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Posts by John Pilger

Be Proud of What You've Achieved


The following speech was delivered at an antiwar rally in Sydney's Hyde Park, March 20, 2005.

The other day, the Aboriginal filmmaker Richard Frankland said this: "When you've got a voice, you've got freedom, and when you've got freedom, you've got responsibility. Negotiating with politicians doesn't work. You've got to change attitudes." That's the task for all of us here today. It's not an easy one. In fact, many good people in Australia and other countries believe their voice cannot possibly be heard: that the forces of bigotry and violence are far too powerful.

And yes, they are powerful. John Howard can lie repeatedly to the Australian people and get away with it – it seems. There is no Labor opposition in federal parliament. They've become a bad joke, to the point where Kevin Rudd, the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, refuses to say anything critical of the government that is not immersed in crude sophistry.

We also know that those who are paid to keep the record straight, who are meant to challenge Howard's lies and uphold our right to freedom of speech, a freedom that is a cornerstone of any true democracy – I refer of course to the media: journalists, broadcasters – we know where they stand. We know that, apart from a few honorable exceptions, they are not merely craven and silent, but occupy a place in this society not dissimilar to the media in the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe.

Throughout my career I have reported, often undercover, from countries ruled by repressive regimes where dissidents would read me reports in the press that were no more servile and false than the reporting you read every day in the Murdoch papers in this country. In Eastern European states, for example, the papers had tame correspondents in Moscow who would parrot the Kremlin line. Now read the Washington correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald, Michael Gawenda, and there is no difference. The same parroting of Bush's dangerous absurdities, such as his claims of bringing democracy to the Middle East – when the very opposite is true.

Considering this, we might ask: Is there no shame?

Is there no shame that, in its annual review of press freedom three years ago, the international media monitoring organization, Reporters Without Borders, placed Australia 41st in the world. Countries with greater press freedom were the following: Lithuania, Bosnia, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Bulgaria, Hong Kong. All these countries have either been run by dictatorships, or racked by war or by civil upheaval; yet in 2002 they had greater press freedom than Australia, which was just ahead of autocracies. None of this, or the reasons why, are ever mentioned at the numerous back-scratching awards ceremonies so beloved by the Australian media.

Honorable exceptions aside, supine journalists, like cynical opposition politicians, like corporate academics, represent unaccountable, violent power and a corrupt democracy that today offers us no more choice that between a McDonald's and a Hungry Jack's. But they do not represent us. And they don't speak for us. And they don't speak for humanity. And they don't speak for democracy. And they don't speak for all the moral decencies by which most people live their lives. In fact, they speak for the very opposite.

I may have first understood this when I reported from repressive Czechoslovakia, with its Stalinist regime, in the 1970s. The dissenters who spoke out in that country seemed so few, yet I wondered why the regime went to such lengths to silence them and attack them and sneer at them, usually via the state press. I put this question to the great protest singer Marta Kubisova, whose thrilling voice sang the anthems of the Prague Spring in 1968. Meeting me in secret, she replied by reading to me the words of one of her most defiant songs, written by a banned Czech group called the Plastic People of the Universe. I have abridged it slightly.

"They are afraid of the old for their memory,
They are afraid of the young for their innocence
They afraid of the graves of their victims in faraway places
They are afraid of history. They are afraid of freedom.
They are afraid of truth. They are afraid of democracy.
So why the hell are we afraid of them? ... For they are afraid of us."

What all of you should remember on this second anniversary of the brutal assault on Iraq is that you are not alone: that you are part of a great worldwide movement that refuses to accept the dangers and moral indecencies of Bush and Blair and Howard. Yesterday, all over the world, people like you expressed their defiance and anger at the unprovoked attack on Iraq, a defenseless country, and the killing of more than 100,000 people and the theft of their resources and the poisoning of their land: all of it justified by demonstrable lies. Go back to a speech John Howard made early in February 2003. He spoke for 53 minutes and lied about weapons of mass destruction at least 20 times: 20 lies in less than an hour. Even Bush and Blair would have trouble topping that.

Then he sent Australian troops off to take part in an invasion, which, under the universally acknowledged and respected terms of the Nuremberg judgment in 1946, the cornerstone of international law, was "a paramount war crime."

