It is really impressive how efficiently the intellectual and propaganda
resources of the imperial state are mobilized to meet its need to demonize
its enemies and put its own and its client state's actions in a benevolent
This is especially important for an imperial power that retains
its democratic forms as it kills lavishly and on a global basis, and
justifies these killings, and its enormous "defense" expenditures, on
grounds of "human rights" concerns as well as "national security."
Getting its message across requires not only a compliant media and
"journalists of attachment" who will follow the official agenda, but also
an intellectual community of experts, academic and think-tank specialists,
New Humanitarians, human rights group officials, and former leftists who
have finally seen the light, who serve as "independent" commentators and
guide the public toward the official truth. They constitute an ideological
and propaganda collective that provides a gigantic echo chamber in which
the official agenda resonates, and which helps get the public on the
The operation of this collective, and its techniques, are well
illustrated by its treatment of "body counts" in comparable wars and
atrocities throughout the world. Where there is an official and imperial
demand for a high body count and great indignation, as in the case of
Kosovo in 1998 and 1999 (earlier in Bosnia in the years 1992-1995, Kuwait
in 1990-1991, still earlier in the case of Cambodia under Pol Pot,
1975-1978), the collective will be deeply concerned with civilian
casualties, will pursue refugees relentlessly to get details of their
suffering, and will search eagerly for dead bodies. Given that they know
the truth in advance -that "another Hitler" is committing genocide, they
will not look at evidence very critically, and will be happy to accept any
congenial story and any inflated account of numbers of bodies, however
biased the source. They will also explain away the ex post findings that
"another Hitler's" body count had been inflated.
On the other hand, where the imperial power and/or its proxies are
doing the killing, as in Afghanistan from October 7, 2001 onward, or in
Panama in 1989, or in Iraq from January 1991 to the present; or where
client states like ... Turkey, Indonesia in East Timor [etc.] are doing
the killing, the establishment collective has little interest in civilian
casualties ..., fails to pursue refugees to get
their stories of suffering, and does not engage in any search for dead
bodies. In fact, its members tend to be sceptical of stories of suffering
and estimates of dead bodies made by others, in a direct reversal of their
position on such stories and estimates for "worthy" victims of "another
This same contrast applies to larger body counts such as in the famous
100 million death toll of Communism in the Black Book, which includes
millions who died in Chinese and Soviet famines. But it would be
unthinkable for writers in the mainstream to count in the death toll of
Capitalism those who have died of exposure, hard labor, starvation, and
preventable diseases resulting from economic structures and policies,
which would run well over 100 million; or the aggregate of "disappeared"
in Latin America during the National Security State years; or the
"collateral damage" deaths from sanctions and bombing in Iraq,
Afghanistan, and many other places. AOL Time Warner is not likely to be
interested in publishing a Black Book of Capitalism.
Bosnia and Kosovo: Give Us Bodies!
With Milosevic "another Hitler" and the Serbs "willing executioners,"
by NATO-power determination in the early 1990s, the quest for bodies was
early and intense. But only Bosnian Muslim bodies were sought, not victims
of the Bosnian Muslims or Croatians, although there is extensive evidence
of repeated massacres of Serbs in Bosnia in the years 1992-1995. In 1994
and 1995, Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, proudly showed
journalists videotapes of his "war trophies," including severed heads and
heaps of bodies of Serbs, but these were not the bodies the collective was
seeking. (The NATO establishment, including New Humanitarians and genocide
hustlers David Rieff, Susan Sontag, Aryeh Neier, Christopher Hitchens, Ian
Williams et al., have been exceedingly quiet on the implications for
likely source of massacres of the fact that thousands of bin Laden's
troops and allies had been imported to fight the Bosnian Muslim cause in
In his book Slaughterhouse, David Rieff says there were more than
250,000 Bosnians killed -- and Rieff uses the word Bosnians to mean Bosnian
Muslims only -- but he gives no source, and he is clearly regurgitating
claims of Bosnian Muslim officials, notably Foreign Minister Haris
Silajdzic. The propagandists on his side are truth-tellers. For Rieff, his
mother Susan Sontag, Hitchens, et al., this was "genocide," but the
thousands of Serbs killed by Naser Oric and Bin Laden's cadres was not
genocide; in fact, those slaughters and mass graves (at least 53 claimed
by the Bosnian Serbs) never show up on the screen of the collective or
reach the U.S. public.
