Voices against the war in Kosovo [1999]
  Voci contro la guerra in Kosovo [1999]

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[Source: Covert Action Quarterly Spring-Summer 1999]



by Gregory Elich

The image of Western involvement in the Balkans following the Yugoslav civil war is one of benign peacekeeping, an attempt to bring civilization to the uncivilized. NATO's war against Yugoslavia is painted as a "humanitarian" gesture. That these images should be so widely accepted, even among those on the left, is a tribute to the efficacy of western media obfuscation. Forgotten is the primary role of the West in dismembering Yugoslavia, and creating and fueling the civil wars. Its involvement since the 1995 Dayton peace accord has been no less significant. The demise of the Soviet Union has left in its wake a unipolar world which has greatly enhanced Western access to resources. It has also created the opportunity for a return to the crudest forms of imperialism. NATO's savage bombing of Yugoslavia, the culmination of western destabilization and intervention in the region, is only the most visible manifestation of a larger policy to place that nation in a dependent position.

Overturning the Economic system

The common theme running through Western policy is the further fragmentation of Yugoslavia and the overturning of its economic system. Montenegro, one of Yugoslavia's two remaining republics, receives support and encouragement from Western leaders, who make no secret of their desire for its secession from Yugoslavia. While Serbia, Yugoslavia's other republic, continues to suffer under draconian Western economic sanctions, which have continued unabated in one form or another since 1992, Montenegro has received a pledge from U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to "shield" it from sanctions. Already Montenegro receives $5.9 million in aid from the U.S., and $3.3 million from the European Union. The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, declared the entire republic to be an "offshore center," in which foreign businesses can benefit from an income tax of only 2.5 percent. Foreign investors are also granted a host of additional benefits. Montenegro has embarked on a massive privatization program, in which the majority of its state assets are to be turned over to private investors. No doubt it is these moves which led Albright to exclaim, "The United States salutes Montenegro's achievements...."1

Privatization in Serbia is far more limited, and many elements of socialism remain. Consequently, both Serbia and the federal government of Yugoslavia face unremitting Western hostility. Reports surfaced last November of an American plan to topple Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his Serbian Socialist Party-Yugoslav United Left-led coalition government. A high-ranking DIA official disclosed that "activation of a policy of the end of Milosevic and his power in Yugoslavia is very much on the table." The plan calls for supporting Montenegro's secession from Yugoslavia, as well as expanded CIA and DIA contacts with the Yugoslav right-wing opposition, with the overthrow of the left-wing government as its goal. "Clinton is doing this right now," said a White House source, "and it's beginning at a local level."2 "It's a cornerstone of our policy in the Balkans," said U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin, "to promote democracy...."- a euphemism for capitalism. Along those lines, "We are spending $15 million in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including $2 million for independent TV."3 Most of the funds to the opposition are channelled through such organizations as the National Endowment for Democracy and the National Democratic Institute. Significant financial assistance to the opposition is also provided by the European Union and George Soros' Open Society Institute.4

The primary component of the Western destabilization campaign is support for the violent secessionist movement in the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia. According to a report by the Russian Federal Security Service, the CIA has operated in Kosovo since 1995, and the number of its operatives multiplied rapidly just prior to the explosion of violence in early 1998. Most of these agents act "under cover of `humanitarian4 missions and various observer teams," the report stated.5 The military arm of the secessionist movement is the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which not only engages in military operations, but has also assassinated several hundred pro-Yugoslav civilians of all ethnic groups, including Albanian. The policy of killing civilians, KLA spokesman Jakup Krasniqi declared, is justified because "collaborators are warned that we will kill them if they continue to follow the wrong path."6 A number of execution sites have been discovered, and last August, when Yugoslav police captured a KLA stronghold at Klecka, they discovered the charred remains of 22 executed men, women, and children, and a handcuffed, decapitated body in a cellar. An examination of the remains showed evidence of torture. A captured KLA soldier confessed to executions, saying that "after the shooting the firing squad threw the bodies into the lime- pit," poured gasoline on the bodies and set them afire. "Some of them were still alive," he added, "since whining could be heard."7

