Our readers write: whither Kosova?

Our March issue featured the story "Phantom Republics: Kosovo's Independence Reverberates Across Eurasia," by Rene Wadlow, a reprint from Toward Freedom. Wrote Wadlow: "The self-proclamation of independence by Kosovo may be the last act in the division of former Yugoslavia, or it may be one step in a new chain of territorial adjustments. There are calls in Republika Srpska, the Serb unit of the Bosnia-Herzegovina federation, for its integration into Serbia... There is also the impact of the example of Kosovo on the other phantom republics born of the break up of the Soviet Union: Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Transnistria in Moldova—and, if not completely crushed, Chechenya in Russia." Our March Exit Poll was: "Do you support independence for Kosova? If your answer is 'no,' please tell us how you feel about Palestine, East Timor, Western Sahara, Northern Ireland, the Basque Country and Puerto Rico. If your answer is 'yes,' please tell us how you feel about Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria." We received the following responses:

From Brian Sherman, in Atlanta:

Kosovo: I have to read more: so far I've read progressives who support and progressives who don't

Palestine: yes

East Timor: I have to find out why isn't E Timor considered same country as W Timor, but certainly I feel they should be independent of Indonesia

Western Sahara: yes

Northern Ireland: yes or union with Ireland if they choose

Basque country: yes, but please use their self-identified name which is something like Euskadi

Puerto Rico: yes

Abkhazia: yes

South Ossetia: probably yes, but I would like to know more

Chechenya: yes

Transnistria: I don't know where this is -- another place in the Caucasus?

There are many other countries whose nation-statehood (independence) I support. There would probably be a few hundred if I knew enough about all the situations in the world.
Here are some whose independence I support in addition to those on your list

Kurdistan, East Turkestan (aka Uighurstan), Catalunya, Pashtunistan, Kashmir, Buratyia, western Papua (the half of the island still occupied by Indonesia), Tibet, Biafra.

and other parts of Siberia, and also of the several countries occupied by Indonesia, and by India.

I also support independence for various indigenous groups trying to recover lands from an occupier.

I was in Barcelona on June 18, 2006 when they voted for devolution. I met some activists who view Catalunya as occupied territory since the 1710s and I support Catalunyan independence. They gave me a poster with the flags of twenty-two countries which they see as comrades in the struggle to end occupations and for independence. These included Scotland, Cymru (or something like it, the self-designation for what we know as "Wales"), Sardinia and Corsica.

The local newspaper was running a series on parallel situations, presumably places where there are independence movements. These included, among others, Lombardy, a canton in Switzerland--I think it may have been Lucerne--and Bavaria.

World War 4 Report replies: Thanks for taking the time to respond. We are frustrated that "progressives" who have strong fully-formed opinions about Palestine, East Timor and the rest, equivocate about Kosova, saying things like they have to "read more." Well, by all means, we encourage you to read. But we submit that "progressives" who oppose Kosova's independence (like Ed Herman and the International Action Center) really aren't ("progressive," that is). "Progressives" do not believe there can be amicable disagreement on whether the Palestinians are entitled to self-determination, and we'd love to know why the same does not hold for the Kosovars. Because the US exploited their oppression for its own imperial aims, they aren't entitled to self-determination? That's pretty absurd.

Transnistria is the Russian enclave in Moldova which has been effectively independent since the fall of the USSR, and ultimately seeks union with Russia (without actually bordering it).

East Timor was a Portuguese colony while West Timor was controlled by the Dutch and then (after 1949) Indonesia. So the East Timorese are Catholic and speak Portuguese as well as the indigenous tongue Tetun. When Portugal finally pulled out in 1975, East Timor was illegally annexed by Indonesia.

Yes, Euskadi and Cymru. Very good.

From Marko Attila Hoare in London:

I support Kosova's independence.

I have discussed whether or not Kosova is equivalent to Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Transnistria extensively:



World War 4 Report replies: Well, gee thanks, Dr. Hoare. I don't suppose you would deign to tell us in 100 words or so why you think Kosova is or (as we suspect) is not equivalent to Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Transnistria?

From JG, New York City:

Do you support independence for Kosova?

Yes. I support independence for everybody except the Jim Crow south. Hadn't heard of the other conflicts but the internet knows all so: Transnistria is effectively autonomous within Moldovia. Abkhazia seems to have rejoined Russia, South Ossetia also wants out of Georgia. Set them all free and give them NATO membership. That'd piss Putin off.

Curious about the various independence movements in China - besides Tibet which is still basically Tibet.

World War 4 Report replies: Well, the ethno-chauvinism that reigns in the Balkans and Caucasus is arguably not all that different from the Jim Crow south. There is certainly effective segregation in Kosova—arguably, the only thing the Albanians and Serbs agree on is that they don't want to live together.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are enclaves that broke away from Georgia with Russian encouragement—Moscow seeking to reduce a former part of its empire which is now seen as too close to the West. It is precisely because Georgia has established preliminary contacts with NATO that Russia is encouraging the Abkhaz to break away. One bit of irony is that the Abkhaz are Muslim. So Russia is encouraging Muslim separatists in Georgia even while fighting Muslim separatists in Chechnya. Just as the US is supporting Muslim separatists in Kosova while opposing them in Abkhazia...

The most significant separatist movement in the People's Republic of China other than Tibet is that of the Uighurs in Xinkiang (which they call Uighurstan or East Turkestan). The Great Powers seem united in their opposition to Uighur independence, which is, at least, a refreshing consistency...