According to George Kenney, who worked on Yugoslavia in the State
Department during the Bosnian war, the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) estimates 20-30,000 dead in Bosnia, and U.S. intelligence
community estimates "run to tens of thousands." Only a few thousand bodies
have been found in Bosnia attributable to the Bosnia-Herzegovina wars, and
the ICRC says "more than 20,000" are unaccounted for, which, again,
doesn't get us near 250,000 and "genocide."
In Srebrenica, there have been
only 473 bodies recovered, and there is absolutely no credible evidence
that 7,500 men and boys who allegedly disappeared in this area in July
1995 were murdered. The absence of bodies, despite an intense search and
strong incentives to produce them, hasn't interfered with the conclusion
that 7,500 were slaughtered there.
One claim of course was that the Serbs removed the bodies. This is not
credible, as removing thousands of bodies would not only require
significant human and capital resources, not likely to be a high priority
in times of intense warfare, but it would also be a project readily
observable in satellite photos. U.S. satellite
observations of this area
never came up with any photos of killing, digging, or removal.
theory was also popular for Kosovo, especially after the Tribunal produced
fewer than 4,000 bodies (on all sides, including dead soldiers). Long
after the war, but timed well to provide a suitable context for bringing
Milosevic to the Hague, a story was widely circulated about a Mercedes
refrigerated truck dumped into the Danube with a load of bodies, the
inference being that maybe many such trucks with bodies were dumped into
the river. Needless to say no such evidence has been forthcoming.
The search for bodies intensified during the 78-day bombing war, and
then in its aftermath, in NATO-occupied Kosovo. This was urgently needed
by NATO's war-makers, as the really severe refugee flight and escalated
killing FOLLOWED the NATO bombing; before that, a Belgrade-NATO agreement
had seen the drawing back of the Serbian army, the return of many of the
refugees, admission of a sizable OSCE observer presence, and reduced
killing, despite KLA provocations. A pre-bombing German Foreign office
assessment even denied any ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, describing Serbian
army actions there as targeted against KLA forces and strongholds.
Furthermore, it eventually entered the public domain that the United
States had actually aided the KLA before the bombing, so that the KLA's
provocations aimed at inducing Serbian retaliation to help bring NATO into
war could be said to be U.S.-sponsored. The indignation at Serbian
retaliation was therefore cynical and hypocritical.
The NATO propaganda machine needed to ignore this history, as well as
the military collaboration of NATO and the KLA during the war, and blame
the refugee crisis and killings entirely on the Serbs. This was helped by
a claim of an "Operation Horseshoe" plan to expel the Kosovo Albanians
even without a NATO war. The establishment collective's cooperation in
this task was exemplary, including the suppression up to this day of the
evidence that the alleged Operation Horseshoe was a propaganda fabrication
(exposed in a book by retired German Brigadier General Heinz Loquai, The
Kosovo Conflict: A War That Could Be Avoided).
A final problem was the absence of enough bodies in Kosovo after the
June 10, 1999 NATO-occupation to satisfy the frenzied propaganda claims of
genocide. During the war, NATO propagandists had made wild claims of
100,000 and even 500,000 killings and the word "genocide" was used freely
to describe Serb actions. After the war, NATO and its agents organized
what must have be the largest forensic search in history, and the media
descended on the conquered province like an invasion of locusts,
interviewing refugees, looking for and examining grave sites, insatiable
for stories of abuse and bodies. They got painful stories from the
refugees, many no doubt true, but there was much disappointment that the
Trepca mine, for example, which Kosovo Albanian informants had claimed had
been the site of mass cremation, showed no signs of any bodies having been
burned there, and the Tribunal's final count was under 4,000 dead -- from
unknown causes and on all sides. According to the ICRC, there were some
3,500 Kosovo residents still missing in May 2001, a figure that included
some 900 Serbs, Roma and other non-Albanians. Whether these were all
genuinely missing or had died is unclear. With the body count numbers
clearly inadequate, instead of pointing out that NATO officials had lied
and admitting that they had been gulled, the media and other members of
the propaganda collective simply dropped the subject. Having exploited the
inflated claims and squeezed all they could out of refugee testimony, and
having failed to mention that the claim of an Operation Horseshoe had been
refuted, the collective's abandonment of the subject meant that they left
a system of convenient lies intact. This would allow them to support the
Tribunal in anything it did, as the Tribunal worked with a closely related
system of politicized and biased "information."
