtful essay, David Binder and Robert Hayden, two leading U.S. experts on the Balkans, present an interpretation that many may see as slanted toward Serbia. As Ed Herman and Jeff Cohen rightly note in their essays, in times of war lines get more sharply drawn, language gets distorted, and the government's interpretation of events is portrayed as the objective reality. Herman and Cohen spoke at a June 10 congressional forum on "The Rhetoric of War" chaired by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D/OH) and Rep. John Conyers (D/MI) and facilitated by Foreign Policy In Focus. (Available at: http://www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org/media/forums/congbrief05.html). Over the next few weeks, we are certain to learn more details about the atrocities by all forces involved in the Kosovo war, as well as about the false and misleading stories planted in the media. The Foreign Policy in Focus project will continue, through its public forums, briefs, and online postings and discussion forums, to help educate and stimulate debate about the U.S. role in the Balkans.)


THE U.S. ROLE IN THE BALKANS
    by David Binder and Robert Hayden

The Balkans, a region popularly seen as synonymous with indigenous strife, is where four imperial powers came to grief in the 20th century: the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany.

Now at the close of the century the United States, heading the NATO military alliance, has inserted itself deeply into the Balkans, first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo. The path leading to deepening American involvement in the region was long and tortuous, starting with President Wilson's sponsorship in World War I of a new entity to be called Yugoslavia. After 1948 when Josip Broz Tito's Communist regime was expelled from the Soviet Bloc, the United States supported the independence of Yugoslavia, the sole Communist country to become something of an economic and international political success during the cold war. A founder of the non-aligned movement, Yugoslavia thrived on its independent position between NATO and the Warsaw Pact during the cold war. When that era ended Yugoslavia suffered the most cataclysmic collapse of any communist state.

Major factors leading to the disintegration of Yugoslavia were domestic. In the late 1980s, an economic crisis led to a political crisis in the socialist state. Political leaders stirred nationalist, separatist, passions to gain public support in the various republics. Slovenian and Serbian politicians were the first to do so, promoting the ideas that the Slovenes, on the one hand, and the Serbs, on the other, required independence from the joint state, and that these nations should dominate minorities within their nation-states. Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic was among the politicians who used nationalism most aggressively, alarming first the leaderships of other republics.

In a context of rising tensions between the leaderships of Serbia on the one hand and Croatia and Slovenia on the other, international political actors contributed significantly to the subsequent civil wars either by neglect or by inept intervention. When Slovenia and Croatia threatened secession from the Yugoslav federation in 1990-91, the Bush Administration opposed them officially yet also warned the federal government not to try to keep the country together by force, a stance that only encouraged the secessionists. The European Union (EU) was at first divided over the Yugoslav dilemma, with Germany at first alone in encouraging the secession of Croatia and Slovenia, then persuading the other members to support it even though most other EU countries believed that this course would be catastrophic, especially in Bosnia.

When conflict began between Serbs and Croats in Croatia, EU mediation failed utterly to halt the fighting. The United States remained on the sidelines, accepting the European view that the conflict was Europe's problem to handle. Eventually, intervention by a United Nations mediator, former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, succeeded in brokering a ceasefire in January 1992, although large areas of Croatia were left outside of Croatian government control. UN forces were dispatched to maintain the peace until a political settlement could be reached.

Disturbed by what it saw as the EU's failure to prevent conflict in Croatia in 1991 or to reach a durable settlement there, the Bush administration re-entered the field in early 1992 in an effort to prevent Bosnia and Herzegovina from descending into the maelstrom of combat. However, its proposed solution--international recognition of the sovereignty of a Muslim-dominated government in Sarajevo--short-circuited EU negotiations aimed at creating separate cantons for Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats, which the leaders of the last two peoples had demanded. While the Americans sincerely believed that recognition would forestall civil conflict, it sparked the war instead. The Bosnian Serbs and Herzegovian Croats, unwilling to be included in the independent Bosnia that the international community recognized but they did not, took up arms to create their own ethnic states within Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the aim of joining them to, respectively, Serbia and Croatia.

Having forced recognition of the Muslim-controlled government, the Bush administration sided with the Bosnian Muslims and against the Serbs. From the outset the Clinton administration did so, too, maintaining that the Serbs were guilty of "crimes against humanity," even "genocide." This belief was fostered by the massive Serb campaigns against Muslims in eastern and northern Bosnia in 1992. While the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was later to prosecute both Muslims and Croats as well as Serbs for war crimes committed in Bosnia, the Clinton administration chose to overlook the Muslim and Croat actions, saying that the Serbs were responsible for most of the atrocities.

