What happened in the Kosovo village of Racak on Jan. 15? Local police conducted an operation in this village against the “Kosovo Liberation Army.”
The Yugoslav government says it carried out a defensive operation against the KLA, a armed group that seeks to split Kosovo away from Yugoslavia. After the battle, it says, the KLA took its dead to a ravine, stripped them of their uniforms and put them in civilian clothes, and then brought in U.S. Ambassador William Walker. Walker quickly declared that the Yugoslav police had carried out a massacre.
The media in the United States and France–the two imperialist powers with the biggest interests in the area–have presented two very different interpretations of the events.
As of Jan. 25, it appears that the French demand for an “independent, impartial, international” investigation has carried the day. A team of Byelorussian, Finnish and Yugoslav doctors are doing autopsies on 40 of the victims and will issue a report in two weeks. NATO has backed off from threatened military attacks.
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William Walker, a U.S. diplomat in charge of NATO-imposed monitors in Kosovo, was the first to declare that a massacre was carried out by the police against civilians. He then called it a “crime against humanity.” Walker, however, has a record of not exposing but covering up heinous crimes when he was U.S. ambassador in El Salvador and Nicaragua. Louise Arbour, a Canadian jurist in charge of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, immediately tried to enter Yugoslavia with her team to investigate this “crime.” The government authorities refused to let her in.
Walker and his team claimed that 45 people had been killed in the massacre. The KLA said the number was 51. Forty bodies were laid out in a village mosque. The local police said they had recovered 39 bodies. Waves of condemnation of the Yugoslav government swept the U.S., British and Canadian media, replete with interviews of the sorrowful survivors and with calls for protection and retaliation. The words and images were harsh and charged with emotion. No questioning of the official U.S. story was heard. The Yugoslav government’s explanation was routinely dismissed.
Also, the United States and its NATO allies, including France, moved significant military forces into the area. More than 400 aircraft were engaged. An aircraft carrier entered the Adriatic Sea. NATO ground forces went to a higher state of alert, saying they would be ready to intervene in 48 hours instead of 96.
The top French official in Walker’s inspection force, Gabriel Keller, gave an interview with a Yugoslav news agency that cast doubt on Walker’s statements. But he then tried to wiggle out of what he had said.
However, the French media were more outspoken. French TV got footage that an Associated Press TV crew had shot in Racak Jan. 15 and played it Jan. 21 on their nightly news show.
This footage clearly shows that the KLA version of events cannot be true. It confirms most of what the Yugoslav government says.
That same day, two big French newspapers–Le Figaro and Le Monde–ran stories pointing out major inconsistencies in the “massacre” reports. The two newspapers indicated that the KLA had tried to turn a military defeat into a political victory by creating an incident that would inflame international opinion.
Le Figaro is a decidedly right-wing paper and supports the big bourgeoisie in France. Le Monde supports the current social-democratic government, which is controlled by the Socialist Party with the cooperation of the Greens and the French Communist Party.
On Jan. 22, Liberation, a third major French newspaper, carried an exposé of the Racak “massacre” on its front page. Liberation reported that the evidence supports much of the Yugoslav government’s assertions. None of these papers has a reputation of being pro-Serbian or pro-Yugoslav. All have generally backed the breakup of Yugoslavia and the NATO expansion into the area. But they are less likely to echo U.S. imperialism’s lies than the media here.
Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation all point to similar evidence:
* the absence of shell casings and blood in the trench where the bodies were found;
* the 12 hours between the time when the police left the village and the arrival of Walker and his group of inspectors, a time during which the KLA controlled the village;
* the AP TV film that showed an empty village during the entire time of the fighting;
* the presence of international observers and French journalists during the fighting, none of whom saw a massacre or any civilian deaths.
The story of Racak percolated for a few days while the struggle over Kosovo went on. Finally, the Los Angeles Times ran a story Jan. 24 raising the points that the French press and the Times of London had made. Its headline was “Racak massacre questions: Were the atrocities faked?” It was the first time that a major big-business-controlled newspaper in the U.S. had reported this viewpoint.
However, on Jan. 25, the New York Times ran a story on how the French are gearing up to participate by sending one of their aircraft carriers into the Adriatic, even though they feel that it would take 100,000 soldiers “to impose peace” in Kosovo.
The imperialist powers may not agree on what happened in the village of Racak, but they do seem to agree on continuing their policy of breaking up Yugoslavia.
By G. Dunkel