ACCURACY IN MEDIA - April 7, 1999



Jeff Tuomala, a former Regent University law professor, isn't the only expert who says that President Clinton's war in Yugoslavia lacks a clear legal basis. Jim Hirsen, a law professor at Trinity Law College in California, says bluntly that "it is clearly in violation of international law." He explains, "There is nothing in writing in any diplomatic charter, any international treaty that would authorize this kind of military intervention."

The administration has claimed that various U.N. Security Council Resolutions authorize this war. But Hirsen points out, "In each and every one of those resolutions, there is a provision affirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia." Those resolutions also require a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Hirsen adds that Article 2 of the U.N. Charter prohibits the use of force against a sovereign state unless it has committed aggression on another state. Yugoslavia, he points out, did not commit such aggression. When force is used, he adds, the Charter requires that the Security Council be consulted in advance. That was not done in this case.

For Jim Hirsen, this should not be that surprising. He says, "It's quite interesting that this administration, which at the international level always brings up the rule of law, has now had the same approach to the rule of law at the international level as they've had at the domestic level. That is, it's de facto law. It's not real law." In other words, a president who can't be trusted to obey our domestic laws cannot be expected to comply with international laws and treaties. The difference is that Clinton has been a big booster of the U.N. and its charter in the past.

Regarding the use of NATO to lead the intervention, Hirsen also finds the administration's legal case to be seriously deficient. On its face, he points out, the NATO Charter sets up a defensive organization. In the preamble to the treaty, the members are "resolved to unite their efforts for collective self-defense." The use of force is authorized only when a member of NATO is attacked. "So, being a self-defense charter," Hirsen says, "the NATO treaty is violated" in the Yugoslavia case.

To make matters worse, Hirsen says "there are treaties that specifically prohibit this kind of action." He says that the 1980 Vienna convention on the law of treaties prohibits any kind of coercion to compel a nation to sign a treaty. Yet the United States exerted that kind of pressure on Yugoslavia to sign the so-called Ramboulliet agreement on Kosovo, which could have led to independence for that province of the country. When Yugoslavia refused to sign it, the U.S. and NATO went to war.

So why did the Administration go to war? Hirsen believes it was politics, noting that many of the administration's recent military actions have corresponded with a significant news story that embarrasses President Clinton. In this case, the Juanita Broaddrick rape story was still causing problems for the president and the Chinese espionage scandal was gathering momentum. "In each case," he says, "[military decisions are] made with haste and not the proper planning." That has certainly been proven in this case.


Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, speaking at the Brookings Institution on April 5, intensified her efforts to portray Slobodan Milosevic as a modern Hitler. She denied that the mass flight of refugees from Kosovo was precipitated by NATO's bombing and missile attacks. She said that the bombing attacks were ordered to halt the terrible atrocities that Milosevic was inflicting on the Albanians in Kosovo, but the only specific example that she cited was the alleged massacre of 45 Albanians in the village of Racak in mid-January.

Albright accused the Serbs of breaking the cease-fire agreement that was reached last October. We have not been able to get any verification of that claim from the State Department, but the Institute for Balkan Affairs says that the cease-fire was broken by the Kosovo Liberation Army, which kidnaped and killed two Serbian policemen. The Institute says the KLA has been killing police and officials in the Serbian province of Kosovo for over a year. The Serbs have retaliated, and it has been reported that between one and two thousand people died in the fighting in 1998.

The State Department says this figure includes soldiers, police, guerrilla fighters and civilians on both sides. The Institute for Balkan Affairs says that the American media have virtually ignored the reports of KLA killings of Serbian police and civilians, including an attack on a refugee camp holding some of the 300,000 Serbs forced out of Croatia. In an earlier commentary we reported that an administration official said last year that the one thing that might trigger armed intervention in Kosovo would be an intolerable level of atrocities. When it was reported that 45 ethnic Albanian villagers had been slaughtered by Serbian police in Racak in mid-January, that became the intolerable level. This is the only alleged massacre that Albright could cite in her Brookings speech. The State Department now says that the killing of 24 KLA guerrillas in Kosovo at the end of January was combat-related.

We said in that commentary that the French press had cast doubt on the claim that this was a massacre perpetrated by Serbian security forces. They reported that there was a battle between Serb police and the KLA and that there was reason to believe that 22 bodies laid out in a ravine may have been KLA guerrillas killed in the firefight. They said that journalists saw little blood and only a few cartridges around the site of the alleged massacre. They speculate that the KLA gathered some of the bodies killed in the fighting and tried to make it look like a massacre.

In that commentary, we erred in saying that Clinton said he was ordering the bombing to "halt this rolling genocide." It was a senator who said that. In the 12 weeks leading up to the bombing there were nearly 200 newspaper stories that associated Kosovo and genocide. In the week after the bombing began there were over 900 stories, many of them reporting Clinton's use of the term. The numbers of those killed in the year ending March 24 do not support the genocide charge.


By (AIM) Reed Irvine & Ciff Kincaid - April 23, 1999

On April 18th, both the Washington Post and the New York Times ran long stories about how the Clinton Administration got involved in the no-win war in Yugoslavia. Both papers said that the key incident which sparked U.S. military involvement was the alleged Serb massacre of Albanians in the village of Racak in Kosovo. We say "alleged" because it's not at all clear that what happened was a massacre. In fact, some evidence suggests that Kosovo Liberation Army terrorists attacked the Serbs and then dressed up some of the victims to make them look like civilians. But "massacre" is how the Post and Times described it.

The point is that this incident is what started the U.S. on the road to deeper and deeper military involvement. In other words, the Clinton Administration may have gotten the U.S. involved through an incident that was manipulated and staged for propaganda value.

The Times said that NATO commander General Wesley Clark was so outraged about this alleged massacre that he met with Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic and presented him with photographs of the victims. The Times reported that Milosevic said the killings had resulted from a firefight between Serb security forces and the KLA. Here's how the Times reported how Milosevic described what happened then: "The rebels, he continued, rearranged the bodies and dressed them to make them look like peasants and farmers, shooting the bodies through the heads and necks to make the incident look like a massacre."

The Times didn't report how Clark responded to this, and the paper didn't explain what was wrong with Milosevic's explanation. But the fact is that his explanation of what happened is consistent with how some foreign newspapers reported the incident.

Unfortunately, this isn't the only dubious report or claim that has come out of the White House, NATO or the American media during this war. Some other phony reports include NATO's claim that two Albanian Kosovo leaders had been executed by the Serbs, the alleged transformation of a soccer stadium in Kosovo into a death camp, and blaming the Serbs for the bombing of a refugee convoy. One of those Kosovo Albanian leaders was the subject of a recent article in the Washington Post. The Post said he was sitting in a friend's living room when he heard the news of his death broadcast live from NATO headquarters. NATO apparently based the report of his death on the fact that his offices had been ransacked and his security guard killed. Obviously, however, NATO released the "news" of his death publicly without having a shred of hard evidence to justify the claim.

It is quickly becoming apparent that NATO, at least in some cases, has been less than forthcoming in reporting the truth. In a related matter, a Bosnian Serb TV station in the NATO-occupied state of Bosnia has been ordered to stop broadcasting because its coverage of the war was deemed inflammatory and inaccurate. The order could be enforced by a NATO-led Stabilization Force, whose troops could literally take over the station at the point of a barrel of a gun.

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