Ten years ago NATO forces attacked and bombed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and occupied the autonomous province of Kosovo. The reason for this was on the surface the claim, that the Federal Republic, its army and police units aided by Serb paramilitaries, were conducting a policy of “ethnic cleansing” against the Albanian minority. The intervention was supposed to prevent a “genocide” from happening, it was thus a “humanitarian intervention”, so the official version went.
Of course this had a pre-history. At the beginning of the 90’s Yugoslavia was starting to break up, and several of it’s republics sought independence. In the case of Slovenia this successfully happened without bloodshed, but in the cases of the other Republics bloody conflicts ensued. The process gained a lethal dynamic, not the least because of the support the secessionist forces received from parts of the West, especially from Germany. Foreign minister Genscher chose to unilaterally recognize the independence of Croatia for example without clearing the issue with Germany’s Western allies.
Germany’s apparent support for a re-drawing of the Balkans along ethnic lines set the tone for a more aggressive foreign policy post re-unification. This also encouraged ethnic Albanian separatism and since 1994 different nationalist groups (activities stretching back to 1992) had formed the “Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës”, in english usually referred to as the “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA), and systematically started acquiring weapons. From 1996 until 1998 it took responsibility for 21 assassinations, to escalate the conflict in that year, and by July the UÇK controlled about a third of the province. At the latest with the beginning of hostilities on March 24, 1999, the UÇK became a de facto ally of NATO.
The roots of this particular nationalist movement goes back longer though and can be traced back to the time of neighboring Albania being a Stalinist dictatorship under Enver Hoxha and its support for the “national liberation struggle” of the Kosovar-Albanias against Yugoslav “revisionism”. The “Peoples Movement of Kosovo” founded in 1982 was largely dominated by the “Marxist-Leninist Organisation of Kosovo” aligned with Hoxha’s Albanian Party of Labor and a direct line goes from it to the UÇK, although not without splits in the original organisation. Hoxha remained a hero in Kosovo until way after his death in 1985, that much is clear, but to conclude that the UÇK was and/or remained a Marxist-Leninist organisation would be a wrong conclusion. On the one hand “Marxism-Leninism” was an ideology of legitimation for the Albanian bureaucracy and ruling elite and that such a focus was placed on nationalism is no accident. Albania under Hoxha saw itself as the purest fruit of the Stalinist “theory” of the development of “Socialism in one country”, but a number of blows had destroyed this illusion by the time the UÇK started their own war of national liberation; first there was Hoxha’s death in 1985, then the fall of the Stalinist regime in 1991. In 1997 there was a virtual breakdown of the economic system and largely of Albanian society. This had a major positive impact on the UÇK, because of the fact that following the breakdown weapons became extremely available and cheap, apparently a Kalashnikow cost the equivalent of 10 euros around that time.
In any case there are other historical examples where Stalinist regimes minus ML-ideology turned into mere rackets of the upper echelons of the bureaucracy and their associates and clans. Like this is was possible that the UÇK also became attractive for other political forces.
It is clear that the UÇK was originally supported by the German BND, but also with criminal money. Some observers went as far as claiming that the UÇK and the Kosovar-Albanian mafia were not just tied together with contacts, but were essentially identical.
In the run up to the war in many countries in Europe, Kosovar-Albanians took control of the heroin trade, or at least controlled a significant part of it, e.g. in Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. In addition to this came widespread arms smuggling and dealing as well as prostitution. The profits of these businesses were already at the time presumed to go into the warchest of the UÇK.
These activities did not cease after the war and occupation, as the UÇK-elite was consolidating its power.
Officially the organisation was disbanded at the end of 1999, but it can be said that it was transformed into the Kosovo Protection Corps and the Partia Demokratike e Kosovës, the Democratic Party of Kosovo.
This party is led by Hashim Thaci, who was the leader of the UÇK since taking over from Adem Demaci in 1999. Thaci managed to present himself as a “moderate” by accepting the demand of autonomy rather than immediate unconditional independence for Kosovo. Of course his plan was independence too, but he went about it in a more diplomatically clever way. His nom de guerre was Gjarpni – the Snake, and his position at the top of the organisation is seen by analysts as a shifting of influence from the German BND to the CIA. In any case it remains remarkable that the West – interested in breaking up Yugoslavia – supported the UÇK, which was advocating armed struggle, and not Ibrahim Rugova and his Democratic League of Kosovo which was trying to pursue a more peaceful way with the same aims.
