Key goals for the West, meaning the U.S. and EU

By Johan Galtung
Research note of March 12, 2010

Mihajlo (Markovic) stated this in fall 1991 at a UNESCO conference on democracy, in Praque:

“Yugoslavia as it was cannot be saved, it is doomed. But when it breaks up there is one thing we Serbs will never accept: living as minorities under those who killed us during the 2nd world war as allies of Hitler and Mussolini, and they lived and live in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Pristina.” [Read more…]

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Kosovo/a independent? Perhaps, but what matters is how

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 106 – December 4, 2000

Originally published here.

 

The main proposal in the independent international Kosovo Commission’s report is that Kosovo should be given conditional independence. This PressInfo deals with this proposal and a few other aspects of the report.

 

THE FIRST PARAGRAPH

The very first paragraph of the report’s executive statement states: “The origins of the crisis have to be understood in terms of a new wave of nationalism that led to the rise of Milosevic and the official adoption of an extreme Serbian nationalist agenda. The revocation of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989 was followed by a Belgrade policy aimed at changing the ethnic composition of Kosovo and creating an apartheid-like society.”

Here are some simple counter arguments: a) nationalism alone certainly can not explain the conflicts in the region; b) not only the Serbs used nationalism, so did Bosnian Muslim, Croats, Macedonians, Slovenes and Albanians at the time; c) it indicates a poor understanding of Milosevic to say that he was a nationalist; he sold out Serbs and the Serbian ’cause’ repeatedly in order to remain in or increase his personal power; d) there was no official adoption of nationalism; e) Kosovo’s autonomy was not revoked, it was sharply reduced and, for sure, it was done in an offending, authoritarian way; f) there is no evidence that there was an official policy in Belgrade with the aim of changing the ethnic composition of the Kosovo province, but there was a worry over the fact that over the preceding 30 years the Serb proportion of the province’s population had fallen from about 30% to 9%.

 

APARTHEID – REALLY?

The reference to apartheid is misleading. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, apartheid is “(Afrikaans: ‘apartness’) name given by the Afrikaner National Party, in office in Africa since 1948, to the policies that govern relations between the country’s 3,800.000 white inhabitants and its 17,700,000 non-white, mainly black African, inhabitants. It is also used to describe the long-term objective of the territorial separation that is advocated by Afrikaner church and intellectual circles.” Other characteristics of apartheid are mentioned: complete domination of the white minority over the black majority; black Africans were allowed to own land only within the 13 per cent of the territory which were designated native reserves; sexual and marriage relations between blacks and whites illegal; nonwhites were denied the right to vote; and all black Africans were required to obtain a permission before they could enter and remain in urban areas. (15th edition, Vol 1, p 439).

There was nothing even “apartheid-like” in Kosovo. Indeed, its status as autonomous since 1974 speaks against this. It has not been a question of race relations or based on colour, it was not a minority dominating a majority as Kosovo was part of Serbia and of former Yugoslavia in both of which Serbs were the largest nation; Kosovo-Albanians could vote (but boycotted elections), and they were not forced to seek permission to leave reserves. What is true, however, is that Albanian radicals would use the term “apartheid” in conversations with foreign visitors, either as part of their liberation vocabulary or in perfectly understandable despair over their situation. But for the Commission &endash; chaired by South African judge, Richard Goldstone – to make the above statement its basic framework gives reason for concern.

 

THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE

And now to the issue of independent Kosova. [Read more…]

Intellectually the Kosovo Commission Report is a turkey and it won’t fly

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 105 – November 23, 2000

Originally published here.

 

We expect soldiers we send to the front to have some military education and training. As patients we hope the doctor has studied medicine. And who would write a constitution for a new state if not professionally educated lawyers?

But not so when it comes to conflict-analysis, mediation or peace-making. In this field it seems that neither specific education, practical experience nor knowledge about the conflicting parties and their cultures is of any importance. The important thing is that you want to do good.

