February 29, 2000

The Media & Mitrovica:
NATO's Handmaidens

It was always only a matter of time before NATO resumed the bombing of Yugoslavia. This is an election year. Bill Clinton was ready to commit mass murder to hold on to the Presidency. He is ready to do the same for Al Gore and Hillary. All the ingredients needed to restart the campaign are already in place. The KLA, hoisted to power by the United States, was never going to be content with Kosovo alone. Its ambition all along has been to create a Greater Albania, comprising Kosovo, South Western Serbia, Western Macedonia, and, of course, Albania proper. NATO delivered Kosovo; now it is time to deliver the rest.

The KLA's tactics have not changed. Too cowardly and ineffectual to take on the Yugoslav army, it stages assassinations and grenade attacks in the hope of provoking Serb retaliation. The US Government and its NATO minions denounce Serb "atrocities" and issue dire threats. And CNN and the New York Times make themselves available to spread lies like unpaid whores. During the past few weeks the KLA has been busy. First, they have been making a final push to secure an ethnically pure Albanian state in Kosovo. Most of Kosovo's Serb population has already been driven out. There remains one final Serb enclave in the northern part of the town of Mitrovica. Day after day, the KLA has been staging demonstrations demanding that Albanians be allowed to "return" to their homes in the Serb sector.

Last week, 50,000 Albanians marched on Mitrovica and tried by force to get across the bridge over the Ibar River. The Serbs believe (with good reason) that these so-called "returning" Albanians are actually be KLA agents trying to provoke violence and NATO intervention. Serb suspicions are well-founded. KFOR commander Klaus Reinhardt actually praised the demonstrators who used violence against his own troops: "They have shown the way they want to live and are demonstrating for a better future. They want a united city." He obviously knows that "united" means Serb-free – an outcome that obviously pleases him. The demented NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark announced that "Mitrovica is going to be multi-ethnic, and that means ending the intimidation and other dirty work of the military units, gangs and thugs who have been sent there by Belgrade." Clark, as usual, offered no evidence to support his ravings. To Clark "multiethnic" means Serb-free.

"The problem here comes from Belgrade," spluttered UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, "This is not a simple question of local Serbs who are all stirred up north of the bridge. This is being stirred up by the…Yugoslav authorities – and the Yugoslav leadership is directly responsible for this." It is hard to appreciate fully the repulsiveness of a man like Holbrooke. This is a creature who for years has been shedding phony tears about the supposed atrocities perpetrated on Bosnian Moslems and the Kosovo Albanians. And here he is now refusing to believe that Serbs are genuine in their desperate desire to hold on to their ancestral homes. No, it is all being orchestrated by that terrible man, Slobodan Milosevic. Such lies serve to justify future violence against the Serbs. Last week's KLA-staged demonstration was a great success. KFOR announced that it will facilitate the "return" of the Albanians into northern Mitrovica. And, if this leads to violence, well, we know who will be to blame. One need hardly mention, of course, that there are no NATO plans to facilitate the return of Serbs to Pristina or Pec or any other part of Kosovo from which they have been driven out.

The KLA is also waging a nasty little war in Serbia. It has been crossing the border from Kosovo and killing any Serb it can get its hands on. Belgrade has responded by sending security forces to defend the isolated villages in the Presevo Valley from terrorists. The KLA aim is to seize South West Serbia – they refer to it as "Eastern Kosovo" – and attach it to Kosovo. Jonathan Steele writes in the Guardian that the United States has "started to build a mini-base right on the border line between Kosovo and Serbia proper, close to the village of Dobrosin, from where tanks and troops in an observation tower look down on the increasingly brazen street forays by guerrillas in broad daylight." Evidently, the Americans see nothing wrong with this cross-border infiltration, flagrantly in violation of all the UN Security Council Resolutions. The KLA is seeking to provoke Serb retaliation and engineer a "refugee" flow from Presevo – there are some 70,000 Albanians living there-into Kosovo. According to the Washington Post "'Presevo is an issue of real concern', said a Western diplomat in the Kosovo capital of Pristina. 'There is a potential for big involvement by Serb security forces,' and considerable anxiety that if reports of abuses mount, US and allied troops stationed in Kosovo could be pressured to intervene."

"Pressured to intervene"! Where would this pressure come from? The usual crowd-Clinton, Albright, Holbrooke, Talbott and so on. Once again, we are about to be sold a bill of goods about the United States accidentally stumbling into a war-with the "best of intentions," of course. NATO Secretary-General, Lord George Robertson is already blustering away: There is "no doubt that…Milosevic will have a hand in some of the provocations being organized on the Serb side," he declared, "There is clearly rising tension in the southern part of Serbia and large numbers of additional Yugoslav troops have moved into the area. And I would warn anybody who seeks to be provocative …on whatever side of the divide they may be that again we will not tolerate action being taken." Robertson's show of even-handedness is, of course, a crock. Remember Robert Gelbard, US Envoy to the Balkans, who in 1998 denounced the KLA as a "terrorist" organization? This is all part of a little charade that these creepy little politicians play on the public to demonstrate that they resort to force only after much heavy and pained deliberation.

