Whatever Happened to Yugoslavia?

By Kathryn Albrecht

Part IV

December 1999


Socialist Serbia, geostrategically positioned between Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and the Mediterranean states, has never committed an act of foreign aggression. Yet its decade-long chastisement by the West resumed with a vengeance on March 24, 1999. Under the guise of "humanitarian intervention" in the province of Kosovo, American-flown NATO jets attacked. A CIA insider proclaimed, "Everything in the country is a target."

Once bombardment began, it developed a momentum all its own. Milosevic "cried Uncle" numerous times and was consistently ignored. On March 29, his Prime Minister appeared on Russian TV declaring, "Yugoslavia is prepared to resume talks on the Kosovo province if NATO calls off air strikes." Bombing intensified. On April 7, Milosevic requested a ceasefire for Orthodox Easter. Request denied. Jesse Jackson secured the release of three captured American servicemen and suggested Yugoslavia be rewarded with a ceasefire. Bombing intensified the next day. In May, 11 U.S. Congressmen met with Russian Duma members and representatives from Belgrade. The Serbs said they were "ready to deal." NATO ignored the opening. German voters, as NATO constituents, approved a referendum calling for a halt to bombing. U.S. pilots answered by flying 900 sorties the following day.

Before the bombing, U.S. and British intelligence agents trained the KLA (ethnic Albanian rebels) to guide NATO "smart bombs" to their targets (Covert Action Quarterly, Diana Johnstone, Summer 1999). Throughout the air war, the Yugoslav army vigorously sought, among other objectives, to neutralize the KLA's ability to coordinate the bombing of Kosovo. Refugees flooded out of the province and onto television screens worldwide. In some cases, Serb troops forced the evacuations. But the editor of the military journal NATO Nations acknowledged: "Increasingly, evidence is accumulating that NATO action unleashed the major ejection of refugees and most of the massacres" (International Herald Tribune, Frederick Bonnart, 6/28/99). Predictable charges of Serb rape were made by President Clinton. But Dr. Richard Munz, a surgeon serving in the Macedonian refugee camp, told the German daily Die Welt that he encountered "not a single case of rape" among the 60,000 ethnic Albanians there.

Late in April, the House of Representatives refused to authorize a wider war. Despite relentless lobbying by the White House and Democratic leaders and the call-up of 30,000 reservists, a close vote precluded the use of American ground troops in Kosovo, making de-escalation inevitable. NATO's actions were being condemned around the globe. The governments of Greece and Italy, both NATO states, formally protested continued bombing. Macedonia refused NATO the use of its airspace. The Nation magazine criticized "NATO's careless, cowardly war!" Headlines across Europe revealed dissent. "The European Union Died in Kosovo" (Le Monde). "First War of Globalization" (Financial Times). The most chilling analysis came from The Guardian Weekly early in May: "There is little sign that voters or governments understand the long-term consequences of the West's assuming responsibility for the Balkans. It means rearmament in Europe ... the close of a decade of delusion."

Secretary of State Madeline Albright's mentor, Georgetown's Dean of Foreign Service, Peter Krogh, broke with his protegee over this war. He told the Wall Street Journal in May, "I cannot recall a time when our foreign policy was in less competent hands... It is a policy of sermons and sanctimony accompanied by the brandishing of Tomahawks." If Albright was stung by this reproach, she could take comfort in her supportive relationship with Senate hawk Jesse Helms. Time magazine described their friendship as "kinship, a bond" ("Madeline's War," 5/15/99).


The outcry against bombing Yugoslavia was all the louder because myriad U.S. and international laws were flouted by the action. Aside from infringing the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, which limits the President's power to make war without the advice and consent of Congress, Clinton violated the War Powers Act, which bans the commitment of American forces longer than 60 days without consent of Congress. NATO violated its own charter and the North Atlantic Treaty, the Nuremberg Convention, the Hague Convention of 1949, and the Stockholm Declaration of 1972. However, during its 50th anniversary gala in Washington last April, NATO amended its Charter, codifying two fundamental changes: NATO is no longer "a defensive organization" and now gives itself permission to strike outside its "sphere of influence" (Alliance Strategic Concept and Defense Capabilities Initiative, 4/25/99). The Balkans are, prima facie, an "out of area" theater for NATO.

