photo by Yoshinori Abe

April 10, 2000


We know that they lied. There was no "holocaust" in Kosovo that justified NATO's "humanitarian" intervention" – just a civil war in which there were 2,108 casualties on both sides before NATO's bombs began falling. And just as there were no Nazi-like legions of Serbian mass murderers engaged in an orgiastic slaughter of the innocents, so there was a complete absence of heroic "freedom-fighters," as NATO spokesman Jamie Rubin habitually referred to the Kosovo Liberation Army. Instead, these drug-dealing "freedom fighters" were always the real ethnic cleansers, who are even now – in the wake of their monstrous "victory" – wiping out the last Serb remnants in the land where the Serbian nation was born. The Big Lie is the oldest weapon in the arsenal of the War Party, and warmongers everywhere, in every era, have used it to mobilize entire populations against the "enemy." We know that they used it in Kosovo, big-time, to demonize the Serbs and set them up for conquest. The sheer enormity of the deception, the riskiness of such a strategy, seems utterly and completely mad. So how – you ask – did they get away with it?


The answer is to be found in a remarkable film, Judgment, produced by Jared Israel and Petar Makara of and distributed by, which shows, in miniature, how they did it – and are still doing it. Looking at this film is like suddenly being given X-ray vision, a power that enables you to literally see behind the headlines and witness a process that brings to mind the old saying about how no one would ever eat sausages if they could see how they made them.


When Penny Marshall and her film crew from Britain's Independent Television Network (ITN) journeyed to Bosnia in search of Serbian death camps they asked for, and received, permission to visit two locations, a dentention center for POWs and a refuge center run by the Serbian authorities at Omarska and Trnopolje. Ms. Marshall didn't know that she would also be caught on film, could not have known that the filmmaker would herself be subjected to the scrutiny of the camera – and so, by chance, we were given a glimpse into the internal workings and methodology of the war propaganda machine.


By chance, a Serbian RTS film crew was also filming at these locations, and since the two crews were often within a few feet of one another, there is an almost complete record of Marshall's visit to Omarska and Trnopolje. In effect, we get to see what wound up on the cutting room floor – and not only that, but we can see how Marshall and her editors cut, clipped, cropped, and took entire images out of context in order to break the completely fabricated "story" of how the Serbs were running "concentration camps" in Bosnia – a lie repeated by Bill Clinton and used against the Republicans in the 1992 presidential elections. Clinton demanded to know why George Bush was willing to countenance these "death camps" and criticized him for not taking action – military action.


I have written about "the picture the fooled the world" before, but Judgment gives a whole new dimension to this vitally important story. The photo that came out of Ms. Marshall's Bosnia expedition – of an emaciated Bosnian Muslim framed by barbed wire – sped around the world as "evidence" that the Serbs were demonic neo-Nazis bent on genocide. But it is just a photo, mute except for what is implied by the image and written in the caption. In "The Picture That Fooled the World – The Movie," we get to hear Penny Marshall as she peppers the inhabitants of the Trnopolje "concentration camp" with questions, the "correct" answers to which are implicit in her tone of voice as well as in her phrasing.

PENNY MARSHALL: "They treat you badly."

REFUGEE: "No, no, no. They are kind. Very kind."

MARSHALL: "How did you come to be here? [Unintelligible] they came for you?

REFUGEE: "By bus. I came here by bus."


But Penny and her "independent" film crew did not come all that way to hear the refugees praise the Serbs, or to photograph the clean, relatively comfortable quarters provided POWs at Omarska or the refugees wandering free at Trnopolje (none of that footage was ever used by ITN, though the film taken by the RTS crew was shown on Serbian state-controlled media). If no Serbian "death camps" existed in reality, then they would be forced to create one by means of the subtle manipulation of images. By zooming in on an isolated image, and dropping the background out altogether, Marshall and her ITN editors were able create "the picture that fooled the world." This fascinating movie documents the falsification process, and literally shows how a photo was created, cropped, and conjured out of nothing to pass judgment on a whole nation. We get to see Penny pensively scanning the crowd, looking for someone who at least looks like a victim: not any of these husky rather well-fed looking guys who insist they are being treated well, and claim to have come there voluntarily on account of the acute food shortages endemic in the wartorn region – but surely there must be someone who at least looks the part. Then we see poor Fikrit Alic – the now famous Emaciated Man – being literally pushed forward. The ITN cameras focus in tight. . .


Fikrit, as we now know, achieved his state of extreme emaciation as the result of a childhood bout with tuberculosis. This information did not appear in any of the captions than ran beneath that photo. The impact of this image was so shocking that attention was away from the telling details, that only a few nitpickers – or an unusually observant person, like the wife of German journalist Thomas Deichman – would notice: such as the barbed wire that was nailed into the fence on the same side as the alleged "death camp" inmate. But why put up a barbed wire fence if the alleged "prisoners" could pry it loose and break free?


