Vindicating Jeremy Corbyn and the Morning Star (a lone voice at the time), Zachary Gallant writes:
Last week, the New York Times published a well-researched, convincing article by Carlotta Gall on the radicalization and politicization of Islam in Kosovo.
With seemingly overwhelming evidence, the article lays the blame quite clearly on Saudi Arabia and the Kosovar officials who ignored the warnings of US diplomats against taking Saudi aid.
In bringing to light a major problem in this formerly tolerant, constitutionally-secular society and the money trail of Islamic radicalization, Ms. Gall performs an invaluable public service.
As with most works by the New York Times on Kosovo, though, despite all of its positive elements it contains within itself a fatal flaw: the New York Times has a wholly unhidden love for all things Clinton.
The administration responsible for the policies that made Kosovo what it is today was one William Jefferson Clinton under Richard Holbrooke’s deified model.
Readers of the New York Times who are not deeply familiar with the occupation of Kosovo might not notice what is missing, which is why these lapses must be addressed.
In ignoring the massively important influence that those same US officials had in creating the factors on the ground that allowed and led directly to the ease with which that radicalization took place, they permit NATO occupations to result in radicalization again and again.
In Ms. Gall’s article, the love of the Kosovars for America and for NATO occupation goes unquestioned, as though every single Kosovar remains thankful to their obvious saviors, the West.
The article’s very first sentence,
“Every Friday, just yards from a statue of Bill Clinton with arm aloft in a cheery wave, hundreds of young bearded men make a show of kneeling to pray on the sidewalk outside an improvised mosque in a former furniture store,”
is then underscored by the full-page picture of Bill Clinton Boulevard in the capital Pristina, where a billboard of President Clinton, with US flag behind him, welcomes the viewer.
After seven paragraphs of explanations of the Islamist situation in Kosovo today comes the sentence:
“It is a stunning turnabout for a land of 1.8 million people that not long ago was among the most pro-American Muslim societies in the world. Americans were welcomed as liberators after leading months of NATO bombing in 1999 that spawned an independent Kosovo.”
The rest of the article is an explanation of how the Saudis and Arabs bought their way in, as “where the Americans saw a chance to create a new democracy, the Saudis saw a new land to spread Wahhabism.”
Yes, generous, idealist America, coming in to this poor Muslim land to liberate it from its savage Slavic oppressors just for the sake of democracy.
This is the general New York Times approach to any form of writing about Kosovo, including top US diplomats and NATO generals buying up the country’s resources at bargain prices as a boom to the economy.
The acquisitions included:
- Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright nearly securing a monopoly on Kosovo’s telecommunications firms
- Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, US General Wesley Clark, getting shares in huge portions of Kosovo’s energy market
- Clinton-Global-Initiative advisor Bechtel getting the most lucrative infrastructure deal in Kosovo’s history
- Panama-Papers-linked, Clinton-affiliated Podesta Group being given an expensive advisory role for the country’s government as a boon to the country’s economy
Based on Ms. Gall’s rigorous research it seems certain that Saudi Arabia financed the rise of political Islam in Kosovo.
But just as these corrupt deals by former Clinton officials would not have been possible without the decade of NATO occupation that preceded them, nor would the Saudi money funnel have been nearly as effective in radicalizing the country.
Despite the New York Times’ phrasing, America did not make Kosovo a democracy, not by the furthest stretches of the imagination.
It should be remembered that NATO’s intervention in Kosovo did not even give the Kosovars an opportunity to pretend that they were participating in a democracy of their choosing until 2009.
For a decade, all decisions were made by NATO and the UN. Even the Kosovar constitution was written not by a citizen or a group of citizens but by a Finnish diplomat, Martti Ahtisaari, the entire process known as the Ahtisaari Plan.
“the exuberance the war elicited in Western intellectual circles and the tidal wave of self-adulation by respected voices, lauding the first war in history fought ‘in the name of principles and values,’ the first bold step towards a ‘new era’ in which the ‘enlightened states’ will protect the human rights of all under the guiding hand of an ‘idealistic New World bent on ending inhumanity,’ now freed from the shackles of archaic concepts of world order.”
