Back in 1994, a major news item proved unfit for publication in any “mainstream” media outlets in the United States. It concerned the possibility—which turned into a virtual certainty—that the Bosnian Muslim government staged the infamous “marketplace massacre” in Sarajevo, killing 66 of its own people. The U.S. government promptly blamed the Serbs. In subsequent months, a host of European papers published articles on the controversy. Lord David Owen and General Sir Michael Rose referred to an American-engineered cover-up. The American public—Chronicles readers excepted—remained oblivious.
Plus ça change. . . . In January, America was on the verge (for the second time in four months) of bombing the Serbs because of yet another stage-managed “massacre.” This time the venue was the village of Racak, in Kosovo. From New York to Los Angeles, the media went into a state of righteous rage over the discovery of 45 dead Albanians, allegedly “civilians butchered in cold blood.” The head of the OSCE observer mission in Kosovo, American diplomat William Walker, immediately blamed the Serbian police. Belgrade’s claim that the 45 dead were in fact Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas killed in a firefight was scornfully rejected as “Serbian propaganda.” No attempt at “objective reporting” on Racak was made by any of the major dailies in the United States.
But according to Christophe Chatelot in Le Monde (“Were the dead in Racak really massacred in cold blood?” January 21), Walker and the Albanian side gave a “version of this event which does not answer many questions”:
Isn’t the massacre of Racak too perfect? . . . The account of two journalists of the Associated Press TV, which filmed the police operation in Racak, contradicts this report. At about 10:00, when they enter the locality behind an armoured vehicle, the village is almost deserted. They progress along the streets under the fire of the gunners of the Kosovo Liberation Army . . . These exchanges of gunfire will last all the time of the intervention, with more or less intensity. It is in the woods that the main combat takes place. The KLA is taken in the siege.
At 3:30 P.M., the report goes on, the police complete their operation and leave the village under sporadic fire from the KLA. The Serbs estimate that there are 15-20 combatants dead on the KLA side. The Albanians come out from their shelters and go down toward the village. Three vehicles of the OSCE Verification Mission arrive. Le Monde points out that the Serbian operation “was neither a surprise, nor a secret”: Journalists and OSCE observers were encouraged by the Serbs to witness the proceedings before the fighting started and allowed into the village afterward, where they found only four lightly injured civilians. The night falls. With the police and verifiers gone, Le Monde reports, the events take an unexpected turn:
The next morning, journalists and verifiers arrive and, guided by armed KLA fighters who regained the village, they discover the ditch with twenty bodies, mostly men. During the day William Walker arrives and expresses horror at “the crime committed by the Serbian police and the Yugoslav army.” But many questions remain unclarified. How could the Serb police gather a group of men, and quietly direct them towards the place of the execution, while they were constantly under the fire of the KLA? How could the ditch at the edge of Racak escape the glance of the inhabitants? . . . And how come the observers, present for more than two hours in this very small village, failed to see the ditch? Why are there only a few cartridge cases around the corpses, and little blood in this sunken lane where 23 people were supposedly shot several times in the head? Weren’t the bodies of the Albanians killed in combat by the Serb police, rather, heaped together in the ditch to create a scene of horror to ignite the wrath of public opinion?
In the same vein, Renaud Girard reported in Le Figaro (“Massacre under a cloud,” January 20) that, “in view of a whole series of confusing facts . . . this matter deserves undivided attention”:
If one considers that an AP television crew was invited as early as 8:30 A.M. to film the operation, it seems that the police had nothing to conceal. The OSCE was also notified about the operation, and they sent two cars to the site. Verifiers spent the entire day on a hill, which offered a full-length view of the village. At 3:30 P.M. the police left the village, taking along a 12.7 mm heavy machine-gun, two automatic rifles, two snipers and some thirty Kalashnikovs, of Chinese manufacture.
Le Figaro also pointed out that the “massacre” was unveiled only the following morning, when the KLA was in full control of the village. They claimed that, on the previous day, police separated women from men, taking the men to the ditch and killing them on the spot:
The AP TV journalists’ testimonies, as well the material they have filmed, give an entirely opposite interpretation of this event. . . . After this, the surrounded KLA members were desperately trying to break through Maybe the KLA has thus wisely turned its military defeat into a political victory?
