Aletho News


The mystery of missile defence

After the latest failed missile defence tests, critics wonder why the US has spent $100bn on the system

By Chris Arsenault | Al-Jazeera | 17 Dec 2010

The cold war ended two decades ago, but dreams of an impenetrable missile shield from Ronald Reagan – who once called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” – are firmly back on the US national security agenda.

Late on Wednesday, the US tested its newest round of interceptors, spending $100m to blast a missile from the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean towards California.

The anti-ballistic missile system failed, as the kill vehicle designed to blow the projectile out of the sky missed its target, adding to a long-list of unsuccessful tests for the expensive weaponisation scheme.

Since the end of the cold war the US has spent “approximately $100bn” on missile defence systems, Richard Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defence Agency, told Al Jazeera.

Wednesday’s failed long-range test was important because it involved an attempt to intercept a dummy warhead, rather than the usual testing scheme of just maneuvering the missile to a particular point in space, said Ian Anthony, the research coordinator for the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think-tank in Sweden.

Big bucks

Despite constant technological problems with the system, the White House has requested $9.9bn for missile defence programmes for the next fiscal year (2011), Anthony told Al Jazeera.

Those vast sums of money concern Theodore Postol, a professor of science and international security at MIT and a former scientific adviser to the head of US naval operations. The weapons expert, hardly a liberal dove, just doesn’t believe missile defence can work technologically.
View Mapping the missiles in a larger map

“If you look at it as an engineering and defence enterprise, it makes no sense,” Postol told Al Jazeera.

Technological failures and massive financial costs aside, if Barack Obama, the US president, is serious about reducing the possibility of nuclear war, then it seems developing new missile systems isn’t the best way to inspire international trust.

“The US will always say that missile defence is a defensive system,” said Tom Sauer, a professor of international relations at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. “The problem is that the Russians or Chinese may perceive it as threatening or offensive. When it comes to missile defence, perspective is everything.”

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister and a former KGB agent who is well versed in cold war history, called US plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe “very similar” to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war.

“The Bush administration planned to have a radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland,” Dr. Sauer said. Obama has not ended the missile programme in Eastern Europe, he has just amended it slightly.

“[Current] plans call for deployment of land-based SM-3 interceptors [a modified surface to air missile] in Poland and Romania to defend Europe against short to medium range ballistic missiles,” said Missile Defense Agency spokesman Lehner.

Washington hard-liners

But even though the US and its NATO partners plan on erecting shields in former Soviet bloc countries, defence hawks in Washington are not happy.

“The Obama administration is pursuing this reset policy with Russia. As far as I can tell, it has been completely one sided with Russia pocketing all of the gains,” said Baker Spring, a security expert with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.

The US and Russia have negotiated a new nuclear arms reduction treaty refered to as START, limiting the former cold war rivals to 1,550 warheads and 700 launchers each, enough to destroy the world several times over.

Some Republicans Senators including John Barrasso (R., Wyo.) have said arms reduction could limit US missile defence plans and plan to vote against it.

But blaming weaponisation programmes on Republican hawks would not be historically accurate. The Democratic administration of former US president Bill Clinton pursued a plan to launch 1000 missile interceptors into space, under its Strategic Defence Initiative, which critics call “star-wars”.

“We think the [Obama] administration’s programme should include that,” the Heritage Foundation’s Spring told Al Jazeera.

Postol laughs when asked about the Heritage Foundation, calling them “ideologues” who don’t understand the science behind the military programmes that they support.

‘Disappointed in Obama’

But, like the Heritage Foundation, the MIT professor and former naval adviser is also critical of Obama.

“The Obama administration is making false claims about the technical capabilities of missile defence, like the Bush administration before it. As someone who supported Obama, I find this very disappointing,” Postol said.

Unsurprisingly, Lehner from the Missile Defense Agency thinks the programme is technically sound, despite Wednesday’s failed tests.

“In total, we have had 46 successful intercepts in 58 tests since the integration of the BMDS [a ballistic missile defence system contracted to Boeing] in 2001,” he said.

But Postol says the tests themselves are “basically rigged” with “minimal standards applied to the contractors of what constitutes success”.

