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Consider the following

By: Steve Tesich, Oscar winning movie director

Consider the following quote:

"Genocide is a natural phenomenon, in harmony with the societal and mythologically divine nature. Genocide is not only permitted, it is recommended, even commanded by the word of the Almighty, whenever it is useful for the survival or the restoration of the kingdom of the chosen nation, or for the preservation or spreading of its one and only correct faith."

Hitler? Pol Pot? Some local crackpot white supremacist? No, the author of this sentiment is Franjo Tudjman and the quote is from his book Wastelands of Historical Reality. He is the same Franjo Tudjman that the American media has embraced as a democratically elected president of the "freedom loving" state of Croatia.

Let us consider another quote from another source:

"There can be no peace or co-existence between Islamic faith and non-Islamic faith and institutions...The Islamic movement must and can take power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough, not only to destroy the non-Islamic power, but to build up a new Islamic one..."

Ayatollah Khomeini? Some Hezbollah terrorist? Colonel Khadaffi? No, the author is Alija Izetbegovic and the quote is from his work Islamic Declaration, the same Alija Izetbegovic who is seen by the American media as a very model of a liberal democrat presiding over the liberal democracy of Muslim Bosnia.

And so we have these two men, the first a racist and a crypto-Fascist, the second a theocratic Islamic fundamentalist, both representatives of the most extreme form of narrow ethnic nationalism, being embraced by the western media as victims and martyrs for the cause of freedom. Both Franjo Tudjman and his independent state of Croatia and Alija Izetbegovic and his Muslim Bosnia are clients of the huge Ruder-Finn public relations firm with decades of experience in representing foreign governments in Washington. Perhaps therein lies the explanation of their popularity. The civil war in what used to be called Yugoslavia is being fought on two fronts with two distinct kinds of casualties. While men, women and children of all the factions die in Yugoslavia as a result of the war itself, the truth about the war, and the kind of war it is, dies daily in The New York Times and other media outlets around the country.

Hannah Arendt, an expert on totalitarian regimes and totalitarian mindsets, warned us a long time ago that a time could come when not only would philosophical truths be considered irrelevant but factual truths as well: Names and dates, who did what to whom, who was the victim and who the aggressor, would cease to matter as facts and be replaced by opinions.

We seem to have arrived at such a time and to have done so not in some totalitarian regime, but in a free country with a free press. Events in the world are no longer judged by hard evidence or impartiality. Even the normal journalistic standards of trying, merely trying, to get the whole story have been discarded as too cumbersome, too demanding, too complex for their readers. What has replaced the tradition of truth seeking, both philosophical and factual, is a kind of soap opera over-simplification of good guys and bad guys, of victims and villains, of worthy victims, and unworthy victims.

In this new way of doing things, actual events count for nothing and have no intrinsic value in determining who is right and who is wrong in a given conflict. It's now become a question of who seems to be right, who, in our opinion, moves us to have sympathy for them. Those sympathies are shaped by the media which in turn is shaped by professionals from public relations firms acting on behalf of their clients so that reality becomes twice removed before it reaches us. "Selective victimology", as Nikolas A. Stavrou points out in his essay The Balkan Quagmire and the West's Response, "is a growinq media business... The public relations and lobbying accounts of aggrieved ethnic clients have become lucrative prospects in Washington." (Mediterranean Ouarterly, Winter 1993).

The War in the Gulf in this respect and in many others has become the model of media manipulation and of the media being manipulated itself for the international conflicts which followed.

Kuwait spent $12 million in a lobbying campaign to help drum up American support for Desert Storm.

In a well-documented and memorable incident, the public relations giant Hill and Knowlton presented a fifteen-year old girl whose name was given only as Nariyah and had her testify before a congressional committee that she had seen Iraqi soldiers tearing Kuwait babies from hospital incubators. It was later revealed that this girl was the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador and that her story was a total fabrication. But in a public relations game "later" is irrevelant. What counts is the impact a lie can produce now on the American public and their sympathies, not what the actual truth is revealed to be later. It's "now" that shapes public opinion and the girl's false testimony, engineered by her P.R. firm, mobilized overwhelming public support for U.S. military action in the Gulf. The truth when it was revealed on 60 Minutes had no effect on the situation.

We should keep this in mind when we read stories about Serbian atrocities and only Serbian atrocities in the civil war in former Yugoslavia.

