Propaganda Wars #3
Jude Wanniski
April 15, 1999


Memo To: A.M. (Abe) Rosenthal, NYTimes
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Big Lie and Yugoslavia

I've been very pleased to see that as Israel's chief supporter at the Times, Abe, you are among the very few commentators in our news media who understands that the bombing campaign in support of the Kosovo Liberation Army is inimical to Israel's interests. The KLA is, after all, a fanatical, terrorist revolutionary force that is financed by Muslim fundamentalists. Until our Secretary of State led us into this abyss, the State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization which presumably should be wiped out if at all possible. This, of course, is what the Belgrade government is attempting to do. You also have made the point clearly that Slobodan Milosevic is waging a legitimate civil war against ethnic Albanian separatists, as Kosovo is to the Serbs what Jerusalem is to the Jews. While there could be a legitimate Wilsonian case made that the Yugoslav federation deserved to fracture at the end of the Cold War, with Croatia, Slovenia and even Bosnia splitting off, Kosovo has no historic claim to independence. The NATO bombing campaign which is causing needless death and destruction in both Serbia and Kosovo -- fueling hatred of the United States around the world -- is solely the result of President Clinton's ability to lie to the American people and get away with it, because the Political Establishment is unable to admit that it slid down a slippery slope greased by its own propaganda.

Did you read the piece in your own newspaper in Sunday's (4/11) "Week in Review," by Timesman Michael T. Kaufman, "Looking for the Line Between Patriotism and Guilt." To tell you the truth it made me ill, as it is a perfect example of Propaganda Squared. Here is the first paragraph: "In view of the accumulating evidence of a genocidal campaign unleashed against Kosovo's Albanians by the Serbian Government of Slobodan Milosevic, the conduct of ordinary Serbs is starting to attract the kinds of questions raised by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book, "Hitler's Willing Executioners, Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust." In other words, we can see in Serbia an example of a whole people being snookered by a present-day Hitler. This of course justifies our bombing campaign, because we simply are destroying a bunch of Nazis. Of course, I see exactly the opposite, and believe you can see it as well if I put it in these terms: We can now see that there is a Nazi in each one of us, prepared to accept Big Lies about mythical enemies and rationalize a campaign to destroy them. We have a perfect man for this assignment in the Oval Office, a President who is the quintessential Liar -- as Judge Wright noted in her ruling yesterday and as Maureen Dowd notes in her Times column yesterday (4/14).

As Mel Brooks would say, "It is Springtime for Clinton," who has learned how easy it is to win the applause of The Wall Street Journal and the other Establishment media, as long as he drops bombs on people they don't like. It is fun. When they chide him for not dropping more bombs, even if there is collateral damage among the civilians, he obliges by sending more airplanes with more bombs. And his old adversaries cheer him on. Let us butcher the Butcher of Belgrade! Hey, even if we destroy Kosovo so we can march in and prove that Milosevic destroyed Kosovo, our newspapers and electronic media will write the history. Abe, I hate to say it, but we are allowing our Political Establishment, including their parrots in the press corps, to turn the United States into the Third Reich. Who can stand up to Uncle Bully? We are the only Superpower, so we can bomb whoever refuses to do our bidding.

You know, I think, because I have sent you missives on this topic over the years, that it was the International Monetary Fund that tore the Yugoslav Federation to pieces with its 1987 "shock therapy." There are suspicions the IMF did this at the instigation of our Foreign Policy Establishment, which did not like the fact that Yugoslavia was making a success of market socialism. I tended to dismiss such talk, but when I see Madeleine Albright dispatching IMF director Michel Camdessus to Moscow this week, it tends to confirm the opinion of those who say that all the shock therapy applied by the IMF has been at the bidding of the evil influences within our own blessed government. Hey, just because we are the US of A does not mean we are not subject to evil influences. Just as Germany in the 1930s was subject to the Big Lie, so too our population has been told so many times that Milosevic is the Monster that we believe it. Two years ago, I wrote that Michel Camdessus was the most dangerous man in the world and that Madeleine Albright was in second place as the most dangerous woman. Yesterday, I amended the rankings, putting Bill Clinton in the top spot because he has learned how much fun it is to bomb, with Secretary Albright in second place and Camdessus third on the list, as he is now clearly taking his orders from her.

