Socialist Worker

Did Blair's war free Kosovo?

Issue No. 1844

TONY BLAIR constantly claims he was right to fight the war in Kosovo alongside the US in 1999. The aim, he said, was to stop Serbian ruler Slobodan Milosevic from carrying out ethnic cleansing against the Albanian majority in Kosovo. But the bombardment of Kosovo and Serbia by the NATO military alliance made things much worse.

It triggered the very refugee crisis that was then used in TV images to justify war. An official inquiry by the Western powers' Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe recorded, 'The pattern of expulsions and the vast increase in lootings, killings, rape, kidnapping and pillage' increased massively 'once the NATO air war began.'

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees recorded that around 4,000 Albanian refugees had fled Kosovo by 27 March, three days after the NATO bombing started. From then to the end of the war in June there were 863,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees and unknown numbers of Serbs, Gypsies and others. The right wing magazine the Economist admitted, 'This was a war to stop ethnic cleansing but the main effect was to intensify it.'

NATO told systematic lies. It bombed bridges, factories and power stations across Serbia. In one incident NATO bombed an Albanian refugee convoy in Kosovo, killing scores of people. At first NATO tried to deny responsibility. Then it claimed there were military vehicles in the convoy. Then it blamed Serb planes. Days later NATO was forced to admit the truth.

The reason for the war was not concern for Kosovo Albanians. Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy to the Balkans, admitted the war was about 'the credibility of NATO'. The US wanted to show it could use its military power to impose its will. Blair claims the war was justified because it helped overthrow Milosevic. In fact at first the war weakened the powerful opposition to Milosevic in Serbia. It was only over one year later that the opposition was able to revolt against and topple Milosevic.

After the war NATO allowed the KLA armed Albanian group to unleash the same horror on the Serb minority that had been suffered by the Albanians under Serb domination. Respected journalist Robert Fisk reported, 'The number of Serbs killed in the five months since the war comes close to that of Albanians murdered by Serbs in the five months before NATO began its bombardment.'

Freedom House, a US-based institution funded by US corporations and US government departments, last year admitted, 'Since international forces moved into Kosovo in mid-1999 a campaign of reverse ethnic cleansing has been taking place. More than 250,000 Serbs, Roma (Gypsies), Bosniacs, Croats, Turks and Jews have been forced to flee the province.'

It concluded, 'The failure of the international community to create a secure environment in the province has made Kosovo a European hub for Albanian organised crime syndicates trafficking in women from the former Soviet Union, narcotics, illegal aliens, and stolen cars.'

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