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By Carl Savich
You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war.
The collapse of the Cold War world order beginning in 1989 resulted in the disintegration of the Communist federations of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the other former Warsaw Pact nations in Eastern Europe. The break up of these federations resulted in bloody civil wars both in the former Soviet Union and in the former Yugoslavia. The most destructive and costly in human life was the protracted civil war in the former Communist republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina, constituted in 1945 as a constituent republic of Yugoslavia.
The diplomats and the media knew very little about the background to the conflicts and civil wars in the former Soviet Union. They knew even less about the former Yugoslavia, especially about Bosnia-Hercegovina. In US government and media propaganda, Yugoslavia became ìthe heart of Europeî and ìin the center of Europeî. Before the massive US ìinformation warî, Yugoslavia was regarded as marginal, peripheral, the ìbackwater of Europeî, on the periphery of Europe, not vital to any US interests, not part of the so-called Western civilization and culture, not part of ìenlightened Latin Christendomî, but backward, Byzantine, alien. Karl Marx termed the Balkan peoples ìethnic trashî. His colleague Friedrich Engels dismissed Serbs, Bulgarians, and Greeks as ìrobber riff- raffî. Otto von Bismarck warned that the Balkans were not worth the life of a single German soldier at the time of the Bosnian Insurrection of 1875-1878. Through American media and government propaganda, however, Bosnia became not only the center of Europe, but during the civil war, the primary focus for the entire world. The lack of fundamental understanding and grasp of the historical background and issues on the part of diplomats, academics, scholars, and the media, contributed to needlessly prolonging and exacerbating the conflict.
The civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina was caused and sustained by essentially three major actors: 1) the United States State Department; 2) US public relations firms; and, 3) the American media. The precedent for such an alliance was the very successful performance of all three actors in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which the United States with NATO allies Great Britain and France, waged against former ally and client state Iraq. The paradigm of the Persian Gulf War was transposed upon the civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina with disastrous results. All three actors perceived the civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina as Gulf War II. The paradigm for the Persian Gulf War itself was established in 1898 with the Spanish-American War. William Randolph Hearst told Frederick Remington, ìYou furnish the pictures and Iíll furnish the war.î Hearst was a pioneer in realizing that the nature of war had changed. War was now about information, not so much weapons and military strategies. The Spanish-American War became an infowar where pictures and images were the crucial elements. Hearst was ahead of his time. Most military historians and pundits missed this revolutionary change in the nature and concept of modern warfare. As one of the founders of the mass public newspaper, Hearst understood that propaganda techniques would be much more important in the modern mass media and mass communication era. The US government would apply Hearstís infowar paradigm in the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, the Krajina conflict between Yugoslavia and Croatia, Haiti, and Kosovo. Indeed, the initial invading force of Somalia consisted of an army of news reporters and camera crews which televised its own landing on the Somalian coast. US policymakers learned from the Vietnam War debacle that military force by itself is not sufficient. Information is crucial in modern war. To defeat an enemy by force alone is to win only half the battle. To have dissent on the domestic front was unacceptable. Total conformity was needed. Everyone had to think alike, to think the same, so that thought could be controlled. This is where pictures and images were paramount, where propaganda and infowar were decisive. Thus, there was a re-emergence of the infowar, of propaganda techniques and ìinformation warfareî first developed by Hearst in the 19th century.
The US State Department, the US media, and public relations firms caused and maintained the bloody civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina. They based their analyses consciously and unconsciously on ignorance, deceit, malice, racism, power politics, Realpolitik, and incorrect assumptions and a faulty understanding of the background to that conflict. Truth is indeed the first casualty in war.
II. Infowar and Propaganda: The Problem: Truth as a Casualty of War
Truth is the first victim in war. This dictum is best exemplified in the media manipulations and distortions which characterized the reporting of the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The US State Department and public relations firms have likewise distorted and manipulated the facts and the information concerning the civil war in Bosnia. Along with the thousands of human casualties could be listed truth itself. Along with the crimes committed against humanity were those committed against integrity, decency, fair-play, and justice.
Ever since the civil wars erupted in the former Yugoslavia in 1991, the so-called Western media, at first primarily the newly united Germany, but particularly the American media, presented a daily barrage of news accounts and stories from Bosnia which equated the horrors of that war to the worst of World War II. This media blitzkrieg was an unprecedented and unrelenting onslaught which combined modern media techniques and advocacy journalism. The media became an organized, coherent body, aggressive and strident co-belligerents who perceived themselves as active and partisan combatants in the civil wars. The US government gave them their marching orders, told them that the infowar was being conducted in the name of democracy, freedom, and for a worthy and moral cause, to safeguard the ìvictimsî. The enemy were the Orthodox Serbs. Allies were all who were anti-Serbian: Roman Catholic Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians. All the media reportage had one thing in common: The reporting was partisan, anti-Serbian, and had as its sole purpose and goal to force and to coerce Western governments, particularly the United States, to intervene militarily against the Serbs, i.e., to force an interventionist war against Serbs and against Serbia in a replay of the Persian Gulf War scenario with the Serbian people and Serbia cast in the role of Iraq and as ìaggressorsî. If it worked with Kuwait, why couldnít it work in Bosnia? Needless to say, the US had militarily intervened in Central and South America regularly and periodically throughout the twentieth century not as ìhumanitarian interventionsî but as invasions and occupations to install right-wing dictators in the banana republics to maintain US commercial exploitation. The Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961 against Cuba is an example of just such an intervention.
The Persian Gulf War established the precedent of the modern infowar. The infowar propaganda paradigm was followed during the Yugoslav conflicts. The Bosnian Muslims and Croats hired prominent American public relations firms to advocate and to lobby for their agendas and political programs. These firms manipulated, distorted, and falsified information and facts to support the anti-Serbian policy of the US government and media, working in a symbiotic relationship. These public relations firms racked up phenomenal and spectacular propaganda victories and successes for their clients, the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Kosovo Albanians.
The US sought to penetrate Eastern Europe and the Balkans politically, militarily, and commercially, to create a neo-imperialist and neo-colonialist market and sphere of influence in a region where it had been largely excluded. To further these goals, the US State Department became an active and strident sponsor and advocate of secession movements in both the Soviet Union and in Yugoslavia. The State Department perceived that ìsponsorshipî of ìnew statesî would be in the American national interest and would advance ìfreedom and democracyî around the globe. All the neo-imperialist catch-phrases were trotted out which were anachronisms from the Cold War propaganda or information war. NATO, an anachronistic ìdefensiveî military alliance from the Cold War serving no useful military function became the instrument with which the US spearheaded its drive into Eastern Europe and the Balkans. By breaking up and dismembering states in Eastern Europe, the US was promoting ìdemocracyî, ìthe will of the peopleî, ì economic prosperityî, ìfreedomî, and ìfledgling democraciesî. The US State Department thus became, like the US media, a partisan, co-belligerent advocate and actor in favor of secession states. The State Department declared war against the geopolitical status quo that was not in the US national interest: Disintegration, secession, and the creation and emergence of ìnew statesî was good, maintenance of the status quo was bad. Needless to say, this support was highly selective and was based on whether it advanced US political, military, or commercial interests. An independent and free Palestinian state was not supported, Palestinian statehood and freedom were not supported. Likewise, Kurdish autonomy or independence was not supported in Turkey, a NATO member. An independent Corsica and independent Basque state were opposed because France and Spain respectively were NATO members. Freedom and democracy Ýfor them would have to wait. The State Department embarked on a program to unconditionally support and back the secession movements in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia because those nations were not allies, client states, or members of NATO. They were, in short, states with adverse interests to those of the US. Needless to say, such reckless and irresponsible actions resulted in bloody and entangled civil wars which have not been resolved but have resulted in Vietnam-style quagmires for the US.
III. The Origins and Causes of the Bosnian Civil War, 1992-1995
The civil war in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina was caused and maintained by three principal actors; 1) US public relations firms; 2) the US media; and, 3) the US State Department. The origins and causes of the inherent ethnic, political, and religious conflicts and antagonisms in Bosnia were ultimately caused by the mutually exclusive national and political agendas of the three Bosnian factions: the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosnian Muslims, and the Bosnian Croats, all Slavic and all speaking Serbo-Croatian, but all divided by religion, by culture, and differing national visions. The Bosnian Muslims sought to secede from Yugoslavia but yet to maintain Bosnian borders and the political structure as it had existed in the Yugoslav federation. That is, the Muslims sought an unrealistic and uncompromising maximal position, an all or nothing approach, they wanted to have their cake and eat it too. The Bosnian Serbs perceived that the destruction of the Yugoslav federation would necessarily result in the destruction of what it maintained and instituted, the Bosnian Republic, Bosnia-Hercegovina. If Yugoslavia was destroyed, then the internal borders that Yugoslavia created would be destroyed. The so-called international community de-recognized Yugoslavia but recognized arbitrarily the internal borders created by Yugoslavia. In short, to establish Bosnia as an international entity there would have to be bilateral agreement between Yugoslavia and a successor state, Bosnia. But this was precisely what Germany and the US sought to prevent, advocating instead unilateral and unconditional recognition of the internal borders of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was handed a fait accompli. The Bosnian Croats wanted first to detach Bosnia from the Yugoslav federation and then to create their own Croat mini-state, Herceg-Bosna, which would unite with Croatia. These three mutually exclusive and antagonistic agendas were at the root of the conflict and the crisis. Civil war, however, was not inevitable. Otto von Bismarck called politics and diplomacy the ìart of the possibleî. But no diplomacy was apparent. There were no discussions, negotiations, or agreements. Instead, Germany and the US supported unilateral recognition. Germany and the US presented a fait accompli instead of diplomacy. Germany and the US did nothing to prevent a civil war but in fact did everything to encourage and foster it. With the absence of diplomacy or a political agreement, the three Bosnian groups resorted to what Karl von Clausewitz called ìpolitics by other meansî, war. The actions and policies of the US State Department, public relations firms hired by the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Albanians and financed by radical and militant Islamic states, and the US media were the direct cause of the civil war which followed and which continued from 1992 to 1995 Ýand greatly contributed to sustaining and exacerbating that war. The key actions and policies of these three key actors will be examined and analyzed in turn.
