America in Yugoslavia
Peephole into a Hidden Empire

by Geoff Berne

Transcript of a speech delivered on a program with Greg Elich at The Ohio State University Student International Forum, Columbus, Ohio, April 27, 2001

May 14, 2001

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"The Church Committee, in its 1975 Final Report to Congress on Covert Action in Chile, 1963-1973, found that secrecy and compartmentation contributed to a temptation on the part of the Executive to resort to covert operations in order to avoid bureaucratic, congressional, and public debate" --Civil Intelligence Association Defense Oversight Group

Exactly two years ago today, the U.S. House of Representatives reversed a fifty year trend by actually holding a debate and a vote on an American war. The result of that vote was that by a 213 to 213 tie Congress refused to provide President Clinton with the authorization that he needed for the United States to have participated legally in the bombing of Yugoslavia. There were three other bills put to a vote that day: 139 legislators actually voted in favor of immediately bringing the troops home from Yugoslavia. 249 even passed a bill demanding that the President submit a formal request to Congress prior to committing ground troops. Only 2 Congressmen out of 429 were honest enough to cast a vote -- after five weeks of relentless bombing and the most significant military action in Europe since World War II -- to come out and call what we were doing in the Balkans by its proper name by formally declaring war.

Imagine how this dissentious Congress would have voted if the President had followed the Constitution and come to them for an authorization in advance! Would the war ever have gotten off the launching pad? Would we have 5,600 troops in place today in the largest U.S. military base in Europe, Camp Bondsteel, located in Kosovo? It's pretty obvious that the answer is no.

A war by presidential decree and without prior Congressional debate and authorization, in addition to being an illegal war, is an invisible war. Our war against Yugoslavia was made invisible by occurring entirely in the air, leaving ground combat to be handled for us by hired bombers, saboteurs, and snipers calling themselves the Kosovo Liberation Army. It's a matter of record that this organization, which claimed to speak for Yugoslavia's Albanian minority received its funding, arms, and training in terror from the CIA. Their job was to follow the example of the Croats and Slovenes who with American assistance used terror war tactics to pry their republics loose from the Yugoslav federation in the early 1990s and establish the independent countries of Croatia and Slovenia. The KLA guerrillas demanded that Kosovo be their own exclusively Albanian ethnic state that would secede from Yugoslavia and affiliate with Albania, Europe's largest supplier of Turkish heroin. The KLA's efforts to enlarge their territorial hold has erupted recently with an expansion of their tactics of guerrilla war beyond Kosovo and into areas of Serbia. A clone of the war in Kosovo is also brewing in Macedonia with an Albanian ethnic group in that country forming a guerrilla force that has pressed its case with bombings and shootings for a separate Albanian geographic area.

The KLA more than accomplished the job they were hired for: provoking a retaliation from Yugoslavia's federal government that could be used as an excuse for an American-led military intervention, a UN peacekeeping mission, and a permanent American occupation in a prominent previously socialist East European country.

Simplistic, dumbed-down war reporting, and lack of Congressional debate, helped keep the truth of America's role in instigating separatists to start the bloody Yugoslavian conflict in the first place invisible to Americans. Instead an image of Yugoslavia's Serbian majority as a racist aggressor (for seeking to preserve their national union as Lincoln did in the Civil War) was superimposed on the image of Yugoslavia that Americans had been accustomed to since the 1940s, of a country that had resisted Hitler and whose partisans had allied with Americans in World War II. All we saw on television were wall to wall Albanian refugees (who'd indeed been displaced from Kosovo, however not by Serbs , but by NATO's bombs), clips of planes in the air, and computer simulations of missile strikes, but no clips of the 200,000 Albanian refugees who fled north to Belgrade, i.e. to the heartland of their supposed Serbian tormentors, no clips of American troop casualties, no American blood and of course no Serbian blood. In other words, other than the photographs and tapes that Greg Elich will present tonight (1) Americans at home have been exposed to little hard visual evidence that, starting with our involvement in Yugoslavia's former Republic of Bosnia in the early 1990s, our country has been engaged in protracted aggression against, and conquest of, a major European nation, a nation that was, if not a slavish follower at least a close cousin, based on worker ownership and other shared socialist principles, of the former Soviet Union and Russia.

