Thursday, August 18, 2005

Reply to Ed Herman on Body Counts in Kosova

Reply to Ed Herman on Body Counts in Kosova

by Michael Karadjis


Edward Herman (Z-Magazine, February 2002, Body Counts in Imperial Service) sets out to reveal the ways in which mass killings are highlighted when such figures are in the service of western propaganda, but ignored when carried out by the same western leaders, or their clients such as Israel, Turkey and Indonesia. There is no question that such exposure is essential work for anti-imperialists to campaign against US and other western aggression as in the cases of the Gulf, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, Herman seems completely unable to remain on that fine line between justifying imperialist propaganda and war – where Hitchens etc have fallen – and scabbing on the oppressed and terrorised in places where western propaganda does sometimes suddenly find a need to exploit their suffering. Above all, this means the Kosovars and Bosniaks, whose terrorisation at the hands of the massive Serbian-Yugoslav military machine is surely equivalent to the terrorisation of the Kurds, Palestinians, Timorese and Iraqis by the massive Turkish, Israeli, Indonesian and US military machines.

Herman and others may argue that there is little point pointing out the suffering of these peoples as this is already done in the mass media. That, however, is not the problem. The problem is that Herman simply employs the same selective methods as the mass media in reverse, aiming to delegitimise the suffering and the struggles of the Kosovars and Bosniaks.

In so doing, he does a great disservice to the anti-imperialist cause. Our struggle against imperialist war and slaughter should centre on the fact that such aggression does not help the oppressed – even the cases where the oppressed are sometimes used for propaganda purposes – and that our solidarity is with all oppressed and terrorised peoples, wheter they are currently in or out of favour. Putting a minus everywhere that the US government propagandistically puts a plus does not create principled politics.

Regarding the conflicts in the Balkans, it would require us to write entire polemical books to thrash out all details of our differences. However, what appears indisputable is that previous to March 1999, in all the Balkan conflicts (Croatia, Bosnia and Kosova), one side, the Belgrade regime, possessed an absolutely overwhelming monopoly on means of state terror, with one of Europe’s largest military and police machines inherited from the former united Yugoslavia. On the other side, the West imposed an arms embargo on “all of Yugoslavia”, which meant that those republics which broke away were unable to arm themselves to resist Belgrade’s terror. The Yugoslav army had been the fourth most powerful military machine in Europe, its suppliers including the US up until the outbreak of war in 1991. The Serb republic managed to get hold of the entire arsenal, which belonged to all Yugoslavs and hence should have been divided between them, due to the Vance Plan in early 1992. As the Serbo-Croatian war was coming to an end, and Croatia was now on the offensive, the US via Cyrus Vance stepped in to force Croatia to allow the UN to occupy the zones which had been seized by the Yugoslav army, about one third of Croatia. Most of this had not been Serb-majority territory and the Croat majorities had been expelled. The UN was now to police the new border, with one third of Croatia now run by Serb nationalists.

Most crucially, Vance insisted that the Yugoslav army be allowed to take its entire arsenal, which was now scattered around Croatia and could have been divided among the republics, back to Serbia, and above all into Bosnia, which was still officially part of ‘Yugoslavia’. The JNA took from Croatia 300 tanks, 280 artillery pieces, 210 aircraft, tens of thousands of tons of equipment and supplies, and took it all into Bosnia, despite the fact that Serbian plans for Bosnia were very well known, Bosnian Serb rightist leader Karadzic had even threatened to make the Bosnian Muslims “disappear from the face of the Earth”. Croatia demanded that the JNA’s arsenals be placed under international supervision, warning that what had been done to Vukovar and Dubrovnik would be repeated on Bosnian cities, as was to occur; this was ignored by Vance and others who made “ultimatums and demands” on Croatia that JNA be allowed to withdraw its heavy weaponry to Bosnia.

The callousness with which Herman and so many apologists for Milosevic have for years made an issue of Kosovar death counts borders on the morbid. Certainly, if people like US defense secretary Cohen had suggested there were 100,000 dead, as Herman quotes, such a gigantic difference with the reality should well have been exposed as absurd propaganda. Cohen’s story of “100,000 missing” was indeed “a meaningless propaganda ploy” in the circumstances of war, when it was difficult to know who was missing and who was not, as Herman correctly states. Perhaps it was aimed at suggesting that such a number had already been killed, but that is drawing a long bow given that the realistic figure of 4600 dead was given by Cohen in the very next sentence.

However, the discussion rarely revolves around the obscure ‘100,000’ quote but over the somewhat less significant difference between around 4-5000 dead (the figure beloved by Belgrade apologists and the bulk of others who thought opposition to NATO’s terror meant we had to downplay that of Belgrade), and 10,000 dead, the figure given by the UN, which was the figure most quoted *by far* in the western media. Before looking at this in detail, let us for argument’s sake assume the lower figure to be correct.

Why, in that case, did nearly all imperialist propaganda only inflate the figures by a few thousand, surely not a very useful exaggeration? And indeed, if I am correct and the 10,000 is indeed closer to the mark, why do I believe NATO barely exaggerated the numbers at all? Could it be that with 850,000 Kosovars, half their entire population, brutally expelled from their country and languishing in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, for all the world to see (especially since they were in Europe rather than some ‘far off land’ easily ignored), that NATO simply had no need for any further propaganda other than this superb propaganda which Milosevic was handing it?

After all, if there were only 4-5000 deaths rather than 10,000, does that mean the expulsion of half the Kosovar population from their homes was any less of a crime against humanity?

No, NATO did not need any further propaganda. But surely Herman and company would have noticed that these 850,000 people were only expelled from Kosova after NATO began its terror bombing, a terror which had produced the political conditions under which it was now possible for Milosevic to do what his regime was previously incapable of. Therefore, rather than denying the extent of the attempted genocide, wouldn’t it be better for our propaganda to point out that this was a direct consequence of NATO’s actions? Why underestimate the consequences of NATO’s actions? If the real figures were 10,000 dead, then they were killed by the Yugoslav army, police and semi-fascist Serbian paramilitaries after and as a direct result of NATO’s aggression. They were part of the same region-wide catastrophe created by NATO which simultaneously was leading to the massacre of defenceless Serb civilians and the destruction of factories, power plants, bridges, trains, buses and so on in Serbia itself.

And here let me ask Herman a further question: as we are in agreement in opposing NATO’s terror against Serbian civilians and Serbian civilian infrastructure, if indeed there had been 10,000 rather than 4000 killed (after NATO’s attack) would this in any way give any retrospective justification for NATO’s attack? I fail to see how it could so what’s the point? Imperialist terror has to be opposed due to its own demerits; deliberately downplaying the crimes of the opponent, when such crimes are real, ends up being reverse liberalism: if the greater numbers were true, would imperialist intervention then be OK?

Perhaps the point is that even a small difference should be exposed to show that western leaders lie. However, if this is then done by deciding that the minimum possible figures must be the correct ones, in contrast to citing maximum death figures in other cases (Afghanistan, Timor), it serves far more to reveal how much Herman wants to underestimate the suffering of a people he considers ‘unworthy’ of sympathy, since their horrendous oppression drove them into the arms of NATO – in a mirror image of imperialist media concepts of ‘unworthy’ victims.

So how many did die? According to Hague boss Carla Del Ponte, “approximately 4000” bodies had been dug up from the search of 529 “mass graves” by the end of 2000 ( This figure combines the 2108 bodies dug up by the end of 1999 with the further 1835 by the end of 2000. As victims of NATO bombing were unlikely to have been buried in “mass graves”, and as Yugoslav army troops killed would have been retrieved by the army, and also unlikely to be in “mass graves”, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of these 4000 were murdered Albanians. Herman does not waste time disputing this, as some others do, as he uses the fact that the number of bodies found in Kosova is “under 4000” to show this cannot “demonstrate that 4600 people had been executed,” as suggested by Cohen, or for that matter, the later figure of 10,000.

This is a strange argument, because Herman’s own polemics create problems for it. He quotes an earlier figure of 2,108 bodies by late 1999, showing that further search almost doubled the body count in one year. Does this not suggest there may be more?

In fact, Herman himself suggests this, apparently without realizing the logic of what he is saying. He writes “according to the ICRC, there were some 3500 Kosovo residents still missing in May 2001, a figure which included some 900 Serbs, Roma and other non-Albanians.” Therefore, according to his figures, there could be another 2600 Albanians dead, taking the figure to some 6600. According to ICRC figures I came across at the time of Herman’s article, there were still 2915 missing Albanians, alongside 1,035 non-Albanians (646 Serbs, 67 Montenegrins, 219 Roma and 103 Bosniaks, plus a number of Goranci). As such, the total figure for killed or missing Albanians would be some 6900. Herman adds “whether these were all genuinely missing or had died is unclear.” But if they were not “genuinely missing” but “had died” then we must obviously add them to the 4000 dead. If they are still “genuinely missing” after so long the likelihood would seem to be that they are also dead.

But then there are those whose bodies have turned up in Serbia. Herman dismisses as a “story” the discovery of a refrigerator truck with dozens of Albanian bodies which had been dumped into the Danube. He confidently proclaims that no further such trucks have come to light. In fact, many further such trucks and mass graves inside Serbia did indeed come to light, with a total of some 1100 Albanian bodies. This figure is a public figure which can be found on Serbian government official sites and in Serbian media. Far from being a “story,” the Serbian government, UN and Kosova authorities have been involved for several years in a process of identifying and returning the bodies to Kosova.

This may not be the final figure – the Serbian government of Zoran Djindjic called off the search at that point. The reason is very obvious. The current western-backed Serbian government is full of former politicians, generals, police officers and mega-capitalists attached to the Milosevic regime. They were up to their eyeballs in the same crimes for which a select few have been chosen as scapegoats. In particular, Djindjic had powerful links with the Serbian Interior Ministry Police, who are credited with far more crimes in Kosova than the Yugoslav Army, linked more to Kostunica. And the embarrassing thing was that many of these trucks or graves of Kosovar Albanians were turning up on or near police grounds in Serbia.

