by Justin Raimondo
The worst part of the NATO 50th anniversary "celebration" is the omnipresence of Tony Blair on television: The theory is that he has taken the lead away from Bill Clinton on the Kosovo issue because the Great Pants-dropper is damaged goods. Tony, on the other hand, is an all-around class act: his accent is within acceptable limits, somewhere between Masterpiece Theater and East Enders. There is about him an air of moral rectitude, such as Clinton could never muster, as he primly tells Jim Lehrer of PBS that Serbian television is "a perfectly legitimate part of Milosevic's repressive apparatus," just as much as the Yugoslav army or police." Lehrer did not pursue the point, but his skeptical expression said it all.
WRONGFUL TO THE MAX
While Blair may be able to get away with this sort of thing in the U.K., which has no written guarantee of free speech and press, trying to pass off television stations as "military targets" is not going to sell very well in America. Claire Short, Blair's secretary for international development, answered the protests of international journalists' organizations with the telling remark that "the constant stream of propaganda and wrongful information" coming out of the Serbian media was a military asset that prolonged the war: Serb TV, in Short's phrase, is "the recruiting sergeant for Milosevic's wars." Now there's a nice phrase: wrongful information. Not necessarily inaccurate, mind you, but morally wrong all the same. As for being the best recruiting agent for the Yugoslav Army, that would be NATO, a fact noted by BBC correspondent John Simpson in his dispatches from Belgrade.
SIMPSON IN BELGRADE
Simpson is being denounced as having a "pro-Serb bias" by British officials. How much longer before they call him home? Since the BBC (like Serb TV) is run and subsidized by the government, it is a possibility that caused a fracas in the British press, with a few articles about it over here, but not much. The British government thought he had been grossly simplistic in suggesting that the Serbs had united behind the previously unpopular President Milosevic as a result of the bombing, and that he had swallowed Serbian propaganda about the effect of NATO's air raids. But Simpson is hardly the first to notice Milosevic's new popularity at home, and the effect of the air raids is obvious: NATO can bomb all of Yugoslavia back to the Stone Age, but it cannot prevent the pictures of its crimes from getting out. Yet Simpson's stories are not analytical, but are for the most part glimpses of ordinary people, rather than interviews with Serbian officials and political figures, and can hardly be construed as propaganda: They are simple human interest stories, and that is precisely why the Blairites want to silence him: for what really shines through in his pieces is the unique charm of the Serbs under fire and their bewilderment over the fact that they, the most Western of Balkan peoples, are not only being bombed but also vilified en masse. Simpson makes the Serbians come alive on paper; they are not names attached to quotes, but flesh-and-blood human beings -- not the sort of people who deserve to be bombed. And that is precisely the sort of "wrongful information" Blair and his minions cannot allow.
DEATH OF AN ELEVATOR OPERATOR
The idea that Serb TV -- with its old war movies, endless footage of Milosevic meeting with various Serbian Orthodox clergy, and graphics of Madeleine Albright growing vampire fangs as a building burns in the background -- is some kind of powerful propaganda weapon is laughable. As Robert Fisk, reporting from Belgrade, put it in the London Independent,: "Surely NATO wouldn't waste its bombs on this tiresome station with its third-rate propaganda and old movies, let alone kill its staff." Fisk was wrong: they would, and did. Ten people were killed -- including the elevator operator, a young man in his twenties called Branko, according to one of our correspondents in Belgrade, whose pitiful salary was the only reason he had taken the job.
MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA
The dark future beckons as the Washington Times reports that the State Department is proposing yet another peacekeeping mission, this time to the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Two U.S. military officers are now posted in the capital city of Tblisi, in addition to 102 unarmed peacekeepers from 22 nations. The American occupation of Macedonia, you will recall, started on a similar scale, and under the UN rubric, with incremental and little-noticed increases until an entire army of "peacekeepers" -- armed to the teeth -- is now encamped on the border with Kosovo, poised to attack. The big problem in Georgia is a separatist movement in the province of Abhazia, openly aided by the Russians. Georgia's President, Eduard Shevardnadze, former Soviet foreign minister and a longtime favorite of the Western media, was almost killed by rebels and was for a time driven out of Tblisi by Abhazian forces. The U.S. is eager to help keep Shevardnadze's perpetually shaky regime afloat with massive foreign aid, but perhaps only military intervention by some outside power can save him from yet another humiliating fall. In anticipation of being the next beneficiary of NATO's "humanitarianism," he made a point of being the only head of a former Soviet republic to endorse NATO's actions. Speaking at the Nixon Center in Washington during the NATO gathering, the Georgian President was enthusiastic in his accolades to the wise men of NATO: "There is no other way than to use force," he opined, doubtless noting the similarity between NATO's methods and his own attempt to beat down his domestic opposition. "This is the only way to stop the ethnic cleansing and extreme separatism." The key difference with Kosovo, however, is that the U.S. does not favor these separatists, who are not really separatists at all but advocates of reunion with Mother Russia. Even more volatile than the crisis over Kosovo, the Georgia-Abhazia dispute is the next item on Madame Albright's agenda: the war on the ground we keep hearing so much about may start in Pristina but may not stop until it reaches Tblisi -- and points beyond.
