to impose order and democratic rule in Afghanistan, the US has now moved
on to the equally great challenge of keeping "liberated" Iraq
in one piece. This formidable task involves ensuring that various ethnic,
political and religious groups (Kurds and Arabs, Sunnis and Shiites,
etc.) refrain from intimidation, internecine warfare and revenge killings.
Stabilizing Iraq also means setting up a democratic government with
the full participation of the people, and establishing respect for the
rule of law in addition to rebuilding a shattered infrastructure and
the last of these challenges, US officials are optimistic that Iraq's
oil riches will pick up wherever international generosity leaves off
and that the country will therefore avoid the kind of perpetual economic
gloom that still haunts another of Empire's unsuccessful experiments
and Kosovo: Some Startling Similarities
over the past week's headlines, it seems clear that the US has failed
to learn from experience. In June 1999, NATO "liberated" the
Serbian province of Kosovo from the itinerant "dictator,"
Slobodan Milosevic. Within hours, the Albanian majority began a bloody
campaign of retribution against Kosovo's Serbian minority killing,
expelling, looting, and taking over property by force. In newly "liberated"
Kurdish areas of Iraq, the
same phenomenon seems to be occurring. Indeed, just change the proper
names, and a recent dispatch from northern Iraq (17 April) could just
as well have been written four years ago in Kosovo:
Tuesday, however, Kurds from the neighboring village of Indijah came
to Muntasir and told the Arabs they had 24 hours to leave. Across the
fronts of buildings in the hamlet, Kurds scrawled the initials of the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
(PUK), one of two militia-backed political parties in the north. The
names of Kurdish peasants were written on three houses that they evidently
planned to occupy.
are defenseless," said Hamad Oweid, an Arab shepherd and father
of five daughters. "Many families left to hide in the mountains.
We don't know what else to do."
Cheers for the Docile Protectorate!
said, it is comforting to know that Kosovo's viceroy, Michael Steiner,
has cheerfully proposed applying the Kosovo model of occupation to Iraq.
Speaking to a local TV station recently, Steiner declared:
integrated system, with a clear hierarchical structure and shared competencies
has been installed in Kosovo. In order to complete their mission successfully,
the (Iraq) peace missions should abide by two principles: receive a
clear mandate and enforce order and democracy right from the beginning.
In order to achieve that, it is necessary to set up a sort of protectorate."
and democracy" yes, indeed! Could Mr. Steiner be referring to
rampant destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches (over 110), which
occurred after NATO had arrived, and
which still continues? Or perhaps he means the almost total ethnic
cleansing of not only Serbs, but
also Roma, Turks and Macedonian Muslims, and the abysmal standard
of living for the few who
remain? Or perhaps Steiner is referring to the chronic mafia activity
and inter-Albanian vendetta killings that continue to plague the province
and block its transition to stability?
though Steiner suggests employing "ten times the number" of
foreign overseers as in Kosovo (16,000), the quantity is not the problem;
the question of willpower is. If the US shows in Iraq the same lackluster,
incompetent response as it did after Kosovo's "liberation,"
there is little hope for the newly vulnerable minorities of Iraq. And,
as resurgent Albanian secessionism in the Balkans has shown, this tends
to cause headaches further on down the line for America and its allies.
the Empire proceeds at its peril and that of the Iraqi people if it
chooses to reprise the ineptitude and non-accountability of its Balkan
Mission of Quiet Despair
West would be deluding itself if it really believed that Kosovo's future
is bright. However, behind the self-congratulatory and obligatory lip
service, quiet despair is growing amongst imperial officials high and
war against Serbia in 1999 succeeded only in destroying a lot of civilian
infrastructure, killing innocent people, and causing a real refugee
crisis where none had previously existed. There was neither an exit
strategy nor a real plan for what would happen after the fighting ended.
Although war looks exciting for TV viewers back home, reconstruction
and keeping the peace are much less sexy. The US failed to confront
the uncomfortable reality namely, that Kosovo cannot survive outside
of a larger state.
As a provincial
protectorate, Kosovo is an onerous burden on the West. Yet as an independent
country, it would have neither credibility nor economical sustainability.
