Mercy(less) lies

Photo: Tamara Skrozza

By Tamara Skrozza

Only someone who recently came out of a twenty-year-long exile from the forests of Amazon and returned to Serbia could believe and „buy“ all that the local media is reporting about the NATO bombing.

Fortunately for the local authorities, the citizens of Serbia have been exposed to such media-political toxins for decades, that they actually resemble this imaginary Amazon outcast: thanks to that, they can easily and without any problems not only buy into this, but also passionately reproduce what they are being told about the bombing and from which every power in the last two decades benefited from.

„Unofficial number“

For twenty years now, it is being manipulated that 2,500 people is the unofficial number of victims of the NATO bombing. And that is not true, nor is the number of casualties unofficial. The truth is that neither the Serbia of Slobodan Milosevic counted the victims, neither did the Serbia of Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbia of Boris Tadic, nor the current Serbia of Vucic. It was not worth it, for any of them, to do this futile job.

Instead of them, the dead were counted by non-governmental organizations, who published names, nationality and circumstances of their deaths.

According to the Humanitarian Law Fund for Serbia and Kosovo, 754 people lost their lives during NATO attacks – 454 civilians, and 300 members of the police, the military or the armed forces. Out of the total number of murdered civilians, 207 were Serb or Montenegrin, 219 were Albanians, 14 were Roma, and 14 were members of other nationalities. Additionally, 274 members of the Yugoslav Army and the MIA and 26 members of the Kosovo Liberation Army were killed or died.

According to the HLC data, during this war, Serb forces killed 6,901 Albanians, while the KLA was responsible for the deaths of 328 Serb civilians, 136 Roma and other non-Albanians. In the conflicts between Serbian and Albanian armed forces, 1,204 members of the KLA and 559 members of the YA or the MIA of Serbia were killed.

Manipulation of the number of victims, by any side, is a sign disrespect to the victims and their families, but also a fantastic weapon in various political struggles. In this sense, the lying of the politicians is unscrupulous, but it is at least understandable. On the other hand, why is the media lying? Why are those who are supposed to work in the public interest pulling wool over everyone’s eyes, thus creating fertile soil for new animosities?

„The innocent“

In the story of the NATO bombing, only „ordinary“ people are innocent, whether they died or are still living the ruins of a country. Everyone else is very guilty. Because the political leadership of Serbia and Kosovo at the time did everything, absolutely everything, so that things happened the way they did.

The Serb side is lying when creating an illusion of innocence, staying quiet about persecution, systemic and decades-long discrimination against Albanians before the war, and killing, which led to NATO intervention. It is also lying when silencing the murders, the bodies found in Batajnica, the freezer full of dead bodies – which was discovered much later.

The Albanian side is also lying – by ignoring KLA crimes, persecuting Serbs after the bombing, information on „missing persons“, silencing the systemic and now decades-long discrimination of Serbs in Kosovo, the harsh conditions in which these people are living.

They still continue to lie because it suits them: it is easier to fish in murky water, to manipulate and make a profit, especially when dealing with the corpses of other children and other people. But, again, the same question arises, why is the media lying? Why is the truth on both sides found only in media with a small number of readers and viewers? Why did the media agree to be, not only weapons of political struggle, but also the main means of distracting and instrumentalizing people on both sides?

„Angel“

Perhaps the most famous and widely accepted lie is that the NATO intervention was officially called „Merciful Angel.“ This phrase is repeated in countless texts, movies, books, and in fact, it is a complete fabrication.

The official name of that operation was the “Operation Allied Force,” while the name „Operation Noble Anvil“ was used among the United States armed forces. It is difficult to determine today who, when, and why came up with the lie about the merciful angel. It is also difficult to investigate whether, after all, it was just a bad translation of that American „anvil“, but the effect is certainly not negligible. On the contrary.

Along with all the tragedies that occurred during the 78 days of bombing, this sarcastic and ruthless (fictional) name gave an extra color of gloom to the states that supported the operation or participated in it, further distancing us from them for many, many more years.

During the bombing, the Serbian media had a full list of pathetic, poetic, or simply non-media words used to address this or that enemy: NATO aggressors, NATO armada, NATO villains, NATO assassins, Shiptar terrorists, Shiptar killers, slaughterers, etc. In some editorial offices, there was also a real list of desirable, almost obligatory epithets that raised the already too-high a level of adrenaline among the people. The invented „Merciful Angel“ phrase perfectly fit into such an approach to war, life and professional standards.

It’s a sad fact that to date most media have not actually changed. To lie or to keep quiet about what they should deal with, to avoid facts. If one would judge only by their example and their memorial texts and stories we are honored with every year in March, that imaginary detainee of the Amazon forests would think that twenty years ago the NATO member states did not have a better thing to do than to start – out of pure hatred towards Serbia and Serbs, out of jealousy or who knows what strategic interests – killing people on trains, children sitting on the potty, ordinary people in their ordinary homes or on ordinary streets.

And it was not exactly like that. We all know it. It is finally the time to admit it to ourselves, and to others. No matter how much it hurts.

P.S. A little personal reflection, so that there are not all sorts of interpretations. My family and I spent the entire bombing in Serbia. My dad had severe psychological problems during those 78 days, due to which he was hospitalized, and which – I am positive – led to multiple cardiac arrests and later – death, when it was not his time yet. Just a kilometer away from us, the General Staff was demolished, the employees of RTS were sacrificed. I ran into shelters, trembling during particularly terrible nights. Later, I met and interviewed many people who lost members of their family in the bombing, collaborating on perhaps the most serious documentary about 1999, which was broadcast again this year on RTS.

In a word, I felt everything the NATO bombs brought onto my skin. Which does not mean, however, that I would lie due to this or that political-media goal. Just so this does not ever happen again.

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