This paper is a collaborative effort to explain the history of the war in the former Yugoslavia. Chapter one expands on the role of religion in communist Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1992. Chapter two provides the reader with the history of the conflict from 1992 to 1995 and presents the Muslim perspective on specific aspects of this war. Finally, chapter three builds on the previous chapters by including the role of media. It gives a Serbian perspective on the causes of conflict and issues of media bias. As well as, giving insight on the process of Western journalism in wartime.
Chapter I: Religionís Role in Yugoslavia during and following the Communist Era
By Jennifer Kayongo
There are many factors, which have led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the warfare in the former-Yugoslavia. These factors range from historical reasons to economic reasons. Though a combination of all of these many factors led to the division of Yugoslavia and the Bosnian conflict, this paper focuses solely on the fall of communism. In order, to better understand how the fall of communism contributed to the rise of religious nationalism, this paper focuses on the treatment and role of religion under communist rule and following the collapse of Yugoslavian communism.
The communist government under Titoís rule kept religious nationalist tensions from tearing Yugoslavia apart through repression, a focus on a common threat, the concept of self-management, the calculated implementation of boundaries, and the recognition of Muslim as a nationality. However, these same tactics led to heighten religious tensions upon communismís collapse.
Religion in Yugoslavia has also had many differing roles throughout the communist era and after communismís collapse; demonstrating that the role of religion was not constant under Yugoslaviaís communist rule. There is also a sharp contrast between religious roles during communism and after communism.
In March 1945, a communist government, led by Josip Broz Tito, took control of Yugoslavia. The November elections secured this communist governmentís reign for almost half a century. Tito established the communist rule in Yugoslavia by repressing or eliminating potential dangers to the regime.
Tito secured communist rule by first by making sure that most political leaders who were part of the Yugoslavian government prior to World War II were incarcerated or exiled. He next targeted the Ustasa members and other Nazi collaborators. The majority of these Ustasa members and Nazi collaborators were executed, if they had not taken to the opportunity to flee when the communists took control of the government.
The Ustasa was an infamous Croatian organization, which conspired with the Nazis; committing numerous attacks in Yugoslavia during World War II against non-Catholic segments of the Yugoslav population. Their Serbian counterparts were the Chetniks.
The Chetniks were Serbian guerrillas who committed similar atrocities. region had greater say and control in how their region functioned.
However, in practice the League of Communist of Yugoslavia (LCY) still retained the majority of the control of how the country operated. This control was not to the extent that it had been when Yugoslavia was consciously emulating the Soviet Union. This decentralization though not significant led to an increased regional focus, which may be seen as the beginnings of regional unity that eventually led to regional nationalism and the break up of Yugoslavia.
The next significant time period for religion was from 1965 to 1971. During this period, another great social change, which also contrasted with the initial communist regime took place, this social change was the "relaxation" of the restrictions on citizens. Yugoslav citizens were permitted to leave the country and travel around the country more freely than their eastern European counterparts(Singleton, 245). They were also allowed to "read Western literature, buy foreign newspapers, and exchange ideas with ordinary citizens of other countries"(Singleton, 245). This relaxation of government control was also being experienced in the Soviet Union, due to Kruschevís open criticism of Stalin. However, clearly, the average Yugoslavian citizen experienced greater freedom than the average Soviet citizen did during this time period.
This relaxation by the government produced the "golden age" of "church-state relations"(Bokovoy, 219). Religions and members of various religious groups enjoyed unprecedented freedoms during this time period under communism. Mojzes writes about this time period:
"The churches were permitted to publish journals and books again; theological schools were allowed to expand; clergy could travel almost freely in and out of the country; religious education on church premises was sanctioned again, and so forth"(219).
Also during this time period, the communist government recognized Muslim citizens as a nationality. The "Muslim nationality" meant to many Muslim inhabitants that they were of equal status to the other major religious groups, and so being would receive greater rights in the eyes of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia.
The recognition of the "Muslim nationality caused a greater tension between the three major religions in Yugoslavia; Muslim, Roman Catholic and Orthodox religions. (It is hard to believe that so much tension could arise from three religions, which have the same origin.) This tension was one of the many factors which caused the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the ensuing Yugoslavian conflict (Bokovoy, 220).
With the relaxation of the Yugoslav government, which led to the recognition of a Muslim nationality, came Croatian nationalist cries. The Croatian dissatisfaction with the government led in 1971 to a student protest where nationalist sentiments escalated to dangerous levels when some of the students proclaimed that Croatia deserved its independence (Singleton, 257).
Tito acted swiftly and harshly by arresting students and Croatian nationalists. His plan for the future was to "suppress any manifestation of nationalism in the population"(Singleton, 257).
This uprising led to greater restrictions in the religious realm from 1971 to 1982(Bokovoy, 220). However, the restrictions on the churches were not harsh because of the attention of the West.
The death of Tito in 1980 caused another significant shift in the treatment of religion. Without this charismatic leader, Yugoslavia began on its path to its current state. From 1982 to 1989, religious conflicts once again arose in Yugoslavia (Bokovoy, 222). There was an increase interest in religion and less Communist control of religion due to the loss of Tito and also due to the conflicting views as to which direction the government should take in ruling Yugoslavia". The Yugoslav leadership was torn between those advocating greater decentralization (liberal) and those urging greater centralization (conservative)"(Friman, 175).
During this time period, political parties became religiously nationalistic, in that each party, in most cases, catered to a single religion. "This process was generally encouraged and welcomed by the main church or religious group of the respective nations"(Mojzes, 82). Each of the republics or provinces eventually came to promote their own interests over the interest of the Communist system. Though conflicts between regions were minimized and controlled by the rotating government that followed Titoís, this rotation of government leaders led to the a decrease in the power of the center, which allowed eventually for dominant leaders of republics, who were for the most part religiously nationalistic, to break away from communist control(Crampton, 388).
Religious nationalists or rather those who used religious nationalism as a means of political gain are a product of this period of increased regional nationalism because of how nationalism in each of the regions has tending to become interrelated with the regionís majority religion. The rise of religious nationalism can also be attributed to the collapse of communism in the Soviet.
After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, the situation in Yugoslavia became increasingly worse, eventually leading to the collapse of communism in Yugoslavia(Friman, 234). As communism in Yugoslavia began to disintegrate, Yugoslavia began breaking into religiously nationalistic regions, of which the most prominent were Croatia and Serbia.
Thus, I have narrowed my critique of religions role after the collapse of communism in Yugoslavia during the rise of religious nationalism to the Roman Catholic Church of Croatia and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
During the rise of religious nationalism, these churches believed that by linking themselves to the various nationalists, they could promote growth of their religions and firmly establish their religions. Various churches, thus, willing became pawns of political opportunists because of their newfound popularity, which was the result of religious fanaticism. They reacted for the most part passively to the atrocities committed in the name of their religion; and at times members of their clergy disturbingly have taken active roles in the atrocities committed.
The Roman Catholic Church of Croatia stood by as religious nationalist, Franjo Tudman, changed the Croatian constitution and began the systematic decay of the few civil liberties afforded Croatia during communism. He did this by removing all non-Croatians from positions of power and proceeded to take control of the media (Denitch, 45). He dehumanized non-Croatians, especially targeting the Muslim population. His government also used propaganda, and was responsible for genocide and other war crimes (Sells, 101).
The Roman Catholic Church of Croatia has maintained a passive stance despite these atrocities committed by the Croatian government. Their stance is reminiscent of the stance, which they took during the Ustasaís atrocities against non-Catholics during World War II (Sells, 79).
The Serbian Orthodox Churchís stance has similarly been one of passivity in the face of religious nationalism. Religious nationalist, Slobodan Milosevic, has also taken control of the media for propaganda uses and has called for a "Greater Serbia". His authoritarian rule has dehumanized non-Serbian people. Under his rule, Muslim citizens and Muslim sympathizers have become targets of violence.
Milosevic and the Serbian government have carefully designed the destruction of the existence of Islamic culture in the former-Yugoslavia, by burning books which didnít support their ideology, by destroying mosques, and by destroying Islamic architecture (Sells, 78). Destroying all signs of the existence of Islamic culture, has also entailed the systematic murder of Muslim civilians.
Similarly, the Serbian Orthodox Church refuses to admit that their clergy have also stood by in the mist of violence and even, on some occasions, "blessed" those who have committed war crimes (Sells, 80).
The Serbian Orthodox Church has even gone so far as to declare that the accounts of genocide and other "crimes against humanity", including the establishment of concentration camps, are false.
In 1992, as Milosevic government terrorized Bosnia committing countless atrocities, members of the Serbian Orthodox Church released the following statement:
"In the name of Godís truth and on the testimony of our brother bishops form Bosnia-Herzegovina and from other trustworthy witnesses, we declare, taking full moral responsibility, that such camps neither have existed nor exist in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina" (Sells, 84)
These denials are a shocking based on the reality of the situation.
Similarly shocking, is that the Roman Catholic Church of Croatiaís chooses not to frown upon the participation of clergy in war and war crimes. One such radical member of clergy is " gun-toting Franciscan friar", Pater Duka, who joins Croatian troops as they wage war (Mojzes, 131).
The condoning of clergy participation in or blessing of war crimes has further intensified the situation in the former-Yugoslavia. Other things, which have aided to the intensification the situation, include church promotion of religious nationalistic rhetoric and the blatant denials of church officials.
Religious contribution to the conflict has not been solely a negative one. One example is from a Geneva conference between two prominent religious leaders, Patriarch Paul I from the Serbian Orthodox Church and Franjo Cardinal Kuharic from the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia., which took place in 1992. They prepared a text, which demanded an end to the violence against all religions and all religious places of worship. It also called for the release of all prisoners of war and hostages. The text also demanded the safe return home of refugees and deportees. It also called for the freedom of clergy and members of the different religious groups to practice their respective religions unfettered. It called for an end to the disruption of humanitarian aid. Finally, it demanded an end to ethnic cleansing (Mojzes, 148).
Another positive contribution to ending the conflict in Yugoslavia has come from the members of religious institutions and Yugoslavian citizens who have condemned the religious nationalism and the war crimes. The examples of resistance include housing fugitives and helping victims escape(Sells, 78). An example of a member of the clergy not being passive, is when Michael Sells writes of a priest who attempted to help a Muslim captive. Another example is a Franciscan by the name of Marko Orsolic, who set up the International Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Justice, and Peace, which is an organization that is dedicated to developing a greater understanding between different religious groups (Mojzes, 149). There are not many accounts of these types of defiance by clergy and citizens. Unfortunately, the role of religion in Yugoslavia after the fall of communism has mostly been a negative one, at least in the case of the two most powerful religions in the region today.
