Bosnia Tragedy – Sara Flounders, IAC October 1995

TITLE: Bosnia Tragedy

SUBTITLE: The unknown Role of the U.S. government & Pentagon (pg. 7-8)

AUTHOR: Sara Flounders

DATE: 10.95

PUBLISHER: IAC (International Action Center)

CONTENTS: Casting the Serbs as fascists

How did the Serbs come to be viewed as fascists in this developing conflict?

This characterization has now become an accepted fact, an issue beyond debate. It makes US motives seem unimpeachable and on the side of goodagainst evil.

An April 1993 interview by Jacques Merlino, associate director of French TV 2, with James Harff, director of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, a Washington, DC-based public relations firm, explains the role of the corporate media in shaping a political issue.

Harff bragged of his services to his clients, the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the parliamentary opposition in Kosovo, an autonomous region of Serbia. Merlino described how Harff uses a file of several hundred journalists, politicians, representatives of  humanitarianassociations, and academics to create public opinion. Harff explained:

“Speed is vital… it is the first assertion that really counts. All denials are entirely ineffective.”

In the interview, Merlino asked Harff what his proudest public relations endeavor was. Harff responded:

“To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked at from this angle. President Tudjman was very careless in his book, “Wastelands of Historical Reality.”

Reading his writings one could accuse him of anti-Semitism. [Tudjman claimed the Holocaust never happened – S.F.]

In Bosnia the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in his book, “The Islamic Declaration”.

“Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by real and cruel anti-Semitism. 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 Bosnians. Our challenge was to reverse this attitude and we succeeded masterfully.

“At the beginning of July 1992, New York Newsday came out with the article on Serb camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three big Jewish organizations – the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress. In August, we suggested that they publish an advertisement in the New York Times and organize demonstrations outside the United Nations.

“That was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side to the [Muslim] Bosnians we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind. Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated.

“By a single move, we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys which would hereafter play itself. We won by targeting the Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with use of words with high emotional content such as ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, etc., which evoke images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. No one could go against it without being accused of revisionism. We really batted a thousand in full.”

Merlino: “But between 2 and 5 Aug. 1992 when you did this you had no proof. that what you said was true. All you had were 2 Newsday articles.”

Harff: “Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation on information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it widely known that Newsday affirmed it. 

… We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to moralize.”