Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Follow-up to previous post

Just wanted to take a few moments and provide a bit more context regarding the hype and its consequences in the Balkans and Iraq during the 1990s. We'll start out with the Balkans -- Yugoslavia and its break-away states, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo. Note that all the following text comes from the chapter "A Government of Laws?" in On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, by Ward Churchill (and of course what follows can easily be sourced elsewhere as well):

August 5, 1992: A photograph is taken through barbed wire by British TV reporter Penny Marshall of a longterm tuberculosis victim named Fikret Alic, a Bosnian Muslim. The image of Alic's emaciated body is then deployed in the media by Ruder Finn, a public relations firm retained by Bosnia's Izetbegovic government, as well as the Tudjman régime in Criatia, to portray the treatment of Muslims by Bosnian Serbs -- and by extension, Yugoslavia -- as being comparable to that of the Jews by the nazis, the Trnopolje camp in which Alic was photographed as "a new Belsen." No mention is made, needless to say, of Alic's TB, that Trnopolje is not a concentration camp but rather a refuge facility to which many Muslims had fled rather than being pressed into service by Izetbegovic's forces, or that it was Marshall, not Alic, who had been behind barbed wire when the photo was shot. Because it is under sanctions, Yugoslavia is barred from hiring a PR firm to make such things public. In one of history's more sublime ironies, Ruder Finn's propaganda blitz -- passed off as "news" in U.S. outlets -- is thus spectacularly successful in mobilizing the potent American Jewish lobby in support of Izetbegovic's Islamic fascists and, at least implicitly, Tudjman's literal nazis. The Serbs' supposed "genocide" of Bosnian Muslims is then used by the U.S., with broad international support, to organize a tribunal in the Hague for the explicit purpose of prosecuting Serbian leaders and soldiers. This in turn serves as the "humanitarian" pretext for the U.S.-organized NATO intervention in Kosovo.

August 4, 1995: In a massive exercise in "ethnic cleansing," the Croatian army -- trained and equipped by the U.S. pursuant to a military agreement signed in Nov. 1994 -- launches "Operation Storm," a fullscale invasion of the Serbian district of Krajna. An estimated 14,000 people are quickly killed, another 170,000 pushed as refugees into neighboring Bosnia. U.S. aircraft, committed to NATO "peacekeeping" forces in the region, fly air support missions in behalf of the attackers, and the U.S. blocks a Russian attempt to pass a security council resolution condemning the offensive.

March 24, 1999: Claiming it is necessary to halt yet another "humanitarian disaster" -- this one centering upon a supposed Serbian "genocide" of ethnic Albanians -- the U.S. completely disregards the UN by heading up a NATO air offensive to "liberate" Kosovo from the "criminal state" of Yugoslavia. Over the next 11 weeks, an "awesome array" of both "smart" and "dumb" aerial ordnance is expended not only against Yugoslav military forces, but such targets as "television stations, schools, hospitals, theaters, old folks homes," and other elements of the civilian infrastructures of both Kosovo and Yugoslavia itself. Even the Chinese embassy in downtown Belgrade is hit by a U.S. cruise missile. Thousands are killed, tens of thousands maimed, hundreds of thousands rendered homeless and made into refugees. By the time a peace accord is entered on June 3, making Kosovo into a NATO protectorate, an ad hoc group of international lawyers in Toronto has joined with the American Association of Jurists to file a complaint with the Hague War Crimes Tribunal charging that U.S.-led coalition forces have engaged in a range of crimes including "willful killing, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, employment of poisonous weapons or other weapons to cause unnecessary suffering, wanton destruction of cities, towns, and villages, dwellings or buildings, destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, [and] historic monuments, [as well as] open violation of the United Nations Charter, the NATO treaty itself, the Geneva Conventions and the principles of International Law." Since the Tribunal is U.S.-sponsored, the charges -- while entirely accurate -- are quietly shelved (and go all but unreported in the media).

May 27, 1999: Even as it ignores charges filed against the U.S. and other NATO participants in the onslaught against Yugoslavia, the Hague Tribunal, to much fanfare indicts President Slobodan Milosevic and five other top Serbian officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity. One problem is that even a team of 56 FBI forensic specialists dispatched by the Clinton Administration to gather evidence can find almost no indication that the grisly atrocities the Serbs are alleged to have committed against Kosovo Albanians ever occurred. Most spectacularly, a mine shaft near the town of Mitrovica widely reported as a mass grave for some 700 Albanians massacred by Serbian forces disgorges not a single corpse. At 30 other reputed "mass grave" sites, the FBI comes up with the bodies of fewer than 200 victims, the great majority of them apparently killed after NATO's "humanitarian intervention" had commenced. Ultimately, tales of the Serbs' "Nazi-like butchery" of Albanians proves as illusory as did those of their policy-driven mass rape of Bosnian Muslim women and the "new Belsen" they'd created at Trnopolje.
Some noteworthy US bombings of Iraq during the Clinton years:
June 27, 1993: The U.S. launches a cruise missile attack on the headquarters of Iraq's intelligence service. Although the action, which is not authorized by the Security Council, is allegedly undertaken in retaliation for an attempt to assassinate former Pres. Bush during a visit to Kuwait, no evidence is ever produced to confirm that Iraq was involved (or even if the supposed assassination attempt actually occurred. Among the many "collateral" victims of the missile strike is the prominent Iraqi painter, Leila Attar.

