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Covert Action Quarterly

Seeing Yugoslavia Through a Dark Glass:
Politics, Media, and the Ideology of Globalization

Diana Johnstone

Years of experience in and out of both mainstream and alternative media have
made me aware of the power of the dominant ideology to impose certain
interpretations on international news. During the Cold War, most world news
for American consumption had to be framed as part of the Soviet-U.S.
contest. Since then, a new ideological bias frames the news. The way the
violent fragmentation of Yugoslavia has been reported is the most stunning

I must admit that it took me some time to figure this out, even though I had
a long-standing interest in and some knowledge of Yugoslavia. I spent time
there as a student in 1953, living in a Belgrade dormitory and learning the
language. In 1984, in a piece for In These Times,1 I warned that extreme
decentralization, conflicting economic interests between the richer and
poorer regions, austerity policies imposed by the IMF, and the decline of
universal ideals were threatening Yugoslavia with "re-Balkanization" in the
wake of Tito’s death and desanctification. "Local ethnic interests are
reasserting themselves," I wrote. "The danger is that these rival local
interests may become involved in the rivalries of outside powers. This is
how the Balkans in the past were a powder keg of world war." Writing this
took no special clairvoyance. The danger of Yugoslavia’s disintegration was
quite obvious to all serious observers well before Slobodan MiloŻevi¶
arrived on the scene.

As the country was torn apart in the early nineties, I was unable to keep up
with all that was happening. In those years, my job as press officer for the
Greens in the European Parliament left me no time to investigate the
situation myself. Aware that there were serious flaws in the way media and
politicians were reacting, I wrote an article warning against combating
"nationalism" by taking sides for one nationalism against another, and
against judging a complex situation by analogy with totally different times
and places.2 "Every nationalism stimulates others," I noted. "Historical
analogies should be drawn with caution and never allowed to obscure the
facts." However, there was no stopping the tendency to judge the Balkans,
about which most people knew virtually nothing, by analogy with Hitler
Germany, about which people at least imagined they knew a lot, and which
enabled analysis to be rapidly abandoned in favor of moral certitude and
righteous indignation.

However, it was only later, when I was able to devote considerable time to
my own research, that I realized the extent of the deception–which is in
large part self-deception.

I mention all this to stress that I understand the immense difficulty of
gaining a clear view of the complex situation in the Balkans. The history of
the region and the interplay of internal political conflicts and external
influences would be hard to grasp even without propaganda distortions.
Nobody can be blamed for being confused. Moreover, by now, many people have
invested so much emotion in a one-sided view of the situation that they are
scarcely able to consider alternative interpretations.

It is not necessarily because particular journalists or media are
"alternative" that they are free from the dominant interpretation and the
dominant world view. In fact, in the case of the Yugoslav tragedy, the irony
is that "alternative" or "left" activists and writers have frequently taken
the lead in likening the Serbs, the people who most wanted to continue to
live in multi-cultural Yugoslavia, to Nazi racists, and in calling for
military intervention on behalf of ethnically defined secessionist
movements3–all supposedly in the name of "multi-cultural Bosnia," a country
which, unlike Yugoslavia, would have to be built from scratch by outsiders.

The Serbs and Yugoslavia

Like other Christian peoples in the Ottoman Empire, the Serbs were heavily
taxed and denied ownership of property or political power reserved for
Muslims. In the early years of the nineteenth century, Serb farmers led a
revolt that spread to Greece. The century-long struggle put an end to the
Ottoman Empire.

The Habsburg monarchy found it natural that when one empire receded, another
should advance, and sought to gain control over the lands lost to the
Ottoman Turks. Although Serbs had rallied to the Habsburgs in earlier wars
against the Turks, Serbia soon appeared to Vienna as the main obstacle to
its own expansion into the Balkans. By the end of the nineteenth century,
Vienna was seeking to fragment the Serb-inhabited lands to prevent what it
named "Greater Serbia," taking control of Bosnia-Herzegovina and fostering
the birth of Albanian nationalism (as converts to Islam, Albanian feudal
chieftains enjoyed privileges under the Ottoman Empire and combated the
Christian liberation movements).

Probably because they had been deprived of full citizens’ rights under the
Ottoman Turks, and because their own society of farmers and traders was
relatively egalitarian, Serb political leaders throughout the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries were extremely receptive to the progressive ideals
of the French Revolution. While all the other liberated Balkan nations
imported German princelings as their new kings, the Serbs promoted their own
pig farmers into a dynasty, one of whose members translated John Stuart Mill
’s "On Liberty" into Serbian during his student days. Nowhere in the Balkans
did Western progressive ideas exercise such attraction as in Serbia, no
doubt due to the historic circumstances of the country’s emergence from four
hundred years of subjugation.

Meanwhile, intellectuals in Croatia, a province of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire increasingly rankling under subordination to the Hungarian nobility,
initiated the Yugoslav movement for cultural, and eventually political,
unification of the South Slav peoples, notably the Serbs and Croats,
separated by history and religion (the Serbs having been converted to
Christianity by the Greek Orthodox Church and the Croats by the Roman
Catholic Church) but united by language. The idea of a "Southslavia" was
largely inspired by the national unification of neighboring Italy, occurring
around the same time.

In 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire seized the pretext of the assassination
of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand to declare war and crush Serbia once and
for all. When Austria-Hungary lost the world war it had thus initiated,
leaders in Slovenia and Croatia chose to unite with Serbia in a single
kingdom. This decision enabled both Slovenia and Croatia to go from the
losing to the winning side in World War I, thereby avoiding war reparations
and enlarging their territory, notably on the Adriatic coast, at the expense
of Italy. The joint Kingdom was renamed "Yugoslavia" in 1929. The conflicts
between Croats and Serbs that plagued what is called "the first Yugoslavia"
were described by Rebecca West in her celebrated book, Black Lamb and Grey
Falcon, first published in 1941.

In April 1941, Serb patriots in Belgrade led a revolt against an accord
reached between the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and Nazi Germany. This led to Nazi
bombing of Belgrade, a German invasion, creation of an independent fascist
state of Croatia (including Bosnia-Herzegovina), and attachment of much of
the Serbian province of Kosovo to Albania, then a puppet of Mussolini’s
Italy. The Croatian Ustashe undertook a policy of genocide against Serbs,
Jews, and Gypsies within the territory of their "Greater Croatia," while the
Germans raised SS divisions among the Muslims of Bosnia and Albania.