Statistics of atrocities and war casualties in Bosnia, and later in Kosovo, remain difficult to substantiate. However, figures reported by Bosnia's State Health Protection Office (under the Muslim-controlled government) were almost identical to those published by the Belgrade-controlled media and showed that the Muslim and Serb populations suffered, proportionately, equally heavily: 7.4% of the pre-war population of Muslims and 7.1% of the Serbs in Bosnia were killed or went missing during the period 1992 to 1995 (the comparable Croat percentage was 3.5). Muslim sources put the total casualties at 278,000 killed or missing, including 140,800 Muslims, 97,300 Serbs, and 28,400 Croats--reflecting the larger size of the Muslim population in Bosnia.

From 1992 through 1993 the United Nations and the European Union repeatedly attempted jointly to negotiate peace settlements among the warring ethnic factions, only to be constantly thwarted by the Clinton administration, which denigrated those efforts as too soft on Serbs and too hard on Muslims. American vacillation and refusal to press its Bosnian Muslim clients to accept the peace plans proposed in those years undoubtedly prolonged the Bosnian fighting by several years, adding greatly to the death toll and the number of refugees. Ironically, these plans that the U.S. encouraged the Muslims to reject would have provided the latter with more territory than they finally were awarded in the Dayton negotiations of 1995.

Sharp differences arose between the United States and the United Nations over the Yugoslav conflicts, with the UN seeing a series of civil wars in which the leaders of the various nations had induced their peoples to fight for independent, ethnically homogenized states, while Washington insisted that the root cause was "aggression" by Serbia. In Bosnia, for instance, Washington completely ignored the overwhelming opposition of the Bosnian Serbs themselves to inclusion in an independent Bosnia. Washington underscored its interpretation by pushing through economic sanctions exclusively against Serbia, even though data provided by the Secretary General at the time (May 1992) indicated that sanctions should have been imposed on Croatia, too, since military forces under the command of Zagreb were operating in Bosnia after the deadline set by the Security Council for their withdrawal.

By late 1993, the United States had successfully obstructed two UN-EU peace proposals, and the war on the ground was stalemated. The UN peacekeepers, who had been sent in to keep the civilian population safe until a political solution could be worked out, were incapable of imposing a Bosnian state on the Serbs and Croats who rejected it; yet the peacekeeping force was criticized for not doing so. The American position was that the Muslim-controlled government that had been recognized internationally was thus legitimate, even though it was not accepted by the vast majority of Bosnian Serbs and Herzegovinian Croats. This American stance left the UN appearing paralyzed, even though it did indeed deliver aid to many civilians. With the United Nations and the European Union seeming to be ineffectual, the United States, citing the Bosnian conflict, began in 1994 to propose that NATO, which it dominates, become a major player in the Balkans, enforcing a no-fly zone and making preparations for greater involvement in the conflict.

The Clinton administration scored a diplomatic success in March 1994, when it engineered a ceasefire between the Muslims and Croats in Bosnia by getting them to agree to form a "Federation" composed of the territories they controlled. While this "Federation" has never actually functioned, it has served to prevent the Muslims and the Croats from fighting against each other.

The Clinton administration--and others--violated a UN ban on arms shipments to any part of Yugoslavia by encouraging weapons exports from Teheran to Sarajevo in 1994 and 1995. In addition, the Americans provided military training (through a "private" company, Military Professional Resources, Inc., paid for by the U.S. Government), intelligence, access to some equipment, and diplomatic support for Croatia at the UN.

In the spring and summer of 1995 the United States supported Croatia in its attack on and defeat of Serbian forces in Croatia. At the start of the Croatian offensive, a U.S. military plane, claiming that it had been targeted, attacked a Serb radar installation. The result of the Croatian offensive was the complete defeat of Serbs in Croatia and the expulsion of more than 200,000 of them in one week, the largest "ethnic cleansing" of the war until the Serb offensive against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999.

Once most Serbs in Croatia had been expelled, the United States helped orchestrate a combined Muslim-Croat offensive against the Serbs in Bosnia, a role acknowledged by Richard Holbrooke, then-Deputy Secretary of State overseeing U.S. policy in Bosnia. Beginning Aug. 30, 1995, Americans spearheaded NATO air strikes against the Bosnian Serb army. Facing defeat on the ground at last, the Bosnian Serbs consented to negotiation of a peace agreement, sponsored by the United States, in Dayton, Ohio.

