by Diana Johnstone

[ Note from - Diana Johnstone, former European Editor of In These Times magazine and former press officer of the Greens in the European Parliament, has studied and written much about the Balkans. To read more by Ms. Johnstone, go to "Articles by Author" and click on "J"- ]

As the Serbian people began to be bombed by NATO, the Serbian people began to deserve it. The more they were bombed, the more they deserved it.

This hadn't been the case at first. The target, NATO leaders stressed, was one man: Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. "We must stand hard against this vile dictator", declared British prime minister Tony Blair on March 25, at the start of his two and a half-month impersonation of Winston Churchill keeping up morale during the Battle of Britain, with the important difference that this time Britain was not heroically resisting being bombed but was bombing the country that was heroically resisting.

The person probably most responsible for starting the war in the first place, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, even beamed a broadcast in Serbo-Croatian to the Serbian people to declare her affection for them, singing a little Serbian lullaby her father had taught her when her family took refuge in Belgrade from Stalinist takeover of her native Czechoslovakia half a century ago.

In those early days, the Serbian people, apparently believing that they were not NATO's target, ironically put on "target" buttons and gathered in their factories and on bridges to prevent NATO's humanitarian bombers from wiping out the basis of their economic existence.

The factories were bombed anyway, and all but one of the bridges over the Danube destroyed. As "collateral damage" rose in the form of mangled bodies of children and other civilians, the propaganda tune began to change. It was admitted that NATO's precision bombing was not focusing solely on Milosevic and "his military machine", as first declared. It was targeting the livelihood of "his" people to get him to give in to NATO demands.

During a "Meet the Press" broadcast on April 25, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn) declared: "I hope the air campaign, even if it does not convince Milosevic to order his troops out of Kosovo, will so devastate his economy, which it's doing now, so ruin the lives of his people, that they will rise up and throw him out".

In his first wartime interview, NATO's air commander Lieutenant General Michael Short told the New York Times in mid-May [1] that his number one priority was "killing the army in Kosovo". This is already troubling; in its new "no casualty warfare", the United States does not "fight" an army, it "kills" it by long distance bombing -- meaning, in this case, the young men of a small nation's conscript army stationed on their own soil. However, General Short added that he also needed to strike at "the leadership and the people around Milosevic to compel them to change their behavior" in hope the distress of the public would undermine support for the government. "I think no power to your refrigerator, no gas to your stove, you can't get to work because the bridge is down -- the bridge on which you held your rock concerts and you all stood with targets on your heads. That needs to disappear at three o’clock in the morning."

Among those who were being bombed to compel behavioral changes was, for instance, the pensioner whose small flat on the ninth floor of an apartment block in Novi Beograd was plunged into darkness by the U.S. graphite filament bombs, whose food was rotting in the refrigerator, who suffered from heart trouble and whose elevator was stalled. This person was less likely to "overthrow Milosevic" than to quietly disappear at three o'clock in the morning.

Now, it is well known that being bombed does not cause people to "rise up" and "throw out" the leader of their country. Indeed, quite the opposite effect has been observed time and again. Bombing unites a people against whoever is doing the bombing. The U.S. government is in possession of a vast archive of studies proving this fact. No informed person could seriously expect bombing Serbia to cause the Serbian people to "throw out" Milosevic.

After two months of bombing, the targeting of the civilian economy was being openly acknowledged, but the reason for doing so was blurred. "Increasingly, the impact of NATO air strikes has put people out of work and inflicted hardships in the daily lives of more Serbs. Allied bombing this week went further than ever in this direction by causing water shortages in Belgrade, Novi Sad and other Serbian cities," the International Herald Tribune reported on May 26. Helmut Sonnenfeldt of the Brookings Institution observed that NATO strategy has "quite a considerable economic element", emphasizing the potential long-run impact of devastating the civil infrastructure. In the same article, an unnamed German official explained that "no nongovernmental humanitarian agency has the kind of money that will be needed to rebuild bridges or even dredge the wrecks out of the Danube". This was expected to provide "major leverage for Western countries" [2].

Obtaining "major leverage" sounds more plausible than trying to provoke revolution as a motive for destroying textile machine, automobile, cigarette and other factories.

Idealistic Versus Cynical Objectives

It is always reasonable to consider the hypothesis that what a great power actually does is precisely what it wants to do. There is a prevailing liberal attitude toward the United States as great power that systematically excludes this hypothesis, thus centering criticism of U.S. actions on their allegedly blundering failure to achieve their stated goals. Yes, but what if the stated goals were only a diversion intended precisely to distract the public, and especially the liberal critics, from what is really going on?

Thus a contradiction, due to blundering, is perceived between (1) the stated aim of preventing "ethnic cleansing", and the massive flow of refugees from Kosovo after the bombing started; and (2) the stated aim of turning the Serbian people against Milosevic, and the observed result that his power seemed to be enforced by the bombing.

This seems plausible to well-intentioned people who can relate to such aims, as the sort of motives they might have themselves. The opposite hypothesis, that the bombing deliberately both provoked the refugee flow and tightened Milosevic's grip on power is too cynical for such good people to contemplate. At least, it is too cynical for them to contemplate on the part of "their" side. Ascribing equally or even more cynical purposes to the "other" side, for example to Milosevic, credited with wanting to wipe out ethnic Albanians for the sheer pleasure of it, is not beyond their tender imaginations. (But in this case, it may be that tender-hearted Yugoslavs can more easily ascribe such cynical motives to NATO than to their own leaders.)

¨ The perfectly predictable -- and predicted [3] -- refugee exodus after the bombing started provided the ex post facto moral justification for the NATO air strikes that provoked it. Television focus on images of human misery in chaotic refugee camps along the Kosovo borders distracted from NATO's ongoing destruction of Yugoslavia.

¨ Since the presence of Milosevic is established as the best operational pretext for continuing to carve Yugoslavia into NATO-occupied Protectorates, and the job is not yet finished -- after Bosnia and Kosovo come Montenegro, Voivodina and eventually Serbia itself -- it may be best to keep him at the helm until the ship is definitively sunk.

And the final goal? For the cynical hypothesis to be entertained, some motive must reasonably be suggested. The liberal critics of the "blundering giant" school cannot imagine any, and tend to insist on the absence of any selfish U.S. economic or strategic goals in the Balkans. There is, however, ample published material to show that the U.S. does indeed have strategic interests in and especially beyond the Balkans, and that securing NATO bases in a fragmented Yugoslavia can be considered a step toward securing these interests [4].