The illegalities abound. The Geneva Convention prohibits destroying civilian infrastructure such as water supply, among principal targets in Serbia proper. Eight articles of the United Nations Charter and the General Assembly "Declaration of Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States" were run over rough-shod. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in spite of the war being trumpeted as "humanitarian intervention") rounds out a list of violations four pages long, prepared by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. Additionally, two types of weapons used in the bombing are illegal under international law: cluster bombs and weapons tipped with depleted uranium (DU). Suspected of being a chief cause of Gulf War Syndrome, DU (developed by Nazis as an anti-tank weapon) was first used by the U.S. against Iraq. Its active ingredient is known to cause, among other maladies, leukemia, encephalitis, lung cancer, and birth defects. DU bombs are outlawed by UN General Assembly Resolution 96. A cluster bomb, whose 202 colorful "bomblets" resemble children's parachute toys, has a 5% unexploded dud rate. An estimated 10,000 lethal bomblets litter Yugoslavia today. Geneva, Hague, and Nuremberg ban such ordnance.

Extraordinary misfortune, of course, transpired throughout the 78 days of NATO air raids. The death of civilians became commonplace. They were eviscerated on bridges, on trains and buses loaded with refugees, at campsites where laser-guided bombs found them. Four hundred times more ethnic Albanians fled Kosova during the bombing than fled two years of Serb/KLA civil war beforehand. Six of the seven alleged massacres in the war crimes indictment of Milosevic occurred after bombing began. Perhaps 2,000 Muslims, mostly male, lost their lives. Yet at war's end in June, the U.S. claimed over 10,000 had been murdered. Why the large discrepancy?


The source of the distortion appears to be the KLA. The Trepca mines, where KLA promised the discovery of 700 bodies, contained none whatsoever. A grave in Ljubenic, said to contain 350, held seven corpses. The satellite image of purported freshly-dug tombs at Pusto Selo was not of graves after all. No mass graves were located at Izbica or Kraljan nor at Klina, where 328 were supposedly massacred. But a grave of 22 civilians was discovered at Klecka -- Serbians killed by KLA. They don't count. Thirty-six ethnic Albanian "Serb sympathizers" were shot by KLA and thrown into the Radonjic canal. Neither do those bodies "count" for Tribunal purposes. Pacifica Radio's Jeremy Skahill reported that two municipal employees told him the mass grave located in their jurisdiction contained the bodies of 40 Serb and KLA soldiers, killed in uniform in a firefight, whom the municipal workers had themselves buried. Yet they refused to tell this to Tribunal investigators for fear of retribution by the KLA. Better for world opinion if the dead are "Serb-massacred civilians".

Throughout last summer and fall, forensic experts from 15 countries combed Kosovo for the dead. Genocide is difficult to conceal; in Germany, Cambodia, and Rwanda massacres left massive, undeniable evidence. But half of Kosovo's reported graves have been exhumed and the body count is "disappointingly" low, under 1,000. Since the "most promising" sites were excavated first, investigators now expect to find less than 2,000 Kosovar dead, and many of those from bombing raids. (Toronto Star, Richard Gwyn, "No Genocide, No Justification for War on Kosovo," 11/3/99)

Los Angeles Times correspondent Paul Watson stole back into Kosovo after bombing began and the press was expelled. The only Western journalist to experience the entire bombardment (on the receiving end), Watson recalls: "I was able to reach all of Kosovo's main cities and towns. I saw a much more complicated picture than the one relayed by refugees fleeing across the border... I lived with constant fear of my own country and its allies, and festering doubts about their claim to the moral high ground... It seemed like calling a plumber to fix a leak and watching him flood the house... No independent witnesses ever managed to see Serb atrocities... Even in Kosovo, I couldn't escape the sound of [NATO spokesman Jamie] Shea's voice on satellite TV, denying things I knew to be true, insisting on others I had seen were false". (L.A. Times, "A Witness to War," 6/20/99)

