Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Debunking Herman's Genocide Denial on Rwanda

Though my site is primarily devoted to Balkan issues, its inspiration is opposition to oppression wherever it exists. Indeed, that is why when we first read of the new book by Herman and Peterson, 'The Politics of Genocide', many of us on the left may at first have been encouraged, because it promises to discuss the important issue of how the imperialist media has double standards - the oppression, terror and genocide carried out by governments that at some point become official enemies of the main western imperialist states is called oppression, terror and genocide, while the oppression, terror and genocide carried out by imperialist states and their puppets and allies is either glossed over or given full support. After all, our hatred of oppression is precisely a reason we become anti-imperialists.

I mean, we would be encouraged at the appearance of such a book, that is, if we did not already know who the has-been crackpot, Ed Herman, and his sidekick blogger, someone called David Peterson, were. But unfortunately we know them well-enough. As may be expected, their book merely reverses the biases they claim exist in the imperialist media (and indeed do exist, if often not even remotely in the way they claim they do). For them, oppression, terror and genocide carried out by a government that has become an official enemy of Washington (usually for some tactical, conjunctural reason, never due to principle), is glossed over or essentially given support to. And the reason people such as I get worked up over this is precisely because these people - unlike the imperialist powers whose method they copy - actually claim to be leftists, and in the case of Herman actually have some pedigree due to his past association with Chomsky. The problem being that what they write is a monstrous betrayal of everything it means to be of the left, to be a relentless opponent of oppression of all kinds, no matter what the source.

Herman and Peterson have been engaged almost full-time in the most savage genocide-denial over the events in the Balkans in the 1990s for years. Their crowning "achievement" to date was their work of perfidy called "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre," where Herman and sidekick go out of their way to reference whatever ultra-rightist creep they can find, alongside some spurious "research" that would bore an amoeba, to claim that this extremely well-documented massacre of over 8000 defenceless Bosnian Muslims by the Bosnian Serb Chetnik army in July 1995 - termed even by the lame International Court of Justice a genocide - never really happened.

Thus, people in the know weren't expecting much.

Yet even some of them have apparently been surprised that they now go so far as to regurgitate the truly awful genocide denial regarding the far larger genocide of at least 500,000 Rwandan Tutsi in 1994. This author, however, was not the least surprised; I was just waiting for it to come out more in the open from the various hints they had earlier dropped. Much of this story derives from another crackpot of similar ilk, a lawyer named Chris Black, who has acted previously to both defend and to build disgraceful political apologia for Serbian war-criminals and genocidists. For many years now Black has shifted his attention from the Balkans to Rwanda. Herman and Peterson mostly regurgitate Black's stuff.

I feel vindicated that people like Herman, Peterson and Black are also deniers of the Rwandan genocide, because it may help some still confused over Balkan events to understand where the Balkan genocide deniers are coming from, they are made of the same cloth, when they are not the same people, as those who deny much bigger genocides. I would hope that people read Herman and Peterson on the Balkans (that is, if they must read their trash at all) with this fact in mind. I am also very pleased that such a useful deconstruction has been done of their garbage on Rwanda.

Monthly Review has lowered itself to producing a chapter of this crap book (but then again, it also allowed Herman a whole book-length series of articles a couple of years ago to display his horrible Balkan revisionism). Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, who have both written wrong things about the Balkans in trying to "relativise" the crimes of "all sides", but who ultimately earn more respect than Herman and others because they at least condemn, in no uncertain terms, the terror and oppression launched by the Serbian side, here also discredit themselves by giving this new book eulogies. That is a great shame.

The following is an excellent response to Herman and Peterson on Rwanda. Readers may search the archives here for my other exposes of Herman’s genocide denial on Srebrenica, Bosnia more generally, and Kosovo/a.

The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda
Review of ‘The Politics of Genocide’
Gerald Caplan
2010-06-17, Issue 486
cc M DThe 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi never happened. This is this unfounded and disturbing allegation at the heart of a new book by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, writes Gerald Caplan. Instead the authors claim that that it was part of an elaborate American conspiracy to “gain a strong military presence in Central Africa, a diminution of its European rivals' influence, proxy armies to serve its interests, and access to the raw material-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo”. Why they want to create such gratuitous hurt for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda is ‘impossible to fathom’, says Caplan, but their ‘egregious views’ ‘relegate them squarely to the lunatic fringe’.
This is a review of Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s ‘’The Politics of Genocide’, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010.

Edward Herman is a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania and David Peterson is described as a Chicago-based journalist and researcher. Those who have read Herman's work, some of it in collaboration with Noam Chomsky, will only partly know what to expect from his latest book. Herman and Peterson argue that in a world controlled by the American empire and its media and intellectual lackeys, genocide has become a political construct largely manipulated by Washington and its allies. The claim of genocide becomes an excuse for so-called humanitarian intervention that disguises malevolent imperial motives: ‘The Western establishment rushed to proclaim “genocide” in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo, and Darfur…In contrast, its silence over the crimes committed by its own regimes against the peoples of Southeast Asia, Central America, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa is deafening. This is the “politics of genocide”.’

Herman and Peterson give some examples that should be familiar to all who reject the notion of the US as a unparalleled force for good in the world. The suffering of Iraqis under US-led sanctions in the 1990s, American support for Israel's repression in Gaza and destruction in Lebanon, the American role in the brutal massacres of Guatemalans and Salvadorans in the 1980s, America's backing for Indonesia's blood bath in East Timor – all are true, all are appalling, and all have been thoroughly documented. No doubt it's good for a new generation to be reminded of these atrocities, invariably distorted or ignored by the mainstream media. But I'm not at all sure that it's helpful to explore these issues against a frame of genocide, and it's supremely destructive that incontrovertible incidents of American crimes, such as the above, are included with bizarre fictions that have poisoned the authors' minds, such as below. This was decidedly unexpected from Edward Herman.


To this stage, this little volume might on balance just be considered recommended reading. Despite its strange biases and excesses in belabouring its thesis, it's a useful reminder of American double standards that should not be forgotten (particularly given the disappointing record of the Obama administration).

But all of this is mere preliminary for Herman and Peterson. Their main target, which is none of the cases mentioned so far, can be found squarely in the heart of the book. It's chapter 4, the longest single section, and its purpose is to show that the 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi never happened. In fact the entire ‘genocide’ in Rwanda is an elaborate American conspiracy to ‘gain a strong military presence in Central Africa, a diminution of its European rivals' influence, proxy armies to serve its interests, and access to the raw material-rich Democratic Republic of the Congo’. The authors' greatest bete noir is Paul Kagame, commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels during the 1990-94 civil war and 1994 genocide, long-time president of post-genocide Rwanda – and leading Yankee stooge.

Yes, in order to blame the American empire for every ill on earth, Herman and Peterson, two dedicated anti-imperialists, have sunk to the level of genocide deniers. And the ‘evidence’ they adduce to back up their delusional tale rests solidly on a foundation of other deniers, statements by genocidaires, fabrications, distortions, innuendo and gross ignorance. In this Grimm fairy tale, everyone who contradicts their fantasies is an American/RPF pawn – Paul Kagame, human rights investigator Alison des Forges, the head of the UN military mission in Rwanda during the genocide General Romeo Dallaire, and entire human rights organisations.

The main authorities on whom the authors rest their fabrications are a tiny number of long-time American and Canadian genocide deniers, who gleefully drink each other's putrid bath water. Each solemnly cites the others' works to document his fabrications – Robin Philpot, Christopher Black, Christian Davenport, Allan Stam, Peter Erlinder. It's as if a Holocaust denier cited as supporting evidence the testimonies of David Irving, David Duke, Robert Faurisson or Ernest Zundel. Be confident Herman and Peterson are now being quoted as authoritative sources on the genocide by Robin Philpot, Christopher Black, Davenport and Stam, Peter Erlinder.

In reality, there is only a relative handful of these American deniers, but the vast power of the internet makes them seem ubiquitous and forceful. Any online search for ‘Rwanda genocide’ gives them a vastly disproportionate pride of place. Besides the five cited by Herman and Peterson, this rogue's gallery of American deniers also includes Keith Harmon Snow and Wayne Madsen, who will bitterly resent the authors for failing to invoke them in their book.

Let me take a moment on Peter Erlinder, since he's been in the news recently. (I wrote about the case the other day in the Globe and Mail). As of this writing, Erlinder is in prison in Rwanda, charged, apparently to his great surprise, with genocide denial. I regret this decision by the Kagame government. I wish it had simply denied him entry when he provocatively showed up as counsel for Victoire Ingabire, a declared presidential candidate who is also controversially accused of being a denier. But no one could really be surprised at his arrest – especially Erlinder himself.

For Erlinder has explicitly conceded, more than once, that he knows he has broken Rwandan laws on genocide denial, and not in his work as a defence counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda (ICTR). For example, in a February 2008 article titled ‘Genocide Cover-up’, Erlinder writes that ‘under the laws of Rwanda I too am a criminal “negationist” for writing this essay.’ And in a May 2008 article, ‘Victor's Impunity’, he agrees that ‘Under the laws of Rwanda, I have violated the ban against “negationism” by questioning the Kagame version of events.’ Of course he considers the laws he violated to be unjust. Nevertheless, he chose to enter Rwanda aware he had broken them. Was this not daring the Rwanda government to lock him up? Why would they not when he had confessed his guilt?

That was by no means his only provocation. Erlinder flew to Rwanda last month directly from a conference in Brussels that was notable for its collection of deniers and accused genocidaires. So extreme was the composition of the conference that one of the world's most rabid Kagame-haters withdrew his participation. Indeed, shortly after the conference French authorities arrested one of the participants, Dr Eugene Rwamucyo, accused of taking part in the genocide.

Perhaps even worse, Erlinder has shamelessly distorted a ruling of the ICTR on which he's based so many of his attacks on Kagame and company beyond the Tribunal. A 2008 judgment ruled that there was not sufficient evidence to find that Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, seen by many as the mastermind of the genocide, had engaged in a conspiracy to exterminate all Tutsi. In a series of speeches and writings, including one of his better-known articles ‘Rwanda: No Conspiracy, No Genocide Planning…No Conspiracy?’ (Jurist, Dec. 24, 2008), Erlinder milked the decision for all he could. The title of the article said it all, and the question mark of course really doesn’t exist in his mind. As he said shortly before leaving America, there ‘was no conspiracy or planning to commit genocide or other crime’. No planning, no genocide. What could be simpler? (Once arrested, however, he found it far more prudent to declare that he in fact did not deny the genocide.)

Yet in none of his frequent references to this judgment has Erlinder thought it worth including the following statements from the judgment: 1. ‘Indeed, these preparations [by the accused] are completely consistent with a plan to commit genocide.’ 2. ‘It cannot be excluded that the extended campaign of violence directed against Tutsis, as such, became an added or an altered component of these preparations.’ Readers can judge for themselves whether this kind of intellectual dishonesty makes Erlinder a credible witness on any aspect of Rwanda history.

On the other hand, there are other writers on Rwanda on whom Herman and Peterson do not rely. They are many in number and they are totally ignored, except for the late Alison Des Forges, who is shabbily denigrated. In fact they include the overwhelming number of those who have ever written about the genocide. They include academics, human rights activists, journalists who were in Rwanda during the genocide or soon after, and others whose work brought them in close proximity to the events of 1994. Without exception, every single one agrees there was a genocide planned and executed by a cabal of leading Hutu extremists against Rwanda's Tutsi minority. Except for Des Forges, plus Linda Melvern, whose indispensable oeuvre merits a lonely footnote, not a single one of the following authors is cited by Herman and Peterson:

Alison Des Forges
Linda Melvern
Alex de Waal
Rakiya Omaar
Gerard Prunier
Romeo Dallaire
Peter Uvin
Rene Lemarchand
Scott Straus
Andrew Wallis
Jean Hatzfeld
Samuel Totten
Mahmood Mamdani
Scott Peterson
William Schabas
Timothy Longman
Christian Jennings
Fergal Keane
Howard Adelman
Astri Suhrke
Villia Jefremovas
Michael Barnett
Alain Destexhe
John Berry and Carol Berry
Wendy Whitworth
Allan Thompson
Kingsley Moghalu
Susan Cook
Philip Gourevitch
Carol Rittner
John Roth
Henry Anyidoho
Patrick de Saint-Exupery
Frank Chalk
Bill Berkeley
Colette Braeckman
Jean-Pierre Chrétien
Bruce D. Jones
Hugh McCullum
Ingvar Carlsson
James Smith
Shaharyar Khan
Elizabeth Neuffer
Alan Kuperman

Before we dismiss all these authors as tools of Yanky imperialism, it needs to be added that several of the most prominent – Des Forges, Uvin, Prunier, Lemarchand, Kuperman – are (or were) fierce critics of the post-genocide Kagame government in Rwanda. Yet none has thought to retract their original views on the reality of the genocide.

There are of course also the many grim testimonies of both Tutsi who somehow survived and Hutu who are confessed genocidaires. Both kinds are now widely available in published collections or online; the three volumes by French journalist Jean Hatzfeld are a good beginning. Not a single such testimony or collection is referred to in ‘The Politics of Genocide’, and in fact I've never yet met a denier who had the guts to make his case before an audience of survivors.

Nor is a single mention made of the testimonies of the few outsiders who remained in Rwanda through all or much of the 100 days:

Romeo Dallaire (UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda–UNAMIR)
James Orbinski (Medicíns Sans Frontiérès)
Phillippe Gaillard (International Committee of the Red Cross)
Carl Wilkens (Adventist Development and Relief Agency International)
Henry Anyidoho (UNAMIR)

As it happens, I know all of the above and none has the slightest doubt, having lived through it, that a genocide organised against the Tutsi took place. Three of them – Dallaire, Orbinski and Anyidoho – have written about their experiences. Of course, some of Herman and Peterson's most treasured sources like Robin Philpot insist that General Dallaire was also an American puppet. So we can obviously ignore Dallaire's views completely.


