October 13, 2008

Resisting the United Nations

In Front of the Gate Vetevendosje.jpg

There is no love for the United Nations in Kosovo.

Kosovo is the fourth country I've visited where the UN has or has had a key role, and in only one of them – Lebanon – is the UN not despised by just about everyone. In Lebanon the UN has so little power to make a difference one way or the other that any anger at the institution would largely be pointless. In Bosnia, though, UN “peacekeepers” stood by impotently while genocide and ethnic-cleansing campaigns were carried out right in front of them. The UN's Oil for Food program was thoroughly corrupted by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq at the expense of just about everybody who lives there. Kosovo, meanwhile, declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, but the elected government is still subordinate to the almost universally despised UN bureaucrats who are the real power. Many Kosovars insist the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is actually a dictatorship.

Vetevendosje – “self-determination” in Albanian – was formed as a non-violent civil resistance movement against UN rule in a country that is supposed to be sovereign. Recently the European Union, which announced its own mission in Kosovo without being invited, was added to the list of opponents, but the UN remains the primary target. I attended one of Vetevendosje's rallies as an observer which began as a long march through the streets of Kosovo's capital Prishtina and ended at the United Nations headquarters where activists dumped a truckload of garbage inside the gate and hosed down the walls of the compound with sewage.

I spoke to Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti and activist Alex Channer in their office the day before the rally in Prishtina's bohemian Pejton neighborhood.

“So basically you are opposing the UN rule here, and the EU,” I said.

“Yes,” Kurti said, “because they are going to be installed here from above without having the previous consent of the people.”

Alvin Vetevendosje.jpg
Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti

“There was no referendum?” I said.

“No,” he said. “No referendum for their installment here, and also no referendum for the UN mission. And they are going to be above the law which they will by applying on us. Ironically the EU-elects will deal with the rule of law and will have the rule of law as their priority, but they themselves will be above the law.”

“Who decided that they are going to come in here?” I said.

“It was Martti Ahtisaari's plan, this Finnish diplomat who mediated between Prishtina and [Serbia's capital] Belgrade, he together with Javier Solana. Solana is in charge of security and Foreign Policy of the EU. They prepared a draft back in July of the year 2006, and that was included in a more detailed form by Ahtisaari in his proposal.”

“And Serbia agreed to this?” I said.

“No,” he said. “Serbia did not. But the Albanian politicians did. They don’t ask because then they would have to ask again later on, and then we could change our mind. It is a mission that would be totally unaccountable to us. There is no watch dog, and in this civilian group that is going to supervise us, the ICO, the International Civilian Office, has this Peter Feith, he is there as well. So basically he is going to watch himself.”

“So should I assume that if Kosovo is invited to join the EU the way the other countries have, you would say no?” I said.

“We wouldn’t say no,” he said. “We want Kosovo to be included in the EU because we are part of European soil. But as things stand now, they wouldn’t ask us at all, they would have to ask themselves because this is the EU mission. Even so, UNMIK is still here.”

Young Men and Women Vetevendosje.jpg
Young Albanian activists in support of Vetevendosje

UNMIK is the United Nations Mission in Kosovo. It has been the de-facto government of Kosovo since the Serbian government of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade lost control at the end of the 1999 war. Kosovo has its own nominal government, but it has little power.

“So you have UN rule,” Kurti continued, “which is not leaving, and you have the ICO and EU-elects about to come. They are doubling the bureaucracy here. And we are stuck because we depend on their consensus. That means we depend on their lowest common denominator. What they care about is stability, never development or progress. For them, a crisis is only an explosion of crisis. If there is huge unemployment, poverty, they don’t care.”

“So if the EU is administering Kosovo's government,” I said, “what does that mean for Kosovo’s government? Will they be subordinate to the EU or operating in parallel?”

“They will be subordinate,” he said, “because Peter Feith will have the right to sack our ministers and change our laws. So he is going to supervise the government. Peter Feith hopes he will not be challenged to use his powers where he can simply dismantle the parliament, call new elections, change a certain minister, or say this law is not good after it has been passed in our assembly. They are hoping for self-censorship from our government in order not to be challenged and not to use those powers which would unmask them as the dictatorship they really are. It is a dictatorship, but they do not want to be seen as one, so they say we are here only to supervise. They talk a lot with our prime minister and ministers, do this, do that, in order not to be seen in the background as a sort of monarchy.”

Angry Girl Vetevendosje.jpg

“What is their reason for wanting to do this?” I said.

“They mediate between Prishtina and Belgrade after overthrowing Milosevic,” he said, “and they simply don’t use any more sticks, only carrots. Serbia is very aggressive, and in order to make sure that Serbia is not going to be indignant, they say Yes, Kosovo is independent, but don’t worry, it is us there. That is one reason I think they are here.

“Second,” he continued, “every bureaucracy seeks self perpetuation. A lot of people here have very high salaries, and they are like big fishes in a small pond. And they are more or less all of them into this process of privatization. Because we cannot touch them legally, they have free hands to do whatever they want. Many of them got very rich. 80 percent of the money from the international community that was poured onto Kosovo in these nine years went for technical assistance, seminars, conferences, and so on. A lot of money is in their hands this way. They direct it. It's an authoritarian law. So I think this is another reason why they’re here.”

“Does the US have any position on this,” I said, “or has is been decided only by Europe?”

Alvin Interviewed While Walking 2.jpg
Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti interviewed at a rally

“Well,” he said, “the US recognized Kosovo as an independent sovereign country, but here you have a foreign office, and I don’t think this American office is really in line with the policy of Washington. It is another small king here, and I feel that it is not that different from the European perspective because the focus has been shifted elsewhere. The US focus was here during NATO intervention and so on, but later on somehow, especially after 9/11, the focus is elsewhere, and I don’t think George W. Bush and the State Department know very well what goes on here. I think in Kosovo all of their diplomats over time don’t get better, but worse, because they see that they can be very powerful here. They have no one to balance them. Our government is very submissive, obedient, and weak. On the other hand I think there is a great deal of interest to buy into the economy of Kosovo, with its assets and resources because they have no real constraints here. We have been defined as a special case, which means they can experiment, and everything is going to be fine. It's heaven on earth for these kinds of diplomats.”

“What kinds of things have the EU and the UN done here that are bad, specifically?” I said. “I get your general point, but what are the practical results of all this?”

“No economic development at all,” he said. “Zero. No factories. No industry. Nothing. The fiscal policy is terrible. They promised us a market economy, and we ended up in a market without an economy. Then there is the internal division of Kosovo. The North is divided from the rest. The red is Serb areas, and here are new municipalities about to be created by Ahtisaari’s plan where the soft partition is strengthening itself.”

Kosovo Wall Map Vetevendosje.jpg
Vetevendosje's Kosovo map. Serb enclaves are in red.

Kurti had a rough map of Kosovo on the wall behind the table we sat around. The Serb areas are shown in red, as Kurti said. The northern Serb areas are adjacent to Serbia.

“UNMIK has tolerated this,” he continued. “Now UNMIK is tolerating the elections of Serbia, so in a way UNMIK is tolerating Serbia’s intrusion and Serbian obstruction in Kosovo.”

Serbia held elections inside the Serb enclaves of Kosovo. These Kosovar Serbs did not elect representatives to send to Kosovo's capital Prishtina. They elected representatives to send to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, which is now, whether they like it or not, a foreign country. To get a handle on how strange this is, imagine if American citizens of Mexican descent in the formerly Mexican Southwestern United States voted for candidates to represent them in Mexico City.

“Why don't the EU and UN say no to Serbia?” I said. “Is it because they are trying to lure Serbia into the EU, or is it because they are afraid of more fighting?”

“I think they know very well that Serbia has not really been punished for the wars,” he said. “Serbian police and army forces killed around 200,000 non-Serbs. If one person killed 5 people, you have 40,000 serial murderers walking around inside Serbia. They are in the power structure, in the political parties, in the police, in the army. I think they are afraid of that. Instead of dealing with the principle of justice in Serbia, they are just playing this game of markets, who makes more pressure, who is more powerful, it is absolute real politics, and I think they care only for really short term stability. They don’t think any further than that. And they deal only with emergency situations. They don’t really see how structural is the cause of the conflict here. When they think about the security issue, stability, these are the words they use. Not freedom, liberty, development, and so on. They think in terms of troops they have and politicians they control, rather than in terms of the well being and situations of the ordinary citizens.”

Albin and Wall Map Vetevendosje.jpg

The biggest problem with the UN and EU missions in Kosovo, as many locals see it, is that there is no proper government that is actually in charge of the country. There is no fully sovereign entity in Kosovo. The country's sovereignty is parceled out piece by piece to different bureaucracies.

“Of the things UNMIK did wrong here, and the most damaging for Kosovo, was two-fold,” Kurti said. “Apart from UNMIK's very existence, and now the EU’s mission, it creates this duality of institutions. And this duality makes vague the address of who is responsible for the people. So currently a Kosovo citizen, like myself, is not able to know who is responsible for a bad social position, for example, or a lack of money. If you ask UNMIK they say it’s your institution, if you ask our government they say Oh, it’s UNMIK. This duality makes no institutions be or feel responsible for anything that happened or did not happen in Kosovo. And secondly, when UNMIK was installed here, they took in their hands all the mechanisms for controlling the states. They control the police and all the judicial systems as well, and they tolerated corruption, and they blame us for being a corrupt society. It was they who should have acted against corruption because they have the mechanisms in their hands. I as a citizen have no mechanisms to control the government. In normal democratic countries, as a citizen you are able to punish your leaders for not defending your interests. Here we don’t have that mechanism.”

“Does the EU and UNMIK have a base of support here?” I said to Kurti.

“The popularity of UNMIK is bad,” he said. “But people link UNMIK with NATO intervention which is another issue. And they think okay, it is like an extended intervention of the world. NATO intervention saved us from Serbia, and now it is UNMIK. When people think of this they think of the first year of UNMIK, the reconstruction of buildings and houses, the emergency phase.”

“Was UNMIK better then?” I said.

“That was better,” he said, “but also due to circumstances. Now the vast majority of people think very poorly of UNMIK. If you talk to a person from Kosovo about UNMIK they might say it is not that bad, but if you drink a beer with that person they will tell you what he really thinks.”

I didn’t have to drink beer with Kosovars to hear uniformly and relentlessly negative opinions of the United Nations. I didn’t meet a single person who approves of the performance of the UN. Anti-UN and anti-EU graffiti is common, and it sharply contrasts with the pro-American graffiti that is almost as common.

Thank You America Vitina Kosovo.jpg

All the graffiti I saw about the UN and the EU was negative. All the graffiti I saw about the US was positive, without exceptions.

No EU MIK LEX Vetevendosje.jpg
This graffiti appears on nearly every street in the capital opposing the EU Mission in Kosovo (MIK) and the imposed EU law (LEX).

Still, not everyone in Kosovo agrees with the folks at Vetevendosje about the European Union. Some are glad the European Union is stepping in.

“Part of our problem is we have no respect for the law,” said one Albanian man. “We haven’t had laws worth respecting. We need European law here.” For more than a half-century, laws were imposed on Kosovars first by communists, then by Milosevic's nationalist-socialists, and finally by unaccountable international bureaucrats with no base of support. At least EU bureaucrats exclusively hail from competent Western democracies.

The same man later criticized Vetevendosje. “They make good points,” he said, “but they don’t do much else. They criticize, but they don’t have any positive suggestions for what we should do instead.”

The activists at Vetevendosje are honest, though, about the fact that not everyone agrees with them about the EU.

“Sometimes you hear the argument about the EU mission that you don't hear about UNMIK,” Alex Channer said. “You hear You know, we need them because our politicians are so corrupt we can’t trust them, and the Europeans are somehow better than UNMIK.

Alex Vetevendosje.jpg
Vetevendosje activist Alex Channer

“UNMIK is not leaving because Resolution 1244,” Kurti said, “which established UNMIK here, is still in place, and it couldn’t be changed due to obstruction from Russia.”

“Why did Russia obstruct?” I said.

“Because Russia is with Serbia, and Serbia wants the UN to stay,” he said. “They like the UN very much.”

“So neither Serbia nor Kosovo want the EU here?” I said. “You are in agreement on that at least?”

Kurti and Channer laughed darkly.

“Serbia wants Kosovo,” Kurti said.

“So they want as few obstacles as possible,” I said.

“Right,” he said. “but in order to make it worse here. We are contesting it in order to make it better. They want to send us back into the 1990s.”

Two Women with Glasses Vetevendosje.jpg
Kosovo citizens at Vetevendosje's rally against the United Nations

“Because both the EU and the UN are divided about Kosovo’s status,” Channer said, “some states have recognized it, some states haven’t, that means these two themselves are divided inside Kosovo. They are divided outside in the orders they are getting for what to do. So what this means is you will only ever get the lowest common denominator. If they ever do get to a consensus what to do, they will just be treading water.”

“The main reason we oppose these kind of missions is because of the principle that we oppose being ruled by a foreign institution or mission,” Kurti said. “It doesn’t matter whether they are from the EU or the UN, the US, or Great Britain. Kosovo needs to govern itself. That is what we fight for. The international community can help Kosovo through missions, and I think Kosovo needs help from them, but it should be in the form of assistance and advisory boards, not rule. Currently what has happened with UNMIK, and what is going to happen with the EU law, is direct rule over Kosovo and direct control over Kosovo's political and social and economic life. That has not produced any good results, and is not going to produce any good results in the future”

“The government of Iraq has more sovereignty than you do,” I said.

That shocked them. Iraq is in vastly worse shape overall than Kosovo. And yet Iraq regained much more of its sovereignty in a shorter amount of time, even while fending off a ferocious insurgency and civil war.

“Do you have any kind of strategy to work against this?” I said. “Is there anything you can do?”

“Prevent the implementation of Ahtisaari’s plan on the ground,” he said. “Because this plan includes total ethnic decentralization. Ethnic decentralization will turn Kosovo into another Bosnia. Condoleeza Rice, three or four months ago, said that Bosnia is a failed state. It is dysfunctional twelve years after the Dayton Accords [which ended the war]. If you divide people according to their ethnicity, they will remain divided. UNMIK has always said amongst its declarations and press releases that they want a united Kosovo multi-ethnic society. But they always started from ethnicity. Albanians, Serbs, Turks, let's unite them, but first let's label them with their ethnicity. So they actually strengthen it. They don’t look at you as a student if you’re a student, or as a professor, or a housewife, or whatever, they have these ethnic lenses, and it is impossible to build multiethnicity if you start from what is different among people.”

Alvin Marching Vetevendosje.jpg
Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti

“I'm not saying that UNMIK should leave tonight,” he continued, “but let's have a timetable. In one month’s time, two month’s time, they should bit by bit depart from Kosovo.”

“Do they have any intention of slowly phasing out or are they just saying We’re here and we will stay until we feel like leaving?” I said.

“They have no deadline,” he said. “They say We are an interim mission, provisional, but this provisional has no deadline. No time limit. And actually it is they who extend the duration of the mission, always. It is no one else deciding but them. We know they will be staying here at least two years. They have a minimum for their stay here, but no maximum. And the majority of them are not good experts back home.”

“Well,” I said, “it's more of a mess than I expected.”

“Maybe I should add another reason why I think the EU is taking over,” he said. “The EU, or at least some of the people in Brussels, see themselves as a rising empire. The US is an empire, and you have three more empires – China, Russia, and the EU. Maybe in the future India and Brazil, but let’s leave that for now. If you are a rising empire, you must prove that you can manage a crisis outside yourself. So they send them in Darfur, they send them in Bosnia, they are now going to land with a parachute in Kosovo.”

*

I wanted some different opinions. Albin Kurti and Alex Channer are activists. That's fine as far as it goes, but I knew already that at least some local people are in favor of the European Union mission even if they don't like the United Nations.

I didn't actually meet any Kosovar Albanians who had anything nice to say about the United Nations, but it's possible that everyone is wrong and overreacting. So I asked some American soldiers based at Camp Bondsteel in Eastern Kosovo what they thought about the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.

“The people here want them to leave,” Captain Joseph Christenson said.

“Yes,” I said. “I know about that. But what is your opinion of UNMIK?”

No American soldier felt comfortable answering that. US military personnel rarely discuss politics on the record, and that's probably for the best. So they artfully dodged the question without fully dodging it.

“Do you remember the guy who came in and talked to us about UNMIK and why the citizens don’t like them very much?” said Specialist Yaw to Captain Christenson.

“Yes,” Captain Christenson said. “What citizens have told us is that part of the reason they don’t like them is that UNMIK has people in leadership positions who come from countries that are worse off than Kosovo.”

“I guess what I’m really asking,” I said, “is are the locals right?

“I know a lot of people are excited for the EU to come,” Lieutenant Meyer said.

I'll let you read between the lines of that conversation.

I heard a complaint similar to the one Captain Christenson described from entrepreneur Luan Berisha.

