Diana Johnstone

The recent Report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

(OSCE) on Kosovo is subtitled: "As Seen, as Told". The part of the

report covering the mayhem that went on during the NATO bombing, between March

24 and June 10, is "as told" — to be specific, "as told" by

ethnic Albanians refugees.

The second part deals with events in Kosovo since NATO occupied the province.

This part is not simply "as told" but "as seen" by the many

Western observers who flooded back into Kosovo with the occupation armies of


The difference between things "told" and things "seen" is

highly significant.

As the OSCE report confirms, the violence in Kosovo escalated dramatically

when the NATO air strikes began on March 24. Information about the 78-day period

of NATO bombing comes essentially from 2,764 interviews with refugees in Albania

and Macedonia. These "victim and witness statements" were made

according to "refugee interview forms" prepared precisely with the aim

of collecting evidence _against Serbian leaders_ for the International Criminal

Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In short, the aim of the interviews

was not to get a full understanding of a complex situation, or to gather

evidence on all the crimes that may have been committed by all sides during a

period when air raids and civil war broke down law and order, but solely to

gather statements that could be used against Belgrade.

As was to be expected, the ethnic Albanian refugees told their Western

interviewers what they wanted to hear.

Several of the most harrowing tales told by ethnic Albanians about their Serb

adversaries have turned out to be totally false: notably the reports of

thousands of bodies thrown into the Trepca mines, among others. It is reasonable

to suspect that other stories were also untrue.

Raimonda, the young Albanian woman who claimed to be killing Serbs to avenge

the ghastly murder of her little sister, turned out to have made up the whole

story for the benefit of the Western TV journalist looking for real-life drama.

Later, her little sister was found to be alive, well and unharmed. The girl’s

relatives shrugged this off: "If her little lie helped the Albanian cause,

that’s just fine", her father reportedly commented. It is unlikely that

this attitude is unique or even rare.

There were many reasons for ethnic Albanians to flee Kosovo during the air

strikes: fear of violent reprisals by infuriated Serbs who blamed them for the

NATO attack, expulsion by Serb security forces clearing the border area in

preparation for an expected invasion from Albania, fear of the air raids, fear

of the Kosovo Liberation Army, or even — and this is the reason given by

Cedomir Prlincevic, head of the Pristina Jewish community — orders from KLA

leaders to leave in order to advance the cause. All these reasons may have

contributed to the mass exodus.

However, the only explanation that Western interviewers wanted to hear was

also the only explanation that could improve a refugee’s standing with the ever

more powerful KLA: Serbian atrocities.

What really happened during the bombing remains uncertain. The powers in

control of the terrain — NATO and the KLA — are strongly motivated to support

the worst possible version of Serb behavior. Even so, no material evidence has

been found yet for mass killings.

On the other hand, the daily persecution of non-Albanians in Kosovo since the

NATO-led KFOR took over the province is beyond doubt. The OSCE report makes this

quite clear. The murders and ethnic cleansing of Serbs and Roma (gypsies) are

going on day after day right under the eyes of the Western military forces.

Kosovo is a place where the alienation and fear between two communities was

fed for years by lies, rumors and false accusations. Serbs genuinely feared

Albanians, and Albanians genuinely feared Serbs, often on the basis of wild

rumor. The first thing outside mediators should have done was to sponsor a

patient, serious and fair effort to establish the truth. On the contrary, by

endorsing every accusation against Serbs, and ignoring crimes against Serbs, the

United States and its NATO allies have given carte blanche to violence against

them. Ethnic Albanian children are growing up in the belief that nobody really

blames them for hunting down elderly "Skrinje" (the ethnic slur for

Serbs) and beating them to death.

And who is most to blame? War is the worst evil. By bringing war to Kosovo,

NATO brought out the worst in a certain number of Serbs, and the worst in a

certain number of Albanians. The people of Kosovo have been guinea pigs in a

macabre experiment: how do people react when they are bombed? How do they react

when they are told that the bombing is to detach part of their country? How do

they react when they are told the bombing is on their behalf? The screeching

noise, the terrifying explosions, the fires, the destruction are administered

from a safe distance. Then the observers go in and take notes.

Most people in Kosovo — including ethnic Albanians — were safer under

Serbian rule than they are now. Kosovo is more than ever a dangerous place, a

land of hatred.

But there is one little oasis of safety: Camp Bondsteel. The biggest overseas

United States base since Vietnam has been built in Kosovo. U.S. armed forces

personnel are secure in Kosovo. The citizens are not.


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