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Violence in Colorado and Yugoslavia

A cartoon in Roll Call newspaper captured the irony in President Clinton’s remarks about the school shootings in Colorado. It showed a boy watching TV as Clinton says, “We must teach our children that violence is not an answer, and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons.” The announcer then says, “That was President Clinton speaking in Littleton, Colorado. And now we return to NATO’s bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.”

This point was completely lost on those who produce and appear on the Sunday talk shows on Fox, NBC and ABC. This Week co-host Cokie Roberts came close to contrasting the two situations when she concluded a discussion of the Colorado case with the following statement: “We’ll be back in a moment to talk about the bigger violence in Kosovo.” However, none of the panelists found any irony in Clinton’s criticism of the Colorado violence and his prosecution of the war on Yugoslavia.

Yet, the war began when Clinton decided to end the negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Kosovo. Clinton had demanded that the Serbs agree to an arrangement which would have permitted a foreign occupation force to move freely throughout the entire country of Yugoslavia. When the Serbs refused, Clinton ordered the bombing of Yugoslavia. It was not unlike the students in Colorado arrogantly shooting up the place and killing people.

In the case of Yugoslavia, some of the victims have been journalists. NATO military attacks on Serbian TV have resulted in a reported 15 persons being killed and 30 wounded. The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists have protested this attack on the media. The American group Freedom House also joined in the protest. But Cokie, Sam and the other panelists on This Week didn’t have anything to say about it at all.

In a letter to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, the press freedom groups said that NATO’s decision to target civilian broadcast facilities not only increases the danger for reporters now working in Yugoslavia but jeopardizes all journalists as noncombatants in international conflicts as provided for in the Geneva Conventions. They pointed out that the NATO bombings represented a broken promise because, just a few days earlier, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea had provided a written letter of assurance that NATO was avoiding civilian casualties, including journalists. Shea had said there was no policy to strike television and radio transmitters as such.

Rather than protest the murder of their international colleagues, American reporters have encouraged these killings. On the April 24 edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources program, after many journalists were killed in that attack on Serbian TV, Mark Thompson of Time magazine didn’t have any remorse at all for his colleagues in the press. Asked by Howard Kurtz whether this bombing may endanger the safety of other journalists covering conflicts, Thompson said, “Well, the question is why did it take 30 days to take out that TV station?” Echoing NATO, Thompson said, “…that’s a powerful tool of war – a television station.” It looks like Thompson has become a weapon of war for NATO.