NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
"Before and during the war, Kosovars kept assuring me that Kosova
(generated by editor)
Balushe is back! With a quiet smile on her pleasant face, she stands under a blue UN tarpaulin in a makeshift wooden hut. They found her wandering nearby, bemused, hungry, but otherwise unharmed. Balushe is the Latifaj family cow, and her return is a small sign of what has gone right in the place we should now, realistically, call Kosova.
The Latifajs used to live in a large house next to the mosque in the village of Prilep, at the foot of the Cursed Mountains that separate Kosova from Albania. Now they live amid the rubble that was their house, next to the ruined mosque, in a village that Milosevic's artillery and special forces have almost entirely destroyed. A year ago I found the whole family cowering in their yard. Serb forces had just beaten them up after a KLA ambush of Serb police outside the mosque. Six months ago, I found Granny Latifaj standing alone, weeping, in the rubble. She was trying to heat some water in a bucket by placing it in the sun.
Today, half the family have returned. They've built a large wooden hut in the snow-covered ruins, with materials supplied by international agencies and charities. They have a wood-burning stove and enough wood to see them through Kosova's freezing winter. (One daughter tells me they received an extra allowance of firewood because her brother died in the war, fighting with the KLA's legendary Commander Ramush.) Like so many Kosovars, they are helped out financially by family members working in Germany. They hope their fields will be cleared of land mines in time for the spring sowing. Meanwhile, with international aid and family help, they have just enough to eat. The children go to a rudimentary school, with the same teacher who used to teach them illegally before the war. Most people in the village have come back and, yes, they finally feel free. "We'd like to thank you," says the hoxha, the local clergyman from the ruined mosque, whom I find repainting his own house, "you Americans and Europeans, for doing so much for our freedom."
This is the good news, and it's repeated all over the battered province. The main street of every town looks like a do-it-yourself exhibition. Small shops contain everything you need to rebuild a house, from bricks and timber, through electrical cables and drainpipes, to the all-important rugs and coffee cups. A family I have visited several times in Malisevo, once the capital of the KLA and "the most dangerous place in Europe," have such a shop, newly built with money sent from Germany by their Gastarbeiter son. The father cautiously estimates his profit at DM35-40 a day. He hopes to rebuild his own house on the earnings from selling reconstruction materials to others.
In the trashed bazaar of what used to be the Serbian city of Pec and is now the Albanian city of Peje, local children have painted the ruins with brightly colored frescoes. There's a thriving market, and even a couple of jewelers' shops. Young girls stand in the mud, distributing calendars for Ramadan.
In sum, most of the Kosovars who were expelled have come home; they are surviving and will eventually rebuild. Here, however, the good news ends. For Kosova today is an almighty mess. The province for which NATO fought the first war in its history is now the most ambitious project of truly international administration in the whole history of the United Nations. The experiment is not going well.
Thanks to us, Kosova ends with an athe Albanian as opposed to the Serbian spelling (ref). "A" stands for Albanian. It also, at the moment, stands for Anarchy. Take A for Albanian first. It's now entirely clear that the NATO intervention has decisively resolved, in favor of the Albanians, a Serb-Albanian struggle for control of this territory that goes back at least 120 years. This was neither the stated nor the real intention of Western policymakers.
Although most Serbs don't believe it, the representatives of the so-called international community are genuine and even passionate in their desire to see a future for the Serbs in Kosova. Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, the impressive German general who now commands the multilateral, NATO-led military force (KFOR), thumps his right fist into his left palm as he tells me that he will bring Serbs back to live again in their homes, even though those homes have been torched and plundered by Albanians since KFOR marched in. Bernard Kouchner, the very French head of the United Nations mission (UNMIK), tells me: "History will judge us on our ability to protect a minority [i.e., the Serbs] inside another minority [i.e., the Albanians in Yugoslavia]."
