Where are the bodies? Was the other big war of the last decade, Kosovo in 1999, triggered by bogus allegations as well? Another case of mass deception?
In Iraq, it's the missing mass weapons of destruction. In Kosovo, it's the missing mass graves.
In alleged ethnic cleansing exercises by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, as many as 100,000 to 200,000 civilians were said to have gone missing or been killed in Kosovo, many of them buried in mass graves. Members of a Canadian forensic team to the Serbian province have come forward to label the numbers nonsense. No mass graves, they say, and, on both the Albanian and Serb sides, only a few thousand dead. A mockery of the numbers used to justify the war.
In The Hague this week, the war-crimes tribunal reopened with Mr. Milosevic's calling the genocide charges against him a lie and a treacherous distortion of history. He may well be the treacherous distorter. If his Serb armies weren't guilty as charged in Kosovo, there was his past record of bloodshed to consider. As someone wrote, Kosovo for Mr. Milosevic was like tax evasion for Al Capone: something they could nail him on.
But that doesn't excuse going to war on the basis of flim-flam. The Kosovo story has etchings of Iraq all over it. The United States (the Democrats this time) and Britain (Tony Blair again) demonize an enemy with fraudulent accusations. They play the gullible media, Canada's included, like a violin.
The latest person to debunk the genocide numbers is retired Vancouver homicide detective Brian Honeybourn, a member of the forensic team. He told The Ottawa Citizen this week that his nine-member group found mainly single graves, with a couple of exceptions being one of 20 bodies and another 11. He wonders how genocide charges against Mr. Milosevic can stand up. "It seems as though The Hague is beginning to panic."
Garth Pritchard, a Canadian filmmaker, accompanied the forensic team to Kosovo. "This was a massacre that never happened." He joined mission leader Brian Strongman in lambasting Canadian Louise Arbour, the special prosecutor for the tribunal that brought the charges against Mr. Milosevic. Ms. Arbour, now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, was used as a pawn by war-hungry Washington and London, they said. "I was standing there when the forensic teams were telling Louise Arbour there were no 200,000 bodies and she didn't want to know," Mr. Pritchard told the Citizen.
Ms. Arbour's career path lit up after her war-crimes work. She was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, then to her UN post.
The findings, or non-findings, of the Canadian forensic team are consistent with those of other teams of experts sent over since the war ended. At the time of the conflict, James Bissett, a former Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia, and Lewis MacKenzie, a major-general with a wealth of experience in the Balkan theatre, took issue with the tales being spun. But they, as well as some voices in the media, were drowned out by the drumbeat of war. U.S. defence secretary William Cohen was alleging that as many as 100,000 Albanian Kosovars had gone missing. Mr. Blair, in a preview of his comportment on Iraq, was crying horror upon horror. President Bill Clinton wanted to shift the focus off his domestic problems -- Monica Lewinsky etc. -- and was gung-ho for a NATO invasion.
Looking back a couple of years after the conflict, defence minister Art Eggleton acknowledged that the propaganda coming out of the Pentagon was extraordinary. But the Chrétien Liberals, on close terms with the Clinton Democrats, weren't about to buck the White House on Kosovo, as they would on Iraq. The allies were all on board for an attack, making it extremely unlikely that Canada would be the odd one out.
But having everybody in the wagon doesn't excuse what happened. If the forensic teams' stories are correct, the missing dead in Kosovo is indeed a scandal comparable to the absence of WMD in Iraq. In a five-year period, political leaders twice duped their populations into going to war.
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