Freedom Fighters or...
Truth in facts and testimonies
June 7, 2000
The Army of Liberation
Part V of The Union of Death, ExaminingTerrorists and Freedom Fighters
By Sam Vaknin
[There is a growing
tendency among foreign observers] to identify the criminal
with the honest, the vandal with the civilized, the mafiosi with the
nation. - Former
Albanian President Sali Berisha.
They were terrorists
in 1998 and now, because of politics, they're freedom fighters.
- Jerry Seper, "KLA Finances War with Heroin Sales," - An
drug official" referring to a 1998 US State Department report,
quoted in the
Washington Times, 3 May 1999.
The Albanian villages
are much better, much richer than the Serbian ones. The
Serbs, even the rich ones, don't build fine houses in villages where
Albanians. If a Serb has a two-story house he refrains from painting
it so that it
shan't look better than the Albanian houses. - Leon Trotsky, war correspondent
for Pravda, reporting from the Balkan Wars, 1912-1913.
When spring comes,
we will manure the plains of Kosovo with the bones of Serbs,
for we, Albanians, have suffered too much to forget. - Isa Boletini,
Ambassadors' Conference in London, 1913.
Instead of using
their authority and impartiality to restrain terrorist gangs of
Albanian extremists, we face the situation in which the terrorism is
under their auspices, and even being financed by United Nations means.
Slobodan Miloevic, March 2000.
wrong is an essential part of being a nation. - French historian
We spent the 1990s
worrying about a Greater Serbia. That's finished. We are going
to spend time well into the next century worrying about a Greater Albania.
Christopher Hill, Ambassador to Macedonia, 1999.
There is no excuse
for that, even if the Serbs in Kosovo are very angry. I accept
responsibility. One of the most important tasks of a democracy is to
minorities. - Slobodan Miloeviæ to Ambassador Christopher
Hill upon being
told about atrocities in Kosovo.
I am like a candle.
I am melting away slowly, but I light the way for others. - Adem
Demaçi, political representative of the KLA.
The founding fathers
of the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA, or UÇK from the Albania
Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës) were Ibrahim Rugova, the pacifist
president of the
self-proclaimed "Republic of Kosovo," established in 1991,
and Slobodan Miloeviæ, his
belligerent Yugoslav counterpart. The abysmal failure of the former's
policies of sheltering his people from the recrudescently violent actions
of the latter
revived the fledging KLA outfit.
Contrary to typically
shallow information in the media, the KLA is known to have
operated in Kosovo as early as an attack on policemen in Glogovac in
May 1993. Its
epiphany, in the form of magnificently uniformed fighters, occurred
only on 28
November, 1997, at the funeral of a teacher killed by Serb zealousness,
but it existed long
before - perhaps as early as the 1982 People's Movement of Kosovo.
The historical and
cultural roots of the conflict in Kosovo have been described elsewhere
(The Bad Blood of Kosovo). Reading that article is essential, as this
one assumes prior
acquaintance with it.
Kosovo is a land
of great mineral wealth and commensurate agricultural poverty and has
always languished with decrepit infrastructure and irrelevant industry.
riches were looted by Yugoslavia for decades, and both Macedonia and
the poor relatives in the Yugoslav Federation. In the Kosovo of 1979,
more than 31
percent of all those over 10 years of age were illiterate and its per
capita income was 30
percent below the national average.
was six times that in Slovenia. Kosovo was an African enclave in a
country aspiring to be part of Europe. Caught in the pernicious spiral
commodity prices, Kosovo relied on transfers from Yugoslavia and from
abroad for more
than 90 percent of its income.
tripled from 19 percent in 1971 to 57 percent in 1989.
As a result, the
Federal government had to quell a three month-long series of paralyzing
riots in 1981. Riots were nothing new to Kosovo: the demonstrations
of 1968 were
arguably worse and led to constitutional changes granting autonomy to
Kosovo in 1974.
But this time, the authorities reacted with tanks in scenes reminiscent
Tiananmen Square eight years later.
The hotbed of hotheads
was, as usual, the University in Pritina. Students there were
more concerned with pedestrian issues such the quality of their food
and the lack of
facilities than with any eternal revolutionary or national truths. These
were hijacked by comrades with higher class consciousness and loftier
self-determination. Such hijacking, though, would have petered out had
the cesspool of
rage and indignation not been so long festering..
backed by indiscriminate brutality, led to escalation. Calls for the
restoration of the 1974 constitution (under which Kosovo was granted
legal and cultural autonomy and institutions) - merged into a sonorous
agenda of "Greater
Albania" and a "Kosovo Republic." The Kosovar crowd was
not above beatings, looting
and burning. The hate was strong.
party, the League of Communists, was in the throes of its own
transformation. With Tito's demise and the implosion of the Soviet Bloc,
lacked both compass and leader, as Tito had purged his natural successors
in the 1960s
and 1970s. The party was not sure whether to turn to Gorbachev's East
or to America's
The Communists panicked
and embarked on a rampage of imprisonment, unjust
dismissals of Albanians (mainly of teachers, journalists, policemen
and judges) and the
occasional torture or murder. Serb intellectuals regarded this as no
more than the
rectification of Tito's anti-Serb policies. Serbia was, after all, the
only Republic within the
Federation to have been dismembered into autonomous regions (Kosovo
"Getting back at Tito" was thus a strong motive, commensurate
with Serb "the world is
against us" paranoia and siege mentality.
visibly ill at ease, surfed this tide of religion-tinged nationalism
Kosovo, the historical heartland of Serb-ism.
resistance, and Serb oppression served only to streamline the
stochastic Albanian nationalist movement into a compartmentalized, though
underground organization with roots wherever Albanians resided: Germany,
the United States, Canada and Australia. The ideology was an improbable
mix of Enver
Hoxha-inspired Stalinism Maoism and Albanian chauvinism.
This was, the reader
should recall, before Albania opened up to reveal its decrepitude
and desolation to its Kosovar visitors. All delusions of an Albania-backed
evaporated in the languor of Albania proper. Thus, the nationalists'
activities were more
innocuous than their concocted doctrines. They defaced government buildings,
gravestones in Serb cemeteries and overturned heroic monuments. The
subversive, and fairly bromide, "literature" was rarely accompanied
by acts of terror,
either in Kosovo or in Europe.
Nationalism is a
refuge from uncertainty. As the old Yugoslavia was crumbling, each of
its constituents developed its own brand of escapism, replete with opportunistic
leaders, mostly fictional "history," a newly discovered language
and a pledge to
reconstitute a lost empire at its apex. Thus, Kosovar nationalism was
qualitatively the kin
and kith of the Serb or Croat species.
rather predictably, they fed on each other. Miloeviæ was
a creation of Kosovar nationalism as the KLA's leader, Hashim Thaçi,
was the outcome
of Miloeviæ's policies. The KLA's Stalinist-Maoist inspiration
emulated the paranoid and
omphaloskeptic regime in Albania, but it owed its existence to Belgrade's
The love-hate relationship
between the Kosovars and the Albanians is explored
elsewhere (The Myth of Greater Albania: Part I-III). The Serbs, in other
words, were as
terrified of Kosovar irredentism as the Kosovars were of Serb domination.
more pressing and menacing appeals to Belgrade gave the regime the pretext
to intervene and Miloeviæ the context he sought in which
In February 1989,
armed with a new constitution which abolished Kosovo's autonomy
(and, a year later, its stunned government), Miloeviæ quelled
a miners' hunger strike and
proceeded to institute measures of discrimination against the Albanians
in the province.
nothing new in Kosovo. The Albanians themselves initiated such
anti-Serb measures in 1974, following their newly gained constitutional
1989, the tide turned and thousands of Albanians who refused to sign
"loyalty vows" were summarily sacked and lost their pension
rights, the most sacred
possession of Homo socialismus.
Albanian media outlets
were shuttered and schools vacated when teacher after teacher
refused to abide by the Serb curriculum. After a while, The Serbs re-opened
schools and re-hired Albanian teachers, allowing them to teach in Albanian,
secondary schools and universities remained closed.
These acts of persecution
did not meet with universal disapproval. Greece, for instance,
regarded the Albanians as natural allies of the Turks and, bonded by
common enmity, of
the Macedonians and Bulgarians. Itself comprised of lands claimed by
favored a harsh and final resolution of the Albanian question.
There can be little
doubt that Macedonia - feeling besieged by its Albanian minority -
regarded Miloeviæ as the perfect antidote. Later, Macedonia
Yugoslavia in breaking the embargo imposed on it by the Western powers.
was not, therefore, a pariah, as retroactive history would have it.
Rather, he was the only
obstacle to a "Greater Albania."
Within less than
a year, in 1990, the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) was able to
claim a membership of 700,000 members. Hashim "Snake" Thaçi,
Selimi and other leaders of the KLA were then 20 years of age. Years
education notwithstanding, they witnessed first hand Kosovo's tumultuous
into the engine of disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation. It was
a valuable lesson in
the dialectic of history, which they later applied brilliantly.
The leader of the
LDK, the forever silk-scarfed and mellifluous Dr Ibrahim Rugova,
compared himself openly and blushlessly to Václav Havel and the
Kosovar struggle to
the Velvet Revolution. This turgid and risible analogy deteriorated
further as the Kosovar
velvet was stained by the blood of innocents. Dr Rugova was an unfazed
dreamer in a
land of harsh nightmares: the Sorbonne was never a good preparatory
school for the
academy of Balkan reality.
were good and noble: Gandhi-like passive resistance, market economics,
constructive (though uncompromising and limited to the authorities)
dialogue with the
enemy. They might still prevail, and during the early 1990s he was all
the rage and the
darling of the West. But he failed to translate his convictions into
His biggest failure might have been his inability to ally himself with
a "Great Power," as
did the Croats, the Slovenes and the Bosnians.
This became painfully
evident with the signature of the Dayton Accord in 1995, which
almost completely ignored Kosovo and the Kosovars. True, the West conditioned
total removal of sanctions against Yugoslavia on humane treatment of
citizens and encouraged the Albanians, though circumspectly, to stand
for their rights.
But there was no explicit support even for the re-instatement of Kosovo's
1974 status, let
alone for the Albanians' dreams of statehood.
In the absence of
such support - financial and diplomatic - Kosovo remained an internal
Yugoslav problem, a renegade province, a colony of terror and drug trafficking.
Kosovars felt betrayed, as they felt after the Congress of Berlin and
the Balkan Wars.
Perhaps securing such a sponsor was a lost cause to start with, although
succeeded where Rugova failed, but Rugova misled his people into sanguineous
devastation by declaring the "Kosovo Republic" before the
time was right.
His choice of pacifism
may have been dictated by the sobering sights from the killing
fields of Bosnia, which proved his pragmatism. But his decision to declare
was premature, self-aggrandizing and in vacuo. The emergence of a political
tough, realistic, methodical and structured - was not only a question
of time but a
welcome development. There is no desolation like the one inflicted by
In 1991, Rugova
set about organizing a Republic from a shabby office building opposite
the Cafe Mimoza. His government constructed makeshift schools and hospitals
parallel networks of services staffed by the Serb-dispossessed, capitalizing
on a sweeping
wave of volunteerism. Albania recognized this nascent state immediately
international negotiators, such as Lord Owen and Cyrus Vance, conferred
self-important figurehead as early as September 1992.
administrations funneled money into the province and warnings
against "ethnic cleansing" were flung at Yugoslavia as early
as 1993. Internally, Serb
extremists in both Belgrade and Pritina prevented Serb moderates,
like then Yugoslav
Prime Minister Milan Paniæ, from re-opening the schools of Kosovo
and reducing the
massive, Northern Ireland-like Serb military presence there.
An agreement to
abolish the parallel Albanian education system and re-open all the
educational facilities in Kosovo signed in 1997 by both Rugova and Miloeviæ
frustrated. Kosovo fractured along ethnic lines with complete segregation
of the Serbs
and the Albanians. To avoid contact with the Serbs was an unwritten
rule, breached only
by prominent intellectuals.
Republic" never advocated ethnic cleansing or even outright independence
- there were powerful voices in favor of a federal solution within Yugoslavia
- but not far
from re-inventing an inverted version of apartheid. It faced the ubiquitous
problem of all
the other republics of former Yugoslavia: not one of them was ethnically
achieve a tolerable level of homogeneity, they had to resort to force.
the measured application of the insidious powers of discrimination and
once the theme was set, variations were bound to arise.
for some years, Rugova and the LDK did not monopolize the Kosovar
political landscape. In 1998, boycotted by all other political parties,
re-elected as president, and the disenchanted and disillusioned suddenly
found they had
plenty of choice. Some joined the KLA, many more joined Rexhep Qosja's
Democratic Movement (LBD).