There are different kinds of systems designed to deal with short, medium or long range attacks. A basic premise behind missile defence is the idea of hitting a bullet with a bullet, either near the earth’s surface – like the patriot missile defences used in the 1991 Gulf War – or other systems designed to hit missiles high in the atmosphere, or outer-space, where intercontinental ballistic missiles fly.

“The fact that these systems try to operate at these high altitudes makes them vulnerable to simple countermeasures,” Postol said, citing ballons or decoy projectiles which are cheap, simple and effective ways to trick missile defences. “Nobody has been able to come up with an explanation of why the concerns I have raised are not true.”

‘Military-industrial complex’

North Korea and Iran, states cited by the US as justification for missile defence, can easily deploy counter-measures rendering the advanced technology useless, said Sauer, the international relations professor.

So, if the technology doesn’t work, what is driving the programme?

Postol chalks it up to domestic politics in the US, coupled with a desire to appease America from Europe. Republicans support the technology, even though they don’t understand how it works, he says, while democrats don’t want to be called wimps on national security.

NATO, which has been dangling without a clear raison d’etre since the end of the cold war, incorporated missile defence as a new mission at its most recent summit in Lisbon, Portugul.

Sauer agrees that partisan politics in the US play a role, but says the costly scheme speaks to something more profound than bickering between Democrats and their Republican counterparts. After all, the Clinton administration resurrected the programme which could have disappeared after the cold war.

Boeing, a primary contractor for missile defence systems, maintains operations in all fifty US States. Thus, if an unsuccessful weapons programme is cancelled, local politicans will rally to protect it, for fear of losing local jobs and votes, Sauer said.

“Many representatives in Congress would like to see more money for these programmes, they are part of the military industrial complex,” Sauer said.

December 18, 2010 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | 1 Comment

The delusions of the peace process

The politics of the peace process have emphatically ensured that the mere prospect for producing peace is nonexistent

By Richard Falk | Al-Jazeera | 18 December 2010

It is astonishing that despite the huge gaps between the maximum that Israel is willing to concede and the minimum that the Palestine Authority could accept as the basis of a final settlement of the conflict, governmental leaders, especially in Washington, continue to pull every available string to restart inter-governmental negotiations.

Is it not enough of a signal that Israel lacks the capacity or will to agree to an extension of the partial settlement freeze for a mere additional 90 days, despite the outrageous inducements from the Obama Administration (20 F-35 fighter jets useful for an attack on Iran; an unprecedented advance promise to veto any initiative in the Security Council acknowledging a Palestinian state; and the assurance that Israel would never again be asked to accept a settlement moratorium) that were offered to suspend partially their unlawful settlement activity.

In effect, a habitual armed robber was being asked to stop robbing a few banks for three months in exchange for a huge financial payoff. Such an arrangement qualifies as a transparently shameless embrace of Israeli lawlessness on behalf of a peace process that has no prospect of producing peace, much less justice.

Justice here is conceived in relation to the satisfaction of Palestinian rights, especially the right of self–determination that has through the years been whittled down.

The continued division of Historic Palestine

The Palestinian acceptance of the 1967 borders (a decision ratified by the PLO in 1988) as the unilaterally reduced basis of the territorial claims associated with Palestinian self-determination, which is only 22 per cent of historic Palestine, and this is less than half of what the UN had proposed in its 1947 partition plan that was at that time quite reasonably rejected by the Palestinians and their Arab neighbours as a colonialist ploy in which the indigenous population was adversely affected and never consulted.

In retrospect, the Palestinian readiness to settle for the 1967 borders was an extraordinary concession in advance of negotiations that was never acknowledged by either Israel or the United States, casting real doubt on whether there was ever a credible commitment to end the conflict by diplomacy.

The shamelessness continues. Instead of castigating Israel for its refusal to show even a pretense of pragmatic flexibility that would make the Obama approach seem slightly less fatuous and regressively wimpy, the US government simply announced that it was abandoning its efforts to persuade Israel to extend the moratorium, and was now embarking on a resumption of the negotiations between the parties without any preconditions, that is, settlement expansion and ethnic cleansing could now continue uncontested.

