From Munich to Kosovo

On June 9, 1999, the 78-day war that NATO waged on what was then Yugoslavia came to a close. Representatives of Yugoslav military and NATO signed an armistice in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo, paving the way for NATO’s takeover of the province. At the time, it was spun in the West as a victory for the Alliance – Yugoslav president Milosevic "caved" and "capitulated," and his army was "forced" from Kosovo. Yet on paper, it was a defeat; Serbia had resisted ten times longer than anyone in Washington or Mons expected, and the terms of the Kumanovo treaty were much better for Belgrade than the disgraceful Rambouillet ultimatum, which NATO sought to impose at the beginning of the bombing. What was to be a purely NATO occupation became a UN mission (UNMIK) and Serbia’s territorial integrity was explicitly guaranteed by the UN resolution 1244.

The nine ensuing years showed precisely what NATO – and the Empire behind it – thought of the UN, treaties, and the law in general, as it stood idly by while the terrorist KLA rampaged through the province, not content with merely killing or expelling Serbs (and other non-Albanians, it needs to be said), but also destroying every trace of their history, culture and faith. Successive UN viceroys worked diligently not on enforcing 1244, but on subverting it, and "nation-building" an independent, Albanian state of Kosovo. It all led up to the declaration of "independence" by the Albanian provisional government this February, and lightning-quick recognition by foreign powers that supported them.

The Shame of Prague

So far, fewer than a quarter of the world’s governments have recognized the "Republic of Kosovo." One of the most recent was that of the Czech Republic, despite the very strong dissent coming from both the Czech people and the country’s president, Vaclav Klaus. Immediately after recognition, Klaus requested a personal audience with the Serbian ambassador and told him he felt "ashamed" of his government’s actions. Interestingly, foreign minister Schwarzenberg, who led the push for recognition, stated that Prague had "no choice" in the matter, suggesting that it may not have been the Czech government’s desire to recognize the Albanian separatists, but someone else’s.

One argument invoked by the critics of recognition particularly resonates with the Czechs: the forcible seizure of territory from Serbia is all too reminiscent of the great powers’ carve-up of Czechoslovakia seventy years prior. Jiri Dienstbier, former UN envoy for human rights in the Balkans, openly compared the separation of Kosovo with the European powers’ appeasement of Hitler in 1938. Though Klaus has refrained from using such a strong comparison, he nonetheless said that, "no similar decision on a country’s borders has been made since World War Two."

The ghost of Neville Chamberlain is often invoked by Imperial warmongers to justify attacking one country or another. Empire’s enemy du jour is always likened to Hitler, and anyone who even suggests talks over bombs is branded an "appeaser."

But when the Czechs – who, after all, should know the fruits of appeasement all too well, given that they were its first and foremost victims – point out that the Empire is enabling the Kosovo Albanians to behave like Hitler, no one pays attention. In the postmodern world, it’s not the behavior itself that is objectionable, but rather who does the behaving, and the Empire – by its own definition – can do no wrong, anywhere, ever.

Kosovo, Stolen

There are many victims of what happened in Kosovo: Serbs, Roma, Turks, Jews and other communities that were forcibly uprooted by the terrorist KLA, before or during NATO’s occupation; those Albanians who wanted to live in peace with their neighbors, but ended up under a brutal, criminal KLA regime; international law as well, specifically the UNSCR 1244 and the Helsinki Final Act.

A similar fate was intended for a documentary produced by the Czech Television, Uloupene Kosovo ("Kosovo, stolen"), scheduled to air this spring but delayed by the government-owned network. After the recognition, the film’s airing was cancelled altogether. In earlier times, this sort of censorship would have killed the film. In this day and age, however, it soon made its way onto Google Video and YouTube.

It is a breath of fresh air in the stale swamp of lies told and repeated about Kosovo 1999: it gives a brief historical overview of the conflict between Serbs and Albanians, NATO’s involvement and its disastrous consequences. None of it is staged for effect: the people are real, their suffering is real, and the archive footage used is all too real. And at the end, as the camera pans over the burned and pillaged houses along a road, the following epilogue appears on the screen:

"The separation of Kosovo and Metohia from Serbia, was first recognized, in addition to the USA, by Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain, countries that signed the 1938 Munich Agreement."

A Really Inconvenient Truth

When an American soldier in Iraq used the Muslim holy book of Koran for target practice, he was disciplined, and the Emperor offered a personal apology to Iraqis. He didn’t apologize for invading their country and causing over a million deaths over the past two decades – but hey, here’s a new Koran, carry on.

But when Kosovo Albanians destroyed, dynamited and defaced over two hundred Serbian churches, the Empire rewarded them with a state of their own, carved out of Serbian territory against all law, custom and logic accepted by civilized people. And the Serbs were told to "deal with it."

This goes beyond the talk of double standards. There are no standards here at all. This is about a philosophy that one country can do whatever, whenever, to whomever it pleases; that it is above any law, even its own, because it is bigger, richer, better – and ultimately, simply more powerful than anyone else.

That is precisely what the Nazis used to think, and whether Americans like that comparison or not is, quite frankly, irrelevant.

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.