The shame of NATO

Interviews with Serbian Refugees from Kosovo

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Translated by Ileana Cosic. Ms. Cosic is a playwright, literary critic and non-governmental translator. She graciously volunteered to translate these interviews at no charge.

Transcribed by Gregory Elich. Edited by Gregory Elich and Jared Israel.

The following are excerpts from interviews conducted by Gregory Elich and Jeff Goldberg with Serbian refugees in Avala, Serbia.

When we arrived at the Hotel Belgrade, we were shown all three stories of the building. All the rooms had been given to refugees and the building was quite overcrowded. The anger among the refugees was palpable.

Most of them refused to talk to us. Those who did talk refused to be interviewed.

At one point, when young men were subtly herding us from the third floor of the building, I began to wonder if there might be a fistfight. It wasn’t until much later that we discovered the source of this tension: they thought we were from NATO. All of them had lost everything due to NATO. It is a tribute to the humanity of these refugees that when they thought we were from NATO, all they did was express their sorrow and anger.

Once the misunderstanding was cleared up, some refugees agreed to be interviewed, but many still refused. As one young man explained, on three previous occasions they had received Western visitors, including a reporter from the Washington Post. All had treated them with contempt.

Also several people were too upset to talk. At one point, I asked to interview a girl whose father had been killed by the KLA. The child ran from the room in tears. (The interviews follow.)

Mitra Dragutinovic

[Emperors-clothes (EC) note: Mitra Dragutinovic introduces her family.]

Mitra Dragutinovic: This is the grandfather, this is his son and his daughter-in-law and then they have a son; I am his wife. We have three children. We are in this room, all eight of us, the whole family has escaped. Our village is called Musutiste, in Suva Reka municipality.

Translator: Everyone here is from the same community you know.

Mitra Dragutinovic: On June 11, we escaped from Kosovo.

Translator : They were following the withdrawal of the Serbian army, before KFOR entered. So they were fleeing from Kosovo, actually.

[Note from EC: KFOR is the NATO forces in Kosovo.]

Greg Elich: What did you think was going to happen?

Mitra Dragutinovic: We knew that the moment the Yugoslav army left, the KLA would take over. The terrorists started threatening, killing and shooting.

I have a cousin in Pristina, a doctor. An Albanian woman wounded him. He's a pediatrician and she came to his office with a child, took a gun from her trousers and wounded him. He lost a kidney. He’s now being treated at a hospital in Skopje [Macedonia, a Republic of the former Yugoslavia bordering Kosovo]. The pediatrician who was wounded is his [she points to the grandfather] grandson, from his daughter.

Why did the Americans and the Germans come? To protect us? Or to drive us from our homes, to violate our women, to kill our children? Why? We were more afraid of KFOR than of the Albanians. I can’t believe someone will bomb you for three months, 24 hours a day and then will come and protect you. I wonder how Clinton can’t be sorry for the children, at least. Does he know what it means to be a child?

You know, we could retaliate. We could organize terrorist actions and kill your children in the United States. But we would never do that to any American child, because we are people with a soul.

Greg Elich: What was life like in your village during the bombing?

Mitra Dragutinovic: It was awful. We were frightened. You know, we weren’t afraid of the Albanians, because we were stronger. We were in our country, on our soil. But now we're no longer on our soil because we are occupied down there.

Greg Elich: Thank you.

Unidentified woman: Whoever they are, be they Americans, British, Germans, French, let them take care of their own problems and we'll deal with our problems here because this is our country. Perhaps it’s not the Americans who are the main culprits. Perhaps it’s the Germans who through the United States wanted to take revenge for all their losses during two World Wars.

Nikola Ceko

Nikola Ceko: My name is Nikola Ceko, from Veliki Hac. It’s near Orahovac [EC Note: Orahovac is the town the Russian troops have been barred from due to KLA roadblocks which are tolerated by KFOR]. We were surrounded by the Albanians from the start of bombing on March 24. No electricity, water, bread. No one taking care of us. Nothing.

KFOR, what do they care for poor Serbs? They think we're stupid farmers and no one needs us, so KFOR simply forgets us.

[Our expulsion] is to the shame of the US, Britain, France, Germany and all the big powers. Nationality, race and religion are not important. We're all human beings; we have the right to live.

A true human being is the one who is ready to help the victim in need. When one is in trouble, one needs help. I think that KFOR should open its eyes and see what’s going on down there and behave according to [UN "Peace"-with-Serbia] Resolution 1244 and the documents signed by our Yugoslav representatives and the UN representatives in Kunovo. It’s not only the village I mentioned; there are many villages where people are in great need, dying. It’s high time that we behave like human beings.

