I sent a letter-to-the-editor of Washington Times in late July, much too late to be printed in response to a May 22nd op-ed titled “Russia Still Angry about Serbia,” so I’m just posting it below.
Kudos to L. Todd Wood for figuring out the Putin phenomenon (“Russia still angry about Serbia,” May 22). It’s the Kosovo, stupid. If NATO “acting unilaterally and with impunity on Russia’s border in any fashion it desired,” as Mr. Wood correctly characterizes it, alone sounds like a bad idea, imagine what a bad idea it was given that Milosevic did not “preside over a reign of terror,” as Mr. Wood incorrectly characterizes it.
The real Kosovo story that has been surfacing since the day we declared it “stable” while Serbs and Serb-friendly Albanians were getting picked off leaves that Keystone Cops intervention even emptier. That is, it wasn’t even a morally correct stupid war. Mr. Wood’s widely repeated (and therefore true?) version that Milosevic was out to “delegitimize certain ethnic groups and accuse them of fascist tendencies, setting up justification for military action,” ignores not only the very current headlines about Croatians’ swastika problem and Albanians’ and Bosnians’ ISIS problem (and Kosovo’s thug-rule problem), but it ignores also that the ambushing of officials and police, and terrorizing the population in general, would be justification enough for us Americans to expect an armed response. Or are Slavic lives still worth as little as the word that derives from Slav?
It’s no wonder that some Albanians testified in Milosevic’s defense, confirming what independent investigations found: there was no “genocide in Kosovo,” as Mr. Wood incorrectly parrots the old propaganda. Nor were there “mass killings of non-Serbs” or “ethnic cleansing of Kosovo for Serbia.” There was a smoking-out of domestic terrorists known as KLA, from villages they lorded over. The military response was to the wanton killing of non-Albanians. And it was for OUR justification for military action that we inverted the story, filleting history for years to come.
It’s one thing for Ryan Seacrest to nod credulously as a young Albanian contestant on season 10 of “American Idol” says on national TV that Yugoslavia “was trying to kill everyone in Kosovo,” but there’s supposed to be a different standard in journalism. What’s more likely? That Milosevic was trying to empty a province of 90% of its population (with Belgrade sophisticates lining up to grab peasant life by the horns?), or that civilians’ marching orders from the KLA were to make like refugees for the cameras and get out. Is it a coincidence that Albanians attempting to go back to their homes, as Belgrade requested, were targeted by NATO bombs directed by our KLA spotters?
Mr. Wood is right that in 1999 the Russians were not in a position to save us from our own stupidity, yet still they managed the standoff at the Pristina airstrip, where it took now pop singer James Blunt (then a British officer) to save us from an early WWIII — by defying “Supreme Allied Commander” Wesley Clark’s orders to mow through the Russians.
Yes, Americans are ignorant about something that happened just 16 years ago, but Mr. Wood’s own, common, one-sided understanding of the conflict ignores the other Clinton war that took off just as soon as the KLA could get to it: Macedonia 2001, the next apple of Albanian-unification’s eye. By then, Milosevic was safely locked up, so whom would Mr. Wood blame for that? Surprised by NATO’s reluctance to help terrorize the next ethnic rival on the list, the “disbanded” KLA is still at it with poor Macedonia (dominating May headlines, actually), despite Macedonia taking in 400,000 refugees, and as many Clinton photo-ops in the process.