As the film clearly shows, Marshall and her crew were filming from within a fenced-in enclosure, a storage area for wheelbarrows and other tools, that was mostly chicken-wire with a few strands of barbed wire at the top to discourage theft. So the central premise of the photo, with its jagged strands of barbed wire underscoring the image of a "concentration camp," was a lie, a visual trick of the crudest sort. Far from being prisoners, the "inmates" of this "death camp" were glad to be there, for at least they were fed and had a warm place to sleep. "Yes, we feel safe," they say to her, repeatedly. "Very safe."


In a dramatic illustration of how reality is "edited" by our warmongering Western media, Judgment shows how the images lifted from ITN's "coverage" of the "death camp" story are manipulated and reengineered to communicate a lie, juxtaposing the original images to the manufactured versions and showing how they were cropped and in at least one case completely transposed to whip up hatred against the Serbs and set the stage for NATO's Balkan conquest.


Judgment is a small cinematic jewel that capsulizes, in its short span of 32 minutes, the whole technique by which we have been sold innumerable wars. Stripped of context and color, the images of the Balkan war projected by the Western media have been subjected to a process that can only be called Orwellian. Judgment shows that Ms. Marshall and her editor, following in the fictional footsteps of Orwell's "Ministry of Truth," created the "concentration camp" at Trnopolje out of thin air. Their act of creative "reporting" reminds me of a passage from Nineteen Eighty-Four, a novel that becomes more current with each passing year. Winston Smith, the main character, is hard at work at the Ministry of Truth: his job is to "revise" or "correct" history, by eliminating or adding to the historical record according to the dictates of the Party line of the moment. He is stuck, momentarily, on a particularly difficult problem: how to make a speech by Big Brother mean something utterly different from what the great and glorious leader had actually said. All the apparent alternatives – inverting the meaning of the speech was too obvious, and making up something about the over-fulfillment of the Nine Year Plan would entail too much follow-up work:

"What was needed was a piece of pure fantasy. Suddenly there sprang into his mind, ready-made as it were, the image of a certain Comrade Oglivy, who had recently died in battle, in heroic circumstances. There were occasions when Big Brother devoted his Order of the Day to commemorating some humble, rank-and-file Party member whose life and death he held up as an example worthy to be followed. Today he should commemorate Comrade Oglivy. It was true that there was no such person as Comrade Oglivy, but a few lines of print and a couple of faked photographs would soon bring him into existence."


Ms. Marshall and her ITN crew went to Bosnia in search of concentration camps. When they got back to England, without the goods, ITN editors decided that what was needed was a piece of pure fantasy. Suddenly there sprang into their collective editorial mind – ready-made as it were – the image of a concentration camp at Trnopolje. It was true, of course, that there was no evidence of such a camp in any of the film shot by Marshall and her crew. But no matter. A few blaring headlines and in this case just one cleverly faked photo soon brought the Trnopolje "death camp" into existence.


Flashed around the world on the winged feet of the war god's messengers, the photo that fooled the world was emblematic of Western liberals' moral outrage over alleged Serbian "racist" atrocities. It is hardly surprising that this image should turn out to have been wholly manufactured by a war propaganda machine engaged in the mass-production of lies. In the past, these machines have been constructed and run by governments, and in some countries, largely the Third World, this is still the case. But in the West, where war propaganda has become a high art, this machine is entirely self-regulated, ostensibly private – and even "independent." Here is something that not even Orwell foresaw.


The Soviets were notorious for doctoring photographs, deleting the images of purged heretics like Trotsky from official portraits, and rewriting history from their own scripts. This was the original model for the techniques described in Orwell's dystopian novel. But of course everyone expected the Soviets to do this; only those willing to suspend their capacity for disbelief were taken in. Soviet propaganda was automatically discounted by virtually everyone else, and therefore of limited effectiveness. Official Yugoslav propaganda has the same stilted and hectoring air about it, and a fantastical almost surreal quality that gives it zero credibility as a source of facts. But the new propaganda techniques deployed in the West are far more subtle than anything Orwell ever dreamed of, for the idea now is to make it look as though these completely made-up "news" stories are coming from "independent" sources.


This is the function of the "Independent Television Network" in Tony Blair's Britain – to lie systematically to a thoroughly propagandized citizenry so that they don't question or protest in any large numbers when the clarion call to war is sounded. And this is true not just of ITN but of the entire Western news media that, virtually to a man, was actively cheerleading for one side rather than reporting on the civil war in the Balkans. But now the Big Lie is beginning to unravel – Christiane Amanpour's lies about the "heroic" KLA "freedom-fighters" are now exposed as we watch these noble figures turn, overnight, into bloodthirsty racist thugs intent on expanding their domain throughout the Balkans. The "genocide" that never was: the "concentration camp" that never existed; the "freedom fighters" that were really thugs. The illusions of the Kosovo war, projected so faithfully by our warmongering media, have all proven to be delusions, hallucinations induced by the narcotizing effects of war hysteria – that dangerously addictive drug that our rulers periodically shoot us up with. The idea is to keep us so high on our own moral superiority and sense of mission that we fail to notice that we are being royally used – and screwed (if you'll pardon my French) in the process.


