Accuracy in Media

Madeline Albright’s State Department is out with a report described by the Washington Post as an account of war crimes committed by Yugoslav forces in Kosovo. It was released on Monday, May 10th, when one of the top news stories was outrage over NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. However, the Post said the State Department had denied that the timing of the report was rushed into circulation so fast that major sections of it were not available on the State Department’s web site. The State Department simply said that several sections of the report “will be available soon.”

The department put only five pages of the report on its web site but provided a 30-page report to selected reporters who cover the State Department and foreign affairs. There was no explanation of why this occurred. However, it may have been done to prevent serious analysts of the war in Yugoslavia from taking a hard look at the data used to compile it.

The title of the report is “Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo.” Here’s how the report explains the meaning and history of the term: “The term ‘ethnic cleansing’ first came into use during the mass expulsions of ethnic Muslims from towns in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992; since then, media outlets, human rights groups and governments have used it on enough occasions to require careful definition. As used in this report, ethnic cleansing is defined as the systematic and forced removal of the members of an ethnic group from a community or communities in order to change the ethnic composition of a given region. In Bosnia, many ethnically cleansed towns and regions were eventually re-occupied by members of another ethnic group…”

The description applies to what happened to the Serb region of Croatia, Krajina, in August of 1995. As many as 500,000 Serbs were driven from the region by the Croatian Army. What happened to the Serbs has been called the most efficient example of ethnic cleansing during the Balkans wars. But it wasn’t mentioned in the State Department report. Why? The answer may lie in the fact that the Clinton Administration was an accomplice in that ethnic cleansing. The administration supported the Croatian army offensive, and our Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, was actually seen escorting some of the Serbs out of the area.

If the State Department report wasn’t an attempt to deflect attention from the bombing of the Chinese embassy, it may have been an effort to support war crimes charges against Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic. But the same tribunal which could bring action against Milosevic is reported to be considering charges against Croatian Army Generals who carried out that 1995 offensive against the Serbs. Those generals might be able to provide testimony of U.S. complicity in this demonstration of ethnic cleansing. Perhaps this is why the State Department report failed to mention it. The State Department is erasing some history on its own. It wants the public and the press to forget what happened to the Serbs.

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