If we add this minimum of 1100 bodies, we now have at least 7700 Albanian dead or missing, somewhere in between the lowest possible figures beloved by Herman and others, and the UN figures. But if we consider the fact that the Tribunal search teams were looking for “mass graves”, their figures would exclude the fact that returning Kosovar refugees no doubt immediately buried any dead relatives in proper individual graves. There is simply no reason to believe that most dead were buried in ‘mass graves’, let alone these designated 529 ‘mass’ graves.

Therefore, what is required is a thorough survey of the numbers killed, not merely a grotesque ‘body count’ methodology, with the well-known historical parallels of the use of such methodology. Has one been done? Fortunately, the one that has been done was carried out by the highly respected British medical journal the ‘Lancet’. Now, since the ‘Lancet’ did a similar survey in Iraq in 2006 which showed that at the time some 660,000 Iraqis had been killed since the US invasion, and this report has been widely quoted – and rightly – by Herman and his co-thinkers, then presumably Herman will be happy with the Lancet study of deaths in Kosova during the 1999 war?

So let me try. According to the study carried out by the Lancet, some 12,000 Albanians were killed in 1998-99, and another 4000 were still missing in September 1999 (4 months after the end of the war) when the study was carried out. Given that of these 4000, some 2000 turned out to be in Serbian prisons and have since returned, it suggests some 2000 missing, presumed dead, on top of 12,000 killed. This means the death toll may have been well over 10,000 Albanians. The Lancet study is at Note that its sample is much greater than that in the Iraq study.

What does any of this have to do with ‘genocide’? Is ‘genocide’ the difference between 5000 and 10,000 killed over a couple of months? A horrendous massacre, but not genocide. However, the reason many of us used the term genocide had little to do with numbers of deaths, but rather the attempt to destroy a whole people by driving them out of their country. The forced expulsion of 850,000 Albanians, nearly half their population, was what constituted attempted genocide, and there is no knowing whether or not more would have been expelled. This was combined with the destruction of 100,000 homes, and 215 mosques, a full one third of the mosques in Kosova, many going back to medieval times. An expulsion this size is similar to the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by the new Zionist state in 1948. I’m not sure how many thousands were killed during the ‘Nakbah’, or ‘Catastrophe’, but it is called such because such a mass expulsion destroyed their entire society, destroyed the Palestinians as a people living in Palestine, not specifically based on the numbers killed. Chomsky in his ‘New Military Humanism’ makes this comparison explicit. On the left, we have never had any qualms about calling the Palestinian Nakbah a form of genocide, and so we shouldn’t. For the sake of consistency, the same goes for the Kosova Nakbah of 1999.

And it is here, on the attempted Kosova genocide, the Kosova Nakbah, that I have yet to see any coherent genocide revisionism, that seriously questions the organized mass expulsion of the Kosovar population by the Serboslav army and rightist paramilitaries. In ‘Fool’s Crusade’, Diana Johnstone devotes a mere one page to this, and suggests the Albanians may have gone on holidays at relatives' houses in Albania and Macedonia to sit out the war; Parenti in ‘To Kill a Nation’ reports on a journalist who allegedly spoke to one (1) unnamed Albanian on a boat to Italy who allegedly said she had fled bombs rather than being expelled by the Serbian army. Not real heavy stuff from the two leading revisionist books.

However, it is in the case of Bosnia that Herman’s number-crunching, logic and politics is most skewed. At least in the case of Kosova, the fact that many lost sympathy for the terrorised Kosovars may be explained by their sympathy with the Serbian people being simultaneously terrorised by countries whose superiority over Yugoslavia in possession and use of means of terror was equivalent to the superiority which Yugoslavia had over the Kosovars.

In the case of Bosnia, however, there was no such US or NATO aggression; throughout the entire war it was clearly the Belgrade regime and its Bosnian Serb proxies it paid and armed that possessed and used absolute military superiority over the almost defenceless Bosnians.

Before going into the political questions, let’s look at Herman’s number-crunching. He disputes the widely quoted figures of 200,000 dead (or the unusually large figure of 250,000 given by David Rieff who he quotes), claiming “he gives no source, and is clearly regurgitating claims of Bosnian Muslim officials.” Yet later, referring to East Timor, he tells us that the Indonesian army and paramilitary forces killed over 5000 defenceless civilians even before the August 30, 1999 vote, according to Church estimates.”

So (Christian) “Church estimates” are worth quoting, especially when the killers are Muslims, but “Muslim officials” are not, especially when the killers are Christians. And we might add, alongside the “Muslim officials”, also the Christian Serb and Croat and atheist and Bosnian (of no declared nationality) officials, military leaders, clergy and so on who stood firmly alongside their Muslim allies in the Bosnian government or in defence of multi-ethnic Bosnia against the allied Serbian and Croatian right-wing chauvinists – the figures they mostly gave were also around the 200,000 mark.

Herman quotes George Kenney to the effect that the ICRC estimates 20-30,000 dead in Bosnia. Kenney in fact estimates between 25,000 and 65,000 dead, and it is clearly Herman who chooses to provide only Kenney’s minimum figure to the Z-Net readership. As for the ICRC, I have not found any figure for estimated dead in an admittedly quick search of their records on Bosnia, but I did find the figure of 20,000 for the numbers still missing, as Herman quotes. Amnesty International gives two figures for numbers missing, one of around 20,000 and one of around 27,000. Assuming the lower figure to be correct, Herman then jumps in with the following piece of “meaningless propaganda”: “which again doesn’t get us near 250,000 or genocide.”

Presumably, then, Herman believes the total number still missing equals the total number killed in the entire war. So for three and a half years, there was presumably not a single body found. Forget the thousands that the Red Cross had already reported from the concentration camps in 1992. Forget the 13,000 graves in Sarajevo, a city where all the cemeteries were full so early that parks and sports grounds and numerous other places had to be used to bury the dead. Forget the non-stop sieges by massively armed Serbian chauvinist forces who daily and endlessly poured enormous firepower into the defenceless citizenry not only of Sarajevo but also of Tuzla, Zenica, Bihac, Srebrenica, Zepa, Gorazde, Zepce, Mostar (first by the Serbian chauvinists and then by their Croat chauvinist allies) and a host of other towns. Forget the ongoing battles for three and a half years as Serbian and allied Croatian forces attempted to conquer even more non-Serb and non-Croat majority territory (most of which they had already conquered) while the Muslims and multi-ethnic populations attempted to hold them back. Is it entirely unreasonable that in three and a half years the death toll would have mounted to 150-200,000?

In Vietnam, there are 300,000 Vietnamese still missing after nearly 30 years. There are usually estimated to have been 3 million killed. That’s a rate of one in ten missing. There are also some 3-4000 Americans missing – again about the same ratio to the 50,000 Americans killed. I’d hazard a guess that these figures are about average to many conflicts. In that case, 20,000 missing and 200,000 killed seem most likely round figures. However, if we take out the particular case of the 7000 missing from Srebrenica following the June 1995 massacre, and multiply the remaining 13,000 by 10 we get a possible figure of 130,000.

Incidentally, doesn’t the figure of 300,000 Vietnamese still missing after 30 years make Herman and those who engage in this nonsense stop to think how silly it looks to decide that the latest body count in Kosova after only a few years must without doubt be the final one? Do Herman and company perhaps believe that the Vietnamese government has merely invented this figure for propaganda purposes? Has he researched the evidence? Or does he believe that Vietnamese tell the truth but Balkan Muslims lie?

In fact, a study comparing the pre-war and post-war population of Bosnia, and adding all the known Bosnians living elsewhere in the world, the total number of dead or missing comes to 229,000, of whom 75 percent were Muslims, if it is assumed that there would have been no population increase over that period. If the rate of growth that existed previous to the war is assumed, the numbers of dead or missing rise to 343,000, of whom 64 percent were Muslims (‘Demographic Consequences of the Bosnia War’, by Murat Praso, ). Muslims were 43 percent of the population. Take your pick – my guess is somewhere in between.

(Since writing this, the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Centre has done a very thorough study of Bosnian deaths and as of 2007 the still-rising total is nearly 100,000, of who 66 percent are Muslims, and 83 percent of civilian deaths are Muslims. For elaboration on this, see my post on this site ‘How many, and who, died in Bosnia? at

The most appalling point is reached when Herman talks about the Srebrenica massacre of 8000 defenceless Muslim men and boys in July 1995, surely the crowning atrocity of the entire Balkan wars. “In Srebrenica, there have been only 473 bodies recovered, and there is absolutely no credible evidence that 7500 men and boys who allegedly disappeared in this area in July 1995 were murdered.” No credible evidence. The Muslim women survivors of Srebrenica are all a bunch of liars.

It would be one thing if this statement were simply the kind of gratuitous ignorance that much of the left has prided itself on regarding this issue, basically, “the less I know, the better” attitude, so they can parade around sounding very sophisticated by voicing inanities like “all sides committed atrocities”, without the trouble of having to distinguish oppressor and oppressed, a bit like the received liberal wisdom on “both sides” committing atrocities and not compromising on Palestine. Yet Herman is in fact worse than this.

As he has just quoted the ICRC on the numbers missing in Bosnia, he would have had in his face the ICRC figure (13/7/2000) of 7439 missing from Srebrenica alone, among 20,000 missing in Bosnia. Added to the 473 bodies recovered, this gives a total figure of 7912. “No credible evidence” that these “alleged missing” have been killed. Presumably Herman thinks they are all hiding out with Karadzic and being fed by their generous Chetnik captors. Just to compare, the Amnesty International website at the same time gave a figure of 6-8000 missing in Srebrenica, and claimed “every one of the scores of Moslems we have met who left Srebrenica in 1995 has a relative or friend now among the missing” (the site also claimed 1000 Croatian Serbs were missing following Croatia’s ‘Operation Storm’ in the Krajina). Since Herman wrote this, in fact 5000 bodies have now been uncovered, and in mid-2004, the Bosnian Serb government of the ethnically-cleansed ‘Republika Srpska’ formally confessed to the crime and claimed 7800 were killed by their henchmen.

