*** Originally written Mon, 02 Apr 101 21:13 +0300 MSK to VVK:
April 1, 2001
The hoax that started a war
How the U.S., NATO and the western media were conned in Kosovo
By PETER WORTHINGTON -- Toronto Sun
Back in March, 1999, what tipped the scales for then U.S. president Bill
Clinton to launch an air war against Serbia, were reports of a massacre of
45 Albanian civilians by Serb security forces at the village of Racak, some
30 km from Pristina in southern Kosovo.
Clinton told the world on March 19, 1999: "We should remember what
happened in Racak ... innocent men, women and children were taken from their
homes to a gully, forced to kneel in the dirt and sprayed with gunfire."
Photos circled the world. NATO bombing began March 24, and lasted 78 days.
White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said of Racak: "A strong message
will be brought to President (Slobodan) Milosevic about bringing those to
justice who should be punished for this ... "
U.S. Foreign Secretary Madeleine Albright, eager to make war against
then-Yugoslavia and speaking on CBS' Face the Nation, cited Racak where, she
said, there were "dozens of people with their throats slit." She called this
the "galvanizing incident" that meant peace
talks at Rambouillet were pointless, "humanitarian bombing" the only
Germany's Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, told the newspaper Berliner
Zeitung that the Racak massacre "became the turning point for me" and war
was the only answer.
Canada's then foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy, called the massacre "a
disgusting victimization of civilians."
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the dead had fingernails torn out -
evidence of torture.
On Jan. 16, the day after the actual massacre, William Walker, the veteran
American diplomat who headed peace verifiers for the Organization for
Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), was taken by Kosovo Liberation
Army members to Racak to see the bodies in the ditch. He declared that the
dead "obviously were executed where they lay."
His OSCE report spoke of "arbitrary arrests, killings and mutilations of
unarmed civilians" at Racak.
Canada's Louise Arbour, then special prosecutor for the war crimes tribunal,
(hand-picked for the job by Albright) was prevented by Serb authorities from
visiting Racak. She vowed retribution for the massacre, urging that
"international troops on the ground" were the only way to effect arrests.
When Milosevic was indicted as a war criminal, the massacre at Racak was
cited as evidence. The London Times wrote that victims had their eyes gouged
out, heads smashed in, faces blown away at close range, all "farmers,
workers, villagers, aged 12-74, men, women, children."
Serbian and Belorussian forensic people investigated, but were suspect, so
the European Union authorized a forensic team from Finland, headed by Helena
Ranta, a dental pathologist, to investigate. The Finnish report was not made
Ranta gave a press conference at which she was vague, admitting there was no
evidence of mutilation or torture, and that Yugoslav authorities had
co-operated. But she also called the killings "a crime against humanity,"
widely interpreted to mean Racak was indeed a
It has since turned out, through subsequent investigations by German, French
and American correspondents and by human rights and peace groups, including
the anti-war International Action Centre and the Liberty Foundation, that
the Racak massacre seems an enormous, albeit effective, hoax perpetrated by
the Kosovo Liberation Army to persuade
the U.S. and NATO to attack the Serbs. The goal was independence for Kosovo,
possibly leading to the dream of a Greater Albania.
We now have a far better idea of what really happened at Racak - a
pre-crisis town of 2,000 and a stronghold of KLA agitation. By January,
1999, most of its population had fled to a nearby town, Stimlje, leaving
perhaps 400 people behind. When four Serbian
policemen were ambushed and murdered in two separate incidents in a week,
Serb security forces surrounded Racak and attacked. The Serbs tipped off
foreign journalists who came to see. Fighting was savage and brief, not only
in town but in the countryside.
Journalists found Racak had few people actually living there.
Some 20 bodies were counted. Serbs and journalists left at dusk. The next
day, Jan. 16, the KLA was again in control.
During the night, it seems that all the KLA killed fighting in the area - 45
of them - were dumped in a gully at Racak and journalists and the OSCE
investigators invited to see what was described as the "massacre" of unarmed
Military insignia and/or badges had been removed from clothing, military
gear replaced by civilian clothing. No weapons were in sight. The hoax was
on. William Walker was first on the scene and believed what he saw and was
told. The international press relayed his outrage to the world.
Forensic evidence showed - as the Finnish team has since confirmed - that
most of the 45 Racak dead had been shot at long range, not execution-style.
Corpses tested positive with residue of gunpowder on their hands, indicating
they had been firing weapons. No ammunition or shell casings were found near
the bodies, where they had supposedly been massacred, nor were there pools
Pathologists also found the 45 dead men had all been shot in different parts
of the body, from different directions, indicating a battle somewhere else,
the dead dumped together for effect.
Until recently, no one was interested in the truth. "Whether or not it's a
massacre, nobody wants to know any more," wrote Austria's Die Welt
newspaper. Autopsy findings were delayed while the thirst for war echoed in
the halls of allied power.
The German newspaper Berliner Zeitung got access to the Finnish forensic
findings, and sent a team of reporters to investigate and concluded: "In all
probability, there was no Racak massacre at all..."
French journalist Renaud Girard of Le Figaro was in Racak and was puzzled
that reports failed to mention it was a "fortified village with a lot of
trenches" - a KLA stronghold. Although he wrote an initial massacre story,
he later had doubts: "I felt something was
Christophe Chatelet of Le Monde was in Racak the day of the Serb attack, and
found one dead and four wounded when he left at dusk. The next day the KLA
showed bodies from a massacre that hadn't been there before. "I can't solve
that mystery," he said. (At the time, KLA commander-in-chief Hashim Thaci
told the BBC: "We had a key unit in the region and had a fierce fight.
Regrettably, we had many casualties, but so did the Serbs.")
Further investigation shows that two TV journalists for Associated Press and
two teams of OSCE observers also saw the fight for Racak from a hill,
entered when Serb security forces did and left when they left. The AP crew
filmed a deserted village. It was overnight that the KLA returned and
gathered their dead from the fighting. Next day, Walker told the world how
adults and children had been "executed," some as they tried to flee. CNN
reporter Christiane Amanpour, wife of U.S. State Department spokesman James
Rubin, showed little skepticism in reporting on the "massacre of civilians."
CHECK THE NET
(For those who want to check further, enter "Racak massacre" on Google or
Yahoo on the Internet and see what you get.)
It changes nothing, but Racak should make people wary of government
propaganda about areas where they have little knowledge, but strong
feelings. Remember the emotions generated about "ethnic cleansing" in
At the end of World War II, the population of Kosovo was 50-50 Serb and
Albanian. By 1999 it was 90% Albanian. Today, it's close to 96%. Over 50
years, who's been "ethnically cleansed"? Today, Albanians in Macedonia are
using arguments similar to those used against Serbs in Kosovo - prejudice,
being frozen from jobs, discriminated against.
Rarely mentioned are maps produced in Albania that show not only Kosovo, but
parts of Macedonia and Montenegro as part of "Greater Albania."
It doesn't take an Einstein to realize that the U.S., NATO and western media
have been conned and manipulated into supporting an aggressive exercise in
nation-building that is not likely to be resolved peaceably. NATO's
beleaguered soldiers are innocents caught in a
Balkan quagmire, thanks to a blundering, myopic, vainglorious political