Greg Elich: Thank you.

[EC note: Several people are then asked for an interview. All decline. Then one woman agrees.]

Biljana Lazic

Biljana Lazic: I have two brothers and eight cousins.

Greg Elich: Would you introduce yourself, please?

Biljana Lazic: I don’t want to talk. No one will help. Two of my brothers and eight of my cousins have been kidnapped.

Greg Elich: The reason we want to interview you is because it's extremely important to tell the American people what's happened.

Unidentified woman: Do you see: we are all in black. My brother was a major. He was killed.

Biljana Lazic: When Kosovo was part of Serbia, and when our army was there, the KLA took my brothers prisoner. They are farmers and they were kidnapped from their homes.

Greg Elich: And where are they now?

Biljana Lazic: We haven’t heard anything for a whole year. More than thirteen months and not a thing. My mother did everything possible and impossible, through the tracing service of the Yugoslav and International Red Cross. They informed us my brothers were alive and would be exchanged.

Greg Elich: And?

Biljana Lazic: That was July of last year, 10 days after they'd been taken prisoner. [After that] my mother even went to Mr. [William] Walker’s office. [EC note: Ms. Lazic is referring to the Verification mission that was in Kosovo from October until the onset of bombing.] He probably knew whether they were alive but he didn’t want to say. They were all beating around the bush; they staged an investigation, but it was just for show.

Greg Elich: How did you leave Kosovo?

Biljana Lazic: I left June 11. We followed our army. We knew what would be in store for us if we stayed. We cannot live with KFOR because of the bombing and because of the KLA. You know why there were so many kidnappings even before the bombing? Because the number of our military forces was limited by the agreement.

[EC note: Ms. Lazic is talking about the Oct. 1998 agreement under which Yugoslavia pulled most soldiers out of Kosovo under threat of massive bombing. That agreement also allowed for the so-called Verifiers to enter Kosovo, under William Walker, the US diplomat famous for his role in the Iran-Contra. As the former ambassador to El Salvador, Walker has been accused of having had close relations with the El Salvador death squads as well as using his position as head of the Verification Mission to develop close ties between US military personnel and the KLA terrorists.]

Greg Elich: What was life like in your village during the bombing?

Biljana Lazic: Awful. We were frightened, both of the bombs and the KLA. Before the war and the bombing we had good relations with our neighbors, but when the bombing started, we knew what was in store because we knew the intent of the KLA. We were afraid of the KLA and we wouldn’t allow our kids to leave our houses. They were all locked inside.

The situation was unbearable. We had to flee, to save the children at least.

Greg Elich: I don’t remember if I got your name.

Biljana Lazic: Biljana Lazic, from Supino, in Suva Reka.

Translator: Everyone is from Suva Reka. It’s a big community.

Greg Elich: Thank you.

Translator: They did a lot of awful things.

Biljana Lazic: Let me introduce my mother in law. My brother’s son, who was only 13 years old, was kidnapped and killed. There is a little girl here whose father was killed.

[EC note: Here the translator addresses Ms. Lazic's mother-in-law]

Translator: What is your name?

Dobrila Lazic: Dobrila Lazic.

Dobrila Lazic

Dobrila Lazic: Before the war, he [the 13-year-old boy] came to see one aunt and uncle, and then he visited the other aunt and uncle, and between the two houses he was kidnapped and killed. It was before the bombing [started; this was back] in September, 1998.

Jeff Goldberg: Why did they do such a thing?

Dobrila Lazic: To kill the Serbs or drive us from Kosovo. In the past, Albanians had rights in Kosovo. They lived very well, much better than us, really; they were privileged. But they were instigated to hate the Serbs, and this is the result.

Unidentified woman: They had every right: schools in their language, doctors, free medical care, everything.

Stana Antic: My name is Stana Antic. When we contacted William Walker in person, Walker told us, ‘Yes, your son is kidnapped. I will liberate him, but you must go instead of him.’

Greg Elich: To the KLA?

Translator: Yes. Replace him as a hostage.

Greg Elich: William Walker?

Dobrila Lazic: Yes, in Pristina, when we went to kindly ask him to intervene. The boy was only 13. Of what could he be guilty ? They did awful things to us. I have a brother in law who was beaten to death in Dragobile. Dobrivoje Savilic was his name.

My two brothers were kidnapped. The OSCE Verification mission was informed of the kidnappings and contacted the KLA. They [i.e. the Verifiers] promised to liberate them, but in the end we got a dead body. Fortunately, one of my brothers was alive, very badly beaten, seriously wounded. He survived but the other brother was beaten to death. My brothers were farmers, not soldiers, not policemen. Plain farmers Tilling the soil.

