P r e s s I n f o # 6 1
C O V E R I N G U P N A T O ' S B A L K A N B O M B I N G B L
U N D E R
April 14, 1999
"Western leaders are busy re-writing history to justify their Balkan
bombing blunder. The change in information, rhetoric and explanations
since the bombings started on March 24 is literally mind-boggling. Most
likely they fear they have opened a very dark chapter in history and may
be losing the plot. One way to make failure look like success is to
construct a powerful media reality and de-construct real reality. That's
the essence of media warfare and that's what happens now," says TFF
director Jan Oberg.
"For instance, you must have noticed that the The Kosovo Liberation
Army, KLA or UCK, which existed some weeks ago and allegedly
participated in Rambouillet now suddenly never existed. The 13-months
war in Kosovo/a also conveniently has been expurgated.
The last few days President Clinton, prime minister Blair, NATO General
Wesley Clark, foreign secretary Cook, foreign minister Fischer,
secretary Albright, defence minister Robertson and other Western leaders
have explained to the world why NATO bombs Yugoslavia. They made NO
MENTION of KLA or the war. Their speeches are surprisingly uniform.
Their main points are:
* We have evidence that Yugoslavia, i.e. President Milosevic had a plan
to ethnically cleanse Kosovo/a of all Albanians.
* One proof of this plan is that some 700.000 have been driven over the
borders; it would have been many more, if not all 2 million Albanians,
had NATO not taken action.
* Milosevic deployed 40.000 troops and 300 tanks in the region even
while his delegation was in Paris.
* 'We have reports' and 'there are stories' about mass graves, rapes,
and endless atrocities. We have no hard evidence, but that's what
refugees consistently tell.
* Milosevic is now 'a cruel dictator' and 'a serial ethnic cleanser.'
* Innocent civilians are driven away 'only because of who they are and
not because of anything they have done,' as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair
* Milosevic has not been in compliance with the agreement he signed with
ambassador Holbrooke in October last year.
Why is this not credible, why is this probably a 'narrative' made to
influence emotions, perceptions, enemy images, and ultimately the
behaviour of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals?
Let me give you a few facts from my own visits and repeated meetings
over the years with the civilian Kosovar Albanian leadership, the
opposition and independent intellectuals in Pristina," says Oberg. "Dr.
Ibrahim Rugova repeatedly told me, as he did everyone from the West who
cared to listen, that he feared he could not keep the Albanian people
behind his pragmatic nonviolent strategy if the West did not 'do
something' such as persuade Belgrade to participate in talks mediated by
the international community.
Years ago I met Kosovar Albanians who were very critical of Dr. Rugova's
'passive' leadership and advocated guerrilla struggle as the only way
out, sooner or later. In 1996 I was told by well-informed Albanian
intellectuals that they would not rule out that there existed an armed
fraction. Last year advisers to Dr. Rugova told me that they had heard
about the liberation army as early as 1993.
For years, I would say, Kosovo has been a police state. The only
response Belgrade had to the legitimate Albanian grievances was to step
up police repression. I have no doubts about the fact that there were
gross, systematic violations of political, economic, cultural and other
human rights. The Albanians feared Belgrade - which insisted that it
was an internal problem but never took steps to find a solution. At the
same time, the Albanian leaders 'needed' the repression to mobilize
international support for their project of an independent Kosova. Thus,
they refused to deal with moderate, dialogue-inclined leaders such as
prime minister Milan Panic and his excellent ministers in 1993.
Be this as it may, the truth is that there was no war, no mass killings,
no systematic ethnic cleansing, no genocide. Many Albanians left because
of the repression but also because of the misery, the utter poverty and
lack of future opportunities for themselves and their children. Serbs,
too, left for such reasons and not - as they sometimes claim - because
they were victims of an Albanian genocide plan.
The conflict that was said to have started in 1989 erupted into war in
February 1998 when KLA surfaced. It can NOT be denied that KLA activity
changed the situation from repression to war. The most surprising is a)
that the West turned a blind eye to Albania's role as a training ground
and base for KLA, b) that, in its consequences, Albanian policies
amounted to de facto aggression against Yugoslavia, c) that KLA was
armed by predominantly Western sources in contravention of the United
Nation Security Council's embargo on any arms imports into the
territories of former Yugoslavia, d) that nobody thought of closing the
border to prevent spilling-in of soldiers, weapons and ammunition and
the spilling-over of Yugoslav reprisals and e) that Yugoslav armed
forces, by and large, let these incursions happen for months without
taking action against them.
US envoy Robert Gelbard said on February 23, 1998 that he was "deeply
disturbed by the UCK" and that it was "undoubtedly a terrorist
organization." One week later the Yugoslav offensive against it began.
So much for the present Western cover-up which seek to make us forget
the pivotal role of KLA in this crisis.
Next, what about the argument that Milosevic did not keep his promise to
Holbrooke of October last year? It would be a good point if that was not
a one-sided agreement. While there were two forces fighting fiercely in
Kosovo - various Yugoslav/Serb police and military forces on the one
side and KLA on the other - the agreement was signed only by Milosevic.
KLA declared a cease fire on their side, but never signed any document.