See our last post on Kosova, and our last Exit Poll results.

National self-determination

"Well, gee thanks, Dr. Hoare. I don't suppose you would deign to tell us in 100 words or so why you think Kosova is or (as we suspect) is not equivalent to Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Transnistria?"

In a nutshell, I don't support the right of larger, predatory regional powers to expand at the expense of smaller, weaker countries. 'Self-determination' for Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria in the present context means the expansion of Russia at the expense of Georgia and Moldova.

Equally, I would support self-determination for Palestine (i.e. the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem). And indeed for Israel in its pre-1967 borders. But I would not support 'self-determination' for the Israeli settlements in the West Bank - their right to join Israel. Nor would I support 'self-determination' for Northern Cyprus.

I have no problem with the idea of self-determination for Abkhazia and South Ossetia - provided Russia allows its own North Caucasian autonomous regions the same right to secede.

I would support self-determination for Scotland, Wales, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Puerto Rico, Quebec, Corsica, the Kurds (in Turkey, Iran and Iraq).

What about you, Bill ? Would you support self-determination for the Israeli settlements in the West Bank ? For Bosnia's Republika Srpska ? For the Sudetenland in 1938 ?

Btw I'm not here to score points; this is a genuinely interesting, important and difficult issue, one that needs to be discussed.

A question of perspective...

The problem is that Kosova can also be seen as a case of a "larger, predatory regional power expanding at the expense of smaller, weaker countries." Ed Herman, Michael Parenti and the lot see Kosova precisely as a case of NATO expanding at the expense of Serbia. And not without reason, unfortunately. While I think Serbia through its fascistic behavior has forfeited its claims to sovereignty over Kosova, I also think it is clear that the US/NATO have exploited this situation in order to reduce Serbia (and thereby reduce Russia's influence sphere).

So that can't be the only litmus test. The Abkhaz, despite their small territory and numbers, really do constitute a very distinct ethnicity from the Georgians and are entitled to self-determination—despite the fact that Moscow will inevitably seek to exploit this struggle. I also support Chechnya's right to secede from Russia, tho I will oppose the establishment of a sharia state in Chechnya (or anywhere else). I don't believe Moscow's propaganda that all independence-minded Chechens are Islamist extremists.

I certainly don't support Israeli settlement of the West Bank, which is as predatory as it gets. Nor do I support Bosnia's "Serb Republic," which was established through acts of genocide, and was/is essentially a proxy of Serbia proper created to reduce/destroy independent Bosnia-Herzegovina. But I don't think this analogy can be uncritically applied, cookie-cutter style, to Abkazia. South Ossetia and Transnistria may be better cases for such a comparison, though the violence there (thank goodness) hasn't nearly approached Bosnian levels. Not yet, anyway.

I think the whole drive towards ethnically-pure nation-states is a kind of pathology—just the dialectical opposite of the globalized corporate monoculture. However, as long as this depressing paradigm reigns, we have no choice but to support the right of small nations to free themselves from oppressive powers. And hope that maybe eventually, there can emerge a kind of decentralized federalism, in which all peoples have the right to their own language and culture, but none have the right to deny anothers'. Even in such thorny cases as Serbia-Kosova and Israel-Palestine.

This also applies here in the good ol' US of A. If it weren't for the Buchananoids and English-only freaks, it might not be necessary for the Southwest to secede as Aztlan...

And there you go again with the equivocal construction of you "would support self-determination for Palestine." Contingent on what? Are you capable of plainly saying that you do support self-determination for Palestine?

Yes, absolutely.

"Are you capable of plainly saying that you do support self-determination for Palestine?"

Yes, absolutely. A referendum should be held in Palestine (the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) to decide whether it wishes to be independent in these borders. In return for allowing this, Israel has the right to demand recognition in its pre-1967 borders and a permanent peace.

I agree that Abkhazia is not quite the same as Republika Srpska, insofar as it was a legitimate entity, whereas the RS is the product of genocide and aggression.

Still, there is a parallel, because the Abkhazian regime ethnically cleansed nearly half its own population in the early 1990s. It's questionable whether there would be a workable majority in favour of independence, had this not taken place - just as is the case for the RS.

Furthermore, ethnic Abkhaz only made up 17% of the pre-1990s population of Abkhazia, while ethnic Georgians constituted the largest ethnic group - nearly half the population. So what 'self-determination' means for the Abkhaz is not quite so straightforward.

I'm aware what the Parenti-Herman crowd thinks, but they're wrong. Russia was and is the colonial overlord in the Caucasus; decolonisation requires that its domination be dismantled. By contrast, neither NATO nor the US can be described as a colonial overlord in the Balkans. The Balkan members of NATO - Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey - are far from colonies or puppets of the US.

The US and its Western allies - to their shame - tried their best to keep Yugoslavia together after it was already dead, then to collaborate with Milosevic. Had they really wanted to 'expand' into Bosnia or Kosova, they would have done so at the start of the war, in 1991-92. They were effectively dragged into occupying these strategically unimportant countries by Milosevic's persistently genocidal actions, and the chaos this was causing.

I'm sure you know the history in question better than I do, Bill, but perhaps a better parallel with Russia's engineering of Abkhazian, South Ossetian and Transnistrian secession would be the US's engineering of Panama's separation from Colombia ?

Separatism and imperialism

The problem with a referendum for Palestine would be the dilemma we already see in Western Sahara: would settlers be entitled to vote? Polisario says no in Western Sahara, and you can bet both Fatah and Hamas would say no in Palestine.

