by Diana Johnstone(2/29/00)
The OSCE under influence
It is ironic that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), hopefully seen by many at the end of the Cold War as the civilian alternative to military pacts such as NATO for ensuring Europe's peaceful future, was made to play a key role in the ideological justification of the NATO war against Yugoslavia. This subordination of the OSCE to NATO's war policy illustrates the overwhelming post-Cold War influence of the United States, able to manipulate all major international organizations in the service of its own policy options. U.S. manipulation of the OSCE crossed a new threshold in October 1998, when Washington assigned its former Ambassador to El Salvador, William Walker, to head the "Kosovo Verification Mission" before it was even formally set up by the OSCE. The OSCE-KVM was supposed to "verify compliance" with the agreement forced on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke under threat of NATO bombing. The mission's real aims were ambiguous from the start. Many Europeans hoped it could serve to calm the situation and promote a peaceful negotiated solution to the Kosovo problem. However, the Americans and their British partners used the mission to prepare for war, militarily by collecting information about Yugoslav defenses and developing liaison with "Kosovo Liberation Army" (KLA or, in Albanian, UÇK) agents on the ground, psychologically by creating the public impression of a last desperate effort at peace thwarted by Serb atrocities. The UÇK, not having been obliged to sign anything, was free to attack its adversaries knowing that Serb retaliation would be denounced as violations of the unilateral cease-fire. Slow to get started, the KVM had only about 600 of its 2,000 planned "verifiers" in the field by early January 1999, most of them drawn from military and police backgrounds, including 150 military experts from the DynCorp, a private firm located near the Pentagon employing retired U.S. officers. Some members of the relatively small human rights contingent complained that their reports on human rights violations were filtered to favor the UÇK. The mission was withdrawn from Kosovo on March 20 (four days before the start of NATO bombing) and formally disbanded on June 9, 1999. The OSCE thereupon set up a second mission to Kosovo, known as the OSCE Mission In Kosovo (OMIK). At the end of 1999, the OSCE simultaneously published two reports under the common title, "Kosovo/Kosova: As Seen, As Told". The two are significantly different, the first having been compiled by the KVM and the second by the OMIK. The first, Part I, could be considered the Walker-Arbour Report, insofar as it was compiled by the KVM for use by the office of the prosecutor at International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Louise Arbour, chief prosecutor at the time, wrote the Foreword, and the ICTY staff offered advice and assistance. As pointed out by Noam Chomsky , OSCE Part I was intended to be the "third major source concerning Serb crimes", the first two being the ICTY indictment issued on May 27, 1999 and a State Department paper which had preceded it. Significantly, for the crucial period leading up to the bombing campaign, neither the Tribunal indictment nor the KVM was able to cite a single incriminating incident other than the famous "Racak massacre" of January 15, 1999. Leaving aside for the moment the contested nature of the Racak incident, Chomsky observes that it was an "isolated event", not typical of Serb actions prior to the bombing; and that it took place in the midst of a considerable number of violent provocations on the part of the UÇK documented in various international reports at the time. Otherwise, all the atrocities attributed to the Serbs in the KVM report (as in the ICTY indictment) are alleged to have taken place after the withdrawal of the KVM observers and after the start of the NATO bombing campaign. This meant two things. First, the alleged Serbian crimes were committed during the NATO air strikes, and cannot logically be cited as the cause for those air strikes. Second, the bulk of incriminating information provided the KVM came from Albanian sources, under conditions which were very far from ensuring the absence of manipulation or intimidation by the UÇK which was using its de facto alliance with NATO to seize control of both the territory and the Albanian population of Kosovo. Telling Serb atrocity stories was obviously the greatest service Kosovo Albanian refugees could render NATO and the UÇK to justify the bombing campaign. Despite subsequent evidence that at least some of the most horrendous atrocity stories told during the war were imaginary (the Trepca mines story, the story of Raimunda's little sister...), the KVM report shows scant awareness that Albanian refugee reports might contain deliberate falsehoods.
The International Community's Kosovo Myth
At the start of the 430-page KVM report is a 3-page "Executive Summary" which is supposed to tell busy people all they need to know. Destined to be the most widely read and quoted section of the report, the "Executive Summary" draws sweeping conclusions not actually supported by the data in the body of the report, and expresses the ideological assumptions underlying the whole "international community" approach to the Kosovo problem. This U.S.-led International Community (I.C.) has constructed its own Kosovo myth, that the Kosovo problem was essentially a matter of human rights rather than a political conflict. This myth is far more dangerously misleading than the much decried Serbian myth of Kosovo. The Serbian myth, in which Prince Lazar accepts defeat and loss of his earthly kingdom on the 1389 Kosovo battlefield in return for a "heavenly kingdom", is an essentially Christian transformation of material defeat into spiritual victory. It served to console Serbs during centuries of oppression under Ottoman rule, and to inspire them to throw off that oppression in the 19th century. The I.C. myth of Kosovo has been used to turn a spiritual débacle into a military occupation. The spiritual débacle is a complex one: a failure of understanding -- intellectual, moral and emotional -- characteristic of triumphant powers when dealing with those who have the temerity to resist their order. Those who misbehave are not presumed to have adult reasons but are treated as wayward and wicked children. The United States has led the Atlantic powers into a new phase of imperialist arrogance based on the pretension that "the West" is unique in its devotion to "values", notably "human rights" which must be imposed, by force if necessary, on peoples too backward to have adopted these values on their own. In line with this prejudice, politicians and journalists have neglected the emotions, thoughts and qualities of the people involved and treated the Balkans like a playground full of unruly children. The search for human rights violations for years has meant overlooking key political dimension of struggle for power between contending parties with different conceptions of "democracy", "self-determination", "autonomy", and so on. Although the Europeans seem unaware of this, by accepting this "human rights" interpretation of Balkan conflicts, they have inadvertently embraced the simplistic U.S. doctrine of "rogue states", the bad boys of the world who out of sheer perversity behave badly and therefore must be punished until they have learned their lesson. Human rights violations are presented as the cause of the Kosovo problem. "A consistent pattern of human rights violations in Kosovo led eventually to a breakdown in security" (Executive Summary, pp.viii-ix). And again: "The violation of human rights was both cause and consequence of the conflict in Kosovo. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law as an essential component of security is a guiding principle of the OSCE. [...] A consistent pattern of human rights violations in Kosovo led eventually to a breakdown in security. This in turn produced a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe, with violations on a massive scale" (p.33). Human Rights and Security