Last year, Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden took the initiative to establish an independent international commission tasked with analysing the equally enigmatic and tragic Kosovo conflict and NATO’s bombing as well as outline the lessons to be learnt. He appointed Richard Goldstone, the well-respected South African judge and former chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal to chair it together with former Swedish education minister, Carl Tham, as his deputy.

The Swedish government allocated about 1 million dollar for the one-year work of the commission, which also obtained support from the Carnegie Corporation, George Soros, Ford Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among its members are Mary Kaldor, Michael Ignatieff, Richard Falk (TFF associate) who represent themselves and not their countries – of which anyhow six are NATO members.

No doubt, it was a noble initiative, with all wishing to do good – although even Sweden never expressed a critical word about the West’s handling of the crisis or of what, at the time, I called NATO’s Balkan bombing blunder. To identify what we must learn from this conflict and the international attempts to handle it is, beyond doubt, one of the most important intellectual, political and moral tasks – for Sweden itself, for the EU, for NATO and for the United States. The problems that caused the violence in the Balkans are far from solved – if at all addressed – and the place with most rapid and positive change today is Serbia whose people took matters in their own hand and put an end to the Milosevic era. Around the world, conflicts similar to that in Kosovo are queuing up, waiting to be diagnosed and treated well or turn into tragedies.

My TFF colleagues and I have, since 1991, worked in Kosovo and Belgrade, with the political leaders on all sides and with civil society organisations. After some 40 missions and 3000+ interviews, we know a bit about the place, the personalities and the problems as well as about the rest of former Yugoslavia with which the Kosovo issue was and remains fundamentally intertwined.

During a number of years I personally functioned as unpaid, goodwill adviser to Dr. Ibrahim Rugova. Under his wise leadership the Kosovo-Albanians was the only people in ex-Yugoslavia who had decided – in contrast to everybody else – to try to achieve their dream about an independent state by means of a) a non-violent struggle, b) the building of a parallel society and c) intensive international diplomatic and media activity. It was a dream, of course, as nationalistic or and exclusionist as any other and was greatly assisted by the bullish arrogance of Milosevic and the repressive forces in the region.

But a simple conflict is about the only thing it was not. So the Commission has ploughed through hundreds of human rights documents and other types of materials and consulted hundreds of experts, politicians and military people involved in the matter – although, however, surprisingly few among those who were close to issue, on the ground. Goldstone and Tham want to do good, for sure, but none of them are conflict analysts or Balkan experts. That could, with a different mandate and more creativity, actually have brought in new aspects or have lead to the creation of more innovative proposals. But it doesn’t. This turkey won’t fly.

One the positive side, [Read more…]

Misguided motives led to the chaos in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

April 5, 2000 – on CNN Interactive

(CNN) — The conflicts that led to war and dissolution of the former Yugoslavia took shape in the 1970s and early 1980s, and their origins are much older. The paradox is that the international community’s self-appointed “conflict managers” have not treated the Balkan conflicts as conflicts.

Instead, they have wielded power and practiced Realpolitik disguised as peacemaking and humanitarianism.

The international community — a euphemism for a handful of top leaders – has historically been an integral party to the conflicts, not an impartial mediator. A policy of disinterested conflict analysis, mediation and conflict resolution would require different analyses, means and institutions (with just a minimum of training).

The leaders of the republics of the former Yugoslavia all did their best to destroy the federation from within. Today’s situation, however, is equally the result of the international community’s failed conflict management in four cases – Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo.

None of the peace agreements work as expected. The regions are more polarized and ethnically cleansed than before. Democracy is formal and imposed, not genuine. The countries are not armed simply for defense, they are militarized.

War criminals are still at large. Refugees have not returned in any significant numbers (except to Kosovo). The deeply human dimensions of tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and societal regeneration have hardly begun. No commissions on truth or history have been established.

Money – always plentiful for military purposes – is conspicuously lacking for the prevention of civilian violence and for postwar development. Integration into the EU may not take place for a long time yet.

Finally, and fatally, the U.N. missions to these countries have been thrown out, substituted with more expensive and heavy-handed missions, or discontinued prematurely.  [Read more…]

Misleading UN Report on Kosovo (B)

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 78 – October 3, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“The UN and NATO missions in Kosovo violate Security Council Resolution 1244 which clearly guarantees the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The Security Council has just reaffirmed that Kosovo is a part of FRY. 1244 also demands the full cooperation of FRY in implementing the missions tasks. All this is pure pretence, as any visitor to Kosovo will learn – and mission members will tell you privately.

The Report of the Secretary-General (S/1999/987 of September 16) does not even bother to mention whether KFOR/UNMIK cooperates with Belgrade! It seems pretty clear, rather, that the international community has fooled Belgrade and considers it so weak that it doesn’t even have to be polite or give the world the impression that it respects the country’s sovereignty. This coincides with credible press analyses that the U.S. decision makers think Kosovo must become independent.

The international presence of UNMIK and NATO in Kosovo base itself on the bombing campaign the legality of which remains highly disputable. In its day-to-day operations, this presence amounts to a de facto occupation force that co-operates with Albania military and civilian leaders who have perpetrated gross human rights violations,” says Jan Oberg upon his return from Pristina, Skopje and Belgrade, TFF’s 37 mission to the region.

Here follow some facts:

“The missions have set up border points to Serbia but until recently not to Macedonia and Albania. Public and state property is ‘taken over’ by the UN and KFOR, no legal regulations done or rent or compensation paid to the Yugoslav state. Visa is not needed to enter Kosovo. The German Mark is introduced and the Yugoslav dinar disappearing. Tax and customs are now collected to the benefit of Kosovo, with no proportion going to Serbia or Yugoslavia. A new army-like “Kosovo Protection/Defence Force” is established and has the old KLA commander at its head.

Should we be surprised if the mineral resources and the Trpca mining industry complex in Mitrovica is soon ‘taken over’ by foreign capital? Dr. Kouchner serves at the moment as a one-man legislature: he can overrule any federal law and he promulgates legally binding “regulations” by the day.

Resolution 1244 stipulates that ‘after the withdrawal an agreed number of Yugoslav and Serb military and police personnel will be permitted to return to Kosovo to perform functions’ such as liaising with the international civil and military missions, marking and clearing mine fields, maintaining a presence at Serb patrimonial sites and maintain a presence at key border crossings (specified in Annex 2). Reference to all this is conveniently omitted in the UN Report – that serves to evaluate the UN mission and is written, we must assume, by the UN staff in Pristina itself.

So much for the United Nations manifest, gross violation of FRY’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. One understands why all this goes unmentioned in the Report. I am not a lawyer, but it looks to me as a new sort of international lawlessness and might-makes-right,” says Jan Oberg. [Read more…]

Covering up NATO’s Balkan Bombing Blunder

Av Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 61 – April 14, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“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. [Read more…]

Time to try true nonviolence in Kosovo/a

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 46 – September 4, 1998

Original reprinted here.


“In Kosovo/a both Dr. Rugova’s non-violence and KLA’s violence have failed. They seem both to lack political analysis and a clear cut philosophical basis, and thus strategy. The alternative to Kosovo-Albanian pragmatic nonviolence, however, is NOT terrorism and military struggle. The alternative could be principled nonviolence and political innovation based upon realism,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.


Under Dr. Ibrahim Rugova’s leadership the Kosovo-Albanians fought for their independence from Serbia with non-violent means up till 1996 when the clandestine Kosova Liberation Army – having armed itself since 1992-93 – appeared on the scene. It was the only political leadership in ex-Yugoslavia that followed non-violence and also favoured a neutral, non-military, soft-bordered independent republic, Kosova. In short, it was the wisest and most innovative political movement in the region.

