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March 29, 2007

Forfeiting Nothing


Main Argument for Kosovo's Secession Bogus

by Nebojsa Malic

Despite fierce opposition from Belgrade and Moscow, the UN-designated "mediator" for Kosovo, former Finnish president and ICG board member Martti Ahtisaari submitted his proposal this week to the UN Security Council. Ahtisaari told Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that "supervised independence" was the "only viable option" for the Serbian province, occupied since June 1999 by NATO and administered by a UN mission and a "provisional" ethnic Albanian government.

Washington has declared its ironclad support to Ahtisaari's proposal, rejecting out of hand any further negotiations. According to NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Alliance also fully supports Ahtisaari.

After a 78-day illegal war, followed by almost eight years of violent occupation, the Empire is finally making a move to separate Kosovo from Serbia. The decision is in line with its systematic violations of international law, NATO and UN charter, the U.S. Constitution, and even the very UN resolution that created a precarious legal cover for the occupation.

What is even worse, the reasoning invoked to justify this criminal act is cynical and duplicitous, bearing no relationship to truth or logic.

Simply Illegal

Jurist, a well-known publication of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, carried a guest column this week, in which Prof. Anthony D'Amato of Northwestern University claimed an independent Kosovo would be a "humanitarian disaster" for the remaining Serbs. D'Amato described Kosovo as having a "Serb-hating majority," and wrote that "a Kosovar-dominated (sic) independent government will lose no time in confiscating the property and rights of the Serbian minority. Some 200,000 Serbs in Kosovo could lose everything they own and maybe their lives."

Of particular interest is this observation, concerning the legality of Ahtisaari's proposal:

"If we remove the diplomatic euphemisms from Mr. Ahtisaari's report, we find that he is essentially arguing that UNMIK has conquered Kosovo! Territory-grabbing by conquest has been illegal since the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, yet somehow the United Nations has done it, according to Mr. Ahtisaari. However, there is nothing in the UN Charter that gives the UN the power to oust an existing government by force, replace it with a United Nations mission created especially for the occasion, and then dissolve the mission and hand sovereignty over the territory to someone else. Acquisition of territory by conquest is simply illegal, whether a state does it or an international organization does it."

Sounds clear enough.

However, D'Amato continues the article by claiming that partition would be a preferred solution, and explains why; to establish at least some legitimacy for the Albanian (or "Kosovar," as he erroneously puts it) cause, he turns to a "human rights argument." Since, he claims, the Albanians were victims of an "unremitting campaign of suppression" by Milosevic, and "crimes against humanity" by the Yugoslav army and police, "the brutality of the Milosevic incursions into Kosovo may be argued as disqualifying Serbia from ever again governing the Kosovars."

Argumentum Ad Atrocitas

This "victim argument" has long been used as justification for NATO's bombing, the subsequent expulsion and persecution of Serbs ("revenge attacks") and others by Albanians, and indeed for claiming the "right" to independence. Supporters of independence have repeatedly claimed that Serbia has somehow "forfeited" its sovereignty through actions in Kosovo in 1999 and before.

As NATO bombs began raining on Serbia and Montenegro in March of 1999, media in NATO countries began manufacturing atrocity stories from the mold perfected just a few years earlier in Bosnia. Refugees, ethnic cleansing, genocide, massacres, rape camps – everything was there. In addition to propaganda injected into the mainstream media by U.S. and other NATO governments, there was also KLA propaganda directly fed to gullible reporters.

Even today, veteran propagandists dutifully repeat the claim that Serb "ethnic cleansing" of Albanians led to the NATO attack. Nothing can be further from the truth. NATO launched the attack in March 1999 after failing to coerce Serbia into accepting an occupation force, during the false negotiations in France. The official justification for the bombing was to force Belgrade to sign the "agreement" presented by the U.S. envoys in Rambouillet. Alleged atrocities are all said to have happened subsequent to the start of the bombing. Indeed, the ICTY indictment against Slobodan Milosevic included only one alleged crime dated prior to March 23, and that was the faux massacre at Racak.

By late 1999, it was obvious that the death toll in Kosovo was much less than the alleged 100,000 – or even the more commonly used 10,000, often falsely qualified as Albanian civilians (That number was actually a wild claim by UK Foreign Minister Geoff Hoon, who sought to justify the bombing.) The total number of bodies exhumed by ICTY's investigators was 2,108, of all ethnicities and with varying causes of death. It is unclear whether that death toll included the numerous Albanians killed by the KLA, the KLA's own substantial casualties, or those of the Yugoslav Army. In any case, horror stories presented as facts in a State Department "report" were later proven false. For example, the "Trepca mines" story was debunked by Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl. True, several other mass graves were discovered in the province since 1999. However, the victims buried there were Serbs, so the discoveries quickly faded from memory.

