Body Bags and Bodily Fluids

By Hitchens, Christopher | The Nation, May 31, 1999 | Go to article overview

Body Bags and Bodily Fluids


Hitchens, Christopher, The Nation


Even as Jesse Jackson was returning home from a prayerful moment with Slobodan Milosevic-and not even favoring his victims with a drop-by or a photo-op-other elements in the body-bag "peace" movement were circulating old and discredited pro-Milosevic disinformation. To its shame, The Nation published an article alleging, first, that the Bosnians of Sarajevo had killed their own civilians in an attempt to recruit international sympathy and, second, that Kosovo is "part of" Serbia.

I once expended quite a lot of curiosity on the first claim. Every reporter who repeated it to me gave as the "deniable" source either Gen. Lewis MacKenzie of Canada or Gen. Michael Rose of Britain. In the course of time, I was able to meet both of these die-hard anti-Bosnian warriors and ask them directly. In the presence of witnesses, in a hotel in Skopje, Macedonia, General MacKenzie said that he had no reason to believe the truth of the rumor. In a television hospitality suite in London, General Rose made the same disclaimer. To my next question-why then had they privately suggested that it be put about?-they gave no very convincing answer. But the job of such rearguard heroes is made ridiculously easy when they have journalists at their disposal who will circulate the insinuation without proof of any kind.

As for the status of Kosovo, the confusion arises because of a failure to distinguish between Serbia and Yugoslavia. (This confusion is encountered all the time, as when naive persons talk about the "Serb partisans" who defeated the Wehrmacht. Milosevic's coalition partner, Vojislav Seselj, openly calls himself a "Chetnik" and thus identifies with the ugly militia that fought against Tito's Bosnian, Croat, Serb, Slovene, Macedonian and Kosovar guerrillas.)

The plain fact is that Kosovo has never been recognized as a part of Serbia and of course now, after the atrocities and deportations, never will be or should be. It became a conquered province during the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, when the brutal fighting was done not by socialist partisans but by peasant soldiers loyal to the Karadjordjevic dynasty. As Noel Malcolm makes clear in his excellent history of Kosovo, the Serbian Constitution of 1903 stated explicitly that no alteration to Serbian frontiers could be valid unless ratified by a Grand National Assembly. No such assembly was ever convened. Nor did any other power ever ratify or confirm the Serbian occupation. The treaties of London and of Bucharest in 1913 were unratified, respectively, by Serbia and by Ottoman Turkey, so no transfer of territory was ever agreed to. The 1914 Treaty of Istanbul was never ratified by either government, being rendered null and void by the declaration of the First World War.

Kosovo's status has been recognized since by international law, but only as a part of the new state of Yugoslavia, which did not come into existence until 1918. In no respect is it acknowledged, nor has it ever been acknowledged, as Serbian. Since Milosevic revoked even the limited autonomy of the province in 1989, and has since destroyed the Yugoslav state as well as the Yugoslav idea, his claim to be fighting on his home turf in Kosovo is, in every sense of the term, insupportable. …

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