The KLA has, at least for the time being, altered the political situation in Kosovo/a conflict. And to the worse! During my recent conversation with Dr. Rugova, on July 31, he assured me that LDK and he himself stand firmly on non-violence.

But what kind of non-violence? To put it crudely, it is a sympathetic pragmatic non-violence rather than philosophical or principled nonviolence. When principled, we say “nonviolence” in one word, not “non-violence,” Jan Oberg explains. “Dr. Rugova is a moderate, cultured, low-voiced and pretty dogged personality. I have had the privilege to meet him several times for hour long, informal discussions since 1992. I have no doubt that he is by heart convinced that Kosova’s independence must be achieved by non-violence rather than by violence.

LDK’s and Rugova’s policies have been called “Gandhian” – by people who don’t know much about Gandhi. But there are some similarities. Perhaps the most impressive achievements in terms of true nonviolence in the parallel state of Kosova shall not be found in the political sphere but in civil society of Kosova.

The development of an international information system and media presence – through fax, e-mail and websites – and the international diplomatic activity is impressing; indeed, much more so than that of Serbia/Yugoslavia.

The development of parallel cultural, social and health sectors in Kosova is “Gandhian” in many ways. It has not harmed the opponent, but it has provided the minimum for Albanian teachers, children and youth who, particularly from 1990, did not feel welcome in the school system run by Belgrade. One can always discuss the quality of such alternative health and education systems; I was told that 20 000 teachers are paid by the Kosova government. And it is estimated that it costs the equivalent of US $ 1,5 million per day in total to keep the Kosova state as such operating. This sum is generated inside Kosova but mostly collected outside by appealing to all Albanians in the Diaspora to pay 3 % of their income to the Kosova state.

All this would have been impossible had there not been a strong public support for such a non-violent strategy inside Kosova. Also, the non-violent policies – not very isomorphic with the culture of Albanians in general – was a stabilising, moderating factor during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. One hardly dares think of what could have happened if hotheads, not Rugova, had been in charge of Kosova at the time!” – says Oberg.

*

“However impressive and unique these achievements are, the real problem began, I believe, when the Kosovars proclaimed their sovereign republic of Kosova and its cessation from Serbia on July 2nd, 1990. They did so on the steps outside the parliament in the turmoil following the clamp-down by the Serbian authorities on (parts of) their autonomy and the expelling of MPs from the parliament building. On September 22, 1991, when the Kosova Republic’s parallel parliament declared the state independent and had this decision confirmed by a referendum organised clandestinely a few days later. In other words, a historical moment of panic.

This was ‘symbol politics’ – something Gandhi would hardly have done. The dilemma thus created is evident: if you tell, or promise, your 2 million people that they already live in the Independent Kosova, ANY negotiation with Serbia, Yugoslavia or the international community would mean a backing down from this maximalist position – and maximalist it was as seen by Belgrade as well as by the international community. This is the reason that no state, except at the time Albania, recognised the Kosova Republic. Youth who were about 10 years old when their parents told them that they lived in Independent Kosova are now entering university education and becoming politically conscious; they become very frustrated when they find out that this self-proclaimed state is a parallel society with gigantic socio-economic problems and quite some hardships and certainly not a real state.

This explains why the Kosovo-Albanian leadership has been consistently negative to negotiations – although declaring themselves for it, if an international Third Party participated. My own experience from carrying messages back and forth over four years is quite clear on this point: it was NEVER the right time for Dr. Rugova to start negotiations. Also, in spite of the fact that the Kosovo-Albanians, had they participated in Yugoslav elections, could have ousted Milosevic, they refused to do so. Those who advocated participation in elections were seen as traitors. The strategy required someone ‘evil’ in Belgrade also to mobilize sympathy abroad.

