June 10, 2000 International Tribunal for U.S./NATO warcrimes in Yugoslavia
THE MYTH OF MASS GRAVES
by Jean Hatton
Jean Hatton represented the anti-war movement in Britain, where she is a local activist. She spoke of how massacre stories were used to justify the war, and debunked those stories.
I'm sure you remember that the justification used by NATO for its attack on Yugoslavia beginning on 24 March last year was to "prevent a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo."
Some very emotive language was used during the attack. It was used by governments in NATO countries, particularly those most enthusiastic about the war - the U.S. and Britain. Certainly the British government encouraged people to believe that Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Defense Secretary George Robertson (now NATO General Secretary), were leading a moral crusade against genocide. The media in Britain and the US used the word genocide very freely. They also used terms such as "holocaust," "massacre," "mutilation," "rape" (in the sense of mass rape), and "mass graves."
People in Britain and the US were led to believe that when NATO troops finally entered Kosovo, they would find horrors similar to those found in Nazi Germany. Words were used that deliberately fostered that impression. It was suggested that mass graves resulting from massacres of genocidal proportions would be discovered-containing anything up to 100,000 bodies. Many of these, it was suggested, would be horribly mutilated. It wasn't surprising that many people in Britain and the US, overwhelmed by this language, didn't oppose the 85 days of air strikes.
I have to say that in Britain at least, although many people didn't oppose to the attacks, they weren't very comfortable with them either. They were uncomfortable and confused. But before they really got to think about it in any coherent way, it was all over.
Then, you may remember, everything went very quiet. Anyone expecting pictures of mass graves was doomed to disappointment. Since an Associated Press report published in a number of Western newspapers after the bombing campaign used the headline - "Kosovo now a landscape filled with mass graves" you might have expected every paper to be filled with macabre photographs. But no evidence appeared. The reason why it didn't appear is quite simple. There were no mass graves to find. The U.S./UN sponsored International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, based at The Hague, sent forensic expects from 15 NATO countries to investigate evidence of mass graves. From June to November 1999, 190 potential sites were identified.
The Observer, one of Britain's most highly respected Sunday papers on June 4, 2000, that at all these sites, only 2,100 bodies have been found. The London Sunday Times said in December 1999, "Many of the victims died during the fighting or from U.S./NATO air strikes. Neither would qualify as Serb atrocities." Another newspaper states that little investigation has been done into whether the bodies are Serb or Albanian.
You may remember that during the bombing campaign it was alleged by NATO that up to 700 bodies had been dumped in the Trepca mine in Kosovo. It was said that these bodies had been burned - that they had been immersed in acid-techniques used to hide evidence of a massacre. However, no bodies were found, no burned bodies, no remains of bodies half decomposed in acid.
Although the lack of mass graves has been reported in the media, you would need to have looked hard to find them. They didn't make the front pages. They weren't in the popular press or in government statements. It seems that the emotive language - genocide, mutilation, mass murder, mass graves, were used to justify a war that NATO wanted to wage. The media were the tool used to gain the support NATO needed from the people who paid for its war-the people of the NATO countries. And those people were lied to. There were no massacres of holocaust proportions. There were no mass graves.
Now the people who paid for the war should ask some
awkward questions and demand some answers from NATO. They must start to ask for the real
reasons we destroyed the life support systems of Yugoslavia, and why we killed our sisters
and brothers there.
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