>World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org
>Investigations belie NATO claims of "ethnic genocide" in
>By Chris Marsden and Barry Grey
>9 November 1999
>Substantial evidence has emerged refuting the central justification for
>NATO's war against
>Serbia—the claim that the Milosevic regime was conducting "ethnic
>genocide" against Albanians in
>During the conflict, the NATO powers asserted that somewhere between
>100,000 (according to US
>Defence Secretary William Cohen) and 500,000 (according to an April
>1999 statement of the US
>State Department) Albanian Kosovars had been killed by Serb forces.
>Such far-fetched claims
>were already being discounted by the end of the war last June.
>But now the much-reduced official estimate of 10,000 Kosovar deaths
>has been discredited by the
>results of investigations carried out by the Hague war crimes tribunal
>and other agencies. Most
>post-war surveys estimate the actual number of deaths attributable to
>Serbian forces at less than
>The October 31 Sunday Times of London reported that an all-party
>committee of MPs had asked
>Britain's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to answer for having misled the
>public over the scale of
>civilian deaths in Kosovo. Labour MP Alice Mahon, who chairs the
>Balkans committee, said,
>"When you consider that 1,500 civilians or more were killed during
>NATO bombing, you have to ask
>whether the intervention was justified.”
>The November 3 Toronto Star ran an article by Richard Gwynn that drew
>the conclusion, "No
>genocide means no justification for a war inflicted by NATO on a
>sovereign nation. Only a certainty
>of imminent genocide could have legally justified a war that was not
>even discussed by the UN
>Security Council."
>The US State Department claims that some 1,400 bodies have been
>recovered from 20 percent of
>suspected massacre sites. But priority was given to those sites
>assumed to contain the most bodies.
>The Canadian-based publication Stratfor last month noted that "evidence
>of mass murder has not
>yet materialised on the scale used to justify the war". This is despite the
>fact that there are teams
>from 15 nations conducting investigations.
>Stratfor states that of the 150 suspected sites examined, "the bodies are
>generally being found in
>very small numbers—far smaller than encountered after the Bosnian
>war". Of the civilian dead
>found thus far, a good number were apparently executed, but others
>died as a result of fighting
>between Serb forces and the NATO-backed Kosovo Liberation Army
>(KLA), and some were
>killed by NATO bombs.
>During the war, the Trepca mining complex, supposedly the hub of
>Serbian ethnic cleansing
>operations, was compared in the British press with the Nazi death
>camps. NATO and the KLA
>claimed that as many as 1,000 bodies a day had been dropped down
>the shafts, incinerated or
>dissolved in hydrochloric acid. In the aftermath of the war, however,
>investigators surveying the
>mine complex have found no evidence of executions.
>In two trips to Kosovo since the war's end, the American FBI has found a
>total of 30 sites
>containing some 200 bodies. A Spanish team investigating one zone in
>Kosovo found no mass
>graves and only 187 bodies, all buried in individual graves. One team
>member, Emilio Perez Pujol,
>said, "There never was a genocide in Kosovo. It was dishonest and
>wrong for Western leaders to
>adopt the term in the beginning to give moral authority to the operation."
>The Western media has, in the main, ignored these reports. But there
>has been an attempt at a
>counter-attack by some supporters of NATO's war. The London Times
>ran an article that said “the
>actual number of civilians killed" was "irrelevant". The “prevention of
>mass murder and ethnic
>cleansing, on whatever scale, remains a war aim of which NATO can be
>proud,” the paper
>declared. Guardian columnist Frances Wheen coined the term "Kosovo
>revisionists", equating
>those who dispute NATO claims of genocide with right-wing historians
>who deny the Nazi
>holocaust against the Jews.
>Such statements amount to a rationalisation in advance for any military
>intervention that the US,
>Britain or NATO might decide to undertake, on the grounds of alleged
>human rights abuses, against
>any sovereign country. If the self-appointed world policemen—who
>happen to be the richest and
>militarily most powerful nations—are not even obliged to prove that the
>targeted country is guilty of
>killing and repression on a mass scale, they have a license for
>colonial-style domination not seen
>since the days of the “White man's burden” at the end of the last
>Guardian columnist Wheen's attack on “Kosovo revisionists” is an
>inversion of reality. By ignoring
>established facts for definite—and reactionary—political ends, he is, in
>fact, aping the approach of
>Nazi apologists who downplay Hitler's crimes.
>Those like Wheen who seek to dismiss the growing evidence of NATO
>lies generally attribute to
>their opponents the most despicable motives: those who demand that
>NATO governments account
>for their actions are indifferent to the Kosovar Albanians' plight, and
>politically complicit with
>Milosevic and his crimes against ethnic minorities.
>But if the scale of the alleged atrocities is not important, why did NATO
>choose to systematically
>falsify the reality in Kosovo? Or if one claims that the grossly inflated
>reports of executions, rapes,
>etc., were simply the result of innocent mistakes, how does one account
>for the fact that the errors
>unfailingly involved exaggerated estimates of Serb violence?
>In general, defenders of the NATO war exhibit a remarkable talent for
>tailoring their moral
>indignation to conform to the foreign policy needs of their respective
>governments. They are
>curiously subdued about the ongoing war of Turkey against the Kurds,
>the depredations of the Sri
>Lankan regime against the Tamils, the decades-long Israeli repression
>of Palestinians, and what is
>certainly a genuine crime against humanity—the ongoing destruction of
>Iraq at the hands of the US
>and Britain.
