FROM LONDON, UK
Topic: BALKAN AFFAIRS
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY - The invitation to war or to intervention is almost always a propagandist's appeal to blinded emotion over reason, to a subset of convenient facts over the greater set of historical and present truths. About 475 BC, the Athenian playwright Aeschylus (a veteran) wrote "In war, the first casualty is truth," recalling two Persian invasions and a worsening rivalry with the Spartans.
(TiM Ed.: Speaking of the truth being a casualty in the Balkans, note the screaming headline above the photo [on the left] from a June 3-report in the Arizona Republic which read, "Weeping Kosovo refugees describe 'ethnic cleansing'." It was followed by a sub-heading: "Serbs 'shell first... then they burn." Yet the caption under the photo read: "The mother (center) and father of Serbian policeman Lt. Dusan Urosevic watch as their son is buried Tuesday in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Urosevic was killed in last weekend's clashes with ethnic Albanian militants in Kosovo." Talk about the images which lie...)
I am not a great fan of the Serbs for what happened in Bosnia, but in Kosovo the facts --and international law, for that matter--support the Serbs and not the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), or even Ibrahim Rugova's "non-violent" party. I have no Balkan ancestry, and thus, have no particular bias. In my objective analysis the US has no "dog in this fight" and we should do nothing that encourages an Albanian guerrilla war against Serbia.
NATO has now decided to stage aerial maneuvers over Albania as a warning to Belgrade and the USS Eisenhower belatedly headed out to the Adriatic only on June 10th --again the Clintonians speak loudly first, then speed forward the big sticks. I, too, suspect US-NATO troops may have to get into Albania to seal off the border, (effectively cutting the flow to the KLA), and perhaps we will reinforce the task force in Macedonia --if Russia lets us extend that mission past August. But don't expect US-NATO action against the Serb Army or police paramilitary in Kosovo just yet. Nobody (US, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, etc) wants this to turn into a big fight and the KLA appears to be losing steam. If talk could kill the KLA would achieve independence in short order, but, the facts indicate the opposite.
Also note that body count estimates aren't rising exponentially, indicating that these are controlled operations not wanton massacres. Nasty? A good bit, but a lot less bloody than Albanian advocates allege. If it were that bad we would see more action in the diplomatic community than the current pious dithering. This is not a wanton repetition of Bosnia, but a carefully controlled exercise in paramilitary force against a calculatedly provocative, open insurrection. It is one thing for the Jane Fondas and Leftist crusaders of this country to respond sympathetically, it would be a mistake for our military professionals and veterans to buy into this crisis.
In fact, the Serb police and military have not initiated a single action against the KLA at any of these towns or villages until provoked by KLA action; this fact has even been confirmed by National Public Radio. In every instance it has been the KLA guerrillas precipitating what some emotionally driven principals are characterizing as Serb massacres, slaughters and indiscriminate attacks against civilian populations. The facts indicate otherwise and something substantially less than permanent ethnic cleansing which we did see in Bosnia and Croatia.
Further, what have the Serbs done in Kosovo in the last two weeks that the Turks have not been doing in the Kurdish zone or the Mexicans in Chiapas? It is only a matter of degree. They are, as our Constitution phrases it, ensuring domestic tranquility. The difference is that Milosevic makes a convenient whipping boy as he is rather nasty. Perhaps this is little more than an elaborate distraction coupled with yet another set of emergency deployments that will further demoralize and sap the readiness of our armed forces. The fact that former Albanian leader Sali Berisha has chosen to use the Kosovo adventure for his own political benefit, as reported in the June 10th New York Times adds another interesting twist by adding a northern Albanian Geg v. Southern Albanian Tosk element to the intense propaganda barrage emanating from the Albanian side of the border.
International law, the UN Charter, Helsinki Treaty and the convention creating the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are all clear: minorities have civil rights, but borders may not be changed by violence. These laws prevented the creation of a "Greater Serbia" or "greater Croatia" carved out of Bosnia and now obstruct creation of a "greater Albania." Under the Yugoslav Constitution Albanian citizens in Kosovo have individual rights, but they do not have a right to arbitrarily take control of the ancient Serb province of Kosovo & Metohija and unilaterally declare independence.
Per the latest headlines, the US --out of Foggy Bottom-- is presently backing Tony Blair's proposal for a NATO intervention inside Kosovo, but I think this is mostly puffery to keep the press off their backs. I do not think that NATO ministers would approve an active engagement by consensus, and certainly, Russia and China will obstruct at UN Sec. Council.
