A War Sold: Media Spin in the Yugoslav Wars

Media sells war. That’s what it does, and it has been doing it since at least 1898. Almost one hundred years later, the American scribbler estate, along with their Western European allies, sold everyone a bill of goods. The victims, Muslim Bosniaks, were portrayed as the new Jews— helpless citizens at the mercy of racist Serbs. Like the Nazis, these Christian militiamen mowed down their neighbors, put them in concentration camps, and carried out an “ethnic cleansing” campaign based on antagonisms that had their origins in the Middle Ages.

There is some truth in these claims. There is no doubt that Bosnian Serb militias massacred innocent Muslim villagers. And, much to the chagrin of those Alt Right internet users who celebrate the “Remove Kebab” attitudes of the Bosnian Serbs, they proved to be just as brutal to Croatian Catholics as the Bosnian “Turks” [1].

However, the war story that was sold to the Western public was a highly prejudiced and doctored picture. In order to fully understand the hell that happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, you have to understand a little bit of the region’s twisted history.

The Origins of Hatred

During the 1990s, a common refrain argued that the wars in Bosnia and Croatia did not make much sense given just how ethnically intermixed the peoples of Yugoslavia are. After all, the Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian languages (all of which used to be just called Serbo-Croatian) are mutually intelligible. The only obvious thing that separates these people is religion.

Well yes and no.

In urban centers like Zagreb, Belgrade, and Sarajevo (once called the “Paris of the East,” which is now ironic given that both cities are contenders for the “Muslim City in Europe Award”), intermarriage was indeed common. The countryside provided a completely different story, however. Out in the hinterlands, old feuds ran deep, and Christians did not trust Muslims, and Orthodox did not trust Catholic.

While his obsequious devotion to the deep state is disgusting, John Schindler distinguished himself with his 2007 book, Unholy Terror. This monograph exposes how many lies contributed to the pro-Bosniak interventions of NATO and the United States in the 1990s. Most of these lies originated with Alija Izetbegovic, the first leader of an independent Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Izetbegovic was portrayed as a “moderate” Muslim to a West that was trying desperately to defend itself against Arab comments accusing both Europe and North America of “Islamophobia” in the wake of Operation Desert Storm. As Schindler notes, Izetbegovic was more Islamist radical than moderate.

The Young Muslims found life under Communism uncongenial — not least because some of its members were in prison or wanted for collaboration with the Nazis — but they continued their activities clandestinely. One of their major accomplishments was the publication of their journal El-Muszahid (The Holy Warrior), whose first edition displayed unmistakable signs of Pan-Islamist radicalism: calls for jihad, ample Koranic quotes, recitation of the tekbir (“Allahu Akbar!” i.e., “God is Great!”), condemnation of Western mores (especially drinking), and one memorable poem “On Jihad…” [2]

Itzetbegovic was a member of the Young Muslims, and Yugoslav authorities put him on trial for his activities in 1983. At his trial, Itzetbegovic stated: “Islamic society without an Islamic government is incomplete and impotent.” [3] So long as the autocratic Communist system established by Josip Broz Tito (a Catholic of mixed Croat and Slovene ancestry) held, the words of Itzetbegovic and the Young Muslims could be easily contained.

However, by the late 1980s, Communism could no longer hold in Yugoslavia. Due in large part to the failure of Communist economics and Marshal Tito’s unsustainable habit of borrowing copious amounts of money from Western Europe and North America, Yugoslavia began to see a resurgence of ethnic nationalism prior to the fall of the Communist system in 1989. In Serbia, the power and nerve center of Yugoslavia, a Communist functionary turned Serb nationalist named Slobodan Milosevic used ethnic antagonism to strengthen his political seat in Belgrade. For Milosevic, the flashpoint was in Kosovo, where a student-led riot in 1981 took on an ethno-nationalist character given the grievances of the mostly poor Albanian majority. [4] By 1985, Serbian media regularly produced a rash of stories detailing Albanian crimes against Serb citizens in Kosovo. One in particular involved a Kosovar Serb named Djordje Martinovic who claimed in 1986 that he had been abused and even anally raped by local Albanians. This accusation touched off a string of violent confrontations between Kosovar Serbs, Albanians, and Yugoslav police officers. [5]

As the power of the Communist state receded, such crime stories commingled with open discussions about Yugoslavia’s bloody history. Of particular interest was the World War II era, when Bosniak Muslims and Croatian fascists supported the Axis cause. As for the Serbs, they were divided between Communist Partisans and monarchist Chetniks. These divisions frequently proved murky, as all sides had a habit of being corrupt and following wherever the winds were blowing.