In Serbia itself, the German occupants announced that one hundred Serbian
hostages would be executed for each German killed by resistance fighters.
The threat was carried out. As a result, the royalist Serbian resistance
(the first guerrilla resistance to Nazi occupation in Europe) led by DraŮa
Mihailovi¶ adopted a policy of holding off attacks on the Germans in
expectation of an Allied invasion. The Partisans, led by Croatian communist
Josip Broz Tito, adopted a more active strategy of armed resistance, which
made considerable gains in the predominantly Serb border regions of Croatia
and Bosnia and won support from Churchill for its effectiveness. A civil war
developed between Mihailovi¶’s "Chetniks" and Tito’s Partisans–which was
also a civil war between Serbs, since Serbs were the most numerous among the
Partisans. These divisions between Serbs–torn between Serbian and Yugoslav
identity–have never been healed and help explain the deep confusion among
Serbs during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

After World War II, the new Communist Yugoslavia tried to build "brotherhood
and unity" on the myth that all the peoples had contributed equally to
liberation from fascism. Mihailovi¶ was executed, and school children in
post-war Yugoslavia learned more about the "fascist" nature of his Serbian
nationalist Chetniks than they did about Albanian and Bosnian Muslims who
had volunteered for the SS, or even about the killing of Serbs in the
Jasenovac death camp run by Ustashe in Western Bosnia.

After the 1948 break with Moscow, the Yugoslav communist leadership
emphasized its difference from the Soviet bloc by adopting a policy of
"self-management" supposed to lead by fairly rapid stages to the "withering
away of the State." Tito repeatedly revised the Constitution to strengthen
local authorities, while retaining final decision-making power for himself.
When he died in 1980, he thus left behind a hopelessly complicated system
that could not work without his arbitration.4 Serbia in particular was
unable to enact vitally necessary reforms because its territory had been
divided up, with two "autonomous provinces," Voivodina and Kosovo, able to
veto measures taken by Serbia, while Serbia could not intervene in their

In the 1980s, the rise in interest rates and unfavorable world trade
conditions dramatically increased the foreign debt Yugoslavia (like many
"third world" countries) had been encouraged to run up thanks to its
standing in the West as a socialist country not belonging to the Soviet
bloc. The IMF arrived with its familiar austerity measures, which could only
be taken by a central government. The leaders of the richer Republics
–Slovenia and Croatia–did not want to pay for the poorer ones. Moreover, in
all former socialist countries, the big political question is privatization
of State and social property, and local communist leaders in Slovenia and
Croatia could expect to get a greater share for themselves within the
context of division of Yugoslavia into separate little states.5

At this stage, a gradual, negotiated dismantling of Yugoslavia into smaller
States was not impossible. It would have entailed reaching agreement on
division of assets and liabilities, and numerous adjustments to take into
account conflicting interests. If pursued openly, however, it might have
encountered popular opposition–after all, very many people, perhaps a
majority, enjoyed being citizens of a large country with an enviable
international reputation. What would have been the result of a national
referendum on the question of preservation of Yugoslavia?

None was ever held. The first multiparty elections in postwar Yugoslavia
were held in 1990, not nationwide in all of Yugoslavia, but separately by
each Republic–a method which in itself reinforced separatist power elites.
Sure of the active sympathy of Germany, Austria, and the Vatican, leaders in
Slovenia and Croatia prepared the fait accompli of unilateral, unnegotiated
secession, proclaimed in 1991. Such secession was illegal, under Yugoslav
and international law, and was certain to precipitate civil war. The key
role of German (and Vatican) support was to provide rapid international
recognition of the new independent Republics, in order to transform
Yugoslavia into an "aggressor" on its own territory.6

Political Motives

The political motives that launched the anti-Serb propaganda campaign are
obvious enough. Claiming that it was impossible to stay in Yugoslavia
because the Serbs were so oppressive was the pretext for the nationalist
leaders in Slovenia and Croatia to set up their own little statelets which,
thanks to early and strong German support, could "jump the queue" and get
into the richmen’s European club ahead of the rest of Yugoslavia.

The terrible paradox is that very many people, in the sincere desire to
oppose racism and aggression, have in fact contributed to demonizing an
entire people, the Serbs, thereby legitimizing both ethnic separatism and
the new role of NATO as occupying power in the Balkans on behalf of a
theoretical "international community."

Already in the 1980s, Croatian and ethnic Albanian separatist lobbies had
stepped up their efforts to win support abroad, notably in Germany and the
United States,7 by claiming to be oppressed by Serbs, citing "evidence"
that, insofar as it had any basis in truth, referred to the 1920-1941
Yugoslav kingdom, not to the very different post-World War II Yugoslavia.

The current campaign to demonize the Serbs began in July 1991 with a
virulent barrage of articles in the German media, led by the influential
conservative newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). In almost
daily columns, FAZ editor Johann Georg ReismŁller justified the freshly, and
illegally, declared "independence" of Slovenia and Croatia by describing
"the Yugo-Serbs" as essentially Oriental "militarist Bolsheviks" who have
"no place in the European Community." Nineteen months after German
reunification, and for the first time since Hitler’s defeat in 1945, German
media resounded with condemnation of an entire ethnic group reminiscent of
the pre-war propaganda against the Jews.8

This German propaganda binge was the signal that times had changed
seriously. Only a few years earlier, a seemingly broad German peace movement
had stressed the need to put an end to "enemy stereotypes" (Feindbilder).
Yet the sudden ferocious emergence of the enemy stereotype of "the Serbs"
did not shock liberal or left Germans, who were soon repeating it
themselves. It might seem that the German peace movement had completed its
historic mission once its contribution to altering the image of Germany had
led Gorbachev to endorse reunification. The least one can say is that the
previous efforts at reconciliation with peoples who suffered from Nazi
invasion stopped short when it came to the Serbs.

In the Bundestag, German Green leader Joschka Fischer pressed for disavowal
of "pacifism" in order to "combat Auschwitz," thereby equating Serbs with
Nazis. In a heady mood of self-righteous indignation, German politicians
across the board joined in using Germany’s past guilt as a reason, not for
restraint, as had been the logic up until reunification, but on the
contrary, for "bearing their share of the military burden." In the name of
human rights, the Federal Republic of Germany abolished its ban on military
operations outside the NATO defensive area. Germany could once again be a
"normal" military power–thanks to the "Serb threat."

The near unanimity was all the more surprising in that the "enemy
stereotype" of the Serb had been dredged up from the most belligerent German
nationalism of the past. "Serbien muss sterbien" (a play on the word
sterben, to die), meaning "Serbia must die" was a famous popular war cry of
World War I.9 Serbs had been singled out for slaughter during the Nazi
occupation of Yugoslavia. One would have thought that the younger generation
of Germans, seemingly so sensitive to the victims of Germany’s aggressive
past, would have at least urged caution. Very few did.

On the contrary, what occurred in Germany was a strange sort of mass
transfer of Nazi identity, and guilt, to the Serbs. In the case of the
Germans, this can be seen as a comforting psychological projection which
served to give Germans a fresh and welcome sense of innocence in the face of
the new "criminal" people, the Serbs. But the hate campaign against Serbs,
started in Germany, did not stop there. Elsewhere, the willingness to single
out one of the Yugoslav peoples as the villain calls for other explanations.

Media Momentum

From the start, foreign reporters were better treated in Zagreb and in
Ljubljana, whose secessionist leaders understood the prime importance of
media images in gaining international support, than in Belgrade. The
Albanian secessionists in Kosovo or "Kosovars,"10 the Croatian secessionists
and the Bosnian Muslims hired an American public relations firm, Ruder Finn,
to advance their causes by demonizing the Serbs.11 Ruder Finn deliberately
targeted certain publics, notably the American Jewish community, with a
campaign likening Serbs to Nazis. Feminists were also clearly targeted by
the Croatian nationalist campaign directed out of Zagreb to brand Serbs as

The Yugoslav story was complicated; anti-Serb stories had the advantage of
being simple and available, and they provided an easy-to-use moral compass
by designating the bad guys.

As the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina got underway in mid-1992, American
journalists who repeated unconfirmed stories of Serbian atrocities could
count on getting published, with a chance of a Pulitzer prize. Indeed, the
1993 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting was shared between the two
authors of the most sensational "Serb atrocity stories" of the year: Roy
Gutman of Newsday and John Burns of the New York Times. In both cases, the
prize-winning articles were based on hearsay evidence of dubious
credibility. Gutman’s articles, mostly based on accounts by Muslim refugees
in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, were collected in a book rather
misleadingly entitled A Witness to Genocide, although in fact he had been a
"witness" to nothing of the sort. His allegations that Serbs were running
"death camps" were picked up by Ruder Finn and widely diffused, notably to
Jewish organizations. Burns’s story was no more than an interview with a
mentally deranged prisoner in a Sarajevo jail, who confessed to crimes some
of which have been since proved never to have been committed.13

On the other hand, there was no market for stories by a journalist who
discovered that reported Serbian "rape camps" did not exist (German TV
reporter Martin Lettmayer),14 or who included information about Muslim or
Croat crimes against Serbs (Belgian journalist Georges Berghezan for one).15
It became increasingly impossible to challenge the dominant interpretation
in major media. Editors naturally prefer to keep the story simple: one
villain, and as much blood as possible. Moreover, after the German
government forced the early recognition of Slovenian and Croatian
independence, other Western powers lined up opportunistically with the
anti-Serb position. The United States soon moved aggressively into the game
by picking its own client state–Muslim Bosnia–out of the ruins.

Foreign news has always been much easier to distort than domestic news.
Television coverage simply makes the distortion more convincing. TV crews
sent into strange places about which they know next to nothing, send back
images of violence that give millions of viewers the impression that
"everybody knows what is happening." Such an impression is worse than plain

Today, worldwide media such as CNN openly put pressure on governments to
respond to the "public opinion" which the media themselves create.
Christiane Amanpour tells the U.S. and the European Union what they should
be doing in Bosnia; to what extent this is coordinated with U.S. agencies is
hard to tell. Indeed, the whole question of which tail wags the dog is wide
open. Do media manipulate government, does government manipulate media, or
are influential networks manipulating both?

Many officials of Western governments complain openly or privately of being
forced into unwise policy decisions by "the pressure of public opinion,"
meaning the media. A particularly interesting testimony in this regard is
that of Otto von Habsburg, the extremely active and influential octogenarian
heir to the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, today member of the European
Parliament from Bavaria, who has taken a great and one might say paternal
interest in the cause of Croatian independence. "If Germany recognized
Slovenia and Croatia so rapidly," Habsburg told the Bonn correspondent of
the French daily Figaro,16 "even against the will of [then German foreign
minister] Hans-Dietrich Genscher who did not want to take that step, it’s
because the Bonn government was subjected to an almost irresistible pressure
of public opinion. In this regard, the German press rendered a very great
service, in particular the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Carl Gustav
StrŲhm, that great German journalist who works for Die Welt."

Still, the virtually universal acceptance of a one-sided view of Yugoslavia
’s collapse cannot be attributed solely to political designs or to
sensationalist manipulation of the news by major media. It also owes a great
deal to the ideological uniformity prevailing among educated liberals who
have become the consensual moral conscience in Northwestern Euro-American
society since the end of the Cold War.

Down With the State

This ideology is the expression in moralistic terms of the dominant project
for reshaping the world since the United States emerged as sole superpower
after the defeat of communism and collapse of the Soviet Union. United
States foreign policy for over a century has been dictated by a single
overriding concern: to open world markets to American capital and American
enterprise. Today this project is triumphant as "economic globalization."
Throughout the world, government policies are judged, approved or condemned
decisively, not by their populations but by "the markets," meaning the
financial markets. Foreign investors, not domestic voters, decide policy.
The International Monetary Fund and other such agencies are there to help
governments adjust their policies and their societies to market imperatives.

The shift of decision-making power away from elected governments, which is
an essential aspect of this particular "economic globalization," is being
accompanied by an ideological assault on the nation-state as a political
community exercising sovereignty over a defined territory. For all its
shortcomings, the nation-state is still the political level most apt to
protect citizens’ welfare and the environment from the destructive expansion
of global markets. Dismissing the nation-state as an anachronism, or
condemning it as a mere expression of "nationalist" exclusivism, overlooks
and undermines its long-standing legitimacy as the focal point of democratic
development, in which citizens can organize to define and defend their

The irony is that many well-intentioned idealists are unwittingly helping to
advance this project by eagerly promoting its moralistic cover: a
theoretical global democracy that should replace attempts to strengthen
democracy at the supposedly obsolete nation-state level.

