by Christopher Deliso
Kosovo interventionists cover up their crimes
In a recent article in Canada's Globe & Mail, former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia James Bissett invokes the famous words of Otto von Bismarck, who once said, "If there is ever another war in Europe, it will come out of some damned silly thing in the Balkans."
As it turned out, the "Iron Chancellor" was right. He was specifically vindicated by the onset of World War I, sparked by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Bosnian Serb in 1914. Of course, then as now tensions had been brewing and the spark itself was only the necessary formality; Serbia's successes in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 deeply concerned imperial Austria, eager to shore up its own pretensions of Balkan dominance. Now, the tensions building up are different: on the "traditional" front, the U.S.-Russian competition for power; on the front of asymmetrical war, the pan-Islamist movement's quest for dominance in the Balkans versus local and Western interests. But essentially, Bismarck's Balkan admonition has continued to echo down the ages, even though war itself has changed and will no doubt manifest differently this time around.
Indeed, in the current "war on terror" and great-power rivalry over control of multinational energy and telecommunications networks, the war is being expressed in decentralized, often territorially distant ways. For example, when Russia defended Serbia's right to sovereignty over Kosovo in the Balkans, U.S. client state Georgia audaciously arrested Russian diplomats, declaring them spies, a move that enraged the Kremlin and raised the political temperature considerably. Matching the West's increased agitation for Kosovo status resolution, a Russian-backed independence referendum in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia passed on Sunday with 99 percent in favor. On the other side of things, Balkan organized-crime syndicates with ties to al-Qaeda are popping up in relation to planned terrorist attacks as far afield as Norway.
For former ambassador Bissett, the "damned silly thing" going on now in the Balkans is "the seeming determination of Western policy makers to grant the Serbian province of Kosovo its independence." Mr. Bissett would not object, I believe, if we expanded the remit of said "damned and silly things" to cover Western intervention in general in the Balkans since 1990, too. For that whole process has done much more harm than good, enabling and propelling violent ethnic rivalries and building up dangerous mafia groups, appointing war criminals to high political office, and, of course, indulging in various forms of financial corruption and neglect that has helped to leave whole swathes of rural Muslim populations in the UN protectorates of Kosovo and Bosnia funded only by Saudi Arabia and its virulently anti-Western Wahhabi movement.
Interventionist Agitators Demand: Free Kosovo!
However, with the likes of the ICG leading the chorus in calling for Kosovo independence, these more sordid realities are being suppressed. They are simply not convenient for the powers-that-be. Confirming its historic role as nothing more than an Albanian lobbying front, the ICG recently bemoaned the delaying of Kosovo's final status until after Serbian parliamentary elections in January thus: "[I]nstead of finally closing the question of western Balkan borders with an orderly Kosovo settlement, delay would open a new destabilizing chapter." The adjective here gives away the patronizing, quasi-fascistic mindset of the interventionists: the process of ripping apart a country and creating one anew is deemed "orderly" if carried out by the empire. Balkan peons should simply fall into line and behave like good children, while the adults from the West tell them how to make their beds. The phrase "orderly settlement," implying an independent Kosovo supposedly securing a rosy future for the Balkans, is reminiscent of that other old ICG descriptor of the former Serbia-Montenegro union as chronically "dysfunctional." Yet this was hardly more dysfunctional than, say, the UN's disastrous administration in Kosovo.
The dubious wordplay continues: "[T]he longer the Kosovo Albanians are forced to wait," cries the ICG, "the greater the chance they will discredit themselves with unilateral independence moves or riots." Note that "discredited" is rather genteel, compared to the alternatives. After all, they could have said "commit atrocities," "resume ethnic cleansing of Serbs," etc. Most often, the word is used in the context of describing something like, say, a mad scientist's obscure invention or a nonsensical historical claim. In other words, the worst consequence of being "discredited" is to wind up ignored or forgotten, which is exactly what the ICG hopes the world media will do with any future "unilateral independence moves or riots" from "discredited" Albanians.
The Word on the Street: Criminal Neglect
Aside from all the politicized arguments for why Kosovo should be independent, and whose bread would be buttered in so doing, let me just take a moment to relay a message from American and other international soldiers and police who are actually employed in the province. The story they have to tell is somewhat different from the one the lobbyists would have you believe. Indeed, you don't need a National Intelligence Estimate to prove that the Kosovo intervention has made the Balkans demonstrably less safe. It just takes common sense and some looking around.
On my most recent excursion to Kosovo, I spent some time, as always, recording the testimony of various international police and military officials associated with the UN's Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and NATO's Kosovo Force (KFOR), both of which are tasked with keeping the peace in Kosovo. Despite the formidable range of weaponry, surveillance equipment, money, and other resources available to them, these officials say, the UN has essentially given up the fight against terrorism. "It's just like it was in Bosnia," said one American soldier who had previously served in that other wonderful example of Western peacekeeping. "We got tired of it, gradually withdraw our forces, and the 'bad guys' didn't have to do anything but outlast us."