A large proportion of the KLA's force is composed of mercenaries and Kosovar Albanian expatriates, and Krasniqi has admitted that half of the KLA's soldiers come from abroad. Many of these mercenaries act as training instructors.8 According to a Yugoslav policeman, "The way in which [the KLA] conduct their operations, prepare the ground for attack, or build fortifications, confirms that they are very well- organized and that they have very good trainers."9

Many Kosovar Albanians living in Western Europe donate three percent of their income into bank accounts of the organization, "Homeland Calling." The German Foreign Ministry notes that those unwilling to pay this "solidarity tax" are often forced to do so.10

The bulk of the KLA's financing for arms purchases derives from the drug trade. A report in the Swedish press points out that "it is mainly Kosovo Albanian rings that organize heroin smuggling into the Nordic area.... They have pushed other groups out of competition from portions of the European market." Swedish police report that up to 90 percent of heroin seized in Sweden "can be linked to Kosovo Albanian rings."11 Last June, a nation-wide police sweep in Italy netted 100 drug traffickers, including members of a Kosovar Albanian mafia. Profits from the sales of drugs were used to purchase arms in Italy, which were then shipped to Kosovo.12 A report by the German Federal Criminal Agency states, "Ethnic Albanians are now the most prominent group in the distribution of heroin in Western consumer countries."13

Hundreds of tons of weapons have flooded across the border from Albania into Kosovo. Many of these arms were purchased on the black market or looted from armories during the July 1997 uprising in Albania, but the KLA also receives arms through contact with Western intelligence agencies. The German "Monitor" television program on ARD Television Network reports that the German Military Counter- intelligence Service was involved in "several illegal arms supplies" to Albania and that "via these channels" German military equipment reached the KLA. In the program, a former counter-intelligence official claimed that the arms supplies were "ordered by the very top."14 One NATO official noted, "We have seen sophisticated weapons like the German-designed Armbrust anti-tank weapon being used."15 Austrian radio reported that a photograph of a KLA soldier holding a Steyr automatic rifle "caused quite a stir." The Steyr, the report said, "is a showpiece of Austria's military technology" and "is considered one of the best automatic rifles in the market by military circles."16

On July 2 last year, the Albanian press noted mysterious flights by U.S. military cargo planes, flying into Albania without reporting their presence. "An average of two U.S. C-130 military aircraft have landed daily at Gjadar," the report said, alarming civil aviation personnel, who worry that the lack of notification may lead to air collisions with civil aircraft.17 The New York Times reported that an officer in the Western observer mission "was taken aback when a powerful U.S.-made Barret sniper rifle was brought out for display" by a KLA soldier. "He was told the guerrillas had more of them and additional ones would be coming in." This rifle, a NATO officer claims, is capable "of blowing a head off from a mile away."18 Last December, a Western journalist reported that the KLA had "acquired satellite communications" and "smuggled in significant amounts of anti-tank rockets, anti-aircraft guns, shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and long-barreled sniper rifles." He was told by a KLA deputy commander, "We're getting more and more arms every day."19

Last summer, Albanian Secret Service director Fatos Klosi said that relations with the CIA were "intensified in recent months," and that "CIA specialists" were active in Albania, including northern Albania, a region under the control of the KLA.20 According to Yugoslav special units expert Stojan Jovic, the entire Kosovo- northern Albania operation was "being carried out by American Green Berets," and the KLA had "intelligence support" from NATO's South Wing Headquarters in Naples. KLA fighters, he said, "maintain satellite contacts with U.S. intelligence agents who conduct aerial surveillance...."21

Western news reports last summer may have inflated the scale of refugee flight to justify NATO intervention. Austrian journalist Paul Flieder pointed out that such figures were "impossible to verify," and that he could find "no trace" of such large numbers of refugees in northern Albania and in Kosovo. "I got the impression that the refugee figures are being deliberately exaggerated to get hold of relief supplies. An Albanian who houses a couple of refugees told me that none of the relief supplies get through to the refugees. Everything seems to go into arms dealing."22 This year, the abrupt termination of the Paris peace conference by Western leaders and NATO saber-rattling merely ignited the region into full-scale warfare, resulting in a genuine mass refugee crisis.

