Why are we in Ko$ovo?

When we first set up Antiwar.com, and started covering the outrages of the Kosovo war on a daily basis, we got a lot of emails asking essentially the same question: Why Kosovo? Here, after all, was a Balkan backwater that very few Americans had even heard of, and which seemed to have next to no strategic or economic value. How was it that, suddenly, the military might of the US and its European allies was focused on this godforsaken piece of real estate as if it were the crossroads of the world? With startling abruptness, NATO warplanes were dropping bombs over Yugoslav cities – some of the oldest in Europe – while in the gallery the Western media cheered. We were treated to endless televised loops of Albanian refugees, tears streaming down their dusty cheeks, and the somber faces of journalists all repeating variations on the same theme: ethnic cleansing, pogroms, genocide! It all turned out to be a lie, of course, just as I said in this column (then called “Wartime Diary”) from the very beginning. There was no ethnic cleansing on the scale reported by the Western media, no pogroms, and certainly no “genocide” carried out by the Serbian military authorities. There was only an unsuccessful attempt to keep Yugoslavia from being invaded by Albanian militants who were, indeed, intent on carrying out their own policy of ethnic cleansing – and we can see the results of their success today, in the wake of what former State Department spokesman James Rubin called the “liberation” of Kosovo. A “liberated” Kosovo, in this parlance, means a province cleansed of Serbs. A SIDE DISH

This was a “humanitarian” intervention, said the President, an heroic chapter in the international fight against “racism.” Of course, this was said by the same chief executive who sold pardons by the dozen at a “going out of business” sale that reaped untold millions – untold because the Republicans have quashed the inquiry into “Pardongate” for reasons of their own. In the case of our ex-President, the old maxim that exhorts us to “follow the money” seems particularly apt, and I attempted to do this in a column that speculated on the connection of George Soros to the effort to expropriate and “privatize” the Trepca mines, worth some $5 billion. But as it turns out, the Trepca connection was only gravy: the main course is being served as I write. For the news that an oil pipeline is being constructed through Bulgaria, Macedonia, and on to Albania, tells us everything we need to know about the real origins of the Kosovo war and the motive behind our whole Balkan operation.


A fascinating piece by Richard Norton-Taylor in the [London] Guardian on the jockeying for influence in the Caucasus points to the oil and gas companies as the real beneficiaries of NATO’s “humanitarian” efforts. The new Trans-Balkan pipeline, a project initiated by the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil corporation [AMBO], will run from the Bulgarian port of Burgas, on the Black Sea, bisect Macedonia, and go on through to Vlore, Albania’s Adriatic port, in anticipation of the flow of oil and natural gas expected to come out of the Caspian region. A feasibility study largely paid for by your tax dollars has given the green light to Texaco, Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, BP Amoco, Agip, and TotalElFina that this is the way to get around the bottlenecked Bosporus and transport oil and gas to energy-starved Europe. AMBO CEO E. L. “Ted” Ferguson, appointed in 1997, is the former Director of Oil & Gas Development for Europe for Brown and Root – Dick Cheney’s old gig, and the military contractor reaping millions from US deployment in the Balkans. In 1998, Ferguson traveled to Albania to meet with President Rexhep Meidani, who pledged his support to the project: but it is only now that the project to Islamicize the Balkans has gotten well along the road to success that they have managed to begin thinking about actual construction. Detailing the overtures of NATO and the European Union to Georgian and Azerbajian, Norton-Taylor succinctly sums up the oil connection to the Kosovo conundrum:

“While the US and Nato – and now the EU – hold out the prospect of untold wealth for the Caucasian states of the former Soviet Union, the west will also have an important economic stake in Albania and Macedonia. The US already seems to take the view that all Serbs are bad and all Albanians good. The implications for Kosovo, a Serbian province with an overwhelming ethnic Albanian population, and for Macedonia, with armed groups from Kosovo stirring up trouble among the ethnic Albanian population, are potentially immense.”