They want to destroy us all because we're Serbs.

Greg Elich: What did the verification mission do?

Dobrila Lazic: Nothing. They just sat idle, waiting for my brothers to be beaten to death. They didn’t intervene. They didn’t come to help us, they just came to help the KLA. Had they come to help us, they probably would have found my brothers, alive or dead. One cannot simply disappear. They even burned people alive The whole world knew [about] that, but no one wanted to condemn the KLA for these crimes. They put all the blame on the Serbian police, constantly accusing them of persecuting the Albanians. That’s the way it is.

Dostena Filipovic

Dostena Filipovic: I am from Ljesane. Everything that was in our house was our own property. We never took anything from anyone. [When the Yugoslav troops pulled out of Kosovo] we sent our three children, our two sons and daughter, to Serbia to protect them. They were driving the tractor. My husband and I, as elderly people, stayed back to protect and defend the house. Since [only a] few Serbs stayed behind, some Albanians started molesting us, threatening and firing guns outside our windows. So we decided to leave. We took only hand luggage and our cow. We went to a neighboring Serbian village. We had to leave our house.

Greg Elich: When did that happen?

Dostena Filipovic: On the 14th of June. You know, our army was leaving, and KFOR was moving in, so we followed our army. You remember I said that we decided to go to another Serbian village, but when we arrived there, the people were also fleeing. Since the roads were jammed, we couldn’t move fast, and we wanted to go to Brezevica, but the roads were so jammed that we couldn’t move from Prizren. Even though KFOR was in Prizren, the KLA attacked us, firing on our column.

Greg Elich: And KFOR did nothing?

Dostena Filipovic: Nothing; they just watched and laughed. Since we couldn’t move in, we returned to the Serbian village of Novake. We stayed overnight, and around 3:00 AM, gunfire started from the surrounding area, so we decided to flee to another village. This was a mixed village, Albanian Catholics and Serbians. When we arrived in that village, three KLA soldiers wearing different colors of caps came, together with KFOR. KFOR should be ashamed. I think they were Germans. They had two tanks.

We spent two nights in that village. Serbs were not allowed to stand guard, only local Albanians. Then KFOR called all the Serbian men to surrender their weapons and gave the weapons to the KLA. After two nights we decided to leave. KFOR organized our column, one tank in front, the other in back. Then we noticed that a truck full of Albanians arrived: our neighbors. They'd smeared their faces so as not to be recognized, but we knew them. They wanted to rob us. KFOR didn't allow it.

We had never had trouble with the neighbors. We didn’t take anything from anyone, so our consciences were quite clear. [But KFOR had] collected all our weapons, so we were easy prey.

[But ] without Clinton, without outside support, our neighbors wouldn’t dare do that. KFOR gave them arms; they took the arms from us. We left our homes, with our naked souls and nothing else.

Boze Antic

[Boze Antic] My name in Boze Antic. I am from the village of Supino, in the municipality of Suva Reka.

The KLA killed my brother’s son because he was a Serb. They killed my best friend, a mechanic, Ranca Antic, from Ljesane village. They also killed Dr. Boban Vuksanovic, director of the Suva Reka Heath Center. They killed my daughter in law’s brother 200 meters from his home, 32 years old, just because he was a Serb. They were neither soldiers nor policemen. They were not in politics. They were plain workers. Mechanics.

They were on the way to the monastery, Sveta Trojica, a very old monastery from the 14th century. They left Suva Reka, on the way to repair a machine. It’s four kilometers. The KLA ambushed them, killing the driver of the car. Then they pushed the car down over a cliff. Several passengers were wounded. The terrorists were not satisfied with killing the driver, the doctor and my cousin. They wanted to kill everyone in the car. So when the car came to a stop at the bottom of the hill, they followed the car and killed my other nephew with 16 bullets in his body.

This is not a new story. The Albanians didn’t start this just today or yesterday. They were supported by the Americans, the British, by Germany and Italy for many years. They received financial support, bought weapons, set up their illegal army. The purpose: to kill Serbs.

All the NATO members that prepared this tragedy for many years should be really ashamed. Clinton in the first place, because he was their leader, and he financed these activities. They all deserve to be brought before The Hague [war crimes] tribunal together with Clinton, who never visited Kosovo. Particularly Madeleine Albright because she grew up in our country, in Vrnjacka Banja and in Belgrade.

Even today, without NATO support, they [the secessionists] couldn’t do all the crimes that they are doing.

