Kosovo: one year on
Pro-war case falls apart
By Alex Callinicos
THE GUARDIAN greeted the first anniversary of the launch of NATO's bombing campaign against Serbia with a series of articles in which it tried nervously to reassure itself that it was right to back the war. "The most troubling issue is whether NATO's bombing made things worse," said last Monday's main editorial. "In the short term it did, because Milosevic used it to intensify his ethnic cleansing, resulting in several thousand murders and a huge outpouring of refugees."
This is a huge concession to the anti-war case. First of all, at the time Tony Blair and his defence secretary, George Robertson, insisted that the mass expulsion of Kosovan Albanians would have happened anyway. Now the Guardian has accepted, as anti-war campaigners argued from the start, that the refugee crisis was a consequence of the bombing. Secondly, NATO and its apologists sought to whip up an atmosphere of pro-war hysteria by claiming that full scale genocide was under way.
Towards the end of the war Jon Sweeney of the Guardian's sister paper the Observer predicted that opponents of the war would be "humiliated" when mass graves containing "tens of thousands" of Albanian corpses were opened.
In fact, as the Guardian now acknowledges, it seems that Serb forces killed several thousand Albanians last spring, not tens of thousands. This was a barbarous atrocity, but not the Holocaust. Nevertheless, the Guardian insists that the bombing worked "in the long term", because Milosevic was forced to withdraw from Kosovo and "let international peacekeepers come in and restore freedom from fear to the majority of Kosovo's people". These are weasel words. In the first place, they ignore the plight of the province's Serbian minority.
K-For, the NATO occupation force, has presided over the expulsion of 230,000 Serbs from Kosovo. The pro-war liberals who fell in love with "humanitarian intervention" last year have to explain why this form of ethnic cleansing is any different from that practised against the Albanians. The Serbs' flight reflects the stranglehold increasingly exercised over the province by the Albanian nationalist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
The KLA was supposed to have disbanded after the war, but 5,000 ex-guerillas have joined the armed Kosovo Protection Corps (TMK). The corps is commanded by Agim Cegu, ex military chief of the KLA. As a general in the Croatian army Cegu played a leading role in the ethnic cleansing of several hundred thousand Serbs from the Krajina in 1995. The American intelligence consultant Stratfor claims that the KLA is heavily involved in drug running.
Tiny rural Kosovo has a murder rate comparable to Los Angeles. The KLA is behind a growing crisis in eastern Kosovo. Seventy thousand Albanians live across the border in southern Serbia's Presevo valley. The area has seen increasingly serious fighting in recent months between Serbian paramilitary police and Albanian guerillas. The US is becoming increasingly concerned about the situation. If this force clashed with the powerful and undefeated army Milosevic maintains in southern Serbia the outcome could be yet another Balkan war. On a visit to eastern Kosovo last week US Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin warned the KLA to stay out of Serbia.
The next day US troops launched a series of raids along the border to seize arms caches. A senior Pentagon official commented, "We have now fired the first shot at the Albanian insurgents, and insurgents have a tendency to carry a grudge. If they come to see us as an enemy then [the raid] will be seen as a turning point." Impose Stratfor's assessment is grim: "Nine months after the war the West faces a choice. It can increase its grip on Kosovo, committing more troops and confronting the KLA, or the alliance can resign itself to losing control of Kosovo." All of this was entirely predictable. It follows the pattern of other "humanitarian" occupations by imperial armies from Northern Ireland to Somalia. NATO intervened in Kosovo for reasons that had nothing to do with the interests or aspirations of any of the inhabitants.
Therefore it has now to impose its will on them by force. Having driven out the Serbs, K-For is beginning to fight the Albanians. So when are the pro-war liberals going to admit they were wrong?