Tuesday, January 18, 2011

backflash

UK Dilemma Following NATO Bombing of Serbia Detailed in Diaries

"Following NATO’s launch on 26 March 1999 of the bombing campaign over Serbia, Western countries were faced with a bit of a media dilemma – a dilemma into which last week we gained some more insight when the UK’s Guardian newspaper published excerpts from the diary of Alastair Campbell, then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s press secretary.

The entire operation was undermined with the Alliance’s inability to decide exactly what kind of message it was hoping to get out to Serbia and to the global public in general. This was particularly troubling to London as it embarked on what the Guardian has called part of the UK’s new phase of “liberal interventionism”.

The whole propaganda campaign was cause for concern, and Wesley Clark was uncertain whether NATO should bomb Serbia with or without warning, while then-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was concerned with the progress of the disinformation campaign, according to Campbell.

Following are excerpts from Campbell’s 1999 diary, which ends on 30 April 1999, as published in the Guardian:"...

"Friday 16 April I was up at 5.30 and got the 6.53 train to Brussels. [Nato communications director Jamie] Shea said he had been fascinated how we had changed our approach to the media as New Labour and he was sure there were lessons they could learn. I said we didn’t have much time. I felt we needed more people, better integrated. We needed a strategic approach to communications, greater centralisation, so that all capitals felt involved in what we were saying and doing, and also felt obliged at least to know what the line here was, even if they then felt unable to toe it. I told [NATO secretary general Javier] Solana if he wanted me to come out again, he just had to say. He said he loved the way we had “tamed” the media. I said we hadn’t, we’d just made them think we had. [NATO supreme allied commander, US General Wesley] Clark let me talk for a fair old while. He said “Well, I like a lot of what you’re saying. And I kid you not, we have to get something done, because we are on the brink of a disaster.” It was pretty alarming to hear him say it so bluntly, just as I found it alarming when, as I was leaving, he took me by the arm and said “Good luck, Alastair, we’re all counting on you!” I said “Shouldn’t I be saying that to you?” I found it a bit scary that at the height of a military campaign, I was sitting down telling a general how to run it, or at least run the media side, and complaining that the media campaign lacked the discipline we expected of a military campaign. I also assured him I was no Freedom of Information freak, and indeed felt they were sometimes giving out too much. I said I would not have shown the bombing of the train. It did not benefit us at all. If you are fighting a war, it has to be fought like a war at every level.

GUARDIAN NOTE: As the military campaign dragged on, Blair was determined that Nato should be prepared to deploy ground forces – to the fury of some in Washington. Blair used a visit to Washington for a summit to mark the 50th anniversary of Nato to make the case for ground troops". LINK

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