Only 18 months ago, it was still possible to take
refuge behind the insignia of the United Nations, the OSCE, and other international
administration bodies in Kosovo when one needed salvation. After all, this is
precisely how 33 Serbs escaped
certain death at the hands of rioting Albania mobs in March of 2004.
However, at the same time arrived Kosovo's
moment of truth: a radical break that showed the international presence
would no longer be tolerated and would even be targeted if it got in the way
of Albanian secessionist demands. And this is the situation we will discuss
below, in the context of an increasing flood of hushed-up information coming
out Kosovo from disillusioned international workers fearful for their lives.
By the time of the March 2004 riots, the hostility
and frustration had been building for a couple of years already. Unemployed,
disgruntled Albanian men had long tired of watching the big spenders from the
international force flaunt their wealth and indulge in conspicuous consumption
of wine and women and whatever else. At the same time, they were vexed by the
stubborn Serbian minority that refused to flee, thus thwarting their quixotic
dream of creating a 19th-century Albanian nation state.
Nevertheless, the UN forces in Kosovo refused to pay attention – publicly,
at least – to the growing unrest. Every time a Serb was viciously murdered or
attacked, it was described as an "isolated incident" – and still is to this
day. Yet while the organized nature of the ethnic cleansing became incontestable
in March 2004, UN spokesman Derek Chappell was "internally transferred" for
daring to say as much. Mid-level staff today still mutter unhappily about the
Similarly, the "shadowy militant groups" that have sprung up dependably under
new acronyms and leaders have been dismissed universally as common criminals
– which some of them are – thus staving off public acknowledgment of the fact
that Kosovo's ruling ideology is a virulently nationalist, culturally closed
one. And while the
dismissal continues even today, not even the credulous mass media still
buys it; as Reuters intelligently commented on the incident, "illegal checkpoints
and ominous communiqués were the early hallmarks of the Kosovo Liberation Army
(KLA), which emerged in 1998 to launch a guerrilla war against Serb forces."
Indeed, it always takes the precedent-setters a while to catch on, mired as
they are in their old precedents, which were never even true to begin with.
However, it was clear at least since 2003, when the "Albanian National Army"
began a prolonged series of bombing campaigns aimed mostly at Serbs but targeting
internationals as well, that NATO's honeymoon was over. It was only a matter
of time before the Albanians would rise up against their liberators, who were
unfortunately encumbered by their own grandiose dreams for shaping the entire
region, and thus slowed and restricted by the sensitive diplomatic necessities
such work required. The Albanians, by contrast, were not weighed down with concerns
for anyone but themselves. It was not hard to see who had the tactical advantage.
Winter in Kosovo is always bleak; the air is thin
and cold, the apartments drab and decrepit. Men in threadbare jackets warm themselves
by bins of burning trash, and everyone has too much time on their hands to think.
I remember well last winter when the electricity in Pristina itself would –
after some five years of international administration – spark on and off intermittently,
and then go down for hours at a time. The water was regularly turned off at
midnight. And all this in the capital, not some small village.
So people have had every reason to despise the international do-gooders. Although
they've done a poor job of building working infrastructure, they have
always done a great job of collecting their exorbitant paychecks and squandering
them on gold, girls, and vacations in idyllic Croatia and Greece.
This winter is likely to be the last for the international administration in
Kosovo – at least the last one in which they aren't fighting for their lives.
As such, they are trying to publicly downplay the threats emerging from all
sides, but as we will see, they are among themselves privately terrified about
the outcome of a situation that was obvious all along.
The ICG: Providing Cover for Cowards
And so we fast-forward to October 2005, a year
and a half after the March riots set the standard for what must come next.
First of all, it's simply pathetic to see how execrable lackeys of Western
power such as the ICG keep bending
over (not even backward) to please their
paymasters. The think tank's Sept. 13 manifesto makes the astonishing demand
that KFOR, the UN's military unit, relocate its main operations to northeastern
Kosovo, inhabited only by Serbs, in order to prevent Belgrade from surreptitiously
developing "parallel institutions" there. In other words, the ICG would like
to let the internationals, armed to the hilt yet quaking in fear, ride out the
coming storm in the safety of peaceful Serbian villages, far from the Albanian
paramilitaries and Islamic fundamentalists rising up everywhere else. We should
thank the ICG for elevating Kosovo to an unprecedented level of farce. Blusters
the pressure group:
"[U]NMIK and KFOR must quickly regain the security initiative north of the
Ibar by increasing force levels and assertiveness, under the Special Commissioner's
direction. KFOR should explicitly make Mitrovica and the north its primary operational
focus and restructure accordingly."
This is perhaps the biggest load of horsesh*t – and there have been quite a
number of cartloads over the years – to have ever come down the pike from the
ICG. Claiming that the UN must scurry to the north, where the real danger
lurks, is just too ironic: in late 2005, the only safe haven NATO's successors
can still find in Kosovo is the enclave of the very people they came to kill
six short years ago.