This link between human right and "security", presented as self-evident, is a crucial element of the "new world order" with historic roots in the final phase of the Cold War. The establishment of "human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law as an essential component of security" goes back to the East-West trade-off that was the basis of the Helsinki accords leading to the OSCE. The trade-off was as follows: the Soviet bloc leaders feared Western (especially German) attempts to alter post World War II territorial boundaries by military force or subversion. Their fears were assuaged by assurance of respect for "territorial integrity and national sovereignty". In return, the Western powers obtained recognition of "human rights" as an essential component of European security, which was subsequently used to promote political opposition and bring about the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. So far, fair enough, but the Yugoslav crisis fundamentally changed the significance of the trade-off when the principle of "territorial integrity" of a member state, Yugoslavia, was violated when Germany and other NATO governments recognized the unnegotiated secession of Slovenia and Croatia from the Yugoslav federation. Shortly thereafter, truncated Yugoslavia became the only member state ever expelled from the OSCE, effectively eliminating the Yugoslav voice from discussion of this key issue. In short, the NATO powers, led by the United States and Germany, appear to have used their half of the Helsinki trade-off to defeat communism within the Soviet bloc, whereupon they have arrogated to themselves the right to break up an individual country, reducing its boundaries and flouting its sovereignty. Under these new circumstances, what is the meaning of this alleged connection between human rights and "security"? The statement that "human rights are an essential component of security" seems too general to prove or disprove; it is the sort of assertion that generous people would like to believe, but examples meant to either prove or disprove it would be easy to amass, feeding lengthy and futile argument. It might be easier, and morally more clear, to take the position that human rights are desirable in themselves, regardless of the "security" factor. However, in this emerging doctrine, "human rights" are a means to an end: "security". Now, "security" is a concept that is far from clear to the general public, but can have very precise implications for institutions such as NATO. In the new NATO doctrine, a situation which threatens to "destabilize" a region is a "security" threat justifying military intervention. Therefore, the assertion that human rights violations were the cause of the Kosovo conflict bolsters the new NATO doctrine of "humanitarian intervention". In reality, however, by ostentatiously abandoning the principle of Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, the Atlantic powers encouraged armed secessionist movements and thereby endangered "security".
The New Dispensation
The "Cold" part of the "Cold War" was the restraint on using the full force of U.S. military power to further its economic penetration and domination. This restraint was removed by the collapse of the opposing force that held it in check. Madeleine Albright is widely quoted as having asked rhetorically what good it was to have the world's greatest military power if one didn't use it. The collapse of Soviet communism removed the material obstacle to free use of U.S. military power. However, it created a momentary political obstacle: the widespread public expectation that the end of Cold War meant peace. A new world view, a new ideology, a new doctrine were needed to justify free use of United States military might. Madeleine Albright was among the U.S. foreign policy experts involved in developing a new noble pretext for use of military power: "humanitarian intervention". Pioneers in this ideological construction were a group of foreign policy specialists gathered together under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at the end of the Cold War: Morton Abramowitz (then Endowment President, later advisor to the Albanian delegation at Rambouillet and powerful behind-the-scenes champion of the UÇK), Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke, David Scheffer, Morton Halperin... In their 1992 Carnegie Endowment book, Self-Determination in the New World Order, Morton Halperin (head of State Department policy planning at the time of the Kosovo war) and David Scheffer (Secretary of State Albright's special State Department envoy for war crimes) wrote: "As of mid-1992, neither the United States nor the world community has reached a point where humanitarian calamities resulting from self-determination claims or internal repression automatically trigger collective military intervention to accomplish strictly humanitarian objectives. But humanitarian intervention will become increasingly unavoidable." This was a self-fulfilling prophecy in the unusual sense that those who made it helped it come true. What is noteworthy here is that the United States policy-makers proposed "collective military intervention", and not any sort of diplomatic or political solution, as the inevitable outcome of "self-determination claims", which could be expected to meet with "internal repression". And already in 1992, this military action was labeled "humanitarian intervention". In order to make Kosovo the test case for demonstration of the new "humanitarian intervention" doctrine, it was essential to obscure the political issues surrounding the "self-determination claim" by Albanian secessionists in Kosovo and focus exclusively on "human rights" and the alleged "humanitarian catastrophe" that was looming and could be stopped only (so it was claimed) by outside military force. Political problems call for political solutions. To solve them one must first know what they are. In Kosovo, NATOland leaders and media persistently overlooked or misrepresented the political issues, notably by maintaining the fiction that the main political issue in Kosovo was the province's "autonomy". According to this fiction, Slobodan Milosevic had created the conflict with Kosovo Albanians by arbitrarily revoking the province's autonomy in 1989. This was repeated endlessly, along with the conclusion that the political problem could have been solved had Belgrade been willing to restore autonomy. In reality, the Albanian nationalists did not want autonomy but secession, and had used autonomy to further this aim. In 1998, it was not Belgrade but the Kosovo Albanian leaders who refused to take part in negotiations on autonomy. By refusing to observe this easily observable fact, the I.C. leaders blocked any realistic approach to the political dilemmas in Kosovo, which, locked in an impasse, naturally generated human rights difficulties which were then described as the source of the problem. Moreover, the mere fact of reducing the Kosovo problem to an "ethnic conflict" between Serbs and Albanians contributed to the very ethnic polarization the West claimed to oppose.
