America went to war against the Serbs in March, ostensibly because of their refusal to sign the so-called peace agreement put forward by the United States and its allies at Rambouillet, France. Many other reasons were subsequently advanced, but this was the original one. President Clinton told us that the Albanians “chose peace” by signing, while the Serbs, he said, refused to negotiate, even though the agreement left Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia. But as Ronald Hatchett explained in the Houston Chronicle on March 28:
the “peace plan” actually gives the Albanians precisely what they want: de facto independence now, with guaranteed de jure independence in three years. For the Serbs, signing the Rambouillet agreement would actually be signing away all Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo immediately.
Under the agreement, “Kosovo will have the authority to make laws not subject to revision by Serbia or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” including levying taxes, instituting development programs, and conducting foreign relations. Yugoslav army and police were to withdraw completely from Kosovo, except for a tiny guard within a three-mile border zone. NATO was to enter with close to 30,000 troops, “which will be authorized to use necessary force to ensure compliance with the accords.” A Civilian Implementation Mission was to be appointed by NATO, and its chief given the authority “to issue binding directives to the Parties on all important matters he sees fit, including appointing and removing officials and curtailing institutions.” Most importantly of all, a “final settlement for Kosovo” would be decided by the outsiders in three years “on the basis of the will of the people” of Kosovo. As Hatchett concludes:
For the Kosovo Albanians, the Rainbouillet agreement gives them total control over the province immediately. The only “sacrifice” required of them i s to wait three years before the arrangements are made legally permanent. . . . The Serbian negotiating efforts were summarily dismissed and the Serbs were told they had only two choices: sign the agreement as written or face NATO bombing. What would you have done if you were on the Serb delegation?
The rest is history. As a commentator put it in the Times of London (March 18), Serbia had to “stand and fall before NATO rather than slink into the dog kennel for voluntary vivisection.” Another commentator remarked in the Guardian (April 10) that a century-long effort “to establish an international system capable of setting limits to the imperial ambitions of great powers, has been brought to an abrupt end.”
Devoid of arguments and fearful of informed pressure, the Clinton administration soon began trafficking in stories about massive atrocities in order to sway a reluctant public. State Department spokesman James Rubin suggested that Serbs were herding Albanians into Pristina stadium (State Department Briefing, March 30). He attributed the report to KLA commander Hashin Thaqi, with whom—according to Agence France Presse (March 18)—Rubin personally has a “good rapport.”
On March 31, a reporter with Agence France Presse visited the stadium and reported that
the stadium, whose galleries can host some 25,000 spectators, was completely empty and there were no signs of any mass groupings. Rows of seats stood empty and the grass looked intact . . .
The following day, Mr. Rubin was asked about the discrepancy. According to the official transcript, the exchange went as follows:
Q: We’ve gotten a report this morning which is what I believe is the first independent report out of Pristina in some days, saying that Thaqi’s claim yesterday that a hundred thousand people were massed in the Pristina stadium-
MR. RUBIN: I didn’t make that claim-we didn’t make that claim.
Q: Well, it’s been referred to. But anyway—anyway, this report says that this . . .
MR. RUBIN: I never heard him say that.
NATO spinmeisters were not to be outdone by the U.S. State Department. On April 10, Scripps Howard News Service reported that “NATO commanders have already admitted that fear of hitting Albanian civilians discouraged some strikes on designated targets” (emphasis added). But dehumanization of Serbian victims had reached the point where NATO spokesman Jamie Shea could calmly state that a passenger train, destroyed along with scores of civilians on April 12, was a “legitimate military target.”
What is this bombing all about? Writing in Capitol Hill Blue on April 5, Doug Thompson opined that Clinton’s Kosovo war “is part of a desperate, dangerous and fatally flawed plan by a scandal-ridden President to salvage a legacy for the history books”:
In fact, the President is willing to risk a global military conflict to shift the emphasis . . . away from the many sex and money scandals that have dogged his administration, interviews with present and past White House and Pentagon staff members reveal. . . . Former Navy Capt. Al Simonson says he knows several career military professionals who are willing to resign their commissions rather than continue to serve under Clinton. “I’ve been around the military for more than 30 years and I have never seen morale this low,” Simonson says. “Bill Clinton has destroyed the soul of our armed forces.” . . . A psychologist who treats obsessions says Clinton’s preoccupation with his legacy could be viewed by mental health professionals as a warning sign over the President’s stability. “There are enough outward signs that the President is so driven by his obsession with his legacy that it could be affecting his mental judgments,” says Dr. Stephanie Crossfield.
The fundamental idiocy of the Balkan tragedy was aptly summarized by Julie Burchill in the Guardian (“Forty reasons why the Serbs are not the new Nazis and the Kosovars are not the new Jews,” April 10):
1) Because the Nazis did not put Jews on the train to Israel, as the Serbs are now putting ethnic Albanian Kosovars on the train to Albania.
2) Because we’re the ones fighting alongside the Luftwaffe and the Serbs are the ones whom the Luftwaffe is bombing. . . .
9) Because Clinton is a liar. . . .
11) Because the Kosovan Liberation Army is a terrorist organisation that has been killing innocent Serbs for years, whereas the Jews were model citizens. . . .
13) Because it wasn’t the Serbs who fought with the Nazis in Yugoslavia during the second world war-it was the Croats and the Muslims. (Nazi Muslims! What an absolutely mind-blowingly terrifying concept!)
14) Because, if they were Nazis, the US wouldn’t be fighting them but funding them, like all those old pigs it props up in Latin America. . . .
15) Because anyone who knows anything about European history before 1945 backs the Serbs. . . .
22) Because the Serbs have a bittersweet sense of humour, whereas the Nazis, being Germans, were utterly humourless. After all, can you really imagine the Krauts during the time of the Allied bombardment going around with a bullseye and the word “TARGET” painted on their faces?
23) Because the Serbs were the only people in Yugoslavia who never persecuted the Jews.
24) Because Blair can’t be trusted when he gazes into Billy Bob’s big blue eyes and the hormones kick in. . . .
28) Because the Jews didn’t indulge in personal vendettas as they went into the countries that welcomed them as refugees, let alone get to the point of shooting each other at point blank range, as two Kosovar men did in Calais last week while they were waiting to be put on the boat to Britain.
29) Because the Jews didn’t growl at women on the streets of their host countries, as Albanian men seem wont to. . . .
32) Because the British tabloids are the first people since the Nazis to use the word “Slav” as a term of abuse.
33) Because the KLA is funded by drug-trafficking, while the nearest the German Jews ever got to drugs was chicken soup.
34) Because the German Jews didn’t want to annex part of Germany and call it Israel-On-The-Rhine.
35) Because last year the British Immigration Office decreed that the Kosovars were not a distinct racial group. (And it’s been a damned long time since anyone said that about the Jews.)
36) Because clean-limbed, dirty minded little WASP girls don’t grow up dreaming of marrying a big, handsome, sexy, intellectual Kosovar.
37) Because Germany has agreed to take 40,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees-that’s “take”, not “kill”.
38) Because the Greeks symtpathise with the Serbs-and the Greeks always back the right side.
39) Because Israel sympathises with the Kosovars, and Israel always backs the wrong side. (Lovely shot of that Israeli jet flying cheek-to-cheek with the Luftwaffe, lads!)
40) Because Nazis don’t win wars and Serbs don’t lose them.