Interestingly, Herman notes: ‘In 1999, when the people of Australia's closest northern neighbour, East Timor, which had been invaded and annexed by the Indonesia dictatorship of General Suharto, finally had an opportunity to vote for independence and freedom, it was the Howard government that betrayed them. Although warned by Australia's intelligence agencies that the Indonesian army was setting up militias to terrorise the population, Howard and his foreign minister, Alexander Downer, claimed they knew nothing; and the massacres went ahead. As leaked documents have since revealed, they did know.’

He claims UN troops finally went in to end the carnage, but not till after so many Timorese had already been killed. Quite so. Funny how he can make no analogy with Bosnia. Just as the UN refused for months to defend the Timorese after a UN-called referendum, so likewise, after an EU-called referendum in Bosnia in early 1992, neither the EU nor UN did anything to protect the Bosnians for three and a half years when they immediately came under massive attack by the most massive military force in the region. The UN even set up “safe havens” in a few cities a year or so later, where they disarmed the Bosnians, promising to “protect” them themselves. They never did. The “safe havens” continued to get bombed for years. Srebrenica was one of those “safe havens”, overrun by the Chetniks in July 1995. The UN politely made way for them.

Pity Herman cannot see any analogy.

Michael Karadjis

Yugoslavia and History: With fascist or anti-fascist Serbs?

Yugoslavia and history

By Michael Karadjis

Jerome Fitzgerald (“Write on”, GLW #348) correctly points to the importance of history and the need to get our facts right. Unfortunately, he repeats some common views on the conflicts in Yugoslavia which lack any basis in fact.

Fitzgerald states that Kosovo has been part of Serbia for 1000 years. A host of reactionary regimes use such irrational “history” to justify rule over regions inhabited by oppressed nations.
There were no states in the modern sense 1000 years ago. The Albanians' descendants, the Illyrians, preceded the Slavs in the region by 2000 years. In the 14th century, there was a large Serbian-ruled empire which dominated many nationalities, including Albanians -- this is the origin of the idea that Kosovo has “always been part of Serbia”.

Serbia rebelled against the Ottomans in the 19th century and gained independence. The other peoples had their own movements for independence, including the Albanians. There were no “natural” or “legal” borders, just regions of greater or lesser concentrations of one or another ethnic group.

The strongest new capitalist states -- Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia -- seized the remaining Ottoman possessions in Europe, including Kosovo and Macedonia, in 1912-13.
Kosovo's population was overwhelmingly Albanian and resisted furiously. The Serbian monarchy was pitiless in its suppression. According to the investigators of the Carnegie Commission: “Houses and whole villages reduced to ashes, unarmed and innocent populations massacred en masse, incredible acts of violence, pillage and brutality of every kind ... with a view to the entire transformation of the ethnic character of regions inhabited exclusively by Albanians.”

Following World War I, under Anglo-French auspices, a new Yugoslav state was formed for the south Slavic peoples, headed by the Serbian monarchy. The monarchy suppressed the aspirations all other non-Serb peoples. The outlawed Communist Party called for the right to self-determination and the radical restructuring of Yugoslavia into an equal federation of all its peoples.

The Albanians were not Slavs, and they were Muslims. For those reasons, the ruling dynasty felt they were best eliminated. The Albanian population was reduced by half, as about 400,000 people fled to Albania or Turkey.

In World War II, the resistance movement against the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia swept across every part of the country, led by Tito and his Communist partisans.

Fitzgerald claims, “the Serbs fought against Hitler's fascists, all the others in the Balkans were on the Nazi-fascist Hitler's side”. Unfortunately, this argument is widely believed by many on the left, who, in a most “un-left” fashion, confuse whole nations with political currents, as if nations don't consist of different social classes.

Hence all Serbs are seen as progressive (“only Serbs” fought against Hitler), while all Croats are fascists and supposedly supported the genocidal Nazi puppet state, led by the Ustashe, in German-occupied Croatia.

In Nazi-occupied Yugoslavia, there were two main puppet states, the Ustashe in Croatia and the regime of Serb General Nedic in Serbia, which contained the core of the pre-war Serb monarchical state. “Serbian” Belgrade was the first city in Europe to be declared Judenfrei (free of Jews). The regime formed an organisation called the Chetniks which terrorised its opponents.
Serbian Chetnik forces initially fought against the Ustashe regime, as its goal of a “Greater Serbia” was in conflict with the Ustashe's “Greater Croatia”. But the Chetniks' main enemy was the partisans and they eventually became full-scale collaborators of the Nazis.
After the war, Tito's Communist government executed the Chetnik leader Mihailovic.

Just as collaborators existed on all sides, so did partisans. The overwhelming bulk of resistance activity occurred in Bosnia and Croatia. According to Yugoslav statistics, at the height of the war in late 1943, there were 122,000 partisans active in Croatia, 108,000 in Bosnia, and only 22,000 in Serbia.

Of course many partisans in Croatia and Bosnia were ethnic Serbs, but many were from other nationalities -- in Croatia, 61% of partisans were Croats and 28% Serbs. While figures do not exist for Bosnia, a large proportion were also Muslims, who were being slaughtered by all sides.
Only the partisans promised a Bosnian republic within their proposed Yugoslav federation. The Muslim clergy in 1941 issued resolutions condemning atrocities being carried out by Ustashe and Chetniks, and condemned persecution of Jews and Serbs. Bosnian Muslims suffered the highest per capita losses of any nationality in Yugoslavia.

Tito himself was a Croat, and current Croatian president Tudjman, whatever his right-wing sins today, was a partisan leader in the war. The last Yugoslav federal president, the Croat Stipe Mesic, had much of his family murdered by the Ustashe. In Yugoslavia's dying days, Slobodan Milosevic slandered Mesic as Ustashe and blocked his presidency.

Tito's Yugoslav federation was a big advance over capitalist Yugoslavia for the non-Serb nationalities, because they now had their own republics. Kosovo's Albanians, although one of the main population groups in Yugoslavia, were not granted a republic, but merely autonomy within the Serbian republic.

However, under pressure from the rising Albanian national movement, Tito upgraded Kosovan autonomy in the 1974 constitution, allowing it equal representation with the six republics on the federal level.

This move was the target of the rising Serb nationalist movement in the late 1980s, which, as “market forces” crept into both the economic system and the ideology behind it, aimed to create a new “Greater Serbia” for the rising Serbian bourgeoisie.

Milosevic came to power on this wave, and set about destroying all his opponents who still believed in Tito's slogan “brotherhood and unity”. The line went that the entire post-war federation was a gigantic anti-Serb plot hatched by the Vatican and the Comintern in the person of the Croat Communist Tito.

In 1989, the Milosevic forces unilaterally and illegally abolished Kosovo's constitutional autonomy, beginning the process that led to the end of Yugoslavia.

In Kosovo, Milosevic introduced wage differentials between Serb and Albanian workers, sacked hundreds of thousands of Albanian workers from the state sector, left hundreds of Albanian doctors and thousands of Albanian teachers without jobs, and hence Albanians without these services, and made the Serb language and the Cyrillic alphabet compulsory in all official dealings. The Albanian majority have the right to fight such apartheid.

The Chetniks were revived, and this is the origin of the parties who are now Milosevic's “Socialist” Party's coalition partners. Milosevic's party dumped its communist ideology in favour of nationalism.

The main Chetnik parties are the Serbian Revival Movement led by Yugoslav deputy prime minister Vuk Draskovic, which concentrates on monarchy, church and tradition, and the Serbian Radical Party led by Serbia's vice-president Vojislav Seselj, which is violently racist.
Among the Bosnian Serbs, the party that led the genocide against Bosnia's Muslims, the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) led by Radovan Karadzic, also harks from the Chetnik tradition. It is these forces that are “fascist”, not Serbs in general.

For example, in 1991, Seselj boasted in the Serbian parliament that his forces had gouged the eyes out of a dozen Croats and claimed the only solution was to “cut the throat of every Croat”.
Karadzic in late 1991 told the Bosnian parliament that unless Bosnia remained in Milosevic's “Yugoslav” rump, the Bosnian Muslims “would disappear from the face of the Earth”. These fascist forces in coalition with Milosevic in the Serbian and Yugoslav governments allow him to keep power.

Serb opposition

On the other side, thousands of Serbs refuse to be drafted to fight in Kosovo, and during the Bosnian war, thousands of Serbs fought in the multi-ethnic Bosnian army alongside their Muslim and Croat comrades.

General Divjak, who led the defence of Sarajevo against the Chetniks, is a Serb. The Serb Civic Council was formed by Serbs who lived in government-controlled regions and refused to accept the Chetniks as their representatives at peace talks. The imperialist powers took no notice and only recognised the SDS.

In the part of Bosnia controlled by the SDS, half the Serb population fled so as not to be drafted into the Chetnik army. In Serbia proper, the Living in Sarajevo coalition, made up of a large assortment of anti-fascist Serbs, took action against the war. In Belgrade, 88% of draft-age men refused to heed the call-up.

Which Serbs are we with? Those anti-fascist Serbs, who continue in the partisan tradition, or those who continue the Chetnik tradition and hold power in Belgrade?

I agree with Fitzgerald's opposition to the entry of NATO troops into Kosovo. However, when he “hopes the Serbs will fight again”, we must recognise that Serbs constitute only 10% of Kosovo's population, so it is unclear how and where they will fight.

The illusion of many Albanians that NATO will “protect” them stems from the unbearable repression and massacres they have endured. However, the best protection is armed self-defence. Yet the role to be assigned to the NATO forces is the disarmament of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Milosevic and NATO may well come to blows over the former's opposition to NATO troops on “his” territory, but this opposition is due to the embarrassment of seeing NATO doing his work for him!

Once NATO troops arrive, those who believe Kosovo was always part of Serbia can be assured it will remain that way. All the western powers are in total opposition to Kosovan independence -- despite this being the wish of virtually the entire Albanian population.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bush, Belgrade and the Balkans 2001: To partition or not partition the region

Bush, Belgrade and the Balkans

By Michael Karadjis

Late 2001

Washington’s symbolic victory of Milosevic’s extradition to the Hague notwithstanding, the Bush administration continues to confront a region which defies western attempts to impose a new stability conducive of capitalist investment.

