Seekers Of Truth or Servants Of Power

Part of the article

By Reed Irvine

December, 1999

When AIM was launched 30 years ago, few people would have said that the media were doing the bidding of the government. Richard Nixon, who was hated by the liberal media, was so upset by their biased coverage that he had Vice President Spiro Agnew attack the TV networks in a speech in Des Moines on Nov. 13, 1969. The networks were deluged with telegrams and letters from viewers who agreed with Agnew.

A major complaint was that they spread lies and concealed the truth to undermine support for the Vietnam War. In 1999, they spread lies and concealed the truth to generate support for the Kosovo war. At AIM’s 30th anniversary conference, four panels discussed this remarkable change and the reasons for it. The panel on the state of investigative journalism was covered in the November-B AIM Report. This double-issue report covers the other three and the luncheon speech by Larry Klayman.

Genocide in Kosovo

George Kenney, a former State Department desk officer for Yugoslavia, said that during the Bosnian war, some Bosnians decided that the best way to win U.S. support would be to claim that they were the victims of genocide. Their claims that 250,000 to 300,000 Muslims were being slaughtered was a factor in winning the support of the Clinton administration. Their numbers were accepted without question. Kenney said he investigated them. In an article in The New York Times Magazine in early 1995 he reported that the number killed on all sides in the fighting in Bosnia had been between 70,000 and 90,000. He believed that the Serbs killed more than the Croats and Muslims, but not by much. When we went to war over Kosovo, the exaggerated death toll in Bosnia was cited to make the claims of Serbian genocide in Kosovo credible.

Kenney said he had learned from a reporter who covered the Rambouillet talks on Kosovo that a senior official had revealed that the talks had been set up to fail. Secretary of State Albright wanted an excuse to threaten Milosevic with bombing to get him to agree to her unacceptable demands. On March 18, the day the Rambouillet talks broke down, Kenney said that David Scheffer, who had been given the title of Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, adopted the genocide gambit. He claimed that there were "upwards of 100,000 men that we cannot account for in Kosovo," implying that they were dead. Our air strikes began six days later, justifying it by the claim that we had to stop the genocide and ethnic cleansing. Kenney said that the Albanians who had been displaced in the fighting in 1998 were beginning to return home. The displacement resumed and greatly accelerated when we began bombing.

When Milosevic did not cave in and the number of civilian casualties caused by our bombing mounted, Amb. Scheffer turned up the heat. In mid-May he said that "a total of 225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59 were missing." Wire service stories quoted him as saying, "With the exception of Rwanda in 1994 and Cambodia in 1975, you would be hard pressed to find a crime scene anywhere in the world since World War II where a defenseless civilian population has been assaulted with such ferocity and criminal intent and suffered so many violations of international law in such a short period of time as in Kosovo since mid-March 1999."

Kenney said this was false, but it convinced a lot of people that genocide was occurring in Kosovo. When investigators enter-ed Kosovo in June, the British scaled down the death estimate, saying that maybe 10,000 had been killed. Kenney said the investigators had not been able to find that many bodies. Sites alleged to have hundreds of bodies, he said, turned out to have only a few or none. He said The War Crimes Tribunal would soon issue a report that might say that 3,000 to 5,000 bodies had been found. Kenney said that would not be enough to justify the war. The Tribunal’s report, issued on Nov. 10, said that only 2,108 bodies had been found and not all of them were Albanians murdered by Serbs. If the search is resumed next spring more bodies may be found, but Kenney pointed out that the prime sites had already been investigated.

Albanian PR Succeeds

Charles Wiley, a former correspondent who has covered 11 wars, said an important story that was overlooked in the Kosovo war was how we were maneuvered into the war by a handful of young English-speaking Albanians. He said that they started a daily newspaper in Kosovo for the sole purpose of getting the West into the war. Virtually every reporter and American diplomat who went to Kosovo went to them to get a briefing. The visitors might then hire the young reporters as guides and interpreters and in some cases would even ask them to edit their stories. Wiley said that was the equivalent of foreign journalists checking in with Goebbels to find out what they should write about Nazi Germany. The Christian Science Monitor was the only publication that reported this story.

Wiley said there was also little reporting on the vicious civil war in Kosovo in 1998 even though many reporters visited the province, and we had 2,300 observers there to try to keep the two sides apart. We were allowed to make six unimpeded flights a day to take aerial photos so we could keep the situation under control, but all the observers were taken out when we decided to go to war. Had they been kept there, Wiley said, there would have been far less killing. Gen. Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, had said in a speech about six weeks before the bombing started that the KLA had initiated an offensive in June of 1998 that brought at least 40 percent of the province under their nominal control. Milosevic, despite a warning from NATO, moved in to crush it with military power.

Gen. Clark’s speech, Wiley said, made it clear that the KLA started the war. "They were helped along by the leadership here and in England who were dying to get into that war," Wiley charged. He said virtually all our top military people were against it, but Gen. Clark was pushing it. Wiley said that British officers with whom he had talked recently were overwhelmingly against the war, calling it illegal. They referred to Gen. Clark as "Dr. Strangelove," because he was so eager to start a ground war. Wiley said Clinton’s war policy was "a series of blunders on a horrendous scale." Kenney pointed out that the terms we agreed to after the bombing did not include all the unacceptable demands we made at Rambouillet. He said he was sure we could have reached much the same agreement without bombing.