Serbian refugees from Kosovo. Photo: Gregory Elich
In the period before the 1999 NATO attack on Yugoslavia, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) waged a campaign to secede and establish an independent Kosovo dominated by Albanians and purged of every other ethnic group. In October 1998, KLA spokesman Bardhyl Mahmuti spelled the KLA’s vision: “We will never change our position. The independence of Kosovo is the only solution…We cannot live together [with Serbs]. That is excluded.”
Once NATO’s war came to an end, the KLA set about driving out of Kosovo every non-Albanian and every pro-Yugoslav Albanian it could lay its hands on. The KLA left in its wake thousands of looted and burning homes, and the dead and dying.
Two months after the end of the war, I visited Hotel Belgrade, located on Mt. Avala, a short distance outside of Belgrade. Those who had been driven from their homes in Kosovo were housed in hotels throughout Yugoslavia, and in this one lived Serbian refugees.
The moment I entered the hotel, the sense of misery overwhelmed me. Children were crying, and the rooms were packed with people. The two delegation members who accompanied me and I were shown all three floors, and the anger among the refugees was so palpable I felt I could reach out in the air and touch it. Nearly everyone here had a loved one who had been killed by the Kosovo Liberation Army. All had lost their homes and everything they owned. Read More »
Elas Raqmani (seated). Photo: Gregory Elich
Once NATO’s 1999 war on Yugoslavia came to an end, units of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) poured across the border. The KLA wasted little time in implementing its dream of an independent Kosovo purged of all other nationalities. Among those bearing the brunt of ethnic hatred were the Roma, commonly known in the West as Gypsies. Under the protective umbrella of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR), the KLA was free to launch a pogrom in which it beat, tortured, murdered and drove out every non-Albanian and every non-secessionist Albanian it could lay its hands on. Read More »
Bridge over the Nishava River. Photo: Gregory Elich.
As a member of a delegation documenting NATO war crimes in 1999, I visited Nish, the third largest city in Yugoslavia. NATO attacked this appealing old city on forty occasions, destroying approximately 120 buildings and damaging more than 3,400.
On the night of our second stop in Nish, we attended a meeting with university professor Jovan Zlatich. During the NATO war, Dr. Zlatich served as commander of the city’s Civil Defense Headquarters. In his discussion of the bombardment of Nish, he focused particular attention on the use of cluster bombs. Nish had the misfortune of being the target of several CBU-87/B cluster bombs, a weapon designed to open at a predetermined height and release 202 bomblets. These smaller bombs burst in a furious repeating series of explosions, spraying thousands of pieces of shrapnel over a wide area. Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons. While causing relatively minor damage to structures, they inflict frightful damage on human beings. Read More »
Offices at Zastava forging plant. Photo: Gregory Elich
One of the main features of NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999 was the deliberate targeting of factories and manufacturing plants. As a member of a delegation travelling throughout Yugoslavia shortly after the end of the war, I could readily see that such targeting had been methodical and thorough. Wherever we went, there was no military value in the facilities that NATO chose to destroy. Indeed, the common criterion was that state-owned and worker cooperative factories and plants that supported many people were singled out. The apparent intent was to drive much of the population into destitution and make people more amenable to demands to install government eager to do the West’s bidding.
The largest and most significant factory complex in the Balkans was Zastava, producing over 95 percent of the automobiles operating in Yugoslavia. Centrally located in the city of Kragujevac, this diverse factory complex also manufactured tools and machinery.
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Rear of nursing home in Surdulica. Photo: Gregory Elich.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) proclaims its “commitment to maintaining international peace and security.” Mainstream media rarely, if ever, look beyond Western self-justifications and bland assurances of moral superiority, and little thought is given to what NATO’s wars of aggression might look like to those on the receiving end. Read More »
For years, the dismantling of Yugoslavia was no more than a half-completed job in the eyes of Western leaders. The United States and Western European nations lavished financial, diplomatic, political and military support on secession-minded forces until only two republics remained in the federation. To the annoyance of Western leaders, Serbia and Montenegro stubbornly clung to the Yugoslav ideal and a predominantly socialist-oriented economy. Although the 1999 NATO war succeeded in carving yet another piece off Yugoslavia, the province of Kosovo, the Yugoslav government remained intact.
A two-year investigation has lifted the lid from the long-suppressed story of the Kosovo leadership’s organized criminal activities. The inquiry, led by human rights investigator Dick Marty, was conducted at the behest of the Council of Europe, and focused specifically on the illegal trafficking in human organs.
Nine years ago, neoliberal political forces took power in Serbia, promising a radical transformation of the economy. Today, deep into that transformation, Serbia is foundering from its effects, exacerbated by the worldwide economic downturn. Industrial production has fallen 15 percent compared to the average of last year, while unemployment remains high.
A delegation from the IMF is now in Belgrade, negotiating over Serbia’s 2010 national budget and how best to deal with the economic crisis. The two sides are not far apart, in that both parties envision more of the usual neoliberal prescriptions as the way out of an economic crisis brought about in large part by those very same measures. Read More »
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari has been widely hailed in the West, where there has been an outpouring of praise for the man and his efforts. Widely seen as a tireless promoter of peace and reconciliation, Ahtisaari has a lesser known sign.
Although his record is long, Ahtisaari’s role in the diplomatic end to NATO’s 1999 war against Yugoslavia is regarded as the key point in his selection. In praising the man, Nobel committee secretary Geir Lundestad noted, “There is no alternative to an independent Kosovo.” This baldly political statement indicates why Ahtisaari’s selection is proving so popular among Western leaders, and it is Kosovo that shows just whose interests Ahtisaari has served. Read More »