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A gay peninsula filled with sprightly people who ate peppered food, drank strong liquors, wore flamboyant clothes, loved and murdered easily and had a splendid talent for starting wars. C J Sulzberger, A Long Row of Candles
In Europe the 20th century ended as it began: with war in the Balkans. The last of these wars started in early 1999: Serbian troops entered the province of Kosovo. Secrets of War s4e7: The Balkans Tinderbox
The conflict in Kosovo was just another in a long series of wars in the region formally known as Yugoslavia. ibid.
The south Slav attacked the Ottoman Empire in 1912. ibid.
When they took control of Yugoslavia in 1941 the Nazi dismembered the country. ibid.
Tito played all sides against each other … He was especially hard on the Serbs. ibid.
Ironically, it was Tito who put the first crack in the wall of world communism. ibid.
Muted by the evidence of the Anglo-American catastrophe in Iraq, the ‘humanitarian’ war party ought to be called to account for its forgotten crusade in Kosovo, the model for Blair’s ‘onward march of liberation’. Just as Iraq is being torn apart by the forces of empire, so was Yugoslavia, the multi-ethnic state that uniquely rejected both sides in the cold war.
Lies as great as those told by Bush and Blair were deployed by Clinton and Blair in their grooming of public opinion for an illegal, unprovoked attack on a European country. Following the same path as the build-up to the invasion of Iraq, the media coverage in the spring of 1999 was a series of fraudulent justifications, beginning with the then US defence secretary William Cohen’s claim that ‘we’ve now seen about 100,000 military-aged [Albanian] men missing … they may have been murdered’. David Scheffer, the then US ambassador-at-large for war crimes, announced that as many as ‘225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59’ may have been killed. Blair invoked the Holocaust and ‘the spirit of the Second World War’. The British press took its cue. ‘Flight from genocide’, wrote the Daily Mail. ‘Echoes of the Holocaust’, chorused the Sun and the Mirror. In parliament, the heroic Clare Short compared to Nazi propagandists those (such as myself) who objected to the bombing of defenceless people.
By June 1999, with the bombardment over, international forensic teams began subjecting Kosovo to minute examination. The American FBI arrived to investigate what was called ‘the largest crime scene in the FBI’s forensic history’. Several weeks later, having not found a single mass grave, the FBI went home. The Spanish forensic team also returned home, its leader complaining angrily that he and his colleagues had become part of ‘a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one – not one – mass grave’.
In November 1999, the Wall Street Journal published the results of its own investigation, dismissing ‘the mass grave obsession’. Instead of ‘the huge killing fields some investigators were led to expect … the pattern is of scattered killings [mostly] in areas where the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army has been active’. The Journal concluded that Nato stepped up its claims about Serbian killing fields when it ‘saw a fatigued press corps drifting toward the contrary story: civilians killed by Nato’s bombs’ … The war in Kosovo was cruel, bitter, savage. Genocide it wasn’t.’
One year later, the International War Crimes Tribunal, a body in effect set up by Nato, announced that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo’s ‘mass graves’ was 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and Roma murdered by the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. Like Iraq’s fabled weapons of mass destruction, the figures used by the US and British governments and echoed by journalists were inventions – along with Serbian ‘rape camps’ and Clinton’s and Blair’s claims that Nato never deliberately bombed civilians.
Code-named Stage Three, Nato’s civilian targets included public transport, hospitals, schools, museums, churches. ‘It was common knowledge that Nato went to Stage Three [after a couple of weeks],’ said James Bissett, the Canadian ambassador in Belgrade during the attack. ‘Otherwise, they would not have been bombing bridges on Sunday afternoons, and market places.’
Nato’s clients were the Kosovo Liberation Army. Seven years earlier, the State Department had designated the KLA as a terrorist organisation in league with al-Qaeda. In 1999, KLA thugs were feted; Robin Cook, then foreign secretary, allowed them to call him on his mobile phone. ‘The Kosovar Albanians played us like a Stradivarius violin’, wrote the former UN commander in Bosnia, Major General Lewis MacKenzie, last April. ‘We have subsidised and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early 1990s, and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today, in spite of evidence to the contrary’.
