by Diana Johnstone
NATO is waging parallel wars in Yugoslavia. One is the war against Kosovo. The chaos it has created is then served up as justification for the other, parallel war against Serbia.

The conflict between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo is not an easy one. It is not a matter of «Serbs mistreating Albanians». In the 1980s, as was reported in The New York Times, the Albanian majority in Kosovo was harassing Serbs in order to drive them out and create an «ethnically pure» Kosovo that would eventually merge with neighboring Albania. (E.g., «In Yugoslavia, Rising Ethnic Strife Brings Fears of Worse Civil Conflict», by David Binder, the New York Times, November 1, 1987.) This was one of the reasons that the Serbian Parliament in 1989 reduced (but did not «abolish») the extraordinary autonomy that had been granted the province in 1974 as part of Tito's policy of distracting from calls for democracy by granting more power to the leaders of Yugoslavia's ethnic parties.

Thereafter, Albanian secessionists in Kosovo stepped up the boycott of Serbian institutions (including voting in elections, school curriculum, tax-paying) already begun earlier. This boycott, which extended even to the excellent Serbian public health service in the province, to the detriment of children's health, was presented to the world as «Serbian apartheid» by very active ethnic Albanian lobbies in Germany and the United States, which (campaign contributions aiding) already in the 1980s had gained such influential advocates as then-Senator Robert Dole. The purpose and goal: to detach the historic Serbian province from Serbia and make it a purely Albanian land.

The boycott of institutions was cleverly presented to the world as Gandhian non-violence. But as the Albanian author of a recent book (Dardan Gashi, Albanien: Archaisch, orientalilsch, europaeisch, Promedia, Vienna, 1997, page 69) points out, this civil disobedience was in line with the historic rejection by the Albanian clans of northern Albania and Kosovo to respect any law other than their traditional «Kanun», the unwritten patriarchal rules of conduct, ranging from strict obligations of hospitality to relentless blood feuds. The lawlessness of present-day Albania itself testifies to this.

The conflict between Serbs and Albanians, even more cultural than historic (with religion having little to do with it), required very patient and wise mediation by outside parties having no selfish interest in the region.

Instead, it has been mediated by institutions that thrive on conflict: the media and NATO. Between them they have transformed a difficult problem into a catastrophe.

Before NATO bombing, there was no Serbian «ethnic cleansing» of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Rather, there were Serbian police operations against the armed «Kosovo Liberation Army» which for over a year had been assassinating both policemen and private citizens, including uncooperative Albanians. The KLA attacks were a classic provocation, designed to trigger the police action, which in turn was falsely described as attacks on the Albanian population. The casualties on all sides were in the hundreds (the «2,000» victims figure put out by the KLA is surely an exaggeration, and even so, scarcely even the beginning of a «holocaust»). Many homes were destroyed, because rural Albanian houses, are built for a double function: dwelling and defense. This stems from the blood feud tradition (op.cit,p.68). It is visible. Albanian houses are often walled compounds, with small windows on upper floors.

Former OSCE observer in Kosovo Rolly Keith told a meeting in Vancouver on April 10 that until his observer mission was pulled out of Kosovo four days before the bombing began, he saw no signs of genocide or ethnic cleansing. Other OSCE observers agree, but were shoved onto the sidelines by the observer mission's chief, William Walker, former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and specialist in Central American «banana republic» management.

Since the observers were pulled out and NATO began ripping Kosovo to shreds with its various hi tech weapons, it is impossible to know exactly what is going on. Refugees are fleeing from the hell of war. Among the terrible things happening, Serbian forces are apparently -- and predictably -- expelling ethnic Albanians, considered NATO's «fifth column», from many areas. (After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. «ethnically cleansed» Japanese-Americans from the West Coast, although Japan was not claiming that its war was on behalf of armed ethnic Japanese aiming to detach California.) The misery of the fleeing civilians -- absolutely foreseeable after the NATO bombing -- was greeted at first not with organized relief efforts but with television cameras. Thus the media could tear at the heartstrings of good people back home in Minnesota, and create the impression that NATO was making war to stop the ethnic cleansing that in fact it started. Cause and effect were reversed by imagery.

