The Coming Storm

Empire Stirs to Action in Kosovo

Violence pays. How else should one interpret that the ultimate result of the horrific pogrom in Kosovo last March would be an aggressive campaign by power-mongers in the Empire to reward Albanian separatism and finish the job begun six years ago by severing that occupied province from Serbia?

Forces behind the 1999 intervention have been somewhat sidelined by the Bush regime in recent years, to the point where they supported his rival in the 2004 election. Yet they have also managed to prevent any sort of reevaluation of Washington’s Balkans policy, creating an artificial dearth of alternatives that positioned their policy as the only viable one. If Richard Holbrooke – one of their champions – is to be believed, they have finally won over Bush II’s second-term cabinet.

“[A]fter ignoring the issue for four years, the administration is doing something in the Balkans, where nothing happens without U.S. leadership,” says Holbrooke in Wednesday’s Washington Post (angling, perhaps for a reappointment as US envoy to the region, as the Post had suggested in March). Given that the “something” the Bush regime is doing appears to be in line with what Holbrooke, the ICG, and many others involved in the 1999 war have been advocating, doing nothing would have been better.

Another Commission

After the ICG-inspired “guidelines” for Kosovo’s future were laid out by the self-appointed “Contact Group” last week, the cause of independence got another boost by something called the “International Commission on the Balkans” (ICB). Presenting their report in – where else? – Washington on April 12, they urged a four-stage process of independence for the occupied Serbian province, ending up with EU membership.

Unlike a previous ad hoc commission that urged “conditional independence” for Kosovo back in 2000, this outfit looked at the Balkans in general, contending it has a future only as part of the EU. According to the commission’s Web site, about half its members are actually from the Balkans – but they appear mostly quislings the like of Goran Svilanovic, a despicable Dossie foreign minister now hiding behind Serbian President Boris Tadic’s party. Another luminary of the ICB is Bruce Jackson, a known neocon operative, whose presence indicates Washington’s complicity in the Commission’s effort.

Speeches, Funerals, and Bombs

Emboldened, perhaps, by the Contact Group and the Commission, Kosovo’s “President” Ibrahim Rugova wrote a moving op-ed in the International Herald Tribune last Friday, praising the virtues of Ramush Haradinaj and his successor Bajram Kosumi, pointing out that his “government” even has a token Serb, and claiming that “this country [sic!] is big enough to embrace all people, irrespective of ethnicity.”

This was after he snubbed Belgrade’s peace offer.

Meanwhile, the younger brother of KLA leader Ramush Haradinaj was killed in an apparent clan vengeance hit. The Hague Inquisition allowed Haradinaj – accused of war crimes in Kosovo – to attend the funeral, where he violated the terms of his provisional release by giving a speech. If Reuters’ figure of 20,000 people in attendance is correct, the gathering was less a funeral than a KLA rally. That Rugova declared a day of mourning for “slain UCK fighter Enver Haradinaj” reinforces the impression.

On Sunday, Albanians demonstrated the depth of their tolerance through a bomb attack on the headquarters of an opposition party – Veton Surroi’s ORA – in Pristina. Far from being an enemy of the KLA, Surroi is a valuable voice for Albanian separatists because he’s seen as a “moderate” in the West. Perhaps his official opposition to ethnic cleansing – though he’s done much to rationalize and justify it – was far too nuanced for today’s masters of Kosovo.

Glimpses of Horror

One of the foundations of Albanian claims to independence is that they were victims of… well, they said “genocide” at first, but finally settled for “ethnic cleansing” – by Serbs. NATO has used this claim to justify its 1999 invasion. There is not a wire report on Kosovo that does not include the line about “10,000 killed, mostly ethnic Albanians,” a figure that has never been substantiated as anything more than malicious speculation. Between the repetition of these mantras and the deliberate downplaying of KLA atrocities (before, during, and after the 1999 war), the horrors of occupied Kosovo remain untold. Attempts to reveal them draw violent condemnation from the very propagandists who seek to keep them under wraps.

A recent discovery of human remains in a cave near Klina is one case in the point. A report by the generally pro-Albanian Scotsman merely repeats a UN statement that the site was “used to secretly dispose of human remains, and could be related to the disappearances” of non-Albanians. There have been “disappearances” of non-Albanians? When? How? Of course there have; many Serbs, Roma, Turks, and others have been “disappeared” by the KLA. Only, few in the West have said so much as a word about it, as it would interfere with the carefully crafted Manichaean image of “Kosovars.”

Still, the KLA’s dark past is slowly emerging into the light of day. A Bulgarian mercenary sniper for the KLA recently spilled his guts to a Sofia journalist; if he is to be believed, the KLA was no scrappy gang of “freedom fighters,” but a well-funded murderous machine in cahoots with drug lords.

Rugova and Ramush can preach all they want; their deeds speak louder than words.

More Meddling Ahead

The one and only thing that Richard Holbrooke gets right in his Post editorial is that a new round of interventionism in the Balkans is coming. Whether driven by near-governmental organizations or, more likely, using them as outlets, the Empire is turning its Eye to the Balkans again.

An imperialist like Holbrooke would reject out of hand the argument that it has been precisely that kind of meddling over the past 200 years or so that has produced the current intractable conflicts out of hand. He would also reject the contention that more meddling would make things worse – even though so far, it always has. He is one of those people who have made a bloody mess of onetime Yugoslavia while claiming to want “peace” and “stability,” twisting history and drawing borders with nothing but contempt for the natives, their rights or interests.

It is long past time to reject Holbrooke and the Empire he represents.

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.