Two and a half years ago, NATO troops entered Kosova, following its savage air war against Yugoslavia. Today, the continuing catastrophic state of Kosova and the spread of the Albanian national movement to south Serbia and Macedonia underline the degree to which NATO has spectacularly failed in its tragicomic aim of forcing the Kosovars to remain within Yugoslavia, the state that recently tried to annihilate them.

This failure is making it difficult for the new Bush team to implement its plans to withdraw from the Balkans.

Other new factors are further complicating the picture, including the independence drive by a wing of the Montenegrin ruling elite and by Croatian nationalist forces in Bosnia. Meanwhile, the very manner by which the group around Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic handed over Milosevic – by openly defying federal Yugoslav authorities – also threatened the increasingly fragile Yugoslav federation.

While western leaders lauded the extradition of Milosevic, they also hurriedly urged Yugoslav, Serbian and Montenegrin authorities to negotiate a new federal government to overcome the crisis. When the new government came into being, the same Montenegrin opposition party – the Socialist National Party (SNP) – again shared the reins with the ruling Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition.

The SNP had also been the coalition partner in the former Milosevic government, and so temporarily pulled out of its alliance with DOS to protest the former leader’s extradition, leading to the collapse of the federal government. However, this put it in a highly contradictory position, because it represents the wing of the Montenegrin ruling elite most dedicated to the preservation of Yugoslavia.

Despite various conspiracy theories about western powers trying to “break up” the remains of Yugoslavia (which consists of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosova) and now Macedonia, in fact it is the very threat to these states’ survival that the NATO powers are attempting to suppress.

One reason for this is the necessity to cultivate a local ‘strongman’ in the form of Yugoslavia to do some of the work of maintaining regional stability if US troops are ever to withdraw. By inviting Yugoslav troops in to fight the Albanian rebels in the Serbia-Kosova buffer zone in a successful joint NATO-Yugoslavia military operation, the Bush team has taken an important step in this direction.

However, Belgrade’s usefulness as ‘strongman’ is limited. While it may be useful against the buffer-zone rebels, and while it has been awarded the mineral rich north of Kosova by French NATO troops, any forceful re-imposition of Serbian rule on the rest of Kosova would blow the whole region up.

Moreover, attempts by the weak Macedonian government to crush the Albanian insurgency there have only inflamed it, and while the Albanian regime has done its best to condemn the insurgents, it has little influence over them. Intervention either by Yugoslavia, NATO-member Greece or NATO-aspirant Bulgaria, all of which have offered military support to Macedonia, would be highly dangerous.

For the US to withdraw from the Balkans, the region needs to be stabilised for western investment. But stability requires some kind of consistency among state structures in the region. Unofficially, western leaders are divided between two opposite forms of consistency – while in practice maintaining glaring inconsistencies.

The first, which is that officially advocated, is that state borders cannot be changed. Thus, while Kosovars, sometime in the future, can have “autonomy”, they cannot be independent of Yugoslavia, and neither can the republic of Montenegro. The same goes for the Albanians of Macedonia. Likewise, while the Dayton Accord partitioned Bosnia into a Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and a Moslem-Croat Federation, these two states must maintain the fiction of being joined under a weak Bosnian government, held together by a western staffed colonial administration.

The opposite form of consistency being increasingly advocated by various semi-official western circles is a new regional partition based on a number of mono-ethnic states. Thus Bosnia would be dissolved, Croatia could annex Croat-dominated parts of Bosnia and Republika Srpska could officially join Serbia, which could also keep hold of northern Kosova, while the rest of Kosova and perhaps the Albanian-dominated regions of Macedonia could join Albania.

Versions of this Greater Serbia-Croatia-Albania solution have been floated recently by Thomas Friedman, influential journalist strongly linked to the US government, in the January 24 International Herald Tribune, and by Lord Owen, key British negotiator during the Bosnian war.

Similarly, Texas senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, in an article in London's Financial Times titled "Back to the Balkan drawing board," claims Yugoslavia and the surrounding region are "likely to remain under NATO occupation for years," but "long term western occupation is a poor foundation on which to build a lasting peace in the Balkans," advocating Washington "redrawing the border lines" and set up real "Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, and secular Muslim states."

The depth of this view among top US circles was revealed at a Columbia University symposium on the Balkans chaired by General Keith Dayton, deputy director of Politico-Military Affairs for Europe/Africa at the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to journalist Tanja Domi in New York, “scholars and US military officers attending the seminar appeared to be in almost unanimous agreement that current state boundaries in the Balkans should be redrawn to create more stable mono-ethnic states,” such new boundaries enshrining homogenous ethnic entities following “the historical patterns and ‘natural instincts’ of Europe.”

For western powers wanting regional stability, mono-ethnic states would appear a sensible goal. Partition of Bosnia meant they only had to police the dividing line rather than the whole country, as in Kosova. Why not let the partition of Bosnia, Kosova and Macedonia complete itself?

Furthermore, from a democratic point of view, why not let Albanians, Serbs and Croats join Albania, Serbia and Croatia, recognising their right to self-determination?

However, these premises are fraught with danger. David Foley, a State Department official with the Bosnia Implementation unit, noted that “once you start redrawing lines, there's no stopping.”

In other words, Greater Serbia may not be a problem, but it would lead to Greater Albania; if an Albanian region of Macedonia were to join Kosova or Albania, it would leave a more purely ethnic Macedonian state. Nationalistic forces there would reason that if its territory could be shorn by the Albanian minority, then perhaps its territory could be expanded to include regions of Greece and Bulgaria where the Macedonian minority predominates.

Greece, however, is part of NATO, and moreover, despite their offers to aid Macedonia, neither Greece nor Bulgaria recognise an ethnic Macedonian nation. A small Serb minority lives in the north of Macedonia, and an ethnic Greek minority in southern Albania. A considerable conflagaration could develop. Greece’s regional rival but NATO ally Turkey could then pose as champion of the region’s Moslems, including Turkish minorities in Greece and Bulgaria, hence undermining NATO’s southern flank. This is the long-feared “nightmare scenario.”

Thus unless Macedonia could be peacefully partitioned among its neighbours and agree to disappear – an unlikely prospect – stability at this stage requires it remains united as a multi-ethnic state and Albanian unity avoided.

Moreover, formalising Greater Serbia via its annexation of half of Bosnia would lead to Greater Croatia in parts of the other half, yet there is no ‘Croat republic’ in the Dayton Accord. Rather, Croats, Moslems, mixed Bosnians and a small number of Serbs live in the “Moslem-Croat Federation”. If Croatia were to annex the Croat-dominated parts of this federation along its Dalmatian border, it would leave the Moslems, in the words of current UN ‘High Representative’ in Bosnia, Wolfgang Petritsch, “squeezed in a mini-state contemplating revenge. We would have created Gaza Strip in the middle of Europe.”

Not surprisingly, therefore, in early March, Petritsch dismissed Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Ante Jelavic from the tripartite Bosnian presidency, barring him from holding any elected office or political party post, and sacked three other senior HDZ officials, when the Bosnian Croat National Assembly announced the formation of a new Croat Republic in Bosnia, in violation of Dayton.

The US government strongly backed Petritsch's decision, as did the UN Security Council which met and condemned the HDZ.

Yet also in early March, Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska signed an agreement on “special links”, as they come closer together politically, economically and culturally.
There was no western reaction.

Indeed, in the run up to Bosnia’s November elections, the western-backed Kostunica regime strongly supported the far right Serb Democratic Party (SDS), party of former leader Radovan Karadzic, the organiser of the Bosnian genocide. Representatives of Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) also appeared at SDS election rallies. After the SDS's victory, a Kostunica spokesperson claimed “this is proof that citizens have confidence in the national and state policy of the SDS.”
Friedman’s suggestion to let “the Serbian sector fall under Serbia and the Croatian sector under Croatia, leaving the rump Muslim sector as an independent ministate” is completely dishonest, as is the comparison with Kosovar self-determination. There is no such thing as a Serbian or Croatian sector in Bosnia – such ‘sectors’ were created through the massive ethnic cleansing of Bosnia’s Moslems who previously lived all over the republic.

Friedman is thus not advocating the ‘right of self-determination’ of Bosnian Serbs and Croats (they were always equal constitutional partners with the Moslems in Bosnia and this had never been threatened), but rather, he is advocating that the massive violation of the Bosnian Moslems’ right to self-determination be formally recognised.

In fact, the West’s current recognition of Republika Srpska is already a major destabilising force in the region, because it puts Bosnian Serbs on a higher level than any other minority in the Balkans.

Since Serbian ethnic cleansers have been rewarded with their own republic, then why not Croatian ethnic cleansers? And why not Kosovars and Albanians in Macedonia, who already form the overwhelming majority of the population in their respective regions?

Why does NATO in Bosnia merely police the partition line and allow Republika Srpska to do as it wishes, while attempting to police the whole of Kosova and prevent the Kosovars setting up their republic? Even the maximum offered to the Kosovars in the future – ‘autonomy’ within Yugoslavia – falls far short of the ‘republic’ status granted Bosnian Serbs. Republika Srpska has its own army, whereas Kosova is banned from having one.

While Republika Srpska and northern Kosova increasingly merge with Serbia, Montenegro, which has the status of ‘republic’ within Yugoslavia, is being blunty told by the US and the European Union (EU) to drop plans for independence. “Support for Montenegrin independence is, right now, even less than before,” said Ivo Daalder, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank. “If (Montenegrin leader) Djukanovic insists on pursuing this path in clear opposition to what the new federal authorities want, he won't find much support in Washington.”

The hysteria reached the point where the April 28 International Herald Tribune ran an editorial with the heading “Montenegro Against the World”.

Quite remarkably therefore, the consistency required is being sacrificed to the benefit of the state the western powers see as the centre of the region and the potential regional cop: post-Milosevic Yugoslavia. As the pro-imperialist think-tank Stratfor notes, “the best Washington can hope for is to stabilize the situation long enough to exit on its own terms. Where there cannot be balance, there must be a dominant power, and both Europe and the new U.S. administration seem inclined to vest that power in Belgrade.”