Last September, the Western policy of low-intensity conflict in the region seemed on the point of collapse, as the KLA, forced out of most of Kosovo, faced defeat at the hands of the Yugoslav police and army. NATO responded by threatening to bomb Yugoslavia. Such threats enabled NATO to win Yugoslavia's agreement to allow Western monitors to patrol Kosovo and NATO spy planes permission to overly the region. While this fell short of NATO's objectives, it essentially got what it wanted: a Western presence and further opportunities for meddling in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia. Under terms of the agreement, Yugoslav police and army presence in the region greatly diminished, and large areas of Kosovo fell into the hands of secessionists-a not unintended consequence.

NATO needed a pretext for more direct intervention, and this arrived with the alleged massacre in the village of Racak on January 15. Brandishing the threat of bombing Yugoslavia, western leaders brought both parties in the conflict to a peace conference in Rambouillet, France, to negotiate over a U.S.-drafted peace and autonomy plan. A high-ranking American official admitted the plan would be "basically imposed" upon the negotiating parties.23 The attitude that a complex and difficult conflict could be resolved rapidly through belligerence is stunning in its arrogance.

The two negotiating teams presented a stark contrast. The secessionist delegation consisted solely of Albanians, with heavy representation from the KLA. The KLA's position, as stated by its spokesman Bardhyl Mahmuti a few months before, was that "We will never change our position. The independence of Kosovo is the only solution.... We can't live together [with Serbs]. That is excluded."24 The composition of the Yugoslav delegation reflected Kosovo's ethnic complexity, consisting not only of Serbs, but also two Albanians, a Slavic Muslim, a Turk, a Goran, a Roma, and an Egyptian.

Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic declared, "We want a solution that guarantees equality for every national community and enables everyone to be master of his own fate," but that "we are not going to allow foreign rule over a single inch of Serbia."25

Farce at Rambouillet

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the peace negotiations were intended to fail. Repeated requests by the Yugoslav delegation for face-to-face talks were rejected by Western mediators. Serbian President Milan Milutinovich complained, "We have not received all the documents for this conference. It is clear...there are games being played here and we don't know what these games are."26 He soon found out. During the 17 days of negotiations at Rambouillet in February, the Yugoslav delegation substantially accepted the Western political proposals, but they understandably rejected the demand for occupation by NATO troops. On the final day, just hours before the conclusion of the conference, Western mediators presented a new document, containing 56 pages for the first time.27

The following month, when the Yugoslav delegation arrived in Paris for the resumption of negotiations, Western officials told them that no discussion of the new proposal would be permitted. Western mediators would allow discussion only of "implementation" of this new plan, which had never been discussed. For weeks Western officials had begged the KLA to sign the plan, and British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tipped the Western hand when he urged the KLA, "If you don't sign up to these texts, it is extremely difficult to see how NATO could then take action against Belgrade."28 Once the KLA signed on, Western officials immediately aborted the Paris conference. Milutinovich denounced the Paris talks as "a fraud, some sort of deceit, a very big deceit," and pointed out that "no one consulted us during these four days in Paris. Now we got an imposed document. We saw that we have been betrayed."29

The text of the new peace plan contains several provisions that no sovereign nation could accept. The plan allots Kosovo a status transcending either of Yugoslavia's republics and provides for direct Western involvement. A Chief of the Implementation Mission (CIM), appointed by NATO, would be empowered to "recommend to the appropriate authorities the removal and appointment of officials and the curtailment of operations of existing institutions" and to "issue binding directives to the parties and subsidiary bodies on police and civil public security matters...." Western officials would also appoint the chief prosecutor, and "when necessary, direct the operations of the office of the Prosecutor...." Censorship would be effectively imposed, as the CIM would be responsible for "allocation of radio and television frequencies." The CIM would also act "as the final authority" and "his determinations" would be "binding on all parties and persons." Yugoslavia, according to the plan, would "invite" occupation by hostile NATO troops. A provision stating that "the economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles" would ensure Western corporate interests. Additionally, the plan provides for "the free movement of persons, goods, services, and capital to Kosovo, including from international sources."30