The methods employed by the OSCE KVM were designed to build a one-sided case against government authorities in Belgrade. Sources. The KVM relied heavily for its information on the Kosovo Albanian "Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms", which was both closely connected to the UÇK and heavily funded by the United States government through the National Endowment for Democracy. Although the NED is technically a "private nonprofit organization", legally tax-exempt, it was created in 1983 by the Reagan administration to "strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts" and receives an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress. NED publications have proudly described its financial support for the leading Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore (also supported by the Soros Foundation) and the Council for the Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms. According to the summer 1998 issue of the NED's publication Democracy, whose cover page quotes Koha Ditore editor in chief Veton Surroi as describing Kosovo as "the world's largest NGO", the Council "has become the most important source of information on human rights in Kosovo, serving as source for the International Federation for Human Rights, the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, and the Associated Press. A grant from the NED "enabled the Council to hire a full-time director and set up field offices with fax machines and computers". The Council's "activists were often the first to interview refugees arriving in Macedonia", the Wall Street Journal reported at the end of 1999, and contributed to helping the UÇK "form the West's wartime image of Kosovo" . Halit Berani, head of the Mitrovica branch of the Council, was traced by the WSJ as the source of the early April report suggesting that Serbian forces were using the Trepca mines as a mass body-disposal site. This sensational report was picked up by international media. Later investigation showed it was totally groundless. The role of the NED in Kosovo is one illustration among many of the ambiguity of the term "non-governmental", which in this case applies literally only to the target country, whose government is being undermined, but not to the United States which funds and controls the so-called "non-governmental organization". Standardization and "patterning". Already in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the ICTY approach to accusing Serbs was based on discovery, or construction, of "patterns" of behavior as proof of intent to commit crimes against humanity such as "genocide" or "rape as a form of ethnic cleansing". Such "patterns" were supposed to make up for the absence of documentary evidence (government orders and the like) or of material evidence (sufficient numbers of bodies found or rapes actually reported, etc.) normally required for prosecution of such grave crimes. Notably, concerning the unsubstantiated accusations of the use of "mass rape" as a "weapon of war" in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the effort was made to describe "patterns" simply on the basis of listing types of action which supposedly formed the "pattern". The assumption is that a "pattern" must prove deliberate intention and planning. This "patterning" can result simply from the method of listing alleged acts in categories. The human rights abuses reported to the KVM in the refugee camps were shaped by "standardized interview forms" provided by the State Department (p.9 ). The question arises as to how much these standardized forms may have helped produce the impression of "patterns" of violence sought by the ICTY prosecution. It is notorious among sociologists that the way questions are formulated can have a strong influence on responses. Ms Albright's State Department, bearing prime responsibility for sending NATO to war, would have been particularly motivated to use that science to shift responsibility onto the Serbs. In the "standardized approach adopted" for the KVM Report, "some 30 categories of possible human rights violations had been identified. These included both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights"(p.33). Did the power of suggestion of these questionnaires amount to a subtle form of "leading the witness" to make particular accusations? In any case, the evident effort to fill "victim" categories was a fishing expedition that led at times to fairly absurd results, when chapters are devoted consecutively to "young men of fighting age, women, children, elderly and disabled" and strive to find that each was "specifically targeted". Thus there is a section devoted to "Attacks on disabled people" (page 134), even though it begins, almost with disappointment: "There are relatively few indications that disabled Kosovo Albanians were a specific target..." There is even evidence to the contrary. So why include such a category? Anonymous denunciation. All the Kosovo Albanian refugees gave consent for their testimony to be used by the International Criminal Tribunal in return for a promise of strict confidentiality. The declared purpose of this confidentiality was "to ensure the safety of the victims or witnesses". But this also ensured the safety of self-styled victims and false witnesses, while depriving the accused of their right of legitimate legal defense, as recognized in democratic judicial systems, to cross-examine witnesses. The KVM method, already used in Bosnia, amounts to a call for anonymous denunciations, with no risk to those who make them. The current obsessive concern for "victims" facilitates the victimization of persons who are unjustly accused of horrible crimes they did not commit. Prejudice. Of course, the anti-Serb prejudice is by now so firmly established in the "international community" that its absence would seem strange. Still, it may be mentioned that the KVM Report is permeated with it. Unproved accusations against Serbs are recounted as established facts, in contrast to the reluctance to credit even well documented Serb accusations against the UÇK. Not only are reports of Serb exactions readily accepted without question, but the absence of such accusations is regarded with suspicion. The chapter on "rape" notes that: "Very little has been documented on this subject" but goes on to try to explain why this does not prove anything. "A woman who admits having been raped can be rejected or expelled by her husband, her family or her husband's family". Yet, the report continues, KVM officers "received the support of the men in trying to make the women feel secure enough to talk [...] and often they would encourage the women to tell the whole story with all details." While the absence of accusation is received with skepticism, there is not a bit of skepticism for accusations made under conditions which are apparently totally contrary to Albanian custom, although certainly not contrary to the interests of UÇK propaganda. No news is never good news. "The actual number of women who were raped before they were killed can be expected to be significantly higher than is indicated by the reports." (P.59.) There is no explanation for this "expectation". Other examples: In Strpce county, there were "few human rights violations" but (we are told) what few there were "consistent with patterns" which are not clarified. Again, in Kamenica county, although prior to NATO bombings and throughout the war there were no reports of human rights violations, expulsions or other incidents (no doubt because, as the report says, there was no UÇK presence there), "it is not possible to determine definitively whether violence on the scale seen elsewhere