Tuesday, July 26, 2005

US in even-handed betrayal of Kosovo - early 1999

US in even-handed betrayal of Kosovo

By Michael Karadjis


New atrocities against Albanian villagers by the Serbian occupation forces in Kosovo have further highlighted the western powers' “even-handed” policy. Even more than last year, virtually every commentary in the media has stressed that both sides -- the occupation forces of the Milosevic regime in Serbia, and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which is fighting to rid Kosovo of its 85-year oppression -- are equally at fault.
In a situation of brutal and illegal occupation, to be even-handed means to side with the oppressor. Putting equal blame on the KLA means demanding it end its armed struggle and accept continuing Serbian occupation.
Thus, following the massacre of 45 Albanian civilians in Racak, NATO's General Klaus Naumann, warning of western air strikes, said, “Both sides must be made to understand that they've reached the limit”. What had the KLA done to deserve this universal “equal” condemnation by western powers?
Last October, the United States intervened with a draft of a pro-Serbian plan for very limited autonomy for Kosovans -- far inferior to the autonomy they had enjoyed before 1989 in the old Yugoslav constitution -- in exchange for the withdrawal of only certain special units of the occupation forces.
According to most reports, the KLA's sin was to reoccupy the regions these special forces had withdrawn from. Western governments regard it as a crime for a liberation movement to move into areas where it has overwhelming support from the population.
The KLA, however, denies it has done this. On the contrary, while the KLA was not a signatory to the cease-fire, and was opposed to the blatantly pro-Serb plan which Milosevic's friends in the State Department handed down, it insists that it stuck to the cease-fire despite the cost being great suffering of the Albanian people.
“They also insist that the cease-fire enables Serbian forces free movement on the territory controlled by the KLA and therefore made it easy for them to carry out armed operations in which mostly the Albanian population suffered”, according to Pristina-based journalist Fehim Rexhepi.
In addition, the cease-fire brought in the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), the unarmed international monitors. The KLA has been highly critical of the KVM's interpretation of the cease-fire, which it claims prevents the KLA from aiding people who are under attack from occupation forces.
Now, after the massacre in Racak, the “safety” of the unarmed mission is being used as an excuse for western powers supposedly being incapable of aiding the Kosovans or intervening against Milosevic.
The same trick of sending a lightly armed “peacekeeping” force into a war zone was used for three and a half years during the war in Bosnia.
Then, the Milosevic regime and Bosnian Serb fascist forces were given the entire arsenal of former Yugoslavia by the US-inspired Vance plan in January 1992, and were allowed to withdraw them from Croatia into Bosnia. Meanwhile, NATO navies in the Adriatic Sea and UN (mostly British and French) troops at Bosnian airports enforced an arms embargo against the Bosnian government.
The presence of these UN troops, and many others providing “aid”, was used as an excuse for the west being incapable of either bombing the Bosnian Serb heavy weaponry or of lifting their criminal arms embargo. This was despite repeated calls by the Bosnian government, from 1993, for the UN occupation forces to get out.
In Kosovo, the Serbian occupation forces acted with impunity under the noses of the “peace verifiers.” The “cease-fire” included a major attack on the region of Podujevo on New Year's Eve, which drove out 5500 Albanians.
Offensive resumed
Following continuing violations, the KLA finally relaunched its offensive on January 8, arresting eight Serb officers who had entered KLA territory and attacked civilians.
NATO Secretary General Javier Solana immediately demanded that the officers be released, without mentioning the KLA's demand that some of its fighters be released in exchange. The head of the “peace verifiers” claimed, “The irresponsible actions of the KLA are the main reason for the significant increase of tension in Kosovo”.
When the latest massacre again put the spotlight on the Milosevic regime, some circles in the west immediately tried to cast doubt on what had happened. The French newspaper Le Figaro, generally close to ruling circles, attempted to blame the KLA for the massacre, despite journalists' reports from the large numbers of refugees who had fled the village after watching relatives be killed.
The same disgraceful tactic was regularly used by British and French leaders during the Bosnian war, when particularly gruesome massacres by shells fired into Sarajevo were claimed to have been the result of Muslims killing themselves to gain world attention.
Western interests