The plan covers a three-year transition period, at the end of which "an international meeting shall be convened to determine a mechanism for the final settlement for Kosovo." The fate of Kosovo would be decided by "the will of the people," presumably only those residing within Kosovo and not the rest of the nation, and by "opinions of relevant authorities," unquestionably a reference to NATO. State Department spokesman James Rubin was clear about what is intended to follow the interregnum covered by the plan. "Some Kosovar Albanian leaders are starting to understand that an interim arrangement doesn't mean that the Kosovar Albanians need to forgo permanently their aspirations, but rather it is an interim solution...."31 According to an analyst from Pax Christi, American mediators told the secessionist delegation at Rambouillet that they need only "symbolically disarm," and they "would be allowed to keep large parts of their weaponry, provided they concealed them."32 One high-ranking official from the Clinton administration indicated that "some members" of the KLA "are going to have to morph into a new role" as the Kosovo police force, and another was quick to assure the KLA "they can still exist" as part of the police force.33

As revealed by a German intelligence official, "The [German] Chancellor and Foreign Minister knew from the outset that no Yugoslav government could ever sign" the Rambouillet plan. "Both understood clearly that this would mean the end of Yugoslavia as a sovereign state. War was therefore inevitable." The last-minute additions to the plan were so extreme that "experts of the [German] Justice Ministry poked fun at these passages." 34


Western propaganda has succeeded in winning over a majority of public opinion in support of a blatant violation of the U.N. Charter and international law. The emotional pretext for NATO's war of aggression was an alleged massacre in the village of Racak. Yet, Western European observers and an Associated Press film crew covering the police action did not witness a massacre. The bodies of the victims did not appear until the next day, several hours after the departure of Yugoslav police. Forensic tests showed traces of gunpowder on 37 of the 40 bodies, indicating that the individuals had been engaged in combat.35

Pentagon press conferences often focus on the suffering of refugees, resorting to highly emotive and overwrought terms like "genocide" and "great terror." No doubt abuses have taken place, and on both sides, but there is a pattern of deliberate exaggeration and fabrication, in order to build public support for the death and destruction that NATO is inflicting. The execution of secessionist leaders was widely reported, including "eyewitness accounts," but these same leaders achieved a remarkable resurrection when they were found very much alive several days later.36 Another Kosovar Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, was said to be either killed or in hiding, and his home demolished. Inconveniently, he was found very much alive in his intact home.37 Another story charged Yugoslav police with rounding up 100,000 Albanians in a Pristina stadium, in preparation for a massacre. A French reporter went to the stadium and found it "completely empty."38

A reporter from The Times visiting Macedonia heard two refugees relate stories of their village being burned and civilians driven away. Noticing their spotless white running shoes, a Red Cross worker commented, "These men don't look as though they have walked 20 miles. They look as though they arrived by Mercedes." According to the reporter, "There were so many discrepancies" in the stories of refugees from the village of Kotlina, "it was impossible to know the truth." The same reporter noted that there was speculation that villagers from Kotlina had fled from the KLA, and there have been reports of "forcible conscription" by the KLA, including attacks on those refusing to join. The KLA issued an order for all Kosovar Albanian men between 18 and 50 to join its forces. In addition to accepting volunteers, a KLA officer says, "we will also use force to recruit" men, and a KLA statement announced that "if the men refuse to join the KLA...the military police will act even outside Kosovo." According to Reuters, "Some refugees reaching the relative sanctuary of Albania said they were willing to pay local taxi drivers hefty sums to help them escape KLA press gangs."

There are many reasons people flee their homes, some due to abuses, and some due to the all-out warfare that has erupted between the KLA and Yugoslav forces. But NATO itself is also responsible for generating the refugee crisis. When asked if Serbian police had driven her from her home, one woman told The Times reporter, "There were no Serbs. We were frightened of the bombs." Red Cross officials told the reporter that "many of the most recent arrivals intend to return to Kosovo as soon as the NATO bombardment stops."39

A statement released anonymously by a high-ranking German official, declaring he "can no longer remain silent," accused "both the entire NATO propaganda staff," as well as German leaders, of "unabashedly lying to the public with nearly every 'fact' they present about the Balkan war, while a willing media pack is keenly spreading these lies, unverified, as gospel truth." Furthermore, the German government "is cynically playing with the calculated misery of the refugees." NATO, he added, does not have at its "disposal photographic, intelligence knowledge, indications and proof leading to the conclusion that there is systematic expulsion or deportation of refugees by Yugoslav special forces, army or police." The German defense ministry, he claims, has determined that the following factors are equally responsible for refugee flight:

" * Excess on the part of Yugoslav soldiers and police forces, often triggered in part by KLA attacks carried out under cover of Kosovar Albanian civilians. Information is on hand that Yugoslav soldiers caught looting are summarily court martialled.