The western world is primed for the vilification of Belgrade only. This mass-mailed funding appeal from Amnesty International must have proved lucrative during the war. "URGENT: EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS OF HORRIBLE HUMAN RIGHTS ATROCITIES WILL...BRING THE GUILTY TO JUSTICE IN THE HAGUE... THESE ARE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY!...AMNESTY'S PRESENCE IN THE BALKANS...IS PUTTING A SEVERE STRAIN ON OUR BUDGET. PLEASE HELP!"


Others cashed in on Kosovo as well. Midpoint in the war, Boeing stock hit a 52-week high. Shares of British Aerospace gained 43% during the bombing (Santa Fe Council on International Relations). NBC, which lavishly covered the war, is owned by General Electric, who builds NATO jet engines. And the newest members of NATO, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary are now required to invest $10 billion in NATO jets. Call it "membership dues." No surprise that the CEO of Lockheed Martin sits on the NATO Expansion Committee.

All this prosperity does not come cheap. On June 4, the day the Kosovo Peace Plan was signed, Congress granted Bill Clinton the $112 billion he requested "to pay for our part in this war." Republicans were feeling magnanimous that day and threw in an extra $37 billion. This $149 billion will come, not from the touted "budget surplus," but from domestic spending cuts, because the Balanced Budget "firewall" (protecting domestic programs from military spending increases) was dismantled by companion legislation. American health, education, and welfare took across-the-board 11% cuts. The next six years will see these programs shrink by 20% to 30%. (Richard Becker, International Action Committee, 7/31/99).

Meantime, wages in Serbia proper fell from $100 per month to $50 per month during the war. Belgrade halted pension payments, but managed to make food available. This winter, Yugoslavia surpassed Albania as the poorest nation in Europe. It has been a long fall to the bottom. Serbian officials announced the establishment last July of a reconstruction fund of but $4.3 million. When the International Criminal Tribunal garnished the supposed assets of Milosevic and four cronies in Swiss banks, no assets were uncovered. (The Tribunal is in no way associated with the International Court of Justice, or World Court, also located in The Netherlands.)


As the war wound down in early June, hundreds more died during three last days of carpet bombing after the Peace Plan was signed, but before the Allies' fury was spent. At issue, delaying the cease fire, was President Milosevic's insistence that the United Nations, not NATO alone, take part in the administration of Kosovo, as promised in said Plan. Washington had secretly abrogated that clause and finally only vaguely restored it. (New Military Humanism, Chomsky, p.127, 1999)

"KFOR" (Kosovo Force) now occupies Kosovo. With 50,000 NATO personnel, it is the largest military operation in Europe since World War II. However, KFOR has been unable to wrest control of the province from the Kosovo Liberation Army, although the Peace Plan calls for the KLA to disarm. The Yugoslav federal army withdrew ahead of schedule, but as the deadline passed for the KLA to surrender their weapons, they were openly importing more, right in front of KFOR border guards. (Albuquerque Journal, 6/18 and 6/19/99) Besieged by murder, arson and beatings, including the massacre of 14 wheat-harvesting Serb farmers in the village of Gracko in July, over three-quarters (200,000) of Kosovo's resident Serbs have fled, mostly into impoverished Serbia. A study published by Human Rights Watch identifies the KLA as chief perpetrators in the "postwar" killing of over 400 Roma and ethnic Serbs. Other estimates tally the Serb dead at over 700. (Boston Herald, 2/23/00)

