The Kosovo war was also an information war that was led surprisingly successful considering how many ‘facts’ had to be made up or twisted. Let’s once again reiterate: In the Yugoslav province of Kosovo there had been an armed insurrection of a nationalist group called the UCK (in the US and UK usually referred to as KLA) with the aim of secession from the FRY (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and possibly/ultimately the creation of a Greater Albania. The UCK was supported by the German secret service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) and otherwise financed by “taxes” levied from the Albanian diaspora and by selling Heroin in Europe (already at the end of 1999 Hashim Thacis gang controlled 40% of the European heroin, according to German Unmik police). When the banking system in Albania itself collapsed in 1997 there were widespread riots and looting and an actual breakdown of the state; one result was easy access to weapons which were smuggled into Kosovo. As the fighting got more intense, uglier things started happening: Serb paramilitaries killed 67 Kosovo Albanians in March ’98 as a revenge action for example, after more and more police stations had become target of UCK attacks, and the civil war started making headlines in the Western media. Until summer 1998 there was debate of a Nato intervention to close the border between Albania and Kosovo in order to stabilise the region. The Germans vetoed this, having followed a policy of reshaping south eastern Europe along ethnic lines. The propaganda machinery started working towards war. A UN mandate was not sought – it wouldn’t have been obtainable. As fighting spread in Kosovo, often villages were evacuated during the shelling, mostly it appears the inhabitants were able to return, often to find houses burning as a consequence of fighting. There is no doubt that every civilian population will dearly suffer from any armed conflict, that destruction will create refugees. But the Nato propaganda painted a picture of a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign by the Serbs, the Germans even spoke of Genocide. There was talk of concentration camps in Pristina and of massacres like the one in Racak. These were the two main “proofs”. The problem is that there was no concentration camp in Pristina and there was no massacre in Racak (the dead turned out to be UCK fighters).
The propaganda then goes that “everything” was done to seek a diplomatic solution. This consisted for example in demanding free movement for Nato troops in Yugoslavia, an obviously unacceptable demand for a sovereign state. With the bombing campaign finally under way the humanitarian disaster finally broke; refugee trails swelling with Nato again testing how far they could go by blowing up a train full of civilians, by bombing the TV station in Belgrade, by hitting the Chinese embassy with missiles.
Two years after the Nato bombing raids on Serbia the situation on the Balkans is everything but calm. We tried to present a run-down of what had happened in the last issue of datacide, here I will limit myself to a few crucial points that can be made with a bit more distance.
1. There are people considering themselves to be on the ‘Left’ who supported the NATO strikes, and believed the UCK was worth supporting because they believe in the ‘duty’ of lefties to support ‘national liberation’. They indeed followed the ‘centre-left’ governments that made it possible that the crudest imperialism could rage in Europe, without even double-checking what was on whose agenda, and who the UCK even were. Rational arguments for this position are scarce, they are based on invented figures of victims of Serb ethnic cleansing, and characterised by denial of any actual information that has surfaced since then. For example the practice of the UCK since it was allowed to put into action its concept of freedom: Free Kosovo of Serbs, Roma and Jews.
While the supporters of the bombing seriously (and insidiously) accused enemies of the war effort to be de facto supporters of the Milosevic regime, they also ignored the fact that ‘national liberation’ is exactly the agenda of the extreme right. While there is a historical reason for the connection of the left with national liberation movements – colonialism – there is simply no intact link left. During the Cold War ‘national liberation’ of ‘Third World’ peoples was instrumentalised by Russian foreign policy in the interest of the ruling bureaucracy. Where successful it lead to new class societies of the bureaucratic (state-capitalist) kind. Since the breakdown of the East, ‘national liberation’ has lost even the pretense of social revolution.
The extreme Right was divided which nationalism to support – Albanian or Serb; this argument should never have appeared on the Left, in some sections it was in fact the same argument (as among fascists) with similar results.