Kosovo's Peculiar Background
The circumstances in Kosovo are peculiar in that it is the heart of the ancient homeland, but its modern majority is non-Serb, thanks to the post-World War II politics of Tito's Communist regime. The western third of the Province of Kosovo, Metohija, was established as a direct dominion of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Middle Ages and most land there remains the property of the many monasteries and convents in the region. This relationship was never upset by the Ottoman Turkish conquerors or by Marshal Tito. There is an old Albanian community, Catholics in the big towns and Muslims in rural districts such as Drenica, who have lived in the province since the 1300s and were amalgamated with Serbia when it retook the province in the 1st Balkan War of 1912. Urban Catholics tend to support the government while many of the rural Muslims are the core of the KLA. In all, lacking an accurate estimate (which I have tried to uncover without success as yet), I think about 20% of the Albanian majority favor the Yugoslav government and about half the remainder only support Rugova or the KLA when under pressure, as is demonstrated by the flight of refugees into Pristina and Montenegro, as opposed to Albania. It is noteworthy that Albanian residents are not particularly harassed in Belgrade.
The majority of Albanian residents in Kosovo, though, are not of either of these ancient communities but are Albanian refugees who resettled in the province during or after World War II. Serb refugees, ethnically cleansed from the Drenica district in 1941-42, were never allowed by Marshal Tito, to reclaim their property after the war, as part of his multi-ethnic design for a federative republic. Instead, he encouraged more Albanians into the province and began subsidizing these people as an ethnic group. The situation soured from the mid-1960s as the Albanian population reached 75%. At that time, Tito instituted a national payroll tax of 1% to subsidize development of Kosovo, but this soon turned into a welfare subsidy. Serbs in Kosovo at the time were required (and still are) to study Albanian language from 7th to 12th Grade.
From the early 1980s, the Rugova-led Albanian party began to pressure for greater autonomy and began refusing to speak Serb; they began openly discriminating against the Serb natives of the province, hoping to drive the Serbs out and take over their property at rock-bottom prices. Student demonstrations initiated in 1980 became an "Intifada" after the Palestinians popularized the term. Finally, the Albanians walked out of their own schools and began a labor strike against all their own government jobs, when Milosevic terminated the national payroll tax subsidy and their autonomous status in 1989. What happened here is analogous to French-Canadians moving into New Hampshire and imposing French-only language laws while demanding autonomy, or Mexicans concentrating in New Mexico and seceding from the Union, while oppressing Gringos and the Navajo, Apache and Pueblo tribes. It is this naked attempt at a land grab that precipitated the crisis leading secession of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, as well. American politicians Joseph DioGuardi (a former NY congressman and now head of the Albanian-American lobby) and Bob Dole have a lot to answer for in their supporting role since 1986 and should not be viewed as credible authorities.
What is usually at stake in such political movements of ethnic minorities in former-communist countries is a desire to control some of the national capital asset base (all of which is still in government hands) in order to redistribute positions, perquisites and privileges among one's supporters. Further, independence attracts foreign aid in hard currencies which is easy to skim off and deposit abroad. So, too, with the Albanian independence movement in Kosovo; they can redistribute land, run TV, radio and print media, staff all government offices, reassign all government housing, etc. An Albanian-only language requirement and overt harassment would be used to chase the remaining Serbs from their ancestral homes. This is what the Serb people and Belgrade --not just Milosevic-- refuse to countenance. It is the mischief of Woodrow Wilson's "self-determination" policies and the UN's Human Rights charter to recognize and emphasize group ethnic rights to "behave" permanently over individual civil rights "to be," "to do" and "to behave" situationally (as with our 1st Amendment rights), that makes these political games not only plausible but profitable to ambitious leaders. Hitler gleefully invoked the Wilsonian principle of self-determination for the Sudeten Germans in 1938.
For good reasons, the KLA is an internationally recognized terrorist group and was listed as such by our own State Department when paramilitary operations began against them on March 1st as a result of their rising level of terrorism against Serb police and against Albanian loyalists, including several postmen and a forest ranger. The KLA is also associated with a major drug smuggling ring that runs from Turkey into Europe via the Balkans. To date, the KLA appears to have killed more Albanians than Serb police or soldiers.
I've learned from 7 years experience with Croatia, Bosnia and this that the Serbs are very accurate with their limited accounts, but shape their propaganda message to their own people at home and abroad to sustain the myth of a conspiracy and persecution against the Serb race. Rather than lie, they tend to shut up over inconvenient facts, such as the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In the current Kosovo showdown, Albanians wildly exaggerate the facts from miles away from the events, and the foreign reporters on the ground, by and large, wind up tending to confirm the Serbs when they can get the facts past some rather biased editors in New York and DC.