As for Alison Des Forges, until her untimely death perhaps the most prominent scholar and activist on the Rwanda file, she is dismissed as following: ‘[Prior to 1993], des Forges had worked for the US Department of State and National Security Council.’ Nothing more is said to disqualify des Forges, so we must conclude that simply working for these bodies demonstrates the unreliability of her views on the genocide. That her MA and Ph.D. theses were on Rwandan history, that she knew the country for 30 years before the genocide, that she was among a tiny number of outsiders who spoke Kinyarwanda, that she spent five years after 1994 researching the crisis, that her ‘Leave None to Tell the Story’ is a highly-respected encyclopaedic history of the genocide – all this is irrelevant to Herman and Peterson. In their obsessive anti-Americanism, they blithely smear des Forges entire life: ‘Alison Des Forge's career is best understood in terms of the services she performed on behalf of US power-projection in Central Africa, with this policy-oriented work couched in the rhetoric of 'human rights'. In the process, Des Forges badly misinformed a whole generation of scholars, activists, and the cause of peace and justice.’ But if she was such a loyal American hack, why was she such an unrestrained critic of America's great ally Kagame? This obvious contradiction is of no apparent interest to Herman and Peterson.

The work of the 1993 International Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights Abuses in Rwanda is similarly dismissed. The Inquiry brought together four well-known human rights organisations whose investigation led them to conclude that the Habyarimana government was deliberately targeting Tutsi for massacre, that extremists anti-Tutsi rhetoric was growing and that anti-Tutsi militia were being formed. Yet none of this needs to be taken seriously. Why? Because the Commission was little more than an RPF front, ‘either directly funded by the RPF or infiltrated by it’. The sole source for this very serious accusation – made by no others of whom I'm aware – is Robin Philpot, Canada's preeminent denier of the genocide.

Is Philpot's charge remotely credible? Has he exposed some deep conspiracy no one else has ever detected? By coincidence, I know both the person who initiated the Commission of Inquiry, Ed Broadbent, and one of its members, William Schabas. (Alison Des Forges was another member, representing Human Rights Watch.) Instead of just dismissing the Philpot charge, I asked each of them about the Commission. Broadbent, a former leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, was then the president of Rights and Democracy, an independent Canadian-based international human rights organisation funded by the Conservative government of the day. I spoke to him by phone. Rumours of foul doings in Rwanda took him to the country in 1992, he told me, and he was so shaken by the evidence he found of violence and discrimination against the Tutsi minority that he organised and mostly funded the International Commission to follow up his work. He told me he is simply incredulous that anyone would claim a role for the RPF in its work, since it wasn't true.

Broadbent asked William Schabas, then professor of human rights law at the Universite du Quebec a Montréal, to represent Rights and Democracy in this investigation. Schabas is now director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland in Galway, where he also holds the chair in human rights law. In an email, Schabas told me he had never been to Rwanda before this mission and knew nothing about the country. ‘I certainly never detected any pro-RPF sentiment from Ed…There was one member who seemed to be a sympathiser of the RPF…Otherwise, many members were quite openly critical of or hostile to the RPF.’

Is this just a case of ‘he said–they said’? Does an open-minded reader consider that the accusations of Robin Philpot, a man who also believes General Dallaire was an American stooge, are as worthy of consideration as the two statements by Ed Broadbent and William Schabas? Are both Broadbent and Schabas, 17 years later, blatantly lying to me, just as Dallaire's entire life for the past 17 years must be a lie?

Or does one rather draw another conclusion about how the deniers operate? If there are views that contradict your own, you simply dismiss them as tools of either the US State Department or the RPF. Further proof is not required.


Let me cite the authors themselves to assure readers I haven't exaggerated or distorted their extraordinary re-writing of history. Chapter 4 of their little book is devoted to Rwanda and the Congo and its 18 pages constitute far and away their longest case study.

They begin by asserting that ‘the Western establishment [has] swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down’. In their Rwanda story, it's not Hutu extremists, the Presidential Guard, the post-Habyarimana interim government and the interahamwe militia who were the ‘prime genocidaires’. It was the RPF. As a matter of fact, ‘the Hutu members of Rwanda's power-sharing government couldn't possibly have planned a genocide against the Tutsi.’ In fact, President Habyarimana repeatedly refused, until literally the end of his life, to implement the power-sharing agreement set out in the Arusha Accords. In any event, why the Hutu members of the government ‘couldn't possibly have planned a genocide against the Tutsi’ is never remotely explained.

Next: The 1990 invasion of Rwanda from Uganda was carried out not by Rwandans but by Ugandan forces under Ugandan President Museveni, the RPF being ‘a wing of the Ugandan army’. There is no source given for this assertion, which contradicts almost all other histories of the invasion.

‘It is clear that Museveni and the RPF were perceived as serving US interests and that the government of President Habyarimana was targeted for ouster…The Ugandan army and the RPF were doing what the United States wanted done in Rwanda.’ This is the central thesis of the entire chapter on Rwanda, but the only source who actually ‘perceives’ matters this way seems to be Robin Philpot, the Canadian who denies the genocide, since he is the only source offered for this categorical assertion. No other historian of the genocide of whom I'm aware makes this claim and no evidence for it exists.

Turning Linda Melvern’s seminal book ‘Conspiracy to Murder’ on its head, the authors give us ‘an RPF conspiracy’ to overthrow the Hutu government and capture the state for themselves. Since one of their sources, Christopher Black, considers Melvern part of the ‘RPF-US propaganda machine’, she too can be dismissed. But then why, they want to know, has the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda( ICTR) ‘never once entertained the question of this conspiracy?’ This is indeed a reasonable question; I wondered about it myself. Here is their answer: ‘This, we believe, flows from US and allied support of the RPF, reflected in media coverage, humanitarian intellectuals' and NGO activism, as well as the ICTR's jurisprudence.’ In other words, a giant US-led conspiracy is at work here.

Dupes like me and most other writers believe the US and its allies betrayed Rwanda by refusing to reinforce the UN military mission there, as general Dallaire was pleading with them to do. Eyewitnesses in Rwanda believed they witnessed for themselves what was developing. The media actually played a deplorable role in the first month of the genocide, confusing a planned extermination with racist views of ‘primordial African savagery’. And the many different ICTR judges over 15 years, from around the globe, all pretended to base their findings on the legal evidence. Yet in reality, all this time everyone was subtly being manipulated by the United States. Indeed, so subtle was the manipulation that the devilishly cunning Yanks left no proof of it. Moreover, every leading member of the Clinton administration, including the president himself, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright, after her stint as ambassador to the UN as Clinton's Secretary of State, have shamefacedly admitted abandoning the Tutsi. Each claims to consider it perhaps the greatest regret of his/her time in office, merely demonstrating, of course, what unconscionable hypocrites they are.

Herman and Peterson hammer their charge home: ‘Paul Kagame and the RPF were creatures of US power from their origins in Uganda in the 1980s’. They have the undisputed evidence. From Allan Stam, ‘a Rwanda scholar who once served with the US Army Special Forces,’ they learn that Kagame ‘had spent some time at Fort Leavenworth…not too far before the 1994 genocide’. Fort Leavenworth, Stam explains, is ‘where rising stars of the US military and other places go to get training…The training that they get there is on planning large-scale operations. It's not planning small-scale logistics. It’s not tactics. It's about how do you plan an invasion. And apparently [Kagame] did very well.’

This crucial paragraph deserves a little parsing. To begin, it's absolutely no secret that Kagame was briefly at Fort Leavenworth, though Stam doesn't mention how very brief his stay was. Kagame himself has never kept it a secret. Note too that Allan Stam's credibility is based on two factors. First, that he is a ‘Rwanda scholar,’ though I believe not a single scholar listed above ever cites his work. Second, that he ‘once served with the US Army Special Forces’. Presumably this service gives him special insight into how the US army works. Yet he presents not a single specific detail about Kagame's few weeks at Fort Leavenworth that ties him to American interest in and plans for Rwanda, which no one has ever documented. And since thousands of officers from nations around the world have passed through Fort Leavenworth, you'd think that the thousands of large-scale invasions they would return home and orchestrate would be better-known to the world than they are.

Stam's curious thought processes are on display again, thanks to another citation by Herman and Peterson. By 1994, Stam has written, Kagame's ‘sophisticated plan for seizing power in Rwanda…looks staggeringly like the United States' invasion of Iraq in 1991.’ Perhaps it's my failing, but I have no idea what this means.


Herman and Peterson now take their argument further. They have concluded that the all-important conventionally-accepted truth about the 100 days of genocide is all wrong. In fact this was no genocide at all against the Tutsi in which at a minimum 500,000/600,000 and perhaps as many as a million unarmed Tutsi were slaughtered, along with many Hutu who wouldn't cooperate with the extremists' genocidal conspiracy. On the contrary. They cite the sensational estimate by Christian Davenport and Allan Stam that one million deaths occurred from April to July 1994, and that ‘the majority of victims are likely Hutu and not Tutsi.’ That the methodology employed to arrive at such an Orwellian assertion has been totally discredited is of no interest to our authors and never mentioned.

Indeed, even a million dead, mostly Hutu, isn't good enough for them. They refer to ‘a number of observers as well as participants in the events of 1994 [who] claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million.’ With Herman and Peterson, you always have to watch your wallets. Checking the endnote for this rather extravagant statement, we find the figure comes from ‘a former RPF military officer Christophe Hakizimana’ in a letter to the 1999 UN Commission of Inquiry into the genocide. But that Commission, chaired by former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson, hadn't the slightest doubt that genocide against the Tutsi had taken place and their report harshly criticised the US and its allies for refusing to intervene to stop it. So it's hardly surprising that the Inquiry's report never mentions Hakizimana and his accusations.

So how did our authors know about it? ‘We base this on personal communications with the international criminal lawyer Christopher Black of Toronto.’ It will by this time come as no surprise to readers to learn that Christopher Black is prominent among the small notorious band of deniers who cite each other so faithfully and who alone are the sources for Herman and Peterson's chapter 4. Even among the lunatic fringe of deniers, Black inhabits a universe of his own. Not only is the genocide of the Tutsi a ‘myth’, not only did France have nothing to do with it, not only did the RPF rampage ‘across the country massacring hundreds of thousands of Hutu and any Tutsi who were seen as non-reliable.’ As well, he asserts, before 1994 there was no ethnic problem in Rwanda, then 'a semi-socialist country considered a model for Africa’. For perspective, I note that this authority on Rwanda visited North Korea in 2003 and emerged to describe it as ‘a progressive, socialist country deserving the support of all progressive peoples around the world.’ Black also considered Slobodan Milosevic completely innocent of the charges brought against him and believes Milosevic was consistently committed to a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia during his time in government.

Do I belabour the obvious by pointing out that not a single one of the long list of authors cited above mention either Christophe Hakizimana or Christopher Black? Yet they are the two sources Herman and Peterson give for their stunning statement that ‘a number of observers as well as participants in the events of 1994 claim that the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million.’

The authors simply dismiss out of hand the widely-accepted facts about the genocide. ‘The established narrative's 800,000 or more largely Tutsi deaths resulting from a “preprogrammed genocide” committed by “Hutu Power” appears to have no basis in any facts beyond the early claims by Kagame's RPF and its politically motivated Western sponsors and propagandists.’ With this single sentence, and with no further amplification of any kind, the question of the number of Tutsi murdered is closed.

But there's much more about murdered Hutu. It is no surprise to the authors that the RFP killed so many people. After all, ‘the RPF was the only well-organised killing force within Rwanda in 1994...Clearly the chief responsibility for Rwanda political violence belongs to the RPF, and not to the ousted coalition government, the FAR [Rwandan army], or any Hutu-related group.’ So much for the interahamwe, apparently figments of everyone's imagination. And for the Hutu Power and Zero Network hit lists, which many diplomats actually saw. And for the explicit public threats against the Tutsi from RTLM hate radio and Kangura magazine. In the report I wrote for the International Panel of Eminent Persons appointed by the Organization of African Unity to investigate the genocide, there is a chapter titled ‘The Eve of the Genocide: What the World Knew’. The report, published in 2000 and called ‘Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide’, is still available online, so readers can access it in full, as indeed could Herman and Peterson.

Chapter 9 includes (among much else) the notorious 1990 racist document ‘Ten Commandments of the Hutu’; the dramatic increase in Habyarimana's military budget; the formation of the extremist radical Hutu party CDR; the beginning of military training for the youth wings of both Habyarimana's party (the interahamwe) and the CDR; Leon Mugesera's speech inciting annihilation of the Tutsi; the repudiation by Habyarimana and many of his officials and officers of the Arusha peace agreement; the opening of RTLM hate radio in mid-1993, funded by Habyarimana's inner circle; the report by Belgian intelligence at the end of 1993 that ‘The interahamwe are armed to the teeth and on alert...each of them has ammunition, grenades, mines and knives. They are all waiting for the right moment to act’; the Dallaire ‘genocide fax’ of 11 January 1994; the constant flow of new arms to Habyarimana's forces from France or from South Africa and Egypt paid by France; RTLM's broadcast on Match 1, as reported by the Belgian ambassador in Kigali, of ‘inflammatory statements calling for the hatred—indeed for the extermination of the Tutsi’; the late March statement by the officer in charge of intelligence for the Rwanda army that ‘if Arusha were implemented, they [the Rwanda army] were ready to liquidate the Tutsi’; the several RTLM and Kangura statements in the last days of March and early April that something major and dramatic was going to happen within the next few days; the public threat uttered on 4 April, two days before the genocide began, by Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, widely considered the ringleader of the Hutu extremist conspirators, that ‘The only plausible solution for Rwanda appears to be the extermination of the Tutsi.’

Can every one of these well-documented points actually be some fantastically clever component of the American conspiracy behind Kagame's RPF? Don't bother asking Herman and Peterson; they don't even try to explain them all away. They simply ignore hundreds of different pieces of evidence pointing to a developing Hutu extremist plot to annihilate the country's Tutsi.

Instead, they focus on the crimes of the RPF. Despite recklessly throwing around figures such as a million or even two million Hutu killed, the numbers they seem to take more seriously total some 25,000 to 45,000 Hutu massacred from April to July 1994. As evidence they cite the investigation led by Robert Gersony for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and even though Gersony's report mysteriously vanished, both UNHCR and the US State Department seem to have found these figures credible.

