Remember Kosovo?

There has been lately a great deal of commotion in the press as to whether Emperor Bush the Lesser and his satellites have lied to their people about the supposed "weapons of mass destruction," which have not been found even after six weeks of occupation and unfettered access to all parts of Iraq. As if the notion of the Emperor deceiving his subjects was something new!

Does anyone remember Racak, the "massacre" used to justify the Rambouillet ultimatum and the subsequent bombing of Serbia in 1999? Or, for that matter, the "genocide" that took place in Kosovo during the bombing – only, it didn’t? Apparently not. Nor is it remembered that even after these lies were decisively debunked, their peddlers never suffered any adverse consequences. In the specific case of Kosovo, the train of lies and abuses is so long a thick book would hardly do it justice.

What is happening in Iraq now is merely a re-run of what happened in Kosovo. Because the Empire got away with murder, literally, launching a clear war of aggression and occupation while spinning all sorts of preposterous lies about it, Kosovo made Iraq possible. Never forget that.

Even as Tony Blair was trying to lie its way out of Iraq lies, the Guardian featured a series of articles seemingly critical of British support for Imperial interventions, titled "Did we make it better?" In the segment on Kosovo, writer Jon Henley creates an impression that even as poverty, crime and violence are rampant, NATO’s bombing and invasion in 1999 – and the subsequent occupation – is one hundred percent justified. Four years after the Operation Allied Force ended, the lies behind it persist.

Reign of Terror

On June 9, 1999, representatives of the Yugoslav government and NATO signed an armistice in a tent outside Kumanovo, Macedonia, ending NATO’s 78-day air assault. Within a week, NATO troops occupied the Serbian province of Kosovo, and their KLA allies began a reign of terror that has continued ever since.

In June 1999 alone, over 250,000 Serbs, Roma, Turks, Muslims, and Jews were forced to leave Kosovo, often with little or no property. In addition to targeting Serbs, Albanians launched special pogroms against the Roma ("Gypsies"), in the best tradition of their WW2 ancestors.

In July 1999, 14 Serb farmers were murdered while harvesting their fields outside the hamlet of Staro Gracko. (An IWPR hack aptly named Fron Nazi claimed they were victims of "Serb subterfuge," even as KFOR statistics showed one Serb was being murdered every 24 hours.)

In October 1999, an Albanian mob murdered Bulgarian UN worker Valentin Krumov for speaking what sounded like Serbian.

In February 2001, a bus full of Serbs who were coming to visit their cemeteries was blown up by a remote-controlled mine. Three Albanians arrested in connection with the bombing were released by December 2001, and one "escaped" from the US fortified base Camp Bondsteel.

Throughout Kosovo, Serbs have retreated into towns and villages that have become virtual concentration camps. If they venture outside those areas, which are guarded by NATO troops and not infrequently cordoned off with barbed wire, they risk death. The most notorious ghetto has been Orahovac. Other enclaves, like Gracanica and Decani monastery, are frequently under attack.

In the north of Kosovo, local Serbs have managed to stop the Albanian takeover on the southern side of the Ibar River, in Mitrovica. Together with several towns in the north, this is the only remaining territory in Kosovo not dominated by the Albanian separatists, which has made it a target for constant attacks by Albanians, occupation authorities, and their cheerleaders.

Even Albanians have been targets of organized violence, as the terrorist KLA targeted "collaborators," political rivals and witnesses to its murderous deeds.

Albanian militants have demolished or desecrated over 110 churches, chapels and monasteries. They have destroyed hundreds of monuments and even libraries, renamed towns, streets, and the entire province ("Kosova") in an effort to completely eradicate any non-Albanian presence in Kosovo.

Reign of Lies

Reports often say all of this has happened despite the presence of 30,000 NATO troops, but the truth is, it happened because of their presence. The vast majority of attacks were never solved. Yet it is a public secret that most perpetrators are "former" KLA – now employees of the UN-funded "Kosovo Protection Corps," commanded by the notorious KLA leader and former Croatian officer Agim Ceku.

In April 2002, two men were killed while trying to plant a bomb under a railroad track used by Serbs. They belonged to the "Albanian National Army," the newest incarnation of the KLA, declared shortly thereafter a "terrorist organization." They were also members of the KPC!

On June 3, 1999, NATO was still attacking Yugoslavia and the Alliance mouthpiece Jamie Shea gave his usual afternoon briefing. When a reporter asked if there were any indications that the KLA was prepared to be disarmed by NATO "peacekeepers," Shea responded coyly: "Well, we will have to wait and see, won’t we?"

We didn’t have to wait for long. The KLA entered Kosovo perched upon NATO tanks, rampaged through the province unchallenged, made a big show of handing over a handful of obsolete weapons, changed uniforms and went legit, with a UN paycheck as an added bonus.

A Deadly Message

Four years after NATO’s "humanitarian war" ended, it still claims lives. UN police found the butchered bodies of Slobodan, Ljubinko and Radmila Stolic [Stolich] inside their burnt-out home early on June 4 this year. It was an ax murder sloppily contrived to look like an accident.