However, there are major headaches relating to withdrawing. On the one hand, in January German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping went to Moscow to ask Russia to increase its number of troops in Kosova, to replace the US contingent, in the event the US began withdrawing from the region.
Maneuvres such as Scharping’s, in the context of the French-German push for an independent European army, threaten a European Union-Russia continental military and economic alliance which would make US-controlled NATO irrelevant. Maintaining overall US military supremacy via NATO in this region of oil and gas routes bordering the Middle East and the Caspian is a strategic interest.

Balkans Late 2001: NATO launches anti-Muslim witch-hunt

The Balkans in the ‘War Against Terrorism’

By Michael Karadjis

November 14, 2001

Following the September 11 World Trade Centre atrocity, the US produced a list of countries which allegedly “harbour terrorists” or where “terrorists” have bases. In the Balkans the list consisted of Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia and Kosova. The fundamentally anti-Moslem nature of US intervention in the Balkans has come to the fore.

NATO has launched a witch-hunt, with all ‘Islamist’ forces declared suspect of links to Osama bin Laden. This has been given ideological backing by the Serbian-Yugoslav, Croatian and Macedonian governments, all raising their hands as front-line states in the “war against (Islamic) terrorism”.

In Bosnia NATO has swung into action in open violation of that country’s sovereignty.

According to the Sarajevo journalist Emir Habul, “in late September, using armoured vehicles and helicopters and blocking the approach roads to surrounding villages, American troops launched a spectacular operation, taking the unfinished airport near Visoko, north of Sarajevo, lasting one day and night.” Two guns and several shells left from the war were found.

“In Bihac, on September 22, SFOR (NATO) units and FBI members arrested a Jordanian, Abu Kharroub Majed, after ‘a prolonged surveillance’. When Majed was released two days later, it turned out that he had been living in Bosnia for twenty years, had normal citizenship papers and worked for the High Saudi Committee for Children Without Parental Care (VSK).”

“On that day the VSK was to pay financial aid for 519 orphans. A week earlier another such payment was stopped due to action by Italian troops. SFOR raided the VSK’s offices and arrested two local staff. A day earlier a Jordanian and an Egyptian were arrested in a Sarajevo hotel. The only thing SFOR discovered was a strong-box containing a large amount of money.”

The operations and the identity of those arrested were kept secret. Only foreign troops took part in these operations, local police and officials kept in the dark. Those arrested were kept in isolation at a military base and interrogated by the FBI. They were denied access to their legal counsels, in open violation of Bosnian law, and kept for periods which also violated Bosnian law, under which a suspect can be kept without charges laid for only 24 hours.

Adding to this anti-Islamic atmosphere, on October 17, US and British embassies and other agencies were suddenly closed in Sarajevo until further notice because of an alleged “credible threat” to their security. The US also shut down its consulates in Mostar and Banja Luka.

It’s clearly high time for anyone who thought NATO’s occupation of Bosnia was aimed at “aiding” the Bosnian Moslems rather than policing them to re-find their discarded political thinking caps.

While itself investigating all citizenships granted to Islamic “foreigners,” the Bosnian government of Prime Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija has been alarmed by SFOR’s violations of its sovereignty. Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Limov warned that we shouldn't see a terrorist in every foreigner coming from Islamic countries. The government managed to force the concession that suspicious citizens should be first brought to SFOR by the local police, but it remains to be seen whether NATO will take any notice.

Nevertheless, wanting to shake off the accusation of being “soft on terrorists” and not wanting the local anti-Moslem regimes to gain all the western credit, the Bosnian and Albanian governments have stepped up their own harassment of Islamist forces.

For example, five Pakistani citizens were banished from Bosnia before their residence visas expired, merely because they were religious activists, though not connected with terrorism. Two
Egyptians were deported on October 6, even though the detention of one of them, Arman Ahmed al Huseini, had been legally revoked. He was simply grabbed at the gates of Sarajevo prison as he walked out and was thrown out of the country.

The Active Islamic Youth has also been accused of having links to terrorism. Founding member Muris Cupic claims “there is no danger of militant Islam,” insisting that his group only want to preach and express their religious identity.

At the centre of this hysteria are some 3000 foreign Islamic fighters, the ‘mujahedeen’, who came to assist Bosnia against Serbo-Croatian aggression during the 1992-95 war. While their “Islamic” vision was at odds with that of Bosnia’s multi-ethnic government, in the Balkan context it was Serbo-Croatian anti-Islamic chauvinism and genocide, not Islamic fundamentalism, that was the leading danger. The government had little choice to accept aid from whoever was willing to give it, given that the country’s defence was crippled by a criminal UN-NATO arms embargo.

When the war ended, the US launched a hysterical campaign about the presence of these fighters, and made it a condition for western aid that they be expelled from the country. The Bosnian government was also pressured to drop government ministers considered too close to them. However, some remained, married Bosnians and applied for citizenship. Some 300 former mujahedeen families settled in Bocinja, an abandoned Serb village in central Bosnia. Many of these families have left their houses in the past year as Bosnian Serbs returned to their pre-war homes.

According to Sarajevo journalist Sead Numanovic, the Bosnian government is now “conducting an investigation into all passports and citizenships issued to foreigners since 1992. Federal police have been checking and double-checking on the whereabouts of all remaining mujahedeen.”

After Bosnia's most well-known Islamic fighter, Abu Hamza, publicly condemned the atrocities in the US, he noted that “every time so much as a firecracker explodes anywhere in Bosnia, the police come knocking on my door.”

Rejecting the hysteria, Bosnian Foreign Minister Amer Kapetanovic said the former fighters remaining were now naturalized Bosnian citizens. "No one denies that there were fighters from Islamic countries in the Bosnian army, but this does not mean that they are all terrorists.”

The partners in Bosnia’s violent carve-up, Serbia-Yugoslavia and Croatia, have been having a field day with ridiculously inflated numbers of mujahedeen in Bosnia and claims that Bin Laden was given Bosnian citizenship.

Serbia’s deputy prime minister, Nebojsa Covic, told German MP Friedberg Fluger that “there were over ten thousand mujahedeen in Bosnia and many still remain - and there are over three thousand in Kosovo. They are all little Bin Ladens.” Voice of America reporter, Berry Wood, concurred that “some radical Islamic groups in Bosnia are closely linked to the terrorist web” including many Bin Laden followers.

Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica claimed that “Yugoslavia, as a victim of terrorism, has always expected the international community to be more forthcoming against any form of terrorism anywhere in the world.”

Kostunica was not referring to the US-NATO terror against his country in 1999. Rather, what he and others in the pro-western “post-Milosevic” regime mean is that Serbia-Yugoslavia’s anti-Moslem aggression in Bosnia and Kosova were part of the same fight against “Islamic terrorism” that western powers were also waging.

Sinisa Vucinic, who led the fight to prevent Milosevic being taken to the Hague, revealed the thinking of those around the entourage of the former “anti-imperialist” leader, declaring that “78 days of (NATO) bombing are easier to forgive than five centuries of (Ottoman) oppression.” Vucinic was dredging up the basic ideology of Milosevic’s neo-Chetnik movement: that the Serbs led the defence of “western Christian civilisation” against “Islamic barbarism” by fighting the Ottoman Empire and were continuing this role in Bosnia and Kosova.

Even Milosevic himself, at his second “status conference” at the Hague on October 29-30, declared his support for the Bush regime’s “war on terror”, claiming credit for trying to initiate this campaign during his government’s crackdown on the KLA, which he linked to Bin Laden, while denouncing Clinton as an "ally of Albanian terrorism."

The US-imposed Dayton Accord of 1995 partitioned Bosnia into Serbian and Croatian-dominated halves, but the Serbian-Yugoslav and Croatian regimes aim to totally dissolve Bosnia and annex their respective zones. While the Serbian half is a “Serb Republic” (due to the expulsion of the Moslem and Croat majority from these regions), the Croatian-dominated half is merely a “Croat-Moslem Federation”, as the US had nowhere else to shove the Moslems and aimed to avoid “Gaza in Europe.”

This left the Croatian nationalists dissatisfied. Early this year, they declared the “Croatian” zones (from where Moslems and Serbs had been expelled) to be a new republic, but the UN-NATO administration cracked down, banned the concerned leaders from public office, raided a Croat bank funding these forces and clashed with Croat militia.

For Croatian nationalists the emphasis is thus on showing that September 11 proves it is impossible to live together with Moslems. . “How can one build a multiethnic society with them, when they crash planes full of passengers into cities?” asks the rabidly nationalist Croatian media, according to Zagreb journalist Igor Lasic. President Stjepan Mesic called for a world anti-terrorist front, claiming “the only choice now is us or them”. The Zagreb daily Jutarnji List claimed “Moslems throughout the world are celebrating the terrorist attacks.” A regular columnist, influential Catholic priest Zivko Kustic, called on local Moslems to repent and to publicly state their views on terrorism.

Croatian TV aired a program entitled “A new war?” which suggested that Bosnia represents a terrorist threat to the stability of the whole region. It also featured Professor Uros Dujsin of the Zagreb Law School, who declared that Islam was a “religion of the sword” and the Koran was “a book propagating violence.”

The Zagreb mosque is now constantly under police guard, while in other parts of the country police are harassing Moslem citizens. The two thousand Bosniacs living in villages scattered along the Croat-Bosnian border have the local police pay them daily visits, monitor their comings and goings, and constantly ask questions about the whereabouts of villagers, reports Lasic.

Similarly, Skopje journalist Gordana Iceska reports that the Macedonian media are also finding bin Laden among the Albanian guerilla forces of the National Liberation Army (NLA), with headlines such as “Mujahedeen among the NLA” and “Bin Laden's Fighters With the Albanians.” Aleksandar Damovski, the editor of the mass circulation Dnevnik, claimed “we have a lot of testimonies from people on the front line. They all say the mujahedeen are active in the fighting in Macedonia.” The main evidence appears to be fighters with beards.

Meanwhile, Serbia-Yugoslavia aims to turn the anti-Moslem environment against former Albanian guerillas in south-east Serbia, who had been fighting to defend the local Albanian population from state repression. Covic claimed on September 20 that these guerrillas had “a direct link ...with the recent events in the US”.

US ambassador to Yugoslavia, William Montgomery, shared Covic’s concerns, claiming “militant extremists who were defeated are very unhappy and would like to come back.”