Because of their crucial geostrategic position between Western Europe and the Middle East, between the Mediterranean, Turkey and Eastern Europe, the Balkans are the most appropriate theater for easing NATO "out of area" (out of its legal Treaty area, that is) and asserting its new global role. Transforming a troublesome country into a strategic outpost that can be used to establish subsequent NATO control of the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Caspian Sea oil is a worthy project for cynical geostrategists of the Brzezinski school. Establishing NATO's new mission "out of area" benefits the vast military-industrial complex and solidifies U.S. influence over the European Union, whose subservience to Washington was eloquently confirmed by the choice of NATO's heavily compromised wartime Secretary General, Javier Solana, to take charge of the EU's embryonic foreign and defense policy .

Thus a motive that could explain the cynical hypothesis is that bombing Yugoslavia, setting off a temporary exodus of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and destroying the Serbian economy are all means to the end of securing NATO's control of the Balkans. The hatred between Serbs and Albanians, roused to fever pitch by the bombing and the resulting expulsions, has made coexistence between the two communities virtually impossible, apparently necessitating a permanent NATO occupation. The ruin of the Serb economy has crippled the Serbian nation, considered the historic center of resistance in the Balkans to foreign takeover, while greatly increasing the incentive of peripheral parts of Yugoslavia (Montenegro, Voivodina, and perhaps Sanjak) to leave the sinking ship. It has delivered an eloquent message to neighboring countries such as Rumania and Bulgaria not dissimilar to the message delivered to the whole block when Mafia thugs trash a recalcitrant merchant: this could happen to you, unless you do what is necessary to ensure NATO protection.

Higher Justice, or Hired Justice?

Nobody doubts that the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia initiated on March 24, 1999, were in flagrant violation of international law on numerous counts. The real question is: can any semblance of a neutral, independent, impartial international law be salvaged from the United States' drive to impose its own "law of the strongest" on the entire world under cover of lofty moral imperatives?

On May 7, a team of lawyers from Canada and Europe submitted a brief to Louise Arbour, the Canadian chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, accusing U.S. and other NATO officials of war crimes including "wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity, attack, or bombardment, by whatever means, of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings". One of the lawyers, Professor Michael Mandel of Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto, where Ms Arbour herself once taught, argued that "charging the war's victors, and not only the losers, would be a watershed in international criminal law, showing the world that no one is above the law".

This and a number of other initiatives by international jurists pointing to the illegality of the NATO action were widely ignored by mainstream media. Instead, considerable space was given to pundits developing the notion of "humanitarian intervention" which henceforth, it was said, superseded the outworn notion of "national sovereignty".

In fact, there is absolutely nothing new about appeals to a "higher justice" to excuse violating the law. Nineteenth century imperialist conquests were usually undertaken "to defend" some group or other, and Hitler (the real one) marched into Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland, setting off World War II, in order to rescue allegedly abused German ethnic minorities. Respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity were incorporated into international law after World War II precisely in order to protect weaker nations from humanitarian crusades of this sort. Apparently Clinton administration policy-makers feel that U.S. monopoly of fearsome power is now so unchallenged that any such rules can only get in the way.

A few liberals timidly criticized the NATO bombing on the imaginary grounds that it might provoke Serbian "terrorism". In reality, throughout the air strikes there was never the slightest hint of any propensity on the part of Serbs to take up terrorism. On the contrary, Serbs were notably shocked by the flagrant violations of the legal order constructed primarily by the very Western powers who were now violating it, and a number of Yugoslavs both in Serbia and in the Diaspora, have tried to seek legal redress. The Yugoslav government itself tried on April 29 to institute proceedings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague against NATO governments for a broad range of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Western media, in brief reports, let it be known that such an initiative was "not serious". It was finally thrown out of court because the Genocide Convention, the legal basis for Belgrade's suit, has never been recognized by the United States as applying to itself, although Washington is willing to let it apply to others [5].

The big news was, of course, the indictment of Milosevic. On May 27, Ms Arbour, who had failed to act on the May 7 complaint against NATO leaders, initiated proceedings against Milosevic and other senior officials in the Yugoslav and Serbian governments for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in Kosovo. Some of the charges were substantially identical to those filed earlier against the officials responsible for the NATO bombing, to wit: "the widespread shelling of towns and villages; the burning of homes, farms and businesses, and the destruction of personal property".

The indictment of Milosevic and the others was hardly the act of an impartial body, rising above the conflict between mighty NATO and little Yugoslavia. Ms Arbour signed warrants for the arrest of Milosevic and the Serbian leaders on the basis of material turned over to her the day before by a party to the conflict, the United States government. The information leading to the indictment of Yugoslav leaders was provided by a special U.S. intelligence unit called the "Interagency Balkan Task Force", housed at the CIA with input from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the State Department [6].

Part of Arbour's job as chief prosecutor has been fund-raising in the "international community", notably among the governments of NATO member states. She and chief Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald (a former Federal Judge in Texas) frequently appear in public with Madeleine Albright ("the mother of the Tribunal" in the words of Judge McDonald, who before the war had already judiciously branded Yugoslavia "a rogue state") and praise the U.S. for its financial and other support to the Tribunal [7]. When asked on May 17 what would happen if NATO itself were brought before the Tribunal, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea retorted that without NATO countries there would be no such tribunal, since it was the NATO countries which had been in the forefront of getting it set up and which funded and supported its activity on a daily basis. The International Criminal Tribunal gets material as well as political support from the United States government, other NATO governments, financial tycoon George Soros and even private corporations. If the Clinton administration cannot count on "higher justice", it may get a helping hand from hired justice.

Serbian opposition leader Vuk Draskovic has pointed to the fact that the ICT indictment serves to tighten Milosevic's grip on power. With his popularity plummeting to new lows, the chances of persuading Milosevic to resign for the sake of his country are seriously reduced by the prospect of being turned over to the U.S.-dominated war crimes tribunal. The ICT has further complicated the task of easing Milosevic out of office by also indicting his most likely successor, Serbia's elected President, Milan Milutinovic. This indictment, based solely on the notion of "command responsibility", without any evidence of having desired or ordered the crimes cited, only confirms the widespread impression that the Tribunal is a political instrument manipulated by Washington.

In July, the Connecticut-based International Ethical Alliance also filed charges against President Clinton and Defense Secretary William Cohen for "non-defensive aggressive military attacks on former Yugoslavia". At the same time, IEA general counsel Jerome Zeifman called for the dismissal of prosecutor Arbour, charging her with "selective prosecution by intentionally failing to consider and act on evidence which incriminates defendants Clinton and Cohen, [...] conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, in receiving compensation from funds contributed in whole or in part by governments of NATO; and bias in favor of the attacks by NATO on former Yugoslavia". Zeifman called for replacement of the prosecutor and recusal of five judges, including McDonald, and selection of a truly independent prosecutor as well as new judges and staff from non-NATO countries who would not be compensated directly or indirectly by funds from NATO countries. Such a truly neutral tribunal, suggested the IEA, could then go on to weigh the charges against leaders on both sides, including Milosevic, Clinton and the rest.

A Pariah Nation

As great clouds of toxic smoke settled over northern Serbia from the bombing of the country's petrochemical and other industries, moral indignation rose among the chorus of editorialists, columnists and NATO officials justifying the bombing. Causing discomfort to civilians was no longer merely to get them to overthrow Milosevic, but to punish them for not having done so.

"Much has been made, unwisely in my view", wrote columnist William Pfaff [8], "of NATO's being in conflict only with Serbia's leaders. Serbia's leaders have been elected by the Serbian people. [...] Serbian voters have kept Slobodan Milosevic in power during the past decade. It is not clear why they should be spared a taste of the suffering he has inflicted on their neighbors."

So, there were two possibilities. Either Milosevic was a "dictator" and the Serbian people had to be liberated from him by bombing. Or else, as it turns out, he was not a dictator, and the Serbian people had to be given a "taste of suffering" for having elected him. Either way, Serbia must be bombed. The possibility that, if the dictator was not a dictator, some of the other accusations leveled against Serbia were equally distorted, was not to be considered.

As NATO was stepping up its bombing of Yugoslavia, Newsweek published an article by Rod Nordland entitled "Vengeance of a Victim Race" that reached a summit of anti-Serb racism not easily surpassed. "The Serbs are Europe's outsiders, seasoned haters raised on self-pity", this writer proclaimed [9]. "Serbs are expert haters", the article informed readers, citing as evidence a "torrent of gutter invective about Bill Clinton's sex life" on commercial TV in Serbia (without benefit of Jay Leno). No evidence is needed when it comes to slandering a whole nation with no legal recourse to libel suits.

For people familiar with the historic stoicism of the Serbs, their characteristic reserve about their own troubles and their remarkable sense of black humor -- a great antidote to self-pity -- all this pontificating about Serbs' supposed "victim" complex appears anything but innocent.

Among the propaganda techniques used for years to destroy any public sympathy in the West for the Serbian people is the persistent negative characterization of Serbian culture, national myth and mentality as uniquely peculiar, marked by a strange delusion of being "victims". This technique of pre-emptive denigration prepares the public to dismiss such facts as Serbia's extraordinary loss of population in World War I, the authentic genocide practiced against the Serbs by the fascist Croatian Ustashe during World War II and periodic Albanian efforts to push Serbs out of Kosovo as mere manifestations of a national mental illness. If a person or group is earmarked for victimization, what better way to head off foreseeable sympathy than by proclaiming loud and long that the individual or group always complains of being "victimized". In this way, ears will be deafened to their cries and hearts hardened to their fate.

Anti-Semitic propaganda portrayed Jews as self-pitying whiners as the Nazis rounded them up for the gas chambers.

The NATO line was to justify destroying Yugoslavia by comparing it to Nazi Germany and Milosevic to Hitler. In a Memorial Day address, Clinton claimed that Milosevic's government "like that of Nazi Germany rose to power in part by getting people to look down on people of a given race and ethnicity, and to believe they had... no right to live".

Meanwhile, the work went on of making people look down on Serbs and even to question whether Serbs had the right to live.

As the bombing intensified, and the more gung-ho of the NATO warriors (notably the British) pressed for a ground invasion, Harvard professor Daniel Jonah Goldhagen came along with the ultimate justification not only for a "taste of suffering", but also for conquest and occupation of Serbia by likening the displacement of Kosovo's civilians to the Holocaust, Milosevic to Hitler and the Serbian people to "Hitler's willing executioners", to use the title of the book that gained him his notoriety as "genocide expert". Goldhagen's premise [10] is that like Germany and Japan in the early 1940s, Serbia in the 1990s "has been waging brutal imperial war, seeking to conquer area after area, expelling unwanted populations, and perpetrating mass murder".

This Harvard scholar builds a structure of assumptions on nothing more solid than erroneous impressions gleaned from years of distorted media coverage of the Balkans. The house of cards goes like this: Milosevic was an "extreme nationalist" and a "genocidal killer". He and the Serbian people were "beholden to an ideology which called for the conquest of Lebensraum", they were in the grip of "dehumanizing beliefs". In pursuit of "an eliminationist project" they set out to eliminate the Albanian population of Kosovo, in an action reminiscent of the Holocaust. Therefore, the only remedy is the same remedy as that applied to Nazi Germany: Serbia must be conquered, de-Nazified and reeducated by the West.

These assumptions are all false. Of course, innocence is always harder to prove than guilt. The Inquisitor knows that everyone is guilty of something. The Serbian people cannot all be blameless for everything, as they would probably be the first to confess. But neither are they, or even Milosevic, guilty of everything that has gone wrong in the Balkans for the past decade. The disintegration of Yugoslavia is a complex event with multiple causes which can reasonably be debated for some time by honest scholars. Other leaders who share responsibility for the disaster have had an interest in putting all the blame on their Serbian adversary. Blaming Milosevic has distracted attention from the responsibility of all the others.

So what was really wrong with Milosevic?

What Was Really Wrong With Milosevic

What was really wrong with Milosevic is indeed closely related to what was really wrong with the Serbian people as Yugoslavia began to come apart at the seams in the 1980s. What was really wrong with the Serbian people is that they were extremely divided. They were, of course, geographically divided between Serbs in Serbia and Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia. They were divided between two identities, Yugoslav and Serb. They were divided, historically, in several ways, and most painfully between World War II Partisans and Chetniks (respectively, the Communist and Royalist guerrilla movements opposing Nazi occupation... and each other). They were sociologically divided between rural and urban inhabitants. And finally, in the wake of Titoism, they were politically divided between left projects to reform socialism and "centrist" projects to revive the parties and political traditions of the pre-Communist past.

When a nation is deeply divided, the leader who can succeed is the one whose ambiguity can create a semblance of unity. The ability to be "all things to all men" is often the key to political success. What was really wrong with Milosevic was what was also his biggest political asset: his ambiguity. He appeared, when he rose to prominence, won the power struggle in the Serbian communist party, turned it into the Serbian Socialist Party and won the first pluralist elections in Serbia in 1990, to be able to square all the circles. He was the political magician who could get rid of communist "bureaucracy" but maintain a reassuring continuity, defend both Serbian interests and Yugoslavism, combine reformed socialism with economic privatization.

Because Serbs lived not only in Serbia, but also in Croatia and Bosnia, the disintegration of Yugoslavia was bound to cause a crisis of Serb unity and disunity. The Yugoslav Army wanted to preserve Yugoslavia; Milosevic, at the time Slovenia declared its independence, was ready to let Slovenia go and settle for less. That less might, perhaps, be called "Greater Serbia", but Milosevic himself did not proclaim "Greater Serbia" as his goal. Rather, this was the desire of a large part of the Serb population in Croatia and Bosnia who feared being cut off from Serbia by the secession of those two Republics. In 1991, Serbs in Croatia were being attacked by Croatian nationalist militia openly proclaiming their allegiance to the tradition of the fascist Ustashe, thus provoking both the Yugoslav National Army, with its Partisan tradition, and Serbian fears of a revival of the genocide of which they had been victims in the Ustashe-run "Independent Croatian State" set up by the Axis powers during World War II. For a short time, in 1991 and 1992, when events moved faster than people's understanding, it was unclear where defending Yugoslavia left off, and creating a hypothetical Greater Serbia began.

The slogan "all Serbs in one State" applied to Yugoslavia, and implied a security which many feared losing if they became minorities in hostile Croatian or Muslim States. Serbs in Serbia were theoretically sympathetic to Serb brethren in Croatia and Bosnia, but far from united as to what, if anything, to do about the problem. Milosevic gave the impression that he might work out a solution with Tudjman. In the crucial years 1990-92, he managed to give the impression either that he was doing everything possible to preserve Yugoslavia, or else that he was ready to give up Yugoslavia and salvage a Serbia comprising Serb-inhabited lands from the wreckage. The Yugoslav National Army was ready only to defend the former project; for the latter, rival paramilitary groups were formed, in utmost confusion, as some 200,000 young men left Serbia to avoid fighting in a fratricidal civil war. This was a nation in disarray, not a people united in an "eliminationist project" fired up by "burning hatred".

By mid-1993, when the Yugoslav National Army formally pulled out of Bosnia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed comprising only Serbia and Montenegro, but excluding the two "Serb Republics" in the Croatian Krajina and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it was clear that "Greater Serbia" was not on Belgrade's agenda, however much Serbs in the Croatian Krajina or in Bosnia-Herzegovina might want to stay attached to Serbia. This became even clearer in 1994, when Belgrade went so far as to proclaim an embargo against the Bosnian Serbs for failing to accept a Western peace plan.

During the period of Yugoslav breakup, Milosevic did succeed in co-opting Serbian nationalism, without ever himself espousing an extreme nationalist ideology. What made Milosevic's "Serbian nationalism" so unbearable to so many critics (foreign and domestic) is not that it was more "extreme" than any other -- it definitely was not -- but that he played the nationalist card not to get rid of socialism, but to hang onto it, or at least scraps of it, not the least being the party apparatus, its patronage system and its control of key institutions such as the police and state media.

Serbian nationalism had been such a total taboo in Tito's Yugoslavia that it took very minor references to "Serbian interests" on the part of a communist party apparatchik like Milosevic to thrill some and scandalize others. Yugoslavs still respecting that taboo have done a lot to denounce Milosevic to the world as an "extreme nationalist", a term that has quite different connotations in other countries.

Through all this, as can easily be verified by reading his published speeches, Milosevic continued to preach a mixture of Yugoslav multinationalism and reformist economic optimism [11]. After Milosevic abandoned entirely the Bosnian Serb leadership in order to reach the Dayton settlement, the official ideology was increasingly influenced by the avant-garde "Yugoslav United Left (JUL)" party sponsored by his wife, Mirjana Markovic, whose doctrine is a compendium of modern leftist "politically correct" progressive thought and praise of the virtues of multi-ethnic society. There is no trace of the "dehumanizing beliefs" attributed to Milosevic and the Serbs by Goldhagen.

Milosevic's ambiguity enabled him to win elections, but not to unite the Serbs, who through everything have remained so divided that a strong and not implausible argument for retaining the existing government has been simply that the alternative could be civil war. Some fear that the fall of Milosevic would profit the real extreme nationalist, Vojislav Seselj, while the United States' ostentatious declaration of political and financial support to unidentified opposition leaders only confirms the widespread impression that such a favorite of Western media as Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic is a NATOland puppet -- a role to which he unabashedly aspires.

Much more could no doubt be said about what is wrong with Milosevic. If using criminals for dirty tasks makes him a criminal, then he is no doubt a criminal -- as are President Tudjman of Croatia and President Izetbegovic of Bosnia... but then, so are a whole line of U.S. Presidents. Milosevic is one of a world full of unsavory leaders. But he has never preached an "eliminationalist project" of "racial hatred" and the Serbs who voted for him could not have thought that that was what they were voting for. Like other voters elsewhere, whatever they thought they were voting for, that is probably not what they got.

Kosovo Before the Bombing

Louise Arbour's case against Milosevic is based on the presumption that by virtue of his position as "superior authority" over Federal Yugoslav and Serbian forces and agencies, he is "individually responsible" for war crimes committed in Kosovo during the war started by NATO bombing. Such a rigorous standard would be perfectly acceptable if applied universally [12] . However, coming when and as it did, Ms Arbour's accusation could scarcely be distinguished from the flow of wild accusations kept up by NATO spokesmen against the Serbs, and which later, when public attention had turned elsewhere, turned out to be grossly exaggerated or untrue.

It is significant that, except for the highly controversial "Racak massacre" on January 15 [13], all the crimes against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo charged against Milosevic took place after the start of NATO bombing on March 24.

Before NATO bombing, there was no "ethnic cleansing", much less "genocide", in Kosovo. From early 1998, when Serbian police began their belated if brutal crackdown on armed "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA or, in Albanian, UCK) rebels, Western journalists went out on daily safari from Pristina in armored vehicles looking for the "Serbian atrocity" story sought by their editors. They never found anything to beat Waco, Texas. There was some brief excitement in August when German reporter Erich Rathfelder filed a story of a "mass grave" with 567 bodies in Orahovac. The story, based on a single ethnic Albanian "eye witness", turned out to be an invention. Two weeks later, a real mass grave of 22 civilians found in the village of Klecka failed to arouse media interest; the victims were apparently Serbs and the killers the KLA. Nor was there any interest in the three dozen civilian corpses found in the Radonjic lake canal a fortnight later. Even though the victims included ethnic Albanians, they were of no interest because they had been killed by KLA gunmen, not by Serbs [14].

Finally, on September 29, 1998, reporters led to the village of Gornje Obrinje found 16 bodies of ethnic Albanian civilians, murdered several days before. It was reported by Reuters that none of the victims, which included a baby, had any connection to the KLA. Western media immediately accepted Albanian accusations that the killing had been carried out by a "special unit" of Serbian police, ignoring Serb denials as usual.

Whoever actually did the killing in Gornje Obrinje, it would be preposterous to suggest that this crime was approved by the Serbian people, for two reasons. One is that there is not the slightest expression of approval to be found. The other is that very many, perhaps most, Serbian people would strongly suspect that this crime was committed by the KLA, perhaps eliminating Albanian civilians who failed to support them (as they were known to have done on other occasions), precisely in order to provoke a NATO war against Yugoslavia. Why would Serb police murder a bunch of innocent civilians just when U.S. leaders were looking for exactly such a pretext to launch NATO air strikes against Serbia?

The Gornje Obrinje incident found its way quickly to the cover of the October 12 international edition of Newsweek, which featured a photo of the killed child and the triple headline: "War By Massacre - Will NATO End Kosovo's Grief? - Serbia: Europe's Outlaw Nation" [15]. The eagerness to use this unclarified crime to call in NATO air strikes against Serbia was evident.

Many Serbs, notably clergy of the Serbian Orthodox Church, strongly condemned the brutality of the police operations against the KLA. The division of opinion within Yugoslav society on this question was largely similar to the division of opinion one would find in any modern society; some considered the police operations foolishly exaggerated and almost certainly doomed to failure, others thought the police had to do what was necessary to restore order, and many simply worried about the outcome of a seemingly hopeless and endless conflict. But there was no preaching of "racial hatred" or campaign to drive all ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo. Milosevic and his Serbian Socialist Party consistently stressed the virtues of "multi-national" society in Serbia. This hardly merits comparison with Hitler, who spent his entire career ranting against Jews and proclaiming the racial superiority of Germans.

The Kosovo policy of Milosevic was "nationalist" insofar as it aimed at keeping Kosovo within Serbia and preventing the Albanian majority from driving out the Serbian minority. There is no evidence of any plan to drive out the Albanian majority, a project that would never have been approved by a majority of Yugoslav voters. Milosevic's great fault was to pretend to know how to solve the Kosovo problem when in fact he didn't; a fault now being committed by NATO.

The level of violence in Kosovo, however regrettable, was no higher prior to NATO bombing than in many trouble spots in the world, and according to many observers was potentially manageable. In early 1999, the KLA continued to step up attacks on Serb policemen in order to provoke government retaliation and justify NATO air strikes. On March 24, the bombing began. Then all hell broke loose.

Invisible Kosovo Under the Bombs

Three days after the air strikes began, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that 4,000 refugees had fled from Kosovo province into Albania and Macedonia. As the days passed, tens of thousands more began to stream across the borders into Macedonia, Albania and other parts of Yugoslavia, both Montenegro and central Serbia. Since outside observers had been pulled out of Kosovo itself prior to the bombing (over protests from the Serbian government which wanted them to stay), explaining the causes of this exodus to the NATO public was left entirely up to NATO spokesmen and to whichever Albanian refugees Western reporters and TV crews chose to interview. Neither could be described as unbiased sources. For NATO spokesmen, Serbian "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide" justified the bombing. As for the ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo, matters are more complex. Some, but certainly not all, had been forcibly expelled. Some families of KLA members had reportedly been instructed by the KLA to leave the war zone for the safety of neighboring Albania. Others fled in fear of Serb security forces or paramilitaries. Others fled from both the Serbs and the KLA, to avoid being forcibly recruited into the KLA. Very many sought safety from the bombs and the fighting.

However, there is no doubt that "Serbian ethnic cleansing" was the version most in demand among Western media conducting the interviews, and that ethnic Albanians who told this story, whether because it was true or for other reasons, were the most likely to end up on Western television screens. And it was the only version sought by the U.S.-financed investigators sent to collect testimony to back the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic.

The official NATO version was that Milosevic was ethnically cleansing Kosovo of its entire Albanian population. After ten days of bombing, President Clinton announced that the "cold clear goal" of Milosevic was to "keep Kosovo's land while ridding it of its people". In mid-April, Clinton told the American Society of Newspaper Editors that Milosevic was "determined to crush all resistance to his rule even if it means turning Kosovo into a lifeless wasteland". As a matter of fact, by this time, the United States was determined to crush all resistance to NATO's edict even if it meant turning Yugoslavia into a lifeless wasteland.

On May 10, the U.S. State Department issued a report entitled "Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo" which, based on refugee accounts and aerial photos, estimated that 90% of Kosovo Albanians had been driven from their homes. This was not accurate, as it later turned out, but in unveiling the report Madeleine Albright said the report "makes clear beyond any doubt" the existence of "horrific patterns of war crimes and crimes against humanity" including "systematic executions" and "organized rape" and that the "evil" could turn out to be even greater.

These allegations bring to mind others drawn from the copious annals of war propaganda, and notably the Bryce report whose wild tales of German atrocities did so much to help the British hate the "Huns" and therefore enthusiastically support the ongoing butchery of World War I. The horror stories in the report by Lord Bryce were also drawn from refugee accounts, a notoriously unreliable source for many more or less obvious reasons. The report concluded that German soldiers in Belgium had engaged in "murder, lust and pillage" on a scale "unparalleled in any war between civilized nations during the last three centuries" [16]. The Bryce report, a classic in its genre, included an exciting piece of fiction about how German officers and men had raped 20 Belgian girls in the market square at Liege.

The "town square mass rape" story was recycled during the Kosovo bombing and ended up in the Philadelphia Inquirer under the headline "Serb's system of rape" which gave this vivid description of life in Kosovo under NATO bombing: "In other cases, mass rapes are organized in town squares. Townspeople are assembled to observe these horrific events; the fear and revulsion sometimes spur residents to flee voluntarily" [17].A general accusation which does not have to be proved can never be disproved, and can be safely repeated forever [18].

As word began to filter out that large numbers of Albanians were still living in Kosovo, even getting in the way of NATO bombs, they were described as "human shields" or hostages. NATO bravely announced that the risk of killing them could not be allowed to deter its humanitarian mission. In May, Clinton claimed that 600,000 ethnic Albanians were "trapped within Kosovo itself, lacking shelter, short of food, afraid to go home or buried in mass graves". Whether they left or stayed, Kosovo Albanians were counted as victims of Serbian genocide.

On June 11, just after the bombing was halted, Clinton declared that the Serbs had been engaged in "an attempt to erase the very presence of a people from their land, and to get rid of them dead or alive".

The next day, NATO troops began to move into Kosovo. As they took over Prizren, Pristina, and other Kosovo towns, they were surrounded by large cheering crowds of healthy-looking Albanians. Quite obviously, Kosovo had not been "rid of its people" or "turned into a lifeless wasteland" by the Serbs.

Visible Kosovo

Various accounts speak of a "five-day orgy of rage" that was unleashed by the NATO bombing. Serbian forces attacked KLA and beat them back, but also struck civilians, especially in the rebel strongholds in the Western part of Kosovo, near the Albanian border. Paramilitary groups were unleashed. Thousands of people were killed, including innocent civilians. From the Yugoslav military viewpoint, this was a defensive war against a triple aggression: a foreign invasion from Albania, which provided bases and infiltrated KLA soldiers and weapons; a local fifth column of KLA rebels and their supporters; and NATO flying air strikes in support of the KLA and perhaps to prepare a ground invasion of its own.

