Phantom Statehood

It is amazing to watch American Power as it exploits the United Nations and international law to take whatever it wants from both of them, and discard whatever it doesn’t.  But it is no less amazing to see how many of the lesser powers line up behind the United States, and how eagerly they go along with it. 


The fate of Kosovo as a foreign occupied and now officially independent "phantom state" (David Chandler’s phrase) has been sealed ever since some time prior to March 24, 1999, when NATO’s bombs started raining down upon this province in what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (ca. 1992 – 2006), the FRY once having been a part of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (roughly 1945 – June 1991 or thereabouts). 


UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (June 10, 1999) stated that the Council was "acting…under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations."  But the threat to international peace and security before the Council wasn’t the war of aggression then being waged by the U.S.-led NATO powers against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  Instead, it was the circumstances within the country under attack by NATO — the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia — and its neighbors.  Under a "humanitarian" cover, NATO launched an aggressive war, after having threatened such a war since the period of September and October the prior year. Beginning in late April 1999, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia tried to get the International Court of Justice to issue an injunction against the NATO powers attacking it; NATO should "cease immediately its acts of use of force" and "refrain from any act of threat or use of force" from thereon, Belgrade’s lawyers asked.  (These are the Legality of Use of Force cases, 1999 – 2004.)  But on the grounds that the defendant-powers, beginning with the United States, rejected the ICJ’s jurisdiction, the ICJ ruled as early as June 2, 1999 — with NATO’s bombing war still underway — that the ICJ "manifestly lacks jurisdiction to entertain Yugoslavia’s Application," and "cannot therefore indicate any provisional measure whatsoever" — as the United States rejected the ICJ’s jurisdiction, the ICJ couldn’t issue an injunction or rule on the legality of the United States’ use of force.  Still.  Had the Security Council lived-up to its legitimate functions and powers under the UN Charter, the Council could have acted under Chapter VII to come to the defense of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against the NATO powers attacking it.  Fat chance.  Instead, NATO committed the crime of aggression against the FRY; NATO rejected the ICJ’s jurisdiction; the ICJ assented to NATO’s rejection; NATO got the Security Council to adopt Resolution 1244 "under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations;" FRY forces withdrew from Kosovo; in their place NATO militarily occupied Kosovo; and now almost nine years later, NATO amputates Kosovo from the Republic of Serbia, though the amputee is independent in name only and manifestly not sovereign in any meaningful sense of the term.


Has any state or group of states ever gamed the international system more effectively than this?


We need look no further than these elements of the Preamble to the U.S.-Kosovo Liberation Army Declaration of Independence as they were read out in the Kosovo Assembly earlier today:


Observing that Kosovo is a special case arising from Yugoslavia’s non-consensual breakup and is not a precedent for any other situation,

Recalling the years of strife and violence in Kosovo, that disturbed the conscience of all civilised people,

Grateful that in 1999 the world intervened, thereby removing Belgrade’s governance over Kosovo and placing Kosovo under United Nations interim administration,…


Beyond these are the Declaration’s Pars. 1, 5, and 10:


1. We, the democratically-elected leaders of our people, hereby declare Kosovo to be an independent and sovereign state. This declaration reflects the will of our people and it is in full accordance with the recommendations of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari and his Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement.  


5. We welcome the international community’s continued support of our democratic development through international presences established in Kosovo on the basis of UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999). We invite and welcome an international civilian presence to supervise our implementation of the Ahtisaari Plan, and a European Union-led rule of law mission. We also invite and welcome the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to retain the leadership role of the international military presence in Kosovo and to implement responsibilities assigned to it under UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) and the Ahtisaari Plan, until such time as Kosovo institutions are capable of assuming these responsibilities. We shall cooperate fully with these presences to ensure Kosovo’s future peace, prosperity and stability.


10. Kosovo declares its commitment to peace and stability in our region of southeast Europe.  Our independence brings to an end the process of Yugoslavia ‘s violent dissolution….


How transparent this all is.  Consider what sense Kosovo might be a "special case," other than the fact that shepherding Kosovo all the way from its status as a province within the Republic of Serbia to full-blown phantom-statehood has been a U.S.-NATO project for years?   In stark contrast to the decolonization of the post-World War II period, Par. 1 and Par. 5 are testimonies to the fact that Kosovo’s "independence" is the consequence of this neocolonizing project, dating back to the war of 1999 and the U.S. support for the KLA before then.  And doesn’t Par. 10 add a lovely final touch?  Once and for all, Kosovo’s newly declared phantom-statehood brings to an end the dismantling of Yugoslavia — a process that dates back to the breakup of the old Soviet bloc in the late 1980s.  If not earlier.  As the Soviet bloc had been moribund for years.


So: The principles enunciated by the Declaration apply to Kosovo but to no other region or peoples the world over? 


Face it: The Declaration is a legal brief for the "international community," no doubt drafted in Washington.  (That is to say, at Harvard, Georgetown.  You know what I mean.) 


I guess this really does make Kosovo a "special case" after all.   


Report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Kosovo’s Future Status (S/2007/168), Martti Ahtisaari, UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo, March 26, 2007

Comprehensive Proposal for the Kosovo Status Settlement (S/2007/168/Add.1), Martti Ahtisaari, UN Office of the Special Envoy for Kosovo, March 26, 2007

Report of the European Union/United States/Russian Federation Troika on Kosovo (S/2007/723), December 4, 2007

"The Absurdity of ‘Independent’ Kosovo," George Szamuely, CounterPunch, February 15, 2008
NATO’s Kosovo Colony," Diana Johnstone, CounterPunch, February 18, 2008

"The Dismantling of Yugoslavia: A Study in Inhumanitarian Intervention (and a Western Liberal-Left Intellectual and Moral Collapse)," Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, Monthly Review, October, 2007



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