The political scene
in Kosovo in the 1980s and early 1990s was vibrant and
kaleidoscopic. Adem Demaçi, who later became the Marxist ideologue
of the KLA
established the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo (PPK) before he handed
it over to
Bajram Kosumi, a dissident and another venerable political prisoner.
reader will recall, was a long time political prisoner and the founder
"Revolutionary Movement for the Merger of Albanians" in 1964.
Parliamentary Party of Kosovo was co-founded by Veton Surroi, the English-speaking,
US-educated, son of a Yugoslav diplomat and editor of Koha Ditore, the
language daily. The Albanians are not a devout lot, but even Islam had
manifestations in Kosovo.
Meanwhile, the 1981
demonstrations gave rise to the Popular Movement for Kosovo
(LPK) which, apparently, led to the formation of the KLA, probably in
1993, possibly in
Pritina. Whatever the circumstances, the KLA congregated in Decani,
surrounding Pritina. In 1995, two years after the Glogovac attack,
it tackled a Serb
border patrol (April) and a Serb police station (August), using light
weapons and a crude
The Serbs were not
impressed, but they were provoked into an escalating series of ever
more hideous massacres of Albanian villagers, and a turning point in
the brewing conflict
might have been the Serb slaughter of the Jashari clan in Prekaz. Machiavellian
ascribe to the KLA a devilish plot to provoke the Serbs into the ethnic
finally introduced the West to tortured Kosovo.
The author of this
article, aware of the Balkan's lack of propensity for long-term planning
and predilection for self-defeating vengeance, believes that, to the
KLA, it was all a
serendipitous turn of events. Whatever the case may be, the KLA became
self-assured and popular to advertise itself on the BBC as responsible
for some of the
clashes, a rite of passage common to all self-respecting freedom fighters.
The KLA's selection
of targets is very telling. At first, it concentrated its fiery intentions
only on military and law and order personnel. Its reluctance to affect
meritorious. A subtle shift occurred when the Serbs began to re-populate
Serbs displaced from the Krajina region. Alarmed by the intent (if not
by the execution:
only 10,000 Serbs or so were settled in Kosovo) the KLA reacted with
a major drive to
arm itself and by attacking Serb settlements in Klina, Decani and Ðakovica,
as well as a
refugee camp in Baboloc.
The KLA attacks
were militarily sophisticated and coordinated. Serb policemen were
ambushed on the road between Glogovac and Srbica, but the Serb counter-offensive
resulted in dozens of Albanian civilian victims in the "Drenica
women and children, The KLA tried to defend villages aligned along the
line and thus disrupt the communications and logistics of Serb Military
Police and Special
MUP (Ministry of Interior) units. The main arena of fighting was a recurrent
one: in the
1920s, Albanian guerrillas based in the hills attacked the Serbs in
What finally transformed
the KLA from a wannabe IRA into the fighting force that it
became was the disintegration of Albania. History is the annals of irony.
The break-up of
the KLA's role model led to the resurgence of its intellectual progeny.
absorbed thousands of weapons from the looted armoires of the Albanian
police. Angry mobs attacked these ordinance bases following the collapse
investment schemes that robbed one third of the population of all their
The arms ended up
in the trigger-happy hands of drug lords, mafiosi, pimps, smugglers
and freedom fighters from Tetovo in Macedonia to Durres in Albania and
in Kosovo to the Sandzak in Serbia. The KLA was so ill equipped to cope
fortuitous cornucopia that it began to trade weapons, a gainful avocation
found hard to dislodge.
The convulsive dissolution
of Albania led to changes in high places. Sali Berisha was
deposed and replaced by Rexhep Mejdani, who had an even more sympathetic
separatist demands. Berisha himself later allowed the KLA to use his
Tropoja, as staging grounds and supported the cause (though not the
KLA or its self-appointed government) unequivocally.
At a certain stage,
he even accused Fatos Nano, his rival and the Prime Minister of
Albania, of being an enemy of the Albanian people for not displaying
unmitigated loyalty to the idea of an independent Kosovo, under Rugova
Bukoshi, Rugova's money man (and Prime Minister in exile). The KLA was
expand its presence in Albania, mainly in its training and operations
centers near Kukes,
Ljabinot (near Tirana) and Bajram Curi.
Albania had a growing
say in the affairs of the KLA as it recomposed itself - it was
instrumental in summoning the KLA to the talks at Rambouillet to try
and head off the
1999 conflict, for instance.
This armed revelry
coupled with the rising fortunes of separatism, led Robert Gelbard,
the senior US envoy to the Balkan to label the KLA - "a terrorist
Serbs took this to mean a license to kill, which they exercised dutifully
Promptly, the USA changed course and the indomitable Madeleine Albright
parties, saying: "We are not going to stand by and watch the Serbian
authorities do in
Kosovo what they can no longer get away with in Bosnia."
This stern consistency
was followed by a tightening of the embargo against Yugoslavia
and by a threat of unilateral action. For the first time in history,
the Kosovars finally had a
sponsor - and what a sponsor! The mightiest of all. As for Miloeviæ,
he felt nauseatingly
betrayed. Not only was he not rewarded for his role as the Dayton peacemaker
- he was
faced with new sanctions, an ultimatum and a direct threat on the very
The KLA mushroomed
not because it attacked Serbs - the attacks were, in fact, very
sporadic and had minuscule effects. It ballooned because it delivered
where Rugova did
not even promise. It delivered an alliance with the United States against
the hated Serbs.
It delivered weapons. It delivered hope and a plan. It delivered vengeance,
self-expression of the downtrodden. It was joined by the near and the
far and, by its own
reckoning, its ranks swelled to 50,000 warriors. More objective experts
put the figure of
active fighters at a quarter this number.
Still, it is an
impressive figure in a population of 1.7 million. During the war, it
by 400 overweight suburbanites from North America, Albanian volunteers
"Atlantic Brigade." It also absorbed Albanians with rich military
experience from Serbia
and Croatia as well as foreign mercenaries and possibly "Afghanis"
(the devout Muslim
veterans of the wars in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Bosnia).
The influx of volunteers
put pressure on the leadership, both organizational and
financially. The KLA, an entrepreneurial start up of an insurgency,
had matured into a
national brand of guerrilla fighters. It revamped itself, creating directorates,
officers, codes and procedures, a radio station and a news agency, an
communications interception unit, a word-of-mouth messenger service
and a general
military staff, headed from February 1999 by "Sultan" Selimi
and divided into seven
In short, it reacted
to changing fortunes by creating a bureaucracy. Concurrently, it
armed itself to its teeth with more sophisticated weapons than ever
before, though it was
still short of medical supplies, ammunition and communications equipment.
The KLA had shoulder-fired
anti-tank rocket launchers, such as the German "Armburst,"
mortars, recoilless rifles, anti-aircraft machine-guns and automatic
assault rifles. Some of
the weapons were even bought from Serb army officers or imported through
All this required
a financial phase transition. That the KLA benefited, directly and
knowingly, from money tainted by drug trafficking and the smuggling
of both goods and
people across borders. Of this there can be in little doubt. But I find
the proposition that
the KLA itself has traded in drugs unlikely. The long-established Albanian
control the "Balkan Route" - the same clans that faced down
the fearsome Turkish gangs
on their own turf - would never have let an upstart such as the KLA
take over any of
their territory and its incumbent profits.
However, the KLA
might have traded weapons. It might have dabbled in smuggling. It
might have received donations from drug lords. In this, it was no different
from all major
modern guerrilla movements. But it did not peddle drugs - not because
of moral scruples,
but because of the lethal competition it would have encountered.
That the KLA had
to resort to such condemnable methods of financing is not surprising.
Rugova refused to share with it the funds abroad managed by Bujar Bukoshi
on behalf of
the "Kosovar People." It had no other means of income and,
in contrast to Rugova, could
act only clandestinely and surreptitiously. The West was no great help
either - contrary to
the myth spun by the Serbs.
Another source of
income was the three percent "War Tax" levied on 500,000 Kosovar
Albanians and their businesses in the Diaspora, although most of it
ended up under
Bukoshi's and Rugova's control. Officially collected by the People's
Kosovo, the ultimate use of the proceeds was the sustenance of the shadow
The KLA made use of the voluntary and not so voluntary donations to
fund "Homeland Calls" (or "Motherland is Calling").
The United State,
pragmatic superpower that it is, began to divert its attention from
bumbling and hapless Rugova to the emerging KLA. The likes of Gelbard,
and his senior,
Richard Holbrooke, held talks with its youthful political director,
Hashim Thaçi. Suave,
togged up and earnest, Thaçi was just what the doctor ordered.
To discern that a
showdown in Kosovo was near required no prophetic powers. The KLA might
handy to espy the land and divert the Serb forces should the need arise.
administration has diligently put everything in place for intervention,"
Gary Dempsey of the Cato Institute in 1998." In fact," he
by mid-July US-NATO
planners had completed contingency plans for intervention,
including air strikes and the deployment of ground troops. All that
was missing was a
sufficiently brutal or tragic event to trigger the process. As a senior
official told reporters on 15 July, "If some levels of atrocities
were reached that would be
intolerable, that would probably be a trigger."
another article, "The Plight of the Kosovars" in the Middle
Times in August 1998, in which he delineated the future shape of the
Kosovo conflict in
reasonably accurate detail. The article was written in April 1998, by
which time the
outline of things to come was evidently plain.
All along, the KLA
prepared itself to be a provisional government in waiting. It occupied
regions of Kosovo, established roadblocks, administration and welfare
members operated nocturnally. The Serb reaction became ever harsher
until, finally, it
threatened not only to wipe the KLA out of existence but also to depopulate
the parts of
the province controlled by the guerrillas.
In September 1998,
NATO threatened air strikes against Serbia, following reports of a
massacre of women and children in the village of Gornje Obrinje. This
led to the October
20 1998 agreement with Belgrade, which postulated a reduction in the
levels of Yugoslav
troops in the province.
The KLA was all
but ignored in these events. Rugova was not. He was often consulted
by the American negotiators and treated like a head of state. The message
deafeningly clear: the KLA was a pawn on the chessboard of war. It had
where the civilized and the responsible tread. It had no raison d'etre
in peacetime. It
reacted by hitting a number of "Serb collaborators," mostly
of Gorani extract, Muslim
Slavs who speak an Albanian dialect. One of the disposed was Enver Maloku,
On 15 January, 1999,
in the village of Raçak, someone murdered scores of people and
dumped them by the roadside. The KLA blamed the Serbs. The Serbs blamed
and William Walker, the head of the OSCE observer team. Media reports
inconclusive. While everyone was fighting over the smoldering bodies,
preparing to attack and Walker withdrew his observer team from Kosovo
increasingly reluctant and enraged Macedonia.
Faced with sovereignty-infringing
and regime-destabilizing demands at Rambouillet, the
Serbs declined NATO demands. Under pressure and after days of consultations,
Albanian delegation accepted the dictated draft agreement hesitatingly.
In the absence of
the predicted Serb capitulation, "Operation Allied Forces"
a turning point for the KLA. Evidently on the verge of war, the United
States reverted to its preferences of yore. The KLA, a more useful ally
on the field of
battle, took over from the LDK as the US favorite. At the behest of
the United States,
KLA representatives not only were present, but headed the Kosovar negotiating
some convincing and shuttling between Rambouillet, Switzerland and Kosovo
- but, finally, in March, he accepted the terms of the agreement with
a somber Rugova in
tow. These public acts of statesmanship - negotiating, bargaining and,
graciously - cemented the role and image of the KLA as not only a military
also as a political organization with the talent and wherewithal to
lead the Kosovars.
was never more negligible and marginal.
The KLA will transform
in many directions, not just a military guard. One part will
become part of the police, one part will become civil administration,
one part will become
the Army of Kosovo, as a defense force.
Finally, a part
will form a political party.
KLA military commander
The Western media
hit a nadir of bias and unprofessional sycophancy during the Kosovo
crisis. It, therefore, remains unclear who pulled whose strings. The
KLA was seen to be
more adept at spin doctoring than hubris-infested NATO. It started the
war as an outcast
and ended it as an ally of NATO on the ground and the real government
of a future
Kosovo. It capitalized ingeniously on Rugova's mysterious disappearance
and then on his,
even less comprehensible, refusal to visit the refugee camps and to
return to liberated
It also interfaced
marvelously with the youthful prime ministers of Albania, Pandeli
Majko, and Macedonia, Ljubco Georgievski. This new-found camaraderie
ended in a
summit with the latter, organized by Arben Xhaferi, an influential Albanian
partner in Macedonia (and, many say, Thaçi's business partner
in Kosovo). Georgievski,
who did more for Macedonia's regional integration and amicable relationships
neighbors than all the previous governments of Macedonia combined, did
not hesitate to
shake the hand of the political leader of an organization still decried
by his own Interior
Ministry as "terrorist." It was a gamble - bold and, in hindsight,
farsighted - but still, a
gamble. Rugova himself was not accorded such an honor when he finally
Macedonia, on his way to his demolished homeland.