The role of religion has throughout Yugoslavian communist rule and throughout religious nationalistic rule has been shaped by those in power. The treatment of religion by the Yugoslavian communist government shifted with the pressure of the West. The treatment also change as Tito enforced Yugoslavian unity. Tito was very careful to repress religious nationalism, whenever it emerged, and to use other calculated tactics to keep religious nationalism from becoming a major problem for the communist government.
However, these tactics, to build unity and end religious nationalism, may have actually worsened the situation in Yugoslavia by increasing the religious tension. When communism collapsed in Yugoslavia these tensions escalated into the Bosnian conflict.
The role of religion in post-communist Yugoslavia has been, for the most part, to link itself with religious nationalist, the two most prominent examples of this being the Roman Catholic Church of Croatia and the Serbian Orthodox Church. This collaboration with religious nationalist also can be viewed as the offspring of communist Yugoslaviaís initial harsh repression of religion and its subsequent control of religious expression and freedoms.
Yugoslavia was unified under a charismatic leader, outside threats to their independence, and self-management and the communist regimeís repression of religious tensions, with little recurrences of religious nationalism. With the rise of religious nationalism following the collapse of communism and the ensuing Yugoslavian conflict, it is clear that, in the words of Paul Mojzes, "...[the] Communists were able to dispose neither of nationalism nor of religion despite their efforts in each [of these] directions."
Bokovoy, Melissa K., Jill A. Irvine, and Carol S. Lilly. State- Society Relations in Yugoslavia 1945-1992. New York: St Martinís Press, 1997.
Crampton, R. J.. Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century - and after, Second Edition. New York: Routledge, 1997.
Denitch, Bogdan. Ethnic Nationalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.
Friman, H. Richard and Raju G. C. Thomas. The South Slav Conflict. London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996.
Mojzes, Paul. Yugoslavian Inferno. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1994.
Sells, Michael A.. The Bridge Betrayed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
Singleton, Fred. A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples. London: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Chapter II: Balkan Tragedy: Who is to Blame?
By Oytun Eskiyenenturk
In 28 June 1989 several hundred thousand Serbs assembled at the battlefield site of Gazimestan, outside the Kosovar' capital, Pristina, to celebrate the six-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo.1 For many weeks a ferment of national feeling had been created inside Serbia; the bones of Prince Lazar, who died at the battle, had been taken on a tour of the country, becoming an object of pilgrimage wherever they were. In the courtyard of the monastery at Gracanica (south of Pristina), while people queued to pay their devotions to the Prince's bones inside, stalls sold icon-style posters of Jesus Christ, Prince Lazar and Slobodan Milosevic side by side. At the ceremony on the battlefield Milosevic was accompanied by black-robed metropolitans of the Orthodox Church, singers in traditional Serbian folk costumes, and members of the security police in their traditional dress of dark suits and sunglasses. "After six centuries", Milosevic told the crowd, "we are again engaged in battles and quarrels. They are not armed battles, but this cannot be excluded yet." 2 The crowd roared its approval.
After the death of Josip Broz Tito, who had united warring ethnic groups after World War II into a communist dictatorship of Yugoslavia, a collective presidency ruled Yugoslavia until 1991. At 1991, June 25, Croatia and Slovenia proclaimed independence from Yugoslavia. (Refer to Picture1, at the end of the chapter for a map of former Yugoslavia) The Yugoslav army responded by attacking Slovenia. 3 thus started a tragedy, which will last for four years and claim around 300,000 lives and will derive around 2 million people out of their homes. 4
This chapter of the paper on Yugoslavia will provide the reader with Muslims' perspective on Bosnian conflict. I do not necessarily agree with all of the opinions provided, I merely give the rationale behind the Muslim point of view. I acknowledge that war-time statistics are hard to estimate, and those may be distorted according to the intention of the person presenting them. Military reports and peace organization estimates are most reliable ones. Yet, this chapter attempts to give a qualitative analysis of the Bosnia issue, rather than attempting to search for most accurate estimates. This chapter presents important milestones during the history of the war, while picking up and analyzing several aspects of this complex story.
Until first half of 1990, Milosevic had pursued his first preference, which was to gain control over Yugoslavia through the existing structures of the Communist Party and the federal government. But this option had slipped from his grasp, with the disintegration of the Communist Party and the 'vertical' division of Yugoslav politics into a set of national parties in the various republics. That left him with his second option: if Yugoslavia could not be controlled as a single entity, then he would carve out of it a new entity, an extended Serbian territory, which would be his and his alone.
Slovene and Croatian politicians spent much of 1990 pleading for a peaceful and negotiated transformation of Yugoslavia from a federal into a confederal state - that is, from one in which federal law and institutions are primary to one in which it is the republics which hold the real authority, and the federal bodies simply act as their joint agencies. But Milosevic showed no interests in any such schemes.
The first clear sign of Milosevic 's new strategy came in the Knin region of Croatia - part of the old Military Frontier or Krajina zone on Bosnia's northwestern border which had a majority population of Serbs. For the Croatian elections in April 1990 these Serbs had organized themselves into a 'Serbian Democratic Party' (SDS); Milosevic had probably taken an interest from the start in this development, but it seems to have been essentially a local initiative, expressing the fears of the local Serbs that they would lose their cultural identity in the new nationalist Croatia. Some of the party's more extreme members, echoing the propaganda from Belgrade, declared that they had to defend themselves against an Ustasa state - a reference in the first place to the revival of the Croatian chequerboard flag, which had indeed been an Ustasa symbol, but had also been the Croatian national flag for hundreds of years. After the election, when the new government began dismissing Communist functionaries, it was also claimed that Serbs were being dismissed en masse from their jobs. Since the Serbs were heavily overrepresented in the state apparatus in Croatia (making up nearly 40 per cent of the Communist Party members and 67 per cent of the police force), they were bound to figure disproportionately in the dismissals; and no doubt there were some unjust settlings of old scores too.
In the summer of 1990, however, the Knin SDS was taken over by an extremist leader who seems to have been in close contact with Milosevic. A local referendum was held in August on 'autonomy' for the Serbs, in defiance of the Croatian government, which declared it illegal. An armed Serb militia began to appear on the streets of Knin, apparently aided by officers of the federal army garrison (whose commanding officer was General Ratko Mladic). The Croatian authorities tried to confiscate the arms supplies of the local police reserve units; and the Serbs, told by their leaders and by the Belgrade media that the Ustasa were planning to massacre them, asked the federal army for protection. Riots occurred, and Croatian policemen were shot. By January 1991 the local Serb leaders were describing the area as the ĎSerb Autonomous Region of the Krajinaí, and forming their own Ďparliamentí. Two months later armed men from the Krajina tried to take over the nearby Plitvice National Park, the most important tourist resort in inland Croatia: this was a direct and deliberate challenge to the Croatian government. A shoot-out occurred with Croatian police, and the Federal presidency ordered the army (over Croatia's strong objections) to occupy the park to Ďrestore peaceí. 6
In carving up territory from Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, three methods were utilized by Milosevic: one general and two particular. General method was to radicalize the Serb population with a nonstop bombardment of misinformation and fear-mongering through the media and the local politicians: every action of Tudjman's government was presented as an act of Ustasa terror. The second method was a standard technique which could be found in textbooks on guerrilla warfare: the technique of Ďcompromising the villagesí, as employed by the French Resistance, the Vietcong and innumerable other guerrilla movements. This technique involves staging an incident - for example, shooting a carload of Croatian policemen outside a particular village - to invite a crackdown or reprisal and then distributing arms to the villagers, telling them that the police are planning to attack them. When armed police do arrive, it is easy to spark off a gun battle; and suddenly a whole village, previously uncommitted, is now on the side of the insurgents. And the third technique was a simple trick and a very transparent one: creating violent incidents and then asking the army to intervene as an impartial arbiter, when it was perfectly clear that the army, with its loyalty to Belgrade and its Serb-dominated officer corps, was acting on behalf of Milosevic and the Serbs.
This carve-up of Croatian territory, which had thus begun a year before the Croatian declaration of independence of July 1991, relied quite heavily on the allegation that Serbs in Croatia were threatened by an Ustasa regime. In Bosnia there was no possibility of making such a claim seem plausible; so a different threat to the Serbs had to be devised. Instead of Ustasa hordes, the Bosnian Serbs were told that they were threatened by Islamic fundamentalists. 7
Bosnia and Islam
Alija Izzetbegovic wrote a book in 1983: the Islamic Declaration, which was republished in Sarajevo in 1990. The book was represented by Serbian propagandists as a blueprint for the transformation of Bosnia into a fundamentalist Islamic State. But no such plans were contained either in the programme of Part of Democratic Action-SDA (led by A. Izzetbegovic)- or in the text of the book. This treatise is a general treatise on politics and Islam, addressed to the whole Muslim world; it is not about Bosnia and does not even mention Bosnia. 8
Some of the arguments in this treatise which have been described as fundamentalist are simple statements of orthodox belief with which any sincere Muslim would agree: thus Izetbegovic writes that an Islamic state should try to stamp out alcoholism, pornography and prostitution; he argues that Islam is not simply a set of private beliefs but a whole way of life with a social and political dimension too; and he insists that the brotherhood of the entire world of Islamic believers, the umma, transcends national boundaries. None of these points can be described as fundamentalist. The very term fundamentalism is, admittedly, loose and impressionistic: it is not much used by scholars of Islam, who would want to distinguish carefully between different kinds of neo-conservative, radical or anti-modernist Islamic movements, ranging from the Wahhabi doctrine of the traditionalist Saudi Arabian state to the revolutionary ideology of Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran. Instead, the term fundamentalism is used mainly by politicians and journalists to lump together a number of characteristics.