“I was going to go to Macedonia,” he told me, “and a UN guy from Ghana on the border asks for papers. I gave him random papers that weren't documents, just to joke with him, and he said Thank you sir, good day, you can go. I said give me your supervisor. So a guy from Germany comes up and says can I see your papers. I said those are my papers in your hand. He said These papers are nothing! I said I know, and this guy was going to let me go through with just a 'good day!' The German guy went crazy. When you send a mission to a troubled country, you have to send people who are educated, who will create the rule of law. But to send idiots – I swear to God, I was so mad. They came from Africa and got their drivers licenses in Kosovo. There were several kids who were killed by these guys crashing into them. Nobody cares. The UN is mad.”

“Would you accept being part of the EU?” I said.

“Of course,” he said. “Everybody would. If there was a referendum everybody would vote for it.”

Even the activists at Vetevendosje want to join the European Union. They just want European Union laws implemented democratically. They don't want an EU dictatorship.

The day after I met Kurti and Channer, thousands of Vetevendosje activists marched through the streets from the Pejton neighborhood to the United Nations headquarters downtown.

Three Organizers Vetevendosje.jpg
Three Vetevendosje rally organizers

Vetevendosje Filling Street.jpg
Vetevendosje fills the streets of Prishtina

One Man Two Women Vetevendosje.jpg
Vetevendosje activists

Several leaders delivered thunderous speeches from the tops of trucks as citizens rallied around.

Microphone and Beer Ad Vetevendosje.jpg

Alvin on Truck Vetevendosje.jpg

The rally had a destination and purpose. Hundreds of bags of garbage filled with the usual urban refuse – discarded paper towels, empty potato chip bags, banana peels, candy wrappers, aluminum cans, crumpled cigarette packages, etc. – were loaded into a truck. That truck was driven to the gate of the UN headquarters and parked facing away from it. A surging crowd gathered around the truck. Volunteers donned face masks and rubber gloves and prepared to hurl the bags of garbage over the front gate and into the compound.

Crowd at Gate Vetevendosje.jpg
The crowd gathers around the garbage truck at the gate to the United Nations headquarters

UN policemen guarded the gate itself. There wasn't much they could do to prevent demonstrators from throwing trash into the compound, but they weren't going to let anyone into the compound themselves.

UN Police Vetevendosje.jpg
UN policemen protect the UN's headquarters in Prishtina

The crowd roared its approval when the truck's tailgate was lowered and bags of trash were exposed for the UN policemen to see.

Opening the Truck Vetevendosje.jpg

Faceoff Vetevendosje.jpg

Vetvendosje's masked garbage hurlers faced down the police. Everyone seemed tense on each side, but violence was not in the air. This wasn't a riot. It was theater. Vetevendosje activists were genuinely angry at the corrupt and incompetent officials, and the UN police were angry at the rabble-rousing civilians, but they weren't at war.

Handing the Garbage Vetevendosje.jpg

Near-bursting bags of garbage were efficiently unloaded from the truck bed and handed from person to person until they reached the hands of activists standing ready at the gate. When the garbage started flying, it really flew – at least a dozen bags of trash were hurled into the air every second. Some of the bags landed with sickening splats. The smell of rotting refuse was horrendous.

Throwing Garbage Vetevendosje.jpg

Garbage in Flight Vetevendosje.jpg

Garbage in Flight Vetevendosje 2.jpg

The activists brought out a tank of sewer water with a hose attached. God only knows where they got it, but they got it. Then a masked and gloved activist sprayed reeking raw sewage onto the outer walls of the UN headquarters building. The police watched stoically and did not interfere.

Spraying Sewer Water Vetevendosje.jpg

Garbage Inside UN Compound Vetevendosje.jpg

Albin Kurti explained himself and his movement to United Nations officials in a written statement a few days after the rally. “For a long time you have been truly creating trash,” he wrote. “This time you are stinking.”

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 13, 2008 11:44 PM
Comments

Freedom babes!

Posted by: gus3 Author Profile Page at October 14, 2008 9:18 AM

I would suggest a dozen or so trebuchets. They can be placed hundreds of yards from the UN compound and with a little practice can probably deliver bundles of last week's pizza and diapers accurately.

Posted by: Pat Patterson Author Profile Page at October 14, 2008 4:14 PM

I have mixed feelings on this:
On one hand an UMNIK was needed (think of million+ refugees returning and seeing their entire lives destroyed, many with guns as well).
On the other hand, it has been there for too long. Tens of billions have been spent paying UN salaries and funding studies when $5 billion invested (not handouts) would have made a great difference. I wish an EU based organization had taken over sooner, but what's done, it's done.

I don't know if throwing garbage is the right way to protest, but it's good that Kurti is protesting, it keeps their feet to the fire a little bit. It seems that EULEX will be coming in line soon and EU realizes that some investments need to be made. Kosovo has the youngest population on Europe and salaries are much cheaper anywhere so someone should make them a mini-China at least for a while.

One thing that is scary, and Kurti got it right: Apart from a few dozen Serb officials, no one has been jailed or reprimanded for what they have done. The people who really did they stuff are walking freely in Serbia. In fact, many Serbs have convinced themselves that they are the real victims (yet again! See this: http://www.iwpr.net/?p=bcr&s=f&o=252185&apc_state=henibcr1999 ), whereas the "ustase Croats," 'Jihadist Bosniaks' and "Drug dealing terrorist Albanians" are the real criminals. What Serbs 'allegedly' did 'happens in every war,' Serbs were provoked, and 'others did bad things too.' It's amazing what you read on some Serb and Orthodox forums.

Just last week, Tadic said that reconciliation should start but that Croatia should apologize to Serbia. The ideology that unleashed the wars, the rapes and mass graves is still there, and so are almost all of the people that supported it. EU would make a huge mistake to open EU's door to Serbia unless they come to grips with what they have done and apologize sincerely. The process is usually called de[insert name] deNazification, de-Baathification etc. There is no way around it.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at October 14, 2008 6:11 PM

Fascinating as always, Michael, and all too missing from the NYT, etc.

Posted by: rob Author Profile Page at October 14, 2008 7:22 PM

I think East Timor appreciated the UN? Although that might be more a matter of Australia's involvement than anything particularly wonderful about the UN's role.

And yes I know you were speaking only to those countries you've visited where there is or has been a significant UN presence. Just trying to find something positive to say about the UN, an organization only as successful as its member states wish it to be, which is to say pretty much not at all.

Great pictures.

Posted by: Bennett Author Profile Page at October 14, 2008 9:24 PM

Michael why do you keep giving extensive unchallenged coverage to people like Albin Kurti, a radical and extremist?

I got as far as this open lie from him and stopped reading:

"Serbian police and army forces killed around 200,000 non-Serbs".

This is pure and utter nonsense, and since he really ought to know better, I suspect a calculated lie.

He knows it, you know it and I know it, but you are the one propagating it here to an unsuspecting audience who accept it uncritically.

Did you do your homework at all on this guy and his movement?

Vetevendosje are a radical group, Michael. They are the Albanian version of the Serb Radical Party ("No negotiation - Self-determination!").

They are loathed by Kosovan moderates.

Even the Macedonian Albanians would have nothing to do with them when they tried to take their radicalism there.

Let me quote you a little piece from Nick McNulty back in 2007:
Vetevendosje is the movement led by radical Albin Kurti, and it's goal is nothing short of an all-Albanian Kosovo.

He is Kosovo's answer to Slobodan Milosevic, no less arch-nationalist, though motivated more by ethnic martyrdom than consolidating an empire as Slobo was.

His movement's position is that the Ahtisaari proposal grants too much freedom to Kosovo Serbs, using Bosnia as a point of reference.

In modern Bosnia, there is an autonomous region known as Republika Sprski, the Serb Republic, that is a de facto Serb nation(the Bosnian war amounted to a land grab between Croatia and Serbia, with Bosniaks caught in the middle).

The Serbians brought this about by declaring regions of Bosnia to be Serbian nations unto themselves, such as in Knin. Kurti uses this as a reference for what is to come for Kosovo, and thus decries any powers granted to Serbs in Kosovo, and apparently, the removal from Kosovo of all Serbs - an international non-starter for obvious reasons - is the only acceptable outcome for the budding nation-state.

This is what the protest in Prishtine was about, and it had a hostile edge to it from inception. To add to this, the UN in Kosovo is viewed with general distrust here, much as us Americans are viewed as well respected saviors. So, when the UNMIK (UN Mission in Kosovo) Police were part of the riot response, along with Kosovo Police Force officers, things boiled over. 2 people were killed during the riots, still pending autopsies. Initial reports were from rubber bullets, and the UNMIK police commissioner has since been sacked.

Sentiment on the Albanian street is that it is a tragedy for young Albanians to die like this, but most of the people here bear a bit of resentment towards the Vetevendosje movement, as these incidents jeopardize a peaceful transition to democratic independence for Kosovo.