2. Another minority actually did defend the Milosevic regime with the reasoning that it was the last “Socialist” state in Europe and that practically all crimes against humanity had been invented. While the latter is maybe close to the truth, the former claim – that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is “socialist” is rather ridiculous, unless you think that for example wage differences of up to 1000 times in the same factories between workers and managers are a good example of “Socialism”.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was a typical state capitalist regime with a somewhat charged national-socialist rhetoric. The ruling bureaucracy had not much of an ideology left.
3. The downfall of Milosevic is nevertheless another little step in the realisation of the new European order as invisaged by – mainly – the Germans. The new president Kostunica is politically an even more hardline nationalist than Milosevic, but what counts is that he is economically willing to push through neoliberal reforms, and waiting in the wings are those eager to collaborate with the West at any cost. Hardly a ‘revolution’. This neo-liberal-nationalist “opposition” was bankrolled by the West rather generously, and besides that the question remains how free these elections were considering that every voter knew that voting for Milosevic meant to prolong unbearable sanctions – the will to survive alone was enough to make them vote for Kostunica (who managed to gain credibility thanks to his anti-western rhetoric).
Finally arrested, Milosevic is marked for a show trial that is supposed to absolve the West from responsibility for the humanitarian disaster it caused and write him down in the history books as a Serb Hitler. An unfitting label alone by the fact that he did allow the elections that cost him the presidency.
The most unhappy about the changes in Belgrade were ironically the UCK, since their vision of an independent Kosovo, seemingly so close just months ago with NATO firepower on their side, had now passed into the far future. And shows that NATO is quite willing to use whatever movements (the UCK having been a hodge-potch of neo-Stalinists, Fascists, and western oriented ‘Democrats’, i.e. free market advocats) for their own agenda. Kostunica, who had posed the previous year with a Kalashnikov in Kosovo to underline his Serb commitments, was now demanding the return of 250’000 Serb refugees who were ethnically cleansed by the UCK under KFOR protection.
The UCK – officially dissolved or re-organised into the Kosovo police force – was under pressure to act and started armed conflicts in Macedonia. They still hoped that with a little help from the Germans their dream of a Greater Albania (encompassing Albania, Kosovo and parts of Macedonia) could come true.
4. One aspect we may have underestimated a bit (in last issue’s article) is the geopolitical aspect of the control of the raw materials and pipelines, in that the planned and executed systematic destruction of Yugoslavia has to do with the pushing back of the Russian influence in the Balkans, as Germany is trying to create an economic lebensraum for its industry in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The quest for control of access and transport routes for the supposedly massive oil reserves in the Caspic Sea area plays a role in the Balcans too: One of the two projected (Europe-bound) pipelines is supposed to go through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania, the other through Rumania, Serbia and Croatia. Needless to say the European powers are extremely interested to be in charge in these areas, to have troops stationed in the region certainly aids that purpose.
In this complex falls the EU’s embrace of the half-military regime in Turkey which has yet again shown its ugly face with the massacre of 27 prisoners when striking against a prison revolt of political prisoners protesting against changes in the rules that would lead them to be locked up separately from each other and therefore more likely to be tortured and murdered by the security forces.
Should Turkey be allowed into the EU with its current double system of “democratic” civilian and military governance this could be a bad omen for those who thought the militarisation of public space in Europe would stop at surveillance.
5. One of the other important aspects of the Kosovo war, re-affirming NATO unity under US leadership, may actually have suffered a blow by the “election” of George W. Bush jr. While it’s true that there is little difference in the policies of Democrats and Republicans, there are still different views as to how capitalism is supposed to be enforced and managed. While waving the phony flag of “compassionate Conservatism”, Bush’s record in Texas speaks another language: Serial judicial murder and mass incarceration. His nomination of John Ashcroft for the Attorney General made clear that he is intent to extend extreme reactionary positions over the country. Ashcroft is an old school rabid racist and has opposed prosecution of terrorists who attack abortion clinics.
How compatible this will be with the “Third Way” ideology of Blair and Schröder we’ll find out soon , but it’s not unlikely that the worsening crisis of international Capitalism, the failure of the concept of speculative growth and the victory of right-wing fundamentalism in the States will lead to an increasing gap between the NATO partners.
