Right of Reply

The professor of politics at the University of York responds to David Aaronovitch
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The Independent Culture
TONY BLAIR'S attack on media coverage of the war is a sure sign that our image-obsessed government realises that the Nato campaign against Serbia is in big trouble. Mr Blair can, however, take comfort from David Aaronovitch, who devotes his recent column to attacking a letter opposing the war published in the New Statesman and signed by Pierre Bourdieu, Noam Chomsky, and hundreds of other writers and academics (including myself).

Mr Aaronovitch accuses us of supporting ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Obviously, he hasn't read the letter, which begins by condemning both "Nato intervention" and "the reactionary policy of the Serbian regime in Kosovo". It goes on to point out that the "Nato air strikes... have facilitated and not prevented a ground offensive by Serb paramilitary forces". After seven weeks of bombing, which have seen the expulsion of a million Kosovars, who can now deny the truth of this claim?

Mr Aaronovitch's clumsy polemic reaches its climax with an attack on the letter's call for a Balkan conference to negotiate a settlement in Kosovo, because this would require negotiating with the arch-fiend Milosevic. If Mr Aaronovitch bothered to follow the coverage of the war elsewhere in your paper (notably Rupert Cornwell's excellent analyses) he would know that, since the bombing has strengthened Milosevic, a settlement will require Nato to deal with him (as at Dayton in 1995, when the graves in Srebrenica were still fresh).

Portraying Milosevic as Hitler simply puts off the inevitable. The price of delay is paid not by anyone in Britain (including Mr Aaronovitch, whose life is unlikely to be any harsher than that of the academics he insults) but by Kosovars and Serbs.