Although many Kosovo Albanians suffered terribly during the KLA insurrection and the NATO bombing, their claim that "Serb atrocities" have earned them the right to independence holds very little water.

Goose and Gander

However, neither the Albanians nor their Western sponsors actually believe the "atrocity argument" on principle. For if they did, and it was universally applicable, they would have forfeited all right to Kosovo themselves!

We could start from the beginning: NATO's war itself was illegal and illegitimate. In the course of the war, NATO pilots targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Alliance naturally claims those were "unfortunate mistakes" and that bombs were dropped "in good faith," yet Gen. Michael Short publicly stated that the campaign was designed to force Belgrade to surrender by terrorizing civilians.

Korisa, Grdelica, Aleksinac, Surdulica – these were just some of the NATO atrocities during the "humanitarian" war of 1999.

Once the government in Belgrade agreed to withdraw from Kosovo and allow the UN to occupy the province (in practice, it was NATO occupation), Albanian separatists began terrorizing Kosovo. Violence against Serbs has been amply documented, in photographs, in print, and on film. It is important to note that Serbs were not the sole victims of Albanian attacks; Roma and other communities in Kosovo have also been exposed to violence, intimidation, extortion and murder.

Here are just some of the more gruesome incidents of anti-Serb violence:

- July 1999: fourteen Serb farmers massacred in the fields near Staro Gracko (graphic photos);

- October 1999: Valentin Krumov, UN official from Bulgaria, slain for "speaking Serbian";

- February 2000: bus carrying Serbs to a cemetery service hit by a missile;

- February 2001: roadside bomb blows up another bus;

- June 2003: brutal slaying of a Serb family in Obilic;

- August 2003: Serb children swimming in the river near Gorazdevac machine-gunned down;

- March 2004: massive pogrom throughout the province targets Serbs; 8 dead, 4500 expelled, several villages razed.

All this was accompanied by systematic destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches, chapels, monasteries and cemeteries.

Albanian separatists and NATO leaders claim that Serbia's violent suppression of the terrorist KLA in 1998-99 merited not only an illegal aggression in response, but also forfeited Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo. Yet the Albanians have not "forfeited" their right to Kosovo because of systematic terrorism under NATO occupation – they are being rewarded for it by independence!

The Croatian Precedent

Further proof that the "atrocity argument" was made up for the specific purpose of fabricating a reason to separate the occupied province from Serbia and make it into an Albanian state is the absolute absence of any such argument in the case of Croatia, which once had a considerable Serb population.

No "humanitarian" interventionist has ever claimed that atrocities of the Ustasha regime between 1941-1945, in which hundreds of thousands of Serbs perished (Croat and Nazi estimates were over half a million!), somehow disqualified Croatia from sovereignty over territories with majority Serb population that rebelled in 1991? Nor have any of them claimed that Croatia "forfeited" its sovereignty after the ethnic cleansing of Serbs in 1995, following a brutal Croat military incursion that ended the Serb rebellion and "reintegrated" the disputed territories. So how is Kosovo different?

When Croatia engaged in suppression of a Serb rebellion, it was an ally of the United States and NATO, enjoying their full support – military, political, intelligence and diplomatic. When Serbia tried to suppress the Albanian rebellion three years later, the U.S./NATO support was there again – on the side of the Albanians! This is why the same logic does not apply to Krajina and Kosovo, Croatia and Serbia, or even the Serbs and the Albanians. There is no logic here, no principle, no coherent concept of right or wrong – beyond the naked argument of force: whomsoever the Empire supports is a righteous victim, and its enemy an irredeemable villain.

The Final Leap

Empire's pattern of aggression has by now torn the fragile tapestry of international law to shreds. The UN has already lost so much credibility and respect in the world, unable to stop the abuses by the Washington-run "international community," the Ahtisaari Show is but a final nail in its coffin. Over the past fifteen years, many lines have been crossed. Appeasement of NATO and Albanian aggression in Kosovo might just be that last step over the edge, and into the abyss from which what remains of Western civilization may never return.

 

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  • Gareth Porter is a historian. His latest book is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press).

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