The ICG blusters that a "major security, political, and financial effort is
required to save the situation" in North Mitrovica, and that therefore the internationals
should get there on the double. Yet anyone who has ever been there knows that
crossing the river brings you out of chaotic Unmikistan and into a pretty, peaceful,
and clean city, where safety, sanity, and normal life prevail. Indeed, what
a sacrifice it would be for those brave peacekeepers sent off to sloth
in the bars of North Mitrovica!
The Sovereign Hypothesis
At first it wouldn't seem to make sense. Rather
than luxuriate in Serbian restaurants and cafés, shouldn't the UN be cracking
down on the extremist elements of Kosovar society?
No; this would violate the sovereign hypothesis, unique not only to UNMIK but
to every international peacekeeping mission in the world: that the staff, from
the foot soldiers to the highest diplomats, care less about improving local
life than about cashing their paychecks, enjoying conspicuous consumption when
possible, safeguarding their careers and escaping to greener pastures. Of course,
there are exceptions, but the few individuals who dare to question the rule
of mediocrity are shut up or fired, or both. This sovereign hypothesis, culled
more from basic human motivational psychology than complex geo-strategic issues
or historical causality, explains why the situation in Kosovo continues to fester
unhappily, six years after its "liberators" arrived. There is perhaps no better
argument against humanitarian intervention and international peacekeeping forces
than this one.
The Appeasement Strategy at Work
That said, it's not hard to see why the internationals
in Kosovo have continually moved to mollify Albanian demands, as
I noted two years ago. Ironically, however, now the Hague is being pitted
against UNMIK over the case of Ramush
Haradinaj, the indicted war criminal temporarily released for "good behavior."
While a 2-1 decision from the court on Oct. 14 gave the erstwhile "prime minister"
of Kosovo the option of returning to his "political activities," the prosecution
is trying to block it. The latter, rightly criticized for its double standards
when dealing with Albanian and Serbian war crimes indictees, is trying to save
face by stopping this breathtakingly hypocritical decision. By contrast, UNMIK
is lobbying hard for the rehabilitation of Ramush, as it believes that only
he can keep popular unrest from boiling over into anti-UN violence. In other
words, it's a battle pitting face-saving against saving lives.
The desperate affection UN officials have shown for Haradinaj is the stuff
of legend, and just as farcical as the ICG's depiction of North Mitrovica as
a security hazard. When Ramush
was carted away to the Hague this past spring, UN officials were literally
shedding tears over his departure. UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen "publicly
lamented the fate of his 'close partner and friend,'" recalls
Tim Judah, who adds:
"[W]hat is clear is that since Haradinaj's release, the UN and diplomats
in Kosovo have courted him in ways that would have been deemed outrageous and
inappropriate if the indictee had been a Serb or Croat. For example, on 26 September,
a huge party was held at the Hotel Grand in Pristina to celebrate the wedding
of Haradinaj's brother. Among the guests were deputy UNMIK chief Larry Rossin
and other senior officials and diplomats. Haradinaj is frequently seen dining
in fashionable restaurants in Pristina with foreign guests, who also visit him
at his home in the village of Gllogjan."
The UNMIK is now praying for three things: that final status negotiations begin
as soon as possible (so much for all that talk of "standards
before status"); that Haradinaj can be wheeled back onto the stage and hopefully
help improve their street credibility; and that President
Ibrahim Rugova, the veteran Albanian leader and a key figure in the upcoming
negotiations, does not suddenly die of lung cancer (he was diagnosed
in early September after having been flown to a U.S. Army base in Germany
for treatment). If any of these three prayers are not answered, things could
get very messy, very fast.
The need to extricate themselves from a volatile situation has led the internationals
to venture onto the terrain of the surreal. Instead of demanding that minority
rights be guaranteed and that Kosovo not annex the territory of neighboring
states, a powerless UN has facetiously suggested that some sort of "conditional
independence" be granted to the province. This invites the Kafkaesque scenario
that NATO could someday bomb the place for a second time, should the Albanians
violate whatever "conditions" are placed on them, or else that the UN could
impose economic sanctions on a statelet that has no economy to begin with. Puh-leaze!
The Floodgates Open, as Bombs Go Off and Protests Mount
While I don't want to take all the credit
for the increasing number of present and former UN workers in Kosovo coming
forward with inside testimony, it is clear that since
my articles on Islamic
fundamentalism in Kosovo appeared, which cited former OSCE security boss
Tom Gambill, new voices are beginning to be heard. Cybercast News Service picked
up the baton, getting the story of chronic anti-Serb violence in Kosovo
again from Tom, who recently told me that "we've now gotten the attention of
the [U.S.] military … we are stirring up some serious sh*t." Well put.