Within the United States, the link between anti-nation-state ideology and
economic globalization is blurred by the double standard of U.S. leaders who
do not hesitate to invoke the supremacy of U.S. "national interest" over the
very international institutions they promote in order to advance economic
globalization. This makes it seem that such international institutions are a
serious obstacle to U.S. global power rather than its expression. However,
the United States has the overall military and political power to design and
control key international institutions (e.g., the IMF, the World Trade
Organization, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Former
Yugoslavia), as well as to undermine those it dislikes (UNESCO when it was
attempting to promote liberation of media from essentially American control)
or to flout international law with impunity (notably in its Central American
"back yard"). Given the present relationship of forces, weakening less
powerful nation-states cannot strengthen international democracy, but simply
tighten the grip of transnational capital and the criminal networks that
flourish in an environment of lawless acquisition.

There is no real contradiction between asserting the primacy of U.S.
interests and blasting the nation-state barriers that might allow some
organized defense of the interests of other peoples. But impressed by the
apparent contradiction, some American liberals are comforted in their belief
that nationalism is the number one enemy of mankind, whereas anything that
goes against it is progressive.

Indeed, an important asset of the anti-nation-state ideology is its powerful
appeal to many liberals and progressives whose internationalism has been
disoriented by the collapse of any discernable socialist alternative to
capitalism and by the disarray of liberation struggles in the South of the

In the absence of any clear analysis of the contemporary world, the
nation-state is readily identified as the cause of war, oppression, and
violations of human rights. In short, the only existing context for
institutionalized democracy is demonized as the mere expression of a
negative, exclusive ideology, "nationalism." This contemporary libertarian
view overlooks both the persistence of war in the absence of strong States
and the historic function of the nation state as framework for the social
pact embodied in democratic forms of legislative decision-making.

Condemnation of the nation-state in a structuralist rather than historical
perspective produces mechanical judgments. What is smaller than the
nation-state, or what transcends the nation-state, must be better. On the
smaller scale, "identities" of all kinds, or "regions," generally undefined,
are automatically considered more promising by much of the current
generation. On the larger scale, the hope for democracy is being transferred
to the European Union, or to international NGOs, or to theoretical
institutions such as the proposed International Criminal Court. In the
enthusiasm for an envisaged global utopia, certain crucial questions are
being neglected, notably: Who will pay for all this? How? Who will enforce
which decisions? Until such practical matters are cleared up, brave new
institutions such as the ICC risk being no more than further instruments of
selective intervention against weaker countries. But the illusion persists
that structures of international democracy can be built over the heads of
States that are not themselves genuinely supportive of such democracy.

The simplistic interpretation of the Yugoslav crisis as Serbian "aggression"
against peaceful multi-cultural Europe, is virtually unassailable, because
it is not only credible according to this ideology but seems to confirm it.

It was this ideology that made it possible for the Croatian, Slovenian, and
Albanian secessionists and their supporters in Germany and the United States
in particular to portray the Yugoslav conflict as the struggle of "oppressed
little nations" to free themselves from aggressive Serbian nationalism. In
fact, those "little nations" were by no means oppressed in Yugoslavia.
Nowhere in the world were and are the cultural rights of national minorities
so extensively developed as in Yugoslavia (including the small Yugoslavia
made up of Serbia and Montenegro). Politically, not only was Tito himself a
Croat and his chief associate, Edvard Kardelj, a Slovene, but a "national
key" quota system was rigorously applied to all top posts in the Federal
Administration and Armed Forces. The famous "self-management socialism" gave
effective control over economic enterprises to Slovenians in Slovenia,
Croatians in Croatia, and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The economic gap
between the parts of Yugoslavia which had previously belonged to the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, that is, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia’s northern
province of Voivodina, on the one hand, and the parts whose development had
been retarded by Ottoman rule (central Serbia, the Serbian province of
Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia) continued to widen throughout
both the first and second Yugoslavia. The secession movement in Slovenia was
a typical "secession of the rich from the poor" (comparable to Umberto Bossi
’s attempt to detach rich Northern Italy from the rest of the country, in
order to avoid paying taxes for the poor South). In Croatia, this motivation
was combined with a comeback of Ustashe elements which had gone into exile
after World War II.

The nationalist pretext of "oppression" was favored by the economic troubles
of the 1980s, which led leaders in each Republic to blame the others, and to
overlook the benefits of the larger Federal market for all the Republics.
The first and most virulent nationalist movements arose in Croatia and
Kosovo, where separatism had been favored by Axis occupation of the Balkans
in World War II. It was only in the 1980s that a much milder Serbian
nationalist reaction to economic troubles provided the opportunity for all
the others to pinpoint the universal scapegoat: Serbian nationalism. Western
public opinion, knowing little of Yugoslavia and thinking in terms of
analogies with more familiar situations, readily sympathized with Slovenian
and Croatian demands for independence. In reality, international law
interprets "self-determination" as the right to secede and form an
independent State only in certain (mostly colonial) circumstances, none of
which applied to Slovenia and Croatia.17

All these facts were ignored by international media. Appeals to the dominant
anti-State ideology led to frivolous acceptance in the West of the very
grave act of accepting the unnegotiated breakup of an existing nation,
Yugoslavia, by interpreting ethnic secession as a proper form of
"self-determination," which it is not. There is no parallel in recent
diplomatic annals for such an irresponsible act, and as a precedent it can
only promise endless bloody conflict around the world.

The New World Order

In fact, the breakup of Yugoslavia has served to discredit and further
weaken the United Nations, while providing a new role for an expanding NATO.
Rather than strengthening international order, it has helped shift the
balance of power within the international order toward the dominant nation
states, the United States and Germany. If somebody had announced in 1989
that, well, the Berlin Wall has come down, now Germany can unite and send
military forces back into Yugoslavia–and what is more in order to enforce a
partition of the country along similar lines to those it imposed when it
occupied the country in 1941–well, quite a number of people might have
raised objections. However, that is what has happened, and many of the very
people who might have been expected to object most strongly to what amounts
to the most significant act of historical revisionism since World War II
have provided the ideological cover and excuse.

Perhaps dazed by the end of the Cold War, much of what remains of the left
in the early nineties abandoned its critical scrutiny of the geostrategic
Realpolitik underlying great power policies in general and U.S. policy in
particular and seemed to believe that the world henceforth was determined by
purely moral considerations.

This has much to do with the privatization of "the left" in the past twenty
years or so. The United States has led the way in this trend. Mass movements
aimed at overall political action have declined, while single-issue
movements have managed to continue. The single-issue movements in turn
engender non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which, because of the
requirements of fund-raising, need to adapt their causes to the mood of the
times, in other words, to the dominant ideology, to the media. Massive
fund-raising is easiest for victims, using appeals to sentiment rather than
to reason. Greenpeace has found that it can raise money more easily for baby
seals than for combatting the development of nuclear weapons. This fact of
life steers NGO activity in certain directions, away from political analysis
toward sentiment. On another level, the NGOs offer idealistic
internationalists a rare opportunity to intervene all around the world in
matters of human rights and human welfare.