Serbia's President Milosevic was empowered to negotiate on behalf of the Bosnian Serbs, and was welcomed in Dayton even though the U.S. government had earlier said he was primarily responsible for the war. Milosevic, who had previously used defiance of America to bolster his domestic political strength made concessions, thinking that circumstances would never permit him to strike a better deal. He agreed to a plan for the division of territory in Bosnia that granted all of Sarajevo to the Muslims, meaning that thousands of Serbs were forced to leave neighborhoods that they had controlled throughout the war.

The plan otherwise accorded territory on ethnic lines, so that immediately after the signing of the Dayton agreement there were large-scale movements of people out of areas that had been awarded to other ethnic groups. While the Dayton agreement largely paralleled previous peace proposals negotiated by the United Nations and the European Union, it provided that NATO, under American control, replaced the EU, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), and the UN as the implementation force. The effect was to virtually eliminate the United Nations as an international force in the Yugoslav conflict.

That pattern was repeated by the Clinton administration in addressing the Kosovo crisis of the late 1990s. The Albanians constituted a majority in that small province and sought independence, at first through more or less peaceful means, but as of 1998 in an armed rebellion.

Again Washington portrayed the Serbs as the sole practitioners of injustice, while the Kosovo Liberation Army, which had been named a terrorist organization by Washington in 1997, came to be seen as freedom fighters a year later. According to NATO sources, about 2,000 people, both ethnic Albanians and Serbs, were killed and more than 100,000 ethnic Albanians were uprooted from their homes in Kosovo in 1998.

In late 1998, the U.S., Britain, and France succeeded in obtaining resolutions from the UN Security Council condemning Serbian repression of the large Albanian minority in the province of Kosovo and inserting an OSCE observer force in the province. At the same time, the NATO alliance moved toward direct action against the Belgrade authorities, threatening bombing raids and missile strikes if Belgrade failed to comply with NATO demands for great autonomy for the Kosovo Albanians. The American-drafted "autonomy" plan offered as part of NATO's "negotiating" package at the Rambouillet, France talks claimed to retain Yugoslav sovereignty over Kosovo. In reality, it denied Yugoslavia virtually all governmental authority in the province. Yugoslavia's sovereignty, the Clinton administration declared, was superseded by considerations of violations of the human rights of Kosovo Albanians and NATO would act to guard those rights. At Rambouillet, Belgrade was confronted with an ultimatum: accept the NATO demands, including a military occupation, or be bombed. Under the terms being dictated by NATO, Alliance troops were not only to occupy Kosovo but, in effect, all of Serbia. The Milosevic government refused and President Clinton ordered air strikes, which began March 24, 1999.

In the following weeks nearly 1 million ethnic Albanians fled or were driven from Kosovo to neighboring lands, and an unknown number were displaced or killed within Kosovo. While it was clearly planned in advance, the wide Serbian offensive against Kosovo Albanians was a response to NATO bombing, and so the NATO attacks were counterproductive in terms of protecting the Albanians. They were catastrophic in other ways, as well. While NATO stated that it was not targeting civilians, most attacks were made on the Yugoslav infrastructure, causing more civilian casualties than military ones during at least the first two months of the 78-day air war. The destruction of Yugoslav infrastructure, and the disruptions of trade, transportation and tourism caused by the war, inflicted heavy economic damage on the entire Balkans region. Refugee flows and the introduction of large numbers of NATO troops threatened to destabilize Macedonia and Albania.

In early June 1999, an agreement brokered by Russia and Finland on behalf of the EU and backed by the UN, prompted Yugoslavia to agree to pull its military and police forces out of Kosovo, apparently with the initial understanding that the UN, not NATO, would command the peacekeeping force sent into Kosovo. However, NATO immediately claimed to be acting as the international force, dividing Kosovo into sectors, each to be controlled by one of its major members. Russia, angry at the U.S., British, and French maneuvers to divide Kosovo, surprised the Western powers by moving a small force of 200 soldiers into Kosovo before NATO itself entered the province, thus asserting a Russian role in the peace implementation force. The nature of the Russian role was not clarified in the first week of the NATO occupation. However, in the first few days of this occupation several people were killed, and tens of thousands of Serbs fled, with little effort being made by NATO to protect them. Ethnic Albanians began pouring back into Kosovo despite its ruination by Serb shelling and NATO bombing. Few Serbs stayed on and it was unclear how long NATO troops would occupy the province.

(David Binder is a former New York Times correspondent in the Balkans, and Robert Hayden is Director, Center for Russian & East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.)