The second largest death camp of the entire war, Jasenovac, was located in Croatia and housed thousands of Serbs, left-wing Croats, Montenegrins, and Bosnian Muslims. [6] Bosnian Muslim volunteers for the SS were imbued with a Pan-Islamist ideology. These Muslim soldiers carried out genocidal outrages against Serbian and Jewish civilians. [7] Retaliatory violence committed by Serbs against Croats and Muslims existed as well, thus contributing to a high-intensity civil war in the country between 1941 and 1945.

All such memories helped to contributed to the mass killings of the 1990s. All one has to do is watch the many patriotic war songs produced by Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, many of which are currently on YouTube. In these shoddy music videos, Serbs are “Chetniks,” Muslims are “Turks,” and Croats are “fascists.”

The Media’s Limited Focus

Looking back now, more honest journalists would admit that atrocities were committed by all sides during the civil war of the 1990s. Such honesty did not exist at the time, though.

Since so many journalists were based in Sarajevo, they relied heavily on the government of Itzetbegovic for their “insider” sources. Knowing the weakness of his position, Itzetbegovic fed these naive journalists with highly sensationalized stories about Serb- and Croat-led massacres of Muslim citizens. His ultimate goal was to get the U.S. involved on behalf of the Bosnians. He got what he wanted, much to the chagrin of Bosnia’s Serb and Croat populations.

All the while dining Western journalists, many of whom carried with them multiculturalist, pro-Islam, and anti-Christian biases, Itzetbegovic’s government was cooperating very closely with Saudi Arabia. The Wahhabis of Riyadh sent money and helped to build mega mosques in the country. Unsurprisingly, all of these mosques espoused a virulent form of Sunni Islam. Many are still in operation today.

While mosques and money were the visible contributions of the House of Saud, it and its Gulf partners also ferried jihadis into the country. Many of these fighters were seasoned veterans of the wars in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Sudan. One of these “Afghan Arabs” would later call the war in Bosnia the “cradle” of modern jihad. [8] The jihadist Mujahideen Battalion of the official Bosnian Army distinguished itself for its brutality. These fighters carried out numerous decapitations, many of which were filmed and passed around by hardcore Islamists all across the world.

The mountains of central Bosnia were particularly nasty since a small Croat population, which had its own self-defense forces, had to battle a Muslim enemy that encircled them. Here, foreign fighters butchered Croat civilians with the help of the official of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Islamist political party headed by none other than Itzetbegovic. [9] Most of these crimes received no recognition by the Western media. This is not surprising considering that similar atrocities were overlooked during the First Chechen War, which pitted Muslim Chechens against Christian and Slavic Russians. [10] That war had also been portrayed as a justified uprising by oppressed Muslims against an unholy enemy.

Even the most obvious instance of Bosnian Serb terrorism is more complicated than the general narrative. In 1995, approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslim civilians were murdered by a Bosnian Serb militia commanded by Ratko Mladic, a villain recently convicted of war crimes by The Hague. According to the Western press, the innocent civilians of the village of Srebrenica were the victims of the largest act of mass murder since World War II.

While true, the usual pablum about Srebrenica misses the fact that the village was set up for a very public execution by Itzetbegovic. As Schindler recounts, the leader in Sarajevo knew full well that Srebrenica would fall to the Republika Srpska, the self-governing state for Bosnian Serbs that was set up during the war. The citizens of Srebrenica were the victims of bad geography, and Itzetbegovic wanted their untenable position to at least end in a PR victory for his fledgling state.