Remember that when the old Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba only 90 miles from American shores in 1962, we were ready to risk a nuclear war. Now with an American military base in Yugoslavia, and recruitment by the U.S. of former Russian allies such as Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania for NATO membership one can imagine that Russia's leaders must be practicing how to finger their missile buttons as they see what must look to them like an American march eastward toward an "empire" in what for fifty-five years has been the Russians' own backyard. Undeterred evidently by the fate that befell previous invaders of Russia such as Napoleon and Hitler, the U.S.A. in Yugoslavia has signaled to Russia that it is ready to pursue its goals in the east with military force. Of course here in the U.S. our people have not given any approval to such an eastward expansion -- because so far, the bloody reality that there was a real war in Yugoslavia, and the building of a new empire, with its risks of an East-West war, remain hidden.

One reason is that new names have been invented to downplay the impression of war and give it a "lite," inoffensive connotation. Rather than even using the word "war" what the new-style engagements are called are "low intensity conflicts" or "small scale contingencies." According to the new doctrine, wars of the 20th century variety, with their heavy tanks, aircraft carriers, and clashing ground infantries that make sitting duck targets for enemy guided missiles have become obsolete. If one wonders why there was no ground combat in Kosovo such as many war hawks like candidate John McCain kept demanding, one merely needs to look at the flagship of our present army, the 70-ton Abrams tank. Had the U.S. decided to invade, the Army's tanks would have taken months to show up for battle. Even when the Abrams tanks had reached Albania's main port, their weight would have collapsed 10 of the 12 bridges between the port and Kosovo. (2)

Ten years ago an article from the Newhouse News Service (3) predicted a new strategic role for the army. Instead of shooting rifles GIs would take over a society's economic and political system and "direct counter-terrorism campaigns that overlap with police functions -- such as eavesdropping on individuals and business transactions." Victory would be defined "in the degree to which the governments or guerrilla groups receiving U.S. assistance gain legitimacy in the eyes of their own citizens and the world. . ."

Looked at as a test run for this new definition of war as equated with bombs and subversion, Yugoslavia would be rated a success. Only to those of us accustomed to thinking in terms of the old pushpin battlefield mapping does it seem incredible that after 78 days of bombing, 20,000 tons of bombs, and 40,000 American bombing sorties, we only destroyed 14 tanks and 20 artillery guns while sending to their deaths 500 Serb military (as compared with more than 2,000 civilians). According to the new doctrine, though, the number of bodies and burned tanks and heavy guns are not the measurement. What is the measurement is that the population was terrified into abandoning President Milosevic, who had symbolized resistance to Americanization, and replacing him with leaders who would hand American banks, investment firms, intelligence and relief agencies, and business corporations the keys to the country. Final sealing of America's victory, i.e. de facto handover to western investors of Yugoslavia's economic and "worker-owned" state structures, (4) occurred fifteen months later, in September, 2000, when Milosevic was narrowly ousted in a vote so close that a runoff election was mandated by the constitution. The runoff election never happened because angry mobs -- led by young agitators who'd been trained by American intelligence personnel -- set fire to the Parliament Building in Belgrade and shut down the government. (5) Choosing to go into political opposition rather than subject his country to a bloody struggle for power, Milosevic accepted the outcome of the preliminary vote and resigned. An enemy was toppled and a war won without a single American bullet being fired.

Whatever was supposedly won by "Operation Allied Force," however, was countered by the emergence of a worldwide army of computer fact gatherers and analysts who have peered through the electronic peephole into the Hidden Empire and have helped feed a rising international backlash with hard fact. Read the actual words of Slobodan Milosevic's speeches on the web, for example, as opposed to having them abstracted for you by news anchors on CNN, and you'll quickly realize that the jihad America has waged against this man is due not to the ethnic racism with which he has been charged but to his opposition to the same rampaging Americanization that has led in places like France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, and Romania to legislation and legal actions against such things as the teaching of arithmetic to grade school students in English. (6) In a "Speech to the Nation" that he made directly following his loss in the September 2000 election, Milosevic warned that chaos in Yugoslavia would be used by America and the other western powers as an excuse to occupy the country:

"One of the really obvious consequences of the takeover of countries by the big powers in the 20th century is the annihilation of the identity of the people of those countries. People can hardly come to terms with the speed with which they are starting to use a foreign language as their own, to identify with foreign historic figures forgetting their own, to glorify the history of others while mocking their own, to resemble others instead of themselves." (7) Read Milosevic's actual speeches on the internet, or you can read the lying account of them in the American media.