NATO could not stop their exodus - Serbs leaving Prizren, Juny 1999
In this convoy Bishop Artemije left Prizren with his people
These are bold terms on which to invite history's judgment. For the reality on the ground is one of almost total ethnic separation. Many Serbs fled to Serbia proper when KFOR marched in last June. Most of the rest have subsequently been driven into Serbian enclaves by intimidation and outright terror from returning Albanians. Particularly among the younger generation of Albanians, who have known Serbs only as remote oppressors, there is a growing intolerance of all ethnic others (including Roma and Muslim Slavs). People under thirty make up more than half the population and young Kosovars manifest a thirst for revenge that sickens not just foreigners but also many among the older generation of Kosovars, who still have personal memories of peaceful coexistence with the Serbs.
Just before I arrived, an elderly Serb professor was lynched by a mob celebrating the Albanian "flag day" in Pristina. There used to be some 40,000 Serbs living in Pristina; now there are just a few hundred. The exquisite Serbian monastery of Decani has lost all the lay Serbs who used to sustain it. When the monks need to go shopping, they travel under Italian KFOR escort to Montenegro. In Podujevo, British troops mount a twenty-four-hour guard over two remaining Serb grandmothers"and the Albanians would slot them if we didn't," a British officer remarks, using a slang term for "kill." It is entirely fitting to speak, in this context, of reverse ethnic cleansing. Yet this ethnic cleansing has been carried out under the very noses and tank barrels of more than 40,000 international troops.
Momcilo Trajkovic, the leading Serb politician still in Kosova, fled Pristina after being shot at through his front door by an Albanian. He now lives in what he calls the Serb "ghetto" around the monastery of Gracanica, an area a few miles across. When he wants to travel anywhere outside the ghetto, he needs a KFOR escort. "This means," he explains, "that I can go to Pristina to meet President Clinton but I can't go there to buy a loaf of bread." He's still indomitable. When I ask him how long people can live in such a ghetto, he replies, "A thousand years!" They outlived more than five hundred years of Ottoman rule, he says, and they'll survive this. But he is alone in his heroic optimism.
June 1999: Elderly Kosovo Serbs are usually targeted by the Albanian extremists. Many elderly people have been killed, or they starved confined in their flats (out of fear). Some have been just simply evicted from their homes and damped in the street like these two Serb ladies in Urosevac - a city which has been completely purged from Serbs (US sector)
Besides these enclaves, which contain perhaps some 20,000 to 30,000 Serbs, there is an area north of a line running roughly east-west through the city of Kosovska Mitrovica. This area makes up less than 10 percent of the whole territory. It contains some (though not all) of the valuable Trepca mines, and is contiguous with Serbia proper. Here, an estimated 70,000 Serbs still rule the roost. The situation in the divided city of Kosovska Mitrovica is astonishing. Passing the barbed wire barriers on the bridge over the Ibar River, my papers are checked by French soldiers as I enter the Serb-controlled northern sector. French, British, and Scandinavian troops patrol this part, too, but within a few yards of a British armored car I am accosted by several burly Serbs in plainclothes, armed with walkie-talkies.
Mitrovica is a divided city
Northern part of Mitrovica is the only city in Kosovo where Serbs can freely move,
go to shops and a hospital. Yet, it is only one fifth of the entire city area (editor)
They sharply ask my business, and my resourceful Albanian interpreter rapidly becomes "Dragan Trajkovic from Belgrade." We walk up through a peaceful-looking Serb townschoolgirls giggling on their way home, couples quietly going shoppingto the regional hospital, which is run by Serbs, though with a French director and French soldiers at the gate.
Here we meet a doctor who is also a member of a Belgrade-based, moderate nationalist opposition party. He explains how all the salaries of local people are paid from Belgrade, and their electricity, water, and other supplies come from the north. "The multi-ethnic concept of Kosovo is finished," he says. Partition is the only answer. Back in the southern part of town, the KLA-appointed unofficial Albanian mayor, Dr. Bajram Rexhepi, a surgeon who tended the KLA wounded, earning the affectionate nickname "Doctor Terrorist," retorts that this is intolerable. If nothing changes by the spring, he says, the Albanians will again resort to pressure, even force, to storm the bridge over the Ibar River. Some of the local French soldiers have been seen carousing with Serb paramilitaries, he claims, and are pro-Serb, but he thinks their commanders are not.