Covic, the former Milosevic-era mayor of Belgrade, who like most from that era are now staffing the state apparatus of the “post-Milosevic” regime, is widely credited with bringing that conflict to an end early this year. Serbian troops, backed by NATO, moved into a “buffer zone” between Serbia and Kosova, to drive out the guerillas. As a result, he has become the West’s favourite leader in Belgrade.

“The entry into the village of Oraovica was the crowning event,” a Yugoslav Army officer said. “The action was jointly planned by Yugoslav and NATO officers. Everything was done as agreed. The operation laid the foundations of today's military cooperation with the (NATO) alliance.”

Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic demanded the Hague Tribunal arrest former Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) leaders Hashim Thaci, Ramush Haradinaj, and Agim Ceku because “after the events in America you are even more obliged to do so, because what is at stake is the future of the international struggle against terrorism.” The three are now civilian leaders in Kosova, have not been accused of war crimes and have vigorously condemned terror against the Kosovar Serb minority by vengeful returning Albanian refugees or criminal gangs.

Yugoslavia’s attempt to be promoted regional “anti-terrorist” bulwark is paying off. In his note of congratulations to Kostunica on the anniversary of Milosevic's overthrow, President Bush expressed expectations of Yugoslav cooperation against terrorism. Ambassador Montgomery stated that “We are very satisfied” as Yugoslavia had given its “full support and cooperation.”

KFOR (NATO) commander in Kosova, General Thorsten Skiaker, said “the international community will not see Kosovo as it saw it in 1999.” After September 11, “No longer is anyone willing to consider extremists as people whose grievances should be understood.”

French intelligence agents in their northern sector of Kosova have reportedly asked Yugoslav authorities to provide them with information on the activities of mujahedeen units allegedly operating in parts of northern Kosova. The fabulously mineral-rich northern region has been partitioned off by French NATO troops as a Serbian sector since NATO entered Kosova in 1999.
Even with this partition, the West continues to deny the rest of Kosova the right to self-determination. On September 4, following requests by Covic for further guarantees, NATO secretary general George Robertson repeated that Kosova's independence was “out of question”. The same “out of the question” was repeated by the UN Security Council on October 6.

When President Bush visited Kosova in July, he refused to meet local Albanian leaders, and lashed out at them for allegedly aiding the NLA. The US drew up a list of officers in the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) whose assets were frozen and were banned from entering the United States. The head of the UN administration in Kosova, Hans Haekkerup, struck these Albanians off the ballot in the forthcoming Kosova elections. The European Union also drew up a list of 38 Albanians from Kosova and Macedonia to be banned from travelling to EU states.

Announcing a change in US policy in the region, the London Sunday Times interviewed the new US ambassador to London, William Farris, who said that the US is planning a long-term increase in its military presence in the Balkans, viewing it as a buffer zone to the “terrorist threat” from the East, a training ground and an operational zone in the “anti-terrorist” war. This reverses the Bush administration’s earlier desire for US forces to quit the Balkans. Farris announced he would soon visit Belgrade to discuss putting this zone into practice.

Yugoslav military delegations, headed by Covic, have visited NATO headquarters three times this year to discuss joining NATO's ‘Partnership for Peace’ programme. They also visited the US Army Command in Europe, in Stuttgart, to discuss organising training courses for Yugoslav officers in US military academies.

Macedonia 2001: NATO, IMRO, NLA – A Plague On All Your Houses

Macedonia: NATO, IMRO, NLA – A Plague On All Your Houses

By Michael Karadjis

Late 2001

Former NATO spokesman Jamie Shea recently stated that “because of Afghanistan we cannot let the Balkans slip out of our hands and risk having a new Afghanistan in our front yard.”

Shea was implying support to assertions by the Serbian-Yugoslav, Croatian and Macedonian governments that “Islamic” fighters and supporters of Osama bin Laden were present in large numbers among the Bosnian Moslem and Kosovar and Macedonian Albanian populations.

In recent weeks, NATO troops in Bosnia have carried out large-scale operations against allegedly “Islamist” forces, without the involvement of Bosnian police. Meanwhile, the Yugoslav regime of Vojislav Kostunica is gradually entrenching itself as NATO’s key regional partner in the “war against (Islamic) terrorism,” with Yugoslav military personnel earmarked for training in US military academies.

The Macedonian media are imagining Bin Laden among the Albanian guerillas of the National Liberation Army (NLA), which has been fighting the Macedonian government since earlier this year. Headlines such as “Mujahedeen among the NLA” aim to show that Macedonia and the US are fighting the same “Islamic terrorists.”

However, Washington’s growing love affair with Belgrade is unlikely to be repeated with the Macedonian government.

This does not reflect western sympathy for the NLA. On the contrary, when US President Bush visited Kosova in July, he blasted former Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) leaders for allegedly aiding the NLA. The US and the European Union drew up a list of up to 38 Albanian political and military leaders in Kosova and Macedonia whose assets were frozen and were banned from entering the US or the EU.

The NLA emerged earlier this year as a tiny group of militants who carried out a few isolated attacks. They tapped into demands with wide support among Macedonia’s Albanian community, which amounts to 25-30 per cent of the population.

These demands include that the Albanian nation be made formally equal to the ethnic Macedonian majority in the country’s constitution, that the Albanian language be declared the second official language, and that the currently miniscule numbers of Albanians in the police and the military officialdom be boosted.

However, few Albanians initially showed any enthusiasm for the NLA. While years of heavy repression in neighbouring Kosova had made the KLA’s armed struggle there inevitable, this was not the case in Macedonia. With widespread local language, education and other rights, an atmosphere open to political opposition and Albanian parties in coalition with Macedonian parties in the country’s government, Macedonia appeared the last place in the Balkans that an armed struggle by a minority would be necessary.

The launching of such a struggle therefore alienated even many sympathetic Macedonians, who claim the NLA has legitimised armed struggle and hence a cycle of ethnic killing merely to change words in a constitution.

This is not entirely correct – the Macedonian dominated police and army had several times cracked down heavily on Albanian protest over the years, alienating a substantial segment of the population.

But it was true enough to mean that NLA support remained tiny until the Macedonian government launched a massive military offensive against it – and against Albanians in villages suspected of containing NLA bases. When the northern border village of Tanusevci was occupied in March and its entire several-hundred strong Albanian population forced across the Kosova border, the NLA began to recruit.

This and further bloody offensives were strongly encouraged by western powers. The head of the US mission in Kosova, Christopher Dell, accused Kosova of allowing the movement of “thieves and murderers” over the border. In March, as Germany moved four battle tanks from Kosova into Macedonia, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer visited and condemned the NLA’s “extremist ways of solving problems,” while French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, arriving around the same time, declared “We will not allow small terrorist groups to jeopardize the country's stability.”

However, the aggressive tactics of the right-wing nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO) government, encouraged by initial NATO support, inflamed the situation and drove far larger numbers of Albanians to the NLA than had initially shown support. People whose villages were destroyed by the Macedonian police and were driven into exile had little to lose by joining the NLA.

Similarly, Macedonians driven from their homes by NLA advances were easily organised by IMRO into paramilitary formations. The hard-line nationalist party, after taking power in 1997 from the Social Democrats (SDSM), had initially drifted towards the same moderate positions on the national question that it had long attacked the SDSM regime for – a typical pragmatic response to being in government.

However, this alienated the wing of the party that remained committed to its ultra-nationalist principles, including anti-Albanian chauvinism. The rise of the NLA allowed this wing, led by prime minister Ljubco Georgievski, to reassert itself with its counterproductive military tactics.

This growing polarisation between IMRO and NLA politics re-ignited long-time fears among western leaders of Macedonia blowing apart and unleashing the “nightmare scenario” in the southern Balkans, destabilising the whole region and undermining the tenuous-at-best Greek-Turkish “southern flank” of NATO. This fear has long determined western policy in the region, including the ‘carrot and stick’ approach to the Albanian national movement. Moreover, it is feared that, if not contained, groups like the NLA have the potential to further radicalise, some perhaps even in an Islamist direction.

Once it became clear that the NLA could no longer be ruled out as a bunch of “terrorists” or “invaders” from Kosova, it became crucial for NATO to stop IMRO driving more Albanian support to the NLA. The aggressive western rhetoric against the NLA was abruptly replaced by calls on IMRO to show “restraint”, and NATO began pressuring the Macedonian government to make concessions to the demands of the Albanian masses to head off the NLA’s growth.

NATO thus drew up a reform package incorporating some Albanian demands, such as making Albanian the second official language in regions where they are over 20 per cent of the population and increasing the number of Albanians in the police and military officialdom.

In return, NATO troops entered Macedonia to oversee NLA disarmament, followed by a return of Macedonian security forces – now including more Albanians – to Albanian majority areas, most of which had become NLA territory. This package was signed by the two major Albanian parties, and by both the SDSM and IMRO.

Yet while signing the agreement, IMRO used NATO intervention as grist in the mill for its propaganda. Western intervention was held responsible for the NLA’s “victory”, as it interpreted the reforms. Georgievski accused NATO of sponsoring a “new Taliban”. In reality, after the disastrous results of IMRO’s military actions, NATO intervention had probably become the only short-term way to disarm the NLA and avoid the country being split in two.

However, NATO’s particularly arrogant approach, demanding the Macedonian government immediately implement the entire package “to the letter”, created deep resentment even among Macedonians opposed to IMRO. Attempts over the last month to discuss the detail of the agreement in parliament to gain as broad support as possible for the changes have been denounced by western leaders as “obstruction.”

The so-called “Donors’ Conference” – the gang of western loan sharks – has held up any loans to Macedonia until the package is passed in its entirety, despite the desperate economic condition the country is in. This situation can be attributed to the “donors” themselves in no small part – having requested $450 million in 1999 for sheltering hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees during NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia, Macedonia was eventually given less than 5 per cent of this amount.

Many Macedonians were dismayed by the initially “non-negotiable” demand for the removal of the constitutional preamble which refers to the historic struggle of the Macedonian people – a standard thing in constitutions in the region.