In the weeks preceding the bombing, U.S. and British military intelligence agents operating under cover of the "Kosovo Verification Mission" headed by William Walker, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and a key member of the Oliver North team that armed the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s, had been reportedly making contact with local KLA agents and training them in how to help guide in NATO bombs and missiles to "kill the Yugoslav army". It is perfectly obvious that once NATO launched air strikes, the first thing Yugoslav forces would be called upon to do would be to root out all those suspected agents. And insofar as they considered the KLA to blame for getting NATO to bomb, they were unlikely to go about it gently.

In early May, a KLA political officer named Pleurat Sejdiu boasted that KLA reports passed to NATO headquarters in Brussels were still helping NATO pilots target Serbian tanks and artillery: "The support the KLA is giving NATO is still very important. Our intelligence alone is causing lots of damage and taking quite a big toll" [19]. Effective or not, the KLA certainly intended to be a damaging "fifth column" inside Kosovo.

Just after the bombing began, Veton Surroi, the editor of the Soros-financed daily Koha Ditore and a favorite ethnic Albanian leader among Western policy-makers, told the New York Times that in accepting the Rambouillet "agreement" designed by the U.S. he had "also accepted that there would be consequences for the people of Kosovo, that if the Serbian side did not agree to the pact, it would have to be imposed by force -- even at risk to the civilian population", because, he explained, "these kinds of political arrangements require war"[20]. In short, the Albanian nationalists consciously accepted the "risk to the civilian population" in order to attain their political goal of independence from Serbia. They were not surprised by the Serb reprisals against Albanian civilians, and there is no reason why their American advisors should have been any more surprised than they were. The effect on Albanian civilians was a foreseen consequence that could be -- and was -- turned into a political asset for NATO.

What had actually been going on in Kosovo during the bombing was reported by the few Western journalists who were there on the spot. Steven Erlanger reported to the New York Times in early May that the province was far from empty, and that contrary to NATO reports, there were plenty of military-age ethnic Albanian men at liberty. He also reported from Prizren that panic would sometimes inexplicably seize a neighborhood, and everybody would start to leave, without being forcibly expelled. Contradicting the statement of a UNHCR spokesman in Albania interpreting the latest influx of refugees as "the final cleansing of Prizren", Erlanger reported that: "The city is hardly empty and many Albanians, however fearful, remain here but rarely go outside" [21].

Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times, who stayed in Kosovo all through the bombing, wrote later of NATO spokesman Jamie Shea: "Even in Kosovo, I couldn't escape the sound of Mr. Shea's voice on satellite TV. It haunted me at the strangest times, denying things I knew to be true, insisting on others that I had seen were false". This makes an important point: for all the justified complaints of media distortion, the usual source of the distortions is not the journalist on the spot -- who, if left alone to write freely, might well prefer to tell the true story -- but the editors who dictate what the "story" must be, the big-name commentators who twist things to fit their agenda, and above all the official spokesmen, infamous like Shea or "unidentified", who manipulate mainstream journalists dependent on good relations with such "sources" to please their editors and keep their coveted jobs.

Watson described the helpless feeling of people being bombed. "Bombing can create rage, and when you cannot reach the people doing it from 15,000 feet, you must find other ways to deal with it. My way was to bury myself in my work [...] But others, perhaps with hate already in their hearts, chose the revenge of setting fires, raping or murdering. Once NATO added its air war to Kosovo's civil war, the Serbs retaliated against the closest, and most defenseless, target: the ethnic Albanians NATO had come to save" [22].

By late June, the editor of an independent NATO military journal acknowledged that: "Increasingly, however, evidence is accumulating that it was the NATO action that unleashed the major ejection of the refugees and most of the massacres" [23].

In reality, there was never anything so surprising or even unusual about the massive exodus of civilians from what had suddenly become a very dangerous war zone [24]. Especially during a civil war, when danger is coming from all sides, families may decide the prudent course is to pack up and leave. The incentive was all the greater for ethnic Albanians in that they knew they could find shelter among fellow ethnic Albanians, some of them relatives, only a short distance away in Albania or in Macedonia (where local authorities and aid agencies kept them in camps instead of allowing them to swell the local Albanian population, as they no doubt would have preferred to do). The terrifying noise of missiles, the explosions nearby add to the impulse.

During the bombing, NATO put the figure of Albanians killed at around 100,000. Afterwards, the NATO figure dropped to 10,000. Certainly, many died. But this was no "holocaust".

President Clinton, however, did not revise his rhetoric downward. On the contrary, he began to add "raping little girls" to the liturgy of alleged Serbian crimes, despite the absence of any evidence for this accusation. Speaking to KFOR troops in Macedonia on June 22, Clinton claimed that Serbs had raped little girls "en masse". At a particularly virulent White House press conference on June 25, Clinton escalated his rhetoric to justify a new phase of the war: opposition to any aid to enable Serbia to rebuild its infrastructure destroyed by NATO bombing. He implied that if the Serbs didn't get rid of Milosevic, then they didn't deserve to have their country rebuilt. The Serbs "are going to have to decide whether they support his leadership or not, whether they think it's okay that all those tens of thousands of people were killed and all those hundreds of thousands of people were run out of their homes and all those little girls were raped and all those little boys murdered", he raved, adding that, if they think so, then they won't get any aid, "because I don't think that's okay".

Thus the official Presidential seal was set on the notion that failure to overthrow, by goodness knows what means, the legally elected President of Yugoslavia in mid-term will signify that the Serbian people approve of mass murder and the "rape of little girls". And thus they will deserve to go into winter without heating, without electricity, without running water, without factories to work in or bridges to cross their rivers. At the G8 summit in Cologne, British Prime Minister Tony Blair ruled out even humanitarian aid to the Serbian people, saying that "people simply wouldn't understand" spending money on people who had committed such horrendous crimes against Kosovars. Since then, the European Union has been adopting legislation to ban exports of a long list of just about everything imaginable that Serbia would need to repair its bombed power plants, bridges and heating installations. After spectacular destruction, the West is proceeding to kill a country softly.

NATO's Willing Executioners

The Goldhagen thesis about Serbia is not merely academic. This Harvard professor has deliberately attempted to motivate an aggressive war of conquest. His grave and unsubstantiated accusations are incitement to hatred of an entire nation.

Goldhagen claims that, like the Germans and Japanese in the early 1940s, the "majority of the country's populace" in Serbia "believed fanatically" in the rightness of criminal actions. This is simply and wholly untrue. The majority of Serbs do not agree on much of anything; many, perhaps most, Serbs readily and willingly acknowledge with regret that Serbs have committed crimes during the civil wars and believe such crimes should be punished. However, they also believe, indeed they know (because it happens to be true) that similar crimes have been committed by others and that the United States and other NATO countries have adopted double standards.

