It's Official - Journalists Are Legitimate Targets!

Ever since the Gulf War, when the media cheerfully reported every lie of the United Nations, helping lay the foundations of a war which has led to the death of a million innocent civilians, we have regarded journalists as legitimate military targets. Remember the nurse who saw Iraqi soldiers pulling out the life-support system in a premature baby ward in Kuwait City? The world's journalists uncritically reported that story in the lead-up to the massacre. They didn't bother to check the credibility of the witness until it was too late. Then they discovered she was not a nurse, but a Kuwaiti princess working with a Washington public relations firm. The story was completely false. So, too, was the one about the Iraqis raping air hostesses.

In the slow but steady build-up to the Kosovo catastrophe, many atrocities attributed to Serbian forces have turned out to be exaggerated or even made up completely, and where Serbs have been victims of ethnic cleansing, the media have generally kept quiet. In 1994 and 1995, Sarajevo markets were bombed, killing people whom the media call "Bosnian Muslims" whatever their political or religious beliefs. The bombs were blamed on the Serbs. The TV media in the USA made much of this. It turned out to be the Bosnian government. When this was discovered, the media made nothing of it. The second bomb, on August 28, led to weeks of NATO attacks on Serbian positions. The media said nothing of Serb casualties caused by their own repetition of Bosnian government murders and lies. Starting in 1992, the Serbian army was accused of "mass rape". The European Commission's report of 20,000 rapes was based on the testimony of four people, plus the Croatian Minister of Health. (Newsweek, Jan 4, 1993, and the International Action Center's pamphlet Bosnia Tragedy, cited in Into the Bosnian Quagmire, America First Books, 1996, and Krajina: The Forgotten Ethnic Cleansing, Covert Action).

"Maybe you recall a famous picture of an emaciated man standing behind a barbed-wire fence. This was reported as a Muslim being starved in a Serb concentration camp. In fact, the man was a Serb who had been arrested by the Serbs for looting, and he was emaciated not from lack of food but from suffering with advanced tuberculosis." Charley Reese, Orlando Sentinel.

The public relations company Finn and Rudder spread the story on behalf of Bosnian Muslim politicians.

These stories helped persuade people to take sides in a conflict they know nothing about. Today's catastrophe, with thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, and an increasing confrontation between nuclear superpowers, is the result.

In the last month, journalists throughout the Western world, with some honorable exceptions, have repeated NATO's war propaganda as if it were news. Even as the bombing of Kosovo caused a massive refugee exodus, the media blamed it on the Serbian forces (or "the Serbs", as they rather inaccurately put it). They repeated the lie that Kosovo leaders had been murdered, until they turned up alive and well. They always present the class struggle as anything but: for example the Greek resistance to this war they see as religious. They describe the recent history of Yugoslavia as "the Serbs" attacking "the Albanians" or "the Croats", though all the massacres have been carried out by military minorities, and most Yugoslavians had no quarrel with their neighbors until recently. Even now, there is a struggle against racism in Yugoslavia which goes unreported. Teenagers in Pristina organized a house where they would meet to discuss how to unite across ethnic categories. That house was destroyed by NATO missiles, propelled by CNN lies.

If truth is the first casualty of war, journalists are the first assassins. In 1914, the British newspapers reported that German soldiers in Belgium were bayonetting children. Like most armies, the Germans caused their share of unpleasantness, but Belgian brats remained unbayonetted for the duration. Since world war two, we have heard plenty about "the" Holocaust. The mass murder of German civilians and prisoners of war by allied armies and air forces is unreported, and some of the Nazis' victims get more sympathy than others.

Given the crucial role played by the media in justifying war by telling lies, we regard them as the enemy. Finally, politicians have started to agree with us. Following the destruction of the Belgrade media center in the early hours of April 23, Tony Blair justified the fifteen or so deaths, describing the media as follows:

"It is the apparatus that keeps him in power and we are entirely justified as Nato allies in damaging and taking on those targets."

Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, added the justification that a "constant stream of propaganda and wrongful information" was prolonging the war.
(Blair Defends Strategy, The London Times, 24 April).

Comrades Blair and Short need to extend their position to include all journalists who spread fibs to stir people up to support massacres, and not just ones in Belgrade. But it's a start!

Of course, the International Federation of Journalists disagrees: But then, they would, wouldn't they?

April 24, 1999.