So here you are giving exposure and full voice to Kosovo's most ardent ethnic nationalist bigot, and you expect people like me to believe you have even a scintilla of balance when it comes to the Balkans?

I am sorry, you are busted for me. Not just an open apologist for Kosovars, but for radical Kosovars.

For those who might want to have a more balanced and frankly honest assessment of what is going on in Kosovo, one that takes into account the Serbian view which we have yet to hear about here, take a look at Ian Bancroft's column in the Guardian (just google him).

I also track Kosovo matters occasional on my Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club blog and Limbicnutrition.

On a lighter note there is something delightful and deeply symbolic about Albanian ingrates throwing rubbish at their UN sponsors. Kind of like when you hear about those Red-on-Red contacts in Iraq...

Posted by: Jonathan Davis Author Profile Page at October 15, 2008 9:39 AM

Jonathan,

If you think Kurti is a racist bigot, prove it by quoting something he said that was racist or bigoted. I didn't hear him say anything of the sort, nor have I seen him quoted saying anything of the sort.

He did, however, say this:

“Because this plan includes total ethnic decentralization. Ethnic decentralization will turn Kosovo into another Bosnia. Condoleeza Rice, three or four months ago, said that Bosnia is a failed state. It is dysfunctional twelve years after the Dayton Accords [which ended the war]. If you divide people according to their ethnicity, they will remain divided. UNMIK has always said amongst its declarations and press releases that they want a united Kosovo multi-ethnic society. But they always started from ethnicity. Albanians, Serbs, Turks, let's unite them, but first let's label them with their ethnicity. So they actually strengthen it. They don’t look at you as a student if you’re a student, or as a professor, or a housewife, or whatever, they have these ethnic lenses, and it is impossible to build multiethnicity if you start from what is different among people.”

He's right about that, you know. And what he's saying isn't bigoted. It's a point of view known in America as desegregationist, and it comes out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at October 15, 2008 9:54 AM

I found this to be an informative and interesting piece on a movement within Kosovo that I have long heard about, but tends to get limited coverage in the English language press.

But I must challenge a huge straw man argument made with regards to Kosovo Serbs. "To get a handle on how strange this is, imagine if American citizens of Mexican descent in the formerly Mexican Southwestern United States voted for candidates to represent them in Mexico City."

Kosovo's Serbs have little to no reason to support a state which is formed on the basis of Albanian ethnicity. Sure, we have the 6 stars representing the "6 ethnicties of Kosovo." Keep in mind one of those ethnicites is Roma, a community targeted by Albanians in Kosovo. Another of those is the Gora, a Muslim slavic group who just had a school destroyed this past week by Albanian authorities. Another is the Turkish minority, which seems reasonably satisifed, but has complained about historic Albanification, which could accelerate. Then we have the Bosniaks, who have complained of marginalization in the new Kosovo, although they do have a party in the ruling coalition. So, this "6 ethnicities of Kosovo" seems to be something resembling wishful thinking of EU and not a reality. Multi ethnic Kosovo seems to be something similar to the multi ethnic Cyprus promised by Makarios.

I accept the idea that Kosovo has a strong case for self-determination, but the idea that its borders must be sacrosanct is an arbitrary proposition. Many countries have not yet accepted Kosovo as independent, although I believe it's a fait accompli. For Serbia not to try to offer some representation to its marginalized people in Kosovo would be criminal. The Mexico example only works if you consider Mexico just like Serbia has part of its land detached by force. Any other comparisons are illegitimate.

Posted by: JP_Fener Author Profile Page at October 15, 2008 12:29 PM

> Vetevendosje are a radical group, Michael. They are the Albanian version of the Serb Radical Party ("No negotiation - Self-determination!").

Serbian Radicals cheered on by the Radical Serbian Church called openly for killing the 'shiptars,' Croats and the 'Turks' (Bosniaks, who ironically have a lot more indigenous blood than Serbs.) Kurti is protesting, and wants true independence that's all. Show me a group of Albanians who still want to be under Serbian rule, or 'moderates' as you called them. You wont find many, so that is not for negotiation, since we had autonomy once.

> They are loathed by Kosovan moderates.

Maybe because it may seem as ungrateful but not because of what you're trying to point say. The ones wanting to independence aren't the radicals, they are 99% of the people, but nice try, trying to make the Albanian who want independence radicals.

> Even the Macedonian Albanians would have nothing to do with them when they tried to take their radicalism there.

Really? You know that they grabbed arms against FYROM right until they got equal rights? They were much better armed than KLA and FYROM almost collapsed even with Ukrainian mercenaries so I don't see how Kurti is more radical. What you are trying to do is smear the other side to make yourself look better. An old Serbian tactic. Being called a radical by the Serbs is a compliment, a 'good shiptar' or 'Croat' will just roll over for the 'chosen people.' Limpic, next time the term 'Serbophobia' to put the others in a more defensive position, it really works, and of course it exists.

-----------------------

>> Kosovo's Serbs have little to no reason to support a state which is formed on the basis of Albanian ethnicity. Sure, we have the 6 stars representing the "6 ethnicties of Kosovo." Keep in mind one of those ethnicites is Roma, a community targeted by Albanians in Kosovo. Another of those is the Gora, a Muslim slavic group who just had a school destroyed this past week by Albanian authorities. Another is the Turkish minority, which seems reasonably satisifed, but has complained about historic Albanification, which could accelerate. Then we have the Bosniaks, who have complained of marginalization in the new Kosovo, although they do have a party in the ruling coalition. So, this "6 ethnicities of Kosovo" seems to be something resembling wishful thinking of EU and not a reality. Multi ethnic Kosovo seems to be something similar to the multi ethnic Cyprus promised by Makarios.

Well, 90% is Albanian, what do you expect them to do, invent a new Yugoslav identity or give everyone a veto? Serbs right now are torn between being traitors and cooperating or staying still, a pawn in the game. The Serbian government wants them to stay that way so the propaganda machine can point out the "concentration camps" where Serbs leave, and the animosity.

Relations aren't as good as they should be, but they aren't as bad as Serbs make them either:
top-channel.tv/new/video.php?id=612 (Serbs and Albanians trying to make a living in the market, no one cares)
From http://www.b92.net/eng/news/society-article.php?yyyy=2008&mm=10&dd=13&nav_id=54203

"“None of the EULEX representatives have asked for a meeting in order to establish any type of cooperation. But, we would most certainly have said no,” Arsić told B92.

“Our relation with international representatives is very stereotype. They have taken upon themselves to reconstruct an elementary school here in Gračanica."

"The American government has invested in the renovation, but when the time came for the opening, the director feared showing up with a U.S. diplomat,” Trajković said, adding that had he done a thing like that "at the time they recognized Kosovo, he would have been perceived as a traitor“. "

Or you can check BBC. Roma are targeted anywhere, sadly, no less in Serbia. When it comes to -nization, ask the Vlachs, Romanians and the Hungarians in Serbia.

The school in Gora unless you know the details you really should not comment.
Serbia has been provoking to get a reaction with medicine (sending it with no paperwork and saying "Albanians want Serbs dead') and now building with no permits, after reapeated warnings.
They rile up a few gullible people, but EU knows, and Serbs go well into minus territory when it comes to credibility.
Just today Serbia announced that it will send agro help to non-Albanians in Kosovo, no doubt to make the Albanians respond in kind so he can get a headline:
"Kosovo Minister Goran Bogdanović said that other ministries would also do their bit to help Serbs and other non-Albanians living in Kosovo, adding that it was a good way to bolster the Serb community in the province and show that Serbia was pursuing a consistent policy towards Kosovo."

You cannot have Kosovo divided in 100 different village size sections sprinkled all over the country with different police and laws. It doesn't work and it's another war waiting to happen. On the other hand, we can't have 90%+ go back to being second class because 5%-7% don't like it. Serbs and others in Kosovo should get the same rights Albanians, Hungarians etc have in Serbia. Why would anyone complain then?

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at October 15, 2008 5:05 PM

Guys,

Please, forgive my ignorance. When you say Roma who do you mean, Romanians, Gypsies or somebody else? Just curious.