Talk of a fundamentalist threat in Bosnia was in any case particularly inappropriate, because the Bosnian Muslims were by now among the most secularized Muslim populations in the world. One survey in 1985 put the proportion of religious practitioners in Bosnia at 17 percent. 9 Decades of secular education and Communist political culture had been reinforced, in this respect, by an ever-increasing Westernization of society, too. Most of the religious practices are harmless in nature, and in Bosnia case, were largely reduced to cultural traditions (such as celebrating Islamic holidays), origin of which were largely unknown to practitioners. 10
During the first half of 1991, the future of both Croatia and Bosnia was being openly challenged by the Serbs. The 'Autonomous Region of the Krajina' set up by the SDS in Croatia was becoming more militant in its demands, as it became more heavily armed by Serbia. In May the SDS in Bosnia began demanding the secession of large parts of northern and western Bosnia, which would then join up with the Croatian 'Krajina' to form a new republic. Three areas of Bosnia with predominantly Serb populations were declared 'Serb Autonomous Regions' by the SDS, following exactly the same method that had been used in the previous summer in Croatia. Not long after this a minor party in Croatia, the extreme nationalist Party of Rights, demanded the annexation by Croatia of the whole of Bosnia. 11 More alarmingly, by July 1991 there was evidence that regular secret deliveries of arms to the Bosnian Serbs were being arranged by Milosevic, the Serbian Minister of the Interior, Mihaij Kertes, and the Bosnian SDS leader, Radovan Karadzic.12 Confirmation of this came in August, when the outgoing federal Prime Minister, Ante Markovic, released a tape recording of a telephone conversation in which Milosevic could be heard informing Karadzic that his next delivery of arms would be supplied to him by General Nikola Uzelac, the federal army commander in Banja Luka. 13 There could be little doubt by now that Karadzic actions were being directed, step by step, by the Serbian President: he even boasted to one British journalist in August that he and Milosevic speak several times a week on the phone. 14
In September 1991 the Bosnian Serbs took their next step. The 'Serb Autonomous Regions', of which there were now four, asked the federal army to intervene to 'protect' them, after a number of minor local incidents and shootings. (They were by now, thanks to the help of the federal army and the Ministry of the Interior, extremely well armed.) Federal troops were immediately deployed: a column of one hundred vehicles was sent to western Herzegovina, another column moved to the communications center in Nevesinje, and 5000 troops were sent into Herzegovina from Sarajevo. By the end of September these forces had established the 'borders' of the 'Serb Autonomous Region of Herzegovina', they had also created a heavily manned military launching-point for their operations against Dubrovnik, just over the Bosnian - Croatian border.15
Genocide or Civil War
"Genocide" (a word coined in 1944 by the scholar Raphael Lemkin) was meant to denote not simply murdering an entire people-the object of the law against it was to prevent the crime, not simply to define legally the extent of a massacre-but, wrote Lemkin, "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destructions of different foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves." The "actions" Lemkin lists as constituting genocide-"disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups". 16
Lemkin's definition laid the foundation for the United Nations' Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), and it was according to the terms of this treaty that a growing number of State Department officials were pressuring their government to define what was happening in Bosnia. The treaty calls on its signers to undertake "to prevent and to punish" crimes of genocide. But the declaration would not necessarily be of "operational importance," as a colleague told State Department official Richard Johnson, since individual war crimes "are easier to prove than genocide"; nor would it be a help in "ending the killing in Bosnia (through a 'negotiated settlement')."
But that was exactly the point: to call ethnic cleansing by its proper name would be a powerful political act. As Johnson points out in his essay "The Pinstripe Approach to Genocide" (included in The Conceit of Innocence), a determination of genocide "would undermine the credibility of Western policies that rely on...peace talks to reach a 'voluntary settlement' between 'warring factions'-who would now be defined as the perpetrators and victims of genocide." And if the administration had officially identified what was happening as genocide, Paul Williams says, it would have created "a moral imperative. Genocide is a term that is recognized by the American people. It means something, both to the American people and under international law."
In the wake of the concentration camp controversy, George Bush and his senior officials recognized that a determination of genocide would multiply the pressure to act forcefully in Bosnia-and that was clearly the last thing they wanted. Having denounced the camps, Bush officials promised to submit information on war crimes in Bosnia to the United Nations War Crimes Commission-and assigned one foreign service officer to the task. The secretary of state, meantime, requested a determination from the Office of Legal Advisor of whether or not what was going on in Bosnia constituted genocide, and was told, according to Williams, that "it appeared to be a simple question: if the atrocities which are occurring in Bosnia continue, this amounts to genocide." 17
Since the beginning of the genocide, the Western media defined the conflict as Civil War, and people thought parties of equal power were fighting. What drew public's attention to situation was the revelation of the detention camps.
The first sign of a possible change in Western policy came in early August 1992, after a number of journalists and a television crew had reached one of the Serb-run detention camps in northern Bosnia. For the first time ordinary Western voters - and politicians - could see with their own eyes startling evidence of what was happening to a large part of the Muslim population in that area. The facts were not, or should not have been, unknown to the UN and Western governments: a stream of reports from UN personnel in neighboring areas of Croatia had referred to these detention camps over the previous two months, and a report issued by the International Society for Human Rights on 29 May had already listed many examples of Muslim civilians being rounded up, held in schools or other centers, and, in some cases, murdered.18 Jon Western, at the State Department, then working on human rights in Bosnia, recalls that:
In fact, we were getting reports from a number of sources: eyewitnesses who had been incarcerated in concentration camps begin filtering out in summer 1992 and began giving accounts of atrocities that we could cross-reference with those from other eyewitnesses.... 19
In early June the Bosnian government had issued a list of ninety-four known locations of Serb-ran prisons and detention camps, together with an estimate of the number of people killed in them so far, amounting to 9300 Ė excluding many who had been rounded up and shot in villages and towns all over Bosnia. 20
On August 6, the pictures of the emaciated prisoners taken by ITN British television were broadcast in the US and around the world. Confronted by the televised faces behind barbed wire, Bush administration officials reacted instinctively: they denied knowing anything about the camps. Or rather, they first said they knew and then, next day, said they didn't.
On August 3, 1992, the day after Roy Gutman's first, highly graphic story on Omarska appeared in Newsday, the State Department deputy spokesman, Richard Boucher, faced reporters and announced that administration officials had not only been aware "that the Serbian forces are maintaining what they call detention centers" but that "abuses and torture and killings [were] taking place." Angry questions followed: If President Bush had known of these camps, why had he not publicly denounced them? Why had he not insisted the prisoners be released, or that the camps open their doors to the Red Cross? Why, finally, had he not at least revealed that the camps existed? The next morning Thomas Niles, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, took his seat before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and told congressmen that "we don't have, thus far, substantiated information that would confirm the existence of these camps." Less than twenty-four hours before, Bush officials said they had known of the horrors at Omarska; now they were unable to say the camps existed.21
Why this high-level Keystone Kops routine, particularly from an administration that prided itself on its cool, professional management of foreign affairs? The answer is not far to seek. The reporters' discovery of Omarska and the other camps, and the outrage their dispatches and videotape provoked, did not pose, for Bush, a problem of foreign policy at all but rather one of politics. For though Secretary of State James Baker had claimed that the administration did not act forcefully in the Balkans because "the American people would never...support it", the matter was not so simple: as Baker well knew, polls could fluctuate wildly. At various times during the Bosnia conflict, lurid television pictures provoked "spikes" in the fever chart of popular concern, and, if Americans still wouldn't support dispatching ground troops, they were not shy about demanding their government do something. The Bush people, having concluded nearly two years before that taking strong action posed unacceptable risks, 22 now feared that popular outrage, momentarily fueled by just this sort of "telegenic" but (in their view) ephemeral atrocity, might drag them toward such involvement-or else, popular sentiment would penalize them politically (with the election barely three months away) for "doing nothing."
In some places there was a deliberate killing of educated Muslims and leaders of the local community: teachers, doctors, lawyers. Detailed reports which emerged later in the year showed that some of the detention camps had also been used for systematic murder. And there were also some well-documented reports of women being held in special buildings for the purpose of systematic rape.23
Some of the events reported by eyewitnesses followsÜ:
"A teenage girl from Foca recounted that: Chetniks came to our village and gathered us in one place. They divided us into three groups and immediately slaughtered 8 adult men with their knives. They selected some girls and young women and ordered them to take off their clothes in front of everyone. Since the girls could not do that in front of their parents, the Chetniks came up to them, slapping them and threatening with knives they tore their clothes off. Each man who reacted was killed immediately. After that, the Chetniks raped the girls in our presence. Men, women and children begged them not to do more, offering them their whole property, but nothing helped."
"Recently, 60 women who escaped from the Tuzla region were hospitalized in Sarijevo. They were all 3 to 4 months pregnant. The women say their Chetnik captors released them after they determined it was too late in the pregnancy for abortion."24
"The night before (the release of the civilians), as the exhausted people tried to rest, the Serbs, drunk with triumph, walked among them. They pulled men away from their sobbing wives for "interrogation" and moments later gunshots told the women they would not see their husbands again. As they grew drunker, the Serbs dragged away for their pleasure young girls and boys, ten, eleven, twelve years old. Finally they no longer bothered to carry off their victims but simply fell upon them and did as they pleased amid hundreds of terrified people packed together in an abandoned factory: "Two took her legs and raised them up in the air, while the third began raping her. Four of them were taking turns on her. People were silent, no one moved. She was screaming and yelling and begging them to stop. They put a rag into her mouth and then we just heard silent sobs." 25
ÜFor the detailed and harrowing testimony of one woman who was held at a rape camp in Foca see the report by Victoria Clark, Observer, 21 February 1993. The question of organized rape is viewed by some commentators as contentious. The Bosnian government has assembled details of 13,000 rape victims (as of 1994); the EEC mission offered the very rough estimate of 20,000 in January 1993 (p. 460). What is clear is that rape was being used in many places as part of the general policy of the Serb forces against the civilian population, and was not simply a matter of individual acts by disorderly soldiers.
After a mass killing, the single survivor reports, after lying down for the whole day among the corpses, pretending to be dead...
"...when he finally decided to get up, he couldn't; his whole body was numb. When at last he managed to get to his feet and pull off his blindfold he found himself gazing at a moonlit "sea of corpses." Though the meadow was broader and longer than a football field, the thousands of cadavers so thoroughly obscured every bit of ground that when he tried to flee "without stepping on the dead ... [it] was impossible, so I tried at least not to step on the chests and torsos, but [only] onto arms and handsá." 26
There are several important points to stress about the brutal methods Serbs were using:
áThough neither the murderers nor the victims knew it, their images would twice more be committed to film. As the men of Srebrenica stood before their executioners, a U.S. satellite high above snapped a photograph27, and in coming days, when an American pilot flew his spy plane over the same site, he would take another of freshly covered plots of earth28.
First, despite their flamboyance and seeming independence, Arkan's Tigers and the other paramilitariesóVojislav Seslj's Chetniks, the White Eagles, the Yellow Ants (the name is a testament to their prowess at looting)ówere creatures of the Serbian state. As Milos Vasic, an expert on the Yugoslav military, writes, "They were all organized with the consent of Milosevic's secret police and armed, commanded, and controlled by its officers." 29
Second, instead of killing, the Bosnian Serbs preferred to terrorize the population by behaving so brutally to a portion of it. Their aim was to force the population to leave their lands, and this was an effective way to do it. 30
Beverly Allen in Rape Warfare asserts that the Serbs debated in detail the most effective means of terror. Allen quotes one document, "a variation of the RAM (Serbsí plan of carving up territory from Bosnia) Plan, written by the army's special services, including...experts in psychological warfare," that offers a chilling sociological rationale for the tactics of ethnic cleansing:
Our analysis of the behavior of the Muslim communities demonstrates that the morale, will, and bellicose nature of their groups can be undermined only if we aim our action at the point where the religious and social structure is most fragile. We refer to the women, especially adolescents, and to the children. Decisive intervention on these social figures would spread confusion..., thus causing first of all fear and then panic, leading to a probable retreat from the territories involved in war activity.