was genuinely absent -- and if so, for what reason -- or whether other factors account for the apparent absence of refugees making complaints about human rights violations". Serbs are presumed guilty with or without evidence. Serbs are not the only targets of the pro-Albanian bias that permeates the KVM report. A startling instance of ethnic bias is provided by Chapter 20 on the Roma people in Kosovo. In this chapter, all pretense of political correctness is thrown to the winds and the Roma are referred to as "Gypsies (Maxhupet)" because this is what Kosovo Albanians call them. This is done despite recognition that "Maxhupet" is "derogatory" and that "there was clearly prejudice against and negative perceptions of `Gypsies" (Maxhupet) among Kosovo Albanians." But since "virtually all of the information in this chapter of the report derives from information provided by Kosovo Albanian refugees", the derogatory Albanian term was retained. However, there were also Roma in the refugee camps during the bombing. Even then, they were treated with hostility by ethnic Albanians, who have since driven virtually the entire Roma population out of their homes in Kosovo. Why, if the KVM was interested in Roma, did it not interview some of them? Why does the report relay Albanian accusations against Roma for aligning themselves with Serbs, without drawing the obvious conclusion that despite the prejudice encountered by Roma everywhere, nowhere have they been able to live a better life than in Kosovo alongside the Serb population? This is one of the most striking proofs of the astonishing pro-Shqiptar bias that overwhelmed the "international community" before and during the NATO bombing. I say "Shqiptar" because, like Maxhupet, it is an Albanian word. It is not, like Maxhupet, derogatory, but rather it is the word used by the Albanians for themselves and their language. Yet for some obscure reason, they have decided that outsiders must not use it, and no nobody dares to do so. And yet, the use of the term "Shqiptar" would have been convenient. The word "Albanian" implies a person who lives in Albania. The word "Kosovo Albanian" is clumsy; moreover, recently Kosovo has seen the arrival of a large number of Albanians who do not originate in Kosovo. The word "Shqiptar" would avoid that problem. It would also be the reasonable alternative to "Kosovar" which has been adopted by Shqiptari in Kosovo in an obvious intent to identify themselves, and nobody else, with the province. The term "Kosovar" is clearly intended to convey the impression that Kosovo has always belonged exclusively to its Shqiptar population and that the Serbs are "invaders". All this confusion could be avoided by use of the sonorous and honorable term "Shqiptar" (pronounced "shcheeptar"), which would be also a first baby step toward the mysterious language and culture that has so long kept the outside world from understanding anything at all about Albania and Albanians.
The Invisible UÇK
The "Executive Summary" claims that "the violations inflicted on the Kosovo Albanian population after 20 March were a continuation of actions by Yugoslav and Serbian military security forces that were well rehearsed, insofar as they were already taking place in many locations in Kosovo well before 20 March." This assertion is not at all substantiated by the body of the Report. While focusing on "Yugoslav and Serbian perpetrators of human rights and humanitarian law violations" and "Kosovo Albanian suffering, at the hands of the Yugoslav and Serbian state military and security apparatus", the Executive Summary refers only three times to the UÇK, and only once negatively, as follows: "The Kosovo Serb community were victims of humanitarian law violations committed by the UÇK, especially in the matter of the many Serbs missing following abduction." This sentence is immediately countered by: "However, many Serb civilians were active participants in human rights violations..." -- another unsubstantiated accusation which serves only to play down the role of the UÇK. Yet even the highly biased, badly analyzed and extremely inadequate information included in the body of "As Seen, As Told" should make it clear to any attentive reader that this summary leaves an absolutely essential part of the story untold and unseen: the action of the UÇK. In the Walker-Arbour KVM report, there is no search for a "pattern" of UÇK actions. Even so, a certain pattern can be glimpsed, which is all the more significant in that it re-emerges quite clearly when Western observers are once again present in Kosovo, after the withdrawal of Serbian and Yugoslav security forces in June 1999. This is a pattern of UÇK provocations, ambushes, abductions and, perhaps most significantly of all, intimidation of the Kosovo Albanian population. The UÇK did not hesitate to "punish" and kill members of the Kosovo Albanian population, its own "ethnic group". This might have suggested to observers that the conflict was not only "ethnic" but political, characterized by the effort of a ruthless armed group to seize power. There are glimpses of reality in Chapter 3 on "The Military/Security Context". There it is pointed out that in early 1999, before the NATO bombing, the UÇK was carrying out frequent small-scale ambushes against Serbian police "clearly breaching any conception of a cease-fire", in addition to kidnappings and murders. "By March 1999, the Yugoslav military/security forces were coping with two tasks: defeating the UÇK and preparing for an attack by NATO". Interestingly enough, there is no echo here of the claim made by NATO during the bombing that Belgrade was carrying out a preconceived plan of "ethnic cleansing" dubbed "Operation Horseshoe". Indeed, even at the time the "Horseshoe" accusation was made by Washington, supposedly based on Austrian intelligence sources, strong doubt was cast on the alleged intent to "empty Kosovo of its Albanian population" by the German Chief of Staff Hans-Peter von Kirchbach who explained to an April 8 press conference that: "The main purpose of `Operation Horseshoe' was and is in our view to smash or at least neutralize the UÇK in Kosovo." For Belgrade, the General pointed out, "the UÇK is and was an instrument of terror and separatism against which all means must be employed." Chapter 3 makes no mention of any particular "operation" but provides an indication of the origin of the term "horseshoe": In order to clear the border area to block infiltrations of arms and fighters from neighboring Albania and prepare for a ground invasion by NATO forces based in Albania, the Yugoslav forces were "carrying out a classic `horse shoe' move by surrounding the village on three sides". Military specialists can recognize the banality of counter-insurgency operations which belong to the repertory of every armed force in the world. Only when carried out by Serbs are these moves automatically described as "ethnic cleansing". In the months and weeks leading up to the NATO bombing, the UÇK had been stepping up its aggressive actions against both Serbian police and Albanian civilians. Inasmuch as the UÇK could not expect to defeat the Serbian police and army militarily, these armed ambushes and murders of policemen can be understood only in the framework of the UÇK strategy of provocation:
The KLA had a simple but effective plan. It would kill Serbian policemen. The Serbs would retaliate, Balkan style, with widespread reprisals and the occasional massacre. The West would get more and more appalled, until finally it would, as it did in Bosnia, take action. In effect, the United States and much of Europe would go to war on the side of the KLA. It worked. 
