In war, truth is the first casualty - Aeschylus, 525-456 B.C.

Fifty years ago, a tough looking Serbian soldier baptized me to fire. For the next four years, my elite 351st Infantry Regiment buddies and I locked horns with the Serbs along the Italian/Yugoslavian border, and I learned firsthand that Serbian soldiers are meaner than junk yard dogs. I also learned something that's been reinforced over the last 40 months of Balkan genocide and during several extended reporting visits to the former Yugoslavia, where I observed all sides up close: The Croatians and Muslims are just as brutal.

But what comes out of ex-Yugoslavia as TV news for American consumption is distorted and misleading.

We are rarely getting any objective truth.

Instead, the Croatians and the Bosnian Muslims are coming off as poor, suffering white hat victims of the forces of darkness, that is, the Serbs. This ain't so.

All three sides in the vicious Civil War, which has turned former Yugoslavia into a mass graveyard, are equally monstrous. They all do ethnic cleansing, mass rape, torture, indiscriminate killing, concentration camps and slash-and-burn operations with similar brutality. The Bosnian Serb leadership just doesn't seem to care when its warriors come off on the tube as Evil Empire serial killers. The Croatian and Muslim governments, however, work over time to present their soldiers as squeaky clean freedom fighters defending peoples victimized by the Serbs for centuries. Both have cleverly imprinted these messages through U.S. television, which has become an extension of their propaganda machines, conning a vast number of Americans into believing as gospel that only the Serbs wear the black hats. If the Vietnam War was lost - as is suggested by many of the "we were stabbed in the back" U.S. generals who served there - by the negative television images presented by our own reporters, then the Balkan Disinformation War has been long won by the Muslim Bosnian and Croatian spinmasters.

The first major victory occurred when Washington was sucked into taking sides against the Serbs, a big no-no in a civil war and a lesson we should have learned from Vietnam. More recently, when the Serbs took Srebrenica and Zepa, the fourthhand stories of Serb mass killings, rape and torchings thundered into our living rooms each night as if they were eyewitness reports. These horror stories were breathlessly reported by the likes of CNN's Christiane Amanpour as the word according to TV news. Yet, when the Croats blitzkrieged their way through the ancestral homes of the Serbs in Krajina several weeks ago, the tube simply showed long lines of Serb refugees trying to flee. Their torched homes, the slaughter and the atrocities committed by Croatian soldiers got barely a frame.

Also. nowhere has it been reported on prime-time news that for over a year the Bosnian Muslim military has been on the offensive, attacking the Serbs, initiating all the same slash/kill/burn tactics as their enemy employed, while - incredibly - sustaining their image as pious, oppressed, long-suffering. Retired Gen. Charles G. Boyd, until last month the deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, recently commented on this one-sided reporting: "Ethnic cleansing evokes condemnation only when it is committed by Serbs, not against them."

U.S. TV reportage has again become a tool for foreign propagandists, just as in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, and horrified American TV audiences watched as a young Kuwaiti mother told how babies were yanked out of incubators and dumped on the floor by Iraqi storm troopers. Only months later was it revealed that the "mother" was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, starring in a made-up drama produced by an American PR firm to get the American people behind their "Free Kuwait" promotion campaign.

Napoleon wrote, "Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets." Today, the evening news becomes more powerful than a fleet of bombers every time we unquestioningly accept what's reported as "nothing but the truth."

Long ago, I learned to believe only what I saw, smelled, touched and heard. Much of the time, I look upon TV news as entertainment - and so should you. -END QUOTE-

From- Daily News Miner 18 January 1996 A-4 BY- Retired U.S. Army Col. David Hackworth Distributed by King Features Syndicate.


SARAJEVO, BOSNIA - Last week, a shoulder-fired rocket round smashed into a commuter tram here, killing a woman and wounding 19 other civilians. No one knows which side the gunner was on.

Some people swear the rocket was fired by the Serbs, and others bear witness that the Muslims were up to their old trick of blowing away their own folks to get more "we are the victims" press.

This strike was accomplished within 100 yards of three IFOR armored cars, bristling with guns, manned by a dozen alert French paratroopers. IFOR's reaction was good. I talked to a gunner who says he saw the rocket grenade's flash and he immediately blasted the target with six rounds of 20 mm cannon and machine-gun fire, as did his mates. But most of the people in Sarajevo are angry. They say that IFOR is no different than the United Nations and that they are still not being protected. Many don't understand there's no way to stop a terrorist attack in a land that has more weapons and crazies, and more anger and hatred, than good sense. IFOR has few spies in the terrorists' camp and can only do as the French warriors did, which is to react after the event. Adm. Leighton Smith could put every one of his 60,000 warriors on Sarajevo's streets, and these bloody attacks would not stop - just as your city could put two cops on every block and still not stop crime.

My gut says there will be more attacks in the land that saw Archduke Ferdinand killed by terrorists in 1914, as this futile one-year peace enforcement mission ticks on. Most will be directed against Bosnian civilians, but if history prevails, IFOR warriors will get hit, too. As we relearned during the Vietnam War, stopping terrorist attacks is like trying to stop teen age sex - next to impossible. Terrorists have all the advantages. IFOR warriors are like actors on a stage, their every move watched by the insurgents, an "audience" that sits in the dark, plotting and striking at will. I suspect the terrorists' goals in this shooting - which occurred in "sniper alley," next door to the IFOR press headquarters - were to let the Sarajevans know the war is not over, to grab the lead story on the evening news and to embarrass IFOR just before Clinton's arrival. And it worked. The people in Bosnia got the word big time that IFOR cannot put out every fire, that they remain vulnerable and that this war is a long way from being over.