During the war,
the KLA absorbed new recruits from Macedonia (many Macedonian
Albanians died in battle in the fields of Kosovo), from Germany, Switzerland,
Australia and some Muslim countries. In other words, it was internationalized.
equipped, though only niggardly, by the West, and it coped with the
double task of
diplomacy (Thaçi's famous televised discussions with Madeleine
Albright, for instance)
and political organization.
It was engaged in
field guerrilla warfare and reconnaissance without the proper training
for either. Add to this tactical military co-ordination and the need
to integrate a second,
Rugova- and Berisha-sponsored Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosovo
the KLA seems to have been taxed to its breaking point. Cracks began
to appear and it
has been downhill ever since. Never before was such enormous political
so thoroughly in so short a time by so few.
One must not forget
that victory was not assured until the last moment. The West's
reluctance to commit ground troops to the escalating conflict - as Serb
committing mass expulsions cum sporadic massacres of the indigenous
population - was
considered by many KLA fighters to have been a violation of a Bësa
Albanian vow) given to them by NATO. Opinions regarding the grand strategy
conducting the war differed strongly. The agreement with Miloeviæ
that ended the war
did not mention any transition period at the end of which the Kosovars
would decide their
fate in a referendum. It felt like betrayal. At the beginning, there
was strong, grassroots
resistance to disarmament. Many Kosovars felt that the advantage obtained
pressed to the point of independence or, at least, a transition period.
Then, when the dust
settled, the spoils of war served to widen the rifts. Internecine
fighting erupted and is still afoot. The occasional murder served to
territories of each commander and faction within the strained KLA. Everything
is subject to fluid arrangements of power and profit sharing - from
soft drink licenses,
through cigarette smuggling and weapons dealing, down to the allocation
of funds, some
of them still from dubious sources. The situation was further compounded
by the invasion
of criminal elements from Albania proper. The Kosovar crime clans were
the war (though their activities never really ceased) and into the vacuum
Albanian organized and ruthless crime.
But, contrary to
media-fostered popular images, crime was but one thread in the
emerging tapestry of the new Kosovo.
Other, no less critical
issues were and are demilitarization and self-government.
Albanians and Serbs
have more in common than they care to admit. Scattered among
various political entities, both nations came up with grandiose game
"Greater Serbia" and the KLA's "Greater Albania."
The idea, in both cases, was to
create an ethnically homogeneous state by shifting existing borders,
excluded parts of the nation and excluding hitherto included minorities.
Miloeviæ had at his disposal the might of the Yugoslav army,
or so he thought, the
Albanians had only impoverished and decomposing Albania to back them.
emotional bond that formed, fostered by a common vision and shared hope,
Albanian flags fly over Albanian municipalities in Kosovo and in Macedonia.
The possession of
weapons and self-government have always been emblematic of the
anticipated statehood of Kosovo. Being disarmed and deprived of self-governance
to the Albanians, a humiliating and enraging experience, evocative of
Serb-inflicted injuries. Moreover, it was indicative of the perplexed
muddle in which the
West is still mired. Officially, Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia, but it
is also occupied by
foreign forces and has its own customs, currency, bank licensing, entry
visas and other
insignia of sovereignty - shortly, even an internet domain, KO.
This quandary is
a typically anodyne European compromise which is bound to ferment
into atrabilious discourse and worse. The Kosovars - understandably
- will never accept
Serb sovereignty or even Serb propinquity willingly. Ignoring the inevitable,
and equivocating have too often characterized the policies of the Great
Powers - the kind
of behavior that turned the Balkans into the morass that it is today.
It is, therefore,
inconceivable that the KLA has disbanded and disarmed or transformed
itself into the ill-conceived and ill-defined "Kosovo Protection
Corps," headed by former
KLA commander and decorated Croatian Lieutenant General Agim Çeku
with fire fighting, rescue missions and the like. Thousands of KLA members
(or scholarships, or seed money) through the International Organization
(IOM). But, in all likelihood, the KLA still maintains clandestine arms
(intermittently raided by KFOR), strewn throughout Kosovo and beyond.
Its chain of command,
organizational structure, directorates, operational and assembly
zones and general staff are all viable. I have no doubt - though little
proof - that it still
trains and prepares for war: it would be mad not to in this state of
utter mayhem. The
emergence of the "Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac"
beyond Kosovo's borders, in Serbia, but with an Albanian majority) is
a harbinger. Its
soldiers even wear badges in the red, black and yellow KLA colours.
The enemies are
numerous: the Serbs (should Kosovo ever be returned to them), NATO
and KFOR (should they be charged with the task of Kosovo's reintegration
perhaps more moderate Albanians with lesser national zeal or Serb-collaborators
Zemail Mustafi, the Albanian vice president of the Bujanovac branch
Slobodan Miloeviæ's ruling Socialist Party, who was assassinated
three months ago).
Moreover, the very borders of Kosovo are in dispute. The territory known
inhabitants as "Eastern Kosovo" now comprises 70,000 Albanians,
captives in a hostile
Serbia. Yet "Eastern Kosovo" was never part of the administrative
province of Kosovo.
The war is Far From
In the meantime,
life is gradually returning to normal in Kosovo itself. Former KLA
fighters engage in all manner of odd jobs, from shoveling snow in winter
bushes in summer. Even the impossible Joint Administrative Council (Serbs,
and peacekeepers) with its 19 departments, convenes from time to time.
resignation of the overweening Bernard Kouchner aside, things are going
well. A bank
has been established, another one is on its way. Electricity is being
gradually restored, as
are medical services and Internet connections. Downtown Pritina
is being reconstructed
by Albanians from Switzerland.
can prove lethal to an organization like the KLA, founded on strife
and crisis as it is. If it does not transform itself into a political
organization in a convincing
manner, it might lose its members to the more alluring pastures of statecraft.
and general elections so laboriously (and expensively) organized in
Kosovo are the
KLA's first real chance at transformation.
It failed at its
initial effort to establish a government with Qosja's Democratic Union
Movement, an umbrella organization of parties in opposition to Rugova
Thaçi as its Prime Minister. Overruled by UNMIK (United Nations
Mission In Kosovo),
opposed by Berisha's Democratic Party, recognized only by Albania and
Albanian party in Macedonia and bereft of finances, it was unable to
imbue its structure
with content and provide the public goods a government is all about.
The KLA was so starved
for cash that it was unable even to pay the salaries of its own
personnel. Many criminals caught in the act claimed to be KLA members
in dire financial
straits. Ineptitude and insolvency led to a dramatic resurgence in the
popularity of the
hitherto discarded Rugova. The KLA then failed to infiltrate existing
governance erected by the West (like the Executive Council) or to duplicate
Thaçi's quest to become deputy-Kouchner was brusquely rebuffed.
The ballot box seems
now to be the KLA's only exit strategy. The risk is that electoral loss
will lead to
alienation and thuggery if not to outright criminality. It is a fine
balancing act between the
virtuous ideals of democracy and the harsh constraints of realpolitik.
At this stage and
with elections looming, Hashim Thaçi sounds conciliatory tones.
talking about a common (Albanian and Serb) resolution of the division
of Mitrovica and
the problem of missing persons. But even he knows that multi-ethnicity
is dead and that
the best that can be hoped for is tolerant co-existence. His words are,
to curry favor with the West out of the misguided and naive belief that
the key to
Kosovo's future lies there rather than in the will of the Kosovar people.
Western aid is
habit-forming, creates dependence and the KLA consumed a lot of it.
the KLA has not yet pupated. Recently, it has embarked on a spate of
coalition-forming, initially with Bardhyl Mahmuti of the Democratic
Progressive Party of
Kosovo (PPDK), the former KLA representative in Western Europe. It seeks
its dwindling funds and seat at the West's banquet with the reputation
and clout of the
PPDK's local dignitaries.
This coveted and
negotiable access to Western structures of government bears some
elaboration. Kosovar parties and individuals present at the Rambouillet
entitled, according to the Rambouillet Agreement and UN General Resolution
serve, together with UNMIK delegates, in a Kosovo Transitional Council
Thus, when KTC was
formed in the wake of Operation Allied Force, it was made of
Rugova's LDK, Thaçi's KLA, and Rexhep Qosja's United Democratic
was also a token Serb and two independents, the aforementioned Veton
Blerim Shala, Editor-in-Chief of the Pritina weekly Zeri.
political parties, such as Mahmuti's, were left out of the KTC and
the Executive Council, which is composed of one representative from
each of the four
largest Kosovar political parties plus four representatives from UNMIK.
This, a seat at
the cherished table, seems to be the KLA's only tangible asset, but
it came at a dear
The Executive Council
virtually paralyzed Thaçi's self-proclaimed and self-appointed
government, absorbing many of its ministers and officials with lucrative
offers of salaries
and budgets. Thaçi himself had to give up a part of the plethora
of his self-bestowed
titles. This move again proves Thaçi's simplistic perception
that to win elections in
Kosovo one needs to be seen as a friend of the West.
I have no doubt
that this photo-opportunity brand of politics will backfire. The KLA's
popularity among the potential electorate is at a nadir and it is being
accused of venality,
incompetence and outright crime. A lasting transformation of such an
image cannot be
attained by terpsichorean supineness.
To regain its position,
the KLA must regenerate itself and revert to its grassroots. It must
dedicate equal time to diplomacy and to politics. It must identify its
true constituency, and
it is by no means UNMIK. Above all, it must hone its skills of collaboration
compromise. Politics, as opposed to warfare, is never a zero sum game.
principle is "live and let live" rather than "shoot first
or die." A mental transformation is
required, an adjustment of codes of conduct and principles of thought.
Should the KLA
find in itself the flexibility and intellectual resources - rare commodities
movements - needed to achieve this transition, it might still compose
the first government
of an independent Kosovo.
If it remains intransigent
and peevish, it is likely to end up barely a bloody footnote in
Also see Part I,
The Union of Death , Part II, The Insurgents and the Swastika , Part
Macedonia for the Macedonians and Part IV The Black Hand, of this series.
The author is General
Manager of Capital Markets Institute Ltd., a consultancy firm with
operations in Macedonia and Russia. He is an Economic Advisor to the
Thursday, 15 June, 2000, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
are finding new routes
By Central Europe analyst Jan Repa
When Ray Kendall,
the British outgoing Secretary General of Interpol, visited Albania
in the early 1990s, he was shocked by the untrained state of the local
There were hardly any typewriters either.
Much has been done
since, with Western help. But after renewed political and social
upheavals, the Albanian government's control over large parts of the
country remains precarious.
Last year's war
over Kosovo has provided another opportunity for criminals to prosper.
According to Ray
Kendall, at least 80 percent of the heroin entering Western Europe does
so through Turkey and the Balkans - with Albanian gangs playing an increasingly
mafia" has acquired a fearsome reputation. It has now established
itself within the European Union as well - reportedly wresting control
of the criminal underworld in north Italian cities like Milan and Turin
from gangs linked to the Italian mafia.
The Western media
has written extensively about the "clan structure" of Albanian
society; of the traditional code of silence known as "besa";
of the difficulty of penetrating tight-knit family structures.
But Albanian observers
say this is largely a myth. The clan tradition is stronger in the north,
but the drug trade is more active in the south of Albania. Family clans
are stronger in the villages, but the drug traffic goes on mainly in
acknowledge the difficulty of imposing Western notions of an impartial,
equal and nationwide system of justice on a society in which the state
has not been respected and where many people have traditionally governed
themselves by a medieval code based on strict loyalty to the local community.
Market forces Where
there is demand - and Europe by some estimates accounts for about one
third of the world market in illegal drugs - there will also be those
willing to supply it: farmers growing opium poppies in countries like
Afghanistan and Pakistan; criminal gangs controlling the transit trade;
local dealers; and legions of "mules" - obscure individuals
who help in the smuggling.
The crime prevention
authorities in the transit countries pride themselves on the size of
drug seizures being made with the aid of new detection procedures. But
this may often simply mean that the volume of drugs being smuggled is
Alarm bells started
ringing when the Hungarians announced recently that seizures this year
are already double last year's entire haul. Drug gangs have proved adept
at shifting routes and switching partners.
