The Guardian – Tuesday, May 18, 1999
Acts of murder: Up to 38 aircraft have been shot down or crashed. This is suppressed, of course.
By John Pilger
The room is filled with the bodies of children killed by Nato in Surdulica in Serbia. Several are recognisable only by their sneakers. A dead infant is cradled in the arms of his father. These pictures and many others have not been shown in Britain; it will be said they are too horrific. But minimising the culpability of the British state when it is engaged in criminal action is normal; censorship is by omission and misuse of language. The media impression of a series of Nato ‘blunders’ is false. Anyone scrutinising the unpublished list of targets hit by Nato is left in little doubt that a deliberate terror campaign is being waged against the civilian population of Yugoslavia.
Eighteen hospitals and clinics and at least 200 nurseries, schools, colleges and students’ dormitories have been destroyed or damaged, together with housing estates, hotels, libraries, youth centres, theatres, museums, churches and 14th-century monasteries on the World Heritage list. Farms have been bombed, their crops set on fire. As Friday’s bombing of the Kosovo town of Korisa shows, there is no discrimination between Serbs and those being ‘saved’. Every day, three times more civilians are killed by Nato than the daily estimate of deaths of Kosovans in the months prior to the bombing.
The British people are not being told about a policy designed largely by their government to cause such criminal carnage. The dissembling of politicians and the lies of ‘spokesmen’ set much of the news agenda. There is no sense of the revulsion felt throughout most of the world for this wholly illegal action, for the punishment of Milosevic’s crime with a greater crime and for the bellicose antics of Blair, Cook and Robertson, who have made themselves into international caricatures.
‘There was no need of censorship of our dispatches. We were our own censors,’ wrote Philip Gibbs, the Times correspondent in 1914-18. The silence is different now; there is the illusion of saturation coverage, but the reality is a sameness and repetition and, above all, political safety for the perpetrators.
A few days before the killing of make-up ladies and camera operators in the Yugoslav television building, Jamie Shea, Nato’s man, wrote to the International Federation of Journalists: ‘There is no policy to attack television and radio transmitters.’ Where were the cries of disgust from among the famous names at the BBC, John Simpson apart? Who interrupted the mutual back-slapping at last week’s Royal Television Society awards? Silence. The news from Shepherd’s Bush is that BBC presenters are to wear pinks, lavender and blues which ‘will allow us to be a bit more conversational in the way we discuss stories’.
Here is some of the news they leave out. The appendix pages of the Rambouillet ‘accords’, which have not been published in Britain, show Nato’s agenda was to occupy not just Kosovo, but all of Yugoslavia. This was rejected, not just by Milosevic, but by the elected Yugoslav parliament, which proposed a UN force to monitor a peace settlement: a genuine alternative to bombing. Clinton and Blair ignored it.
Britain is attacking simultaneously two countries which offer no threat. Every day Iraq is bombed and almost none of it is news. Last week, 20 civilians were killed in Mosul, and a shepherd and his family were bombed. The sheep were bombed. In the last 18 months, the Blair government has dropped more bombs than the Tories dropped in 18 years.
Nato is suffering significant losses. Reliable alternative sources in Washington have counted up to 38 aircraft crashed or shot down, and an undisclosed number of American and British special forces killed. This is suppressed, of course.
Anti-bombing protests reverberate around the world: 100,000 people in the streets of Rome (including 182 members of the Italian parliament), thousands in Greece and Germany, protests taking place every night in colleges and town halls across Britain. Almost none of it is reported. Is it not extraordinary that no national opinion poll on the war has been published since April 30?
‘Normalisation,’ wrote the American essayist Edward Herman, depends on ‘a division of labour in doing and rationalising the unthinkable, with the direct brutalising and killing done by one set of individuals . . .others working on improved technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive Napalm). It is the function of experts and the mainstream media to normalise the unthinkable for the general public.’
This week, the unthinkable will again be normalised when Nato triples the bombing raids to 700 a day. This includes blanket bombing by B-52s. Blair and Clinton and the opaque-eyed General Clark, apologist for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, are killing and maiming hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people in the Balkans. No contortion of intellect and morality, nor silence, will diminish the truth that these are acts of murder. And until there is a revolt by journalists and broadcasters, they will continue to get away with it. That is the news.