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Teach-in, October 12, 1995
Manhattan Community College,
City University of New York

(Among participants: Mr. Ramsey Clark,
former U.S. Attorney General)

Speech by: Nadja Tesich, Writter, Professor of Film, Filmmaker

The truth behind Pentagon's war in Bosnia

Ultimately I am talking about fascism of a different sort. Right here. In this country. It's hard to talk about fascism in ten minutes so let's start -- part one, what I saw and I did and the analysis of the propaganda against the Serbs these past four years. You should know that I am forced to simplify or I would talk for days. When the civil war started in '91, I went back. I had decided that if what I saw in the papers about Serbia was true, then I'll never go back again. I was born there but I have lived here most of my life.

What I saw was a drastically different image from the one in the US press --people crying about the breakup, the wounded, the refugees from Slavonia, and the first very mutilated kids in the hospitals. I speak the language, I could move in and out, listen unobserved, these were not the people described as barbarians in the Times. The Times reporter Chuck Sudetic would set the tone, a man whose background was CROATIAN. The essential thing is that prior to this he had a top security job in Washington. I didn't know this at the time, I just knew something was wrong about his reporting. Back in New York, I attempted to correct this information, what was true, what was lies, but largely I tried to add the missing parts of the picture. Always with names and events that could be checked. Without attacking any other group I tried to talk about the suffering on the Serb side. The embargo which turns the country into an economic concentration camp, factories shut, hospitals without spare parts, doctors without plastic gloves, operations with no anesthesia, lack of medicine, kids dying because of the embargo, along with old people and those not so old. When I reported these things, I was called a nationalist.

I contacted most of the papers, most of women's magazines, television stations including PBS, Nightline, Time, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, the Times magazine section, Mother Jones, Harper's, the New Yorker etc. Nobody wanted to hear about doctors, or ordinary people, or about a woman called Azra from a Muslim background who goes to Belgrade every year from Florida. Nobody wanted to hear about Croatians living in Belgrade or the real story how three women, me included, Muslim, Croat and Serb, travelled together to a funeral in a village in western Serbia. This was too peaceful for them, not exciting enough. They wanted to hear about rapes (Got any rape stories, we want to hear about rapes) but the moment I mentioned Serb women raped, they were not interested.

My letter against the embargo of any of the ethnic groups in Yugoslavia appeared in the Times badly mutilated. All the references to Germany and the US were cut, as well as references to Cuba, as well as US weapons sales. It was the only letter published even though I wrote many. An essay appeared in The Nation because it was about theater in Belgrade. Every detail in it was checked for accuracy. My brother's essays were not published nor were thousands of letters written by Americans, historians, anthropologists who knew the Serbs and Serbia.

Films about Serbia were not shown, either those made by Americans or those made by documentary filmmakers in Belgrade. Footage done by an American woman from Channel 2, Amy Bodden, about refugees and badly scared kids, done without a single cut, with her present in every shot, with my simultaneous translation, nobody wanted to see. Nobody wanted to see a half-hour interview with Karadzic even though I offered to do the same half-hour films with the same questions with Mr. Izetbegovic and the Croatian leader in Bosnia. When I spoke on the radio about US advisers and the CIA in Bosnia I was called a communist.

My only pleasure was that they knew I was there watching. I would find my words used by some of them in the interviews on TV. If I push hard, if I annoy them I get letters back, sometimes they get angry then lose control when I call and give me very valuable information. I try to enjoy even that tiny bit -- I made them angry. Still on a given day, it's a lonely struggle. You grow desperate. I would tell them then, for the hell of it, what their reporter is doing, where and who he sleeps with. I suggested a piece for the Voice called, 'How to Spot Serbs on the Subway.'

I could talk about American journalists in Belgrade who often didn't even know where they were, but I don't have time. They wanted someone to tell them fast fast in fifteen minutes about history and the people but they didn't really need anything since they knew from day one what they would write. It was easy. Many carried a sheet from Ruder Finn which told them who is the good and who the bad guy. In this war journalists abdicated or let's say they wanted to keep their jobs. The honest ones were barred from their papers. I learned much about journalism, what gets printed, what not, and much about propaganda and American culture at this moment. I lived as if in wartime, gathering information from all sorts of people, Texas, France, Sweden, short wave radios. My telephone bills were huge. And as in wartime things happened -- my family united vis a vis the US bombs. We stopped arguing about politics. And as in wartime some friends left me, others I divorced. All sorts of middle class liberals of the Upper West side who didn't want to hear a single detail after my many trips but would ask instead, 'Do you think Belgrade should be bombed?' I realized I was confronting something unprecedented in my experience, a new type of dictatorship, deadly because invisible, subtle, like a virus, it's a part of the air and culture you breathe. It's there even when you sleep. I call it the dictatorship of the new world order.