Clearly, the primary aim of the UÇK was never to defend ethnic Albanian civilians from Serbian persecution, as its apologists have claimed, but to get NATO to defeat the Serbs on behalf of the UÇK. At the same time, the UÇK was fighting a different sort of war: the civil war for full control of the Albanian population of Kosovo. This required, first, destroying contacts between Serbs and Albanians by killing individuals who served as bridges between the two communities; and second, gaining full control of the Albanian community by intimidating or even murdering individuals representing a political alternative to the UÇK. "In some cases there was suspicion that UÇK forces killed not only moderate Kosovo Albanians but also Serbs who were well liked by both communities", the Report acknowledges (p.137). For example, on 17 December 1998, the Serb deputy mayor of Kosovo Polje, "a moderate Kosovo Serb politician who had done much to improve social conditions in his area", was abducted and murdered. In this most sensitive heart of the civil war, the UÇK enjoyed clear military superiority. Like it or not, Albanians who were ready to accept coexistence with Serbs or who supported non-UÇK political options were in fact dependent on the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police for protection, as were all non-Albanian civilians. Once the UÇK was able to get NATO to knock out Serbian state power, the UÇK could easily "mop up" its civilian opposition -- which it proceeded to do, with KFOR standing by, apparently disoriented or complicit. This was the most significant part of the civil war, which remained largely invisible to the public in NATO countries in the months leading to the war. The mass media sent its journalists to scour the terrain for "Serb massacres" and "ethnic cleansing", scarcely bothering to inform the public in NATO countries of the existence of those Kosovo Albanian politicians who were operating freely in a system described by Albanian separatists as "apartheid" or "Serbs who were well liked by both communities", or of the fact that such people were being threatened, abducted and murdered by the UÇK. The only media interest was in the inevitable Serbian police reactions to these crimes, reported to fit the demand for "ethnic cleansing" horror stories. With its attention fixed (thanks to Walker) solely on "human rights violations perpetrated by the Serbs", the KVM was unable to assess these developments properly. Overlooked by the Executive Summary, they show up in the details of the Report. Especially in Western Kosovo, near the porous border with Albania, where the UÇK was most active, in the weeks prior to the bombing there were repeated incidents of abduction and/or murder of Kosovo Albanians "loyal to the government and friendly with the Serbs" (p.167,p.209, inter alia). In Decani -- exceptionally -- a good relationship was established between the KVM verifiers and the local police chief, who welcomed the observers. They were informed that the local Kosovo Albanians were "very scared" of the UÇK unit operating there, which "had the reputation of brutally coercing local youths to join the UÇK". Serb authorities in Decani were "very open in providing documentation on what they believed were atrocities committed against local Serbs by the UÇK during the summer of 1998, in particular on the killing of 35 Serbs at a canal near Rznic and on a mass grave in Glodjan" (p.164). It is striking that the KVM report introduces an expression of doubt ("what they believed...") concerning particularly well-documented massacres in one of the relatively rare instances when verifiers registered complaints by the local authorities. Accusations made by Albanian nationalist groups do not encounter comparable skepticism. Obviously, massacres of Serbs were not the story Western media were looking for and received little or no coverage. In Kacanik county, which straddles the narrow strategic pass into Macedonia, the UÇK was particularly aggressive in the days prior to the NATO bombing. In February, the UÇK kidnapped the Albanian political representative of the Socialist Party of Serbia (the governing party of President Milosevic) and another Kosovo Albanian politician belonging to the Democratic Initiative, a Kosovo Albanian party which did not support the UÇK. "The UÇK abducted those who worked for or had expressed support for the Serbs, and harassed those who did not want to take the side of the UÇK", the Report notes (p.217). Not surprisingly, in early March the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police moved to "clear the area of the UÇK". This entailed burning homes and seizing villages held by the UÇK -- a foretaste, no doubt, of the operations that occurred during the bombing. However, the KVM, which was still on the terrain, did not describe this as "ethnic cleansing", but rather reported that the Yugoslav Army and Serbian police showed "relative restraint" toward the civilian population throughout this episode of fighting, with the death toll limited to three men, all alleged to be UÇK members. The report adds this suggestive passage: "At the same time, the UÇK was also instrumental in emptying villages. They would go to a village and tell the people to leave because a Serb attack was expected. Thereafter the UÇK could make use of the empty houses as fortified positions, which inevitably provoked Serb forces to attack. Although the villagers seemed to incline toward the UÇK, some were reported to have been coerced to show support and even to join them." Yet the KVM never seems to consider the possibility that when fighting intensified under the NATO air strikes, the UÇK might have continued to act in this way, telling villagers to leave just as it had done earlier -- and that in some instances it might have encouraged villagers to blame their expulsion solely on the Serbs, or that villagers might have chosen to blame the Serbs in any case. Chapter 14 on "Forced Expulsions" considers only one conceivable cause of the huge stream of refugees that followed the onset of NATO air strikes: "...the outflow of Kosovo Albanians as refugees resulted from systematic and widespread expulsions carried out throughout Kosovo by the Serbian forces." This is of course the sort of sentence that gets picked up and quoted by editorialists. However, it is an unproved generalization. It is based exclusively on the testimony of refugees in camps where UÇK sympathizers played a role that is difficult to evaluate but was certainly not negligible in selecting persons to be interviewed and in conducting the interviews themselves. Secondly, it is certainly not true that such alleged expulsions were carried out "throughout Kosovo" since the KVM Report itself makes it clear that no expulsions or related incidents were reported in several regions where the UÇK was not active. Reported expulsions were concentrated in areas of heavy UÇK presence, notably along the frontier with Albania where fighting was heaviest and invasion was anticipated. It was above all the visible mass of refugees streaming from Kosovo that convinced public opinion in NATO countries that the Serbs were guilty of horrendous crimes and therefore deserved to be bombed. Yet surprisingly enough, the expulsion of civilians from a war zone, whether by one side or the other, is not necessarily in itself a war crime, in the light of Article 17 of the Additional Protocol II to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention (cited by the KVM report, p.410):
1. The displacement of the civilian population shall not be ordered for reasons related to the conflict unless the security of the civilians involved or imperative military reasons so demand". (My stress.)