Milos Vasic, in The Yugoslav Army and the Post-Yugoslav Armies calls the the "psychological weapon in ethnic cleansing." The men knew that they must be brutal enough, and inventive enough in their cruelty, that stories of their terror would quickly spread and in the next village, says Vasic, "no one would wait for them to come." He estimates that the paramilitaries consisted on average of "80 percent common criminals and 20 percent fanatical nationalists." 31
Third, domestic Serbian population was provoked by misinformation of Belgrade, that Muslims were planning a mass-killing and rape for Serbs, thus there was a dimension of revenge in the story. Their dream "Greater Serbia" is critical not only because it satisfies an ancient historical claim but because Serbs must protect themselves from the "genocide" others even now are planning for them. As many writers, including Michael Sells and, especially, Tim Judah, point out, such ideas of vulnerability and betrayal can be traced far back in Serbia's past, and President Slobodan Milosevic, with his control of state radio and television, exploited them brilliantly, building popular hatred by instilling in Serbs a visceral fear and paranoia. 32
By April 7, 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina's independence had been officially recognized by the United States and by most European countries. On May 22, 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina was admitted as a full member of the United Nations. But an arms embargo, imposed on all of the former Yugoslavia by the UN (in 1991, at the request of the Belgrade government, and since then maintained at the insistence of the US and its Western European allies), has in effect barred the internationally recognized Bosnian government from acquiring the means to exercise its right to self-defense33, guaranteed under the UN Charter:
Nothing in this present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.
[United Nations Charter, Article 51]
Since the war was seen as a civil war, as opposed to a genocide, the efforts of West were directed to reduce the quantity of fighting. Thus, the arms embargo that prevented Bosnia from defending itself, was not lifted. The embargo was initially introduced against the whole of Yugoslavia in September 1991, which at that stage was still, formally speaking, a single country. Although the UN itself recognized Bosnia and admitted it as a member-state distinct and separate from Yugoslavia on 22 May 1992, it continued to apply the embargo as if nothing had changed. Of course it continued to apply it to Serbia too; but Milosevic and Serb nationalist forces in Bosnia had at their disposal the resources of the Yugoslav National Army, including the fourth largest arsenal in Cold-War Europe. Serbia held most of the stockpiles of the former federal army, and had a large armaments industry of its own. In addition, the Yugoslav army had purchased an extra 14,000 tons of weaponry from the Middle East just before the arms embargo came into force in 1991. Serb military commanders sometimes boasted that they had enough arms and ammunition to continue the war in Bosnia for another six or seven years; the embargo could have no real effect on their military capability. But to the Bosnian defense forces it was in the long term a sentence of death. 34
Bosnian Serbs have used these weapons to lethal effect in their assault on Bosnia's cities, towns and villages. Over a million people have been bombed and driven from their homes, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and wounded. Serb nationalist forces have overrun 70% of Bosnia's territory, "cleansing" conquered areas by driving out or killing the non-Serb inhabitants.
Small supplies of arms did reach the Bosnians, mostly via Croatia, despite the blockade of the Croatian coast mounted from July 1992 by NATO and WEU flotillas. A few armaments factories still lay within Bosnian government-controlled areas, and some production was kept up there despite the dislocation of supplies. Occasionally the Bosnian government forces also captured material from the Serb army: in the most spectacular such operation, north of Tuzla in May, an entire armored column was seized. But what the Bosnians always lacked was heavy armor, artillery and anti-tank weapons. In September it was estimated that they possessed two tanks and two armored personnel carriers (APCs), while the Serb army in Bosnia had 300 tanks, 200 APCS, 800 artillery pieces and 40 aircraft." A later estimate, in June 1993, was that the arms captured by the Bosnians included up to 40 tanks and 30 APCS, together with a larger number of light artillery pieces; the Croat forces were thought to have roughly 50 tanks and more than 100 APCs.35
Had the Bosnian government been able to exercise the normal right of any government to obtain arms for the defense of its people, it is quite likely that the Serb gains would have been roiled back in many parts of Bosnia, if not to the point of outright defeat for the Serb leaders, then at least to the point where they would have realized that they would not get the territory they wanted by conquest. The war might then have ended within four to six months. This did not happen, because the delivery of arms to the Bosnian government was vigorously opposed by statesmen such as Douglas Hurd, who argued that allowing the Bosnians to defend themselves would only prolong the fighting. 36
Initiatives to lift the arms embargo against Bosnia's government and calls for forceful international intervention to end the conflict have been continually blocked in the UN and other international forums. Calls for cease-fires and for a stop to the atrocities have gone unheeded in the absence of any meaningful measures to enforce them. The governments of Russia, the United States and its European allies appear to have concluded, for the present, that conceding to the Serb nationalists the full fruits of their aggression will be less trouble -at least in the short run- than assuming the political risks that any intervention might entail. Permitting the Bosnians access to arms, in this analysis, would merely allow them to resist a speedy and convenient solution to the conflict. The United States and NATO, which only twenty years ago were ready to risk a nuclear confrontation over Yugoslavia, now view its descent into genocide and chaos with detachment, unwilling to step in and anxious only to keep the mayhem from spilling over into areas of more immediate concern. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has stated that, since the conflict in Bosnia "does not affect our vital national interests," America will not intervene. Great Britain, France and our other European allies have stated their disinterest in intervening in even stronger terms. Russia and China, anxious not to create precedents for humanitarian intervention closer to home, have done their best to avert concerted action in the UN. 37
Lifting this embargo was one of major concern among Muslim leaders and Muslim media. Alija Izzetbegovic, addressed this issue at many international platforms. The following lines are from his speech at an Islamic Conference in December 1992: 38
Our case, morally and legally, is abundantly clear. Under the United Nations Charter, a victim of aggression has the right to two forms of self-defense: collectively (with the help of other UN member states) and unilateral. We have been deprived of both, while the aggression against our country, and the murder of our people continues.
That's why we exclaim! Please choose. Either defend us or allow us to defend ourselves.
Will the international community defend us? Well that is their prerogative, or more accurately stated, their collective consideration of their conscience and honor.
However, self-defense is our right. Those that bind our hands while we are being beaten or murdered, become accomplices of the guilty.
We simply ask that the arms embargo with respect to Bosnia and Herzegovina be declared inapplicable. We are not seeking weapons for revenge but for self-defense. Therefore, I will be even more precise, we are seeking a limited quantity of defensive weapons.
For us, this is a question of life and death.
Do we ask for too much?
One can find ample references in Muslim media, regarding the embargo issue. Since we have limited space, we proceed to other sections with acknowledging that despite all that has been said and written, embargo remained at its place until the end of 1995. By that time, the peace agreement was signed in Paris.
Sanctions and Aid
The United Nations has failed to provide effective support for a just and democratic resolution of the crisis and has passed a number of ineffectual resolutions all of which have done nothing to stop the continued onslaught of Serbian military forces. On May 31, 1992, the United Nations imposed economic sanctions on the rump Yugoslavia or Serbia and Montenegro. This resolution for the first time singled out Yugoslavia or Serbia and the aggressor in the Bosnian conflict. The sanctions have created considerable economic discomfort in Serbia and Montenegro but have had little effect on Serbia's policy towards Bosnia-Herzegovina or the behavior of the Serbian forces in Bosnia. In summer of 1992, the United Nations belatedly began providing food and medical supplies to the hungry, sick and blockaded citizens of Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities. The aid mission has done nothing to address the fundamental cause of hunger, disease, injury and death, which is the war itself. The United Nations forces sent to deliver humanitarian aid and monitor cease-fire agreements have become virtual hostages. 39
The humanitarian missions mounted by the outside world undoubtedly saved lives. They also had some undesired but not unforeseeable consequences: local militias treated them as a source of supply, regularly receiving as much as a quarter of the deliveries which passed through their checkpoints, and extorting large sums of money as well. While private and public aid agencies made strenuous efforts to bring food and medicines into Bosnia during the second half of 1992, they were joined by a growing number of UN troops (nearly 8000 by the end of the year), whose role, apart from protecting aid convoys, was unclear. The political consequence of placing this small and lightly-armed UN force in Bosnia was, however, that they now functioned as hostages, making the Western governments extremely reluctant to adopt any policies which might invite retaliation by the Serbs against these vulnerable troops. Thus by December the British government, which had helped to set up the theoretical no-fly zone over Bosnia, was arguing at the United Nations against measures to enforce it, for fear of what might happen to British soldiers in Bosnia if a Serbian plane was ever shot down by RAF fighters. 40 (Along those lines, look at one of the famous pictures taken in Bosnia: Picture2, at the end of the Chapter)
There were also humanitarian aids from Muslim world as well as Christian/Jewish organizations. However, overall, this contributed little to the solution of the conflict.
Mountains of Words
Throughout the war, there were a lot of condemnations and protests of Serbian aggressiveness. However, all those amounted to a big zero. It looks like the reaction was not enough to initiate any active political measures. Continued unsuccessful peace processes led Muslims to think that the attempts were not sincere. They thought that the West was either slow or unwilling to intervene, since the people being killed out there were Muslims. Some of the newspapers described the UN as Christian Club. Others defined Butros Gali as Serbian-friend. In effect, the conflict was seen as a religious conflict in most of the Muslim countries, whereas it was a complex one that has religious, ethnic and political dimensions.
Along these lines, the following quotes are informative41:
There have been words, mountains of them, perhaps on more than any other issue in recent times. During the current year, no fewer than 21 international conferences have been -organized about Bosnia. The issue has been discussed at the United Stations General Assembly and Security Council no feweżˇˇˇā É Ą Ö Ü á ą Č ä č Ć ć é Ź ź Ď í ď Ē ē Ė ó ė ô ö õ ú Ě ě ü † ° Ę £ § • ¶ ß ® © ™ ę ¨ ≠ ģ Į į Ī ≤ ≥ ī Ķ ∂ ∑ ł Ļ ļ Ľ ľ Ĺ ĺ Ņ ņ Ń ¬ √ ń Ň ∆ « » … ň Ő Õ ő Ō – — “ ” ‘ ’ ÷ ◊ ō Ŕ ŕ Ř ‹ › ř Ŗ ŗ Š ‚ „ š Ś ś Á Ť ť Í Ž ž Ū Ó Ô ū Ů Ú ů Ű ű Ų ų Ý ý ķ Ż Ł ż ˇ żˇˇˇ r than 17 times. More than 300 resolutions have been passed on it by International organizations.(only 1992) Bosnians had all along known that words will not save even one life among them.
