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NATO and US Government War Crimes in Yugoslavia

 

The "Victim Nations" of US War Crimes constitute, according to George W. Bush "an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." Yet history amply confirms that the US government is responsible for the deaths of millions of people in the countries which it catalogs as "rogue states".

Forrmer Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is currently on trial in The Hague in a  legal procedure directly controlled by the Western military alliance and the US Administration. 

The CRG will be publishing a series of background articles on Yugoslavia with a view to establishing the record of NATO and US Government War Crimes in the Balkans. In a bitter irony, the so-called International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague is controlled by the War Criminals. 

This first article focuses on NATO's Propaganda Machine and Media Cover-up underlying the 1999 Bombing on Yugoslavia. . 

 

 

WAR AGAINST THE TRUTH

by Michel Chossudovsky

T   February 2002

Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca,     February 2002

 

Two days prior to the onslaught of the 1999 bombings of Yugoslavia (following the refusal of Belgrade to accept the Military Appendix of the Rambouillet Agreement), British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a prepared statement to the House of Commons, called upon the Western Alliance "...to act to save thousands of innocent men, women and children from humanitarian catastrophe, from death, barbarism and ethnic cleansing by a brutal dictatorship " The next day, as the air war began, President Clinton stated: 

"What we are trying to do is to limit his (Milosevic''s) ability to win a military victory and engage in ethnic cleansing and slaughter innocent people and to do everything we can to induce him to take this peace agreement." (Quoted in Stratfor, Where Are Kosovo''s Killing Fields, 17 October 1999). 

 The media promptly responded to these statements by fabricating and confirming (without supporting documentary evidence) the existence of large scale civilian massacres as a justification for the air raids. In the meantime, the British government had released figures that at least 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians had been massacred: "but that estimate is likely to be low." Prime minister Tony Blair had claimed that Milosevic was "set on a Hitler style genocide equivalent to the extermination of the Jews during World war II" (See Peter Golan, Kosovo; the war and its aftermath, Labor focus on Eastern Europe, no. 64, 1999, p. 26). According to NATO "large numbers of bodies were brought in by trucks under the cover of darkness. The bodies were then thrown down the shafts, or were disposed of entirely in the mine's vats of hydrochloric acid... " (Richard Gwyn, No genocide, no justification for war on Kosovo, Toronto Star, 3 November 1999). Estimates of the number of ethnic Albanians slaughtered went upward from 10,000. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen put the count at 100,000: "We've now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing... They may have been murdered" 9  "Genocide is starting," stated German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping in a television address.10 (Richard Gwyn, No genocide, no justification for war on Kosovo, Toronto Star, 3 November 1999).

In the wake of the bombings, 

 NATO's Propaganda Machine 

From the outset of the bombings, a full-fledged media "cover-up" was launched with a view to thwarting public debate on the War. The Alliance had embarked on a massive propaganda campaign. The legitimacy of NATO's humanitarian mission was at stake in the face of massive destruction and mounting civilian casualties. In a stylized "wag the dog" mascarade, civilian deaths were justified as inevitable "collateral damage". According to the Pentagon, "there is no such thing as clean combat."17 Serbia was casually presented to public opinion as the "Aggressor", the air raids were portrayed as a "humanitarian operation" with NATO personified as "the savior of ethnic Albanian Kosovars". 

The hidden agenda was to "silence the silent majority." 

The Western media heeding to the Alliance's demands was blatantly misleading public opinion. The impacts of the bombings on civilians were reported in a sparsely fashion. Civilian casualties were either denied, justified or blamed on the Serbs. In turn, the sequence of TV images had been manipulated, a carefully waged media cover-up was launched consisting in side-tracking or trivialising important occurrences including the bombing of civilians. The "main event" underlying the bombings was often replaced by a "secondary event" of lesser significance which was then highlighted and casually transformed into the "main event". 

For instance, the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was bombed with high tech missiles, the incident was labelled an "unfortunate mistake", an error in targeting attributable to "the use of outdated maps". CNN covered the incident by trivialising the "main event", while at the same time spotlighting the assault of the American embassy in Beijing by students using rocks and stones. In the meantime, the missile attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade ("main event") had been shoved into the background. Political and military commentators were brought in. It was no longer the Chinese embassy in Belgrade which was being bombed but the American embassy in Beijing. In orchestrating the media cover-up, anti-war commentators were removed from mainstream public affairs programs, TV content was closely scrutinized by producers, the images of civilian deaths and destruction relayed from Belgrade were seldom displayed, journalists were brought under tight political supervision. While the Western media (controlled by big business), did not hesitate to reproach NATO for having committed "errors" and "tragic mistakes", the legitimacy of the military operation and its humanitarian mandate were not questioned.

