Reed Irvine - Editor
|May A, 1999|
It is one of the most underreported aspects of the bloody wars that have taken place in the Balkans: the same Clinton administration that now professes concern about the Kosovo refugee crisis promoted a similar crisis almost four years ago. In August 1995, the Clinton administration supported the Croatian Army when it drove hundreds of thousands of Serbs from Krajina, "ethnically cleansing" an area dominated by Serbs for hundreds of years.
A major war was averted when Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic, who is now demonized as a new Hitler, failed to send his army to defend the Krajina Serbs, who had set up an independent mini-state. The U.N. says the Croatian attack included the shelling and burning of Serb villages and the bombing of refugees. The War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague is gathering evidence to determine if the Croats should be charged with war crimes. The U.S. has been slow to supply satellite images that have been requested by the prosecutors.
Walter Roberts, a retired foreign service officer, said in an April 10 column in the Washington Post, "The pictures from the borders of Kosovo have outraged the whole world. But where was the outrage when more than 300,000 Serbs were evicted by the Croatian government from the Krajina, a Croatian land inhabited by Serbs for centuries?"
Footage of Krajina Serbs loading what possessions they could onto wagons had been shown on TV, but there were no touching interviews with pathetic Serb refugees telling tales of woe in the refugee camps where many of them have lived for nearly five years. On May 5, President Clinton, addressing our troops in Germany, declared," We have no quarrel with the Serb people....Our quarrel is with ethnic cleansing. "That was not the position he took when the Serbs were driven from Krajina."
The number of Serb refugees forced out of Krajina ranges from 100,000 to 500,000, but there is no dispute over the fact that the United States and Germany had a role in sparking the crisis. At the time, Cinny Kennard of CBS News was virtually alone among the major broadcast media in uncovering the U.S. and German role. She also noted the role played by Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI), a private U.S. firm, in training the Croatian as well as Bosnian Muslim armies.
Bill Gertz, the crack Washington Times reporter whose scoops about intelligence scandals have infuriated the Clinton administration, also reported at the time that the administration had "secretly signaled" Croatia's government that it would approve military action against the Serbs. Such approval was "contrary to the stated U.S. policy goal of keeping the war from widening and avoiding its spread to other parts of the Balkans and beyond," he noted.
The U.S. Ambassador to Croatia at the time was Peter Galbraith, the son of economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Amb. Galbraith is famous for having described the light rain that was falling when Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown's plane crashed near Dubrovnik as the worst storm in a decade. He also approved the importation of arms by Croatia in violation of the U.N. embargo. Appearing on C-SPAN on March 30, he acknowledged that he had climbed on a truck carrying Serbs fleeing from Krajina to protect them from attack by Croatian forces. He was assisting, not trying to block, ethnic cleansing of the Serbs.
This is in sharp contrast to U.S. policy in Kosovo, which is to bomb Yugoslavia to force it to halt and reverse the expulsion of ethnic Albanians. In the words of Peter Galbraith, the NATO bombing is designed to "save defenseless people from ethnic cleansing." But the U.S. did not bomb Croatia in an effort to make that government welcome back the Serbs to their Krajina region. Questioned by callers on C-SPAN, Galbraith called the treatment of the Krajina Serbs a "terrible atrocity" and a "massive human rights violation." But he refused to describe it as ethnic cleansing. "But I don't in any way mean by that to excuse the Croatian behavior," he claimed.
Galbraith said, "I and the Clinton administration repeatedly criticized Croatia for this and we in fact imposed sanctions on Croatia for this and we've gotten some progress, in terms of agreement to permit Serbs to return. "This is laughable on its face. As far as those "sanctions" are concerned, the Clinton administration announced on April 9, as the bombing of Yugoslavia was underway, that Croatia is now eligible to purchase U.S. military equipment directly.
The Clinton administration plays up the possibility that Milosevic could be indicted by an international war crimes tribunal for his role in directing the Yugoslavian Army in its military operations in Kosovo. Interestingly, just three days before the NATO bombing began, Raymond Bonner disclosed in the New York Times that three Croatian Army generals could face indictments for the 1995 Krajina operation. Citing a confidential tribunal report on Operation Storm, the Croatian name for the operation, Bonner reported that investigators concluded that the Croatian Army carried out summary executions, indiscriminate shelling of civilian populations and ethnic cleansing in expelling the Serbs from the region. All of these offenses are considered violations of international law.
