Suspended Castle: Kosovo’s Unsustainable Independence Claim
Death of a Nation,
a 1996 film-pamphlet combination by Laura Silber and Alan
Little that blamed Slobodan Milosevic and the Serbs for everything
that happened in the former Yugoslavia, posited that the dismemberment
of Yugoslavia started, and would end, in Kosovo.
a month ago, that seemed accurate. Kosovo was occupied by
NATO, virtually separate from Serbia and heading towards an
election that would legitimize Albanian aspirations for statehood.
Serbs west of the Drina river had been either expelled and
murdered, or pacified under NATO occupation in a hodgepodge
called Bosnia. Montenegro, the last remaining republic of
the old Communist Yugoslavia that stayed in its ill-fated
successor federation, was preparing to break away on a foundation
of American money and NATO media support. Serbia, under Milosevic,
would have finally been surrounded and isolated in a way its
arch-enemy at the beginning of the century, Austria-Hungary,
would have bitterly envied.
electoral victory and subsequent takeover of power by Vojislav
Kostunica and the opposition coalition derailed these developments
temporarily, as established pretexts for secession, siege
and isolation disappeared virtually overnight. Kosovo now
resembles a structure from a Bosnian folk tale, a "suspended
castle, not on earth nor in the heavens." But it would
have been foolish to believe the architects of Western policy
in the Balkans would simply walk away from a project they
have so carefully pursued for over a decade.
BALLOT OR BULLET
elections were organized to give the Albanians the badly needed
in any dealings with Belgrade. Their most important effect
was not the victory of Ibrahim Rugova’s LDK over Hasim Thaci’s
terrorist-turned-politician KLA – for both parties advocate
an independent Albanian Kosovo, and disagree only as to the
means of achieving this goal – but the legitimization of Albanian
control over the occupied province.
cannot be a coincidence that the so-called "Independent
International Commission on Kosovo" issued its pro-independence
findings days before the poll, as mentioned in the previous
column. Nor is it accidental that the major English-speaking
media not only supported the poll, but also cautiously hinted
at the inevitability
of Albanians’ independence.
enough, within a day from the poll results Ibrahim Rugova
recognition of Kosovo’s independence. Shortly thereafter,
a leak from the US Department of State indicated that Washington
to make this recognition. This can hardly be a surprising
development, given that it came on the heels of Richard Holbrooke’s
meetings with both Rugova and Thaci on October 24, at what
Reuters called the "US embassy in Pristina."
since 1994 the Clinton administration’s Balkans point-man,
had legitimized the KLA in 1998 in a famous meeting on the
floor of a central Kosovo hut. And who is better suited to
make behind-the-scenes deals with US clients than Holbrooke?
He is, after all, the man who in 1995 advised Croatia’s leadership
which cities in Bosnia their army should ethnically cleanse
of Serbs, while his boss Warren Christopher officially denied
US support for that offensive (Holbrooke’s To
End a War, Chapter XI, p. 160 and 166). Holbrooke
is now the American ambassador in the UN, pegged to become
Secretary of State in case Al Gore wins the presidency. Perhaps
one of President Gore’s first "accomplishments"
would be the recognition of the "Republic of Kosova"
and its admission to the UN under Holbrooke’s guidance? After
all, Gore was one of the most aggressive interventionists
in the Clinton administration.
claim to Kosovo rests on several dubious precepts: their current
control of Kosovo, their superior numbers, alleged oppression
at the hands of Serbs and historical presence on the land.
possession is nine-tenths of the law, Albanians seem to have
possession of Kosovo only when it is under foreign military
occupation – be it under the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary,
Nazi Germany or NATO. Only in one other instance did the Albanians
control Kosovo without a foreign military presence – under
Yugoslav Communism, between 1968 and 1989. Even so, their
effective control of Kosovo produced chilling effects on the
province’s ethnic makeup.
the phrase "ethnic Albanians are 90% of Kosovo’s population"
has been repeated enough in the mainstream Western media to
create an impression that this fact alone legitimizes secession.
Albanians may have become 95% of the population in
Kosovo, but that percentage was far smaller before the great
wars of the 20th century took their toll on the
Serbs. The picture becomes clearer when one considers the
extraordinarily high birth rate of Kosovo Albanians – far
higher than in the much poorer Albania – and repeated attacks
on non-Albanian communities, especially Serbs, during the
past 100 years. Every conflict that involved Kosovo saw mass
persecution of non-Albanians and a sharp reduction in their
share of population.
Chronicles, an exhaustive study of the province’s
history published in 1992 (before the armed conflict,
but three years into Rugova’s rebellion), provides numerous
insights into the Communist management of Kosovo and Tito’s
handling of the atrocities against non-Albanians committed
in World War Two. It is worth mentioning that in its introduction,
Milan St. Protic – now the DOS mayor of Belgrade – termed
the Kosovo Chronicles "one of those important
steps in the direction of modern, non-ideological view of
our past and present".
the 15 months of NATO’s occupation, most non-Albanians were
ethnically cleansed from Kosovo. A thousand people have been
killed, about 50,000 houses torched. All of this is well documented.
