by Mark Steel
                                  From the UK Socialist Worker

     LIBERAL JOURNALISTS have suddenly rediscovered their ability to
question the finer details of war
     related stories. They've had plenty of opportunities. There was the
story reported in every newspaper
     that 100,000 Albanians had been herded into Pristina sports stadium,
though no such herding or
     stadium existed. There was Robin Cook's heartfelt account of how Serb
militia had murdered 20
     teachers from a village school-though it turned out that the village in
question had a population of 200,
     and the school only had one teacher.

     And as well as the outright howlers, there is the constant stream of
somewhat unconvincing
     statements from the Ministry of Defence. The nation's journalists have
missed all these inaccuracies
     and chosen instead to attack John Pilger for his pieces against the
war. In his most recent articles
     Pilger makes three main points-that the Rambouillet agreement, which
the war is being fought to
     implement, contains the line, "The economy shall function in accordance
with free market principles",
     that it also demands NATO has a free rein to travel throughout the
whole of Yugoslavia, and that
     NATO is now targeting civilians.

     So John Sweeney wrote in the London Evening Standard that Pilger's
articles have made him
     Milosevic's mouthpiece. Melanie Macdonagh in the New Statesman accused
Pilger of not caring about
     refugees. David Aaronovitch in the Independent referred to the
"ever-madder" Pilger.

     Then there was the Guardian itself. Diplomatic editor Ian Black wrote a
reply to Pilger's column in
     which he claimed the "free market principle" line wasn't in the
Rambouillet agreement, that it never
     envisaged NATO troops being stationed anywhere in Yugoslavia but
Kosovo, and that it was untrue
     that NATO was targeting civilians. "If Jamie Shea started peddling
whoppers like the ones Pilger set
     out, we would all be demanding, quite rightly, that he be sacked," he
concluded. So the very next day,
     as if someone in the Pentagon is a fan of Pilger and wants to prove him
right, NATO landed a cruise
     missile in the middle of a hospital. It then turned out that both the
clauses mentioned by Pilger are in
     the Rambouillet plan.

     Pilger's crime, it seems, is to ask questions which lead behind the
facade of benevolent Western
     humanitarianism-whereas you feel that most journalists covering this
war are like schoolkids who've
     been told to "copy down what Mr Shea tells you". The crime of the media
in this war is not the
     misreporting of facts, but the twisted impression it conveys.

     When front pages of newspapers beam pictures of Cherie Blair blubbering
in Macedonian camps,
     they tell an appalling lie. Not because the blubbering didn't happen,
but because they only show one
     corner of the story. If her emotions are genuine, I wonder if she would
feel equally moved by this
     account: "This doctor pointed out to me children they call sugar
babies. Their mothers can't obtain
     infant formula and can't breast feed their babies because they've got
no milk. They feed them on
     sugar dissolved in water, and the babies get distended bodies. The
under fives are now dying at a rate
     of 4,000 a month from preventable disease like diarrhoea and

     That is the view from a hospital in Iraq, trying to cope with economic
sanctions which could not exist
     without the approval of Cherie's beloved. It was reported in the New
Statesman by John Pilger, a
     journalist who will be revered and remembered long after his critics
are thankfully forgotten. 

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