WORDS AS PROPAGANDA
    by Edward S. Herman

Although this is a free society, the U.S. mainstream media often serve as virtual propaganda agents of the state, peddling viewpoints the state wishes to inculcate and marginalizing any alternative perspectives. This is especially true in times of war, when the wave of patriotic frenzy encouraged by the war-makers quickly engulfs the media. Under these conditions the media's capacity for dispassionate reporting and critical analysis is suspended, and they quickly become cheer-leaders and apologists for war.

This is reflected in their uncritical acceptance of loaded words that cry out for careful analysis, but which are used by the media instead to confuse and obfuscate issues. Let me illustrate with some key words in current usage that purr or snarl in service to propaganda.

Credibility: Credibility is a purr word that oozes goodness. We all want to be credible and to have our country and NATO credible. But when Senator John McCain called for a ground war in Yugoslavia in order to preserve our own and NATO's credibility, common sense tells us that he ignored the danger of turning a mistake into a catastrophe. Isn't it a sign of moral weakness to be unable to admit a mistake? And isn't the failure to do so exceedingly stupid? Isn't the kind of credibility that comes from continuing a mistaken course obtained at the cost of a loss of credibility as a rational actor? The media have been extremely lax in failing to look behind this purr word to the real issues at stake. And they have thereby allowed it to serve as an instrument of war propaganda.

Humanitarian bombing: NATO allegedly began bombing in March for humanitarian purposes. Humanitarian is a purr word, but humanitarian bombing is an oxymoron, blending the warm-hearted with dealing death. As the NATO bombing exponentially increased the damage inflicted on the purported beneficiaries, as well as large numbers of innocent Serb civilians, it has been anti-humanitarian in fact at all levels. The CIA and NATO military officials like General Wesley Clark have admitted that the negative humanitarian effects were expected. These facts lead me to conclude that the phrase is a propaganda fraud covering over a hidden agenda, in which Kosovo Albanian welfare had little or no place. But the media have never considered the phrase an oxymoron or the policy a human rights fraud. With the end of the bombing, the media trumpet the official view that NATO won a "victory," but they do not ask whether this triumph was in fulfillment of the alleged humanitarian aim--they have implicitly abandoned that purported objective in favor of victory over the Serbs.

Military targets: NATO has repeatedly claimed that it is avoiding civilian and sticking to military targets. However, it has steadily expanded the definition of military target into anything that directly or indirectly helps the Serb war effort, so that electric and water facilities that primarily serve civilians are included as military targets. This is in violation of international law and the army's own rules of warfare, and therefore amounts to the commission of war crimes (on which Christopher Simpson gives interesting details). NATO has been one step away from finding the direct bombing of civilians proper military targeting--after all, those civilians pay taxes that help fund Milosevic's war machine. The media have treated this process of redefinition, and the de facto commission of war crimes, with the lightest touch. In fact, pundits like Thomas Friedman of the New York Times have urged the direct bombing of civilians and thus the commission of war crimes. On NATO principles justifying the bombing of Serb TV, the New York Times is eminently bombable. So is a "command and control center" like the White House.

Collateral damage: This is our old friend from the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars. It purrs, suggesting inadvertence and "errors." But where the likelihood of "errors" in a bombing raid have a probability of over 90%, the damage is intentional even if the particular victims were not targeted. If somebody throws a bomb at an individual in a crowded theater, and 100 bystanders are also killed, would we say that the bomb thrower was not clearly guilty of killing the 100 because their deaths were unintended and the damage was "collateral"? We only reserve such purr word excuses for "humanitarian" bombing.

Negotiations: During the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, U.S. officials regularly claimed to be interested in "negotiations," when in reality they were only ready to accept surrender. With incredible patriotic gullibility the media swallowed the official propaganda claims and helped pave the way for war and the prolongation of war. At Rambouillet, NATO offered Yugoslavia an ultimatum that included NATO's right to occupy all of Yugoslavia. This offer was one no sovereign nation could accept and was designed to be rejected. But just as in the earlier cases, the media accepted the false official version, that Milosevic rather than NATO was unwilling to negotiate or accept reasonable terms. And once again the media helped pave the way for war.