EU: vocal on settlements and silent of statehood

This was too much even for the normally passive European Union. A few days ago a meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels issued a statement insisting that all Israeli activity cease in what was called the “illegal settlements” and that the Gaza blockade be ended “immediately” by an opening of all the crossings to humanitarian and commercial goods, as well as to the entry and exit of persons.

The EU statement was impressively forthright for once: “Our view on settlements, including East Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.”

Regrettably, the EU statement was silent on the issue of recognition of Palestinian statehood, losing the opportunity to reinforce the symbolically important diplomatic step taken by Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay to accord Palestine recognition within its 1967 borders.

Nevertheless, the EU did distance itself from Washington, leaving the United States to the discomfort of its lonely solidarity with Israel. By refusing a diplomatic accommodation with Turkey in the aftermath of the flagrantly criminal attack last May on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered people of Gaza, Israel confirms this perception of its pariah status.

Underneath these dark clouds of deception and delusion, the peoples of occupied Palestine, as well as the several million refugees, endure their harsh daily existence while the world watches and waits, seemingly helpless.

The durable American envoy to the conflict, George Mitchell, continues to say that the objective of the talks is “an independent, viable state of side by side with Israel.” The incoherence of such an objective should be palpable. How can one honestly talk about such an envisioned Palestinian state as “viable” when the American leadership agrees with Israel that “subsequent developments” (the code phrase for settlements, land seizures, wall, ethnic cleansing, annexation of Jerusalem) need to be embodied in the outcome of negotiations?

And what sort of “independence” is being contemplated if the Palestinian borders are to be still controlled by Israeli security forces and a demilitarised Palestine is expected to live side by side with a highly militarised Israel? The American approach plays with lives as it plays with language, and yet most of the mainstream media swallows this latest bend in the river without raising even a sceptical eyebrow.

The value of retrospection

These considerations ignore some other problematic aspects of the current framework. The Netanyahu government demands PA acknowledgement of Israel as “a Jewish state,” thereby overlooking the human rights of the Palestinian minority in pre-1967 Israel, numbering about 1.5 million or about 20 per cent of the total population, to live as citizens under conditions of non-discrimination and dignity.

Sometimes history is useful. Even the notorious Balfour Declaration, a pure assertion of British colonial prerogative, promised the Zionist movement only “a homeland,” not a sovereign state. The workings of warfare and geopolitics and clever propaganda gradually shifted the parameters of understanding, allowing a homeland to be transformed into a sovereign state with disastrous chain of consequences for the indigenous population.

In this respect the most recent Hamas position of refusing recognition of Israel while agreeing to the establishment of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders is a reasonable effort to draw a line between affirming the illegitimate and being reconciled to political circumstances. To expect more is to drive the Palestinians into an unacceptable corner of humiliation, in effect, endorsing the nakba, and all that has followed by way of dispossession and abuse.

Of course, the issue of self-determination is not for non-Palestinians to determine. Those who call upon Washington, even now and despite its partisanship and ill-concealed alignments, to impose a solution are thus doubly misguided. Even Hilary Clinton acknowledged days ago the impossibility of adopting such an approach.

What seems clear at present is that both the PA and Hamas seem ready to accept a state of their own within 1967 borders, more or less along the lines set forth back in 1967 in the Security Resolution 242, which remains an iconic document that supposedly embodies a continuing international consensus. What it would mean with respect to implementation is certain to be highly contentious, especially in relation to those infamous “subsequent developments,” better understood as massive encroachments on Palestinian prospects for separate statehood.

The mindlessness of diplomacy

Many in the Palestinian diaspora doubt whether a two-state solution is attainable or desirable. Instead they are calling for a single secular, bi-national democratic state that is co-terminus with the historic Palestinian mandate, and alone has the inherent capacity to reconcile contemporary ideas of democracy, human rights, and a belated realisation of Palestinian rights, including the long deferred claims of Palestinian refugees.

Geopolitics is stubborn, and is not moving in hopeful directions. Now arms are being again twisted by American diplomacy in the region to resume talks between the parties on what are being called “core issues” (borders, security arrangements, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, relations with neighbours).

