One year ago this month, the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia was proceeding full-bore. Throughout May, bombing of the countryside intensified. Maternity wards, elementary schools, villagers out for a Sunday stroll no effort was spared to bring the Yugoslav government to its knees. The air war lasted 10 days longer than the Nazi blitz of London.
Such destruction was wrought in order to "halt ethnic cleansing" in the province of Kosovo, where a struggle over secession had dragged on. The exodus of ethnic Albanians, so thoroughly documented on Western television, coincided precisely with the bombing. Unreported was the fact that, as a percentage of the prewar population, proportionately more minority Serbs fled Kosovo during the bombardment than did ethnic Albanians. Everyone was fleeing the bombs.
At armistice, the federal army surrendered the heartland of Serbia to 40,000 NATO troops (the Kosovo Force or KFOR). The recently-televised refugees and half a million fresh Albanian immigrants, plus countless humanitarian organizations, the UN Mission to Kosovo (UNMIK), and the Kosovo Liberation Army en masse flooded into Kosovo. Conversely, Kosovo's remaining ethnic Serbs, along with Roma (gypsies), Jews, Torbesh Turks, Slavic Muslims, the Ashkali minority, and dissident ethnic Albanian moderates began exiting Kosovo on pain of death. 300,000 such Kosovars are now displaced. Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia proper house most of the refugees under pressing conditions. (Serbia and Montenegro languish under embargo.)
The Kosovo Liberation Army has metamorphosed, by UN decree, into the Kosovo Protection Corps, or KPC a supposedly unarmed civilian "guard." But a February UN report charged the KLA/KPC with the post-war murders of over 800 Kosovar Serb civilians and their neighbors (London Observer, 3/12/00). Over 700 victims are missing, while more than 600 have been wounded in attacks. The report lists dozens of Serbian Orthodox churches and cemeteries destroyed since KFOR arrived in June. Hence, the reverse ethnic cleansing, if you will, of Kosovo's minorities. Stragglers remain virtually ghettoized in enclaves heavily guarded by KFOR against KLA attack.
Why are thousands of NATO peacekeepers impotent in restoring order and the rule of law to Kosovo? Perhaps it is the very armored nature of this force its tanks and personnel carriers, the new Camp Bondsteel America's 755-acre base near Pristina, beyond whose perimeter troops venture in riot gear. Perhaps the problem is Kosovo's judiciary, lately excised from the federal legal system and packed with secessionist appointees. None dare prosecute ethnic Albanian human rights abusers, lest judges end up in a ditch face-down, victims of the familiar retribution of the KLA/KPC. A UNMIK spokeswoman admits, "We made a mistake. It turned out that local judges, because of intimidation and threat, have not been able to operate" (Newsday, 4/2/00).
Yes, it's wild over there on the frontier. But the KPC (nee KLA) are determined revolutionaries born of age-old clans who rule the porous borderlands of southern Kosovo where Albania and Serbia meet. A Greater Albania, "cleansed" of Slavs and other minorities, has been their dream since the Nazi/Fascist era gripped the Balkans over 50 years ago. NATO became the ideal enabler of KLA aspirations vanquishing the Yugoslav military, prying loose Belgrade's hold on its province and turning a blind eye to the exodus of terrorized Serbs and other dissidents.
UNMIK chose KLA hero Agim Ceku to lead the freshly-organized KPC. But Ceku is under investigation by the War Crimes Tribunal concerning atrocities committed in Croatia between 1993 and 1995. Ceku's troops and Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), a Pentagon contractor, carried out the thorough expulsion of 200,000 Krajinan Serbs from Croatia in the summer of 1995. 15,000 Serbs were murdered in the operation, which utilized American air cover and naval support. The refugees are still encamped and destitute throughout the Balkans. KFOR will not risk KLA reprisals by arresting Ceku. A diplomat confided that any indictment will "most likely be sealed and kept out of the public domain" (London Times, 10/10/99). And MPRI now has the contract to train the KPC.
Professor of Economics Michel Chossudovsky, University of Ottawa, observes, "The U.S. and its allies have worked through the UN to install a paramilitary government with links to organized crime. The outcome is the outright criminalisation of State institutions in Kosovo."