After Kosovo fell under UN control,”The tumbling reputation of the former KLA was to have a disastrous effect on the PDK because of the perceived overlap between its political leadership and post-KLA organised crime”, as the BBC said in 2001.
Nevertheless Thaci proved to have long breath and is now Prime Minister of the newly “independent” Kosovo. 10 years on since the end of the war, more and more facts have come up regarding his large scale involvement with organized crime. Not that this was unknown in 1999, but reports were limited to very few critical publications, while most of the western mainstream media had their target set on the “genocidal” pursuits of Milosevic to justify the military onslaught against Yugoslavia.
In 2005 the BND prepared a “top secret” report that was duly leaked to the media. There, as well as in papers from the UN and KFOR (the occupation troups), three of the most powerful men in todays Kosovo are heavily implicated in organized crime. Besides Thaci these are Ramush Haradinaj (former prime minister) and Xhavit Haliti (president of parliament). Haradinaj was even prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, but was declared “not guilty” in 2008. He must have been sure of this outcome as he voluntarily travelled to The Hague immediately after his indictment. He certainly had powerful mentors, such as US senator Joe Biden, now vice president.
This exemplifies – as in the case of Thaci – the fact that while intelligence services are reporting and corrobating the involvement of the post-UÇK leadership in war crimes, drug dealing and human trafficking on a massive scale, mainstream politics and its legal and media wing are trying to gloss over both the desastrous policies of the past and their catastrophic consequences in the present and for the future.
The different countries involved in the attacks on Yugoslavia had different rationales. The UK, led by Anthony Blair, was rationalizing it like this: “In this conflict we are fighting not for territory but for values. For a new internationalism where the brutal repression of whole ethnic groups will no longer be tolerated. For a world where those responsible for such crimes have nowhere to hide.” (Blair in Newsweek 19 April 1999). Blair went as far as saying that the war against the Serbs was “no longer just a military conflict. It is a battle between Good and Evil; between civilisation and barbarity”, while the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, was going on about the “crucifixion of Kosovo”. Blatantly what were supposed to be strong words sound like manipulative idiocy now.
But they still don’t answer our question why. After the diplomatic charade of Rambouillet where the Yugoslav government was faced with a document no sovereign state could possibly sign, the course towards war was set. The “battle between Good and Evil”, the wanna-be catholic Blair was longing for could finally take place.
Clinton tried a little bit of self aggrandisment by comparing himself to Franklin D. Roosevelt (implying of course that Milosevic was taking the role of Hitler), but some were a little more hesitant: Henry Kissinger, himself not adverse to bombing, said that for him “the war on Yugoslavia inspires profound ambivalence”.
The reason for this may well have been – I’m speculating here – that he saw something most anglophone commentators missed: That the war against Yugoslavia was a German war, the national interest of Germany was the participation in a military aggression with their own soldiers, finally acertaining the status of a “normal” power post-WWII, and showing it could make decisions and implement them in their sphere of interest.
Indeed in this sense the war was a turning point in the post-war order, concluding a process that had reached its previous peak in the “re-unification” of Germany a decade earlier. While for the Western powers the attack on Yugoslavia was an implementation of a new unipolar world order, a bonding together of the NATO states, as well as a humiliation of Russia, for Germany more was at stake: Normalisation and global acceptance as a world power.
It’s no accident that this happened under a “left-wing” (Social-Democrat/Green coalition) government. It would have been a lot more difficult for a conservative government to lead Germany into a war of aggression, but the Schröder/Fischer government successfully used “anti-fascist” rhetoric to justify the war and Germany’s involvement in it. Apparently done as a part of NATO, their aims were set higher – as representatives of the German national bourgeoisie to bring the country up to the level of the winners of World War II, and thus preparing for inter-imperialist competition, which can be exemplified at their sudden return to “pacifism” in relation to the US-led war on Iraq.
On a side note it should be added that the current German government is a lot more atlanticist than the one a decade ago, and is trying to position itself as an ally of the US rather than a prospective competitor, but – especially under the conditions of economic crisis we shall see if and how long the alliance will last. The demand for a permanend seat in the UN security council could be a sign in the future for more German world power aspiration and its will to a final dismantling of the post WWII order.
The outcome that Kosovo has become a mock-democracy run by organized crime was and is unimportant to a generation of politicians and military men who made immediate political gains by playing out “anti-fascism” as a bloody and brutal farce – preventing a “new holocaust” against the Kosovars against a Yugoslavian state no less that had its raison d’ètre in the anti-fascist struggle against Germany in WWII.Clintons dictum that “What we have done in Kosovo is something we can be proud of for decades” remains a cynical joke.