In case you're not exactly sure what the
man newspapers have taken to calling
the Butcher of Belgrade is allegedly guilty of, a Globe and Mail
editorial cartoon obligingly provided the answer. The
cartoon showed Milosevic standing on a
mountain of human skulls. Genocide. Curiously,
the Hague indictment doesn't include a charge of
Another cartoon depicts Milosevic with a
thought bubble over his head. "It's
not like I'm a Pinochet!" Well no, it's not. Pinochet, truly a
strongman and dictator, is hardly ever called a strongman
and dictator, those derisory terms
reserved for Milosevic, the first "dictator" in
history to contest elections and face an opposition.
Pinochet, who came to power in Chile
in a military coup, is responsible for the deaths of
thousands of political opponents. Milosevic, whose
political opponents ran in an election
unharrassed while openly receiving suitcases full of
cash from the US, none rounded up and incarcerated in a
soccer stadium, to be "disappeared"
like Pinochet's opponents, has been indicted on
massacres that involved 391 deaths, not thousands, and in
connection with a civil war, not a
putsch. Not that hundreds of murders are any
more excusable than thousands, a point that applies
equally to NATO leaders whose murders
go by the sanitized appellation "collateral
In view of Freeman's talent for sorting
the guilty from the innocent, the
Globe and Mail should surely consider its civic responsibilities
to free Freeman's time to take the
place of the long, drawn-out, expensive,
and it seems, completely unnecessary work of courts,
judges, jurors and witnesses.
Of course, there are instances where the
long, drawn-out, expensive, and
completely unnecessary work of courts, judges, jurors and
witnesses serves a purpose -- show
trials. In those instances, the show goes on
with a foreordained outcome -- a verdict of guilty. Maybe
Freeman, like journalists in the
Stalin-era Soviet Union, knows a thing or two about a
A week before the Presidential election
in Yugoslavia that eventually led to
Milosevic's ouster, Freeman, and his journalistic cronies,
decided that the election was a fraud -- another instance
of being able to divine an outcome in
advance of the evidence. The reasoning went
this way. The National Democratic Institute (NDI), a US
government funded organization that
does openly what the CIA used to do covertly,
was running polls they said
indicated their man, Kostunica, figurehead
leader of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS),
would win. If he didn't win, the
election was a fraud, went the thinking. Freeman et. al,
however, never wondered whether the NDI, which described
its mission in Yugoslavia as getting
rid of Milosevic, might announce phoney polling
results to discredit a Milosevic victory. If Kostunica
won, they could say the election was
free and fair. If he lost, they could say the
election was a fraud. Heads-I-win, tails-you-lose.
But questions like that aren't
part of the journalist's trade, at least,
not of journalists who have career
aspirations. But don't you wish, for once,
they were? That questions like this were as likely as the current
fashion of denouncing official state enemies with obvious
propagandistic obloquies like strongman,
butcher, and dictator?
The persecution, deportation and
massacres Milosevic is accused of (but
one) happened after NATO decided to get Cambodian on Milosevic's
ass. But NATO said the bombing was
necessary to stop massacres, persecution,
and deportation. How does this square?
In light of the fact that the
persecution, expulsion and massacres NATO
cited as reasons to bomb Yugoslavia happened after the bombing began
and therefore couldn't be causes of the
bombing, aren't NATO's crimes -- acts of
war without the sanction of the UN, use of prohibited weapons,
like cluster bombs and depleted uranium, and devastation of
economic and civilian infrastructure --
all the more heinous? Shouldn't NATO leaders
be in the dock? Why aren't they?
The mass exodus of ethnic
Albanians from Kosovo is said to be a
reflection of a Milosevic formulated policy of mass expulsions. How
much of the exodus represented flight from
a civil war and NATO's bombs? Would you
stick around Kosovo to get caught in the crossfire?
The European Union-appointed
forensic pathologists who investigated the
one pre-bombing massacre Milosevic is accused of, say there's no
evidence a massacre took place. William Walker, Washington's
man in Kosovo at the time, bent over
backwards to conclude a massacre had
happened, say the pathologists. How compelling is the evidence that
any of the other massacres Milosevic is
accused of ever really happened?
Commenting on forensic pathologists failing to uncover the 10,000
corpses NATO promised were littered across Kosovo, Paul
Buteux, a political scientist at the
University of Manitoba, remarked, "The first
casualty of war is the truth." "It gets very murky," he
went on. "I have no doubt that whoever was
putting those intelligence reports
together prior to the NATO air campaign would be under pressure to
put things in the worst possible light.
There was a point when the spin doctors
came in." Have the spin doctors come in to distort, magnify, and
create out of whole cloth, the post bombing massacres
Milosevic is accused of? NATO's record of
deceit, makes the question one only a fool
would fail to ask.
Even if all the 391 murders
Milosevic is accused of happened before the
bombing, and the bombing stopped the massacres, can an
intervention that caused the deaths of
even more Yugoslav civilians (500 according to
Human Rights Watch, thousands according to others) be called
an humanitarian intervention, or is it
more aptly described as a disproportionate
use of force that did greater harm than the harm it was
ostensibly trying to prevent? And isn't "humanitarian
bombing" an oxymoron?
It's been discovered since the
bombing that the US was training the KLA.
A European KFOR commander called the KLA a CIA-creation designed to
oust Milosevic. Washington trained and
provided money to Otpor, the student
resistance. It too sought to oust Milosevic. The NDI pitch forked
oodles of money to the DOS, with the aim
of ousting Milosevic in an election. What
was it about Milosevic that impelled Washington to use a guerilla
army, a student resistance group, the parliamentary
opposition, war and sanctions, and finally
blackmail, to force Milosevic out of Serbia and
into The Hague?
Some more questions. But these
are for us, since you can't expect
journalists to ask them.
Why does the media insinuate, in
references to the discredited story of
10,000 murdered in Kosovo, that Milosevic is on trial for genocide,
when he isn't?
Why has no media outlet, to my
knowledge, listed the number of murders
the Hague Tribunal accuses Milosevic of?
Why exactly does the media mean
when it calls Milosevic a "strongman"?
Why is Milosevic called a
dictator, when he contested elections, and his
opponents were left alone?
These questions, and others like
them, are questions you and I need to ask.
Don't count on the media to ask them. They're too busy running show
Mr. Steve Gowans is a
writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.