Columns & Features:


By Eric S. Margolis

Sept. 24, 1998

Six months ago, NATO ordered Serbia to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosova or face heavy air attacks. This was `the final warning,' thundered the world's most powerful alliance.

Six months later, ethnic cleansing continues unabated in the rebellious, Serb-controlled region, with three new offensives launched in the past week alone by the Serb army and paramilitary police.

Serb forces are using heavy artillery, tank fire, and heavy automatic weapons to raze villages and kill livestock. This scorched earth policy has driven 300,000 Albanian civilians into the forests and hills, where temperatures are already dropping to freezing at night, and snows will begin in another month. A third of all Albanian Kosovars are now refugees, living in the open like animals. So much for NATO's `final warning.'

As in Bosnia, Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic knows just how to play NATO. While NATO members fret and debate over Kosova, Serb forces press ahead with their campaign to drive most of Kosova's 2.1 million Albanians - 92% of the total population - out of the province and into neighboring Albania, Macedonia, or Montenegro. When NATO threatens military action to halt Serb savagery, Milosevic wrong-foots the alliance by quickly offering empty peace talks. Russia runs interference for Serbia's Slavic nazis at the UN.

Washington's foolish hopes that Serbia would merely crush lightly-armed Albanian independence fighters, and then halt operations, have been dashed by Milosevic's relentless attacks on Kosova's civilians. As a vast human tragedy engulfs Kosova, NATO and the UN Security Council are muttering again this week about air strikes against Serb forces.

Meanwhile, NATO's stage-managed election in Bosnia just went terribly wrong. Hard-line Serbs defeated the west's hand-picked `moderate' Serb candidate. The phony Dayton peace accords that suspended the war in Bosnia are unraveling.

Events in Albania were even more ominous. The leader of Albanian resistance fighters in Kosova, Ahmet Krasniqi, was murdered in Tirana, Albania's capital. The killers were either from Serbia's notorious intelligence service, or former Sigurimi agents, the brutal secret police who terrorized Albania during five decades of Stalinist rule.

Albania's government is now entirely controlled by old Stalinist communists. Sigurimi agents have returned from exile and are now waging a war of terror against former president Sali Berisha's pro-western democrats, and other anti-communists. Last week, Sigurimi assassins murdered a leading Democratic leader, Azem Hajdari, provoking massive anti-regime protests in Tirana.

Little Albania has splintered along tribal lines. In the south, Tosks, who dominated the old communist party, now run the regime in Tirana. The north belongs to Ghegs, fierce, anti-communist mountaineers. Sali Berisha, a Gheg, and Albania's most capable leader, is aiding Kosovar resistance forces. The communist in Tirana are stabbing their Albanian Kosovar compatriots in the back by trying to cut off their arms and supplies - and, now, killing Kosovar leaders.

Albania's neo-Stalinist regime was engineered into power by the west when Berish's government collapsed after financial scandals. Today, the communists are sustained by aid from the western powers and Italy's powerful communist party, which is seeking to restore marxism in the Balkans. Better the communists than anarchy, argues the west, completely ignoring Albania's democrats.

The communists in Tirana are doing NATO's bidding by sabotaging Kosova liberation fighters and helping keep Serbia-Yugoslavia together. So western money keeps flowing to these `reformed' murderers and torturers who ran postwar Europe's most nightmarish totalitarian regime.

The west sinks deeper each day into the Balkan morass, a victim of its own cowardice, indecision and contradictory policies.

Senator Bob Dole, just returned from Bosnia and Kosova, summed up the situation with his usual clarity and honesty. The most urgent issue was not President Clinton's flawed character, Dole said, but the questionable character of the United States. Two American presidents had vowed the horrors of Bosnia would not be allowed to happen in Kosova. But they are.

Copyright: Eric Margolis, 1998. Published by Sound Vision with permission.


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