Whatever Happened to Yugoslavia?

By Kathryn Albrecht

Part III

November 1999


(Sidebar to Part III)

Dayton Accords rule Nuevo Bosnia:

The U.S.-brokered Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnian civil war late in 1995, created a pair of odd, not-quite-nations. Bosnian Serbs received the territory their forces had been fighting for, a crenelated, saddlebags-shaped area from which most Muslims had fled or been driven. The Republika Srpska (or RS) is roughly half of the original Bosnia. The American-forged alliance of Bosnian Croats and Muslims was allocated the other half, named The Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina (or BH). The Muslim-Croat federation was also granted a permanent two-thirds majority in the joint Parliament of BH/RS.

Dayton stipulates that refugees on either side of the partition boundary should return home. Few feel safe in doing so. Two million persons remain displaced, inside and outside Bosnia. The wounds of war are slow to heal. Dayton's refugee-return proviso also applies to Croatia. 600,000 ethnic Serbs are homeless, destitute and scattered throughout Serbia, driven from Croatia in 1995 (or having fled from Bosnia and now Kosovo). But Croatia has refused to repatriate non-Croat refugees, accord or no accord.

The constitution of BH/RS was crafted in Ohio by non-Bosnian negotiators, without the constitutional assembly of, nor ratification by the people it is intended to govern. The UN-appointed High Representative (the country's chief administrator), is not a native and the Foreign Minister is American. Call Dayton a "designer peace plan," by which its Western framers intended Bosnians to recover and thrive. But the nation of BH/RS "is a vast zoo of international organizations falling over each other," reports a Brussels diplomat. Why?

The currency throughout "liberated Yugoslavia" is now the deutschmark. The International Monetary Fund appoints a governor of the Bosnian Central Bank (who is not Bosnian). The Bank cannot extend credit to its citizens until 2001. So the federation/republic cannot manage its reconstruction via independent economic development, although the region is rich in coal, iron, bauxite, manganese, copper, chromium, lead, and zinc. (Amoco and other western concerns mine these minerals today.) The European Union Development Bank runs all postal, energy, communications and transportation services in "the new Bosnia."

Since pacification, many western investor-owned companies have set up shop in BH/RS, where post-war citizens work for low wages. Many once-vigorous state and worker-owned industries have been liquidated, erasing most traces of "market socialism." Soon after Dayton was signed, U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown led a junket of 35 investment bankers, American CEOs, government and CIA officials to war-ravaged Croatia and Bosnia. Their helicopter crashed near the border, killing all on board and leaving "many unanswered questions" concerning "unspoken pressures," in the words of The New York Times (4/6/96). The heads of Riggs International, AT&T, Parsons Corporation, and Bechtel died, apparently scouting for corporate bonanzas.

But bonanzas are difficult to sustain in the western Balkan "designer" republics. The New York Times reported last August that Volkswagen and other internationals, disappointed by government corruption, lack of productivity and workers' low morale, may pull out of BH/RS. The ubiquitous McDonald's has refused to venture there. An American "anti-fraud unit" reports up to $1 billion in international aid stolen or appropriated by Bosnian officials and bankers. The government in Sarajevo borrows from The World Bank to make pension payments. The Croatian mafia imports the country's oil and gas, untaxed of course. The judicial system is overwhelmed; in Tuzla alone, there is a backlog of 30,000 cases of organized and violent crime.

Trying to whip that far-off place into shape, USAID is attempting to seize the assets of entrepreneurial companies behind on their loan payments. The High Representative has dismissed 15 democratically elected officials suspected of corruption or has prevented them from taking office in the first place. UN mission chief Jacques Klein opined, "Dayton stopped the violence but did not end the war... Bosnia and Hercegovina is a patient on life support." 34,000 armed NATO troops remain its police force. The New York Times complained that Muslim, Croat, and Serb nationalists "keep Bosnia rigidly partitioned into three antagonistic enclaves," yet the Accords created those enclaves, calling only for "eventual unity." Obviously the road from partition to unity is fraught with logistic challenges. This does not bode well for Kosovo, where NATO and Western administrators now, likewise, run the show.
[End Sidebar]

Whatever Happened to Yugoslavia?