Bosnia's Foreign Minister Dr. Haris Slajazic
Whatever excuses are trotted by the United Nations and major powers whose muscle and pull determine the actions and inactions of that organization, it cannot be denied that what we have seen in these past few months are different scales of justice for different people. We have seen and continue to see every day the indignation that spew forth from the advocates of human rights when freedom are denied in China, North Korea or Africa or when an Israeli citizen is hurt or a European national is kidnapped. Such wrath is to be commended because such protests are what have made our times the age of human freedom and dignity. What is depressing is the ease with which those snap diplomatic ties, freeze trade and commerce, and stick label of terrorists on nations for the crime of denying political freedoms contend themselves with empty rhetoric while people are made victims of systematic genocide.
Khaled Al-Maeena, Editor in Chief, Arab News, Jeddah
...why is this so and why does today's world, or more accurately, its leadership, largely not see what is abundantly clear? Is it because this is not Belgrade that is besieged and razed - but Sarajevo? Is it because this is not half of Serbia that is occupied but Bosnia? Is it because the column of one million refugees across Europe are Muslims - who is persecuting them and why are thev fleeing? And why, instead of real protection consistent with justice and international law, do thev send us, lunch-packs?
Is this a matter of the moral weakness of today's civilization or the fact that the victims are Muslims?
I am concerned that once history is written and archives are uncovered,, both of the above suspicions will be proven.
...Lord Owen used his stiff upper lip to tell the Islamic Foreign Ministers that they would be wrong to think that the behavior of Western powers in the Bosnian crisis happened to be so because it involved people of a particular faith. He knew about their I suspicion that the world is not acting in defense of the rights of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the same way as if they followed a different religion but he did not believe that this charge has any substance. Such assurance was worthless even if true.
from Impact International
Those opinions were also supported later by the fact that UN troops are not effectively looking for war criminals after the peace agreement and famous war criminals are still wandering free in the public and being photographed by journalists:
While the primary responsibility for the arrest and extradition of war criminals lies with the regional governments, few were willing to fulfill their obligation. This was particularly true of the local authorities in the Republika Srpska (RS) who resolutely refused to turn over to the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia any of the thirty-eight indicted persons still believed to be in RS territory. RS President Biljana Plavsic informed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan by letter in January that the Republika Srpska would not hand over Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic (the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army) to the ICTY, a decision supported by Republika Srspka Prime Minister Gojko Klickovic only a few days later. During most of 1997, the Bosnian Croat authorities refused to cooperate with the ICTY. However, under intense pressure from the international community, on October 6, ten Bosnian Croat indictees were handed over and transferred to the Hague. Nevertheless, as of this writing, the Bosnian Croat authorities continued to harbor four other indicted persons.
Although fully authorized by the Dayton agreement and various Security Council resolutions to arrest persons indicted by the ICTY, SFOR chose to interpret its mandate narrowly, insisting that it was not obliged to search for and apprehend persons indicted by the tribunal and that it could only detain indicted persons who were encountered during the course of normal duties-and even then, only if "feasible." U.S. President Clinton reinforced this position in February by stating that U.S. troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina should not be used for police functions such as the apprehension of indictees. 42
From HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT 1998
Vance-Owen Peace Plan
In late October 1992, the EEC and UN negotiators, Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, produced the first detailed proposal for a political settlement. This was (supposedly) a solution that was arrived by taking demands of Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian sides, to find a mid-way between those. 43
According to the version of the plan, the Bosnian Muslims who made up 44 percent of the population in Bosnia-Herzegovina before the war began are to receive 29 percent of the land in the republic for their three cantons, the Croatians who made up 17 percent of the population 25 percent and the Serbs who made up 31 percent of the population 42 percent. This arrangement leaves approximately 44 percent of the Muslims living outside the cantons where they are in the majority, 37 percent of Croatians outside the Croatian controlled cantons and 48 percent of the Serbs outside the Serbian controlled cantons. Nobody but the Tudjman government, the Boban wing of the Croatian Democratic Union of Herceg-Bosna, and some Croatians living inside the proposed Croatian controlled canton are satisfied with the Vance Owen Plan. The plan was never implemented. If the plan were actually implemented, the Bosnian government and Bosnian Muslims would receive the least and give up the most. Bosnian Serb forces led by Karadzic and General Mladic would be required to relinquish about one third of the territory they have conquered and ethnically cleansed while keeping two thirds. 44
Thus, this solution gave the Serbs enough make Muslims feel that the Serbs were being rewarded for their actions, and enough also for the Serbs to feel that if they continued their actions they could press for more.
Furthermore, there was one feature of the Vance-Owen plan, as it was now set out, which was to prove not just unsuccessful but immensely harmful. In the January version, unlike the initial version proposed in October, the cantons were given 'ethnic' labels on the map, and at the same time the impression was given that the precise boundaries on the map were not yet final. This had the entirely predictable effect of inciting renewed competition for territory. And, worst of all, it incited competition between Croat and Muslim forces for parts of central Bosnia where there had been a mixed Muslim-Croat population. After the arms embargo, this was the second most important contribution of the West to the destruction of Bosnia: it stimulated the development of a genuine Bosnian civil war, and in so doing it broke down the Croat-Muslim alliance which had been the only effective barrier to the Serbs. 45
Needless to say, the plan was never welcome in Muslim's side. In Izetbegovic's view, Bosnian unity can be maintained only if Bosnia is organized as a democratic and secular state which stresses the human and political rights of all individuals rather than the rights of national or confessional groups, and only a united Bosnia can be economically viable. The following quotation from Impact International (an Islamic periodical) summarizes Muslims' point of view46:
The Bosnian leadership, hard pressed as it is by continuing misery of its besieged and suffering population, is not prepared to be blackmailed into a cease-fire without any agreement on the principal constitutional issues. It rejects cantonisation because there are few ethnically unmixed localities of being constituted into cantons. Cantons would, therefore, have to be created by more ethnic cleansing. Thus, the Bosnian government is proposing a decentralized form of government with constituent regions enjoying a great measure of autonomy but short of being an independent state.
Under strong military pressure and the prospects for lifting the embargo being dark, the Bosnian government moved during March and April towards an acceptance of the Vance-Owen plan. British government in particular was mesmerized by the Vance-Owen 'peace process', and would not contemplate any move that could be seen as jeopardizing it - even though it required no clairvoyance at this stage to say that 'a blind man can see that the Vance-Owen plan is never going to be fulfilled.
Radovan Karadzic was encouraged by Milosevic to sign the plan at a special meeting convened in Athens on 2 May 1993. The basis of the Serbian approach was explained by Dragoslav Rancic, the confidant and spokesman of the nationalist ideologue Dobrica). 'It is just the first stage', he said. 'It is not going to last long. Not even Lord Owen believes in it.' He added that the Muslims would eventually be left with 'a Balkan Lesotho', and that the Serbs would get everything they wanted.
Many of the Bosnian Serb politicians and military commanders believed, however, that they could get what they wanted without even bothering to pass through the diversion of the Vance-Owen plan. Opposition was especially strong among those Serb politicians who had become in effect the personal rulers of larger territorial fiefdoms, and did not want their powers to be clipped by any administrative interference. They rejected the plan which Karadzic had signed at Athens, and organized a 'referendum' on 15 May at which they successfully persuaded the Serb soldiers and peasants to reject it too. For a few days Milosevic insisted publicly that he would close the border between Serbia and Bosnia; but he refused to allow international observers to monitor the border, and within a couple of weeks the flow of supplies was resumed.
The final death-warrant for Bosnia was written on 22 May in Washington, at a gathering of the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Russia and the USA. All talk of possible air strikes, which had been used as a threat to the Serbs in the run-up to the Athens meeting, was now dropped. Even the idea of enforcing the Vance-Owen plan was also abandoned. Instead, it was decided that the remnants of Bosnia's two million Muslims would be allowed to congregate in a number of so-called 'safe areas', where their safety would not in fact be guaranteed: they would be guarded by UN forces whose mandate entitled them to return fire not if the Muslims were shot at but only if they, the UN soldiers, came under attack. The six "safe areas" declared for Bosnian Muslims were : Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac, Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde.
When President Izetbegovic heard the news of this agreement - the foreign ministers having not even bothered to consult him in the matter - he issued the following statement: 'If the international community is not ready to defend the principles which it itself has proclaimed as its foundations, let it say so openly, both to the people of Bosnia and to the people of the world. Let it proclaim a new code of behavior in which force will be the first and the last argument. 47
Some of the other important events during the war follow48:
March 18. US-brokered peace accord is signed by Bosnian Muslims and Croats.
February 28. NATO jets shoot down four Serb aircraftover central Bosnia; this is the alliance's first use of force since it was founded in 1949.
January 1. Former president Jimmy Carter brokers a truce between Bosnian Serbs Muslims. It holds reasonably well for four months.
May 24. When Serbs ignore a U.N. order to remove heavy weapons from the Sarajevo area, NATO aircraft attack a Serb ammunition depot. In retaliation, Serbs begin shelling Muslim safe areas.
July 11 Serbs seize Srebrenica
July Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic indicted for war crimes.
July 25 Serbs seize Zepa.
A U G U S T
August 4. Croatia launches an offensive against Serb-held territory in eastern Croatia, sending 180,000 Serb citizens fleeing.
19. Three American diplomats are killed when their armored personnel carrier plunges off a road outside Sarajevo.
30. NATO warplanes begin a fierce air campaign against Serb positions around Sarajevo. Serbs hold their ground until September 20.
S E P T E M B E R
8. Foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia agree to the division of Bosnia into Serb and Muslim-Croat entities.
N O V E M B E R
1. Peace talks begin at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
21. Leaders of Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia agree to a settlement.
24. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic says that Radovan Kardzic will support the peace accord.
D E C E M B E R
14. Peace agreement between the Bosnians, Croats and Serbs signed in Paris, ending a war that engulfed the Balkans for nearly four years, claimed more than 200,000 lives and made six million people homeless.