That's not my rhetoric, nor is it agit-prop. It's the law of civilized people. And it's our job to help people understand the great crime committed in their name, and how those who claim to speak for us, such as the media, have normalized the unthinkable: as if no crime has been committed, as if thousands of people have not been murdered, as if it was all merely a respectable adjustment of the "world order." My point is, they are not respectable; they may wear the suits of respectability and travel with their fawning courts, but they are prima facie criminals, be assured.

The other day, an ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] foreign correspondent was promoting his book of professional adventures in a Sydney bookshop. He told his audience that it was good to be back in a country where politicians at least didn't kill each other. That's true, but what he didn't say was that the same politicians collude in the killing of men, women, and children in other countries: in Fallujah, where the truth remains unreported in the so-called mainstream media in this country – including the ABC, which has allowed itself to be intimidated by the Howard government for giving us, now and then, a glimpse of the truth about Bush's criminal assault on Iraq.

The time is long overdue. That time is for journalists to break ranks and speak up. It's time for teachers to write on their blackboards that great truism of Milan Kundera: "The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." It's time for those who know the dangers, but who say nothing – academics, lawyers, union leaders, even members of Parliament – to break their silence before their own privileges are undermined by the steady assault on centuries-old, hard-won civil rights, vividly expressed in the abandonment of Australians tortured in other countries by their government and the locking up of people in this country indefinitely: indeed, the erosion of the bedrock of our justice system: innocent until proven guilty.

Above all, never forget how important and right you are. It is you, in company with millions all over the world, who have taught again the great lesson of democracy. You didn't stop the invasion of Iraq, but you and the millions like you, in Spain and Britain and France and Italy and Brazil and the United States, have alerted the world to the true darkness of the regime in Washington and its collaborators.

Never in my lifetime as a journalist have I known ordinary people all over the world to be more aware of the dangers and the issues that face us. Many can't be with us today; but their support is, I believe, a presence. Think back to the popular movement, much of it led by women, that prevented conscription being introduced in Australia during the First World War. Those campaigners also felt rather isolated at times; but they weren't: they were the voice of what was right.

Had it not been for you and your movement, I believe Iran and North Korea would have been attacked by now, and in the case of North Korea, nuclear weapons might have been used.

Be proud of these achievements: be proud that the seedy, violent power of Bush and Blair and Howard has been exposed by you and that behind their bravado, they are afraid of you, and of the millions like you, so, in the words of the song, why the hell should we be afraid of them?

Other Blood on Their Hands


While apologists for Bush's and Blair's murderous adventure in Iraq see a "silver lining" in pseudo-events in the Middle East, real events in Colombia illuminate the universal nature of their "mission." The latest tells a horrific story that, had it qualified as news, probably would have been reported as a tragedy whose victims "paid the price of cocaine with blood." That was how the London Observer on Feb. 13 represented the suffering of Colombia, which is typical of most of the American and European press, with a Foreign Office minister assuring us that Colombia's woes all could be blamed on drugs; and that the "Oxford-educated" president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, was "trying to rein in rogue elements of the army"; moreover, the British government was helping him in his noble cause. As for America's colossal military involvement in Colombia, known as "Plan Colombia," whose expenditure rates just behind the billions spent in Iraq and Israel, this was merely "controversial" and "aimed at eradicating the [drug] trade." As for Bill Rammell, the junior Foreign Office minister responsible, it seems, for most of the planet, the Observer reported that he had identified a moral issue in Colombia. For the English caring classes, said Busy Bill, snorting cocaine "should be as socially taboo as was drinking a bottle of South African wine during apartheid."

Busy Bill was in Pyongyang not long ago, telling the North Koreans it was just not right for them to have nuclear weapons. That his own government was armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons was, of course, irrelevant. Prior to that, Busy Bill was telling me, in an interview at the Foreign Office, that the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, whose entire population had been brutally and illegally expelled from their homeland by British governments, could not possibly return because they would be at mortal risk from the "rising sea." When the tsunami struck on Boxing Day, it spared the Chagosas the Americans knew it would: that is why they colluded with the British to kick the inhabitants out and build a vast military base in what the U.S. Navy calls "the superb, secure, and outstanding environmental conditions" on Diego Garcia, the principal island.