While this mindless diplomatic spinning goes forth, other clocks are ticking madly: the settlements expanding at accelerating rates, new segments of the wall are being constructed, ethnic cleansing intensifies in East Jerusalem, the apartheid practices and structures in the West Bank are being steadily strengthened, the entrapped and imprisoned population of Gaza lives continuously on the brink of a survival crisis, the refugees in their camps endure their dreary and unacceptable confinement.

Netanyahu thunderously warns that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, that never will a single Palestinian refugee be allowed to return, that Israel is a Jewish state, and that whatever Tel Aviv calls “security” must be treated as non-negotiable. Given these predispositions, combined with the disparities in bargaining power between the parties, as well as the one-sided hegemonic role of the United States, who but a fool could think that a just peace could emerge from the such a deformed pattern of geopolitical diplomacy?

Is it not better at this time to rely on the growing Palestine Solidarity Movement, peace from below, and the related success being experienced in waging the Legitimacy War against Israel, what Israel itself nervously calls “the de-legitimacy project” that is viewed by its leaders and think tanks as a far greater threat to its illicit ambitions than armed resistance?

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

December 18, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 2 Comments

How Wikileaks Is Effecting American-Israeli Relations

By Hannah McKale | Desert Peace | December 18, 2010

The first and most important question to ask when approaching events on the geopolitical spectrum is to first ask the question, who is to benefit? In the case of the most recent Wikileaks dump that occurred at the end of November, the most obvious party with something to gain from the files and cables exposed is Israel. American and Israel relations have been quite close ever since the end of the second world war.

When the news first broke that Wikileaks would be making another massive dump of information, people could not help but wonder what it may be. Now, it has been revealed to the public, and while it is not nearly quite as scathing as a video of soldiers slaughtering innocent civilians, there is still a definite agenda behind the release of these embassy cables. The cables were between American embassies and embassies from a variety of Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel.

A majority of the cables pertain to Iran and potential military actions against the country. Who has been calling for a precision military strike against Iran for months now, if not years? You guessed it. Israel, and at least a portion of the United States Government wishes to bring the surrounding region against Iran. While the overall image of the American government is tarnished a great deal by these leaks, Israels is not affected whatsoever.

While the US is forced to deal with scathing leaked information such as its meddling in Argentinian affairs, Israel’s own agenda is only gaining ground. Some have even postulated a potential Mossad or CIA connection to Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

According to the former Pakistani Chief of Intelligence, Hamid Gul, Wikileaks is designed to act as a controlled release of information, and disinformation designed to manipulate public opinion of Washington, and Iran.

Israel has cause for a strike against Iran in order to curtail its nuclear capabilities. The government of both America and Israel claim that Iran’s agenda for nuclear power will inevitably lead to a nuclear confrontation given that Iran acquires nuclear weaponry. This past August, the Iranian Busherh reactor was reportedly attacked by a virus which was said to be deployed against the installation by a government organization. Israel was fingered as the main culprit in this instance.

Israel and America have always maintained a close relationship in leadership. Both are proponents of the War on Terror, and both are also keenly interested in the Middle Eastern occupation. With Iran remaining one of the few independent states in the Middle Eastern area, Israel is looking to turn the rest of the Islamic world against Iran by using an indirect approach through information warfare. The most horrifying negative aspect of this most recent Wikileaks dump is the opportunity it gives the government to claim security measures are required for cyberspace. It was not entirely surprising how hostile some of the talking heads of the mainstream media appeared to be against Wikileaks, when it is exposing government corruption these imbeciles demand punishment for Assange, the shutdown of Wikileaks, and better control of information on the web.

It appears that the leadership schools of both the United States and Israel both have their agendas in full throttle in this Wikileaks situation. While Israel’s agenda of dominating the Middle East’s future is coaxed closer to the surface for those who have their eyes open, it also appears that segments of power within the United States government are attempting to mar the reputation of the nation in eyes of those around the world. Assange and Wikileaks will be demonized by the establishment, and methods of information control will be proposed by the government, all in the name of national defense.

Hanna McKale is a political scientist hailing from New York, NY. When she is not researching, she advocates for Online Education, and travels all over the world.