And herein lies a new danger. Just as the "civilizing mission" of bringing
Christianity to the heathen provided a justifying pretext for the
imperialist conquest of Asia and Africa in the past, today the protection of
"human rights" may be the cloak for a new type of imperialist military
intervention worldwide.

Certainly, human rights are an essential concern of the left. Moreover, many
individuals committed to worthy causes have turned to NGOs as the only
available alternative to the decline of mass movements–a decline over which
they have no control. Even a small NGO addressing a problem is no doubt
better than nothing at all. The point is that great vigilance is needed, in
this as in all other endeavors, to avoid letting good intentions be
manipulated to serve quite contrary purposes.

In a world now dedicated to brutal economic rivalry, where the rich get
richer and the poor get poorer, human rights abuses can only increase. From
this vast array of man’s inhumanity to man, Western media and governments
are unquestionably more concerned about human rights abuses that obstruct
the penetration of transnational capitalism, to which they are organically
linked, than about, say, the rights of Russian miners who have not been paid
for a year. Media and government selectivity not only encourages
humanitarian NGOs to follow their lead in focusing on certain countries and
certain types of abuses, the case-by-case approach also distracts from
active criticism of global economic structures that favor the basic human
rights abuse of a world split between staggering wealth and dire poverty.

Cuba is not the only country whose "human rights" may be the object of
extraordinary concern by governments trying to replace local rulers with
more compliant defenders of transnational interests. Such a motivation can
by no means be ruled out in the case of the campaign against Serbia.18 In
such situations, humanitarian NGOs risk being cast in the role of the
missionaries of the past–sincere, devoted people who need to be "protected,"
this time by NATO military forces. The Somali expedition provided a rough
rehearsal (truly scandalous if examined closely) for this scenario. On a
much larger scale, first Bosnia, then Kosovo, provide a vast experimental
terrain for cooperation between NGOs and NATO.

There is urgent need to take care to preserve genuine and legitimate efforts
on behalf of human rights from manipulation in the service of other
political ends. This is indeed a delicate challenge.

NGOs and NATO, Hand In Hand

In former Yugoslavia, and especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Western NGOs
have found a justifying role for themselves alongside NATO. They gain
funding and prestige from the situation. Local employees of Western NGOs
gain political and financial advantages over other local people, and
"democracy" is not the people’s choice but whatever meets with approval of
outside donors. This breeds arrogance among the outside benefactors, and
cynicism among local people, who have the choice between opposing the
outsiders or seeking to manipulate them. It is an unhealthy situation, and
some of the most self-critical are aware of the dangers.19

Perhaps the most effectively arrogant NGO in regard to former Yugoslavia is
the Vienna office of Human Rights Watch/Helsinki. On September 18, 1997,
that organization issued a long statement announcing in advance that the
Serbian elections to be held three days later "will be neither free nor
fair." This astonishing intervention was followed by a long list of measures
that Serbia and Yugoslavia must carry out "or else," and that the
international community must take to discipline Serbia and Yugoslavia. These
demands indicated an extremely broad interpretation of obligatory standards
of "human rights" as applied to Serbia, although not, obviously to everybody
else, since they included new media laws drafted "in full consultation with
the independent media in Yugoslavia" as well as permission meanwhile to all
"unlicensed but currently operating radio and television stations to
broadcast without interference."20

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki concluded by calling on the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to "deny Yugoslavia readmission to
the OSCE until there are concrete improvements in the country’s human rights
record, including respect for freedom of the press, independence of the
judiciary, and minority rights, as well as cooperation with the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia."

As for the demand to "respect freedom of the press," one may wonder what
measures would satisfy HRW, in light of the fact that press freedom already
exists in Serbia to an extent well beyond that in many other countries not
being served with such an ultimatum. There exist in Serbia quite a range of
media devoted to attacking the government, not only in Serbo-Croatian but
also in Albanian. As of June 1998, there were 2,319 print publications and
101 radio and television stations in Yugoslavia, over twice the number that
existed in 1992. Belgrade alone has 14 daily newspapers. Six state-supported
national dailies have a joint circulation of 180,000, compared to around
350,000 for seven leading opposition dailies.21

Moreover, the judiciary in Serbia is certainly no less independent than in
Croatia or Muslim Bosnia, and almost certainly much more so. As for
"minority rights," it would be hard to find a country anywhere in the world
where they are better protected in both theory and practice than in

For those who remember history, the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki ultimatum
instantly brings to mind the ultimatum issued by Vienna to Belgrade after
the Sarajevo assassination in 1914 as a pretext for the Austrian invasion
which touched off World War I. The Serbian government gave in to all but one
of the Habsburg demands, but was invaded anyway.23

The hostility of this new Vienna power, the International Helsinki
Federation for Human Rights, toward Serbia, is evident in all its
statements, and in those of its executive director, Aaron Rhodes. In a
recent column for the International Herald Tribune, he wrote that Albanians
in Kosovo "have lived for years under conditions similar to those suffered
by Jews in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe just before World War II. They
have been ghettoized. They are not free, but politically disenfranchised and
deprived of basic civil liberties."

The comparison could hardly be more incendiary, but the specific facts to
back it up are absent. They are necessarily absent, since the accusation is
totally false. Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have never been "politically
disenfranchised," and even Western diplomats have at times urged them to use
their right to vote in order to deprive MiloŻevi¶ of his electoral majority.
But nationalist leaders have called for a boycott of Serbian elections since
1981–well before MiloŻevi¶ came on the scene–and ethnic Albanians who dare
take part in legal political life are subject to intimidation and even
murder by nationalist Albanian gunmen.24

In order to gain international support, inflammatory terms such as "ghetto"
and "apartheid" are used by the very Albanian nationalist leaders who have
created the separation between populations by leading their community to
boycott all institutions of the Serbian State in order to create a de facto
secession. Not only elections and schools, but even the public health
service has been boycotted, to the detriment of the health of Kosovo
Albanians, especially the children.25

Human Rights Watch’s blanket condemnation of a government which, like it or
not, was elected, in a country whose existence is threatened by
foreign-backed secessionist movements, contrasts sharply with the
traditional approach of the senior international human rights organization,
Amnesty International.

