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Lessons from Kosovo for NATO and the West

19th September 2011

Civil Liberty's Serbian correspondent

 
NATO troops on patrol in Kosovo
NATO troops on patrol in Kosovo
 
Judging by the web sites of the mainstream Western media it would seem that they are they are doing their level best to ignore the events currently unfolding in the Balkans.

I could be wrong as I haven’t had a TV in my home for over two years, but I think it’s a fair assumption that their web sites reflect their television coverage. On the BBC’s European news page one can read a report on why homosexuals are not being accepted in Azerbaijan and learn that an erotic poem belonging to Frederick the Great has been found. Yet there is no mention of developments in a conflict which is touted as an example that not all “humanitarian” wars are doomed to be as unsuccessful as the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. That the proponents of these wars can make this claim at all is precisely because of the lack of coverage of events on the ground since the end of the 1999 NATO bombing.

Whenever the public needs to be roused for a new war there is a round the clock diet of pro-war propaganda dehumanising the enemy (and heroising the minions of the establishment) by a compliant media. As a more recent example of the outrageous slander which is routinely peddled as objective news, we were told that Gaddafi was issuing the Libyan army with Viagra and that they were systematically raping children. Once the war has been prosecuted then there is little or no follow up coverage of what happens next.

In truth the NATO war against Yugoslavia in 1999 has been anything but a success story. Far from creating the multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic wonderland of tolerance and democracy, Kosovo has seen the gradual exodus (in part through pogroms) of most of its non-Albanian population. Ironically NATO’s commander at the time, Wesley Clark, famously stated on CNN:

“In the modern Europe there is no room for homogeneous national states. It was an idea from 1800s, and we are going to carry it (multi-culturalism) through…and we are going to create multi-ethnic states.”

Around 95% of Kosovo’s population is now Albanian with most, but not all, of the remaining Serbs now living in a ghetto to the north of the province. Large parts of the province are no-go zones for non-Albanians unless one is escorted by NATO troops. There has also been a systematic destruction of churches and monasteries which survived more than five centuries of Turkish occupation but couldn’t last five years in what the NATO refers to as a stable and secular democracy. The Albanian leadership, egged on by the same NATO countries that prosecuted the Kosovo war, declared independence in 2008.

Kosovan "independence"

In reality Kosovo is anything but independent. Thousands of NATO troops still occupy the province and it is home to the largest US military base in Europe. The province has a dysfunctional economy and is reliant largely on remittances from the Albanian diaspora (a significant proportion of whom live in Britain), international handouts (including contributions from the British tax payer) and trafficking of both people and drugs (often to Britain). Its unemployment rate is 47% and estimated to be around 76% amongst the youth. And the situation in the political sphere is no better, with corruption dogging its institutions and vote-rigging affecting the outcome of its first elections in late 2010. The EU’s own observer, Ulrike Lunacek, stated earlier this year that the election “tarnished Kosovo’s image” (one wonders what image Kosovo had in the first place) after tens of thousands of votes were “lost” and certain regions reported a turnout approaching 100%.

But the aspect of this success story that is often overlooked is the toll on human health and environmental damage as a result of NATO bombardment. During the Kosovo war NATO bombed chemicals factories and fuel storage facilities across Yugoslavia which led to substantial amounts of pollution being released into the air, soil and water. Cluster bombs were also used in civilian areas, which aside from killing civilians during the conflict, also lead to children being maimed in the subsequent months and years as a result of unexploded mini-bombs (incidentally NATO recently had the cheek to denounce the Libyan army after they accused them of using the same munitions). But undoubtedly the most horrific consequences are a result of the use of depleted uranium rounds. These were mostly used in southern Serbia, particularly Kosovo. The result has been an increase in cancer rates and birth deformities, as found in other locations which experienced the blessings of “humanitarian” wars (for example, Iraq).

A study commissioned by the Italian government found the cancer rates amongst its servicemen in the Balkans to be abnormally high which resulted in payments of compensation (to their own troops, not the natives). Naturally the Pentagon declares that they have “not found any link between illnesses and exposure to depleted uranium”. It’s pretty tough to find a link when you haven’t looked for it. American enthusiasm for examining the consequences of their wars is literally non-existent compared to their enthusiasm for waging them.

The latest episode of this saga occurred while Western-mediated negotiations were ongoing between the Kosovo Albanian leadership and the Serb government. By all accounts the pro-Western Serbian government was doing its usual job of selling out the national interests in the hope that they would be rewarded with candidate status for the EU (which in their eyes supersedes all other interests). Despite this the Kosovo Albanians decided to launch a unilateral operation to exert control over the northern part of Kosovo (the only part of the province which is majority-Serb and in which the institutions of the Serbian state still operate). In particular they sought to establish so-called border posts in the north in order to control trade between Kosovo Serbs and the rest of Serbia. Presumably they saw the concessions they had already obtained as a sign of weakness and decided to up the ante safe in the knowledge that they would be backed by the Western powers mediating the talks. The crisis kicked off when a special forces team was sent by the Albanian leadership to what they see as the border between Serbia and Kosovo in order to implement a blockade. The special forces team was forced into retreat after coming under attack by local Serb civilians who also by blocked off all roads leading into the north of the province using everything from building materials to tractors and barbed wire.

As is to be expected, instead of mediating a return to the status quo (prior to the unilateral Albanian attempt to increase their bargaining power) NATO threatened to use force (these civilians fall under a different category to the ones in Libya) unless Serbs dismantled their barricades and recognised Albanian control. The Serbian government duly capitulated, declaring that it would only defend its interests through diplomatic means. Pretty meaningless when your opponent has already used non-diplomatic means and doesn’t wish to negotiate. Needless to say, as has occurred many times in the last decade, the Serbian people were left to fight for themselves and decided not to take down the barricades (despite the pleas of their government) unless conditions returned to those before the start of the talks. The result is a standoff with NATO having to shuttle Albanians to man the “border crossing” by helicopter and which has resulted in shortages of food and medicine for Kosovo Serbs.

One would imagine that after spending hundreds of millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money to wage war and engage in nation building that the British media would have a duty to periodically update the public on how the project is proceeding. The reason you hear nothing is because it has been a disaster from start to finish. To report the reality would be to torpedo the ideology of liberal interventionism. Hence why the mainstream media can educate you on 'gay rights' and erotic poetry, but they won’t tell you the consequences of the wars for which they were chief-cheerleader and which you paid for. Those are the lessons for NATO and the West in Kosovo!

What next for Libya?

 

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