A Different Kind of Killing

  1. Six months ago, I was sent by an American magazine to cover NATO's first great triumph, the military operation in Kosovo. The NATO operation had triggered an all-out attack by the Serbian military on the civilian population, and thousands of ethnic Albanians were thought to have been killed. My assignment was to write about the F.B.I. pathologists who were sent over to gather evidence for war crimes trials at The Hague. I'd been in Balkan wars before—five months in Bosnia and Croatia, then in Kosovo after the first massacres in the spring of 1998—and my disgust with the Serbian government was in full bloom. I knew, intellectually, that the Serbian people had suffered as well—at the hands of opposing armies as well as at the hands of their own government—but that did little to blunt my feelings. Kosovo in the spring of 1999 was as close to black-and-white as it gets with journalism, and I was eager to go there and document proof of my own beliefs.

    Almost immediately, though, things got murky. On a sweltering day in late June, less than a week after NATO troops first poured across the border, I found myself sitting in a car with several other journalists watching a pig die. Muslims don't eat pork, Serbs do, and this pig had obviously been left behind by a Serbian farmer who fled in the wake of the cease-fire. Two Albanian boys were throwing stones at the pig, and it was staggering around in confusion under the hot sun. It finally collapsed in a ditch, and the boys set upon it ...

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