Typically, Herman and Peterson refer to the Gersony Report as ‘a whole body of important but suppressed research’. Maybe this reflects the problem of only reading other deniers. Yet look at chapter 22 of ‘Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide’, the report of the OAU-appointed panel, titled ‘The RPF and Human Rights’. It points out that while the actual Gersony report seemed to be missing, Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch had uncovered confidential notes based on briefings by Gersony and his colleagues. On p.253, the panel describes the supposedly ‘suppressed research’: ‘Gersony reportedly estimated that during the months from April to August, the RPF killed between 25,000 and 45,000 persons.’

After reviewing all the other evidence we could, the panel approved the following paragraph: ‘Our own conclusion, based on the available evidence, is that it is quite unrealistic to deny RPF responsibility for serious human rights abuses in the months during and after the genocide. They were tough soldiers in the middle of a murderous civil war made infinitely more vicious by the genocide directed by their enemies against their ethnic kin…Some had lost family and were aggressively looking for revenge. But none of these factors excuse the excesses of which they [the RPF] were guilty.’

So in fact the so-called suppressed research by Gersony has been well-known for years. But the panel also knew this: The fact of the genocide against the Tutsi was proved beyond any question, and while 25-45,000 deaths is a huge and gruesome number, it pales beside the genocide being executed at the same time. As noted earlier, the lowest estimate by serious scholars of Tutsi killed during the 100 days is 500,000–600,000; some believe it could be closer to a million.

Beyond that, the reason the catastrophe is called a genocide is precisely because it meets the definition laid down in the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: ‘acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’. That's what qualitatively distinguishes the organised and systematic campaign led by a cabal of well-placed Hutu extremists in government and the military from the terrible killings by the RPF. That's why the ICTR has deemed its priority to be the trial of accused genocidaire rather than of accused RPF soldiers. It's the well-understood distinction between the Nazis and the fire-bombers of Dresden and Hamburg. All are horrific crimes. But genocide is, in our world, the crime of crimes, and it comes first.


Let me address only two remaining points that are integral to the authors' case.

Almost every well-known writer on the genocide condemns the international community, led by the US, for refusing to intervene to stop the massacres of the Tutsi. Richard Barnett's book ‘Eyewitness to a Genocide’, for example, describes his year as a staffer at the US Mission to the UN – it happened to be 1994 – watching as the US and the entire UN chose to abandon Rwanda's Tutsi to its inexorable fate. Samantha Power found a large number of President Clinton's senior advisers who contritely explained to her why they failed to support General Dallaire's urgent cries for reinforcements. Madeleine Albright, Clinton's ambassador to the UN, has abjectly apologised for her role in leading the Security Council to decimate Dallaire's puny military mission, and has righteously claimed that behind the scenes she attempted to get the White House to change its position. Non-permanent members of the Security Council later complained they were kept in the dark about the real situation in Rwanda by those who resisted intervention, including UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali. All of this is now well known.

Here's what Herman and Peterson have to say: ‘What the United States and its Western allies (Britain, Canada and Belgium) really did was sponsor the US-trained Kagame, support his invasion from Uganda and the massive ethnic cleansing prior to April 1994, weaken the Rwandan state by forcing an economic recession and the RPF's penetration of the government and throughout the country, and then press for the complete removal of UN troops because they didn't want UN troops to stand in the way of Kagame's conquest of the country, even though Rwanda's Hutu authorities were urging the dispatch of more [sic] UN troops.’

The endnote for this dramatic paragraph gives as the source ‘the Rwandan UN ambassador Jean-Damascene Bizimana’. Presumably, though, it's only the last part of the sentence that comes from Bizimana. Bizimana had been appointed by President Habyarimana. When the President's plane was shot down on 6 April, an interim government of Hutu extremists was formed under Theoneste Bagosora. Bizimana remained in his post. In one of the many mind-boggling sidebars of the genocide story, 1994 happened to be Rwanda's turn to fill a rotating Security Council seat. So Bizimana ended up representing a genocidaire government on the Council throughout the entire genocide. Soon after the plane crash and the start of the genocide, Bizimana reported to his Security Council peers that the Rwandan military and its people had ‘reacted spontaneously’ and were attacking those suspected of being responsible for killing their president. Bizimana's peers eventually understood the obscenity of having a spokesperson for the genocidal regime sitting among them, but as the British ambassador told Linda Melvern, there was no procedure for getting rid of him.

The 6 April plane crash, as is entirely predictable, features prominently in Herman and Peterson's Orwellian version of Rwanda. The plane, a gift from French President Mitterrand to Habyarimana, was bringing from Dar es Salaam to Kigali not only Habyarimana but the President of Burundi as well. Both were killed, along with everyone else on board. In what we have seen is a typical trick of the authors, they state that ‘It has also been important to suppress the fact that that the first Hutu president of Burundi, Melchior Ndadaye, had been assassinated by Tutsi officers of his army in October 1993.’ That this assassination happened is true; that anyone has ever tried to suppress it is ludicrous. Why Herman and Peterson insist on it is incomprehensible. For the record, this incident is included in my own report, ‘Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide’, in Rene Lemarchand's chapter on Rwanda in ‘Century of Genocide’, in Gerard Prunier's ‘The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide’, in Stephen Kinzer's ‘A Thousand Hills’, and in Linda Melvern's ‘A People Betrayed’, just to mention the few volumes that I took down at random. Far from being suppressed, virtually everyone who writes about Rwanda recognises the great impetus given to Hutu Power advocates in Rwanda by Ndadaye's untimely murder.

Herman and Peterson have no doubt that the RPF shot down Habyarimana's plane. In fact they go that extra mile and add that ‘the United States and its close allies…very possibly aided the assassins in the shoot-down.’ The sole source for this ‘very possible’ charge is Robin Philpot. As for the crash itself, the authors invoke the familiar figures of Michael Hourigan and Jean-Louis Bruguiere. Hourigan is a one-time ICTR investigator who found a few disaffected RPF soldiers who accused the RPF and Kagame personally of responsibility for the crash. Bruguiere is a French magistrate who used some of the same informants as Hourigan, as well as the testimonies of accused genocidaires being held in Arusha, Tanzania, whom he took the trouble to visit (though he never went to Rwanda or spoke to a single RPF official). He too concluded that the RPF and Kagame were guilty. Alas for both of them, their case fell apart when several key informants retracted their entire testimonies, some declaring they had never said anything like what they were quoted as saying. This is all public knowledge, yet the authors never even hint that the basis of Bruguiere's conclusions had been substantially undermined.

It has always seemed most plausible to a majority of those studying the genocide that Hutu extremists and not the RPF shot down the President's plane. But proof was never available and the issue remained moot. It's been one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. At the beginning of this year, however, a new report appeared by an Independent Committee of Experts appointed by the government of Rwanda, with the explicit title Report of the Investigation into the Causes and Circumstances of and Responsibility for the Attack of 06/04/1994 against the Falcon 50 Rwandan Presidential Aeroplane [sic], Registration Number 9xR-NN. The head of the 7-person committee was Dr Jean Mutsinzi, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Rwanda, now a judge of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. The Mutsinzi Report is available at mutsinzireport.com, and my review of the report can be found at Pambazuka News 466, January 21, 2010.

While my review regretted that the Rwandan government hadn't sought an independent investigation to take place, and while the Committee had obvious pro-RPF biases, I nevertheless found their comprehensive report highly persuasive. They also smartly included a ballistics report from staff at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom based at Cranfield University that supported their conclusions. The report demonstrates why the RPF could not have been in a position to launch the fatal missiles while elements of the Rwandan army and Presidential Guard had the capacity, the means and the will to do so.

The report also documents the only logical motive for the attack, one that many other scholars had already anticipated. In the Dar es Salaam meeting of regional presidents that he attended on his final day, 6 April, Habyarimana announced what he had just told his own senior advisors. After stalling for months (a fact Herman and Peterson seem not to grasp at all), he was finally about to implement the Arusha Accords. That meant power-sharing in government and the full integration of the Rwandan and RPF armies. The personal consequences for many Hutu government and military officials would be disastrous. The latter had long sworn, publicly and privately, that they would accept Arusha over their dead bodies, and had pressured Habyarimana not to succumb to external pleas to implement. Finally, however, he decided he had no recourse but honour the agreement, and the extremists decided to nullify Arusha over their president's dead body.

Any reasonable person open to the evidence, including the likely motivation for the deed, will find the Mutsinzi Report credible. But I don't expect for a second that Messrs. Peterson or Herman or Black or Erlinder or Stam or Davenport or Philpot to accept a single word of it. No more do I expect them to agree with a single word in this review. They are well beyond evidence or reason or commonsense. They live in a different universe of witnesses and evidence, enough to satisfy themselves that the world has gotten Rwanda wrong and only they in the world have got it right.


Edward Herman and David Peterson have written a very short book that's not nearly short enough. It should never have seen the light of day. It brings shame to its two American authors, its publisher Monthly Review, and all those who have provided enthusiastic jacket blurbs, many of them prominent in progressive circles – Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Norman Solomon, David Barsamian. If this is what Anglo-American Marxism, or socialism, or anti-imperialism has degenerated into, we can hang our heads in shame for the future of the left.

Why a lifetime anti-imperialist leftist like Herman (and presumably Peterson) wants to exculpate the Serbs of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia of crimes against humanity is beyond my understanding. Why would it not have been enough to point out that appalling crimes were committed by all sides, but in every case Serbs were one of those sides? The only conceivable reason seems to be that the US and its allies singled out the Serbs for attack, which ipso facto makes them the real victims. Indeed, the authors' ally Christopher Black perversely sees Milosevic as an heroic figure.

As we've already seen, hyperbole and slipperiness are cherished tools of the authors, and not just in regards to Rwanda. ‘The leading mainstream experts on “genocide” and mass-atrocity crimes today,’ they assert, ‘still carefully exclude from consideration the US attacks on Indo-China as well as the 1965-1966 Indonesian massacres within that country’. First note the way they add ‘mass atrocity crimes’ to genocidal crimes. In fact, in many circles it surely remains widely accepted that the US was guilty of appalling atrocities in its aggressions against Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. As for the ‘exclusion from consideration’ of those Indonesian massacres, chapter 7 of Totten and Parson's popular volume ‘Century of Genocide’, is titled ‘The Indonesian Massacres’.

Two other similar examples: In true conspiratorial fashion, they argue that the crisis in Darfur was exaggerated to distract attention from America's real African interest, the mineral resources of the Congo. Why both weren't worthy of serious attention is beyond me. Nonetheless, they insist that Darfur solidarity activists dishonestly succeeded in framing Darfur as the ‘unnoticed genocide’, though many, including me, have long understood that it's been the best publicised international crisis in decades. And they charge that it's the calamity in eastern Congo that ‘has been truly ignored’, even though numerous celebrities, including playwright Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues), actor Ben Affleck (at least four times), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have all made high-profile visits to the Kivus. When the US Secretary of State visits a small province in eastern Congo, you know it's the opposite of being ignored.

Many of the Rwanda deniers flaunt their left-wing credentials. As this essay makes clear, they are driven by their anti-Americanism. Certainly I agree that every progressive necessarily must be anti-American to some degree or other. But this little band has driven over the edge. As Peter Erlinder once wrote, America is ‘the most dangerous Empire the world has ever seen’. Everything bad must be America's responsibility. There's not even room for others to share that responsibility, though the French government's complicity in the Rwandan genocide, for example, has been definitively documented and is now even implicitly accepted by President Sarkozy and his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner.

Why the deniers are so determined, so passionate, so intransigent, so absolutely certain, so satisfied to remain part of a tiny minority of cranks, is completely unknown to me. Why they want to create such gratuitous, almost sadistic hurt for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda is impossible to fathom. But in the end, it's irrelevant what furies drive their obsessions. It's their egregious views – not their motives – that matter. And their views relegate them squarely to the lunatic fringe.


* Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ’The Politics of Genocide’, Monthly Review Press, New York, 2010, 112 pages plus endnotes and index, ISBN: 978-1-58367-212-9.
* Gerald Caplan has a PhD in African history. He recently published The Betrayal of Africa.
* Please send comments to editor@pambazuka.org or comment online at Pambazuka News.
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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Kosova: For an independent bi-national federation

Kosova: For an independent bi-national federation

Questions of legality, recognition and partition versus proletarian solidarity

By Michael Karadjis

Introduction to 2008 article in 2010:

The following article was written in early 2008, shortly after Kosova declared independence. Over two years later, the deadlock the article describes remains almost unchanged. The article explains that Kosova consists of parts of two nations – the Serb and Albanian nations – inextricably linked due to geography, but deeply divided due to a history of oppression and the rise of national chauvinism and its reflection among the oppressed. This makes Kosova similar to Cyprus, where parts of two nations – the Greek and Turkish nations – are also linked but deeply divided. In both cases, full ethnic partition along an international border is impossible. The article therefore proposes a plan for Kosova similar to the UN Annan Plan which was proposed for Cyprus (but as yet rejected) – that plan calls for a bi-zonal, bi-communal Cyprus federation consisting of a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot entity, rather than mere “autonomy” for the Turks. Such a plan is much better suited to Kosova’s realities than the current Ahtisaari Plan, despite the vast autonomy it offers the Kosovar Serbs. I am putting it up now because I consider it to be just as timely as it was then.

Since Kosova declared independence on February 17, it has been recognised by around 30 countries, though every country in the 57-member Islamic Conference Organisation also signed a statement welcoming the event. Another 20-30 have declared they will not recognise, while most are “waiting and watching” the situation, wanting more information, waiting for more concrete steps by Kosova regarding implementation of the minority rights’ provisions of the Ahtisaari Plan, or otherwise in no hurry.

With Russia and China and most non-permanent members of the UN Security Council opposed, there is no UN recognition, meaning that officially the UNSC Resolution 1244, adopted in June 1999 at the end of NATO’s devastating war on Serbia, which calls Kosova part of Serbia, remains the officially “legal” situation.