December 18, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 3 Comments

Gains in Kandahar Came with More Brutal U.S. Tactics

Analysis by Gareth Porter* | IPS | December 17, 2010

The Barack Obama administration’s claim of “progress” in its war strategy is based on the military seizure of three rural districts outside Kandahar City in October.

But those tactical gains have come at the price of further exacerbating the basic U.S. strategic weakness in Afghanistan – the antagonism toward the foreign presence shared throughout the Pashtun south.

The military offensive in Kandahar, which had been opposed clearly and vocally by the local leadership in the province, was accompanied by an array of military tactics marked by increased brutality. The most prominent of those tactics was a large-scale demolition of homes that has left widespread bitterness among the civilians who had remained in their villages when the U.S.-NATO offensive was launched, as well as those who had fled before the offensive.

The unprecedented home demolition policy and other harsh tactics used in the offensive suggest that Gen. Petraeus has abandoned the pretense that he will ever win over the population in those Taliban strongholds.

The New York Times first reported the large-scale demolition of houses in a Nov. 16 story that said U.S. troops in Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwaii districts had been using armoured bulldozers, high explosives, missiles and airstrikes in “routinely destroying almost every unoccupied home or unused farm building in areas where they are operating”.

Neither U.S. nor Afghan officials have offered any estimate of the actual number of homes destroyed, but a spokesman for the provincial governor told the Times that the number of houses demolished was “huge”.

Confirming the widespread demolition policy, Col. Hans Bush, a spokesman for Petraeus, suggested that it was necessary to provide security, because so many houses were “booby- trapped” with explosives.

But Bush also acknowledged that U.S. troops were using a wide array of “tools” to eliminate tree lines in which insurgents could hide. And the demolition policy was clearly driven primarily by ISAF’s concerns about the IED war that the Taliban has been winning in 2010.

The Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran revealed in a Nov. 19 article that, in one operation in Zhari district, the military had used more than a dozen mine clearing charges, each of which destroyed everything – houses, trees, and crops – in a 100-yard-long path wide enough for a tank.

The district governor in Arghandab, Shah Muhammed Ahmadi, acknowledged that entire villages had been destroyed – a policy he defended by claiming that there were no people left in them. “[I]n some villages, like Khosrow,” he said, “that we’ve found completely empty and full of IEDs, we destroy them without agreement, because it was hard to find the people, and not just Khosrow but many villages we had to destroy to make them safe.”

But Col. David Flynn, the battalion commander of a unit of the 101st Airborne Division responsible for a section of the district, contradicted the claim that demolition was only carried out if the people who owned the houses could not be found.

Flynn told reporters of London’s Daily Mail he had issued an ultimatum to residents of Khosrow Sofia: provide full information on the location of IEDs the Taliban had planted there or face destruction of the village, according to the account published Oct. 26.

Flynn told the reporters that one of his platoons had a casualty rate of 50 percent in the village.

Flynn later claimed that the residents had responded to his threat by clearing out all the IEDs themselves, according to Carl Forsberg of the Institute for the Study of War. Researcher and author Alex Strick Van Linschoten, one of the only two Westerners to have lived independently in Kandahar City in recent years, said a friend had been told the same thing.

However, Linschoten told IPS that he understands from an eyewitness that at least two other villages in Flynn’s area of responsibility, including the nearby Khosrow Ulya, were leveled and one was reduced to “a dust bowl”.

District chief Ahmad referred to “Khosrow” as one of the villages he said the Americans “had to destroy to make them safe”.

The threat to destroy a village if its residents did not come forward with information would be a “collective penalty” against the civilian population, which is strictly forbidden by the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.

It is unclear how widely the threat to demolish homes was used in Zhari and Panjwaii and how many of the villages were destroyed in retribution for refusing to do so.

According to data provided by the Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), however, only 13 IEDs were turned in by the population in the entire country in October. That suggests that the residents of the newly occupied villages in the three districts did not provide any information about IEDs.

The house demolition policy and the increased use of collective punishment were part of a broader strategy of increasing the pressure against the Pashtun population in the south. The level of targeted raids by U.S. Special Operations Forces against suspected Taliban was tripled before Petraeus took over command from Gen. Stanley McChrystal in June, even though McChrystal acknowledged publicly that those raids generated intense anger across the country against foreign forces.

