Was Rambouillet Another Tonkin Gulf?

By Seth Ackerman.

June 2, 1999

New evidence has emerged confirming that the U.S. deliberately set out to thwart the Rambouillet
peace talks in France in order to provide a "trigger" for NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.

Furthermore, correspondents from major American news organizations reportedly knew about this
plan to stymie the Kosovo peace talks, but did not inform their readers or viewers.

FAIR's May 14 media advisory, "Forgotten Coverage of Rambouillet Negotiations," asked whether
the media had given the full story on Rambouillet. News reports almost universally blamed the failure
of negotiations on Serbian intransigence. The headline over a New York Times dispatch from
Belgrade on March 24--the first day of the bombing--read "U.S. Negotiators Depart, Frustrated By
Milosevic's Hard Line."

But the evidence presented in "Forgotten Coverage" suggested that it was U.S. negotiators, not the
Serbs, who blocked an agreement.

Now, in the June 14 issue of the Nation, George Kenney, a former State Department Yugoslavia
desk officer, reports:

     An unimpeachable press source who regularly travels with Secretary of State
     Madeleine Albright told this [writer] that, swearing reporters to deep-background
     confidentiality at the Rambouillet talks, a senior State Department official had
     bragged that the United States "deliberately set the bar higher than the Serbs could
     accept." The Serbs needed, according to the official, a little bombing to see reason.

In other words, the plan for Kosovo autonomy drafted by State Department officials was
intentionally crafted to provoke a rejection from Serb negotiators. In his Nation article, Kenney
compares this plan to the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Providing further confirmation of Kenney's account, Jim Jatras, a foreign policy aide to Senate
Republicans, reported in a May 18 speech at the Cato Institute in Washington that he had it "on
good authority" that a "senior Administration official told media at Rambouillet, under embargo" the

     "We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some
     bombing, and that's what they are going to get."

In interviews with FAIR, both Kenney and Jatras asserted that these are actual quotes transcribed
by reporters who spoke with a U.S. official. They declined to give the names or affiliations of the

The revelation that American reporters knew about a U.S. strategy to create a pretext for NATO's
war on Yugoslavia--but did not report on it--raises serious questions about the independence of
mainstream news organizations.

More reporting is needed on the origins of this war, as well as the opportunities for peace that may
have been overlooked.