US Defence Secretary William Cohen claimed during the Balkan War two years ago that 100,000 Albanian men of military age were missing, adding, 'They may have been murdered.' The media, and even some people on the left, dutifully repeated the wartime propaganda.
John Sweeney, a columnist for the Observer, spewed bile on anti-war campaigner John Pilger for questioning the story, accusing him of being an apologist for mass murder. Sweeney predicted that those against the war would hang their heads in shame when the war ended and 'tens of thousands of bodies are discovered in mass graves'.
After the war investigators for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia reported, after a year of examining hundreds of sites, that they had discovered less than 3,000 bodies of civilians in the whole of Kosovo. That figure fitted the estimate by the International Committee of the Red Cross last year of about 2,400 Albanian dead.
The tribunal's findings are significant. It is a pro-Western body. Its remit excludes investigating NATO war crimes. Serbian forces certainly committed atrocities in Kosovo, but on nothing like the scale NATO and the media claimed, and mainly after NATO started bombing.