Sorry, but NATO and the US (and UN and EU) can indeed be described as colonial overlords in Kosova (at least). The status of Bulgaria and Romania as NATO members doesn't change this. They are not exactly puppets, but certainly look to the US/NATO as protector against potential resurgent Russian imperial ambitions. I think the Kosovars are too rambunctious to be real puppets, but they are certainly being played by US imperialism. And Kosova is certainly occupied by the US/NATO as effectively (if not as brutally) as it was by Serbia.

The Panama analogy has some merit. But you seem to view US imperialism as a past phenomenon.

A strange form of expansion

I think if the US and its allies wanted to reduce Russia's influence in the Balkans, then occupying Kosova and eventually recognising its independence was a very bad way of doing it. NATO expansion has involved larger countries to the east of Kosova joining peacefully: Bulgaria, Romania. It may soon involve Ukraine and Georgia. The idea that the US had some unique interest in the small, poor and strategically irrelevant Kosova that required first fighting a war and, more recently, fighting a diplomatic campaign over recognition doesn't make any sense.

Recognising Kosova's independence has actually increased Russia's influence over Serbia. So if keeping the Russians out was the goal, then recognition would not have been the thing to do. Recognition has made Serbia's eventual membership of NATO more difficult in the short term.

But what was the alternative ? If the Western powers had continued to occupy Kosova while denying it recognition, then that really would have been colonialism, and would have no doubt led eventually to a colonial uprising against KFOR. Recognition may not mean genuinely full independence quite yet, but it is the decisive step in that direction.

You can define the US in Europe as 'imperialist' if you like, but there is no need to look for diabolical imperialist strategies and interests when there aren't any.

At the very least, would you not agree that the Kosovars are better off recognised than unrecognised ?

Latin America is a different matter; the US's historical role there may be more like that of other Western colonial empires. But in Europe, the US's historical role has been overwhelmingly positive - in defeating Nazi Germany, the USSR and Milosevic. Which is why so many East Europeans, from Poland to Kosova, appreciate the US. They aren't stupid.

Humanitarian imperialism?

Dr. Hoare, I find it hard to swallow the notion that you really believe in humanitarian imperialism. No empire in all of human history has ever acted out of humanitarian impulses. If the Balkans are so un-strategic, funny that they provided the flashpoint for World War I, and a major theater for World War II. I suppose it has not escaped your notice that the Russians are seeking to build a trans-Balkan pipeline through Serbia, as an alternative to the US-backed Baku-Ceyhan route. If you think such an eventuality was not foreseen when Allied Force was undertaken, I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn, real cheap.

The fact that Allied Force happened is clear evidence that US strategic planners had given up on domesticating Serbia. The fact that Kosova's pseudo-independence has been recognized is now evidence that domesticating Serbia is still viewed as a long shot. Recognition of Kosova's fictional independence is a fig-leaf on NATO's colonial project, and there may yet be an anti-colonial uprising against KFOR.

I'm glad you at least acknowledge US imperialism in Latin America. But an imperialist power will follow imperialist logic everywhere, if not identical methods and strategies. While the US has won a lot of good will in Europe by taking on totalitarian enemies like the Nazis and Soviets (only to squander much of that good will under the incumbent Bush, with the reckless Iraq adventure), its fundamental interests in Europe are, if anything, more imperialist than in Latin America. The US-backed war in Colombia and destabilization drives in Venezuela and Bolivia are about who will be master of the Amazon basin's hydrocarbons. The US imperial adventures in Iraq and the Balkans are about who will be master of the world. This isn't some leftist conspiracy theory. It is straight from the horse's mouth.

"The prize is global primacy, and the playing field is Eurasia." —Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, 1997

The myth of an 'anti-imperialist Serbia'

If 'given up on domesticating Serbia' means that the US had given up hope that Milosevic's regime would ever live in peace with its neighbours and refrain from engaging in mass murder and creating regional chaos, then yes, I agree that the Kosova intervention was evidence that the US had given up on domesticating Serbia. And they were absolutely right to do so. But it had nothing to do with any supposed independence of a supposed 'anti-imperialist Serbia'.

Milosevic showed himself ready, time and time again, to collaborate with the US. The problem was that his collaboration came at too high a price - acquiesence in Great Serbian genocide and expansion in front of the TV cameras, and in destabilisation of the entire region.

It's not that the Balkans as a whole are irrelevant - the question is: what's so special about Kosova that a war needed to be fought to occupy it, when all of the countries in the region have been keen to build friendly relations with the US, and most of them want to get into NATO ?

Yes, I've heard the joke about the magical oil pipeline that travels wherever is needed to allow leftists to explain away the latest act of Western intervention, and was even said to be making its way to Sierra Leone to explain the intervention there:


The problem with this theory is a) there's no evidence whatsoever to support the view that the Kosovo war had anything to do with oil or gas pipelines; b) it's not something the US needed to fight a war over - Serbia was entirely ready to cooperate with the US over this sort of thing; and c) the link you provide refers to a deal reached earlier this year, so occupying Kosova clearly has not stopped the Russian gas pipeline through Serbia.

The fact is, had Serbia been able to coexist peacefully with the Kosovars, the US would never have shown any interest in Kosova, let alone intervened there, let alone engineered Kosova's independence.

The US has had many genuine enemies or opponents - Iran, Saddam's Iraq, the USSR, China, etc. - but it just about never promotes national separatism as a way of punishing them (was Panama and Colombia the last time ?). Why should it have treated Serbia so differently ?