When the bombing starts, the media will be present and politically correct with all the appropriate denunciations and lamentations. They have already started whipping up hysteria. Reporters pour out thousands of anguished words about Albanians who supposedly have fled from the northern part of Mitrovica. Expelled or murdered Serbs get a "News in Brief" mention, if they are lucky. Here is the Times' Carlotta Gall writing about Mitrovica: "For whatever reason [sic], Albanians engaged the French in heavy firefights, and in the resulting melee two French soldiers were wounded….According to the general, a crowd of Albanians gathered Sunday morning near a French guard post after a grenade exploded and wounded five Albanians. The crowd began throwing stones at French soldiers…Then a man appeared from a house, shouted at the people to get down, and fired directly at the soldiers, hitting one in the stomach and a second as he moved to react….The events are likely to aggravate relations between the French troops and the ethnic Albanians here. Thousands flocked today to the burial of the one man killed by French troops during the fighting Sunday. Avni Haradinaj, 35, a former guerrilla fighter of the Kosovo Liberation Army and a local hero, was buried with full honors by his former comrades in arms. His coffin, draped in the red Albanian flag, was carried up the hill to the edge of a wood outside the city, through a crowd of some 3,000 mourners….The general tried to reassure the Albanians of French neutrality. 'If we were shot at by Albanians, it is difficult to arrest Serbs,' he said." Note that Ms. Gall suggests twice that Albanians have good reason to doubt French neutrality. Evidently, if a NATO country is not murdering or arresting Serbs, then it cannot possibly be neutral.

A few days earlier Carlotta Gall was at her most dishonest. She began her piece with standard indignation: "A week after Serbs rampaged through the northern part of town, killing eight Albanians and forcing 120 to flee, the exodus continues, perhaps more quietly, but at a similar pace of 120 to 150 a day. The Serbs, outraged at a rocket attack on a Serbian bus that killed two and a grenade attack on a cafe that injured 15, said the rampage was a moment of anger." She is referring to the rocket attack on a bus carrying Serb civilians – the act that started the most recent violence. But she is not buying into the notion of Serb rage. "International observers and the police said the violence possessed a certain method and organization," she explains, "Ensuing actions show a similar pattern. Apartment buildings have been made targets, and the resident Albanian families have been persuaded, ordered or frightened to leave." Buried deep – almost at the end – in her story is the revelation just how untypical the events of Mitrovica are. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had just issued a report on the treatment of minorities in Kosovo. And – surprise, surprise – "virtually all the attacks on minorities are committed by Albanians on Serbs, Roma, Muslim Slavs, Turks and others, many of whom live in protected enclaves. Only in Mitrovica are Albanians still persecuted." So why is she paying such inordinate attention to these few hundred Albanians? Could it be because that is where the reporters are being directed by the US Government to look?

The eagerness with which reporters swallow every lie was clearly in evidence in Jane Perlez's story in the New York Times last week: "The United States and allied governments have detected direct radio links between Mr. Milosevic's special police in Serbia and Serbian militants in the city of Mitrovica….The Yugoslav leader is also encouraging his plainclothes police to travel to Mitrovica…and has ordered a buildup of special police units along the border between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia." No mention of the KLA. No mention of the Serbs' desperate fight for survival in Kosovo. Just straightforward US Government propaganda calculated to justify any future US military action. By the way, what was in those radio messages? Apparently, they "included statements like 'they are going here, they are going there,' – referring to movements by Albanian militants – rather than direct orders." "Albanian militants" in northern Mitrovica! Wasn't it supposed to have been "ethnically cleansed"? So what could they possibly be doing there?

This is the moment of greatest danger. It is up to all of us to point out the scandalous lying NATO is engaged in. And to make clear that we do not wish to be citizens of a terrorist state.

Text-only printable version of this article

George Szamuely was born in Budapest, Hungary, educated in England, and has worked as an editorial writer for The Times (London), The Spectator (London), and the Times Literary Supplement (London). In America, he has been equally busy: as an associate at the Manhattan Institute, editor at Freedom House, film critic for Insight, research consultant at the Hudson Institute, and as a weekly columnist for the New York Press. Szamuely has contributed to innumerable publications including Commentary, American Spectator, National Review, the Wall Street Journal, National Interest, American Scholar, Orbis, Daily Telegraph, the Times of London, the Sunday Telegraph, and The New Criterion. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Tuesday.

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