Why set heroin-smuggling thugs (Mother Jones, Jan./Feb.'00) as despots over a shattered Balkans backwater? In a word: money. Throughout the former republics of Yugoslavia, the West has eagerly opened "free markets" to multinational corporations. If the KPC eventually imposes some semblance of order on "liberated" Kosovo, through intimidation or otherwise, Serbia's heartland can be opened to global capital. In exchange? Ethnic Albanians will one day, with the support of G.I.s from Camp Bondsteel, inherit an independent Kosovo. It's on the agenda, folks; the consideration, within three years, of Kosovo independence was written into the Accord ending the bombing last June.
Kosovo appears in American newspapers rarely now, but there was one fracas this winter which made headlines for days. Mitrovica is a northern city bordering Serbia proper. Multi-ethnicity has survived there. Thousands of ethnic Serbs and dissident Muslims fleeing the perilous south co-exist in the predominantly Serb part of town across the Ibar River. On February 2, a rocket hit a UN bus in Mitrovica, killing two Serb civilians on board. Typical KLA stunt. (UNMIK and KFOR insist they cannot guarantee the safety of Serbs in transit. No military escorts are provided those attempting to leave Kosovo or seeking medical attention, the two chief reasons Serbs move about.) Riots broke out. French KFOR troops set up a barricade at the bridge over the Ibar, separating the refugees from the traditionally-Albanian side of town. The KLA emerged and opened fire on French troops. Fire was returned; a KLA gunman was killed and two French soldiers wounded. The French arrested 45 ethnic Albanians and one Serb.
Western governments and press bristled that the French favor the Serbs. The French commander responded that he favors reclaiming the peace. The State Department announced, illogically, that Slobodan Milosevic was to blame. KFOR contingents from elsewhere rushed to Mitrovica and built a footbridge for the exclusive use of ethnic Albanians desiring to cross without French scrutiny.
This could be the clearest indication yet of the North Atlantic alliance fraying over conflicting concepts of "keeping peace" in Europe. Footnote: On February 15, the French seized a KLA ambulance near the Ibar bridge, packed with weapons: 14 rocket launchers, 180 grenades, and 3000 rounds of ammunition. Indeed, the KLA has been raiding Albanian-majority villages in Serbia proper, with the apparent aim of spreading the revolution.
Why was Mitrovica a flashpoint? Ah, the Trepca mines, richest piece of real estate in the Balkans! Mitrovica is a "company town" (hence, multi-ethnic) and gateway to a vast complex of forty mines and factories producing cadmium, coal, copper, gold, lead, silver, and zinc. Owned by Yugoslavia and a Greek concern, securing Trepca tantalizes Albanian nationalists and several Western organizations occupying Kosovo at this time. The mine's director, Novak Bjelic, states, "The war in Kosovo is about the mines, nothing else. This is Serbia's Kuwait" (www.originalsources.com).
Romans, Turks and later, Nazis coveted Trepca. Why not Western Europe and the United States? Just after the bombing, UNMIK chief Bernard Kouchner decreed: "UNMIK shall administer movable and immovable property of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the territory of Kosovo. KFOR should implement a rapid and categorical takeover of the Trepca complex" ("Taking Over the Mines," Diana Johnstone, 2/28/00).
So with time comes greater understanding of what is transpiring in Yugoslavia. Quelling "ancient ethnic hatreds" simply has not sufficed as rationale for NATO engagement there. Rather, evidence points to U.S. covert instigation of the Kosovo affair. What the State Department claims was a Serb massacre of civilians in the village of Racak in January 1999, appears now to have been a CIA/KLA-coordinated ruse, staged to precipitate NATO's crackdown.
During the ceasefire of autumn 1998, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) officially monitored Kosovo. Madeleine Albright, however, named an American, William Walker, as OSCE chief-of-mission. Walker's entire career had been spent in Latin America. He remained at controversial embassies through the Reagan-Bush years while fellow diplomats rotated, as required by regulation, to other stations around the globe. A stationary embassy employee is understood in the Foreign Service to be a CIA operative.