Part III


NATO's bombardment of what remains of Yugoslavia consumed 11 weeks of springtime last year and directly killed over 5,000 people. Many were soldiers, the rest civilians, including Kosovars the bombing was supposed to save. 2,000 civilians were killed beyond Kosovo in Serbia and Montenegro. 33,000 American-led sorties dropped 19,200 tons of explosives on, among other targets, 300 elementary schools, a dozen health care facilities, and four of the most biodiverse national parks in the world. Thousands of pounds of unspent explosives were jettisoned into the Adriatic Sea by bombers returning to base in Italy.

With refineries, petrochemical plants, and generating stations being prime targets of NATO, a black cloud laced with phosgene, heavy metals, PCBs, various chlorides, and hydrofluoric acid lingered over Serbia for weeks (Sylvia Poggioli, National Public Radio). A 12-mile long toxic oil slick oozed down the Danube, through four countries, into the Black Sea (Der Spiegel, 5/3/99). $64 billion in damage was done to Yugoslavia at a cost of $3 billion to NATO allies. The $58 million reconstruction package allotted Kosovo by the world's eight wealthiest nations amounts to less than America's expense for one day's bombing (Blood Rites, Barbara Ehrenrich, 1999). Aid, of course, is offered Kosovo alone; Serbia "does not deserve reconstruction while Slobodan Milosevic is President of Yugoslavia" (G8 Summit, Cologne, 6/19/99).


What sorrows in the history of Kosovo led to the exodus, under duress of NATO air war, of nearly a million ethnic Albanians, from March to June, 1999? Kosovo, in southern Serbia, is the cradle of Serb culture and identity. Ancient monasteries and nunneries of the Serbian Orthodox Church are there. During World War II, Nazi and Fascist occupiers of the Balkans administered Albania and neighboring Kosovo as one unit. A "Greater Albania" was promised sympathizers as reward for complicity with the Hitlerites. After the Partisans, led by Marshal Tito, expelled the Axis powers from the Peninsula in 1941, the province of Kosovo reverted to Serbia. But that dream of a Greater Albania, for some, never died.

Strategically, Kosovo is rich in coal and gas. Tito encouraged Albanian migration up into Kosovo, his objective being to integrate and mix well the various nationalities of Yugoslavia, thereby discouraging racist or separatist tendencies. But Tito's Kosovo policy failed to create parity. He did not anticipate the consequences of neighboring Albania's perennial poverty, the porous border, and Muslim families' higher average birthrate (six births per mother). By 1990, 85% of Kosovo was ethnic Albanian and 15% were Roma (gypsies) and ethnic Serbs.

Another contributor to population imbalance in Kosovo is decades of harassment of the Serb minority by certain factions of Albanian society. Serbs have been victims of murder, rape, robbery, and industrial sabotage (National Catholic Reporter, 6/18/99). The intimidation is intended to drive Serbs out of Kosovo. Indeed, between 1966 and 1989, 130,000 Serbs left Kosovo for good. The New York Times quoted a Kosovar official in 1982 explaining the harassment's objective is "an ethnically clean Albanian republic and merger to form a greater Albania." For the next seven years, the Nexis database attributes to Albanian nationalists each use of the terms "ethnic cleansing" or "ethnically clean." The Times reported in November 1987 that Muslim officials "have manipulated regulations to take land belonging to Serbs... Wells have been poisoned and crops burned... As Slavs flee the protracted violence, Kosovo is becoming an ethnically pure Albanian region."