In a way, they are
behaving like any successful company adapting to market conditions.
Despite much earnest
talk from politicians, West European countries themselves have yet to
agree uniform sentencing policies in relation to drug dealers - or to
enact Europe-wide legislation giving access to criminals' assets and
the right to confiscate them.
bust Albanian-run prostitution, drug ring
ROME, June 20 (AFP)
- Police on Tuesday cracked an Albanian-run
prostitution and drug ring in central Italy and arrested more than
30 suspects, judicial officials said Tuesday.
A total of 219 people came under investigation in the two-year
inquiry and 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of heroin, cocaine and
hashish were seized.
During the investigation police searched more than 70 homes
throughout Italy and intercepted 50,000 telephone calls.
They said young Albanian women were forced to work in Italy
following threats against their families, often after they were
kidnapped in the Balkans country.
Marriages were often arranged with Italian men to gain legal
residence papers. Twelve of those arrested were Italian nationals.
FREE EUROPE - RADIO LIBERTY
Jun 22, 2000 --
(RFE/RL) Macedonian police confiscated some 260 kilograms of hashish
from a truck crossing the border from Albania near Struga on 20 June,
A police spokesman
said that the drugs have a street value of about $1 million and that
the Albanian truck driver is under arrest on charges of drug trafficking.
has in recent years become one of the Balkans' main producers of
News July 13, 2000 ]
refugees fear being murdered by KLA
As Serbs continue
to be killed in Kosovo by Albanians, and as their
suspected murderers continue to be set free by Nato, Kosovar refugees
in the United Kingdom have claimed that they risk being killed as traitors
for seeking asylum in the UK if they return to Kosovo. The
Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) claims that 11 families of more than
individuals had reluctantly applied for asylum although it may
mean a death sentence should they be forced to return to Kosovo. Peter
Barry, director of the SRC's dedicated Kosovar programme, said the
refugees fear the Home Office will not extend their initial year's stay
the UK after others were refused an extension, and so have applied
for asylum. Their decision leaves them vulnerable to attack by the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA) if they return to Kosovo. Mr. Barry said,
"If it was found out that a person applied for asylum when the
returned to Kosovo, it could rebound on them." No doubt such claims
are an example of special pleading and perhaps the asylum seekers are
of exaggerating their plight in order to strengthen their asylum
claims. However, it is noteworthy that they consider it at least a plausible
argument that the KLA remains a threat, even to Albanians,
despite Nato's pretence that the terrorist force has been disbanded.
'covered up' for Kosovo ally
Nick Wood in Pristina reports on a UN claim that American officials
withheld evidence linking a leading politician to a gunfight, drugs
and war crimes
in Kosovo are being accused of interfering with an investigation into
a senior Kosovo Albanian politician implicated in murder, drug-trafficking
and war crimes.
a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was the key
US military and intelligence asset in Kosovo during the civil war and
the Nato bombing campaign that followed.
In the latest twist
in the saga of an increasingly flawed electoral process, United Nations
police in the province complain that US personnel withheld evidence
about a gunfight involving Haradinaj, who is now head of one of the
province's leading political groups.
leading the case say US officials based at their main base, Camp Bondsteel,
removed forensic evidence from the scene of the gun battle, including
bullets retrieved from walls. The incident, which took place in the
village of Strellc in the west of Kosovo, is well out of the US Army's
area of responsibility, which lies in the south-east of the province.
Following the shooting
Haradinaj, known almost universally in the province as simply Ramush,
was flown by helicopter to Camp Bondsteel and then onto Germany to be
treated in an US Army hospital for shrapnel wounds. UN investigators
were denied access to him during that time.
Evidence from the
incident was eventually handed over after angry phone calls from Fred
Pascoe, the American policeman heading the UN investigation.
The news of American
reluctance to co-operate with the investigation comes amid a catalogue
of accusations linking Haradinaj to murder, drugs trafficking and war
The shooting revolved
around a dispute between Haradinaj and members of the Musaj family,
who accuse him of ordering the murder of their brother and three other
men shortly after the arrival of Nato troops in Kosovo in June 1999.
The men were all part of FARK (Armed Force of the Republic of Kosovo
), a rival group to the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Three Musaj brothers
had visited Haradinaj's father to demand the bones of their brother,
a right they had according to Albanian custom. Haradinaj admits he went
to the Musaj family home at around one in the morning to stop the brothers
from visiting his father again.
This is the second
time this year Haradinaj has been caught up in violence. He was injured
in a fight with Russian soldiers at a K-For checkpoint in the spring.
Western diplomats say he has damaged his party's prospects in UN-organised
local elections due this October.
This latest incident
does not appear to have damaged his contacts with US military or political
His party officials
were invited to a discussion on the future of Kosovo at a meeting organised
by the US state department. He himself is currently in Washington on
a fund-raising trip and as the guest of a US Congressman, Benjamin Gillman.
His standing with
the international community is summed up by British officials who describe
him as 'one of the few former commanders of the KLA who can deliver'.
They say he was crucial in smoothing over the transition of the KLA
from a guerrilla army to a civilian-based national guard.
But British military
personnel who liaised with Haradinaj before and during the Nato bombing
campaign paint a different picture. One former soldier, who served with
the Kosovo Verification Mission, described him as 'a psychopath' and
accused him of terrorising his own men and the local population into
loyalty to him. 'He would beat his own men to maintain a kind of military
discipline,' he said.
'Someone would pass
him some information and he would disappear for two hours. The end result
would be several bodies in a ditch,' he added
The man said he
was also present when Ramush 'went to deal with' an Albanian family
who had let Serb police into their house. The incident matches a human
rights report issued by the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation
in Europe) last year in which seven masked men entered a house in the
village of Gornja Lucka. Two men were beaten and a third was taken to
a nearby canal and never seen again.
During this time
the same former soldier says Haradinaj was maintaining daily contact
with American military personnel in the US and that these links were
then taken over by Nato at the beginning of the bombing campaign in
victim of Ramush's men was Suad Qorraj, who had operated a satellite
telephone for a rival KLA commander during the war. His family say he
went missing from the town of Decani on 23 June 1999, two weeks after
the end of the war. On 1 August Suad's charred remains were found in
a nearby forest. The burial notice said he had been 'killed by Serbs'.
A year on from Suad's
death, Haradinaj still wields considerable power in western Kosovo.
'He can very easily bring the area to a halt,' says Robert Charmbury,
UN administrator of the biggest town in the region, Pec, citing as evidence
the fight against Russian peace keepers in which the town was 'blockaded
The Alliance party
has strong representation on local municipal boards and is discussing
the possibility of a pact with the Kosovan Democratic Party (PDK), led
by Hashim Thaci, former political leader of the KLA. Such a deal might
squeeze out the favourites to win in the region, the Democratic League
of Kosovo, in October's elections.
Whatever the outcome
of the polls, senior UN officials are concerned about Haradinaj's long-term
impact on the province. One aide claims Haradinaj is now financed by
two men, Naser Kelmendi and Ekrem Lluka, both of whom are suspected
to be involved in smuggling. UN police reports, seen by The Observer,
go further and describe Lluka as trafficking drugs and cigarettes in
Greece, Kosovo, Albania and Italy.
Meanwhile the Musaj
brothers are worried about what Haradinaj will do in the next few weeks.
'If he doesn't attack us before the elections he'll attack us afterwards,'
said Sadic Musaj. He and his brother have already built up the walls
around their compound in case of another attack. He doubts however whether
anybody will take action against Ramush. 'Nothing will happen, he has
strong people behind him.'
LRB Vol 21, No 3 | cover date 4 February 1999
History, it's said again and again, is what makes the loss of Kosovo
so much harder for the Serbs to entertain than any of the setbacks they've
borne so far under the dark stewardship of Slobodan Milosevic. Kosovo
is the geographical fundament of Serbian Orthodoxy; the site of a legendary
face-off between Christianity and Ottoman incursion. Among Serbs, this
past is a far more vigorous currency than the miserable Yugoslav dinar,
yet very few non-Serbs recognise it, or anything minted in Belgrade,
as legal tender. We, too, can invoke history to explain our hesitation.
Seven hundred years ago, Dante wrote King Milutin of Rascia into the
book that lies open on the Day of Judgment. Milutin's sin, the imperial
eagle explains to the poet in the Paradiso, was to forge Venetian ducats
('il conio di Vinegia'). Today his remote descendant Milan Milutinovic,
President of Serbia, is honouring the tradition by issuing one counterfeit
version after another of events in Kosovo. Since Richard Holbrooke,
Washington's Balkan fixer, brokered a rickety ceasefire last October,
Milutinovic's arguments have come with a plausible lustre - he invokes
the UN Charter, the sovereignty of member states and so on - but his
latest observation, that the 45 ethnic Albanian villagers massacred
in Recak by Serbian security forces on 15 January were all 'terrorists',
has persuaded no one.
Milosevic is clearly
the bigger figure; larger than death, you could say, and thoroughly
Orientalised: the West is aghast at the Federal President's 'cunning',
his staying power, his hecatombs, yet over the years and around the
world, we have not done badly ourselves. For some time now Milosevic
has had the better of Washington. He has also stood the normal order
of events on its head: in Kosovo, the last few months of 'peace' have
not been the logical outcome of exhaustion, defeat or satisfaction in
war, but a necessary prelude to renewed hostilities.
Late last year,
the weather in Kosovo turned momentarily in favour of Holbrooke's ceasefire.
In Pristina, the provincial capital, the change began with a warning
volley of snowflakes just after dark. By the following morning the roads
were nearly impassable. Food deliveries to the villages ravaged by the
Serbian offensive - scores of villages in Kosovo - were delayed. And
the low-key war, the sporadic skirmishing that has since escalated,
was reduced to a minimum. A few centimetres of snow had done more than
any monitors or roving ambassadors to muffle the ardours of the Kosovo
Liberation Army and the Serbian authorities. The road out west to Pec
- Peja in Albanian - was an ice rink. The villages we passed were gutted
and quite deserted: the most recent addition, and presumably the last,
to a long trail of ruin, consuming hundreds of peasant communities,
which dates from the early Nineties and curves down through much of
the former Yugoslavia. Stray dogs limped across the white fields. With
the disruption of rural life, they had learned to run in packs.
We stopped in a
village sacked by the Serbs during the offensive which ended in September.
The damage was near-absolute and the place was still largely abandoned.
A handful of people had returned but they were now in a state of terror:
two days before, the KLA had killed two policemen and wounded four others
in an ambush in the village and the Serbian police had taken summary
revenge on any ethnic Albanians they could lay hands on. Nobody was
dead, but there had been severe beatings. Two EU staff attached to the
Diplomatic Observer Mission, a forerunner of the much bigger OSCE verification
mission now in deep water in Kosovo, had moved in promptly to investigate
the reprisals. One of the monitors had been in Kosovo for four or five
months. He sat in his armoured vehicle with the door open and checked
his ledger for details of the village: 'Originally 1861 inhabitants,
187 houses, 95 per cent destroyed in the Serbian offensive.'
He accused the KLA
of irresponsibility: they must have known what would happen to the villagers
after the ambush. There was daily harassment of Albanian-speakers by
the police in this area, he told us, but reckoned that the KLA was responsible
for 90 per cent of the serious provocations. The local KLA commander
is a man named Ramush. 'He speaks fluent French and people say he is
a former legionnaire. His English is also good. He corrects our interpreters.'
The monitor had had several dealings with Ramush and believed he was
tough, fanatical even. 'He wants to stay in the hills forever and cleanse
this whole area of Serbs.' He answered to no one, the monitor thought;
certainly not to the KLA office in Pristina, headed by Adem Demaci,
a symbolic figure from the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo whose links
with the liberation army are not hard and fast, although he is widely
respected as a militant secessionist who spent 28 years (longer than
Mandela's term) in Yugoslav jails.
of a well-equipped kacak - or outlaw - like Ramush weakens the chain
of command that is needed to turn an assortment of dedicated maquisards
into the armed wing of a co-ordinated political movement and the dangers
of warlordism in some KLA sectors are correspondingly high. Yet the
organisation enjoys widespread support in the western part of Kosovo,
above all in the Drenica valley: if civilians pay a high price for KLA
actions, the liberation army is recognised as the only challenge to
a minority regime that has stripped ethnic Albanians of most rights
of citizenship, deprived them of jobs, forced them to develop a parallel
system of schooling and health care, lately destroyed their rural infrastructure
and cast them yet again in the historical role of Muslim intruders.