Consider a brief sample of what the huge P.R. firm Ruder-Finn had managed to do for its clients the Muslim Bosnians between June and December in 1992. The list comes from an article in The Atlanta Journal/The Atlanta Constitution and is dated February 28, 1993. The headline of the story reads: "Secret Weapon: Public Relations Firms in U.S. Selling Serbs As Foes."

In that six-month period, Ruder-Finn "set up more than 30 interviews with major U.S. news organizations and distributed 13 news releases, 37 'fax updates', 17 official letters and 8 official statements. It arranged meetings between Bosnian officials and vice presidential candidate Al Gore, acting Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, and 10 influential senators, including Majority Leader George Mitchell and Minority Leader Robert Dole. It made 48 phone calls to the members of the House, 20 calls to members of the Senate and more than 80 calls to newspaper columnists, television anchors and other journalists." It is impossible for the Serbian people and the Serbian nation to fight back in this loathsome P.R. war which has been waged against it for the simple reason that having been branded as an international pariah by the U.S. media and having sanctions imposed upon it by the U.S. government, no powerful P.R. firm is willinq to take them on as a client. It wouldn't be good for the business image of these firms to do so and the business of these firms is, after all, image and not facts or truth of any kind. Should the actual truth be revealed later, after the image of a whole people has been smeared, after the damage has been done, that's fine. Retractions, as we all have come to realize, are meaningless these days. Character assassinations of individuals as well as nations, once achieved, can take decades and lifetimes to reverse.

In a classic example of an error in logic which Aristotle called the "fallacy of the consequent", Serbia and Serbians are perceived as villains because the press says they do villainous things and the press says they do villainous things because Serbia and the Serbians are villainous people.

The circularity of this kind of reasoning looks like a joke until we consider that many minorities in this country are image victims of just such "fallacy of the consequent". The blacks, the homosexuals, the native Americans, women, are treated as inferior because they are inferior. It goes around and around without need for supporting evidence of any kind because this kind of mythology has become self-evident.

Let us now examine some of the mythology and images that have come out of the civil war in former Yugoslavia.

The most enduring and ongoing image is that Croatians and Bosnia Muslims are victims of Serbian aggression and that their respective governments represent western style democracies. Ethnic cleansing, the mythology states, is a Serbian invention and an exclusive instrument of the Serbian government.

This mythology persists despite the factual evidence that the Serbian minority in Croatia were themselves the original victims of ethnic cleansing.

Simon Wiesenthal notes in the Austrian Journal News, March 1993: "We must never forget that the first refugees, even before the outbreak of the war, were the 40,000 Serbs who escaped from Croatia when President Tudjman changed the Constitution and converted Serbs into a national minority without rights."

The American mass media was not interested in this story. It did not exist as a story when the Croatian Ustashe were terrorizing Serbians, killing them, burning their homes, raping their women as an inducement to making them leave so that Croatia could become an ethnically pure state. No, the story, as far as the American media was concerned, only came into being when Serbians from Serbia came to the rescue of Serbians still in Croatia. But since nobody was really interested in victims of Croatian atrocities, coming to the aid of these people was seen as an example of Serbian aggression and Serbian nationalism.

In November 1991, when America was bombarded with newspaper and television reports about the shelling of Dubrovnik by the Yugoslavian National Army, the people in twenty-seven Serbian villages in Croatia were given forty-eight hours evacuation notices, after which eighteen villages were burned to the ground. (San Francisco Examiner, August 14, 1992). In the end, the much publicized destruction of the old city of Dubrovnik never happened. Damage was negligible to the ancient port city and yet the image persists in the minds of many of a city in ruins. Not in their minds, because it was not widely reported by our media, are the images of the homeless refugees from those twenty-seven villages in Croatia and the images of eighteen villages burned to the ground.

Despite this, despite the fascist trappings of his regime, and the change in the constitution which made citizenship subject to ethnic purity, despite his monstrous views on genocide mentioned earlier, Franjo Tudjman is perceived as "democrat" and "statesman" and Croatians as "freedom-loving people". The question "Freedom for whom?" is never asked. As Nikolas Stavrou points out in the Mediterranean Quarterly, Winter 1993, "It was only in late 1991, under the double pressure of the E.C. and the CSCE process, that Croatia came around to the legal definition of the rights of minorities living within its confines. But it was too late and irrelevant civil war was already in process and force had replaced reason. In sum, self-determination was defined by Croat leaders as the right to mono-ethnicism."

