is a name that, years from now, will become a synonym
for hoax, for that is what it was, and is – and
a fairly crude one at that. The
Berliner Zeitung [March 24, 2000], and several
French newspapers exposed the Racak "massacre" as an Albanian
ruse, calling into question the January 1999 incident
that then-President Bill Clinton cited to justify the
Kosovo war. Forty villagers, civilians all, were alleged
to have been cut down in cold blood by the Nazi-like Serbs,
and a Finnish forensic team was dispatched to gather evidence.
At what the Berliner Zeitung calls "a confusing
news conference," the head of the team, Dr. Helen Ranta,
left the definite impression that "an execution had taken
place." Naturally, the Anglo-American media swallowed
the story whole, but the Zeitung and a few others
were suspicious – justifiably, as it turned out. A few
months later, the Zeitung was able to somehow get
its hands on the autopsy reports, and reveal their contents
unfiltered by the politically-pressured Dr. Ranta. "Of
all these reports," says the German newspaper,
contain any evidence of an execution scenario. The Finnish
forensic experts and their Yugoslav and Belorussian colleagues
found traces that point to a gunshot fired "relatively
close" on only one of the victims. In the other cases,
the findings were negative. Neither is the alleged absence
of gunpowder residue [on the victims'] hands documented.
As a consequence, there is no evidence that the victims
were civilians. We asked Mrs. Ranta about the reason for
this. After a brief consideration, she solved the puzzle:
The Finnish team never looked for such traces. Rather,
the tests mentioned at the press conference on March 17,
1999, were carried out to look for traces of executions
or point blank shootings. These were the tests that proved
negative. 'It was somewhat easy to misunderstand that
at the press conference,' Mrs. Ranta admits today."
short, the forensic report shows zero evidence
of a "massacre." What it shows is that, yes, there was
carnage at Racak, but it was the carnage of war, that
is, of a pitched battle pitting the Yugoslav army against
the armed guerrillas of the Kosovo "Liberation" Army (UCK).
Yet surely that isn't stopping the NATO/Tribunal propaganda
machine – which is still relentlessly spinning out the
same story – from claiming otherwise, nor will it prevent
their media echo chamber from reiterating a proven lie.
But why repeat what amounts to a not-very-clever fabrication?
Milosevic was no angel, and something
real could indeed be discovered, considering all the
digging that's been going on. Yet that assumes the officials
of this Tribunal are at all interested in such arcane,
outdated concepts as "truth" and "justice,"
which are they not. What they want to do is establish
their legitimacy and authority, and so they need to create
a myth: Milosevic must not just be convicted, he must
be villainized, so that the Tribunal, with its imperious
ways, its secret witnesses, sealed indictments, and closed
sessions, seems positively angelic in comparison.
as a political instrument of NATO (and the EU), the ICTFY,
by prosecuting the Racak "massacre" as a war crime, rather
than what it was – a battle between two armed groups –
is driving home the point that they have the power.
The Serbs can now be accused of anything, and the world
will believe it – not because of, but in spite of, the
facts. Now that, folks, is real power, in the modern
has nothing to do with it. The ICTFY prosecutors are interested
only in constructing a narrative to justify their virulent
Serbophobia and their investment in Albanian victimology.
Del Ponte's amen-corner in the Fourth Estate has a similar
investment: victimology of any sort is useful from a tabloidal
"human interest" angle, and journalists found it irresistible
during the Kosovo war, just as they are finding it almost
obligatory in reporting events surrounding Slobo's upcoming
trial. It is interesting to note that the following quote
from the AP story utilizes a technique more appropriate
to fiction than a news story. It presents the Albanian
side of the story as cold hard fact by seeing the alleged
massacre through Albanian eyes:
six hours, Rame Shabani lay motionless, his face pressed
to the dirt, while Serb police and army units shot and
mutilated 25 men on a hillside above the Albanian village
of Racak. He escaped by throwing himself into a ravine
when they opened fire. Now with former Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic in a U.N. prison, Shabani's memories
have gathered the weight of testimony. 'I heard their
screams as they were being massacred. They were begging
for their lives,'' Shabani said, sitting cross-legged
on the floor of a spartan room decorated only with a photograph
of the victims' coffins blanketed with Albanian flags.