20. After three-and-a-half years of trying, but failing, to keep the peace in Bosnia, United Nations commanders turn the job over to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
In Yugoslavia, many nations from different ethnic origins and different faiths lived in peace and harmony for several hundreds of years. Perhaps, Noel Malcolm summarizes the story best:
Having traveled widely in Bosnia over fifteen years, and having Muslim, Croat and Serb villages, I cannot believe the claim that the country was forever seething with ethnic hatreds. But having watched Radio Television Belgrade in the period 1991-2, I can understand why simple Bosnian Serbs came to believe that they were under threat, from Ustasa hordes, fundamentalist jihads or whatever. 49
Or, as the independent Belgrade journalist Milos Vasic put it to an American audience:
It was as if all television in the USA had been taken over by the Ku Klux Klan: 'You must imagine a United States with every little TV station everywhere taking exactly the same editorial line - a fine dictated by David Duke. You too would have war in five years. 50
The Bosnian conflict was a fabrication of extreme politicians, not a result of an ancient ethnic hatred. It was handled poorly by West, with a lack of understanding of the real nature of the situation and exacerbated with the wrong prescriptions. This created a very bad image of West among Muslim world, which will be remembered for years.
In fact, there is no real reason for a religious conflict to exist, given all the religions stem from same origin and believe in mostly the same things. We believe that an attempt towards peace among the representatives of different religions might be quite fruitful. Since there is no inherent ethnic or religious conflict, the prospects for peace are not as dark as they seem. The peace process started, but the region is still highly unstable. It will take time for those different nations to forget what happened. It may require presence of United States and NATO in the region for almost a decade more to settle the peace.
Chapter III: Media Influence on the Conflict - Including a Serbian Perspective
By Analiza Quiroz & Erica Manuel
The final portion of this joint paper deals with the role of the media and its influence on the war in the former Yugoslavia. Our objective was to compare Western news coverage of the war in Bosnia with the Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim perspectives of the crisis, in an effort to determine whether there existed any Western biases in favor of or against any particular side.
We found some of the primary issues of contention among the Yugoslavian nations about the war and its causes, and compared their beliefs with the Western coverage and opinions about these same issues. In addition to research from journals, books, and the Internet, we interviewed three Knight Fellows from Stanfordís communication Department. They gave us supplementary information about the journalistic process of writing and publishing a story, as well as insight about how news stories are chosen for publication and what motivates a journalist or a paper to cover a particular issue.
CAUSES OF CONFLICT
The exact causes of the conflict in former Yugoslavia are still a point of contention. There are two main perceptions about why the war began; ethnic hatred and Serbian Nationalism. However, our research indicates that while these two perceptions are closely related, the true source of the hostility is more likely to be a combination of the two. In addition, we believe there were underlying economic and political factors that perpetuated the conflict as well.
The Ambiguity of Ethnic Hatred
"Former Yugoslavia was characterized by stark contrast...[the] differences stemmed not only from nationality, language, and religion, but also from essentially divergent historical and civilizing influences" (Akavan, 1995). Historically, the North-Western sector was influenced by Western Europeans and the South-Eastern was influenced by the Muslim religion and Byzantine tradition. The diversity of these historical influences created certain contradictions when the Yugoslav region was required to share a common nationality, giving rise to cultural conflict.
The irony of the concept of ethnic hatred is that all sides believe they were victims. As mentioned in earlier chapters of this paper, Muslims believed they suffered from Serbian discrimination. On the other hand, Serbs believed that they were victimized by both Muslims and Croats. (100 facts)
Many Serbs suggest that soon after Croatia declared its independence on June 25, 1991, they were subjected to harsh discrimination by the Croatian government: they lost their jobs and their houses were destroyed. But even more than that, their political rights, cultural rights and national identity were threatened. As in World War II, the Bosnian Muslims had aligned with the Croats against the Serbs. More than two million Serbs had become a threatened minority in a new state, Bosnia-Herzegovina, with no constitutional guarantees for their political, religious, cultural, or economic rights.
Nationalism no less than communism legitimates the exercise of absolute power by an elite or
vanguard in the name of a unifying myth that suppresses the diversity of individual interests and
identities and justifies endless sacrifice of both prosperity and personal freedom in the name of the
collective struggle against an absolute "other" (the other ethnic group or groups rather than the
bourgeoisie or the West). (Akhavan, 1995, p. 3)
The second perceived cause of conflict was Serbian nationalism. According to Dragomir Vojnic, "Serbian nationalism initiated and fed all the other nationalisms." (Akhavan, 99) which is to say that Serbian nationalism emphasized ethnic distinctions and weakened the multicultural ties that had previously held the country together. The irony of this form of nationalism is that it did not serve to unify a single country, but rather to unify a select group of people within a number of countries, namely the Serbs in former Yugoslavia. When Slabodan Milosevic became Serbiaís leader in 1987, he appealed to Serbian national pride in an effort to keep Yugoslavia together. Experts claim that "there was a national liberation fight of all Serbs for their unification in a single country," (Zabkar, 99). Milosevic wanted to end what he called "the oppression of Serbs in other Yugoslav republics" (ROTC, 82) by creating a single Serbian state, Greater Serbia. This ethnic state was to be achieved by capturing land held by other republics and combining those territories with Serbia, thereby creating a larger, unified state.
Milosevicís nationalistic goals were achieved largely through his control of the media institutions within Serbia. The two most easily accessed media forms, newspaper and television, had been completely controlled by Milosevic since 1988. Over the years, these institutions have shaped the ideas of the Serbian public because of their pervasive nature. Milosevic used filters to create a dichotomized view of reality made credible by a lack of alternate explanations, the use of authoritative sources, and a confident style. Barbara Surk, a Slovenian journalist, posits that while there are other sources such as the radio and the internet, these media cater to outsiders. Milosevic is not intimidated by opposition on this media because national television is free and the general public has neither the economic resources nor the incentive to access media that proclaim different opinions. Neuman (1996) reveals that it is the lesson of history that "media technology is rarely as powerful in the hands of journalists as it is in the hands of political figures who can summon the talent to exploit the new invention." This exploitation of media by the government, which provoked Serbian nationalism, accelerated the already existing trend of Yugoslavian dissolution.
According to Richard Holbrooke the war in Yugoslavia is not a civil war or an ethnic war. Nor is it about people who have been hating each other for centuries. Holbrooke believes this war is about the aggression of one country to another (Stanford lecture, 1998). Dragomir Vojnic remarks that "disparity in levels of economic development, linked to demographic and ethnic differences, was an especially important source of conflict," (Akhavan, 1995, p. 75) and this directly relates to the start of the war. When Slovenia seceded, there were underlying tensions because of the fact that one country had an economic advantage over another. Prior to its secession, Slovenia, as the most northern state, contributed approximately two-thirds of the national income through trade across its borders. When Slovenia broke away the former Yugoslavians lost this revenue. For this reason some believe that the initial tensions between the two countries were economic rather than ethnic.
Seen on a wider scope, Sloveniaís secession was interrelated with several other factors including historical differences, nationalism, and economics. The tension in Yugoslavia can be historically traced to the fact that people of different cultural influences were forced together. As nationalism emerged, the situation escalated when people began fighting on the basis of cultural affiliation within their own states. This was a direct result of Milosevicís appeal to Serbian nationalism. Bosnia, the most multicultural of the states, suffered the most from this new nationalist mentality. It was transformed from a haven of tolerance and peace to a place of racism and hatred. Many feared becoming cultural minorities within a region and thus migrated to provinces with people of similar culture. There was an additional economic incentive if they migrated to a region that was more economically developed. With this economic advantage, the majority in the region entertained ideas of secession. In the cases of Slovenia and more so in Croatia, growing nationalism led to political action. Thus, it was the combination of ethnic differences, nationalism, economic factors, and secession that caused the conflict in the former Yugoslavia.
War Crime: Rape
According to Serb sources, the Croats and Muslims paid more than 50 million dollars to public relations in an attempt to manipulate American perception. Serbs believed that a well-financed Croat Muslim lobby and its public relations operatives unleashed a vicious anti-Serbian campaign, falsely blaming Serbian soldiers of raping some 60,000 Muslim women. Prompted by these media allegations, a team of European Community investigators reported on January 8, 1993 that they estimated that 20,000 Muslim women had been raped by Bosnian Serb soldiers in recent months as part of a deliberate pattern of abuse aimed at driving the Muslims from their homes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A second commission of inquiry went to Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia to investigate the rape reports under the larger umbrella of a general human rights investigation. For that investigation, an international team of medical experts was assembled who met with physicians and examined medical records. This was the first attempt by an impartial body to seek actual evidence. Based on their evidence, approximately 2,400 womenó Muslim, Serb, and Croató had been raped.
On January 29, 1994, the secretary General of the United Nations issued a report to the UN on the current status of the investigation on the issue of rapes by the Commission of Experts. The experts who went to Sarajevo received from the Bosnian Government all of the data available on rapes. The Muslim Government was able to provide data on exactly 126 cases. Yet, the Western media continue to propagate the story that 60,000 Muslim women were raped by the Serbs.
According to the Serbs, the Western media have exploited specific trials with Serbians as the aggresors. For example, on March 30, 1993, a military court imposed death sentences on two Serbs after they were found guilty of having gone on a killing and raping rampage while serving in the Serbian National army in Bosnia (100 facts). The trial received great attention by the Western media and government officials. The New York Times and other leading Western media used this trial as an opportunity for a new wave of Serbophobic reporting. Serbs believed that once again, they were being held responsible for every act of aggression and every transgression of internationally accepted human standards.
The underlying truth of the matter is that Serbs, Croats, and Muslims are all guilty of rape. Perhaps, as some analysts and observers agree, "Serbs living in Bosnia-Herzegovina were the most brutal combatatants, indiscriminately attacking cities and villages, using rape as a weapon of war, and pursuing a policy of Ďethnic cleansingí that sought to drive Muslims out. But all sides participated in the murder that took place there" (ROTC). The folly of journalists in depicting the Yugoslav war was that they disregarded Croatian and Muslim crimes and pinpointed only Serbian aggressions.
War Crime: Genocide
It is possible to have genocide without corpses with the power of journalism. Again, U.S. media did not present genocide as a crime commited by all sides but instead focused on the genocide commited by Serbs. Newsweekís story on Ď50,000 rapesí turned out to be one of the most successful pieces of Ďpropagandaí about the Bosnian war. Later, the author Tom Post admitted that Ďthe Bosnian officials concede that their estimates of 50,000 were based on a relatively small number of testimonies.í In its January 4, 1993 issue, Newsweek once again resorted to distortions by showing a photograph of several bodies with the accompanying caption: ĎIs there any way to stop Serbian atrocities in Bosnia?í The photo was actually of Serbian victims. In yet another Newsweek article, a photo of a coffin containing Ďa 6 week-old Muslim baby exhumed from a mass grave,í was yet another technique to further demonize the Serbs. However, Newsweek fails to mention that innocent Serbian victims, including children, suffered the same fate.