Thank you.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at October 15, 2008 5:44 PM

Roma is Gypsies in today's politically correct atmosphere, but if you go on youtube, every other Balkan person calls the other nation 'gypsies.' :)

Limpic, you must have missed Nick's other post:
"Slobodan earned Kosovo's independence"
Here’s a letter I just sent into the Boston Herald. Some Serb living in Acton sent a letter to the Herald responding to a Kosovo editorial last week with the usual “Albanians are terrorists, this sets a bad precedent, the US will rue the day!!!” Serbian rhetoric. Here’s my response;
As a member of the Massachusetts National Guard who has recently returned from a year long tour in Kosovo as a NATO peacekeeper, I feel compelled to respond to the letter by Michael Pravica of Acton - surely formerly of Serbia – in Friday’s Herald(“Kosovo earns nothing”). During my time in Kosovo I saw no acts of terrorism, just peaceful protest from Vetevendosje – the pro-Independence student movement – and seemingly endless patience from the citizens and politicians working with the west to settle the province’s future status while their economy stagnates in UN supported stasis...
Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at October 15, 2008 6:15 PM

Several points to nameless-fool

1) "de nazification" of Serbia is an extremely partisan position to take considering the various degrees of ultra nationalism on all sides of the conflict. Serbia was not a "victim" as its nationalists claim, but neither does "Greater Serbia" explain everything about the conflict. The idea that some people still link Milosevic to Karadzic and Mladic is evidence of this partisanship, given how much the didn't get along. Milosevic was a pathetic thug who did everything to stay in power, concerned with power and not a true ultra-nationalist. Karadzic and Mladic were ultra-nationalists.

2) Per Kosovo, this clock did not begin in 1999. The emigration of Kosovo Serbs during the period of autonomous rule shows that tension existed well before Milosevic. And no, I am not arguing "genocide" like some Serb ultra-nationalists do. But I am not going to dismiss all testimony of Serbs who left during this time that they were pressured.

3) Many English language Turkish sources have run stories talking about Albanian nationalists denying Turkish identity in Kosovo and Macedonia. While it seems better now, we can't just pretend Albanian nationalism doesn't have its own dark history. I don't personally know about the school in Gora, but it seems that as Slavs they are under pressure. Michael is right, this is not about religion. I regret that Serbian lobbyists play the "jihad" card, it's false. But, similarly I find it difficult to believe that groups like Goranci, Bosniaks, and Turks will not face some discrimination by Albanian nationalists. BIRN has run stories on Bosniaks attacked for speaking their language for instance. Yes, Roma face discrimination everywhere, but their plight in "pluralist" Kosovo has been so acute that having them as one of the ethnicities on the flag is a really a farcical joke at best. Or is nationalism only deplorable when Serbs are its propagators? Much western analysis is fraught with a "hierarchy of nationalism" paradigm, in which some forms of ultra-nationalism were acceptable (ie.. Tudjman, and Izetbegovic's treatment of Adil Zulfikarpašić and Fikret Abdić) and others not.

4) Serbia should seek to support any community in Kosovo which has any affinity to Belgrade (no matter how mild) until the ICJ ruling. To bow over like some 21st century vassal to the Bush Administration and EU, and not contest the ruling would be a tremendous submission to American hegemony. Yes, ICJ is not binding, and no it won't change anything most likely. But atleast it will give some international legal opinion. It's fine if the US and UK think international law is something that can only be invoked to support regimes run by Columbia education lawyers, but many people disagree. I believe Kosovo has a better case for independence than any other frozen conflict. But, LET that case be made. US and EU states have rejected Serbia's offers without any analysis. We were NEVER told why an Aland or Hong Kong model was infeasible. I had to go to Russia Today, a station that I normally find too pro-Kremlin to get an actual discussion of these models. Do you see how sad this is?

To end.. I regret that Serbian diaspora does not know how to sell and promote itself on a principled Kosovo position. By focusing on so-called Jihad, defending Milosevic's brutal counter-insurgency, bringing up arguments of Serbia's "Jerusalem," and by focusing on mafia issues as if only Albanians have mafia (hello... Zemun Clan) they have put up an incoherent defense, when there is moral high ground to be claimed. But the fact that some so-called followers of international law are angry that their unilateral decision will actually be evaluated by an objective third party (non biding no less) tells us alot about the hubris of those who support only independence.

Posted by: JP_Fener Author Profile Page at October 16, 2008 4:33 AM

nameless-fool,

Thank you

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at October 16, 2008 8:39 PM

JP,
The problem is not one person or two or three, it's the ideology that exists in Serbia. You can back to Njegos and Serbian ideology that claims everything Serbia: Dubrovnik ('built on Serbian rock,') Croats are Catholic Serbs, Bosnia is a fake country, Kosovo is Serbian for eternity because Lazar chose the heavenly Kingdom for Serbs (when in fact he surrendered to save his life, although it didn't work) and the sense of superiority based on lies. Imagine what claims Serbs would make if they were like the Albanians, indigenous, instead of having come as part of the Slavic hordes in the 7th century?

Slobodan found the fertile ground setup by the Serbian 'Church,' Dobrica Cosic, and SANU (Serbian Academy of Arts; Serbia's brightest minds) and he exploited for his own power and Serbs loved him, until he brought misery to them when the Serbian plan backfired. As you know, your 'Church' supported Karadzic and Mladic over Slobodan, Slobodan was too nice for their taste:

"...not a single important decision was made without the Church...our clergy is present in all of our deliberations" (Karadzic, Google it on G Books)
Can you point a retraction of made by the Church or SANU post 1999, other than sorrows that it didn't work--this time? Nope! I can point out where Serbian Bishops called for a new war, Karadzic was praised a hero and Albanians were called 'occupiers' by Dacic, Serbia's current Interior Minister, and 'criminals, illegal aliens' etc by everyone else.
Today, Serbia's acting Patriarch:
"Amid such injustice [supposedly Serbs in Kosovo are being mistreated], there cannot be peace," Amfilohije said in an interview late on Thursday at his headquarters in the Monastery of Cetinje in Montenegro. "It will be the root of future conflict, that is as clear as the day." (google a sentence)

Hong Kong Model

This, of course, explains why the "Hong Kong Model" does not work. It merely sets up the Albanians for another massacre and eventual expulsion, as Serbs will have the troops in Kosovo
under that model and Albanians will have no army or guns the next time Serbs see an opening...like the did in 1999 and when they removed the autonomy. It's clear Serbs don't see Albanians as their citizens, they just want the land without the people. The land belongs to the people that live in it, and since Albanians are also autochtones they have double claims in it. As a state Kosovo can make defense agreements with Albania and maybe Croatia, have an army and plenty of weapons, just in case. Let the Serbs try it again.

As far as Serbs being pressured. We can back as far as you want but eventually we will see that Serbs came to the Balkans, not the other way around. When Russia sought to make the Balkans a new Russia in 1700's, problems truly started. You can read it all here gutenberg.org:80/files/19669/19669.txt (chapter 9 and up) or any history book will tell you the struggle between the world powers that sought to limit Russia from making the entire region Slave. Russia, after securing Serbia's autonomy and independence, armed, financed and gave the Serbs carte blanche to expel /kill the Albanian from Nis (100% populated by Albanians) in 1878. By then, Albanians knew that this was a war, so they were armed and fought against the Turks, Serbs and Bulgars.)

You can read it here albanianhistory.net/en/texts20_1/AH1913_1.html the Serbian massacres of 1912 -1918 as reported by the newspapers:
"the Frankfurter Zeitung writes: In the case in question, it seems to have been regular Serbian troops who committed the massacre. But there is no doubt whatsoever that even the heinous massacres committed by irregulars were carried out with the tacit approval and in full compliance with the will of the Serbian authorities." At the beginning of the war we ourselves were told quite openly by a Serbian official: "We are going to wipe out the Albanians." Despite European protests, this systematic policy of extermination is continuing unhindered. As a result, we regard it as our duty to expose the intentions of the Serbian rulers. The gentlemen in Belgrade will then indignantly deny everything, knowing full well that journalistic propriety prevents us from mentioning names. "

They are many more such stories, very similar to 1999 at that URL address. This paper written by a US philosopher, titled "Who Deserves Kosovo? An Argument from Social Contract Theory" href="http://www.seep.ceu.hu/archives/issue61/herbert.pdf gives a summary of Serbian crimes from 1912 till 1999 (including the brutal colonization in 1920's, expulsions to Turkey, Rankovic etc) as well and explains why Kosovo has to be independent, as that is the only way for the Albanians to have be able to live like human beings.

Legally speaking, the Kosovo (actually Albanians but they make 92% so it's 'Kosovo') have declared independence, and have asked the world for recognitions. So far 51 countries have said so. The process is continuing. At the end of WWII there were 50 or so states, now we have 192, so this is nothing new. You cannot kill, rapes, try to expel and than still hope rule the same people, it doesn't work that way. There are laws and Serbia got caught. Russia. China and African countries might get away with it, as Serbia did for 100 years, but it still not right. The fact that Serbs have not shown any remorse for 1998-99, but instead engaged in a propaganda war to demonize the victims, only makes it clear they have not changed.