Rule of law: This is a purr phrase, that is used only when convenient. During the Persian Gulf war, at which time the Bush administration could get Security Council agreement for action against Iraq, President Bush declared that the issue at stake was the "rule of law" versus the law of the jungle. However, at the time of the incursion into Panama in 1989, when Security Council approval was not obtainable and the incursion was in violation of the OAS agreement, the matter of law was muted. Similarly, unable to obtain Security Council approval for the NATO attack on Yugoslavia, with the attack in seeming violation of the UN Charter, and with U.S. participation eventually in violation of the War Powers Act, U.S. and NATO officials do not stress the urgency of the rule of law. And the U.S. mainstream media cooperate by setting this issue aside as well. They now ignore their old favorite Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who says today that "The aggressors have kicked aside the UN, opening a new era where might is right."

Genocide and ethnic cleansing: These snarl words have been frequently applied to the Serbs, helping justify the bombing that has turned a moderately serious Kosovo crisis into a regional catastrophe. The greatest single case of ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia in the 1990s occurred at Krajina in Croatia in 1995, where several hundred thousand Serbs were put to flight and many killed. This action was done with U.S. and NATO aid and was not objected to in any way by NATO.

Before the NATO bombing an estimated 2,000 had been killed in Kosovo in the prior year. This is half the number killed in Colombia the same year--a country that gets $290 million in U.S. military aid. Two important cases where the word genocide might apply over the last 25 years are Rwanda, in which U.S. officials refused to apply the word and sabotaged any international intervention, and East Timor, where a third of the population died in the wake of Indonesia's invasion and occupation. In the East Timor case, the United States supplied the weapons for the killing and vetoed any effective UN intervention. As regards General Suharto, the world's only known triple genocidist (Indonesia, West Papua, East Timor), on his visit to Washington in 1995 a senior Clinton administration official was quoted in the New York Times as saying of him: "He's our kind of guy."

In sum, U.S. and western hostility to genocide and ethnic cleansing has been highly selective. The policy toward Kosovo has been riddled with contradictions and hypocrisies, and has enlarged a local human rights crisis to a regional disaster. This has been helped by a system of doublespeak that the mainstream media have not only failed to challenge but have incorporated into their own usage. Contrary to their proclaimed objectivity, this failure has made them agents of state propaganda, rather than information servants of a democratic community.

(Edward Herman is Professor Emeritus of Finance, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and the author of many books, including Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (co- authored with Noam Chomsky), and now in press, The Myth of the Liberal Media: An Edward Herman Reader.)


WHERE THE MEDIA WENT WRONG COVERING KOSOVO
    by Jeff Cohen

The first problem with the war coverage is that many mainstream media outlets, especially network TV, are loathe to even call it a war. It reminds me of the first day of the Panama invasion before the government had signaled to the media that it was ok to call it an invasion. So you had mainstream media calling it a military action, an intervention, an operation, an expedition, a military affair. One TV anchor even referred to it as an insertion. I think that a more accurate explanation might be the most unusual and violent drug bust in human history, but no one put that heading on it. So look at today. What are the logos? CNN: 'Strike against Yugoslavia.' Fox News: 'Conflict in Kosovo.' The consensus winner used at CBS, NBC, and ABC: 'Crisis in Kosovo.'

I would argue that there had been a crisis in Kosovo. It went on throughout the year 1998, but no one in any of these networks could find time for even a one hour special on what was then a crisis in Kosovo. That's because that was the year devoted to all Monica, all the time. So when there was just a 'crisis in Kosovo,' TV didn't cover it. Now that it's a war, TV won't acknowledge it's a war. The White House and the State Department will not use the word 'war' and when the media adopt the euphemisms from the government, they're acting more as a fourth branch of government than they are as a fourth estate, and it is very dangerous. We need only think back to the early years of the 1960s when U.S. government officials would refer to Vietnam as a 'police action.' At best it was the 'Vietnam conflict.' And in the early years of the 1960s many mainstream media followed the government lie and did not call it a war until many American soldiers began dying.

So words matter. Then we have the problem with this war of who the enemy is. As usual in our mainstream media, the U.S. is not making a war against a country, Yugoslavia, but against one individual. His name is Slobadan Milosevic. On TV the air war is not something that's terrorizing lots of people in what were once modern cities. It's basically a personalized soap opera. You had Catherine Crier on Fox News on May 5, seemingly with a broad smile on her face, saying "The bombing intensifies. Just how much can Slobadan stand?" Anchors talk to military experts about how badly Milosevic has been hurt, how badly he has been humiliated. You'll hear an anchor say to a military expert, "How much have we punished Milosevic," and you think that the anchor might get up from behind the anchor desk and show that they're wearing a U.S. Air Force uniform, but they're not. They're using the term 'we' as if they're an adjunct to the military.

