One of the central events of 1999 was the conflict and then war in the then Yugoslav province of Kosovo. The dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has happened over the last decade with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia becoming internationally recognised sovereign coutries. Montenegro and Kosovo were the last non-Serb provinces and the last obstacles to a Balkans divided along ethnic lines.
Why, many people have asked, have people who – seemingly at least – lived together for decades suddenly decided to kill and rape their neighbours and reclaim ethnically cleansed territories as their national states?
Of course nationalism hadn’t entirely disappeared under Tito’s communist rule, but it didn’t seem to play a decisive role. After the liberation from German occupation and the defeat of the fascist Croation regime, the Socialist Federal Republic was declared, and soon after a break with Stalin occured. Tito and Milovan Djilas introduced workers councils in the factories in 1950, making Yugoslavia in effect the only progressive communist country, multi-national and ostensibly with worker’s control over the means of production. This model had a fundamental flaw – that it was introduced by the Party from above – and didn’t survive the new-found friendship with the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death. Djilas, who believed in the council system, spent years in prison. Still Tito tried to steer a course between east and west. Economic problems in the 60’s and 70’s were essentially offset by hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavians becoming “guest workers” in West Germany and other countries.
Only in the 1980’s the economic system of Yugoslavia started crumbling and the state was only kept afloat with massive loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). IMF policies generally have an implementation of capitalist “free market” economies as their goal. In this period there was mounting social unrest. A breakdown seemed inevitable. With much help from the west, especially Germany, nationalist forces were encouraged at the expense of a possible development of class struggle, and breakaway republics like Slovenia and Croatia were recognised by German foreign minister Genscher before anyone else. In the meantime a nationalist clique around Slobodan Milosevic consolidated their power in rump-Yugoslavia, which by the mid-90’s consisted only of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo.
Encouraged by the developments Kosovar-Albanian nationalists increased their pressure to be able to form an independent state, and eventually took up arms against what they perceived as their Serb oppressors. The ensueing guerrilla war saw groups of nationalists under the header of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” or UCK, as we shall see not a homogenous “army” as such, on the one side and Yugoslav, by then identified as Serbian, police as well as paramilitary groups, and later the federal army on the other side.
This conflict became increasingly fierce and bloody. There were reports of massacres and “ethnic cleansing”. No doubt, atrocities were committed, but what made it different from other conflicts within a country where an ethnic minority tries to create its own state, as there are a number of national-revolutionary movements even in Western Europe such as in the Basque country? What tipped the balance into the broad acceptance that NATO would have a right and duty to intervene?
“Srebenica was the turning point”, German foreign minister Fischer (Green Party) said. Srebenica was portrayed as a modern “Auschwitz”, where 30’000 Bosnian Muslims were killed by “The Serbs” in 1995. This event served as an important tool for justification of the NATO bombing campaign.
It was claimed that the same was happening in Kosovo. In order to prevent the mad dictator “Slobba” Milosevic “Hitler” to create “another Auschwitz”, Belgrade had to be bombed. We were expected to accept this interpretation, and on the whole it seemed to work. Didn’t Fischer’s party have enough anti-war credentials that it needed the real danger of a new fascism to turn them into warmongers? Also the other main-players in Europe were Social-democrat governments: Britain, France, Italy.
Of course the instrumentalisation of the Nazi Holocaust in comparing it with the alleged Serb ethnic cleansing was as scandal, but only the Jewish organisations objected to this. Even if there had been tens of thousands of people killed, even if there had been an active policy of ethnic cleansing by the Serbian state, it was totally inappropriate to compare it to the massive industrialised killing of millions of Jews, Roma, Homosexuals, Communists and others in the death camps during the final years of the second world war, perpetrated by the German state as a planned and conscious action.
The new Germany is interested that the crimes of its precursor-regime are looked at as historically relative, comparable to other crimes perpetrated today; one obstacle to Germany becoming a world power again disappears
But was it even true?
Let’s look at Srebenica 1995. First there were 30’000 dead, a number still used by the German war minister Scharping to justify the bombing, then there were eventually 7’076 persons missing, but despite intensive searching only 480 bodies were found. What happened to the other bodies? When there were similar problems in Kosovo – the numbers of the dead that the media reported and the actual number of corpses did not match at all – some people tried to suggest that the evil Serbs had done away with the bodies – with the Sunday Times suggesting the Serbs had dissolved them in acid !
