Release Date: March 2, 1999
Eric Margolis, c/o Editorial Department, The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3X5
Fax: (416) 960-4803 -- Press Contact: Eric Margolis

Freedom, Not Fake Autonomy, For Kosovo

by Eric Margolis

PARIS - According to a reliable intelligence source, the abduction in Kenya of Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was carried out by former members of one of the west's elite special forces outfits - not, as previously rumored, CIA or Israel's Mossad.

In fact, I've twice met the man who led the small mercenary unit, an expert in covert operations. The Turkish government reportedly offered him an open-ended contract to snatch Ocalan: $12 million down; $ 60 million (5 million pounds/25 million pounds) on capture. After following Ocalan for the past four months, the mercenaries grabbed him in Nairobi, delivered him to Turkish intelligence, collected their money, disbanded, and scattered.

While Turkey basked in self-congratulation, last Tuesday the US and European powers suffered a dramatic humiliation last week as negotiations over the future of Kosovo collapsed. For 17 days outside Paris, the Contact Group -- the US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and Russia -- had been unsuccessfully trying to browbeat a delegation of Albanian Kosovars to disarm their resistance forces, the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), and accept bogus 'autonomy' under continued Serb rule. To save face for NATO, the Albanians were forced to agree to a new meeting on 15 March, ostensibly to give them time to reconsider.

NATO threats to launch air strikes against Serb forces, who have been massacring and terrorizing Kosovo's Albanians -- least 93% of its population -- were a cynical charade designed to calm western public outrage over ongoing Serb atrocities. Behind all the bluster and double-talk, the contact group's real objective was to maintain the status quo by denying Kosovars independence, and keeping them under Serb rule - while giving the impression decisive action was being taken to halt the slaughter.

As in Bosnia, the west is again treating victims and aggressors as moral equals. The KLA, which sprung up in recent years to resist Serb massacres and ethnic cleansing of Albanian civilians, was ordered to disarm and accept continued Serb rule. Under the NATO plan, Serbia was to keep control of Kosovo, even though there are less than 140,000 Serb civilians there, and maintain a sizeable military garrison. NATO troops would 'guarantee' the accord.

What this means, in simple English, is that NATO troops, including Canadians, would join the Serb army and police in suppressing Albanian independence-seekers. NATO troops in Macedonia are already patrolling the border with Kosovo to interdict arms shipments to the KLA. In effect, NATO would become an ally of Serbia in keeping Kosovo under Serb rule Threatened air strikes were merely designed to pressure Serbs into halting their mass killing in Kosovo. NATO even proposed the astonishingly idiotic plan of using Russian troops to replace Serb troops in policing the Kosovar Albanians. After struggling for 50 years to oust the Russians from East Europe, NATO is now inviting them back in.

Serbia's strongman, Slobodan Milosevic, branded a 'war criminal' by the US, and Canada, would ironically be rescued by the west from the impending loss of Kosovo. Milosevic rose to power, and keeps it, by vowing to crush Albanians. If Kosovo were to gain independence, Milosevic, the man who destroyed Yugoslavia, presided over the murder of 250,000 mainly Muslim civilians in Bosnia, the rape of 25,000 Muslim women, and created 2 million refugee, will be rescued by NATO's 'peacekeepers.' Even more outrageous, as part of the proposed deal over Kosovo, NATO was to pressure the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague to drop all charges against Serb war criminals.

Why have the US and NATO adopted such a cynical, deceitful policy? First, because Europe unduly fears if Kosovars win independence, a right guaranteed by the UN Charter, other ethnic groups may clamor for the same right. Britain has its Scot and Welsh nationalists. France, Corsican separatists. Spain, Basque and Catalan separatists. Russia violently opposes Kosovar independence because it is trying to crush independence movements in the Caucasus, notably Chechnya, and other Muslim regions. Turkey, which is battling Kurdish separatists, has shamefully spurned pleas for help from its Muslim cousins in Bosnia and Kosovo. But Kosovo cannot be compared to other regions of ethnic unrest, not even war-torn eastern Anatolia. In Kosovo, Albanians are being hunted down like animals in a shooting preserve by a powerful army and paramilitary police whose strategic objective is to evict an entire population from its ancestral home.

Second, because France and Britain strongly oppose creation of a Muslim state in the Balkans. Both powers have sizeable Muslim minorities who suffer sharp discrimination and economic deprivation. London and Paris fear -- quite unreasonably -- their Muslim citizens will somehow be dangerously aroused by Kosovo's independence. British and French claims that Kosovo's independence will trigger a wider Balkan conflict are a lurid exaggeration designed to further undermine the Kosovar independence movement.

Albanian Kosovars had decades of 'autonomy' previous to 1989, when Milosevic revoked it, and placed the restive region under martial law. During autonomy, 700,000 Albanians passed through the hands of Serb security forces. Tens of thousands were jailed and tortured, according to Amnesty International. Serbia exploited Kosovo for its rich mines and cheap labor. No Albanians want to return to autonomy; none believe claims by NATO that it will protect them from Serb oppression. They have only to look at Bosnia, where UN forces drawn from NATO did nothing while Serbs massacred thousands of Muslims. They recall bitterly how Canada's own 'peacekeeping hero,' Maj Gen. Lewis Mackenzie, sought to whitewash the frightful massacre of 9,000 Muslim civilians at Srebrenica, which he described in 'Macleans' magazine as 'a Serb over-reaction.' The only hope for Kosovars is to fight on until they achieve independence..

NATO simply refuses to face the obvious fact that Kosovo -- or Kosova, in Albanian -- is destined to achieve independence. The remaining handful of Serb civilians left there are fleeing. After Serb massacres and atrocities, they can no longer co-exist with Albanians. Soon, the only Serbs left will be police and soldiers. Even if a sham peace accord is forced on the sharply divided Kosovar delegation by the great powers, the KLA will likely keep resisting. This means Serb forces will continue terrorizing Albanian civilians. The militant KLA will seize every opportunity to goad Serb occupation forces and ensure the province remains in conflict.

Serb racial purists have been trying to 'cleanse' Kosovo of Albanians for the past century; there is no reason why they should stop - particularly so when the regime in Belgrade continues to be run by war criminals, gangsters, and neo-fascists. NATO's disgraceful policy in Kosovo only strengthens their hand, and undermines moderate Serbs who want to be rid of dictator Milosevic.

NATO should not be in the business of repressing legitimate demands for independence and self-determination. No western government wants to alter the cozy status quo, but the force of history and national aspirations cannot be denied. NATO must cease paying court to Milosevic, helping keep his outlaw regime in power, and allowing the Serb tyrant to make the western alliance look weak, divided, and cowardly. If NATO troops do take over acting as prison guards for the Kosovars, they could soon end up fighting Albanian guerrillas.

Here is what should be done: send NATO troops into Kosovo, order the Serb garrison out under threat of massive bombing of Serbia. Let NATO run Kosovo for three years as a protectorate, then hold a referendum to determine its future. Allow the savagely persecuted Albanians a genuine peace and right to decide their own future. NATO was created to prevent aggression and protect democratic rights. So far, it has been doing exactly the opposite in Kosovo. A sad and shameful state of affairs on NAT0's 50th birthday.

[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]

Copyright © 1999 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved
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