A.The Role of US Public Relations Firms
Propaganda has only one object, to conquer the massesÖ You can
make a man believe anything if you tell it to him in the right way.
Even before the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia erupted in 1991, the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Kosovo Albanians had hired prominent American public relations firms and had made contributions to and had solicited key US members of Congress and the Senate, such as Joe Biden, Robert Dole, and George Mitchell, to lobby for and to advocate their political agendas and national programs. These public relations firms, primarily Ruder Finn and Hill & Knowlton, Inc., of Washington, D.C., were highly successful and effective. Of course, they were successful and effective because the US government wanted them to be. In short, there was a symbiotic relationship between the US government and the public relations firms, just as there is a symbiotic relationship between the US government and CNN and the other news networks. It is difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. During the Bosnian civil war, US Army psychological operations specialists, psyops, Pentagon propaganda specialists, were working for the Cable News Network, CNN, the largest US news network. Ted Turner and Jane Fonda and Christiane Amanpour in Atlanta did not make the decision to wage a propaganda war against the Serbian Orthodox. That decision was made in Washington, D.C., by the Bill Clinton Administration.
The precedence of a public relations war or infowar in the former Yugoslavia was established with the Persian Gulf War, although the same or similar paradigm was followed earlier in the Panama and Grenada ìwarsî during the 1980s. In the Gulf War, US public relations firms, particularly Hill & Knowlton, achieved spectacular results, which diplomats and statesmen from around the globe were quick to pick up. Image was everything. Pictures and images were everything. The following famous example from the 1991 Persian Gulf War exemplified this point.
Hill & Knowlton, the public relations firm hired by the Bosnian Muslims and Croats, had earlier as clients the Kuwaiti government. Kuwait retained the services of the firm to garner public support in the US which would induce the US to militarily intervene against Iraq. Hill & Knowlton thus deserves credit for initiating the ìatrocity storiesî which became so common and routine during the Bosnian civil war and the Kosovo conflict, but which in fact have a much longer history. William Randolph Hearst induced the US to wage war against Spain by sensationalizing ìCuban atrocitiesî in his newspapers. During World War I, the Allies scored massive propaganda victories by reporting on German or ìHun atrocitiesî. Before invading Poland in September, 1939, Adolf Hitler harangued against Polish atrocities committed against the German minorityî and against the unprovoked attack by Poland against the Gleiwitz radio station by Polish troops. Before the US invasion of Haiti in 1994, President Bill Clinton distributed ìatrocity photosî allegedly committed by the Haitian regime. The atrocity stories were proven to be effective in arousing public opinion.
Hassan el-Ebraheem, a former education minister in the Kuwaiti government and a member of the Kuwaiti ruling elite who had studied at Indiana University and understood the ìAmerican way of thinkingî hired Hill & Knowlton shortly after he became the president of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait organization, which was formed in Washington, DC. The Hill & Knowlton propaganda campaign cost the Kuwaiti government $10.8 million but it was money well spent. Lauri J. Fitz-Pegado, a former member of the US Information Agency (USIA), organized the propaganda campaign for Kuwait, handing out tens of thousands of ìFree Kuwaitî bumper stickers and T-shirts, and media press kits. She organized a national day of prayer for Kuwait by US churches, established a ìKuwait Information Dayî on 20 US college campuses, and convinced 13 state governors to declare a national Free Kuwait Day. But to be effective, as Adolf Hitler and Edward Bernays noted, the propaganda theme must appeal to the emotional drives of the masses. El-Ebraheem noted that the ìpopular psychologyî of the US mentality was based on ìstanding for the underdog and trying to stand for justiceî, unless, of course, that underdog happened to be Palestinians or Kurds or Basques or Corsicans, that is, unless the US government found that ìunderdogî was hostile to American interests. The first axiom of all propaganda is: Atrocities and massacres are an essential element of all propaganda meant to lead to war or intervention. The difficulty was that there were no atrocities that could be presented. Hill & Knowlton then manufactured or fabricated an atrocity, the now famous Iraqi incubator hoax.
The master stroke of Hill & Knowlton preceding the Persian Gulf War was their presentation of the incubator atrocity. The PR firm presented an anonymous 15 year old Kuwaiti girl before the US Human Rights Caucus chaired by California Democratic congressman Tom Lantos and Illinois Republican John Porter. In tearful testimony, she related forcefully and extensively how she ìsaw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospitalî and ìtook the babies out of the incubators Ö and left the babies on the cold floor to die.î She thus testified that she had personally witnessed the deaths of 15 Kuwaiti children when the Iraqi ìaggressorsî seized the hospital. President George Bush cited this ìatrocityî eight times in his television conferences to justify war and US public opinion was swayed against Iraq. Later, it was revealed that the girl was in fact, Nayirah al-Sabah, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, Saud al-Sabah. She resided in Washington, DC, and did not personally witness any of the events. She had purposefully and consciously lied to a US Caucus. But as John R. MacArthur has pointed out in Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, lying under oath before a US congressional committee is illegal and a crime. Lying before a Human Rights Causus, however, is technically not illegal and is therefore not a crime. Tom Lantos, a Hungarian Jew immigrant to the US who still speaks with a Hungarian accent, admitted that he knew of Nayirah al-Sabahís true identity but withheld it from the media. Lantos was the mastermind behind the incubator hoax. Lantos would figure prominently in the later anti-Serbian propaganda during the breakup of Yugoslavia and during the Bosnian civil war. These activities by Lantos point out the contradictions in his role as propagandist and his background. Lantos fled the Holocaust in Hungary to escape to the US where he would engage in activities against Orthodox Serbs that were identical to the Nazi activities against European Jews which he escaped from. The atrocity which Lantos staged was pure sham. But it worked. But how did the incubator hoax originate? What was its genesis?
The first reference to the incubator story was in the British newspaper, the London Daily Telegraph on September 5, 1990. Yahya al-Sumait, an exiled Kuwaiti minister of housing, reported to the paper that ìbabies in the premature unit of one hospital had been removed from their incubators so that these, too, could be carried off.î On September 7, the Los Angeles Times ran a Reuters story in which a San Francisco resident named ìCindyî along with her companion ìRudiî witnessed ìatrocitiesî committed by Iraqi troops while Cindy and Rudi, in a group of 171 Americans, were evacuated from Kuwait: ìIraqis are Ö taking hospital equipment, babies out of incubators. Life-support systems are turned off ÖThe Iraqis are beating Kuwaitis Ö cutting their ears off if they are caught resisting.î As John MacArthur noted, one of the primary axioms in journalism is to give full, complete names of sources. In this instance, only the name ìCindyî was adequate as a source to give hearsay testimony. This should tip one off immediately that this ìatrocityî story is a plant and that it is being used in a propaganda or PR campaign. But in US journalism, once a planted story supports the government policy or agenda, regardless of whether it is true or false, there is constant repetition in a standardized way, ìit gets repeated over and over again.î This is an example of planting. Hill & Knowlton planted the incubator story and then the US media did the rest. This propaganda technique is useful because it doesnít cost Hill & Knowlton a penny once the media picks it up, it is free PR, free propaganda. Is the US an open and free society? Who are these hidden persuaders? Is the incubator atrocity hoax an example of freedom of speech or of the press in America?
These same public relations firms, which were so successful in the Persian Gulf War, brought their campaigns of disinformation and propaganda to the civil wars in Bosnia, Krajina, and Kosovo. Wars come and go but the propaganda techniques remain constant. The infowar blueprint was available from the Persian Gulf War. The PR firms merely had to fill in the names. Nice work if you can get it. The US PR firm Ruder Finn Global Affairs in Washington, DC, admitted it was retained by the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Kosovo Albanians to wage a public relations war against the Serbs during the conflicts in Yugoslavia. According to a Washington newsletter that lists the activities of US PR firms, in 1993, Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Kosovo Albanian separatists paid Ruder Finn a combined fee of over $320,000 for only six months of work. The policies and techniques of Ruder Finn are as follows: Frequency is not crucial in information dissemination, but timing and strategic targeting are. The right persons must be reached at the right time. The first assertion is what actually causes results. Moreover, all denials are entirely ineffective. Propaganda operates at the subconscious level and at the sensory perception level. Once we see something we cannot unsee it. This is why images are so important. Ruder Finn public relations personnel understand the techniques of propaganda perfectly.