Although those targeted raids killed and captured a large number of Taliban commanders, they also subjected thousands of part-time guerrillas and supporters to arrest and detention. The effort to weaken the Taliban insurgency through such violent tactics is bound to continue the cycle of more Pashtuns vowing revenge against foreign troops and rejecting the Afghan government.

Journalist Anand Gopal, a Dari-speaking specialist on Afghanistan, discovered another form of collective punishment practiced during the offensive. Gopal told IPS that people in Zhari district reported two cases in which U.S. and Afghan forces rounded up and detained virtually everyone in a village after receiving small arms fire from it.

The house demolitions in Kandahar have apparently affected many thousands of people. The demolitions “have made a whole lot of people very angry, because they will be cold and hungry in the coming months”, said a U.S. source who asked not to be identified.

But the U.S.-NATO command is evidently unconcerned about that anger. Chandrasekaran quoted a “senior official” as asserting that, by forcing people to go to the district governor’s office to submit their claims for damaged property, “in effect you’re connecting the government to the people.”

Now Brig. Gen. Nick Carter, commander of U.S.-NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, has openly embraced that justification of the house demolition policy. In an interview with AfPak Channel published last week, he suggested that the demolition of houses “allows the district governor to connect with the population…”

But that connection is certain to be marked by bitterness. A tribal elder in Panjawaii was quoted by the Post’s Chandrasekaran as dismissing the offer of compensation for houses destroyed as “just kicking dirt in our eyes.”

The new level of brutality used in the Kandahar operation indicates that Petraeus has consciously jettisoned the central assumption of his counterinsurgency theory, which is that harsh military measures undermine the main objective of winning over the population.

But there are tell-tale signs that higher-level commanders in Kandahar know that those tactics will not defeat the Taliban either. Col. Flynn, the U.S. commander in a section of Arghandab, told the Daily Mail, “At the end of the day, you cannot kill your way to victory here. It will have to be a political solution.”

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

December 18, 2010 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | Comments Off on Gains in Kandahar Came with More Brutal U.S. Tactics

The Racak Hoax

By Diana Johnstone, Paris | 20 January 1999

French newspaper and television reports today feature evidence apparently ignored by U.S. media, suggesting that the “Racak massacre” so vigorously denounced by the U.S.-imposed head of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) “verifiers” mission to Kosovo, William Walker, was a setup. This coincides with reports in the German press indicating strong irritation with Walker among other OSCE members. Meanwhile, the ineffable State Department spokesman James Rubin appeared tonight on CNN for short glimpses between Clinton impeachment dronings, plodding forward amid questions from journalists who were even more gung-ho for NATO bombings than he and his bride Christiane Amanpour, whose love story apparently owes so much to the common anti-Serb cause. It seems the U.S. is clueless as to the doubts being cast elsewhere on the “massacre” story, and the only questions well-paid U.S. journalists could conjure up were variations on the theme, “Why isn’t cowardly NATO already bombing the Serbs?”

RENAUD GIRARD has covered virtually all the Yugoslav wars of disintegration on the spot for the French daily Le Figaro. Below is my rough but accurate translation of his lead article published in 1999:

Kosovo: Obscure Areas of a Massacre

By Renaud Girard | Le Figaro | January 20, 1999

The images filmed during the attack on the village of Racak contradict the Albanians’ and the OSCE’s version Racak.

Did the American ambassador William Walker, chief of the OSCE cease-fire verification mission to Kosovo, show undue haste when, last Saturday, he publicly accused Serbian security forces of having on the previous day executed in cold blood some forty Albanian peasants in the little village of Racak?

The question deserves to be raised in the light of a series of disturbing facts. In order to understand, it is important to go through the events of the crucial day of Friday in chronological order. At dawn, intervention forces of the Serbian police encircled and then attacked the village of Racak, known as a bastion of UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA) separatist guerrillas.

The police didn’t seem to have anything to hide, since, at 8:30 a.m., they invited a television team (two journalists of AP TV) to film the operation. A warning was also given to the OSCE, which sent two cars with American diplomatic licenses to the scene. The observers spent the whole day posted on a hill where they could watch the village. At 3 p.m., a police communique reached the international press center in Pristina announcing that 15 UCK “terrorists” had been killed in combat in Racak and that a large stock of weapons had been seized.