Let's leave Busy Bill for a moment and return to Colombia. On Feb. 21, according to witnesses, soldiers of the 17th Brigade of the Colombian Army entered the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, in the northwest of the country. The community has no political alliance and is internationally renowned and "protected" by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. According to witness statements, the soldiers abducted and murdered eight civilians, including three young children and a teenage girl, who were hacked to death with machetes. Among them were Luis Eduardo Guerra, the community leader, and his partner Bellanira and son Deiner; Guerra was admired as a remarkable humanitarian and conciliator. Since 1997, his people have suffered more than 130 murders; there have been no convictions.

The United Nations has called for an investigation; the United States has called for an investigation; and so has the Foreign Office. If the past is a guide, the latter two will be confident that this latest horror will blow away and Colombia's facade can be erected again. For just as Bush and Blair are soaked with blood in Iraq, so they are in Colombia.

The Colombia military and police have the worst human rights record in the Western hemisphere. That the government of "Oxford-educated" Uribe is any better than his predecessors and that drugs alone are the cause of more than 20,000 murders every year is a fiction promoted in Washington and London. No one doubts that FARC, the peasant-based guerrilla group, has trafficked in cocaine, but the overwhelming majority of the drugs trade and the violence in Colombia are the responsibility of the state, its military and paramilitaries, funded and trained, directly and indirectly, by the American and British governments. Moreover, the issue of cocaine is a distraction: the fuel of the conflict, not the cause. The victims are the likes of Luis Eduardo Guerra and his family, and trade-union activists, teachers, land-reformers, indigenous and peasant leaders who work to promote social and economic justice and human rights. In his study of British foreign policy, Unpeople, the historian Mark Curtis wrote: "The war in Colombia is essentially over the control of resources in a deeply unequal society: the elite, especially the large landowners, control most of the wealth while the majority of the population lives in poverty. The basic role of the state is to marginalize the popular forces and ensure that Colombia's resources – notably oil – remain in the correct hands. [U.S. and British] strategy is to support this. … The 'war on drugs' is a cover."

Death squads linked to Colombian governments have been so successful in driving people off their farms that 76 percent of the land is now controlled by an elite of less than 3 percent of the population. Given the close links between the military and the paramilitaries, says Douglas Stokes, of Aberystwyth University, "U.S. military aid is going directly to the major terrorist networks throughout Colombia, who traffic cocaine into U.S. markets to fund their activities."

The Blair government, in common with other European governments pressured by the United States, refuses to say exactly where most of their taxpayers' millions of pounds of "drug-related assistance" to Colombia end up. "We do not give details of all the support," says Bill Rammell, "nor of specific units to whom we provide assistance, as to do so could reduce its effectiveness and potentially endanger the UK personnel involved." We get his drift. His predecessor, Keith Vaz, was less shy. "We should give as much support as possible to the government of President Pastrana," he said in January 2000. Read Amnesty's reports on the murderous connections of the Pastrana regime and you certainly get his drift. As for Uribe, the Blair government's propaganda is that he has an "impressive" record of "containing crime and violence." They mean that he has allowed the Colombian police, military, and paramilitaries to "pacify" the cities and make sections of the Colombian middle class feel safer. No one sees what they do outside the suburbs. In Uribe's first year as president, there were nearly 7,000 political killings and "disappearances," worse than the average during the four years of Pastrana.

Reflecting the American-inspired European Union line, Rammell has been promoting the Uribe regime, and his omissions are many, such as the fact that the chemicals used in turning coca into cocaine all come from the U.S. and Europe, and that significant British oil investments and human rights violations are two sides of the same coin, with BP protected by the Colombian military, and the pipeline company in which it is a major shareholder investigated for its reported links with a notorious army brigade. Such is the state-sponsored menace in Colombia that British nongovernmental organizations, together with their Colombian counterparts, are at constant risk. "We regularly urge the Colombian government," says Busy Bill, "to support and protect their work…."

The murderers of Luis Eduardo Guerra and seven others, including children, must be quaking.

