August 21, 2003

Fresh Blood in Kosovo
Occupied Province Terrorized Again
by Nebojsa Malic

Even as north-eastern United States clawed its way from a weekend blackout, and the UN mission in Iraq gasped in shock at Tuesday's massacre at its Baghdad headquarters, the occupied Serbian province of Kosovo was once again in the headlines. A week ago, British historian Kate Hudson noted that the attack on Yugoslavia over Kosovo in 1999 established a "pattern of aggression" that was applied to Iraq in 2003.

Of course, the US did not occupy all of Serbia, as it did with Iraq – only its one province, settled with Albanians bent on carving out an independent state, or possibly annexing Albania. While Iraqis shoot at occupation troops, the Albanians actually welcomed them. These differences, while rightly irrelevant to Hudson's argument, have also meant years of abject misery for non-Albanians living in Kosovo.

Last Tuesday, the government in Belgrade finally announced its official position on the status of its occupied province, rejecting outright the notion of independence but pledging "substantial autonomy" within Serbia. The unexpectedly firm line by the otherwise spineless Dossie leadership came a day before Kosovo's new international viceroy, Harri Holkeri, was to make his first visit to the occupied province.

A Clear Response

Belgrade and UNMIK probably expected an official Albanian response filled with righteous indignation at the very thought of anything but full independence for the province. But the unofficial response that came on August 13 was loud, clear and disgusting. An "unknown" gunman fired at children swimming in the Bistrica river, killing two and injuring several others. The attack took place just outside Gorazdevac, a Serb enclave surrounded by Albanian villages. Serbs in Kosovo have long since been disarmed by the NATO occupation force; the assailant had used an AK-47 assault rifle.

Another attack followed on Sunday, only this time no one was hurt.

Earlier that week, and again on Saturday, Serbian military outposts near the border with Kosovo came under fire. The attacks were claimed by the AKSh, the "Albanian National Army," the newest incarnation of the KLA. It seems to have reawakened following the announcement of Presevo area Albanians that they would form an Albanian National Council to promote annexation to Kosovo.

Anger and Loathing

The attack on children was condemned by both Kosovo Serbs and the Belgrade government. As angry Serbs protested in the streets of their ghettos, the UN authorities and NATO occupiers pledged to find the assailants. That pledge has remained unfulfilled as of yet, as have all others before it.

Father Sava, the famous "cybermonk" at Decani, wrote that the Gorazdevac attack was "first and foremost a shocking indicator of the real situation in Kosovo and Metohija that the majority of UNMIK and KFOR representatives, together with Albanian political leaders, are persistently attempting to hide from the global public in order to rationalize their own failures..."

Even Bishop Artemije, who once collaborated with the UN-NATO occupiers, is embittered. "All words have been used already; everything that should have been said has been said so many times already," he told KFOR political officer Frederick Mathias during their meeting Saturday, quoted FoNet news agency.

When even the most conciliatory Serbs – who have condemned Slobodan Milosevic's government on many occasions and repeatedly reached out to Albanians – are this embittered, it should be obvious that few if any Kosovo Serbs trust the occupying authorities any more. KFOR may be the only thing standing between them and the Albanian lynch mobs, but it clearly isn't doing it well; besides, NATO occupation enabled those lynch mobs to operate in the first place, a fact Kosovo Serbs have not forgotten, if others have.

Mr. Covic Goes To The UN

While the murders at Gorazdevac were ghastly, they should not have been a surprise to anyone familiar with the situation in Kosovo. Truly surprising was the reaction of official Belgrade, where the normally ambivalent Dossies actually did something.

Nebojsa Covic, deputy Prime Minister charged with Kosovo affairs, quickly traveled to New York for the emergency session of the UN Security Council. What he said there was surprisingly frank:

"[T]he hideous attack on innocent children swimming in the river near their homes in Kosovo and Metohia had taken place only because they were Serbs. It was an attempt to send a message to all Serbs that they had to leave and there is no chance for a multi-ethnic society," official UN reports quoted Covic, who added that "it was necessary to accept the fact that last week's crimes were not unique – they belonged to a pattern of activity by a determined minority of the Albanian population to bring the ethnic cleansing of the province to completion."

The UN Ambassadors gave him a polite hearing and said the obligatory words of concern and condolences, then rejected his claims outright. According to US government-sponsored Radio Free Europe, British Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said the attacks "must still be considered as isolated acts of extremism," offering no explanation as to why. And the Council said "it was important for leaders in Pristina and Belgrade to redouble their efforts to cooperate in building a multiethnic Kosovo."

Let's see, double of zero is still… zero. The UN gets to sound all proper, but do nothing. Impressive.

