Robert Gourley is a Canadian accountant and insolvency administrator. He
trains bankruptcy judges and trustees and is working under contract in
Macedonia. He began writing about the situation in Kosovo (his "rants") to
his private e-list of friends before the bombings began. His primary
concern is the effect the problems in Kosovo are having on Macedonia.
The NATO war prompted his friends to widen the circulation of his messages,
and I received the one below, third-hand from a retired U.S. newsman, about
a week ago. I thought it was interesting and hope you will think so too.
Mr. Gourley has verified the message is his and given me permission to post it.
May 3, 1999
by Robert Gourley
NATO has recently taken to trying to blow up Serb state television on the
grounds that it is feeding the citizens of Yugoslavia an untrue picture of
the war. Presumably in its dreams NATO thinks that if the people of
Yugoslavia knew what was going on they would be so horrified and
disillusioned that they would rise up and overthrow their president.
This rather begs the questions of the accuracy of the news releases of the
I am told that last week the German Foreign Minster dramatically presented
"new" photographic evidence of ethnic cleansing. Unfortunately, whatever
the pictures were, they had been taken on January 21 this year, and were
simply being recycled for effect.
James Rubin produced a picture last night describing a bunch of
dots as civilians running for their lives from a Serb sweep. This
interpretation of their intentions (assuming the dots were people in the
first place) was based on other pictures which he didn't present. Why
should anyone believe him?
Since journalists are not allowed in Kosovo, where do you suppose the
numbers of several hundred thousand internally displaced Kosovars comes
from? How often have we been told that great convoys of refugees are on
their way toward Macedonia or Albania, and then they don't arrive? Well, I
suspect that the information comes from two principal sources. Firstly, the
KVM left their drivers, interpreters and so on in Kosovo when they pulled
out on March 20. The KVM foreigners stay in touch with their former staff
as best they can, but, given that the Serbs have hunted down many of them,
the remainder are hardly likely to act as impartial observers. A second
source is the KLA. I have been told by two separate sources that last summer,
when the Yugoslav Army began its counteroffensive against the KLA
insurgency and a number of people were displaced, the KLA prevented the
people in the hills from going back to their villages because they made
much better television for the west suffering in makeshift camps. This is
completely consistent with the deliberate displacement of the population of
several villages by the KLA, not by the Serbs.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Kosovar public relations effort has
played western sympathies like a fiddle. When their "commanders" provide
estimates of internally displaced people within Kosovo, it is definitely
not to provide accurate information, but solely to inflame western opinion
in favour of ground troops (and /or support of the brave KLA). I must say
that it is difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the western
spokesmen are also trying to (further) sway public opinion in support of
But maybe there is another reason. I came across the following curious
statement in a story in the Washington Post.
"The campaign has had only a 'marginal effect' in diminishing the capacity
of the Yugoslav contingents to force ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo or
carry out attacks against insurgents from the Kosovo Liberation Army."
I find the unstated goal of strengthening the KLA's ability to resist the
Yugoslav Army as ranking with stopping the ethnic cleansing as astonishing.
Does this statement give credence to the assertion of NATO that no, indeed,
it is not the KLA's airforce? Can the western military minds really think
that the KLA are their partners, and that they share common goals? My
readers know what I think of the threat that the KLA poses to post war
stability in Kosovo and the region.
I am afraid that it is quite possible that the planners think of the KLA as
their allies, or at least tools. When is the last time you ever heard of a
KLA fighter being killed? All dead males -- including those in Racak, the
massacre that probably precipitated the bombing -- are invariably described as
"innocent civilians". This is nonsense.
Yesterday, James Rubin produced a map of the areas the refugees had come
from, and pointed out that the Serb areas of Kosovo had hardly been touched
at all. Unfortunately, he failed to overlay the map with the centers of KLA
currently and last summer. You will recall that in one of my first rants I
suggested that the Serbs were anything but random in their aggression;
rather they focused on any area or village which had supported or was
otherwise identified with the KLA. The focus has broadened considerably
since then, so its original roots are almost forgotten, but it would be
wrong to ignore or forget that the Serbs are fighting an enemy on the ground
right now. And it will be a disaster if the west forgets that the
KLA are every bit as bad as the Serbs, and who have not the slightest
intention of respecting the integrity of the borders of Serbia, regardless
of what their representatives are alleged to have agreed at Rambouillet. But
that is what is happening; if the KLA is ever mentioned, it is only in terms
of allegedly helping the refugees.
Remember the flap over the Serbs crossing the Albanian border to attack a
village inside Albania which was being used as a KLA base? Think of that
incident as another example of the KLA trying to provoke the Serbs into a
situation which the KLA knew would get the west jumping up and down about
the "expansion of the war to neighbouring countries," when the war is
already being waged from neighbouring countries by the KLA (and NATO, in
the case of Albania).
How about those smart bombs? How did NATO manage to drop a bomb on Sofia,
for heaven's sake? It is hundreds of kilometres away from Serbia. Last
week, when I was in a number of communities around Macedonia, on three
separate occasions there were huge explosions which shook the windows of
the building I was in at the time. The locals seemed to think that this was
just NATO dropping the bombs they didn't want to take all the way back to
their bases or aircraft carriers. This seemed like a rather odd
explanation, but there has been not a word in the press to offer any other
And of course, underlying every press briefing is the lie that NATO is
attacking the Serb military, not the Serb people. Or that the war is about
anything other than deposing Milosevic.
I am sure we have all had the experience of knowing about, or being part
of, a story which comes out completely differently when reported in the
press. But this is an altogether different scale. I have difficulty
believing anything that I hear reported about Kosovo, day after day. I
guess if I didn't think these distortions would not have such serious
consequences, I wouldn't spend so much time trying to give you a view that
you may not otherwise get.