Closer to the truth is that Red Cross came up with the number of 8’000 missing, but conceded at the time that many on their lists could have been mentioned more than once. Also, as early as the July 18 1995 the “New York Times” (one week after Srebenica fell into Serb hands) reported that “between three and four thousand Bosnian Muslims who have been listed as missing by the UN, made their way through enemy lines onto Bosnian territory…” When the Red Cross learned about this exodus they stated that they were not allowed by the Bosnian authorities to verify and this was why people who survived could not be taken off the lists. It also emerged that 500 people had already been dead before the ‘massacre’, and that 3’016 people who were on the missing list were on the electoral register one year later – in Srebenica. Propaganda and rumours… even more missing turned up, and statements of people who had been taken prisoners by the Serbs and hadn’t been maltreated, let alone massacred, were duly ignored by the western media. A number of 480 dead has to be expected to be found in a city after such hard fighting, in no way are they proof for a Holocaust…
Srebenica is by no means the only example where real or invented bodies were used to justify the subsequent attacks on Serbs. One example is that Republican members of the “Task Force on Terrorism & Unconventional Warfare” of the US senate confirmed Russian news agency reports that another massacre in August 1995 had in fact been perpetrated by Mudjaheddin in collusion with western secret services, and had been used as a pretext for bombing Plane, the then capital of the Bosnian Serbs.
So not only are there bodies missing, sometimes even the present ones seem to have been killed by the “good” side.
Also not entirely clear is the story behind the deaths of the “massacre of Racak” which was the decisive event for the start of the 1999 Kosovo air campaign. Strangely, according to the “New York Times”, Madeleine Albright knew about a “key event” that would change US policy a day before the 45 bodies were found on january 16 1999.
The dead were in civilian clothing. The Yugoslav authorities claimed they were UCK fighters that had been dressed in civilian clothing. Nato commentators viewed it as the proof that the Serbs’ lust for murder had to be stopped. US-”observer” William Walker told TV cameras, that this was the most horrific thing he’d ever seen. His previous career so far included 1985-88 working with the Nicaraguan Contras as vice-State Secretary for Central America. Then he was US-ambassador in El Salvador and coordinated the collaboration of CIA and Death Squads. A credible witness?
No doubt, 45 people had found violent deaths. But had they been massacred as an organised effort by the Yugoslav police to “ethnically cleanse” the village? Or had they died in the fighting, and their bodies collected to create a horror-scenario with a guaranteed devastating effect on public opinion, as “Le Monde” suggested, based on reports and filmed material of AFP journalists who were present during the fighting ? #(These were questions that weren’t asked in the German press… and elsewhere)
If we examine the facts there is little left that explains the massive bombing campaign in the official reasoning, i.e. the supposedly “Humanitarian War”. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder came up with an even greater verbal distortion: “We are not conducting a war, but we are called to push through a peaceful solution for Kosovo with military means.”
Whatever they wanted to call it, Germans, British and Americans were eager to bomb.
We have seen that – despite killings, even “atrocities” – there is hardly the evidence for the humanitarian intervention that according to its own propaganda needed systematic genocidal slaughter to justify itself. In reality the main NATO powers had very different reasons to get involved, and to be so keen.
After 1989 – the year of the breakdown of the ‘Eastern Bloc’ – there has been clearly shifting relations between the Western powers. Their unity in the times of the Cold War against the Soviet Union and its allies and satellites proved artificial and increasingly out-dated. A strong tendency in the European ruling classes wants to build a European power bloc with more independence from the United States, a power bloc under the leadership of the French and the Germans. Power meaning military as well as economic power. Currently the US Army and the US Dollar are the strongest in their fields. The introduction of the Euro is one important step towards a direct competition with the States, also the European Union was early on conceived by some people as a “United States of Europe”.
The US understandably are slightly worried about such developments because they fear losing their leadership role in the (not only western) world.
For them a NATO campaign under their leadership would cement the trans-atlantic unity and emphasize who’s boss. The British under Tony Blair are going along with this – they are not particularly interested in a Europe within which they would play second fiddle to the Germans, they want to keep the status quo and be the faithful ally of the Americans in Europe.