Blair's Bloody Hands


Almost eight years ago, the choir of British liberalism celebrated a new age. Tony Blair, wrote the liberal thinker Hugo Young, "wants to create a world none of us have known," a world which "ideology has surrendered entirely to 'values' [and where] there are no sacred cows … no fossilized limits to the ground over which the mind might range in search of a better Britain." Besotted minds ranged far. In a Tonier-than-thou piece for the Guardian, Martin Kettle hilariously declared Blair an honorary Australian. "He is not in awe of the past," he wrote. "He is not intimidated by class. He is a meritocrat, a doer. … He is simply happy making his own history. … It would be nice to think that one day these would be thought of as British characteristics, too." Former Labour Party deputy leader Roy Hattersley described one of the most ideological regimes in modern British history as "untainted by dogma"; Blair was "taking the politics out of politics.""Goodbye, xenophobia," was the Observer's postelection front page, and "The Foreign Office says, 'Hello world, remember us?'" The Blair government, said the paper, would push for "new worldwide rules on human rights" and implement "tough new limits on arms sales."

Let's pause to consider the truth. When Blair demonstrably lied about weapons of mass destruction in order to help an extremist regime launch an unprovoked attack on Iraq, a defenseless country, the Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser Elizabeth Wilmshurst resigned, calling it, correctly, a "crime of aggression." The blood shed by more than 100,000 civilians killed and 300,000 injured is her and our witness. Now consider the "tough new limits on arms sales." A study by ActionAid reveals that the Blair government has sold weapons to 14 impoverished African countries where there is internal conflict. The people of Aceh, stricken by last year's tsunami, have been terrorized by British-supplied Hawk fighter jets, machine guns, and ammunition. Britain is a world leader in the export of small arms, even depleted uranium.

Almost everything about a Blair regime was known before it was elected. Blair's Vichy-like devotion to Washington was known: read his speeches about a new order led by America . His devotion to Rupert Murdoch, who flew him and Cherie Booth around the world first class, was known. His devotion to an extreme neoliberal Thatcherite economics was known, spelled out in Peter Mandelson's and Roger Liddle's The Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver?, in which Britain's "economic strengths" are listed as multinational corporations, the "aerospace" (arms) industry and "the preeminence of the City of London." His class contempt for the poor was known; his pre-election attacks on single mothers passed quickly into law, assisted by the majority of his new, opportunistic female MPs.

Those trying to cover for Blair and "move on" from Iraq refer to the reduction of poverty as one of his "achievements." In fact, relative poverty in childless households in the UK has reached record levels under Blair, up to 13 percent – and a greater number than under Margaret Thatcher or John Major. A certain PC-ism, such as the sound and fury over dropping the gay age of consent, adds to the illusion of a Labour government that, had it not fallen in with the awful Bush, would be celebrated as "progressive." Tell that to the people of a faraway country, more than half of whom are children, whose lives have been devastated by the fanatical Blair and his court of apologists. Read the robotic Hoon's statement on the use of cluster bombs – how Iraqi mothers would one day be "grateful" for the use of weapons that killed their children – and Ministry of Defense letters to the public that lie about depleted uranium and its Hiroshima effect. The silence of those who regard themselves as commissars of this country's and Europe's respectable, moral, liberal class is quite disgusting.

In a superb piece in the Guardian on Feb. 24, Victoria Brittain asked: "How can it be that not one mainstream public figure in Europe has denounced [Bush's systematic torture regime]?" She points out that The Torture Papers – more than 1,200 pages of government memos and reports, edited at New York University – shows systematic torture, approved and directed from on high. Such is the regime of a man with whom Blair "shares values." I thought of this when I noted the current debate in the Church of England about the "rift" caused by the "issue" of gay marriage. Compare that with the "issue" of the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent people, about which not a word is heard from those who claim moral courage as a deity. Read the searing account of Dr. Salam Ismael, who took aid to Fallujah in January. He describes the ordeal of a 17-year-old girl, Hudda Fawzi. Her father opened the door to U.S. Marines who shot him and a friend dead, then shot her elder sister, having beaten her senseless, then destroyed the family's furniture. Wounded people were dragged from their homes and run over by tanks; a clinic was destroyed by missiles. "It became clear to us," Ismael wrote, "that we were witnessing the aftermath of a massacre, the cold-blooded butchery of helpless and defenseless civilians."