What can be considered the traditional Amnesty International approach
consists broadly in trying to encourage governments to enact and abide by
humanitarian legal standards. It does this by calling attention to
particular cases of injustice. It asks precise questions that can be
answered precisely. It tries to be fair. It is no doubt significant that
Amnesty International is a grassroots organization, which operates under the
mandate of its contributing members, and whose rules preclude domination by
any large donor.

In the case of Yugoslavia, the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki approach differs
fundamentally from that of Amnesty International in that it clearly aims not
at calling attention to specific abuses that might be corrected, but at
totally condemning the targeted State. By the excessive nature of its
accusations, it does not ally with reformist forces in the targeted country
so much as it undermines them. Its lack of balance, its rejection of any
effort at remaining neutral between conflicting parties, encourages
disintegrative polarization rather than reconciliation and mutual
understanding. For example, in its reports on Kosovo, Amnesty International
considers reports of abuses from all sides and tries to weigh their
credibility, which is difficult but necessary, since the exaggeration of
human rights abuses against themselves is regularly employed by Albanian
nationalists in Kosovo as a means to win international support for their
secessionist cause.26 Human Rights Watch, in contrast, by uncritically
endorsing the most extreme anti-Serb reports and ignoring Serbian sources,
helps confirm ethnic Albanians in their worst fantasies, while encouraging
them to demand international intervention on their behalf rather than seek
compromise and reconciliation with their Serbian neighbors. HRW therefore
contributes, deliberately or inadvertently, to a deepening cycle of violence
that eventually may justify, or require, outside intervention.

This is an approach which, like its partner, economic globalization, breaks
down the defenses and authority of weaker States. It does not help to
enforce democratic institutions at the national level. The only democracy it
recognizes is that of the "international community," which is summoned to
act according to the recommendations of Human Rights Watch. This
"international community," the IC, is in reality no democracy. Its decisions
are formally taken at NATO meetings. The IC is not even a "community"; the
initials could more accurately stand for "imperialist condominium," a joint
exercise of domination by the former imperialist powers, torn apart and
weakened by two World Wars, now brought together under U.S. domination with
NATO as their military arm. Certainly there are frictions between the
members of this condominium, but so long as their rivalries can be played
out within the IC, the price will be paid by smaller and weaker countries.

Media attention to conflicts in Yugoslavia is sporadic, dictated by Great
Power interests, lobbies, and the institutional ambitions of
"non-governmental organizations"–often linked to powerful governments–whose
competition with each other for financial support provides motivation for
exaggerating the abuses they specialize in denouncing.

Yugoslavia, a country once known for its independent approach to socialism
and international relations, economically and politically by far the most
liberal country in Eastern Central Europe, has already been torn apart by
Western support to secessionist movements. What is left is being further
reduced to an ungovernable chaos by a continuation of the same process. The
emerging result is not a charming bouquet of independent little ethnic
democracies, but rather a new type of joint colonial rule by the
international community, enforced by NATO.

Diana Johnstone was the European editor of In These Times from 1979 to 1990,
and press officer of the Green group in the European Parliament from 1990 to
1996. She is author of The Politics of Euromissiles: Europe in America’s
World (London/New York: Verso/Schocken, 1984) and is currently working on a
book on the former Yugoslavia. This article is an expanded version of a talk
given on May 25, 1998, at an international conference on media held in
Athens, Greece.


1. "The Creeping Trend to Re-Balkanization," In These Times, 3-9 October
1984, p.9.

2. "We Are All Serbo-Croats," In These Times, 3 May 1993, p.14.

3. "Ethnically defined" because, despite the argument accepted by the
international community that it was the Republics that could invoke the
right to secede, all the political arguments surrounding recognition of
independent Slovenia and Croatia dwelt on the right of Slovenes and Croats
as such to self-determination.

4. See Svetozar Stojanovic, "The Destruction of Yugoslavia," Fordham
International Law Journal, Volume 19, Number 2, December 1995, pp 341-3.

5. For an excellent and detailed account of the economic and constitutional
factors leading to the breakup of Yugoslavia, see Susan Woodward, Balkan
Tragedy (Washington: Brookings Institution, 1995).

6. Recognition of the internal administrative borders between the Republics
as "inviolable" international borders was in effect a legal trick, contrary
to international law, which turned the Yugoslav army into an "aggressor"
within the boundaries its soldiers had sworn to defend, and which
transformed the Serbs within Croatia and Bosnia, who opposed secession from
their country, Yugoslavia, into secessionists. This recognition flagrantly
violated the principles of the 1975 Final Act (known as the Helsinki
Accords) of the Conference on, now Organization for, Security and
Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), notably the territorial integrity of States
and nonintervention in internal affairs. Truncated Yugoslavia was thereupon
expelled from the OSCE in 1992, sparing its other members from having to
hear Belgrade’s point of view. Indeed, the sanctions against Yugoslavia
covered culture and sports, thus eliminating for several crucial years any
opportunity for Serbian Yugoslavs to take part in international forums and
events where the one-sided view of "the Serbs" presented by their
adversaries might have been challenged.

7. In Washington, the campaign on behalf of Albanian separatists in Kosovo
was spearheaded by Representative Joe DioGuardi of New York, who after
losing his congressional seat has continued his lobbying for the cause. An
early and influential convert to the cause was Senator Robert Dole. In
Germany, the project for the political unification of all Croatian
nationalists, both communist and Ustashe, with the aim of seceding and
establishing "Greater Croatia," was followed closely and sympathetically by
the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), West Germany’s CIA, which hoped to gain
its own sphere of influence on the Adriatic from the breakup of Yugoslavia.
The nationalist unification, which eventually brought former communist
general Franjo Tudjman to power in Zagreb with the support of the Ustashe
diaspora, got seriously underway after Tito’s death in 1980, during the
years when Bonn’s current foreign minister, Klaus Kinkel, was heading the
BND. See Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, Der Schattenkrieger: Klaus Kinkel und der
BND (DŁsseldorf: ECON Verlag, 1995).

8. This point is developed by Wolfgang Pohrt, "Entscheidung in Jugoslawien,"
in Wolfgang Schneider, ed., Bei Andruck Mord: Die deutsche Propaganda und
der Balkankrieg (Hamburg: Konkret, 1997). A sort of climax was reached with
the 8 July 1991 cover of the influential weekly Der Spiegel, depicting
Yugoslavia as a "prison of peoples" with the title "Serb Terror."