In truth, the refusal to force open the bridge over the Ibar is not just French policy but that of the entire international administration, both civil and military. For if the guardians of the bridge let the massed Albanians surge across, the Serbs would either fight or fleeprobably first one then the other. NATO and the UN would again be parties to ethnic cleansing. So instead, KFOR and UNMIK ineffectually struggle to implement a few schemes for Albanian-Serb cooperationin the hospital, in a factorythat do nothing to change the overall reality of partition. Indeed, Kouchner has now tacitly acknowledged this, proclaiming his medium-term goal to be no longer a "multiethnic" society but "peaceful coexistence" between largely separate communities.
Yet this hate-filled Albanian-Serb separation is only half the storyand for the future of Kosova not even the most important half. More important is the worsening state of anarchy. It's hard to convey what a chaotic, threatening place the Albanian 90 percent of Kosova is this winter. In the dark, through freezing fog, along potholed, icy roads, race endless columns of cars, many of them probably stolen in Western Europe. Half the cars display no registration plates and have black-clad, unshaven young men at the wheel, driving like madmen. Once, our column stops because a kid has thrown a brick through the windshield of what he thinks is a Serb car. More often, it's because a car has spun off the road. I have never in my life seen so many serious traffic accidents. At one particularly nasty one, a KFOR armored car trundles past while a car lies upside down in the snow, its warning lights flashing in the dark and its driver presumably crushed. There are still virtually no police, and there is no effective law. I kept thinking of Graham Greene's title: The Lawless Roads.
Italian KFOR taking arrested Albanian paramilitaries to detention center, Pec summer 1999
Pec is a city in which only Serbs are nuns living in a guarded monastery
Information on illegal activities of the "Kosovo Liberation Army"
Meanwhile, the Albanian mafia has entered with a vengeance. Young women are afraid to go out at night in Pristina for fear of being kidnapped into forced prostitution. Drug consumption among the students has soared, as the pushers get to work. In the last week of November, there were twenty-two recorded murders, several of them cold-blooded executions. The independent newspaper publisher Veton Surroi, who in the summer courageously denounced Albanian revenge killings against Serbs, sees his prophecy coming true: what began with Albanians murdering Serbs ends with Albanians murdering each other. Before and during the war, Kosovars kept assuring me that Kosova would not be like Albania: corrupt, anarchic, ruled by the gun and the gang. Increasingly, it is. The Albanization of Kosova is taking place in a way no ordinary Kosova Albanian wanted. The gangsters have stepped into the vacuum left by the slowness of the West.
KFOR tries to do what it can. Sometimes its efforts are simply comical. As cars speed down the main street of one small town, a Swedish soldier steps out waving a little sign saying "30 kph" (kilometers per hour). The cars ignore him. On the other side of the road I see a local man shaking with uncontrollable laughter at this ludicrous yet emblematic scene. The West meets the Balkans.
More seriously, the KFOR forces have set up detention camps, with hundreds of suspected murderers and violent criminals. "But then," an exasperated officer tells me, "the Albanian judge comes and releases all the Albanians, the Serb judge does the same for the Serbs." Mere looting and plundering earns just "a cuff round the ear and 'don't do it again.'" The soldiers always knew they could never be a substitute for a proper police. The then KFOR commander General Sir Michael Jackson told me in May of last year, when they were still waiting in Macedonia, that the key to success would be international police. Disastrously, UNMIK has only got about 1,800 of the 6,000 international police Kouchner requested when he arrived in July. And 6,000 would still be too few.
Some of these police are from third- world countries like Bangladesh and Malaysia, and critics say they are mainly here for the money. They sit in the cafes while crime goes on all around. The more professional ones mix grim determination with despair. They include sixty officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, fresh from the streets of Belfast. "It's just like home," one of them remarks, after discussing last night's particularly nasty summary executions.3 Just a few hundred local police have graduated from the new police academy. Behind them, there is still no effective structure of law, judges, courts, and prisons. UNMIK has taken six months to secure agreement even on which body of law should be applied, let alone to start applying it.
Mania of vandalism
Monument of a Serb poet - now dumped into garbage in Pristina
This is the greatest failure of international administration, but not the only one. Six months after the world moved in, the province still has nothing that could be called a working government.
1) First, you could hardly think of a more difficult place to try. It's not just the physical devastation, with more than a third of the houses destroyed or damaged. It's also the social and psychological devastation wrought by ten years of oppression, followed by war, forced exile, and return. Further dislocation is caused by the tens of thousands of country people flooding into Pristina because they have nowhere to live for the winter.
2) Second, there is the disunity, corruption, and irresponsibility of the local Kosovar Albanian politicians, among whom Kouchner hopes to find partners in a joint administration. Five years ago, he would still have had one relatively well defined local structure to deal with, the underground administration of the Democratic League of Kosova (LDK), headed by the unofficial president, Ibrahim Rugovano shining light, but at least committed to peaceful change. Now there is another major movement, the KLA, whichtogether with its new Sinn Fein, the PPDK partybelieves that it has matchless legitimacy flowing from the armed struggle for independence. Several lesser competitors swirl in the background.
Hashim Thaci the leader of former UCK followed by his comrades
Army parade in a Serb-free Kosovo capital
The leader of the unofficial KLA government, Hashim Thaci, known here as Albright's Darling, greets me in a smart blue suit and smoothly makes all the right noises about human rights, tolerance, and stability. "We didn't make war to have this anarchy," he says. But all the time a curious, slightly sinister smile plays on his lips, as if he's really thinking, "What a huge joke that the United States and the whole Western world and this man from Oxford are all treating me, the kid from Drenica and the Zurich Bahnhof, with such respect." Well-informed senior Western sources think it is a bad joke, since they claim to have firm evidence that Thaci has been directly involved in KLA racketeering and strong-arm tactics.
In small towns and villages, the self-appointed KLA bosses behave as if they are the masters now. Local people complain bitterly about the unjust way they distribute international aid. (The mother of my Malisevo family shows me all they have received: one cardboard box, marked, in some Sussex spinster's hand, "Teenage Girls' Underwear.") In many places they intimidate the local LDK leaders who are still loyal to Rugovaso much so that in one village in the KLA heartland of Drenica, the LDK representatives did not even dare to meet Dr. Kouchner. "Thaci thinks he's Castro," the independent newspaper editor Baton Haxhiu says. And even Dr. Kouchner wearily comments, "Thaci wants to run the whole thing."
Yet this insolent arrogance of power alienates many Kosovars. Wherever I go, I find evidence of strong support for the LDK, and especially for Ibrahim Rugova. Rugova himself is back, and receives me in stately style in his large suburban house, full of heavy furniture and rich carpets. He wears a suit and tie but not, for once, his trademark paisley scarf. In his passable French, he tells me how he was detained by the Serbs in this very room, with fourteen people, and forced to go to Belgrade and be shown on Serbian television shaking hands with Milosevic. Don't people blame him for that? I ask. "No, because every Kosovar was in the same situation." Like Thaci, he offers me smooth cliches about tolerance, stability, and democracy, but his problem is the weakness of his party, especially since the Serbs killed Professor Fehmi Agani, the eminence grise who held it together. At parting, he shows me his mineral collection, and presents me with a semiprecious lump of Kosova.
Rugova wants three sorts of election as soon as possible: local elections, what he calls "national" (i.e., all-Kosova) elections, and direct presidential ones. The KLA wants local and national ones, then for parliament to elect the presidentbecause they fear that Rugova would win a direct election. Kouchner hopes to start with local elections, but first the citizens and voters have to be registered, and that process has barely begun. Autumn 2000 seems the earliest feasible time, and anyway, such a contest is likely to sharpen the local rivalries.
