Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Kosovo War, Ten Years On

The bombing of then-Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, begun March 24, 1999, was in essence a demonstration of power by which the Atlantic Empire chose to reveal itself to the world. Until then, NATO was considered a defensive alliance; in the words of its first Secretary-General, Lord Ismay, its purpose was to "keep the Russians, out, the Americans in, and the Germans down." During the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia (1991-1995), the Alliance gradually claimed more and more authority, until it was driving the UN, and not the other way around. But on March 24, 1999, NATO - and Washington - would bypass the UN entirely.

It is said today that the war ("intervention") was fought to protect the innocent ethnic Albanians, who were being "oppressed" by a vicious Serbian regime. But insiders have admitted the purpose of the bombing had little to do with Serbs or the Albanians, and much to do with power politics, especially the U.S. relations with Russia.

As Madeleine Albright once famously asked Colin Powell, "What’s the point of... this superb military... if we can't use it?" That was in 1991, and the outcome of this argument was "Desert Storm": a four-day operation in which the overwhelming and technologically superior forces of the U.S.-led coalition obliterated Iraqi troops in open field. As a result, Americans - and their European allies - came to believe in their military invincibility. However, "Desert Storm" was not the first battle of the future, but the last battle of the past. This was shown by the conflict over Kosovo in 1999, which was conceived as a re-run of "Desert Storm," and ended up being anything but.

Washington's show of force was deliberately and carefully designed. The target was Yugoslavia (Serbia-Montenegro), the only country in the Balkans, perhaps even Europe, without a client regime. President Milosevic may have helped the U.S. impose peace in Croatia and Bosnia (at the expense of some 2 million Serbs), but he insisted on being a free agent. That could not be allowed.

Much of the groundwork had been done already. During the early 1990s, the Serbs had been demonized as aggressors and genocidal murderers, based on propaganda from the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia. A proxy force was already in place: the "Kosovo Liberation Army," a terrorist organization seeking independence of the Kosovo province (as the first step in pan-Albanian "unification" sought by some since 1878 or so). Though Albanians have sought separation from Serbia since the early 1980s, the KLA represented an escalation of terrorism that Serbia could not ignore. From mid-1997, Serbian police and Yugoslav military tangled with the KLA, mostly to the KLA's detriment.

In October 1998, the U.S. demanded that Belgrade allow OSCE observers into Kosovo, and stop actions against the KLA (the KLA was under no such constraints). Milosevic agreed, hoping to avoid a war with NATO. But the mission was led by William Walker, veteran of black ops in Central America, who helped the KLA stage a "massacre" in January 1999 and prepare the ground for a war. Walker quickly declared the events in Racak an atrocity, which was then used to issue an insulting ultimatum to Serbia: "Let NATO occupy Kosovo and have free access to the rest of Serbia, and after 3 years give the Albanians independence. Or else."

It was meant to be rejected. And so it was. Everything was in place for a short, victorious war.

As usual, the Serbs proved difficult. They did not surrender on the first day. Or the second. Or the seventy-seventh. They shot down NATO missiles and drones in droves, and (at least) two aircraft, one of them the famous "stealth" F-117A. There is even a story of how Serbian pilots, flying 1970s bombers, demolished the base set up for U.S. Apache helicopters in Albania. Whether there is any truth in it or not, the Apaches never flew a single combat mission in Kosovo, and several were said to have been lost to mysterious "accidents" and "mechanical failures." Clever camouflage and ingenious use of decoys also fooled most NATO bombers. Yugoslav military losses were very low, even after 78 days of the war.

The civilians were not so lucky. NATO went after bridges, railroads, buses, hospitals, marketplaces, water and power supply, and industry nodes. Even the Albanians - whom NATO was supposedly protecting - found themselves targeted, as at least two columns of refugees were struck. One of them was moving back from the Albanian border, defying KLA calls for a mass exodus from the province.

The exodus, by the way, came at just the right time for NATO. Its excuse of trying to impose the Rambouillet ultimatum was wearing thin as the war went on, so it was changed to stopping "ethnic cleansing." The media went into overdrive, looking for stories of Serb atrocities that the KLA was all too eager to furnish. Genocide! Secret plans for ethnic cleansing (fabricated)! Mass murders! Hundreds of thousands dead! All were shown to be ephemeral after the war. Only a handful of journalists admitted being duped; the rest went on repeating the fiction about "10,000 Albanian dead."

The longer the war went on, the more "mistakes" resulted in gruesome civilian deaths, the worse things became for NATO. It was now a "test of credibility," a battle not to crush Serbia but to save NATO's own hide. Exasperated, the Alliance bluffed, threatening total war and ground invasion (which was not feasible in the least) unless Belgrade agreed to yield. The terms they offered were actually better than Rambouillet: the UN would guarantee that Kosovo would remain a part of Serbia. It looked good on paper. Moscow urged Belgrade to accept. So Milosevic did.