Genocide without corpses is possible with front page exposure based on hearsay and outright fabrication. The week before the Dayton Agreement negotiations began, Haris Silajdzic went before the CNN cameras to tell the world that the government had just discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of Ď520 Muslim victims.í Later, NATO and ICRC excavated the site to discover that it contained one body. Haris Silajdzic continued his exaggerations at the Human Right Conference in Vienna on June 15, 1993 where he announced that Ď200,000 Bosnian Muslims have been killed in this war.í This exaggeration was used by the media for the ensuing three years. http://suc.suc.org/politics/media_watch/html/dorich.html
This is an example of the difficulty of deciphering the credibility of sources. By encoding information for reporters, sources heavily influence reporting. Reporters prefer sources who allow them to meet their deadlines with credible information. However, the reporter must determine whether the source is rehearsed or misleading. This is an example of how media blurs the line between myth and reality by using phony stories, faked photographs, and exaggerated death figures. By the time the Associated Press and UPI accounted for Ď17,000 on all sidesí in late 1993, the anti-Serbian stance taken by the media had already had its effect. Corrections, no matter how numerous, hidden within the body of a newspaper would never equal the effect of front page coverage. "News stories have a life cycle of their own; they either catch the public fancy or fall from the front pages, sometimes with little regard for comparative value, having more to do with competition for attention than intrinsic important" (Neuman, 1996, p. 242). In an effort to win public attention, the media often disregards the importance of presenting the crimes in Yugoslavia as being committed by all sides. It is simpler to paint a black and white picture with one side as the aggressor and the other side as the victim.
War Crime: Death Camps
According to one Serbian viewpoint, the worldís accusation of Serbs running "death camps" is yet another concocted story spread around by the Croats and Muslims. Upon inspections, the "death camps" turned out to be empty dwellings used for temporary detention of captured Muslim and Croat soldiers. The inspectors of those detention camps found no proof of tortured or killed war prisoners and no torture cellars or gas chambers. In addition, comparing those war prisoner camps to German death camps in World War II is a grievous insult to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. These comparisons have been made most frequently by Islamic groups with the obvious intent to propagandize against the Serbs and win the sympathies of the West. What the world has been told about or offered to see on television were the detention camps where Croats kept Serbs and Muslims and those where Muslims kept Croats and Serbs.
Despite its somewhat questionable claim of innocence, this Serbian viewpoint highlights how the media deliberately claimed a parallel between the Serbian concentration camps and the Nazi Holocaust in an effort to capture public attention. This viewpoint also shows how the media characterized death camps with Serbs as the aggressors and Croats and Muslims as the victims. As in the case of rape, Serbs were not alone in this crime. Croats and Muslims both held concentration camps of their own. In addition, this was not a war between Serbs on the one hand and Muslims and Croats on the otheró as the E.C., U.S., and U.N. are claimingó but a civil and religious war in which each party is fighting against the other. Thus, concentration camps were a mixture of the opposing parties. On May 10, 1993, a U.N. relief official accused Bosnian Croat forces of conducting a deliberately cruel campaign to expel Muslims from the city of Mostar. "The siege of Mostar," according to Lord Owen, "has been more vicious and more lives per head of population have been lost than in Sarajevo," a fact which has never been publicized in the West. On October 26, 1993, masked Croat soldiers massacred possibly 80 Muslims. While this massacre was officially confirmed, neither the E.C. nor the U.S. followed up with any official condemnation of these crimes nor with any plans to punish the Bosnian Croats. In addition, one of the biggest attacks occurred on November 16 1993, when an estimated 4,000 Croat troops severed a key Muslim-held supply road. The American media selectively refused to report these events, and yet again, is guilty of distortion.
In numerous instances, the media has produced misleading and conflicting reports. From the Serbian perspective, many of these reports have been to their detriment. The Breadline Massacre was one particular incident where the media were quick to accuse Serbs, thus prompting the U.S. to take action.
This greatly disputed event occurred on May 27, 1992, when eighteen civilians of Sarajevo, among them a number of Serbs, who had lined up for bread were killed by an explosion. The Muslim government claimed that it was a Serb mortar attack and the Serbs deny this, accusing the Muslim government of a set-up using ground explosives. However, international condemnation of the attack attributed to the Serbs came immediately. President Clinton called for an urgent U.N. investigation. In Washington, White House officials raised the possibility of NATO air strikes once responsibility for the attack in the Sarajevo marketplace had been determined.
To reinforce the accusation that the Serbs were the guilty party, Peter Jennings of the ABC Television Network falsely informed his viewers that a recent UNPROFOR investigation had established that it was the Serbs who were responsible for the Breadline massacre in Sarajevo on May 27, 1992. John Burns of The New York Times also claimed that there had been a recent U.N. investigation that proved that the mortar shell came from the Serb position in the hills some 17,000 feet away.
However, when Sergio Vicira de Mello, Head of the Civil Affairs, UNPROFOR, Zagreb, was asked whether such a report, regarding the Breadline massacre indeed existed, he replied: "We are not aware of any UNPROFOR reports having been completed recently regarding the massacre. UNPROFOR has not been in a position to establish with certitude the responsibility for this incident."
The one clear fact about the incident is that the wounds sustained indicated without question the use of ground explosives. To date, the world still does not know who the perpetrators of this heinous crime are. To date, the media and the West, although aware of the many unresolved questions about the incident, still refer to the "Breadline Massacre" by the Serbs.
George Kenney, a Yugoslav desk officer for the US State Department, described how media misinformation led to Bosnian intervention. The first turning point that led to the introduction of Western troops coincided with the ITN broadcast of images of what was assumed to be a Bosnian Serb-run concentration camp in August 1992. The press had been conditioned by Roy Gutman of Newsdayís second and third-hand accounts that the Bosnian Serbs were operating ĎNazi-styleí death camps for Ďethnic cleansingí (http://suc.org/politics/). Frequent use of graphic language conditioned the press into a yearning for ever more shocking news of atrocities. A week of ITNís graphic portrayal of what was interpreted as a ĎBalkan Holocaustí were perhaps influential in the resolutions passed by the UN Security Council. These resolutions were the first to authorize the international use of force in Bosnia and promised to punish war criminals, the precursors to international occupation of Bosnia and the International War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.
Lost was any understanding of what was actually going on in the camps, who ran them, and why. Officials from Washington and the US press almost completely ignored an International Committee of the Red Cross report describing ICRC visits to 10 camps and their finding of blatant human rights violations by all sides. And though the Serbs did indeed, as the ICRC said, run more camps, it was not disproportionately more. In the rush to convict the Serbs in the court of public opinion, the press paid no more attention to other, later reports throughout the war, up to and after the Dayton agreement, of Croat and Muslim run camps.
With NATOís bombing of Serb positions around Gorazde (April 10 and 11, 1994), the U.S., U.N., and NATO became participants in and, in effect, took the side of the Bosnian Muslims in the two-year-old civil and religious war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. President Clinton appealed to the American public, Russia, and European allies to support his call for a major expansion of NATOís military role in trying to stop the fighting in Bosnia. "Despite clear evidence of Muslim military attacks on Serb positions, President Clinton said it was time for the United States and its allies to make the Serbs Ďpay a higher priceí for continued violence." http://suc.org/politics/
Defying reason and logic, the myth of a Serb perpetrated Holocaust, coupled with the refusal to acknowledge atrocities against Serbs, became conventional wisdom. This propaganda war is not surprising in light of the fact that journalists thrive on conflict. Journalists attract audiences by telling stories with villains, victims, and heroes; in this case, Serbs are the villains, Muslims and Croats are the victims, and Americans are the heroes. Bosnia is a perfect example of how media misinformation can have far-reaching influences on international policy.
NEWS SOURCES, PROPAGANDA, and PR
Specific Examples of Media Bias
The visit to Sarajevo by Sir Douglas Hurd, the British Foreign Secretary, on July 17, 1992 is an example of the way the media has reported the Bosnian conflict. According to the Serbian Unity Congress, what actually happened was as follows: When Sir Douglas arrived at the Presidency, ten to fifteen of the Muslim Territorial Defense forces (TDF) stood on each side of the buildingís entrance as an honor guard. Once he had entered the main door, the entire group of the TDF took cover behind the building. Thirty seconds later, ten mortar rounds landed immediately across the street from the Presidency, and seven innocent citizens were killed or seriously maimed. A pre-positioned pair of ambulances and the local television cameramen on the east side of the building rushed to the scene of the tragedy and collected and filmed the dead and wounded.
It is interesting to view this incident from the vantage point of an American journalist. Craig Whitney of the New York Times describes this incident in a "special" from London. "... The agreement signed separately by leaders of all three factions calls for the fighting to stop at 6 PM on Sunday. Serbian forces around the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, showed no sign today of a letup in their bombardment of the city during a visit by the British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd. A mortar exploded near the site of his talks with the countryís Muslim President, wounding 15 people." (New York Times, July 18, 1992.)
This specific example is only one of many that reveal the incredible disparities between the reporting of the Serbian Unity Congress and the New York Times . It is even more enlightening when we notice that both use forms of media that are highly respected and thus are highly influential in their region.
Another commonality between the two is that the perspectives they promulgate are usually mimicked by their counterparts within the region. Not only do journalists often distort information, but as Judy Woodruff noted, "[They] go out and report the same thing, which is very little" (Tester, 1994). In Serbia, this is due to the governmentís tight reign on media while in the United States, most media groups can not afford or do not prioritize foreign coverage and thus rely on wire services. Dissemination of international news in the American media is largely done through three wire services (AP, UPI, Reuters), three newspapers (the New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times), and two television stations (CNN and WTN/UPITN). AP alone has 3,000 U.S. clients (Hachten, 1992). The fact that most American newspapers subscribe to wire services is a testament to the homogenized news that is passed on to the average American reader. Similarly, mainstream news is also applicable to television. Both newscasters and journalists must cater to the inherent bias within American media.
Perspectives from American Journalists
Through interviews with two Knight Fellows at Stanford, we gained a better understanding of American journalism. Douglas Swanson shared his perspective as a national correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, and Stephen Proctor gave us his view as Assistant Managing Editor for the Baltimore Sun. According to Swanson and Proctor, newspapers cater towards their audience for economic reasons. "We have to understand that newspapers are run like a business," and profit is always of concern. Attracting and maintaining readership sometimes requires that newspapers 1) neglect important issues 2) oversimplify complex issues and 3) tend towards slanted journalism. The crisis in former Yugoslavia is a perfect example. The average American reader can not easily comprehend the complex issues surrounding the conflict. Of all the newspapers nationwide, there are only two newspapers that actually address Yugoslavia consistently, The New York Times and The Washington Post.. Most papers will mention Yugoslavia only when they can use catch-phrases like "ethnic cleansing" or "potential bombing" because these phrases attract attention and increase readership.