But tell me, what should the US have done vis-a-vis Kosova, that would have earned your approval ?

Also, you didn't answer my question: are the Kosovars better off with international recognition of their independence, or without it ?

The myth of humanitarian imperialism

"Anti-imperialist Serbia" is your phrase, not mine. There was certainly nothing socialist about Milosevic's regime—a kleptocracy was more like it. But it was in the camp of the rival imperial power in Europe, Russia. The US supported Croatia in Operation Storm, and the KLA in their cleansing of Kosova's Serbs. Your simplistic notion that the US is on the side of angels is transparently bogus.

There's some truth to the notion that the US finally turned against Milosevic after embracing him as a "peacemaker" (!) at Dayton because he wouldn't behave in Kosova. But what made Kosova so "special" as to mandate Western intervention? Numerous things. The conditions did not exist there for a declaration of independence which could then be recognized as in the other republics, because Milosevic had already purged its "official" leadership in '89. Therefore conditions existed for emergence of an armed guerilla struggle. It was necessary for the US to come to the defense of the Albanians precisely to domesticate and recuperate their national struggle. Today the Albanians look to Clinton and Bush as their heroes and saviors. If the US had done nothing, it could have been Osama or the Ayatollahs of Iran. There could have been a breach within NATO, with the Turks going unilateral to defend the Kosovars. Instead of a genuine Muslim-led state in Europe, there is a NATO-occupied pseudo-state. There were plenty of geostrategic mandates for intervention in Kosova.

The US never promotes separatism to punish its enemies? Perhaps you missed the collapse of the Soviet Union. I don't mean to imply it was all a conspiracy masterminded from Washington, but the State Department and CIA (and Soros) certainly did all they could to encourage the nationalist resurgence in the Baltics, Caucasus and Central Asia. They continue to do so today, as the "color revolutions" evidence. We could also mention the (CIA-fomented) Katanga revolt in Lumumba's Congo. By the way, have you been following the (US-fueled) emergence of a right-wing separatist movement in Bolivia since the election of Evo Morales? Not, I'll guess.

The trans-Balkan pipeline plans are quite real. Did you bother to click on the link? If you had, you'd find that my sources are Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Balkan Insight—organs far closer to your politics than to mine. Smarmy condescension is a very poor substitute for fact.

I am not interested in giving the imprimatur of my "approval" to US imperialism. I am interested in finding natural allies in places under assault by either US imperialism or homegrown fascists or (as is usually the case these days) both, and loaning them support. This is why I was organizing solidarity with anti-militarist activists in all the ex-Yugoslav republics in the '90s—not cheering on Milosevic with the Idiot Left, nor cheering on Washington's smart bombs with the neo-interventionists. You guys are, once again, merely each other's dialectical opposite.

If enough nations recognize Kosova's pseudo-independence I suppose there is the (slight) possibility it could eventually evolve into something real. However, my job is not to cheer-lead for it, but to ask the tough questions about it.

Benevolent imperialism is something which has never existed in human history. Your apparent belief in it betrays either very deep naiveté or very deep cynicism. I'm still not quite sure which.

A reasonable theory

If you're saying that the US intervened in Kosova because it didn't want to see the emergence of an al-Qaeda-led insurgency in Kosova; well, I think it's a reasonable hypothesis. I don't want to see an al-Qaeda-led insurgency in Kosova, either. It would not have been in the US's interests, or the interests of the people of the Balkans, or of the international proletariat, to see such an insurgency. We're all better off with the Albanians admiring the US.

As for the gas pipeline; I'm not denying the existence of a deal between Russia and Serbia. The point is, you can't deduce the NATO intervention in Kosova in 1999 from the fact of a deal between Russia and Serbia over a pipeline nine years later. It's like saying that because there is a Disney theme-park in France, then the US must have invaded France in 1944 in order to build a Disney theme-park. It's a non-sequitur.

You keep attributing to me the view that the US was acting for humanitarian reasons. My point is much more modest: that the US had no reason to intervene in Kosova that could not have been better served by a peaceful resolution of the conflict that left Kosova within Serbia.

Serbia's actions in Kosova were destabilising the Balkans; there was a danger of Macedonia collapsing and conflict between Greece and Turkey; there was a danger of the crisis creating strains in the Western alliance, as it had in Bosnia. All good reasons by an utterly selfish US might have wanted to intervene, and why we should all be glad that it did. Equally good reasons why an utterly selfish US would have preferred the Serbia-Kosova conflict never to have broken out in the first place.

If Serbia really was in the Russian camp, and the US was out to get it for this reason, why didn't Serbia simply switch sides and join with the US ? It wouldn't make any sense for Milosevic to ally with Russia if that was leading to his destruction by the US. The reality is that it didn't much matter how friendly he was to the US; the nature of his politics was such that the US couldn't ultimately go along with him. Quite rightly.

You're wrong about separatism. Katanga is not an independent state today, is it ? The US was taken by surprise by the break-up of the USSR, and as I believe Brzezinski and others have written, George Bush Snr was none too pleased with the emergence of all those new states, and not very forthcoming in supporting them. The break-up of the USSR was an unintended by-product of the US victory in the Cold War. And what have the colour revolutions got to do with separatism ?

I wasn't aware of the separatist movement in Bolivia that you mentioned, I admit, but judging by the US's past record, I wouldn't bet my life savings that the US will stand by the separatists in the long run. We'll see. One might also mention the US 'support' for the Kurds in Iraq in the early 1970s, which didn't end up with the US actually supporting an independent Kurdistan.