A foundation for poor relations was.laid in 1952 when an Interior Minister and his secret police began terrorizing Kosovars. Tito sacked the minister in 1966 and began to redress the situation. In 1974, a new constitution granted increased autonomy to Kosova (the Albanian spelling will be used interchangeably here). By 1980, a Pristina University professor proclaimed, "Not a single minority in the world has achieved the rights the Albanian nationality enjoys in socialist Yugoslavia!" (New Military Humanism, Chomsky, p.24, 1999) But with Tito's death that year, the situation began to deteriorate. Relations between Muslims and Slavs and Muslims' ties to the Federation grew increasingly strained. Austere debt "restructuring" imposed on Yugoslavia by the International Monetary Fund cut-off most of Belgrade's financial support to Kosovo, worsening matters. University riots broke out in 1981 and dozens were killed. In 1982, a twelve-year-old Serb boy was set on fire. In 1985, a Serb policemen was mutilated. In 1987, an Orthodox nunnery was burned down. The Kosova independence movement was heating up.

In 1987, then-Communist Party chair, Slobodan Milosevic, gave a key speech at the most sacred Serbian cultural site in Kosovo, warning that Serbia would never let Kosovo go. That prophetic declaration sent shudders through the Yugoslav republics which, under increased economic duress, were considering looser confederation with, if not separation from, Belgrade. The Kosova resistance remained intransigent and in 1989, Milosevic abolished Kosovo's autonomous status. He fired a hundred thousand ethnic Albanian workers and banned the use of their language in schools. Dozens more died protesting these proscriptions.


A fascinating twist then developed in the annals of Balkan history: a Gandhian non-violent movement led by Muslim intellectual Ibrahim Rugova. In late 1990, eschewing force, Kosova declared herself independent, although still "within the framework of Yugoslavia." Rugova was elected "President of The Republic of Kosova" with 99% of the Islamic vote. A dozen parallel governmental, educational and medical structures were created for Muslim society. Patriarchal patterns were reexamined and 2,000 "blood feuds" publicly reconciled by 1992. Milosevic tolerated (or ignored) the movement.

In early 1991, the West abruptly recognized the secessions of Slovenia and Croatia, without discussions on the fate of the Serb minorities there. When Muslim Kosova voted for sovereignty, Albania immediately recognized the prospective state. Serbs were skittish and it was hoped they would pull up stakes and migrate north. It may come as a surprise that the United States -- bombing not withstanding -- has never advocated Kosova's independence. Montenegro, Greece, and Macedonia each contain large Albanian minorities. The U.S. has not wished to encourage ethnic Albanian uprisings threatening stability in those states.

But eight years' non-violent action got Albanian Kosovars virtually nowhere in international circles, nor onto the map. They were politely ignored and then betrayed by NATO states. Rugova and delegation were relegated to a side room with TV monitor at a United Nations Balkans crises conference in London (Lessons from Kosovo, Chomsky, p.25, 1999). Neither the Dayton Accords nor Rambouillet (the negotiations preceding recent bombing) offered to legitimize Kosova independence. Only the return of autonomy under Belgrade was ever proposed. "The reward for non-violence was international neglect" (Current History, p.277, 4/99).

Rugova visited Washington in 1993 pleading for mediation of the worsening conflict with the central government. He went away empty-handed and grew retiring in his leadership of the non-violent movement. Rather than maintain the momentum of huge civil demonstrations of the early nineties, Rugova called less frequently for actions. Having guided the creation and sustenance of alternative universities and social services, he stalled expanding independent economic development and nixed possible alternatives to immediate independence, such as phased changes in constitutional status. Popular organizations continued to take non-violent resistance to the streets, right to the bitter end last spring. Students and professors initiated marches joined by hundreds of thousands. Throughout 1997 and 1998, streets would fill with men waving branches and women bearing loaves of bread to Serb refugees from other republics. Sit-ins packed the squares. The example of Gandhi's legendary patience was not lost on the ethnic Albanian peace movement.


Yet not being included in the Dayton negotiations, where Milosevic represented Serbia, had broken many a pacifist's heart in Kosova. An armed guerrilla movement awaited those who lost patience. Formed from the decades-old Albanian resistance, with roots in large rural clans, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA, or UCK in Albanian) grew rapidly. The armed revolt was funded by the Albanian diaspora and through drug dealings. According to the State Department, the KLA controls Afghani heroin routes into Zurich. The guerrillas partly trained with Pentagon contractors, Military Professional Resources, Inc., using weapons transferred from Bosnia in 1996, according to retired Army Colonel David Hackworth in a Fox Network interview. Militant Islamics in Iran and Pakistan also provided early training to the insurgents (A History of Kosovo, Miranda Vickers, 1998). Much of the KLA's armament was gleaned during Albania's social chaos in 1996, when collapsing pyramid schemes wiped out most Albanians' life savings. During the disorder, state armories were opened and pilfered.