One-party cease fires are as unique as they are untenable.
We were told and saw pictures of a war that had raged in the province
for 13 months. Albanians intellectuals and editors I talked with during
visits to Pristina in autumn 1998 told me proudly when asked who the KLA
was that 'that's everyone of us, we are a people in arms.' Sheltered by
the Holbrooke-Milosevic deal, KLA seized 30% of the province's
territory. Radical Albanians gave visitors the crystal clear impression
that victory was around the corner. That is, until Belgrade had had
During those 13 months, around 2000 people were killed and 250.000
people displaced - about 10% of the province's Albanians and 10% of its
Serbian citizens - but few of them, fortunately, fled outside Kosovo.
Two weeks after NATO action began, suddenly 750.000 had run over the
borders and NOW we are told that there were only innocent civilian
Albanians in Kosovo who, as President Clinton stated it on April 12, are
driven away ONLY because of who they are and not because of anything
they have done.
It seems more probable to me that people run away for three reasons, not
one: a) because of ethnic cleansing by Serb/Yugoslavs who feel that the
ongoing destruction of Yugoslavia is the result of Albanian policy, b)
because of the war between Yugoslav and KLA forces, and c) because of
NATO's bombs which repeatedly also happens to hit civilian targets.
Was there a plan to cleanse the area? No one who maintains it has shown
any hard evidence. Before March 24 this year no politician had told us
about Milosevic' alleged plan. No humanitarian organizations had warned
about a major, systematic campaign to drive out 1-2 million people. If
OSCE with 1500 verifiers knew about such a plan - and they listened in
on Yugoslav communication - why did it not alert the world? If Belgrade
wanted to get rid of all Kosovo-Albanians, it could have done so at any
time since 1991. It never touched any Albanian leader or tried to
prevent the building of their parallel state. Why did NATO threaten to
bomb Yugoslavia if it would not sign the Rambouillet document but said
nothing about bombing it because of the existence of such a plan?
Are 40.000 troops and 300 tanks indicative of such a plan? Hardly.
Troops and tanks are not the prime tools to make people run away. They
were deployed in the province when NATO deceived Yugoslavia. You see,
Holbrooke probably forgot to tell Milosevic that NATO would deploy an
'extraction force' in Macedonia. Its task was to protect the
'extraction' from Kosovo of the unarmed OSCE verifiers in the event of
NATO bombings - an activity that could lead to them being taken hostage
by the Serbs. So, NATO's bomb threat was real from October. Would your
country do nothing if threatened for months with bombings by history's
most powerful military alliance?
With the OSCE verifiers peacefully out, NATO did not withdraw the force
but had already begun to increase it from 3.000 to 12.000 (and forgot to
consult the Macedonian parliament). Yugoslavia had very legitimate
reasons to see this as an extremely unfriendly "signal" and moved troops
down to the Macedonian border to "signal" its determination to fight
that force, should it cross the border into Kosovo. KLA was sucked in by
the presence of the Yugoslav units and fighting intensified in an area
where no fighting had taken place before. All this BECAUSE of NATO's
What is now called evidence of a grand design for ethnic cleansing by
Western leaders was nothing but the response to NATO's remarkably
unwise, clumsy and adventurous attempt to force Macedonia into the role
of an ally and major NATO base. It was a perfectly natural response to
NATO's repeated threat of a massive air campaign. It - predictably -
resulted in an almost complete political destabilization of the
Macedonian government and a socio-economic destabilization because of
the NATO-provoked refugee flows.
Finally, Milosevic is a 'cruel dictator'? Well, if so why has the West
helped him be central, relied on his signature in Dayton and never
extended any help to the opposition in Belgrade - not even when 1,5
million people demonstrated against him a couple of years ago? Why has
ambassador Holbrooke and scores of Western diplomats had 'interesting'
talks with him? Why did the West hope for a last-minute concession from
him to avoid the bombing it threatened? What do we do with 'cruel
dictators' who are elected by citizens many of whom would certainly call
him authoritarian or see his policies a catastrophic but who never saw
him as a cruel dictator? And why does NATO repeat the mistake from Iraq
- to bomb a country only to see its people unite completely behind their
In summary, NOT ONE OF NATO's PRESENT ARGUMENTS HOLDS WATER. They
contradict facts, they contradict what Western leaders themselves told
us yesterday. What we witness is a pitiful attempt at "perception
management" and media war against public opinion.
We should get suspicious," concludes Jan Oberg, "when Western civilian
and military top leaders within days seek to rewrite and falsify
history, omit well-documented facts and central actors, change the
sequence of events and forget what they stated and did only a couple of
weeks ago. It's particularly disturbing if you see a systematic bias or
tendency in those changes. And it bodes ill, indeed, when the majority
of journalists ask only politically correct questions to State
Department and NATO spin doctors and spokespersons at a time that could
well turn out to be a defining moment of history."
You are welcome to reprint, copy, archive, quote from or re-post this
item, but please retain the source.
Dr. Jan Oberg
Director, head of the TFF Conflict-Mitigation team
to the Balkans and Georgia
T F F
Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research
Vegagatan 25, S - 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Phone +46-46-145909 (0900-1100)
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