The “Albanians good, Serbs bad” diktat, seen in isolation from the forces and personalities that shape US foreign policy, makes no sense at all. But when we put it in context – when we look at it against the backdrop of the AMBO/Brown & Root/Cheney connection – it makes all too much sense that Serbophobia is quite profitable for the big oil interests that form the corporate core this administration. Colonel David Hackworth, in his most recent column, is horrified that US troops are under fire in the Balkans from a guerrilla army armed and trained by – the US! Of course, war in the Balkans is nothing new, he writes, but:

“What’s new is that the AK-47s, the ammo and the wherewithal to field the Albanian army of insurgent thugs currently going up against our and other NATO troops were provided not by Russia or Red China or North Korea, but by the USA. Yes, American taxpayers paid for the bullets being used to shoot American soldiers!”


How could this be? It makes no sense, unless you ask the essential question: “Who benefits?” The uses of a “Greater Albania” come into crystal-clear focus as the “Great Game” for Caspian oil riches begins to be played in earnest. Hackworth reports that our European allies are up in arms over US commanders looking the other way as the CIA unleashes its Albanian mad dogs on southern Serbia and Macedonia – another senseless policy that only underscores the overall pattern of events. For massive Western intervention to prevent another round of alleged “ethnic cleansing” would complete the militarization of the southeastern Balkans – and pave the way for NATO troops to act as the gendarmes of Big Oil. This is the historical pattern of corporate lobbying in the foreign policy sphere: the big boys can make all the overseas deals they want, and hold out the promise of untold wealth to their shareholders, but how will they protect their investment? To say that Balkan governments are unstable would be a bit of an understatement, and in any case these governments are often an obstacle, without the inclination or the resources to guard Western investments. In order to attract investment in the first place, the builders of such projects as the Trans-Balkan pipeline not only needed plenty of US government money – in the form of investment guarantees from the Ex-Im Bank, loans from the World Bank, and other backing from quasi-government institutions – they also needed US and NATO troops on the scene, to police and protect their investment. The rest, as they say, is history. . . .


But isn’t this is one of those “conspiracy theories” that rational people are supposed to disdain? The short answer is: yes. A somewhat longer answer is: so what? Conspiracy theories are not irrational, per se: for, as Murray N. Rothbard pointed out, the belief that erroneous and harmful government policies are pursued as a result of intellectual error overlooks the reality that statism – “a massive system of economic exploitation of the productive many by the parasitic few” – is "in the rational self-interest of the exploiters.” Somebody benefits from our foreign policy of perpetual war for perpetual “peace” – and, in this case, it is Chevron, Exxon, BP Amoco, AMBO, etc. ad nauseum. As it turned out, the Trepca mines were only the icing on the cake: the real main course was and is Caspian oil, which will flow through the Balkans – but not without igniting a firestorm.


Hackworth is a good guy, who doesn’t like foreign wars and especially didn’t like the Kosovo war, as he makes clear in his column. But he’s a soldier, not a foreign policy analyst or a political maven, and he sincerely believes that George W. Bush doesn’t want us in this particular quagmire. “During the presidential campaign,” he writes,

“George W. Bush questioned our operations in ex-Yugoslavia. Now that he’s getting the inside scoop, hopefully he’s realized that it’s a mass of endless running sores. Six years after we went to Bosnia for only one year, we’re still there – and Kosovo looks like an even more open-ended and far more dangerous commitment. The president must put a muzzle on the CIA to stop it from supporting one of the most cutthroat gangs of terrorists in the world.”


Hackworth is sincere – but, I’m afraid, a bit naïve. There is no way George W. is going to call off the CIA and get us out of the Balkans. There is too much money involved, and too much is at stake for US policymakers to turn back now. The bipartisan coalition that got us into the Balkans has its tentacles stretching from the corporate boardrooms of America to the halls of Congress to the White House itself. The Kosovo war, it turns out, had nothing to do with “humanitarianism,” and the so-called Clinton Doctrine was just window-dressing for the bought-and-paid-for “intellectuals” and other Deep Thinkers who rationalized the rape of the former Yugoslavia. If we follow the money, we wind up at the door of Big Oil – the same crew that benefits from our continuing war on Iraq, and the military occupation of the Middle East. Those who are appealing to George W. Bush to fulfill his campaign promise to get us out of the Balkans have a loooong wait ahead of them, for the smiling face of our genial President is but a mask for the face of corporate America.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].