Kosovo - Kosova Crisis


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Bombardujte i nas - nijesmo sugavi.

This graffiti appeared on a wall in Niksic, Montenegro. Niksic was not bombed as of yet. The graffiti says: "Bomb us, too - we ain't mangy." There will be more Montenegrins thinking that way now since the Yugoslav Army took over Montenegrin TV.

In Belgrade, favorite pastime became betting on where the missiles and bombs would hit that night. Bridges lately were the safest bet.

It is time to reveal certain myths:

Myth 1: the UN opposes NATO campaign against Yugoslavia

The US bypassed UN on Kosovo issue, which was illegal. But the majority of UN members endorsed US lead NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, leaving wanna-be-superpowers Russia and China holding the bag. This basically shows that the UN is a working and breathing organization. It is just that the Security Council with its cold war era architecture, heavily dependent on the will of five veto-power holding permanent members, is conceptually outdated in today's world. The surprising support of the UN for NATO is mainly due to the support of the so-called non-aligned bloc - a bloc, ironically, once headed by Yugoslavia - which consists of a large number of Muslim nations that are pleased with this rare occasion in which the US helps Muslims.

Myth 2: all Serbs are against NATO bombing

There are many Serbs, particularly in urban areas, particularly those affiliated with independent media, human rights work or other alternative existence, who privately have no objections to NATO bombing Milosevic's apparatus of repression. However, they are very careful to publicly oppose NATO. Particularly since Slavko Curuvija, the late editor of Dnevni Telegraf, who dared to publicly speak in favor of NATO, ended up with dozen plus bullets in his body shortly after.

Myth 3: KLA will win independence for Kosova
Myth 4: there was no alternative to NATO air strikes

Those two myths require lengthier repudiation:
Currently the NATO bombs Serbia every day. This will not stop until the NATO may show the outcome as its victory, since NATO cannot politically afford to loose this war. The concentration of air strikes is presently on fuel production, fuel depots and fuel transportation routes (rivers, roads and railroads). The American mainstream media doubles as a cheer-leader for the home team, to the point where the difference between them and the Serbian regime media, seems blurry. For example, Serbian media daily announces how many NATO aircraft were shot down by Serbian anti-air defenses, so people go trying to find and capture pilots, but they never find any, since there is none. On the other hand, Pentagon never produced those two Yugoslav pilots, they said they had captured in Bosnia, and we haven't really seen that Serbian officer held by the US in Albania. He was returned to Yugoslavia following the release of 3 captured American soldiers - but only Hungarian TV reported on it. He was released from Hungary, the newest NATO member. Serbian TV did not have interest to report on it - there was no gains in reporting that a Yugoslav Army officer could have been captured by incompetent terrorists like KLA. The US media were bent on showing the release of 3 Americans as the moral victory of the 'free world' - instead of the simple juiceless POW exchange. Milosevic actually got a good deal here: in the American Civil War such exchanges were conducted at the ratio of 4 soldiers for 1 officer.

With no fuel, the U.S. hopes that Serbs will not be able to move their tanks, heavy artillery and troops - which will then become easy targets for American smart bombs, cruise missiles, Apache helicopters and ATACM missiles. Once Serbs are deprived of their military superiority over KLA, the KLA is going to start winning the war. The U.S. basically follows the pattern of Serbian conquest in Bosnia: first they soften the enemy by heavy shelling from positions where they are invulnerable (as general Mladic used to say: "pound them all night long, heavy, so they can't sleep, so they go crazy..."), then they let paramilitary units in to finish the enemy off, then they walk in to establish "peace". So, KLA to NATO is what Arkan's Tigers are to Yugoslav Army. NATO does not back KLA in the same way the Yugoslav Army does not back the Tigers. Tigers went in before the regular troops, to absorb the potential casualties and to perform the dirty work that the regular army did not want to be directly associated with. The same will befall the KLA.