Returning to Serbia is unthinkable; yet being swallowed up by Albania
is a deeply unappetizing thought for the rowdy province's neighbors
as well as to many living in Albania itself.
this same scenario and lack of vision have been replicated in Iraq
where the failure to plan ahead has resulted in massive civil
and religious unrest and the needless
looting and destruction of antiquities and that after little more
than a week of "freedom." While the powerful US military can
no doubt stifle much of the unrest in the near future, simmering
hostilities and hatred
of Americans will keep Iraq dangerous for a long time to come and
no closer to stability. This for the simple reason that as with Kosovo,
change was not inaugurated from within, but from violent outside intervention.
Gunboat diplomacy is
doomed to fail especially when the would-be colonizers have no
appreciation of the subtleties at work in local political and social
relationships. Only too late are they starting to realize that the Western
principles of democracy and self-determination may find some
pretty, er, creative expression in the new Iraq.
an incisive recent article, Dr.
Sam Vaknin makes the case for the essentially unsustainable economic
state of Kosovo. As with the protectorate's political structure, its
economy is a simulation, an illusion prolonged by international goodwill
and voluntary remittances from the Albanian diaspora. Employment now
stands at 56 percent; of those employed, it is predicted that up to
20 percent will lose their jobs in the near future, as the international
organizations for which they work reduce their presence. This means
that unemployment could soar to over 70 percent within the next year.
to Dr. Vaknin, the political vagueness between UNMIK and the Kosovo
Parliament has created a kind of vacuum, conducive to legal shortcomings
and external manipulation. Kosovo has no law on foreign investment,
and mortgage financing is absent. Another legal problem is that of land
ownership (this has caused much confusion since 1999, when Albanians
forcibly took over Serb houses and property). Privatization of utilities
is a 'distant dream;' the creation of the Kosovo Trust Agency has done
little precisely because of the ambiguity between UNMIK's powers and
those of the Kosovar Albanians. Lacking a legal framework for collateral
and bankruptcy, banks keep most of their liabilities abroad, at the
same time offering high interest rates and disadvantageous repayment
Billion Later, Still Shabby
Iraq, American companies are now swarming to win lucrative reconstruction
contracts effectively squeezing out local competition. The precedent,
however, had long been set in the Balkans. Tenders for Kosovo's complex
infrastructure jobs have usually been taken by foreign competitors.
Of 861 socially owned firms, only 330 are viable. Avers Dr. Vaknin:
has no private sector to speak of though it has registered 50,000
small and medium-sized enterprises. Of 2,774 members of
the Kosovo Chamber of Commerce – 1,667 were fly-by-night construction
these "outfits" we can add the multitude of gas stations (like
Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, far more than necessary) that
serve as fronts for mafia activity.
"government" has a meager revenue base, and its trade deficit
almost equals its gross domestic product. In order to maintain
the simulation of economic viability, Kosovo relies on the remittances
(up to $1.5 million per year) of its expatriate workers and mafiosi.
Dr. Vaknin reminds, $5 billion has been "poured" since 1999
into the money sieve that is Kosovo. Despite this huge amount of aid,
infrastructure remains dilapidated, electricity is unpredictable, and
roads and railways are poor. The situation is not helped by the
periodic destruction of bridges by Albanian extremists.
moral of this story is twofold. First of all, Kosovo is proof that even
the most generous of reconstruction packages will always be prone to
mismanagement, corruption and failure. Second and more provocative
is the fact that, while humans survive on food, extreme nationalism
thrives on its deprivation. As we will now see, recent events have shown
that the Kosovo secessionist movement is bubbling happily along. When
unemployment reaches 70 percent, and it becomes clear that the Americans
(and no one else) will voluntarily invest in the place, how long will
it take for the cauldron to boil over for real?
Rise Between UNMIK and the Albanians
fundamental issue of the day, however, is that of self-determination
and self-governance versus the restrictions imposed by UN Resolution
1244, by which Kosovo is administered. As the US recklessly rushes into
forestalling this problem with the Kurds and Sh'ites, it seems to have
forgotten the morass that is Kosovo. After four years in suspended animation,
the Albanians are tired of playing at governance. Their virtual parliament
must run every important political and economic decision past the colonial
administration. The wishes of the two often collide. Not surprisingly,
the Albanians not historically known for their patience yearn to take
over for real.