9. The slogan was immortalized in the 1919 play by Austrian playwright Karl
Kraus, "Die letzten Tage der Menschheit."

10. Albanians in Albania and in Yugoslavia call themselves "Shqiptare" but
recently have objected to being called that by others. "Albanians" is an old
and accepted term. Especially when addressing international audiences in the
context of the separatist cause, Kosovo Albanians prefer to call themselves
"Kosovars," which has political implications. Logically, the term should
apply to all inhabitants of the province of Kosovo, regardless of ethnic
identity, but by appropriating it for themselves alone, the Albanian
"Kosovars" imply that Serbs and other non-Albanians are intruders. This is
similar to the Muslim party’s appropriation of the term "Bosniak," which
implies that the Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina is more indigenous
that the Serbs and Croats, which makes no sense, since the Bosnian Muslims
are simply Serbs and Croats who converted to Islam after the Ottoman

11. The role of the Washington public relations firm, Ruder Finn, is by now
well-known, but seems to have raised few doubts as to the accuracy of the
anti-Serb propaganda it successfully diffused. See especially: Jacques
Merlino, Les Vťritťs yougoslaves ne sont pas toutes bonnesŗ dire, (Paris:
Albin Michel, 1993); and Peter Brock, "Dateline Yugoslavia: The Partisan
Press," Foreign Policy #93, Winter 1993-94.

12. No one denies that many rapes occurred during the civil wars in Croatia
and Bosnia-Herzegovina, or that rape is a serious violation of human rights.
So is war, for that matter. From the start, however, inquiry into rape in
Bosnia-Herzegovina focused exclusively on accusation that Serbs were raping
Muslim women as part of a deliberate strategy. The most inflated figures,
freely extrapolated by multiplying the number of known cases by large
factors, were readily accepted by the media and international organizations.
No interest was shown in detailed and documented reports of rapes of Serbian
women by Muslims or Croats.

The late Nora Beloff, former chief political correspondent of the London
Observer, described her own search for verification of the rape charges in a
letter to The Daily Telegraph (January 19, 1993). The British Foreign Office
conceded that the rape figures being bandied about were totally
uncorroborated, and referred her to the Danish government, then chairing the
European Union. Copenhagen agreed that the reports were unsubstantiated, but
kept repeating them. Both said that the EU had taken up the "rape atrocity"
issue at its December 1992 Edinburgh summit exclusively on the basis of a
German initiative. In turn, Fran Wild, in charge of the Bosnian Desk in the
German Foreign Ministry, told Ms. Beloff that the material on Serb rapes
came partly from the Izetbegovi¶ government and partly from the Catholic
charity Caritas in Croatia. No effort had been made to seek corroboration
from more impartial sources.

Despite the absence of solid and comprehensive information, a cottage
industry has since developed around the theme. See: Norma von
Ragenfeld-Feldman, "The Victimization of Women: Rape and the Reporting of
Rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1992-1993," Dialogue, No. 21, Paris, March 1997;
and Diana Johnstone, "Selective Justice in The Hague," The Nation, September
22, 1997, pp 16-21.

13. See Peter Brock, op.cit., n. 11. See also, Diana Johnstone, op.cit. A
Witness to Genocide by Roy Gutman was published by Macmillan in 1993.

14. Martin Lettmayer, "Da wurde einfach geglaubt, ohne nachzufragen," in
Serbien muss sterbien: Wahrheit und LŁge im jugoslawischen BŁrgerkrieg,
Klaus Bittermann, ed. (Berlin: Tiamat, 1994).

15. Interview with Georges Berghezan, 22 October 1997.

16. Jean-Paul Picaper, Otto de Habsbourg: Mťmoires d’Europe (Paris:
Criterion, 1994), pp 209-210.

17. See: Barbara Delcourt & Olivier Corten, Ex-Yougoslavie: Droit
International, Politique et Idťologies (Brussels: Editions Bruylant,
Editions de l’Universitť de Bruxelles, 1997). The authors, specialists in
international law at the Free University of Brussels, point out that there
was no basis under international law for the secession of the Yugoslav
Republics. The principle of "self-determination" was totally inapplicable in
those cases.

18. The matter is complex and far from transparent, but there are some
grounds to believe that both the Western hostility to and Serbian voters’
support for Slobodan MiloŻevi¶ and his ruling Serbian Socialist Party, is
the fact that his government has been slow to privatize "social property"
using the same drastic methods of "shock treatment" applied in other former
socialist countries.

19. From his experience in Zagreb, British sociologist Paul Stubbs has
written critically about "Humanitarian Organizations and the Myth of Civil
Society" (ArkZin, no. 55, Zagreb, January 1996): "Particularly problematic
is the assertion that NGOs are‘non-political’ or‘neutral’ and, hence, more
progressive than governments which have vested interests and a political‘axe
to grind.’ ... This‘myth of neutrality’ might, in fact, hide the interests
of a‘globalized new professional middle class’ eager to assert its hegemony
in the aid and social welfare market place. ... The creation of a‘globalised
new professional middle class’ who, regardless of their country of origin,
tend to speak a common language and share common assumptions, seems to be a
key product of the‘aid industry.’ In fact, professional power is reproduced
through claims to progressive alliance with social movements and the civil
society whereas, in fact, the shift towards NGOs is part of a new
residualism in social welfare which, under the auspices of financial
institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,
challenges the idea that states can meet the welfare needs of all. ... A
small number of Croatian psycho-socially oriented NGOs have attained a level
of funding, and a degree of influence, which is far in excess of their level
of service, number of beneficiaries, quality of staff, and so on, and places
them in marked contrast to those providing services in the governmental
sector. One Croatian NGO, linked to a U.S. partner organization, has, for
example, received a grant from USAID for over 2 million U.S. dollars to
develop a training program in trauma work. The organization, the bulk of
whose work ... is undertaken by psychology and social work students, now has
prime office space in Zagreb, large numbers of computers and other technical
equipment, and is able to pay its staff more than double that which they
would obtain in the state sector.

20. At the time, some 400 radio and television stations had been operating
in Yugoslavia with temporary licenses or none at all. The vast majority are
in Serbia, a country of less than ten million inhabitants on a small
territory of only 88,361 square kilometers.