While Bush is trying to gloss over the economic slowdown with sabre rattling towards China and a re-edition of ‘Star Wars’, the true imperialist rivals will be the US and Europe, and the glue that the Kosovo war was meant to be might not hold as well as imagined.
6. Germany may turn out to be the main winner of the Kosovo War: They are allowed to bomb other countries again and station troops there, and a Europe under their leadership is becoming a bit more probable. Already they didn’t hesitate to demand more votes than France at the summit in Nice which shocked those who thought the constellation of the French-German partnership was invariable.
Disturbing was the weakness of active resistance against the war, particularly in Germany. The government there was extremely crude in its promotional technique of persuading their people: War minister Scharping closely followed the Goebbels principle that the biggest lies are the ones that will be the most successful. He was making up tens of thousands of massacred and half a million of ethnically cleansed people at a time when this was pure invention, and illustrated his lies with truly perverted hallucinations, such as that Serb soldiers were killing pregnant women, cut out the foetuses, grilled them and then put them back into the slain bodies! Whenever they took time off playing football with cut off heads… All this was crudely connected with the claim that Milosevic was building concentration camps, was indeed a new Hitler and needed to be overthrown in the name of Anti-fascism. He also claimed he had secret documents of the Serb leadership (the so-called “Horseshoe Plan”) that was supposed to provide proof of a systematic plan for genocide. The word for horseshoe that was used in the supposed Serb plan, was actually Croatian, needless to say there was never any proof for it. Even some of Germany’s NATO partners were a bit baffled about this type of imagination, or maybe the lack of subtlety. Scharping defended himself later saying that why should he have invented things since the vast majority was on the side of the war effort anyways. Yet another lie: In fact early opinion polls in Germany showed that there was considerable mistrust against the aggression and only the massive propaganda turned the public around.
Those half convinced but reluctant (possibly remembering the last time the Luftwaffe had their planes over Yugoslavia) were assured that it was the Americans who had dragged the Germans into this war, and that – even if it wasn’t fully by choice – it was a matter of showing that Germany was a responsible and grown up nation again. Again the opposite was true: The involvement of Germany in the destruction of the Yugoslav Federal Republic went back to the beginning of the 90’s when it recognised the breakaway republics (Slovenia and Croatia at the time) before anyone else. In Kosovo the BND (German intelligence) had been busy supporting the UCK at a time when they were stilled called “terrorists” by the Americans. (Of course the Americans eventually took the initiative, but for different reasons than the Germans).
7. One of the important ingredients for keeping the population ‘pro-war’ once the carnage had started was that there were no dead soldiers being sent back in body bags. Of course some were keen to send in the ground troops, but wisely abstained from doing so. However the war always comes home: Tons of Uranium hardened anti-tank ammunition was and still is scattered around the territory of ex-Yugoslavia, including Bosnia, Kosovo, and of course Serbia. And is radiating friend and foe. After the death from leukemia of six Italian soldiers, considerable nervousness has set in Europe, and only the US MoD is categorically denying a connection between the uranium and the increased illnesses. A Belgrade ecologist is speaking of cancer rates in Serbia being up 30%, but hey it’s only the beginning. After all people in Cambodia and Laos are still getting blown up by American bombs and mines that are scattered all over the place, and Vietnamese women still give birth to monsters thanks to the makers of Agent Orange, the company now known as Monsanto for its leading role in GM research and marketing. Uranium hardened ammo wasn’t used in Indochina yet, the premiere of this innovative technique of puncturing steel plates was in Iraq where 315 t were distributed by firing 94’400 projectiles.
Before the press started writing about the radiating debris lying around in Bosnia and Kosovo, no one had supposedly known about the use of such ammo; in fact no one wanted to pay attention when the FR Yugoslavia tried to sue NATO for war crimes in June 2000 based on its use, it needed Western hair to start falling out. All denials won’t help the fact that yet another sneaking sickness has entered the European gene pool, and while even the British government was forced to U-turn and admit the possibility of contamination, Rudolf ‘Honest Foetus’ Scharping simply had 118 urine samples taken from German soldiers and declared that “There are no signs of illness”. Sure.