This vague wording -- "security of the civilians involved" and especially "imperative military reasons" -- certainly leaves a large loophole to allow expulsions in a situation such as that of Yugoslavia when a country found itself the target of NATO air strikes, a foreign-backed insurrection and a military buildup along its borders. This suggests that during an armed conflict, the manner of expulsion, more than the expulsion itself, is crucial for determining whether or not crimes have been committed.
Racak: Casus Belli for NATO
The NATO justification of its military intervention depends heavily on the January 15, 1999 "Racak massacre". As already mentioned, it is the only incident mentioned in the International Criminal Tribunal indictment of Yugoslav leaders to have occurred before NATO opened military hostilities. The whole case for NATO intervention rests heavily on the interpretation of the Racak incident as part of an unfolding Serbian plan to drive out, or even exterminate, the Albanian population of Kosovo. In the KVM's volume of the OSCE Report on Kosovo/Kosova, there are at least 14 references to Racak in addition to a three-page account of the incident, described as the turning point in relations between the "international community" and Yugoslavia, the atrocity that obliged NATO to resort to force after giving Belgrade one last chance at Rambouillet. However, essential facts remain uncertain. Early on (p.7), Racak -- and only Racak -- is cited to support the broad allegation that "atrocities against unarmed civilians had not ceased". Here it is stated that "45 people -- some of them children -- were found murdered in Racak [...], mostly shot in the head at close range". However, according to the only forensic report yet made public (the one carried out in Pristina with cooperation of Belarus and Finnish experts), the bodies found at Racak were shot from a distance, with one possible exception, and were all men except for one woman and one young boy, each killed by a single bullet through the thorax fired from back to front. Later (p.36), it is stated that some of the bodies "had been decapitated", without mentioning that all the forensic experts concluded from the presence of tooth marks that such mutilation of the corpses had been caused by animal bites, probably from stray dogs, during the time the bodies remained exposed over night. Serbian authorities maintained that the 45 people who died in Racak on January 15, 1999 were UÇK rebels killed in a military operation against a terrorist base. The government had invited OSCE verifiers to monitor the operation and had issued a communiqué the same day claiming an important victory with many "terrorists" killed. In fact, the OSCE had sent verifiers who watched the operation from a nearby hill, without noticing anything noteworthy, according to a French journalist who spoke to them that afternoon. However, the next day, the UÇK had again occupied the village and presented witnesses claiming that civilians had been dragged from their homes and executed. This version appeared to be contradicted by a film taken of the operation by two Associated Press cameramen, which was discovered and viewed a few days later by two French journalists. But meanwhile, the day after the event, on January 16, KVM head of mission William Walker arrived at the scene, escorted by local UÇK rebels and accompanied by news photographers, whereupon he immediately accused the Serbs of a terrible atrocity and a crime against humanity. Walker had taken massacres in his stride back in his El Salvador days, but this time he displayed feelings of outrage each time television cameras were on him. French journalists found Walker's behavior odd: instead of going to the Serbian police station in nearby Stimlje to demand an explanation, he spent about half an hour in private talks with local UÇK leaders . By this time, Walker had largely succeeded in his goal -- as perceived by certain European colleagues -- of winning over the UÇK (initially linked to German secret services) for the Americans . By presenting the results of a pre-announced Serbian police raid on a UÇK base as a gratuitous massacre of Albanian civilians, NATO had evidence of the "humanitarian catastrophe" needed to justify bombing Serbia. "The Racak massacre provoked an international outcry, and altered the perspective of the international community towards the FRY and Serbian authorities in Belgrade", the KVM report recalls. More precisely, it was the way the outcome of the police raid on Racak was presented to the international media by Walker that "provoked an international outcry", and this did not "alter" the perspective of "the international community" so much as it confirmed it: the Western powers had already begun to sanction Yugoslavia as soon as Belgrade began its crackdown on the UÇK in early 1998, and the U.S. had been threatening air strikes for months. Led by Madeleine Albright, the "international community" had been on the lookout for an appropriate massacre to justify its punitive attitude toward the government of Slobodan Milosevic. "The killings were seen as a turning point", according to the KVM Report, "since the international community then recognized that human rights violations were at the conflict's core". This is the key to "humanitarian intervention". Once a conflict is officially recognized as a "human rights" issue, it becomes taboo, "an insult to the victims", to dwell on political problems and solutions. Indignation becomes the only suitable attitude, and the only permissible proposals must involve punishment of the perpetrators. The monopoly of the human rights obsession closed minds and options. It became inadmissible to point out or notice that a violent Albanian secessionist movement, with roots stretching back decades before Milosevic rose to prominence, was in reality "at the conflict's core", and that for months it was the Albanian nationalist representatives, not the Serbian government, who had refused to negotiate. Yet even the facts recorded in this very inadequate report indicate that the Racak incident was far from being a gratuitous attack on innocent civilians, targeted simply because they were ethnic Albanians. Racak, a village abandoned by its 2,000 inhabitants and occupied by only about 350 people, was unquestionably an UÇK stronghold when attacked by Serb police on 15 January 1999. The KVM was quite aware of the UÇK presence in Racak: "The UÇK was