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
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 build-up to the invasion
of Iraq, the media coverage in the spring of 1999 was a series
of fraudulent justifications, beginning with US Defence 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 US 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."
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
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 US 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
"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."
were the Kosovo Liberation Army. Seven years earlier, the KLA
had been designated by the State Department as a terrorist organisation
in league with Al Qaida. 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 subsidised 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."
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 Annexe B, which Madeline 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’ defence select committee, Annexe
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.
was a chapter dealing exclusively with the Kosovo economy. This
called for a "free-market economy" and the privatisation
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 uncolonised by western capital.
u2018Socially 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 per
cent 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 centres of industry, including
the Zastava car factory, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless.
"Not one foreign or privately owned factory was bombed,"
the foundation of this massive lie, Kosovo today is a violent,
criminalised UN-administered "free market" in drugs
and prostitution. More than 200,000 Serbs, Roma, Bosniacs, 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."
Security Council Resolution 1244 recognises Kosovo as an integral
part of Yugoslavia, and does not authorise 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 per cent 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.
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.
Pilger was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, filmmaker and playwright. Based in London,
he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s
highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his
work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new book, Tell
Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs, is
published by Jonathan Cape next month. This article was first published
in the New Statesman.
John Pilger 2004