A flashback to an article written in 2004. I sometimes do a “flashback” blog, when I find something from the past to be searingly accurate in light of subsequent events, or if something was so trenchantly put that it bears repeating. Or if it describes a phenomenon I’ve observed myself in the way that the Balkans are handled in the U.S. This article does all three. It was originally published on a site called “therant.us,” which isn’t around anymore.

The Kosovo We Don’t Know, April 29, 2004

by Tony Rubolotta

The recent killing of two Americans [and shooting of 11 others on their first day of duty in Kosovo] by a Jordanian, all serving with the UN police force (UNMIK) in Kosovo has temporarily brought the region to the front page, where the major media quickly linked the incident to Iraq, and then dropped Kosovo back into obscurity. The fact is things are not going well in Kosovo and the major media has several reasons for keeping the covers on the story.

What most Americans know about Kosovo is what Bill Clinton and his media cheering section told them in 1999. It was reported that Christian Serbs were engaged in a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslim Albanians. “Evidence” of a massacre in Racak was presented to back the claim. With popular, political and media support solidifying behind him, Clinton gave Serbia an ultimatum. Serbia refused, Clinton bombed, NATO occupied, the media reported and Hollywood even produced a few movies to further demonize the Serbs and fuel the propaganda.

With little or no news coming out of Kosovo now, we must assume that thanks to Bill Clinton, Kosovo is a thriving, peaceful democracy protecting the rights of all religious groups. Well, that’s about as big a lie as what we were told about Kosovo in the first place. [Note, almost word-for-word, to this day that’s still the official line: “Kosovo is now an independent and multi-ethnic state, in which democracy and law are ruling, and citizen’s rights are respected.” — Gazmend Barbullusi, Albania’s ambassador to the Netherlands, repeated ad nauseum by U.S. officials]

The Racak massacre was the breaking point Clinton used to rally support for the war. With hundreds of published articles about Racak, what do we really know about the “massacre”?

We know Serb forces engaged and defeated KLA forces in Racak in a classic firefight, an event witnessed by French and AP news crew on January 15. We don’t know how many casualties were inflicted. The Serbs and news crew left and the KLA resumed control of Racak. The following day 45 bodies were found in a gully with the help of KLA guides. Forty victims were autopsied by a Finnish forensic team dispatched by the EU. The EU report refuted claims the victims were all shot at close range and mutilated. The report never used the word massacre and only found one victim shot at close range, maybe.

The Washington Post, claiming to have the EU report findings leaked by an “unidentified western source” wrote a story that misrepresented and extrapolated the findings. The Post claimed the forensic evidence proved the victims were executed in a massacre, which it did not. The head of the EU forensic team refuted the story. The AP and USA Today, not to be outdone by the Post, added detail and gore that was never proven. In contrast, Le Monde, with journalists at the scene, questioned the credibility of the entire scenario. They raised questions any good investigator should have asked, but were never answered.

With hundreds of articles on Racak, it doesn’t take long to determine that most are biased one way or the other. Articles that stick to the facts are very short and few, because the facts are short and few. In the end, the evidentiary requirement we use to convict criminals, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” was never met for Racak. None the less, the United States and NATO were going to war over an alleged, unproven and potentially staged massacre of 45 people.

Kosovo was having a civil war with about 2,000 casualties per year, about equally divided between the warring factions. What most Americans don’t know is that the struggle dates back to 1389 when the Muslim Turks defeated the Christian Serbs and occupied Kosovo. Control of Kosovo has seesawed for 600 years, but it has been largely a history of persecuting Christians, first under the Turks and later by their Albanian successors. Atrocities occur during civil wars, but the scale of this war was a tempest in a teapot compared to other conflicts in the world.

What was the calculation and motivation for US involvement in the affairs of Serbia?

The calculation was simple. Bombing a Christian nation could be done with relative impunity. There would be no “Christian” outrage as there might be in the Muslim world if Serbia were Muslim. War on Serbia would endear us to Muslims for intervening on behalf of a Muslim cause. Milosevic was not that popular in Serbia and his support would melt away under pressure. Serbia, a moderately developed country, would provide a “target rich” environment. The Serbs, proud and protective of their culture, would submit to prevent its destruction. Popular support in the US and Europe would survive a short and apparently bloodless campaign.