A similar account was published in Die Welt (January 22) and reported on the BBC World Service and Radio France International, among others. Commenting on the story, Business Day, South Africa’s equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, remarked that “the electronic images beamed nightly into our sitting rooms” are used to dictate the style of foreign policy in the post-communist era (January 26). But who is wagging whom? In the end, journalists and politicians are merely complementing one another.
There is still hope: According to a BBC News report by Jonathan Duffy (January 27), most people—in Britain, at least—think that both journalists and politicians are liars. According to a major survey, politicians ranked only slightly higher than journalists in terms of trust.
While most of the balanced reporting on Racak has come from the French press, the French are not alone in their resistance to American interventionism on the side of the Muslims in the Balkans. In its main editorial on January 10, Rome’s La Repubblica stated that the latest crisis was triggered by the Albanians, “who had begun to provoke the Serbian army and police with hit-and-run attacks timed to coincide with the Orthodox Christian Christmas.” Three militiamen were killed, and an officer and several soldiers of the Yugoslav regular army were seized.
This provocation was an escalation whose ultimate objective is not to defeat the Serbs on the ground, but to bring them directly under the bombs of NATO aircraft sent by an Atlantic alliance that the Kosovo Albanians would like to secure as an outright military ally in their liberation struggle. . . . The most significant point, which the Serbs consider inalienable, is their “no” to Kosovo’s independence, and in this they seem to enjoy substantial support from several NATO countries.
La Repubblica concluded that the KLA guerrillas will continue their attacks in an attempt to draw NATO into the fighting, but to no avail, since “America’s propensity to military intervention against Serbia is not shared by its principal Mediterranean partners in NATO, first and foremost, France and Italy.”
The Italians’ lack of enthusiasm for the KLA cause may be partly due to an interesting aspect of the Kosovo conflict that the American press has ignored: The guerrillas are financed through an intricate network of Albanians who control the drug market in Italy. As the Corriere delta Sera reported on January 19:
Until he was locked up in solitary confinement. . . .Agim Gashi—the 35-year-old criminal boss from Pristina and king of the Milan drugs market—supplied his brothers in Kosovo with Kalashnikov rifles, bazookas, and hand grenades. He controlled the heroin market, and at least part of the billions of lire he made from it was used to buy weapons for the “resistance” movement of the Albanian Kosovo community. . . . He rallied his Muslim brothers, Turkish heroin suppliers, to deliver the goods during Ramadan—a violation of religious rules for the sake of a more important cause: “to submerge Christian infidels in drugs.”
Of course, whether Italy—and the rest of the West, for that matter—may still be described as “Christian” is debatable. Take the United States, for instance, where President Clinton issued the following message on January 19:
THE WHITE HOUSE, Office of the Press Secretary—For Immediate Release: Warm greetings to Muslims across America and around the world as you mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan and celebrate the festival of Id al- Fitr. The month of fasting that you have just completed demands discipline and a spirit of sacrifice. But it also delivers a profound reward: the opportunity to show people of every faith what is precious about Islam— its charity, its generosity, and its essential humanity. All people in the world are moved by your observance of Ramadan and by the devotion and dignity that make Islam one of the world’s great religions. As you welcome the appearance of the new moon and the close of Ramadan, Hillary joins me in extending best wishes for a memorable celebration and for peace, health, and prosperity in the year to come.
While we ponder what happened to the separation of mosque and state in Clinton’s America, let us take heart from the fact that, in Europe, political incorrectness is apparently still alive and well. A cartoon superhero—”Captain Euro”— was recently launched to promote the new European currency to children and Internet users. (His adventures can be found on the Internet at www.captaineuro.com.) Captain Euro is a handsome male with chiseled features, a ready smile, and abs of steel. His companion is a blonde, blue-eyed bombshell, Europa Helen, a dead ringer for Posh Spice. Together, they fight an evil organization led by a sinister Dr. D. Vider—a Leon Trotsky look-alike—”who seeks to divide Europe and create his own empire.” Dr. Vider’s comrades include a dark-skinned woman, a gnome-like (whoops, vertically challenged) man, and others who share an unmistakably Levantine appearance.
Although the president of the European Parliament, Jose-Maria Cil-Robles, recently gave an interview to Captain Euro on topics such as the new currency and its impact on the European identity, respectable people are outraged. In England, an organ of the race-relations industry (Searchlight) described the cartoon as “an amazingly racist and xenophobic piece of trash.”
This article first appeared in the April 1999 issue.