If IMRO had accepted the initial Albanian demand that both the Macedonian and Albanian peoples be declared constituent nations, rather than only the former, then the existence and sovereignty of the Macedonian nation would still have been explicit. As it refused to budge, western negotiators came up with the idea that there should be no mention of any people in the constitution, because there are also other (tiny) minorities in Macedonia besides the Albanians. “Macedonian people” would hence be replaced by “the citizens” of Macedonia, without reference to any people.

This was simply political expediency on NATO’s part. All countries have minorities, but states are historically set up around particular nations. In their own time, the people of a country may find this less important. But when outside powers intervene, cajole and blackmail to impose this “civil” concept, it is seen by Macedonians as foreign interference aimed at dissolving their national identity. This is particularly insensitive in the case of a people such as the Macedonians, who have fought so long to be recognized, against the virulent opposition of the neighbouring Greek, Bulgarian and Serbian regimes, which had partitioned Macedonia between themselves in 1913 and still largely do not recognize a Macedonian people.

As such, parliament continued to negotiate despite NATO’s bullying, and came up with a new compromise which sees the constitution referring to both the Macedonian and the Albanian nations as well as six other “nations” which are in fact tiny minorities.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Squabbling within the corrupt elite puts Milosevic in Hague 2001

The Milosevic regime without Milosevic


June 2001

In a case of breathtaking hypocrisy, a court controlled by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has put on trial for war crimes the former leader of a country against which NATO itself committed war crimes.
No US or other Western leader is on trial in The Hague for pulverising Yugoslavia, dropping cluster bombs next to hospitals or poisoning the land with depleted uranium. They, of course, were the victors of the Balkan wars; only the losers get tried for war crimes.
Few will shed tears for Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader who unleashed Serbian ultra-nationalism, destroyed the socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and orchestrated a genocidal attack against Bosnia's Muslims — who have a point when they say a trial in Yugoslavia would hardly allow them to testify in a non-biased environment.
The claim by Milosevic's supporters that the court in The Hague is particularly biased against Serbs is false. Some 70 per cent of indictees are Serbs, most of the rest Croats and less than 10 per cent Bosnian Muslims — a good summary of the proportion of war crimes committed by each.
There have been demonstrations in Serbia against the arrest and trial of Milosevic, demonstrations consisting of members of Milosevic's Socialist Party (SPS) and of the three main ultra-right parties, the Serbian Radical Party, the Serbian Renewal Party and the Serbian Unity Party.
There have also been large demonstrations in neighbouring Croatia, by late president Franjo Tudjman's right-wing HDZ party and the Ustashe, protesting the indictment of Croatian military leaders. They spout the same “anti-imperialist” slogans as those spouted by demonstrators in Serbia defending Milosevic.
Yet even something as momentous as bundling the former leader off to a foreign court has only resulted in some tens of thousands of demonstrators.
Western blackmail?
Notwithstanding this decline in nationalist opposition, it remains unclear why Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was in such a hurry to extradite Milosevic that he has shaken the roots of the Yugoslav Federation, overruled the constitutional court and sidelined the Yugoslav federal parliament and President Vojislav Kostunica.
US pressure had convinced Kostunica to push through constitutional changes allowing extradition of Yugoslav citizens. Nevertheless, the president had advocated going through all legal processes, and that a trial in Yugoslavia should still take place first, to wear down nationalist opposition to extradition by revealing Milosevic's crimes and corruption at home.
So what went wrong? The standard line is that when the constitutional court called for a delay in extraditing Milosevic on June 27, Djindjic had to overrule it because the “donors' conference” was scheduled for June 30, and the US had threatened that money would not be forthcoming if Yugoslavia did not cooperate.
Djindjic, a businessman who did well under Milosevic's rule, could see little problem in a financial transaction of a former leader for US$1.28 billion.
Yet, in fact, this explains very little.
The US had threatened to not attend the conference unless the process of extradition was underway — but the process was underway and the US was attending.
Then the US had said the money may be withheld until Milosevic was handed over — but not that it wouldn't be pledged.
Several weeks' or months' difference was not the problem — especially given that the US contribution was only US$110 million of the US$1.28 billion pledged. The bulk was pledged by the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which had made no such demands.
The Hague's chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, was recently told by French officials that economic aid to Serbia would not be “preconditioned” on Belgrade's level of cooperation.
Rather than being the result of financial blackmail, the extradition of the country's former leader is a result of the workings of the post-Milosevic arrangement, energetically backed by the US and the EU, that of “the Milosevic regime without Milosevic”.
The stable capitalist regime desired by the West needs a Serbian capitalist class — and the only one existing is the crony capitalist mob which amassed wealth under their former leader.
As their former leader is now a liability, he is turned over as a token so the rest can escape exposure. NATO gains a trophy and everyone can move on.
Trial at home
A trial at home first would have blown the cover of many current state leaders. It is hardly surprising that it is Djindjic, the most pro-The Hague leader, who is the shelter behind whom most crooks have taken cover.
Between losing the Yugoslav elections in October 2000 and the Serbian elections in December, Milosevic's SPS shared power and most ministries in Serbia with president-elect Kostunica's Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). However, the Ministry of Economic and Property Privatisation was left solely to the SPS.
During this time, the SPS privatised 217 valuable state-owned enterprises, 50% more than in the first ten months of 2000. These companies were sold off to their former managers from the SPS or the bogus “Yugoslav Left” party of Milosevic's wife (which got less than 1% of the vote).
Before that, these “managers” hadn't fully privatised these firms, because looting them and looting the workers given worthless “shares” had been such good business and so easy to do.
Now more “free shares” will go to employees, most of which will soon be bought by the new director-owners, as has happened over the past decade. DOS economist Milan Kovacevic has ruled out revoking these privatisations because this “does not happen in democratic states”.
A similar story occurred during the “shake-up” of the Serbian police by Djindjic. Serbia's head of the Interior Ministry (MUP) police, Rade Markovic, was replaced by Goran Petrovic. Petrovic and several other top new appointees had been purged in 1998-99 along with their boss, Milosevic's former police chief Jovica Stanisic.
Milosevic had turned against Stanisic in 1998 after a business feud. Before that, Stanisic had headed the dreaded MUP police for years, during which the paramilitary forces, which committed slaughter throughout the region, were formed. He is now extremely close to Djindjic, hence the reappointment of his cronies.
Milosevic's long-time interior minister, Dusan Mihajlovic, who has kept his job, is also now Djindjic's right-hand man.
Djindjic has also named General Sreten Lukic head of the public security department of the MUP. Lukic was commander of Serb police forces in Kosova during NATO's aggression, when half the Albanian population were forcibly deported. Yet it is these deportations which are the most substantial charge against Milosevic — and they occurred after NATO launched its blitzkrieg.
Two months ago, the Belgrade Vreme weekly revealed that the bodies of 86 Albanians, from a refrigerator truck which sunk in the Danube during the Kosova war, were buried on the grounds of a police “anti-terrorist” training centre. Then in June another grave of some 30 Albanians was discovered near another police training centre.
These revelations may show the fate of thousands of Kosovars still unaccounted for since 1999. But more pertinently, they have put the mob Djindjic was promoting in a tight spot.
Interior minister Mihajlovic reacted by blaming the army, controlled by Kostunica's federal government, claiming it had “overall responsibility” for the Kosova operations.
Yet overwhelming evidence, including from Albanians, suggests that police and paramilitaries under their control were responsible for the bulk of the butchery. Further, the army has indicted 193 of its members for criminal acts, while the MUP indicted none.
If blaming the army wouldn't work, better get Milosevic to The Hague as soon as possible, to both avert a trial at home and also to shift attention away from any more unfortunate discoveries that may be made.
Corrupt elite
There was another reason the Serb elite were keen on getting Milosevic to The Hague. The trial at home was to focus on corruption as well as war crimes and, there too, May had not been a good month for Djindjic.
During May, a series of articles on former Yugoslav citizen Stanko Subotic suddenly appeared in the National weekly in Croatia, alleging he headed a cigarette smuggling chain worth billions of dollars linking high officials of certain states, above all Djindjic, former police chief Stanisic and Milo Djukanovic, the Montenegrin president.
The main opposing smuggling ring was headed by Marko Milosevic, the former president's son. In 1998, Marko's gang decided to destroy its competition — and that's why Stanisic, who looked after customs, was sacked.
Subotic fled and was issued a Croatian passport. Djukanovic then pushed his confrontation with Milosevic by creating his own customs service, to replace Stanisic.
All slander? Perhaps, though a number of aspects fit in neatly with well-known facts. A corruption trial at home would not have done anyone any good.
Meanwhile, the interior minister, Mihajlovic, had found his way onto the anti-corruption team set up this year to investigate wealth amassed under Milosevic, his specific role being to investigate the cigarette, petrol and alcohol trade. Mihajlovic himself runs an enterprise trading in petrol which profited nicely during the Milosevic era.
The head of the anti-corruption team, Vuk Obradovic, has since claimed that Mihajlovic and certain members of his team have obstructed its work.
Obradovic had introduced a bill to tax the profits and property of those who acquired their fabulous wealth during the Milosevic era through illegal currency trading, abusing the privatisation process and embezzling “solidarity funds”. He had promised to publish the names of 7,000 companies eligible for the tax, including the 200 wealthiest individuals and companies. Tax rates would range up to 90%, raising 5 billion marks.
Obradovic was dismissed from his position as head of the team on May 11, at the initiative of Djindjic. It appears his anti-corruption campaign might have been getting too close to the bone. The sacking of Obradovic and the hurried extradition of Milosevic were thus two sides of the same coin — they were both ways to protect the interests of the same old crony capitalist mob who were now crouched under the umbrella of the new master, Djindjic.

Macedonia: Roots of Civil War 2001

Macedonia: Roots of Civil War

By Michael Karadjis

April 2001

In early March the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) aided the Macedonian army's crackdown on the Albanian insurgents of the National Liberation Army (NLA). This followed the agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav regime of Vojislav Kostunica to allow Yugoslav troops into the Serbia-Kosova buffer zone to crush autonomy-seeking Albanian rebels.

These events confirm that NATO's 1999 intervention was aimed at stemming the growth of the Albanian national movement, which the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic had spectacularly failed to do. NATO regards this movement as a major threat to the stability of the region connecting western Europe to NATO allies Greece and Turkey and beyond to the Black Sea and the Middle East.

