by Justin Raimondo
The television coverage of the war has degenerated into a pep rally for the military effort. How long must we endure John Hockenberry's sermonettes, "Live from Albania," as he regurgitates every rumor and propaganda handout fed to him by the KLA? I may not live through another Crossfire featuring Bianca Jagger and Cato Institute scholar Doug Bandow. The nightly coverage of the U.S. bombings in Belgrade and elsewhere in Yugoslavia has been practically phased out, and instead we are subjected to endless hours of propaganda, the refugee loop. I think I am beginning to pick certain individuals out in the crowds of Kosovars: there goes the old man in a wheelbarrow, again. I recognize them as if they were old friends.
CHRISTIANE COMES OUT
If this war is the work of any one individual, then "credit" -- if that is the word -- must go to CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour, whose reports from Bosnia played such an important role in demonizing the Serbs and mobilizing public opinion behind NATO's assault on Yugoslavia. The myth of Balkan Muslim victimology has been her journalistic stock-in-trade for years, and the payoff is this war, which she tried mightily to bring about. Amanpour is quite miffed that Belgrade has expelled her from the country she did so much to turn into a killing field, and on Larry King Live the other day she was livid: "The reason I am not in Belgrade right now is because of direct physical and verbal threats by high-level officials and paramilitaries associated with the government there." But what does she expect? For the past 8 years she has been "reporting" that the Serbs are the root of all evil in the Balkans, and the Muslims are little lambs -- a view held by no serious observer of the Balkan scene.
But the Iranian-born Amanpour has been an effective and tireless advocate for her people, if not a paragon of journalistic objectivity. Her own very interesting concept of objectivity was explained in answer to a question from Larry King about government lies during wartime. "Christiane," he said, "today on an airplane, a veteran of 120 missions in Vietnam told me that [during the] Vietnam [war], we . . . lied all the time, that both sides lie in war. Is this to be accepted by the correspondent?" Since Amanpour's lies are so closely associated with those of the U.S. government -- does hubby James Rubin, State Department spokesman, vet her material? -- her answer sought to blur the boundary between truth and lies. "Look, you know, everybody spins," she said, "but I think that you have to be really careful before you make a moral equivalence between both sides. Every story is not the same. We're not discussing, you know, a town meeting in the United states. We're discussing one of the most important violations of human rights and humanity that we have seen at the end of our century." There is no moral equivalence in Amanpour's mind between the Serbian people and the Kosovars: in this ancient battle over a much-disputed land, she is unequivocally and unashamedly a partisan. The whole idea of objectivity, journalistic or otherwise, is alien to her: she is a soldier in a war, a holy war if you will, and she scoffs at the very idea of neutrality, her dark Middle Eastern features stern and her full lips set in a seemingly permanent sneer.
IN A PURE SENSE
Since, according to Ms. Amanpour, the Serbs are the incarnation of pure evil, "I think it -- it demands of us an extra rigorous attempt to be clear about what's going on," she avers, "to use objectivity in a pure sense, which means being fair and giving the sides a fair hearing. But it does not mean treating each side the same, because objectivity does not mean neutrality." Objectivity "in a pure sense" means letting everyone have their say and then choosing sides. Perhaps it was this sort of objectivity that led her to miss out on reporting the ethnic cleansing of 350,000 Serbs from the Croatian-held Krajina region of Bosnia.
THEORY AND PRACTICE
What this means, in practice, is what has happened to coverage of the war in general: the two sides are obviously not treated the same in that a different standard of truth is applied. Unverified reports are treated as fact so long as the source is an illiterate Albanian farmer or a KLA cadre: but the incontrovertible images of wanton destruction caused by Allied bombing are always preceded with the warning that the source of these images is Serb TV, and therefore automatically dubious. This is the implementation of the Amanpour School of Journalism, which holds that journalism is war conducted by other means.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT
As part of the war effort, the U.S. government is stepping up its propaganda effort aimed at the people of Yugoslavia: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, once on its last legs, is now a bustling hive of activity, and Madeleine Albright, that media hound, has gotten into the act, beaming her own little messages in Serbo-Croatian to the Serbian people. One such missive, delivered on April 16, is a weird mix of unintentional humor and very intentional threats: "I am speaking again to the people of Serbia because I believe your leaders are not telling you the truth about what is going on in the conflict over Kosovo," she declared, adding, "I recognize that you may not believe me either." Oh Madeleine, you are so smart -- no wonder you're the first female secretary of state! "But you can believe your own eyes and ears," she continues. "They tell you that the nineteen nations of NATO and the fifteen nations of the European Union are united against the policies of the Belgrade regime. And they tell you that your closest neighbors share NATO's goals." In other words: you are about to be invaded, and any one of your "neighbors" could be used as a launching pad. But, she insists, "we do not want to harm the Serb people. We have no secret agenda. NATO has no wish to conquer your country and expand eastward." That's right -- all those bombs falling on your heads, killing and maiming, blowing up passenger trains and hospitals, those are really love-bombs, tokens of our good will falling like manna from heaven. Boy, what a convincing spiel that is -- a few more broadcasts like that from Madeleine, and Milosevic's days are numbered.
OR GIVE ME DEATH
Albright is right, in one sense: NATO's agenda is no secret, at least not since the full text of the so-called peace agreement touted at the Rambouillet conference has now been published. The interesting thing is that it wasn't the Yugos who released the secret "Appendix B" of the agreement, but the Kosovars themselves, who published the heretofore secret section on their Kosovo Crisis Center website. The Rambouillet agreement was supposedly concerned with easing the plight of the Albanians in Kosovo, but Appendix B, entitled "Status of Multinational Military Implementation Force," grants NATO complete freedom of movement "throughout all Yugoslavia." Article 8 of this Appendix reads "NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircrafts, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY." This means not just Pristina, but Belgrade would be occupied by NATO troops. Furthermore, NATO troops were to be granted complete legal immunity from local laws, and were to be granted use of all roads and airports without cost. Rambouillet was not a "peace treaty," but an ultimatum: surrender your country's independence, or die. Having already accepted in large part the provisions granting Kosovo full autonomy within the Yugoslav framework, the Serbs were told that Appendix B and the autonomy agreement were "an indissoluble packet." Unwilling to hand their nation over to Madeleine Albright, the Yugos chose to fight. God help us all if they lose: for then the Madeleine Albrights of this world will have free reign, and the ultimatums will fly fast and furious.
REPUBLICANS, TAKE NOTE
The John McCain Media Marathon continues. The conventional wisdom is that McCain has gotten a big jump on the other GOP presidential candidates on account of his visibility on the war question, but all the attention may boomerang. One of the dangers of overexposure in this case is that Republicans are really getting to know McCain, and this may not always work to his advantage. The talkative McCain may just have talked himself out of any serious consideration when he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press [April 11] that "We need Joe Biden for Secretary of State." "Is that an offer by President McCain?" asked an astonished Russert. McCain's reply: "Absolutely!" Setting aside the presumptuousness of President McCain appointing his Cabinet on national television before a single primary vote has been cast, perhaps a switch in tactics for his campaign is in order. McCain might want to consider running in the Democratic primary: it is less crowded, and -- after Madeleine Albright -- his "Biden for Secretary of State" campaign may prove wildly popular with Democratic primary voters.
Justin Raimondo's Wartime Diary will not appear Sunday. It will return 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).