A lot of reported details do not fit and we owe it to our warriors to check every allegation thoroughly. Regarding the alleged massacres at Prekaz and Srbica at the beginning of March, I noted in AP and Reuters dispatches from the scene that the Serb police allowed women, children and the elderly to evacuate before the assaults. Regrettably, the KLA ringleaders in Prekaz chose to keep some wives and children with them and about a dozen died, which fueled politically colored charges of a massacre. Still, some 90% of the non-combatants survived and more than thirty armed KLA fighters were captured alive out in the hills and imprisoned. How many women and children survived Ruby Ridge and Waco?
Further, "mass graves" reported in the press and on TV turned out to be individually dug holes with polished coffins - I saw ITN-News film of the Prekaz burials on the Lehrer Newshour even as Jim Lehrer was solemnly intoning a description of a "mass grave" in his voice-over. In Prekaz, where the local Muslim cleric did not cooperate, the Serbs deliberately buried the coffins oriented in the wrong direction in relation to Mecca, requiring the Albanians to exhume the coffins, turn them 180 degrees, and re-inter them. In Srbica, the mullah cooperated and the grave diggers got it right the first time. The New York Times could only complain that the graves were closed with a bulldozer, but virtually every grave in America is closed with an earth mover of some sort.
Prekaz and Srbica, in the Drenica district, were strongholds of pro-fascist warlords who ethnically cleansed 30-40,000 Serbs out of the district in 1941-42. The men of that generation joined Mussolini's troops or the SS Skanderbeg volunteer mountain division (Freiwilligengibergsdivision) and chased the Chetniks and Partisans around the mountains. A reporter noted an SS tattoo on at least one older survivor in the Srbica-Lausa area back in March. Two other SS Mountain Infantry divisions were raised among the Croatians (Prinz Eugen and Kama) while Bosnian Muslims were recruited into the SS Handschar mountain division. A handschar is a type of Turkish saber, while a kama is a type of fighting knife. Prince Eugene of Savoy defeated the Turks at Belgrade in 1717.
An associate and director of SIRIUS was in Albania in mid-April and the place is an utter mess. Sure there's a lot of talk about greater Albania, and there's a lot of smuggling of AK-47s, etc. into Kosovo and Macedonia, but these Albanians are mostly rank amateurs and they are not making any headway. A lot of what's going on is very theatrical stuff among the Albanians to force people to choose sides between KLA, Rugova's party and Yugoslav loyalism and it gets nasty. Serb overseas press even reports some Albanian v. Albanian shooting on a small scale as some choose to resist the KLA.
Clearing the Border Area
As to the KLA, they're losing the country-bred boys as each village, in turn, is retaken by the Serbs. Sure, they've got hundreds of young volunteers flowing in from the cities of Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere, but these lads have no experience in the boonies, no prior military experience and are getting only a few days of superficial training --shake and bake guerrillas? Further, reports from the border suggest the Serb Army is tightening security from its side and it is more difficult, each day, for the KLA platoons to infiltrate --this is not a difficult or overlong border to seal off. Thus, a NATO mission in Albania actually tends to serve the Serbian purpose, rather than complicating it. But we have seen that these missions don't really intervene actively, they observe and take note of smuggling but do not intercept smugglers, as the Macedonian Force has demonstrated.
Serbia developed its own short-range ground surveillance radar, the IR-3, a few years ago, and that may be helping in the problem of intercepting these resupply parties coming over the hills. It can detect a walking man at 1500 meters. IR sensors would be useful too because of mountain fog as well as night infiltration. I've noted in some reports that the Serbs have intercepted reinforcing parties but the KLA-types then disappear back into the morning mountain fog, so there is a pattern the Serbs have taken note of.
In total, some 40,000 people from 20 or more villages and towns are being forcibly relocated in order to suppress the KLA guerrillas. In the last two months, some three thousand or more Serbs have been cleansed out of several of these villages, too, precipitating the paramilitary action against KLA. There is even a documented report of a 12-year old Serb getting murdered in his dooryard by KLA. Most Albanians now fleeing out of Decani valley (lovely flat farm land and lousy guerrilla country) and border area are fleeing not into Albania but either into Pristina or up into Montenegro (loyalists and neutrals). The Serbs, of course, are depopulating villages along the border in order to deny the KLA support bases that serve as strongholds, supply points and groups of handy hostages. This widens the denial zone (the press is already referring to this buffer as a "free fire zone"), making it more difficult to infiltrate by turning a 15-hour mountain passage into an even longer journey. With the summer solstice approaching, this further reduces the chances for successful infiltration of reinforcements and supplies.
I have seen several references to KLA attempts to turn the village of Decani and other villages into strongholds by digging trenches, bunkers and tunnels. But a cursory look at a map shows how vainglorious such attempts are. Decani village is in a flat "Polje" or valley and easily isolated - think Alamo or Dienbienphu. Prekaz and Srbica, retaken in early March, were in the middle of the hostile Albanian district of Drenica, but remote from Albania itself --not good strategy, operational execution or tactics.