21. Figures from "State Media Circulation Slips," on page 3 of the June 8,
1998, issue of The Belgrade Times, an English- language weekly. There is no
doubt that press diversity in Serbia has profited from the extremely
acrimonious contest between government-backed media (which are not as bad or
as uniform as alleged) and opposition media seeking foreign backing. Without
this ongoing battle, the government would almost certainly have managed to
reduce press pluralism considerably, but it is also fair to point out that
the champions of independent media need to keep exaggerating the perils of
their situation in order to attract ongoing financial backing from the West,
notably from the European Union and the Soros Foundation. Private foreign
capital is also present: The relatively mass circulation tabloid Blic is

22. Serbia is constitutionally defined as the nation of all its citizens,
and not "of the Serbs" (in contrast to constitutional provisions of Croatia
and Macedonia, for instance). In addition, the 1992 Constitution of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) as well as the
Serbian Constitution guarantee extensive rights to national minorities,
notably the right to education in their own mother tongue, the right to
information media in their own language, and the right to use their own
language in proceedings before a tribunal or other authority. These rights
are not merely formal, but are effectively respected, as is shown by, for
instance, the satisfaction of the 400,000-strong Hungarian minority and the
large number of newspapers published by national minorities in Albanian,
Hungarian, and other languages. Romani (Gypsies) are by all accounts better
treated in Yugoslavia than elsewhere in the Balkans. Serbia has a large
Muslim population of varied nationalities, including refugees from Bosnia
and a native Serb population of converts to Islam in Southeastern Kosovo,
known as Goranci, whose religious rights are fully respected, and who have
no desire to leave Serbia.

23. After obtaining support from Berlin and the Vatican for war against
Serbia, Vienna on July 23, 1914, delivered a 48-hour ultimatum to Belgrade
containing a list of ten demands, of which the Serbian government accepted
all but one: participation of Austrian officials in suppressing
anti-Austrian movements on Serbian territory. This refusal was the official
reason for Austria’s declaration of war on July 28, 1914, which began World
War I. See Ralph Hartmann, Die ehrlichen Makler (Berlin: Dietz, 1998),
pp.31-33. Hartmann, who was East German ambassador to Yugoslavia from 1982
to 1988, sees German policy toward Yugoslavia as a relentless revenge
against the Serbs for the events of 1914 which led to the destruction of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire.

24. The March 24, 1998 report of the International Crisis Group entitled
"Kosovo Spring" notes that: "In many spheres of life, including politics,
education and health-care, the boycott by Kosovars of the Yugoslav state is
almost total." In particular, "Kosovars refuse to participate in Serbian or
Yugoslav political life. The leading Yugoslav political parties all have
offices in Kosovo and claim some Kosovar members, but essentially they are
`Serb-only’ institutions. In 1997 several Kosovars accused of collaborating
with the enemy [i.e., the Serbian State] were attacked, including Chamijl
Gasi, head of the Socialist Party of Serbia in Glagovac, and a deputy in the
Yugoslav Assembly’s House of Citizens, who was shot and wounded in November.
The lack of interest of Serb political parties in wooing Kosovars is
understandable. Kosovars have systematically boycotted the Yugoslav and
Serbian elections since 1981, considering them events in a foreign country."

The ICG, while scarcely pro-Serb in its conclusions, nevertheless provides
information neglected by mainstream media. This is perhaps because the ICG
addresses its findings to high-level decision-makers who need to be in
possession of a certain number of facts, rather than to the general public.

Gasi was not the only target of Albanian attacks on fellow Albanians in the
Glogovac municipal district, situated in the Drenica region which the
"Kosovo Liberation Army" (UCK) tried to control in early 1998. Others
included forester Mujo Sejdi, 52, killed by machine-gun fire near his home
on January 12, 1998; postman Mustafa Kurtaj, 26, killed on his way to work
by a group firing automatic rifles; factory guard Rusdi Ladrovci, ambushed
and killed with automatic weapons apparently after refusing to turn over his
official arm to the UCK; among others. On April 10, 1998, men wearing
camouflage uniforms and insignia of the Army of Albania fired automatic
weapons at a passenger car carrying four ethnic Albanian officials of the
Socialist Party of Serbia including Gugna Adem, President of the Suva Reka
Municipal Board, who was gravely injured; and Ibro Vait, member of the
National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia and President of the SPS
district board in the city of Prizren. Numerous such attacks have been
reported by the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug, but Western media have shown
scant interest in the fate of ethnic Albanians willing to live with Serbs in
a multi-ethnic Serbia.

25. In March 1990, during a regular official vaccination program, rumors
were spread that Serb health workers had poisoned over 7,000 Albanian
children by injecting them with nerve gas. There was never any proof of
this, no child was ever shown to suffer from anything more serious than mass
hysteria. This was the signal for a boycott of the Serbian public health
system. Ethnic Albanian doctors and other health workers left the official
institutions to set up a parallel system, so vastly inferior that
preventable childhood diseases reached epidemic proportions. In September
1996, WHO and UNICEF undertook to assist the main Kosovar parallel health
system, named "Mother Theresa" after the world’s most famous ethnic
Albanian, a native of Macedonia, in vaccinating 300,000 children against
polio. The worldwide publicity campaign around this large-scale immunization
program failed to point out that the same service had long been available to
those children from the official health service of Serbia, systematically
boycotted by Albanian parents.

Currently, the parallel Kosovar system employs 239 general practitioners and
140 specialists, compared to around 2,000 physicians employed by the Serbian
public health system there. Serbs point out that many ethnic Albanians are
sensible enough to turn to the government health system when they are
seriously ill. According to official figures, 64% of the official Serbian
system’s health workers and 80% of its patients in Kosovo are ethnic

It is characteristic of the current age of privatization that the
"international community" is ready to ignore a functioning government
service and even contribute to a politically inspired effort to bypass and
ultimately destroy it. But then, Kosovo Albanian separatists, aware of the
taste of the times, like to speak of Kosovo itself as a "non-governmental

These facts are contained in the "Kosovo Spring" report of the International
Crisis Group.

26. The ICG "Kosovo Spring" report noted that the two main Kosovar human
rights groups, Keshelli and the Helsinki Committee, closely linked to
nationalist separatist leaders, "provide statistical data on `total’ human
rights violations, but their accounting system is misleading. For instance,
of the 2,263 overall cases of `human rights violations’ in the period from
July to September 1997, they cite three murders, three `discriminations
based on language...’ and 149 `routine checkings.’ By collating minor and
major offences under the same heading, the statistics fail to give a fair
representation of the situation. Kosovars further lose credibility by
exaggerating repression when speaking to foreign visitors."


Covert Action Quarterly [date not known, probably late 1998/early 1999]
Web: http://www.covertaction.org/


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