Remember the Kosovo war? If you’re under 30, it’s just a blip on the historical screen, one that has far less impact on your consciousness than the subsequent wars of the post-9/11 era – and yet it was an important milestone on the road to where we are today. It was in Kosovo that the complicity of government and media in ginning up a new era of wars really began to take on dimensions we have all grown quite used to.
Back then, CNN was the entirety of the cable news universe, and Christiane Amanpour – married to State Department spokesman James Rubin – became the head cheerleader for dragging us into that conflict. Railing about alleged atrocities by the Serbs against the supposedly pacific Kosovars, Amanpour’s role as media warmonger-in-chief was complemented by the union of neocons and Clintonian "progressives" who demanded American military intervention in the name of "humanitarianism."
It was in Kosovo that the "responsibility to protect" doctrine – later run up the flagpole during the Libyan intervention – was first rolled out: it was our moral duty, we were told, to go to war against Serbia. The evil Serbs were the villains. The Kosovars were the Good Guys. As a report by Dick Marty, of the European Union investigative team looking into war crimes committed by the Kosovo "Liberation" Army (KLA), put it in his 2010 report:
"The appalling crimes committed by Serbian forces, which stirred up very strong feelings worldwide, gave rise to a mood reflected as well in the attitude of certain international agencies, according to which it was invariably one side that were regarded as the perpetrators of crimes and the other side as the victims, thus necessarily innocent. The reality is less clear-cut and more complex."
The Serbs-guilty-Kosovars-innocent narrative pushed by the interventionists has stuck to this day, in spite of the ongoing victimization of the remaining Serbs – who have been ethnically cleansed from most of the region, after witnessing their homes and churches burned to the ground while the "allies" – who still occupy Kosovo – stood by and watched. As it turned out, NATO did more than merely stand by and watch – according to Marty they actively covered up numerous war crimes committed by the KLA and the current leadership of Kosovo, including the practice of trafficking in human organs torn from the bodies of Serb prisoners of war.
Clint Williamson of the EU Special Investigative Task Force has told reporters:
“Certain elements of the KLA intentionally targeted the minority populations with acts of persecution that included unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, other forms of inhumane treatment, forced displacements of individuals from their homes and communities, and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites.”
The special investigative task force was set up in response to Marty’s 2010 report, which said there was compelling evidence indicating KLA leaders had engaged in the trafficking of human organs obtained from prisoners of war. These allegations have been on the back burner since 2008, when former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal, Carla del Ponte, wrote about them in her book, The Hunt, originally published in Italian. Here is a short excerpt:
"The prosecutors office received information which UNMIK officials had received from a team of trustworthy journalists that during the summer months of 1999 Kosovan Albanians had transported 300 kidnapped people from Kosovo to Albania.
"These prisoners were initially held in sheds and other structures in Kukes and Tropoje. According to the journalists’ sources, who were only identified as Kosovo Albanians, some of the younger and fitter prisoners were visited by doctors and were never hit. They were transferred to other detention camps in Burrel and the neighbouring area, one of which was a barracks behind a yellow house 20 km behind the town.
"One room inside this yellow house, the journalists said, was kitted out as a makeshift operating theatre, and it was here that surgeons transplanted the organs of prisoners. These organs, according to the sources, were then sent to Rinas airport, Tirana, to be sent to surgical clinics abroad to be transplanted to paying patients.
"One of the informers had personally carried out a shipment to the airport.
"The victims, deprived of a kidney, were then locked up again, inside the barracks, until the moment they were killed for other vital organs. In this way, the other prisoners in the barracks were aware of the fate that awaited them, and according to the source, pleaded, terrified to be killed immediately.
"Among the prisoners who were taken to these barracks were women from Kosovo, Albania, Russia and other Slavic countries. Two of the sources said that they helped to bury the corpses of the dead around the yellow house and in a neighboring cemetery.
"According to the sources, the organ smuggling was carried out with the knowledge and active involvement of middle and high ranking involvement from the KLA.
There’s much more, including a history of KLA officials murdering their political opponents as well as alleged "collaborators" with the Serbs, systematic extortion, kidnapping, drug-dealing, and other crimes. None of which is too surprising to those of us who were writing about Kosovo during the war: I did a piece on the organ trafficking allegations in 2010. But those of us who knew the true nature of the KLA as a gangster organization were steadfastly ignored. Indeed, Ms. del Ponte was viciously attacked by John Hudson, a staff writer at Foreign Policy magazine, who declared the former prosecutor was "over her skis." It looks like Hudson is the one over his skis, or perhaps over his head when it comes to discerning truth from the conventional wisdom as dispensed around the State Department water cooler.
After NATO’s glorious "victory," allied troops – primarily American soldiers – continued to occupy Kosovo, supposedly in order to keep the two sides from slitting each others’ throats. In reality, however, as Marty points out in his 2010 report, the NATO overseers turned a blind eye toward the crimes of the KLA:
"Although some concrete evidence of such trafficking already existed at the beginning of the decade, the international authorities in charge of the region did not consider it necessary to conduct a detailed examination of these circumstances, or did so incompletely and superficially.