As to a muscular intervention, not only is international law against it, given the facts, I further remind readers what Colonel David Hackworth recently wrote about the low state of readiness in 5th Corps, thanks to Bosnia, Macedonia, Kuwait and Clintonism in general. Its new commander admitted it would take 6 months to get the ground forces in Europe into combat readiness. I do not think the US and NATO can afford much more than a 20,000 man commitment to seal borders from the Albanian side, which serves to ease the Serb problem, by helping to interdict supply flows to the KLA. Meanwhile though Albania is in an advanced state of brigandage and chaos, there is a new and patently absurd UN effort to collect those 650,000 loose weapons inside Albania and disarm the populace in order to reduce crime --just like the weapons collection program in Somalia, remember? This initiative is led by Fred Eckhard --you wonder where these NGO-UN naifs get their ideas; Sarah Brady?
I think the KLA is going to get whipped in rather short order and Rugova will see his influence rise again. Sniping and small scale harassment will continue for a time, but this Serb operation is under rigorous control, so large-scale atrocities are not likely. Rugova is, at the end, still going to be faced with the same constitutional deal, local self-rule under the national constitution. He will get no level of autonomy that gives an Albanian parliament the ability to discriminate against Serbs in the province, nor the right of eminent domain needed to steal farmland and homesteads from the Serb monasteries and convents which have controlled the Metohija district since the 1100s. Further, the Serbs are getting even for the Albanian excesses of World War II. Rugova's people are going to have to go to work and pay their taxes like everybody else, and illegal immigrants from Albania are going to be weeded out and sent home.
Benjamin C. Works, Executive Director
The Strategic Issues Research Institute (of the United States) - SIRIUS
Long Island City, NY, www.wbworks.com/sirius.htm
About the Author
Mr. Works is a lightly-decorated Vietnam veteran who served in aerial reconnaissance in 1969-70 in III-IV Corps with the 73rd Surveillance Aviation Company, 1st Aviation Brigade. A graduate of Yale (1974) with an MBA from Boston University (1981) he spent 16 years in international banking and on Wall Street before serving as CBS Radio's principal radio network consultant during Operation Desert Storm, the Somali intervention of 1992-93 and subsequent crises. He continues to consult to CBS News and to FoxNews Cable network, while publishing a periodic newsletter, "Strategic Issues Today" on the Internet.
TiM Ed.: As TiM editor was leaving Belgrade for London this afternoon (June 15), the news from Kosovo was not good. Violence was escalating. Two Serbian policemen were killed by the Albanian insurgents on Sunday (June 14) and five were wounded. Eighty six NATO war planes also engaged today in a show of aerial saber rattling, perhaps rattling a few Albanian windows, but otherwise not overly impressing the Serbs.
Unconfirmed reports from Belgrade sources suggest that NATO's bombing of Serbia is supposed to commence on June 22 - if the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, doesn't accede to western demands. They are being relayed to him today by Russia's president, Boris Yeltsin (which makes it clear what side Boris and his government are on - as spokespeople for NATO).
But we would not attach much weight to that. Such rumors are usually planted in order to force an opposing geopolitical poker player into a false move.
The whole charade brings back (bad) memories of the Russian government's first deception of the Serbs in Bosnia in February 1994. That's when NATO first threatened to bomb them. And when the Bosnian Serbs first flinched, acceding to assurances from Russia which turned out to be empty promises (see TiM Bulletin 98-02, Feb/94).
A year and half later, they lost the war, after NATO did bomb them (in Aug-Sep/95), including the use of shells with depleted uranium. Increased incidents of leukemia, cancer and baby deformities in the last two years in the bombed out Serb areas, such as Hadzici, near Sarajevo, attest to that, according to some doctors with whom this writer talked during his latest visit to the Balkans.
The "Gulf Syndrome" in the Balkans? You bet. Except that it's the Serb civilians, rather than the Gulf War vets, that are its victims.
Incidentally, June 22 happens to be the 57th anniversary of Hitler's surprise attack on Russia. But one should not attach much importance to that. As the New World Order leaders have proven time and time again, they don't learn much from history. Which is why they are doomed to repeat it - at their peril.
Also, check out... "Biting the Hand That Feeds You", "A Balkan Affairs Potpourri", "Put the U.N. Justice on Trial", "International Justice 'Progresses' from Kidnapping to Murder", "Milosevic: 'A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery'...", "Kosovo Lie Allowed to Stand", "New World Order's Inquisition in Bosnia", "Kosovo Heating Up", "Decani Monastery Under Siege?", "Murder on Wall Street", "Kosovo: 'Bosnia II'", "What If the Shoe Were on the Other Foot?", "Green Interstate - Not Worth American Lives", and/or "Clinton arme secrètement les musulmans bosniaques"