According to the soldier, the U.S. Army at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo has now even "farmed out" its intelligence-gathering operations to a Romanian KFOR unit serving under it. Another international police source seconded this, decrying that "the Americans are not even collecting their own intelligence! No wonder they don't know what is going on!" Neither source meant anything personal about the Romanians, but in general it must be said that if you are that world power trying to oversee the security and final status of a province you are occupying, usually it is better to collect your own information than to leave it up to your minions.
Blending bitterness and acquired Balkan black humor, my interlocutors all pointed out that the UN, the U.S., the Europeans, and everyone else were busily trying to wash their hands of the mess in Kosovo, get on with the final status (independence for the Albanians), and get out. None of this was a surprise, of course; it has been the same old story ever since the UN set up shop in 1999. But hearing about the efforts that the UNMIK regime has taken to avoid the glaring truth – that Kosovo is little more than a playground for powerful mafiosi, infested with unemployed paramilitaries and disgruntled, "born-again" Islamists – was especially revealing.
Indeed, as one disenchanted UNMIK official put it, "These high UN staffers don't want to endanger their next international posting by taking on the criminals and terrorists, and above all they can't admit that the mission has been a huge failure and created a new base for Islamic terrorists. The outside world is not told of what they are bringing on here."
Indeed, as we speak, Saudi mosques continue to go up, funded by a bottomless pit of oil riches, while the Kosovo Albanian civil administration is being selectively stocked with officials whose allegiances to the Islamic world may outweigh their allegiances to Kosovo. The present reality reflects the words of Albanian scholar Isa Blumi, who warned four years ago that the influx of Saudi charities and schools was creating a new "generation of young men and women whose loyalties are not with Kosovo and [who] sustain a volatile intolerance to anyone who contradicts their training." While such people are still well in the minority, the West's "donor fatigue" and increasing desire to disengage is practically guaranteeing that the poor and needy province will come more and more under the economic control of radical Islamic interests. And one should not forget that on several occasions representatives of Islamic states have affirmed their support in terms of lobbying internationally for Kosovo independence for the Albanians. In return, we may ask, for… what?
Turbulent Events of October 2006: Not Exactly an Encouraging Sign
While the signs of future trouble are all there, let's take a minute to examine the things going on right now in Kosovo – that is, the things that the busy interventionists don't want you to hear about. Of course, if you ask any top official in or involved with Kosovo to speak on the record about security issues, the answers are inevitably the same. They can be boiled down to the following: despite some isolated incidents, the security situation in Kosovo is stable, and it is heading toward a happy future as a thriving, multi-ethnic country.
However, the official UNMIK police log of October's security incidents leaked to me recently attests otherwise. To summarize, the police report chronicles over 70 incidents that occurred during the month throughout Kosovo, ranging from public demonstrations and intimidation to beatings, bombings, and murders. Very few of these events made it into media reports. They indicate not only continuing attacks on Serbs and their Christian heritage in Kosovo, but also more internecine violence between Albanians.
For example, on Oct. 6 at 11:45 p.m. in Prizren, "a K-Albanian male killed a fellow K-Albanian male with a pistol shot for unknown reasons. During the investigation, the perpetrator was arrested but no weapon was found." A day later, at 3:40 p.m. in Lipljan, "a K-Albanian youngster shot with an AK-47 rifle at a fellow K-Albanian youngster for unknown reasons. The victim was hospitalized with head injury and remained in stable condition. During the investigation, a bullet hole on the wall and the weapon were found at the spot. The culprit was questioned in presence of his parents and the rifle with 49 rounds of ammunition was confiscated." At 2 a.m. on Oct. 1 near Suva Reka, "an explosion of unknown origin occurred in a K-Albanian house under construction. No injuries but considerable damages were reported. Two K-Albanian males were later arrested as suspects … the explosion was caused by an equivalent of 5-6 kilos of explosives [similar to an anti-tank mine]." Six days later, the same man found another "8 kilos of explosives with a fuse" in his house, the report added.
Along with a great many ethnic provocations against Serbs, threats, break-ins of apartments rented to internationals, and the ominous testimony to the apparently renewed "Albanian National Army" terrorist group spray-painted everywhere, the month of October saw explosions recorded on four occasions, confiscations of weapons seven times, 13 armed attacks, and three murders. Some were carried out against "outsiders," such as the hapless Chinese shop owner in Pristina, robbed at 1 a.m. on Oct. 9 of "€500 in cash and 3 cell phones. The victim resisted the perpetrators [4 armed and masked males] and was stabbed." A day earlier, an Albanian businessman was shot at 8:30 p.m., some 4 km east-northeast of Klina, after surviving three previous assassination attempts. According to the police report, "the incident has created a strong feeling of insecurity amongst both K-Albanians and the K-Serbian returnee community." October also saw continued attacks on Serbian Orthodox Church facilities as well, a clear extension of the "religious cleansing" that has gone on since 1999, as Albanians have vandalized, damaged, or destroyed over 150 churches, some dating back to the 14th century. On Oct. 7 in Pristina, "children found a hand grenade in the premises of an Orthodox church." Luckily authorities were able to dispose of it safely. In three separate attacks on churches on Oct. 30 in Stimlje, Kacanik, and Djakovica, "unknown persons" tried to set one church on fire, broke into another, and stole the protective fence from the third. The question of whether Albanian militants, whose acronym and political demands were prolifically sprayed around Kosovo in October, could mount a serious threat to stability was revealed on Oct. 1 when police discovered, in the central Kosovo mountains of Malisevo, "68 anti-tank and 97 anti-personnel mines, as well as 20 hand grenades and 1,500 rounds of small arms ammunition … 400 kg of explosives were found in the same area." This is hardly the only contraband arms depot in Kosovo. According to one of my police sources, whole warehouses of rockets can be found in southwestern Kosovo, for example. On Oct. 6 in Pristina at 9:15 p.m., the police logs attest, "a K-Albanian male public prosecutor reported that 2 unknown allegedly armed males introduced themselves as members of the 'National Liberation Army for Presevo, Medvede & Bujanovac' [UCPMB, active in the Southern Serbian Municipalities in 1999-2001] and threatened to kill him if he wouldn't release a K-Albanian male from the Detention center."