I don’t know whether anyone has mentioned this, but the most tragic thing is that in KFOR there are a great number of Albanians from Germany and Switzerland, wearing KFOR uniforms. That’s true. They serve as KFOR guides.

Fortunately, not all of our monasteries have been burned down; but many have. But we can’t go back as long as the KLA has KFOR protection, a shield for their murderous activities. If someone is human, he should at least be sorry for the little children who have been murdered.

All the children of this world are in the first place children, regardless of their religion, race and ethnic origin.

What is the future of our children now? They have no homes, no schools for now. We were not poor people. We had property down there, houses, land. For example, in my case, I worked 33 years. Now I'm a beggar. I have nothing. Our country, Serbia, is in deep economic crisis. Serbia cannot help. What is our future?

All those supporting these criminal activities, committed by NATO, should face the truth and see in us human beings. We are honest, hard-working people.

Sava Jovanovic

[EC note: Mr. Jovanovic shows the interviewers photographs and refers to these pictures throughout his interview. Personally, we found the implications of this heart breaking.]

Sava Jovanovic: This is my village. NATO destroyed it. Very interesting. All the Albanian houses are standing, and bombs have hit the Serbian houses. This is my house. My courtyard. This is KFOR, the Germans. This is how they protect my house? This is an Albanian, stealing my belongings, and here is KFOR protecting him.

Unidentified voice: Actually, they were all KLA. KFOR lent them their [armored] vehicle!

Sava Jovanovic: We are four brothers, and our father. You see they took everything – the tiles, the windows from the house. They demolished the house. They didn’t burn it, they demolished it. You see ‘UCK’ [graffiti on his demolished home]

Greg Elich: I’d like to point out, UCK is the Albanian acronym for KLA.

Sava Jovanovic: And here, in Albanian, see where they've written: ‘Return of Serbs prohibited’.

Jeff Goldberg: So are you saying that Serbian houses were targeted by the planes, and Albanian houses were not?

Sava Jovanovic: Yes. Yes.

Jeff Goldberg: When were you forced out?

Sava Jovanovic: On June 11. We all left together. Some left on the 11th, some on the 12th. But, actually, it was an exodus. This is my house, the house where we used to live: my parents, my wife and I, and my three sons. This is my brother’s house. All my brothers are neighbors. This is all our property, with the four brothers together, houses next together.

Jeff Goldberg: Was anyone hurt in your family?

Sava Jovanovic: My father decided to stay to protect the houses. I asked about my father, and they told me, ‘We don’t know anything. No news at all." See, this is where I had my granary. They first took all the wheat, then burned down the granary. They plundered the wheat and corn from my brothers’ property, and then burned down the building. We had about 15 cows, 20 pigs, and lots of poultry. Now we have nothing.

In my view, Clinton is responsible for all this. His politics actually. Together with Germany. They are responsible for this damage. They are also responsible for my father’s life, because he stayed behind to save the property, because this is our life. My father remembers the stories from his grandfather, from the time when he lived while the region was still under the Ottoman Empire. And my father lived under German occupation during the world war. They didn’t have to leave their homes. Now is the first time we were forced to leave. It is worse than under the Ottomans and the Germans.

Greg Elich: In Western reports, Western leaders are saying that members of the KLA can become part of the new police force.

Sava Jovanovic: Impossible! They loathe the Serbs! We want our army and police!

Jeff Goldberg: What was your relationship with the Albanians before?

Sava Jovanovic: You know, it was not very bad, but there was pressure all the time. We really didn’t feel completely free down there. But listen, it was bearable until they got support from Clinton. During Tito’s time and communism, it was bearable. But the moment Clinton came to the political scene and encouraged them, it became unbearable. A very difficult situation started with the breakup of Yugoslavia; so it’s political. We know that the Americans wanted to turn Albania into their military base, and then gradually, through Kosovo, occupy Kosovo and then Serbia. We know that. And then the Albanians were incited to terrorize us, because it was part of the project.

Jeff Goldberg: How did they incite the Albanians to terrorize you?

Sava Jovanovic: They had support. They started molesting us, threatening us. They were armed. They had a lot of money. They bought expensive, modern weapons. They were promised their own republic, a Greater Albania.

Through drug dealing, they got rich. But who allowed them to deal the drugs in many countries? Someone could stop it.

This is all the doing of Clinton and his entourage. That’s very plain. Our stories are actually the same, because the problems are the same, and the sources of the problems are the same.

Greg Elich: Thank you. I think I’d like to interview a child next.

[EC note: children are gathered together]

Unidentified woman: This is our future.

Greg Elich: Good.

Jeff Goldberg: What is your name?

First child: Aleksandar Lazic.

Greg Elich: And the other two children?