The KLA also receives material support from Albania (the Democratic
Party of Albania has purchased weapons on their behalf or passed on
the contents of the government arsenals looted in 1997) and can count
on funds from the Kosovar diaspora in Germany, which has the largest
community of Kosovar expatriates, and Switzerland, where the organisation
holds its main bank accounts. Switzerland is a major KLA recruiting
ground; many Kosovar exiles have returned to fight for independence
alongside people who have remained in the province, or dipped in and
out of Albania between periods of detention.
'When you meet the
fighters,' a young Albanian interpreter in Pristina announced, 'you
will see how they are. They are epic.' This was not a frivolous description.
She meant that the fighting tradition among ethnic Albanians is long
(the current bout can be thought of as a continuation of hostilities
that go back 85 years or more); that it has a robust undercarriage of
myth, further strengthened by fierce notions of uprightness - moral
notions that lie somewhere between honour and bravado; some would say
courage. She was worried that the most reckless wield great authority,
irrespective of their rank, and that this could happen within any given
command (just as, on a bigger scale, semi-autonomous sectors can act
as they see fit). The willingness to die is also a difficult issue.
Death is easily reconfigured in terms of sacrifice and heroism, but
it's a setback just the same, and in war the presence of forces - living,
able-bodied forces - in the field is always an asset. The statuesque
figure of the KLA fighter hewn from the bones of his forebears and caked
with the dust of earlier struggles is part archetype and part identikit
- and mostly suspect. Yet the term 'epic' tells us something about the
KLA's strengths and its weaknesses.
It also serves to
distinguish their approach from the more admirable and ponderous efforts
of Ibrahim Rugova's alternative administration, the Government of the
'Kosovo Republic', voted into existence by the provincial chamber that
Milosevic stripped of its effective powers ten years ago. Two days after
our journey to Pec, I took up with another interpreter, a young journalist
who supplemented her income with work at Rugova's information centre.
M. had had many dealings with the KLA. She understood their impatience
with Rugova, an impatience bordering on contempt, but she would not
denounce the project of independence by peaceful means that he has so
honourably, and hopelessly, pursued. She wanted a coherent front moving
ineluctably towards an independent state of Kosovo, but she was a realist
who thought better of her wishes.
M. knew a KLA base
off the road leading north from Pristina to Podujevo and up into Serbia
proper. We drove for forty minutes or more, the traffic decreasing as
we got further from the capital. We passed a Serbian police post, continued
until we were beyond sight of it and got out. The driver took off with
the car. Working from memory - she had been here several months earlier
- M. found a narrow track leading up to a rise, about half a mile off.
On either side of it ran a low wall, and sometimes hedgerow, clotted
with snow and ice. After a few hundred yards we were visible from the
police post, but almost at once the track dipped and a long rampart
of snow hid us from view.
M. took me to a
farmstead surrounded by a palisade of rough thatch. She spoke to a man
who directed us across the fields and some time later, tired now, we
reached an isolated house with three pairs of frozen boots stood on
the tiled floor of the porch. On the sloping roof above us, where you
might have expected a weather vane, there was a white satellite dish.
We knocked and an elderly man with a smattering of teeth appeared in
the doorway, two younger men behind him. M. introduced us and showed
them a pass she'd obtained from Demaci in Pristina. One of the younger
men came out of the house and put on his boots. The other handed him
an old Kalashnikov and two magazines strapped together with masking
tape. We followed our burly, convivial guide across the fields, breaking
the crust of virgin snow as we went, and sinking up to our shins. He
was fitter than either of us. On our way we encountered two other KLA
men. He shouted to them and the sound of laughter clattered back at
us through the lean air. 'He says he has two suspects from Pristina,'
M. explained, 'and we're both under arrest.'
As the terrain levelled
out we found ourselves in a plantation of young oak trees. M. wanted
a photograph and the fighter stood motionless on the path between the
trees with his gun in both hands. He could have held the posture for
as long as it took a singer to recite the history of his village. 'Epic',
it struck me again, was not a bad word. It was only as we left the plantation
that I noticed the ground underfoot. It consisted of a thick snowfall
strewn with autumn leaves. The trees, too, were still hung with straggler
foliage. In Kosovo, winter had stolen a march on the fall and the normal
order of events seemed once again to have been reversed.
We must have reached
the village an hour or so later. It was quiet at the bottom but the
path rose, and beyond that was a well-manned KLA checkpoint. We were
shown into a house that M. had visited before. One of the officers recognised
her. There was a woodstove burning in the front room. A big blown-up
photograph of a pastoral landscape with a stream running over boulders
covered the back wall: a homely, tautologous reminder of the KLA motherland
that was all around them, large sections of it now under their control.
The stovepipe ran up through the picture some distance from a weeping
willow. The stutter of walkie-talkies, and from somewhere at the back
of the house, the rasping crackle of a base-set, came and went in the
Our meeting was
short and not very frank. We sat with three men in uniform. I'd come
to Kosovo, I said, to trace the family of some refugees and knew that
here only a small number of the people displaced during the Serbian
offensive - 250,000 according to the UN, nearly double that by the reckoning
of an American NGO - had actually left the province (which M. translated
as 'republic'). The officers said that a lot of people had moved from
their sector last July, and that the KLA had helped them. There were
probably twenty villages in the area and around 15,000 people. Most
were gone by August, when the Serbian offensive was frenzied. They said
that people had left by car, on buses, in tractors, swarming into Pristina
and Podujevo, and that the KLA had stuck close to them, in the rear,
with the idea of protecting them if the worst came to the worst. One
of the men, a short, engaging char acter with a deferential smile, said
that he'd urged his parents to leave; reluctantly they'd agreed, but
had kept coming back. The inhabitants of one village had been moved
wholesale and brought under the protection of the fighters at the base.
The officers insisted
they were still at war, despite the Holbrooke/Milosevic agreement. And,
yes, the ceasefire was an occasion to plan and regroup - 'a good moment,'
M. said, translating the words of the senior commander, chain-smoking
at a desk behind a portable typewriter, 'to collect materiel. Training
we have already done.' Independence was the unequivocal goal. The idea
that the medium-term outcome of the Holbrooke/Milosevic negotiations
would redefine the province as a third republic, along with Serbia and
Montenegro, within what remains of federal Yugoslavia was addressed
with serious interest. But this interest is strictly provisional. Whether
Kosovo is recast as an 'autonomous region', as it became in the Forties,
or an 'autonomous province', as it became in the Sixties, or a republic
in all but name, as it did under the Tito Constitution, or simply a
Serbian stomping-ground, as it did in 1989, these officers - like many
ethnic Albanians I met - have simply had enough of the Yugoslav project.
They wanted international guarantees that the option of independence
would remain open after any interim return to autonomy, in whatever
guise. At the same time, they know there are no international guarantees.
Disruption and violence on a scale that the West finds unsettling are
the likeliest guarantors of their ambitions and these are the things
they intend to call on. Complete separation from the remains of Yugoslavia
is the objective.
The KLA base seemed
backwoods-ish, ominously easy-going as it went about its business, preparing
for the bleak days ahead. There were men chopping firewood; others attending
to cars - plenty of cars, some of them four-wheel drives in good condition.
It was a military version of the extended family that is everywhere
in Kosovo: an advantage in this kind of war, but yet another obstacle,
perhaps, to the creation of a modern chain of command in a small world
of village notables and well-respected clans. There can be few Kosovars
who do not have distant relatives in the KLA and so, to the authorities
(above all Milan Milutinovic), every ethnic Albanian is a terrorist
suspect, which means that in Kosovo those who condone terrorism outnumber
Serb citizens by nine to one.
To our hosts, the
close family connections between fighters and civilians proved that
the movement swam in the waters of popular support. In eight months,
they had lost only seven fighters and 14 civilians. But here, the KLA
had not been put to quite the same test in the eyes of their followers
as units further south in Drenica, which bore the brunt of Serbian revanchisme,
or the units that were active near Recak before the recent massacre.
A day after leaving the base, I drove through the wreckage of Malisevo,
a town in Drenica which the police and Army had taken apart with all
the more vigour for the fact that the KLA had occupied it and proclaimed
it a liberated 'capital'. The snow looked like a demure attempt to cover
the charred remains of the place, as you'd cover the dead, but it is
a monument of shame, both to the Serbian Army and police for what they
did to it and to the KLA for having turned it into such an object of
enmity, knowing full well that they could never hold it. The police
were sandbagged in; there was armour half-hidden on the outskirts. Down
the road to Dragobilje, the KLA had regrouped; it was a frontline of
sorts, with the two sides staring one another down across a fraying
cordon of foul weather and shuttle diplomacy. No one imagines it will
M. had handed me
a sheaf of her photographs before we parted. Most were from a recent
trip in the field and, of these, the ones she urged on me showed a dead
man - an ethnic Albanian - washed and readied for burial. He had been
killed by the Serbian Army, she said. The wounds were brutal, the post-mortem
stitching was crude. The body was bluish grey. She had used up the rest
of the film at a gathering of her family and friends. The prints were
all poor. It wasn't the body that was troubling, so much as the business
of showing the photos at all, and the fact that the shots of the dead
man were on the same roll as the family snaps. I think M's motive was
simple. I was fond of saying that I knew nothing about the Balkans and
perhaps she thought the photos would illustrate how bad things had been
here. But one of the distinguishing features of Kosovo seems to be the
readiness with which people light on the subject of atrocity. You'll
hear often, in differing detail, how one killing or another was a lingering
and terrible affair, all this without a trace of the reticence you'll
find in other places where things have gone equally badly. It's not
simply that these horrors are fresh in people's minds and have to be
exorcised. For a people at war, atrocity, like death and heroism, is
always a building block in the edifice of national identity, but is
there anywhere it sits so snugly in the foundations?
'The state,' a member
of Rugova's Parliament told me, 'holds the monopoly of violence now'
- which is how it looked last year and how it looks again since the
massacre at Recak, but only at a glance. In any case, it doesn't have
a monopoly on atrocity. Late one night, as the thaw came on, I walked
through a marsh of blackening melt-water to the Grand Hotel in Pristina,
picked up a Serbian interpreter, and made my way to the police station.
It was nine o'clock. I was instructed that anything arising from this
meeting should be attributed to 'official government sources'. Let's
call him the Source, a stocky, intense man with a witheringly powerful
stare, a profound sense of grievance and a tendency to draconian exposition.
A pile of white ring-bound folders lay stacked on the table at which
we sat, but these would not be broached before 'a short resume on the
situation in Kosovo'. It was, in fact, lengthy and punctuated by harsh
criticisms of the Western media.
Since the Holbrooke/Milosevic
agreement, the Source had lost nine policemen; another 25 had been wounded
and 11 kidnapped (those figures have since risen). In the course of
1998 - with a few weeks to go - 112 police had been killed (a figure
broadly consistent with the ratio of Serbs to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo,
given the 1998 death toll of something between one and two thousand
people) and nearly 400 wounded. The Source had a register of 1,632 terrorist
- that is, KLA - attacks, but emphasised that in the wake of the Serbian
offensive, the authorities had decreed an amnesty for anyone handing
in firearms and had so far received nine thousand weapons, manufactured
mostly in Nato member-states and China.
He was speaking
for the moment as a police chief, responsible for the welfare of his
men, with a body of law to uphold and the integrity of a state to defend.
All around him he saw terrorism in its purest form: two Serbs are abducted
as profiteers for selling firewood to ethnic Albanians, then an ethnic
Albanian is shot on the spot for buying the same firewood; a road is
mined, a police post is assaulted, his officers die; whole villages
are forced to take up arms which they're at pains to part with once
the amnesty is declared. 'What,' he inquired, 'could my Government do?
Would the Government of your country tolerate such a situation?'
We passed now to
the white folders, forensic evidence of killings in Kosovo, complete
with autopsy reports compiled by the office of the coroner, with poorly
printed colour photographs, like M.'s, exposed on the same kind of camera
as hers. 'Six corpses unidentified, in a hole, estimated to be three
months old, discovered on 3 October 1998 as a result of dogs carry ing
human remains.' 'August 16 and 17 1998, police officers Srdan Perovic
and Milorad Rajkovic tortured to death in Lausa after being abducted
by men in civilian dress'; the photos show one body, severely bruised,
with the hand cut into strips; the other with an ear severed, the nose
cut, both arms broken and, in a picture taken from another angle, a
gaping hole in place of a shoulderblade. The cor oner's report advises
that these injuries were sustained before death.
