Serbia – Past and future

By Johan Galtung

February 15, 2010

In Belgrade: The NATO attack May-June 1999 left scars still not healed, like the bombed out Ministry of the Interior (Israelis want to invest in a hotel at that site).  But the place is as vibrant with culture and restaurants-cafes and intellectualisms of all kinds as ever.  An enviable resilience.  Orthodox optimism?

Processing the past is not easy.  This authors’s summary of Serbian history adds up to three words: defeat, retreat, return.  There is the Abrahamic idea of Chosen People with a Promised Land from Genesis, focused on today’s Kosovo-Kosova. Hypothesis: whatever else happens, there will be some kind of return.  To put this author’s cards on the table I see only one relatively stable equilibrium not maintained by violence and the threat thereof (1):

• an independent Kosova in the name of self-determination,
• with a Swiss type constitution and a flexible number of cantons,
• maybe three Serbian cantons in the North and close to Pristina,
• each canton governed in that nation’s idiom as a federation,
• with open borders to the key motherlands Serbia and Albania, and
• those three countries woven together in a confederation.

The present “independence” – using a Finn as an instrument for US-Western goals and based on three points is of course not sustainable: [Read more…]

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A decade too late – Kosovo talks begin

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 192 – October 14, 2003

Originally published here.

 

On October 14, 2003, in Vienna, high-level Kosovo-Albanians and Serbs from Belgrade met face-to-face. It was a historical meeting in more than one sense. It provides an opportunity for anyone concerned about conflict-management and peace-building to reflect on its philosophy, methods and politics. Did the international so-called community do the right thing? Is there adequate institutional learning? Are there parallels between Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq that we should discuss self-critically rather than simply blame the parties?

 

Dialogue is fine but the 1999 bombing hardened everybody

It is the first time since NATO’s war on Yugoslavia in 1999 that Serbs and Albanians meet this way. Indeed, with a few exceptions, it’s the first attempt at real negotiations since it all began in the late 1980s. Like in Iraq, the main parties were prevented from meeting. As time has passed hard-liners have taken over the scene and now they won’t really talk.

Being the clear victims of Milosevic’ repressive policies, the Albanians rightly felt that they had the support of the West and would be rewarded by sticking to a maximalist position; thus no compromise about the goal of complete independence.

Being the largest people whose minorities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo never really felt any solidarity from the Western conflict-managers, the Serbs felt misunderstood, treated without fairness and they were humiliated by the bombings. Why should they not fight adamantly for the Kosovo province that they consider their cradle? In addition, the Serbs as a people – and the Kosovo Serbs in particular – have lost more than any other due to the policies of their own leadership. [Read more…]

Ibrahim Rugova’s decade-long leadership in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF Pressinfo 140 – December 14, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Ten years ago it was not impossible to see…

Ten years ago, TFF’s conflict-mitigation team started working with Dr. Ibrahim Rugova and LDK people in the belief that a) they were the best dialogue partners Belgrade could hope to get, and b) they were the only political leadership in ex-Yugoslavia that advocated non-violence, albeit pragmatic. I have no evidence that they have ever read a line by, say, Gandhi.

We participated in formulating characteristics of the independent Kosova they aimed at: it should be a region with no military, open border to all sides and politically neutral. We helped devise negotiation strategies and facilitated the only written dialogue between them and governments in Belgrade between 1992 and 1996. The foundation produced a concrete plan for a negotiated solution. See Preventing war in Kosovo (1992) and UNTANS (1996).

Our team quickly learned to respect the complexity and difficulties of the Kosovo conflict. We were privileged to repeatedly listen to the deep-held views and animosities among various Albanians, Serbs and other ethnic groups in Kosovo as well as to many and different parties in Belgrade. We knew that the international community played with fire by not attending to this conflict and tried to alert it.

This shaped the basis for our later scepticism about the faked ‘negotiations’ in Rambouillet and NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia including Kosovo. A committed, impartial and competent international civil-political intervention could have mitigated the conflict in the early 1990s. And even if this opportunity was missed, bombings would not produce peace, trust, tolerance, reconciliation or a willingness to live and work together.

 

The West chose Kosovo’s militants as allies instead

Already ten years ago, Dr. Rugova was the undisputed leader of the Kosovo-Albanians. He received a lot of lip-service during missions to Western capitals. Reality was that Western governments in typical ‘covert operations’ from 1992-93 helped create, equip and train hard-liners behind his back, who became the later Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA or UCK. Dr. Rugova was marginalised and the U.S. in particular played with the KLA, which at the time was officially categorised by U.S. diplomats as “a terrorist organisation.” Later on, NATO performed the role of KLA’s airforce and the civilian UN mission (UNMIK) and the military KFOR-NATO missions were set up.

