Sulla "pulizia etnica" in Kosovo - Mis-informing is a strategic task

Subject:       Herman vs Hitchens on Kosovo: Letter to The Nation
  Date:        Tue, 12 Jun 2001 18:10:12 -0700 (PDT)
  From:        Rick Rozoff

Edward S. Herman
David Peterson
                    June 11, 2001

Letter To the Editors of The Nation on Christopher
Hitchens' Minority Report "Body Count in Kosovo"

>>From Edward S. Herman and David Peterson

          In "Body Count in Kosovo" (The Nation, June
11, 2001), Christopher Hitchens outdoes even his
previous efforts at rewriting the history of the
break-up of Yugoslavia, carrying out his vendetta
against the Serbs, and apologizing for NATO's war in
        Hitchens' characterization of the opposition
to NATO's bombing campaign as based on the belief that
"casualties among Kosovo Albanians were not
sufficiently high to warrant the NATO intervention" is
nothing more than a straw man of his own invention.
Although there are legitimate questions to be raised
as to how high the Kosovo Albanian casualties were,
and how important those casualties were in impelling
NATO to war, contrary to Hitchens, the Left's main
objections to the war were that it was a case of Great
Power aggression carried out in violation of the U.N.
Charter and international law, and that it would "not
solve any human problem, but [would] only multiply the
existing problems," as Jiri Dienstbier, the Czech U.N.
rapporteur for human rights in Kosovo, characterized
the war's actual result.
          Of course, Dienstbier was weighing the
impact of the war not only on the Kosovo Albanians,
but also on the Serbs as well as other peoples in the
region. But a notable feature of Hitchens' writings on
Kosovo has been his racist attitude toward the Serbs,
an attitude that now extends to the other ethnic
minorities in the province as well. Thus, for example,
in his "Genocide and the Body-Baggers" (The Nation,
Nov. 29, 1999), Hitchens led The Nation's readers in a
rousing cheer for NATO's good deeds in Kosovo: "The
NATO intervention repatriated all or most of the
refugees and killed at least some of the cleansers. I
find I have absolutely no problem with that." Here
Hitchens ignores the fact that Kosovo's massive
refugee crisis of 1999 followed the onset of NATO's
bombing campaign rather than preceded it. Note also
that in Hitchens' revealing word usage, "refugees" is
an ethnically pure concept and serves to denote only
Kosovo Albanians. For Hitchens, the only Kosovars who
count are ethnic Albanians; the demon Milosevic's
populace, along with the rest of the province's
shrinking ethnic minorities, are "unpeople" (John
Pilger's term)--and any negative consequences that
NATO's actions have had for them are of no interest or
relevance to Hitchens' evaluation of policy.
          Hitchens contends that the bombing campaign
was both necessary and justified because "It was plain
enough that Milosevic wanted the territory of Kosovo
without the native population, and that a plan of mass
expulsion, preceded by some exemplary killings, was in
train. The level of casualties would depend on the
extent of the resistance that the execution of the
plan would encounter." Although as a supporter of the
war the burden of proof for such a claim should rest
on Hitchens' shoulders, neither he nor anyone else has
ever provided evidence for the existence of any "plan
of mass expulsion." Hitchens regularly implies that
because the Serbs reacted as they did in Kosovo when
NATO began its bombing war, and were clearly ready to
take such an action, this proves they would have done
exactly the same thing under any circumstances. But as
every military power has a spectrum of contingency
plans most of which will never be implemented, this is
a blatant non-sequitur. NATO's propaganda claim that
Belgrade used the bombing campaign to execute
"Operation Horseshoe"--an alleged plan to cleanse
Kosovo of its ethnic Albanian population, but whose
existence NATO had never mentioned until after the
bombs started to fall--has been utterly discredited.
(See the book by Germany's retired Brigadier General
Heinz Loquai, Der Kosovo-Konflikt. Wege in einen
vermeidbaren Krieg ("The Kosovo Conflict: A War That
Could Be Avoided," Durchschnittliche Kundenwertung,
          In his discussion of this "plain enough"
Serb plan, Hitchens consistently avoids dealing with
the fact that under an October 1998 agreement,
Belgrade had allowed a substantial OSCE observer
mission in Kosovo, and was prepared to permit the
extension of such a mission at Rambouillet. (See the
Agreement For Self-Government In Kosomet, signed among
others by the Government of the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia and the Government of Serbia but rejected
by the Contact Group and the KLA in Paris on March 18,
1999, reproduced at
Although the actual mission was highly compromised
from the start by U.S. intelligence agents working
under the cover of the OSCE for non-mandated
objectives (as a Swiss member of the OSCE's observer
mission in Kosovo told the Italian journal La Liberté,
"We understood from the start that information
gathered by OSCE patrols during our missions was
destined to complete the information that NATO had
gathered by satellite. We had the very sharp
impression of doing espionage work for the Atlantic
nonetheless, a Yugoslav parliamentary Resolution
adopted the day before the start of the war vigorously
condemned the withdrawal of the monitors. (See
"Parliament says country will defend itself from any
attack," BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, March 25,
1999, which reproduces in full the text of the
Resolution adopted by The National Assembly of the
Republic of Serbia on March 23, 1999.) Hitchens'
failure to mention the OSCE observers can only be
explained by the fact that such evidence is not
compatible with the "plain enough.plan of mass
          Nor is there the slightest evidence that
there were "exemplary killings" designed to induce
general flight, as opposed to killings in an ugly and
brutal civil conflict. In an internal report prior to
the bombing, the German Foreign Office had even denied
that the refugee flows in and out of Kosovo
constituted a case of "ethnic cleansing," contending
instead that this was the familiar pattern in a nasty
civil conflict. "[The] actions of the security forces
[were] not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an
ethnically defined group, but against the military
opponent and its actual or alleged supporters," the
German Foreign Office determined. (See "Important
Internal Documents from Germany's Foreign Office
Regarding Pre-Bombardment Genocide in Kosovo," trans.
Eric Canepa, reproduced at
What is more, the evidence produced by NATO, the OSCE,
the State Department and the Pentagon, the British
House of Commons' Defense Review, the U.N., the Red
Cross, forensic teams from at least 16 different
countries, and all of the NGOs that have set up camp
in Kosovo, uniformly fails to support the claims of
the West's political leadership and the New
Humanitarians that, whether prior to or during the
war, a Rwanda-style crisis was in the offing. (On the
question of whether there was any evidence of imminent
atrocities prior to the withdrawal of the observers
and the onset of NATO's bombing, see Noam Chomsky's
analysis in his book, A New Generation Draws the Line:
Kosovo, East Timor, and the Standards of the West
(Verso, 2000), Ch. 3, "Kosovo in Retrospect," pp.
          Furthermore, evidence has now surfaced
showing that the CIA, working largely through
corporate-sector firms such as Military Professional
Resources Inc. and DynCorp, had been aiding and
training the KLA prior to the bombing, and KLA
representatives have openly acknowledged that they
were trying to provoke the Serbs to actions that would
provide NATO with the jus belli that it was looking
for to launch the war. (See Tom Walker and Aidan
Laverty, "CIA aided Kosovo guerrilla army," Sunday
Times (London), March 12, 2000; Peter Beaumont, Ed
Vulliamy and Paul Beaver, "CIA's bastard army ran riot
in Balkans," The Observer (London), March 11, 2001;
and Rory Carroll, "Crisis in the Balkans: West
struggles to contain monster of its own making," The
Guardian (London), March 12, 2001).) Thus, Hitchens'
statement that "the level of casualties would depend
on the extent of resistance" is misleading not only as
regards the mythical "plan of mass expulsion," it also
ignores the fact that casualties would depend heavily
on the success of the planned provocations.
          "As to Racak," Hitchens writes, "it might be
argued that Western policy-makers seized too fast on
the evidence of a Bosnian-style bloodbath,
would be tough to argue that a 'wait and see' policy
would have been morally or politically superior. Wait
for what? Wait to see what?" Apart from the problems
of the non-existent evidence of a bloodbath and NATO's
underwriting of provocations, with the Racak case
there is strong evidence that those "Western
policy-makers" didn't just "seize too fast" on claims
of a massacre at Racak, they even helped create those
claims in order to justify a decision taken perhaps as
early as the summer of 1998 to bomb Serbia and teach
it as well as other potential "rogue states" a lesson
in who's the boss, and to teach the peoples of Europe
that they cannot live without NATO's protection. (For
material that raises doubts about NATO's contention
that the incident at Racak was a "massacre" of 40
unarmed Kosovo Albanian civilians, see "Finnish
experts find no evidence of Serb massacre of
Albanians," Deutsche Presse Agentur, January 17, 2001;
J. Rainio, K. Lalu, A. Penttilä, "Independent forensic
autopsies in an armed conflict: investigation of the
victims from Racak, Kosovo," Forensic Science
International, Vol. 116, Issue 2-3, 2001, pp. 171-185;
and the critical comments by Dusan Dunjic of
Belgrade's Institute for Forensic Medicine, "The
(Ab)Use of Forensic Medicine," reproduced at

          As to "wait to see what," this is a phony
and misleading question, as the Great Powers didn't
have to "wait" for anything; they were always in a
very strong position to negotiate even with the hated
Milosevic for greater Kosovo autonomy and a stronger
international observer presence. Belgrade had agreed
to a number of compromises during the previous decade.
Among others, Milosevic supported the Vance Plan of
1991, the Jose Cutillero Plan of 1992 (a plan vetoed
by the Muslim side in Bosnia-Herzegovina), the
Vance-Owen Plan of 1993 (a plan eventually sabotaged
by U.S. authorities, as Owen describes in his
memoirs), and the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan of 1993 (also
vetoed by the United States). But in this case neither
the KLA nor NATO--nor for that matter Christopher
Hitchens-were interested in compromise or
          In dealing with the events in Kosovo that
followed the March 24, 1999 beginning of NATO's
bombing campaign, Hitchens takes the refugee flows
that resulted from the fighting as proof that Belgrade
had planned to expel the Albanian population all
along, thereby reversing cause and effect, exactly as
NATO officials have done. While he drags in Rwanda,
saying that "we'll never know if another Rwanda was
prevented or not, since another Rwanda did not in fact
take place," he fails to explain why the Serbs didn't
engage in mass killings of Kosovo Albanians even under
the stress of wartime conditions, even in areas of
great KLA influence and fighting with the KLA. During
the war, NATO propagandists were proclaiming mass
extermination and even genocide, but these were lies.
So, contrary to Hitchens once again, one thing we do
know is that crimes on the scale of Rwanda did not
take place even under brutal, wartime conditions.
          Hitchens ignores the evidence now openly
acknowledged by NATO officials that the KLA was
working in close military coordination with NATO
during the bombing period, and that the intensity of
Serb attacks was closely related to strategic military
factors, including the operational presence of the KLA
in the various theaters of combat. (See Daniel Pearl
and Robert Block, "War in Kosovo Was Cruel, Bitter,
Savage; Genocide It Wasn't," Wall Street Journal, Dec.
31, 1999.) Across Kosovo's 29 municipalities, ethnic
Albanians did not flee the territory uniformly. Nor
were they alone-members of all ethnic groups fled
areas where fighting took place. Municipalities in
different parts of Kosovo where the KLA's presence was
thin saw relatively little fighting and therefore
little refugee flow. This was particularly true prior
to the withdrawal of the observers and the start of
the bombing campaign. (On this, see the report
published by the OSCE, Kosovo/Kosova: As Seen, As
Told. The human rights findings of the OSCE Kosovo
Verification Mission October 1998 to June 1999,
reproduced at,
esp. Part V: "The Municipalities.")
          Hitchens spends considerable space on what
he calls the "forensic evidence" that has come into
public view "as a result of the implosion of the
Milosevic regime." But in fact the most important
"evidence" that Hitchens cites, the alleged "mass
burnings of bodies in the blast furnace of the Trepca
steel plant" that was claimed by NATO at the time of
its occupation of Kosovo in June 1999, was subjected
to a genuine "forensic" examination by a team of
French experts under OSCE auspices shortly thereafter,
and was found to be non-existent. (See Fisnik Abrashi,
"OSCE Says No Sign of Mass Burnings Found in Kosovo,"
Associated Press, Jan. 26,
2001.)   Although this story has been rehabilitated
over the past two years by journalists with the
American Radio Works and National Public Radio, based
on highly dubious interviews with Serbs boasting of
their role in the cremations, these Serbs have
remained anonymous sources and have never been
available for questioning by independent analysts.
Among the other "forensic evidence" cited by Hitchens
are the recent reports that a refrigerated truck
carrying anywhere from 50 to 86 Kosovo Albanian bodies
(accounts have varied) was dredged up during the war
from the bottom of the Danube river near the Serb town
of Kladovo, the bodies then being reburied in an
unknown place somewhere. Although these stories may
very well turn out to be true, given the brutal nature
of the war, they do not constitute forensic evidence
as such, but are mere hearsay. It is also important to