even starting to talk like it. Kosovo "president" Ibrahim
Rugova recently declared that, "Kosovo and Albania are looking
forward to integrate into the European Union and the North-Atlantic
Alliance (NATO)." As to whether they would be doing this together
or separately, he did not say. And Tanjug (on April Fool's Day,
no less) gave details of "prime minister" Bajram Rexhepi's
meeting with Agim Ceku leader of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC)
and an accomplished war criminal to beef up the KPC's role. For the
press, Rexhepi stated:
will observe (UN Security Council) Resolution 1244 and step by step,
in the transfer of power (of UNMIK to provisional Kosovo institutions)
the KPC will get greater powers, and it is our wish that it should become
the future army of Kosovo."
idea of a "national army" for Kosovo has sent shockwaves through
the Balkans, and provoked calls for a self-defensive army from Kosovo's
Serbs. Albanian parliamentarians are growing increasingly exasperated
with the colonial administration, and especially Steiner's habitual
rejection of their amateurish attempts at legislating. In his "strongest
letter so far," Steiner stated last week that he would not approve
four new laws (on higher education, international trade, telecommunication
and management of public finances). He ordered the Albanians to amend
the bills and make them more 1244-friendly before the April 30th
deadline. If the deadline is not met, declared Steiner, "UNMIK
will amend the laws itself and proclaim their effectiveness."
themselves thus to be chronically thwarted and babysat, Kosovo Albanians
are growing more and more frustrated with their overlords. Parliamentary
chairman Nexhat Daci has threatened that future draft laws may not be
sent for approval if Steiner keeps rejecting them. On 11 April, Daci
told local media that, "Kosovo no longer needs such a high number
of international bureaucrats, which has become an obstacle to its democratic
and economic development and is becoming increasingly costly to both
the UN and the province." Daci's political advisor, Ramush Tahiri,
went even further, declaring that, "…the international administration
lacks either knowledge or willingness to implement its mission."
to imagine that the residents of Iraq far more culturally and geographically
separate from the West than the Albanians will prove more malleable.
Major headaches lie ahead for any Empire-imposed government in Iraq.
Extremism on the Rise
of all, after four years of KFOR policing, Kosovo is still held hostage
groups of armed thugs who threaten Serbs and Albanians alike. A
variety of competing extremist groups motivated separately by money,
ideology, and religion are now operating in Kosovo. Chief of all is
the "Albanian National Army" (ANA, or in Albanian, the AKSH).
In the past months, these extremists have planted
bombs in south Serbia, manned armed checkpoints on Kosovo roads,
killed Serbian police, and bombed
a courthouse in Macedonia, among others. They are probably also
responsible for the murder
of Polish NATO soldiers in Macedonia, the Christmas
day school bombing in Kumanovo, shooting
up police stations in Pristina, and the recent shooting
deaths of two material witnesses in a trial of former KLA soldiers
to Western security officials in Pristina, the ANA is motivated by the
grand dream of "Greater Albania," a plan by which Albania
would swallow up the whole of Kosovo, digesting bits of Montenegro,
Serbia, Macedonia and Greece in the process. Backers of this plan claim
that the violent construction of such an anachronistic 19th
Century nation-state harmonizes perfectly well with Western values and
American ideals. Whatever they're smoking, I would sure like a hit.
the Motherland from London
an ANA source, another Albanian newspaper (Shqipëria e Bashkuar)
recently reported that the paramilitaries were linked to the "Front
for National Unification of Albanians" (FBSHK), a diaspora organization
centered in London, which seeks "…the reunion of ethnic Albanian
territories into a unique national Albanian state in the Balkans, as
well as removing more than a century old colonial occupation of Serbs,
Slav-Macedonians and Greeks."
extremism is bliss, insofar as statements like these are concerned,
when it comes down to actions the ANA is more PR-conscious. This explains
the group's attempt to distance itself from the militants who recently
clashed with KFOR troops near a central Kosovo village. Claiming that
the real perpetrators are criminals trying to create "…a bad image
for the AKSH and FBSHK before the international and Albanian population,"
the source made the sincere but presumptuous offer that "…AKSH
special forces will assist UNMIK police in the fight to paralyze these
mafia groups with masks and the crimes they commit."
as that might sound, it is de facto not too far from the reality.
After all, the Kosovo Protection Corps was formed for KLA veteran soldiers
and commanders (i.e., Agim Ceku). Also, it has been proven recently
that active KPC members are also moonlighting as AKSH guerrillas.
