KLA Boss and the Empire

Hashim Thaci has long been a darling of the Washington establishment. In 1999, while veteran of Croatia’s Serbicide Agim Ceku managed the “military” operations of the “Kosovo Liberation Army,” Thaci was the KLA’s public face. Kissing Madeleine Albright, hugging Tony Blair, shaking hands with Gen. Wesley Clark, Bernard Kouchner and Gen. Mike Jackson – Thaci was all about playing the role of “George Washington of Kosovo”, as then-Senator, now-VP Joe Biden would later dub him. It was a key performance in the process of KLA’s media transformation, from a “clearly terrorist organization” (Gelbard) to fighters for “human rights and American values” (Lieberman).

After NATO occupied Kosovo in June 1999, the KLA established a reign of terror that has continued ever since. However, it was not Thaci, but Ibrahim Rugova – whose organization the KLA targeted more than the Serbs – that ended up “president” of the occupied province’s provisional government. Only after Rugova’s death in 2006 did Thaci get a chance to openly rule. A month after becoming Kosovo’s “Prime Minister”, his regime declared the occupied province an independent state.

Then came a damning report by the Council of Europe, in late 2010, accusing Thaci’s government – and other political structures in Empire’s Manchukuo clone – of organized crime. Empire’s reaction was a smear campaign against CoE’s investigator Dick Marty and a spirited defense of Thaci by such luminaries as Dennis MacShane (WSJ, February 2011), Blair’s former Minister for Europe. MacShane resigned from the party in 2012 after being caught falsifying expense reports, but continued to champion the “Kosovian” cause.

Spinning Snake as Statesman

Thanks to obstructionism by Washington and its European cronies, the CoE investigation has gone nowhere. This is, of course, taken as “evidence” of Thaci’s innocence, by the very people who’ve never needed proof to accuse, say, the Serbs of monstrous crimes, real or imagined. Since the crucial component of Empire’s self-actualization is the narrative of its selfless heroism on behalf of oppressed Muslims everywhere, Thaci and the KLA must be maintained as angels, or the Great Humanitarian Jihad loses its purpose.

It is not enough to have the quisling regime in Serbia all but recognize Kosovo and completely abdicate its own interests; Thaci himself needs to be shown as virtuous. Cue the puff piece in the ever-less-relevant New York Times, on July 12.

Answering softball questions from NYT’s Balkans correspondent Dan Bilefsky, Thaci gets to recite all the proper buzzwords, quote Sting, and generally pass himself off as a misunderstood gentleman. From giving the proper pronunciation of his name, to explaining his wartime nickname, “Snake”, as a reflection of skill in evading capture – as opposed to ruthlessness in dispatching rivals – Bilefsky’s piece serves only one purpose: to paint a flattering portrait of Thaci and his “state”:

"Thaci (pronounced THAH-chee) is being hailed in Washington and Brussels as the Gerry Adams of the Balkans, his country on the road toward Europe, his name even invoked, however improbably, as a possible Nobel Peace Prize candidate."

Asked whether his KLA might have perhaps committed something that could possibly be considered a crime, maybe, Thaci deadpans: "I was fighting on the right side of history, liberating my people from tyranny against a ruthless enemy engaged in a massive attempt at genocide." So what if none of that’s true, when the New York Times helps him declare otherwise?

Bilefsky clearly admires Thaci’s efforts to overhaul his “nationalist fighter image” by preaching closer ties with the West, wearing “dark designer suits”, loving fine Italian wines, skiing and even “championing civil rights for gay people.” A successful “power-sharing accord” – NYT’s euphemism for Serbia’s surrender – is presented as a “rehabilitation of sorts for Mr. Thaci” and a “turning point for his country, which has struggled to gain full international acceptance."

Meanwhile, another U.S. propaganda outlet cheerfully reported that revenue from the newly established “customs” posts is helping fill the struggling “Kosovian” budget. Good job, Belgrade!

Flies in the Ointment

As a general rule, the harder the Imperial media establishment insists on something, the less that something has to do with reality. And the inconvenient reality is that Thaci’s “country” is struggling. Despite Imperial support, it is still not recognized as independent by half the world’s governments – many of which may continue to refuse recognition due to their own concerns, even if Serbia breaks and accepts it. For all of Empire’s insistence on Kosovo being a “special case,” it is being treated as a precedent. The “independence” Thaci got wasn’t the one he wanted: the price for having the Empire carve him a country is having to put up with he Empire bossing him around. And then there are those pesky Serbs in the north, who stubbornly refuse to die off.

Married to the Empire

For all its pronouncements about humanitarianism, the Empire has established patterns of behavior. As Gordon Bardos recently wrote, the do-gooders whip up a frenzy, spend billions for war and “aid,” kill thousands in “liberation” attempts, pocket millions for “reconstruction,” then lose interest and find another damsel-in-distress, leaving a desert in their wake. Eagle’s rampage through the china shop leaves precious little unbroken, adds Ted Galen Carpenter. If someone behaved like that in a personal relationship, it would definitely be considered abusive.

While Albanians are happy to proclaim their everlasting love of America to any journalists willing to listen, and the Imperial press fawns over Thaci, “Snake” is probably not so naive as to think he is genuinely loved. Washington has all but admitted using Croats, Muslims of Bosnia and the Albanians to further its own goals, just as their leaders have tried to use the Empire for their own purposes. This “marriage” has always been one of convenience.

But even as Thaci seems to be getting what he wanted – albeit much more slowly – his followers grow increasingly impatient. The Empire isn’t getting more powerful, either, so its Sugar Daddy image is wearing out. What no one seems to be asking is what happens when one of the partners inevitably asks for a divorce.

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.