On minorities in Kosovo:
They "might face discrimination isn't enough," I am sorry. Albanians in Presevo (still in Serbia) have 70% unemployment due to purposeful state neglect and Serbia even stopped recognizing Albanian language diplomas. If Serbia doesn't consider them citizens then they should be able to join Kosovo. What Turkish papers say it doesn't matter, i can point several Hungarian diaspora sites that say the same about Hungarians in Vojvodina. Either way, no one appointed Serbia a guardian on non-Serbs anywhere. if there is a problem, they can take it up with the EULEX or UN.

Serb officials are notorious liars and propagandists, one only needs to see how they lied about the 'genocide against Serbs' to provide an excuse for a police state and autonomy revocation of Kosovo (please everyone read how the entire country was up in arms based on lies http://books.google.com/books?um=1&q=sanu+serbia+kosovo

"Albanians are raping our women"
'Albanians are ...'
when in truth crime (including rape) was lower in Kosovo than ALL other regions, and out of 5 inter-ethnic murders, three were done by Serbs.
These new allegations [Serbia's Church said that NATO is bombing Serbian Orthodox monasteries] against NATO are ominously similar to Serb nationalists' charges in 1986 that Kosovar Albanians were destroying the monasteries. This charge was combined with other inflammatory allegations that Kosovar Albanians were illegal immigrants who should be expelled; that Albanians were using their high birth rate as a tool to commit" demographic genocide" against Kosova's Serb minority; and that they were carrying out widespread rapes of Serb women. In 1986, Serbian Orthodox bishops repeated these allegations and charged that genocide was being carried out against Serbs in Kosova. The same charges were repeated in the famous "Memorandum" written by Serbian intellectuals attacking the Yugoslav constitution and the autonomy of Kosova. In this inflamed environment, Slobodan Milosevic made his leap to power by promising he would protect the Serb people and their shrines against their enemies.

What was the truth of these frightening allegations? There were genuine grievances by both Serbs and Albanians in Kosova, and both groups felt threatened. But Serb independent journalists and human rights workers found the more inflammatory charges to be total fabrications. A study of police records in Kosova showed only one rape of an ethnic Serb by an Albanian in an entire year. Similarly, the alleged destruction of Serb shrines turned out to involve isolated cases of vandalism, graffiti, and cutting of trees on church property -- hate crimes, perhaps, but surely not the organized, genocidal annihilation that was claimed.

Yet the charge that Albanians were out to destroy Serb sacral heritage had a life independent of any evidence to the contrary. The charge fed into a mythologized history that presented the Ottoman Turks and native Balkan Muslims as obsessed with eradicating Serbs and Serbian sacred sites. Serb nationalists make this charge repeatedly -- despite the survival of this magnificent heritage through five centuries of Ottoman rule amidst Albanian neighbors and despite the Ottoman record of supporting the Serbian Orthodox patriarchate and authorizing the building and repair of Serbian churches.

If Serbia had treated Albanians better, and if they had invested in Kosovo like in the rest of Yugo (it was a socialist state, yet factories were everywhere but Kosovo; they only took minerals) Serbs would have found jobs and stayed. Kosovo's per capita was several times lower and many more Albanians left Kosovo than Serbs, even percentage wise.

Almost all Albanian immigrants in Europe and USA until 1990's were from Kosovo, as Albania was closed. Why would you stay in Kosovo if you had the option to make 3 times as much in Vojvodina, or Germany? People leave NJ or CA for North Carolina based on a few % in taxes all the time.

And don't blame the diaspora. It's hard to make a good argument for wanting to kill and expel 2 million people, so they saw terrorism in the news and "Albanians are Terrorists," they saw that people hate illegal immigration and called Albanians illegal immigrants as well. Too bad they failed on all counts and now are branded as liars, no matter how much they twist their lies. As liars, they did pretty good, too bad only fools believed them.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at October 17, 2008 11:20 AM

Oh dear.. your starting point seems to be that nationalism and historical myth making was the sole preserve of the Serbs.

The Croatian nationalists indulged in the very same idea (including the idea that Bosnian Muslims were Islamized Croats). My very point is that almost no one has come clean on World War II. Draza is venerated and the crimes of the Chetniks are ignored. Bosnian Muslims refuse to talk about their role in allying with Nazis and expelling Serbs and Sarajevo's Jews. Croatians still dont want to come clean on Jasenovac, and have modern day rock bands like Thompson that are every bit as fascistic as some of the Serbian turbo folk. Albanians tend to forget their role in expelling and killing Kosovo Serbs in that time period during their dalliance with the SS. Serbian nationalism is not uniquely delusional nor unique in the way in manifested itself in after Yugoslavia fell apart.

"As you know, your 'Church' supported Karadzic and Mladic"

My church? I am not Serbian. If you bothered to research my handle, you would realize Fener is a Turkish word, although I am not Turkish either. But I do feel that Serbs and Turks have been unfairly portrayed in the west for different issues. If you assumption is that anyone who challenges jacobin narratives that try to apportion all blame for everything entirely on Serbia must be a Serb, then I can see how deep your bias is.

First off.. you leave out the fact that Milosevic was athiest, of course the Serbian Orthodox Church didn't support him. That the Serbian Orthodox Church played a role in national fervor is indisputable. Of course it also had its positive members, such as its Kosovo branches shielding Albanians from JNA attacks. So, the black and white narrative crumbles. It is also not unique, when you consider the role Bosnian Muslim clerics played inflaming their people and the Catholic church played in Croatian nationalism.

The current Serbian government is not Milosevic regime. There will be no more 1999 style attacks. Yet how it is any better that many KLA people are allowed with impunity into the Kosovo Police force, when many of their crimes are unaccounted for? I sense a hierarchy of victims attitude in your overall approach.

I agree with you on Presevo, Serbia must treat it fairly or risk losing the loyality of its civilians. I agree also that the 1999 regime had reason to be despised by Albanians. But similarly after all the failures to secure safety for Serbs, Roma, Gora and others in post 1999 Kosovo, these minorities (Serbs being the most statistically relevent) have equal reason to despise the Pristina regime.

Frankly I wish Kosovo Serbs were smarter and saw the writing on the wall. They should demand a bi-communal federation, something similar to what Turkish Cypriots will demand for reunification of Cyprus. Of course demographically they have fewer numbers than Turkish Cypriots, but this is largely due to the emigration post 99 and lack of chance to return safely.

I agree with you on Belgrade's failure to make any attempt to win hearts and minds of Albanians in Kosovo. Although in Rankovic's day, it was more due to desire for "centralization" than any nationalist ideals. Misha Glenny argues this in his book, and Glenny is no Serb sympathizer.

Lastly.. re Macedonia. Is it really so simple? Do Albanian equal rights include the right to purge Slavs from areas like Tetovo or to deny that Turks are Turks, but really Albanians? There were legitimate grievances for sure, but Ali Ahmeti and Arben Xhaferi were not noble freedom fighters. The western media indulged in a pro-Albanian line during that time period, because NATO clients will always get favored media coverage. I've only seen a few independent journalists write about that war during that time period, Christopher Deliso (his dispatches from Tetovo showing how wealthy the mafia backed NLA people were at that time period was eye opening) being the most prominent among them. For all its flaws though, it seems Ohrid has worked and has stemmed seperatist actions for the time being.

What frustrates me about all this is the self-congratultory jacobinism of the big media that led us into the Kosovo war. The "herd of independent minds" (to quote Chomsky) is seemingly intolerant of any dissent that 1999 was a black and white narrative. It very clearly wasn't. If we were just to say that Kosovo should be independent because we need to satisfy the long neglected Albanian demands for exclusive domain of the state, I'd respect that. It would be an honest statement. The demographics are in Albanians favor, hey they were even 70% atleast back in 1912. But this claptrap that Kosovo's leadership is dedicated to a multiethnic society or that non-Albanians will feature in some rich Kosovan tapestry is nonsense.

The main question is North Kosovo. Perhaps autonomy for it would make sense, although I see the need for this to be tied to concessions in Presevo.

Fair enough?

Posted by: JP_Fener Author Profile Page at October 17, 2008 9:55 PM

>> The current Serbian government is not Milosevic regime. There will be no more 1999 style attacks.

Well, that settles it then. Oh wait, what about the one that was elected early this year, or the one that might be elected next year? What party was the most popular early this year in Serbia? If their economy wasn't in need of EU money they would still be in power. Their leader, currently in Hague, has called to infect the Albanians with the AIDS virus and expel all the 'illegal Albanians' who don't have a certain document that proves their Serbian citizenship. Through it's modern history Serbia has gone through many governments...same results, same behavior. Taking a chance may mean another 10,000 dead, rapes, and every other houses burned. No thanks.

