The media did not simply allow itself to be deceived they were active participants and the authors of this deception. Journalists were not only willing instruments of NATO but functioned as a kind of Greek chorus for the most extreme wing of the War Party: during the latter stages of the conflict, they ceaselessly and shamelessly bombarded officials with different variations of a single question: “Isn’t it time to bring in the ground troops?” Now that the truth, or at least some of it, is beginning to come out, are they fessing up to their role as the courtier press, and beating their breasts with a thousand mea culpas? Of course not.
Not only are they refusing to acknowledge their pernicious role as frontline soldiers in NATO’s war on the truth, but they actually have the nerve to take umbrage at their postwar critics, such as Philip Knightley, who has called the Kosovo war “a disaster for journalism.” During the war, Knightley the author of The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth-maker, which has just come out in a new edition including sections on the Gulf War and Kosovo saw through the barrage of propaganda and predicted that we would arrive at precisely this pass:
“The theory at briefings is simply (to) appear open, transparent and eager to help. Never go in for summary repression or direct control; nullify rather than conceal undesirable news; control the emphasis rather than the facts; balance bad news with good and lie directly only when you are certain the lie won’t be found out during the course of the war. Looking back on history we see that these sorts of lies often don’t surface until too late to make any difference to the outcome. Five, 10 years or 20 years later you suddenly discover the people you trusted to tell you what was happening were lying to you.”
DOWN THE MEMORY HOLE
Knightley recently appeared before the Freedom Forum, a gathering of journalists sponsored by a group devoted to maintaining the integrity of the news media and its independence from governments, where he made his “disaster” comment to a storm of protests from a mob of government toadies masquerading as the Fourth Estate. “I’m afraid truth was the first casualty in the reporting of the war in Kosovo, as it is in every war,” said Knightley, warning that unless journalists developed some form of institutional memory to remind them of the lessons learned in previous wars, his was a “gloomy assessment of the future of war reporting.” Michael Jermey of Britain’s ITN had the temerity to stand up and declare: “I think, in the Kosovo conflict, television journalists from a lot of organizations did some very good work trying to get at the truth.” This from the representative of a “news” organization that not only falsified reports of an alleged Bosnian “concentration camp” with its infamous “Photo that Fooled the World,” but launched a malicious campaign to silence its critics and cover-up its own complicity in the selling of an immoral and increasingly disastrous war. Are we to be spared nothing? The report did not mention whether Jermey said it with a straight face. But I am willing to bet that he did. In the Orwellian world in which we are living, it brings to mind a quote from Eric Blair’s novel, 1984:
“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself-anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime.” [page 54]
THE BRAZEN ONES
Mr. Jermey was not alone in his brazenness. The shills for NATO’s lies were in an uproar at this conference, with Mark Laity, a former BBC correspondent who made the effortless transition to being a deputy to NATO spokesman Jamie Shea, demanded that Knightley withdraw a comment that he, Laity, had become a “propagandist for NATO.” In a heated reply, Knightley refused. Addressing the conclave by telephone from Brussels, Laity burbled: “I think the important thing [in assessing coverage of the Kosovo conflict] is honest intent. Now, NATO didn’t get it right all the time, but I didn’t believe then and I don’t believe now they were deliberately lying … NATO was trying as far as it could to get it right, and Belgrade wasn’t.” NATO’s intent can be seen as we witness the consolidation of KLA rule in Kosovo, and as NATO troops invade the so-called demilitarized zone. A pretext for a renewed war is in the making; in light of this, the debate at the conference, and Knightley’s remarks, are particularly ominous.