Lie and Deny

While at first apologetic, after Covic's presentation UN officials began an all-out effort at spin control. Derek Chappel, UN police spokesman in Pristina, glibly dismissed the danger of terrorism in the occupied province in an interview to Agence France-Presse. The agency played along, labeling the manifestly one-sided campaign of murder "inter-ethnic violence." Here are some of Chappel's more ludicrous statements from Tuesday's AFP story:

  • "They [the AKSh] have been classified as a terrorist organisation but we don't believe they can seriously threaten the stability of Kosovo."
  • "We've always said that we don't believe there are any large-scale terrorist organisations in Kosovo but there are always people who are capable of carrying out terrorist acts."
  • "Kosovo is still awash with explosives, hand grenades and military weapons and it is certainly true that there are people here who do not want reconciliation and want to create instability. They wouldn't hesitate to use violence to drive the communities apart. I think that is a very serious threat..."
  • (paraphrased by AFP): "the extremists' failure to generate a popular uprising against the international police and judiciary following the recent war-crimes conviction of an ethnic-Albanian guerrilla commander showed that most people, whether Serb or Albanian, wanted to bury the past."

Chappel is either insane, or deliberately lying. To him, the AKSh exists – but not really – and is certainly not a threat. But of course, there are people who threaten "the stability of Kosovo," (!) and since he pointedly avoids mentioning Albanians (and everyone knows they want a stable, Serbenfrei Kosovo of their own), then who else could possibly be responsible than those dastardly Serbs again…?

Describing people who have systematically killed and expelled their neighbors of all other ethnicities, then stole or torched their property as "people who do not want reconciliation" is surely the pinnacle of cynicism. In case he'd been living under a rock these past four years (which is entirely possible), he could not have helped but notice that "communities" in occupied Kosovo had already been separated into Albanians (forcibly ruled by KLA thugs) and everybody else (killed, expelled, or terrorized into ghettos). How many more people need to die for Chappel to snap out of his auto-colonoscopy and confess the truth? Why, all of them, in all likelihood. Kosovo would be very stable then.

Now Chappel isn't just some faceless UN bureaucrat. He is the official spokesman for the UN police force, the people who are supposed to prevent attacks like Gorazdevac from happening – or at the very least catch their perpetrators. Which they have markedly failed to do over the past four years.

There are no signs they would perform differently in the future. That "failure to generate a popular uprising" Chappel incredulously mentioned had in reality been a week-long bombing spree against police stations and a fatal sniper attack against a UN policeman. It appears the UN police have heard the KLA's message, loud and clear.

Distort and Divert

AFP is not the only news service deliberately obfuscating the issue. The Associated Press reported on the Serbian government's Tuesday declaration with obvious derision and distortion of facts. For example, its reporter claimed "dozens" of Serbian churches were destroyed in "revenge attacks" since 1999, while in reality the number has been over 112, and the attacks were motivated not by "revenge" (what have the churches done?) but sheer hatred.

The Guardian article about the Bistrica beach atrocity referred to "brutal Serbian occupying forces," dismissed the Belgrade position as a "wish list" that had "fat chance of becoming reality," and claimed that "indicted war criminal" Slobodan Milosevic had "set up a police state" in Kosovo. It did call the attack on children "exceptionally brutal" and "extreme," but it almost sounded as a pretext for lambasting Belgrade.

Obviously, the media refuse to see the pattern in the attacks so obvious to Covic and the Kosovo Serbs. They have toed the UN-NATO line for so long, it has become impossible to drop it, even in face of overwhelming evidence. So what happens in Kosovo must be distorted and the audience diverted from obvious conclusions.

Until last week, under Imperial pressure and that of their regime, the Serbs had gone along with this charade. No more.

Awareness of Empire

Three weeks ago, Helle Dale of the Washington Times quoted Dossie Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, who supposedly said that, "There are three things Serbs cannot stand… an independent Kosovo, NATO and the United States." Dale was trying to be malicious and smear the Serbs as Nazis and barbarians. But she really did them a favor.

In a letter of response, the Serbia-Montenegro embassy did not deny the quote's accuracy, only its context: namely, that Zivkovic was trying to tell the media how he was governing against the will of the people, like every good modern, progressive, freedom-loving, democratic etc. vassal of the Empire.

Zivkovic was right, then. As reactions from both the government and the people show, Serbs really cannot stomach an independent (and needless to say, Albanian) Kosovo. After what happened in 1999, they cannot stand NATO, either. Dossies are working hard to join the Alliance, but they might well choke themselves trying. Regarding the United States, perhaps the Serbian peasants have figured out something that has eluded most Americans: that the United States, once venerated by Serbs as a friendly and fellow freedom-loving nation, has turned into a freedom-crushing Empire, an abomination and antithesis of itself. What it has done to Kosovo is all the evidence they need.

And that is definitely something to ponder.

– Nebojsa Malic

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Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo, and contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for appears every Thursday.


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