Macedonian forces stormed the remote Albanian village of Tanusevci on the Kosova-Macedonia border on March 6, driving hundreds of Albanian refugees, almost the entire population, to the village of Debeldeh on the Kosova side of the border. "Only the old and sick stayed behind," according to Qazim Jakupi, who fled with his entire family.

During the attack, an alleged Albanian "terrorist" was killed. According to terrified Albanian refugees, he was a villager killed while cutting wood in the forest. "Refugee stories resemble one another," according to journalist Besnik Bala in Dobelde. "They accuse the Macedonian forces of repression. 'If the Macedonians continue with violence then the people will have to defend themselves' says one of them."

US troops claimed to have arrested some armed Albanians who also fled, and then searched houses where locals were putting up refugees. "I want to know what's happening with my property and animals, but the Americans won't let us cross the border," claimed Jakupi.

NATO sent tanks to block the entrance to Debeldeh to prevent 'rebels' crossing the frontier, and used Apache helicopters and electronic surveillance equipment to block their ground movements. US troops on March 7 shot two rebels near the village of Mijak.
Previous to this brutal attack, the NLA had raised its head with a January attack on a Tetovo police station, killing a Macedonian policeman. This was denounced by all Albanian parties. The group appears to have been an isolated fringe group.

Yet Tanusevac was targetted as the alleged nest of the NLA, despite being nowhere near Tetovo or the main Albanian population centres to the west. The village is integrally connected to Kosovar villages across the official border.

Many refugees claimed there were no armed organisations in their village. "I have never seen the NLA, and I don't believe they exist," said Zenun Murseli from Debelde. However, its alleged connection to fighters in Kosova may derive from its uncertain status. Its inhabitants do not even have Macedonian citizenship - only the February border treaty between Yugoslavia and Macedonia clearly placed them inside Macedonia.
Till then, Macedonia had forgotten Tanusevac existed.

In attacking the village, the Macedonian government appears to have carried out a plan hatched by NATO and Yugoslavia to seal the border and root out Albanian fighters from Kosova or nearby southern Serbia. Such fighters may have been using the town as a rear base, rather than aiming to undermine Macedonia.

This has boomeranged on Macedonia. The huge over-reaction by the Macedonian police has now led to a revolt by a significant sector of the alienated Albanian population.

Aside from the military overreaction, Nasir Zyberi, leader of the Albanian opposition Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), pointed out that "Calling the UN Security Council into emergency session, calling on NATO to discuss the situation in a village of barely 100 houses, closing the border, and ordering a mobilization - these steps did not lead to an easing of the situation, but to just the opposite."

NLA leader Fazli Veliu, in an interview with the Italian news agency, ANSA, claimed "We have chosen armed struggle since we have failed to accomplish our goals by political means." Rejecting any "Greater Albania" idea, he stated "we support the integrity of Macedonia, but want equal rights, our own national flag, language, and identity" - the demands made by all Albanian parties.

Nevertheless, the appearance of the NLA is an enigma. The Macedonian government can claim with some justice that its Albanian minority has a better position than any minority in the Balkans. Albanians are represented in parliament, and a major Albanian party has been in a coalition government with a Macedonian partner ever since independence a decade ago.

However, there remain serious grievances. As Albanians make up around a quarter of the population, all Albanian parties call for the community to be recognised as one of the two "constituent nations" that make up the state, rather than merely a minority within a Macedonian state. Macedonian parties oppose this because an Albanian state already exists, whereas a state to represent the Macedonian people came about following a century of struggle.

This may seem of little consequence given the rights the minority is accorded. However, while Albanians have the right to run Albanian language schools and use their language in municipal affairs, they further demand that Albanian be made one of the two official state languages, in parliament, courts and the public service. The government has finally allowed Albanians to open their own university, after years of struggle, but is yet to give it official recognition.

These factors are all the more relevant when hangovers from the oppressed state of Albanians in former Yugoslavia is taken into account. Despite some recent gains, only 3 per cent of military and police officers are Albanian, and the bulk of bureaucrats remain Macedonian, while Albanians face discrimination in getting public service jobs.

The attack on Tanusevac mirrors similar arbitrariness by the Macedonian-dominated police during peaceful Albanian outbreaks in 1992, 1994 and 1997, leaving a strong feeling of alienation among the Albanian masses. Whatever their leaders were doing in parliament, the divisions on the ground were becoming more entrenched.

This is still a far cry from the open repression and racism that characterise the situation of various other minorities in the region. No doubt launching an armed struggle when the political space was quite open could be highly counterproductive.

This led to the accusation that the fighters were nothing but a conspiracy by disgruntled former Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) troops who wanted to undermine the Macedonia-Yugoslavia border treaty. Kosovar and Macedonian Albanian parties denounced the treaty because it implies recognition of Yugoslav rule over Kosova.

However, the NLA could no longer be dismissed as a fringe group following a demonstration in Tetovo, the main center of the Albanian minority, on March 14. The rally began an hour before the outbreak of fighting around Tetovo. Macedonian police units poured fire onto guerrilla positions on the slopes of nearby mountains, while the NLA responded with fire into Tetovo.

Every time NLA mortars hit the town, the crowds chanted their name and called for an end to "Macedonian state terror against Albanians", a stunning eye-opener to the level of Albanian disenchantment. The rally was organized by groups linked to the opposition PDP and the new National Democratic Party (NDP), which recently split from the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), the Albanian partner in the oddball current ruling coalition with the right-wing Macedonian nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation (IMRO).

Following this, sporadic mortar blasts or machine-gun fire continued for days, and spread across the whole northwest region, which is almost entirely populated by Albanians.

Besides the attack on Tanusevac, the other factor which has driven a sector of the Albanian population to a more radical position is the grinding poverty that the transition to capitalism has subjected the country to. Given that Albanians are poorer than Macedonians, the economic devastation of the whole population has made it difficult to promote inter-ethnic economic equality.

Some 420 thousand people, a fifth of the population, are officially poor, and their numbers rose by 10 percent in the last two years. In the last two decades the gross social product in Macedonia fell by an average of 1.7 percent annually. Privatisation and "structural reforms" created an army of 340 thousand redundant workers from bankrupt firms, out of a total population of around two million. The introduction of a value-added-tax last April further battered the population, as prices rose by 20 percent on average.

The World Bank and the IMF last year decided to lend more to "help" the situation, on condition that unemployment benefits, on which 80 thousand households live, are slashed and that budget outlays for social welfare are halved! These predatory organisations claim this will break an alleged "habit" of the unemployed to live off government funds and force them "off dependency" to find "self-employment" or open small businesses!

While most reports indicate a significant level of support for the NLA, it also seems clear that many more Albanians do not support the armed struggle but nevertheless support its goals. On the other hand, all Albanian parties, government and opposition, in Macedonia, Kosova and Albania, have officially condemned the NLA's armed actions and pledged support for Macedonia's territorial integrity. On March 15, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said, "We support any improvement in the status and rights of Albanians (but) we condemn violence wherever it comes from." The Berisha-led opposition announced the same position.

On March 12, DPA and PDP leaders and Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta issued a statement saying "any violence goes against Albanian interests and the position adopted by their political representatives." Hashim Thaci, head of the Democratic Party in Kosova and former KLA chief, said "the use of violence to meet political goals is not only unacceptable, we denounce it."

Nevertheless, these leaders also criticised the closure of the Kosova border and NATO's invitation to Yugoslav troops into the buffer zone, while calling on Macedonia to open a dialogue with the Albanian parties about the widely held grievances and desist from launching a military ofensive.

They also denounced the offers of military aid and troops to Macedonia by the governments of Greece and Bulgaria, neither of which even recognise an ethnic Macedonian nation and whose concern is thus suspect to say the least. On March 7, Macedonian and Bulgarian leaders signed a military agreement, prompting Albanian president Meidani to refuse to meet the Bulgarian Defence Minister during a visit to Tirana. Greece offered Macedonia three helicopters and asked permission to transport them through Albanian air space, but was sharply rebuked by Tirana.

NATO leaders have unanimously condemned the Albanian insurgents in Macedonia and south Serbia. In Pristina, KFOR (NATO) commander Lieutenant General Carlo Cabigiosu, announcing the sealing of the Kosova border, warned "The Albanian extremists need to understand that their actions harm the stabilisation of the whole area."

On March 17, four German battle tanks were moved from Kosova to the German logistics base in Tetovo, where some 3,000 NATO troops are based. The garrison was visited by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who said the West would not allow Balkan borders to be altered by force. "It is very important that everybody understands that extremist ways of solving problems will not lead anywhere," he said. On March 10, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine arrived in Macedonia and said "We will not allow several small terrorist groups to jeopardize the country's stability."

The head of the US mission in Pristina, Christopher Dell, accusing Kosova of allowing the movement of rebels over the border, asked "Is giving up the hopes of self governance forever really the price you want to pay to protect thieves and murderers?"

All this aggressive rhetoric no doubt encouraged the government's large-scale military offensive out of Tetovo, against the advice of Albanian parties, including the coalition partners. Ironically, as soon as the offensive began, the same western leaders began a panicked retreat, suddenly appealing for "restraint".

Indeed, given the underlying tensions, the crude military offensive they had encouraged can only exacerbate the problem. It is far more likely to blow up the current inter-ethnic coalition government - an unlikely coalition of what until 1998 were the more hard-line nationalist groups in the two communities. Increasingly, the mood at the bottom resembles the political origins of these parties more than their recently found moderation.

Albanian opposition parties suspended their participation in parliament when the army, claiming to have driven the NLA out of the hills around Tetovo, began a new offensive on March 28 along the northern border to where the rebellion had spread. The offensive, centred around regions where Albanians make up 95 per cent of the population, met fierce resistance, and prompted Hysni Shaqiri, a local deputy of the ruling DPA, to quit and join the NLA. "I call on senior members of DPA and parliamentary deputies to join the freedom fighters," he stated.

Clearly the regime's attempt to force a military solution on a problem of ethnic inequality, encouraged by NATO, has blown up in its face.