It started out badly when Gwyn pointed
out that freelance journalist Robert
Scheer had argued in the Los Angeles Times that Robert McNamara,
the U.S. defense secretary during the Vietnam War, ought
to be tried as a war criminal.
Slobodan Milosevic may have been accused of cracking
down on the civilian population of Kosovo, but McNamara,
noted Scheer, had defined much of
South Vietnam as a free-fire zone, where anyone
could be killed, men, women, children.
Moreover, millions of Vietnamese
civilians were killed, whereas the
charges against Milosevic extend to 391 deaths. The usual
defense big powers make against
civilian deaths is that they were accidental --
collateral damage. We didn't mean to do it. But can you
kill millions of civilians
So, not only were McNamara's crimes and
those Milosevic is alleged to have
committed qualitatively alike, McNamara's were quantitatively
greater. So why isn't McNamara under indictment?
Gwyn acknowledges Scheer has a point, but
dismisses it as extreme. Why the point
is extreme, Gwyn doesn't say. He probably means the point has
uncomfortable implications for people in authority, and
hence, is best not pursued by
columnists who prefer to stay on the right side of
traditional power structures.
One stumble behind him, Gwyn staggers on
to the next. "Milosevic appeared
in court in The Hague to hear the charges against him -
genocide and violations of human rights in Kosovo."
Except Milosevic didn't appear in
court to hear charges of genocide read against him.
That's because the charges don't include genocide. There
are charges of persecution, of
deportation, of murder, but not genocide.
Genocide charges arose from the
fertile imaginations of NATO spin doctors,
needing a pretext to justify a massive campaign of aerial
bombing. As Paul Buteux, a political scientist at the
University of Manitoba put it, "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."
In recent days, the NATO spin has
been resurrected by the media, trotted out
to be placed prominently in stories of Milosevic's appearance in the
dock at The Hague.
Gwyn's third faux pas: "The case
against Milosevic is overwhelming," he
writes. This from a man who can't get the charges
straight. Needless to say, Gwyn's a little
sketchy on the evidence, presenting...well,
Those of a more pensive bent than
Gwyn, might wonder just how overwhelming
the case against Milosevic really is. An AFP story has
chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte announcing July 3rd that the
trial could last 10 years. One could
hardly imagine a air-tight case taking 10
Meanwhile, in a June 29th report,
Jane's Security warns that " obtaining a
successful prosecution may prove far more difficult" than spiriting
Milosevic to The Hague. "The main problem," the reports says,
"is likely to be a lack of hard
evidence to connect the ousted head of state with
actual crimes alleged to have been committed on the ground in
Hard evidence of genocide is
certainly hard to come by, which may be why
a genocide charge hasn't been made by the Hague Tribunal.
NATO, which once issued foreboding
warnings of 100,000 corpses littered throughout
Kosovo, and then decided 10,000 was more believable, long ago
backed away from even the 10,000 claim,
acknowledging that the body count is well
below 10,000. Dr. Peter Markesteyn, a Winnipeg forensic pathologist
who was among the first war crimes investigators to arrive in
Kosovo after NATO ended its bombing
campaign, said "We were told there were
100,000 bodies everywhere. We performed 1,800 autopsies -- that's
Fewer than 2,000 corpses. None
found in the Trepca mines. No remains in
the vats of sulphuric acid. Most found in isolated graves -- not in
the mass graves NATO warned about. And no
clue as to whether the bodies were those
of KLA fighters, civilians, even whether they were Serbs or ethnic
No wonder then that of all the
incidents on which Slobodan Milosevic
has been indicted for war crimes, the total body count is not
10,000, not even 1,800 -- but 391!
But then maybe Gwyn is privy to
information war crimes investigators and,
even The Hague Tribunal itself, doesn't know about it. Or maybe
not. Maybe he just lives in the rich fantasy world, called
the media, which exists in parallel with
the real world, with only the most tenuous
of connections to what really goes on. A world that doesn't threaten
established authority or great powers or victor's justice.
An extreme view? Gwyn thinks so.
Mr. Steve Gowans is a
writer and political activist who lives in Ottawa, Canada.