Goldhagen declares that there will be no peace in the Balkans "as long as the Serbs continue to harbor the burning hatred of ethnic nationalism". The Serbs, he claims, are "now caught in the grip of delusions, hatreds, an ever-more-belligerent society and culture, war, and death."

But why can this not be turned around to claim that, for instance, Harvard professors are "now caught in the grip of delusions and hatreds"? The evidence would be what Harvard professors, or at least one of them, says about the Serbs -- and the others are not denying it, or removing him from his position. The case here is probably stronger against Harvard professors than against the Serbs, since one will look for a long time to find such a vicious tirade by a Serb against Albanians or anybody else, and the proportion of Serbs who would subscribe to such a blanket condemnation of a people is certainly less than the proportion of Harvard professors, even if Goldhagen is the only one.

The outlandish conclusion of this Goldhagen tract is that the Serbian people "consists of individuals with damaged faculties of moral judgment and has sunk into a moral abyss from which it is unlikely, anytime soon, to emerge unaided." By "supporting or condoning Milosevic's eliminationist policies" (which, incidentally, never existed except in the imaginations of New Republic writers), the Serbian people "have rendered themselves both legally and morally incompetent to conduct their own affairs" and "their country must be placed in receivership".

This should be done by a NATO invasion, in order to give Serbia the benefit of the same treatment that de-Nazified Germany. The "criminals' supporters, composing a large percentage of the Serbian people, need to be made to comprehend their errors and rehabilitated." Since there never was an "eliminationist ideology" of "virulent nationalism", it will be a hard task indeed to make the Serbian people give it up. But proof of success is already at hand: "if people accept that it was both morally correct and wise to occupy and transform Germany and Japan in 1945, it follows that they must endorse, in principle, the desirability of pursuing a similar course in the Serbia of 1999."

So Goldhagen has a schema. In his schema, neither Hitler Germany nor the Holocaust were unique events, but models, patterns, that are reproducing themselves and will probably continue to do so. A bad country in the grip of a bad ideology attacks everybody around; it commits genocide; the populace sees nothing wrong with that and even applauds, since it is filled with "the burning hatred of ethnic nationalism"; moreover, this errant country is prey to "delusions" that it itself is the victim. But there is a solution to this problem: the "international community" a k a the United States and its military allies must conquer the errant country, punish its leaders and "rehabilitate" its inhabitants by teaching them all how to be politically correct. (Harvard University can hope for big contracts in this task.) Then everybody will live happily ever after.

As those who really remember World War II, Hitler, and Nazi genocide grow old and die off, we are seeing a sad but no doubt inevitable and oft-repeated process: the transformation of history into myth. And not just any myth, good for story books: the sort of active myth that is used for assertion of power. The mythical event is ritualistically repeated to cement the community and reassert the legitimacy of its identity. World War II has become the source not of wisdom but of self-justifying myth.

For a long time, an extraordinary quantity of lies about Yugoslavia have been sent into circulation, taken up, and fervently believed. The original motives for lying are not sufficient explanation for this phenomenon. Why people in power tell lies is the easy part. The hard part is why other people believe them. The lies about Yugoslavia quite evidently fill a gap and meet a need that goes beyond strategic bases on the way to Caspian oil or other purely rational reasons -- which exist but are not adequate to explain an illusion of such proportions.

The Founding Myth

From Fukayama's "end of history" to Huntington's "conflict of civilizations" and now to "humanitarian warfare", the United States establishment has been groping recklessly for Big Ideas to accompany the New World Order. A constant characteristic of these big ideas is a total cynicism cloaked in a ruthless self-righteousness. There is never any critical self-examination (the basis of what used to be moral conscience), the motives of the power with which the ideologues identify being above any possible reproach. "Our" system, "our" civilization, "our" values have been certifiably proven the best by "our" defeat of communism. The only moral question that remains is what we need to do to bring the others in line. Is it easy (Fukayama), difficult (Huntington), or a welcome challenge to NATO? Goldhagen is contributing to development of the third possibility, the one known as "humanitarian warfare".

Yugoslavia has been the "common enemy" needed to bring Europe and the United States together in a new missionary NATO. This new moralizing Atlantic union obviously corresponds to U.S. strategic interests. But European NATO leaders and media have bought into the demonizing of the Serbs with equal enthusiasm, nowhere more than in France. The French response, because the most surprising, may be the most significant. During the bombing, there was greater protest, more critical analysis, in Italy and even in Germany than in France, which historically was Serbia's closest ally in Western Europe. Moreover, while the United States and Germany can be seen to have strategic or economic interests to advance in the Balkans, it is difficult to see how France will get enough of the pickings to make up for what the Kosovo adventure is costing her. Does this mean that the French have been more genuinely idealistic? that they believe in the "humanitarian war"? To an extent, perhaps, all the more in that the French media have on the whole been singularly biased for years, and that the French are particularly ill informed about recent events in former Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, in the higher spheres of official circles in France, the war is widely viewed as an American power play, and not at all as a humanitarian venture. Yet public criticism is practically inaudible.

The French elite that runs the government, the economy and the media have for years now been totally dedicated to a single project: European union built around a close partnership with Germany and sealed with a common currency as the only way for France to survive in the competitive world of U.S.-led "globalization". There is widespread ennui, if not yet exactly disillusion, with this monetary Europe. This "Europe" is made up of too many technocrats, too many obscure regulations, too much hype about the euro, too many lobbies and not enough jobs, too much competition and too little common purpose.

The European Union is in need of a common identity more spiritual than a common currency. These days it can't be religion; Christianity is not only out of style, despite the Pope as Superstar, it is politically incorrect to identify Europe with Christendom, since this would risk implying exclusion of other religions. Both anti-communism and anti-fascist are out of date. What is left? Human rights.

Europe needs a moral identity. The perfect formula, especially for France which is proud of having invented the Déclaration des Droits de l'Homme, is human rights -- especially human rights as a creed that transcends national boundaries and justifies the abandonment of long-cherished national sovereignty required by the European Union's treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam.

In 1994, a number of European intellectuals, mostly French, organized meetings and even an ephemeral electoral list around the slogan, "Europe lives or dies at Sarajevo". This was in fact extravagant hyperbole. But it caught the need to associate "Europe" with a dramatic cause, equal to the Spanish Civil War, and the intellectuals feeling this need grasped onto a totally idealized "Bosnia" as the symbol of this "Europe" that, rather than an economic powerhouse technocratically organized to take its place alongside the United States in world domination, was actually a tender bud of multi-ethnic civilization in danger of being trampled to death by a new Hitler.