James Harff, who was the director of the Balkan public relations campaign for Ruder Finn, explained his methods in an interview he gave to Jacques Merlino of French TV2, which appeared in Merlinoís seminal analysis of the propaganda campaign in the Bosnian conflict, Les verites Yougoslaves ne sont pas toutes bonnes a dire (1993):
It is very simple. A card-index, computer and fax machine. Voila! The basic work related tools of ours. It is not frequency that counts but the capacity to intervene at the right moment and to reach the right persons. It is the first assertion that really counts. All denials are entirely ineffective.
Between June and September, 1992, Ruder Finn organized the following PR activities on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims: 30 press group meetings were organized, 13 exclusive items of information were disseminated, 37 last-minute faxes, and 17 official letters and 8 official reports were passed. Rudder Finn organized several meetings between the Bosnian Muslim representatives and then Vice-Presidential candidate Al Gore and with Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, an active sponsor of the Croat and Bosnian Muslim agendas, and with 10 influential senators, such as Robert Dole and George Mitchell. The staff made 48 telephone calls to members of the White House staff, 20 calls to senators and almost 100 calls to journalists, news anchors, and other influential media representatives. Harff explained that ìour craft consists of disseminating information, to circulate it as fast as possible so that those favoring our cause are the first to be expressed.î He insisted that his job was not to ìverifyî information but to only engage in the ìcirculation of information favorable to us.î This could serve as a concise definition of propaganda. Is propaganda appropriate in a democracy and a free and open society?
Since the time of Hearst and Edward Bernays, the role of propaganda in American society has been examined and essentially accepted as appropriate in a capitalist, democratic society. The American understanding of propaganda in US society is problematic, self-delusional, hypocritical, and complex. Propaganda, however, has been, under different names, marketing, advertising, public relations, spin, accepted as necessary in even a democratic society. P.T. Barnum admonished that ìthere is a sucker born every minuteî. In a capitalist, consumer-oriented society such as the US, commercial propaganda is essential and fundamental. Propaganda is thus accepted, especially if the ends justify the means. That is, it benefits the government and thereby the national interest. As early as 1951, Marshall McLuhan, in The Mechanical Bride: The Folklore of Industrial Man, noted:
Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now. And to generate heat not light is the intention. To keep everybody in the helpless state engendered by prolonged mental rutting is the effect of many ads and much entertainment alike.
The goal of commercial propaganda, advertising, marketing, promotion, is to create a ìcondition of helplessnessî in order to sell products and goods. Political propaganda sells the programs or policies of the government. McLuhan saw that modern war had become infowar, or information war, as earlier William Randolph Hearst had shown. In The Medium is the Massage (1967), McLuhan noted that ìthe latest technologies have rendered war meaningless. Real, total war has become information war.îÝ So Hill & Knowlton and Ruder Finn are not an anomaly or some sort of incongruity in US society but part of the overall environment of US society. They make up our medium, our environment. The environment, the medium, ìas a processor of information is propaganda.î So newspapers, television reporters, public relations firms, are the messengers only. It is futile to attack them. McLuhan gives the analogy of a hot dog vendor at a ballpark. It is futile to attack him about the losing record of the home team. Likewise, it is futile to attack the media and public relations firms for what the government is doing. But the government is made up of persons we as citizens have chosen to speak for us and represent us, speaking and acting on our behalf. Propaganda reveals more about the propagandist than it does about the target. Propaganda reveals the ìpopular psychologyî of the propagandist and what Hitler called the ìemotional ideas of the massesî and what Bernays called ìthe fundamental motivations of the interested publics.î What were the emotional ideas of the masses and fundamental motivations of the interested publics which Ruder Finn relied upon in its propaganda war against the Orthodox Serbs?
Ruder Finn considered its greatest propaganda success in the Bosnian civil war was to have ìsucceeded in moving the Jewish opinionî on the side of the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Kosovo Albanian separatists. The Jewish-American population of the US is approximately I% of the total. Why is the Jewish-American audience or demographic the key ìinterested publicî? Ruder Finn understood that getting Jews to support the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Albanians would be a difficult, delicate, and arduous task because all three of its clients had Nazi-fascist pasts and had participated in the genocide and extermination of over 60,000 Yugoslav Jews during World War II, a time when Serbs protected and rescued Jews. Moreover, Iranian-backed and Iranian-supported Muslim Bosnia was no friend of Israel or of Zionism. Franjo Tudjmanís neo-fascist and neo-Ustasha Croatia was likewise no friend of the Jews, nor of Israel, nor of global Zionism. Kosovo Albanians likewise had interests which were inimical to the state of Israel, Zionism, and Jewish interests globally. Moreover, Ossama bin Ladenís mujahedeen forces were a part of the Bosnian Army and fought during the civil war against Orthodox Serbs. Ossama bin Laden is hardly a friend of Israel or Jewish Zionist goals. During World War II, the Bosnian Muslims had formed two Nazi SS Divisions, the 13th Waffen SS Gebrigs Division der SS Handzar and the 23rd Waffen SS Division Kama. Bosnian Muslims had destroyed the Jewish Sephardic synagogue in Sarajevo in 1941 and had shown that they supported the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem endorsed by their mentor and ally, Heinrich Himmler. Himmler also was active with Kosovo Albanians, supporting the creation of a Greater Albania, he sought to create two Kosovar Albanian Nazi SS Divisions. Himmler created one, the 21st Waffen Gebirgs Division der SS Skanderbeg made up mostly of Kosovo Albanians who rounded up the Jews of Kosovo for the Nazis, who later killed these Kosovo Jews in the Nazi concentration camps. At the Croat concentration camp of Jasenovac, approximately 60,000 Yugoslav Jews were exterminated by the Croatian Ustashi, a fanatical Roman Catholic nationalist organization. Following World War II, many of the Bosnian Muslim troops in the Handzar SS Division fled to the Arab-Muslim world to escape prosecution for war crimes. Instead, these former members of the Handzar Division became Bosnian Muslim volunteers in the Arab armies which fought against the Jews in then Palestine who sought to create the state of Israel. Why should Jews support these clients? Moreover, while the Vatican was the first to recognize the independence of Croatia in 1991 followed by Germany, Israel refused to recognize Croatia because the Croats had murdered 60,000 Yugoslav Jews during World War II and because the then President of Croatia, Franjo Tudjman, was regarded by Israeli diplomats as being anti-Semitic. Tudjman accused the Israeli government of conducting a genocide against Palestinian Muslims and of being ìJudeo-Nazisî in his book The Wasteland of Historical Reality (1989), a book oddly not translated into English and ignored in the West. Why? In his book, Tudjman stated that 6 million Jews did not die in the Holocaust, that 900,000 Jews actually died during the Holocaust. Moreover, he argued that the Jews had committed the first genocide in history when they massacred the original inhabitants to form what is now Israel. Tudjman also publicly thanked God that his wife was neither a Serb nor a Jew. Alija Izebetgovic had published The Islamic Declaration in 1970 which outlined his Muslim nationalist goals for Bosnia. Izetbegovic argued for a Muslim Bosnia for Muslims and that Christians and other minorities should be marginalized. He left no doubt that Bosnia was to be a Muslim state and that Christians had no place in it. This book too remained untranslated and was ignored by the intellectual and scholarly elites in the US. Remarkably, even Nobel Laureate Ivo Andric, who was a Bosnian and, in fact, was the most famous Bosnian, was ignored and his works relegated to the junk heap. Even a Nobel Prize winner was not good enough for the intellectual elites, who instead were promoting and espousing such books as Roy Gutmanís Eyewitness to Genocide, Zlataís Diary about the Bosnian Muslim Ann Frank, using the memory of Ann Frank for Muslim propaganda purposes, Noel Malcolmís Bosnia: A Short History. In short, the intellectual elites were rewriting the history of the Balkans, or indeed, writing their own history. Were the masses that gullible? Would a ìbig lieî work better than a ìsmall lieî as Hitler adduced? The real Ann Frank died in a German concentration camp; the Bosnian Muslim Ann Frank, Zlata Filipovic, went to a villa in Paris to observe the Bosnian civil war from a more comfortable distance.
So Ruder Finn knew that the pasts of Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo were marked by a ìreal and cruel anti-Semitismî by their clients, the Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Albanians. The Orthodox Serbs had been the only ones who have protected and rescued Jews. Harff discussed the problem as follows:
The game was extremely delicate Ö President Tudjman was too imprudent in his book Ö A reading of his texts could find him guilty of anti-SemitismÖ President Izetbegovic grounded himself too firmly in the quest for a Muslim fundamentalist state in Bosnia. Moreover, the past of Croatia and Bosnia was marked by a very real and cruel anti-Semitism Ö Several tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps.
