A Resurgence of Lies

Fabrications Persevere, Return

As the world continued to ponder how cartoons could provoke deadly rioting, an important anniversary almost slipped under the public radar on Monday. It was four years since the "trial" of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic opened before the Hague Inquisition, with Head Inquisitor Carla Del Ponte laying out the kitchen-sink indictment against the man systematically demonized in the media for years as Hitler Reborn.

One of the reasons few remembered the "trial" was the paucity of media coverage. Plentiful during the early stages of the process, when enthusiastic reporters presented prosecutors’ spurious allegations as known facts and omitted the subsequent, systematic disqualification of prosecution’s witnesses in cross-examinations, once Milosevic actually began his defense, trial coverage abruptly ended. The only exception was last summer, when videos touted as "proof positive" of Serb crimes in Srebrenica were shown in court – but the story received no follow-up after serious questions were raised about the film. When someone in the legacy media does mention the Hague Tribunal, the story is almost always a rote recitation of prosecutorial pabulum.

So it was with the article published in The Independent on Monday, written by their veteran Balkans correspondent, Vesna Peric-Zimonjic. Worth examining here in detail, it was just one example of how the image of the Balkans in the minds of the Western public is composed largely of lies and fabrications, with the media replacing the old, exposed ones with the new, without breaking stride.

The Trial

Titled "Five Years On, Milosevic Is Still in the Dock," Zimonjic’s piece starts plaintively, noting that it is taking four-plus years to pass a verdict on what everyone knows is true (namely, the prosecution’s "facts"). To hear her say it, Milosevic is accused of "genocide against Muslims in Bosnia, war crimes and grave breaches of international conventions in the military offensives that led his forces into Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo." (Emphasis added)

Why of course, every Serb militia representing the two-odd million Serbs who used to live in today’s Croatia and Bosnia was under direct command of Milosevic in Belgrade, and so was the Yugoslav Army, which only in theory answered to the Croat-led federal government. Never mind all the evidence to the contrary, the ICTY says so! And Kosovo, recognized as part of Serbia by a 1913 peace treaty and even by the UNSCR 1244, which blessed the illegal NATO occupation of the province in 1999, is somehow a territory that "Milosevic’s forces" invaded. Again, never mind the reality. There’s a story to be told here.

Also, ignore the incongruity of countries that flagrantly violated dozens of international conventions to bomb Serbia in 1999 and occupy Kosovo now putting Serbia’s president on trial for it. For the first two years of the Milosevic "trial," the presiding judge was from the UK – a key participant in the 1999 aggression. The ICTY is chiefly funded by NATO members, and its enforcers on the ground are NATO troops. All of that is established – but it gets in the way of the story.

Zimonjic dismisses Milosevic’s defense as rants about an "evil world conspiracy against the Serbs." In fact, the prosecution has claimed an evil Serb conspiracy against everyone else in the Balkans, masterminded by Milosevic. She says that the "prosecution and Mr. Milosevic have called 350 witnesses since February 2002." Perhaps, but 293 of those witnesses were called by the prosecution, which rested its case in February 2003, after not a single one of those witnessed proved anything in the indictment. No mention is made of the six-month hiatus, during which the presiding judge died and was replaced by another. If the trial is taking too long, as most Tribunal partisans complain, it’s because there is no evidence to convict Milosevic of anything, much less of what the indictment claims.

In the end, perhaps to create a veneer of truthfulness for her fanciful tale, Zimonjic mentions recent claims of a Bosnian investigator who revised the commonly adopted media meme about 250,000-plus dead in the Bosnian war to 100,000, 75 percent of whom were Muslims. Yet she makes no mention of a study commissioned by the Hague Tribunal, which came up with a figure of 102,000 two years ago, and a rather different ethnic breakdown. Manipulation of the numbers of Bosnian dead goes so far that recent agency stories about Bosnia don’t mention the 100,000 number, but focus on the alleged 8,000 dead in Srebrenica and 10,000 in Sarajevo – figures as arbitrary as the previously "official" death toll of 250,000.

The people putting Milosevic on trial aren’t interested in the testimony of those who saw Osama bin Laden visiting Bosnian Muslim leader Izetbegovic during the war, or those who have credible evidence that Albanian refugees from Kosovo were fleeing NATO bombing on orders from the terrorist KLA, rather than the phantom Serb expulsion. Yet they consider credible the testimony of the former Bosnian viceroy and admirer of Izetbegovic, who supposedly saw Serbs shelling Albanian villages from places where no such sightings were possible.

Well-Informed

Even as it finds itself embarrassingly unable to prosecute Milosevic, Head Inquisitor Carla Del Ponte is baying for the blood of two wartime leaders of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. She’s been insisting for years that she knew the whereabouts of both – Mladic in Serbia, Karadzic in eastern Bosnia or northern Montenegro. But during her visit to Bosnia last week, she publicly admitted she had no clue where Karadzic might be: "I can confirm that Mladic is in Serbia. But Karadzic, I don’t know where he is."

Not that this is going to prevent the Empire from pummeling the Bosnian Serbs for their supposed failure to catch Karadzic.

The problem with Del Ponte’s "information" is that it comes from the same sources that "informed" her indictments. So well-"informed" is the ICTY, it once indicted a fictional character for war crimes and rape.

Propaganda as Art

Rape – more specifically, the systematic, organized mass rape of Muslim women – was one of the many propaganda canards emerging from the Bosnian war that was adopted as fact without a shred of evidence. Nonetheless, it was embraced by Western feminists as a compelling argument for military intervention in favor of the Bosnian Muslims. While there were certainly incidents of rape in Bosnia, involving women of all ethnic groups, even the most cursory examination of allegations that it was systematic revealed them to be fabricated. Even elementary logic argued against a supposed "genocide" through forcing women to have babies… But logic, facts, and reason have proven to be no match for propaganda.

Just over 10 years after the Bosnian war officially ended, a young Bosnian director has made a feature film based on the premise of "systematic rape." Currently a hit at the Berlin film festival, Grbavica by Jasmila Zbanic is a "tear-jerking story of a Muslim woman" trying to hide the truth from her daughter (Reuters). Zbanic told the reporters in Berlin: "Rape was a war strategy to humiliate these women. … They were kept in concentration camps until abortions were no longer possible."

A rave review of the film in the Hollywood Reporter bears as much semblance to reality as Grbavica itself does. The incongruities in the review suggest its author simply pasted in notes from the film’s promotional literature; only someone completely ignorant of Islam would translate shaheed as "war martyr" without noting that the war had to be jihad, the holy war for Islam. Only someone completely ignorant could say that the Sarajevo suburb of Grbavica – which is the film’s setting – was "heavily damaged and then used as an internment camp" during the war. It was never an internment camp, and while it was heavily damaged, the damage was done by the supposedly unarmed Muslims – Grbavica was a part of downtown Sarajevo held and inhabited by Serbs. The final proof is the Reporter‘s comparison of "sensitive, God-fearing ilahijas" with aggressive Serbian "turbo folk."

Confronting the Source

Lies about the Balkans don’t ever seem to die – they vanish from sight when the spotlight of scrutiny is too hot, only to reappear later, repackaged, perfumed, and presented yet again as unquestionable facts. Trying to deal with them individually is almost entirely futile; there are too many, and exploding one merely means another will appear in its place. Only by exposing and confronting their authors – people who desire dominion over others and hold the "reality-based community" in contempt – can one ever hope to put an end to a time when murder is declared liberation, travesty is elevated as justice, and war is lauded as peace.

Read more by Nebojsa Malic

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.