Once More, With Feeling

Toward the Kosovo "Negotiations"

The Imperial endgame for Kosovo proceeded apace early this week, as former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari was appointed the special UN envoy for final status talks regarding the occupied Serbian province. There was no surprise in the appointment; it was heralded months ago by pressure groups and commentators, and assumed by Ahtisaari himself. No one rose to protest that Ahtisaari was unsuited for the post, given his involvement with the International Crisis Group – an advocacy organization known for its vocal endorsement of an independent, Albanian Kosovo – or his role in deceiving the Serbian government into accepting the occupation, back in 1999. The Finn’s appointment, and its meek acceptance by Belgrade, indicates that the process of Kosovo’s separation from Serbia is unfolding according to the script. So far.

The Games the UN Plays

With the rank-and-file of the UN mission preoccupied with cashing in their fat paychecks and appeasing the angry Albanians – who have shown time and again that they are both willing and able to physically assault their "liberators" if their demands are not met – the occupiers have abandoned even the most threadbare pretense of trying to establish a multiethnic democracy, and are swiftly working to extricate themselves from the bleak wasteland they helped create.

But it would be a mistake to attribute the UN’s eagerness to appease Albanian demands solely to concerns for its security. The UN mission in Kosovo was slapped together in June 1999 to provide a cover for the occupation of the province by NATO and the Albanian KLA. All of the viceroys in charge of UNMIK have stayed true to that purpose. Soren Jessen-Petersen, the current viceroy, has simply taken it a step further and become an outspoken advocate of an independent, Albanian Kosovo. His activism on behalf of the Albanians invites comparison with the cozy relationship with the Bosnian Muslims exhibited by his colleague, Bosnian viceroy Paddy Ashdown.

Not only has Jessen-Petersen advocated independence in public (e.g., an editorial in the International Herald Tribune, itself a champion of separation), he has also made "suggestions" to the Albanian negotiating team and the provisional government. That the only protest of Jessen-Petersen’s actions came from an adviser to the Serbian PM, rather than an actual government official, suggests that Belgrade seems to have accepted the viceroy’s preferences.

Another piece in the UN’s Kosovo puzzle has been the conduct of the "international community" toward Ramush Haradinaj, former KLA commander and Empire’s golden boy. Our Man Ramush was indicted by the Hague Inquisition for war crimes back in March and made a big show of surrendering, to the accompaniment of accolades by Jessen-Petersen. However, unlike other suspects, he was quickly provisionally released. Last month, an Inquisition panel ruled to allow him political engagement, drawing cries of outrage from both Belgrade and Head Inquisitor Carla Del Ponte. The ruling was swiftly reversed. But as a pro-Albanian commentator noted in the aftermath, Haradinaj has been favored by both UN and NATO officials to a most peculiar extent.

Deliberate Deception

For the past six years, Albanian violence against Serbs, Roma, Turks, and others in the province, even other Albanians, has been either ignored or excused (in 1999, the popular phrase was "revenge attacks"); continued terrorism by KLA affiliates has been dismissed as the work of "criminal bands," while the KLA itself was promoted into an embryonic Kosovo army and given government roles in Macedonia.

The destruction of Serbian churches and cultural heritage has been either ignored or met with noncommittal verbal condemnation. Even the pogrom of March 2004, condemned by the NATO commander as "ethnic cleansing," was quickly forgotten – indeed, used as an argument for giving Albanians independence. The Albanian provisional government promised to repair the churches and homes destroyed in the pogrom, then did absolutely nothing and blamed the Serbs for failing to cooperate. UNMIK and NATO were happy to stage photo-ops for the promises, but stayed silent when they failed to materialize.

All this has led to widespread ignorance in the West about what has really been going on, enabling independence supporters such as Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star to claim with a straight face that "Kosovo also has a chance to lead the way in protecting its smaller minority of Roma, whose mistreatment across Eastern Europe remains a scandal." The Kosovo Albanians have indeed led the way – but in persecution of the Roma, whom they have treated far worse than the Serbs.