At 3:30 p.m., the police forces, followed by the AP TV team, left the village, carrying with them a heavy 12.7 mm machine gun, two automatic rifles, two rifles with telescopic sights and some thirty Chinese-made kalashnikovs. At 4:40 p.m., a French journalist drove through the village and met three orange OSCE vehicles. The international observers were chatting calmly with three middle-aged Albanians in civilian clothes. They were looking for eventual civilian casualties. Returning to the village at 6 p.m., the journalist saw the observers taking away two very slightly injured old men and two women. The observers, who did not seem particularly worried, did not mention anything in particular to the journalist. They simply said that they were “unable to evaluate the battle toll”.

The scene of Albanian corpses in civilian clothes lined up in a ditch which would shock the whole world was not discovered until the next morning, around 9 a.m., by journalists, soon followed by OSCE observers. At that time, the village was once again taken over by armed UCK soldiers who led the foreign visitors, as soon as they arrived, toward the supposed massacre site. Around noon, William Walker in person arrived and expressed his indignation. All the Albanian witnesses gave the same version: at midday, the policemen forced their way into homes and separated the women from the men, whom they led to the hilltops to execute them without more ado. The most disturbing fact is that the pictures filmed by the AP TV journalists — which Le Figaro was shown yesterday — radically contradict that version. It was in fact an empty village that the police entered in the morning, sticking close to the walls. The shooting was intense, as they were fired on from UCK trenches dug into the hillside.

The fighting intensified sharply on the hilltops above the village. Watching from below, next to the mosque, the AP journalists understood that the UCK guerrillas, encircled, were trying desperately to break out. A score of them in fact succeeded, as the police themselves admitted. What really happened? During the night, could the UCK have gathered the bodies, in fact killed by Serb bullets, to set up a scene of cold-blooded massacre? A disturbing fact: Saturday morning the journalists found only very few cartridges around the ditch where the massacre supposedly took place. Intelligently, did the UCK seek to turn a military defeat into a political victory? Only a credible international inquiry would make it possible to resolve these doubts. The reluctance of the Belgrade government, which has consistently denied the massacre, thus seems incomprehensible.

Contrary to what Renaud Girard says in his conclusion, “The reluctance of the Belgrade government” is not, in fact, entirely incomprehensible, since Belgrade is convinced that the U.S.-led “international community” is determined to frame the Serb side in order to justify NATO bombing. The hasty and virulent William Walker condemnation of the Serbs for “the most horrendous” massacre he had ever seen (and that after four years in El Salvador!), not to mention the latest in a series of fatal “captures” of Bosnian Serbs accused of war crimes, has only confirmed the view of most Serbs that they can expect only unfair condemnation, not justice, from such “investigators”.

Doubts are cast on the reality of the “Racak massacre” even by Le Monde, which for years has led the crusade against the Serbs. But Le Monde’s own correspondent, Christophe Chatelot, sent the following report from Pristina:

Were the Racak Dead Really Coldly Massacred?

By Christophe Chatelot | Le Monde | 21 January 1999

The version of the facts spread by the Kosovo Albanians leaves several questions unanswered. Belgrade says that the forty-five victims were UCK “terrorists, fallen during combat,”  but rejects any international investigation.

Isn’t the Racak massacre just too perfect? New eye witness accounts gathered on Monday, January 18, by Le Monde, throw doubt on the reality of the horrible spectacle of dozens of piled up bodies of Albanians supposedly summarily executed by Serb security forces last Friday.

Were the victims executed in cold blood, as the UCK says, or killed in combat, as the the Serbs say? According to the version gathered and broadcast by the press and the Kosovo verification mission (KVM) observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the massacre took place on January 15 in the early after-noon. “Masked” Serbian police entered the village of Racak which had been shelled all morning by Yugoslav army tanks. They broke down the doors and entered people’s homes, ordering the women to stay there while they pushed the men to the edge of the village to calmly execute them with a bullet through the head, not without first having tortured and mutilated several. Some witnesses even said that the Serbs sang as they did their dirty work, before leaving the village around 3:30p.m.