When confronted with this record, UN officials said, as expected… nothing. This was not surprising, as past experience has revealed. On May 12, 2006, the UN's Head of Civil Administration, Patricia Waring, sent out an internal e-mail ordering the destruction of a list of recent violent attacks compiled from official sources – some 32 in only 11 days. "Please make sure that the table you presented this morning is destroyed," wrote Waring to the unnamed recipient. "I do not want it circulated at all. Its lack of integrity in assumptions, not backed up by fact, is potentially damaging."
What was more damaging, perhaps, was Waring's reply to my requests for clarifications: "I requested staff to destroy material which was not based on appropriate police reports – merely assumptions and gossip, most gathered at third hand," she wrote on June 22. (I see nothing particularly villainous about reprinting this reply here, as Waring after all proudly copied the e-mail to UNMIK bigwigs at the time, such as Police Commissar Kai Vittrup and then-head honcho Soren Jessen-Petersen.) Yet after this bout of bluster, the civil administrator apparently did not have the self-confidence to answer my further request for elucidation regarding precisely which of these 32 incidents based on official sources were "merely assumptions and gossip." It's because there weren't any. They were all clearly marked by source. No surprise that Waring failed to reply to my recent questions on the security situation in Kosovo today.
Nobody except local journalists ever tries to hold these UN officials accountable for their failures, ignorance, and corruption. To their credit, local Kosovo Albanian reporters produce some good work, but who on the outside ever listens to them?
It is ironic that a Western world allegedly so anxious to listen to the opinions of the people it came to liberate only listens to what it wants to hear. If one wants to speak about Serb oppression or the perceived wonders of spontaneous self-determination, there is an audience in the international press – less so when you want to expose UN corruption and crimes, or what the catastrophic UN rule has meant for safety, security, and the war on terror in Kosovo. These are things that local journalists, Serbs, Albanians, and others, have written extensively about. However, no one on the outside ever hears about them. This is because the UN is taking great pains to cover up the fact that it is, and has always been, a part of the problem – not the solution. Instead, the whole story of Kosovo is boiled down to a simplistic and bogus tale of Serbs vs. Albanians, eternally divided by sheer ethnic hatred. Outside forces, such as the UN or Islamic states, are never part of this pithy narrative.
What the outside world does not realize is that the rule of these favored UN bureaucrats is creating a Kosovo in which not even they, let alone the rest of us, will be allowed free passage in a future of corrupt police, xenophobic nationalist villages, and Islamist-dominated "no-go areas." A great part of the UN's declared success in making Kosovo a more peaceful place is that, for over a year, they have simply stopped patrolling in the dangerous places. Fewer patrols also means fewer reports to burn later.
And don't imagine that when the UN is gone and Kosovo is independent that anything will remain in terms of paperwork. Fortunately, there are literally thousands of good UN human sources, who are only going to get riper with time as fear of crackdown from their former employer recedes. Yet their stories are verbal; future historians are going to have a hell of a time getting anything good on paper. Ironically, today's powers-that-be are directly prolonging the same Balkan impulses toward the anecdotal, the apocryphal, and rule of insinuation and rumor that they lament as being to blame for the historical misunderstandings by Balkan nationalists of the most recent to the most remote past. The foreigners have become more Balkan than us. Perhaps there is a shred of truth to the legends of a curse on all who enter these lands?
In any case, what is clear is that the powers-that-be will continue to destroy or suppress everything that paints their occupation in a negative light. This is why it is so important, whether you are a journalist or not, to get your questions in now. Challenge these people while they still at least hypothetically are supposed to be accountable for something. They have gotten away with a free ride for far too long; unlike in a real country, none of them were ever elected to the positions they have held and profited from. Nevertheless, they are the ones scolding Kosovo about its need to be democratic and obey the rule of law.
Unless more people try to call them on it, the Kosovo that is already physically the black hole of Europe will become historically a black hole as well – a perfect crime perpetrated by a phantom administration of individuals coming and going on temporary contracts, parasitically taking what they need from the system and moving on, and doing away with all the records afterwards. Such could not happen in a real country, though Kosovo is apparently about to become one.