Serbia was bombed and surrendered. Clinton claimed victory. NATO occupation forces moved in. The UN police force took their positions. Milosevic was put on trial. All was well in Kosovo and it dropped from the radar screen. Clinton’s legacy as a champion of human rights, influential diplomat and great wartime president was secured. In fact, it was only secure as long as no one knew what was happening in Kosovo, hence the news blackout by the major media in the US and most, but not all of Europe.

The Kosovo civil war continues, but this time the Albanian Muslims have the upper hand and the NATO/UNMIK forces appear incapable of intervention. Serbian Christians are being killed and driven from Kosovo. Christian churches and monasteries are being systematically destroyed. Kosovo, like Albania and Bosnia is being turned into an Islamic terrorist base. Crime is rampant and the economy, except for the drug-trade, is stagnant. Kosovo is moving toward independence as a Muslim state with plans for eventual union with Albania. Investigation of Serb atrocities by the Hague War Crimes Tribunal have found the claims greatly exaggerated or non-existent. Kosovo will be a thorn in the side of Europe and the US as Muslim gratitude takes its usual turn toward hostility. The infidels served their purpose and are no longer useful.

And the motive for intervention in Kosovo? I don’t think you have to look any further than the character of Bill Clinton and his media buddies.

And all that will help in case anyone is confused about how we got to here:

John Bolton advised U.S. President to attribute more attention to South Caucasus (June 27, 2011)

…Bolton stressed that Russia persistently tries to restore its influence on the region…According to the politician, Obama’s administration must openly support Azerbaijan in the context to Karabakh conflict settlement, since except Armenian and Azerbaijani sides it involves Russia as well. “We must not forget Russia’s assault of Georgia of August 2008. Russia aims at restoring its influence over the region…”

That is, after we started a concerted campaign to usurp influence in the region, including with an air assault on a Slavic country and with infiltration of jihadists into the neighborhood.

There isn’t much that a great man like John Bolton — who did oppose America’s Kosovo mischief — can be faulted for. But if even he has grafted the Clinton/McCain/Bush/Clark line on the 2008 Georgia warin which Georgia was the very clear aggressor — then there just isn’t much hope. (Never mind that we supported Georgia in doing far worse than what we bombed Serbia for doing.)

Please let’s not kid ourselves about who pressed Russia’s “Go” button. And continues to press it. Treacherous U.S. leadership — from Bush I to Clinton to Bush II to Obama/Clinton.

As for Azerbaijan, it’s just a little rich of us to create the precedent for Karabakh secession, then turn around and support the opposite: territorial integrity. That is, after supporting Muslim Albanian separatism against Christian Serbian sovereignty, we’re being asked to support Muslim Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over Christian Armenian separatism in Karabakh. While I recognize that Karabakh separatism is part of the domino-effect chaos I was hoping to avoid by opposing the Kosovo precedent, it’s a wee bit much to expect to have our cake and eat it too — and not get fat.

After poking Russia in the eye for the past two decades, we are being asked to contradict ourselves in Azerbaijan — in order to poke Russia in the eye again. That’s after baiting Russia into doing exactly what it’s doing there. Don’t take my word for it. Take Silvio Berlusconi’s, Daniel Larisen’s, Scott Taylor’s, Jim Jatras’s, Thomas Meaney’s, Harris Mylonas’s, Lech Walesa’s, George Jonas’s, Joseph Farah’s, Rod Dreher’s, Pat Buchanan’s, Paul J. Saunders’, J. Victor Marshall’s, Dmitri Simes’, Javier Solana’s, Andrew Sullivan’s, Gale Stokes’, Sir Ivor Roberts’, Ted Galen Carpenter’s, Gordon M. Bardos’s, Tim Marshall’s, George Galloway’s, Georgia’s itself, Boston Globe’s, OSCE’s, John Laughland’s, Newsweek’s, Reuters’, Nagorno-Karabagh’s, or even the Council on Foreign Relations’ or NY Times’ — to name just a few. “Russia’s” war games are all NATO’s in origin.

