Hand Of The Empire: Decision in Kosovo

The American empire may often be a one-eyed Cyclops, with one focus and no depth perception. But its true nature is more reminiscent of the hundred-handed Hecatoncheires.

While the eye of the Empire is focused on the Middle East – where bogus diplomacy and a keen sense of detachment from reality greatly contributed to the current developing bloodbath – its many hands are still at work, undeterred. In Colombia, U.S.-backed government troops suffered a bloody setback last weekend. In the Far East, the formerly "rogue" North Korea now has thousands of its semi-starved citizens entertain Madeleine Albright. And in the Balkans, agents of the empire are busy destroying the last remains of Serb presence in Kosovo.

Thanks to the media’s habit to slavishly follow the Eye of the empire, the Hands are often left to do their work in relative privacy. So it is no wonder that an event of major importance for the future of the Balkans is developing virtually unnoticed.

A week before the United States votes for its next leader, Kosovo Albanians will vote in municipal elections, designed by the province’s UN governor Bernard Kouchner to legitimize the Albanian control of the occupied Serbian territory. I say Albanians, rather than people of Kosovo, since few non-Albanians bothered to register to vote at the October 28 polls. They have plenty of problems surviving the Albanian terror to leave their homes and risk death in order to legitimize the rule of their oppressors.


There is no doubt in the mind of Kosovo Albanians about their ultimate goal: independence. Their national consensus on the matter is astonishing. An assortment of Albanian leaders, supposedly from all ends of the political spectrum, speaks in unison about the issue. The main difference between Albanian political parties – whose names all include the words "democratic" and "Kosova" (the bastardized Albanian name for the province) – seems to be one of personal leadership, rather than policy. But does it really matter who will lead the secession – Thaci, Rugova, Hajredinaj or someone else – if there already is a widespread consensus that there will be a secession?

What this poll represents, then, is a primary between various factions of a supra-political entity; let’s call it the "Albanian Separatist Party," which is also the only Albanian party in Kosovo. If there are Albanians who want to coexist with Serbs and others inside Yugoslavia, they are either silent, or the media is turning a deaf ear to their statements.

Albanians of Kosovo are so uncompromising about their goal that they even coined a name for themselves that conveys the essence of it: "Kosovars." Like Bosnians or Californians, it is at best only a geographic designation. But through its persistent use in the media and on part of Albanians’ foreign friends, "Kosovar" has become a synonym for Albanian and also a synonym for a "citizen" of Kosovo. Using the power of names, Albanians have effectively claimed the province for themselves and avoided any questions about the legitimacy of that claim – given that Albanians already have a nation-state (Albania), and that their "self-determination" has therefore been fulfilled, even following the Wilsonian doctrine. But Kosovars don’t have their own country…


The United States repeatedly stated it did not support independence for Kosovo. On October 15, however, high-ranking "anonymous" sources said the U.S. favored Kosovo as the third republic in Yugoslavia, rather than a province of Serbia. Interestingly enough, Albanian separatists have demanded this status since 1968, as it would give them legal grounds to secede. One need only think of the criterion applied in 1991, when the EU ruled it would recognize the right of Yugoslav republics, not peoples, to self-determination. For the Albanians, the Kosovo-republic idea is water under the bridge now; they already have virtual independence. But for the US, declaring a republic would be a perfect way to avoid responsibility for Kosovo’s inevitable secession, and allow Foggy Bottom to recognize it much like Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia and Bosnia eight years ago.

Many US policymakers actually favor Kosovo independence. The International Crisis Group has been firm in its support for over two years now. Run by influential people in US policy-making circles, ICG has made numerous hawkish recommendations that have been heeded several times in the past, notably in the Trepca takeover affair. Finally, the government-funded US Institute of Peace actually charted a roadmap for Kosovo independence as early as September 1999, when Albanian separatist leaders signed the Lansdowne declaration under its auspices.


Five days before the poll, the self-styled "Independent International Commission on Kosovo" recommended "conditional independence" for this occupied Serbian province. It is not the first time that a self-appointed commission sits in judgment of Yugoslavia’s future. By ruling that communist administrative borders would become internationally recognized in case Yugoslav republics declare independence, the infamous Badinter Commission contributed greatly to the bloodbath of the early 1990s. But this commission is more than just self-appointed. Though it labels itself as "independent of governments and international organizations," the commission’s chairman is no other than the first ICTY prosecutor, Richard Goldstone.

It is a coincidence that the former prosecutor of the imperial War Crimes Tribunal now heads an "independent" commission that recommends Kosovo’s independence? The Tribunal – actually illegitimate under the UN charter – has repeatedly demonstrated its character as a pseudo-judicial arm of NATO, with indictments of the Yugoslav government during the Kosovo war and against Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik a week before Bosnian municipal elections being just the most glaring examples.

