bosnia report
New Series No: 23/24/25 June - October 2001
 
One in the eye for the left
by Nick Cohen

Slobodan Milosevic knows it and Hitler knew it: as long as the bodies can be hidden you can always rely on some idiot to say there was no murder.

Slobo's preferred method was revealed by the Serbian press last week. Kosovar Albanians were locked in a pizzeria. Hand-grenades were thrown in. The remains of the Albanians were shovelled into a refrigerated meat lorry. It was driven into Serbia, loaded with concrete blocks and sunk in the Danube. The murderers forgot to deflate the tyres. The lorry bobbed to the surface. Cautious Serbian commentators say it is one of many.

The meat wagon’s ghastly contents leave the credulous armchair generals of Fleet Street and the shrivelled rump of the British Left with some explaining to do. Milosevic was able to rely on both during the conflict. The most foolish pundits were, inevitably, found in The Spectator. It ran articles by one John Laughland, who dismissed Nato estimates that thousands of Kosovars had been massacred as ‘fantasy’. I look forward to his retraction.

Few publications matched this gullibility, but Simon Jenkins did his best in The Times. Until Nato began the war against Serbia, he wrote, ‘Serb evictions were confined to areas of KLA activity, and there were no mass killings.’ In other words, as John Pilger and other Lefties who ought to know better said, the massacres were Nato's fault - well, y’know, sort of.

There were mass killings by Serb military long before a reluctant Nato went to war. In Vukovar in 1991, for example, or Srebrenica in 1995 .The hundreds of thousands of Kosovars who fled to the mountains knew of them and in this respect, and others, were better informed than the grandees of the British media and Left.

The horrors detailed by Serbian journalists may have one minor benefit: the puncturing of trite radicalism. Every one likes to pretend they have the sophistication not to fall for the lies being fed to the mob.

I’m all for doubting authority myself. But honest scepticism carries the responsibility of discovering and promulgating the truth in as much as it can be found. To refuse to check out a message because you don’t like the messenger, be it Nato or Albanian asylum-seekers, isn’t radical doubt but lazy knowingness.

A large chunk of the Left confirmed its vacuity in the Kosovo war. Like idle logicians it couldn’t quite spot what was wrong with the syllogism: Nato is sometimes imperialist; Nato has gone to war over Kosovo; therefore the Kosovan war is imperialist.

 

 

This comment was published in a special report on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, The Observer (London), 24 June 2001

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