In digging up evidence that Slobodan Milosevic isn’t exactly Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the International Criminal Tribunal for War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) may be uncovering more than it bargained for – evidence of American covert operations that play a central role in the ongoing destabilization of the Balkans. This was brought home the other day with the news that the bodies of three Americans have been unearthed in the mass graves found in Serbia – and therein lies a story.


It is the story of the "Atlantic Brigade,” a shadowy unit organized and trained in the US, which fought in the Kosovo war at the side of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), numbering some 400 armed fighters. There seems little doubt that these “internationalists” were armed and trained by the US government and its intelligence services. Clinton had, after all, vowed to undermine the government in Belgrade, and the Brigadeers didn’t shy away from publicity: they were given a big sendoff in New York City (the center of Albanian-American activity) and were much celebrated in left-liberal venues such as as well as the New York media. Now they are joining the “National Liberation Army” – another name for the KLA – in Macedonia, where Albanian ultra-nationalists are undermining Skopje just as they subverted the authority of Belgrade. Their goal is to create a crisis so that NATO will intervene on (what else?) “humanitarian” grounds.


The three Albanian-Americans were found with their identity papers – rather odd, but we’ll let that pass for the moment – and had apparently been blindfolded and bound with their hands behind their backs, then shot at close range. According to the article, they were also found with Serbian court papers on them (!) indicating that they had been arrested and jailed on June 27 – seventeen days after the Kosovo war officially ended – for entering Serbia illegally. The bombing of Yugoslavia had stopped, but the covert military assault on the former Yugoslavia continued, unabated, with the US-trained-and-financed “Atlantic Brigade” in the front lines of the battle. And that assault continues to this day, with guerrillas on the Serbian-Kosovo border making regular incursions into the alleged “neutral zone” separating Serbia from its amputated province.


The New York Daily News quotes Isa Kodra, a 20-year old Brooklynite who served with the three men: “When NATO said disarm, these three brothers insisted on hiding [their weapons].” The tone of the Daily News piece valorizes the fallen Bytyqi brothers – Agron, Mehmet, and Yli – and we are clearly supposed to admire these Albanian “daredevils.” But they were, in reality, little more than devils of a different kind: terrorists who were violating the terms of the ceasefire signed by the US and carrying out acts of violence on sovereign Serbian territory. They were engaged in a campaign in Serbia along the same lines as the one now being carried out by the NLA in Macedonia: attacks on civilians (including Albanian “collaborators”), summary executions, and the ethnic cleansing of NLA-controlled towns. The Bytyqi brothers met a well-deserved fate: their deaths were not a “war crime,” but just retaliation for their crimes.


Let’s conduct a little thought experiment. What if there was a terrorist outfit operating, say, in the border region between the US and Mexico: the Mexican Liberation Army (MLA)? Launching attacks on American towns and cities in the American Southwest, the MLA demands the reunion of the lost provinces of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California with their long-estranged brothers in Mexico. Would the US government make any bones about hunting these terrorists down and killing them? Of course not. Would this be considered a “war crime” by any rational human being? Again, the answer is no. In executing the Bytyqi brothers, the Serbs were acting in self-defense – and this is precisely why the ICTFY will no doubt prosecute this as a “war crime.”


Since the Albanians are, according to the “human rights” crowd, always the victims – and, therefore, by definition always the good guys – in the Balkans, to raise a hand against them is a “war crime.” The idea of the show trial now unfolding in The Hague is not just to demonize the Serbs: it is meant as a warning to the Macedonians and any others who dare resist the rise of Greater Albania: resistance is not only futile, it is forbidden on pain of the ICTFY’s indictment.


Although it is against US law for private citizens to raise money for or aid any sort of overseas military action, the Atlantic Brigade had no trouble organizing and recruiting in the US. The whole thing was funded by the “Homeland Calling” operation, which has pumped a lot of money from the Albanian “diaspora” into the insurgency. Analysts speculate that much of the money coming in from overseas Kosovars stems from their near-monopoly on the European heroin trade. It is only just now – now that the US has to keep up a false front of evenhandedness in Macedonia – that President George W. Bush thought to issue an executive order forbidding the financial activities of some (but not all) organizations linked to the KLA. It is, alas, too little too late. The point is that all this activity couldn’t have ocurred in the US without the complicity of the US government – and, don’t worry, they’ll find a way around Bush’s purely pro forma executive order.


