Muted by the evidence of the Anglo-American catastrophe
in Iraq, the international "humanitarian" war party ought to be called
to account for its largely forgotten crusade in Kosovo, the model for Tony Blair's
"onward march of liberation." Just as Iraq is being torn apart by
the forces of empire, so was Yugoslavia, the multi-ethnic state that uniquely
rejected both sides in the cold war.
Lies as great as those of Bush and Blair were deployed by Clinton and Blair
in their grooming of public opinion for an illegal, unprovoked attack on a European
country. Like the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, the media coverage in the
spring of 1999 was a series of fraudulent justifications, beginning with U.S.
Defense Secretary William Cohen's claim that "we've now seen about 100,000
military-aged [Albanian] men missing ... they may have been murdered."
David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, announced that
as many as "225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59" may
have been killed. Blair invoked the Holocaust and "the spirit of the Second
World War." The British press took its cue. "Flight from genocide,"
said the Daily Mail. "Echoes of the Holocaust," chorused the
Sun and the Mirror.
By June 1999, with the bombardment over, international forensic teams began
subjecting Kosovo to minute examination. The American FBI arrived to investigate
what was called "the largest crime scene in the FBI's forensic history."
Several weeks later, having not found a single mass grave, the FBI went home.
The Spanish forensic team also returned home, its leader complaining angrily
that he and his colleagues had become part of "a semantic pirouette by
the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one not one
In November 1999, the Wall Street Journal published the results of its
own investigation, dismissing "the mass-grave obsession." Instead
of "the huge killing fields some investigators were led to expect ... the
pattern is of scattered killings [mostly] in areas where the separatist Kosovo
Liberation Army had been active." The Journal concluded that NATO
stepped up its claims about Serb killing fields when it "saw a fatigued
press corps drifting toward the contrarian story: civilians killed by NATO's
bombs...." The war in Kosovo was "cruel, bitter, savage; genocide
One year later, the International War Crimes Tribunal, a body effectively set
up by NATO, announced that the final count of bodies found in Kosovo's "mass
graves" was 2,788. This included combatants on both sides and Serbs and
Roma murdered by the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army. Like Iraq's fabled weapons
of mass destruction, the figures used by the U.S. and British governments and
echoed by journalists were inventions along with Serb "rape camps"
and Clinton's and Blair's claims that NATO never deliberately bombed civilians.
Code-named "Stage Three," NATO's civilian targets included public
transport, hospitals, schools, museums, churches. "It was common knowledge
that NATO went to Stage Three [after a couple of weeks]," said James Bissell,
the Canadian ambassador in Belgrade during the attack. "Otherwise, they
would not have been bombing bridges on Sunday afternoons and market places."
NATO's clients were the Kosovo Liberation Army. Seven years earlier, the KLA
had been designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization in league
with al-Qaeda. KLA thugs were feted; Foreign Secretary Robin Cook allowed them
to call him on his mobile phone. "The Kosovo-Albanians played us like a
Stradivarius," wrote the UN Balkans commander, Major-General Lewis MacKenzie,
last April. "We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent
campaign for an ethnically pure Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being
the perpetrators of the violence in the early 1990s, and we continue to portray
them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary."
The trigger for the bombing of Yugoslavia was, according to NATO, the failure
of the Serbian delegation to sign up to the Rambouillet peace conference. What
went mostly unreported was that the Rambouillet accord had a secret Annex B,
which Madeleine Albright's delegation had inserted on the last day. This demanded
the military occupation of the whole of Yugoslavia, a country with bitter memories
of the Nazi occupation. As the Foreign Office minister Lord Gilbert later conceded
to a Commons' defense select committee, Annex B was planted deliberately to
provoke rejection by the government in Belgrade. As the first bombs fell, the
elected parliament in Belgrade, which included some of Milosevic's fiercest
opponents, voted overwhelmingly to reject it.
Equally revealing was a chapter dealing exclusively with the Kosovo economy.
This called for a "free-market economy" and the privatization of all
government assets. As the Balkans writer Neil Clark has pointed out, "the
rump of Yugoslavia ... was the last economy in central-southern Europe to be
uncolonized by western capital. 'Socially owned enterprises,' the form of worker
self-management pioneered under Tito, still predominated. Yugoslavia had publicly
owned petroleum, mining, car, and tobacco industries, and 75 percent of industry
was state- or socially owned."
At the Davos summit of neo-liberal chieftains in 1999, Blair berated Belgrade,
not for its handling of Kosovo, but for its failure to fully embrace "economic
reform." In the bombing campaign that followed, it was state-owned companies,
rather than military sites, that were targeted. NATO's destruction of only 14
Yugoslav army tanks compares with its bombing of 372 centers of industry, including
the Zastava car factory, leaving hundreds of thousands jobless. "Not one
foreign or privately owned factory was bombed," wrote Clark.
Erected on the foundation of this massive lie, Kosovo today is a violent, criminalized
UN-administered "free market" in drugs and prostitution. More than
200,000 Serbs, Roma, Bosnians, Turks, Croats, and Jews have been ethnically
cleansed by the KLA with NATO forces standing by. KLA hit squads have burned,
looted, or demolished 85 Orthodox churches and monasteries, according to the
UN. The courts are venal. "You shot an 89-year-old Serb grandmother?"
mocked a UN narcotics officer. "Good for you. Get out of jail."
Although Security Council Resolution 1244 recognizes Kosovo as an integral
part of Yugoslavia, and does not authorize the UN administration to sell off
anything, multinational companies are being offered 10- and 15-year leases of
the province's local industries and resources, including the vast Trepca mines,
some of the richest mineral deposits in the world. After Hitler captured them
in 1940, the mines supplied German munition factories with 40 percent of their
lead. Overseeing this plundered, murderous, now almost ethnically pure "future
democracy" (Blair), are 4,000 American troops in Camp Bondsteel, a 775-acre
Meanwhile, the trial of Milosevic proceeds as farce, not unlike an earlier
show trial in The Hague: that of the Libyans blamed for the Lockerbie bomb.
Milosevic was a brute; he was also a banker once regarded as the West's man
who was prepared to implement "economic reforms" in keeping with IMF,
World Bank, and European Community demands; to his cost, he refused to surrender
sovereignty. The empire expects nothing less.