All western powers are completely devoted to Kosovo remaining part of Serbia and to the fiction of “Yugoslavia”, i.e., the federation of Serbia and Montenegro. “Yugoslavia” is held together only by brute force and is under the total control of the clique around Milosevic, his new deputy Vuk Draskovic of the moderate Chetnik Serbian Renewal Party (which wants to bring back the monarchy) and Serbian vice-president and war criminal Vojislav Seselj, head of the extremist Chetnik Serbian Radical Party, which is allied to Le Pen's National Front in France.
Despite Serb nationalist propaganda about Kosovo being Serbia's “Jerusalem”, there are far more material reasons for the continuing occupation, including the plan announced last year for the fire sale privatisation of Kosovo's rich mineral assets. From the point of view of the US and west European leaders, opposition to Kosovan independence (and even meaningful autonomy, judging by the US plan) has several roots.
At every important step since 1989, the western powers have aided the Belgrade regime: first in its attempt to control all of Yugoslavia and, when this was no longer possible, to keep control of as much of the region as possible.
Western bankers opposed independence for the ex-Yugoslav republics, especially the smaller and weaker ones, because they believed they would be unable to repay their debts. The collapse of Yugoslavia changed the preferred option to a division of the region between Serbia and Croatia; this meant the partition of Bosnia between them. In this set-up, Kosovo is part of Serbia.
West European states with their own restive minorities are opposed to “fragmentation” of Serbia because this might be an example at home; a “strongman” to keep “stability” in the region is necessary, even if they would prefer the strongman were less brazen at times.
Further, independence for Kosovo won by a revolutionary army could threaten the stability of the southern Balkans, including Albania and Macedonia.
The only thing which has fundamentally changed has been the emergence of the KLA to challenge this status quo. This was made possible by the liberation of thousands of weapons during the revolutionary uprising in Albania in 1997, many of which slipped across the border.
That is why current talk of air strikes is being directed at both sides; yet this is also the reason that substantial air strikes are not likely to occur. Air strikes on Serbian heavy weaponry, relatively easy due to their size and visibility, would give the advantage to the KLA if left at that.
Ground troops
Hence there is more talk than last year about the possibility of NATO sending ground troops. If it is necessary to defend “stability” in the region through air strikes, the west is preparing to occupy the region so that the KLA does not take advantage of the situation. This would then permanently freeze the situation and crush the Kosovans' struggle for independence.
What happens, however, depends on how outrageous Milosevic's thugs are in face of world opinion, and to what extent instability is heightened either by too ferocious ethnic cleansing or by victories by the KLA. But much of the US rhetoric about air strikes and the reluctance of the European powers is more related to US-Europe issues.
Since the end of the Cold War, the US has needed new reasons for the maintenance of NATO, which ensures US control over European military forces.
Its main need for NATO, however, is for action outside of Europe, especially in the Middle East, outside of NATO's brief. Throughout this period, it has pushed for NATO to be used “out of area” and to be able to act without UN approval, and has struggled against Franco-German ideas of an independent European security force.
European states like France and Germany have been less than enthusiastic at times about their forces being used for operations of primarily US interest, as in the Gulf.
The contradiction between aggressive rhetoric and years of complete lack of action is due to the fact that, while Yugoslavia provides a good excuse for establishing this “out of area” principle, it is against US interests to attack Milosevic in any kind of way that would aid the KLA. The US and the Europeans fundamentally agree that Kosovo must not be independent. Thus if any bombing does occur, this will be unlikely to target Serbia’s massive supply of heavy weaponry in Kosovo.
The US and the Milosevic regime may well come to blows, but this will be due to the latter refusing to allow a NATO armed force into occupied Kosovo which it considers to be “its own” – it is difficult to insist that Kosovo is ‘holy Serb land’, too holy for Albanians to have any rights, but then welcome in NATO. This is despite the fact that NATO’s role would be to disarm the KLA, which NATO believes it can do better than the bumbling Belgrade regime, whose tactics have only boosted it.The real US aim is freedom of action in the oilfields of the Middle East. Thus in Bosnia, the US's Dayton partition plan of 1995 was far more pro-Serbian than the previous European Union plans. Its current autonomy plan for Kosovo is likewise more pro-Serbian than the official EU position. There is thus little doubt in whose interests any NATO occupation force would act.

No comments: