Remembering Yugoslavia:
Managed News and Weapons of Mass Destruction

by Brooke Finley

excerpted from the book

Censored 2005

Project Censored

Seven Stories Press, 2004, paper




Prior to the late 1980s, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia-a nation built of six loosely affiliated republics, two autonomous provinces, 25 separate ethnic groups, and a multitude of religions-was an example of a cooperative struggle towards unity. The government of Yugoslavia shared a collective presidency composed of one representative from each of the republics, with the objective of establishing a balance between the leadership of the regional and national interests. Its economy, the system which has come to be known as "self-management," reached its most developed form in the Law of Associated Labor of 1976, under which the means of production and other major resources are not regarded as state property (as in the Soviet Union) but as social property. From this basis of democratic socialism, Yugoslavia was making a bold attempt to push diversity and progress forward.

Among its achievements were a literacy rate that had gone from 55 percent in 1953 to 90 percent in 1986, an infant mortality rate that dropped from 116.5 per 1,000 births to 27.1 per 1,000 births over the same period, free medical coverage, free education, and an ever-growing national identity that crossed traditional boundaries. According to the 1992 Encyclopedia Britannica, "Since World War II, largely in Serbo-Croatian speaking areas, there has been the gradual emergence of a sizable section of the population who prefer to describe themselves as 'Yugoslavs." It also notes, "their numbers are growing steadily, more as a result of ethnically-mixed marriages than because of high natural increase."

The quotations above describe a vastly different Yugoslavia than the one later depicted by NATO and allied leaders. As early as 1984, the Reagan Administration produced a classified National Security Decision Directive (NSDD 133), entitled "United States Policy Toward Yugoslavia," calling for a "quiet revolution" and then integration into a neoliberal free-market economy. By 1989, Yugoslavia had undergone a drastic shift. Needing to stabilize its economy, it borrowed heavily from creditors including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. A western economic recession lead to an interest-driven spiral of debt, and the IMF demanded "restructuring," including massive cuts in social spending, forced privatization, and wage freezes. In the one-year span of 1989-1990 an estimated 600,000 Yugoslavian workers were laid off due to over 1,000 company bankruptcies.

Michel Chossudovsky provides data that shows how 6.1 percent GDP growth in the 1960s and 1970s became a 7.5 percent decline by 1990, with real wages falling 41 percent. In 1991, the GDP fell 15 percent further, while industrial output shrank by 21 percent. The World Bank stated that an additional 2,435 companies were to be liquidated; "their 1.3 million workers - half the remaining industrial work force - were considered redundant," states Chossudovsky. "The IMF-induced budgetary crisis created an economic fait accompli that paved the way for Croatia's and Slovenia's formal secession in June [251 1991."8 Two days later, Bosnia and Macedonia followed. Wanting to remain a united federation, Serbia and Montenegro refused the Western ideals of capitalism and on June 27, 1991, the civil war of the Republics of Yugoslavia began.


Western economic and military interests set the stage for the civil war that peaked with NATO air strikes on Serbian Yugoslavia. Since the weakening and collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. had been hungrily eyeing an estimated $5 trillion in vast oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. In addition Yugoslavia held valuable resources in the Trepca mines complex in the Balkans-gold, lead, silver, zinc, and coal that was worth in excess of $5 billion. After the war, NATO used trumped-up reports of mass graves and crematories at Trepca in order to take over the mines although no evidence was ever brought forward to prove NATO's accusations. The mines, which were once run by Kosovo with the revenue reinvested in its economy, continue to be controlled under NATO forces by private corporations. The profits from these resources are now denied to the people of Kosovo.

After the destruction of Yugoslavia, the U.S. gained control over the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil pipeline (AMBO), which has become their gateway to the Caspian Sea. AMBO Pipeline Corporation, based in New York, has exclusive rights to the development of the project and is expected to begin construction in 2005 with completion in 2008.

These assets (oil and mineral resources) made Yugoslavia a golden fleece in the eyes of the West. When the U.S. "stick-and-carrot" approach to foreign policy failed to quell the "quiet revolution" so strongly desired and instead ended in civil war, the use of force became a necessity. The problem arose of how to do it within the bounds of international law. We needed a smoke screen. And the media was very effective in providing just that.