******UPDATE******

I really need to paste Jim Jatras’ Washington Times article on the subject:

Kosovo prelude to Georgia? (Sept. 7, 2008)

In anticipation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, President Bush said “Georgia’s territorial integrity and borders must command the same respect as every other nation’s.”

Critics of Russia’s action include Sens. Barack Obama, Joseph Biden and Joseph Lieberman; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; former United Nations Ambassador Richard Holbrooke; and many others in the bipartisan establishment.

Among the specific criticisms are Russia’s violation of the sovereign territory of Georgia…; a disproportionate response to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s attempt to settle South Ossetia’s status by force, including Russian military operations well outside of South Ossetia; and Moscow’s tardiness in withdrawing its forces under a deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Evidently irony is not much appreciated in Washington. It seems critics have forgotten President Bush’s recognition of the independence of Kosovo, a province of democratic, U.N. member Serbia. President Bush’s reference to “every other nation” whose “territorial integrity and borders must command the same respect” apparently has at least this one exception. If he can violate the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, which guarantee sovereign borders, what right does he have to accuse others of doing the same?

If Moscow stepped over the line in its crushing military response to Mr. Saakashvili’s offensive, what do we call 78 straight days of NATO’s bombing throughout Serbia, destroying most of that country’s civilian infrastructure? If Russia is to be faulted for imperfect implementation of the Sarkozy agreement, what can be said about Washington’s violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244, which ended the 1999 Kosovo war and reaffirms Serbian sovereignty in the province?

The standard reasons cited for making Serbia an exception to the rule we demand in Georgia is that NATO intervened to stop genocide of Kosovo’s Albanians and that they will never again accept being part of Serbia. But after the war actual casualties among all ethnic groups - whether by military action, atrocities committed by both Serbs and Albanians, and the toll of NATO’s bombing - proved to be far fewer than those cited in justification for the war. Compared to South Ossetia’s much smaller population, mutual accusations of genocide against South Ossetians and Georgians, respectively, are proportionally larger than those at issue in Kosovo. And are South Ossetians and Abkhazians less adamant that they will not submit to Tbilisi’s rule than Kosovo’s Albanians are with respect to Belgrade?

It also should be kept in mind that Kosovo’s legal status is very different from that of entities in the former Soviet Union. Under the Yugoslav constitution - the same authority that justified the secession of Croatia, Slovenia, etc. - Kosovo, part of Serbia since before Yugoslavia was formed, has no legal claim to independence. In contrast, the 1990 Soviet law on secession - which was the legal basis of the independence of Union Republics such as Georgia - required that autonomous entities within their borders be allowed, via referenda, to remain in the Soviet Union, and by extension its successor, Russia.

Thus, while Kosovo’s status as part of Serbia is unquestionable, South Ossetia and Abkhazia can make a good case they were part of Soviet Georgia but never the current independent state of Georgia. (The same would apply to Transdniestria with respect to Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh with respect to Azerbaijan. When will they follow suit?)

By trashing the accepted international “rules of the road” on Kosovo, Washington has created what amounts to the rules of the jungle. Each power acts as it will, either to suppress restive minorities or to compromise other countries’ borders: The United States tries to force Serbia to accept Kosovo’s independence and pressures other countries (without much success) to recognize it; Georgia tries to subdue the Ossetians and the Abkhazians and fails; Russia moves to establish the Ossetians’ and Abkhazians’ independence and now also will try to secure wider recognition. In turn, the U.S.-supported separatist Kosovo Albanian administration itself threatens a miniature version of Mr. Saakashvili’s South Ossetia offensive to subdue Serbian enclaves, where the remaining one-third of the province’s prewar community finds refuge. Where does the logic of “big fish eat little fish” end?

In Kosovo, Washington sowed the wind, and now Georgia has reaped the whirlwind. Only a return to the negotiating table to address comprehensively Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and similar trouble spots elsewhere can prevent this malignant precedent from spinning further out of control with incalculable consequences for global peace and security. With each step down this road it will be harder to put the genie of might-makes-right back in the bottle.