UN police spokesman Derek Chapelle is quoted in a June 4 Reuters report, "The people were attacked as they were lying in bed in the middle of the night. These people died as a result of a brutal beating, not a fire." At the very bottom of the article, tucked into near-oblivion, is a note that local Serbs told the reporters the Stolic family was under Albanian pressure to sell their house and leave Kosovo. That their murder was meant as a message to other Serbs is abundantly clear. But is this mentioned? No.

In fact, reporting that some 400 Serbs decided to pack up and leave town after the murders, Agence France-Presse never once mentioned possible perpetrators of the attack, let alone the motive. Official American propaganda carried the same story, but focused on dismissing Serb concerns about their security, and again, never even hinted at the obvious identity of the murderers. These are but the latest examples of an ongoing pattern of denial and obfuscation, pervasive throughout the Imperial media when it comes to reporting on Kosovo.

Murders of Serbs by Albanians were initially excused as "revenge attacks," implying some sort of "payback" for Serb atrocities. But as the attacks continued and atrocities accusations became increasingly impossible to substantiate, a new euphemism was created: "ethnic violence." This implies that Serbs and Albanians are attacking each other. Yet no one can cite a single case of Serbs wantonly attacking and murdering Albanians in these past four years. Not one! When Albanians suffer violent deaths in Kosovo these days, it is at the hands of other Albanians – members of crime syndicates or "former" KLA (often one and the same).

Spin the Murder

The Stolic family was murdered again – this time metaphorically – when the politicians took the stage. UN Viceroy Michael Steiner claimed the Obilic murders were "clearly aimed at stopping reconciliation… a perfidious crime which was directed against multi-ethnicity in Kosovo." What reconciliation? What multi-ethnicity? What planet does Steiner live on?

Kosovo Albanian "prime minister" Bayram Rexhepi issued a statement expressing condolences to the Stolic family (!) and termed the murders a "criminal act… directed against the stability, peace, and prosperity of Kosovo and its future."

But of course! Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? All these brutal murders, abductions and massacres are really a sinister plot to make the innocent, victimized Kosovo Albanians look bad and ruin their future of peace, prosperity, multi-ethnic democracy and independence! Why, the dastardly Serbs must have massacred themselves!

Official Serbian news agency cites an interview UNMIK spokesman Simon Haselock gave BBC radio, where he is quoted as saying that "no police force in the world is capable of protecting every family and every individual" and that the security situation in Kosovo has lately "improved dramatically."

Like the rest of NATO apologists – to be fair, this is actually his job – Haselock uses the diminishing frequency of attacks to claim improvement. But that attacks on Serbs now happen once a month instead of once a day has largely been a function of the diminishing number of Serbs, not the diminishing desire of Albanian segregationists to attack them.

The platitudes of Steiner and Rexhepi and Haselock’s tautological nonsense are trying to divert attention from the realities of the occupation. Kosovo Serbs and other ethnic groups are targets of an organized, systematic Albanian campaign of ethnic cleansing, aimed at creating an ethnically pure, independent Albanian Kosovo. Sounds familiar? That’s because this was an accusation leveled at the victims, the Serbs, by the Albanians and the Empire in an effort to preclude their defense.

Good Riddance

On the eve of the murders in Obilic, Viceroy Steiner announced he would be quitting the job at the end of June. Kosovo Serbs should bid him good riddance. From his first act in office – forging a unified Albanian political front – to his most recent prevarications, Steiner has pushed the occupied province on the road to ethnically cleansed independence. However welcome his departure may be, one must remember that Steiner was never the real problem.

Conceived, established and perpetuated by violence, the occupation of Kosovo is itself the greatest enemy of peace, liberty and prosperity in the southern Balkans.

Bloody Hands

Many opponents of the Kosovo war supported George W. Bush in 2000, fooled by the neocons’ loud opposition to the bombing, which was nothing more than opportunistic posturing, into believing Kosovo was "Clinton’s war." But Bush the Lesser has made no changes to Clinton’s policy in Kosovo – or anywhere in the Balkans, for that matter. And why would he? It was Kosovo that made Iraq possible: both illegal, illegitimate wars resulting in equally illegal and illegitimate occupations, not to mention the toll in destroyed human lives and property, or the destruction of social and cultural heritage.

Senator Joseph Lieberman, who would like to be Emperor after Bush, said in 1999 that the blatantly fascist KLA was "fighting for American values." Lieberman came close to being elected vice-president in 2000, and this statement was never held against him. There have been several proposed resolutions in the Congress supporting the independence of Albanized Kosovo, but not one – not one! – demanding an end to the occupation. Today, Kosovo is an issue almost forgotten in the American political discourse, even though the United States is chiefly responsible for the current state of affairs in that Serbian province. Empire’s hands are drenched with blood of the massacred and tears of the dispossessed.

It is not surprising that those who should be ashamed of their actions have forgotten Kosovo. But those who care about honor, justice and liberty have every reason to remember.

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 debuted in November 2000.