there, with a base near the power plant". Strategically located only half a kilometer south of the crossroads town of Stimlje, where the main road between Kosovo's two main cities, Pristina and Prizren, connects to a southern turnoff to the important town of Urosevac on the road to the Macedonian capital of Skopje, Racak was believed to be the base for UÇK units mounting ambushes. The KVM also knew that the UÇK had been carrying out armed ambushes, abductions and murders nearby for several months. "A number of Kosovo Serbs were kidnapped in the Stimlje region, mostly during the summer of 1998", the KVM report notes (p.353). Moreover, the local UÇK regularly abducted Kosovo Albanians in an obvious effort to establish the rebels' power over the Albanian community. A month before the police raid, on December 12, 1998, the UÇK "arrested" nine Albanians for various offenses: "prostitution", "friendly relations with Serbs" and "spying". Rather than release them, the UÇK told the KVM that the kidnapped civilians were "waiting to be sentenced" and generously granted their families the right to send them gift packages. Subsequently, first six and then two more Albanians were abducted by the UÇK for a total of 17 missing persons. (This behavior never ceased. The KVM reports that the UÇK even took advantage of the February 11 funeral for Racak victims, attended by Walker, world media and thousands of Albanians, to kidnap nine Kosovo Albanians accused of such crimes as "having a brother working with the police; being suspected of having weapons; drinking with Serbs; having Serb friends; or having a Serb police officer as a friend".) Then on January 8, an UÇK armed ambush on police vehicles left three policemen dead and one wounded. Three Kosovo Albanians in a passing taxi were wounded in the same ambush. "The ambush was well prepared: there was a camouflaged firing position for up to 15 men, which had been occupied for several days, and small arms, heavy machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the police convoy", the KVM reported (p.354). On January 10, yet another policeman was fatally wounded in an ambush south of Stimlje. It was at this point that the Serbian police prepared their operation against the UÇK base in Racak. The village was surrounded by trenches, a common practice of the UÇK which turned the villages it occupied into fortresses. In view of what is known, it is quite possible that on the day of the Serbian police raid, a number of men sought refuge in one of these trenches, where they were trapped and mowed down by the superior fire power of the police who had encircled their defenses. This can be called a "massacre" in the sense that many a battle amounts to "a massacre" of the losers, the common objective of war being to trap and annihilate enemy fighters. But the real question is: was it or was it not a cold-blooded "massacre of civilians", killed only because of their ethnic identity, as part of a campaign of "ethnic cleansing"? This, after all, is the interpretation used to justify NATO bombing. Remarkably, although the KVM Report refers repeatedly to the decisive event that determined the attitude of the "international community", the Report itself admits that the event remains a mystery. The Serbs steadfastly maintained that the Racak dead were UÇK fighters, and that this was confirmed by forensic reports carried out jointly with Belorussian doctors. The Finnish forensic report that was supposed, perhaps, to settle the question has still not been made public, nor was a full copy given to the OSCE KVM. "At the time of writing this report it is still too early to give a final and definitive account of the actual events in Racak on 15 January 1999", the KVM report concludes. And this is the incident that triggered NATO bombing!
The OSCE Returns to the Scene
The second part of the OSCE Report, "As Seen, As Told", is quite different from the first, in a number of ways. The first significant difference is that, Ambassador Walker's KVM having been dissolved on June 9, 1999, it was compiled by a new OSCE Mission in Kosovo called "OMIK" established on the first of July and headed by Dutch diplomat Daan Everts. The second significant difference is that the reports of the human rights situation in Kosovo all come from observers on the spot, and not from interviews with refugees organized to furnish testimony against Belgrade for use by the prosecutor's office at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. The stated purpose of OMIK's report is to support the efforts of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to "positively influence the development of civil society" and "establish the rule of law". The OMIK report, prefaced by the head of UNMIK, Bernard Kouchner, indicates that this is a daunting task indeed. Acknowledging that there are "serious indications" of UÇK involvement in human rights violations, Dr. Kouchner notes that: "Whatever their identity, these armed groups seem to operate in an organized fashion and have some form of hierarchy, command and control." Moreover, "one of the most alarming trends documented in the OSCE report is the increasing participation of juveniles in human rights violations. We read here of case after case of young people, some only 10 or 12 years old, harassing, beating and threatening people, especially defenseless elderly victims, solely because of their ethnicity." In other words, gangs of young Albanians attack elderly Serbs. Such cruel behavior is commonly attributed to a desire for "revenge", described by the Executive Summary as "only human" even though "not acceptable". However, the Executive Summary goes on to note that: "A disturbing theme that the report uncovers is the intolerance, unknown before, that has emerged within the Kosovo Albanian community. Rights of Kosovo Albanians freedom of association, expression, thought and religion have all been challenged by other Kosovo Albanians". This seems a trifle naive, considering the extent to which rural Albanian society has traditionally been torn asunder by blood feuds between clans. In any case, what emerges from the facts observed by the OMIK is not simply "revenge", or "ethnic cleansing in reverse", with Albanians persecuting Serbs instead of the other way around, but rather a continuation of the conflict begun before NATO bombing, with crimes of violence motivated not by "revenge" but by a precise political goal: seizure of power by the UÇK.