The press corps went nuts - most don't know a terrorist attack from a bowling strike - and blamed Smith for not being hard enough. It seemed to me a few of these unschooled "war correspondents" expected him at least to unlimber a couple of nuclear weapons at the Serb areas of Sarajevo.

Clinton canceled his visit to this battered and brave city because, an intelligence officer said, "His security couldn't be assured. " Instead, he took his presidential circus to Tuzla, traveling with more of an entourage than the Yanks have tanks. His visit cost the taxpayer several million dollars. It unduly tied up the top U.S. brass, who are trying to get on with their mission. And it wasted the time of a lot of soldiers, who painted and lined up rocks and were used as television stage props for this PR trip. Imagine FDR visiting Ike at Normandy at D+30 [July 5, 1944] when he was trying to break out of the beachhead, or Truman bopping into the Pusan perimeter in 1950 when Lt. Gen. Walton Walker's army was fighting hard not to be pushed into the sea. No active duty high brass would sound off and tell the chain of command that Clinton's visit here was a royal pain that prevented them from fulfilling their duty as they spiffed up things for a president looking for tube time. In today's politically correct military saying something like that would be the kiss of death. But sergeants have less to lose and are closer to the truth. The warriors, thank God, remain the ultimate truth tellers. As one old grunt says, "I didn't come here to baby-sit Clinton. Tell him to stay home." -END QUOTE-

"The entire Serb population is basically getting a bad rap because they are being painted with that black tar brush saying they're all guilty. They're not. There are good people in this country."

From- Daily News Miner 17 August, 1996 A-4

Last month, Adm. Leighton W. "Snuffy" Smith turned over command of his Bosnian-based IFOR force to Adm. T. Joseph Lopez.

Many military observers, including this writer, think it's nuts to swap Lopez for Smith, one of America's great leaders, when the IFOR mission has five more months to run.

Smith knows the turf: the good guys, the bad guys and where the bodies are buried. It's flat dumb changing a coach right in the middle of a season, especially on a field as potentially lethal as Bosnia - a field that will become even more critical during the countdown between now and the end of the IFOR mission in December 1996.

Bosnia is Clinton's big international booby trap, and he doesn't want it to explode before the November elections. Smith - a soldier's soldier who refused to risk lives simply to go-along to get-along was shuffled out because he wouldn't play Washington's political game.

Now the top brass will once again play "Fall-out One" when Gen. William Crouch, the current four-star who heads up U.S. Army forces in Europe, replaces Lopez on 1 October. Not only will Crouch take over at a bad time, but Smith's old IFOR staff now continuing on with Lopez - which has wrestled with the Bosnian problem for years, both in preparation for the mission and in executing it in Bosnia - will also be replaced, along with the ground force commander, British Gen. Michael Walker and his experienced Sarajevo-based IFOR staff.

A NATO officer says, "It's unbelievable! Three CINCs (commanders in chief) in six weeks! It's military stupidity at its highest form!" The reason for the change, according to an IFOR officer, is, "Joulwan (Gen. George, the NATO commander) wants his own Army guy in command and lacks confidence in Lopez."

The irony of Crouch and his staff replacing the seasoned and tested IFOR staff is that last December Crouch and his people were responsible for the deployment to Bosnia, a serious contender for one of the greatest snafus in U.S. Army history. Our troops were ill-prepared, disorganized and hopelessly dispersed, bits and pieces of units scattered over three countries, billets washed out, unable to cross the flooded Sava River, freezing, eating lousy rations and not showering for weeks on end.

Putting Crouch and his Germany-based staff in charge of IFOR reinforces the age-old military axiom: "Screw up and move up."

The powers that be are getting rid of the experienced guys and swapping them for the politically correct crowd, the old Pentagon musical-chairs-in-hot-spots ploy I remember too well from Vietnam. There, it caused a loss of institutional memory that played a key part in our losing our first war,

Before Smith split Sarajevo he made these points:

"Right now we don't have peace ... just an absence of war."

Lupez is "is for one hell of a ride" in the "hottest job in the world."

The Bosnian politicians are blowing the nine-month lull in fighting with the same kind of nationalistic and ethnic rhetoric that kicked off the war in 1992.

"The entire Serb population is basically getting a bad rap because they are being painted with that black tar brush saying they're all guilty. They're not. There are good people in this country."

Even though Smith never had a NATO order to arrest the indicted war criminals, there were whispers from Washington he do so - in spite of Smith's wisely held fear of Bosnian Serb uprisings.

In a deserved parting shot at Clinton's leadership and his national security dorks, Smith said, "In terms of advice on complex issues, the further away people are from the problems the more apt they are to have solutions for them. Those that shout loudest for this or that action are the ones who bear absolutely no responsibility for the consequences of those actions."

The U.S. Senate must conduct hearings and ask Snuffy Smith what's really happening in Bosnia. He needs to be asked: Is the mission on track? What are the risks? What are the dangers? What is the price? Who are the dorks on high muddying the waters?

Smith's a truth-teller, and he'll damn well tell it to the American people.

Retired U.S. Army Col. David Hackworth, America's most decorated veteran, is contributing editor for defense at Newsweek.

His column is distributed by King Features Syndicate.

His e-mail adddress is http://www.hackworth.com.