THE NEWS -- BEFORE IT HAPPENS
An article by Daryl Borquist published by the U.S. Naval Institute reveals yet more evidence of what many opponents of U.S. intervention in World War II had long suspected: that FDR had full foreknowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Borquist cites documents from the Red Cross, which show that they were ordered to stockpile supplies in advance for handling large numbers of casualties. According to the testimony of the daughter of a Red Cross official, her father was called into a secret meeting with FDR in which the President told him that the attack was expected. When he protested at the President's course of action -- or, rather, inaction -- FDR replied that the American people would never agree to enter the war in Europe unless they were attacked within their own borders." Today the geographical parameters of a similar attack need not be within our formal borders, since the real boundaries of the Empire extend way beyond that. American centurions all along this far-flung frontier, from the Korean peninsula to Macedonia, are sitting ducks for whatever local warlord happens to invite our displeasure. The alleged 'kidnapping" of the three American soldiers held captive in Belgrade turned out to have been a border incursion by NATO into Serbian territory -- and now we learn that this isn't the first time American troops have been captured and held by the Serbs along the Macedonian-Serbian border. Reporting for Insight magazine, James P. Lucier and the brilliant Jamie Dettmer -- whose acerbic analyses for MSNBC of the war have made him a hero of the antiwar movement -- reveal that frequent skirmishes on that ill-defined border had previously led to similar incidents: "In fact," say Lucier and Dettmer, "it happened so frequently that U.S troops destined for service in Macedonia with the UN peacekeeping forces routinely received special training in Germany on how to react to such abductions, according to newspapers published in Germany for the troops." Insight reports that two Americans and two Norwegians went missing in January 1994, and were held for 11 hours by the Serbs. The U.S. military acted swiftly to cover up the evidence, arresting an American journalist, Richard W. Haverinen, and holding him for 6 hours after he questioned officers about the incident. The original American contingent in Macedonia, you will remember, was part of a UN operation, controversial in Congress because American troops were told to tear off their U.S. Army insignia and don the blue berets of the United Nations. When the UN operation ended, instead of coming home, the American troops stayed, 350 sitting ducks, a human tripwire waiting to be set off by a cross-border incident. While the American people oppose the introduction of ground troops, in the emotional atmosphere created by another easily foreseeable incident, NATO will have the perfect cover to start the war on the ground. And remember, you didn't have to wait 50-plus years to find out about it, as in the case of Pearl Harbor: you read it here first -- before it even happened.
It isn't just the major media who are the frontline soldiers in NATO's war on the Serbs. The specialty press is also doing its bit for the war effort, with the Bay Area Reporter -- San Francisco's oldest and most widely-read gay newspaper -- leading the troops. A front page story reprinted from the Melbourne Star Observer, Australia's leading gay rag, is headlined "Serbs Demonize Gays." The story, by Ron Bell, the paper's news editor, reports that "Yugoslav television is demonizing Western leaders by accusing them of being gay, according [to] a leading gay rights advocate in Belgrade, Dusan Maljkovic, a 23-year-old openly gay student, journalist, and gay rights advocate." According to Maljkovic, "The Serbian media accused the leaders of the West to be gay or lesbian, and presented it as a 'sexual perversion' and 'mental disorder,' so all our efforts to change the opinion of the Serbian population towards accepting homosexuality as a normal aspect of sexuality are now destroyed." Yet another reason to blow up Serb TV and slaughter 10 civilians: these people were homophobes! For the crime of outing Slovenian prime minister Janez Srnovsek, he accuses the Serbian press of engaging in a "propaganda war." This is just the kind of "hate crime" the Bay Area Reporter is trying to outlaw in America -- they led the local campaign to deprive right-wing talk radio KSFO of its license for "insensitivity" to gays -- but Yugoslavia is good for a start. In a statement of mind-numbing stupidity, Bell writes that Maljkovic, a member of a gay Yugo group called the "Campaign Against Homophobia," "worries that gays and lesbians are now in more danger than ever as a result of the war." Naturally, this danger is not from the bombs dropping daily on Serbian civilian areas, but from the fact that "anyone who doesn't fit the standard model of the strong man defending his native land, determined to fight for it until the last drop of blood, is a possible victim of discrimination." Oooohhhh! Poor baby! How dare Serbian patriots "discriminate" against defeatists and aspiring collaborators! Don't they realize that they must allow their country to be conquered before they violate the delicate sensibilities of Dusan Maljkovic? The laws forbidding same-sex relations were repealed in 1994, as is not the case in a dozen American states, but the big problem in Serbia -- according to Maljkovic -- is not the death and destruction caused by NATO's warplanes and missiles, but the fact that Serbia's parliament has failed to pass legislation banning discrimination against gays in employment. Here is yet another "hate crime" that the Serbians can be found guilty of in the war crimes trials that are likely to follow a Serbian defeat. The crowning glory of this war for political correctness will come when NATO troops march into Belgrade, and arrest Milosevic for "homophobia."
Justin Raimondo's Wartime Diary will not appear Sunday. It will return on Monday.
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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).