These missions officially declared UCK disbanded and illegal but let it continue operating partly as UCK/KLA and partly as the civilian Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC. The internationals consistently kept on allying themselves more with the leaders of the KLA, (Hacim Thaci, for instance) and KPC (Agim Ceku,for instance) whilst de facto accepting the illegal violence and mafia-based power structure established by them immediately after the war throughout the province.

In other words, Rugova and LDK were marginalised during the period when a negotiated solution could have been found, then during the Rambouillet process, then after the bombing and, finally, after the municipal elections when LDK won a landslide victory but did not get proportional backing by the international administration. As the standard response runs among the internationals: “we want to control and democratise the hardliners and keep them in the process, therefore we cannot also antagonise them.” Dr. Kouchner, the former head of the UN mission (UNMIK) was instrumental in institutionalising this cosy Western relationship with warlords and mafia leaders.

Since July 1999, this policy has yielded absolutely no results, except ethnic cleansing, destruction of democratic potentials, more mafia economy and criminality, and two KLA incursions, one into Southern Serbia and one into Macedonia.

 

UNMIK must now stop its vain courting of warlords

In this perspective, Ibrahim Rugova is an extraordinary figure in Balkan politics. [Read more…]

Macedonia 2002 – 2003: Assessing the risk of violence

By Jan Oberg

Written in 2001

 

1. Introduction

This report offers a framework and some tools for analysing the conflicts in Macedonia and the larger conflict formation of which it is a part. The purpose of the analysis is to assess the risks of violence and war in the country in the near future and the long-term.

 

1.1 Early warning and preventive initiatives

Early warning studies are meaningful only if combined with early listening and early action. Numerous organisations, among them Amnesty International and the Transnational Foundation, have repeatedly pointed out from the early 1990s that there would be war in Kosovo if no actors in the international community undertook mitigating, mediating and negotiating efforts. In Kosovo, there was minimal early listening and no early action to deal with the conflicts and their resolution. The conflict grew more serious and became militarised; due to the absence of early listening and action, NATO’s bombing in 1999 was promoted as the only solution, in spite of the fact that it caused even more human suffering and did not lead to a sustainable peace in the region a good three years later.

 

1.2 Theory and empirical work – diagnosis, prognosis and therapy

 Nothing is as practical as a good theory. Without thinking about it, we use theories and make assumptions when we drive a car or cook a meal. This report includes bits and pieces of general theory and some concepts to help readers understand this conflict as well as other conflicts. If the analysis increases the understanding of complex conflicts in general and those pertaining to Macedonia in particular, it will have served two of its major purposes. Without comprehensive ‘diagnosis’, we can neither produce a reasonable ‘prognosis’ nor hope to provide adequate ‘treatment’ or ‘therapy.’

A doctor uses knowledge of medicine and theories about the causes and symptoms of diseases and combines that with theories and concepts when examining a patient. In this report, we do much the same; we diagnose a ‘patient’ as suffering from serious conflicts and violence and explore the possibility that the disease may not have been completely cured and may reoccur. We also look into what is required for the patient to recover completely.

Only on the basis of both theory and empirical analysis can we hope to assess the risk of violence and war in complex systems. And only by adding constructive thinking can we hope to prevent violence and help people and societies move towards peace.

 

1.3 Causes of war and causes of peace

One particularly important, underlying assumption throughout this report is [Read more…]

What will happen in Macedonia?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 126 – September 7, 2001

Originally published here.

 

NATO will not leave Macedonia

NATO people emphasise that Operation Essential Harvest in Macedonia is a very limited mission; it will only be in Macedonia for one month and only to collect 3,300 weapons. It is not monitoring, it is not peace-keeping and it is not peace-enforcement. And, as we have shown in PressInfo 125 it is not a disarmament mission. It’s a “collect-not-too-many weapons” mission.