Lest we overlook the obvious, "mono-ethnicism" is just a scholarly word for racial purity along the lines of Nazi Germany, the original sponsors of the Independent State of Croatia.

John R. MacArthur, in his book Second Front, states that "In modern wars exaggerated or manufactured enemy atrocities played an important part in the cause of boosting war fever at home." Nowhere has this become more true than in the fighting which still goes on in Bosnia.

"Thus far," Mr. Stavrou states, "condemnation is selective. Myths parade as reality and the tragedy goes on. We do not know whether all television and newspaper accounts correspond to reality, are a reasonably approximation of it, or are substantially the product of an effective public relations campaign. Congressional sources have indicated to me that in eight months of warfare in Bosnia, approximately $36 million have been spent to shape American public opinion."

One of the enduring myths created by the American media is that the Muslim Bosnians are essentially defenseless people, fighting against the Serbians, armed to their teeth with almost nothing but hunting rifles and antiquated weapons.

In the paper written by the Task Force on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare for the House Republican Research Committee on September 1, 1992 and entitled "Iran's European Springboard?" we get a different impression.

I quote from the paper:

"Indeed, since the early summer, Muslim troops have been reinforced by 'volunteers' from the ranks of several Islamic organizations. They arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina in answer to Tehran's call to fight the Jihad and eager to commit martyrdom in the name of Islam. They included highly trained and combat-proven volunteers from Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and several other Arab countries. Most of the Arab volunteers had previously fought in the ranks of Palestinian terrorist organizations in Lebanon and the resistance in Afghanistan, and in fact General Amin Pohara of the Bosnian Army confirmed that some 180 Mujahedeen had arrived from the Middle East by mid-August. (Iranian sources insist that their number is more than one thousand.)"

"Additionally, the flow of arms to the Muslim forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina also increased markedly during August as the Iranians flew into Zagreb strategically important weapon systems as part of their emergency 'humanitarian' assistance program. At the outset, Tehran began supplying the Muslim forces with high-quality weapons that might offset the tactical superiority of the Serbian forces. The weapons included 'several' Stinger SAMs provided by the Afghan Mujahedeen to Tehran for further distribution to 'brothers' in need."

"Since then, massive quantities of weapons needed to create a larger army capable of waging mid-intensity wars have been shipped from Iran, Turkey and Pakistan. For example, a 32-truck weapons convoy arrived in Konjic in southwestern Bosnia in early August on its way to Sarajevo, and a 60-truck weapons convoy arrived there in late August."

A pretext was needed for such military involvement on the part of Iran and other Islamic countries. The need for this pretext and the execution of it goes to the heart of some of the most enduring images of the war in Bosnia, images of atrocities and war crimes exclusively associated with Bosnian Serbia. I quote again from the above-mentioned paper:

"...Izetbegovic became convinced that it was necessary to undertake drastic measures of a kind that had long been advocated by Tehran. The Iranians had argued that before any escalation in the fighting could take place, it was imperative to either gain the sympathies of the West or, at the least, to ensure that there existed a legitimate excuse that would enable the presentation of any action undertaken by the Muslim forces as justifying revenge for Serbian atrocities."

"To that end, beginning in May 1992, a special group of Bosnian Muslim forces, many of whom had served with Islamic terrorist organizations, began committing a series of atrocities, including 'some of the worst recent killings,' against Muslim civilians in Sarajevo was a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intevention." For example, around June 20, Serbian troops, besieging Sarajevo, engaged a detachment of Muslim special forces dressed in Serbian uniforms who were on their way to attack the Muslim sector from within the Serbian lines. Such an attack, if successful, would have been attributed to the Serbs. As it was, some of these Muslim troops were killed in the brief encounter and a few were captured."

This action was not successful, but the overall Muslim strategy of creating atrocities themselves and having the Serbians take the blame was, and still is.

The Independent of London, dated August 22, 1992 carries the following headline: Muslims "slaughter their own people."

I quote:

"United Nations officials and senior Western military officers believe some of the worst recent killings in Sarajevo, including the massacre of at least sixteen people in a bread queue, were the work of the city's mainly Muslim defenders - not Serb besiegers - as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and trigger military intervention."