His disapproval is well-justified by the article that this paragraph begins. In it, he finds fault with NATO’s political logic in taking pains to document every war crime to provide justification for their invasion because:
“the vast crimes took place after the bombing began: they were not a cause but a consequence. It requires considerable audacity, therefore, to take the crimes to provide retrospective justification for the actions that contributed to inciting them.”
Chomsky spends his article arguing, quite eloquently and with convincing evidence, that any war crimes committed in the conflict in Kosovo were either NATO’s or precipitated by NATO’s bombing campaign.
Chomsky speaks from the anti-imperialist left, but his postulates are supported by a surprising source: NATO General Klaus Naumann.
In his testimony to the UK’s House of Commons Defence Select Committee on the facts on the ground in Kosovo, Naumann declares:
“I think it is fair to say that Milosevic honoured the commitment which he had made to General Clark and myself on 25 October 1998. He withdrew the forces and he withdrew the police. There may have been some difference as to whether there were 200 or 400 policemen more or less but that really does not matter. More or less he honoured the commitment. Then the UJK or KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] filled the void the withdrawn Serb forces had left and they escalated. I have stated this in the NATO Council in October and November repeatedly. In most cases, the escalation came from the Kosovar side, not from the Serb side.”
Flying in the face of the rhetoric of the Western saviors concerned for the fate of the Kosovo Albanian Muslims, the crisis of this post-partum justification gets worse as we dig deeper.
Such political doublespeak as the politicization of the term “genocide” in the Balkans is a travesty with such delicate topics as human rights abuse, ethnic cleansing and war crimes, yet would be par for the course in NATO-allied politics.
In 2000, as exhumations in NATO-occupied Kosovo neared their end, Paul Risley, The Hague tribunal’s press spokesman, reported that “The final number of bodies uncovered will be less than 10,000 and probably more accurately determined as between two and three thousand.”
This number flies in the face of NATO rhetoric, where spokespeople reported the Serbs had killed at least 10,000 civilians, and discredits the ludicrous charge by US Secretary of Defense William Cohen that 100,000 Kosovo Albanians were missing and “may have been murdered,” an attempt to draw parallels to, and then exceed, Srebrenica.
Not only are human rights not a universal value, the seemingly universal language of human rights within those communities and societies that value human rights is not universal.
The universal language of humanitarianism is deeply manipulable and has an atrocious history of legitimating imperial expansion and the worst human rights abuses.
If humanitarians, having already given rise to this military-humanitarian complex with their hijacked idealism, seek to do actual good in the world, to truly champion those human rights, a great deal more care must be taken in both discussing and acting on human rights abuses.
This abuse of humanitarian rhetoric has not simply been used to villainize the Serbs.
It has been used to remove the rights of the people of Kosovo to their own self-determination, shifting the power from Serbia to NATO.
If it is true that the International Community ended the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, then for that they should be commended, though again it has been argued by many like Professor David Gibbs of the University of Arizona that NATO pressure caused the ethnic cleansing, and once again by NATO General Klaus Naumann that siding with the Kosovo Liberation Army covered up greater atrocities and aggression against the local Serbs.
But the West’s true failure in Kosovo came not necessarily from the military incursion but from ignoring the advice and example of the community of veteran aid workers, volunteers, expats and non-political locals that had already been working in the area.
Professionalism is important.
In diplomacy, education, security, policy-making, professionals are the backbone of progress and consistency in their fields, and their contributions should not be underestimated.
Yet too often, it is precisely the opposite that occurs: we forget that professionals are often wrong and we listen exclusively to their conventional wisdom.
David is an eloquent British prison-warden-turned-travel-agent who used to smuggle goods to civilians in the former Yugoslavia during the wars.
He drove a truck full of coats, food, medical supplies, whatever the refugees needed and he could get. He was not UN, not Red Cross.
