The Blood-Dimmed Tide

In the aftermath of the Cold War and the "end of history" triumphalism, those who built the American Empire may be forgiven for believing the future of conflict would be in short, victorious wars like "Desert Storm"; that the U.S. was the "indispensable nation"; and any country in the world would instantly surrender at the mere whiff of smart bombs. Such a world never really existed. Yet the imperialists, convinced their will alone is enough to shape reality, still maintain their conceit from the 1990s and continue to act accordingly.

To maintain this pleasant fiction, inconvenient facts are either ignored, or trivialized. So, for example, compared to last month’s coverage of the anniversary of Kosovo’s "independence," there has been a deafening silence about another anniversary this week, of the pogrom that made that "independence" possible.

Kristallnacht, Encore

On March 17, 2004, tens of thousands of Albanians staged organized and synchronized attacks throughout the NATO-occupied province, destroying Serbian churches and villages, and expelling over 4,000 people. Nineteen people died in the pogrom, and almost a thousand were injured. UN and NATO officials were caught completely off-guard.

For three days, Albanian mobs raged across Kosovo, burning, murdering and looting. With several noble and notable exceptions, most NATO peacekeepers cravenly retreated. One UN official compared the pogrom to Kristallnacht, a Nazi-organized pogrom of Jews in 1938. Nazis torched synagogues; Albanians torched churches, with equal relish.

The mob was even fired up by a blood libel, concocted by a KLA propaganda agent: two Albanian boys had drowned in the Ibar river, after Serbs chased them with dogs (!). The story quickly turned out to be false, but that did not stop the Western media from repeating it endlessly. One UK paper even coined the phrase "retaliatory drownings"! Statements by NATO and UN personnel on the ground that the pogrom was clearly organized and not some spontaneous reaction to an incident were reported – then dutifully ignored. As Serbs were the designated villains, they could do no good; conversely, as the designated victims, Albanians could do no wrong. So the pogrom was reported as "ethnic clashes" and "violence" (that somehow committed itself), and the drowning hoax was embraced as the explanation.

In a world that made sense, the pogrom would have exploded the fiction about noble Albanian victims of Serb oppression, and certainly brought into question the legitimacy of the UN and NATO occupation, five years after the territory was forcibly seized from Serbia through an illegal war. In this Bizzarro universe we seem to live in, while Kosovo burned the Empire wondered what tune to fiddle. Very quickly, Albanian patrons in the West began spinning the situation: the pogrom, they said, was an understandable reaction to poverty, frustration and lack of independence!

There is no doubt the pogrom’s goal was to force the issue and leave UN/NATO no choice but to recognize the fait accompli. Nor was there a doubt that Washington’s interventionist establishment firmly believed the pogrom ought to be rewarded, and Albanians’ wrath appeased. What a marvelous "coincidence," such synchronicity bordering on predestination!

Within weeks the wheels of propaganda began to turn, and by the spring of 2005, the Bush regime officially embraced Clinton’s Kosovo policy. Prompted by the pogrom, this policy shift directly resulted in last year’s declaration of "independence." Once again, a Kristallnacht led to a Munich. But because the Serbs had been smeared as Nazis, that connection remained invisible.

Crime and Reward

The Empire isn’t content to just grind the Serbs under its boot, though. Adding insult to injury seems to be the order of the day. Last year, UN officials chose the anniversary of the pogrom to clobber a Serb sit-in at a Kosovo courthouse. This year, the EU "rule of law" mission that took over from the UN decided to send the Serbs another message by releasing Florim Ejupi, the Podujevo bus bomber.

In February 2001, a bus full of Serbs traveling under NATO protection to a religious service was destroyed by a roadside bomb near the town of Podujevo. The killer waited till two NATO vehicles had passed, then detonated the bomb right under the bus. Initial reports put the death toll at 7; in subsequent days it grew to 11 people, with anywhere from 20 to 40 injured.

Attacks on Serbs in Kosovo were almost a daily occurrence then, and continue unabated even today, but few perpetrators have ever been apprehended, much less punished. This time, the UN authorities actually acted, and arrested Ejupi just a few weeks later. He was transferred to the fortified U.S. base, Camp Bondsteel – from which he then "escaped" in July 2001. Detective Stu Kellock, former head of the UNMIK serious crimes squad, told the Sunday Times: "My opinion is he did not escape… I thought a prisoner could not just walk away from Bondsteel."

At some point Ejupi was recaptured, and last year he was convicted by a UN court and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Now a EU court has overturned the sentence without explanation, and Ejupi says he intends to sue for reparations. No doubt the Empire will pay up. It has rewarded the murder of Serbs for a decade; why stop now?

Directing the Blame

It is in this context that one must see the verdict of the Empire-sponsored Hague Inquisition from three weeks ago, when the entire political and military leadership of Serbia was found guilty of a grand conspiracy to expel Kosovo Albanians. The necessity of blaming the Serbs for what happened once again overrode logic, with the "judges" claiming that the Yugoslav leadership wanted NATO bombing as a convenient pretext to do away with the Albanians. Never mind that such a conspiracy would have left behind some sort of trail, and there has been no evidence whatsoever. The Tribunal decided it existed, because it had to exist in order for NATO’s actions – and that of the Tribunal – to make any sense.

Monument to Evil

When NATO occupied Kosovo in 1999, hundreds of thousands of Serbs – as well as Roma, Turks and Gorani (a Muslim minority that speaks Serbian) – were forced out of the province. This was cavalierly dismissed as "revenge attacks" by the same Western media that cranked out NATO propaganda during the war without a shred of shame. The 2004 pogrom targeted the few that dared return, and expelled thousands more. Even today, Serbs living in enclaves surrounded by barbed wire and NATO guards are pressured to leave when their villages lose power or water supply for days and even weeks. No Serbs remain in several major cities, like Prizren. Gorani are denied access to schools unless they agree to speak Albanian.

But to hear the Empire, this is "multiethnic democracy," and "tolerance" and "progress," and "freedom."

What has this world come to?

Today’s "Independent state of Kosovo" is neither independent, nor a state, nor Kosovo, but rather a dependency of the Empire, a fief of terrorist gangs, and an adjunct to Albania. Even the supposed beneficiaries of the policy that created such an abomination, the Albanians, are actually worse off than ever. More so than Iraq or Afghanistan, Kosovo is a monument to Imperial arrogance, the hubristic conviction that force and lies can triumph over reality. As the past ten years have shown, they may – for a little while. But as the Empire itself melts away, it is only a question of time before its edifices of lies crumble under their own unsustainable weight.

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.