The newspaper, just like the Task Force paper mentioned earlier, goes on to mention other examples of atrocities staged by Muslims and blamed on the Serbs as a way of capturing the sympathies of the west and demonizing the Serbians. These examples include the famous August 4 explosion at the cemetery while two orphans were being buried. This image was so powerful that, despite U.N. reports of its actual Muslim perpetrators, Peter Jennings used it again against Serbians in his hour-long look at what was called The Land of the Demons. The same U.N. report put the blame on the killing of the U.S. T.V. producer David Kaplan on the Muslims, but facts notwithstanding images endure. Setting the record straight is possible on paper, but next to impossible in the minds of the public. The televised carnage of those poor people killed while waiting in the bread line is an image that cannot be retracted and once the Serbians have been blamed for it the image lingers of Serbians as monsters, not Muslims. Facts, when they do appear, lack the power to erase or undo the harm created by ten seconds of television. It's "now" that shapes public opinion. Truths revealed later which discredit that "now" lack a counterimage strong enough to undo the harm which has been done.

The mythology and the demonization of the Serbians goes on. In this strange Civil War there seem to be no Serbian casualties, no atrocities committed against them, no vivid T.V. images of their people suffering and grieving over their dead.

It's Serbians that rape, and not just rape, but without any evidence to support the claims rape "systematically", rape as a matter of policy. Without any factual evidence to support the accusations, there are stories of Serbian rape camps, without any hard figures to justify their numbers the press keeps on churning out figures of 20,000 and more Muslim women raped by Serbians.

This is not meant to suggest that rapes have not occurred, nor that they will not occur again, but the frivolous and inexcusably inexact manner in which figures are tossed about can only serve to exacerbate this already bloody conflict. There are no reports of Serbian women being raped, no images of their anguish on our T.V. screens and yet the Boston-based organization Physicians for Human Rights states otherwise. In an interview with U.P.I., dated March 13, 1993, the leader of this group, Dr. Shana Swiss says:

"Certain Muslim women and women in Croatia have been raped by Serbian forces. Also, Serbian women have been raped by Croatian and Muslim military as well."

In their report, The Physicians for Human Rights found no evidence of rape camps and could not state which side in the Bosnian civil war was most guilty of rape. They did acknowledge, however, that "some governmental and non-governmental organizations in the former Yugoslavia were exploiting the issue of rape for their own political aims". (Pg. 72 of their report).

There are no reports that the International Red Cross or the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees have come across a single Serbian "rape camp" in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And yet they exist in the minds of the American public, along with the other myths and manufactured images of this war.

In an atmosphere where it is just as important to capture the sympathies of the American public by whatever means as it is to capture real estate on the ground, the civilians have become the victims of both sides. The April 15 shelling of Srebrenica is a case in point. The Muslim fighters of that city refused to allow U.N. forces to evacuate the women and children from Srebrenica because they wanted to use them as a shield against Serbian forces. The Muslims have done this throughout the war as a way of not only protecting their fighters but as a way of using the civilian dead as further proof of Serbian atrocities. This should not come as a surprise, coming as it does from the same people who have murdered their own men, women and children in documented cases mentioned earlier as a way of winning the P.R. battle abroad. Although nobody knows for sure who actually broke the ceasefire in Srebrenica, the blame fell on the Serbians and when over fifty men, women and children were killed, the entire blame for their deaths once again fell on the Serbian forces. There was no mention in the story in the New York Times that these people were held there by their own forces and used once again in their on-going P.R. struggle to portray themselves as innocent victims and Serbians as war criminals. Yes, the Serbian shells killed them, but who made sure they were there to die when the shells fell? Surely there is enough blame here to condemn both sides.

But there no longer seems to exist even so much as an attempt to report on the complexity of this war. The New York Times, abandoning all pretense of impartiality, now uses only the Muslim Bosnian figures without bothering to give the source of their information. The Serbians in Bosnia have claimed ownership of 64% of the land before the civil war ever started and they were backed to this claim by even The New York Times as late as April 10, 1992. However, since then, the official phrase in the Times, repeated over and over again, is that the Serbians "have seized over 70% of Bosnia", thus creating the impression that the Serbians, instead of having lived in Bosnia for centuries, rode into this region like some nomadic hordes from without and seized 70% of the land. It is a shameful distortion which has turned this newspaper, as far as this civil war is concerned, into little more than a P.R. agency in charge of demonizing a whole people. Their motto now seems to have become "All the news which fits the spin we want to print".