"Public opinion is confronted with a loaded question which allows only one answer. In the present war, that question is, "Doesn't ethnic cleansing have to be stopped?" This simplification allows the media to portray Yugoslavia rather than NATO as the aggressor. The alliance, in a complete inversion of reality, is presented as conducting an essentially defensive war on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians..." when in fact ethnic Albanians are the principle victims of NATO's "humanitarian bombings."18

Political Cover-up 

In the course of "covering-up" the real motivations of NATO in launching the War, the international media failed to mention that an official report of the German Foreign Ministry (used to establish the eligibility of political refugees from Kosovo) confirmed that there was no evidence of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo in the months immediately preceding the bombings. 

Who was lying? German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had justified NATO's intervention pointing to a "humanitarian catastrophe", yet the internal documents of his own ministry stated exactly the opposite: 

"Even in Kosovo an explicit political persecution linked to Albanian ethnicity is not verifiable. The East of Kosovo is still not involved in armed conflict. Public life in cities like Pristina, Urosevac, Gnjilan, etc. has, in the entire conflict period, continued on a relatively normal basis. The actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military opponent [KLA] and its actual or alleged supporters."... 28 [W]ith an agreement made with the Serbian leadership at the end of 1998 ... both the security situation and the conditions of life of the Albanian-derived population have noticeably improved... Specifically in the larger cities public life has since returned to relative normality."29 

The above assessments were consistent with several independent evaluations of the humanitarian situation in Kosovo prior to the onslaught of the bombing campaign. Roland Keith, a former field office director of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), who left Kosovo on March 20th (four days before the beginning of the air campaign) confirmed that most of the violence in Kosovo had been instigated by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA): 

"Upon my arrival the war increasingly evolved into a mid intensity conflict as ambushes, the encroachment of critical lines of communication and the [KLA] kidnapping of security forces resulted in a significant increase in government casualties which in turn led to major Yugoslavian reprisal security operations... By the beginning of March these terror and counter-terror operations led to the inhabitants of numerous villages fleeing, or being dispersed to either other villages, cities or the hills to seek refuge... The situation was clearly that KLA provocations, as personally witnessed in ambushes of security patrols which inflicted fatal and other casualties, were clear violations of the previous October's agreement [and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199]. The security forces responded and the consequent security harassment and counter-operations led to an intensified insurrectionary war, but as I have stated elsewhere, I did not witness, nor did I have knowledge of any incidents of so-called "ethnic cleansing" and there certainly were no occurrences of "genocidal policies" while I was with the KVM in Kosovo. What has transpired since the OSCE monitors were evacuated on March 20, in order to deliver the penultimate warning to force Yugoslavian compliance with the Rambouillet and subsequent Paris documents and the commencement of the NATO air bombardment of March 24, obviously has resulted in human rights abuses and a very significant humanitarian disaster as some 600,000 Albanian Kosovars have fled or been expelled from the province. This did not occur, though, before March 20, so I would attribute the humanitarian disaster directly or indirectly to the NATO air bombardment and resulting anti-terrorist campaign."30

"Kosovo's Killing Fields" 

Two days prior to the onslaught of the bombings (following the refusal of Belgrade to accept the Military Appendix of the Rambouillet Agreement), British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a prepared statement to the House of Commons, called upon the Western Alliance "...to act to save thousands of innocent men, women and children from humanitarian catastrophe, from death, barbarism and ethnic cleansing by a brutal dictatorship " The next day, as the air war began, President Clinton stated: "What we are trying to do is to limit his (Milosevic''s) ability to win a military victory and engage in ethnic cleansing and slaughter innocent people and to do everything we can to induce him to take this peace agreement." (Quoted in Stator, Where Are Kosovo''s Killing Fields, 17 October 1999). .. The media promptly responded to these statements by fabricating and confirming (without supporting documentary evidence) the existence of large scale civilian massacres as a justification for the air raids. In the meantime, the British government had released figures that at least 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians had been massacred: "but that estimate is likely to be low." Prime minister Tony Blair had claimed that Milosevic was "set on a Hitler style genocide equivalent to the extermination of the Jews during World war II" (See Peter Golan, Kosovo; the war and its aftermath, Labor focus on Eastern Europe, no. 64, 1999, p. 26). According to NATO "large numbers of bodies were brought in by trucks under the cover of darkness. The bodies were then thrown down the shafts, or were disposed of entirely in the mine's vats of hydrochloric acid... " SOURCE IBID ? Estimates of the number of ethnic Albanians slaughtered went upward from 10,000. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen put the count at 100,000: "We've now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing... They may have been murdered" 9 "Genocide is starting," stated German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping in a television address.10 (Richard Gwyn, No genocide, no justification for war on Kosovo, Toronto Star, 3 November 1999). The "Kosovo Killing Fields" had become part of a fabricated media consensus.