This whole strategy is clearly un-Gandhian, clearly unprincipled. Gandhi would have sought actively to establish a face-to-face dialogue and built alliances with ‘good’ Serbs. So was the idea of advocating non-violence while simultaneously calling for NATO to protect, alternatively bomb, Serbian territory in support for Kosova’s independence. I know that Dr. Rugova saw this dilemma all the time, but the hardliners and militarist-romantic hotheads would not hear a word about negotiations. “We already ARE independent, so what is there to talk with fascist Serbia about,” they would often tell you.

Un-Gandhian was also the repeated advocacy of tougher sanctions against Serbia and Serbs. A true Gandhian sees no point in harming the opponent and certainly not the opponent’s innocent citizens. Furthermore, the typical stereotyping of all Serbs that you find so widespread – “seen one, you’ve seen them all, and they are bad guys” was a great mistake. An even greater mistake – from a Gandhian viewpoint – was that nothing was done by LDK to introduce peace and human rights education and conflict understanding in the alternative schools. And they did not link up with local Serbs and the Serb people elsewhere. LDK has information centres around the world but not in Belgrade where it is most needed!

Then there is the problem of political creativity and energy: it is evident that the Kosovo-Albanian leadership have entertained a number of illusions or high but unrealistic hopes: a) that the Dayton process would include Kosovo; b) that the world would not recognise Yugoslavia with the Kosovo province inside it, and c) that the world’s support for the human rights of Kosovo-Albanians was identical with a support for the project of an independent republic. When these turned out to be false hopes, the leadership lost momentum and got paralysed. There was no fall-back strategy and no revision of means and goals. Public dialogue was stifled and people started leaving LDK. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is,” says Oberg.

“So, is a military struggle the alternative? Of course not, it’s a blunder, a dangerous intellectual and moral short circuit. You hear again and again that it is understandable, people are so frustrated. But the clandestine, illegal arms build-up started 5-6 years ago, not last year.

Many have criticised Rugova for choosing ‘passive’ non-violence. They wanted more activism, more visibility. Why have elections, critics would argue, when during all these years Rugova refused to assemble the Kosova parliament? Why not have demonstrations and peaceful marches and strikes all over the region, why not sit-downs, go-slow actions, civil disobedience, obstruction of the factories – all nonviolently?

These are very good questions,” comments Jan Oberg. I believe that the education and training of all citizens for such activities – and they would be dangerous without such education and training – was never contemplated by Rugova’s leadership. On the other hand, we must be careful with words here: the build-up of a parallel society is not exactly expressions of passivity. But, in addition to that, something was missing – because this WAS NOT a Gandhian, nonviolent politics.

Be this as it may, Rugova’s answer today is that they chose the right way under the circumstances – that if more radical methods had been employed “we would not be here today” as he told me recently. Paradoxically, however, the only time the Kosova Parliament assembled was this July, in the midst of heavy fighting in the province, not the safest moment. But it was allowed to and important ceremonial functions took some 20 minutes before the MPs left. Remarkably, there was no attempt by Serbian authorities to prevent the Assembly or interrupt it. (See PressInfo 45 about the tolerance also shown by Belgrade over the years).

*

For quite some time, oppositional Albanian intellectuals and politicians have accused LDK/Rugova of lacking a sense of democracy, flexibility and building consensus. That he doesn’t listen, or listens but doesn’t do anything. Some even say that he is in collusion with Milosevic. It DOES look strange” says Jan Oberg, “that there is still no government formed since the elections in March. And the way the new – much too narrow – negotiation team was composed is totally non-transparent. Many of these intellectuals now uncritically embrace KLA/UCK and argue that ‘the alternative to non-violence is this militant struggle.’

