"WHOSE AXE AM I GRINDING"

By William Markiewicz

I promised a correspondent to answer this question here in order not to add to my already extensive contribution to this month's Communication Page.

The first Balkan people I met were Croats, friendly easy going people. They were nationalistic and my first accounts about Yugoslavia came from them. What I knew about 'multiethnicity' in Europe convinced me that it was probably in the best interests of everybody to remain separated, which doesn't exclude being good neighbours with even some kind of partnership. Of course no powerful outsiders should interfere. This interference from the beginning prevented Yugoslavia from separating harmoniously as the Czechs did from the Slovaks or like the former Soviet Republics did. Multiethnicity remains viable only in countries that were multiethnic from the start.

Whose axe am I grinding? Probably my own, since from almost the very beginning of the war in Yugoslavia. I have followed the same line of thought. I've previously explained my position in other discussions but probably not in Vagabond till now. I will quote from memory, so I may have lost some significant points.

When the war started in Bosnia, the Muslim leader Izetbegovic with his men fell prisoners of the Serbs while the Yugoslav General Kukanec with his men became prisoners of the Muslims. Both sides agreed to exchange prisoners. The Serbs released Izetbegovic and his men while the Muslims released General Kukanec but his soldiers, mostly in their teens, perished with their throats sliced. That day this news filled the world media. I remember that my friend, a non political Serbian woman married to a Croat, commented: "Couldn't they have used bullets instead of knives?" Those innocent words made me realise all the horror of the situation. General Kukanec later was accused of abandoning his men, which obviously wasn't true. The next day there was hardly a word about all this in the media and almost immediately, without breathing space, news started pouring in about 'savage unprovoked Serbian attacks.' Then I realised that the press was manipulated. Since then, day by day, I've observed steady media reports about Serbs atrocities, gulped by public opinion, coming from openly biased sources. When the journalist abuses his position and, with no proofs at hand, becomes judge, accuser and witness all in one, people have no way to know that they're being fooled; it's death for information and a threat to justice and democracy, a 'Holy Inquisition.' When the Serbs from Krajina were running for their lives, the TV viewers were allowed less than a minute to see their flight as the accompanying voiceover drummed about -- Muslim refugees in Bosnia! It was a clear message: "Don't pity those Serb refugees, they get what they deserve!" In varied press I've read the message: "Serbs are so sure that they are right that they don't even want to discuss their case with journalists." This pathetic ignorance of PR's importance has made their enemies rub their hands with glee. I've seen several 'slips' in the world press, headlines like: "Serbian Atrocities" over a story about -- Serbian victims! The media didn't pay the slightest attention to what and how they reported, they knew what the public wanted to read and that was enough. This blatant disrespect for the profession and blatant contempt for the public made me wonder more than once: on whom would it reverberate first -- on the public or on the media? First it reverberates on the victims. Now blunders are becoming more rare with the media being criticised by journalists themselves Still, speaking about the Balkans is like speaking about Mars, we're that far from the truth. The seeds of hatred, deeply and sturdily planted, have started to bear fruit; anti-Semitism got a new companion in anti-Serbism. This is what inspired me to write a parallel to Emile Zola's "I Accuse" in Vagabond's March 96 issue. Unless the Serbs, by some miracle succeed in piercing the dark cloud they are being wrapped in, the situation may last for generations.

Right now, NATO/torturer is bombing randomly chosen civilian victims, making excuses later. For NATO everybody is a military target now. They hope to win by terrorizing the population. Maybe bombing the convoy of Albanian refugees was also deliberate, just to show that "mistakes happen."

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