Walker was deputy chief-of-mission in Honduras throughout formation there of the Contra rebel force which reversed the Nicaraguan revolution. By 1985, he was embroiled in Iran-Contra, illegally funneling Oliver North's procurements to the Contras from a Salvadoran airstrip. In 1988, he became ambassador to El Salvador. When the Salvadoran army massacred six Jesuit priests and their housekeepers, Walker dismissed the assassinations as "management control problems," recommending the U.S. not investigate "past deaths." Ironic, for a man who recently set in motion events sending the U.S. to war in Yugoslavia over an occurrence of "past deaths."
The French newspaper Le Figaro broke the story: 43 Serb-massacred civilians at Racak, lying in a ditch. William Walker observed the scene and declared it "a crime against humanity!" But two days later, Le Figaro retracted their story. Seems the French journalist believes he was duped, along with other reporters who were shown the bodies. Once they compared notes back in Pristina that night, OSCE's version just didn't add up. A reporter from Le Monde had visited Racak the day of the alleged travail and found it calm, uneventful. Journalists also found no witnesses to a massacre, nor blood or shell casings in the trench. The bodies had clearly been moved there some time after death.
Belgrade maintains that the corpses at Racak were killed in a KLA-army firefight the previous day. The Serbian media service had even invited reporters to Racak, anticipating a rout of the KLA which might make good press. Such transparency doesn't jibe with plotting crimes against humanity. But William Walker's pronouncement sealed Serbia's fate. Sabers rattled loudly in Washington. Only the Los Angeles Times acknowledged Le Figaro's retraction stateside: "Racak Massacre Questions: Were Atrocities Faked?"
The London Sunday Times reported March 12, 2000, that American intelligence agents admit training the KLA after infiltrating the ceasefire verification team. The rebels were given satellite telephones, global positioning systems and the mobile phone number of General Wesley Clark. "It was a CIA front," declares one agent. An OSCE monitor complains he was "suckered in." Dyncorps, another Pentagon mercenary contractor from Virginia, coordinated the effort. Even William Walker, when asked in a BBC documentary aired March 12 if the CIA could have been in Kosovo, bragged, "Sure they could. It's their job!" KLA/KPC commander Agim Ceku, with considerably more decorum, added, "The ceasefire was very useful to us. It helped us to get organized, to consolidate and grow."
The Walker/Racak revelations seriously compromise American diplomatic credibility worldwide. So, too, the now-confirmed absence of mass graves in Kosovo. Even the War Crimes Tribunal investigating Yugoslavia has acknowledged, "The allegations of indiscriminate mass murder and rape have not been borne out" (Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/99). So much for the Clinton administration's cause celebré.
Large protests and the repression thereof dogged the President as he "took a victory lap" in November through Turkey, Greece, and Bulgaria, ending in Kosovo. Tens of thousands of police insulated Clinton at all times from thousands of protesters who were forbidden to assemble and march in each "democratic" country. Tear gas was employed. Over 400 were arrested. These tactics were intensified the following week when Clinton encountered World Trade Organization protests in Seattle. Rubber bullets accompanied the tear gas and over 600 were jailed in one city. Washington security forces repeated the performance last month during protests of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. So much for our Bill of Rights.
Europe may soon reject the Clintonian vision of its security. Fully a third of NATO members are trading with Belgrade, ignoring U.S.-imposed sanctions. And the European Union began in November developing a Defense Initiative independent of NATO. European military analysts Pavel Felgenhauer and Nebojsa Malic offer disturbing, post-Kosovo observations:
"The people in the Russian military believe sincerely that they need to try to stop the U.S. now, before it goes on a real rampage around the world. That the U.S. is striving for world domination, no one has any doubt." And "The U.S. is trying to consolidate its strength in Kosovo to prepare for further attacks on Yugoslavia, gaining control of the formerly Socialist East and preventing a unified and effectively powerful Europe from emerging." (The Emperor's New Clothes, 2/12/00 & 2/17/00)
Considering that so very few Americans aspire to global empire, let us firmly reassert a populist's vision of world peace.
Kathryn Albrecht, foreign affairs analyst, The Horsefly, Taos, New Mexico