In June 1999, the Yugoslav Army pulled out of Kosovo in good order. NATO drove in. With it came the KLA. What followed was an orgy of murder, rape, robbery, arson and wanton destruction. Some 200,000 or more Serbs, Roma, Turks, Jews, and even other Albanians who would not support the KLA fled the occupied province. Hundreds of Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries, chapels and cemeteries were demolished and desecrated. NATO "peacekeepers" stood by and watched.

The terror - dismissed by the cheerleader media as "revenge attacks" - continued for months, then years, reaching a frenzied peak in 2004. So much for "humanitarian" motives of the war.

Eventually, the Empire pushed to violate the armistice, and worked with the provisional Albanian government to create an "independent" Kosovo (February 2008). By that time, they'd already conquered Serbia. Milosevic was deposed in October 2000, by a coalition of opposition parties brought together by U.S. diplomats and spies, funded with "suitcases of cash." The new regime arrested Milosevic - and the rest of the military and civilian leadership - and shipped them off to the Hague Inquisition. Milosevic died there in 2006, under mysterious circumstances. Shortly thereafter, Montenegro seceded, and Yugoslavia was no more. And the Army that successfully survived the bombing? Gutted by the new regime, in the name of "peace and cooperation."

No wonder the Empire continues to believe Kosovo was a triumph. Sure, it didn't go as smoothly as planned, but in the end Serbia was conquered, Albanians had Kosovo, and the UN was once again shoved aside as irrelevant. Except that pummeling Serbia achieved an effect opposite of the one the Empire desired.

The Chinese never forgave the bombing of their Belgrade embassy. In Russia, the war was a turning point; within months, American client Boris Yeltsin was out of power, replaced by Vladimir Putin.

As for the Americans themselves, their leaders learned all the wrong lessons of Kosovo, using the precedent of this evil little war to launch the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The protracted occupation and insurgency have bled the American military and treasury over the past six years, and the troops are still stuck there.

Nor was Kosovo a triumph for NATO; the Alliance was exposed as a paper tiger, as European nations demonstrated complete inability to conduct their own operations, and had to rely on Americans for almost everything.

Just a decade after its supposed moment of triumph (which, appropriately, owed more to media spin than reality) the Empire is failing. Whatever happens to it eventually, the days when it could assert the "right" to bomb anyone, anywhere, for any reason are most likely gone. And the seeds of that destruction were sown in Kosovo. We should remember that.

As for the Serbs and the Albanians, and the fate of Kosovo, Montenegro, and Macedonia... that remains very much an unfinished tale.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Footnote On Democracy

In researching this week's column for Antiwar.com, I stumbled across this piece, which I may or may not have noticed last year when discussing the Serbian elections. Philip Cunliffe of Spiked argued that the Serbian vote wasn't really relevant, because the great powers would decide its fate anyway. And that much turned out to be true - although having a client regime in Belgrade certainly helped.

Here is the passage that caught my attention, and prompted this post (emphasis mine):

The Western response to the election results was best articulated by Javier Solana. Solana welcomed the results by flagging up the fact that the Radicals did not win the majority of votes: ‘the majority of Serbs voted for forces that are democratic and pro-European.’ (4) But even the most ardent EU election monitor would be hard-pressed to use Solana’s new measure as a way of uncovering the difference in democratic value between votes cast in the same election. What Solana really means is that what counts as democracy is what the EU decides is democratic, and the democrats are those who are anointed by the international community, regardless of who actually receives the votes.

I cringe every time the present quisling regime in Serbia, but even the so-called opposition, try to argue that Serbian rights (e.g. sovereignty, territory, etc.) should be respected because Serbia is a democracy. First of all, because they don't get to define democracy - their tormentors do. And secondly, because those rights bloody well should be universal, whether the country in question practices democracy or not. Otherwise, one implicitly recognizes the "right" of the Empire to commit aggression against "undemocratic" countries - and therefore to define "democracy" as it sees fit!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Five years ago today, tens of thousands of Albanians rampaged through the NATO-occupied Kosovo, terrorizing Serbs, burning their villages, destroying their churches and cemeteries, even killing their livestock. It was a classical pogrom, described by one UN official as a "Kristallnacht," and by one American officer as "ethnic cleansing."

"Death to Serbs" they spray-painted on the charred ruins:

and gloried in desecrating them:

Not a single perpetrator of any of these acts was held accountable. Instead, the "international community" rewarded the perpetrators with the "Independent State of Kosovo." This abomination is a monument to hypocrisy, depravity, and abject failure of the Western civilization.

Look upon their deeds, and know them for what they are.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Inquisition: Serbia Wanted To Be Bombed

Almost two weeks ago, when I wrote about the Hague Inquisition's latest travesty of "justice," I had not actually seen the text of the verdict yet. Few have; it is a mastodonic affair, hundreds of pages filled with obfuscatory legalese and newspeak, millions of words wasted to conjure a lie and call it truth.