In other words, now is the time to kick back and enjoy as the flood of new
information presents itself and other UN workers, realizing it is in their own
best interests to speak out, are starting to come forward. One recently attested
that "explosives are found underneath UN vehicles almost every night, but no
reports nor coverage are ever made on them. … Why should there be such a news
blackout that can also put our lives at risk?"
Although this hush-it-up tendency is clear, some of these incidents have in
fact been reported. Kosovo publication Lajm reported on Sept. 21 that
an UNMIK vehicle had been blown up four days earlier in Ferizaj (Urosevac in
Serbian) and that, as usual, "the circumstances are still not known." They quote
Rahman Sylejmani, leader of the Kosovo Police Service (KPS) Department for Serious
Crimes as saying "we are investigating the case. We don't have any suspects
regarding this case at the moment."
The charred wreckage of
an UNMIK vehicle destroyed
in Kacanik, Kosovo, on Oct. 4. (Official UN photo.)
According to a KFOR security bulletin a few days later, a hand grenade was
found under an UNMIK police vehicle in Pristina, in the early hours of Sept.
27. The next day, it was "reconfirmed that it was of an antipersonnel mine set
up as an improvised explosive device."
A week later, on Oct. 4, a UN vehicle was blown up to spectacular effect in
Kacanik. The pictures of the mangled wreck were not circulated publicly.
Six days later, according to another UN brief, an Albanian member of the KPS
– remember, this is the "official" police service on the side of the good guys
– "was caught in the garden of a house rented by a UNMIK International male
police officer, filming his activities with a camera through the window."
On Sept. 29, hundreds of Albanian youth protested against negotiations with
the Serbs, spilling
fake blood on the steps of the Kosovo Parliament in a symbolic gesture.
Most recently, on Oct. 19 police
had to use pepper spray to disperse the same group, who were protesting
in front of the UNMIK headquarters.
Staged protests have been central to Albanian pressure tactics in Kosovo and
Macedonia for over 30 years, and the cynical positioning of brainwashed children
and teens in the front rows – designed to incur maximum popular outcry should
any of them be hurt by police – also continues. Ultimately, however, the leadership
comes from much higher up.
In a nice touch, the activists – ironically, led by a former student protest
leader once arrested by Milosevic's government – have also begun spray-painting
UN vehicles. The letters F and N have been added before and after the letters
UN to create the Albanian word "fund," meaning "end" or "finished." It's not
exactly difficult to infer who is intended to be "finished" here.
All in all, the plan is simple, effective, and predictable. Public protests,
together with more mysterious militancy, are a key tactic. On the other end
of the spectrum, according to the forecast of another current UN officer in
Kosovo, "the Albanian [militants] will use hit-and-run tactics, so that the
IC [international community] will comment that they don't know who's doing it.
The Albanian media will lie to their public, claiming that this is the work
of Serb Special Forces, thus keeping the fire of hatred and mistrust burning
in Albanian eyes."
This view was seconded on Oct. 11 by Belgrade's Vecernje Novosti, which
noted that Albanian media are increasingly blaming alleged Serbian infiltrators
for attacks against Serbs, such as the recent attack on Dejan Jankovic, a minority
Serb member of the Albanian-dominated KPS. According to the newspaper, "what
really happened [was] a well-orchestrated action of the Security-Intelligence
headquarters of the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), and its so called G2 department,
headed by Kadri Veseli, a man who enjoys extreme confidence in the eyes of [former
militant leader] Hashim Thaci. The goal of this well-planned action is to compromise
Belgrade, in light of the beginning of the negotiations for the Kosovo and Metohija
Albanian activists have
started making creative linguistic
modifications to UN vehicles in Kosovo, intimating that the
internationals are "finished" in the occupied province.
A Leaked Text Betrays UNMIK's Fears
Regardless of the typical Balkan intrigue at work
here, the bombings, attempted murders, and sightings of armed militants manning
checkpoints in lawless western Kosovo have pushed the UN onto an emergency footing.
The following leaked internal UN document, reprinted verbatim, indicates the
level of desperation now gripping the colonial regime:
"For the attention of all UNMIK Staff members:
"1. All staff members please be informed that due to a number of security
related incidents in the Pejë/Pec and Prizren/Prizren Region, with effect from
18:00 hrs Friday 14 October -05, a vehicle tracking will be in affect in the
whole UN REGION SOUTH WEST, including the Pejë/Pec region and Prizren/Prizren
region until further notice. These measures do not apply to UNMIK Police.