It is not surprising that the Blair government has refused Ismael fresh permission to visit and speak out in Britain. His testimony, and that of many other reliable witnesses, is known and feared. Last April, the U.S. command agreed that it may well have slaughtered as many as 600 people in Fallujah. When a listener asked Judy Swallow, presenter of the BBC World Service Newshour program, why the BBC continued to suppress this truth, Swallow sent this e-mail to a colleague: "Oh God, Mike – do you take care of these sorts of things, or do we ignore them?" On the BBC Web site, she describes Newshour as "exposing injustice and challenging lies." The silence is almost never broken by those paid to "expose injustice and challenge lies," let alone set the record straight. On Channel 5, a member of the public, Neil Coppendale from Shoreham-by-Sea, confronted Blair with this question: "Bearing in mind that tens of thousands of innocent men, women, and children have died as a result of the invasion of Iraq, how do you sleep at night, Mr. Blair?" When did a journalist, one with privileged access to Blair, ever ask that? For their part, the BBC's Downing Street man Andrew Marr (apparently together with his wife) and his colleague from the Today program James Naughtie have been over to the prime minister's country home,Chequers, to sup with the killer Blair. It was Marr who, at the fall of Baghdad, told viewers that Blair had "said they would be able to take Baghdad without a bloodbath, and in the end the Iraqis would be celebrating, and on both these points he has been proved conclusively right." And it is Naughtie who has played a leading role in the British American Project, set up by Ronald Reagan to find a "successor generation" to those who propagated the Cold War on America's behalf.

If shame has no place in what is called "public life," then the rest of us should break their silence for them. The Guardian says the electorate is "cross" with Blair. Cross? Such a genteel word. Supporting Blair, in his propaganda and his contemptuous need for another term of office, is supporting mass murder.

First, They Attack the Past


How does thought control work in societies that call themselves free? Why are famous journalists so eager, almost as a reflex, to minimize the culpability of political leaders such as Bush and Blair who share responsibility for the unprovoked attack on a defenseless people, for laying to waste their land, and for killing at least 100,000 people, most of them civilians, having sought to justify this epic crime with demonstrable lies? Why does a BBC reporter describe the invasion of Iraq as "a vindication for Blair"? Why have broadcasters never associated the British or American state with terrorism? Why have such privileged communicators, with unlimited access to the facts, lined up to describe an unobserved, unverified, illegitimate, cynically manipulated election, held under a brutal occupation, as "democratic" with the pristine aim of being "free and fair"?

Do they not read history? Or is the history they know, or choose to know, subject to such amnesia and omission that it produces a world view as seen only through a one-way moral mirror? There is no suggestion of conspiracy. This one-way mirror ensures that most of humanity is regarded in terms of its usefulness to "us," its desirability or expendability, its worthiness or unworthiness: for example, the notion of "good" Kurds in Iraq and "bad" Kurds in Turkey. The unerring assumption is that "we" in the dominant West have moral standards superior to "them." One of "their" dictators (often a former client of ours, like Saddam Hussein) kills thousands of people and he is declared a monster, a second Hitler. When one of our leaders does the same, he is viewed, at worst like Blair, in Shakespearean terms. Those who kill people with car bombs are "terrorists"; those who kill far more people with cluster bombs are the noble occupants of a "quagmire."

Historical amnesia can spread quickly. Only 10 years after the Vietnam war, which I reported, an opinion poll in the United States found that a third of Americans could not remember which side their government had supported. This demonstrated the insidious power of the dominant propaganda, that the war was essentially a conflict of "good" Vietnamese against "bad" Vietnamese, in which the Americans became "involved," bringing democracy to the people of southern Vietnam faced with a "communist threat." Such a false and dishonest assumption permeated the media coverage, with honorable exceptions. The truth is that the longest war of the 20th century was a war waged against Vietnam, north and south, communist and noncommunist, by America. It was an unprovoked invasion of their homeland and their lives, just like the invasion of Iraq. Amnesia ensures that, while the relatively few deaths of the invaders are constantly acknowledged, the deaths of up to 5 million Vietnamese are consigned to oblivion.

What are the roots of this? Certainly, "popular culture," especially Hollywood movies, can decide what and how little we remember. Selective education at a tender age performs the same task. I have been sent a widely used revision guide for students of modern world history, on Vietnam and the Cold War. This is learned by 14- to 16-year-olds in British schools, sitting for the critical GCSE exam. It informs their understanding of a pivotal historical period, which must influence how they make sense of today's news from Iraq and elsewhere.