The image of Milosevic as ethnic demagogue came about through barefaced misrepresentation by the press of the actual words of a speech he delivered in 1989 at Kosovo Field. (8) False reporting of this speech, in which what he actually stated was that the strength of Yugoslavia would be in its diversity and the brotherhood of its more than two dozen ethnic peoples, was the start of an American crusade to pin a "racist" label on him that has lasted more than ten years. President Clinton capped the criminalization campaign by offering a $5 million reward for his capture. Finally on April 1st (under threat by America to withhold $50M in aid if that deadline date was exceeded) the new government in Serbia humiliatingly went for the money and made the long-expected arrest. Though searches for millions supposedly stashed by Milosevic in foreign bank accounts have produced nothing, (9) and Milosevic's explanation that the so-called missing money was kept secret and off the books strictly because of its use to fund the country's defense against the NATO bombing seems to be proven true, (10) Milosevic now sits in jail waiting for America's newfound friends in Serbia to find -- somewhere, somehow -- a pretext for putting him on trial or to send him to The Hague for a "Nuremberg-type" trial by an American-made puppet court called the "International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia." (11)

Regardless of the absence of hard inculpatory evidence, Milosevic has been pre-judged guilty of ethnic murder and "corruption" in a world media onslaught of such unanimity that only the bravest and most incurably habituated to the idea of objective fact will persist in questioning the picture of a depraved, flesh-eating killer that has been implanted in their imaginations by it. If sanctimonious Senator Lieberman is serious about shutting down obscenity and violence in the media he might want to start with America's news bureaus and television newsrooms that conducted a ritual witch-burning of Milosevic and turned the war in Yugoslavia, that Lieberman has firmly supported, into jingoistic entertainment aimed at the lowest in human emotions. The media has routinely allowed the government to disguise its wars as adventure movie manhunts for subhuman foreign dictators whose very names are invoked as synonyms for evil. With Milosevic, his first name "Slobodan" (which, by the way, in Serbo-Croatian has a rather benign connotation, meaning "free" and "independent") became shortened to the sinister-sounding "Slobo." The pundits of our elites grabbed the distorted abbreviation and ran with it so as to fashion an evil picture of the man, "Slobo, the Balkans' butcher." Even some professed opponents of NATO's intervention used this nickname as a pejorative, thus joining in the doglike American jingo chorus of Orwellian rage against the "commie" straw man. Unable to suppress that old instinct of anticommunism from rising in the gut some commentators actually called on the imprisoned "Slobo" to kill himself.

If you're not quite ready to believe as I do that Milosevic has been the victim of a blatant railroading, let me ask you just for purposes of argument to suspend all belief you have ever had in the truthfulness of war information as received from the media since the war in Vietnam. What the government learned in that war was that if television cameramen and newspaper reporters were allowed to actually experience the war first hand and make known to the population what was happening, a half million people would go to Washington and shut down the Pentagon. So what we now have instead, starting most notably with the Persian Gulf War, is war information by public relations, or what TV Guide for February 22-28, 1992 called in its cover story, "Fake News."

According to this story, critical television news reports that helped mobilize the American public behind the Persian Gulf War of 1991, a war to liberate Kuwait from that "evil psychopath" Saddam Hussein, were fabricated and staged by the American public relations firm Hill & Knowlton. Manipulation of news by public relations agencies, the article says, has become "far more systematic than is generally known." How it works is that an agency will have its own news-clips manufactured by its own studios and submitted ready-made to the TV networks in the form of donated video cassettes called Video News Releases (VNRs). Public relations specialists from America's top companies were allowed to roam freely through Saudi Arabia during the war, but movement of journalists was rigorously restricted. As a result amateur photos and videotapes were collected not by American TV reporters but by PR firms who edited them at Hill & Knowlton studios in Riyadh and Dharan. Tapes purporting to show peaceful demonstrators being fired upon by Iraqi troops had had sounds of firing dubbed in through studio sound engineering. [same article as Faked news] At the time Americans were driven to frenzied cries for Saddam Hussein's blood by the television appearance before Congress of an anonymous supposed Kuwaiti refugee girl called Nayirah who tearfully testified that "Iraqi soldiers had stormed hospitals in Kuwait and torn newborn babies from their incubators, leaving them to die." But no such incident had occurred. Tearful "Nayirah" was actually the prep-schooled daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States. She had been coached for her television appearance by Hill & Knowlton, a PR firm then headed by Craig Fuller, who had been the chief of staff for former President George Bush when he was Ronald Reagan's Vice President.