Goldstone stated in his commission’s report that it was not "realistic or justifiable to expect Kosovo Albanians to accept rule from Belgrade after the ethnic cleansing by Serb forces and terrible human rights violations that took place." Given that the Tribunal stated in August that less than 3000 people were killed in Kosovo, that numerous reports clearly indicated many Albanians left voluntarily to avoid being bombed, and that since NATO’s occupation the non-Albanian population of Kosovo has been treated worse than anything Albanians alleged they had been subjected to, Goldstone’s argument holds water like a sieve. But arguments are often insignificant in and of themselves. When such a statement is made a week before the poll in which the Albanians are expected to legitimize the hard-line separatists in local positions of power, it represents a clear message that they have the full support of the unofficial Western foreign policy apparatus in doing so.


Since the beginning of KFOR occupation in June 1999, over 950 Serbs, 150 Roma and 400 "disloyal" Albanians were killed by Albanian militias. Albanians torched and looted over 50,000 Serbian and Roma houses, then pleaded for donations in construction materials to repair "their homes." Eighty-seven Serbian churches were destroyed. On Tuesday, the Pristina ghetto – where a handful of remaining Serbs lives surrounded by British soldiers and barbed wire – was attacked with an antitank rocket.

Oliver Ivanovic, chairman of the Mitrovica Serb National Council who is loathed by the US, did not even mention the elections in his recent interview in Belgrade papers. Momcilo Trajkovic, leader of a Serb party allied with the current ruling coalition in Belgrade, rejected Serb participation in the poll "under any circumstances." Trajkovic, formerly a close associate of the third Serb faction in Kosovo, led by Bishop Artemije, warned the Bishop that his efforts to help Kouchner mean "giving legitimacy to Albanian extremists."

In assailing those among his endangered community who see salvation in collaborating with the UN and their Albanian wards, Trajkovic speaks of "many lies of Kouchner." Given that the entire NATO campaign in Kosovo, from the bombing to the occupation, was based on transparent lies about thousands of dead Albanians and a "genocide" perpetrated by the Serbs – while in reality the death toll was less than 3,000, and it was the Albanian crimes against Serbs that were open and documented – Kouchner’s deceptions about the upcoming poll sound rather tame. However, that is only because they rest on the shoulders of the Big Lie itself – the notion that Kosovo independence was somehow deserved by the Albanian suffering.

Of course, Kosovo Albanian politicians all speak the language of "democracy." Their statements abound with mellifluous words promising tolerance, justice, peace, coexistence and democratic prosperity. If the continuing attacks on Serbs and non-Albanians in general are not enough to unmask the fallacy of such sentiments, perhaps something else would.

Albania just awarded Jamie Shea its highest medal for "protecting the values of humanity, democracy, freedom and human rights." Shea, let us recall, was the NATO spokesman responsible for inventing and placing the propaganda now being substituted for reality. He justified massive bombings of civilians, infrastructure and refugee columns, brazenly denied NATO’s culpability for these acts of terror, and repeated ad nauseam the stories about "genocide" that later turned to be as ephemeral as his integrity. This, in the mind of Albania’s president Meidani constitutes "humanity, democracy, freedom and human rights."


During the first elections in Communist Yugoslavia, voting consisted of dropping a ball into a box. There were only two boxes – one marked The People’s Front and the other without a label. If someone dared drop a ball into this "blind box," they would be seen by the new regime’s armed election monitors, and their fate would be sealed – not to mention that their vote would be effectively thrown away, since the "blind box" only served to identify those against the new government, without giving them an alternative to vote for.

Kosovo’s non-Albanian population can, of course, democratically toss their votes into the metaphorical "blind box," lacking the basic conditions that would enable them to vote. Even if they all abstain, the Airlie Declaration that one Serb group signed with the Albanians, under US government auspices, authorized the UNMIK governor to appoint Serbs and other non-Albanians to the Albanian-dominated municipal councils, there to serve as window-dressing for Kosovo’s Potemkin democracy.


If after all this someone believes that the Empire is serious about honoring its legal obligations regarding Kosovo, no amount of arguments can convince them otherwise. NATO did not seek legal justification for its savage attack on Yugoslavia in March 1999, and it only honored those parts of UNSCR 1244 that enabled it to occupy Kosovo and turn it over to the KLA. Empires, after all, see law as something to be used as a weapon, not respected. Though from a moral perspective it might make sense for Kostunica’s government to claim Kosovo on legal grounds, law by itself will certainly not suffice to counter the twin effect of imperial might and Albanian physical presence.

Still, even the imperial military and Albanian separatist physical control of Kosovo is not by itself enough to secure the province’s independence. The battle over Kosovo is far from over, and though its first two rounds are finished, the third one is about to begin.

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Nebojsa Malich 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 had contributed to the Independent. As a historian who specialized in international relations and the Balkans, Malich has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia and Serbian politics, which were published by the Serbian Unity Congress. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com appears every Thursday.


Past Articles

Hand Of The Empire: Decision in Kosovo

Introduction: The Balkans Babylon

ITN: Case Closed


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