Forensic Evidence in the Wake of the Bombings In the wake of the bombings, the existence of large scale massacres of civilians was casually reaffirmed by NATO. In mid June 1999 British Foreign Office Minister Geoff Hoon stated emphatically that according to the reports gathered from the refugees: "it appears that around 10,000 people have been killed in more than 100 massacres." ... On Aug. 2, the number jumped up by another 1,000 when Bernard Kouchner, the United Nations'' chief administrator in Kosovo, said that about 11,000 bodies had already been found in common graves throughout Kosovo. He said his source for this information was the ICTY. But the ICTY said that it had not provided this information. To this day, the source of Kouchner''s estimates remains unclear. However, that number of about 10,000 ethnic Albanians dead at the hands of the Serbs remains the basic, accepted number, or at least the last official word on the scope of the atrocities. (Stator op cit)

This "accepted number" of 10,000 which was part of the media consensus, however, was in blatant contradiction with the evidence collected by the FBI and forensic teams sent into Kosovo under the auspices of the Hague Tribunal: 

During its four-month war against Yugoslavia, NATO argued that Kosovo was a land wracked by mass murder; official estimates indicated that some 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in a Serb rampage of ethnic cleansing. Yet four months into an international investigation, bodies numbering only in the hundreds have been exhumed. The FBI has found fewer than 200. Piecing together the evidence, it appears that the number of civilian ethnic Albanians killed is far less than was claimed. While new findings could invalidate this view, evidence of mass murder has not yet materialized on the scale used to justify the war. This could have serious foreign policy and political implications for NATO and alliance governments.... The Spanish team was told to prepare for the worst, as it was going into Kosovo''s real killing fields. It was told to prepare for over 2000 autopsies. But the team... found no mass graves and only 187 bodies, all buried in individual graves. The Spanish team's chief inspector compared Kosovo to Rwanda. "In the former Yugoslavia crimes were committed, some no doubt horrible, but they derived from the war," Juan Lopez Palafox was quoted as saying in the newspaper El Pais...Bodies are simply not where they were reported to be. For example, in July a mass grave believed to contain some 350 bodies in Ljubenic, near Pec -- an area of concerted fighting -- reportedly contained only seven bodies after the exhumation was complete... Investigators have frequently gone to reported killing sites, only to find no bodies. In Djacovica, town officials claimed that 100 ethnic Albanians had been murdered but reportedly alleged that Serbs had returned in the middle of the night, dug up the bodies, and carried them away. In Pusto Selo, villagers reported that 106 men were captured and killed by Serbs at the end of March. NATO even released satellite imagery of what appeared to be numerous graves, but again no bodies were found at the site. Villagers claimed that Serbian forces came back and removed the bodies. In Izbica, refugees reported that 150 ethnic Albanians were killed in March. Again, their bodies are nowhere to be found. Ninety-six men from Klina vanished in April; their bodies have yet to be located. Eighty-two men were reportedly killed in Kraljan, but investigators have yet to find one of their bodies... [O]ur own research and survey of officials [strafor] indicates that the numbers of dead so far are in the hundreds, not the thousands... Given progress to date, it seems difficult to believe that the 10,000 claimed at the end of the war will be found. The killing of ethnic Albanian civilians appears to be orders of magnitude below the claims of NATO, alliance governments and early media reports... It really does matter how many were killed in Kosovo. The foreign policy and political implications are substantial. There is a line between oppression and mass murder. It is not a bright, shining one, but the distinction between hundreds of dead and tens of thousands is clear. The blurring of that line has serious implications not merely for NATO''s integrity, but for the notion of sovereignty. If a handful -- or a few dozen -- people are killed in labor unrest, does the international community have the right to intervene by force? By the very rules that NATO has set up, the magnitude of slaughter is critical. (Stratfor, Where Are Kosovo''s Killing Fields? - 17 October 1999 )

From the Horse's Mouth

The alleged indiscriminate mass killings of Albanian civilians had been invalidated by the FBI and European forensic teams working under the auspices of the Hague Tribunal (ICTY) casting doubt on NATO's justification for waging the war. NATO was lying to itself. The forensic reports had fully revealed the falsehoods and lies underlying NATO's claim of mass murder and ethnic cleansing. The forensic and police investigators had uncovered several hundred bodies in grave sites in Kosovo as opposed to the 10,000 to 100,000 civilian massacres claimed by NATO and Western governments as a pretext for waging the War.

The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) (while upholding the war crimes indictment against members of the Yugoslav government), acknowledged the exhumation of 2,108 bodies in Kosovo from grave sites in Kosovo.11 This figure included the deaths of ethnic Albanians, Serbs, Romani and other ethnic groups who died during the war (23 March -9 June 1999) from all known causes (including politically motivated executions and massacres of civilians, NATO air strikes, the ground-war between the KLA and the Yugoslav Armed Forces and natural causes). In other words, "the allegations of indiscriminate mass murder, rape camps,...crematoriums, mutilation of the dead have not been borne out" by the police investigations and forensic evidence. 12


Copyright   .  2002. Reprinted for fair use only


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