Thanks to "Fake News" in the Gulf War Brig. General Schwarzkopf was allowed without challenge to unleash gross exaggerations of America's success in destroying Iraqi missile sites. Of the 50 Scud launchers Schwarzkopf had said Iraq possessed at the beginning of the war, somehow 81 were reported to have been wiped out by the time the war ended. The fact is, according to Scott Ritter, (12) ballistic missile analyst with a UN special commission charged with destruction of Iraq's weapons (UNSCOM), "no missiles were destroyed by allied bombing during the war." Writer Mark Crispin Miller titled the New York Times Op-Ed piece in which he raised these embarrassing charges "Operation Desert Sham." Schwarzkopf went unchallenged when he showed films that purportedly pictured our planes taking out Iraqi mobile rocket-launchers whereas subsequent photoanalysis showed that these vehicles had been trucks carrying smuggled fuel. The films, says Miller, had been computer-enhanced by U.S. intelligence agencies. Revelations of the camera "told us what we wished to hear." (13) So how much credence can be given to news that the media have fed us about all the other nasty dictators around the world that the U.S. had sought to depose or have deposed during the first George Bush and Clinton eras? Can we believe that there is a word of truth in what we have been told by the government and the American media about "dictator" Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia after knowing how "Fake News" was used to whip up Americans' venom against foreign leaders such as Romania's Ceasescu and Panama's Noriega?

In December 1989 Nicolai Ceasescu and his wife Elena were executed in Romania by a so-called military tribunal on charges of having killed 60,000 Romanians in 24 years, plundered the treasury, and killed 4,500 people at a single demonstration in Timosoara. In February, 1990, two months after horrifying television pictures of the trial and execution of this relatively pro-western socialist ruling couple were broadcast to the world, a trial of four top Ceasescu aides set the figure of known dead at 689, a far cry from the 60,000 figure used in the indictment of the Ceasescus by the military tribunal a few minutes before shooting them. (14) A French forensic team sent in by the UN found exactly 60 bodies, buried indeed in a mass grave, but photos kept by the city's autopsy specialist showed no bullet holes. Instead each had a wide bayonet scar down the ribcage. Either these bodies had been killed by bayonet or the scars were autopsy scars. (15) In either event, the conclusion reached by the French study was that the bodies had to have been trucked out of the city morgue and propped up for a shooting for photography purposes. The headline in the Seattle Times-Post Intelligencer article of April 19, 1990 reads: "Analysts say film of execution faked: corpses propped up for firing squad execution that was staged for TV cameras."

And how about evil Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega? In 1988 while contending for the Republican Presidential nomination George Bush reaped great benefit at the polls from the Reagan administration's indictment for drug trafficking of Panama's pock-faced, and hence easily hated, military leader just before the southern states' Super Tuesday primaries. In 1989 the new Bush administration waged an all out American land, sea, and air invasion to kidnap this "monster" and illegally bring him to trial in Florida where he now resides in a federal prison. Our new Secretary of State Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and our new Vice President Cheney the Secretary of Defense that sent 5,000 innocent Panamanians living in shanty homes in the area of Noriega's quarters to their deaths by incineration. As in Yugoslavia where the American government purchased the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic by doling out 40 million dollars to the political opposition, the CIA extended $10 million to support the opposition to Noriega in the May, 1989 elections. When opposition candidate Guillermo Endara used the money to purchase votes, bribe election officials, and arrange for vote tallies to be absconded, Noriega annulled the election. "Fake news" saturated American TV screens. Noriega's forces were reported to have shot and killed an unmarked American serviceman and then interrogated his wife, threatening her with sexual abuse. That was it for our gallant President Bush. Armageddon rained down on Panama to avenge the terror inflicted on that navy lieutenant's wife, and Noriega, whose real "crime" was refusing American demands that he commit troops to fight against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, was seized and taken to Florida. As for the marine who ran the road block, the Southern Command later issued a statement that the Panamanians had opened fire only when the American attempted to flee, wounding a Panamanian soldier and two civilians. (16) Then, during the mopping up phase of the operation, American troops were shown on TV displaying a huge cache of cocaine that they supposedly found in a guest house used by Noriega. But the news report was yet another fake. Six months after the invasion, a New York Times article appeared with the title "Military Erred in Cocaine Report." Well, it turns out that "It was not cocaine," after all, according to a Pentagon spokesman. Another Pentagon official said the military had thought it was cocaine because "the substance had been found wrapped in banana leaves" but according to the Washington Post what they had mistaken for cocaine were actually "tamales used in voodoo ceremonies. . . Pressed about why unchecked claims had been allowed to be made, (the spokesman) said, 'Clearly the guys who first saw this stuff did not know what cocaine was. When the experts checked, they said it wasn't.'" (17) Noriega sits today in a prison in Florida having gone down in history as a cocaine-snorter based on fake news reports, followed months later by equally fake retractions pleading voodoo tamales.