In the background, there is a second unofficial "government" headed by Bujar Bukoshi, who allegedly has hundreds of millions of deutschmarks collected from Kosovars living abroad during the 1990s. Thaci charmingly calls it "the mafia of Bukoshi." There's also another party headed by a leading Kosovar intellectual, Rexhep Qosja, which, like the KLAand LDK, was represented at the Rambouillet peace talks last spring.
In case you were wondering, the Islamic clergy seem quite incapable of acting as an integrating and pacifying force. "We try," says the nice hoxha of Prilep, "but the anger is stronger, the anger is stronger." Back in Pristina, when I ask the newspaper publisher Veton Surroi why he does not take a lead, he replies, "Me, I'm a moral authority." But he says it with a weary, almost cynical shrug, as if to add, "whatever that means, in a place like this."
3) The third reason that things are going wrong is the complexity and chaos of the international presence itself, which matches and compounds the local Kosovar confusion. Locals proudly comment, "We're Balkanizing the international community!" But the international community does that all by itself. On paper, there's a structure which is drawn in KFOR documentsthis is not a jokeas a Greek temple. The base is KFOR, providing security. Then there are four columns: UNMIK, for civil administration; the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), for restoring people's homes; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), for elections and media; and the European Union (EU), for economic reconstruction. The pediment is marked "a stable and peaceful Kosovo." Very neat. But the practice, that's a different matter.
Scenes of anarchy and disorder - no courts, no law, no peace... only KFOR enforces the order
French KFOR in attempt to calm down Albanian street riots, Mitrovica Aug 99
All these international organizations have their own distinctive bureaucratic styles and political constraints. All compete with one another. All are subject to innumerable national pressures. Their separate propaganda sheets make revealing reading. The European Commission Task Force, for the EU, has a Reconstruction Weekly. The lead item in the November 21-27, 1999, issue is a report of a one-day workshop on management training which apparently concluded that "top-level managers in socially-owned companies...would require training on change and organisational behaviour, quality management, public relations, international markets, as well as general management development." The bureaucratic language takes you straight back to Brussels. One wonders what polished consultant was paid what enormous fee (a year's living for ten large Kosovar families?) to organize this ringing statement of the blindingly obvious. The report goes on to discuss the small- and medium-size enterprise (SME) sector: "To acquire a fully comprehensive assessment of training needs, it was recommended that a survey of all existing SMEs be undertaken to define more clearly training and related requirements (such as technology, markets, clients, and partnerships)." To anyone who has seen the chaotic reality on the ground, this idea of a "survey of all [!] existing SMEs" in Kosova is utterly ludicrous. It's stuff like this that can make even the staunchest friend of the EU despair of the Europe our fathers have built.
Turning to the KFOR Chronicle, I particularly enjoy one headline: "GREEKS ORGANIZE THE CHAOS." Well, exactly. General Reinhardt tells me he has thirty-four different national contingents under his command, "and don't think they do something just because I order them to." No, they all go off and ask their national governments first. I find that people from KFOR, UNMIK, and OSCE privately spend much time blaming one anotherjust as the Kosovar politicians do. In fairness, one should say the UN has never before been charged with such a complex piece of international government, and at such short notice. Many dedicated, idealistic, professional people work long hours doing useful things. There is something truly touching about this Babel of Azerbaijani soldiers, French intellectuals, Swedish diplomats, and Zambian policemen, trying to make a reality of a liberal internationalist dream. I wish it could work.
Behind the conflicts of the local mortals, there are the demigods squabbling in New York, Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and Beijing. It is no secret that Kouchner has spent much of his time trying to secure agreement from the UN secretary- general and Security Council to this or that minute step of local self-government. When I ask him about this, he startlingly replies: "New York does not exist!" (I think it might sound better in French.) In a conversation that I would characterize as unfocused, Dr. Kouchner gives me the impression of passion and Gallic eloquence, but not of masterly administrative skills. And to make this thing work needs a politician-administrator of genius.
