weeks ago, hundreds of well-armed Albanian militants entered
the demilitarized zone on the border of occupied Kosovo, ambushed
and killed several Serbian police officers and occupied several
villages. As of today, they still remain in most of their
fortified positions, though the police recovered the village
of Lucane [Luchane] without a shot.
three football fields separate the militants from the Serbian
police. A little farther away are artillery and tanks of the
Yugoslav Army. Behind them, tanks and checkpoints of NATO’s
Kosovo occupation force, KFOR. It may not sound like a strong,
or even tenable position. But they hold it, and possession
is nine-tenths of the law. Or in this case, an argument.
Kostunica is pledging a peaceful resolution, holding his troops
at the outer perimeter of the three-mile DMZ around occupied
Kosovo, and demanding that NATO does its job and stops the
militants from crossing into the sovereign territory of Serbia.
NATO, for its part, is redeploying forces and setting up a
blockade that turns away some, but lets many more slip through.
Officially, neither side can enter the zone without changing
the Kumanovo Military-Technical
Agreement, the armistice under which NATO’s 78-day terror-bombing
of Yugoslavia in 1999 was halted. The militants of the so-called
"UCPMB" know this, and exploit it to their full
advantage. Lacking all arguments save those stemming from
the business ends of their guns, they are holding hostage
both Yugoslavia and NATO. The question is, for how long?
Yugoslav Third Army – which successfully fought the KLA in
Kosovo until Milosevic’s decision to surrender opened the
door to NATO occupation – has been deployed along the DMZ,
ready to respond to any attacks. So far, they are showing
restraint. President Kostunica has full control of the
troops. What might happen if the Albanian militants choose
to engage the Army remains somewhat of a mystery.
Djindjic, President Kostunica’s treacherous right hand and
the pretender to power in Serbia, provides some clues. He
has already set up a "crisis committee headquarters"
in the valley below the rebel positions. As if he’d already
been elected Prime Minister of Serbia (he will have to wait
until December 23 for that), Djindjic has pledged he would
the terrorists in the crisis zone in two days," when
the moment comes. His determination to defend Serbia now is
so strong, he even joined
forces with the Serbian State Security chief, General
Rade Markovic, whose resignation and imprisonment he demanded
most vehemently as late as last week.
this sort of rhetoric. He probably recalls that the top Yugoslav
general said a similar thing about the KLA when presented
with the Rambouillet ultimatum in the spring of 1999. That
statement – that Yugoslav Army could "wipe out the terrorists
in two weeks" – was later used by apologists for NATO’s
terror-bombing as proof that Belgrade planned "ethnic
cleansing" of Kosovo.
Kostunica does not want to do anything to provoke NATO again,
and probably counts on the Alliance to actively
oppose the militants and eliminate the problem it is largely
responsible for creating. Although this would be a welcome
sight, it is highly unlikely. NATO has not acted while the
KLA looted, murdered and expelled non-Albanians throughout
Kosovo during the 17 months of occupation. It has stood passive
for months as Albanians crossed into the DMZ freely, training
under the noses of American
sentries and transporting weapons into the zone at Dobrosin
Djindjic’s belligerence is likely scoring him points with
Serbian patriots, who are incensed by what they rightfully
see as the last straw in Albanian attempts to challenge Serbian
sovereignty. Djindjic opposed NATO’s bombing in 1999 only
because it strengthened Milosevic’s position; otherwise, he
fully supported the Alliance’s actions. Now he sees an opportunity
to be a greater patriot than Kostunica in the eyes of the
Serbian public – which could well strengthen his bid for ultimate
power in Serbia.
there is the matter of the KLA. Officially disbanded – or
converted into the so-called "Kosovo Protection Corps"
– the separatist militia has been reincarnated as the UCPMB.
The two supposedly different formations have the same insignia,
the same salute, the same organization, weaponry, are commanded
by the same bearded
men with pseudonyms. UCPMB’s "soldiers" are
Kosovo Albanians, by and large. There is, in fact, no difference
between Albanians on either side of the DMZ.
UCPMB walks, looks and quacks like a duck, i.e. the UCK (Albanian
for KLA). NATO’s interception of weapons, uniforms and ammunition,
and its detention of armed Albanians trying to cross the border
is not an indication that the KLA is trying to "help
out" its brethren across border of occupied Kosovo. It
is, rather, a confirmation
that the two formations are actually one and the same.
treatment of the UCPMB invokes memories of the KLA as well.
Shrouded in the veil of mystery, its goal supposedly the "liberation"
of Albanians "imprisoned" by living in Serbia, the
supposedly new militia is creating a similar climate in the
media as the KLA did three years ago. Supposedly, NATO and
the Western media have adopted a
stern tone towards the militants, though stopping short
of calling them "terrorists." Not that it would
have made a difference; despite being labeled a "clearly
terrorist organization" by American diplomat Robert Gelbard
in 1998, the KLA managed to create an aura of a popular movement
for liberation from "Serb apartheid," a resistance
movement against the "Milosevic genocide." Western
media backed up the KLA with words as NATO planes did with
bombs in the spring of 1999, though officially – again – NATO
denied any involvement with the KLA. Perhaps that is why they
rolled into Kosovo together, black-clad KLA stormtroopers
perched atop NATO tanks in June 1999.
the KLA, UCPMB claims it is a local militia made up of ordinary
people, forced to fight for their rights by a repressive and
racist Serbian regime. They
explain that the areas with Albanian population were separated
from Kosovo in 1957, and should join a future independent
Kosovo. It has already been marked "Eastern Kosova"
on the maps of Greater Albania,
openly circulated in the West.
what if that would violate all articles of international law,
the Helsinki charter on inviolability of borders, and the
Kumanovo agreement? NATO already broke every law in the book
when it targeted Serbia last year. Back then, the justification
was that Albanians’ human rights were in danger. Now there
are reports of Albanians
fleeing the area, "forced" out by their fear
of Serb response to the militants’ attack. Enough for a humanitarian
strategy is identical to that of the KLA. Though well-armed,
Albanian militants don’t stand a chance against the Yugoslav
Army. But they do not have to. All they need to do is create
a crisis that would set off a mass exodus from the area, then
call it "ethnic cleansing" and demand international
intervention. Sounds familiar? The words
of Muhamet Xhemaili, the militants’ commander in Konculj
[Kon’chull], should, as he calls on the "international
community to provide political and if necessary military help
to resolve the situation".
by the way, wears a KLA patch on his shoulder, and among his
followers are 16-year-olds from Pristina who have come "maybe
to kill a Serb."