He knew how to talk to all sides of a conflict, whom to trust and how to interpret lies. “The roads were said to be impassible… so we went that way.”
And he knew how to talk to the charitable individuals in uninvolved countries who wanted to help but didn’t trust the humanitarian community.
David once convinced a British magistrate to put a hold on a burn order (prescribed by law) on confiscated counterfeit Nike clothing and instead let him deliver them out of country to freezing Bosnian refugees. He got a plumber to donate the ductwork to a Balkan orphanage.
David organized logistics and delivered the goods and when the conflict or dire need was over, David got out and went back to planning people’s vacations and let the fledgling nations develop their own economies.
But the international community did not follow David’s example and for the first decade after Kosovo’s “liberation”, it was laughable to call the situation “sovereignty” or even “statehood”, much less “freedom” or “prosperity”.
NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) began occupying then-sovereign Yugoslav land in 1999 for purportedly humanitarian reasons. At its peak, this force numbered 50,000 troops.
When Kosovo finally declared independence in 2008, KFOR still numbered 14,000 active troops (the country won’t have its own military until 2019, at which point its army will only be as large as the current NATO forces).
KFOR’s initial mandate was to: deter hostility and threats against Kosovo by Serb forces establish and maintain a secure environment in Kosovo, including public safety and civil order demilitarize the Kosovo Liberation Army support the international humanitarian effort and coordinate with and support the international civil presence.
Over time, however, their mandate expanded to include:
- protection of holy/historical sites
- medical assistance border
- security interdiction of cross-border weapons
- and support for establishment of civilian institutions, law and order, judicial and penal system, electoral process and other aspects of political, economic and social life
KFOR went from a military presence intended, ostensibly, for the protections of civilians and assistance of international civilian presence, to a ruling military presence filling nearly all roles, including those meant for civilians, ruling via martial law through the guise of humanitarianism for 12 years, even after Kosovo declared independence.
Today, KFOR maintains a presence of around 5,000 troops. Perhaps this is justifiable in the eyes of the international community. After all, Kosovo’s parliament dissolved itself in 2010 after only two years.
Their Prime Minister has been charged with mafia ties and organ smuggling from Serb prisoners of war and civilians during the conflict, and the International Court of Justice is still wavering on Kosovo’s legitimacy, nonbindingly ruling their 2008 declaration of independence legal, but avoiding saying that the state of Kosovo was legal under international law.
ICJ President Hisashi Owada said that international law contained no “prohibition on declarations of independence” and therefore Kosovo’s declaration “did not violate international law,” utterly sidestepping the vital question of whether Kosovo was in fact a sovereign nation, or a nation at all.
Yet KFOR was not the only, or even the worst, injustice visited by the international community upon Kosovo.
The International Civilian Representative for Kosovo ruled the country like a colonial governor until 2012, making decrees as to what the international rulers would permit the country’s citizens and government to do, decrees backed by KFOR’s remaining 5,000 troops.
And what has this occupation by and selling off of assets to the Americans and NATO brought the people of Kosovo?
The world’s 143rd best economy (just above Haiti) with between 30%-45% of Kosovars living under the poverty line and 17% in extreme poverty, a 45% unemployment rate, a 60% youth unemployment rate, run by a corrupt occupier-backed government of organ smugglers and Mafiosi with severely limited international credibility.
The same factors that have led tens of thousands of Kosovars to flee to Germany as economic refugees have turned many of their peers toward a Saudi-funded brand of political Islam.
That extremism and poverty go hand in hand is all but undisputed, and in Kosovo poverty combined with the hopeless stagnation of an occupation that claims itself to be a democracy to create all the conditions for Islamic radicalization.
Despite the New York Times’ attempts to pretend that the Clinton administration and their friends throughout NATO are the heroes of the tale of the Balkans and that the House of Saud is the villain, the fact is that Western occupation radicalized Kosovo.
Saudi money just made it happen faster.