First, it is impossible to see KLA/UCK as more democratic or more tolerant of diverse opinions than Rugova’s leadership. Indeed, it has refused to be under any democratic political control and public accountability; many perform under false names and nobody seem to know who is leading which fraction and responsible for which activities. Citizens of the Kosova Republic have not been granted any opportunity to voice their opinion on whether or not to switch from non-violence to a militant policy or directly violent struggle. Sadly, Kosova’s citizens have now either been victimised directly by KLA’s own activity and forced ‘recruitment’ or indirectly by the counterattacks of Serb forces that hit them severely. SECOND, it is interesting to see that Mr. Adem Demaqi has become the political leader or spokesman of the KLA. For quite some time Mr. Demaqi has advocated a “Balkania” solution which implies, among other things, that Kosovo should become a third republic of Yugoslavia. Although this can be seen as a step towards cessation, it is moderate in comparison with Rugova’s maximalist goal of total independence. In terms of means, Demaqi until recently promoted maximalist active nonviolence which contrasts Rugova’s minimalist means. So the KLA has chosen a political figure who has advocated goals and means directly opposite to those of KLA! And so, Mr Demaqi has quickly radicalized his rhetoric.

So, yes, there are contradictions in Rugova’s policies and it seems that his movement has run out of vision and energy. The contradictions in and among the opposition to him seems, however, to be considerably bigger,” Oberg points out. While Rugova has been running on symbol politics, he still has one major advantage: no blood on his hands.

One may ask how long time it will take for the Albanian advocates and practitioners of violence to recognise that violence makes ANY process, ANY settlement and ANY future life more, not less, difficult.

The KLA has already failed in four ways: 1) morally because it started with terror and has announced that it intends to return to it; 2) militarily because it miscalculated the ‘balance of forces,’ thought it could create and hold liberated towns and thought it would be rescued by NATO; 3) politically because its spokesperson talks about all Albanians in one state, and 4) democratically because it is not a genuine guerrilla movement that ‘swims in the sea’ of its citizens and is loved by them. Fear is everywhere.

*

But is principled nonviolence not far to weak in the face of a repressive regime such as Belgrade? We don’t know the answer,” says Oberg. “It has been practised neither in Belgrade nor in Kosovo (or elsewhere in ex-Yugoslavia for that matter). But it was nonviolent popular movement that put an end to the Marcos regime, to the Shah of Iran and mobilised the world opinion against the Vietnam war. It put an end to authoritarian communist Poland – Solidarnosc – and carried the ‘velvet revolution’ in Czechoslovakia. What would have happened if they had fought with weapons against these militarily much stronger enemies? It was peace movements, women, dissidents AND Michael Gorbachev who – non-violently – put an end to the Cold War and paved the way for a very significant reduction in the world’s nuclear arsenals. These are no small achievements in human history!” – emphasizes TFF director Oberg, “but, true, they are never presented as victories for nonviolence in our media, so its potentials remain largely hidden.”

He concludes, “Like a military battle can be fought in different ways, so can a non-violent struggle. The alternative to passive non-violence is NOT violence and terror, not even in the face of violence and terror. It is a different, principled – and of course active – nonviolence based not on make-believe politics but on real politics in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

For decades Kosovo has been the shining illustration of Gandhi’s famous dictum that “the principle of an eye for an eye will one day make the whole world blind.” Hardline politicians and trigger-happy people on both sides have been blinded long enough. Everyone should be able to now SEE that violence, also having been tried now by the Albanian side, won’t do the trick. And if it did, the liberated Kosova would become a garrison state, a state imbued with repression, a mirror of the state it seceded from and, perhaps, the scene of a civil war.

The potentials of principled nonviolence is not consumed in Kosovo/a. In fact, it has not been tried yet. It will have to be re-invented by new energies. Indeed, that is the only means that can produce a viable solution. One wonders why the international community, from left to right, produces so many voices from a dark age senselessly advocating NATO violence as THE solution. What’s wrong with nonviolence based on analysis and coherent conflict-mitigation principles? Why don’t we see diplomats, experts and media explore the potentials and teach the strengths of such a strategy?” [Read more…]