Meanwhile, both imperialist blocs with a presence in Kosova, NATO and the incoming EU supervisory bodies, consist of countries which are deeply divided on the issue, and thus have no consensus on how to act. Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Rumania and Slovakia, members of both organisations, are leaders of the anti-recognition camp, even if the most powerful countries in the two blocs have recognised the new state.

As such, NATO has announced that its mandate remains the same, that is, under Resolution 1244, which recognises Serbian sovereignty, with a role to maintain “a safe and secure environment” for “all peoples,” but that it “is not a police force or a lead political body in Kosovo.”

The EU police and justice mission (EULEX), however, and the proposed EU-appointed International Civilian Representative (ICR, to replace the high representative of the outgoing UN authority UNMIK), are on shakier ground. The original mission of EULEX was to supervise the implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan, particularly the aspects concerned with the high degree of minority rights.

The aim was to reassure Kosovar Serbs and other minorities that such legislation would be implemented and institutions built as the Albanian-led Kosova government declared independence, as it had long announced that it would do unilaterally if no UN resolution could be agreed on.

While there was sharp disagreement within the EU over recognition, there was unanimity in supporting the mission. This is because although the Ahtisaari Plan calls for recognition of an imperialist “supervised independence” for Kosova, those EU countries rejecting any independence nevertheless support the plan’s provisions for minorities, support the “supervision.” Therefore, there is consensus in the EU for EULEX only to implement the internal provisions of the plan, not to aid “independence.”

However, as EULEX, unlike NATO, has no mandate under 1244, as Serbia demanded a new UN resolution if it was to be accepted. Serbia’s aim was for such a resolution to reaffirm Serbian sovereignty. Otherwise it would oppose EULEX’s entry. However, if such a resolution had been passed by the UNSC, the Kosova government would have blocked EULEX entry, as they see it as a concession they are making to minorities and not something they need so much themselves. Thus, if no independence, no EULEX - which also worked vice versa, hence the late decision by a number of major EU countries, particularly Germany, to accept recognition as the price to be in a position to control it.

This means the EULEX mission has arrived “illegally” according to international law, and has no mandate. And this is even more the case given that many of the EU states represented in EULEX have now recognised Kosovar independence, in violation of 1244.

But what should socialists and supporters of the oppressed say about these “legal” issues which make it “illegal” for an oppressed people such as the Kosovars, long trapped by force within borders they did not consent to, to declare their independence? Even more, how does this play out when major imperialist powers, which have their troops and missions in Kosova, are not only recognising this “illegal” independence but also “supervising” it and rendering it, in fact, much less than independence?

One side of this is that socialists certainly do support the right of oppressed nations, such as the Kosovar Albanians, to self-determination, including independence. There can be little substance to a “legality” that prevents independence for a people who have struggled for it for many decades just because one or two members of the elite 5-member Security Council club – in this case Russia – blocks it in the same way that the US blocks recognition of Palestine’s 1988 unilateral declaration of independence.

After Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in 1974, and the intervention of the Indian army to promote its independence, China also vetoed Security Council recognition for 3 years, making Bangladesh “illegal.”

We certainly object to the imperialist troops and “supervision” that are greatly limiting Kosovar independence, but our attitude is to call for these imperialist forces to withdraw, which would allow Kosovars to achieve full self-determination.

At the same time, we need to understand that nearly all the “conditions” set by the EU and Ahtisaari for “independence,” which are to be “supervised,” are concerned with the rights of the minorities, especially Serbs, and more generally with nullifying any “Albanian” content to an officially multi-ethnic state, even though Albanians constitute 90 percent of the population.

This includes autonomy and links to Belgrade for Serb-majority regions, protective areas around Serb Orthodox monasteries, dual citizenship for Serbs, a large degree of representation for Serbs and minorities at all levels of government and state, including significant veto powers, the enforcing of a new flag with no Albanian colours or symbols, an independence declaration vetted by the imperialists to make sure there was no mention of the Albanian people, and banning of union with Albania, while the major role of imperialist troops and police is protection of Serb and minority communities and cultural monuments.

While opposing the restrictions on independence, it is difficult to argue that these actual policies are not good in a country where the massive crimes against the Albanian people by the previous Serbian occupation led to pogroms against Serbs by vengeful or chauvinist Albanians once the Serbian army had been driven out. The smashing of basic working class solidarity between the two peoples is a factor that cannot be ignored.

Nevertheless, despite the very high level of minority rights and protection under supervised independence, most Kosovar Serbs remain opposed and fearful of any independence, precisely because of these realities on the ground. Since the Serb oppressor regime was expelled, Albanians have run the state, Serbs effectively turned into an oppressed minority, whatever the legal standing. But then their opposition to the democratic right of the majority of Kosovars to exercise self-determination further deepens the inter-ethnic hostility. This plays into the hands of Belgrade, which aims to maintain Kosova as its “sovereign” land in some form, but their interests are not necessarily identical.

What is happening on the ground therefore is the consolidation of a partition of Kosova. This partition – mostly across the north – was first established when NATO troops arrived in June 1999 and aided Serb militia dividing the northern city of Mitrovica across the Ibar river, maintaining the entire north of this natural border up to the Serbia border as a Serb zone – some15 percent of Kosova – a zone that just happens to have the richest resources of Kosova.

Moreover, while we reject the argument that “international law” has any moral authority over oppressed peoples changing oppressive “legal” borders, the reality in this case is that recognition of Kosova by some but not by others, or by the Security Council, has entrenched and given a legal character to this partition.

That is because the Serbian state is still effectively in control of north Kosova – indeed has been since 1999 – so while its “legal” arguments have no practical effect in the south, they form the reality in the north. Serbian legal control over the north is consistent with UN resolution 1244. And at present, the UN authority (UNMIK) which has ruled Kosova since 1999 on the basis of alleged Serbian sovereignty remains in place.

Thus, forced to comment on Serbia’s opposition to EULEX, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had to publicly deny EULEX mission chief Peter Feith's claim that the transfer of jurisdiction from UNMIK to EULEX has begun, and stressed that UNMIK will continue in Kosovo until UN Security Council decides otherwise.

Recognising this reality, and the mass Serb boycott of the incoming EU “supervisory” institutions, EULEX on February 24 packed up and left northern Kosova. In contrast, Serbs in the north said they welcomed the continuing presence of UNMIK and NATO.

As such, the new international border is the Ibar River. Moreover, this has extended, more tenuously, to the smaller Serb minority enclaves in the Albanian-dominated south. Throughout the whole country, almost all Serb police officers have either quit, or refused to turn up for work for the Kosova Police Service (KPS), where they form 10 percent of officers – one of the more successful multi-ethnic institutions. The Serbian Orthodox church announced it had severed all contact with Kosova authorities and EULEX. Meanwhile, Kosovo Albanians employed by UNMIK's civilian institutions are also leaving the northern Kosova, Albanian police have withdrawn from the north and even Albanian inmates from a northern jail have been withdrawn.

Of course quitting the KPS in the south could be shooting themselves in the foot, as Serb communities in the south are more vulnerable to Albanian hostility and having their own police is to their advantage. However, Serb police leaders say that while they will no longer work for the KPS now that it is part of an independent state, they will continue working if they can report directly to UNMIK. Negotiations are now underway, but this signals a further legal basis for partition extending beyond the north.

EU officials acknowledge the risk of a split between a Serb "UNMIK-land" north of the Ibar from which the EU is barred and a “EULEX-land” Albanian Kosovo elsewhere. This is the substance of the latest proposal put by Serbia’s Kosovo Minister, Slobodan Samardzic, to the UN, for the “functional separation” of Serb and Albanian communities, with the Serb community still under the Serbian government. UNMIK deputy head, US diplomat Larry Rossin, stated this “could be the basis for talks between Belgrade and UNMIK.”

NATO officials say Serbia’s attempt to force a partition presents a difficult challenge. “Our mandate is to ensure a safe and secure environment and to assure the freedom of movement throughout all of Kosovo,” said James Appathurai, a NATO spokesman. “But NATO is not a police force or the lead political body in Kosovo, so let’s not ask of NATO what it cannot do.” Many senior European Union officials also admit privately that there is little the European Union could do to prevent partition. Thus the provocation by UNMIK police on March 17 – when they raided the courthouse in northern Mitrovica to end its occupation by Serbian legal workers demanding a separate court system, provoking a Serb backlash – appears a test of the waters that badly backfired.

To partition or not to partition has been a long term debate among imperialist powers. One of the first US ideologists to advocate Kosovar independence, Charles Kupchan in a Foreign Affairs article in 2005, in fact advocated it in combination with partition – a position he has now restated. Britain’s former Balkan envoy Lord Owen, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, British general Mike Jackson – the first head of NATO in occupied Kosova - Britain’s Daily Telegraph, the Dutch government and many others have advocated partition as the answer. The French Le Figaro recently called for a new international conference to “finally determine” borders throughout the Balkans based on ethnic criteria. From one point of view, partition is the ideal solution: only by officially dividing peoples whose cohabitation can only lead to conflict, they reason, can a new stability be founded in the region. One theory even claims the rapid imperialist recognition of “illegal” independence was meant to lead to deadlock, in order to make partition the only solution.

But of course this internal partition already exists. What the current majority in the imperialist camp believe is that if this translates into open partition along an international border, this will be more destabilizing than Kosova independence in itself – which they always opposed because they believe there may be a “precedent effect” of encouraging other oppressed peoples to declare independence – as it would even more clearly pose the ethnic principle as a basis for border changes. At least if it can be declared “multi-ethnic,” this precedent effect could be dampened

More concretely, if the north remains part of Serbia, this may encourage the Albanian-dominated south to join Albania, which would then have a destructive flow-on effect in Macedonia, where a quarter of the population are Albanian. This could lead to a blow-out of the ‘Macedonian question’ and threaten the cohesion of NATO’s “southern flank.” Blocking a ‘greater Albania’ has long been considered a central priority in imperialist strategy. Therefore the western powers want an officially united, multi-ethnic Kosova, as enshrined in the Ahtisaari Plan, which they believe will be the least destabilizing alternative.

Both the secession of the north to Serbia proper and the right of the rest to join Albania and create an ethnic Albanian state can be viewed as the right of both communities to self-determination, blocked by imperialist ‘stability’ concerns. And both should have the right to do this, and not be blocked by imperialism, if they so desire.

However, it is arguably the worst outcome for the Kosovar Serbs: the simple fact is that only 40 percent of Kosovar Serbs live in their already very secure northern stronghold, so its secession would abandon the majority of Serbs who live in smaller and more vulnerable enclaves surrounded by the Albanian majority throughout the south. All the famous Serbian Orthodox monasteries are also in the south. An international border at the Ibar will effectively leave these Serbs a much smaller minority in a fully Albanian Kosova, with what is now their major centre cut out. At least some kind of Serb-Albanian partnership to run an independent state still therefore appears the best overall outcome, if it were possible.

Thus the partitionist push by a section of the northern Serbs and elements of the Belgrade regime may be in Serbian interests – getting rid of the hostile, fast-breeding Albanian majority while keeping hold of the vast resources of the north – but represents the opposite of the interests of most Kosovar Serbs.

Thus many Serb leaders from outside the north are highly critical of partition at the Ibar precisely because it would leave them out. This view is continually expressed for example by Rada Trajkovic, the president of the executive council of the Serbian National Council in Kosovo. Likewise, head of the Serbian List for Kosovo, Oliver Ivanovic, denounced on March 25 “jingoism” in the north, where it is easy to be jingoistic and “score cheap points, but the price will be high for the Serbs in the central part of Kosovo, because, in the event of a partition, they don’t see themselves staying in Kosovo at all." He accused Samardžić of trying to gain cheap points in Kosovo for his election campaign.
Trajkovic also stresses that it is in the interests of Serb communities to accept EULEX. She therefore proposes the legal problem be fudged by UNMIK remaining and for Serbs to have contact with EULEX via UNMIK. Thus while she opposes full partition, this proposal still fits into a growing internal legal partition. In fact, Trajkovic called for a “soft” partition of Kosova “according to the Cyprus model,” that is the Annan Plan for Cyprus reunification based on a Greek Cypriot entity and a Turkish Cypriot entity forming a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. In similar vein, Ivanovic, while rejecting partition and calling on Serb police not to quit the KPS, claimed the Serb regions of Kosovo will in the coming period have a status "similar to that of the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia,” and this “will last not for months, but for years.”
In pointing to something beyond the autonomy and very significant rights guaranteed to Serbs in the Ahtisaari package in an otherwise united Kosova, but something less than outright international partition at the Ibar, these Kosovar Serbs are not only offering a way out of the current constitutional deadlock, but are also offering a solution that accords with the reality of this society very deeply divided between two nations, that was never multi-ethnic even in better times.

While many Serb leaders have stated that they prefer supervised independence - with the vast rights and autonomy within Kosova in the Ahtisaari Plan, guaranteed by the imperialist “supervisory” bodies and troops - to full partition, nevertheless this vast autonomy cannot satisfy them. The reality of Kosova – unlike Bosnia before it was violently ripped apart by Serbian and Croatian chauvinism and EU ethnic partition plans – is that it was never in any sense a multi-ethnic society, but a straight out Serbian colony.

This means the divisions between the two peoples – who also unlike in Bosnia do not speak the same language – are long term and deep. There has never been intermarriage for example. What this also means is that once the Serbian colonial regime was driven out, Albanians now run the state and Serbs are effectively an oppressed minority. This is not in a legal sense, where Serbs – even before the Ahtisaari Plan – have vast official rights and representation. However, the reality on the ground, with proletarian solidarity having long been smashed to pieces, is that whatever the formalities, the overwhelming majority will rule, and minorities will tend to pick up the crumbs.

What we have therefore in Kosova – like in Cyprus – is parts of two nations that have no common consciousness as “Kosovars.” A Cyprus-style plan thus represents this reality better than the Ahtisaari Plan, but also better than open partition. The advantage for the scattered Serbs in the south compared to full partition is that northern Mitrovica, by remaining in Kosova, would continue to form their educational, health, cultural and partly political centre, a centre with a Serb university and major hospital. It is much easier to incorporate scattered enclaves into the same Serb entity if it is part of a Kosova federation than if it was in a separate country.