ANA took responsibility for bombing
a railway bridge in northern Kosovo, on the Serbian border (12 April),
it also came out that two of its hapless "special forces"
soldiers were killed in the explosion. UNMIK chief Michael Steiner reiterated
his condemnation of the
ANA as a terrorist organization. As it turned out, the dead men
were associated, not only with the KPC, but also with every Albanian
paramilitary formation that has fought in Kosovo, Macedonia and south
Serbia. In fact, one of the men (Islam Berisha), had last month laid
a wreath on the grave of a local hero, in the name of the AKSH, "following
a decision by the Front for the National Unification of Albanians."
The ramifications of having the "legitimate" authorities make
a gesture in the name of a terrorist organization were sufficiently
embarrassing that UNMIK is thinking of firing Berisha's former KPC commander.
As the US has discovered in Iraq, uniforms are donned pretty arbitrarily
New Campaign for the North of Kosovo?
disturbing of all is the fact that the Albanians are taking the war
to a new front northern, Serb-inhabited Kosovo. This is open confirmation
of a desire to ethnically cleanse the territory completely. From the
above-cited article we get a pretty good sense of the irredentists'
is Albanian land and we will not allow it to remain occupied by the
Serbs. ANA has decided to cut all links of the Albanian lands with Belgrade…
(the) time has come when the international factor should correct the
mistake of giving the northern part of Kosovo Mitrovica to the Serbian
authorities. It is (also) time for the 2,500 hectares of ethnic Albanian
land, which the genocide authorities of Serbia (have) given to the artificial
power of Macedonia, to be returned to the Albanians. The relevant international
factor should hear the reasonable voice that the Albanians in their
ethnical hearths (sic) are decisive and ready to make sacrifice in order
to unite the Albanians into one unique nation on the Balkans."
Serbian report (link missing) attests to an even more aggressive, unprecedented
campaign against one of the Serbs' only safe-havens. Mitrovica's river
divides it on ethnic lines. Serbs avoid the southern part of the city;
Albanians, it appears, are fearless. Apparently, uniformed ANA members
with heavy weapons and armored jeeps have been seen rolling through
north Mitrovica in recent days.
goes on to state specific locations in south Mitrovica from where the
ANA operates, as well as details about KFOR weapon seizures there. It
is further claimed that the ANA in Mitrovica is cooperating now with
mujahedin of the famous "Abu
Bekir Sadik" group.
Macedonia and the Rise of Anti-Americanism
I think, is as good a place to leave off as any. Whenever the subject
of Islamic terrorists in the Balkans comes up, the US and its apologists
have a habit of humming loudly while blocking their ears. It is incontestable
that before September 11th, the US aided or abetted the arrival
and employment of foreign jihadis in Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania
and Macedonia. Yet it is of course too embarrassing to admit this. However,
as the disastrous Neocon-crafted plan to destroy Islamic terrorism unfolds
in the Middle East, the Empire would be well advised to heed what former
allies in the Balkans are saying.
political and economic problems are, respectively, intractable and insurmountable.
Although these problems were perpetuated and exacerbated by NATO's 1999
intervention, they always existed and probably always will. However,
the increasing aggression in the Middle East has also meant a concomitant
rise in anti-Americanism in the Balkans notably, among former best
buddies, the Albanians of Kosovo and Macedonia. Religious leaders are
getting a far more sympathetic ear now that Albanians are beginning
to identify with Iraqis on the basis of their shared religion.
incidents have been recorded in the past two months that show serious
security concern on the part of the US in the Balkans. American
soldiers at Kosovo's Camp Bondsteel were put under "lockdown"
when the war began. The embassy
in Skopje closed down for all non-essential purposes. In some cafés
in Pristina, Americans were forbidden. Owners feared their presence
could incite attacks from Islamic terrorists, local or foreign.
has been noticed in Macedonia, separated from Kosovo only by low mountains.
During the war, an Albanian pastry chef laughed at me upon hearing news
of American combat deaths: "…ha ha ha! Big problems for Mr. Bush!"
he gloated. And an Albanian taxi driver in the village of Cerkezi growled,
"Bush is worse than Milosevic or Hitler."
driver, whose radio was tuned to the wailing of Arabic prayers, voiced
support for a local Albanian imam who allegedly recruited mujahedin
during the 2001 uprising. Until now, such leaders would have commanded
from a few. After Iraq, anything's possible.