* The results of the NATO bombing, such as the lack of potable water in nearly all cities of Kosovo, and general devastation.

* Understandable fear of getting caught in the crossfire between the KLA, the Yugoslav military, and NATO attacks.

* Constant spreading of panic and horror stories in the broadcasts of dozens of small KLA, NATO or Albanian shortwave radio stations located in the mountains alongside the propaganda broadcasts of the KLA over Radio Tirana.

* Pillaging bands of the Albanian mafia, who...extort money, search abandoned houses for anything of value and then burn the houses down to create a political effect.

* KLA irregular troops, who have declared a 'general mobilization' and are forcing every available man into their military service. Those objecting are submitted to grave physical abuse and released only upon paying a ransom, and having sworn under threat of vendetta, not to tell the truth but to tell family and the media that they had been mishandled by Serbs

* The announcement by the KLA that NATO will inevitably have to carry out a ground attack and that this attack is imminent." 40

Transforming Low Intensity Conflict into Full Scale War

NATO's bombardment has spared nothing. Not only military targets, but factories, public buildings, residential areas, schools, pharmaceutical plants, chemical plants, oil refineries, bridges, and roads have been destroyed. The city of Novi Sad was without a supply of water for two weeks. NATO is deliberately destroying Yugoslavia as an industrial economy. Each day sees more factories obliterated and more workers faced with a loss of income. Several hundred civilians have been killed, and countless more wounded. This ruthless unprovoked savagery has only brought more suffering to the people of the Balkans.

NATO and the KLA are closely coordinating operations during the bombing campaign. A French reporter was told by a KLA soldier, "The KLA gives information on targets to NATO. Tuesday I transmitted information on a bridge and a road used by Serbs. The bridge was bombed and destroyed Wednesday morning." 41 An Italian journalist visiting a KLA camp was surprised to see walk in an officer "from NATO special forces. He does not seem surprised to see me, nor worried. He sat down next to [KLA soldiers] and began looking at a number of military maps." 42 According to the anonymous German official, "NATO and the German army are logistically supporting the KLA. Food, uniforms and instructors are furnished mainly by the Bundeswehr as well as by the USA. All KLA commanders are in constant radio contact with NATO. 43

NATO has also completed "detailed plans" for a ground invasion that is scheduled to take place no sooner than the end of May. The plan calls for 80,000 troops to invade the Kosovo region, and for an additional 200,000 troops in Bosnia, Hungary and Romania "to all but throttle Serbia and to cage Milosevic." A Romanian diplomat revealed that U.S. officials had discussed the deployment of NATO troops in Romania. According to a NATO officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, "There would be no point in just taking Kosovo. You'd have to take the whole country down." 44 Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov claims to have obtained "reliable information" that the invasion would ensure the secession or splitting off of Kosovo.45

"Since the first term of the Clinton Administration," the German official's statement states, the CIA, DIA and German BND have undertaken a covert action aimed at "the destruction of Yugoslavia...the last bastion of resistance in the Balkans." The objective of the plan "is the dissociation of Kosovo as the principal source of raw materials for Yugoslavia through a comprehensive autonomy, by Albanian annexation or total independence; the secession of Montenegro, its only remaining access to the Adriatic and the dislocation of Vojvodina, the 'bread basket' and another source of raw materials for Yugoslavia, leading to the total collapse of Yugoslavia as a viable industrial state." 46

The West, U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill asserts, will be "heavily involved" in Kosovo for decades.47 Madeleine Albright has declared that "NATO will be in charge of the real estate in Kosovo, just as they are in Bosnia."48

A precedent is being set. NATO's abrogation of international law and the United Nations Charter will have profound ramifications far beyond the Balkans in the years ahead."



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