Now whatever ethnic cleansing is actually happening has been verbally escalated into «genocide». It is being exploited by NATO's war propaganda to allow NATO to come in and occupy Albania in the guise of «humanitarians», now poised for a «humanitarian» invasion of devastated Yugoslavia. The spectacle of blond, blue-eyed refugees has touched the hearts of Europeans and Americans as never before. This spectacle serves as a screen behind which NATO is continuing its other, parallel war: the total destruction of Serbia. The bombing is presented to the West as aimed at «making Milosevic back down». In reality, actions speak louder than words, especially in war time. The targeting of bridges linking central Serbia to the northern province of Voivodina (the rich breadbasket of Yugoslavia), to Macedonia in the south and to Bosnia in the West makes it clear that the strategic aim is to isolate central Serbia from its outlying provinces and from neighboring countries. The targeting of factories and infrastructure makes it clear that the object is to impoverish this isolated remnant of Serbia, and to destroy the future of its youth.

This war to destroy Serbia is the REAL war. The parallel war in Kosovo is its pretext and its entering wedge.

People in Belgrade, with whom I have been in contact every day, by telephone and e-mail, see this very clearly. They do not learn about the war from watching television. They learn from the bombs falling all around them.

Still a third parallel war is the propaganda war. NATO has gone so far as to actually target Serbian television. Serbian television «has filled the airways with hate and lies over the years... It is therefore a legitimate target in this campaign», declared NATO's air commander, commodore David Wilby. Americans and Western Europeans have no way of knowing this is a lie. They do not watch Serbian television. Serbs, however, do watch Western television -- especially, these days, CNN, to get advance news of what's going to be bombed. They can compare what both sides are saying. Even people without satellite dishes hear what CNN is saying. A friend back from a trip to Belgrade told me, «Serbs are extremely well-informed. People are talking to each other all the time, telephone lines are jammed with people calling each other, relaying news. What is happening is in a way no surprise to Serbs. They knew this was going to happen, because they have observed U.S. behavior all over the world. The United States bombs. People talked about this all the time, but even so, it's a shock when it happens.» In Belgrade, my friend could get seven Yugoslav TV channels, three government channels (RTS 1, 2, and 3) and several private ones: Studio B, Politika, Palma, Pink, and BK, owned by the Karic brothers banking group.

If Milosevic is «the new Hitler», he is a strangely discreet one.

Whereas Hitler went on radio ranting and raving, Milosevic is practically invisible. Even his worst enemies have forgotten about him. He seems irrelevant. Nobody talks about Kosovo or Albanians either, except for the refugees -- Serbs, Roma, Albanians -- who have fled to Belgrade from the intensive bombing of Kosovo. They also seem irrelevant to NATO's war against Serbia.

Now, under war conditions, several useless restrictions on the press, adopted only recently, are sporadically enforced. Radio B92 was shut down, forno good apparent reason. Others continue. Foreign journalists have been allowed back into Serbia after initial expulsions. War conditions produce restrictions and censorship. This was true in the United States during World War II. But today, with satellite dishes, e-mail and the web, hearing what all sides are saying is no problem for people who are motivated -- and being the target for NATO is very motivating.

«NATO dropped leaflets over Serbia to explain the good intentions of the war,» my friend said. «It reminded people of leaflets dropped by the Nazis when they bombed Belgrade in 1941. Ridiculous.» Serbs, especially in Belgrade, used to be very divided, arguing politics all the time. «Now», said my friend, there is not one single person who does not believe that the Serbs are right. Perhaps, if there had been a few warning strikes, a little demonstration of force, things might have been different. But to destroy absolutely all potential for the future life of the country is beyond anyone's understanding.» The Serbs know they cannot defeat NATO. Confronted with such furious forces of destruction, they do not think there is anything they can do. NATO has its purpose and its projects, and vows to pursue them to the end. Serbs do not think that getting rid of Milosevic, or accepting this or that agreement, would make any difference. NATO is out to destroy them, in order to transform the Balkans into a patchwork of ethnic client states, or protectorates, used as NATO bases. They know this not because Milosevic told them, but because, being very well informed by world media, they've figured it out for themselves.

In the West, the comparison constantly made with Jewish history is the Holocaust. In the East, where the people of Serbia stand defiantly on their bridges night after night, the parallel is different. It is Masada.

Diana Johnstone, 13 April 1999

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Yugoslavia/NATO Info. nr. 16 - April 14, 1999

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