The New Humanitarian members of the collective, who had swallowed and
disseminated the inflated numbers, also never recanted based on the actual
body count. None of them have ever mentioned the evidence that the United
States had secretly aided the KLA before the bombing war and was in active
contact with them during the war. None has conceded that "Operation
Horseshoe" had been demonstrated to be a propaganda concoction;
Christopher Hitchens repeats that "a plan of mass expulsion... was in
train," and Michael Ignatieff says that "Milosevic decided to solve an
'internal problem' by exporting an entire nation to his impoverished
For Ian Williams and Ignatieff, those who point to the absence of
bodies consistent with the inflated claims of NATO propaganda are
"revisionists"! Both cite Tribunal estimates as the last word-- Williams
says Carla del Ponte's estimate of 11,334 dead based on "eyewitnesses"
"should have put questions concerning the death toll to rest," but
no--" the downward revision of the numbers murdered in Kosovo is proving
very fashionable -- even in the New York Times," which to Williams' outrage
put up a headline "Early Count Hints at Fewer Kosovo Deaths." The actual
body count was under 4,000, but for Williams, del Ponte's estimate of how
many she EXPECTS to be found is the only relevant number, given the
Tribunal's known objectivity. (In dismissing the need for investigating
NATO's war crimes in bombing Serbia, del Ponte acknowledged taking NATO
press releases as an authoritative source of information, but Williams
probably wouldn't find this problematic either.)
Williams does the New York Times an injustice. In addition to never
finding the U.S.-KLA connection of news interest, nor the collapse of the
Operation Horseshoe claim, nor the contesting evidence concerning the
Racak massacre, the paper called upon Michael Ignatieff to give the
authoritative word on "Counting Bodies in Kosovo" (Nov. 21, 1999). Like,
Williams, Ignatieff has the "revisionists...getting their facts wrong."
The NATO leaders didn't exaggerate the killings. While U.S. Defense
Secretary William Cohen claimed that 100,000 Kosovo Albanian males were
"missing," he "also clearly stated that his reports showed that 4,600
Kosovars had been executed, a claim that has been confirmed by the
forensic trail of evidence uncovered by war crimes investigators since
June." But Ignatieff eventually admits that the Tribunal had up to then
found only 2,108 bodies, so that "forensic evidence" based on discovered
bodies could certainly not demonstrate that 4,600 people had been
executed. Of course, Ignatieff talks about a forensic "trail of evidence,"
but this rhetorical trick cannot cover up the fact that he is engaging in
deliberate deception. He also doesn't discuss Cohen's use of "missing," in
the midst of a war when such number was a meaningless propaganda ploy, and
used to suggest the likelihood that 100,000 had already been murdered.
The Tribunal estimated that 11,334 bodies will be found, so Ignatieff
says whether they will be found "depends on whether the Serb military and
the police removed them." That the Tribunal's estimate might be inflated
for political reasons, or be simply mistaken, is ruled out by ideological
premise. The Tribunal hasn't found more than 4,000 bodies, but neither
Ignatieff nor the Times has noticed, and by ideological assumption any
missing bodies must have been removed by agents of another Hitler! This is
bias running wild.
Afghanistan: What Bodies?
The contrast between the media and collective's treatment of civilian
casualties and body count in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan after September 11
couldn't be more dramatic. The media's disinterest in questioning Afghan
refugees is especially noteworthy as there were large numbers put to
flight by the bombing, and this new burden of war was imposed on a
population already in a starvation crisis. Elementary humanity would make
their condition and plight of interest. But, on the other hand, U.S.
policy success depended on minimizing the effect of the bombing war on
civilians. A good propaganda system will therefore make Afghan civilian
victims "unworthy," and their plight will be ignored. The U.S. media and
collective responded at least as well as Pravda or Izvestia responded to
the demands of the Soviet state when IT was doing damage to Afghan
For the U.S. media, it was "A Nation Challenged" and a "War On
The focus has been on U.S. war plans, war actions, successes in
attacking the enemy, coalition organization, and reactions on the home
front. Considerable attention has been paid to civilian casualties and the
pains of death, but only as regards the victims of 9/11; in fact, the New
York Times has been providing humanizing accounts, day after day, of each
and every victim of the World Trade Center bombings. But you would have to
look hard in the massive coverage of the war to find U.S. media reports
that even touched on civilian casualties from the intensive U.S. bombing
raids on Afghanistan, or the war's effects on refugee generation and
starvation. In an enlightening contrast, whereas The Guardian (London),
reports "Refugees left in the cold at 'slaughterhouse' camp: 100 Afghans
perish daily as strained network collapses under flood of new arrivals"
(Jan. 3, 2002), the Washington Post features success in averting famine
and averts its eyes from the Afghans in travail ("Massive Food Delivery
Averts Afghan Famine," Dec. 31, 2001).