So where does all this leave Yugoslavia and the manhunt for Milosevic? I feel like a lawyer who does not need to call a defense witness. In point of fact, it's American leaders, who've perpetrated this fake war, that need to be put on trial. Even a journalist who's defended America's action in Yugoslavia has demanded in the February and March issues of Harper's Magazine that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger be tried for war crimes in Vietnam, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, and Indonesia; so evidently realization is dawning once again that war crimes are inherent in America's arrogant mission to be the world's supreme power. A group of 15 Canadian lawyers along with the American Association of Jurists launched a suit against the leaders of NATO in 1999, for criminal conduct against Yugoslavia, citing violations of the United Nations Charter, NATO's own charter, the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions, and the Nuremberg Principles. Deliberate bombing of civilians and non-military facilities, use of nuclear-cased bombs that will poison the environment till the end of time -- these are defined as crimes for which heads of government are responsible. I've summarized some of the crimes committed by American leaders of both parties in Yugoslavia in the handout. Here I will just quote Walter J. Rockler, former prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, who said "the attack on Yugoslavia constitutes the most brazen international aggression since the Nazis attacked Poland to prevent 'Polish atrocities' against Germans. The United States has discarded pretensions to international legality and decency, and embarked on a course of raw imperialism gone amok." (18)

Hope does not spring eternal that the cast of war profiteers of both parties who are now our leaders will be turned from the path of war in Yugoslavia or East Europe so long as their imperial ambitions remain hidden and the public innocent of the magnitude of these long-range designs. (19) Hope does not spring eternal that the United States of America can turn from the path of empire while ruled by a Bush family dynasty whose wealth today is rooted in profit from the making of armaments and war. (20) What could make a difference is if momentum is created for the effort being led by a lawyers' organization in San Francisco to restore the Constitution's requirement that Congress, rather than Presidents acting as though with the powers of kings or monarchs of the pre-democratic past, has the sole responsibility for declaring a war. A bill in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ron Paul, House Joint Resolution 27, would do just that. (21) I can think of no more urgent cause for those devoted to peace.

The war in Yugoslavia was not an accident. It was part of the plan of American business and military interests to carry on the Cold War to a new and higher level. Instead of an Iron Curtain now the watchword is American expansion into the Balkans and into the power vacuum left by the demise of Soviet influence in the formerly socialist countries -- actually establishing territorial presence in the former U.S.S.R. The phrase author Diana Johnstone has used for the war in Yugoslavia is "dress-rehearsal" for a war with Russia. (22)

In Yugoslavia's former republic of Bosnia only 10 percent of the population survives economically in an economy plundered by its own NATO-installed government while 90 percent of the Bosnian Serb population faces poverty and starvation: behold an occupied, conquered society. Looking toward the rest of east Europe and the former Soviet Union countries one sees that one hundred and sixty million people, 40 per cent of the population, are estimated to live in poverty, 50 million of them children -- according to a report last year by the European Children's Trust; Countries weak, and vulnerable to outside interference. (23)

Those who've been made cynical by reading too many stories like these over the years that turned out to be fake, with faked numbers data, might have reason to become suspicious that yet another humanitarian crisis is being readied to tug at our heartstrings here in the Western countries so that yet another rescue mission, another military operation, can be sent into still more of Russia's former satellite countries and then, finally, into Russia.

Considering that "war" is being redefined to mean covert action and intelligence gathering, and struggle for economic dominance rather than battlefield or naval confrontation, and considering that for our own population this struggle for imperial power over the post-Cold War world remains mostly "hidden" from view thanks to "fake news," we may already be engaged in World War III against Russia without even knowing it.

Which is why the evidence that Greg will show you tonight is so critically important -- because it brings us face to face with the relatively well-hidden truth that "Operation Allied Force" in Yugoslavia was, in plain English, a dirty, bloody, lousy war, that huge parts of a country that had offered no offense or injury to the United States have been ruthlessly destroyed, and that America has committed crimes against peace for which at some point she will have to pay.

AFTERWORD: Charging American Leaders with War Crimes



Geoff Berne is an Ohio writer known for his opposition to American policy in Yugoslavia. In June, 1999 he sponsored a forum with British Labour Party dissident and NATO critic Tony Benn and later co-organized a protest against a visit to Cincinnati by Bill Clinton. Berne is a former university English teacher and advocate-promoter for America's traditional and ethnic music. Previous posted writings on Balkans-related subjects include: "Yugoslavia: A Holocaust Denied," "Belligerent Buchanan Pleads for Peace," "In the Information War, A Victory for Peace," and "Boycotting the Election for Emperor."


Please, DO NOT steal, scavenge or repost this work without the expressed written authorization of Swans, which will seek permission from the author. This material is copyrighted, © Geoff Berne 2001. All rights reserved.

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Published May 14, 2001
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