Arianna Huffington is dead wrong

In her unbelievable defense of the Serbs, the syndicated columnist condones the massacre of innocent civilians by the Serbs.

Published December 17, 1999 8:00PM (EST)

It is a touching image: Saint Arianna Huffington riding solo to the defense of
the Serbs of Kosovo. Unfortunately, the auto-icon painter uses false colors.
In a
recent article she declared, "The Albanian atrocities
are not just going unacknowledged and unlamented -- they're going
uninvestigated." Except, of course, by every newspaper agency and radio or television
station that has reporters in the province. Indeed, two weeks ago the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe
supported the International War Criminal Tribunal's reports of massive Serb
killings and dispossessions of Albanians, which is maybe why Huffington
never bothered to wade through it to get to the second half, which detailed
the killings of civilians since NATO occupied the province.

Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte reported to the U.N. Security Council on
November 10 that her investigators had murder reports of 11,334 Albanian victims
from eyewitnesses and had identified 529 gravesites. They had investigated
only 195 sites, from which they had exhumed 2,108 bodies out of the 4,256
that their information had led them to expect there.

She explained that the Serbs had tampered with many grave sites, the digging
equipment leaving odd bits of bodies behind. At other sites, bodies were blown up
en masse or burned, making it impossible to count. For example, at Izbica,
there were clear satellite photographs from April of 142 individual grave
sites, but by the time NATO arrived, those graves had been emptied
and the bodies disposed of. There were visible tracks of heavy trucks and
equipment at the site.

Those who had supported Milsoevic during the war were quick to hail the
failure of investigators to find any bodies at the Trepca mines, for
example. But the prosecutor's spokesman, Paul Risley, asserts that
investigators still have credible eyewitness evidence that 700 bodies were
taken there. Only some shafts in the extensive complex have been
investigated, he says, and many of them go below the water table. If bodies
were burned in the numerous industrial facilities in the area and the ashes
disposed of underwater, they would be almost impossible to find. One
dreads the tasteless spectacle of such a census on the Nazi camps. How do
you count ashes?

Huffington's reference to these events at the time was about the
array of NATO mistakes. "What's next? A Kosovar in pear tree?" she asked while
complaining that NATO forces did not observe the Orthodox Easter as a truce.
The Serb pogromists didn't either, it seems.

Now, she claims, "More and more evidence surfaces that the estimates of
Albanian deaths offered during the war were greatly exaggerated." In fact,
NATO spokesman James Shea had an estimate of 4,600 at the height of the
campaign. At one point Defense Secretary William Cohen referred to 100,000
missing Albanian men who may have been murdered. They were missing, and the
Serbs were demonstrably killing people in their thousands, so was that really
too far a flight of fancy? How many Kosovars hanging from a pear tree does
it take to convince that a great evil was perpetrated?

Of course the revenge killings of civilians are wrong. It is interesting
that public figures like Veton Surroi, the Albanian editor of the anti-Milosevic newspaper Koha Ditore,
on the hit lists of both extremist Albanians and Serbs, has denounced
the killings, just he denounced the Serbs before.

Which makes him a somewhat more saintly voice than Huffington,
or the Russians who are razing Chechnya while expressing concern about the
Serbs in Kosovo. Should Clinton take the blame for all this? Well, for those
accustomed to blaming the president for having policies to the right of
Huffington's Republican pals, it is difficult to admit that under pressure
from allies, he eventually did the right thing.

It is possible that Milosevic and his
nationalist compatriots might have gotten the message that his neighbors were no
longer prepared to tolerate his recidivist barbarism if Clinton had taken a firmer stand against Milosevic from the beginning.
And yes, the United States should pay up so the United Nations and NATO can do its job -- and it
should also be pushing for speedy elections and a referendum, which many
observers think would have two results: Undermine the power of the Kosovo Liberation Army and spur a massive drive for Kosovo's independence.

But Huffington, with her evident unorthodox ability to distinguish between
forgivable and unforgivable killings, is the last person anyone should consult for advice.

By Ian Williams

Ian Williams' book "Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776" is due in late August 2005 from Nation Books. His last book was "Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Own Past."

MORE FROM Ian Williams

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bill Clinton National Security United Nations