The account by two journalists of Associated Press TV television (AP TV) who filmed the police operation in Racak contradicts this tale. When at 10 a.m. they entered the village in the wake of a police armored vehicle, the village was nearly deserted. They advanced through the streets under the fire of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) fighters lying in ambush in the woods above the village. The exchange of fire continued throughout the operation, with varying intensity. The main fighting took place in the woods. The Albanians who had fled the village when the first Serb shells were fired at dawn tried to escape. There they ran into Serbian police who had surrounded the village. The UCK was trapped in between. The object of the violent police attack on Friday was a stronghold of UCK Albanian independence fighters.

Virtually all the inhabitants had fled Racak during the frightful Serb offensive of the summer of 1998. With few exceptions, they had not come back. “Smoke came from only two chimneys”, noted one of the two AP TV reporters. The Serb operation was thus no surprise, nor was it a secret. On the morning of the attack, a police source tipped off AP TV: “Come to Racak, something is happening”. At 10 a.m., the team was on the spot alongside the police; it filmed from a peak overlooking the village and then through the streets in the wake of an armored vehicle.

The OSCE was also warned of the action. At least two teams of international observers watched the fighting from a hill where they could see part of the village. They entered Racak shortly after the police left. They then questioned a few Albanians about the situation, trying to find out whether there were wounded civilians. Around 6 p.m., they took four persons — two women and two old men — who were very slightly wounded toward the dispensary of the neighboring town of Stimje. The verifiers said at that time that they were “incapable of establishing the number of casualties of that day of fighting”.

The publicity given by the Serbian police to that operation was intense. At 10:30 a.m., it gave out its first press release. It announced that the police had “encircled the village of Racak with the aim of arresting the members of a terrorist group who killed a policeman” the previous Sunday. At 3 p.m., a first bulletin announced fifteen Albanians killed in fighting. The next day, Saturday, it welcomed the success of the operation which, it said, had resulted in the death of dozens of UCK “terrorists” and the capture of a large stock of weapons.

The attempt to arrest an Albanian presumed to have murdered a Serb policemen turned into a massacre. At 5:30 p.m., the police evacuated the site under the sporadic fire of a handful of UCK fighters who continued to hold out thanks to the steep and rough terrain. In no time, the first of the Albanians who had got away come back down into the village, those who had managed to hide came out in the open and three KVM vehicles drove into the village. One hour after the police left, night fell. The next morning, the press and the KVM came to see the damage caused by the fighting.

It was at this moment that, guided by the armed UCK fighters who had recaptured the village, they discovered the ditch where a score of bodies were piled up, almost exclusively men. At midday, the chief of the KVM in person, the American diplomat William Walker, arrived on the spot and declared his indignation at the atrocities committed by “the Serb police forces and the Yugoslav army”. The condemnation was total, irrevocable.

And yet questions remain. How could the Serb police have gathered a group of men and led them calmly toward the execution site while they were constantly under fire from UCK fighters? How could the ditch located on the edge of Racak have escaped notice by local inhabitants familiar with the surroundings who were present before nightfall? Or by the observers who were present for over two hours in this tiny village? Why so few cartridges around the corpses, so little blood in the hollow road where twenty three people are supposed to have been shot at close range with several bullets in the head? Rather, weren’t the bodies of the Albanians killed in combat by the Serb police gathered into the ditch to create a horror scene which was sure to have an appalling effect on public opinion? Don’t the violence and rapidity of Belgrade’s reaction, which gave the chief of the KVM forty-eight hours to leave Yugoslavia, show that the Yugoslavs are sure of what they are saying?

Only an international inquiry above all suspicion will make it possible to clarify these obscure points. Finnish and Belurussian legal doctors were expected to arrive in Pristina on Wednesday to attend the autopsies being carried out by Yugoslav doctors. The problem is that the Belgrade authorities have never been cooperative in this matter. Why? Whatever the conclusions of the investigators, the Racak massacre shows that the hope of soon reaching a settlement of the Kosovo crisis seems quite illusory.

More at: Emperor’s Clothes

December 18, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Comments Off on The Racak Hoax