Because, nobody in the Balkans gives up territory without the fight, regardless of how much the enemy is superior. So, as Croats, Bosnians and Albanians did not want to retreat in face of Serbian threats, the Serbs will not retreat in face of NATO threat. Even when NATO would have cut all the re-supply routes and destroy all the fuel in Serbia, there will still be Serbian troops in Kosovo. Those troops would likely entrench around areas inhabited with Serb civilians. The remaining Albanian civilians would be marched into those enclaves and perhaps kept as slave labor to build trenches and stuff. The Serb civilians would not be allowed to leave, likewise, since the Serb army would count on them as useful hostages against NATO attacks. It is also likely that Serb army would put its heavy artillery pieces and ammo into old monasteries protected by the UNESCO charter, hoping that the pilots from "civilized and democratic countries" who drop bombs "in good faith" would refrain from hitting those targets. Ground troops attack on those dispersed unconnected Serbian strongholds will result in heavy casualties. That's why this is going to be a job for the KLA.

KLA is, however, not bound by NATO's gentleman's decision to avoid civilian casualties and to avoid destruction of objects of cultural heritage (at least so is proclaimed). Once NATO air strikes destroy Serbian military infrastructure, it is highly probable the KLA will gain an upper hand in Kosovo. Serb military will offer resistance. KLA will crush it and in places this will result in ugly pictures that Serb Television will be able to use to prove the reverse genocide story (Albanians over Serbs) with NATO/American help. A burned monastery, a string of dead civilians - Serb and Albanian along: what more can one expect from terrorists like KLA? As the western TV is reduced (by smart Milosevic's propaganda decision) to the pictures from Yugoslavia provided by the Serb TV, an event in which KLA kills Serb civilians will soon become a headline in the West.

East Village pavement; Lafayette and FourthNATO will let that go on, until a) the KLA become sufficiently in power on Kosovo so that NATO troops do not have to fear Serbs, b) the public opinion in the West gets fed up with KLA and starts requesting NATO to discipline them. Then NATO will go in as SFOR went to Bosnia. In the matter of fact, NATO may delegate this duty in Kosovo to friendly non-NATO countries to placate Serbia. The NATO or whoever is subcontracted by NATO, will go in to establish cease- fire between the KLA and the Serb Army. The NATO will demand disarmament of both sides, which shall never work. Finally a settlement will be reached, like in Bosnia, in which Serbs will get to keep certain smaller portion of Kosovo, and the rest would be given to KLA (KLA will have the status in Serbia that Republika Srpska has in Bosnia); refugees will be forced back in their burned and demolished homes and KLA will be asked to declare general elections (in which KLA will win, of course). The partition idea was suggested earlier in an op-ed piece in New York Times by that young dude from Brookings Institute, but for some reason it never found its way to the Rambouillet negotiating table, as if it shouldn't have been any alternative to the NATO bombing.

Once the inter-entity line is established, there will still be Albanians living in Serbian captivity. NATO will be faced with choices: either to move Serbs out, or to move Albanians to the Albanian part of Kosovo - or to suggest that they should live in peaceful co-existence. It is likely that firstly they would opt for the third, which of course would not yield any results. Then, they'd do the easier of the two previous options: move Albanians - again as in Bosnia, the international community will end up aiding Serbia in ethnic cleansing... As Kosovo was left to Milosevic for his compliance over Bosnia, Montenegro is going to be sacrificed for his compliance over Kosovo. In the end Serbia, Vojvodina, Montenegro, Republika Srpska and however the Serbian entity in Kosovo would be called, will establish the Serbian commonwealth.