There was thus considerable hostility and antipathy towards the Bosnian Muslims, Albanians, and Croats in Jewish intellectual circles and organizations. The anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic history and policies of its clients, the Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Kosovar Albanians, was known to the Ruder Finn firm. The president of Ruder Finn, David Finn, is Jewish and has stated that through its PR activities, ìI am helping to bring about historical truth.î It is difficult to comprehend how a PR firm through propaganda paid for and bought by clients can ìbring about historical truthî. Using the Holocaust to manufacture bigotry and racism and hatred against an entire people, the Orthodox Serbs, can hardly be regarded as ethical or morally justified. Ruder Finn was nothing but a ìhate groupî manipulating the Holocaust to foment hatred and bigotry against an entire people. Propaganda is meant to dehumanize a target group so that they can be killed. Propaganda is ultimately meant to lead to the killing or murder of those the propaganda targets. And, indeed, Rudder Finn propaganda was used by the US government and media to ethnically cleanse a quarter of a million Krajina Serbs in 1995 and was used to justify the bombing of the Bosnian Serb forces. In 1999, propaganda was used to justify the ìstrategic bombingî of Belgrade, Novi Sad, Pristina, Nis, Cacak, and other targets in Serbia, killing Serbian civilians and military personnel alike. Is such an unethical and immoral use and misuse of the Holocaust to justify the manufacture of racism and bigotry against an entire ethnic group appropriate in an open and free society, a democracy?Ý
Ruder Finn achieved its brilliant propaganda master stroke with the so-called Bosnia concentration camp stories which were featured from August 2 to 5, 1992 in New York Newsday. Once these ìconcentration campî stories broke, Ruder Finn staff immediately convened three major Jewish organizations: the American-Jewish Congress, the American-Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League (which is concerned with the defamation of only Jews and not others). The firm further suggested that these Jewish groups print an insert in the New York Times and that they organize a protest in front of the United Nations building. Harff described the spectacular propaganda effects as follows:
The engagement of Jewish organizations on the side of the Muslims was a super poker play. We were able to associate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public opinion. No one could understand what was going on in the former Yugoslavia. The vast majority of Americans wondered in which African country to locate Bosnia itself. In a single shot we were able to offer a simple story, a history of the good and the bad guys ÖWe have won Ö targeting the Jewish audience, the right target. The emotional charge was so powerful that no one could go against it. We really batted a thousand in full!
Propaganda reveals more about the propagandist than it does about the target. Harff analogizes the fomenting of racial hatred against an entire people and religion to a poker game and to a batting average in baseball. He nonchalantly reveals how he exploited and manipulated the Jewish Holocaust for paying clients to stir up hatred and racist bigotry against an entire people so that the US government would be able to kill and murder that people so castigated by the Ruder Finn propaganda machine. Fomenting racist hysteria for the object of killing and inducing military intervention is analogized to a card game and a baseball game, it is merely a game. But not even Babe Ruth or Ted Williams ìbatted a thousand in full!î Can these results be legitimate?
The association of the Bosnian Serbs with the Nazis in public opinion thus resulted in a tremendous propaganda success for Ruder Finn. Harff explained that ìit was not long before there was a clear change in the press language as emotional terms like ethnic cleansing and concentration camps arrived, all evoking Nazi Germany, the gas chambers at Auschwitz.î The firm understood that the majority of Americans lacked any meaningful understanding of the conflict in Bosnia. The creation of a bad guys and good guys scenario was crucial in their success. Targeting the Jewish audience created a powerful emotional surge which could not be resisted or challenged without accusations of anti-Semitism, revisionism, and insensitivity to the Holocaust. Moreover, while Jews make up approximately 1% of the US population, they are represented disproportionately at the US State Department, at the White House, and in the President Bill Clinton Administration. Jews are also disproportionately represented in the mass media, the movie industry, and newspapers and magazines. The Israel lobby and the Zionist objectives of many Jewish-American organizations based in New York are powerful in the intellectual life of the US. All James Harff and David Finn had to do was to spin doctor the events in the former Yugoslavia as inimical to Jewish interests, as inimical to the powerful Israel lobby, and adverse to global Zionist interests and objectives, and showing irreverence towards the Holocaust. The propaganda terminology of the Bosnian civil war was almost exclusively derived from World War II and Holocaust terms: ìgenocideî, ìethnic cleansingî, ìconcentration campsî, ìrefugeesî, ìrailroad wagon carsî, ìatrocitiesî, ìmassacresî, ìmass gravesî, ìwar crimesî, ìwar crimes tribunalî, Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic equated with Adolf Hitler. A fundamental tenet off all propaganda is the moral superiority of the propagandist.
Like the Kuwaiti incubator hoax of the Persian Gulf War, the Bosnian concentration camp stories were later exposed to be untrue and spurious. The British news network ITN had actually filmed from inside the barbed wire which enclosed not Bosnian Muslim inmates but a tool shed. This was ìThe Picture that Fooled the Worldî but like the earlier Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, it had served its propaganda purpose. All propaganda has a short life-span. Once the purpose of the propaganda is achieved, then the propaganda material is relegated to the junk heap. Who can remember the last time the US media covered Sarajevo or Bosnia. At one time, Bosnia was the top news story in the world. Once the propaganda had achieved its objectives, Bosnia disappeared from news coverage entirely as if it had never existed. In fact, it was later disclosed that all three sides, the Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, and Bosnian Croats, had all set up detention camps and centers, which were all later disbanded. The concentration camp story was thus pure sham. The deception was, nevertheless, greatly successful. The public relations firms hired by the Bosnian Muslims and Croats and Kosovo Albanians were thus crucial in molding public opinion against the Serbian people through a massive propaganda and disinformation campaign.
B. The Role of the US State Department
The US State Department sought to dismember Yugoslavia along the same lines as the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. The State Department was the overseer of the dismemberment and the dismantling of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia was anticipated as the next victim. The US State Department became an active and vociferous sponsor of ìnew statesî and nations and of secession movements in countries which were perceived as hostile to American geopolitical interests. The new and independent state of Palestine, however, was not supported or sponsored, nor was a Kurdish state out of NATO member Turkey, nor a Corsican state out of NATO member France, nor a Basque state out of NATO member Spain. The Soviet Union were perceived as ìevil empiresî or ìartificial statesî or ìimpossible countriesî, ìland of demonsî which had to be dismantled and its constituent [parts given ìfreedomî and ìdemocracyî and ìindependenceî. The US State Department thus obviously was sponsoring secession movements selectively and with regard to whether such secession would be in the interests of the US. Moreover, the new Balkan states, such as Bosnian and Hercegovina, were erroneously equated with the ìcaptiveî Baltic states. As a sponsor of ìnew statesî, the US would thereby gain in global geopolitical power and influence and stature. New markets and new spheres of influence would be opened up in a region hitherto denied to US neo-colonialism and neo-imperialism. By dividing and conquering potentially powerful unified potential enemies, such policies would greatly contribute to advancing American political, military, and commercial interests in the Balkans. The Balkans were ripe for picking. The benefits of such a policy were evident with regard to the breakup of the Soviet Union, the principal antagonist and competitor to the United States.Ý Such a policy was at first not considered beneficial with regard to Yugoslavia, where vital American national interests were not at stake. Thus, at first, the US State Department policy under President George Bush Administration was to maintain the Yugoslav federation. Intense diplomatic pressure from the resurgent, post-Maastricht Germany, which was sponsoring the break-up of Yugoslavia, however, led to the recognition of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Hercegovina. The Vatican was the first country to recognize Croatia, followed by Germany, and then, under intense German pressure, the rest of the Western European states followed. The German fait accompli forced the US to follow suit and to recognize these seceding republics and to embark on a disastrous course in Bosnia.
Once the dismemberment of the 72 year old state of Yugoslavia was an accomplished fact due to the intense diplomatic efforts of Germany, US policy makers embarked upon a policy to recruit the secessionist ìnew statesî of the former Yugoslavia as client states. The US sought to recognize and sponsor new states which would be dependent upon the US and which would act as bulwarks against the dominant regional power in the region whose interests were adverse to those of the US, a neo-colonialist and neo-imperialist ìbalance of powerî theory. With regard to the former Soviet Union, the major power or successor state to be contained and neutralized was Russia; with the former Yugoslavia, the power was Serbia. US policy makers had a complex and delicate problem with the containment of Russia, which US policy makers sought to contain but not to unduly antagonize because Russia was still a threat to American interests and still remained a threat to American security. Thus, American policy makers had to walk a fine line with regard to Russia. Full NATO membership to former Warsaw Pact nations was postponed by the creation of the Partnership for Peace program, which would temporarily postpone the inevitable and give Boris Yeltsin a face saving measure at home. Such a delicate and intricate high wire act, however, was neither necessary nor desired with regard to Serbia. Serbia was not a threat to USA security and was not vital to American interests. Serbia, indeed, presented the sole obstacle to NATO expansion in the Balkans. Moreover, Serbia rejected the status of a satellite or puppet state of the US. Serbia was pursuing an independent course. This did not fit the script for the New World Order. Initially, Serbia was seen as another Iraq, in other words, Serbia was expendable as serving no useful purpose to US interests and in fact having interests inimical to those of the US. The US State Department perceived the ìnew statesî of Bosnia and Croatia as ideal for sponsorship, they would be pliant Balkan banana republics and ìfledgling democracies.