The trigger for the bombing of Yugoslavia was, according to Nato, the failure of the Serbian delegation to sign up to the Rambouillet peace conference. What went mostly unreported was that the Rambouillet accord had a secret Annex B, which Madeleine Albright’s delegation had inserted on the last day. This demanded the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia, a country with bitter memories of the Nazi occupation. As the Foreign Office minister Lord Gilbert later conceded to a Commons defence select committee, Annex B was planted deliberately to provoke rejection.
Equally revealing was a chapter dealing exclusively with the Kosovan economy. This called for a ‘free-market economy’ and the privatisation of all government assets. As the Balkans writer Neil Clark has pointed out: ‘The rump Yugoslavia … was the last economy in central-southern Europe to be uncolonised by western capital. Socially owned enterprises, the form of worker self-management pioneered under Tito, still predominated. Yugoslavia had publicly owned petroleum, mining, car and tobacco industries …’
At the Davos summit of neoliberal chieftains in 1999, Blair berated Belgrade, not for its handling of Kosovo, but for its failure to embrace ‘economic reform’ fully. In the bombing campaign that followed, it was state-owned companies, rather than military sites, that were targeted. Nato’s destruction of only 14 Yugoslav army tanks compares with its bombing of 372 centres of industry, including the Zastava car factory. ‘Not one foreign or privately owned factory was bombed’, wrote Clark.
Erected on the foundation of this huge lie, Kosovo today is a violent, criminalised, UN-administered ‘free market’ in drugs and prostitution; unemployment is 65 per cent. More than 200,000 Serbs, Roma, Bosniaks, Turks, Croats and Jews have been ethnically cleansed by the KLA, with Nato forces standing by. KLA hit squads have burned, looted or demolished 85 Orthodox churches and monasteries, according to the UN. The courts are venal. ‘You shot an 89-year-old Serb grand mother?’ mocked a UN narcotics officer. ‘Good for you. Get out of jail.’
Although Security Council Resolution 1244 recognises Kosovo as an integral part of Yugoslavia, multinational companies are being offered ten- and 15-year leases of the province’s local industries and resources, including the vast Trepca mines, some of the richest mineral deposits in the world. Overseeing this plundered, now almost ethnically pure ‘future democracy’ (Blair), are 4,000 American troops at Camp Bondsteel, a 775-acre permanent-base imperial presence.
Meanwhile, the show trial of Slobodan Milosevic proceeds as farce. Milosevic was a brute; he was also a banker once regarded as the west's man who was prepared to implement ‘economic reforms’ in keeping with IMF, World Bank and European Union demands; to his cost, he refused to surrender sovereignty. The empire expects nothing less. John Pilger, article December 2004, ‘Reminders of Kosovo’
Forget all the nonsense that you may have heard about Kosovo being the Jerusalem of Serbia. It may contain some beautiful and ancient Serbian and Serbian Orthodox cultural sites, but it is much more like Serbia's West Bank or Gaza, with a sweltering, penned-up, subject population who were for generations treated as if they were human refuse in the land of their own birth. Nobody who has spent any time in the territory, as I did during and after the eviction of the Serb militias, can believe for a single second that any Kosovar would ever again submit to rule from Belgrade. It’s over. Christopher Hitchens article Slate 22 February 2008, ‘The Serbs’ Self-Inflicted Wounds: With Kosovo independent, Yugoslavia is finally dead’
The Kosovars were granted autonomy at the end of World War II, but then aspiring president Milosevic had the autonomy revoked in 1989, and the Dayton Accords of 1995, which ended the recent war in Bosnia and Croatia, failed to address the issue of Kosovo’s status. Sebastian Junger
The many questions about the bombing of Yugoslavia by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – meaning primarily the United States – come down to two fundamental issues: What are the accepted and applicable rules of world order, and how do these apply in the case of Kosovo? Noam Chomsky
The Balkans – war-ravaged, impoverished and traumatised – were about to be transformed into a smuggling and criminal machine that had few, if any, parallels in history. While the world wrung its hands and fretted over the terrible nationalist urges of the Yugoslav peoples and their leaderships, the Balkan mafias started putting aside their ethnic differences to engage in a breathtaking criminal collaboration. Misha Glenny, McMafia