When they were finished they sang a nationalist song:
'Who is saying, who is lying Serbia is small? Serbia is
not small. Serbia is not small.' A bullet had ripped a
hole through Shabani's leather jacket and nicked his belt,
but spared him. He was meant to be a witness, and could
provide key testimony at Milosevic's war crimes trial
in The Hague, Netherlands. 'I am not afraid any more even
to stand in front of him,' Shabani, 34, said with a steady
the precious novelistic touches, especially that bit about
the singing of a "nationalist song"! I wouldn't be surprised
if Steven Spielberg buys the screen rights: Ms. Barry,
your talents are wasted toiling away in the vineyards
of the Associated Press. You belong in Hollywood, where
your talents are sure to be appreciated to the tune of
a salary in six figures. I suppose more than half the
hack journalists on earth imagine themselves to be potentially
great writers of fiction, but it is unfortunate when they
apply their screenwriting talents to their day jobs.
SOUND OF MUSIC
bit about the "nationalist song" is the giveaway, a bit
too contrived to be true. One wonders: if the Serbs
were singing as they slaughtered, then how come the Western
television crew from AP
TV on the scene didn't hear it, see it, or film it,
as they well might have? If those dastardly Serbs were
yodeling as they mutilated, tortured, and ceremoniously
slaughtered their victims, then why did the Serbian military
alert the media to what it identified as a "terrorist
attack" and direct them to the scene? Rame Shabani's tall
tale is hardly a scenario the perpetrators would care
to advertise. As Renaud Girard reported in Le Figaro
[January 20, 1999]:
police didn't seem to have anything to hide, since, at
8:30 a.m., they invited a television team (two journalists
of AP TV) to film the operation. A warning was also given
to the OSCE, which sent two cars with American diplomatic
licenses to the scene. The observers spent the whole day
posted on a hill where they could watch the village. At
3 p.m., a police communiqué reached the international
press center in Pristina announcing that 15 UCK 'terrorists'
had been killed in combat in Racak and that a large stock
of weapons had been seized. At 3:30 p.m., the police forces,
followed by the AP TV team, left the village."
that point, as far as anyone knew, there was no massacre:
what was observed by the monitors and the media was a
gun battle. The observers did not find any evidence of
a civilian slaughter: they remarked to a French journalist
at the scene that they could not as yet "evaluate the
battle toll." It wasn't until 9 a.m. the next day that
a horrified world woke up to a grisly scene: scores of
Albanian corpses dressed in civilian clothes lined up
in a ditch. Racak, a stronghold of the UCK, was that morning
swarming with armed Kosovars, who escorted the media to
the alleged massacre site. At noon, US diplomat William
Walker arrived and declared that this was unequivocal
proof of Slobodan Milosevic's Hitlerian evil. The Albanians
gave out identical stories: the Serbs had conducted a
pogrom, breaking into civilian homes, separating the men
from the women, and virtually wiping out half the village.
But, as Girard points out:
most disturbing fact is that the pictures filmed by the
AP TV journalists – which Le Figaro was shown yesterday
– radically contradict that version. It was in fact an
empty village that the police entered in the morning,
sticking close to the walls. The shooting was intense,
as they were fired on from UCK trenches dug into the hillside."
WOULD SMOKE A CIGARETTE"
the encircled UCK guerrillas tried desperately to break
out, the fighting reached a crescendo – and some did manage
to escape, among them probably our friend, Mr. Shabani,
who has now transformed a battle into a "massacre." To
give you some idea of what we are dealing with in Mr.
Shabani, the AP story quotes him on how he would
deal with Milosevic: "I would smoke a cigarette. I would
beat him until he had open wounds, I would pour salt in
the wounds, then I would leave him to live like that."
His objectives are perfectly in line with those of the
Tribunal, although Carla Del Ponte's special style of
virulence is somewhat subtler: this, to the Tribunal,
is a credible witness, and, indeed, no better exemplar
of Albanian ultra-nationalism at its crudest and most
violent could be imagined. If Mr. Shabani did not exist,
then surely the Tribunal would have to invent him.
MINDS WANT TO KNOW
what really happened that day? Girard asks: "During
the night, could the UCK have gathered the bodies, in
fact killed by Serb bullets, to set up a scene of cold-blooded
massacre?" He reports "a disturbing fact": the journalists
present "found only very few cartridges around the ditch
where the massacre supposedly took place. Did the UCK
seek to turn a military defeat into a political victory?
Only a credible international inquiry would make it possible
to resolve these doubts." Unfortunately, we will have
nothing of the kind in The Hague.