However, there are also advantages for Kosovar Albanians. Now, in order to attempt to incorporate the Serbs and prevent Kosova becoming part of an Albanian state, the new EU-run state is enforcing an official multi-ethnicity that denies Albanians genuine self-determination. This is not only because of the international presence and supervision of this plan. It is also because this goes well beyond the rights, representation and autonomy for Serbs, to denying the Albanian majority any official recognition as the key people in the state, after a century of struggle and thousands of martyrs. After tens of thousands waved the Albanian red and black eagle flag, representing their actual ethnic consciousness and the rights they had under Tito, it is difficult to not see the new blue and white flag as a gross imperialist imposition, along with the fact that the Albanian people are mentioned nowhere in the independence declaration, and most likely will not be mentioned in the constitution.

By contrast, a bi-national federation will not only allow both Albanians and Serbs to run their own affairs, but also to represent themselves with whatever symbols from their history and culture that they choose. It has the further advantage to the Albanians that the rationale for denying them full independence – that their treatment of the Serb minority requires the imperialist “supervisory” bodies to ensure protection of minority rights and official multi-ethnicity – would have much less credence if Serbs run their own entity.

In fact they could argue against having any “supervision” of their independence – Kosova has only accepted “supervision” on the basis that otherwise the imperialist states would not support their independence. But if such a set-up brought the Serb community on board, there would be less need to accede to these demands, as it would be more difficult to accuse it of “unilateralism.” At this stage, the declaration of independence, even with all the provisions for minorities, is essentially a statement by the Albanian majority community rather than the whole society.

This is why a solution based more on the Cyprus Annan Plan than either the Ahtisaari Plan or open partition appears the most realistic alternative.

There is also the possibility that Serbia itself may see this as enough of a “compromise” to accept Kosovar independence as such a federated state, enabling a UN Security Council resolution to pass. There is of course no guarantee of this, but certainly the pressure within Serbian society from both Kosovar Serbs and anti-chauvinist Serbs in Serbia proper would gain momentum at the expense of the far right which now dominates and stirs up chauvinist poison as a matter of political survival on the backs of real lives in Kosova.

It is also just possible that imperialist states have such a solution as a ‘Plan B’ tucked away somewhere. The current logjam has led to a section of the imperialist leadership now essentially espousing this solution, probably a card long there which no-one wanted to play too early. Swedish Foreign minister, Carl Bildt, while “ruling out Kosovo's partition along ethnic lines,” said “the division was a fact and would require a large degree of self-government for the Serbs.” His meetings with the local Serbs "testified that the partition was present in their lives: "these are two societies, two communities. We have tried for many years of the UN presence to overcome this, but with no significant success."

At one point Belgrade and Priština will have to return to the negotiation table, “but it will not change the status of Kosovo,” meaning the internal arrangement will need to change to better accommodate the Serbs, whose situation “is worrying, but little is said about it. It should be reiterated that they are also Serbian citizens, since they have the right to dual citizenship.” Italian foreign minister Massimo D’Alema has now joined in, declaring “I hope that they (Belgrade and Pristina) will soon pick up the dialogue that was interrupted. Kosovo has not achieved full independence, lives under an international protectorate and it doesn’t seem probable to me that it will become a UN member state before an agreement with Serbia has been reached.”

He also said UNMIK will have to stay in Kosovo indefinitely to act as a buffer between nations that recognize Kosova and those that do not – the vast majority. Many states not (or not yet) recognising, have good reason. For our socialist friends in power in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, the fear that the formal "violation of international law" by imperialist powers might act as a precedent for them to use dissatisfaction in their borders to intervene and set up a bogus state is something they are right to consider.

While we should give an unofficial, and cautious, socialist ‘welcome’ to the only partial fruition of the Kosovar people’s legitimate aspirations for self-determination – our message of solidarity with these aspirations – the question of recognition by states is more complex. The Australian government recognised Kosova; we did not campaign for them to do so, though obviously neither do we campaign against. This stance derives especially from the continuing imperialist presence and control limiting these aspirations, but also given that the real partition on the ground is likely to lead to further changes that may unlock the deadlock.

As a statement by Greek socialists maintains, “a real just solution for Kosovo comes through the restoration of multinational co-existence.” This should not be seen as a condition for independence; on the contrary, independence is a necessary step towards this goal, but an insufficient one. But there can be no real independence without the restoration of shattered working class solidarity between the two communities. Whatever the maneuvers of imperialist powers and nationalists on both sides, if a pragmatic end result accords with what is best in the circumstances for approaching this goal, then it should be welcomed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kosova Series Part III: Imperialism's Long-Term Opposition to Kosovar Independence

Kosova Independence Series Part III:

Imperialism’s Long Term Opposition to Kosovar Independence

By Michael Karadjis

The second part of this series (http://mihalisk.blogspot.com/2008_03_30_archive.html) showed that the basis for Kosova’s right to self-determination is real, and that there has been a genuine, mass-based striving for it all century. Yet some on the left have argued that its recent declaration of independence is merely an initiative of the imperialist powers, who allegedly had a long term aim to create an “independent” Kosova state under their control.

This third part will show that the imperialist powers have long opposed Kosova’s right to independence, and explain the reasons for this. As such, their belated recognition of it is an acceptance of the inevitable – unless they wanted to fight a counterinsurgency war inside Europe against 2 million Albanians – and given this, an attempt to control, “supervise” and limit Kosova’s independence. A key focus will be the war in 1999, showing how even as NATO bombed Serbia, it acted not to promote independence, but to derail it.
Post-war Yugoslavia had a “special relationship” with the west, due to Tito’s break with Stalin. Even within the Non-Aligned Movement, it was part of its pro-western wing - the western countries strongly backed Yugoslavia to head the movement in 1979 against the rival Cuban candidacy.

Yugoslavia was a “de facto member of NATO,” with military obligations in the event of war.[1] The US supplied Yugoslavia with $1 billion in weapons from 1950 to 1991, according to the Pentagon’s Security Cooperation Agency, including 15 F-84G Lockheed Thunderstreak fighters, 60 M-47 tanks, hundreds of artillery pieces and anti-aircraft guns, a mine countermeasure ship and millions of dollars worth of sophisticated electronic equipment.[2]

Western support increased after Tito’s death in 1980, as de-Titoisation removed many of the genuinely progressive aspects of Titoism. In the 1980s, Yugoslavia had more political prisoners than any country in eastern Europe, and the bulk were Albanians. In the 1980s, the US sold Yugoslavia $193 million worth of air-to-surface missiles and air defense radar systems. After Milosevic seized power in 1987, the US supplied $96 million in arms and training to 1991, including fighter aircraft, tanks and artillery.[3] Officers of the Yugoslav Peoples Army (JNA) were trained by the US until 1991.[4]

The US ignored the massive human rights violations in Kosova due to Yugoslavia’s role in the Cold War as a bulwark against the Warsaw Pact: “(while) human rights in Kosovo has been the subject of US concern, its relative importance was reduced by many other factors; the USA saw Yugoslavia as a symbol of differences within the communist world. Its human rights policy seemed liberal in comparison with the countries of the Warsaw Pact, while its foreign policy was one of non-alignment.”[5]
Yugoslavia’s “market socialism” also allowed deeper economic relations with imperialist countries than elsewhere in east Europe. The “Belgrade mafia” – George Bush’s assistant secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger, his national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, and “permanent adviser” Henry Kissinger – who had significant economic interests in Yugoslavia – was in charge of the Bush government during Yugoslavia’s collapse. Eagleburger and Scowcroft were instrumental in the “Friends of Yugoslavia” which continually lobbied for further loans and debt rescheduling to Belgrade,[6] the former flying from his Belgrade embassy to Washington in 1981 to campaign in Congress against condemnations of human rights abuses in Kosova, during the murderous crackdown that year.

Not surprisingly, the US media in the 1980s parroted the Deep South style racist horror stories about a lawless Albanian mob running Kosova, the story spread by their Serbian nationalist friends. A good example is an oft-quoted NYT article, which parroted the Serbian nationalist charges about an Albanian plot to rape Serb women and the like, and also asserted the rise of Milosevic was a “rare opportunity for Yugoslavia to take radical political and economic steps. Efforts are underway to strengthen central authority through amendments to the constitution. The hope is that something will be done then to exert the rule of law in Kosovo.”[7]

The federal president during the rise of Milosevic, Ante Markovic, was described by the BBC correspondent as “Washington’s best ally in Yugoslavia.”[8] Markovic sent the federal Yugoslav army into Kosova in early 1989, at Serbia’s behest, to crush the Kosovars’ struggle to defend their constitutional autonomy. When Milosevic completed the task, via killing 24 miners and surrounding Kosova assembly with tanks and helicopters, Markovic congratulated him on this destruction of the federal order and of the Yugoslav constitution that he and the army were supposed to represent.

It became hard to avoid the worst human rights situation in Europe, but the US tried. A letter supposedly signed by Bush during his election campaign in 1988, expressing personal concern about human rights in Kosovo, was denied by the State Department, which reported it was a forgery, a somewhat different response to the loud US policy on “human rights” in eastern Europe.[9]

The only concern was about the effects that resistance by Kosovars might have. The alienation of the Albanians might cause damage to the “territorial integrity and stability of Yugoslavia” (which the US “has a strong interest in”), if the Albanians “increase the pressure for a change in the political and territorial status quo in Yugoslavia, either by forceful or peaceful means.”[10]

Serbia’s smashing of the Yugoslav constitution in Kosova, its imposition of economic sanctions on Slovenia in October 1990, its new 1990 bourgeois constitution declaring its “right” to intervene in other republics, and finally its refusal to accept the Croat Stipe Mesic’s legal turn as Yugoslav president, led to overwhelming majorities of Croats and Slovenes voting for independence in mid 1991. While remaining unrecognised by any country, the Yugoslav army then smashed Croatia to pieces in 6 months of massive bombing, smashing anything that remained of the concept of Yugoslavia in the eyes of the masses. At the end of this, in late 1991 the European Union launched the Badinter Commission to assess the claims of Yugoslavia’s republics for independence. Because Kosova was not officially a republic, its independence declaration was ignored, leaving Kosova in limbo under apartheid throughout the 1990s. Arguably, its legal pre-1989 status as constituent unit of Yugoslavia entitled it to self-determination like the republics the West belatedly recognised.

The abolition of Kosova’s autonomy and years of repression and apartheid in the 1990s drew little reaction from western circles, and never calls to reinstitute autonomy. The EC Declaration on Bosnia and Herzegovina in May 1992[11] outlined policy towards the successor states of Yugoslavia. Regarding Serbia, it called for “respect for the rights of minorities and national or ethnic groups, including Kosovo,” making no mention of autonomy or special status, not to mention restoration of is legal status as constituent unit of Yugoslavia. By contrast, in Croatia it called for “special status for Krajina,” the Serb region torn out of Croatia by the Yugoslav army. For Bosnia, a “political solution can only be based on” partition into “three (territorial) constituent units,” as outlined by the EC in February 1992, despite no internal borders existing and the complete intermingling of the three populations.

When Milosevic finally abolished the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1992, setting up the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between Serbia and Montenegro, Kosova had no say in the matter, thus its inclusion was constitutionally invalid.

While western powers accepted Serbian rule, no UN resolution recognised the new state’s borders, as its insistence on occupying the seat of former Yugoslavia was rejected by other successor states. Therefore, the talk about international “legality” being violated by Kosova’s recent independence declaration has an ironic underpinning: the first time the Security Council recognised Kosova as part of new Yugoslavia was in June 1999 in Resolution 1244, the result of the NATO intervention!

In the US-imposed Dayton Plan ending the Bosnian war in 1995, Bosnia was partitioned into two ethnic-based republics. Even if this had become necessary due to the destruction of the mixed Bosnian population and proletarian solidarity by the war itself, the Serb 30 percent of the population would have been entitled to only this share of the territory, yet the US plan gave the Serb Republic 49 percent of Bosnia, recognising ethnic cleansing.

Yet when Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova, leading a peaceful “Gandhian” resistance, appealed to be invited to Dayton to put the plight of the Kosovars on the table, he was ignored. Kosova, despite its Albanian majority, was left on a lower footing than ‘Republika Srpska’, though the latter had not had a Serb majority before its expulsion of non-Serbs. Kosova in Serbia was part of Dayton’s Serbo-Croatian regional balance.

A KLA commander explained, “we feel a deep, deep sense of betrayal. We mounted a peaceful, civilised protest. We did not go down the road of nationalist hatred, always respecting Serbian churches and monasteries. The result is that we were ignored.” Dayton “taught us a painful truth: those who want freedom must fight for it.”[12] This is crucial for understanding the decision of this radical group to give up the peaceful road.

The west greatly feared this threat of an armed uprising. Western leaders believed independence for Kosova may be a precedent for other peoples, such as Turkey’s Kurds or Spain’s Basques, to also fight for independence. Further, while the Bosnia disaster was contained within former Yugoslavia, and was dealt with via Serbo-Croatian partition, an outbreak in Kosova, either large numbers of Albanian refugees being driven across borders, or Albanian armed resistance, would pose a threat to the stability of fragile bourgeois regimes in Albania, Macedonia and the southern Balkans. A large influx of Albanians into Macedonia would alter the precarious ethnic balance, radicalising the large Albanian minority there, which may join a struggle for a united Albania.

Kosova’s union with Albania was considered even more dangerous. As Foreign Affairs wrote during the 1999 war: “With most ethnic Albanians concentrated in homogenous areas bordering Albania, the drive to extend Albania’s borders remains feasible. That drive is not only a wider threat to European stability to also to Albanian moderation. Many KLA commanders tout themselves as a ‘liberation army for all Albanians’ - precisely what frightens the NATO alliance most.”[13] These homogenous regions include Kosova, a large part of Macedonia, and parts of Montenegro and south Serbia.