In addition, according to Swanson, the media maintains readership by simplifying complex issues. For instance, the media insinuates that the crisis in former Yugoslavia has been going on forever. Western readers are less likely to consider the issue pressing or relevant because it is suggested that the conflict is inherent in the region and people. Writers are thus simplifying the issue because their audience isnít interested in knowing the details. "Whenever journalists spotlight an issue, they ignore the darkened area around it, giving recognition to the material that shines, neglecting the stories in the shadows," (Neuman, 1996). News has become a series of simple-minded and meaningless issues such as "who won?" This oversimplification sometimes leads to a distortion in facts which may encourage readers to assume details without substantial evidence.
Because the media have difficulty dealing with the unfamiliar, they routinize it into soft news. Confronted by unfamiliar and uncomfortable political events in the Balkans, they latched onto such things as rape in Bosnia instead of abstract questions like self-determination. Because highlights and deviations from the norm appeal to the public, journalists often shape stories so that a minor personality or a minor event become a major story. (Lee and Solomon, 1990). The media creates myths by transforming reality into images, by selective repetition, and by the use of reporting that is designed to escalate confrontation and violence. In Yugoslavia, reporters amplified differences between Croats and Muslims and focused on rape and ethnic cleansing. These stories were easier to deal with than, for example, discussing the internal structure of the Bosnian or Croatian political process.
Journalistic Process or Propaganda?
Over time, the media perpetuates myth and propaganda and these assumptions may transform into a bias. For example, Serbians believe Western media have severely influenced American sentiments about the relationship between Muslims, Croats, and Serbians. Many Serbians believe that the media oversimplified events that occurred in Bosnia, even as far as eliminating incriminating evidence towards the Muslims. They believe that neglecting to include these details may have led Americans to become biased against the Serbs by default. They claim that the media also indulge in misleading headlines, faulty statistics, contradictions, exaggerations, and presentation of assertions as fact. According to Sadkovich, repeated references to Southern Slavs as savage tribes, to Croats as fascists, and to Bosnians as Muslim-led made it hard to imagine a democratic Croatia, a secular Bosnia, or a civilized Yugoslavia (1998).
Some selectivity within a communication system is inevitable. There is no way to report everything that happens within public life. However, Parenti (1986) suggested that "by its nature, selectivity is conducive to a measure of bias." He goes on to say that many distortions in journalism take place not because of budget limitations or print space, but rather, they are distortions of a more political nature that reveal a pattern of bias that favors the dominant class ideology. Many Serbians would agree with this statement as it relates to their percieved bias of the American media against the Serbian cause. On a larger scale, these biased assumptions may have also influenced policy makers.
While it is not suffice to say that newspapers shape policy, we can say that government officials are influenced heavily by the media, and vice-versa. Media, in general, shape not what people think but what people think about by emphasizing some issues more than others. Framing is a frequently used reporting tactic where journalists use emphasis, nuance, and innuendo to create a desired impression without resorting to direct advocacy. Itís a way of "bending the truth without breaking it," without straying too far from the appearance of objectivity. It is not uncommon for newpapers to use framing by selecting labels and other vocabulary designed to convey politically loaded messages to its readers (Parenti, 1986). This can be far-reaching when a particular issue is headlined throughout the nation and enough people are aware of and concerned about it. Government officials and policy makers are included in this audience. Thus, featuring an article may have the effect of indirectly influencing government policy.
Minear, Scott, and Weiss (1996) believe this is exactly what happened with Western policy regarding the war in former Yugoslavia. They assert that shocking news coverage in Bosnia produced international reactions that may have influenced tactics used by governments and the UN. Minear, et al. suggest that in an effort not to appear impotent, the US and UN supported humanitarian aid with air drops and emergency medical evacuations only after the public was exposed to peaks of comprehensive news coverage. The afore mentioned Marketplace incident of 1994 is one of the clearest examples of media influence on tactical aspects of policy. "The bloody aftermath received detailed international television coverage and was followed by a frenzy of diplomatic activity and a NATO ultimatum to Serbs to withdraw heavy artillery from the mountains around Sarajevo" (p. 58).
We do not claim, however, that in any of these instances the media were responsible for shaping diplomatic policy. Few believe that to be the case. We simply feel it necessary to acknowledge the contributory effect of the media in this war. Policymakers often felt the weight of media exposure just as this attention undoubtedly kept pressure on governments to persevere with aid operations. Secretary of State Warren Christopher remarked that the media helped to move forward policy that had clearly been started. Which is to say that the media were a critical aspect of the beaurocratic policymaking process. While they did not necessarily create policy, media did influence the rate at which policy was drafted and adopted (Minear, Scott, and Weiss, 1996).
Similarly, the government exercises a substantial influence over communication agencies by providing them with vast quantities of information. Newpapers usually find it in their best interest to maintain a healthy working relationship with such a significant resource. Washington correspondents have commented on the very controlled information flow from the White House, and how "[a reporterís] options are, do nothing, or do it their way" (Parenti, 1986). It has been revealed that in the past top government administrators have telephoned news executives to convey "suggestions" about coverage of an issue or to complain about particular stories or reporters. This gives some indication that the relationship between the media and the American government is multi-faceted depending on the circumstance. There is no cut and dry formula for how the system works, especially with regard to international policy.
Generally speaking, there are three assumptions regarding the media that we found useful: the idea that there are gatekeepers and filters controlling the flow of information through the media to their audiences; the view that the audience reads the media texts and transforms them in the process; and the belief that newsworkers can only maintain their jobs and rise within new organizations if they unconsciously accept the dominant ideologies of the corporation and mainstream society. (Sadkovich, 1998)
Reflections on the Media
Just as we acknowledege the fact that politicians are also human beings, so too must we consider that journalists are individuals as well. The horrific events that surround the war in Yugoslavia are enough to make any person, especially one who has spent long periods in the region, become deeply and personally involved in the conflict. After years of exposure, instinctual human emotions might understandably begin to take root. Hudson and Stanier (1997) admit that "the media took sides and distorted the truth on account of emotional involvement, usually with the Muslims," and that as as result, "the Muslims would break a ceasefire or launch an attack, confident that the blame would be ascribed to the other faction." So there is some additional support for the Serbian belief that the Western media has been slanted against them.
Most reporters consciously strive to be objective, but many who reported on Yugoslavia, whether in the field in Bosnia or behind an editorial desk in the US, brought assumptions with them when they processed raw data and composed a final product. Bias and compromise often lead to distortion, however unintended or well intentioned.
Our research suggests that there are many sides to every story. In our quest for viable information about these four issues, we found that there is no real way to distinguish between truth and fiction. Each side believes that their opinions and motives are correct and even when you look at all the evidence collectively there is little chance of finding out what really happened. We attempted to collect as much evidence as possible and used that evidence to make our own conclusions about what happened.
Our paper goes into considerable detail about the different perceived causes of the Yugoslav war. But we believe that war was caused not by a single issue, but rather, it was the result of a number of closely related issues; namely, ethnic hatred, Serbian nationalism, as well as a number of economic and political issues. The combination of these factors created the cultural tension that is responsible for the ensuing violence in Yugoslavia.
Similar ambiguous explanations can as well be given for many of the other points of international contention. Western intervention in Bosnia was not a result of any single factor just as the statistics on war crimes are contradictory and unreliable. The one point that we do have considerable evidence of is the claim that the international public is misinformed through biased journalism. In keeping with what some have called "the Western tendency towards media bias," we found convincing evidence that the Western media, in some instances, have framed their coverage of the War. In doing so, the American public has been exposed to atrocities performed by only one side rather than seeing an accurate picture of violence on all sides.
The second portion of our paper is a compilation of our interviews with the Knight Fellows. They gave us a general journalistic viewpoint of the war in Former Yugoslavia. Their insight revealed a number of important facts. Primarily, that attracting and maintaining readership requires that some important issues are neglected and that some stories are oversimplified and/or slanted. The crisis in Yugoslavia is a complex issue that has been simplified by many papers to the extent of misrepresentation. Besides that, the American public has no real interest in stories that donít directly impact them or their lifestyles. And secondly, newspapers are run like businesses with profit as a major concern.
In closing, it is important to remember that this war in Yugoslavia is still going on today. The print media continue to play an integral role in the shaping of opinions both here in the US as well as in former Yugoslavia. When analyzing a situation like this it is important not to underestimate the power of the media, especially in wartime. History has shown that media supported propaganda has changed the course of events in both World War II and Vietnam. And the media is at least as powerful today as it was two decades ago. While we cannot say for sure whether the policy determines the news or vice-versa, we can say with certainty that the American media is a pervasive institution whose power continues to increase.
Akhavan, Payam (Ed.). Yugoslavia: the former and future (Geneva: UN Research Institute for Social Development, 1995), 3, 9, 11, 75-6, 85, 93, 111.
Background Lesson 6, Europe After the Cold War, Lesson Plans for the Southern Center for International Studiesí Educational Package, ROTC 1998.
Drakulic, U., The Balkan Express: Fragments from the Other Side of the War (New York: HarperCollins, 1993), 157-60.
Hatchen, William. The World News Prism: Changing Media of International Communication (Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1992), 38, 42-53.
Holbrooke, Richard. Stanford Lecture. November 12, 1998.
Hudson, Miles and Stanier, John. War and the Media: a random searchlight (Gloucestershire:Sutton Publishing, 1997), 271, 279, 283, 292.
Kuzmanovic, Jasmina, "Media: The Extension of Politics by Other Means," in Sabrina Lee, Martin A., and Norman Solomon. Unreliable Souces: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1990.
Minear, Larry, et al. The News Media, Civil War, and Humanitarian Action (London: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994), 57-59.
Neumann, Johanna. Lights, Camera, War (New York: St. Martinís Press, 1996), 99, 233, 234, 242.
Parenti, Michael. Inventing Reality: the politics of mass media (New York: St. Martinís Press, 1986), 220, 222-23, 229.
Petra Ramet and Ljubis S. Adamovich, Beyond Yugoslavia: Politics, Economics, and Culture in a Shattered Community, Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995: 94-95.
Procter, Stephen. Personal Interview. November 4, 1998.
Sudetic, "Muslim-Croat Clashes," New York Times, 21 May 1993.
Surk, Barbara. Personal Interview. November 17, 1998.
Swanson, Douglas. Personal Interview. November 4, 1998.
Tester, Keith, Media, Culture, and Morality (London: Routledge, 1994), 3.
Whitney, New York Times
100 facts: http://www.suc.org/politics/myth/index.html