Bosnia met all the State Department criteria for US sponsorship: 1) the Bosnian Muslim dominated and Muslim-controlled government for be dependent upon the US for defense, development, and viability; 2) a Bosnian Muslim-dominated Bosnia would act as a bulward against the independent Serbian state, a balance of power would emerge; and, 3) American geopolitical interests would be advanced because political, military, and commercial influence and markets would be gained in the Balkan region, which was formerly outside the American sphere of influence, and a potential enemy would be neutralized. Opening markets suitable for exploitation by US commercial interests had always guided US neo-imperialism, ìglobalismî. The US Ambassador to former Yugoslavia, the self-styled ìlast ambassadorî, Warren Zimmermann, admitted that American policy in Bosnia was based on the prevention of the Serbian population of Bosnia from exercising its inherent right to self-determination. With regard to the Bosnian Serb population, the US policy was anti-democratic and sought to defeat the popular will of the masses. Zimmermann opposed Bosnian Serb autonomy and self-rule in Bosnia and instead rushed to recognize Bosnia and thus ìinternationalizing the conflictî, which meant preventing the Serbian population from deciding its own national fate and making a mockery of democracy which the US espoused for propaganda purposes. The propaganda ploy did not fool anyone. The war was on. The Bosnian civil war began when Bosnian Muslims shot and killed Nikola Gardovic, a Bosnian Serb, during a Serbian Orthodox wedding in front of the Old Serbian Orthodox Church in Sarajevo, built in the XI century. These were the first shots of the Bosnian civil war and Nikola Gardovic was the first victim or casualty. Zimmermann explained this anti-Serbian and anti-democratic policy in the New York Times, August 29, 1993:
Our view was that we might be able to head off a Serbian power grab by internationalizing the problem. Our hope was the Serbs would hold off if it was clear Bosnia had the recognition of Western countries. It turned out we were wrong.
Many innocent people would pay with their lives in the former Yugoslavia for that mistake. Zimmermann would get a book outÝ of it, a memoir recounting his disastrous and inane diplomatic efforts.
The State Department goals were thus to sponsor a weak Bosnian Muslim-ruled and Muslim-dominated Bosnia (although Muslims were a minority to the Christian---Serbian and Croatian---majority) dependent upon the US for security, economic development, and political viability, to contain and neutralize the dominant independent power in the region, Serbia, create a ìbalance of powerî, and thereby to advance American interests with this increase in influence and control and the opening of new markets ripe for exploitation, ìeconomic globalismî, which the ill-fated Ron Brown mission in 1996 sought to advance. A further goal was to prevent a bad precedent or example from being set for the new states or fledgling democracies of the former Soviet Union. By these policies, the US State Department denied the Serbian population of Bosnia their inherent right to self-determination and self-rule and autonomy. Why was not a referendum supported which would allow the population of Bosnia to democratically decide its own national future? Why does the US support such a referendum for Kosovo Albanians but not for Bosnian Serbs or Krajina Serbs? The civil war which followed was then inevitable but due mainly on disastrous and misguided US policies which made it so.
The 1992 Lisbon Agreement between the three ethnic factions in Bosnia was a political settlement of the crisis which prevented a civil war. Warren Zimmermann has admitted, however, that he persuaded the Bosnian Muslim political leaders, Alija Izetbegovic and Ejup Ganic, to renounce the Lisbon Agreement, where the three factions agreed to make Bosnia a republic divided into three ethnic regions associated in a confederation, much like the Swiss confederation made up of German, French, and Italian cantons. Swiss-like cantonization was a viable and realistic compromise solution to the Bosnia conflict and was a model that may have worked for all of former Yugoslavia. This was the only realistic and practical solution which would be fair to all the ethnic minorities of the former Yugoslavia who lost any safeguards once the multi-ethnic Yugoslavia was dismembered into ethnically homogenous national states. Germany and the US State Department would have nothing to do with any compromises or safeguards for ethnic minorities such as the Krajina Serbs in Croatia. Former UN commander in Bosnia, Canadian general Lewis MacKenzie, conceded that the Bosnia disaster resulted due to ìpremature recognitionî and by the absence of any agreement safeguarding ethnic minorities. The US State Department policy was to encourage the Bosnian Muslim leaders to break with the proposed partition plan, to unilaterally and to unconditionally reject and to renounce the Lisbon Agreement. A high ranking State Department official, ìwho asked not to be identifiedî, admitted in the August 29, 1993 New York Times that the ìpolicy was to encourage Izetbegovic to break with the partition plan.î He stated that ìwe let it be known we would support his Government in the United Nations if they got into trouble.î Richard Johnson, the Yugoslav desk officer at the State department stated that James Baker, the Secretary of State, ìtold the Europeans to stop pushing ethnic cantonization of Bosnia.î He further maintained that ìwe pressed the Europeans to move forward on recognition. Recognition soon followed and the civil war in Bosnia erupted and spread throughout the republic. Henry Kissinger noted that premature recognition ìcalled into being a civil war, not a country.î In Balkan Tragedy, Susan L. Woodward concluded that ìthe purpose of recognition Ö was not to end violence but Ö to assert power and leadership within the Euro-Atlantic alliance Öso that the United States could join the allies and respond to its Croatian lobby.î Negotiator David Owen, former US NATO commander Charles G. Boyd, and George Kenney of the State Department admitted that recognition had been premature and provocative and had led to the civil war. The evidence shows clearly the complicity of the US State Department in causing and unleashing the civil war in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic warned that by abandoning the Lisbon Agreement and giving the Bosnian Muslims the green light to wage a civil war would result in the needless loss of life and in wanton destruction, a civil war would result in ëhundreds of thousand dead and hundreds of towns destroyed. The US State Department has never accepted responsibility for its complicity and guilt in causing the Bosnian civil war.
C. The Role of the US Media
At first the claims of the propaganda were so impudent that people
thought it insane; later, it got on peopleís nerves; and in the
end, it was believedÖ The great masses of people will more easily
fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.
The so-called Western media, particularly the US media, perpetuated and, indeed, greatly exacerbated the Bosnian Civil War of 1992-1995. In the Bosnian civil war, as journalist Peter Brock noted in ìDateline Yugoslavia: The Partisan Pressî in Foreign Policy, the US media took on a stridently active advocacy and partisan and combatant role in the conflict, a civil war where each ethnic group was asserting its own interests. For the US media, the civil war became an ideological crusade against the Serbian Orthodox population of Bosnia, Krajina, Kosovo, and Serbia, that is, a propaganda or information war. The US media did not merely report on the war but in fact contributed deleteriously to its progress by distorting, falsifying, manipulating, and manufacturing information and facts. Such an information war against a people and nation was in previous conflicts termed ìwar propagandaî, reporting that was consciously biased and partisan, reporting organized by governments to induce military intervention. The key question is: Was this media reporting, the planned, organized, systematic, and orchestrated information or propaganda war against the Serbian Orthodox people merely a product of the whims and wishes of lowly journalists, newspaper editors, news networks, and the news media? That is to say, was this propaganda war merely a random and arbitrary decision and action of the US media, or was the US government behind it? Were US public relations firms responsible? The media in any country invariably and ineluctably acts on behalf of the government and society which sent it? Public relations firms act to promote the interests of the government. The US media infowar against the Orthodox Serbian population was planned and organized solely by the US government. The media are only the messengers.
The propaganda war against the Serbian people was begun and organized initially by the newly united Germany in July, 1991, on behalf of its new clients, Roman Catholic Croatia and Slovenia. The editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Johann Reismuller, attacked the Serbian Orthodox as ìYugo-Serbsî, ìmilitary Bolsheviksî, and maintained that Orthodox Serbs had ìno place in the European Communityî, Roman Catholic Europe, ìenlightened Latin Christendomî of which Germany and her clients were members. Joschka Fischer of the German Green Party which was committed to pacifism and was antiwar, argued that Germany should militarily intervene against the Serbs to ìcombat Auschwitzî, that is, that Germany should go to war against the Orthodox Serbian population, which was equated to Nazi Germany, to prevent the genocide against Croats and Bosnian Muslims. The German racism and bigotry pre-dated Hitler and was of pre-Nazi origin, deriving from the Austro-German nationalism of World War I when the slogan ìSerbien muss sterben!î (Serbia must die!) guided German policy. Germany violated the Helsinki Agreement in pushing for the unilateral, unconditional, and unnegotiated ìrecognitionî of Slovenia and Croatia. The Helsinki Agreement pledged signatories to respect ìthe territorial integrityî of member states such as Yugoslavia. But even before German recognition, another European state recognized Roman Catholic Croatia: the Vatican. The Vatican was the first state to recognize Croatia, a controversial action in that a religious body had taken a political step which violated international law and agreements. Why did the Vatican and a resurgent and nationalist Germany prematurely and unilaterally rush to recognize secessionist states and to destroy Yugoslavia, a multi-ethnic, democratic state, and a member of the United Nations? The motivations were ideological in nature.