>Opposition to NATO's bombardment of Kosovo and Serbia proper by no
>means implies indifference
>to the suffering of Albanian Kosovars at the hands of Milosevic's forces,
>or support for the policies
>of the nationalist regime in Belgrade. The World Socialist Web Site did
>insist, however, that the
>grotesquely exaggerated claims made against Serbia by NATO were
>indicative of concealed
>political aims, which had nothing to do with the humanitarian
>pretensions of the US, Britain and the
>other warring powers.
>In an article on June 25, the WSWS noted: “For the public to accept the
>destruction wrought by
>US/NATO bombs, it had to be convinced that the war was undertaken to
>prevent another
>Holocaust. The fabrication of the death toll was an essential component
>of a propaganda campaign
>which sought to disorient public opinion, distort the background of the
>war, and conceal the real
>political aims and material interests underlying the decision to go to war
>against Yugoslavia.”
>The decision by the United States to go to war against Serbia—taken with
>the full backing of
>Britain—was based on definite Great Power geopolitical calculations. The
>claim to be fighting
>ethnic cleansing was used to justify a war drive to cripple Serbia,
>considered by Washington to be
>an obstacle to American economic and political interests in the
>strategically vital Balkan peninsula
>and the oil-rich Caucasus and Caspian regions to the east.
>The war was deliberately provoked by the US, using as a pretext
>exaggerated claims of Serbian
>human rights violations against Kosovar Albanians. By 1998 the US had
>shifted from denouncing
>the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as terrorists to a policy of
>arming it, while imposing
>sanctions on Serbia and bolstering NATO's military capabilities in both
>Albania and Macedonia. By
>mid-July, the US and NATO had completed contingency plans for a
>military intervention in Kosovo,
>including air strikes and the deployment of ground troops.
>On January 15, 1999, the report of a Serbian massacre at the village of
>Racak, whose veracity is
>still disputed, provided the pretext for NATO's assault on Serbia. At the
>Rambouillet talks in
>February, the Milosevic regime was presented with an ultimatum it
>could not accept, which included
>the stationing of a large, long-term NATO force within Kosovo and free
>access of NATO military
>forces to all parts of Yugoslavia. On March 24, the first NATO bombs
>were dropped.
>Once the bombing began, and the Serbs countered with their offensive
>in Kosovo, the US needed to
>raise the stakes in the propaganda war. As US and NATO bombs rained
>down on Belgrade and
>other cities and towns, hitting factories, hospitals, schools, churches,
>bridges, oil refineries, water and
>electricity supply installations and even TV stations, the media
>campaign to demonise the Serb
>enemy was intensified.
>A series of grisly bombings of Serb and Kosovar civilians, including the
>destruction of passenger
>trains and assaults on Albanian refugees, followed by NATO's bombing
>of the Chinese embassy in
>Belgrade, fuelled public concern and distrust of NATO claims. Relations
>with Russia and China
>deteriorated. Divisions among the NATO powers widened over the scale
>of the bombing and the
>possible introduction of ground troops, with the US and Britain generally
>finding themselves on one
>side of the argument, and Germany, France, Italy and Greece on the
>At the end of May, to keep public opposition at bay and whip their
>recalcitrant NATO allies into
>line, the US and Britain again raised the decibel level of anti-Serb
>propaganda. Milosevic and four
>other Serbian leaders were indicted for war crimes by the International
>Criminal Tribunal for the
>former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Increasingly, Western officials and media
>pundits placed the blame for
>anti-Kosovar atrocities on the Serbian people as a whole, who were
>deemed complicit because of
>their alleged toleration of the “new Hitler”—Slobodan Milosevic.
>In the aftermath of the war, the official pretexts have grown increasingly
>threadbare. The violence
>of the KLA against Kosovan Serbs, and its despotic and corrupt methods
>of rule over the province's
>Albanian inhabitants, have discredited Western attempts to portray the
>organisation as a force for
>democracy and national liberation. Now the claims of genocide have
>been exposed as well.
>NATO's propaganda campaign found a receptive audience amongst a
>layer of ageing former
>liberals, ex-radicals and one-time anti-war protesters, who uncritically
>accepted the claims of
>NATO and the media and portrayed the military action against Serbia as
>a turning point in world
>history—the first war by the major powers conducted for “humanitarian”
>reasons. In the summer
>1999 issue of Dissent magazine, for example, the Democratic Socialists
>of America representative
>to the Socialist International, Bogdan Denitch, justified his support for
>the war with reference to the
>“genocidal nature of the Yugoslav army's campaign in Kosovo”.
>“And genocide is not too strong a word," Denitch declared.
>Even more openly and enthusiastically than at the time of the civil war
>in Bosnia, these forces
>seized on the US-NATO war against Serbia to demonstratively and
>publicly make their peace with
>imperialism. Anyone inclined to think that Denitch and company will feel
>compelled by the emerging
>facts to make a serious reappraisal and political accounting for their
>pro-war stance would best be
>advised: Don't hold your breath.
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>                            World Socialist Web Site
>                               All rights reserved

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