"2. Vehicle tracking will be in affect daily between 18:00 hrs until 08:00
hrs in the following municipalities: Pejë/Pec, Istog/Istok, Klinë/Klina, Deçan/Decani,
Gjakovë/Ðakovica, Malishevë/Mališevo, Suharekë/Suva Reka, Rahovec/Orahovac Prizren/Prizren
and Dragash/Dragaš. Daytime travel between 08:00 hrs-18:00 hrs is permitted.
"3. Staff members are NOT allowed to travel off the main routes in the municipalities
of: Pejë/Pec, Istog/Istok, Klinë/Klina, Deçan/Decani, Gjakovë/Ðakovica, Malishevë/Mališevo,
Suharekë/Suva Reka, Rahovec/Orahovac Prizren/Prizren and Dragash/Dragaš between
18:00 hrs and 08:00 hrs.
"4. Staff undertaking any movement in any of these Municipalities must inform
Regional Sierra Base prior to travel and when travel is concluded, providing
their a. Call sign, b. Vehicle registration number, c. Route, d. Passenger details
and e. Return times.
"5. Staff members are advised to monitor Lotus Notes and radio broadcasts
for further updates.
"6. Sierra Base will provide tracking support for UNMIK Police on request.
"FOR THE ATTENTION OF ALL STAFF MEMBERS EFFECTIVE TODAY:
"1.) STAFF MEMBERS CAN NOW REQUEST A SECURITY ESCORT TO ACCOMPANY YOU FROM
MHQ TO YOUR PLACE OF RESIDENCE FROM 1800 HOURS BY SIMPLY DIALING SIERRA BASE
ON EXTENSION 4444.
"2.) FOR STAFF MEMBERS LIVING BEYOND WALKING DISTANCE SECURITY WILL ARRANGE
TRANSPORT FROM MHQ TO TAKE STAFF MEMBERS TO THEIR RESIDENCES.
"3.) FOR STAFF MEMBERS WORKING AT AHQ PLEASE CALL TRANSPORT DISPATCH EXT.
The Militants Speak
The cause of all this alarm is the sudden appearance
of the so-called Kosovo Independence Army (KIA) in the always volatile west.
As we said, the UNMIK officials predictably described the masked and uniformed
men as a group of "criminals" that "does not have the support of local citizens,"
according to UNMIK Police Commissioner Kai Vittrup. However, militant groups
have never had much popular support in Kosovo until they start exacting tribute
from local villagers and press-ganging their young men into service, as happened
in 1998 and in 2001 in neighboring Macedonia as well. Recent history has shown
that whether or not a group has "popular support" is irrelevant. And as the
above document shows, whatever it might say, the UN is very, very afraid.
And perhaps with good reason. Earlier this month, the KIA issued a manifesto
threatening that unless the Kosovo Parliament declares independence by Oct.
15, the militants would start executing any parliamentarians not supporting
it, while announcing that a "general mobilization" of the citizenry would also
begin. That this did not happen exactly on time doesn't preclude it from happening
in the future. The communiqué also implies that the same folks in the new KIA
are veterans of the 1999 KLA paramilitary army. This association was seconded
by central Kosovo's Serbian National Council official, Rada Trajkovic, who
said that the two groups "are more than likely made up of exactly the same
The manifesto also threatens Albanian "UDB collaborators" (that is, alleged
collaborators with the Serbian secret service) that "if they are not divorced/separated
from UDB, the language of communication will be the barrel of the gun." As for
UNMIK, they are ordered to release from their jails all so-called "war hostages,"
or else "10 innocent UNMIK officers will suffer" (presumably, 10 of them for
each jailed Albanian is meant).
Finally, the manifesto presents UNMIK with this chilling ultimatum:
"[I]f a citizen of Kosova is arrested or his house is searched by KPS-UNMIK,
just because this is done to an individual or a group UNMIK pillars wants, then
consequences will be irreparable. This time we won't give you the March [2004
riots] lesson, but this time except the obligation that we have for independence
you will also pay for other debt, that Albanian has higher values … for six
years you betrayed us."
One Way or Another…
These are clearly fighting words. But the UN would
be hard-put to try and claim that only a few isolated toughs and criminals share
this feeling of betrayal. Everyone from regular Albanians who have felt their
needs neglected, to minority Serbs who have watched their homes and churches
go up in flames, feels betrayed. By now, the entire surface area of Kosovo could
have been literally paved with gold, for all of the billions that have been
poured into this Balkan black hole over the past six years.
Instead, a small group of internationals and locals have become very rich exploiting
the plight of the masses, reviving pointless hatreds, and indulging
in perverse corruption. The situation is too far gone to be saved now. The
tragedy is that so many uninformed people in the outside world are going to
be surprised when it all goes to hell, thanks to a UN long bent on damage control
and an acquiescent media, not to mention self-aggrandizing think tanks like
Nevertheless, for everyone's safety (if not prestige), the more whistleblowers
who step forward the better – even now, as
one old song goes, with the sun so dark and the hour so late.