RAH, RAH, SIS BOOM BAH
The media, far from beating their breasts or even admitting that there is a lesson to be learned, seem content with their role as cheerleading rather than reporting the war. In response to Knightley’s denunciation of the Western media as little more than the journalistic division of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the cry went up: “What about Paul Watson’s reporting for the Los Angeles Times?” But Watson’s fearlessly honest dispatches filed from inside Kosovo during the war stand out precisely because he is the exception that proves the rule. Such weak apologias merely served to underscore the trenchant point made by Knightley: that the objective of the War Party in the media was to create two illusions that the facts about the war were actually being reported, and that everything coming out of Belgrade could be dismissed out of hand. At the height of the media-generated war hysteria, the Freedom Forum reported Knightley’s vigorous dissent:
“The hard facts on the battleground are simply not there and the hard facts in the newspapers are not there. Again it’s opinion pieces or supposition,’ he said. A second illusion that had taken hold was a more dangerous one, Knightley said. This was the idea put forth by NATO and Pentagon spokesmen that ‘we as spokesmen for our side will always tell you the truth and that Belgrade on the other hand will only pump out propaganda.'”
The assembled servitors of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton never laid a glove on Knightley: the closest they got was with one Nancy Durham of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., who claimed that Knightley had erred in discussing her reporting from Kosovo. Durham, it seems, had reported the story of a young woman who claimed her young sister had been mercilessly slaughtered by Serbs. Vengeance, the young woman movingly explained, was her motive in joining the KLA, and the resulting CBC report was part of a larger campaign to depict our noble allies in a favorable light. As it turned out, however, the woman had made up her story out of whole cloth like so many of the stories told by the KLA and their recruits among the refugees, that were transcribed word-for-word by the Western media and reported as fact. Durham reported the deception in a later story, but Knightley apparently failed to note this in the new edition of his book or to contact her. In graciously conceding his error, however, Knightley once again is vindicated in his prediction that one day, “five, ten, or twenty years later,” we would be sitting around trying to figure out how they got away with it.
THE ROLE OF THE INTERNET
Knightley’s prediction was essentially correct, but please note that he was off by quite a few years, and this brings me to a crucial point: Knightley’s pessimism about the future of wartime reporting may be true when it comes to the Old Media, and in that I am including the Internet editions of most of the old print-and-telecast news organizations. But the reality is that it is not five, ten, or twenty years later that a revised history of the Kosovo war and its coverage by the media is being put together, piece by piece, but only a year has passed and already most of the pieces of the puzzle have been put together and made public. Nearly the whole truth is out thanks almost entirely to the power and reach of the Internet and Internet-based institutions and news organizations, which has created a climate of public opinion increasingly hostile to any further intervention in Kosovo. The interventionists may have “won” the war on the ground in Kosovo, but they are losing the battle for hearts and minds on the home front.
IT ISN’T TOO LATE TO STOP THE MADNESS
Even as the Republicans in the House join their Clintonian compadres in a vote to fund Clinton’s war in Kosovo and make a new outbreak almost inevitable opposition is building in the Senate. It isn’t too late to stop this mad plunge into the European quagmire but if we do fall into that particular abyss, we’ll know who to blame, now, won’t we? Trent Lott will have a lot to answer for if and when the body bags start coming home. The blood of American and Serbian patriots will be on his hands, as well as on Clinton’s and the Democrats, if he goes along with Clinton’s Kosovo adventure. This could have a huge impact on the presidential race, with Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan appealing to the huge antiwar majority and racking up millions of votes on the strength of that issue alone.
Lott’s complicity in sending billions to Kosovo would be compounded by the treachery of the Republican House leadership: Speaker Hastert made a personal appeal on behalf of the President’s bill. Worse, the Speaker and his enforcers led the effort to kill a proposed amendment that would have required the President to order the “safe, orderly and phased withdrawal” of the US occupation force by June 1 if the Europeans don’t start paying out millions of dollars in pledges to fund the Kosovo operation. The amendment failed, 219-200. If Senator Lott caves in to the tremendous pressure from Establishment types in the GOP, as well as the White House, then he is running the risk of tying the Kosovo albatross around the neck of his own party during a crucial election year. Does he really want to hand this issue over to Pat Buchanan and perhaps deprive Boy Dubya of his hereditary right to put his presidential feet up on the desk in the Oval Office? You gotta lotta things to think about, Senator Lott and if I were you, I would ponder long and hard.