Leslie Gelb and Anthony Lewis, their columnists and the two talking warheads on this conflict, have repeatedly called for the use of force against Serbians and the bombing of Serbia itself. Their editorials have castigated our government and the West in general for doing nothing to punish the Serbs.

The facts suggest that far from doing nothing, the West, America included, has done far too much as it is. A large part of the blame for the start of the civil war in former Yugoslavia lies squarely in the West.

When Cyrus Vance warned the world against giving diplomatic recognition to Croatia for fear that if it were granted the civil war between Croats and the Serbs would not only spread to Bosnia, but become a far bloodier war of nightmarish consequences, the world listened but only for a while. The countries of the European Community were against recognition for precisely the reasons Vance stated. And yet when Germany unilaterally broke with its E.C. members, despite the provisions in the E.C. charter against unilateral action of this kind, and recognized its former Nazi puppet state of Croatia, everybody blinked. Germany applied economic pressure on its European neighbors until they reversed themselves completely and gave diplomatic recognition to Croatia. The U.S. government, which had been firmly against such recognition, followed with its own about-face. The recognition of Croatia caused Bosnia to declare its own independence. The bloodbath began. Nobody knows how this conflict could have resolved itself had the E.C. countries and the U.S. government stood firm and defied Germany. Cyrus Vance, the man who first issued the warning, thinks that our premature recognition of these breakaway republics "brought about the war that is going on now." (New York Times, April 14, 1993).

Therefore, when the word "appeasement" is used against the West in its dealing with Belgrade, should we not keep in mind that the original appeasement was the appeasement of the Bonn government in Germany and its reckless political and economic expansionism into territories it had previously occupied by military means.

Now, miraculously, all of the western nations, the United States included, claim to be totally innocent of the bloodbath they have helped to initiate. The Croatians and Bosnian Muslims are innocent as well. All of them are freedom-loving people from freedom-loving nations and there is only one villain and one aggressor: Serbia and the Serbians.

How simple it all is and how convenient and how "conscience-cleansing" for everybody concerned. And since there are so many nations who wish to escape blame and derive their innocence at the expense of the Serbs, the Serbians, in order to accommodate everybody, have then charged with crimes so vile and heinous to make sure that there is enough guilt there to go around for the hundreds of millions of fingers pointed at them from the "freedom-loving" people of the world.

No single event better captures this hyperbolic need for demonization of a whole people than the war crimes trial of a Serbian mental patient named Borislav Herak, who has confessed to killing over twenty people and raping countless women. Over and over he was shown on T.V. screens, demonstrating the manner in which he had butchered people. His face and his image is now embedded in our minds as a savage representative of the Serbs. It didn't seem to matter during his trial that he was the only one supplying evidence of his crimes, nor that it could not even be demonstrated that the names he gave of his victims, some of them only first names, were names of people who had ever existed. And if they had ever existed, there was no proof of any kind that they were now dead. It was just a madman rambling, the same madman who, among his many confessions, had claimed to have seen former U.N. commander General McKenzie repeatedly taking young girls from so-called Serbian rape camps and vanishing with them into the night. These girls, once they had served their function, were then ordered killed by the Serbians in order to destroy all traces of evidence. The New York Times, which featured Herak prominently in an article dated November 27, 1992, entitled The Story of a Serbian Rapist, made sure to exclude his allegations against General McKenzie lest this poor mental patient's credibility be undermined.

Borislav Herak was found guilty of war crimes and sentenced to death.

Even during the most nightmarish days of the Stalinist show trials in Moscow, the trumped-up charges were directed against intellectuals whose will had been broken during interrogations, not against madmen.

It would appear that the treasured sympathies and opinions of the American Public, that so many are trying to win over to their side, has been so desensitized that only hyper-horrors and hyper-crimes can be now trusted to arouse it. Nothing less than the ghoulishly inexcusable spectre of "genocide" can be trusted to do the job and so now we trivialize the unspeakable horror of that word and use it to casually accuse Serbians of its implementation in order to prod awake the public opinion of our people. It is as if, in their desire to arouse the American public, our media has transformed itself, on this international issue, into one gigantic National Enquirer.

