Letter: War propaganda cuts both ways

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LET US HOPE Phillip Knightley ("Propaganda wars", 27 June) is right and "many of the atrocity stories from Kosovo ... will turn out to be false". The evidence accumulating so far suggests he is wrong.

The argument is illogical. That the 1914 atrocity stories and many others like them were false does not prove the Kosovo accounts, which do not resemble those stories, are all false, or even most of them. One could, after all, list the many atrocity stories that have turned out to be too true. No one wanted to believe the enormity of Khmer Rouge conduct in Cambodia, it was too horrible, but we do now. Too many skulls.

If the Bryce report was widely believed at the time with its hearsay evidence of German atrocities in Belgium in 1914, in 1999 Nato has by no means had it all its own way. The Independent has had excellent correspondents on the ground, watching the situation for themselves. Some Nato claims have indeed been disproved, but the basic position that the Albanians were abused as an ethnic group in Kosovo has not been challenged and does not originate from Nato.

If Mr Knightley wants to examine propaganda wars, he could look at the systematic vilification of the Albanians in the Serb media for more than 10 years, as dirty, uncivilised criminals breeding like rabbits, occupying Serb holy places. Dehumanisation of the Albanians is the original war crime, which made the Serbs' later physical abuse possible.