I was glad to see today the commentary of veteran Tribunal observer Andy Wilcoxson, who points out the sheer absurdity of the judgment.

Quoting extensively from the verdict - unlike the mainstream media that reported on it - Wilcoxson shows that the Inquisition simply asserted the existence of a conspiracy to displace the Albanians from Kosovo, and dismissed all evidence against this allegation as motivated by self-interest of the witnesses. Unlike, say, the Prosecution, whose motives are assumed to be pure as driven snow.

I entirely share Wilcoxson's sentiments when he says:

"This is the dumbest conspiracy theory that has ever been imagined. How could such a massive conspiracy have been undertaken out without any record being made? Without any plans being drawn-up, and without any orders being given to the troops on the ground? Are we supposed to believe that the Serbs did this through some kind of mental telepathy? A person would have to be stupid to believe that the conspiracy being alleged here actually happened."

Worse yet is the "explanation" that the NATO bombing was an "opportunity" for the (alleged) conspirators to put in effect their (alleged) plan: "The partial responsibility of the FRY delegation in causing the talks to fail, when viewed in light of the movement of additional forces to Kosovo, gives rise to the inference that this was being done to gain time.”

Yet elsewhere in the verdict is this:

"The Chamber is of the view that the FRY/Serbian delegation went to Rambouillet genuinely in search of a solution” but “the international negotiators did not take an entirely even-handed approach to the respective positions of the parties and tended to favour the Kosovo Albanians.”

But then, why did they just say that the Serbs wanted Rambouillet to fail in order to get bombed so they could put in effect a phantom conspiracy to persecute Albanians?! Talk about far-fetched conspiracy theories!

Wilcoxson saves the best for last, quoting the portion of the verdict examining the reasoning offered by none other than Emperor Clinton on Rambouillet and the bombing:

“President Clinton stated that the provision for allowing a referendum for the Albanians in Kosovo went too far and that, if he were in the shoes of Milošević, he probably would not have signed the [Rambouillet] draft agreement either."

Once the bombing began, however, "the issues that led to the bombing no longer mattered and that the main issues, which ensured the bombing would continue indefinitely, were that the credibility of the U.S. was at stake, the credibility of NATO was at stake, and his personal credibility as President of the United States was at stake.”

So, who exactly has engaged in a self-serving abuse of diplomacy and force? Who has engaged in conspiracies? Clearly not the men who were convicted two weeks ago.

The Hague "Tribunal" is the symbol of just about everything that has been wrong about the New American Empire over the past two decades. Once that Empire passes into history, so will the sham tribunal. Its judgments will indeed enter the historical record - as examples of travesty, and evidence of the hubris of people who thought they could manufacture reality and get away with murder if only they could call it charity.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Already Too Late?

Continuing the chronicle of warnings and predictions pointing out the untenable situation of the Empire, here's what Chalmers Johnson, author of "Blowback", "Sorrows of Empire" and "Nemesis, told a reporter of the San Diego Union-Tribune today:

"If we cannot cut back our long-standing, ever increasing military spending in a major way, then the bankruptcy of the United States is inevitable. As the current Wall Street meltdown has demonstrated, that is no longer an abstract possibility but a growing likelihood. We do not have much time left.”

The Johnsons, it's fair to note, are unencumbered by children or stocks, two common articles of faith in the country's prosperity. Johnson's UC pension is secure. He can afford to cast a cold eye on the future.

“It's possible that it's over – and there's nothing to be done,” he told me with a ghost of a smile.

It's anything but "fair" to note that Johnson lives on a "secure" pension (how much will it be worth if and when the US dollar follows its Zimbabwean cousin?), or that he and his wife are not "encumbered" by children. Matter of fact, belief that children are a burden probably has a lot to do with the overall decline of the Western civilization - but that's another topic for another time.

None of this should detract from the very real possibility that the Empire has already driven off the cliff, and that the "stimulus" and the Great Socialist Agenda amount to pushing on the accelerator pedal while in free fall.

Wishful thinking or fact? We'll find out soon enough.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Serbia's Top Spy Was CIA

Oh my.

Sunday's LA Times reveals that Serbian spymaster Jovica Stanisic was a CIA asset during the Balkans wars of the 1990s.

Normally I'd get all worked up over the rather vile Serbophobic propaganda (e.g. "regime that gave the world a chilling new term: 'ethnic cleansing'," or "Stanisic was setting up death squads for Milosevic that carried out a genocidal campaign") and whoppers (Ottoman Turks were "mostly Muslim"?) contained within the story. Or the fact that portions of it seem to be a PR piece for the Hague Inquisition. But the revelation that Stanisic was CIA - and his argument that this should entitle him to a measure of mercy from the Empire - is far more important.

More about this in a day or two, as I digest all the information now coming from Serbian sources that have picked up the story. For now, I'll just say two things.

Those "conspiracy theories" about Imperial involvement in the Balkans? Not so conspiratorial now. Also, Stanisic will probably get as much in the way of mercy as Biljana Plavsic.