There were scores
of cases, all of them terrible. The more eager I became to draw our
meeting to a close, the more agitated and persistent the Source became,
standing over me, pointing, recapitulating, insisting, enraging himself
with the ghastliness of the detail until his face became ashen. The
last dossier contained three photographs of an outright villain, identified
as Aslan Klecka, born in 1947. He was the embodiment of everything a
Serb might fear in an ethnic Albanian. The stereo type of the Muslim
extremist, whose pre sence in Bosnia was so briskly milked for the credulous
West, is once again stressed in Belgrade's propaganda about Kosovo.
In one photograph, Aslan was wearing a robe and keffiyeh and posing
beside an enormous mounted machine gun. In another he was Abraham, raising
the knife over Isaac, except that he was leering and the blade was already
running with blood. In the third, he was at prayer in what appeared
to be open countryside. Across from these photos was a forensic shot
of a distended body on the floor of a garage with the head severed and
blood seeping through the trousers at the crotch. The Source claimed
that this was one of Aslan's last victims, that Aslan was found dead
in a car, killed by a member of his own entourage - which may or may
not be true - in September 1998, and that the other pictures were removed
from Aslan's house during a police investigation.
The parody of militant
Islam compromised the Aslan dossier. The rest of the evidence had been
as credible as any allegations from the 'terrorist' side, but this looked
like montage. I suspect nonetheless that it was genuine, a piece of
good luck for the authorities, allowing them to tar the organisation
with the Islamist brush in a way that's neither fair nor representative,
despite the fact that Mujahidin elements are active in the KLA. 'Wild
West,' said the Source, stubbing his forefinger on the picture of this
Oriental Charles Manson posturing with a machine gun.
The trouble with
atrocity, and tit-for-tat evidence, is that it explains only the brutality
of war. Neither side in Kosovo is a stickler for the Geneva Conventions,
and both are deeply invested in updating their national myths. Both
feel wronged by history, which is why they incline to the historical
view. To inquire of someone like the Source why he has so many chilling
deeds on file is to ask him to speak as an ordinary person and therefore
as a Serb. He would say (as he did) that decent people don't commit
such crimes; perhaps too (though he didn't) that the forces of the Serb
prince, Lazar Hrebeljanovic, marshalled against the Turks on the plain
of Kosovo in 1389, were defending the nearest thing to a civilisation,
in the hectic world of medieval Balkan polities, against the nearest
thing to barbarity; and finally that this model holds good six centuries
As the night grew
longer, the line between the diligent policeman and the embattled Serb
became harder to trace. Which of them was it who ventured the opinion
that the Serbian offensive had been drawn to a close too soon last autumn?
('Three more weeks and the job could have been done.') And which of
them urged me to take copies of the photos in the dossiers back to Britain?
(It would be unethical on my part, and an affront to the dead, not to
get them published.) I declined politely and the mood of my 'official
government sources' - policeman, statistician, bureaucrat and Serb -
rapidly darkened. The ability to suppress rage is always admirable -
and this was no exception - though many Serb policemen and soldiers
would surely disagree. Their own is contracted out to the strategy of
terror that now passes for law enforcement in Kosovo. But rage, as we
know, is a law unto itself.
Jeremy Harding is
a senior editor at the London Review of Books
Affairs May/June 1999 (volume 78, number 3)
By Chris Hedges
THE KOSOVO LIBERATION ARMY
The rumbles of yet
another nationalist earthquake are
shaking the former Yugoslavia. Rising from the fetid hovels
of Pristina and the concrete-block family farms of rural
Kosovo is the newest political and military force to beset
the Balkans -- the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), known to
Albanians as the Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves.
The emergence of
this militant armed group, now numbering
several thousand fighters, has dimmed hopes that even a
compromise agreement with Belgrade could be successfully
implemented. Emboldened by NATO's March bombing of the
Serbian military, the KLA will wage a protracted guerrilla
war in the Serbian province that could ignite a wider war in
neighboring Macedonia and Albania, potentially even dragging
in Greece and Bulgaria. The KLA is uncompromising in its
quest for an independent Kosovo now and a Greater Albania
later. And it has, to the consternation of Washington's
would-be peacemakers, supplanted the ineffectual leadership
of the moderate voice of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority,
The KLA is important
out of all proportion to its size --
not merely because it will probably eventually get Kosovo to
secede from Serbia, but because it now represents the
aspirations of most Kosovar Albanians. To understand the
current conflict in Kosovo and America's stakes in its
resolution, one must understand the KLA, how it came into
being, who leads it, what drives it, and why it now speaks
for a majority of Kosovars. Even a truly vicious,
Bosnia-like wave of atrocities by the Serbs in reprisal for
NATO's attacks will only pour fuel on the separatist fire.
The grim reality
is that we had better get to know the KLA
-- because it is not going to go away.
THE NEW RADICALS
have grown increasingly embittered. By
attempting to include the KLA in the peace process that
began in February at the French chateau of Rambouillet, the
Western alliance is working feverishly -- even as it bombs
the Serbs -- to blunt the momentum toward a war of
independence. The allies want NATO troops to separate the
province's warring factions, although Belgrade is wary. The
underlying idea behind creating a theoretically temporary,
NATO-enforced military protectorate in Kosovo is to buy time
for a three-year transition period in which ethnic Albanians
will be allowed to elect a parliament and other governing
bodies -- meeting enough of their aspirations, it is hoped,
to keep Kosovo from seceding.
The good news is
that the Western alliance's response to the
Kosovo crisis, however ragged, shows that some lessons have
been learned from the bumbling in Bosnia. The Europeans no
longer talk about handling matters alone but demand the
presence of the United States. Threats have been backed up
by force. There is also a consensus that if some kind of a
solution is not found soon, the fighting inside Kosovo -- an
area the size of Connecticut -- will accelerate and make
future intervention difficult, if not impossible. Even the
Pentagon officials who fought like wildcats to keep U.S.
forces out of Bosnia accept that some 4,000 U.S. troops will
have to be deployed in Kosovo to make any peacekeeping force
But, as in Bosnia,
the West is wedded to a solution that
might have worked earlier in the conflict but is now
untenable. Serbian ethnic cleansing has taken on a somewhat
different character inKosovo than in Bosnia. In Kosovo,
Serbian ethnic cleansing is to a large degree tactical,
designed to deny the rebels succor from civilians and
therefore aimed primarily at the inhabitants of KLA
strongholds. But the Serb campaign has been more than brutal
enough to make autonomy for Kosovo a nonstarter. The ethnic
Albanians in Kosovo, who make up 90 percent of its 2 million
inhabitants, cannot remain in Serbia after the horrific
recent bloodshed, the displacement of a quarter of a million
people, and the razing of scores of villages. They do not
trust Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic or the Serbs --
and given Belgrade's bloody campaigns against ethnic
minorities over the past decade and its habit of breaking
agreements, who can blame them?
The Albanians have
been radicalized, and their new voice is
the KLA. Rugova, the old pacifist, is more a symbol of
outmoded moderation than a leader. By ignoring the plight of
the Kosovar Albanians for nearly a decade, the West lost
much of its credibility before NATO began bombing. Many
Albanians feel let down by the world and their own meek
leaders. What is most striking, then, about the KLA
insurrection is not that it occurred but that it took so
long to occur.
The KLA fighters
are the province's new power brokers.
Whatever political leadership emerges in Kosovo will come
from the rebel ranks, and it will be militant, nationalist,
uncompromising, and deeply suspicious of all outsiders. U.S.
intelligence agencies, preoccupied with tracking militant
Islamist groups and Iranian agents in Bosnia, were caught
off guard by the Kosovo rebel force's emergence, strength,
and popularity. Indeed, some diplomats argued as late as
last year about whether the shadowy group really existed --
even as small armed bands roamed Drenica in central Kosovo.
The first KLA armed
attack took place in May 1993 in
Glogova'c, killing two Serb police officers and wounding
five more. But the rebel group -- its membership largely
drawn from a few clans in Kosovo and radicals in the
Albanian diaspora -- was founded eight years ago. Most of
its leadership has spent years in prison for separatist
activity, many having been jailed earlier by Tito's
communist government. Like all revolutionaries who have
spent years underground or in jail, the KLA leaders are wary
of the outside world and given to secrecy, paranoia, and
appalling mendacity when they feel it serves their
interests, which is most of the time.
The KLA splits down
a bizarre ideological divide, with hints
of fascism on one side and whiffs of communism on the other.
The former faction is led by the sons and grandsons of
rightist Albanian fighters -- either the heirs of those who
fought in the World War II fascist militias and the
Skanderbeg volunteer SS division raised by the Nazis, or the
descendants of the rightist Albanian kacak rebels who rose
up against the Serbs 80 years ago. Although never much of a
fighting force, the Skanderbeg division took part in the
shameful roundup and deportation of the province's few
hundred Jews during the Holocaust. The division's remnants
fought Tito's Partisans at the end of the war, leaving
thousands of ethnic Albanians dead. The decision by KLA
commanders to dress their police in black fatigues and order
their fighters to salute with a clenched fist to the
forehead has led many to worry about these fascist
antecedents. Following such criticism, the salute has been
changed to the traditional open-palm salute common in the
The second KLA faction,
comprising most of the KLA leaders
in exile, are old Stalinists who were once bankrolled by the
xenophobic Enver Hoxha, the dictator of Albania who died in
1985. This group led a militant separatist movement that
was really about integration with Hoxha's Albania. Most of
these leaders were students at Pristina University after
1974, when Belgrade granted the province autonomy. Freed
from Yugoslav oversight, the university imported thousands
of textbooks from Albania, all carefully edited by Hoxha's
Stalinist regime, along with at least a dozen militant
Albanian professors. Along with its degree programs,
Pristina University began to quietly school young Kosovar
leaders in the art of revolution. Not only did a huge
percentage of the KLA leadership come out of the university,
but so, ominously, did the ethnic Albanian leadership in
The two KLA factions
have little sympathy with or
understanding of democratic institutions. Split bitterly
between radical left and radical right, they are now arguing
over whether to carry the fighting to the pockets of ethnic
Albanians who live in western Macedonia and neighboring
Montenegro. The only thing they agree on is the need to
liberate Kosovo from Serbian rule. All else, menacingly,
will be decided later. It is not said how.
Given these deep
divisions, it is no accident that the KLA
has failed to create a political organization or even a
vague platform. "I do not think we have an ideology," Jakup
Krasniqi, the KLA's mercurial spokesman, told the
Albanian-language daily Koha Ditore on July 12, 1998. "And
in fact we do not have time for such things even if we were
interested in them, because we have our main job to do,
which is the task of liberation."
TAKING UP ARMS
I first stumbled
into the KLA in February 1997, shortly
after a police car was ambushed by armed "terrorists," as
the Serbs called them. Three uniformed ethnic Albanians
equipped with automatic weapons were killed in the
firefight. I took a taxi that had seen better days to attend
the wake for one of them. As I approached the village of
Orlane, a few lean men in track suits were standing about 20
feet apart on either side of the dirt road. Several of the
mourners proved hostile, lashing out at my translator as a
"spy" for Rugova.
That day in Orlane,
with its crude outhouses, simple wooden
structures, and roaming flocks of goats and noisy chickens,
offered a glimpse into an armed rebellion that was still a
year away. The slain man, Zahir Pajaziti, 34, had studied
English at Pristina University before dropping out. He had
never held a steady job and had been on the run for several
months, appearing unannounced at night, armed and in
uniform, to visit his family and then disappearing before
dawn. He and his two companions had been stopped by police,
who apparently were looking for them, and were killed inside
their car. Mourners told of other small bands setting up
roadblocks to collect "war taxes" and holding political
But it was hard
to penetrate the group from the inside.
Only in Switzerland, where there was less danger in speaking
with a foreign reporter, did it prove possible to establish
links with the organization. This proved easier than I
expected, in large part because the KLA had then built close
ties or melded with much of Rugova's League of Democratic
Kosovo (LDK). It was no coincidence that once the rebellion
erupted a year ago, local LDK leaders immediately picked up
weapons and became commanders of village units. By the time
of the uprising, Rugova had lost control of his own party.
Through the LDK,
I arranged a meeting with a rebel commander
in Geneva -- the first such meeting with the press. My
interlocutor was nearly killed some months later when two
men with ski masks arrived at his unmarked office in Geneva
and pulled out pistols with silencers. The assistant who
answered the bell, although shot in the stomach, managed to
slam shut the security door, no doubt saving the official's
life. The would-be assassins were never apprehended. The
office has since been closed.