Albanian claims of oppression often come up short in that
is an article of faith among Kosovo Albanians that they were
"oppressed" under the "Belgrade regime."
Their autonomy was revoked, they say, and they were victims
of genocide in 1999. But Kosovo was not the only Serbian province
to see its quasi-statehood revoked in 1989. Vojvodina has
had the same status as Kosovo in the past decade, and it never
spawned a Hungarian separatist movement, let alone a parallel
society, or a NATO intervention. The size of Vojvodina’s Hungarian
population, much smaller than that of the Albanians, matters
little. Historically, they have been far less hostile to the
Serbs. Ironically, the leading advocate of Vojvodina’s autonomy
today is Nenad
Canak, a Serb power-monger, not the Vojvodina Hungarians’
political leader Andrasz
claim of "genocide" through which Belgrade "forfeited"
its right to rule - as Albanian advocates in the American
government are so fond of saying – has been debunked by the
infamous ICTY, of all institutions. In August 2000, it announced
that the forensic investigators are going home after digging
up about 2800
bodies. Apart from the fact that it was very difficult
to tell who was a civilian when the KLA had men and women
of all ages in its paramilitary ranks, ICTY teams could not
come up with conclusive evidence that these 2800 were in fact
Albanians, or that they have been victims of massacres. This
is a far, far cry from the allegations of 100,000 massacred
men, made by US Defense Secretary William Cohen during the
NATO attack on Yugoslavia, when its leaders were "motivated
to believe the worst." Yet Washington, Brussels and
Pristina stubbornly cling to the fiction of "genocide"
– because without it, their entire reasoning would crumble
like a sandcastle under a tidal wave.
refusal of the Albanians to be a part of any common state
with the Serbs is another claim often used to justify separation.
But if one was to go on commitment to the cause alone, then
many other peoples – Ulster Catholics, Basques, Bosnian Serbs,
Karabagh Armenians or Kurds – would have a much better claim.
No one is backing their independence just yet.
the "moderate" Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova has
become fond of a blue
flag inscribed "Dardania" – a name he claims
proves the ancient Albanian ownership of Kosovo. But a definition
of Dardania in the Greek
Mythology Link, a Brown University web lexicon, mentions:
son of Anchises
represents the dynasty of Dardania, the region north of Troy."
Ancient Troy, for the geographically challenged, is located
south of the Dardanelles strait in Asia Minor. In Turkey.
more thing Rugova can try claiming is the legitimacy of his
party’s position based on this "democratic" election.
But no international document specifies that democracy is
the sole source of legitimacy, or that non-democratic governments
are somehow illegitimate.
"democracy" in form of elections has become the
modern equivalent of medieval Papal blessing – only the ballot-box
anointed may sit on the throne of power, as recognized by
the West. Dubious democrats allied with the United States
are ironically often excused from this requirement, while
any lengths to which the enemies of the West go always fall
short of stringent "democratic" standards Western
countries themselves would never be able to satisfy.
democratic government did not legitimize the Bosnian Serbs
during the 1992-95 war, while their Muslim adversaries enjoyed
international recognition despite the total lack of democracy
(or any sort of legal order) in their governmental structures.
Just before NATO attacked Yugoslavia, its governor of Bosnia
sacked the democratically elected (under international supervision)
President of the Serb Republic, because of his political opinions.
The following year, the new governor eliminated a possible
presidential contender by having him indicted and arrested
for war crimes. This was done regardless of the fact that
this man had served as one of the three presidents of Bosnia
after the Dayton agreement, which specifically prohibited
war crimes suspects (not the convicted criminals, mind
you, but suspects) from doing so.
none of the Albanians’ claims is good enough to justify their
demand for independence. On the other hand, Washington never
heeded a legal claim when it had the force of arms to oppose
it. The argument of force, rather than force of arguments,
may be the arbiter of Kosovo’s destiny this time, with a predictable
a Realpolitik standpoint, Kosovo’s independence would be both
inevitable – as nothing but a stronger military might can
stop it - and counterproductive, as it would antagonize the
hub of the Balkans and lock the region into constant conflict.
Current decision-makers, however, ignore real-political analysis
in favor of a more ephemeral ideology of "end of history"
– an eerie dialectic that sees capitalist democracy as the
inevitably triumphant force in the world that will rule forever.
A truly messianic vision, indeed. But historical experience
or later, the castle must either come back to the ground,
or fly into the heavens.
while imperial military might and Albanian obstinacy are not
to be scorned, it would be well to remember that the Serbs
waited for 523 years before regaining Kosovo the first time.
Why anyone would think they would accept another loss of Kosovo
as final remains an unfathomable mystery.
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