In order for the Pentagon and NATO to accomplish their aim, they had to, together with Germany, destabilize the country, put Yugoslavia under embargo, bomb the Bosnian Serbs with clean bombs, killing nobody, right, eliminate the entire community of Serbs in Krajina who had lived there for centuries -- but first they had to create an enemy in the American mind so it would look like a fight of good against evil, the West fighting savages, barbarians, and everyone would cheer,feel good and hate collectively as a replacement for suppressed hatreds here in Americans' own civil wars now.

The image was done in ten days. Good Christian, God-loving Slovenes, or Croats in a family setting or church, and the Serb looking like fascists and with a gun. Later, Muslims in Bosnia were added as good and western too, people who are just like you and me, and they play the piano. A Serb was a male, without women children or church. Later his face almost disappeared and he remained as an evil presence except when shown as a rapist or criminal.

"We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to moralize,' said James Harff, director of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, a Washington D.C. public relations firm which was paid to turn Serbs into monsters, fascists and beasts. "Speed is vital," he said, "it is the first assertion that counts. All denials are entirely ineffective." Any means were good. Remember, this could happen again to any other group.

As in advertising or audience research for a movie you know your target, your aim, you know this country's obsessions and fears (sex and violence) and you keep it going either as psycho-drama or a soap opera. Everyone looks the same in Yugoslavia so you can use dead or massacred Serbs and you can also in addition claim they are others, image of dead Serbs are called Muslim or Croat by the time they reach New York although they were something else in some European papers and in the original photos. But the essential is how you long you keep the image on. One entire community of Krajina Serbs disappears in four days while Sarajevo goes on for three years. Croatia takes over one third of the territory in one day and it's over. A few protesting letters appear. It only proves how democratic the US is. Meanwhile entire villages disappear and here nobody knows.

It helps that Americans don't know the country or the history so that too can be rewritten. Serbs, who fought against fascism and died, exterminated in the camp of Jasenovac are now lying about it, we are told. President Clinton invites Mr. Tudjman to the inaugural of the museum for the victims of the Holocaust and not a single Serb survivor is permitted to be there even through the present state of Croatia borders on fascism and Mr. Tudjman says that the Holocaust never happened and that Jews really killed those Serbs in the camp of Jasenovac because the Jews wanted their money. And here are Tudjman and Clinton looking happy together. America was always comfortable with fascism.

It helps that Americans have short memories. The New York Times prints that Bosnian Serbs owned 64 percent of the land, then a few months later you are told that they conquered 75 percent. It doesn't add up but nobody pays attention. Everything gets erased and chewed up, no past or future, just profit now. Whole landscapes disappear, and cultures, and nobody pays attention much, nobody remembers that America killed millions of Vietnamese then recently said it's time for us to forgive them, nobody remembers Chile, Panama, Guatemala, Salvador etc. etc. and they won't remember Yugoslavia either after they helped destroy it. This is a nation run by psychopaths. We are in the new world order.

From a PR agency hired by Croatia then Muslim Bosnia, with huge budgets which in addition include funding from outside, secret bank accounts (America, Germany, and even the Vatican), with the help of Washington, the image machine goes to the main papers and then by the time it reaches TV, the word 'presumed guilty' is dropped. Instead it says The New York Times reports.... It makes it legitimate.

The headlines are against the Serbs even when the article is supposed to be about their suffering.

In all this, the other side is not permitted to speak, so it looks like a jury for a black man who has no lawyer, his mouth is taped shut and the jury is all white and some are members of the Klan.

Exports and false witnesses appear. Gelb, Lewis and Eagleburger, all three at once on PBS. Bomb Belgrade, Gelb wrote day after day, then became an expert on TV. Eagleburger said, I want to wipe the smile from the face of all Serbs. He became an expert too.

The CIA becomes a reliable informant, on TV and the press. They are there whenever it's needed. They have pictures from the planes of the Bosnian Muslim graves but not a single picture of Serbs from Krajina, walking on foot in the terrible heat and bombed in addition from the planes. Of course not. The CIA is a a part of the cleanup.