"The international organizations in place in Kosovo favoured a pragmatic political approach, taking the view that they needed to promote short-term stability at any price, thereby sacrificing some important principles of justice. For a long time little was done to follow-up evidence implicating KLA members in crimes against the Serbian population and against certain Albanian Kosovars."
This is not to deny the atrocities committed during the war by the other side, although I would venture to say accounts of alleged Serbian war crimes were vastly overstated for propaganda purposes. However, as Marty puts it:
"What emerged in parallel was a climate and a tendency according to which led to all these events and acts were viewed through a lens that depicted everything as rather too clear-cut: on one side the Serbs, who were seen as the evil oppressors, and on the other side the Kosovar Albanians, who were seen as the innocent victims. In the horror and perpetration of crimes there can be no principle of compensation. The basic essence of justice demands that everyone be treated in the same way."
Ignoring this basic principle of justice is the modus operandi of American foreign policy: when the Israelis commit aggression, they are only acting in "self-defense" – and we send them weapons with which to carry out what are clearly war crimes. When our Ukrainian sock-puppets bomb rebel cities from the air, inflicting horrific casualties on civilians, our response is to denounce "Russian aggression" – and give Kiev the means to kill more.
The Kosovo war has special meaning for me, and for this web site: Antiwar.com, in its present form, was essentially founded as a response to US intervention in the region. Our first supporters, financial and otherwise, were Serbian-Americans who were isolated by the war propaganda being beamed over the airwaves 24/7 and were grateful for our merciless devotion to separating truth from official mythology. I will always remember their steadfast support.
Back in those days – the late 1990s – my online column was entitled "Allied Farce: A Wartime Diary," a daily debunking of the lies and half-truths of the government-media complex. These pieces sometimes exceeded 5,000 words: yes, it often took that many words to untangle the threads of deception in which our government and their enablers in the media wrapped the facts.
Now, all these years later, the truth is finally coming out. This affords me minimal satisfaction, at best. It is sad indeed to note that it took that long for the facts to overtake the "narrative" – and that the families of the numerous victims of Kosovar savagery will probably never see true justice done. It sickens me to think that top US officials, including especially then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, shamelessly canoodled with the very KLA chieftains, such as Hacim Thaci, directly implicated in this gruesome organ-trafficking operation.
Which leads us to an interesting conclusion. If we look at the regimes US intervention has birthed in the post-Soviet era, they are one and all de facto dictatorships whose appalling crimes Washington has willfully looked away from. Kosovo – where a gangster state, the crime capital of Europe, sells the organs of its human victims: Iraq – a brutal theocracy where the Western concept of "human rights" is completely absent: Afghanistan – which boasts the most corrupt "government" on earth, its venality surpassed only by its weakness in the face of a Taliban onslaught. Not to mention Libya – which is fast taking the place of Somalia as a byword for utter chaos, and where our Ambassador was brutally murdered by those he had "liberated."
What these more recent cases have in common with Kosovo is the "humanitarian" rationale for intervention. In Kosovo, we were lectured on a daily basis by the Christiane Amanpours of this world that every moment we hesitated to intervene was a moral crime. In Iraq the neocons endlessly repeated the mantra that Saddam had "murdered his own people" and we therefore had a right and indeed a duty to invade. In Afghanistan, the rationale was more complicated but the sheer length of this war necessitated something more than a narrative of revenge and again the "humanitarian" angle was exploited: we weren’t invading a sovereign nation, we were "liberating" Afghan women by building schools. When it came Libya’s turn to bear the brunt of our humanitarian concern, the "responsibility to protect" theory of international relations so beloved by Samantha Power and her fellow "progressive" armchair warriors was applied: unless we turned NATO’s guns on Qaddafi, just as we had aimed them at Slobodan Milosevic, a "humanitarian catastrophe" was foretold at Benghazi. Of course, we did experience a catastrophe at Benghazi, albeit not quite the one Ms. Power had in mind.
This is why "humanitarianism" in foreign affairs is the biggest danger to peace and justice on earth: it unsheathes a sword that would otherwise go unstained and it valorizes the wicked in pursuit of a seamless and marketable war narrative.
The present leadership of Kosovo consists of a cabal of war criminals whose disgusting crimes surpass all human understanding. They should be hauled to the Hague forthwith, and I would call for the death penalty in this case. Human kidneys and other organs as the spoils of war? Death is too mild a fate for Thaci: his own kidney should be detached from his body and stuffed down Madeleine Albright’s lying throat.
Oh, and by the way: we still have US troops in Kosovo – indeed, last year we sent combat troops there, as this writer points out, for the first time in a decade. Why? Because the gangsters we put in charge are acting with all the brutality one might expect of the Albanian branch of the Mafia and the region is on the brink of yet another outbreak of violence. In the context of Washington’s new cold war against Russia, a re-eruption of the Kosovo war may well be a feature – not a bug – of the much-anticipated Clinton Restoration. And remember, it was Hillary who hectored a hesitant Bill into finally giving the order to bomb Belgrade, according to her admiring biographer. Like Albright, her fellow Democratic hawk, Hillary too had occasion to find herself in the arms of an organ-trafficker – apparently enjoying every second of it.