The US was absolutely right to support Operation Storm. I did too: it rescued the Bihac Muslims from genocide, liberated Croatia from occupation and defeated the Great Serbian project.


Am I a cynic or naive ? I really don't give a damn if the US is acting for selfish imperialist motives, provided what it does is in the interests of the Balkan peoples. Maybe that makes me a cynic.

The difference between you and me, is that I condemn bad Western policies and support good ones, whereas you condemn all Western policies indiscriminately, and try to find reasons why everything the US does is always wrong. Sorry, but I think that's pure political nihilism.

You still haven't answered my question: are the Kosovars better off with recognition, or without it ?

I didn't say "wrong," exactly.

I said "imperialist," and I stick by it. I'd rather be a nihilist than a dupe, if those are my only choices.

The Great Game for the Caspian Basin oil was on everyone's mind in Washington and Moscow in the '90s. Sorry if you didn't get the word.

The fact that Katanga isn't independent doesn't mean the US didn't attempt to use separatism to "punish" Lumumba. The fact that events moved far faster in the Soviet collapse than anyone anticipated doesn't mean the State Department and George Soros weren't attempting to enflame separatism within the USSR. Please don't argue disingenuously.

So you supported Operation Storm, in which 500,000 Serbs were forced from their homes? Oh, I get it. Ethnic cleansing is bad when your enemies do it, but good when your friends do it.

I did answer your question about my views on recognition of Kosova's independence. Please read before repeating your question.

Meanwhile, I would be most interested in your responses to the questions posted below...

Let the settlers vote in a referendum

Why would the Palestinians refuse to let settlers participate in the vote Dr. Hoare is recommending -- they're only a tenth of the population in the occupied territories, they'd join up with a marginal % of Palestinians who would reject it. The entire idea is a pointless exercise -- Israel would never offer the '67 lines to the Palestinians -- why would it bother? The world won't compel it to give up the settlements, so why leave?

A referendum in Palestine is a red herring

If Palestinians were truly offered a state along the '67 lines, they'd take it. The problem is that's not what's being offered to them. Insisting on a referendum is Dr. Hoare's way of not upsetting his Scoop Jackson Society friends and his chums at Harry's Place who fight any boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy so that Israel can consolidate its gains in the West Bank. At what point would Dr. Hoare support BDS against Israel to stop its brutal colonization? Probably never, but he'll support bombing Serbia to free Kosovo. Where do you stand on divesting from Motorola over its involvement in Israeli land theft, Dr. Hoare?

How about an Israeli-Palestinian Rambouillet ?

"I did answer your question about my views on recognition of Kosova's independence. Please read before repeating your question."

My apologies - it was late. I'm glad you've finally approved of something George Bush has done, even if with heavy qualifiers :-)

"The Great Game for the Caspian Basin oil was on everyone's mind in Washington and Moscow in the '90s. Sorry if you didn't get the word."

But this had nothing to do with the Kosovo war. Anyway, I thought we were talking about a gas pipeline in 2008, not about oil in the 1990s.

"The fact that Katanga isn't independent doesn't mean the US didn't attempt to use separatism to "punish" Lumumba. The fact that events moved far faster in the Soviet collapse than anyone anticipated doesn't mean the State Department and George Soros weren't attempting to enflame separatism within the USSR. Please don't argue disingenuously."

The US has not carved up the Congo, or Bolivia, or Iraq or any of the other places where it supposedly supported separatists. Any 'support' for separatism in these regions was a phoney support, after which the US came down in favour of territorial integrity (it may be different in Bolivia, but I doubt it). So again, why is it uniquely the case in Kosova that the US should have carved out a new independent state to further its interests, if that is really what it was doing ?

"So you supported Operation Storm, in which 500,000 Serbs were forced from their homes? Oh, I get it. Ethnic cleansing is bad when your enemies do it, but good when your friends do it."

The Serb population of the 'Krajina' was evacuated by Milosevic's puppets, so Milosevic was the one who 'ethnically cleansed' the Krajina Serbs; Tudjman was merely an accessory, the US not even that. And it was 200,000 civilian and military, not 500,000. I explain all this in the link I posted above. If you want to respond to my article on Storm, we can debate it. I suspect, though, that if there had been no Storm, and the Serb forces had exterminated the Bihac Muslims, you'd be the first to condemn the US. It's called having your cake and eating it.

As regards Israel and Palestine: I would support the US and NATO issuing a Rambouillet-style ultimatum to both sides: peace and a two-state solution along the pre-1967 borders. They could then come down like a ton of bricks on whichever side rejected the deal.

I agree that this is unlikely to happen. It's also unlikely, as things stand, that the US will intervene to halt the genocide in Darfur - I don't like to rank these things, but I suppose if I had to choose which of all the horrible things that are happening in the Middle East to give priority to, I'd choose Darfur.

I don't quite understand why the same leftists who oppose Western intervention to liberate Kosovars, Bosnians, Iraqis, Afghans etc., feel they have a right to lecture the rest of us about opposing action over Palestine. Perhaps you can explain it to me ?

I wouldn't support a political campaign to boycott Israel - or indeed any other political campaign of any kind - that was spearheaded by Stalinist or Trotskyist types who supported Milosevic and Saddam Hussein. I suppose I feel about them much the same way that you, Bill, feel about mainstream Western politicians.

US to bomb Israel?

Please argue seriously, or don't waste our time. You know that is not an option, even if it were desirable.

This is really getting old.

I didn't "approve" of anything Bush has done.