We heard the same thing during the Iraq war. "How much are we punishing, and humiliating, and hurting Saddam Hussein?" We know now that probably one of the only people in all of Iraq who was assured of a safe place to sleep and three square meals a day, and a warm home, was Saddam Hussein. And similarly, Milosevic may well be one of the most safe and secure people in Yugoslavia today.

Now the understandable goal of the White House and the State Department and their propaganda is to demonize Milosevic. Propaganda simplifies issues as it tries to mobilize action. But journalism is supposed to be about covering a story in all its complexity. On that score, journalism has largely failed. You'll remember the Newsweek cover photograph, the picture of Milosevic and the headline: "The Face of Evil." Then you had the Time magazine writer who writes about Milosevic almost as a sub-human. They described him as the man with, "reddish, piggy eyes set in a big, round, head." Now assumably, Milosevic had the "reddish, piggy eyes set in a big, round, head" going back many, many years. But it's only when the American war machine goes into war mode that this particular writer at Time magazine goes into war propaganda mode.

The good news with the end of the Lewinsky story is it ended the wall-to-wall parade of attorneys. The bad news, with the beginning of this war, is we've begun the wall-to-wall parade of military analysts. On March 24th, for example, Margaret Warner introduced her PBS Newshour panel with, "We get four perspectives now on NATO's mission and options from four retired military leaders." Now, the problem with retired generals is that they're rarely independent experts. They have this tendency to become overly enthusiastic about how smart and accurate our weapons are. You remember all the false hype from the military experts during the Gulf War about the Patriot missile, a missile that was an abject failure during that war. And you'll remember NBC News did a glowing report about the Patriot, and Tom Brokaw said it was the missile that "put the Iraqi Scud in its place." Completely false. Brokaw neglected to mention that his boss, General Electric, made parts for the Patriot missile, as it makes engines for many of the aircraft like the Apache helicopters that are in the Balkans right now.

Military experts don't remember that it was only last summer when a cruise missile aimed at an alleged terrorist training camp in Afghanistan went four hundred miles off course into the wrong country, the country of Pakistan. If we think about it, in the last nine months, the United States has bombed four countries intentionally. It's also important to remember that we have bombed an equal number of countries by mistake. Military experts know a lot about aircraft technologies, they know a lot about bomb yields, but they don't know much about the politics or history of a region. What's needed more in the mainstream media are experts on Yugoslavia and the Balkans. And what we need is a real debate about the war.

Because of the split in the politicians here in Washington, there's been slightly more debate over this war, than, for example, the Gulf War. That's not really saying a lot. Our organization, FAIR, has posted on our website (http://www.fair.org) a full study of the two real prestigious TV news shows and the range of debate or non-debate that they had on the first two weeks of this war. I'm talking about PBS' Newshour and ABC's Nightline. If you look at that study, you'll see that in the first two weeks of this war, opposition to the bombing war was virtually inaudible and when it was heard, it was mostly expressed by Yugoslav government officials with thick accents or Serbian Americans. On Nightline there was only one panelist who was critical of the bombing, and that was a Yugoslav government official.

There's not been enough attention paid in the mainstream media to the environmental damage in the region from U.S. bombs striking chloride factories and petrochemical factories and fertilizer facilities and oil refineries. There has not been enough attention in the mainstream media paid to NATO's targeting of civilian infrastructure. Whether, for example, the bombing of the broadcast stations, which is a clear violation of the Geneva convention, was really aimed at keeping video of NATO's civilian victims off the television sets in the western countries. I have a hunch that was its real motive. Not enough mainstream media attention has been paid to the use, or possible use, by the United States of radioactive depleted uranium rounds. Not enough attention has been paid to NATO's propaganda and a steady stream of claims that have turned out to be false.

The Independent newspaper, based in London, on April 6 published an article collecting about eight of these falsehoods, and I would argue that from our monitoring of the mainstream media in Europe, they have been far more independent and are more skeptical in their coverage of this war. And there has not been enough attention paid to the events immediately before the war. The best estimate of how many people had died in Kosovo in all of 1998 was 2000 people. That's a serious human rights crisis. It's also less than the number of people who died in homicides in New York City in 1992. We need to look at the events that immediately led up to this war.

(Editor's Note: Jeff Cohen is a columnist, commentator and founder of Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (http://www.fair.org). His essay is transcribed from testimony given at "Kosovo Teach In #4, Media Coverage of the Kosovo Conflict.")

Copyright 1999 IRC and IPS All rights reserved.


Published July 5, 1999
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