And yet, there is no shortage of true horrors in this war committed by Serbians, Muslims and Croatians alike. There is no shortage of real victims, but factual truth has lost its power to move us. It is not enough anymore to see children dying on battlefields or in hospitals for lack of medicine brought about by our sanctions against Iran and Serbia. If deaths of childen could move us, we would be moved to do something about the violent deaths of our own children in our own cities and our own ghettos. We are awash in violence ourselves and over 30,000 of our own people are murdered every year by guns. Ten childen are murdered every day by guns. (New York Times, July 4, 1992). There is an epidemic of rape and its perpetrators are getting younger and younger and so are their victims. Eleven-year olds are raping nine-year olds. Pre-teenagers are killing other pre-teens. In the not-so-distant past lies the devastation of our former policies, three million Vietnamese dead, over a million Cambodians, and the thousands who died and are still dying as a result of our 100-day war in Iraq, of which 90% of us approved, hailing its Generals as heros. Our only response thus far to the three million dead in Vietnam has been to build a Vietnam war monument to ourselves. How long, how many miles long would that wall be if it contained the names of our victims?

We are inured to violence and violent death. Ours has become a culture of violence. It is not hard, then, to understand our need to demonize somebody, anybody, as we once did the Soviet Union, so that we can be good and innocent by comparison. If we can't have an enemy then, it would appear, we will manufacture a straw man sinner so vile and inhuman that, by comparison, our own humanity will be vouchsafed for the time being. The question begs asking: If we are willing to trivialize genocide, if accusing somebody of genocide is the new minimum it takes to rouse us from stupor and demonstrate our humanity, what will it take down the road to do the same job when we, having trivialized genocide, become inured to it.

It is important to understand that there is no attempt here to exonerate Serbians from actual crimes or atrocities they have committed. It is, rather, to insist that all sides in this civil war have committed them and to insist that those actual crimes should be sufficient to warrant condemnation for the perpetrators and sympathy for the victims. We must not exaggerate. To do so is more dangerous than we think, not just to those we demonize and deprive of humanity, but to ourselves as well. It undermines our own humanity to do so. It causes to atrophy the human response within ourselves and creates the necessity for unspeakably hyperbolic horrors to prod it into action. It is a death wish of the soul and the human spirit.

Nor can we afford to designate the sufferings of any people as being unworthy of our attention because they are, by some definition we have accepted, unworthy victims.

The sufferings of the Kurds, the victims of Iraqi, moved us. They were, our media informed us, worthy victims. The deaths and sufferings of the Iraqi, victims of our own massive bombardment, did not. They were unworthy victims. The infant mortality rate in Iraq, as a direct result of that war and the sanctions imposed upon it, is now three times its former rate, but those children are still considered unworthy of our sympathies.

And so now the Croatians and Bosnian Muslims are the Kurds and the Serbians are the Iraqis. All are dying in that unfortunate land. Atrocities are being committed by all sides and yet only those we select as worthy of our empathy receive it. In some profoundly disturbing way, we have decided that some men, some women, some children are an island, and when the bell tolls it tolls only for them, not for us. If some people are an island, then the rest of us by definition are an island too. Once we accept that possibility, it is very easy to look upon the sufferings of the children in South Central L.A., Brownsville, the Bronx, Chicago, Detroit and Washington as the sufferings of some island people whom we regard as Iraqis or Serbs, or as the Germans once regarded the Jews.

The world is now ringed with these volcanic islands where dozens of civil wars rage. Each one of those wars is caused by the ability of the participants to see their enemy as the "other", an island. If we, on the outside of this ring of fire, not only condone this view of man but, in effect, participate in it ourselves, our actions can only contribute to more civil wars and worse civil wars. If we are to be peacemakers, our condemnation of atrocities cannot be piecemeal, nor can our empathy for the victims.

If the neo-communism of Serbia's Milosevic is anathema to us, then why is not the crypto-fascism of Croatia's Tudjman and the theocratic Islamic fundamentalism of Bosnia's Izetbegovic anathema to us as well? There are no good guys in this troika, but unless we stick to facts and pursue the truth, our opinions of them are dependent on their public relations efforts.

Our indifference to factual truths in this conflict, our disregard of them, our ignorance of them, is tantamount to malice. If our own bloody Civil War taught us anything, it is that we must have malice toward none.

In the electronic village that the world has become, gossip once again threatens to become the only form of communication, as it was in the village where I grew up. The merciless pursuit of truth is our only choice, because when truth ceases to matter, nothing else can.

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Copyright Nadja Tesich 1995

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First posted: March 25, 1997
Last revised: February 21, 2004