Between Death and Taxes
is an often-cited maxim in the United States that no one can
escape death and taxes. In Kosovo, especially if one is a
Serb, things are somewhat more direct. There is no question
of escape: both death and taxes have a way of finding you.
is a constant companion of Kosovo Serbs – as well as Roma,
Turks, and even
Albanians who are reluctant to follow orders from KLA
thugs. Two years after NATO’s attack and a little less since
the Alliance put Kosovo under its military occupation, force
remains the universal language in the province.
occupation force, KFOR, does not seem immune to it either.
In the past three weeks, KFOR has suffered several casualties,
through "accidents" and at the hand of "unknown"
assailants. First a British Puma helicopter
went down in the mountains, killing one. Emmanuel
Goldstein pointed out that details were sufficiently murky
to deserve a thorough examination. Yet KFOR and the British
military were quick to dismiss any hostile action, and offered
no explanation as to the causes of the crash.
thereafter, a British patrol car hit a landmine near
the village of Krivenik, in southern Kosovo. Another soldier
was killed. It was the road the British took on a regular
basis, and the mine was planted right in the middle of it.
Krivenik, by the way, is a site of a major KLA base of operations
for Macedonia. It was there that several Albanians and an
AP producer were killed in late March, by yet unidentified
mortar shells. It is also the place where a US-Polish patrol
under fire two weeks ago. Also, setting explosives in
the path of oncoming cars is a documented technique of the
KLA, used against the Serb police in Presevo valley, and recently
in the bombing of Serb refugee buses near Podujevo. Despite
all these marvelous coincidences, the British military again
dismissed the incident. They did, however, stop calling
for stronger action against the KLA infiltrating into Macedonia…
firefight on April 11 resulted in the death of a Russian
soldier, when his patrol came too close to a KLA position
inside inner Serbia. Though KFOR command made the perfunctory
threat of retaliation, the perpetrators were, surprisingly,
identified. Despite Russian protests, nothing happened.
this Tuesday, Albanians shot
down a NATO reconnaissance drone. NATO acknowledged the
loss, but denied any hostile action…
KFOR is doing its best to dismiss, deny and spin these incidents,
it is not far-fetched to suppose the KLA was trying to silence
its elements that refused to toe the US line of absolute non-interference
with the Albanians. So far, it seems to have worked.
in case Belgrade was getting ideas after the deployment of
Yugoslav troops into more
of the Ground Safety Zone – until recently, a haven where
the KLA could operate with impunity – a car loaded with explosives
up a Yugoslav government building in downtown Pristina.
The bomb killed one (Aleksandar Petrovic) and injured four
people. KFOR initially reported only half
the death toll, reluctantly admitted
the victims were Serbs, expressed the perfunctory outrage,
and then – nothing. President Kostunica’s protests
over the attack fell on deaf ears at the UN. The deplorable
phrase "revenge attacks" was resurrected in agency
reports, called up to rationalize any terrorist acts of the
week, UNMIK – Kosovo’s civilian occupation authority – decided
to set up customs checkpoints on the border of Kosovo with
the rest of Serbia. Not NATO-occupied Kosovo and Albania,
mind you, or even Macedonia. NATO had actually pressured the
Macedonian government to appease its branch of the KLA, so
its supply routes through Macedonia would remain open. Faced
with dwindling profits of the local drug and slave
trade, and "needing" money to finance the occupation,
UNMIK decided to start charging "excise and sales tax"
on the border with Serbia.
tax act is aimed at raising the prices of goods in northern
Kosovo, the only part of the occupied province where Serbs
still live in relative freedom. Naturally, it is supplied
from inner Serbia, rather than through the UN/Albanian-dominated
authorities. The checkpoints are also supposed to set a precedent
for a permanent Kosovo customs service towards Serbia, emphasizing
the separation of the occupied province from the state to
which it rightfully belongs. Nonsense, say UNMIK officials
but offer no explanation. Why should they? They "need"
the money – is that not reason enough?
has never been a good excuse for, literally, highway robbery.
For whoever heard of collecting sales taxes at the
border? That alone ought to have been suspicious, even without
of cruel irony of taxing the people NATO is occupying in order
to finance the occupation. It was an open assault on the "last
vestiges of [Serb] sovereignty, their history, and their dignity,"
as Justin Raimondo so
aptly put it Monday.
cornered, isolated Serbs of Kosovska Mitrovica, Zvecan and
to block the odious tax checkpoints. Being civilized,
they did let KFOR’s food and water supplies through. KFOR,
however, had little
respect for civility.
the maxim that disobedience and resistance must be crushed,
French KFOR troops overran
the protesters. They used teargas and stun grenades, killing
a 62-year-old grandmother and maiming a middle-aged man who
were in the crowd. Then they moved in on them with armored
in action, and on behalf of "freedom of movement,"
no less. Is it even worth mentioning that KFOR is not nearly
as decisive when Albanians keep Serbs under siege inside barbed-wire-protected
ghettos throughout the province? Perhaps because they have
no desire to find themselves in ghettos, Serbs from northern
– but not lifted – their blockade.
response was as crass as KFOR’s: "We
are in charge of administering this place and we will not
take any demands from anyone," U.N.
Michael Keats said.
and again, KFOR’s armor has assaulted the protesters. Two
more men were crippled by stun grenades, and countless others
were gassed. Yet they show no sign of giving up. It takes
surprisingly little stubbornness to reveal NATO’s inherent
tendency to blame its victims. A French officer said, and
news agencies dutifully reported, that Serbs were injured
by grenades they threw themselves. He did not finish
the sentence, which should have been something like "back
at the French soldiers who launched them from tanks."
Then again, they are "in charge of the place," and
hence immune to such questions.
ON THE MARGIN
course, protested. So did others – Serbian Justice Minister
Vladan Batic, as well as Minister of Police Zoran Zivkovic,
both uncharacteristically critical of NATO this time. But
Kostunica has other things to worry about. Montenegro’s regime
plots to secede, thus rendering his office meaningless,
while in Serbia, his arch-nemesis Zoran Djindjic is busily
destroying the union by passing unconstitutional laws.
notably neglected to protest the new tax on Kosovo Serbs.
Since Kosovo is part of his state (Serbia), he should be expected
to deal with it, as opposed to vacuous trips to Hungary, Germany,
or the US. But Djindjic does not care for Kosovo. He wants
power and money. The taxation bill his government recently
passed imposes horrific tax rates on all the citizens in order
to net income to the state, which would subsequently then
"help the needy." Another law targets "the
rich" who made their money during Milosevic’s presidency,
with taxes of up
to 90 percent. If it sounds like Communism, that’s because
Kosovo Serbs, such power politics are rightfully disgusting.
Members of all political parties, from Kostunica’s DSS and
Milosevic’s Socialists to the Radicals, stand together against
UNMIK’s tax terrorism. In fact, leaders of the Kosovo Serbs
had met the night the taxes were proclaimed and agreed on
the course of action. It may be worth noting that Djindjic’s
Democratic Party has few adherents in Kosovo.