"We all feel
a deep, deep sense of betrayal," the KLA man
told me, echoing a sentiment that seemed to speak for most
ethnic Albanians. "We mounted a peaceful, civilized protest
to fight the totalitarian rule of Milosevic. We did not go
down the road of nationalist hatred, always respecting
Serbian churches and monasteries. The result is that we were
ignored." The Dayton peace negotiations, which dealt with
Bosnia but not Kosovo, "taught us a painful truth, [that]
those that want freedom must fight for it. This is our sad
The Albanians were
spurred by the collapse of Tito's
Yugoslavia. Croatia and Serbia, whose political ideology is
often overtly racist, unleashed a war in the early 1990s
largely against unarmed civilians to try to form ethnically
"pure" enclaves and states. Militias stormed through
minority communities in drunken frenzies, looting, burning,
raping, and murdering. They set up detention centers,
carried out mass executions, and ignored tepid international
protests. But after Milosevic revoked Kosovo's autonomy in
1989, Rugova insisted on a very different road to
independence, a Gandhi-like plan to withdraw from all state
institutions and create a parallel government. His was to be
a peaceful revolution and an example of civility and
tolerance that would earn the backing of the Western
The former literature
professor, with his glasses constantly
sliding down his nose and a scarf loosely draped around his
neck, has the distracted look of an aging Left Bank poet.
Rugova is the self-styled president of Kosovo, although even
his supporters in Tirana, the Albanian capital, do not
recognize his "state." Remote and out of touch, he rarely
leaves his small office in Pristina, even to attend a
funeral a few blocks away.
Under Rugova's leadership,
the ethnic Albanians set up their
own schools, clinics, and a shadow administration that
levied taxes, drawing on the resources of a diaspora of more
than 600,000 ethnic Albanians in Europe and some 300,000 in
Canada and the United States. The civil resistance lasted
nearly a decade. Streams of delegations from Kosovo traveled
to Scandinavian countries to take expenses-paid seminars in
nonviolence. But the protest, unsustainable in the long
term and a victim of international indifference, collapsed.
Its death notice
came after the 1995 Dayton agreement was
swiftly followed by the European Union's recognition of
Yugoslavia -- even though the EU had earlier demanded that
Yugoslavia first resolve the Kosovo issue. Kosovar
Albanians, with understandable rage, did not grasp why the
Bosnian Serbs, responsible for some of the worst acts of
genocide since World War II, were handed nearly half of
Bosnia at Dayton. The recognition of Radovan Karadzic's
gangster statelet, Republika Srpska, was the final insult.
It shattered all hopes for peaceful change in Kosovo.
The situation in
Kosovo, a mountain-ringed bowl long at the
heart of the struggle for a Greater Albania, swiftly began
to unravel. Money, especially the three percent levy on all
earnings abroad, was diverted to the KLA's Homeland Calling
fund. Albanian newspapers outside the province, such as the
Zurich-based Voice of Kosovo, started to print communiques
from the rebel group and run ads calling for donations.
The young men who
had sent home remittances from menial jobs
in Europe to support their families began to be deported
under a series of agreements signed between Belgrade and
countries such as Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden.
Burdened by close to a million refugees from Bosnia, these
governments were unwilling to see the numbers swelled by a
new influx from the Balkans. The fighting in Kosovo has
ended the repatriations. A huge number of disenchanted and
angry youth who saw no benefits from Rugova's rule and who,
unlike their parents, did not speak Serbo-Croatian, began
giving up on multiethnicity. The unemployment rate among
ethnic Albanians is 70 percent, and this pressure, coupled
with the highest birthrate in Europe (23.1 births per
1,000), has created a deep recruiting pool for the KLA.
Seventy percent of the population is now under 30.
Kosovo has undergone
a generational shift much like that in
the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip at the start
of the intifada in 1987. The war of the Palestinian youth
was as much directed against their parents' generation,
which had been cowed by the Israeli military, as against the
occupiers themselves. In Kosovo, young Albanians have
bitterly repudiated not only Serb rule but also Rugova's
older, urbane, and educated leadership. Pristina's elites,
they say, have betrayed the Albanian cause.
On April 6, 1998,
in the town of Jablanica, 30 miles north
of Dakovica, I bumped into a group of surly KLA fighters,
dressed in a motley collection of uniforms and equipped with
an odd assortment of hunting rifles, pistols, automatic
weapons, and hunting knives. The killings by Belgrade, along
with the humiliation of ten years of abuse, had left them
seething with resentment.
"This is our
territory," said a gaunt, nervous rebel with a
scraggly black beard and a chrome-plated pistol protruding
from his belt. "We are through with these Albanian
intellectuals in Pristina, with journalists, diplomats, and
everyone else. No one saved our women and children from
slaughter. Now it is up to us."
THE SERBS' RAJ
to the looming rebellion, blithely continued
to rule Kosovo like a colonial backwater. On several
occasions, I saw two or three beefy Serb police officers,
who I suspect are often recruited by the pound, walloping
young ethnic Albanians with their clubs in the center of
Pristina. I once watched a cop shove a young boy of about
ten, who held a small wooden tray of individual cigarettes
for sale, onto the sidewalk. The cop laughed as the
frightened child scrambled to rescue the cigarettes from the
mud puddles. Many of the Serb police were sent to Kosovo as
a demotion or a punishment for misbehavior. One of their
favorite pastimes was to set up roadblocks and collect money
from a long line of cars for invented traffic violations.
Drivers that did not have money or did not pay had their
All this, however,
paled in comparison with the brutal
treatment in Serb jails. People were beaten, tortured
(usually while chained to radiators), and held incommunicado
for days and weeks. Some simply vanished.
Bejram Shehi, 39,
a laborer in Switzerland, came home last
year to visit his family and was arrested by Serb police.
They accused him of carrying in money for the KLA. He had a
black hood pulled over his head, was handcuffed, and was
then pushed through the back door of the police car onto the
that they were taking me to see the Kosovo
Liberation Army," he said. "We drove for about an hour. I
was taken out and brought to a basement, where I was
stripped and handcuffed to a radiator. I stayed like this
for five days. They beat me until I fainted, all the time
asking about the Kosovo Liberation Army, who belonged to it,
how it raised money abroad, and where it got its weapons."
On the fifth day
he was forced to sign a confession. "I
promised to collaborate with them, and they gave me the name
of a police contact," he said, unfolding a small slip of
white paper from his wallet with a Serbian name and phone
number written in pencil.
The Serbs, meanwhile,
lived as if Kosovo were the raj, with
all civil and state jobs and a private police force to
ensure their privileged status in the birthplace of modern
Serb nationalism. Milo'sevi'c, presiding over a decaying
economy, clung to the millions of dollars a year in hard
cash brought in by Kosovo's massive Trepca mine complex,
valued at $5 billion. The mine alone made him loath to give
up the province to the ethnic Albanians; the
ultranationalist bigotry he had ridden to power reinforced
his obstinacy. Kosovo came to have the elements of a
political time bomb, ticking louder and louder while the
world looked the other way.
DEAD MEN WALKING
On a rainy afternoon
in April 1997, I stood with one of
Rugova's top officials in front of the McDonald's in
downtown Geneva. He told me that at six o'clock that
evening, in the Buffet des Premieres Classes at the Geneva
train station, I would find a man seated in a front booth
with a copy of the Journal de Geneve. The paper, I was told,
would be completely unfolded. I was to come alone. The
conversation would take place in French.
This was my first
encounter -- indeed the first interview by
any reporter -- with a rebel commander. Although a few
ethnic Albanian reporters had spoken to the Jasharis, the
clan that made up much of the KLA at the start of the
rebellion, none dared write about them or the KLA. This
deeply angered the Jasharis and aided my efforts to reach
them. I walked into the station and saw a lean man in his
late thirties dressed in black jeans, a gray jacket, and a
purple T-shirt. He looked up and motioned for me to follow
him out the door. We weaved quickly through the crowds
outside the station until we came to another cafe, where he
took a seat along the back wall facing the door. The rebel,
who gave his nom de guerre as Alban, would within a year
lead a group of a few hundred fighters over the border from
northern Albania into Kosovo. The last I heard, he was
commanding a large unit in the province.
He spoke quietly
and without rancor. He said that, like most
of the leadership, he had spent years in prison for
separatist activity. "We have no Tito," he said. The KLA
leadership, he told me, was divided between about 30 people,
with no paramount leader. These men were drawn primarily
from the 5,000 or so ethnic Albanians who had fought for the
Muslim-Croat Federation in Bosnia against the Serbs.
Until the uprising
in Kosovo last spring, the KLA had only a
couple hundred members. The most prominent inside Kosovo was
Adem Jashari, a gruff, taciturn peasant who, with his
brother Hamza, had been on the run from Serb authorities for
months. They were among the handful of militants who founded
the KLA in 1991 before it mushroomed into a popular army,
much like the Islamist resistance in Algeria. In the early
days, they came closest to running the organization, and
many of their lieutenants and relatives -- at least the ones
that have survived -- now run the KLA. I tried fruitlessly
over three days to speak to the Jasharis, spending an
afternoon pleading with Shaban, their 70-year-old father, to
pass on a message. He refused. His sons were increasingly
wanted men. Just a few weeks before, on November 28, 1997,
uniformed KLA fighters had, for the first time, appeared
before a large crowd. Before some 20,000 mourners at the
funeral of a schoolteacher slain by the Serbs, two KLA
leaders delivered a rousing call for liberation that was
greeted with a roar of approval and thunderous chants of
"KLA! KLA! KLA!"
The only way to
arrange a trip to the Jasharis ran through
Switzerland, something I did with some trepidation, since I
was afraid that Serb security agents might intercept my
communications. I made the request, however, and a few days
after Ramadan ended I was called to Geneva and told that on
February 17 I should be waiting outside the old religious
school in Pristina at eight o'clock in the morning. I would
be allowed to bring a photographer.
At the assigned
hour, Wade Goddard, our photographer, and I
stood in the cold as two young men, both in jeans and
wearing combat boots, walked swiftly towards us. "Be here at
three o'clock tomorrow, and make sure you are not followed,"
said one in broken English. In less than a minute, they had
We spent the next
morning darting in and out of taxis and
walking through back alleys to make sure we were not being
tailed. A KLA official in Switzerland, in an insight into
what has become a respectable intelligence network, had
thoughtfully provided me with the name of the undercover cop
who hung out in my small hotel in Pristina to report on my
As we traveled the
next day to Prekaz, the small town in
central Kosovo that was the Jasharis' headquarters, the
group's well-oiled underground network was evident. Men
along the road signaled with their hands that the way was
clear of Serb checkpoints. When we entered Prekaz, the
driver honked the horn three times, and a group of about a
dozen men emerged from a shed to watch us. We turned up into
a field covered with a thin layer of snow and were stopped
by a half-dozen heavily armed men in camouflage uniforms.
All wore on their shoulders the red-and-black KLA patch with
the double-headed Albanian eagle.
We were escorted
through the fields and along dirt roads.
As our patrol walked over the thin layer of snow, I noticed
that no one seemed to find the presence of the rebels
unusual; even the children hardly gave us a glance. We
reached a small stone farmhouse surrounded by a wooden
fence. Inside, on cushions set on the floor along the wall,
were Adem and Hamza Jashari. The room, filled with acrid
cigarette smoke, was lit by a single kerosene lamp. Two
burly bodyguards, clutching automatic weapons, stood by the
door. The two dirt roads leading into the village had also
been closed after we passed by bands of armed fighters.
This would be the
first and last interview the Jasharis
would give to a reporter. In three weeks, I would be
standing over their bodies in a warehouse. Adem's neck had
been slit, probably after he had died of multiple bullet
wounds. Shaban, his elderly father with whom I had spent an
afternoon, lay not far away. There were 51 corpses, 20 of
them members of the Jashari clan, many of them shot in the
head at close range. About two dozen of the victims were
women and children, and some of the bodies were blackened by
the flames that had engulfed their homes.
But that day, the
encounter with the Jasharis offered a
revealing look at the contrasts within the KLA. Adem, with
his drooping bandito mustache and hostility, had none of
Alban's polished charm. The fighters around him were
suspicious peasants, prone to lash out at everyone,
including Rugova, who was not part of their inner circle.
They insisted that they would never flee from the village if
it came under attack. Most, in fact, died in their homes, as
have scores of other Kosovar Albanians who have yet to
master the basic tenets of guerrilla warfare.
As we spoke, we
heard the low drone of a single-engine plane
circling lazily overhead, no doubt taking infrared
photographs of heat sources for the coming Serb assault.