Nothing convinced the public more of Serbian atrocities than the fabricated, Nazi-esque photos of a Bosnian Serb camp at Trnopolji doctored from a videotape shot on August 5, 1992, by a British television team lead by Penny Marshall (ITN). Marshall's team went out of their way to depict the most atrocious images (Censored #17, 1999). Coincidentally, another Serbian news team shot the same camp, on the same day, capturing Marshall in much of their footage. The Serbian camera crew filmed Trnopolji as a voluntary refugee camp, as well as Marshall sensationalizing a story that never existed. What was later uncovered was the fact that U.N. forces never found such "death camps" when they gained access to all of Bosnia-Herzegovina. There were no signs of metal cages, cremation furnaces, or mass graves, but even this story went unnoticed in the press. The reports of "rape camps" allegedly maintained by the Serbs were also found to be fabricated. After U.N. troops occupied Bosnia, evidence of such camps was never unearthed, and no medical records of the waves of pregnant victims ever materialized.

Ruder-Finn Global Public Affairs, a Washington, DC-based public relations firm, was hired by the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the parliamentary opposition to Kosovo in order to "manufacture" public opinion during the destabilization of Yugoslavia. When the director of Ruder-Finn, James Harff, was interviewed by Jacques Merlino, associate director of French TV2 in April 1993, he boasted about his company's manipulation of Jewish opinion. "Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps, so there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile toward the Croats and the [Muslim] Bosnians. Our challenge was to reverse this attitude, and we succeeded masterfully." 10 Harff explains that by mobilizing the Jewish organizations after reports from a Newsday article came out about the reputed Serbian death camps, Ruder-Finn was able to "present a simple story of good guys and bad guys which would hereafter play itself." Ruder-Finn did what most public relations firms do: manipulate images, target key groups, bend information, plant stories, and lobby Congress. But what made Ruder-Finn so successful was the receptivity of the Western media, who had already been creating an anti-Serbian climate.


The "Racak massacre" was (s described in Censored #12, 2000) "the turning point" in NATO's decision to go to war against Yugoslavia. According to The New York Times, U.S. diplomat William Walker led an Associated Press (AP) film crew to the site of a supposed massacre of 45 Albanians at the hands of Serbian forces. Challenges to Walker's massacre story were published in lie Monde and Le Figaro. Belarusian and Finnish forensic experts were later unable to verify that a massacre had actually occurred in Racak. In his update, author Mark Cook compared the massacre to the stories of the Battleship Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin. War correspondent Renaud Girard remarks, "What is disturbing is that the pictures filmed by the AP journalists radically contradict Walker's accusations."

In January 2004, the Finnish pathologist Helena Ranta, who led forensic investigations into the case, said that Serb security troops were also killed. She questioned why the photographs taken before the arrival of international monitors had not been published. Only the photos taken by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) appeared in public. Ranta claims that the OSCE observers forgot to take necessary steps to secure the crime scene. She also said that the work of the Hague tribunal (against Slobodan Milosevic) regarding the supposed Racak massacre was incomprehensible. Ranta and other forensic experts suggested that the bodies were from a fight the night before involving the Serbian police and the KLA and could have been staged in the manner that they were found. 13 In February 2000, PBS's Frontline reported the "Racak massacre" exactly as the media had originally, posing no questions or further investigations. 14 Once again, in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary, with mounting questions as to its validity, the mainstream media of the West towed the government story line, forsaking journalistic integrity and objectivity.

In Athens, Greece, a tribunal of over 10,000 declared President Clinton a war criminal in November 1999.15 In June 2000, an international panel of judges gathered in New York and found U.S. and NATO political and military leaders guilty of war crimes against Yugoslavia during and before the assault on that country from March 24 to June 10, 1999. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark was the lead prosecutor in the tribunal on U.S./NATO war crimes against Yugoslavia. Witnesses described the use of media to demonize Serbs, demonstrated how Washington had rigged the Racak massacre for the media, and recounted how the Rambouillet accord (Censored #10, 2000) had been used to force war and occupation. Testimony included material illustrating the deliberate targeting of civilians in the bombing of a Belgrade television station, the bombing of refugees, and the bombing of the Chinese Embassy. While the Western media has extensively covered Slobodan Milosevic's indictment for war crimes, there has been barely any mention of Clinton's violation of the War Powers Act during the invasion of Yugoslavia or of either of his two civil indictments.

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