KLA was everyone who had a gun by the end of the war, not the 'organized Islamic Marxists drug dealing terrorist organization butchering Serbs for organs,' so the fact that many members were as police doesn't mean anything. 90% of the population (almost 100% of Albanians) supported them so unless you import police they are going to be "anti-Serbian."

>> but this is largely due to the emigration post 99 and lack of chance to return safely.

NOPE. Only 70,000 non-Albanians have left for good. Of them, many are immigrants and Switzerland for one will return them this year since they no longer can claim 'discrimination'. They are several reasons while they left and why some may never return:

Many have committed horrible crimes against their Albanian neighbors and are smart enough not to return. There is no statue of limitation for rape or murder, and I am not talking about the state.

(It should also be noted that many that left have already returned and most by far, left with the Serbian Army, before the Albanians returned.)

Others have settled for good elsewhere as the status was in limbo and didn't want to take any chances given the history and possibility of a new war. Also any Serb, Roma, and Albanian that could leave for Europe left post 1999. The place was (and relatively speaking still is) a mess. Plenty of Albanians are post 1999 immigrants as well in US, Norway, Germany etc, but good demographics have made up for them. Albanians are dying for visas.

Serbs gambled trying to clear the area of Albanians and lost. All Serbs that were in Kosovo know what happened, and they could predict the reaction when the Albanians got back. Is it right? Not really, but then when you lost your house, livestock, family member, or when your wife /daughter has been raped you aren't rational. The best is not to start the chain reaction, and not to keep threatening a new war (massacre in this case).

Also the Serbian demographics suck, badly so the percentages will keep changing. They are losing 5 per 1000 each year, Albanians are gaining. There is no "too high" birth rate, to each his own, but we know that losing population is not normal. Maybe in 10-20 years Albanians will have that problem, but now they don't.

>> Lastly.. re Macedonia. Is it really so simple? Do Albanian equal rights include the right to purge Slavs from areas like Tetovo or to deny that Turks are Turks, but really Albanians?

No it isn't but you cannot find one example and discount everything or make them seem equal.
Serbs kill 10,000...Albanians kill 100 so people imply that all sides are equal, without seeing who started it, why, was it the state or an individual, severity etc etc. Just because no side is a certified saint, doesn't mean that everyone is equal.

I don't know that much about the Turkish situation, I know they are some, but not in large numbers. Probably Turkey does the same to Kurds and other non-Turks. As we know, not everyone is 'Turkish' in Turkey, yet...

>>But this claptrap that Kosovo's leadership is dedicated to a multiethnic society or that non-Albanians will feature in some rich Kosovan tapestry is nonsense.

They are probably more dedicated than every other Balkan country. Let's be honest about it. Not because they are more 'European', but they are
under the microscope. It's that simple.

Albanians deserve their state because all other alternatives fail to provide them safety and security. Autonomy can easily be taken away, as it was under false pretenses, and if Serbs control the border and army (as any state does, no matter how federal) Albanians in Kosovo are sitting ducks. History has shown more than once what Serbs can do, and if they see a chance they will do it again (guns are their kryptonite). The new Serbian government has different faces and it's not as explicit, but no government since 1999 has made any sincere overtures at all, and Serbia's Church is already preparing for a new war.

On rearranging:
You cannot have Serbia rule a village 100 miles inside Kosovo or have 200 different villages each with a different set of laws, police and government. Serbs right now don't pay any taxes, get pensions from Serbia, do not want to work for the state (they resigned) and they are still complaining.

Having Albanians as second class citizens might appeal to them again, but it's a non-starter. Serbs and everyone else should have the same exact rights as Albanians and others have in Serbia. That's the fairest solution. If Serbia has a problem, they can file a complaint with EU's Human Right Commission.

>> WWII
As you may have read, for the most part only Serbian settlers were targeted during WWII. By 1920,s Albanian land was confiscated and given to Serb and Montenegrin settlers to change the demographics.

They were thrown out, brutally they say, Albanians got their land back, and Tito didn't let them back in as a compromise. Enver Hoxha said that Tito reneged on the promise for self-determination for Kosovo, and Kosovars were promised that when they joined the Partisans. They had no real beef with neither the Germans nor the Partisans, they were illiterate peasants hoping to get rid of Serbian rule. K-Albanians joined the partisans once Tito promised freedom, but refused to obey Tito to either fight the Chetniks or chase the Germans outside of Kosovo fearing an attack inside Kosovo.
Google Shaban Polluzha in Google books. Also Google "The Expulsion of Albanians" written by a Serb minister that explains the settler period (and why it failed, thus the title)

You might also want to Google 'Serbian Volunteer Corps,' Pecanac, ZBOR, and Nedic. Even Draza collaborated as early as 1941 with the Nazis. They love to rewrite history, but they were very successful in helping the Nazis even before they came to Serbia.

What Croatians /Bosniaks /Chetniks /XXX did in WWII or 100 years ago doesn't mean anything, unless they are really trying to --and can--do it again.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at October 17, 2008 11:23 PM

Your starting point is tainted with such vicious bias that impedes any form of objective analysis. The fact that you simply assume that another Milosevic style confrontation with Albanians is inevitable merely because Serbs are Serbs (and guns are their kryptonite-- I think I go it-- they lose to use them but it backfires) is a totally hollywood style belief system.

This is why you failed to analyze the autonomy models Serbia put forward, assuming dismantling on aribtrary grounds. I accept your point that Serbian nationalism still has a loud voice, but they are quickly disintegrating as witnessed by the current feud in the odious Serbian Radical Party.

You ignore KLA attacks on Serbs prior to the 1999 events, and KLA attacks on Albanians as well. You want me to believe that only Serbs committed crimes prior to 1999, this is laughable given KLA's activity in 3 years prior. Maybe you believe that the KLA shared the vision of our founding fathers in the US, but I never bought into that Joe Lieberman sponsored propaganda. I understand the Balkans, and understand the competing nationalist goals. Kosovo Albanians won the day with the nature of demographics (and I consider this legitimate-- not arguing the bogus "illegal immigration" angle here). I am glad when you said Albanians deserve their state, let's not pretend it's anything else. It's NOT a Muslim a state, and Muslims who aren't Albanians (Bosnians, Turks, Gora) will likely suffer marginalization from their Muslim brothers. The Adyghes in Kosovo (Muslims) already suffered expulsion, I fully agree co-religious beliefs does not prevent racism in the new Kosovo. An Albanian state for Albanian people does not have much room for non-Albanian who happen to be Muslim, except for window dressing when the "international microscope" (NGO's and Press) comes around. This is a state that satisfies the legacy of the league of Prizren and the overwhelming demographic nature of the province. I can understand why KLA formed, I can understand why PKK formed, that doesn't mean I give them a free pass for violence. That also doesn't mean I excuse excesses of the state in either case. This is a balanced approach.

Serbs have been influenced to believe this region was more important than it was in their political history. Religious history makes it more important, but we both know that this goes way back. In particular I reject the Serbian notion of Jerusalem, because as Noel Malcom points out, Orthodoxy has no history of consolidated religious importance like Jerusalem. Serbia's efforts I believe to be mostly symbolic in importance, but they were necessary because immediate capitulation to February demands would have been humiliating.

At the same time Serbia will go back to being by far the most ethnically diverse country in the Balkans, despite the bullshit of the Radical Party. It will continue to have Rasim Ljajic as a government minister, Omer Hadziomerovic as an important district court judge, Emir Kustirica (okay, he did convert) as a prominent and respected film maker, Miralem Sulejmani as a rising football star. Kosova/Kosovo will be a mono-ethnic state, while representing the will of its people, it will be glamorously portrayed in the west as pluralist despite having little ethnic diversity to write home about.

Presevo and North Kosovo remain issues, but both those populations have little to no reason to be loyal to their states. Serbia has not taken the attention of the microscope on it to elevate its Albanian minority since 1999, and Kosova/Kosovo government did not care to prevent ethnic attacks on Serbs in 2004 despite NATO being there.

You missed my point on WW II, all sides use their religion to justify ethnic violence. The idea that Serbian Church is uniquely involved in this is nonsense. The worst excesses occured in Bosnia as you know, sponsored by a regime that was closer to Zoran Djindic than to Slobodan Milosevic for some time. Milosevic has enough crimes to be condemned for at home (and should have been tried by a Serbian court for murdering his own people) than to be tried for crimes with which there is little to no evidence that he knew about (Srebrenica). This doesn't fit into a tight narrative for hollywood movies or 2 minute soundbites, so the mainstream media will ignore it.

Re.. Macedonia-- do you not agree that Macedonian nationalism was only part of the equation? Did attacks on Macedonian Orthodox monuments, churches, and on Macedonian ethnic citizens not take place? You still seem to think it was solely about equal rights and not about power politics. I place Ljube Boskovski as being the same as Ali Ahmeti, it is only western "liberals" and "humanitarians" who say that some warlords are better than others if they meet the script.

