Behind the turmoil in Kosovo
By John Catalinotto
and Heather Cottin
On March 18 the corporate media worldwide
reported an outbreak of what they love to call "ethnic
violence" in the Balkans. Within a day, some 1,500 British,
French, Italian, Danish and U.S. troops were on their way to
Serbia's occupied Kosovo province, with an additional 600
German troops promised.
Like almost all events in the Balkans in the past 15 years,
its meaning is distorted by these media reports, which
attribute every violent act to "ancient ethnic animosities"
that somehow can't be brought under control without Western
The truth is that for 45 years following World War II, the
Socialist Federation of Yugoslavia was able to achieve a
working relationship among its many nations, peoples, ethnic
groups and religions. It also coexisted peacefully with
neighboring Albania, then also a socialist country, despite
sharp political differences with Albania's leaders.
It was NATO intervention, especially German- and
U.S.-organized subversion, that sharpened all national and
religious differences and led to the turmoil of 1991-1998.
Finally came the U.S.-NATO 78-day bombing of Yugoslavia, begun
just five years ago on March 24, 1999. It killed thousands of
Yugoslavs, including ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo.
Expansion into Eastern Europe
U.S. imperialism used its European military organization,
NATO, to create a multinational cover for the 1999 war. NATO
was crucial to U.S. efforts to expand into Eastern Europe after
the collapse of the Soviet Union.
To provoke the war and the breakup of Yugoslavia, in the
late 1990s both Wash ington and Berlin backed the KLA, a
right-wing extremist grouping of ethnic Alban ians. Before 1998
even U.S. officials described the KLA as "terrorist." The KLA's
political program included setting up a "greater Albania" that
included Kosovo and parts of Bulgaria, Serbia, Monte negro and
The 1999 bombing ended when the Yugoslav government agreed
to allow NATO forces to occupy Kosovo. Kosovo legally remained
part of Serbia, however. Since then, the United Nations has
given cover to the NATO occupation, and 18,500 troops still
remain. Some 40,000 were originally deployed.
After the 1999 occupation, NATO troops in Kosovo allowed the
KLA reactionaries to drive some hundreds of thousands of people
of Serb, Jewish, Roma (Gypsy) and other nationalities out of
Kosovo using arson, killing and intimidation. Most of these
refugees moved to Serbia. The KLA reactionaries have also
persecuted progressive Albanians.
"There are not many ethnic minorities left in Kosovo.
220,000 have fled since 1999," UNHCR spokesperson Ron Red mond
recently told a news conference in Geneva. Since the start of
the violence this month, over 4,000 Serbs have fled their
homes. (Reuters, March 19)
The March 16 incident
On March 16, four young Albanian boys were swept into
Kosovo's rushing Ibar River. Only one of them survived.
The first story to emerge from this incident asserted that
the children had been chased into the river by Serbian youths
and their dogs. But Derek Chappell, a spokesperson in the
United Nations occupation authority (UNMIK), told media in
Pristina on March 18 that this was definitely not true, that
the survivor of the drowning told his parents that he and three
friends entered the river alone and were immediately caught up
in the heavy current. Chappell said that organized forces used
the lie to spark virulent attacks upon ethnic Serbs in the
A reported 24 people were killed and 500 injured in the
fighting, mostly ethnic Serbs. Twenty-five Serbian Orthodox
churches and monasteries were burned, and some 400 houses
torched. (ITAR-TASS, March 22)
Some UN and Western officials have been quoted as saying
that the incident was intended to provoke a battle to gain the
separation of Kosovo from Serbia. Such a separation would
violate the 1999 agreement.
It wouldn't be the first time an incident was fabricated to
justify fighting. In January 1999, the KLA and U.S. official
William Walker claimed that the death of a group of KLA
fighters in the Kosovo village of Racak was instead a massacre
of civilians. The "Racak Massacre" was used to justify the NATO
war on Yugoslavia, which the U.S. and Germany alleged was a
This year, the Finnish pathologist Helena Ranta, who led
forensic investigations into the Racak case, told the Berliner
Zeitung of Jan. 17 that Serb security troops were also killed
and that there was no proof that the dead bodies she examined
were civilians or had been executed.
Protest in Belgrade targets U.S.
On March 18, some 10,000 people marched in downtown Belgrade
in solidarity with the beleaguered ethnic Serb community of
Kosovo. Vladimir Krslja nin, an aide to former Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic, told Workers World from Belgrade
that 2,000 of the demonstrators surrounded the U.S. Embassy
until 2 a.m. The embassy has been closed since then.
Krsljanin said that 200 rowdy or provocative elements
carried out an arson attack on a mosque in Belgrade. The police
didn't try to stop them, he added, but they protected the U.S.
Embassy. Most demonstrators rightly saw the U.S. as responsible
for the deterioration of life in the Balkans and the threat to
In Kosovo since 1999, thousands of Albanians, Serbs,
Bulgarians and others have been laid off from factories and
mines that the government of Yugoslavia formerly operated. In
addition, state-supported free medical care and most government
support for education was terminated in Kosovo.
NATO had allowed the paramilitary KLA forces to seize
control of Kosovo in 1999. In the past two years these same
CIA-trained operatives have helped set up paramilitaries to
attack neighboring Macedonia.
The first result of this latest provocation will be to draw
more forces into the region to beef up the imperialist NATO
alliance in Eastern Europe.
In most of the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe,
from Poland to Turkmenistan, from Uzbekistan to Hun gary, NATO
is now protecting Wes tern imperialist corporations and
advancing the fortunes of Western military industries,
especially those of the United States.
In the Balkans, imperialist intervention has brought not
"humanitarian relief" but increased turmoil to the region.
Reprinted from the April 1, 2004, issue of
Workers World newspaper
This article is copyright under a Creative
Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
Support independent news http://www.workers.org/orders/donate.php)
:: U.S. NEWS ::
WORLD NEWS ::