note that these alleged events would have occurred
after the start of the war, and therefore cannot be
used to support Hitchens' contention that they are
evidence of a Serb "plan of mass expulsion" based on
"exemplary killings" that existed before the war.
Instead, they would suggest that the war itself, which
Hitchens defends, led to many deaths and deplorable
atrocities. But as an elementary point of logic, the
war's negative consequences cannot be used to justify
actions that produced those consequences.
          Hitchens says that in the "new atmosphere"
of post-Milosevic Serbia it might be possible to prove
that "there was a state design" to the murders and
secret interments, and that if this were true "it
would owe very little to those who described the
belated Western intervention as an exercise in
imperialism based upon false reporting." But he fails
to note that in the "new atmosphere" that exists in
Serbia, and in the United States itself, there might
be strong political, financial, and even survival
incentives--and very little risk--in fabricating
claims of murders and secret interments, a point
perhaps illustrated by the recently recycled claims
about mass cremations at Trepca. He also fails to note
the possibility that the reason this evidence might
not surface is because it simply does not exist, in
which case those who supported the war will no longer
have even this crutch to stand on.
          It is also of interest that Hitchens never
discusses the "new atmosphere" that prevails today in
NATO-occupied Kosovo, a conflict-ridden atmosphere
that has led to the creation of a monoethnic state,
with more than 250,000 members of ethnic minorities
having fled the province in what Jan Oberg,
the director of the Swedish-based Transnational
Foundation for Peace and Future Research, calls "the
largest ethnic cleansing in the Balkans [in percentage
terms]." But while Hitchens is extremely captivated by
lurid stories of mass cremations and ethnic Albanian
corpses spilling out of refrigerated trucks, the
estimated 1,300 non-ethnic Albanians killed and
perhaps as many abducted (and very possibly killed) in
Kosovo under NATO's occupation appear to be of no
interest to him at all. Nor does he ever link NATO's
intervention with
the spread of armed ethnic Albanian fighting to
geographically contiguous areas in southern Serbia and
northwestern Macedonia, or with the possibility of yet
another incarnation of the KLA carrying its war to
Greece as well. For Hitchens, NATO's "humanitarian"
war was justified for reasons that terminate with the
driving of the Serb army from Kosovo, NATO's
occupation of Kosovo, the repatriation of Kosovo
Albanian refugees-driven out during NATO's war and
returning to a ravaged, burned-out land effectively
controlled by the KLA and foreign powers--and,
ultimately, the ouster of the Milosevic regime, and no
doubt his trial at The Hague as well. All of the other
consequences that one could weigh in the scales of
justice, Hitchens passes over in silence.
          Hitchens' claim that the potential
"emancipation of Serbia" by full disclosure of Serb
misbehavior "would owe very little to those who
described the belated Western intervention as an
exercise in imperialism based upon false reporting" is
equally ludicrous. No serious critic of the war has
ever argued that NATO's intervention was "based on
false reporting;" their view has been that a
combination of false reporting and heavily ideological
commentary such as that offered by Christopher
Hitchens helped sell the war-as has been the case in
virtually all wars.
        But beyond this confusion, Hitchens seems to
imply that Operation Allied Force was not an
imperialistic undertaking, and in fact in his "Port
Huron Piffle" (The Nation, June 14, 1999), he clearly
stated that NATO finally chose the war-option "when
the sheer exorbitance of the crimes in Kosovo became
impossible to ignore." Jamie Shea or James Rubin could
not have stated NATO's case for war any better than
that. Indeed, it has been amusing to watch Hitchens,
currently vigorously assailing Kissinger for the
crimes of the imperial state a generation back, but at
the same time lining up with the likes of Bill and
Tony and Gerhard, Madeleine and Robin and Joschka in
the pretence that their war was driven by humanitarian
objectives-in this one case only-and with this being
the only factor he mentions to explain their
adventures in Kosovo.


Giorgio Ellero 
<glr.y at> - <glry at>