Germany and the Vatican had waged war against Serbia and Yugoslavia throughout the twentieth century. The Vatican, in fact, sanctioned and authorized the Austro-German war against Serbia in 1914, ushering in the Great War. Both the Vatican and Germany were excluded from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, where they sought to reassert their influence and control. Serbia was an obstacle in their way. Being Orthodox, Serbia was associated with Russia, which was a major antagonist of Germany and the Vatican. Serbia would play the role of a surrogate for Russia and be a whipping boy or straw man target for Germany and the Vatican, who sought to destroy or weaken Russia by destroying Serbia. Germany and the Vatican could not antagonize Russia which remained a powerful nation, but Serbia was fair game and could function as a surrogate to reassert their influence. The German and Vatican policies led to a disastrous and humiliating military defeat for its client Croatia, where a civil war began between Croats and Serbs within the Croat Republic. Peace, however, was not a goal. Both the Vatican and Germany sought war, if necessary, to achieve their objectives in the Balkans.
The US initially pursued a cautious policy in the Balkans and was seeking to negotiate with Belgrade over the secession of the republics. Secretary of State James Baker at first pursued such a course. But intense German pressure and lobbying and following the Maastricht Agreement, the US began pursuing a policy similar to that of the Vatican and Germany with regard to recognition. The US ambassador to Yugoslavia, the self-proclaimed ìlast ambassador to Yugoslaviaî, Warren Zimmermann, stated this policy in January, 1992, as follows: ìWe are aiming for a dissolution of Yugoslavia into independent states peacefully.î He told Bosnian Muslim leaders to reject the Lisbon Agreement and to rely upon the US for help. James Baker admitted that he told Margaret Tutweiler to brief the US press corps and media and to inform them on what policy line they should take, handout journalism. The propaganda war against Orthodox Serbs had begun in the US. David Gompert, a former National Security Council member, in ìHow to Defeat Serbiaî in Foreign Affairs, explained the propaganda campaign would consist of a ìsustained economic and information warfare against Serbiaî and noted that ìthe power of information technology is growingî.
The US media essentially repeated the media techniques used against
Iraq and Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Successful
US media experiences in the Gulf War to a large extent explain the media
posture and role in Bosnia. In fact, the civil war in the former Yugoslavia
was meticulously and carefully modeled upon the Gulf War scenario, with
the Serbs in the role of the Iraqis, and the Slovenes, Croats, Bosnian
Muslims, and Kosovo Albanians as the Kuwaiti victims. Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic, the ìButcher of the Balkans,î a ìthugî,
a ìHitlerî, was the counterpart to Saddam Hussein, the ìbutcher
of Baghdadî, also a ìthugî, and remarkably, also a ìHitlerî.
The Bosnian Muslims were perceived in US propaganda as akin to or parallel
with the Kuwaiti ìvictimsî of ìaggressionî by
a foreign invading power. Anthony Lewis and the so-called liberal media
called for the bombardment of Belgrade as early as 1992, following the
pattern set with the bombing of Baghdad. No one bothered to point out the
important distinction. The analogy between Bosnia and Kuwait was perfect
for the media. In Yugoslavia, however, there was a civil war. Unilateral
recognition initiated by outside powers violated the Helsinki Accords,
that is, that recognition violated international law. Instead, the US media
embarked on rhetoric and propaganda, an infowar.
The goal of US propaganda or the massive infowar was to create or manufacture an imperative for military intervention. Such intervention was difficult to engineer because the Bosnian conflict was a civil war between three ethnic factions who were each merely protecting their own interests. The US propaganda ploy was to re-characterize the conflict as an aggression or military invasion of Yugoslavia against a UN recognized independent state, Bosnia. This was merely rhetoric, however. On the ground and factually, Bosnia had deconstructed into three ethnic factions, Bosnian Serbs, Muslims, and Croats. And if Yugoslavia had forces in Bosnia and was providing support to the Bosnian Serbs, Croatia had forces in Bosnia and was supplying the Bosnian Croat forces, while Iran, Algeria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and even Ossama bin Laden and his mujahedeen forces were in Bosnia and supplying the Bosnian Muslims. The US would build clandestine air strips, download spy satellite information, and provide weapons and logistics support to the Bosnian Muslim forces. US Air Force transport aircraft based in Germany even air lifted ìhumanitarian food rationsî which were dropped in eastern Bosnia while the Bosnian Muslim forces were launching an offensive that took them across the Drina River into Serbia. What we had in Bosnia was a classic, dictionary definition of a civil war. US policy, however, was to engage in an infowar and to take sides against one of the combatants, the Bosnian Serbs, which was arbitrary, partisan, biased, and not even-handed and fair. To rationalize this military intervention against one side, a propaganda war was needed.
In all propaganda meant to lead to war, massacres and atrocities are necessary to create an imperative for war. In Bosnia, there were the Sarajevo Breadline Massacre, the Markale Market Massacre I, the Markale Market Massacre II, and the Srebrenica Massacre, described by US journalists as the largest massacre in Europe since World War II. None of these so-called massacres were ever proven or shown to have been perpetrated by the Bosnian Serbs. In fact, UN investigators and peacekeepers concluded that they were deliberately staged by the Bosnian Muslim government to create sympathy and to create in the words of UN commander in Bosnia Sir Michael Rose, ìimages of warî. General Rose, General Lewis MacKenzie, David Owen, Canadian peacekeepers all recounted how they had personally witnessed incidents where the Bosnian Muslim forces had shelled their own citizens and had fired near hospitals to create ìatrocitiesî for the cameras, for the US propaganda machine. Massacres and atrocities, however, were not enough or sufficient. Genocide and ethnic cleansing became the defining propaganda terms for the Bosnian civil war.
The US government and media propaganda strategy was to categorize Bosnia as a conflict where the Bosnian Serbs were committing genocide against Bosnian Muslims through ethnic cleansing, mass rapes, rape camps, massacres, and death camps. Journalist Roy Gutman of the sensationalistic newspaper New York Newsday and John Burns of the New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for their ìethnic cleansingî news articles. John Burns received his Pulitzer for his interviews with Borislav Herak, who with Sretko Damjanovic, were condemned to death for the ethnic cleansing murders of Kasim and Asim Bleckic, two Bosnian Muslims. In the March 1, 1997 New York Times article ìJailed Serbsí ëVictimsí Found Alive, Embarrassing Bosniaî both alleged victims were found alive, Kasim Klekic was shown raising sheep in a Sarajevo suburb. Instead, Blekic had been an ambulance driver for the Bosnian Muslim Army during the civil war. The ethnic cleansing stories of Burns were shown to be false and manufactured. But Burns was not stripped of his Pulitzer Prize. The ethnic cleansing dispatches of Roy Gutman were likewise based on innuendo, hearsay, and the information office of the Bosnian Muslim political leadership and derived from the information ministry in Zagreb.. None of his allegations were substantiated. He too did not have to return his Pulitzer Prize. This infowar led to the most sensationalistic denouement to the US propaganda war, the so-called concentration camp stories.
The propaganda strategy of accusing the Bosnian Serbs of genocide and comparing their actions to those of the Nazis and to the events of the Holocaust necessitated the need for US propagandists to trot out all the Worlds War II era Holocaust analogies. For the Holocaust comparison to work, there had to be trains transporting the victims, mass graves, war criminals, war crimes, massacres, atrocities, cattle cars, attacks on a religion and religious symbols, an international war crimes court or tribunal, a plan of genocide, and finally, death or concentration camps. Roy Gutman had written a story in which he called the Omarska camp in northern Bosnia a ìdeath campî in Newsday. Gutman immediately created a worldwide sensation, which story Ruder Finn was all too eager to ìcirculateî. Penny Marshall and the British news network ITN were sent by their editors to specifically find Serbian-run concentration camps. They had to furnish the pictures if the Pentagon was to furnish the war. Roy Gutman and John Burns had created a media feeding frenzy to find evidence of concentration camps in Bosnia. Penny Marshall filmed refugees at the detention camps of Omarska and Trnopolje in northern Bosnia. The refugees were at the detention center for their own safety and to obtain food and shelter as war refugees. But they informed Marshall that they were free to move about and could leave anytime they chose to. What Penny Marshall and her team did, however, was to film behind a barbed wire fence that enclosed the news reporters and not the refugees. Moreover, the refugees were not mistreated and were not starved. But the ITN/Marshall team purposely chose a refugee, Fikret Alic, that apparently suffered from a childhood disease that left his bones deformed and gave him an emaciated appearance. His condition, however, was not caused by his ill-treatment at the detention camp. But through deceptive camera angles and judicious selection and staging and film editing, Penny Marshall was able to create what the Daily Mail called ìThe Proofî and the Daily Star called ìBelsen 1992: War Camp Hell Stuns the Worldî; the Daily Mirror called it ìBelsen 92: The Picture that Shames the Worldî, proof of concentration camps in Bosnia. These images were crucial in creating ìimagesî of Nazi-like concentration camps in Bosnia. In the article ìThe Picture that Fooled the Worldî, which appeared in Living Marxism, German journalist Thomas Deichmann was able to show how the barbed wire fence actually enclosed a tool shed and not the refugees. The Penny Marshall team had chosen the shed because the barbed wire fence would deceptively and misleadingly create the impression that the refugees were imprisoned and made it easier for US and British propaganda to liken the camp to a German concentration camp. A Bosnian Serb news crew also accompanied the ITN team and filmed the encounter. This footage further confirms and substantiates Deichmannís exposures. In addition, Dragan Opacic, who testified on behalf of the Bosnian Muslim regime, confessed that he had lied on the witness stand before the UN war crimes tribunal. He had committed perjury, a crime itself. Moreover, he stated that his testimony was coerced and manufactured by the Bosnian Muslim regime. The entire genocide and ethnic cleansing propaganda campaign had been shown to be a sham. But it had worked. Military intervention was ensured against the Bosnian Serbs.