American witnesses appear, like the CIA, for credibility. Fake stories in women's magazines, fake documentaries. Like the one narrated by an American nurse on channel seven. We don't know where she is nor who she is. It's enough that she is American. She talks about rapes and she cries.

An American journalist narrates in a montage of a few shots how he has discovered mass graves. We don't see his face, at all.

Bianca Jagger becomes an expert on Bosnia. She cries too.

Slavenka Drakulic, a journalist from Zagreb and a small time opportunist, uses the Times for a piece about thousands upon thousands of rapes which she could not have witnessed. Besides her dialogue is bad, a ten year old girl does not talk like a fifty year old woman. I used to teach dialogue and screenplays.

By the time the correction is done, by an independent group of doctors, this is only a few lines in The Times that nobody sees.The figure of 20.000 victims was based on actual interviews with four people.

On the radio new specialists, all Americans, talk about how the Ottoman empire was wonderful to everyone.

The staged massacres in Sarajevo get a splash but not the investigation of them, nor the result. It occurs to me that maybe it was the CIA who did the job, it wouldn't be the first time after all.

The massacres appeared always before an important step the US would do against the Serbia and the the Serbs. The last massacre becomes the reason why NATO or the US must bomb Bosnian Serbs in an unprecedented orgy of missions, yet NATO decided two days before the massacre. They lie on and on, but nobody really pays attention because we are in the New World Order.

Words like genocide, ethnic cleansing, camps are there to produce an emotional response yet they actually whitewash the real genocides done to Serbs and Jews in the Second World War. In fact the first ethnic cleansing was done to Serbs in Western Slavonia at the beginning of the war and the biggest cleansing was the USA-CIA-Croatia united effort against Serbs in Krajina. Two hundred thousand people. Hundreds dying in the heat. And what do you call thousands of missions against Bosnian Serbs, the largest military operation in Europe since World War Two? What do we know about the number of dead? Zero. It's called "low collateral damage" by the Pentagon.

The word 'Western' appears all the time in the US media these four years. The good is Western. The Western is honest and clean. What is the other? I ask Steven Kinzer, for whom I took pictures as we ran to interview Bosnian Serb refugees from Sarajevo who looked like the dead dug up. Why is it, I ask him, that Croatia which he says borders on fascism, is called a democracy and Belgrade is called a dictatorship? Belgrade at that time in '92 looked like anarchy, hundreds of opinions, twenty different parties. He said Americans think of them as Western and you not. What is western?

NATO is. Germany is, and so is the US. The east is sly, they lie and they cheat. Serbs lie all the time, according to the U.S media. In Nazi propaganda, Jews lie and rape Christian virgins too but there is more to this. German fascism and American racism unite at some point. Vanity Fair gives me a clue in an essay on how Serbs make love, they do it with savagery, the entire hotel shakes and he, the writer, just suffers from jealousy and horror listening to their screams. Those savages are interrupting his sleep. So, a Serb is a male with no mother or father, no wife or kids, he has no culture, plays no piano, and rapes thousands. Does this remind you of anything? Who is the rapist in the American racist mind? The answer is given to me. People I have known for many years and those I have not known asked me these years where I was from in Yugoslavia. Serbia I said.

'You don't look like them,' they would say stepping back, looking scared or embarrassed. None of these people had ever been to Yugoslavia. Why, I asked finally. You are nice, they say. You mean civilized, I ask. Well yes, and you are so fair, you could be a German or a Swede.

It occurred to me then that Serbs who look the same as the other groups in Yugoslavia were actually dark in the American mind.I can't decide if this darkness was internal or some other or both at the same time.

While all this went on, Croatians thanked Germany and America now, Bosnian Muslims kept crying - oh America come help, please help, we are really western just like you while the Serbs kept moaning - oh America why don't you love us, we fought fascism together. In spite of all the misery that the embargo has done to present Yugoslavia, I think they are ahead now because they know America does not love them. Ultimately America loves nobody not even their own children. Or there would be money for schools without rats, no leaking roofs, money for hospitals, money for life instead of prisons here and death with those billion dollars worth of perfect clean killing machines in Bosnia. I am glad the Serbian and my mother's romance with the American dream is over. It never really existed or it was a Hollywood production that the country dumps like its garbage all over the world. You can destroy with it, you can kill entire cultures, but that's a whole other story.

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Copyright Nadja Tesich 1995

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