My specialist on the Balkans here at Polyconomics is Peter Signorelli, who has been following the events there well before the shock therapy of 1987. I asked him to add some thoughts to the Propaganda War we are waging here in the US of A. Here is his report on the Lies being told:

1. Slobodan Milosevic is the contemporary Adolph Hitler. What a facile comparison. The Serbs have legitimate grievances, which Milosevic articulates. He is not bent on any conquest of neighboring territories. Yugoslav troops are not positioned to march into any other country. As president he is obliged to defend the integrity of Serbia, which includes the province of Kosovo. Internally there has been open and free criticism of his government, now subdued as Serbs unite in the face of armed aggression, a condition that never existed once Hitler assumed power in Germany. Branding him as the new Hitler is a dangerous rhetorical device because it sets the stage for making his removal a criterion of success in NATO's war against Yugoslavia. It is painfully ironic that the campaign to demonize the Serbs principally was initiated in 1991 by the German media. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung led the pack in vicious attacks on Serbia, declaring Serbs "Oriental militarist Bolsheviks" and unfit for inclusion in the European Community. The liberal use of terms such as "new Auschwitz," "Nazi-Serbs," etc. was quickly spread by the German media. It resonated across the spectrum, as German politicians now could declare themselves absolved of any historic crimes in the face of the new barbarism out of Serbia.

2. Serbia is committing genocide, producing a new holocaust. This is such an egregious abuse of the term. The Serbs are not set upon exterminating ethnic Albanians. The fact that Yugoslavia closed the border with Albania and Macedonia to check the hysteria-fed mass exodus testifies to that. It had declared its intentions of putting down and defeating the terrorist succession movement, the Kosovo Liberation Army. In a civil war, atrocities abound, but they take place on both sides. The media are quiet though about documented and substantiated ethnic Albanian atrocities against Serbs, yet too willing to rush with stories based on hearsay of Serb atrocities against ethnic Albanians.

3. Rape being used as an instrument of Serb policy. This a repeat of the old story that made its rounds during the war in Bosnia. The allegation was widely spread, and there were instances of rape by Serb soldiers, just as there were incidents in which Serbian women were raped by Croat and Muslim soldiers. However, there never has been any substantiated documentation of that charge that Serbia employed rape as an instrument of warfare. In fact, those promoting the charge acknowledged that it could not be verified, yet they continued to make the allegation. One can see here the cynical hand of the U.S. public relations firm Ruder Finn, the firm also retained by Croatia: target the US Jewish community, bandying about terms such as genocide, holocaust and a new Hitler, and win over the feminists by waging a campaign branding the Serbs as rapists.

4. KLA is the defensive armed force of the aggrieved ethnic Albanians. As the U.S. government well knows, the KLA has long been regarded as a paramilitary terrorist organization. It began as a rag-tag group of Marxist-Leninists-Enver Hoxaists, virulently committed to bringing about a "Greater Albania," incorporating Albania itself, Kosovo province, as well as portions of Macedonia, Montenegro, and even Greece. It is a hybrid operation, with fascist elements as well as Muslim jihadists in its leadership. It vehemently is opposed to any peaceful solution to the status of Kosovo, totally committed to its independence form Serbia. Note that Israeli foreign minister Ariel Sharon has expressed grave concerns at the strong presence of Muslim extremists in the KLA. The media, by using the term Kosovar to describe them ipso facto become a party to the extreme ethnic Albanian view that only Albanians are Kosovars, and all other ethnic groups are interlopers who have to be expelled.

5. Rabid Serb nationalism and ethnic purity. Serbs were the peoples of Yugoslavia most strongly in favor of a multicultural federated republic. Those seeking the dismemberment of Yugoslavia -- Slovenes, Croats, and Muslim Bosnians -- were the ones who identified their interests around a narrowly defined ethnicity. Contrary to the Serbs being the historic oppressors, the Serbs under the Ottomans, were heavily taxed, had their ownership of property severely restricted, and were denied political power, which was held by the Muslims. The Albanian Muslim leadership was comprised of feudal landlords and chieftains, who were given privileged treatment by the Ottoman Empire. During WWII, Serbs bore the brunt of Hitler's atrocities in Yugoslavia, with the Croatian fascists (the Ustashe) and Muslim SS units surpassing even the Nazis in their anti-Serb ferocity. Many of them volunteered to run the Serb extermination camp at Jasenovac in Bosnia.

6. NATO's credibility is more important than a political settlement. Sen. John McCain [R-AZ] is being praised to the skies by the Bombers in the press corps, because of his insistence that We must win at any cost -- and that Victory requires NATO's presence on the ground to supervise any political agreement between the Serbs and Kosovars. One news report advises that diplomats fear an internal agreement between Milosevic and ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova on political autonomy for Kosovo and an invitation for the refugees to return, but without foreign troops in occupation of the province. That this can be reported without any sense of irony testifies to how Orwellian the media have become and what a disservice the Fourth Estate is doing to the American population.

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Yes, Abe, I'm afraid there is a little Hitler in all of us, and it will come out if the circumstances are right and the Propaganda shrill enough. Let's hope before the ground troops go in that people like Jack Kemp and Dan Quayle and Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot will be able to be heard above the din and this madness will end before the blood flows in rivers.