The CIA role in Bosnia

Another view of U.S. aims and U.S. involvement develops from reading the European press.

Here are some headlines from the British press:

"CIA agents training Bosnian army," The Guardian (Nov. 17, 1994)

"America’s secret Bosnia agenda," The Observer (Nov. 20, 1994)

"How the CIA helps Bosnia fight back," The European (Nov. 25, 1994)

"Allies facing split over Bosnia," The Independent (Nov. 12, 1994)

"Europe braces for more rows with U.S.," The Guardian (Nov.12, 1994)

These few headlines expose both the CIA role in Bosnia and the depth of the growing dispute in NATO. The media in France, Germany and Italy have carried similar exposÚs of large-scale CIA involvement in the widening war in Bosnia.

Coverage has included information on tactical operations, sharing satellite information and controlling local air traffic. Units of both the Croatian and Bosnian armies have reportedly been trained within the region and in the U.S. U.S.-based forces have provided assistance in building airstrips and organizing large weapons shipments through Croatia to the Bosnian forces.

Also reported was the meeting of six U.S. generals with the leaders of the Bosnian army to plan the military offensive that broke the nine-month cease-fire in Bosnia and opened the fighting in the UN-declared "safe zone" of Bihac. All of this immediately raises the question, how long has the CIA been involved? What is its purpose? The budget of the CIA is today three times the budget of the U.S. State Department.

The debate in the European press—complete with Pentagon denials and "clarification"—has received scant coverage in the U.S. media. This avoidance of an issue receiving wide coverage in Britain and France raises further questions of why the major U.S. media are aiding and abetting this operation and why the European media are exposing this information.

The exposÚs follow months of increasingly sharp criticisms and veiled charges by UN officials that the U.S. has sabotaged each agreement, peace plan and even the cease-fires.

It is clear that the civil war in Yugoslavia has broken the growing unity of the European powers. They are at each other’s throats over how to proceed. The struggle between the use of UN peacekeepers versus NATO bombing reflects these divisions.

UN leaks information on U.S. role

Occasionally the debate makes it into the back pages of U.S. newspapers. On April 30, 1994, the Washington Post cited two senior UN officials—a general and a civilian—who blame the U.S. "for the continuation of the war in Bosnia because it has given the Muslim-led Bosnian government the false impression that Washington’s military support was on the way."

The article explained that the officials interviewed were two of the highest ranking UN representatives in Bosnia. Yet they feared using their names lest they be expelled from Bosnia. However, both claimed that U.S. moral and financial support of the Izetbegovic regime was prolonging the war.

The officials accused the U.S. of leading on Izetbegovic’s forces by promising full-scale NATO intervention on his side. U.S. Gen. John Shalikashvili, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, had gone to Sarajevo to meet with Bosnian military leaders. It was a powerful incentive to keep fighting.

That was reinforced when, in an impassioned speech at the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright said, "Your future and America’s future are inseparable."

On June 24, 1994, the New York Times described the new supplies, including heavy weapons, flooding into Bosnia since the U.S. organized the Croatian-Bosnian alliance.

Each "peace proposal" or map defining the areas of Moslem or Serb control divides the area into dependent, unsustainable enclaves needing constant resupply, which would require a military presence for many years. Industrial centers and the major roads in this mountainous region are partitioned so the Bosnian government based in Sarajevo controls them. The Bosnian Serbs have been allocated the poorest rural and mountainous regions with no connecting roads or corridors between them. The Bosnian Serbs cannot survive under these plans. Their situation is untenable. They are driven to resist.

Use of war propaganda

The siege of Gorazde in the spring of 1994 is one of the clearest examples of the U.S. propaganda barrage to justify and demand measures that would widen the war and give the U.S. military a blank check. Nightly news broadcasts about Gorazde focused on the Serbian bombing of a hospital and claimed casualties in the thousands. Then, after days of gory stories in the media and heavy U.S. pressure, U.S. planes flying under NATO auspices bombed Serb positions. A heated UN Security Council debate and vote, however, blocked the full-scale NATO air strikes that the U.S. was demanding.

After the siege was lifted, the commander of UN troops in Bosnia, British Army Lt. Gen. Michael Rose, told visiting U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha, chair of the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee on defense, that reports of damage and casualties were greatly exaggerated. The Bosnian casualties around Gorazde "were closer to 200 than 2,000." The media had wildly exaggerated casualties in order to promote a war climate and justify NATO intervention.

The UN officials found that the hospital in Gorazde, which had been repeatedly described as all but destroyed by the Serbs, basically needed a broom to clear up the rubbish. It was still functioning. The hospital had been damaged because the Izetbegovic government forces had established their military headquarters next to the hospital.

After the siege ended, a report in the April 24, 1994, New York Times referred to a giant munitions factory in Gorazde under Bosnian Muslim control. The Pabjeda Munitions Factory includes "a honeycomb of underground tunnels and storage bunkers." There were "enough explosives in the factory to flatten a city." Throughout the siege the public has been bombarded with countless stories on the plight of unarmed Bosnian Muslim forces versus a well-armed Bosnian Serb army.

World sympathy for the government of Izetbegovic has been built mainly through horror stories of brutal Serbian attacks on unarmed civilians in Sarajevo. One of the most gruesome was an attack on an open-air market that left 68 people dead on Feb. 5, 1994. As the rift between the U.S. forces and the British and French forces under UN flag grows more heated, these widely publicized "Serb atrocities" are being disputed. A UN analysis of the crater showed that the Izetbegovic regime’s forces were responsible for the explosion at the market. (Reuters, Feb. 18, 1994)Later, the UN publicly released a crater analysis of another shell that exploded, wounding a child, as proof that Izetbegovic’s Bosnian army had fired on its own civilians to gain sympathy. (New York Times Nov. 10, 1994)

Just a few weeks earlier U.S. war propaganda had reached new depths with gory descriptions of carnage, mass rapes, disembowelment, even massacres of children when the Bosnian government pulled out of Srebrenica. However, a UN investigative team reported on July 24, 1995, that they could not find a single eyewitness to any atrocity.

Hubert Wieland, personal representative of the UN high commission for human rights, traveled with a team of investigators to Srebrenica and to Tuzla, the Bosnian city to which almost all the refugees were taken. Although his team spoke with scores of Muslims at the main refugee camp and at other collection centers, no eyewitness could be found.

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