Ethnic Cleansing in the American Sector
The American occupation sector is in the southeastern corner of Kosovo, chosen perhaps for two apparent advantages: a low level of violence before and during the bombing, and command of the strategic Kacanik pass to Skopje, capital of Macedonia, on the way to the Aegean port of Thessalonika. The United States immediately -- and without any permission from anybody -- seized a large area of Gnjilane county to build the largest army base in the Balkans, "Camp Bondsteel". Since prior to the war, Gnjilane had a large concentration of Kosovo Serb communities and no strong UÇK presence, it was relatively calm during the conflict. "Since the end of the conflict, however, the situation has been startlingly different", OMIK reported. "The descent into violence has been swift and widespread". Serbs have fled. "The Roma population has left en masse. Daily human rights reports in June, July and August were dominated by reports of killings, house burnings, missing persons and abductions..." (p.23). When observers returned to Gnjilane on June 20, only one house in the town had been destroyed, but by the end of October, the number had risen to 280. "In sharp contrast to the period before the conflict, there was a strong and highly visible UÇK presence" in the area. The UÇK took over many public buildings and set up its own "self-styled administration" which neither KFOR nor UNMIK was able to counter. Violence was constant. "Though aimed primarily at the minority communities, many Kosovo Albanians were also terrified by events, and called for increased KFOR protection" (p.26). "One target group appears to be LDK members", the report observes. The LDK, Democratic League of Kosovo, is the party of Ibrahim Rugova, which before the United States switched its support to the UÇK in mid-1998 was generally considered by the "international community" to be the legitimate representative of the Albanian people of Kosovo. Their present situation is in one respect even worse than that of the minorities, since they are clearly terrorized within their own community and do not dare protest to KFOR or UNMIK. "OSCE has received information that LDK members have been approached and told to stop their political activities in the Gnjilane area, but it has proved impossible to get LDK members to file a case on this issue. KFOR reported in September that Kosovo Albanian shopkeepers who had continued to serve Kosovo Serbs had been threatened, or were fine 100 German Marks for every sale to a Kosovo Serb". The UÇK was proceeding to impose "taxes", in addition to soliciting "donations"(p.38). The administration imposed by UÇK gunmen has had disastrous effects on economic life and public service, beyond immediate human rights abuses, according to OMIK observers. "In late June and early July 1999 the self-styled authorities named `directors' to companies and public facilities. There is much dissatisfaction among the workers about those appointments. However, if almost all the persons interviewed agree on the fact that incompetent management was appointed in June, those same people are afraid to talk about it" (p.39). Companies are run by former schoolteachers with no technical qualifications. The local hospital has been emptied of its Serb doctors and patients, and even Kosovo Albanians have complained that employment hinges on political criteria and nepotism. The example of the water plant (p.40) illustrates UÇK rule. "The water plant had remained until the end of August 1999 the last example of Kosovo Serbs and Kosovo Albanians working together. On 24th August, a shuttle van transporting five Kosovo Albanians and two Kosovo Serb workers to the water plant was stopped by three unknown armed persons driving a large black car. The workers were asked to produce papers and when they did so, the two Kosovo Serbs were abducted and remain missing". Only three Kosovo Serb workers remain at the Water Plant -- the only members of that community still employed on the Gnjilane territory -- and they "live in fear for their security. Their Kosovo Albanian colleagues, similarly, live in fear of retaliation". The resulting lack of skilled workers in the water plant meant that only two out of five filters were still functional by late October 1999, and water capacity was about to be cut in half.
Opening the OMIK report at random (p.254), one stumbles on entries such as this: -- "On 1st August an elderly Kosovo Serb couple were found dead in their house in Prizren town. The 95-year-old man had his head smashed and his 78-year-old wife had been stabbed ten times." -- "On 6th October the body of a 50-year-old Roma male was found. He had been killed by a gunshot to the head. On 5th October, the victim had allegedly been kidnapped at his residence in Prizren by seven men dressed in black." -- "On 15th September a 96-year-old Kosovo Serb male was found dead in his home in the village of Zivanjane, Prizren municipality. His hands were tied behind his back and he had been gagged". -- "On 17th October, a 60-year-old man and his wife, known to be a Muslim Slav were shot dead in their home in the village of Kievo, Orahovac municipality. The 22-year-old daughter escaped through the window..." And on and on. These are not tales told at a distance for the benefit of International Criminal Tribunal prosecutors, they are facts ascertained on the spot. But there are no arrests, no trials, no convictions. NATO, led by the Clinton administration, triumphantly expelled the only legal order that existed from Kosovo. Since then, crime flourishes: not only murder, but extortion, robbery, drug trafficking, prostitution. Such is life in the armed outpost of the "New World Order". Focusing on the acts of violence committed by Serbs or by Albanians cannot tell the whole story of Kosovo, explain the causes of the disaster or offer hope for the future. Simply enumerating blood crimes may only enforce the Western view of all the Balkan peoples as minor subjects, requiring occupation and tutoring by the "civilized West". Whatever their good intentions, the new missionaries of the "international community" will continue to do more harm than good until there is recognition of the criminal responsibility assumed by the NATO powers, first and foremost the United States, when the choice was made to use Kosovo as an occasion to flex military muscle, abandoning and indeed sabotaging all efforts to work out a peaceful solution to the problem. By allying with the UÇK, NATO knowingly incited both sides to extreme violence, and thereby stoked the flames of ethnic hatred to an unprecedented level. By choosing war over patient negotiations, the United States and its subservient "international community" committed the gravest crime against all the inhabitants of Kosovo, whether Serb, Albanian, Roma ... the crime against peace.
1 - Noam Chomsky, "In Retrospect", January 2000 (as yet unpublished, February 2000).
2 - Daniel Pearl & Robert Block, "Despite Tales, the War in Kosovo Was Savage, but Wasn't Genocide", Wall Street Journal, 31 December 1999.
3- Richard Cohen, "The Winner in the Balkans Is the KLA", International Herald Tribune/ Washington Post, 18 June 1999.]
4- January 25, 2000 interview with Figaro war correspondent Renaud Girard.
5 - Around this time, according to German researcher Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, the United States succeeded in winning the UÇK away its earlier sponsor, the German Bundesnachrichtensdienst, at least in part because the German government was calling for disarmament of the UÇK as part of a peace settlement.
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