US media deceptions, manipulations, and distortions were rampant. An infamous example is the ìSarajevo Breadline Massacreî in 1992 which UN investigators and reports concluded was perpetrated and staged by the Bosnian Muslim regime and was a horrendous atrocity committed against their own people in order to gain world sympathy and to induce the US to militarily intervene against the Bosnian Serbs. Investigators noticed that the area was cordoned off and that news crews were positioned to film near the site. The propaganda ploy worked. After this staged and manufactured Bosnian Muslim incident, the US induced the UN to impose sanctions on Yugoslavia.
Television news networks, magazines. newspapers, all aspects of US media, were engaged in war propaganda, following the Gulf War pattern. The infowar was systematized, centrally organized and planned from the State Department and other US government branches, such as the CIA and Pentagon, with news accounts that were being consciously manipulated to present a uniform and unvarying image of the Bosnian conflict. US Army psychological operations specialists, psyops, military propagandists, were working with CNN, the largest US news network, and with other US media outlets during the Bosnian civil war. The US government planted news stories and information in US newspapers and television networks, the technique of planting. In every news account from the former Yugoslavia, one could detect US government propaganda embeds, or imbedding. Every news account from the Balkans would include a superfluous and always repeated sentence or paragraph, the subliminal embed of the US government. Why were there subliminal embeds in every US newspaper? What was the function of subliminal embedding in news coverage? Were we living in George Orwellís 1984 or Joseph Stalinís USSR or Adolf Hitlerís Germany or the Senator Joseph McCarthy ìCommunist witch huntî era of the 1950s or was it Bill Clintonís United States, the ìleader of the free worldî? It was difficult to tell. There was little if any independent thought or a diversity of opinion and debate or discussion. Only a single viewpoint was presented. Contrary viewpoints were rejected. Conformity was demanded. Thought-control was the objective. US editorial staffs of newspapers, magazines, and other publications silenced any dissent. The US media never reported on atrocities, massacres, or ethnic cleansing committed against Bosnian Serbs or Krajina Serbs. Serbian victims were erroneously listed as Muslims or Croats killed by Serbs. The US media reported on Bosnian Muslim civilian deaths and casualties, collateral damage, but not on Bosnian Muslim military deaths or casualties. Serbian deaths or casualties were rarely reported, and when they were, the deaths were spin doctored to appear as justified deaths or rationalized as ìrevenge killingsî. When Serbs were attacked and killed, the media reported on ìviolenceî in Bosnia, a US State Department infowar code word. Thus, when Croatians, Bosnian Muslims, Kosovo Albanians kill Serbs, or Turkish Army troops kill Kurdish separatists, or Israeli Army troops kill unarmed Palestinians, it is referred to as ìviolenceî, the infowar code word. When Bosnian Serbs killed ethnic Albanian terrorists and separatists in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija it is termed ìethnic cleansingî and ìgenocideî. The US State Department coined the oxymoron ìCroatian Serbsî and ìIsraeli Arabsî, showing a similar pattern applied to both conflicts. The US media techniques of infowar have not changed drastically since the time of William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, during the age of yellow journalism.
The unprecedented US media barrage of disinformation and war propaganda only fueled the Bosnian civil war leading to still more death and destruction. The innocent victims of this US media infowar were the populations of the former Yugoslavia.
IV. A New Form of Aggression: Unilateral Diplomatic Recognition
With the benefit of hindsight, many political analysts and diplomats conceded that the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia were precipitated by premature diplomatic recognition. The resurgent Germany was at the forefront of this new form of aggression which took the form of unilateral, unconditional diplomatic recognition. Germany, prevented from using its military forces outside its own borders since World War II by treaties ending that war and by subsequent legislation, sought a new means of exerting its new-found power and influence, which was demonstrated at the Maastricht Summit. This power turned out to be illusory. Germany initially created the crisis that the US resolved. Germany used diplomatic recognition as a substitute for outright military aggression against the Balkans, particularly Serbia. German troops had invaded and occupied Belgrade in 1915 and again in 1941 after a massive bombardment that killed tens of thousands of Serbian civilians. With German diplomatic support, Austria-Hungary had annexed Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1908 in violation of the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, in violation of international law. Adolf Hitler invaded and conquered Yugoslavia in 1941 and then dismembered the country, ìrecognizingî the newly created independent states, one of which was the Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi-fascist puppet state which ìde-recognizedî the Orthodox Serbs and incorporated Bosnia-Hercegovina.
The leaders of the new Germany, Helmut Kohl and Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and later, Klaus Kinkel, a former German intelligence chief working for Croat, Bosnian Muslim, and Kosovo Albanian secession during the 1980s, sought to exert their new geopolitical power and influence in Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, a sphere from which they had hitherto been excluded. One means of German power expansion was to seek to create a unified Euro-state led, dominated, and controlled by Bonn. German leaders wanted a unified currency, a European parliament, common markets, and a common army. This unified, monolithic Euro-state would be dominated by Germany. Thus, German foreign policy sought unification, conglomeration, and centralization where such would advance German interests. A second means of power expansion was to conversely dismember, de-recognize, and Balkanize states and destroy the status quo where doing so would serve German interests by allowing German penetration and infiltration of markets and military and political influence. A policy of ìBalkanizationî: was pursued in the Balkans where Germany sought entrée. This policy was achieved by a new form of aggression: diplomatic recognition. Thus, without firing a single bullet, Germany could achieve all its foreign policy and geopolitical goals and agendas which it set. Like Hitler before them, however, the German leaders pursued a policy which led to disaster and war. In both former Yugoslav republics which Germany had recognized, two brutal civil wars erupted which unraveled and undid all of Germanyís machinations.
Once it was seen that premature recognition was unfair and provocative, US Secretary of State Warren Christopher and French President Francois Mitterrand accused Germany of precipitating and causing the civil wars in Yugoslavia through a reckless and dangerous policy of unconditional, unilateral recognition.
Was diplomatic recognition proper for Croatia and Bosnia in 1991 and 1992 without negotiations with Belgrade and without safeguards for the Serbian populations and without agreements ensuring minority rights? The international legal guidelines for recognizing new states were established in the 1932 Montevideo Convention. Under that Convention, three criteria must be first met before recognition could and should be granted: 1) there must be a government which is in control; 2) there must be clearly established borders; and, 3) there must be a stable population. With regard to both Croatia and Bosnia, these criteria were not met or satisfied.
Unilateral, unconditional, non-negotiated diplomatic recognition of the seceding republics of the former Yugoslavia violated the Helsinki Accords. Under the Helsinki Agreement, signatory states had agreed to respect the ìterritorial integrityî of member states, of which Yugoslavia was one. Unilateral and unconditional recognition of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina as independent states by the Vatican, Germany, and other states violated the Helsinki Agreement. Thus, premature recognition violated both the Montevideo Convention and the Helsinki Agreement. In recognizing the seceding Yugoslav republics, international agreements and laws were violated.
Approximately 30% of Croatia as constituted in Communist Yugoslavia was settled by ethnic Orthodox Serbs who were the majority in those areas and who did not wish to be a part of the new nationalist Croat state, which was anti-Serbian and anti-minority rights and which based its independence drive on a racist attack on Serbs. The city of Knin was made up of a majority Serbian population; before the civil war, the Serbian population of Knin was 88%. The total Serbian population in this region of Croatia, called Krajina, numbered approximately 1,200,000. The Srem and Slavonija regions were also majority Serbian regions of Croatia. Even before the secession of Croatia from Yugoslavia, there were widespread skirmishes and battles in these regions. Instead of negotiations which would grant the Krajina Serbs autonomy or a legal safeguard to their minority rights which Serbia had granted to Kosovo Albanians, however, the Croatian government under former Communist general Franjo Tudjman turned neo-fascist nationalist sought to unsuccessfully annex these areas by military force into a German and Vatican sponsored Greater Croatia. To assist Croatia in these efforts, Germany and the Vatican initiated a propaganda war and attempted to gain international recognition for the Communist created borders of Croatia, which were arbitrary and artificial internal borders imposed by Belgrade under the Communist dictatorship of the Croat-Slovene Josip Broz. After a bloody and brutal six month civil war, neither Croatian military efforts nor German diplomatic efforts were able to prevent the secession of Krajina. While Germany supported the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, it at the same time opposed the secession of Krajina from Croatia. Thus, based on the guidelines of the Montevideo Convention and the Helsinki Agreement, Croatia should not have been recognized until it had resolved the issue of Krajina, Srem, and Slavonija.