Nervous fighters in the courtyard peered up at the craft in
In another era the
Jashari clan, which oversaw a large
black-market smuggling network, would have faded away into
local folklore. The Balkans are filled with small-time
renegades who combine criminal activity with thin,
separatist ideologies. Instead, by leveling Prekaz with 20
mm antiaircraft cannons and killing more than 50 people,
including many old people, women, and children, the Serbs
made the Jasharis into martyrs. U.S. Special Envoy to the
Balkans Robert Gelbard gave what many have interpreted as a
green light to Belgrade to go after the rebel bands by
announcing in Pri'stina on February 23, 1998, that the KLA
"is without any question a terrorist group." He went on to
add that the United States "condemns very strongly terrorist
activities in Kosovo." Within two weeks Serb forces had
turned Prekaz into a smoldering ruin, killed close to a
hundred people, and ignited the uprising.
A few days after
the Jashari compound was flattened with
mortar and cannon shells, I wandered among the piles of
brick and cement. In the ruins of one room lay a blackened
book with a map that showed a Greater Albania that included
Kosovo, parts of Serbia, much of Macedonia, and parts of
present-day Greece and Montenegro. The map was drawn up on
July 1, 1878, when the bajraktars, or clan chieftains, from
the Turkish realms of the southwest Balkans founded the
League for the Defense of the Albanian Nation. The book was
a potent reminder of what the war was about -- especially
since, with most ethnic Albanians concentrated in
homogeneous areas bordering Albania, the drive to extend
Albania's borders remains feasible.
That drive is not
only a wider threat to European stability
but also to Albanian moderation. Kosovar Albanians in exile
-- and even some who have gone back to fight -- express deep
frustration at the provincialism of the leadership within
Kosovo, but to little avail. Leaders of the KLA, especially
those who have not lived abroad, are convinced that they
have embarked on the century-long dream of a Greater
Albania. Many KLA commanders tout themselves as "a
liberation army for all Albanians" -- precisely what
frightens the NATO alliance most.
THE NEXT BALKAN
Both the Serbs and
the ethnic Albanians are now confident
that force of arms can solve the impasse. The Serbs have
huge stockpiles of heavy weapons they have yet to unleash,
and the KLA has a large reserve of volunteers and a porous
border with Albania to smuggle in supplies and newly trained
recruits. Neither side has much incentive to lay down its
weapons, despite NATO's air strikes.
Settling in for
a long fight, the KLA probably has 30,000
automatic weapons, made available at bargain prices after
Albanian military arsenals were looted in the chaos after
the spring 1997 economic meltdown. The rebels have made a
concerted effort to acquire German antitank weapons, heavy
machine guns, sniper rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades.
Most important, by launching the current rebellion, taking
on the Serbs, and drawing international attention to the
conflict, the rebel group has done more in a year to further
the cause of independence for Kosovo than Rugova was able to
do over the preceding decade.
As long as Washington
insists on adhering to the principle
that all states in the former Yugoslavia be multiethnic,
there is little hope of a resolution. And as long as
Belgrade is permitted to station troops in Kosovo, which is
part of the current agreement, neither NATO soldiers nor
Kosovar Albanians will be safe. Building any kind of lasting
peace or democratic institutions will be impossible.
The holes in a policy
of advocating multiethnicity gape most
glaringly in Croatia and Bosnia. Croatia has expelled most
of the ethnic Serbs who once made up 12 percent of its
population, and post-Dayton Bosnia is rigidly partitioned
into little Croat, Serb, and Muslim parastates. Yet the
diplomatic community insists on the fiction that the pieces
can somehow be glued back together and periodically scolds
Zagreb and Sarajevo for failing to comply.
efforts designed to keep the Serbs and
the ethnic Albanians in the same country mirror the
fruitless peace efforts carried out during the first three
years of the Bosnian war. The refusal to accept the creation
of ethnically "pure" enclaves -- a decision that is
strategically and morally understandable -- leaves diplomats
paying homage to multiethnic institutions, however hollow,
and lofty democratic ideals that nearly all Balkan leaders
detest. Kosovo can remain a Serbian province and the two
groups can live together, this reasoning goes, if only the
ethnic Albanians are given a little more freedom. Given that
between 1966 and 1989 an estimated 130,000 Serbs left the
province because of frequent harassment and discrimination
by the Kosovar Albanian majority, this is at best naive.
The peace agreement
for which NATO went to war proposes to
deploy some 30,000 NATO troops and allow ethnic Albanian
police to take over security functions in Albanian-majority
areas. The plan would gradually cede local police control to
the KLA, which would probably comprise most of the force.
But Serbia would keep troops in the province and handle
security along the borders -- especially the border with
Albania, where the KLA has set up logistics bases and
smuggling routes for weapons and fighters. The plan also
calls for a phased disarming of the KLA.
Such a deal would
be hard enough to implement under Rugova,
but it would be harder still to implement under a rebel
command that has spent the last three years preparing for
war. The KLA is wildly unlikely to hand over its guns,
especially given Milosevic's pattern of ignoring formal
agreements. The latent nationalism among most Serbs, coupled
with the disturbing belief that they were the real victims
in Yugoslavia's wars, is aroused by each Western attack.
Belgrade knows that NATO has no desire to become the air
wing of the KLA. Anything much short of all-out war on
Yugoslavia only consolidates Milosevic's grip on power and
allows him to unleash his forces in Kosovo.
The West's blundering
peace initiative has reminded the KLA
not to rely too much on NATO. The alliance was palpably
reluctant to move against the Serbs, although they have
flagrantly violated the agreement made last October to cease
hostilities in Kosovo. Ignoring the October pact, NATO
bombed to get Belgrade to sign on to the Rambouillet deal --
a shift not lost on the Kosovar Albanians. Milosevic, for
his part, has driven NATO crazy since the Kosovo crisis
began. Chris Hill, the current U.S. Kosovo mediator, has
carried out fruitless shuttle diplomacy since last spring;
on his latest trip to Belgrade, Milosevic did not even meet
with him. Put bluntly, the Serb leaders stiffed the United
States. The KLA is correctly distrustful of Western
intentions and resolve.
That distrust led
to the decision by the KLA not to sign the
Rambouillet agreement in the first round of talks last
February -- which, in turn, let the alliance off the moral
hook. Kosovar intransigence gave the West the excuse it was
looking for not to implement the October agreement and
deepened the already wide rifts within the alliance.
If the West's peace
push eventually dies, as now appears
likely, the KLA leaders will swiftly become utterly
disenchanted with the West and -- as if they were not
already implacable enough -- turn to Islamic radicals ready
to back another battle by Muslims against Orthodox
Christians. There are already signs that contacts have been
established. The Serbs, whose information is admittedly
often unreliable, say that Islamic charities in the Persian
Gulf are giving millions to the KLA. U.S. officials say they
have detected ties to Islamist organizations and suspect
that some money has been forwarded to the KLA. I saw bearded
mujahideen, who did not look Albanian, wandering around the
staging areas in northern Albania, a hint that there may be
some truth to these assertions.
The Serbs also contend
that the KLA has about 1,000 foreign
mercenaries from Albania, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan,
Bosnia, and Croatia, as well as British and German
instructors. Most of the mercenaries are probably Albanian
nationals, especially former Albanian army officers, police
officers, and members of the state security services.
The KLA is clearly
preparing for a long slog. It has tried
to recruit ethnic Albanian veterans in Croatia, who formed
two battalions in Croatia's war against the Serbs. In early
February, Yugoslav officials said that they had seized
$500,000 worth of weapons, ammunition, and uniforms for the
KLA that were smuggled in from Croatia in a truck. Zagreb
has been warned by senior NATO officials to stay out of the
conflict, but Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's government
can hardly be displeased to see Belgrade mired in another
disaster. There are rebel training camps now in Albania --
apparently in Ljabinot, near Tirana -- as well as ones I saw
in Tropoja (near the Yugoslav border), Kuks, and Bajram
Were the conflagration
to result in the deployment of
peacekeeping NATO ground forces -- a proposition that should
not be taken lightly -- it would have risks that were not
faced in Bosnia. Kosovo, unlike Cyprus and Bosnia, has no
fixed lines dividing the antagonists. The province's battle
lines resemble the constantly shifting sands of Central
America's 1980s guerrilla wars: a stretch of road that is
safe in the morning can be deadly in the afternoon. Because
this is an insurrection rather than a war between armies,
rebels can be farmers one day and combatants the next. They
will be impossible to define. To muddy the waters further,
the KLA is poorly led, with no central command and little
discipline. Many villages have formed ad hoc militias that,
while they identify themselves as KLA, act independently. I
found that KLA commanders often spent as much time trying to
find out what these militias were doing -- closing down
unauthorized roadblocks and curbing excesses by local
warlords -- as they did fighting the Serbs. Part of the
problem facing any peacekeeping force will be defining who
belongs to the KLA and who does not. The Serb soldiers and
special police, in uniform and headquartered in barracks,
will prove far easier to monitor, if not always control. But
the overall picture is one of chaos.
In Bosnia, by contrast,
the front lines had changed little
by late 1992, and the war often resembled World War I
clashes on the western front, albeit on a much smaller
scale. During the war, I used to watch ferocious Muslim
night assaults from the twisting trench systems around the
Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo, complete with luminous flares
and the deep-throated rattle of heavy machine guns. Hundreds
of people were wounded or killed in this trench warfare, but
the trenches themselves moved little.
Even after this
spring's NATO air strikes and ruthless
Serbian attacks, Kosovo's combatants may still have vigor to
spare. In Bosnia, on the other hand, conditions were much
riper for peacemaking, at least by the fall of 1995. The
Bosnian Serbs, battered by two weeks of heavy NATO bombing,
were a spent and broken force. The long arm of the United
States managed to rein in the Muslims, largely by silencing
Croatian artillery units that had been instrumental in the
joint Croat-Muslim advance. The Muslims had suffered enough,
the Bosnian Serbs were on the ropes, and the Croats had
gotten everything they wanted out of the war with the
exception of the Serb-held enclave of Eastern Slavonia,
which was handed back to them two years later.
Kosovo has not yet
been granted the dubious blessing of such
exhaustion. The Serbs appear to believe that the problem
requires not negotiation but more force. Morale among the
Serbs is low, and there are steady reports of desertions.
The heavily mechanized Serb patrols stick to the blacktop
roads while the KLA controls a network of back dirt roads
that often skirt police checkpoints. Reporters that bounce
along them in armored jeeps have aptly nicknamed them the Ho
Chi Minh Trail. With their patrols and land mines, the Serbs
have had no more luck sealing the borders than the Germans
had in stomping out Tito's Partisans in World War II -- or
(mutatis mutandis) the Americans had with the original Ho
Chi Minh Trail. Just as in the last war, Belgrade's decision
to scorch villages is only flooding the rebels with
have been carved deep. Although this is not
a war about "ancient ethnic hatreds," there is nevertheless
a long history of antagonism between the Serbs and the
Kosovar Albanians. The competing national myths -- with the
Serbs claiming Kosovo as the birthplace of medieval Serbia
and the Albanians claiming they are descended from the
ancient Illyrians -- are trotted out by each group to
bludgeon the other.
Fed on nationalist
mythology and emboldened by their initial
successes, the KLA's leaders are in no mood to settle. The
leadership still appears to rely, at least for its public
face, on the radicals in the diaspora, including Jashar
Salihu, the head of the Homeland Calling fund, and Pleurat
Sejdiu, the KLA's London representative. But the group's
chief appears to be the university-educated Hashim Thaci,
the head of the political directorate, whose nom de guerre
is "Snake." Like many in the leadership, he was a student
activist in Pri'stina before leaving to study in Albania and
raise money in Europe for the independence movement. When
Thaci unexpectedly snarled the Rambouillet talks, Secretary
of State Madeleine K. Albright learned the extent of KLA
militancy the hard way.
At this late stage
in the game, a NATO deployment -- if
Milosevic can somehow be bombed into accepting it -- will
over the short term save lives, just as it did in Bosnia.
But it will not bring back the autonomy that Tito, the last
of the Habsburgs, oversaw with such skill. With its citizens
carrying Croatian passports and voting in national
elections, the Croat-controlled part of Bosnia is already a
de facto part of Croatia. The Bosnian Serbs are slowly
grafting themselves onto Serbia. It is best to accept the
unpalatable and acknowledge that the successor states to
Yugoslavia are moral and political dwarfs.
In Kosovo, the stationing
of international troops may
prevent all-out fighting and provide the breathing space to
negotiate a workable solution. But given the deep rifts
between the sides, the latter is hardly likely. The
international community would then face the stark choice
between remaining in Kosovo for a long time or pulling out
after the proposed three-year period, with the likelihood
that those on both sides of the divide would again pick up
their guns. In the end, it will come to this: Led by the
KLA, Kosovo will separate from Serbia, whether by
negotiations or by violence.
currently a Nieman Fellow at Harvard
University, was The New York Times'
Balkan Bureau Chief from 1995 to 1998.