Second child: Sasa Lazic.

Third child: Marko Antic.

Greg Elich: Are you from the same family?

Aleksandar Lazic: Neighbors.

Greg Elich: Why did you leave Kosovo? [EC note: There is no answer, despite urging of parents] Anyone can respond.

Biljana Lazic, mother: Why don’t you tell them how they kidnapped your uncles?

Sasa Lazic: No, I’m frightened to say.

Fourth child: My name is Nikola Lazic. I'm 8. I fled Kosovo first because of the bombs.

Greg Elich: Bombs were dropping near your home?

Nikola Lazic: In the vicinity. I had to flee the Albanians.

Greg Elich: Did you see anybody’s home bombed? Neighbors?

Nikola Lazic: Yes. NATO bombed.

Greg Elich: How did you feel whenever you heard a jet fly over?

Nikola Lazic: Frightened. They were bombing all the time.

Greg Elich: Every day?

Translator: Yeah. Even 36 hours without stopping. .All day, and days without end.

Jeff Goldberg: How did it affect your life?

Nikola Lazic: Before the bombing our life was good. During the bombing we were in the cellar all the time. We couldn’t play.

Translator: How was life in the cellar?

Nikola Lazic: Very bad. It was dark.

Greg Elich: Were any of your friends or relatives killed by the bombs?

Nikola Lazic: No.

Jeff Goldberg: Did you have any Albanian friends before the bombing?

Nikola Lazic: Yes.

Translator: During and after the bombing?

Nikola Lazic: No. We want to go back home.

Greg Elich: Is your home still standing?

Nikola Lazic: We want to go back to play and go to school and live in freedom.

Jeff Goldberg: Before the bombing, was anyone leaving Kosovo?

Nikola Lazic: No. During the bombing, we were fleeing, not from Kosovo, but to the cellars.

Jeff Goldberg: Is there a difference between your Albanian friends and the KLA?

Nikola Lazic: Yes.

Unidentified woman: But unfortunately our adult neighbors are all now members of the KLA.

Greg Elich: Thank you.

- Avila, Serbia 8/13/99

Note # 1 - Ms. Dobrila Lazic is talking about the KLA encampment near Klecka, which Yugoslav troops captured on August 29, 1998. They reported finding the bodies of 22 people burnt in a large oven. Although at the time the Times was reporting every speculation about Serbian atrocities with banner headlines on page one, this story got a scant 140 words on page 15.

The KLA issued a denial - it contended (amazingly) that the KLA "has not killed a single Serb civilian." This denial was put on page 3, column one, which, after the front page, is the Times' main spot for foreign news. Moreover, the KLA denial was printed without Serbian refutation which of course could only give readers the impression it was true and the Times itself made no qualifying comment not did it attempt to uncover the truth independently. Is this objective reporting?

The KLA statement that they never killed Serbian civilians was a bold-faced lie and the people at the Times had to know it, assuming the Kosovo they were covering was the one on Planet Earth. The KLA's strategy, which was to draw the Yugoslav army into firefights and thus create the appearance of a humanitarian disaster to justify NATO bombing - this strategy required attacking Serbian civilians.

Everyone in the foreign policy establishment (and the press corps) knew the KLA was a terrorist outfit since back in Feb., 1998. Consider the following (unfortunate) remark by the US Envoy for Kosovo, Robert Gelbard. Keep in mind he was speaking before US support for the KLA (UCK in Albanian) made this kind of accuracy passť, not to say politically incorrect:

  • "'The violence we have seen growing is incredibly dangerous,' Gelbard said...[condemning] actions of an ethnic Albanian underground group Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Serb targets. 'We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK is, without any questions, a terrorist group,' Gelbard said." [Agence France Presse, 2/23/98]

Isn't it a shame one can't just press a button and poof! all copies of newspaper articles with unfortunately revealing quotes get altered, no one the wiser?

Note # 2 - * For a knock-down-drag-out argument over what's happening in Yugoslavia, please click on A Not-So-Nonviolent Debate on the Nonviolence Discussion Board or go to http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/nonviole.html

* For an account of conditions for those who have not left Kosovo, please click on I cannot give it a name but it seems like hell or go to http://emperors-clothes.com/misc/name.htm

* For a discussion of what motivates US actions in the Balkans, please click on What Does NATO Want in Yugoslavia? by Sean Gervasi or go to http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/gervasi/why.htm

For a discussion of cultural differences between Serbian and Albanian populations in Kosovo and the falsity of NATO's humanitarian claims, see: NATO's Humanitarian Trigger by Diana Johnstone or go to
http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/Johnstone/NATOTRIG.html

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