Raising the Stakes

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the Empire working in their favor, the Albanians of Kosovo are keenly aware of the fact that international law is firmly against them. The alleged "genocide" the Yugoslav military and Serbian police have been accused of has been exposed as a fabrication. Even the mainstream press in the West has abandoned the arbitrary figure of "10,000 Albanians killed" (since all the efforts to substantiate it have failed miserably) in favor of a more neutral phrase along the lines of "Serb forces were accused of human rights abuses." Their case for independent Kosovo rests on appeals to alleged victimhood and the ethnic realities of the occupation (with Albanians being a 90 percent majority as a result of uncontrolled immigration and ethnic cleansing). Albanian partisans in the West compensate for this lack of quality by the sheer quantity of their appeals.

With the first round of status talks imminent, Albanians have stepped up efforts to bolster their case in the court of public opinion – which they have rightly identified as the only venue that really matters in today’s world. Much has been made of the fact that Kosovo "president" Ibrahim Rugova suffers from lung cancer and may not live to lead his people to the "promised land" of independence. The image of Rugova as a "Balkans Ghandi" and a moderate, secular democrat has been carefully nurtured by American PR firms for over a decade.

Efforts to provoke sympathy are accompanied with threats, for good measure. Armed groups of Albanians calling themselves "Kosovo Independence Army" (KIA) have been setting up checkpoints in the west of the province, prompting even UNMIK to issue a security warning to its staff – while officially denying KIA’s existence.

Responding to Belgrade’s commitment to a "compromise" solution, Albanian leaders have responded that they consider independence compromise enough; in return, they will give up "Greater Albania" – which they’ve repeatedly claimed they did not desire to begin with. But even as "speaker of the parliament" Nexhat Daci said that, a new Albanian group in Presevo Valley calling itself the "Black Shadow" has demanded the valley’s annexation to an independent Kosovo – or as they claim, the "reunification" of "Eastern Kosova" with its motherland.

Intended Consequences

Meanwhile, the Empire has been exploiting the Kosovo crisis for all it’s worth in its continued attempts to bring Belgrade to heel. Even after the UN Security Council ignored Serbian PM Vojislav Kostunica’s argument against the violent change of Serbia’s borders that Kosovo independence would represent, the parliament of Serbia-Montenegro convened to approve in fast-track procedure a controversial treaty with NATO about unlimited right of passage through Serbian territory.

The chief argument of the treaty’s backers, Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic first and foremost, has been that it would help NATO deal better with the security situation in Kosovo. One suspects this is the argument NATO itself has promoted and Draskovic adopted wholesale, just as he did with the treaty. For if the Alliance has been unable to prevent, stop, or even deter Albanian violence for the past six years, how would having access to Serbian territory make a difference? Of course, if NATO has been unwilling to do anything about the Albanian violence, the whole argument is utterly pointless, as is the treaty.

Hegemon’s Gambit

The board is set. The pieces are moving. Kosovo will not remain a no-man’s land for very long, but whose it will end up being is still somewhat uncertain. Serbia is in disarray, ruled by sycophants dedicated to pleasing the Empire, and either unable or unwilling to argue for its rights in Kosovo on principle. But the Kosovo Albanian leaders are just as fractious, however united in their hatred of Belgrade, and are well aware that their claim rests solely on the barrel of Empire’s gun.

Focused on their own agendas, both sides are missing one major point. Over the past six years, the Empire has played the issue of independence as leverage to get both of them to do its bidding. To believe it is about to give up this leverage would be foolish. Whatever the final outcome of the status talks, it has been designed to shackle both the Serbs and the Albanians even closer to Empire’s yoke. Serbs and Albanians – but, for that matter, the Bosnian Muslims, Hungarians, Croats, and Slovenians as well – are all pawns in a greater game, deluding themselves into believing their particular causes and grievances matter to the global hegemon. The sooner they discard this dangerous delusion, the better off they will be.

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.