Separating the current trans-Balkan pipeline plan from the Great Game for the Caspian oil that began in the '90s is a bizarre Procrustean fallacy.

The hardcore neocons really do want to carve up Iraq, and much of the rest of the Middle East. There are also "pragmatic" elements in Washington who favor stability under authoritarian regimes. I am not arguing a simplistic and hegemonic conspiracy, a la Ed Herman. But yes, the US does use separatism to punish its enemies.

Your account of Operation Storm is pure revisionism. Milosevic's only role was to acquiesce in Tudjman's aggression by not resisting it—so that he could resettle the refugees in Kosova as demographic cannon fodder. I'll go with your 200,000 figure—but the rest is bunk, and very ugly and dangerous bunk at that.

The US is not funding the butchery in Darfur. It is funding the occupation of Palestine. So Palestine should be more of a priority for those of us who live in the American empire (which includes you in Britain).

The Israel boycott drive is not spearheaded by Milosevic- or Saddam-apologists. You are grasping at straws.

You are also using quotation marks incorrectly.

Welcome to the club

"I didn't "approve" of anything Bush has done."

Don't try to backtrack, comrade. You are now on record as having said that something Bush did may turn out positively in the long run. You're a supporter of Western Imperialism just like the rest of us. Welcome to the club !

"The Israel boycott drive is not spearheaded by Milosevic- or Saddam-apologists. You are grasping at straws."

Yeah, I'm probably being naive again. The Israeli boycott drive is no doubt motivated by the desire to build oil pipelines through a supposedly 'liberated' Palestine. I can see them now - hundreds and hundreds of oil and gas pipelines snaking their way from the Caspian Sea to Palestine, en route to Bolivia, which will soon be dismembered by US Imperialism to accommodate them.

I don't know about you, but if the US ever starts to apply meaningful pressure on Israel to pull out of the West Bank, I'm going to go out and buy a lot of shares in Palestine Oil And Gas Pipelines Inc.

"You are also using quotation marks incorrectly."

Oooo. You bitch. Well, your blog's colour scheme is sooo early 2000s, darling.

genius club

It quickly gets boring when two or more people who have already decided they are absolutely right talk past each other. In that regard this thread may be an accurate microcosm of political discourse in the west, and it has enough straw men on all sides to stuff an Ottoman. If either of you could relinquish your omnipotence for a moment you might have a worthwhile discussion as you both have interesting points to make.

lame, Dr. Hoare

I provided a link to the US Campaign to end the Israeli occupation's campaign against Motorola. You dismissed it by falsely accusing them of an assocation with Slobo- suckers. I knew you were too cowardly to answer my challenge directly.

Come to think of it...

Has there been a referendum for Kosova?

Wouldn't it be an irony if the Kosovars achieved real independence, thanks to Washington's benevolent imperialism, while the Palestinians continue to face conditions akin to those the Kosovars faced under Milosevic—with Washington underwriting their oppression?

Don't look now doc, but your double standard is showing.

You are also still using quotation marks incorrectly.

A Question

Bill Weinberg, earlier on you rightfully attack the lies of Marko Hoare about Operation Storm but also claim that Milosevic used the Krajina Serbs as demographic cannon fodder by settling some of them in Kosovo. Very dramatic but you give no source for the claim and provide no numbers for the resettled Serbs. It must be noted that Kosovo is (legally now and certainly was then) part of Serbia and makes up about 15% of Serbia's territory. So the idea that some Krajina Serbs would be resettled there is not evidence of a grand conspiracy to demographically alter Kosovo.(Not all Serbian refugees could be resettled in Belgrade.) Can you provide numbers and a source for your claim?

An answer

At least 20,000 according to Noel Malcolm in Kosovo: A Short History (which you will assuredly dismiss as imperialist lies). Thousands more were resettled in the Sanjak, the traditionally Muslim part of Serbia just to Kosova's north.

The Milosevic regime was always quite open about its designs to demographically alter Kosova. The Michael Totten story in Commentary I recently cited opens with an extremely telling juxtaposition of quotes:

"All we want is to reduce the Albanian population to a manageable level." – Zoran Andjelkovic, former Serbian governor of Kosovo

Genocide is the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." – United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

Kosova is not legally a part of Serbia anymore. Don't you read the newspapers?

Thanks but you prove my point

Thank you for your answer but it only proves my point. Operation Storm caused the exodus of over 200,000 Serbs from Krajina. The overwhelming majority of them fled to Serbia (already dealing with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Bosnia and Croatia) and they had to go somewhere. Kosovo made up 15% of Serbia's territory. Assuming the accuracy of Noel Malcolm's numbers, (and I do not since he is a staunch supporter of NATO intervention and I consider him little more than a purveyor of Albanian agitprop), it still means that roughly ten percent of the Krajina refugees settled in Kosovo. Kosovo did not even accept a proportional share of Krajina refugees. The introduction of this small number of Serbs was hardly enough to demographically alter the balance in Kosovo in any significant way or even to prove the intent to do so.

As further evidence you present a decontextualized quote without date or source from an article in a neoconservative Zionist publication. I cannot take this seriously (even assuming the quote is accurate which I do not) let alone the implied claim that this somehow shows the former government's intention of committing genocide against Kosovo's Albanian population.

I do read the papers but I also read things like UN Resolution 1244, the Helsinki Accords and the UN Charter. Kosovo does not cease to be legally a part of Serbia because the U.S. and a minority of other countries recognize an "independent Kosovo" (which in reality has no independence as you have pointed out) anymore than Israeli settlements in the West Bank would become legal under international law if the U.S. officially recognized them as legal.