Bosnia-Hercegovina, more so than Croatia, met none of the criteria of the Montevideo Convention. Bosnia did not have a government which was in control. Under the Communist Yugoslav federation, Bosnia had a rotating, collective presidency modeled on the federal Yugoslav system to ensure that Bosniaís three ethnic groups, Serbs, Slavic Muslims, and Croats, would be represented in the leadership.Ý So even before secession, Bosnia was in fact a state of three ìnationsî and was created in 1945 by the Communist dictatorship to protect the interests of all three groups from domination by the others. Realizing the precarious and delicate balance in Bosnia, it was resolved by the leaders of the three factions, Radovan Karadzic, Alija Izetbegovic, and Mate Boban, to meet in Lisbon, Portugal to reach a peaceful agreement on the future of the republic. From these meetings the Lisbon Agreement emerged which divided Bosnia into three ethnic zones or cantons, Serbian, Muslim, and Croatia, the so-called partition plan, all three united in a Bosnian confederation. This effort was a compromise negotiated solution meant to avoid a civil war.
The US State Department, through US ambassador to Yugoslavia Warren Zimmermann, informed the Bosnian Muslim leaders that they did not have to abide by the Lisbon Plan, that the negotiations with the Bosnian Serbs and Croats should be rejected, and that a Muslim-dominated and Muslim-controlled Bosnia would be supported by the US in the UN and in the US media. Shortly thereafter the Bosnian Muslims reneged on the Lisbon Agreement and voted with the Croats to unilaterally secede from Yugoslavia. The Bosnian Serbs boycotted the referendum on secession and declared it null and void because under the Bosnian Constitution, all three ethnic groups had to agree for any political changes to occur. Immediately after these events, the civil war began in Bosnia. Thus, Bosnia never had a government in control, a prerequisite of the Montevideo Convention for recognition. What Bosnia did have was three governments.
Bosnia did not have clearly defined or established borders, but only internal boundaries imposed by Belgrade. Bosnia-Hercegovina was the political creation of the Yugoslav Communist dictatorship in 1945. Before the founding of Yugoslavia in 1918, Bosnia had no independent political existence but had been part of imperial and colonial empires, the Turkish Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Since the middle of the fifteenth century, Bosnia was part of the Ottoman Empire, ruled from Constantinople (Istanbul).. The Communist internal boundaries for the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina were modeled on the Ottoman borders. Between 1878 and 1918 Bosnia was administered and ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire from Vienna. The 1908 annexation of Bosnia by the Austro-Hungary in violation of the Treaty of Berlin set in motion the events trhat led to the Great War, World War I. After 1918, Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia, then known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes until 1929, when the name was changed to Yugoslavia. In the ìfirst Yugoslaviaî, 1918-1841, Bosnia-Hercegovina had no distinct borders or boundaries under the banovina system. There was thus considerable dispute as to what the borders for Bosnia should be.
Most importantly, Bosnia had a very unstable population which was made up of Serbs, Slavic Muslims, and Croats, but which included Yugoslavs, that is, persons with mixed-ancestry or those who identified with Yugoslavia, with being part of the larger South Slavic ethnic identity. By analogy, Germany is made up of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, Hesse, and many other states and regions. Germans identify with, for instance, Bavarian identity and with the larger identity as Germans, or with Germany. All three groups were Slavic and part of the South Slavic cultural group and all spoke Serbo-Croatian but were deeply divided by religion, culture, and history. For over 400 years, the Bosnian Muslims had been the local rulers of Bosnia, who were subordinate to the Turkish rulers in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was a Muslim state where only Muslims have full political and civil rights. The Orthodox Christian Serbs, the largest ethic group in Bosnia for most of the Ottoman period, were second-class citizens. In 1875, the Serbian population of Hercegovina, one of the poorest and most exploited region by the Muslim rulers, revolted and began the Bosnian Insurrection or Revolution. Serbia and Montenegro declared war against Turkey. In 1877-78, Russia intervened militarily against Turkey and defeated the Turkish forces in the Russo-Turkish War. The Serbian population expected freedom and independence from foreign occupation and rule. But at the 1878 Treaty of Berlin, Austria and Germany forced Russia and the Bosnian Serbs to accede to the administration of Bosnia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire while in theory the Turkish Sultan retained his role over Bosnia. In 1908, Austria annexed Bosnia outright. The Austrian government sought to maintain the status quo in Bosnia and to maintain Bosnia as it existed under the Ottoman Empire, preserving the privileges of the Bosnian Muslims and supporting the Roman Catholic Bosnian Croats while maintaining the Serbian population in a backward state, preventing land or agricultural reform and educational reform. The Bosnian Serbs rejected this oppressive foreign rule and occupation which did not benefit them and deprived them of their rights. On June 28, 1914, Vidov Dan, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian from Hercegovina and a member of the Young Bosnia nationalist movement, assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the act that precipitated World War I. Austria fostered a Bosnian ethnic identity for all three ethnic groups seeking to stifle national self-determination by the Serbian and Croatian populations and opposed to the creation of a unified South Slavic state.
During World War II, Bosnia-Hercegovina was part of the Ustasha Independent State of Croatia, headed by Ante Pavelic, like Gavrilo Princip, born in Hercegovina, and Dzafer Kulenovic, a Bosnian Muslim, as vice-president. The leadership of this state was thus made up of a Bosnian Croat and a Bosnian Muslim. During this period, 1941-1945, hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Serbs and Krajina Serbs, or ìCroatian Serbsî, to use the oxymoron created by US State Department propagandists, were massacred and ethnically cleansed by Croats and Bosnian Muslims in a planned and systematic genocide. Ethnic cleansing had its origins during this period, the term being coined by Ustashi leaders. Due to this genocide and ethnic cleansing, the Bosnian Muslims became the largest group in Bosnia while the Bosnian Serb population declined. The Communist dictatorship which ruled Yugoslavia following World War II locked in the Bosnian Muslim and Croat population gains giving them control over formerly Serbian areas. A separate ìnationî status was created for the Bosnian Muslims. In 1971, the Bosnian Muslims were given a new ethnic classification by the Yugoslav regime. These actions only exacerbated the Bosnian Muslim nationalist drive to control and to rule Bosnia, which was begun during the Ustasha period when the Bosnian Muslims established a Nazi Protectorate with the aid of Heinrich Himmler. The Bosnian Serbs and Croats were alarmed by such Islamic nationalist goals and sought to keep districts where they were the majorities under their control. The Bosnian Muslims sought to rule Serbian and Croatian districts because the Slavic Muslims were the largest ethnic group in Bosnia in 1992. Such Bosnian Muslim hegemony led to the brutal civil war with all three groups seeking to control districts where they predominated. The Bosnian Muslims realized that they could not control Serbian and Croatian districts without foreign intervention and occupation. The Bosnian Muslim leadership thus sought to induce the United States or Germany or Islamic/Arab states to militarily intervene to occupy the Serbian and Croatian districts which the Bosnian Muslims themselves could not achieve. The Bosnian Muslim strategy was concise and simple: Induce a foreign military power, the US or Germany/ to militarily intervene against the Bosnian Serbs.
Bosnia, thus, met none of the criteria for recognition as defined in the 1932 Montevideo Convention. Unilateral and unconditional premature recognition caused the civil war in Bosnia-Hercegovina and in Krajina and Croatia. Diplomatic recognition was thereby transformed from a diplomatic gesture into a new form of aggression.
If you forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never
regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all the people
some of the time; you may even fool some of the people all the time; but
you canít fool all of the people all the time.
The civil war in Bosnia-Hercegovina was caused and sustained by three
principal actors: 1) the US State Department; 2) US public relations firms;
and, 3)the US media. Premature unilateral and unconditional recognition
led to the civil war. Recognition became a new form of aggression, becoming
more normative in nature. Recognition was based not on objective criteria
but on normative ideals and goals, based not on legal principles but on
ideology and self-interest. Thus, the US and Germany supported recognition
of states that did not meet international legal guidelines for recognition.
The reality on the ground in Bosnia was that three ethnic groups, with
mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed national and political agendas,
did not envision a multi-ethnic state ruled by leaders from all three groups.
The US State Department, US public relations firms, and the US media waged
an infowar in Bosnia that failed to change the reality on the ground. The
Dayton Peace Agreement of 1995 was the US version of the 1992 Lisbon Agreement.
Tens of thousands of lives were needlessly and senselessly lost only to
reaffirm an agreement initially rejected by the US. Such is the nature
of propaganda. Such is the nature of infowar, a war based on ìimagesî,
based on what Walter Lippmann called ìpictures in our headsî,
rather than objective factual reality on the ground. William Randolph Hearst
defined the nature of infowar most succinctly: "You furnish the pictures
and Iíll furnish the war."