At that point the military alliance with Russia and other former Soviet countries is likely (Russia won't go in that alliance unless the peace is reached), which will prevent further NATO action against Yugoslavia (meaning Montenegro is screwed for good, as well as are the opposition, independent media and alternative organizations in Serbia). Russia will reach to the Mediterranean, but the U.S. will already keep Albania, closing the Straits of Otran with the NATO member Italy. So, the entire war does have certain strategic interests involved (in keeping American presence in Europe and in keeping Russia at bay). And if the Kosovo Albanians and Serbs could have reached (like, if they were offered such an option in Rambouillet) such an agreement without the war, bombing and NATO, then Serbia could still formed a military alliance with Russia, but the U.S. would not be in Albania, i.e. that's why it was not in the U.S. interest to offer that as an option at Rambouillet talks.

Tragicomically, Clinton, an anti-militarist democrat became a U.S. president that would renew the cold war, that his republican predecessors claimed to have won. This cold war, of course, will have no ideological pretext, but simply interest in control over markets. Kosovo will be fully dependent on foreign economic support to survive and on NATO or NATO subcontracted peace- keepers to stay in peace. Milosevic will stay in power. NATO will declare a victory: refugees returned to Kosovo, Serbian military troops repelled from the KLA controlled Kosovo. Eventually, the KLA may take the entire Kosovo, like Croatia took Krajina once, but that would not happen immediately.

Landmines Problem For me it is unimportant that NATO Operation Allied Force costed more than it is the entire Russia's military budget for this year. Could it be proved that this money helped save human lives, I would say it was well spent. But 220,000 $50,000 bombs and $750,000 missiles later it increasingly and disappointingly seems that Milosevic's armed forces are neither reduced nor substantially hurt. The news that the new barracks were not hit and that only 13 tanks were destroyed are at least disturbing. NATO's target criteria was apparently the un-movability of the target, since Clinton refused to let his airplanes fly below 15,000 feet, and from there only targets that do not move can be seen and hit with accuracy. So, there is a large number of dual-use objects like bridges, railroads, oil refining plants, power plants and TV transmitters that are destroyed, promising a humanitarian disaster in Serbia this winter.

Milosevic, on the other hand, is not removed from the power. Instead he was given more favourable agreement to sign AFTER the bombing than he was presented with before the bombing in Rambouillet: I think everybody noticed by now that Kosovo Albanians lost the clause about the referendum for independence in three years. Clinton now wows how he is not going to give a red cent to Serbia while Milosevic is in power. Good. Milosevic is going to make sure that pictures of freezing, starving people from Serbia reach American viewer this winter, perhaps well timed with the beginning of the primaries. Milosevic does not care if his subjects die, as long as this picture provides a good proof of the consequences of the NATO's humanitarian intervention. There are and there will be people demonstrating against him, but, please, have no illusions: his people are weakened by this war, he is not; if they could not get rid off him two years ago, they stand less chances this winter.

Switzerland announced that they are going to freeze Milosevic's assets if they find them, at the time when they could not find them any more. Kosovo Albanians are pouring back in Kosovo, only to find all their property destroyed and looted. Serbs are leaving only to be turned back, since neither Milosevic nor NATO victory would be sustainable if there are Serb refugees from Kosovo. When they come back they find the same: their homes burned and looted by Albanians in revenge. Yugoslav Army left, but there are still armed Serbs sniping around. And there is KLA, that started as a terrorist organization, then became a glorified liberation front that relayed targeting information to NATO and now it is a bitter ex-ally that NATO looks to disarm and dispose off a.s.a.p. There are stories of killing, burning, looting, rape, internal purges and vandalism abound.

NATO was promising Russia participation in Kosovo, while in the meantime making that participation impossible on the ground. Russia then moved into the Kosovo on its own, as a rogue force. Yeltsin and his subordinates gave a series of conflicting statements in reference to that move. The entire stand-off in Prishtina reminds me of the bygone cold war era, very far from the level of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia achieved in Bosnia.

Position of Macedonia is weaker than ever: ostracized by Serbia for offering NATO the stomping ground and ostracized by the Albanians who might want the autonomy there too. The entire region is substantially weakened by the destruction of the Danube trade and devastating influence that the war right before the summer season has on turism. And the only thing KFOR unearths in abundance in Kosovo are minefields and mass-graves, testifying to the enormous level of killing Serb forces were able to carry-out during (and in spite of) NATO bombing.

All this makes me question the validity of names just war and humanitarian intervention. Maybe I fail to see the forest from the trees? Bill Clinton, after Milosevic signed the agreement, said: "I can report to the American people that we have achieved a victory for a safer world, for our democratic values and for a stronger America.": I challenge him to prove me everything but the last part of this statement.

As he said that, the State Department announced possibility of closing down embassies in Africa due to the terrorist threat of Osama Bin Laden. During NATO bombing of Yugoslavia both the war between two 'rogue' nuclear powers - India and Pakistan - and the war between the two Koreas (South Korea sunk several North Korea ships) escalated substantially. One of the first orders of business of the new Israeli prime minister, who ascended to power during the last stages of the NATO war against Yugoslavia, was to bomb Lebanese power plants and bridges, mimicking NATO strategy - punishing Lebanon for providing safe haven to the terrorist organization Hezbolah (Hezbolah retaliated surrounding Israeli villages: Barak forgot that Serbia has no land border with the U.S. while Lebanon has one with Israel). Russia is openly discussing upgrading its tactical nuclear capabilities. World to me looks about as safe as during the Cuban missile crisis. Maybe Clinton lives in a different world, I don't know.

We already forgot what's going on in Somalia or Afghanistan - but this does not mean that it stopped. Colombia is on the brink of civil war, with terrorist/liberation forces kidnapping churchfulls of people. Sudan has so widespread problem of child slave trade that even its government started asking for help. Indonesian forces are in the process of ethnic cleansing/genocide over East Timorese population. Russia had pulverized Chechenya. China has denied Tibet. Turkey, which is a NATO member and which continues to ethnically cleanse Turks, did not yet respond to the Kurdish leader's (Ocalan) offer to cease fire for amnesty, renounce violence and accept political fight under Turkish rule (similar deal that Sinn Fein had won in Northern Ireland). Not only Turkey refused to talk - they had Ocalan captured, tried and sentenced to death - infuriating the rest of Europe that abandoned death penalty alltogether and made that ban a condition for admission to the European Union.
Today, the U.S. Coast Guard arrested and placed in the deportation proceedings several young Cubans who risked their lifes to reach this country in a small raft in the tunderstorm. This happened before Elian. Elian became a media attraction. Another humanitarian intervention of the Clinton administration: saving a 1o year old kid from his nasty relatives in Miami. Re-uniting him with his Castro-loving father. Castro won a rare p.r. victory by letting the father go to the U.S. His Miami opponents lost heavily: they looked like child abductors to general American public, particularly in contrast to Elian's handsom, photogenic dad. In place and time where good picture is worth more than thousands of words, good looks matter. We are very far from the victory for our democratic values. The victory for the humanitarian intervention cannot be accomplished if the rules of humanity do not apply to those, who desire to apply them to others.

On top of that, we live in the world where this story will be untold or at least un-noticed. News that are not accompanied with an image live very shortly. During the war, when Milosevic censored all the images leaving Yugoslavia: we saw only civilian objects being bombed in Yugoslavia - we haven't seen a single military target being hit. And the Yugoslav scores against NATO were repeatedly shown ad nauseam. Since there was only one airplane shot down (or crashed due to technological malfunction) we saw a lot of it. When NATO moved to Kosovo, CNN followed, so we saw a destroyed Serbian museum piece T-55 tank, charcoaled. And we saw that tank over and over, because apparently they couldn't find any other, since mighty Warthogs destroyed mostly inflatable tanks. And we never saw the pilot of the crashed F-117. And we, also, never saw the captured Yugoslav lieutenant (who is now perhaps released and back in Serbia): I find lack of interest among media for those two stories particularly interesting.

There is a lot of unfinished business about this war and I think that it is way premature to call it a victory yet.