This could in turn lead Macedonia, truncated to its ethnic core, looking to closer ties with its oppressed ethnic kin in Greece and Bulgaria, resulting in a wider conflict involving Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, the latter two NATO allies on opposite sides, threatening NATO’s “southern flank.”[14] This was called the “nightmare scenario.”

For these reasons, Washington long feared instability in Kosova more than elsewhere. During the darkest days of the Bosnian genocide, in November 1992, Eagleburger warned that ethnic cleansing in Kosova would be “qualitatively different” from Bosnia and would require US intervention, which Bosnia did not.[15]

The West advocated improving human rights to dampen Albanian resistance while insisting Kosova remain in Yugoslavia. France and Germany, pushing Milosevic and Rugova towards some educational reforms for Albanians in late 1997, offered to reward such mild concessions by fully normalising EU-Yugoslav relations.[16]

However, for the Serbian ruling class, the aim was less clear. Kosova’s population were completely alienated from Serbian rule and set up their “parallel” institutions; many forms of protest intensified. Though victorious at Dayton, how could Greater Serbia, effectively controlling half of Bosnia on an ethnic basis, continue to rule an area 90 percent Albanian? This was a source of permanent instability. Stabilising an ethnic state may require shedding this troublesome population. In 1998, Serbian voices were raised for partition of Kosova, in particular by Dobrica Cosic, the “father” of Serb nationalism.
Voices in the imperialist camp also pushed this solution. “Kosovo is to Serbs what Jerusalem and the West Bank are to Israelis - a sacred ancestral homeland now inhabited largely by Muslims. The Kosovo issue may have to be settled by some sort of partition,” according to Warren Zimmerman, former US ambassador to Yugoslavia.[17] David Owen, Britain’s negotiator in the Bosnian war, proposed partition, with every square mile “lost” to Serbia and “given” to its Albanian population compensated by the same amount of territory in Republika Srpska joining Serbia. This was taken up by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times[18] and other western policy makers.[19] Given permanent conflict, they believed formalising the separation of peoples was essential to stabilise the region.

However, this could also pose great risks for western policy. The independence or union with Albania of even part of Kosova could have even worse destabilising effects than independence for the whole, as it would even more clearly pose the ethnic principle as a basis for border changes; if an autonomous Kosova could be called multi-ethnic, the precedent effect could be dampened. Therefore, any internal partition would have to avoid the Albanian part formally breaking away. Further, Serbs were a far smaller section of the population in Kosova than in Bosnia, so a much greater proportion of Albanians would need to be cleansed for a partition that would satisfy Serbia, which would overwhelm the southern Balkans.

Thus both actions by Serbia (driving out hundreds of thousands) and by the Kosovars (armed struggle for independence) were threats. The latter case was more of a threat if carried out by an armed liberation movement outside of imperialist control. The only thing that began to change the rhetorical attitude of western leaders in 1998 was the sudden rise of the KLA as an independent armed force.

The KLA’s sudden rise in late 1997 was due to the liberation of hundreds of thousands of weapons in Albania during the revolutionary uprising that year, which found their way across the border and were eagerly snatched up by Kosovar villagers living under brutal repression. This coalesced with increasing Kosovar frustration with the failure of the peaceful resistance road of Rugova. Volunteers, arms and money came from the 600,000 Albanians working in Europe, while Albanian former officers of the JNA and Kosovar Territorial Defence Forces provided military experience.
At this time the US began supplying its first arms shipments to Serbia since 1991, “in the name of the War on Drugs.”[20] Given the widespread demonising propaganda from the US and western imperialist media, that the Kosovar Albanians are leaders in heroin trading, this arming of Serbia may have aimed at helping its crackdown on the Kosovars.
The US reacted with hostility to the KLA’s appearance, giving the green light for Milosevic to crack down following attacks on Serbian police in early 1998. US envoy Robert Gelbard, speaking in Pristina, congratulated Milosevic for a “constructive” policy in Bosnia, then stated “the KLA is, without any question, a terrorist organisation.”[21]

"Moslem aid for Albanians” was “a threat to peace" according to US advisers, and could turn the KLA into "a more dangerous military force." US envoy Richard Holbrooke briefed Milosevic in May “on US intelligence assessments which demonstrate the growing strength of the KLA and how it poses the threat of a large-scale regional conflict.”[22]

Some who believe the US later bombed because Milosevic was a “socialist” holdout in east Europe assert the west may have wanted to undermine Milosevic by “encouraging” the KLA. In fact, Milosevic had launched a sweeping privatisation program in 1997, giving vast opportunities to western firms. Half of Serbian Telecom was sold to Greek and Italian investors, a French firm was buying the Beocin cement industry, Kosova was all up for sale and French and Greek firms already had interests in the giant Trepca mining and metallurgy complex. It was the underground Kosova parliament which in January 1998 denounced such “flagrant violations of the rights of Kosovar workers and citizens” and warned foreign capitalists investing in Kosova that “the Albanian people will treat them as neo-colonialists and demand reparations,”[23] given the decade-long lock-out of the entire Albanian working class from the state industries being flogged off.

The uprising in Kosova drove the Serbian elite to the right; in March 1998 Seselj and his fascistic Serbian Radical Party (SRS) was brought back into the ruling coalition for the first time since 1993. The SRS advocated solving the Kosova problem by expelling the Albanian population.

Within weeks of Gelbard’s speech, villages in Kosova were in flames, dozens of civilians killed and thousands driven from their homes, their villages attacked by helicopter gunships, providing thousands of recruits to the KLA, uprooted people with nothing to lose. As the pattern continued, the KLA blossomed into an organisation of 20,000 guerrillas, based in villages throughout the country.[24]

In this new reality, regional branches of Rugova’s Democratic League, of Demaqi’s Parliamentary Party and Qosja’s Democratic Union - the major political groups of the peaceful struggle – became local KLA village guards. Under massive military attack, the movement responded by taking up arms, rather than setting up a new “parallel school.” “There is no doubt that these groups have the full support of the local population.”[25]

The KLA thus became the armed force of the Kosovar population, containing vastly different political currents, from its Maoist core to left, right and liberal currents, to those more or less in favour of accommodation with imperialism, from former human rights fighters in the peaceful struggle to traditional clan leaders, advocates of independence and of union with Albania, from Albanian anti-Serb chauvinists to strong defenders of the rights of the Serb minority. While demonisers of the KLA often focus on more negative traits among some elements and attempt to roll them together and depict the KLA as a uniformly Serb-hating, mafia-led tool of the CIA, in reality its political breadth reflected its emergence as a real national movement.

Thus the strategy of the new Serbian government had the opposite effect to that intended. Gelbard’s speech indicated US support for a counterinsurgency war against the KLA, but the US also noticed Rugova after a decade of ignoring him. In May, US envoy Richard Holbrooke visited Belgrade, and pressured Milosevic and Rugova to negotiate the return of some limited autonomy in order to head off the growth of the KLA.

The first western intervention was an arms embargo on massively armed Yugoslavia. NATO pushed for its forces to be employed along Albania's and Macedonia’s borders with Kosova, to prevent arms getting to the KLA.[26] Albania agreed to a hundred international police to train Albanian forces to block arms crossing the border.

With far superior weaponry, the Serbian forces drove the KLA back from much of the central region. Western rhetoric went up and down, but the Economist reported that “the operations by the Serb security forces that began in central Kosovo in late July were quietly condoned by western governments.”[27]

Holbrooke negotiated a ceasefire with Milosevic in October. Serbia withdrew its special units, while keeping 20,000 troops there. The US presented a plan for limited autonomy, falling short of the level Kosova had enjoyed under Tito: Kosova would have only municipal police but no armed forces, there would be no central bank, and it would not have the federal representation it once had. Minorities would be able to block legislation deemed against Kosova’s “vital interests”[28] – outlawing any independence push.

The KLA rejected the plan as “not even worth dealing with”[29] appalled at being asked “to negotiate about rights and institutions which the citizens of Kosova once enjoyed and which were then abolished unlawfully.[30] The “autonomy” offered not only less than what Milosevic took away in 1989, but even “less than what he was ready to give us back.”[31]

But none of this stabilised the situation. As people were not fleeing across borders, the scenario of mass refugee exodus was avoided; but the 250,000 uprooted Kosovars inside Kosova provided a huge base of recruits to the KLA. “Western diplomats in Yugoslavia thought the KLA had been destroyed in last summer’s fierce Serbian offensive,” wrote Chris Bird in the Guardian. They “then tried to ignore the KLA in political talks.” But while Serbian forces had captured the main towns, in the villages “as soon as you head off the main roads, held by sullen Serbian police, you encounter officious KLA guerrillas manning sandbagged checkpoints.”[32]

A situation of permanent instability developed, which did not only affect Kosova, but Yugoslavia, Albania and Macedonia. Milosevic’s ambitious privatisation plans dried up, as few wanted to invest in a war zone; the same occurred in Albania.[33]

The main problem with Milosevic’s brutal tactics were not their success, but lack of success. The Guardian, a key pro-war Blairite mouthpiece, pointed to the dilemmas. Doing nothing, or even a “limited bombing campaign,” could lead to a drastic attempt by Milosevic to “wipe out the KLA,” which might include “large scale evacuation of villages,” but “all this might be done quite quickly and the casualties might not be huge.” The Guardian implied this would be an enviable outcome, but “even if that were the case, the situation would be absolutely unstable. Kosovars would never be reconciled to it, nor would their kin in Albania. Sooner or later the war would resume.”[34]

A further fear was that the KLA “will swiftly become utterly disenchanted with the west and turn to Islamic radicals. There are already signs contacts have been established,” according to Chris Hedges in Foreign Affairs,[35] claiming to have seen “mujahideen, who do not look Albanian,” wandering around Albania.”

The growing chorus for intervention by early 1999 did not result from dramatic new Serbian offensives. Milosevic’s new operations in January were well below the scale of mid-1998. In January, Serbian forces massacred 45 civilians in Racak. Yet while blown up in the media, it was not the catalyst for the NATO war, as is often claimed by both propagandists for the war, and left opponents of the war, who call Racak a “hoax.”

Western politicians more and more gave the actions of the KLA as a major concern. UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook claimed the KLA had been responsible for more deaths since the ceasefire than the Serbian forces,[36] not mentioning that most of these were of military forces. The KLA’s alleged sin was to re-occupy the regions Serbian special forces had withdrawn from under the ceasefire.[37] The head of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), the international monitors of the ceasefire, claimed “the irresponsible actions of the KLA are the main reason for the significant increase of tension,”[38] yet the KLA insisted that not only did it stick to the ceasefire, but did so despite increased Albanian suffering,[39] as the KVM prevented it from aiding its people under attack.[40]

Almost every outburst in January-February stressed both sides were at fault and faced air strikes. Following Racak, NATO’s General Klaus Naumann, warning of air strikes, said that “both sides must be made to understand that they’ve reached the limit.”[41] NATO head Solana declared “We rule out no option to ensure full respect by both sides in Kosovo for the requirements of the international community.”[42]

However, as the US News and World Report (‘Bomb ‘em Both’) explained, it would be easy to destroy “the heavy weapons, command centres, and air defence batteries belonging to the Serb forces in Kosovo. The Albanian rebels, however, are a guerrilla force with few assets visible from above.” Thus strikes on Serbian weaponry would benefit the KLA, meaning “renting our air force out to the Albanians.”[43] US analyst Jim Hoagland explained that air power requires the aid of ground forces, but the KLA is a “ground force” US leaders “distrust and disparage,” hence “there is neither appetite nor convincing logic for bombing raids,” because, “whatever Washington’s intentions, bombing will have the effect of bringing Kosovar independence closer.”[44] The Guardian warned that “Bombing, especially attacks directed specifically against Serbian units operating in Kosovo, would encourage the KLA to take advantage of the altered odds.”[45] Solana insisted NATO “cannot be the KLA’s air force.” If air strikes reduced Serbia’s military capacity it “might hand the Albanians independence - which the West fears would see the Kosovo crisis spreading into neighbouring countries.”[46] NATO leaders in Brussels oposed action which aided the KLA, as “KLA fanaticism is as frightening as Milosevic’s ruthlessness.”[47]

Thus air strikes would need to be supplemented by western troops to prevent the KLA taking advantage. Hoagland continues, “Britain, France and now Germany have formally told the United States that they will commit ground troops to a NATO force in Kosovo if a small number of US troops join that force. They are opposed to air raids alone.”[48] The Guardian claimed that even with air strikes the two sides “will fight unless a substantial third force, armed and determined, stands between them.”[49] Imperialism decided it needed its own troops in Kosova to disarm the KLA, having lost confidence in Serbia’s brutality to be anything but counterproductive.

In early 1999, the US put its autonomy plan in negotiations in Rambouillet. Till now, NATO had ignored the KLA, but now the it was invited along with the two other Kosovar political blocs. NATO had to include the KLA because by then the bulk of Kosovars were supporting the KLA, so any deal without its consent would be unenforceable – the same process that led Israel ultimately to negotiate with the PLO.

In this autonomy, the KLA would be disarmed, and a purely local police force would be set up, with less powers than most police in the world.[50] Most Serbian forces would withdraw, but 2500 Yugoslav troops would patrol a 5-kilometre border zone inside Kosova, and 2500 dreaded Serbian Interior Ministry police would remain the first year.

Given the Albanians’ disbelief they could feel secure within Serbia, the US offered a NATO “peace-keeping force” to police the deal. As Austrian diplomat Wolfgang Petritsch explained, the mediators believed an international force was essential to disarm the KLA, as the Yugoslav army had “already tried to disarm the KLA and had failed.”[51]

In the first Rambouillet round in February, the KLA refused to capitulate to autonomy and Serbia refused to allow a NATO security force. Petritsch however claimed the Serbian delegation "significantly contributed to achievement of the compromise on the future political and legal system in Kosovo” (ie, autonomy), and even expressed a willingness to discuss the “scope and character of an international presence,” meaning it was open to further discussion on this aspect.[52]

Of the three Kosovar Albanian delegations, only the KLA held out. To get the KLA to sign on, the US pressured a section of its leadership under Hashim Thaci to surrender its independence demand, capitulating on March 15. Veteran Kosovar independence fighter Adem Demaqi, who had led the KLA politically over the 6 months until Rambouillet, denounced this attempt to “convince Albanians to accept capitulation, by launching illusions and empty promises,”[53] quitting the leadership.

By this time, the aim of getting in to control the Albanian movement had coalesced with a broader US aim of establishing a new strategic doctrine for NATO’s post-Cold War existence and for imperialist intervention: executing “out of area” actions with “humanitarian” aims. This tendency wanted a victory for NATO force to crown the alliance’s upcoming 50th birthday in April.

Between the first and second Rambouillet meetings, an annex was inserted into the agreement allowing NATO troops in Kosova to roam all over Serbia and not be bound by Serbian law. It is widely believed that this was inserted to guarantee a Serbian rejection, as NATO was now determined to bomb. Milosevic’s ‘No’ to NATO troops allowed imperialism to turn his government into a convenient “rogue regime” target as a trophy for NATO’s birthday, made easier by the real crimes it had committed.

Serbia’s rejection led on March 24 to NATO’s air war. Did the actual war, whatever the previous motivations, now constitute an imperialist intervention on behalf of the KLA, for Kosova independence?

The bombing imposed a terrible toll on Serbian working people and infrastructure. Use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium was indicative of how anti-humanitarian this “humanitarian” war was; destroying the bridges across the Danube, hundreds of miles north of Kosova, also indicated aims beyond “defending Kosovar Albanians.” The Serbian government claimed a death toll of some 2000 civilians and 600 troops, though some estimates of both are higher.

Neither did this anti-humanitarian war have any humanitarian effects for the Albanians. Belgrade had been tied down with its “Vietnam” in Kosova. Parents all over the country demonstrated with the message: “Bring our sons back from Kosovo.”[54] When nationalist parties attempted in February 1999 to organise rallies outside parliament to demand rejection of Rambouillet, a few dozen turned up. Passers by took no notice;[55] few in Belgrade had any interest in volunteering to go and fight in Kosova. With 2 million Serbs out of work and pensioners owed 7 months pension, Serbia was close to social rebellion.

Then the bombing gave the regime the political cover it hadn’t had previously to carry out its most radical plan: emptying Kosova of its Albanians. Within a couple of weeks of the bombing beginning, the Serbian armed forces had driven some 850,000 Albanians – half their population – from their country into gigantic camps in Albania and Macedonia. Some 10,000 Albanians were killed, and 100,000 houses and 215 mosques destroyed.

What then was NATO’s aim? Many claim NATO had aimed to get Milosevic’s rapid capitulation, which they believed required “a few days bombing” to give him the political cover to do so, but “blundered.”[56] In the first two weeks, bombing was fairly light, initially concentrating on scattered air defence targets and command and control facilities far from major cities. The US aircraft carrier in the region was moved out of the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf just 8 days before the bombing began![57]

However, a “few days” is unrealistic. When NATO bombed the Bosnian Serb armoury in late 1995, even though the Dayton partition was what Karadzic had been fighting for, and Milosevic was already signed on and pressuring Karadzic, it still took two weeks of bombing for Karadzic to feel politically able to sign Dayton. It was scarcely likely to take less time over Kosova. While NATO had not expected an 11-week war, its anticipated “few day” campaign should be translated as “a few weeks.”

Did NATO expect Milosevic to play dead during those few weeks? Western leaders were surprised by the attempt to empty Kosova, but did expect an all out attempt to smash the KLA. “All the alliance’s secret services had the same hypothesis: (Milosevic) was about to clear away the two or three main centres of the KLA as soon as the bombardments began. Nobody imagined the deportations.”[58] Wesley Clarke said “we thought the Serbs were preparing for a spring offensive that would target KLA strongholds, but we never expected them to push ahead with the wholesale deportation of the entire Albanian population.”[59] Was getting Belgrade to soften up the KLA actually western strategy?

The desire for to bomb as a NATO trophy dovetailed with an understanding that a peaceful entry of NATO into Kosova, even if approved by the KLA leadership, would not make it easy to disarm the KLA. Michael Mandelbaum of the US Council on Foreign Relations claimed that if both sides accepted Rambouillet, “NATO forces would enter Kosovo” but “are not guaranteed a peaceful stay. NATO’s plan envisages keeping Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia indefinitely. The Kosovars are unlikely to accept this, nor is the KLA likely to surrender its arms. (NATO’s) forces might well become KLA targets.”[60] Hedges claimed it was “wildly unlikely” the KLA would disarm. “Villages have formed ad hoc militias that, while they identify as KLA, act independently.”[61]

Guerrilla armies are based on such a village structure. It was in NATO’s interests for Serbian forces to destroy the KLA’s real village social base, rendering it less able to resist NATO’s disarmament later.

As Turkish journalist Isa Blumi suggests, while the bombing “was initially intended only to be a face-saving gesture, to allow Milosevic to return to the table, the paucity of the first few weeks of night bombing was also meant to allow Serb forces to eliminate the KLA … Serb daytime operations inside Kosova were not immediately threatened by NATO's night-time bombing.”[62]

Where NATO did miscalculate was that Milosevic would use this crackdown to further the more radical aim of emptying Kosova of its Albanians. These massive refugee camps in neighbouring countries were the kind of regional destabilisation NATO wanted to avoid; even worse for NATO credibility, it had occurred as a result of its actions.

It was then, in later phases of the war, the bombing escalated into a horrific attack on civilian infrastructure, as NATO sought to force Serbia to quit and allow the refugees to return. This sequence also discredits the theory that NATO aimed to destroy Serbia’s economy, which was hit later in the war as a by-product of this unintended escalation.

What of the claim that NATO aimed to destroy the Serbian military? This is related to the claim that NATO aided the KLA. In fact, Solana’s statement that NATO cannot be the KLA’s airforce was stuck to during the war; the Serb military was largely untouched.

In the first two weeks – when nearly all the Kosovars were driven out – not a single Serbian tank was hit in Kosova. Even when NATO later stepped up its bombing, hitting bridges, factories and civilian infrastructure in Serbia, it did little to attack the Serb military in Kosova. Forty percent of total damage to the Serb military occurred in the last week of the 11-week war, and 80 percent in the last two-and-a-half weeks.[63]

By the end of the war, NATO had destroyed only 13 of the 300 tanks Serbia had in Kosova. As Serbian troops marched out, “at least 250 tanks were counted out, as well as 450 armoured personnel carriers and 600 artillery and mortar pieces.”[64] “All NATO’s powers have anti-tank helicopters, but no country offered to send them into Kosovo.”[65]

This meant zero NATO action to support the KLA. “It is all very well to blast bridges and oil refineries in Novi Sad, but our struggle to shield Albanian villages would be more effective if NATO focused on hitting Serb forces in Kosova,”[66] KLA fighters were quoted. KLA officer Shrem Dragobia claimed “when we signed Rambouillet, we were led to believe NATO will help the Albanians. So we stopped arming and mobilising ourselves. The KLA was not to take advantage of any NATO action to embark on an offensive.” The KLA kept its word, but “NATO has failed to keep its part of the besa.”[67]

During a visit to a rugged corridor which the KLA was desperately holding against a Serb offensive, Jonathon Landay claimed “there was no sign of any NATO support, even though American and British military officials visited the area last week. Yugoslav tanks, troops and artillery opposing the rebels are untouched by NATO’s bombs, as are watchtowers along the border from which Serbian artillery spotters direct fire.” KLA fighter ‘Guri’ told him “NATO has basically done nothing against the Serbian ground troops. At least we have not seen anything in the vicinity of the fighting.”[68]

The KLA “has not persuaded western governments to lift an arms embargo that has blocked its access to the Swedish-made BILL-2 anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustav M2 missile, Western-made heavy artillery and other sophisticated weaponry.”[69] The Albanian government appealed to the West to arm the KLA, but State Department spokesman James Rubin stated the US continued to oppose arming or training them.[70]

Despite all this, much ink has been spilt on claims the west backed the KLA. Chossudovsky compares the demonisation of Milosevic to his straw dummy of the KLA being “upheld as a self-respecting nationalist movement struggling for the rights of ethnic Albanians.”[71] The Washington Post claimed “NATO is seeking to maintain its distance from the KLA, declining to supply it with weapons, or endorse the goal of independent Kosovo. It remains an object of suspicion. There is concern about their role in a post-conflict Kosovo.”[72] The London Times claimed “there is a concern within NATO that once its troops are inside Kosovo, the KLA could be part of the problem. Thus they have not been supplied with ammunition.”[73] The KLA remained on Germany’s list of terrorist organisations, and the government banned their fund-raising and confiscated funds.[74]

Chossudovsky alleged the CIA funded the KLA, providing two sources: Belgrade, and “intelligence analyst” John Whitley. Whitley, a “right wing conspiracy nut,” also claims the war was planned by the Bilderbergers, and that Clinton was conspiring to facilitate a “planned Russian and Chinese imposition of a Marxist New World Order on America.”[75]

However, there is ample evidence that the US had made contact with the KLA several months before the war, providing small-scale assistance. Given the refusal to arm the KLA or give it air cover, it is worth looking at what US aims may have been.

All the pro-Milosevic left and right has come up with are a couple of articles in the mainstream media, notably one Times article where US agents admit they had infiltrated the OSCE ceasefire monitors’ mission in the months before the war, developing links with the KLA, giving them “American military training manuals and field advice.”[76]

US agents had also made early contact with less-known KLA figure Hashim Thaci, who emerged at Rambouillet as new number one. Given US hostility to the KLA’s goals, the aim of this small-scale “training” and “advice” was to win influence and mould a pro-imperialist current around Thaci, in order to moderate its aims, to drop the independence demand, allowing Thaci to sign Rambouillet which only allowed for “autonomy.” This also allowed the CIA to “gather intelligence on the KLA's arms and leadership.”[77]
Meanwhile, when the OSCE mission left before the bombing, “many of its satellite telephones and global positioning systems were secretly handed to the KLA” by these agents, “ensuring guerrilla commanders could stay in touch with NATO.”[78] These KLA spotters relayed intelligence on Serbian positions, to help NATO targeting. Yet as shown above, NATO rarely used it to give cover to the KLA; aiding a struggle for independence remained distant from NATO’s objectives even when “coordinating” with it.

NATO even reminded the KLA who was boss. On May 21, US planes bombed a key KLA base, held for six weeks, though “for more than a month, regular reports on who controlled which small parts of this mountain were fed back to NATO on a satellite fax link from rebels.” A reporter visiting two days earlier “was told by KLA officers that they frequently sent NATO targeting information on Serb units opposing them.”[79]

Certain facts are unassailable. Firstly, if the US was sending all the aid to the KLA that many imagined, it was strange that they were hardly able to defend any villages once the war began. A million were driven from their country because the KLA had so few arms.

Secondly, the only arms ever seen in possession of the KLA were the AK-47’s looted from Albanian armouries. If they got a few more as an influence-buying gesture, they were clearly not aimed at helping their struggle.

Thirdly, even if imperialist states had supplied some small arms to the KLA, engaged in its life and death struggle to defend Kosovars, this itself cannot transform the entire KLA from a liberation movement to a tool of NATO. While both fighting Serbia, they had opposite aims. The KLA was fighting for independence; any influence buying by NATO was aimed at derailing this struggle.

For example, Clinton made a widely touted tough speech in mid-April, warning Serbs to expect more civilian casualties. Yet he sounded less “tough” when warning Serbia that Albanians, given all they were suffering, now have a right to … autonomy within Serbia.

NATO’s goals were spelt out in the US ruling class journal Foreign Affairs, which claimed NATO “is working feverishly - even as it bombs the Serbs - to blunt the momentum toward a war of independence. The allies want NATO troops to separate the warring factions. The underlying idea behind creating a theoretically temporary, NATO-enforced military protectorate is to buy time for a three-year transition period in which Albanians will be allowed to elect a parliament and other governing bodies - meeting enough of their aspirations, it is hoped, to keep Kosovo from seceding.”[80]

If NATO had armed sections of the KLA, the aim would have been to use them as an auxiliary, and then be in a position to cut them off before the KLA could use the arms to achieve its goals. This would have required only minimal arms going to the KLA. If the Kosovars had sufficient arms to defend themselves they would not have needed NATO.

It must be remembered that, aside from NATO’s criminal bombing of Serbia, there was concurrently a just war being waged by the Kosovar people to defend their lives and villages. According to the Independent, the KLA was “defending 250,000 civilians in the Lapski and Shalja region in the north” from a fierce Serbian offensive.[81] In such a struggle, did the KLA not have the right to defend those villages, which would otherwise be ethnically cleansed? Was expelling the population necessary for “anti-imperialist resistance”? Of course, the KLA leadership is also to be condemned for supporting NATO bombing of Serb working people. But the KLA as a whole was simply the only armed force the Kosovars had to defend themselves. Socialists cannot call on an entire people to commit “revolutionary” suicide because they have a bad leadership, yet that is what much of the left did by opposing the Kosovars’ just struggle.

Much of the “NATO supported the KLA” claims rely on events near the end of the war, when the Serbian military was hit, due to NATO’s increasing desperation to force a surrender. The risky strategy of finally giving air cover to some controlled KLA attacks from Albania into the border region, to flush out Yugoslav troops and hit them, was employed only in the last ten days of the war. By hitting the military, NATO brought the war to an end within days, quickly enough to bring the KLA back to heel.

In early June, just before the peace agreement, Operation Arrow, “involving up to 4,000 KLA guerrillas, was launched to drive into Kosovo from across its south western border with Albania,” where they “received their first known NATO air support.”[82]
However, there remained “uncertainty” in the west “about the extent to which the KLA, designated a terrorist organisation by the US, should be supported.”[83] Despite the KLA’s earlier capture of territory near the Albanian border, “armed only with light weapons, it has been unable to break through Serbian armour since NATO started bombing,” revealing how little support the it had received till then. “NATO commanders are reluctant to enter into a formal relationship with the KLA. They have not, for example, provided secure communications channels.”
A NATO source explained: "We are acutely conscious that at some point, in enforcing a peace agreement, we may have to disarm the KLA and even fight them.”[84]
The peace agreement, signed in early June, mandated Kosova remain under Serbian “sovereignty,” while putting it under a UN authority (UNMIK) and an occupation by thousands of mostly NATO troops (KFOR). Given NATO’s smashing victory; if it had desired a move towards independence, it could have set the ball rolling; it clearly did not.