Thousands of Serbs remaining in Kosovo are trapped in ghettos inside two perimeters, the first guarded by KFOR, the outer manned by armed KLA. At Orahovac, where the KLA marched in right alongside KFOR in June, 3,000 Serb and Roma civilians were detained for over seven months in a cramped compound. Water, food, electricity, telephone, medical and mail services were severely rationed and no one was allowed to leave (Orahovac Committee, Amsterdam, Holland). Inside and outside such enclaves, the murder of Serbs remains rampant. (The New Mexican, "Mob Killing/Kosovo," 12/6/99)

Officially, the KLA metamorphosed in September into the Kosovo Protection Corps, or KPC, under UN auspices. Ostensibly "civilian," the KPC was nonetheless trained by Military Professional Resources, Inc., the mercenary Pentagon contractor who organized the purge of Serbs from Croatia in 1995 and then trained the nascent KLA. The KPC's head, Agim Ceku, is under investigation by the International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes in Croatia. Five months after the KLA's metamorphosis, UN Secretary Kofi Annan has received an official report that the KPS is involved in "killings, torture, intimidation, and hate speech" against minorities in Kosovo. (The London Observer, 3/12/00)


President Clinton's succinct definition of American military priorities at the turn of the millennium is reflected in a statement he made as bombing began: "It's globalism versus tribalism." But surely, the current of U.S. foreign policy runs deeper than that. So much money, so many lives, such great sensitivities are at stake. (Recall China's outrage after its Belgrade embassy was cluster-bombed.) Is there a method to this madness?

There is, in fact, clear evidence that the U.S. and NATO are moving toward Eastern Europe and beyond the Caucasus, into former Soviet southern Asia. Why attempt dominance there? The world's greatest untapped reserve of oil lies beneath Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, bordering the Caspian Sea. Along with rich natural gas deposits, Kazakhstan contains an estimated 10,000 tons of gold. Exxon, Texaco, and Amoco are busy prospecting, but the route of an oil pipeline has not been firmly determined. China signed contracts to pump the oil eastward. But the West plans to locate the pipeline terminus in Turkey. Kurdish territory, so viciously disputed there, lies along the way.

If Russia is seen as a geopolitical obstacle, access to the Black Sea through the Bosphorus must be assured. Dominance over the Balkan states, linking the Rhine-Danube river system and the Adriatic, Aegean and Black Seas, would guarantee Western access to Transcaucasia and her riches. Retired Army General William Odom, head of the National Security Agency under Reagan, affirmed at the time of the Dayton Accords that NATO occupation of the Balkans is part of a plan for U.S. domination of Europe and the former Soviet Union. He described the entire strategy as securing the resources of the Caspian Sea and "stabilizing, ultimately, Russia". (New York Times, 12/5/95)

Although the United States threatens several nuclear-armed states in this quest, the U.S. military is larger than the next sixteen greatest powers combined. With 300,000 troops abroad, new bases have been established in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Macedonia. Seeing the writing on the wall, Romania, Bulgaria, and Azerbaijan, seek NATO membership. Yugoslavia has held out against quixotic capitalist/military expansion. Now that ties to collective identity throughout the Balkans are effectively unraveled, the transformation of all of Yugoslavia into an American military outpost appears inevitable.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor under Carter, recently wrote: "America's emergence as the sole global superpower makes a comprehensive strategy for Eurasia imperative... The task is to insure that no state or combination of states gains the ability to expel the U.S. or diminish its decisive role" (Crimes of War, Gutman & Rieff, 1999). Countering this hegemonic worldview is Dennis Kucinich, Croat-American Congressman from Ohio, writing in the August issue of The Progressive: "One lesson I learned [from Kosovo] is that Congress must reclaim its authority to declare war... Another lesson is that the peace movement must reassert itself."

-- by Kathryn Albrecht

A thousand thanks to: Bear Albrecht, most supportive computer techie imaginable; Marilyn Hoff, Chris Milord, and Bill Whaley, wonderfully fierce copy editors; Sofia Savich, Web searcher extraordinaire; plus the Dokmanovics and all who bore the brunt.

Last update 3/2003