Even when U.S. bombs repeatedly hit marked Red Cross facilities in
Kabul, and U.S. officials admitted that this was intended, the U.S. media
reported this with brevity and without the slightest indignation, and it
did not impel them to look at U.S. bombing strategies more closely. Even
the open admission of an intention to harm civilians, as in British
Admiral Sir Michael Boyce's statement that "The squeeze will carry on
until the people of the country themselves recognize that this is going to
go on until they get the leadership changed" (NYT, Oct. 28), does not move
the U.S. media. Investigative zeal on this subject is non-existent. When
the academic Mark Herold went to the trouble of carefully studying news
reports at home and abroad, and came up with a tally of over 3,700
civilians killed by U.S. bombs from October 7th to December 7th ("A
Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States Aerial Bombing of
Afghanistan"), no major U.S. news institution bothered to report this
Equally interesting has been the silence and/or apologetics on civilian
casualties on the part of the New Humanitarians who were so deeply
concerned with the officially approved victims in the Balkans. Writing and
reporting on the Afghan war, Timothy Garton Ash, David Rieff, Michael
Ignatieff, and Bernard Kouchner have expressed not a word of concern over
the civilian bombing casualties, or the enhanced starvation threat
resulting from the war, or possible "war crimes." Chistopher Hitchens has
been positively enthused over the war, and KNOWS by intuition and faith in
his leaders that there has been "no serious loss of human life" from the
bombing and that the Bush administration has followed "an almost pedantic
policy of avoiding 'collateral damage'" (Nation, Dec. 17, 2001).
Hitchens' Nation colleague, Marc Cooper, was indignant at a citation to
Mark Herold's study of civilian casualties, claiming that Herold's body
count is "totally unverified and unscientific." Cooper, who was never
outraged over the much less scientific claims of Kosovo Albanian deaths by
William Cohen and other NATO spokespersons, is no doubt waiting for the
Bush administration to "verify" the Herold body count. It is noteworthy
that Cooper doesn't express indignation that neither the government nor
media seem to have made an effort to study civilian casualties as Herold
has done, a failure that clearly facilitates the killing of civilians--but
his arguments are perhaps understandable given that the war itself strikes
him as a "just cause," making the Afghan civilians correspondingly
unworthy. His, Hitchens', and the New Humanitarians' stance toward these
civilian killings makes them facilitators of de facto war crimes.
Body Counts in East Timor, Turkey, and Israel
It goes almost without saying that the U.S. mainstream media have not
sought out refugees and pursued body counts of East Timorese victims of
Indonesia, Kurdish victims of Turkey, or Palestinian victims of Israel.
There is no way the U.S. public could know that Turkey had been killing
Kurds and producing refugees during the 1990s on a scale that exceeded
Serb operations in Kosovo by a large factor. ...
It was a telling fact that as Indonesian killing in East Timor reached
a peak in 1977 and 1978, New York Times coverage of that area fell to
zero. This was possibly the closest thing to genocide we have seen since
World War II, but the word is not applied to this case (in contrast with
its lavish use for Kosovo), and veteran New York Times reporter Henry Kamm
even explicitly denied its applicability to East Timor (Feb. 15, 1981).
That was what Times reporters call a "complex" case, as a good genocidist
(Suharto), long supported by the United States, who brought "stability" to
the area, was in charge.
In 1998 and 1999, when Indonesia attempted to prevent and subvert the
U.N.-sponsored independence referendum in East Timor, the Indonesian army
and paramilitary forces killed over 5,000 defenceless civilians even
before the August 30, 1999 vote, according to Church estimates (John
Taylor, East Timor: The Price of Freedom). This was far more than died in
Kosovo in the year before the bombing war, estimated by UN human rights
rapporteur Jiri Dienstbier at some 1,800, and more than the number of
bodies found in Kosovo even after the war. But the disinterest of the U.S.
mainstream media in refugees or body counts was close to complete, and
when on the rare occasion numbers killed have been offered, they are low.