It is shocking. It says that under the 1954 Geneva agreement: "Vietnam was partitioned into communist north and democratic south." In one sentence, truth is dispatched. The final declaration of the Geneva conference divided Vietnam "temporarily" until free national elections were held on July 26, 1956. There was little doubt that Ho Chi Minh would win and form Vietnam's first democratically elected government. Certainly, President Eisenhower was in no doubt of this. "I have never talked with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs," he wrote, "who did not agree that ... 80 percent of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader."

Not only did the United States refuse to allow the UN to administer the agreed elections two years later, but the "democratic" regime in the south was an invention. One of the inventors, the CIA official Ralph McGehee, describes in his masterly book Deadly Deceits how a brutal expatriate mandarin, Ngo Dinh Diem, was imported from New Jersey to be "president" and a fake government was put in place. "The CIA," he wrote, "was ordered to sustain that illusion through propaganda [placed in the media]."

Phony elections were arranged, hailed in the West as "free and fair," with American officials fabricating "an 83 percent turnout despite Vietcong terror." The guide alludes to none of this, nor that "the terrorists," whom the Americans called the Vietcong, were also southern Vietnamese defending their homeland against the American invasion and whose resistance was popular. For Vietnam, read Iraq.

The tone of this tract is from the point of view of "us." There is no sense that a national liberation movement existed in Vietnam, merely "a communist threat," merely the propaganda that "the USA was terrified that many other countries might become communist and help the USSR – they didn't want to be outnumbered," merely that President Johnson "was determined to keep South Vietnam communist-free." This proceeds quickly to the Tet Offensive in 1968, which "ended in the loss of thousands of American lives – 14,000 in 1969 – most were young men." There is no mention of the millions of Vietnamese lives also lost in the offensive. And America merely began "a bombing campaign": there is no mention of the greatest tonnage of bombs dropped in the history of warfare, of a military strategy that was deliberately designed to force millions of people to abandon their homes, and of chemicals used in a manner that profoundly changed the environment and the genetic order, leaving a once-bountiful land all but ruined.

This revision guide reflects the bias and distortions of the official syllabi, such as the prestigious syllabus from Oxford and Cambridge, used all over the world as a model. Its Cold War section refers to Soviet "expansionism" and the "spread" of communism; there is not a word about the "spread" of rapacious America. One of its "key questions" is: "How effectively did the USA contain the spread of communism?" Good versus evil for untutored minds.

"Phew, loads for you to learn here..." say the authors of the revision guide, "so get it learned right now." Phew, the British empire did not happen; there is nothing about the atrocious colonial wars that were models for the successor power, America, in Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, to name but a few along modern history's imperial trail of blood, of which Iraq is the latest.

And now Iran? The drumbeat has already begun. How many more innocent people have to die before those who filter the past and the present wake up to their moral responsibility to protect our memory and the lives of human beings?

Calling the Kosovo Humanitarians to Account


Muted by the evidence of the Anglo-American catastrophe in Iraq, the international "humanitarian" war party ought to be called to account for its largely forgotten crusade in Kosovo, the model for Tony Blair's "onward march of liberation." Just as Iraq is being torn apart by the forces of empire, so was Yugoslavia, the multi-ethnic state that uniquely rejected both sides in the cold war.

Lies as great as those of Bush and Blair were deployed by Clinton and Blair in their grooming of public opinion for an illegal, unprovoked attack on a European country. Like the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, the media coverage in the spring of 1999 was a series of fraudulent justifications, beginning with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen's claim that "we've now seen about 100,000 military-aged [Albanian] men missing ... they may have been murdered." David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, announced that as many as "225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59" may have been killed. Blair invoked the Holocaust and "the spirit of the Second World War." The British press took its cue. "Flight from genocide," said the Daily Mail. "Echoes of the Holocaust," chorused the Sun and the Mirror.

By June 1999, with the bombardment over, international forensic teams began subjecting Kosovo to minute examination. The American FBI arrived to investigate what was called "the largest crime scene in the FBI's forensic history." Several weeks later, having not found a single mass grave, the FBI went home. The Spanish forensic team also returned home, its leader complaining angrily that he and his colleagues had become part of "a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one – not one – mass grave."