September 3-4, 1996: The U.S. launches a series of cruise missile attacks against targets in northern Iraq. Although the action, which is not authorized by the Security Council, is supposedly undertaken to protect the Kurdish population around Irbil from Iraqi depredations, the U.S. policy of supporting assaults against these same Kurds belies any such noble motive. On Sept. 14, Pres. Clinton admits that he actually "ordered these attacks in order to extend the no-fly zone." The U.S. missile strikes thus violate Chapter VII of the UN Charter, As Well as UNGA resolution 337A (V) and a host of other elements of international law. Given the extent of "collateral" civilian casualties involved -- not the least among the very Kurds Clinton claimed to be trying to "save" -- violations of the 1923 Hague Rules of Aerial Warfare and the 1949 Geneva Convention IV are also at issue.

December 16, 1998: UNSCOM chief Richard Butler, having withdrawn the last of his personnel from Iraq, submits a report to the Security Council stating that the Iraqis had refused admission of inspectors to a number of "sensitive" installations (this is a conscious misrepresentation; Iraq had refused admission mainly to presidential palaces and other facilities deemed essential to "the dignity and sovereignty of the country."). On this pretext, and without Security Council authorization, Pres. Clinton orders the commencement of "Operation Desert Fox" the same evening. Over the next 4 days, more than 100 sites -- several of them in Baghdad -- are subjected to heavy bombing. As U.S. inspector Scott Ritter later observes, by that point, Iraq's existing stockpiles and capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction had already been completely destroyed. The U.S. airstrikes are thus plainly geared far more to impress upon the Iraqi government that it must do whatever it is told, than to "eliminate Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capabilities."
We might also mention, a noteworthy bombing of Afghanistan during the Clinton era:

August 20, 1998: Still trying to lay a glove on the illusive Usama bin-Laden, the U.S. launches cruise missile strikes on what it believes are al-Qaida training camps in northeastern Afghanistan. The facilities turn out to be occupied mostly by Pakistanis training to fight in India-controlled Kashmir; of the 20 killed and 30 wounded in the attack, none are members of al-Qaida.
Finally, let's look at an attack on Sudan from the Clinton era:

August 19, 1998: Claiming that it is engaged in the illegal manufacture of chemical weapons, the U.S. bombs the Sudan's only pharmaceutical plant, al-Shifa, near Khartoum. In actuality there is no evidence whatsoever that any such activity is occurring, a matter readily borne out by the strenuousness of U.S. efforts to block a UN inspection of the site in the aftermath. Shortly, it becomes clear that the primary U.S. objection to al-Shifa is that it was built in part with donations from Usama bin-Laden, a Saudi millionaire who, as nominal head of the al-Qaida terrorist network, is believed by the CIA to be responsible for recent attacks upon the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen (frustrated at its inability to come to grips with bin-Laden himself, the U.S. is simply lashing out at anything associated with him). In reality, the al-Shifa plant was producing some 50% of the medicines available in the deeply impoverished Sudan, and its destruction left the country bereft of choloroquinine used to treat malaria, drugs with which to treat tuberculosis, and most of the veterinary drugs needed to combat parasites. The "collateral" effect of the U.S. bombing ... was thus the deaths of tens of thousands of Sudanese bystanders, the majority of them children.
Consider these just a few items to suggest that the old canard, "nobody died for Clinton's lies" is more of a stretch of the imagination than is warranted by reality. The pretexts for these various cruise missile and air attacks are ones with which were are abundantly familiar: allegations of ethnic cleansing or genocide, possession of the dreaded WMDs, or fighting terrorism (al-Qaida has of course become a sort of catch-all for alleged Muslim-based terrorist cells over the years). We're being treated to the usual allegations as our government tries to sell us the next wars in Iran (which has suddenly become a much harder sell than it was just a couple days ago -- though it should be duly noted that with our propaganda capabilities such a sales pitch for an Iran war is still quite feasible) and Darfur. Be wary of the hype -- it tends to be lethal.

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