20 June 2005

Reporting on the Kosovo War

Why did the [Kosovo] war end when it did? If you believe Nato or any of the alliance governments it ended because the bombing campaign had succeeded. The high-tech weapons performed largely as advertised and Milosevic and the Serb people no longer had the stomach to see their country being destroyed around them. If you believe some of the correspondents, the war ended because during peace talks on June 3 the Russians urged Milosevic to do a deal, threatening to cut gas supplies to Serbia.

It took the BBC's documentary division to reveal why Russia, which had steadfastly supported their fellow Slavs throughout the war, brought this pressure to bear on Serbia. The second BBC programme on Kosovo called "An Audit of War" broadcast on October 18 said, "Shortly after Serbia accepted the peace deal the International Monetary Fund provided Russia with nearly three billion pounds to payoff the interest on its foreign debts."

This leaves us with the most intriguing question of all--what was the war really all about? The Spectator doubted if it was actually about the ethnic cleansing of the Kosovars. "In the three years leading up to 25 March 1999, between two and three thousand people had died in Yugoslavia's latest ethnic conflict," wrote Mark Steyn, the magazine's American correspondent. "Not a pretty sight. But let's say it was the upper number, 3,000. That still gives it a lower murder rate per capita than New Orleans or New York ... Washington, Oakland, Houston, Las Vegas, Dallas.

"Sitting in Belgrade browsing through the homicide statistics Slobo must have thought that the Americans of all people would appreciate how some societies can tolerate a level of slaughter others might find excessive." But, said Steyn, Milosevic failed to understand a crucial distinction--if you kill people in drive-by shootings, liquor store hold-ups and child custody disputes, that was the sign of healthy mature democracy. But if you killed people because of an ongoing blood feud rooted in centuries of history, that was barbaric.

Perhaps President Clinton gave the game away when early into the bombing campaign he tried to ease America's doubts. "Had we not acted," he said, "the Serb offensive would have been carried out with impunity." The bombing, therefore, was to punish the Serbs. Punishment is an established part of U.S. foreign policy [and not that of every country outside of late 20th-century Europe?]. Gary Sick, who was then in charge of Gulf policy at the National Security Council, said after Iran took American hostages in Teheran in 1979, "There was a strong view ... that Iran should be punished from all sides."

But what was Serbia being punished for? "For the humiliation we suffered at their hands in Bosnia," according to Robert Fisk. "For daring to resist the project of establishing the West's hegemony" said the celebrated Russian dissident Alexander Zinoviev in Le Monde.
SOURCE: The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-maker from the Crimea to Kosovo, by Phillip Knightley, with an introduction by John Pilger (Johns Hopkins U. Press, 2000; first published in 1975), pp. 517-518

Interesting that, when it comes to the Kosovo War, the Telegraph/Spectator's Mark Steyn appears to have kept company with the Guardian/Observer's John Pilger and the Independent's Robert Fisk.

No comments: