Media Fail To Acknowledge Other Balkan ‘Monsters’

by Jessica Levy
       This past decade, the American news media have diligently reported on the rapid crumbling of Yugoslavia and its former states. The media report that the U.S. and NATO's interest in the region lies mostly in the humanitarian atrocities, without describing other possible motives.

       While it is true that Kosovar Albanians have suffered unspeakable torment, and have become to this generation what innocents in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Nazi Germany were to earlier generations, this is not the whole story.

       It can't be.

       NATO is not a humanitarian organization, and history proves the U.S. never acts unless its own interests are at stake.

       The major news media have failed the American public by choosing to focus only on Slobodan Milosevic. The aching truth is, in the case of the former Yugoslavia, there are many monsters, not the least of which is Milosevic.


       Weeks of investigation have led to hundreds of names, but a few names show up repeatedly. Among these are the public relations firm Ruder Finn; Jugopetrol--the Montenegrin state oil company; and Medusa Oil and Gas Ltd.--a company owned by the British-based oil giant Ramco Energy.

       Added to this are NATO, and the president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic.


       American media have said little about the fact that the Serb president is a communist. At first glance, this comes as a surprise; but a second thought reveals that if this fact had been widely reported NATO's involvement would have seemed less of a humanitarian concern. Instead, NATO would be seen as performing its traditional role as a military force.

       Earlier in this decade NATO tried to change its image into a more benevolent force. The 1991 Declaration of Peace and Co-operation aimed for a greater involvement in international crisis management. It would not be consistent with the impartial nature of the Declaration to choose a “peace-keeping” mission against a communist dictator.

       Milosevic rose to power on a rabid nationalism, a few catch phrases, and a lucky streak. And like other ruthless sovereigns, the people's support of him was the result of a desperate situation. A 1995 CNN report states “analysts believe Milosevic was motivated by a desire to get crippling UN sanctions against Serbia lifted.”


       The sanctions against Serbia were put in place after Serbia took control of Bosnia and reports of Nazi-like concentration camps splayed themselves across international news sources.

       Since those pictures of emaciated Muslims were first printed, however, the validity of many of these images has been questioned. The atrocities committed in this centuries-old dispute are unquestionable, and there are no good guys. But matters are not helped when international news sources repeatedly make mistakes and fail to research their photo captions. Most notable is the image of an emaciated Muslim man behind barbed wire, said to be interned at a Serbian concentration camp. Later the photo was found by independent war crimes investigators to have been taken at a refugee camp where people were free to come and go.


       The American press cannot be faulted for its in-depth coverage of the war from the side of the Albanians. The images American correspondents sent over the airwaves and telephone wires lead to widespread American support of the NATO bombing of Serbia.

       But even the most moving images of terror cannot erase the fact that Serbia's enemies are not friends of the U.S.

       Moreover, how did the three most powerful Jewish organizations in America--the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress--come to demonstrate outside the U.N. in support of military action against Serbia?

       Such an action would put the U.N. in the position of supporting Serbia's enemies: Muslim fundamentalists in Croatia, Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo.

       James Harff, director of Ruder Finn global affairs, was quoted in an interview with French journalist Jacques Merlino as proclaiming the company's greatest accomplishment was "managing to put Jewish opinion on our side...we outwitted the three big Jewish organizations."

       By getting "the right information to the right places," the Ruder Finn public relations firm was able to create sympathy in the Jewish community for governments that hold close ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the neo-Nazi Ustashe regime of Croatia.

       The world-wide firm's list of clients include the Croatia National Tourist Board, the Republic of Albania, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Kosova.


       What has gone totally unreported except in oil industry newsletters is the United Kingdom's oil interests in the region of central and Eastern Europe.

       The leading NATO member has oil deals floating off the coast of Montenegro. In May of 1998 Medusa Oil and Gas Ltd. signed a 51-49 agreement with Jugopetrol Kotor. The agreement was for the excavation and exploration of a 1,548 square mile block of land and coast in the southern half of Montenegro. Kotor, a major port of Montenegro, is seen as a straight route to western markets.

       NATO has claimed its involvement in the Balkan region is based on fears that “if Kosovo unraveled then all the other states would unravel." We never heard that if Montenegro dissolves, then this untapped source of oil is up for grabs.


       Many news sources have reported that sporadic violent incidents continue even after NATO bombing. What is not reported is that the numbers dying now in Kosovo are equal to or greater than the numbers before the bombing.

       The International Crisis Group, a private organization founded by former U.S. Senate Majority leader George Mitchell, found both the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Serbian army suffer ten to fifteen deaths per week. The Washington- and Brussels-based group, which is funded by the European Union and the U.S. government, reported "systematic attacks on Serbs," and that the "Albanian majority is determined to rid the [Kosovo] province of all non-Albanians." These reports were issued with the aim of getting more NATO troops into the region.


       It is impossible to appreciate the dire situation in the Balkans without at least knowing the history of the region since the beginning of this century. While it is not a journalist’s job to teach history, there is a problem when news sources spend all their time reporting the same stories over and over and leave out those stories that help to flesh out the situation.

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This story was published on December 1, 1999.