Yugoslavia was the first crisis to be poured whole into the mould of the ideological myth of World War II. Milosevic became "Hitler", the Serbs became the new "Nazis", and their adversaries were all victims of a potential new "Holocaust". The eagerness with which European intellectuals believed the "unbelievable", exclaiming "we thought it couldn't happen here" without taking the trouble to find out whether in fact "it" was, or perhaps wasn't, happening here, perhaps merits the term Schadenfreude. There was a sort of pleasure in the damage, and the pleasure was that of discovering our collective identity as "the West".

If they are guilty, we are innocent.

They, of course, are the terrible Serbs, guilty of everything the Germans used to be guilty of under Hitler. But now, the Germans are innocent and on the side of the angels, as well as the common currency. Nazism has been replaced as the evil that Europe, and Germany, must eliminate.

We, on the other hand, we are (on the West end of the Atlantic) America, the New World Order, the one last best hope of mankind and so on; or, on the East side of the Atlantic, the new Europe of the European Union, the exact opposite of the Old Europe of wars between nation-states, that wicked Europe whose surviving (but not for long) remnant is Serbian Yugoslavia.

This is a ritual for anthropologists to describe. Myth is built on history and transformed into a ceremony whose roles must be assumed by succeeding players on the stage of history. Finally, the scapegoat. Yugoslavia bears all the sins of Europe's past, it represents everything Europe is not, or does not want to be. It must be destroyed. After the bombs, an embargo. Ostracism, further destruction, until nothing is left.

In Serbia, thoughtful people are struggling with the question: what can we do?

Even if Milosevic miraculously resigned tomorrow, there could be no certainty that his successor might not quickly be hailed by Western media as Hitler's latest clone. The job would be made easier by establishment career moralists such as Goldhagen ready to expound on the "moral abyss" into which the Serbian people are plunged, unable to extricate themselves without being "placed in receivership", that is, under a NATO protectorate. And the destruction could go on until conditions are ripe for the required national lobotomy of the miscreant people.

Caught in such a death trap, how responsible, now, are the Serbian people for what is happening to them? And how responsible are we?



[1] "NATO General Urges Hits on Serbian Leaders; Belgrade People Must Suffer, Too, He Says", by Michael R. Gordon, New York Times/ International Herald Tribune, May 14, 1999.

[2] "Is Serb Economy the True Target? Raids Seem Aimed at Bolstering Resistance to Milosevic", by Joseph Fitchett, International Herald Tribune, page 1, May 26, 1999.

[3] Clinton was warned by the U.S. intelligence community and by Italian prime minister Massimo D'Alema (who feared the consequences for Italy) that bombing would produce an explosion of refugees, and NATO commander Wesley Clark himself acknowledged that the military authorities fully anticipated the Serb response to the bombing, while insisting that the NATO operation was not designed to stop ethnic cleansing. See Noam Chomsky, The New Military Humanism: Lessons from Kosovo, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 1999, pp.20,21,36.

[4] See Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard:American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, Basic Books, 1997; see also, Masters of the Universe? NATO's Balkan Crusade, edited by Tariq Ali, Verso, London, 1999.

[5] See Chomsky, op.cit, pp.152-3.

[6] "The Shadow of Intelligence... U.S. Gave Tribunal Classified Date", by William Branigin, Washington Post/International Herald Tribune, p.1, May 29, 1999.

[7] See Diana Johnstone, "Making the Crime Fit the Punishment", in Masters of the Universe? NATO’s Humanitarian Crusade, Verso, London, 1999.

[8] International Herald Tribune, May 31, 1999.

[9] Newsweek, April 12, 1999.

[10] Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, "If you rebuild it... A New Serbia", The New Republic, May 17, 1999.

[11] See Robert Thomas, Serbia under Milosevic: Politics in the 1990s, Hurst & Company, London, 1999, for an unusually fair and detailed account of the conflicting currents in Serbian politics.

[12]By the same token, quite a number of U.S. Presidents and other leaders of democratic countries could find themselves in the dock, most recently, President Clinton and Prime Minister Blair, who command the NATO-run forces that expelled police from Kosovo and then looked the other way while gunmen of NATO's ethnic Albanian "paramilitary" ally massacred 14 Serb farmers during hay harvest, among others.

[13] It remains unclear to this day whether the ethnic Albanians killed in Racak were, as claimed by the KLA and U.S. officials, innocent civilians massacred by Serb police, or, as Serbian officials claimed and was widely believed among European observers, they were guerrillas killed in battle with police whose bodies were lined up over night by the KLA to give the appearance of a "massacre". All that is certain is that a police operation and fire fight with KLA rebels had taken place there the day before the bodies were found.

[14] This massacre was thoroughly reported outside Yugoslavia only, so far as I am aware, by the anti-Milosevic Association for Independent Media (AIM) which provides e-mail news reports to subscribers and is supported financially by the European Union, among other outside sources.

[15] The Human Rights Watch researcher for Kosovo, Fred Abrahams, was quoted by Newsweek as saying, "I strongly believe these were innocent civilians, and they were gunned down by Serbian police forces simply because of their ethnicity". Abrahams may have "strongly believed" as much, but there was no proof.

[16] See Phillip Knightley, "Propaganda Wars", The Independent on Sunday, London, June 27, 1999.

[17] Rebecca Chamberlain and David E. Powell, "Serbs' system of rape; The crime is a key part of their military policy. Slobodan Milosevic must be held responsible", The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 24, 1999.

[18] Dr. Richard Munz, a University of Bochum surgeon working with humanitarian aid in Macedonia, testified to the demand for rape stories when he complained to the German daily Die Welt about the inability of most reporters to accept the fact that among the 60,000 refugees in their camp, medical aid workers had not encountered a single case of rape.

[19] Philip Smucker, "NATO shies away from KLA tactics, ideology", The Washington Times, May 5, 1999.

[20] International Herald Tribune, March 27, 1999.

[21] International Herald Tribune, May 8, 1999.

[22] International Herald Tribune, June 23, 1999.

[23] Frederick Bonnart, editorial director NATO's Nations, in a guest column in the International Herald Tribune, June 28, 1999.

[24] For comparison, after the German blitzkrieg through the Ardennes in Southern Belgium on May 10, 1940, 1,2 million Belgians became refugees in three weeks time. The population of Belgium was about 8.5 million at the time.

Further reading...

For a refutation of the 'mass murder' argument by which NATO justified the attack on Kosovo and which the media has used to explain Albanian attacks on Serbs, "Gypsies" and others in "post"war Kosovo, click on Spinning the Kill: Albright's Tribunal Hastens to Save a Lie or go to

For an excellent introduction to the background on Kosovo, click on Ms. Jonstone's Yugoslavia: Seen Through a Dark Glass or go to

For Ms. Johnstone's critique of Western claims that Yugoslav media is unfree, see Media in Serbia or go to

If you would like to read other articles please click here or go to