STREET NAMED 'WILLIAM WALKER'
International Criminal Tribunal for War Crimes in the
Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) has invested its prestige and
its aspirations in this trial, and they cannot afford
to lose on this crucial point. Del Ponte claims that "the
history of Serbia is not being judged," but who can deny
that the history of that war is being weighed in the balance
in these proceedings? For the Racak "massacre" was cited
not only by Clinton but also by German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer as "the turning point" when the moral
imperative of making war on Serbia became apparent. The
road to Racak has been renamed "Rruga William Walker,"
after the US diplomat who declared on the spot that "From
what I saw, I do not hesitate to describe the crime as
a massacre, a crime against humanity. Nor do I hesitate
to accuse the government security forces of responsibility."
Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi put it in The Exile [April
from now, when the war in Serbia is over and the dust
has settled, historians will point to January 15, 1999
as the day the American Death Star became fully operational.
That was the date on which an American diplomat named
William Walker brought his OSCE war crimes verification
team to a tiny Kosovar village called Racak to investigate
an alleged Serb massacre of ethnic Albanian peasants.
After a brief review of the town's 40-odd bullet-ridden
corpses, Walker searched out the nearest television camera
and essentially fired the starting gun for the war."
HARPIES OF ICTFY
Death Star is not just American, but also European, and
its latest incarnation, the ICTFY, headquartered at The
Hague, in the Netherlands, is more a creature of the latter.
Carla Del Ponte, former
Swiss Attorney General, and the officious Louise
Arbour, a Canadian magistrate, are the twin Inquisitors
of this International Star
Chamber. They derive their authority and their methods
not from the American and British common law tradition,
but from an edict of the United Nations. In auditioning
for the roles of Supreme Justices of the proposed International
Criminal Court – another UN invention – these two Harpies
have pursued Milosevic to the very ends of the earth,
harrying him all the way to The Hague. Like the Harpies
of Greek mythology, now that they've cornered him,
they intend to tear him to shreds. But they won't do it
with the dull instrument of Rame Shabani's rather dubious
and easily refuted testimony. Del Ponte is going to have
to come up with something more substantial if she doesn't
want to fumble this, her moment in the spotlight.
of course it isn't just up to her, but also to Slobodan
Milosevic and his legal counsel – to be headed, I am now
told, by none other than Ramsey
Clark. Picking an American is, I suppose, a good move
that is, if you don't look at it too closely. To
anyone who knows anything at all about left-wing politics,
however, the choice of Clark is . . . well, it's consistent
with the whole surrealistic circus atmosphere generated
by a show trial.
a show trial is quite literally intended as an entertainment,
a kind of political slapstick in which stereotypes knock
each other over the head and go through their stylized
paces. Clark is nothing if not a walking stereotype, ever
since he joined up with the Workers World Party (WWP)
cult that runs his "International Action Center" (IAC).
Longtime readers of this column will remember my own experiences
with this wacky bunch during the Kosovo war, when they
tried to take over the antiwar opposition, and put on
rallies where old Slobo was praised as the next best thing
to Fidel Castro. Now there's a way to reach out
to the naturally "isolationist" sentiments of the American
people – tell them we have to get out of Kosovo in order
to "defend the gains of the socialist revolution" in Yugoslavia!
OF THE POD PEOPLE
WWP pod people, having taken over the body of an ex-US
Attorney General, use Clark as a front to push their own
zealous defense of virtually every tyrant on earth, from
Saddam Hussein to the black "anti-imperialist" militias
of Rwanda, to Slobodan Milosevic. Naturally, the War Party
is going to have a field day with this, and the Del Ponte-Ramsey
Clark Punch-&-Judy show will become a Morality Play
for Our Times. Clark is positively spooky, and his "International
Action Center," of which he is the titular leader, not
only defends tyrants against US intervention it
glorifies them as heroic fighters for "socialism." But
of course what else can you expect from a group that can
trace its origins to a split in the old Socialist Workers
Party, onetime followers of Leon Trotsky, over the 1956
Soviet invasion of Hungary: the Workers Worlders, you
see, were for it, and they walked out of the SWP
and formed their own party over the Hungarian issue. Now,
all these years later, one of their prize catches, formerly
a high official in the cabinet of Lyndon Baines Johnson,
is defending the record of the last Stalinist in Europe.
Somehow, it seems all too fitting, the final nightmarish
touch to this elaborate parody, The Trial of Slobodan
Milosevic as co-authored by Carla Del Ponte, Ramsey
Clark, and Franz Kafka.