Seth Mydans suggested that "as many as 1,000 people" died in the
independence struggle, with no citation to source, an estimate that fits
well the paper's durable coverup of Indonesia's abuse of these unworthy
victims ("Bones Offer Testimony Of Killings In East Timor," Sept. 30,
The New Humanitarians have follow the same pattern, attending with
great indignation to the "genocide" in Bosnia and Kosovo, and somehow
never getting around to the frequently far more numerous unworthy victims
of their own state and its clients. In a recent study that David Peterson
and I did on "The New Humanitarian Crusaders" for a forthcoming book on
Human Rights: Challenging the New Consensus (edited by David Chandler), we
found that in a sample of 101 recent mainstream media articles on human
rights written by a dozen leading New Humanitarians (Rieff, Sontag,
Kouchner, Havel, Hitchens, Ignatieff, Ash, Kaldor, Aryeh Neier, Geoffrey
Robertson, Tim Judah and Kenneth Roth), the Yugoslav conflicts were
discussed in detail in every article, but human rights issues in East
Timor, Turkey and Israel were mentioned briefly in only three.
The New Humanitarians' lack of interest or concern with victims deemed
unworthy by their state was well captured by Christopher Hitchens'
treatment of East Timor, where he credits the new interventionism in
Kosovo for having helped the East Timorese. Although the intervention was
belated, in the end "The Indonesian occupiers sailed away" ("Genocide and
the Body-Baggers," Nation, Nov. 29, 1999). He omits mentioning that the
United States and its allies knew, and watched without doing anything
about it, while many more innocents were killed than died in Kosovo before
the bombing war; that in addition to the large numbers killed, the
destruction was immense and 85 percent of the population was made
refugees; that no food drops were implemented on behalf of the refugees;
that nothing was done to help the more than 100,000 refugees under
Indonesian control in West Timor; that no forensic teams were rushed to
check out war crimes and no war crimes trials are pressed by the West.
That was Hitchens' last word on this subject, as he sailed away to
focus on the villainy in Kosovo, and then the just war against fascism in
Conclusion: Body Counts in Imperial Service
The beauty of this system is that it works without coercion -- the media
and New Humanitarians display great energy in pursuing the mistreatment of
the worthy victims of Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein or Milosevic, and their
indignation seems entirely spontaneous; and their disinterest and absence
of indignation at the abuse of the unworthy victims of Suharto, the
Turkish generals, ... or U.S. bombers in Serbia, the Sudan, and
Afghanistan seem equally natural. Both their benevolence and indifference
are channeled perfectly to serve the demands of the imperial state as they
quickly internalize the patriotic agenda. Thus they can pay little or no
attention to Saddam Hussein's victims while he is in imperial service
(before August 2, 1990), but quickly begin the aggressive search for
bodies after he becomes another Hitler (from August 2). This is the way a
model propaganda system should work.
Our NOTE: We agree with the professor on the main point and that is that
the Westerners, for centuries now, have double (triple,...) standard
when it comes to the ways war casualties are counted.
We do disagree with the professor in the case of Israel.
Israel is too frequently presented as pariah while, the Palestinian
terrorists; the people who tie a bomb to their children and send
them to blow up some school, a bus, a cafe - they are presented
as nice people fighting for a just cause. After, Jewish people
suffered so horribly -- not only during WWII, but for the last 2,000
years -- at hands of Christians - one should think twice before
opening mouth to accuse Jews of anything. The true pariah, the true
terrorist of today's day is the United States. That is where the
numbers *never* count. We never hear how many people the U.S. kills in
Iraq, daily. We do not know even an estimate of people America
murdered in Vietnam. Is it two million? Is it three million?
In openly racist way American news outlets keep repeating for
murdered, Iraqis, Libyans, Panamanians, Serbs, etc. etc. "They do
not value life the same way we do." True. Almost any nation on
Planet Earth values other people's lives more than American Nazis do.
Jewish people are not conquering far-away lands following some
nebulous, difficult to explain "interests" as America does.
The truth is that the Jewish people, once and again, are actually
fighting a terrible fight for mere survival. For biological survival.
Palestinians have a state where they live, as majority population.
The name of the country is Jordan. Why are Arabs demanding more land
from tiny Israel? Don't they possess and control huge lands in
Asia and Africa? It is not enough?