In November 1999, the Wall Street Journal published the results of its own investigation, dismissing "the mass-grave obsession." Instead of "the huge killing fields some investigators were led to expect ... the pattern is of scattered killings [mostly] in areas where the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army had been active." The Journal concluded that NATO stepped up its claims about Serb killing fields when it "saw a fatigued press corps drifting toward the contrarian story: civilians killed by NATO's bombs...." The war in Kosovo was "cruel, bitter, savage; genocide it wasn't."

One year later, the International War Crimes Tribunal, a body effectively set up by NATO, announced that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo's "mass graves" was 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. Like Iraq's fabled weapons of mass destruction, the figures used by the U.S. and British governments and echoed by journalists were inventions – along with Serb "rape camps" and Clinton's and Blair's claims that NATO never deliberately bombed civilians.

Code-named "Stage Three," NATO's civilian targets included public transport, hospitals, schools, museums, churches. "It was common knowledge that NATO went to Stage Three [after a couple of weeks]," said James Bissell, the Canadian ambassador in Belgrade during the attack. "Otherwise, they would not have been bombing bridges on Sunday afternoons and market places."

NATO's clients were the Kosovo Liberation Army. Seven years earlier, the KLA had been designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization in league with al-Qaeda. KLA thugs were feted; Foreign Secretary Robin Cook allowed them to call him on his mobile phone. "The Kosovo-Albanians played us like a Stradivarius," wrote the UN Balkans commander, Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, last April. "We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early 1990s, and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary."

The trigger for the bombing of Yugoslavia was, according to NATO, the failure of the Serbian delegation to sign up to the Rambouillet peace conference. What went mostly unreported was that the Rambouillet accord had a secret Annex B, which Madeleine Albright's delegation had inserted on the last day. This demanded the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia, a country with bitter memories of the Nazi occupation. As the Foreign Office minister Lord Gilbert later conceded to a Commons' defense select committee, Annex B was planted deliberately to provoke rejection by the government in Belgrade. As the first bombs fell, the elected parliament in Belgrade, which included some of Milosevic's fiercest opponents, voted overwhelmingly to reject it.

Equally revealing was a chapter dealing exclusively with the Kosovo economy. This called for a "free-market economy" and the privatization of all government assets. As the Balkans writer Neil Clark has pointed out, "the rump of Yugoslavia ... was the last economy in central-southern Europe to be uncolonized by western capital. 'Socially owned enterprises,' the form of worker self-management pioneered under Tito, still predominated. Yugoslavia had publicly owned petroleum, mining, car, and tobacco industries, and 75 percent of industry was state- or socially owned."

At the Davos summit of neo-liberal chieftains in 1999, Blair berated Belgrade, not for its handling of Kosovo, but for its failure to fully embrace "economic reform." In the bombing campaign that followed, it was state-owned companies, rather than military sites, that were targeted. NATO's destruction of only 14 Yugoslav army tanks compares with its bombing of 372 centers of industry, including the Zastava car factory, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless. "Not one foreign or privately owned factory was bombed," wrote Clark.

Erected on the foundation of this massive lie, Kosovo today is a violent, criminalized UN-administered "free market" in drugs and prostitution. More than 200,000 Serbs, Roma, Bosnians, Turks, Croats, and Jews have been ethnically cleansed by the KLA with NATO forces standing by. KLA hit squads have burned, looted, or demolished 85 Orthodox churches and monasteries, according to the UN. The courts are venal. "You shot an 89-year-old Serb grandmother?" mocked a UN narcotics officer. "Good for you. Get out of jail."

Although Security Council Resolution 1244 recognizes Kosovo as an integral part of Yugoslavia, and does not authorize the UN administration to sell off anything, multinational companies are being offered 10- and 15-year leases of the province's local industries and resources, including the vast Trepca mines, some of the richest mineral deposits in the world. After Hitler captured them in 1940, the mines supplied German munition factories with 40 percent of their lead. Overseeing this plundered, murderous, now almost ethnically pure "future democracy" (Blair), are 4,000 American troops in Camp Bondsteel, a 775-acre permanent base.

Meanwhile, the trial of Milosevic proceeds as farce, not unlike an earlier show trial in The Hague: that of the Libyans blamed for the Lockerbie bomb. Milosevic was a brute; he was also a banker once regarded as the West's man who was prepared to implement "economic reforms" in keeping with IMF, World Bank, and European Community demands; to his cost, he refused to surrender sovereignty. The empire expects nothing less.