Between 1992 and 1995, Srebrenica had been the military command post of one of the more notorious units of the Bosnian Army. This unit belonged to Muslim war criminal Naser Oric, one of the more bloodthirsty characters of the entire war. Before the massacre, somewhere around 3,000 Bosnian Serbs, including 1,300 unarmed civilians, had been killed by Bosnian Muslim soldiers under Oric’s command and based in Srebrenica. [11] When Mladic’s men took the village with very little resistance in 1995, they suspected that many of the male citizens in the village had ditched their military uniforms in order to pose as innocent civilians. Again, Schindler believes that this ruse was part of Itzetbegovic’s cynical plan to exploit a massacre that he knew would happen. When the murdered bodies were found, the government in Sarajevo again appealed to the West for help.

What We’ve Failed to Learn

The story of Bosnia cannot be forgotten. Why? Because the Western media is still being duped by cynical forces who know that Western heartstrings can be easily pulled.

Take for instance the Syrian Civil War. Since 2011, rebel forces have been running to the West for assistance. They claim that secular dictator Bashar al-Assad is nothing less than a genocidal tyrant who has purposely targeted civilians within his own country. They have consistently failed to point out during their pleas that their side has been in bed with jihadists since the war’s very beginning. Many of these jihadists have been responsible for ethnic cleansing campaigns against Syria’s Armenian, Arab, and Assyrian Christians, its Shia Muslims, its Alawite citizens, and its Kurdish minority. If the Syrian Arab Army had not intervened, then the ancient, Aramaic-speaking village of Maaloula would have been removed from history. [12]

Unfortunately, many powerful people in Europe and North America continue to fall for the machinations of savvy Muslim rebel groups in Africa and the Middle East. They use the fabricated thought crime of “Islamophobia” in order to open the world’s doors to Muslim “refugees” and to dupe powerful states into dropping bombs on their enemies. It keeps happening, and it will keep happening until the West realizes how much it is being played.

The real lesson of Bosnia is not that the West needs to do more whenever ethnic cleansing campaigns appear. No, the real lesson is that in civil wars, there is never an easy answer. The best choice is usually non-intervention, no matter what the crying children memes try to tell you.

[1]: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a407751.pdf

[2]: https://books.google.com/books?id=c8Xb6x2XYvIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=John+Schindler&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_jeqTsJ7YAhVhUt8KHa_4AAIQ6AEILzAB#v=snippet&q=Young%20Muslims&f=false

[3]: https://books.google.com/books?id=c8Xb6x2XYvIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=John+Schindler&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj_jeqTsJ7YAhVhUt8KHa_4AAIQ6AEILzAB#v=snippet&q=1983&f=false

[4]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1981_protests_in_Kosovo

[5]: http://www.nytimes.com/1986/04/28/world/in-one-yugoslav-province-serbs-fear-the-ethnic-albanians.html

[6]: https://www.veteranstoday.com/2013/01/20/jasenovac-the-cruelest-death-camp-of-all-times-26/

[7]: https://books.google.com/books?id=rNrMilgHKKEC&pg=PA88&dq=pan-islamism+Bosnian+SS+world+war+II&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjRpa3MtJ7YAhVK7oMKHekHB18Q6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=pan-islamism%20Bosnian%20SS%20world%20war%20II&f=false

[8]: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-33345618

[9]: http://thermidormag.com/cyanide-and-myth-making/

[10]: https://books.google.com/books?id=3Gj_eDqCuSAC&pg=PA3&dq=andrei+babchenko&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBg_Pjt57YAhWvkOAKHRcFA3wQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&q=intestines&f=false

[11]: https://books.google.com/books?id=c8Xb6x2XYvIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=John+Schindler&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiV75TozunXAhVp34MKHSgqDSYQ6AEILjAB#v=snippet&q=srebrenica&f=false

[12]: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10294711/Christians-flee-Syria-village-that-speaks-the-language-of-Jesus.html

Benjamin Welton
Ben Welton is a writer from West Virginia.