The "Serbs are Nazis" narrative made alot of careers, sold a lot of book, and even made a few movies. That doesn't make it a nuanced or coherent narrative. Kosovo can deserve independence as it is, I think a case can be made while stopping short of the nonsense of so-called "operation horseshoe." There WERE many human rights abuses in Kosovo, and a narrative can be built that acknowledges the ethnic nationalism of both sides but the suppression of Albanian language and cultura rights and overwhelming demographic superiority of Albanians. This case can be made, just as Abkhazians can make a case due to Georgification decades ago or Karabakh Armenians can make a a claim. The fact that many in the west reject that and want to go straight to the Milosevic=Hitler narrative, shows just how rigid and intellectually closed their minds are.

Posted by: JP_Fener Author Profile Page at October 19, 2008 1:09 AM

Above post is to Nameless-Fool alone, not to owner of this outstanding and nuanced blog. Probably this is self-apparent due to the thread, but I should clarify.

Posted by: JP_Fener Author Profile Page at October 19, 2008 1:11 AM

>> The fact that you simply assume that another Milosevic style confrontation with Albanians is inevitable merely because Serbs are Serbs

First, your (and no, I don't beleive for a moment that you're a Turk despite the good ruse) church leader said just that, 3 days ago. The preparations for the 1990's started when Pavle (the old Patriarch) reburied the Jasenovac victims and paraded Lazar's bones. People aren't that stupid.

In 1989, on the 600th anniversary of Lazar's death, his coffin toured Serbia, eliciting throngs of shrieking mourners in many villages. For Serbs, Prince Lazar is a symbol of defeat and intended revenge.
...and of course the recreation of the Empire Serbs are entitled to rule.

and from 191x from Edith Durham:

A fundamental doctrine of the Great Serb Idea is a refusal to
recognize that history existed before the creation of the Serb
Empire, or even to admit that Balkan lands had owners before the
arrival of the Serbs. Nothing infuriates a "Great Serbian" more
than to suggest that if he insists on appealing to history another
race has a prior claim to the land, and that in any case the Great
Serbia of Stefan Dushan lasted but twenty years.


In pursuance of this theory that the greater part of the Balkan Peninsula
is the birthright of the Serbs (who only began coming into these lands
at the earliest in the fourth century A.D.) the Serbs behaved with hideous brutality to
the inhabitants of the lands they annexed in 1878, and swarms of starving and destitute
persons were hunted out, a large proportion of whom perished of want and
exposure.
http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/1/9/6/6/19669/19669.htm

Makes sense how Albanians became 'illegals who are living in Serbian lands, so they should be thankful' no?
Despite attempts to sugarcoat and highlight the 'modern and democratic Serbia' by some, the same propaganda organs, ideology and thinking that made them do it half a dozen times since 1878 is still alive and well, something I mentioned and you ignored it. Those that had their family members killed (~10,000) , raped (~20,000) and everything destroyed just 9 years ago are unlikely to fall for your "it might not happen again because they elected a different person thanks to EU promises."
Do not mistake "We will not start another war and throw the 'shiptars' out" with "we can't because we're surrounded by mortal enemies, we're broke, NATO is there and the Albanians are armed to the teeth." People know history and you can't foll them forever.

It will take a couple of generations after Serbs rewrite the history books to reflect the truth, and after their Church has had a reformation. Until then, it's all hidden underneath and ready to explode again.

Believe it or not the Kosovo government didn't have anything to do with March 2004, and they paid a huge price for it (the Kosovo people too by extension). Just as the Serbian government couldn't control the Serbian crowds that attacked several non-Serbian areas in retaliation for Kosovo's 2004, KFOR /Kosovo police couldn't control the crowds either.

>> At the same time Serbia will go back to being by far the most ethnically diverse country in the Balkans, despite the bullshit of the Radical Party.

Diverse because...thanks to Russia they took quite a bit of lands inhabited by non-Serbs. Serbia grew quite a bit in a very short time. As long as the Serbian government sees them as no threat (e.g don't live in concentrated and border areas like Kosovo) they have no problem with them, meaning they will not try to kill or throw them out now (many Hungarians were displaced and replaced by Krajian refugees in Vojvodina.)

Emir Kusturica, Suleimani, Rasim...etc are all probably Serbs by blood, but Muslim. Kosovo has plenty of Catholic lawmakers and government officials and Mother Teresa and Gjergj Kastrioti are revered and barely anyone gives it a thought or cares. Ohhhh, you didn't mean that? The truth is that any non-Serb (Orthodox is a true Serb) is a [Insert religion] Serb, and a suspect. They have to constantly prove their 'Serbness,' which might explain why Kusturica is such a Serb nationalist. If they change to the best religion on earth then they are real Serbs, search for Christoslavism. (the Christo part does not include Catholicism, Protestantism and other Non-orthodox of course in Serbia).

You predictions on Kosovo's mono-ethnic-state future ring hollow, as you don't know how it will be in 5-10-50 years. If Serbs boycott the government, than of course Serbs will not be represented, and there isn't much Albanians can do. But the idea that if it went back under Serbian rule it will be any better is laughable. Serbs in Kosovo would love it of course, and they would probably get 80% of the state jobs as well.

>> KLA targeting 'Albanians and as well as Serbs'

The great Serbian propaganda tool that KLA was horrible and Serbs were there to protect "everybody," and since the 'bad KLA' started it the movement is morally wrong. They did target Serbian police that enforced the apartheid, but under the law, Serbia was within it's right to arrest or kill them--the people with the guns, not kill indiscriminately and use and every tool in the book to make the people leave within 2 hours. So no cookie for this either. Any Albanians that were targeted were collaborators, so count them as Serb police.

Anyway, have a great day. If you have any more questions or comments, re-read my posts.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at October 19, 2008 1:18 PM

NF--

No ruse here, in fact if you bothered reading what I said, I wrote "I am not Turkish either." Although it was my time as an American exchange student in Turkey that made me realize that many of the same western "liberal" elements that demonize Turkey about the disputed events of 1915 and the Armenian question and side with Armenian/Greek lobbies (plus the so called pontian and assyrian genocides) also have chosen to demonize Serbia and create one sided narratives.

What does Pavle have to do with 1999? We've conceded Milosevic was an atheist. His regime was a classic brutish regime, they didn't crack down on KLA in hopes of fulfilling some holy dream of the patriarchate. In fact the priests in Kosovo were not involved in politics, and shielded some Albanians from Serb paramilitary attacks. Black/white narrative this is not.

Re.. KLA, I am speaking of attacks on Albanian security guards, were they part of the collaborators and thus worthy to be murdered? I credit KLA for not attacking Serbia proper, and they were certainly more humane than PKK, comparitively anyway.

All you have is bogus straw man argumentation. I admit I made my point about Muslim Slavs inarticultately. My point was that in this state of Serbia, that must allegedly be "de baathified" you can find non-Orthodox doing well in judiciary, in politics (didn't even mention Oliver Dulic-- a catholic), as sporting heroes, and in the arts scene. Even in Vojvodina it is Nenad Canak-- a serb by ethnicity-- and not Josef Kasza who sabre rattles about independence.

Vuk Jeremic had made some very persuasive arguments for trying to find creative models of autonomy. It's a shame they weren't ever addressed. I agree much of the monstrous Serbian military appartus that committed crimes is still there, as is the real fascists-- the Radical Party (of course whether all their electorate if fascist is another question-- and I align very much with the thinking of the Mark Almonds, Norman Stones, John Laughlands and Chad Nagles of this world on that one). So I understand the mistrust, but the lack of a real negotiation was disturbing Well, we both know that's impossible now. Kosovo is a fait accompli. Serbia has shown that she does not want to use force, Tadic/Cvetkovic/Jeremic, et al are not such kinds of people. So I reject your arguments there as being unduly biased.

Honestly, seeing that Albanians in Kosovo have achieved most of their goals, I don't see why maximalist rhetoric needs to be used. I sort of understand why the Armenians continue to use it (even if I disagree strongly with their claims), as they are lost in the past. Albanians of Kosovo have a strong future because of their patronage from the west. Unlike Serbia, they now to win diplomatic support.

P.S.-- in your opinion did Ohrid solve Macedonian Albanians grievances or can only a border shift do so?

Posted by: JP_Fener Author Profile Page at October 20, 2008 12:22 AM

To be fair I will say agree much of Serbian nationalism is also lost in the past, since I am saying the same about the Armenians in the above post.

Posted by: JP_Fener Author Profile Page at October 20, 2008 12:25 AM
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