An interesting article has been published on the progressive website Alternet which recalls the “humanitarian” war to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from Serbian aggression.
Back in 1999 NATO dropped 23,000 bombs on 19 hospitals, 20 health centers, 69 schools, 25,000 homes, power stations, bridges, a TV station, plus for good measure, the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. The media failed to overlook the trial in 2008 when international prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, accused Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo of using the U.S. bombing campaign as cover to murder hundreds of people to sell their internal organs on the international transplant market. Del Ponte’s charges seemed almost too ghoulish to be true. But on June 24th, Thaci, now President of Kosovo, and nine other former leaders of the CIA-backed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA,) were finally indicted for these 20-year-old crimes by a special war crimes court at The Hague.
From 1996 on the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) to instigated violence and chaos in Kosovo manufacturing a civil war. Even U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard called the KLA a “terrorist group” and the UN Security Council condemned “acts of terrorism” by the KLA and “all external support for terrorist activity in Kosovo, including finance, arms and training.”
By September 1998, the UN reported that 230,000 civilians had fled the civil war, mostly across the border to Albania, and the UN Security Council passed resolution 1199, calling for a ceasefire, an international monitoring mission, the return of refugees and a political resolution. A new U.S. envoy, Richard Holbrooke, convinced Yugoslav President Milosevic to agree to a unilateral ceasefire and the introduction of a 2,000 member “verification” mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The chair of the OSCE, Polish foreign minister Bronislaw Geremek, appointed William Walker, the former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador during its civil war, to lead the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). Walker’s deputy, Gabriel Keller, France’s former Ambassador to Yugoslavia, accused Walker of sabotaging the KVM.
At a village called Racak the KLA had fortified it into a base from which to ambush police patrols and dispatch death squads to kill local “collaborators.” In January 1999, Yugoslav police attacked Racak, leaving 43 men, a woman and a teenage boy dead. After the fight, the KLA reoccupied it and staged the scene to make it look like a massacre of civilians. When William Walker and a KVM team visited Racak the next day, they accepted the KLA’s massacre story and broadcast it to the world, and it became a standard part of the narrative to justify the bombing of Serbia and military occupation of Kosovo. Autopsies by an international team of medical examiners found traces of gunpowder on the hands of nearly all the bodies, showing that they had fired weapons. Appeared not to have been shot as in a summary execution, and only one victim was shot at close range. But the full autopsy results were only published much later, and the Finnish chief medical examiner accused Walker of pressuring her to alter them. Two experienced French journalists and an AP camera crew at the scene challenged the KLA and Walker’s version of what happened in Racak. Christophe Chatelet’s article in Le Monde was headlined, “Were the dead in Racak really massacred in cold blood?”
France agreed to host high-level talks. But instead of inviting Kosovo’s mainstream nationalist leaders to the talks in Rambouillet, Secretary Albright flew in a delegation led by KLA commander Hashim Thaci. Albright presented both sides with a draft agreement in two parts, civilian and military. The civilian part granted Kosovo unprecedented autonomy from Yugoslavia, and the Yugoslav delegation accepted that. But the military agreement would have forced Yugoslavia to accept a NATO military occupation, not just of Kosovo but with no geographical limits, in effect placing all of Serbia under NATO occupation.
When Milosevich refused Albright’s terms for unconditional surrender, the U.S. and NATO claimed he had rejected peace, and war was the only answer, the “last resort.” They did not return to the UN Security Council to try to legitimize their plan, knowing full well that Russia, China and other countries would reject it. When UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Albright the British government was “having trouble with our lawyers” over NATO’s plan for an illegal war of aggression against Yugoslavia, she told him to “get new lawyers.”
In March 1999, the bombing began. Pascal Neuffer, a Swiss KVM observer reported, “The situation on the ground on the eve of the bombing did not justify a military intervention. We could certainly have continued our work. And the explanations given in the press, saying the mission was compromised by Serb threats, did not correspond to what I saw. Let’s say rather that we were evacuated because NATO had decided to bomb.”
Far more people had fled the bombing than the so-called “ethnic cleansing.” After the bombing ended, 900,000 refugees, nearly half the population, returned to a shattered, occupied province, now ruled by gangsters. Serbs and other minorities became second-class citizens, clinging precariously to homes and communities where many of their families had lived for centuries. More than 200,000 Serbs, Roma and other minorities fled KLA rule.
In 2019, Kosovo’s per capita GDP was only $4,458, less than any country in Europe except Moldova. In 2007, a German military intelligence report described Kosovo as a “Mafia society,” based on the “capture of the state” by criminals. The report named Hashim Thaci, then the leader of the Democratic Party, as an example of “the closest ties between leading political decision makers and the dominant criminal class.” In 2000, 80% of the heroin trade in Europe was controlled by Kosovar gangs, and the presence of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops fueled an explosion of prostitution and sex trafficking, also controlled by Kosovo’s new criminal ruling class.
Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY), explained that the ICTFY was prevented from charging Thaci and his co-defendants by the non-cooperation of NATO and the UN Mission in Kosovo. In an interview she explained, “NATO and the KLA, as allies in the war, couldn’t act against each other.”
Human Rights Watch and the BBC followed up on Del Ponte’s allegations, and found evidence that Thaci and his cronies murdered up to 400 mostly Serbian prisoners during the NATO bombing in 1999. Survivors described prison camps in Albania where prisoners were tortured and killed, a house where people’s organs were removed and an unmarked mass grave nearby.
A central part of the Western propaganda was the demonization of President Milosevich of Yugoslavia, who resisted his country’s Western-backed dismemberment throughout the 1990s. Western leaders smeared Milosevich as a “New Hitler” and the “Butcher of the Balkans.” The web of lies spun by Clinton and Albright has unraveled, and is a case study in how U.S. leaders mislead us into war. Kosovo established the template for being tough on “dictators” that U.S. leaders have used to since.