Nothing New In Kosovo

Over the past couple of days, two prominent leaders of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA) have been arrested by the NATO forces occupying Kosovo. Rrustem Mustafa, better known as Commander Remi, is accused of torturing and murdering several people. Ramush Haradinaj was charged with "violent behavior" – a polite way to describe a shooting of a rival politician two years ago.

Predictably, the arrests have been touted as a signal of NATO’s determination to "tackle armed extremism" in the province. They are, of course, nothing of the sort. Considering the violent record of Haradinaj and Mustafa, present charges against them are a joke. Since their political views are shared by most Kosovo Albanians, the two are not "extremists," either. The most accurate description would be "terrorists," but despite the Empire’s propensity for throwing the term around, it has been carefully avoided in this instance. Strange, perhaps, but not new. Not in Kosovo.

Remi and Ramush’s Greatest Hits

One interesting thing about both arrests is that they refer to events that occurred a while ago. In the meantime, Mustafa helped the "human rights cause" in Macedonia, while Haradinaj and his party took part in the elections last fall. Haradinaj was frequently welcomed in Washington’s halls of power, in Foggy Bottom as well as on Capitol Hill, despite common knowledge such as this:

"Haradinaj could face charges over what may be the biggest atrocity carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Forty civilians were killed during several months in 1998 in the village of Glodjane in western Kosovo, where Haradinaj was then the KLA commander. Many of the bodies – of Serbs, Albanians and gypsies [sic] – bore marks of torture."

(The Sunday Times, April 29, 2001 – see reference)

Mustafa’s crimes are similarly documented (see here; scroll down to "Commander Remi"): abductions, murders, bomb attacks against cafés, convenience stores and marketplaces… Among his victims were both Kosovo Serbs and those Albanians who had not joined the KLA. Most significantly, fellow KLA members testified he was responsible for organizing an exodus of some 220,000 Albanians from northern Kosovo (The Guardian, June 30, 1999) during NATO’s assault in 1999. As this demolishes the NATO thesis about Serb "ethnic cleansing" (and thus removes the justification for both the 1999 invasion and the occupation), the absence of these crimes from Remi’s indictment is not surprising.

Given the obvious amount of knowledge about these two characters and their actions, their arrests on minor charges amounting to "assault" and "manslaughter" seems more of a PR move than genuine concern for justice and peace. Let’s not forget, NATO’s illegal attack made it possible for Remi and Ramush to run wild around Kosovo in the first place, and for over three years.

Occupation "Justice"

The concept of "justice" in Kosovo is generally a sick joke. Just last week, a local Albanian "judge" decided to expropriate two plots of land that belonged to the Visoki Decani monastery. The monastery land had been stolen before, by the Communists in 1946. Some of it was restored in 1997, by the (gasp!) government of Slobodan Milosevic. Now the Albanians have "liberated" it, as they have "liberated" the entire province. Needless to say, the UN/NATO occupation authorities have done absolutely nothing to prevent, stop, or reverse this theft.

It says plenty for the Serbian government’s commitment to justice that its only response was a timid pronouncement by the Ministry of Faith, saying that the land-grab "certainly is not in the best interests of anyone well-intentioned and wishing to establish peace and tolerance in Kosovo-Metohija."

Really? What was their first clue?

Plans and Rumors of Plans

If only the schemers in Empire’s corridors of power were nearly as clueless about their plans for Kosovo! Alas, that is not so. Last month, the U.S. Institute of Peace published Special Report 91, titled "Kosovo Final Status: Options and Cross-border Requirements." Now, USIP is run and funded by the US Congress, and employs mostly State Department personnel on hiatus from official government duties. Though "unofficial," the USIP reports are a good indicator of what Empire’s policymakers are thinking. And judging by SR 91, all options for Kosovo involve some form of independence.

Again, this is not surprising. Half the people who worked on the report have worked for the ICG at one time or another, and the International Crisis Group has been an outspoken champion of the Albanian cause. It has issued its own report on final status – favoring independence, of course. Its late 1999 proposal to seize the Trepca mines was followed – almost to the letter – by the occupation authorities in 2000. Just recently, the ICG proposed the elimination of the last Serb enclaves in the province, as a "threat" to peace and security.

True to form, occupation governor Michael Steiner recently spoke against "partition" and "parallel structures" in Kosovo (meaning the vestiges of Serb government, not the KLA, of course). He also categorically rejected "status quo ante" 1999, effectively saying that chances of Kosovo reintegrating into Serbia were less than zero. Behind Steiner’s talk of "democratic, safe and multiethnic Kosovo on its way to Europe" is independence, hiding in open sight.

Congress Speaks Out

Finally, there is the House Resolution 467, proposed by Representatives Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) and Tom Lantos (D-CA) on June 27 this year, expressing the support for independence of something called "Kosova" (read PDF). Fortunately for Kenya, this does not mean support for separatists in the Nyanza province, if there are any. It means Gilman, Lantos and their ilk desperately need a lesson in remedial English. Given the amount of contributions they received from Albanian separatists, they might need remedial ethics as well, together with such luminaries as Viagra pitchman Bob Dole and Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE).

There are still some naïve moralists who are trying hard to reconcile the aggression and occupation with an ethical solution for Kosovo. However rational their arguments against independence may sound, however close to the mainstream rhetoric and thinking, the Empire seems to have made up its mind already. The question isn’t "if," but "when."

Nebojsa Covic, Serbian kommissar for Kosovo, can ask for as many explanations as he wants, and try to reason with the occupiers till the cows come home. His boss, Zoran Djindjic, is Empire’s obedient servant, who will find a way to rationalize and spin whatever his masters decide to do with Kosovo. And if he doesn’t, NATO can always bomb Serbia. It worked the first time, didn’t it?

The Crucible

One glimmer of hope in this deluge of depravity is that the Empire seems to be in no hurry to actually let the Kosovo Albanians declare independence. Perhaps the feeling is that such a radical move might remind the rest of the world of the criminal nature of NATO’s attack, the illegal nature of the occupation, and the fact that the US and NATO, with UN’s tacit approval, invaded and seized a piece of a sovereign nation’s territory. That last bit might be the toughest sell to the world, since anybody can be the next victim.

Yet given that the Empire has used the Kosovo war to assert the right to do whatever it pleases, whenever it pleases, with or without an excuse, the hesitation can only mean the occupation of this Serbian province still serves a purpose.

As long as that is the case, there is hope – however slim – that the Empire will refrain from actually proceeding with an agenda as obviously stupid as Kosovo independence. Not because it is wrong, immoral, illegal or unjust, mind you, but because it might be counterproductive.

As prosecuting Remi and Ramush for terrorism might be, for instance.

Read more by Nebojsa Malic

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.