The “Atlantic Brigade” is not the only evidence of a longstanding US plan to destabilize the Balkans. Colonel David H. Hackworth had an interesting column the other day that raised the interesting question: whose side are we on in Macedonia? Astonished by the “rescue” of the NLA at Aracinovo, a town near the capital city of Skopje, Hackworth writes:

“I couldn’t stop asking myself why NATO brass would risk the lives of 80 American paratroopers to save a band of heavily armed cutthroats bent on overthrowing the established government of a country that our president and State Department have repeatedly stated they are committed to save. My first thought was, Whose side are we really on? My second was, What’s the objective here – stabilizing or destabilizing Macedonia?”


I have been maintaining all along in this space that the US has teamed up with the EU to partition if not destroy Macedonia and further empower the Albanian nationalist project, the ultimate goal being the Turkification of the southern Balkans. Now Hackworth provides the evidence for an indirect but unmistakable link between the US national security bureaucracy and the NLA: his revelation is a blockbuster for those who have been following the story of the KLA-NLA-US government connection. According to Hackworth,

“Sources in the U.S. Army in Kosovo familiar with the 3/502nd Airborne Battalion’s rescue operation confirm that the mission was all about saving the 17 ‘instructors’ among the withdrawing rebels – former US officers, who were providing the rebels with continued military education.”


Wow! So, it turns out that the reason we had to go to the unusual lengths of “rescuing” the NLA was because their American trainers and advisors were also in jeopardy! Here we have the US government, supposedly acting as an "honest broker" in Macedonia, stoking the fires of ethnic conflict even as we proclaim that our goal is “peace” through a “political solution.” We pose as the “objective” enforcer of "human rights,” deploring violence – while covertly supporting and training an Albanian terrorist outfit. We are, in short, “mediating” a battle in which we are secretly supporting one side over the other. Is there any limit to the dishonesty and treachery of US policy in this part of the world?


The plot thickens, however, when we get into the details of this shady operation. According to Hackworth:

“Other sources say the ’17 instructors’ were members of a high-ticket Rent-a-Soldier outfit called MPRI – Military Professional Resources Incorporated – that operates in the shadow of the Pentagon and has been hired by the CIA and our State Department for ops in ex-Yugoslavia. The company, headed up by former US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Carl E. Vuono, is filled with former US Army personnel, from generals to senior sergeants, all of whom draw handsome wages on top of their Army retired salaries.”


Here we have the modern, “free market” path to plausible deniability: “privatize” the covert operations arm of the US government, once centered in the CIA, and thus get around bothersome laws passed by Congress to rein in just this sort of shenanigans. No doubt this was thought up by some government analyst who likes to think of himself as a “libertarian” because he subscribes to Reason magazine – failing to understand that some functions of government, like training terrorist groups and causing political instability abroad, ought not to be privatized, because they are inherently objectionable and impermissible in a free society. Hackworth points out that MPRI is the same outfit that carried out “Operation Storm,” resulting in the ethnic cleansing of over 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina region – and the ensconcement of Agim Ceku, a Croatian general of Albanian descent, as head of the KLA General Staff.


Hackworth reports that “dozens of ex-Army pals are presently working for the ever-expanding MPRI or other such military contractors in places like Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, ex-Yugoslavia and Colombia. We’re talking booming business here,” and ex-military officers are under increasing pressure from these mercenary operations to sign up. Colonel Hackworth bewails “an unfortunate tradition of hired guns sticking our nation into one minefield after another," and writes: “There are laws on the books that prevent American citizens from serving foreign governments. It’s about time Congress did its duty and enforced them.”


What is needed is not only congressional enforcement of existing statutes, but also a congressional investigation of our disastrous Balkan policy, and, specifically, of the US government’s connection to the NLA. Hackworth’s revelation that “retired” American four-star generals are directing the movements and tactics of Albanian terrorists suggests that not only the Macedonians but also the American people are being lied to about what is really going on in the Balkans.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, 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].