Bonner also noted that the offensive "was carried out with the tacit blessing of the United States by a Croatian Army that had been schooled in part by a group of retired American military officers the MPRI. In the course of the three-year investigation into the assault, Bonner reported that the U.S. "has failed to provide critical evidence requested by the tribunal," adding to the "suspicion" that Washington is "uneasy" about the investigation. Bonner even said the tribunal had opened an investigation into how he had obtained a copy of the incriminating Operation Storm report.
Since Bonner's disclosure, the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, has announced she is resigning, reportedly because she may be considered for a seat on the Canadian Supreme Court. But there is no question that Bonner's disclosure would have put Arbour in a terrible bind. Could she pursue Milosevic while ignoring the U.S.-Croatian role in Operation Storm? And what about the NATO role in Yugoslavia? The Clinton administration and Britain have announced that they are providing information to the tribunal which may lead to an indictment of Milosevic for his role in Kosovo. However, Milwaukee attorney Nikola Kostich, who has represented Serbs before the tribunal, had provided the tribunal with a list of violations of international law that NATO has committed in Yugoslavia. U.N. human rights Chief Mary Robinson has warned that NATO forces could be tried by the war crimes court if they have committed serious human rights violations in the bombing campaign.
An Accuracy in Media survey of broadcast news reports at the time of the 1995 Croatian military attack shows that leading media personalities did their best to obscure the nature of what the Croats had done. On the NBC Nightly News, anchorman Tom Brokaw said the Serbs had been living in "contested Croatian territory," as if they had no legitimate right to be there. While the Croatian military attack received some page-one coverage from the Washington Post and the New York Times, newspapers tended to mirror the bias of the broadcast media, implying that the Serbs who were forced to flee had no right to be in the area. Post reporter John Pomfret called Krajina the "rebel region, "suggesting that the Croatians were taking control of an area that had been illegally seized from them. The Wall Street Journal editorial page went so far as to call the Croatian ethnic cleansing of the Serbs "refreshing."
By contrast, the Serbs had never carried out this kind of ethnic cleansing. Milosevic, who is now viewed by our government and media as an aggressor who seeks a "greater Serbia," made the point to Ron Hatchett of KHOU-TV of Houston, that "There was never a policy to expel any citizen of Yugoslavia from any part of the country" during the wars which took place when the country broke apart. "We protected all Croats in Serbia. We protected all Muslims in Serbia," he said. This was confirmed to us by James Hill, a 30-year veteran of the newspaper business who is now a manager of a media studies center at the Heritage Foundation. Hill, no apologist for the Serbs, covered the pro-democracy movement in Serbia in 1997. Referring to the ethnic cleansing of Krajina, Hill said, "It was one of those stories that you expected to be really big. But it was a dead story. It was tragic. Krajina Serbs had been there for well over 300 years. After Croatia broke from Yugoslavia, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman allowed them to stay on their land until he had an army strong enough to expel them."
A Washington Post editorial virtually justified the Croatian military offensive, saying the regime "was taking back its own territory..." However, it did acknowledge that the Croatians used "tactics" of large-scale ethnic cleansing "of a Croatian Serb community that arrived in the 15th century." Almost five years later, in a May 1, 1999 editorial about the phenomenon of ethnic cleansing throughout the Balkans, the paper acknowledged the essential truth of a report that what happened to the Serbs in Krajina had been "the most efficient ethnic cleansing we've seen in the Balkans." A recent Wall Street Journal report from the area indicated there "appeared to be little chance any of this would be undone" and that the Serbs would ever get their property back.
Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, writing in the August 15, 1995 Washington Post, wondered why the moralists, journalists, Senators and others who had decried the ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian Muslims had turned silent "when the victim of the day is Serb." His answer, tongue-in-cheek, was, "On vacation I suppose. The plight of the Krajina Serbs will be addressed just as soon as they return from the Hamptons." This was a reference to the fact that August is a traditional vacation month for Congress and the Washington media.
Alluding to the fact that the Krajina Serbs had announced their own Serb republic, Krauthammer said, "Yes they did form a breakaway state within Croatia. Yes, when Croatia itself broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991 they did precipitate a war of independence within Croatia. But they went to war for good reason. They did not want to live under a people that had massacred their parents. The Croatian state that they rebelled against had, from its inception in 1991 adopted many of the symbols, the coat of arms, the kuna (the Croatian currency) and much of the authoritarianism of the first Croatian state, the notorious Nazi puppet state of World War II, a genocidal state with Nuremberg laws, concentration camps, and a monstrous record of ethnic extermination that included the murder of hundreds of thousands of Serbs."
The ethnic cleansing of the Krajina Serbs became a non-event for the media partly because the opposition party in Congress did not want to make it an issue. In fact, then-Senate Majority leader Bob Dole, who became the Republican candidate for president a year later, had assumed a strong anti-Serb posture. What some of his colleagues, the media and the American people may not have realized at the time was that Dole had been influenced by a top aide, Mira Baratta, who had several family connections to Croatian nationalist causes. Investor's Business Daily has reported that her grandfather fought with pro-Nazi Croatian forces in World War II and her father had been "a public defender of alleged Croatian war criminals."
Along with Senator Joseph Lieberman, who now supports the arming of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Dole was a big supporter of breaking the United Nations arms embargo of the former Yugoslavia by arming the Bosnia Muslims against the Serbs. Although the Clinton administration claimed to be opposed to this scheme, it was later proven and acknowledged that the Clinton administration approved Iranian arms shipments through Croatia to the Bosnian Muslims. Croatia took some of those weapons for itself. Galbraith himself told a Croatian newspaper, "Congress clearly knew, and the public and the Europeans knew, that the weapons were coming in, from Iran among others, that the U.S. government had not objected, nor had any other government."
In contrast to the coverage of the treatment of the Krajina Serbs, the coverage of the Albanian refugees from Kosovo has been massive, prolonged and heart-rending. A Nexis search found more than 1,000 stories that associated ethnic cleansing with Kosovo in April 1999. (Nexis quits counting after 1,000.) By contrast, in August 1995, Nexis found only 163 stories that associated ethnic cleansing with Krajina. The same imbalance is found in the TV coverage. In the first three weeks of the war, the evening news programs of ABC, CBS and NBC devoted a total of three hours to the Kosovo refugees. This helped build public support for the war. Administration officials and spokesmen have regularly used the terms genocide and ethnic cleansing together or interchangeably, creating the impression that the Serbs have slaughtered 100,000 or more Albanians in addition to expelling 700,000. The spokesmen have been careful not to give the number of those killed. They have been far too low to support the charge of genocide.
The strategy of using "massacre" and "genocide" instead of giving the actual numbers was used effectively to justify the bombing. Very few people know that the State Department estimate of the number of people killed in the Kosovo conflict in all of 1998, on both sides, was only 2,000. The casus belli that was used to justify the bombing was the alleged massacre at Racak, where 45 people were killed in mid-January. Based on information obtained from refugees, the total killed in Kosovo since the bombing began was put at 4,600 as of May 5. Many of these are believed to be KLA guerrillas. NATO's bombing has killed more ethnic Albanians in Kosovo than the alleged massacre that started this "humanitarian war. " Milosevic has now said that he will accept virtually all of NATO's demands, including repatriation of the refugees. The one thing he refuses to negotiate is independence for Kosovo.
Ted Turner's CNN, which made its mark during the Persian Gulf War as a 24-hour news channel, has been embroiled in controversy over the fate of one of its former "star" correspondents. Peter Arnett, whose coverage of the war earned him the reputation as "Baghdad Pete," has been absent from the network's coverage of the NATO war against Yugoslavia. Arnett, who was almost fired for his role in the phony Tailwind poison-gas story, is on his way out. His contract is not being renewed.
But that still leaves Ted Turner, now a vice chairman of Time Warner, which owns CNN. In recent months, Turner has been more of an embarrassment for CNN than Arnett. For example, during a recent interview with "E" magazine, Turner was asked if the media do justice to environmental issues. Turner said no, explaining, "...it doesn't get the high ratings Monica Lewinsky does. It's a Jerry Springer world." Asked how the "Jerry Springer world" ought to be changed to get people thinking about environmental issues, Turner replied, "Get environmentalists on the Jerry Springer show."
This was typical Ted Turner making a statement that leaves you scratching your head in amazement. But Turner doesn't want to be taken as a buffoon. He wants people to believe he's a serious thinker who has a social conscience. The founder of CNN and vice chairman of Time Warner is giving $1 billion over ten years to the United Nations through a tax-exempt foundation supposedly to demonstrate his credentials as a humanitarian and philanthropist. However, an analysis by USA Today showed that he and his heirs may actually make money on the deal by taking advantage of tax loopholes and avoiding inheritance taxes on the money.