The justice of the camera is hard to evade, and in Judgment the moral character of Marshall and her minions really comes across in an immediately visual way. Ms. Marshall, with that militantly jutting chin, the cruel mouth, her hair braided like some blonde Valkyrie, is well-cast in her role as the dishonest journalist who will bend the facts to fit the prepackaged "story." Her eyes are sleepy, and heavy-lidded: liar's eyes that reveal nothing but an occasional flash of malice, and glare, suspiciously, at the Serbian cameras. Yes, Ms. Marshall, the whole world is watching – and the jig is up.


I can't end this column without mentioning, once again, the malicious libel suit that Marshall and her ITN editors pursued and won in the British libel courts. British libel laws presume the accused guilty until proven innocent, and effectively silence anyone who cannot afford to defend themselves against the well-heeled whose foibles have been effectively exposed. When Deichman's story, originally printed in the German newspaper Novo, was picked up by the British magazine LM, edited by Mick Hume, ITN sued – and, incredibly, won. Formerly known as Living Marxism, the magazine had aroused the ire of the Marxoid and Greenish Left because of its increasingly libertarian critique of the foreign and domestic policies of the British elites. LM's articulate and effective campaign against the Serbophobia of the Blairite Left threw the New Labour imperialists into a frothy-mouthed frenzy: a widely-publicized conference attended by former US State Department Balkan desk official George Kenney, and a series of press conferences exposing the ITN faked photograph, were noted with horror by the pro-government newspaper, the (London) Guardian, which averred that:

"in Bonn, the Deichmann-Kenney-Living Marxism roadshow came unstuck. As Deichmann advanced his polished thesis in Bonn's prestigious Press Club, he noticed a rather fatter Fikret Alic standing at the back, wearing a Los Angeles baseball jacket, with other former Trnopolje inmates. Deichmann seemed unnerved. Afterwards the pair shook hands in the warm Bonn sunshine. Deichmann mumbled a few pleasantries and went off. Fikret then explained what really happened on August 5, 1992: 'We were 100 per cent behind that barbed wire. There was wire all around us. They took some of it down on August 8, 1992, when Serb television crews arrived from Belgrade and Banja Luka [when the world's media circus also arrived].' He gulped a couple of painkillers for his irreparably damaged kidneys. And that was that."


Except that wasn't that, as anyone who sees Judgment can easily attest. Fikrit Alic is clearly – visibly – lying, as did so many other Kosovars for the delectation of Western reporters. Judgment proves beyond a doubt that Fikrit and his compadres, far from being kept behind barbed wire, were free to go whenever they liked. Sadly, however, it doesn't matter to the Western media that Fikrit's lies have been caught on videotape – any more than it did to the judge in the ITN-LM libel case. As the BBC News reported the story of the verdict, the judge summed up the case by telling the jury that "LM's facts might have been right, but, he asked, did that matter?" Truth doesn't matter in the Orwellian world of the "humanitarian" militarists.


That a supposedly "free" nation, America's closest ally, and the motherland of (classical) liberalism, is now suppressing the truth about a politically contentious issue is a crime against liberty one might have expected to occur in the former Soviet Union, or in today's China. Where is the outrage? The silence, on the left especially, is deafening, and the reason for it is not so hard to discern. As Mick Hume put it in the (British) Spectator:

"Some of LM's fiercest critics, and ITN's most fervent supporters, have come from the liberal-left media. Meanwhile, many who have condemned ITN's actions and defended our right to publish are conservatives who one might not think of as the natural allies of a magazine that began life as Living Marxism. This lineup reflects some of the strange alliances that have drifted together as we thrash around in the uncharted waters of post-Cold War politics, nowhere more so than in the debate about Western intervention in the former Yugoslavia-one of the issues behind the libel case."


The US routinely expresses its disapproval of the repressive and "undemocratic" activities of "rogue" nations such as Serbia, Iraq, Iran, and others that fail to live up to its rather exacting standards. Every time the Chinese government cracks down on another wacky cult, or harms a hair on the head of yet another intellectual dissident, Republican congressmen like Ben Gilman are ready to impose sanctions and call out the 82nd Airborne. But what about the dissidents in Tony Blair's England, who are being hounded and threatened with bankruptcy for daring to speak truth to power? Our loquacious State Department – which makes a habit of criticizing the "human rights" record of virtually every nation on earth – is strangely silent. The New York Times editorial board has yet to weigh in on this subject. They are mute, all of them – and that is a judgment in itself.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of 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 is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and 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).

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