The problems run from the very top to the very bottom. For example: UNMIK is trying to recruit judges, customs officials, and teachers at salaries of some DM100 to 500 a month. But the same people can earn DM1,000 to 2,000 a month working as interpreters or simply as drivers for those same international organizations. Thus the international community unwittingly defeats its own objectives. ("And," a Kosovar friend adds, "do you think customs officials on DM500 a month are going to collect many customs dues? Of course they'll take bribes instead.") My own driver-interpreter is a judge, dismissed by the Serbs in 1991. He won't go back to being a judge, for three reasons: because of the money; because he fears his own dear fellow Albanians will make trouble for him if he convicts some of their choicer brethren; and because he wants to emigrate to Canada anyway, to give his children a better life.
In mid-December, shortly after Ileft, Kouchner finally persuaded his multiple international masters and the three Kosovar Albanian parties represented at the Rambouillet peace conference to agree on a structure of "interim administration." This is supposed to last until elections produce something more democratic and permanent. It places him at the top, as civilian governor of the province, with a mixed UNMIK and local administrative council beneath him, and some nineteen executive ministries under that. Competent persons are to be proposed by the Kosovar parties to head these ministries, but he will decide who gets the jobs. All is to be in place by the end of January. Well, we shall see.
4) The fourth reason for the mess is the deep ambiguity of UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which, as a paper bridge between the Western and the Russian/Chinese positions, declares that the province is at once subject to the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and will enjoy substantial autonomy and self-government. Virginity and motherhood combined. This is, as one senior UNMIK official candidly puts it, "a nightmare." The Russians and Chinese cry blue murder at every step toward self-government, such as having a budget in deutschmarks rather than Yugoslav dinars, or instituting customs controls, or issuing separate identity papers. Yet such steps are the only way out of anarchy.
5) Last, but by no means least, it's a mess because the world really does not want to be here. NATO and the UN stumbled into this experiment as they stumbled into the war itself. Each individual member state counts the cost. The reason why the international police, to take the single most important failure, have been so slow in coming is that national governments have not found them and won't pay for themincluding, as Kouchner bitterly remarks, his own French government. (There are gendarmes in Kosovska Mitrovica, but the gendarmes are a military, not a civilian, force.) African countries protest: What about us! International attention has already moved on to other crises. Chechnya, not Kosova, now produces the CNN effect. UNMIK had to go around with a begging bowl to raise the $250 million needed for this year's core administration budget. It's often been said, but still bears repeating: for the price of a few days' bombing, we are throwing Kosova away.
Bernard Kouchner and Secretary Albright in Pristina
This place supposedly took its name from "the field of the blackbirds," Kosovo Polje, and in the bleak midwinter blackbirds still gather in vast numbers to squawk and caw in the trees of Pristina. As I write up my notes in the early morning of my last day, they flock and swirl outside my window, blackening the dawn sky above the offices of the International Criminal Tribunal, as if to shriek, "We know where the bodies are buried!" Then they swarm over the main headquarters of the UN administration, as if to crow, "You'll never bring peaceful order to this place!" It's a scene from Hitchcock's The Birds, and it eerily heightens my sense of grim foreboding as I leave for Serbia. The West won the war. I fear we are losing the peace...
(The article is continuing with the overview of the situation in Serbia proper)
Illustrations and captions by editor
KOSOVO IN STATE OF ANARCHY AND DISORDER
CATO Institute - The Real Kosovo
LA Times, Kosovo Battles Resurgence of Organized Crime
NYT, Chaos and Intolerance Now Reign in Kosovo
Express (UK) Albanian Mafia, KLA and Kosovo Aid
NYREW, Kosovo - Peace Now?
IWPR, Insecurity in Kosovo - The Fear of Death
WP, In Kosovo Criminals Are Free to Roam
EC, Things Told and Things Seen, Diana Johnston
IHT, The New Pristina is No Friendlier Than the Old One
IWPR, Controled Chaos in Kosovo
IWPR, The Invasion of Body Snatchers
OJPCR How not to Resolve the Kosovo Question
CNN, Misguided Motives Let to The Chaos in Kosovo
NATO'S EMPTY VICTORY
By Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute, Washington D.C.