KLA/UCK attacks on Serbs in Kosovo began in 1996. Postal workers, forest service employees, municipal police, and ethnic Albanian "traitors" (those who worked cooperatively with Serbs) were targeted. In February, simultaneous bombs went off in five refugee camps in Kosovo housing victims of the recent cleansing of Krajinan Serbs from Croatia. The KLA, 40,000 strong, controlled a third of Kosova. With another ambush of Serbian police, the Yugoslav federal government decided to go to war. Fighting began near villages assumed sympathetic to the KLA. These rural areas swapped hands repeatedly as federal and guerrilla forces ebbed and surged.

In 1998, 10,000 Serbian Interior police (later the notorious "ethnic cleansers" during NATO bombing) entered the fray. Still, U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard declared the KLA "without any question a terrorist group." Milosevic apparently interpreted Washington's opinion as a green light to vanquish the rebels. A 50-person massacre among the Jashari clan, a "roots" family of the KLA, ignited a general uprising in the countryside. Summer saw villages torched in Serb offensives, but KLA territory gradually increased.

In October 1998, the U.S. arranged a ceasefire. Serb troops withdrew a prescribed distance; the zone was to remain demilitarized. But KLA forces advanced and resupplied these positions within hours. The breaking point came on January 15, when 45 ethnic Albanians were killed, apparently by Serb forces in the village of Recak, "at a time when human rights violations were occurring on both sides" (The New Yorker, 5/10/99). Threatened with NATO bombing, the belligerents came to the table at Rambouillet, France, beginning two months of deliberations. The agenda: Where do we go from here?


Washington's proposed answer resembled more an ultimatum to Yugoslavia than a peace plan. It mandated immediate withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo. Milosevic agreed. It demanded the return of Kosova autonomy. Again, Milosevic agreed. However, Rambouillet did not provide for a UN presence in Kosovo. Milosevic balked. Washington's proposal instead allowed NATO military occupation of the entire country. Appendix B, paragraph 8, reads: "NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and access throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including associated airspace and territorial waters."

Yugoslavia accepted all stipulations of Rambouillet except this last demand. No sovereign nation would agree to such capitulation. The Yugoslav constitution states: "No person possesses the right to accept the occupation of Yugoslavia." A Senate foreign policy aide revealed that "a senior Administration official told media at Rambouillet, under embargo, 'We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing and that's what they're going to get' " (Jim Jatras, Cato Institute address, 5/18/99). The press corps dutifully complied with the request that it not report that the "peace initiative" was rigged. Rambouillet was intentionally designed to be unacceptable to Belgrade and was therefore intended to precipitate bombing.

The American press also failed to inform the American people of a key, eleventh-hour initiative of the Yugoslav National Assembly to head off bombardment the night before the war began. Late on March 23, the Assembly approved a ten-page resolution requesting immediate return of UN monitors to Serbia (and therefore Kosovo) "to facilitate a peaceful diplomatic settlement." The resolution promised Kosova full autonomy with comprehensive guarantees of human rights. News of the legislature's desperate resolution went out on wire services worldwide, but received no coverage in the national press here. Americans awoke to the news on March 24 that the bombing of Yugoslavia had begun "because Milosevic refused to accept...or even discuss an international peacekeeping plan" at Rambouillet (New York Times, 3/24/99).

NEXT TIME: CIVILIANS TAKE THE FLAK ONCE AGAIN. The lucrative illegality of war, and Kosovo's effect on the community of nations. Why did the bombing not end sooner? And where in this world are NATO and the U.S headed?-- all in the fourth installment of "Whatever Happened to Yugoslavia?"

-- Kathryn Albrecht, educated in the hot-bed of the Sixties at UCLA.

Last update 3/2003