To trick the KLA into signing Rambouillet, a clause had said the future of Kosova would be determined by a conference in three years, taking into account “the will of the people.” However, it would also be based on “opinions of relevant authorities, each party’s efforts regarding the implementation of this Agreement, and the Helsinki Final Act,”[85]- the latter ruling out border changes. Petritsch maintained the mediators “expressly included this provision to ensure Kosovo would remain in Yugoslavia.”[86]

Nevertheless, with the overwhelming NATO victory in June, even this vague suggestion about the “will of the people” was removed. One NATO promise that was kept, however, was the disarmament and dissolution of the KLA, achieving what Milosevic could not.

From the outset, everyone from Bernard Kouchner (the first UNMIK proconsul to rule Kosova) to US, UN and EU leaders insisted there would be no independence.[87] On September 23, NATO chief Solana insisted that “one outcome will not be independence for Kosovo.”[88] UN interim governor, Sergio Vieira de Mello, declared “we will determine on a case to case basis” whether the KLA mayors who had sprung up were performing according to western dictates. If they are not, “You sack them, absolutely.”[89]

In December 1999, Kouchner forced the Kosova provisional government, which UNMIK had refused to recognise, to dissolve into his new ‘Interim Administrative Agency’ of Kosova, consisting of 4 members of UNMIK, 3 Albanians and 1 Serb, and giving Kouchner final say – the 90 percent majority got 37.5 percent of the power, in a structure dominated by anti-independence forces. Despite Thaci taking part, other factions of the KLA condemned this body which made Kouchner “the King of Kosova.”[90]


As Kosova set in for nine years of limbo under a colonial authority, the threat of being returned in any form to the state which had tried to annihilate them weighed heavily over the heads of its people. Total opposition to independence, whatever the “behaviour” of Kosovars, remained official imperialist policy through the first half of the next decade. This imperialist view contrasts sharply with the century-long struggle by Kosovar Albanians for independence, and the overwhelming nature of this aspiration among Kosovar Albanians, as demonstrated in the previous part of this series. These facts illustrate how incorrect is the view that Kosova’s recent declaration of independence is an imperialist, not Kosovar, initiative. However, given the imperialist states have now accepted a form of so-called “supervised” (by them) independence, the next part of this series will discuss how and why imperialist states finally changed their view, and their broader geo-political objectives.
[1] Anton Bebler, “US Strategy and Yugoslavia’s Security,” Yugoslav and American Views on the 1990s, Simic, Richey and Stojcevic Eds, Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade, 1990.
[2] Abel, D, “US Arms, Training Aided Milosevic,” The Boston Globe, July 4, 1999.
[3] ibid.
[4] Janes Defence Weekly, July 20, 1991.
[5] Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Washington, November 2, 1989, p19.
[6] Lampe, op cit, pp319-320.
[7] Binder, D, “In Yugoslavia, Rising Ethnic Strife Brings Fears of Worse, NYT, November 1, 1987.
[8] Glenny, M, “The Massacre of Yugoslavia,” New York Review of Books, January 30, 1992, p34.
[9] The New York Times, December 28, 1988, pB7.
[10] Woehrel, S, “Yugoslavia’s Kosovo Crisis: Ethnic Conflict Between Albanians and Serbs,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, November 2, 1989, p19..”
[11] EC Declaration on Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 11, 1992.
[12] Hedges, C, “Kosovo’s Next Masters,” Foreign Affairs, May-June 1999.
10 ibid.
[14] This scenario was widely discussed. See for example articles “Catastrophic Kosovo,” “The Fire is Being Rekindled,” “The Next Domino?” The Economist, March 7, 1998.
[15] Broder, J, “US Warns of Broad War Over Kosovo,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 30, 1992.
[16] Minxhozi, S, “Why Did Kinkel Visit Tirana,” Alternative Information Mreza, February 12, 1998.
[17] Zimmerman, op cit, p13, 130.
[18] Friedman, T, “Redo Dayton on Bosnia, and Do a Deal on Kosovo,” International Herald Tribune, February 8, 1999; ‘Op-Ed – Foreign Affairs,” New York Times, September 15, 1999.
[19] Mearsheimer,J, and Van Evera, S, “Redraw the Map, Stop the Killing,” NYT, April 19, 1999.
[20] Wayne Madsen, ‘Mercenaries in Kosovo: The US connection to the KLA’, The Progressive, August 1999, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1295/is_8_6/ai_55309049/pg_1. “In the aftermath of the Dayton Accords, the Clinton Administration viewed Milosevic as an ally against America's other great enemy: international drug dealing.” Testifying before Congress on May 1, 1997, Clinton's drug czar General Barry McCaffrey requested national interest waivers “to ship weapons to various nations, including some with questionable human rights records,” including Serbia, "which the president granted.” The panel was headed by Republican Dennis Hastert, who was "very supportive" of weapons to Serbia.
[21] ‘Washington ready to reward Belgrade for "good will": envoy’, AFP, February 23, 1998.
[22] Kitney, G, “Muslim Aid For Albanians a Threat to Peace,” Sydney Morning Herald, May 16, 1998.
[23] Commission for Economy and Finances/Commission for Industry, Power Industry and natural Resources, Parliament of the Republic of Kosova, Pronouncement, January 7, 1998.
[24] After the war the International Organization for Migration (IOM) registered 25,723 ex-combatants, but this may include “non-combatants looking for assistance,” Human Rights Watch, ‘Structure and Strategy of the KLA’, Under Orders – War Crimes in Kosovo, October 2001, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/kosovo
[25] Rexhepi, F, “Unproclaimed Curfew,” Alternative Information Mreza, Pristina, February 24, 1999.
[26] Newman, R, “One Possibility: Bomb ‘em Both,” US News and World Report, July 20, 1998.
[27] “Kosovo in Peril,” The Economist, August 8, 1998.
[28] Perlez, J, “Kosovo Talks Offering Limited Autonomy,” New York Times, February 8, 1999.
[29] Kosova Liberation Army, General Headquarters, “20th Political declaration,” December 9, 1998.
[30] Krasniqui, A, “Negotiations, Despite Everything?” September 21, 1998; and Inic, S, “Kosovo: Municipality or State Within a State,” both from Alternative Information Mreza.
[31] Interview with Pleurat Sejdiiu by Christopher Ford and David Black, Hobgoblin, London, May 6, 1999.
[32] Bird, C, “People Will Come and Force Us Apart,” Guardian Weekly, January 24, 1999.
[33] Stefani, A, “Shooting in Kosovo Prevents Investments in Albania,” Alternative Information Network, Tirana, June 20, 1998.
[34] Editorial, “Kosovo Requires a Forceful Response,” The Guardian Weekly, March 28, 1999, p14.
[35] Hedges, Foreign Affairs, op cit.
[36] Cornwell, R, “Serbs Goad Impotent West,” The Independent International, January 20-26, 1999.
[37] Bird, op cit; Guardian Weekly editorial January 24, 1999.
[38] Schwarm, P, “Drama of Eight Soldiers,” Alternative Information Mreza (AIM), January 13, 1999.
[39] Rexhepi, F, “With massacre Against Dialogue,” AIM, January 17, 1999.
[40] Smakaj, L, “Kosovo on the Verge of Controlled Chaos,” AIM, Podgorica, January 11, 1999.
[41] Kitney, G, “New Atrocity Throws Talks Bid Into Doubt,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 27, 1999.
[42] Kempster, N, “Fire at Will, NATO Orders,” Sydney Morning Herald, February 1, 1999.
[43] Newman, op cit.
[44] Hoagland, J, “Time to Call Up GI Joe,” Washington Post, in Guardian Weekly, February 7, 1999, p16.
[45] Editorial, “Kosovo Requires a Forceful Response,” The Guardian Weekly, March 28, 1999, p14.
[46] Cornwell, R, “Serbs Goad Impotent West,” The Independent International, January 20-26, 1999.
[47] Kitney, G, ‘View to a Kill’, SMH, January 23, 1999.
[48] Hoagland, op cit.
[49] Editorial, “Stopping War in Kosovo,” Guardian Weekly, January 24, 1999; Mary Kaldor, “We Must Send in Troops to Stop the Killing in Kosovo,” Independent International, January 20-26, 1999.
[50] Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, “Chapter 2: Police and Civil Public Security,” February 23, 1999.
[51] Mirko Klarin, ‘Petritsch sheds light on Rambouillet’, IWPR – Tribunal Report, No. 273, 1-6 July, 2002, http://iwpr.net/index.php?apc_state=hen&s=o&o=p=tri&s=f&o=164862
[52] Ibid.
[53] Adem Demaqi in Pristina daily Sot, February 27, 1999.
[54] Putnik, M, ‘Vojvodina Against the War’, Alternative Information Mreza, Belgrade, June 21, 1998.
[55] Hofnung, T, ‘Make or Break for Serb Regime’, Le Monde Diplomatique, April 1999.
[56] Macintyre, B, ‘Kosovo Blows Up n Albright’s Face’, The Australian, April 9, 1999; Luttwak, E, ‘NATO Started Bombing to Help Milosevic,’ Sunday Telegraph, London, April 25, 1999. Luttwak is a member of the National Security Study group of the US Defence Department.
[57] ‘Admiral: Could have Slowed Slaughter’, UPI, October 14, 1999.
[58] Jauvert, V, “Nothing Went According to Plan,” Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, July 1, 1999.
[59] Smith, R, and Drozdiak, W, “The Anatomy of a Purge,” Washington Post, April 11, 1999.
[60] Mandelbaum, M, “Washington in a Bind as Talks Resume,” Sydney Morning Herald, March 13, 1998.
[61] Hedges, Foreign Affairs, op cit.
[62] Isa Blumi, ‘A Story of Mitigated Ambitions: Kosova's Torturous Path to its Postwar Future’, Alternatives, Turkish Journal of International Relations, Vol. 1, No. 4, Winter 2002, http://www.alternativesjournal.net/volume1/number4/blumipdf.pdf
[63] Daalder, I, and O’Hanlon, M, “Unlearning the Lessons of Kosovo,” Foreign policy, Fall 1999, p131.
[64] Evans, M, The Times, London, June 24, 1999
[65] Luttwak, E, “Give War a Chance,” Foreign Affairs, July-August 1999, p41.
[66] Heinrich, M, “NATO Urged to Focus on Serb Forces,” Sydney Morning Herald, April 20, 1999.
[67] Meaning “sworn vow,” Nazi, F, “KLA Commander’s Talk of NATO Betrayal,” IWPR, April 2, 1999.
[68] Landay, J, “Despite Shortfalls, KLA Shows Muscle,” Christian Science Monitor, April 27, 1999.
[69] Smith, J, “Training, Arms, Allies Bolster KLA Prospects,” Washington Post, May 26, 1999.
[70] Finn, P and Smith, J, “Rebels With a Crippled Cause,” Washington Post Foreign service, April 23, 1999.
[71] Chossudovsky, M, “Freedom Fighters Financed by Organised Crime,” International Viewpoint, London, April 1999. I responded in Green Left Weekly, May 12, 1999, http://www.greenleft.org.au/1999/360/18863
[72] Finn, P and Smith, J, “Rebels With a Crippled Cause,” Washington Post Foreign service, April 23, 1999.
[73] Lloyd, A, “Balkans War,” Times, London, April 20, 1999. The Washington Times alleged members of the KLA, “which has financed its war effort through the sale of heroin, were trained in terrorist camps run by Osama bin Laden,” Jerry Seper, ‘KLA rebels train in terrorist camps’, 5/4/99.
[74] Liebknecht, R, “Inside the KLA,” International Viewpoint,” London, May 1999.
[75] Beyer-Arnesen, H, “The Balkan War and the Leftist Apologetics for the Milosevic Regime,” A-Info News Service, www.ainfos.ca, Oslo, May 11, 1999. Another example of nonsense was ‘Germany’s role in the secession of Kosovo’ (M. Kreickenbaum, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/feb2008/koso-f26.shtml). It claimed the German Information Service gave “logistical assistance” to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo (FARK), which in 1998 “was integrated into the KLA.” Even if this unreferenced tale were true, in fact FARK entered as an enemy of the KLA, which violently wiped it out!
[76] Tom Walker, Aidan Laverty, ‘CIA aided Kosovo guerrilla army’, The Sunday Times, March 12, 2000.
[77] Ibid.
[78] Ibid.
[79] The Scotsman 24 May 1999.
[80] Hedges, Foreign Affairs, op cit.
[81] Boggan, S and Nazi, F, “War in the Balkans – ‘Arm Us or Invade’, KLA Tells NATO,” Independent, London, April 21, 1999.
[82] Dana Priest, Peter Finn, ‘NATO Gives Air Support To Kosovo Guerrillas’, Washington Post, 2 June 1999.
[83] ‘America in secret moves to aid KLA’ The Sunday Times, 16 May 1999.
[84] Ibid..
[85] Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-Government in Kosovo, “Chapter 8: Amendment, Comprehensive Assessment, and Final Clauses,” op cit.
[86] Mirko Klarin, ‘Petritsch sheds light on Rambouillet’, IWPR – Tribunal Report, No. 273, 1-6 July, 2002, http://iwpr.net/index.php?apc_state=hen&s=o&o=p=tri&s=f&o=164862
[87] Kouchner Says He is to Prepare Kosmet Autonomy Within Yugoslavia,” Serb Info News, July 11, 1999; Gray, A, “UN Not Preparing Kosovo For Independence - Annan,” Reuters, October 14, 1999; “US Reaffirms Opposition to Kosovo Independence,” AFP, September 30, 1999.
[88] “Solana: Kosovo Must Not Be Independent,” UPI, September 23, 1999.
[89] “UN Threatens KLA Mayors With Removal,” Associated Press, July 30, 1999.
[90] Kosovapress, December 20, December 21, 1999.