"Albanian agitprop"

A telling phrase, that. Yet another example of how you guys are each others' mirror image, or (in Hegelian terms) dialectical opposite or (in Judeo-Christian terms) moral equivalent. You and Dr. Hoare are both trying to clean up war crimes.

A 1996 Human Rights Watch report on Operation Storm states:

Approximately 150,000 Serbs fled the Krajina area during the Croatian Army offensive, creating the largest single movement of refugees since the beginning of the war in the former Yugoslavia in 1991. Neither Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic nor the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army came to the aid of the Krajina Serbs during the offensive. Although President Milosevic condemned the Croatian military assault, the Serbian government-controlled press also attacked the Krajina Serb leaders, claiming they were unfit to hold office. Most Serbs fleeing the Krajina region went to Banja Luka or to Serbia proper. The majority of the refugees were resettled in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, and a smaller number were resettled in the predominantly Albanian-populated province of Kosovo in southern Serbia.

So it seems the big majority of the Krajina refugees were resettled in either Kosova or Vojvodina—both formerly-autonomous regions within Serbia where the Milosevic regime sought to tip the demographic balance in favor of Serbs (against Albanians in the first instance; against Hungarians in the second). Given the choice between the two, the refugees assuredly would have chosen Vojvodina rather than Kosova, the poorest region in ex-Yugoslavia—which doubtless accounts for the discrepancy.

The quote form Zoran Andjelkovic was indeed sourced. Since you were apparently too lazy to click on the link, it was from a piece by Michael Totten in Commentary of March 20. Totten appears to have got it from a piece by Timothy Garton Ash in New York Review of Books of Sept. 21, 2000 (online at the pro-Serbian Center for Peace in the Balkans). Garton Ash's footnote for the quote reads:

The quotation was attributed to Zoran Andjelkovic, sometime Serbian governor of Kosovo, by a senior Greek diplomat, who reported it to Christopher Hitchens. See Hitchens's vigorous preface to an interesting book by one of the few Westerners who knew Kosovo well before the war: Stephen Schwartz, Kosovo: Background to a War (London: Anthem Press, 2000).

If Andjelkovic didn't really say it, one hopes he will launch litigation against Timothy Garton Ash, NY Review of Books, Totten, Commentary, Hitchens etc. It is certainly consistent with everything the Milosevic regime has done and said regarding Kosova, and with the mindset that dismisses truth-telling as "Albanian agitprop."

Kosova's independence is, alas, fictional. But Serbia, through its fascistic actions, has long since forfeited any legitimate claim to sovereignty over Kosova. Pointing to narrow legalisms is mere sophistry. Since you invoked the UN Charter, note this assertion from legal scholar Vesselin Popovski in the UN Chronicle of 2004:

[T]he sovereignty of States is no longer a simple right to exercise power on a defined territory. It is rather a complex duty to exercise power in an acceptable manner.

The use of this doctrine as carte blanche for foreign interventions is certainly a danger, but no less so is using the doctrine of state soveriegnty as carte blanche for genocide and repression. Once again, mere dialectical opposites.

Serbia, through its fascistic actions, has long since forfeited

"any legitimate claim to sovereignty over Kosova.
Pointing to narrow legalisms is mere sophistry."
Dear Mr. Weinberg,
I admire your depth of knowledge. Which sources of information would you recommend to get a true picture of current events? (Besides reading your blog)
I would respectfully disagree with your statement above.

About "fascistic actions":
As you know, one cannot fight a war in "white gloves".
In any war, there are cruelties: Chechnya, Haditha, occasional civilian casualties(including children) after Israeli strikes in Palestine. KLA thugs killed, tortured Serbs, blasted churches, raped women in their own land (Serbia/Kosovo). (According to Karla del Ponte, sold young Serbs' kidneys before killing them). You cannot expect human beings acting rationally after seeing such atrocities against their own people. It might be hard to understand that sitting at home, without seeing killings of innocent people with your own eyes.
About "narrow legalisms": If you disregard UN resolutions, you are left with an ancient "Right of the strongest". From your notes, I know that you don't like wars and conflicts. Disregard for international laws leads to more wars. Examples: US interventions in former Yugoslavia and Iraq, without UN approval.Has anybody benefited? No. Laws are good. They help to limit bloodshed.

"one cannot fight a war in 'white gloves'."

That line is the perennial resort of those who seek to justify atrocities. No litany of KLA abuses will justify the burning of hundreds of Albanian villages, the massacres and terror by the Serb security and paramilitary forces that ultimately forced 800,000 to flee to refugee camps. Don't you realize you are making exactly the same argument as Dr. Hoare? For him, Serb atrocities against Bosniaks justified Operation Storm; for you, Albanian atrocities against Serbs justified Operation Horseshoe. This logic must be utterly repudiated.

The social pact that held Yugoslavia together was abrogated by Milosevic with his illegal suspension of Kosova's autonomy in 1989. It was all downhill from there. Serbia's actions in Kosova over the following ten years were the very embodiment of the principle that "might makes right." We can argue about whether anyone benefited from the US intervention, but the Kosovars were and are absolutely entitled to struggle for their self-determination.

If you want to do some reading, you can check out our historical primer on the former Yugoslavia. If you want to go deeper, check out Noel Malcolm's histories of Kosovo and Bosnia, Misha Glenny's The Fall of Yugoslavia, Branka Magas' The Destruction of Yugoslavia, Laura Silber & Allan Little's Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. There's plenty more.