Turner also has his bigoted side. He showed it on February 16 when he received an award at the 27th annual meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, where he ridiculed the Ten Commandments and made an ethnic joke about the Polish pope. According to the Washington Times, Turner described the Ten Commandments as "a little out of date," adding that "If you're only going to have 10 rules, I don't know if prohibiting adultery should be one of them." Of the pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Turner attempted some ethnic humor, reportedly sticking his foot out and saying, "ever seen a Polish mine detector?" He said the pope should "get with it. Welcome to the 20th century." Turner had previously told the Dallas Morning News that Christianity is a religion "for losers" and that he didn't want anyone to die for him.
Once again demonstrating his clownish side, Turner, the father of five children, told the group that he had come to the conclusion that the world needs a one-child-per-family policy after talking to Paul Ehrlich, the discredited former Stanford butterfly expert who used to show up regularly on television shows warning of impending disasters that have never materialized. In a Playboy interview in 1970, Ehrlich said the U.S. would have to "de-develop" to reduce its population drastically. Citing the alleged views of many scientists," he thought the ideal U.S. population would be well under 50 million. In his 1972 book, Population - Resources - Environment, he advocated compulsory sterilization and discussed putting a chemical in the water or in food that would sterilize those ingesting it. During an NBC Today Show appearance on May 3, 1989 to bolster the phony scare over "global warming," he said we could expect to lose all of Florida, Washington, D.C. and the Los Angeles basin because of the rise in sea level. He predicted 50 million to 400 million deaths from starvation as a result of warming-induced "killer drouths."
William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, commented about Turner's remarks praising Ehrlich: "Any man who thinks that the pope needs to 'get with it' while quoting Paul Ehrlich is a true embarrassment. Thirty years ago Ehrlich predicted that pesticide-induced cancers would soon cause life expectancy in the U.S. to plummet to 42 years (he was off by about 34 years it's now 76). 'If I were a gambler,' he said back then, 'I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 1999.' If that wasn't bad enough, in 1980 Ehrlich bet economist Julian Simon $1000 that the price of a group of raw materials that he selected would be higher in 1990; Simon, who predicted prices would be lower, won the bet.
Representing millions of people, especially Catholics, Donohue took offense at Turner's remarks about the pope and called for an apology. In response, Turner issued this statement, "Mr. Turner regrets any offense his comments may have caused while in Washington, D.C. and extends his heartfelt apologies." Despite the "apology," Donohue didn't let the matter drop there. In a letter to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, Donohue noted that Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott received a suspension from baseball for making insensitive remarks about minority groups and asked that Turner, owner of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, be suspended for at least one year. "We are sick and tired of the old double standard that allows bigotry against Catholics to go unchecked while bigotry against others is penalized." Schott is now in the process of selling most of her stake in the Reds.
USA Today confirms that Selig has talked to Turner about the incident and that the matter "is being taken seriously." However, Donohue says he hasn't heard back from him. This may reflect the lack of pressure being brought to bear by the media in general over Turner's remarks.
Founding CNN and becoming vice chairman of Time Warner, after the media conglomerate absorbed CNN, isn't enough for Turner. His money is now funding the creation and distribution of a "news wire," called the U.N. Wire, that covers United Nations-related issues. The National Journal, a respected political publication, describes itself as the "independent contractor" for the U.N. Wire. It is funded by the Better World Fund, which, together with the United Nations Foundation, is underwritten by Ted Turner's $1 billion contribution to the U.N. U.N. Wire managing editor Russ Walker tells us, "We have sole editorial control over the content. Our coverage of the U.N. never omits critical news coverage. In fact, we go out of our way to cover news and commentary that is critical of the United Nations. Any suggestion otherwise is completely off base."
To their credit, they did a brief story about the report I produced for the Capital Research Center which was very critical of Turner and his U.N. Foundation. However, their coverage of a pro-U.N. advertisement which ran in the Washington Times and other publications was seriously deficient. The ad, in the form of a letter to Congressional leaders from former Secretaries of State, including Henry Kissinger and James Baker, was designed to persuade Congress to pay its disputed financial "debt" to the United Nations. U.N. Wire noted that the ad was paid for by something called the Better World Campaign. This is what the ad itself claimed. But it turns out that the Better World Campaign is part of Ted Turner's Better World Fund.
We asked U.N. Wire managing editor Russ Walker about our concerns. He said the story should have mentioned that the Better World Fund is behind the U.N. Wire. But our point is that the ad itself was deceptive because it failed to disclose that the Better World Campaign was part of the Better World Fund, and that both are paid for by Ted Turner.