The Germans however had a different reason to be keen on bombing: For them it was the historic opportunity to be back amongst the great nations who are in a position to wage war. For them the agenda of the US and Britain was secondary, the fact to have German troops in combat again was highest on their agenda and served their imperial aspirations best, regardless if they happened to be pro- or anti-American members of the establishment.
The French and the Italians had the least to gain, but still played along, showing how “up for it” they were.
All the above shared certain agendas too: Especially a humiliation of the Russians – traditionally allied to the Serbs – who were shown their place in the new world order: Not amongst the mighty.
But also the UN was by-passed, pointing to another conflict, this time mainly between the Americans and the United Nations, within which ‘Third World’ nations have become “too powerful”. Republican-controlled Congress has been stalling US dues (millions of Dollars are owed) to the UN for years now, due to the policy of the UN to provide information on birth control, including abortion.
All the above also seem to agree on the plan to redivide Europe along ethnic lines.
Despite the mountains of corpses the Western politicians were phantasising, there had to be an attempted diplomatic solution: The conference at Rambouillet. If the real aim was peace, isn’t it strange that the conditions for signing were made so unacceptable to the Serbs – they included free movement of NATO troops in the whole of Yugoslavia – in fact they were harsher than the conditions after the bombing. According to some Italian reports the Yugoslav delegation even agreed to sing some of the “impossible” paragraphs, but the Kosovo-Albanian delegation (UCK) refused. It can be assumed that within the colourful bunch referred to in the British media as KLA most were in favour of an escalation of the civil war into a full scale NATO-led attack on Serbia.
Who were/are the UCK/KLA? The media generally described them as a freedom fighters. Even on the supposedly radical left some – while opposing the NATO air strikes – advocated the arming of the KLA (for example the CPB “Stop Nato Bombing – Arm the KLA” slogan for the European Election). This betrayed a fundamentally uninformed view.
The UCK (I stick to their real initials here) started around 1992 but it was only in the last couple of years that they became more active, until the end of 1998 it was dominated by the German secret service, the BND, while the Americans tried to build up their own Armed Forces of the Republik Kosovo. The leader of the FARK was assassinated by the UCK in Tirana on Sept.18 1998, which led the CIA to change focus and make a successful attempt in taking over the UCK leadership. This happened when Hashim Thaci took over from Adem Demaci. But even then there were two Kosova “Prime Ministers”, Thaci and Bujar Bukoshi who resides in Bonn. Bukoshi is said to control the ‘taxes’ collected from exiled Kosovars, about £3.5m yearly from Germany alone. When Thaci took over Bukoshi refused to hand over the money, but Thaci is said to control the UCK income from organised crime. The main branch here is the control of the heroin route through the Balkans into Western Europe.
Ideologically there are three factions within the UCK: A National-Communist one, consisting of followers of the late Stalinist dictator of Albania, Enver Hoxha, whose son Sokol is said to be a big shot on the black markets, whose secret services were instrumental in setting up the UCK and who are still dominating it, then there are a Islamic-Fundamentalist and a Fascist wing. The Fascists are said to originate from the exiled community in the States, including former Nazi-collaborators and members of the SS-Division “Skanderberg” who escaped after the war to the US with the help of the CIA. According to Mossad the fundamentalists are financed from Afghanistan, Iran, and by Bin Laden, who is rumoured to control the Albanian-Islamic Bank.
This was the reason that Mossad supported the Yugoslavian side (with intelligence and military electronics): They fear an Islamic “Greater Albania”.
Sounds phantastic? Under pressure from the US Bosnia had to expell 300 Mudjaheddin in 1997… but they were not all the Muslim fighters and mercenaries, many of which are now engaged with the UCK.
When NATO made every grave into a mass grave and every killing a massacre, and later turned schools, homes and hospitals into “legitimate military targets”, journalists didn’t ask questions but broadcast the official line. After all they were supplied with ample amount of corpses, and whoever doubted the “humanitarian” aims of Clinton, Blair and their henchmen obviously was in league with the fascist genocidal regime in Belgrade.
When NATO admitted that they had attacked the hospital of Sudurlica on purpose because it was a barrack diguised as a hospital, no journalist complained even after a visit to the civilian dead. When the BBC reported of the streets of Vucitrn being “full of corpses” it was based on a report that had actually spoken of one body and the place being full of Serbian police. Not-so-subtle differences that served as important justifications.