"one cannot fight..."

Thank you.

Leo: If you want a look at


If you want a look at what was going on behind the scenes than read works like Fools' Crusade by Diana Johnstone, Liar's Poker by Michele Colon, Travesty by John Laughland, Beeaking the South Slav Dream by Kate Hudson or Media Cleansing, Dirty Reporting by Peter Brock.

Noel Malcom's Short History may be popular but it is not a serious work. Miranda Vickers book Between Serb and Albanian is far superior to Malcolm's although her view is pro-Albanian enough that I doubt even Bill Weinberg would accuse her of Serb nationalism. Susan Woodward's book Balkan Tragedy is long and I do not agree entirely but it also contains some very useful information. The books by Glenny and Silber and Little's The Death of Yugoslavia contain useful information although they are highly slanted. Silber and Little in particular blame everything on Milosevic a version of history which does not stand up to serious scrutiny. Magas and Malcolm are the pits.

Bill Weinberg:

Operation Horseshoe was revealed as a fake in 2000. Why are you referring to Operation Horseshoe as fact when 9 years later the document's existence has never been proven? It was never shown at the Milosevic trial or any other. It was never shown to the public. The code name used was the Croatian word Potkova as opposed to the Serbian variant potkovica.

Like I said before the only concrete numbers you show for Kosovo (from Malcolm) show that the province did not even take a proportional number of Krajina refugee Serbs. Your other source HRW also says that only a minority of the Krajina Serbs went to Kosovo. The numbers do not show anything approximating demographic engineering in Kosovo. Your claim collapses. The claims on Vojvodina also fall through. The province had a Serbian majority before and during Milosevic's time in office and I'm sure it still does today. The largest minority in Vojvodina are the Hungarians at less than 20 percent. Milosevic did not have to send Serbs to Vojvodina in order to Serbianize it. Moreover, sending in a bunch of Serbian refugees that blamed Milosevic for selling them out would hardly be the way to consolidate his power base.

My earlier claim was correct. Indeed, Totten does not cite his source. If I had taken the time to track it down over the internet I would discover that the quote came from Timothy Garton Ash (in an essay cheering NATO's 1999 attack on Yugoslavia), who cited in a footnote a claim by the neocon interventionist Christopher Hitchens (in the preface to a book written by neocon interventionist Stephen Scwartz, no less!) that an anonymous Greek diplomat told him that Andjelkovic made the quote about reducing the Albanian population. That 9 years later you believe such decontextualized third hand hearsay from dubious sources represents serious proof says something about the standards you employ on this issue. (The claim that the quote must be legitimate because Andjelkovic did not file a libel suit against the NYRB is also hilarious!)Despite your opposition to NATO's intervention you reapeated most of the lies that made it possible and continue to do so even today in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The words of Popovski cut both ways if taken seriously. Why should the international community extend statehood to Kosovo considering the abuses committed by the Albanians since June 1999 while tens of thousands of NATO troops patrolled the area at that? Why does Serbia forfeit any right to Kosovo over human rights abuses committed over 8 years ago while the Albanians deserve Kosovo considering the well documented human rights abuses committed since June 1999 under NATO occupation? Moreover, it is unclear why the Kosovo Albanian right to self-determination must be exercised through the creation of a second dysfunctional Albanian state, one created through a process of violent external intervention and the ethnic cleansing of the non-Albanian population at that. Self-determination can take a variety of forms and should not be limited to the creation of chauvinistic monoethnic statelets everywhere that some national minority or another holds a majority.

"Operation Horseshoe was revealed as a fake"

Right. Those 800,000 refugees were a mass hallucination.

You guys will never get it. I can repeat the obvious from here to eternity and won't even make a dent. Milosevic broke the social contract that held Yugoslavia together with the abrogation of Kosova's constitutional autonomy in 1989. The 90% Albanian majority of the territory want independence practically unanimously. The final ten years under Serbian rule meant political exclusion, followed by massacres and forced expulsions. None of that means a damn thing to you.

You are no longer invited to clutter up my blog with your evil lies. Alright? Go get your own damn blog. I'm sure ZNet will welcome you with open arms, as they have Diana Johnstone and your other genocide-apologist friends.

Those 800,000 refugees were a mass hallucination.

This crisis was proven to be organized between NATO and the KLA aided by local media who were making outlandish claims of genecide and mass murder. This incited hysteria of the yelling 'fire' in a crowed theater sort.

If you had bothered to actually follow the Milosevic trial, you'd have known that leaflets were even distributed during the bombing to encourage the Albanians to flee.

Until NATO started dropping bombs, there was nothing but a low level insurgency which often brutalized it's own people to achieve it's goals. Appealing to the carnage left in NATO's wake as justification for intervention is mental gymnastics indicative of a man who's crippled to high for crutches.

The only thing you are "proving"...

...is how pathetically gullible you are. As if a refugee crisis of 800,000 could be "organized" as a propaganda ploy by dropping leaflets.

When paramilitary thugs come to burn down your town and force the inhabitants to flee, I'm sure you'll be very comforted that this doesn't constitute "genecide [sic] and mass murder."

And by the way, there were plenty of acts of mass murder.

Before the bombs started falling, 200,000 had already been forced to flee. A matter of historical record.

Look, can't you guys take a hint? I don't clutter up Diana Johnstone's blog, do I? Go get your own damn blog. I am not going to allow this one to serve as a forum for this kind of evil propaganda forever. Get it?