Questions the media isn't asking about the Milosevic indictment

by Stephen Gowans

Imagine my surprise to learn that on top of his many journalistic talents, Toronto Globe and Mail correspondent Alan Freeman is also able to decide who is guilty and who is not before an accused is brought to trial. Why else would Freeman observe that Slobodan Milosevic failed to show any sign of repentance as charges were read against him at The Hague Tribunal, unless Freeman knew the former Yugoslav president is guilty and therefore should be repentant?

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 genocide.
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 damage."
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 sure prediction.
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 trials.

Mr. Steve Gowans is a writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.


by courtesy & 2001 Steve Gowans

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