Much as it has been the case with reported death tolls in Bosnia, the number most often cited in wire reports (10,000 dead Albanian civilians) is a complete fabrication. This is not to deny that crimes against civilians happened; the Yugoslav Army has actually prosecuted a number of its troops for violating the laws and customs of war. But the notion of widespread, state-ordered or sanctioned atrocities against Albanian civilians is simply not supported by evidence. There was no "Operation Horseshoe," much as the NATO apologist behind that Wikipedia page would hate to admit it.
So, do I deny that 800,000 (or however many) Albanians were expelled from Kosovo by Serbs? Absolutely. I don't deny that these people were displaced; that would be challenging physical reality, which happens to be the purview of the Empire. I do, however, question the claim they were deported by the police and the military. And indeed, some may have been. But all of them?
In July 1999, a Belgrade daily published a copy of the leaflet that was disseminated to Kosovo Albanians in April, just before the mass exodus to Macedonia and Albania proper. With the help of some friends, I have obtained a digital image of the leaflet. Here it is:
And here is what it says:
We invite you to temporarily evacuate the endangered territories of the Republic of Kosova, due to the ongoing major offensive by the Serbian occupation forces. We cannot protect you, and neither can the Kosova Liberation Army.
We need to save our people and our lives. Therefore, proceed immediately towards Albania and Macedonia.
We have asked NATO to help us in our struggle against the Serb occupation forces, because these forces have launched a great offensive in the entire territory of the republic of Kosova. We are getting this help, but the KLA is not able to fully resist the offensive and defend the Albanian people.
Therefore we call on all Albanians who face danger from the Serb occupation troops to evacuate to Albania and Macedonia.
President, Republic of Kosova
Now, let's see. It's April 1999. NATO has been bombing Serbia for a week, on the pretext of imposing the Rambouillet "agreement" on the government in Belgrade. It's become clear that Belgrade would not surrender. The KLA - which had recovered from defeat in the fall of 1998, thanks to the intervention of Richard Holbrooke and the subsequent support from the KVM - was being routed by the Serb police and the Yugoslav military, deployed to the province to stop the NATO invasion. In other words, things were going rather badly for the Alliance.
All of a sudden, throngs of Albanian refugees pour over the borders into Albania and Macedonia, into camps set up by the KLA and staffed by KLA cadres, who are more than happy to guide the correspondents from NATO countries and OSCE reporters around, collecting testimonies and listening to sob stories. CNN can now show photos of crying Albanian women. The German government, engaged in open war for the first time since 1945, can now bolster the NATO cause by claiming the existence of a secret Serb plan to "ethnically cleanse" Kosovo Albanians. Macedonia is overwhelmed, and destabilized (which would come in very handy two years later).
So, Albanians were transformed from separatist terrorists (KLA) to innocent victims of evil Serbs. NATO was provided a justification for its illegal war that sounded much better than the imposition of a fake peace plan, or a shoddily fabricated massacre. And the KLA was able to assume the role of "protector" to Albanian refugees, thus becoming the leading force among the separatists (who had until then supported Rugova).
What an utterly amazing set of "coincidences," don't you think?