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‘Big lie’ and breakup of Yugoslavia

Lavender & red, part 114

Published Nov 18, 2007 7:47 PM

The Pentagon is not a vehicle to liberate women or same-sex love, and it is certainly not a rape-crisis intervention force. But these truths get blurred when there is a war in progress.

When U.S. imperialism is gearing up for war, ad agency spin doctors are put on the payroll to sell the aggression as defensive or humanitarian.

U.S. and German imperialists used a public relations psychological operation to cover up their violent covert and overt war to destabilize and dismantle the Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia from 1990 to 2000. That media agitation, broadcast by the imperialist monopoly news industry, helped to isolate the peoples of Yugoslavia from the world solidarity they deserved.

After finally undermining and breaking up the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism no longer needed to tolerate non-aligned Yugoslavia.


Pat Chin, an opponent of the
U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia,
traveled to Yugoslavia to
express her solidarity. Here
she speaks at an anti-war rally
in Union Square, New York.

Some of the countries of Eastern Europe had already acceded to all the privatization and austerity measures drawn up by imperialist bankers. The Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia was the last of the Eastern European workers’ states trying to hold on to what was left of its planned, socialized framework of production and its collective ownership.

In a Jan. 2, 1996, New York Times opinion piece headlined “The Third American Empire,” Jacob Heilbrunn and Michael Lind, two editors of the right-leaning magazine The New Republic that supported the Clinton administration’s war on Yugoslavia, wrote: “Now, in the years after the cold war, the United States is again establishing suzerainty over the empire of a former foe. The disintegration of the Soviet Union has prompted the United States to expand its zone of military hegemony into Eastern Europe (through NATO) and into formerly neutral Yugoslavia. And—most of all—the end of the cold war has permitted America to deepen its involvement in the Middle East.”

Heilbrunn and Lind argued that Bosnia should become the western border of a new U.S. imperialist empire in the Middle East “encompassing the regions once ruled by the Ottoman Turks.” That’s a swath of territory from Iraq to the Balkans—a geo-strategic area that Britain, Germany and France ruled over before World War I, the first world conflagration caused by inter-imperialist rivalry over economic “spheres of interest.”

It would take a “Big Lie” propaganda campaign to cover up this imperialist dismemberment of the multinational Yugoslavia federation.

Using charge of ‘mass rape’ to sell the war

The imperialist pro-war campaign—covert and overt—was based on two charges, repeated often and loudly: “systematic mass rape” and “ethnic cleansing.”

The very suggestion that U.S. imperialism and its military are a rape-rescue team, and that they bring equality and peace between nationalities, should give immediate pause.

Rape has been a constant feature of class-divided societies—a weapon of mass terror and reinforcement of patriarchal ownership and control. Rape, the violence and the threat, has enforced enslavement, racist domination, oppression of women and punishment for those who bridge or blur the partitioning of the sexes.

U.S. finance capital is bloody with the “ethnic cleansing” that facilitated stealing the labor and land of African and Native peoples. “Defense of white Southern womanhood” was the white-supremacist ideological cover for mass lynching of Black men. At the same time, the white slaveocracy and those in its hire were carrying out mass rape of African peoples.

The U.S. military—from its early Cavalry to today’s high-tech Pentagon—has brought rape, prostitution and sexual enslavement in the wake of its invasions and the establishment of its bases, from the Philippines to South Korea.

Women GIs are survivors of mass rape in the Pentagon’s own ranks.

The U.S. and German ruling classes, their politicians, and their embedded media and public relations demonstrate cruel and callous contempt for the lives of all women—particularly Muslim women—and for all rape survivors, when they use the charge of “systematic mass rape” as a pretext for imperialist aggression.

Mass rape is a serious charge that warrants meticulous and thoughtful attention.

Between the fall of 1992 and spring of 1993, imperialist corporate news sources carried coordinated reports that an estimated 20,000 to 100,000 Muslim women had been systematically raped by the Bosnian Serb Army.

The public accusation came first from Haris Silajdzic, then foreign minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who stated that 30,000 women and girls had been raped.

A cover story in Ms. magazine charged that Bosnian Serb forces were raping women in order to make pornographic films. No films were ever discovered. And even the findings of Helsinki Watch and Human Rights Watch—which are often in accord with U.S. imperialist interests—did not support those charges.

The Warburton Report in January 1993, authorized by the European Community, got big headlines when it released its estimate that 20,000 Muslim women had been raped. But Simone Veil—a former French minister and president of the European Parliament—got virtually no air time as a dissenting member of the Warburton report group. Veil disclosed that the estimate was based on interviews with only four individuals. The New York Times admitted on Oct. 19, 1993, that the Croatian Ministry of Health in Zagreb was the source for the Warburton Report figures.

Newsweek reported in its Jan. 4, 1993, issue that up to 50,000 Bosnian Muslim women had been raped. This estimate, according to Tom Post, a contributor to the article, was based on interviews with 28 individuals.

French television reporter Jerome Bony summed up his pursuit of the charge of mass rape: “When I was 50 kilometers from Tuxla, I was told: ‘Go to the Tuxla high school grounds. There are 4,000 raped women.’ At 20 kilometers this figure dropped to 400. At 10 kilometers only 40 were left. Once at the site, I found only four women willing to testify.”

The point of these facts is not to diminish the impact of rape on a single life. Rather, the pattern in these facts demonstrates how cynically, callously and contemptuously the real “butchers of Belgrade”—in Washington and in Bonn—can create rumors of tens of thousands of rapes in order to re-shackle the peoples of the former Yugoslav federation to exploitation and steal the rich natural resources and industries that were once the collective property of all.

Nadja Tesich—Serb writer, filmmaker and professor of film—went back to Yugoslavia when the civil war started in 1991. In response to misreporting by corporate news accounts, Tesich wrote that she contacted PBS, Nightline, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, the Times magazine section, women’s magazines, Mother Jones, Harper’s, the New Yorker and other media. She concluded: “They wanted to hear about rapes. (Got any rape stories, we want to hear about rapes.) But the moment I mentioned Serb women raped, they were not interested.”

Next: U.S.-led NATO occupation brought mass rape in its wake.

E-mail: [email protected]

For more information read “NATO in the Balkans” (International Action Center, New York: 1998). Available at Leftbooks.com