Few journalists said anything when the TV station in Belgrade was bombed and destroyed. About two days in advance CNN headquarters in Atlanta warned their people who left the building with their gear intact. Then they invited Yugoslav minister of the Interior Aleksander Vucic to appear on Larry King Live. He was told to show up an hour early, but he was late. If he had been on time, he would have been killed by the bomardment. The make-up girl is dead. CNN says the timing was accidental.
Besides this girl hundreds of others have knowingly been sacrificed for the “Moral Crusade”.
This story gets even more sinister
though when we take into account recent information that the Pentagon had five Psyop interns working at CNN (see http://www.nettime.org/nettime.w3archive/ [cnn and the pentagon, posting from 21-3-2000]). This suggests an entanglement and control of the media by the state and/or the military that we know from ‘totalitarian’ regimes. CNN is protesting their objectivity, and after having to admit the presence of the psyop interns, insist that they had no influence over the stories and reports.
As for objectivity: what about Christiane Amanpour, “CNN’s leading foreign correspondent and a woman whose reports about the fate of Kosovar refugees did much to fan public appetite for NATO’s war, has been in bed with the spokesman for the US State Department, and a leading propagandist for NATO during that war, her husband James Rubin” (quote from Counterpunch, who broke the story about the interns – and whose website seems impossible to dial up at the moment).
The more we apply a magnifying glass to disentangle the Kosovo-complex, the more we are swamped with the debris of power politics under the gloss of moralistic rhetoric. The most worrying aspect is that it seems to have worked. Resistance against the war was even weaker than during the Gulf War, and often confused. Even now that Nato are under more investigation, and have even been found out to doctor evidence in the case of the bombing of a bridge where a train was destroyed and 55 civilians killed (a massacre that could have been easily technically averted), there is still a widely perceived moral difference of the atrocities perpetrated by Nato and the Yugoslavs, Nato’s being seen as the ‘collateral damage’ or regrettable distortions in an otherwise clean campaign. Like Schröder the information-managers of this complex are as violent towards language as towards people. The refugee-trails so cynically used to justify the air-attacks were largely caused by these same attacks.
While a lot of feel-good pacifists were convinced that the beastiality of Milosevic deserved to be answered with heavy bombardment, a lot of the left remained confused about the ostensible absence of direct economic gains.
In the meantime hundreds of thousands lost their homes and livelihood in Kosovo and Serbia. For the time being Albright, Blair, Schröder and others seem to have fullfilled their brutal agenda. The Serbs ad the Russians have to clench their fist and accept defeat. For the moment – the merciless shelling of Grosny proves that Moscow aims to demonstrate it’s not entirely impotent in the imperialist game.
One year has passed since the beginning of the bombing. Kosovo has since been largely ethnically cleansed of Serbs, Roma and Jews. 80 Serb churches have been destroyed, an attempt to culturally eliminate them from Kosovo, a place after all of great importance to their cultural/national heritage. The KFOR occupation is bound to last, the UCK has been officially dissolved, but constitute practically the Kosovo police force now. So far 2108 bodies have officially been found from the Serb “genocide”, a total of about 5’000 Albanian civilians are said to be killed in the course of the conflict, again considerably less than the hundreds of thousands that were used to justify the war. In Serbia itself about 2’000 civilians were killed by the NATO attacks, and 6’000 injured. 200 factories and powerplants, 190 schools, 50 hospitals and 50 bridges were destroyed. NATO flew 31’529 attacks. NATO says they killed or injured 10’000 Yugoslav soldiers, but the damage in material is not clear. Some estimates speak of only a few dozen destroyed tanks, some of hundreds. What is clear is that Serbia is an economically destroyed country, and that its autocratic regime has been strengthened: After all the worst Anti-NATO propaganda seemed to become true in 78 nights of bombing terror.
We on the other hand have to precisely look at these entaglements to understand what is only one aspect of the ‘New World Order’ and its mechanisms. Other aspects are the functions of the WTO, the IMF etc., other aspects are the way finance capitalism operates, and what role spectacular culture plays. We have to link various levels of discussion and insights to find strategies against the new imperialisms. Understanding NATO’s war should add new urgency to this international struggle.