When NATO’s mission approaches its termination, there is likely to be an intensive media effort to emphasise that the KLA/NLA kept its promise and handed in 3,300 weapons. It will be heralded by NATO and the EU as a major step in the direction of peace by that side. However, following the logic of this whole affair it is a quite reasonable hypothesis that both parties will spend the time productively to acquire new weapons. Because:

a) The Macedonians and the government have no reason whatsoever to trust that NATO will help it against future KLA/NLA military activity. Western countries have threatened sanctions against Macedonia in case it defended itself too strongly and they have prevented others, e.g. Ukraine, from delivering weapons. They have supplied KLA/NLA with weapons and trained it since 1993. In addition, Western agencies and mercenary companies work with them and both in Kosovo and in Macedonia the international community has sided politically with the KLA/NLA, no matter that its spin doctors would like us to believe otherwise .

b) If 3,300 is all or most of the weapons held by the Albanian militarists, why should they disarm themselves voluntarily only to wave good-bye to the only force that they feel could protect them in the event of continued military activity by Macedonian army and police and even paramilitaries? Beyond doubt, the government sees it as its right and duty to get back the 10-15% of the country’s territories effectively controlled by KLA/NLA – one way or another.

c) Things usually do not go according to plan. The architects behind the Dayton Agreement talked about one year for IFOR as the time it would take to solve the major problems of Bosnia-Hercegovina. In Croatia, there are still enough problems and animosity to prevent nine-tenths of those chased out since 1991 from returning.

 

A massacre? The government side castigated

As a nuclear alliance, NATO upholds the capability to kill millions of non-NATO people – that is, if it can be done by sophisticated long-range technology. Not so when it comes to peace-keeping and risking the lives of NATO soldiers. Undoubtedly, there are NATO supporters, as well as good-hearted people in NATO-countries, who hope everything will go fine in Macedonia and NATO will withdraw on time. However, that is the least likely scenario of all. [Read more…]

Why Milosevic won’t get to the Hague

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 100 – October 11, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Western politicians insist that Slobodan Milosevic must be brought to the Hague Tribunal and stand trial as a war criminal. Media and commentators raise the issue time and again. But there are reasons to believe that this is make-believe.

The indictment of Milosevic leaves much to be explained – for instance, why he is indicted only for crimes committed in 1999 but not before – and certain Western countries would hardly want him to be on record in the Hague with a few things that he may know about them.

The West would, therefore, do wise to drop this issue now and let Yugoslavia deal with Milosevic.

It seems that few have bothered to read the text of the indictment of Milosevic and four other high-level government officials of Thursday May 27, 1999. Among other things it states:

“As pointed out by Justice Arbour in her application to Judge Hunt, “this indictment is the first in the history of this Tribunal to charge a Head of State during an on-going armed conflict with the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

The indictment alleges that, between 1 January and late May 1999, forces under the control of the five accused persecuted the Kosovo Albanian civilian population on political, racial or religious grounds. By the date of the indictment, approximately 740,000 Kosovo Albanians, about one-third of the entire Kosovo Albanian population, had been expelled from Kosovo. Thousands more are believed to be internally displaced. An unknown number of Kosovo Albanians have been killed in the operations by forces of the FRY and Serbia. Specifically, the five indictees are charged with the murder of over 340 persons identified by name in an annex to the indictment.

Each of the accused is charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and one count of violations of the laws or customs of war.”

 

Limited indictment and dubious facts

As will be seen, Milosevic is indicted for activities limited to the period January 1 and late May 1999, i.e. during the local war between Kosovo-Albanian forces (KLA/UCK) and various Serb/Yugoslav forces and for activities during NATO’s bombings which started on March 24 and went on for 78 days.

At the time the Tribunal could not know any precise facts or numbers. What we do know today from public, reliable sources is that a considerable part of the information about killings and ethnic cleansing was exaggerated or false.

At the time of the indictment, facts could not be verified by independent sources [Read more…]

Background on Kosovo – and the management of it*

By Jan Oberg

Manuscript about Kosovo for the World Bank 

26 June 2000

 

A word about diagnosing conflict

A conflict is a problem that arises out of two or more actors’ incompatible expectations, needs or values. The sine qua non of effective conflict-mitigation (or -transformation) is comprehensive quality analysis of the root causes (diagnosis) of that problem. Without it, interventions to ‘manage’ or help solve somebody else’s conflict and prevent/stop violence will invariable fail – as will surgery on a patient whose disease is unknown to the doctor. You may add that violence is usually not the root cause of a conflict but, rather, a consequence of maltreated, ignored or otherwise non-resolved conflicts.

There is a tendency in Western culture to locate conflict (and violence, but the two are not idenical) in certain actors only. Thus, conflict is often defined as a good guy being attacked or quarelling with an evil guy about one object such as land, rights, resources, etc. Many therefore believe that conflict-resolution is about punishing the designated bad guy, rewarding his counterpart and then things will be fine.

Making “evil” the root cause is much too imprecise to serve as a diagnosis (as it would be to say that a disease is caused by demons in the body). In addition, it begs the philosophical question: What drives humans to do inhuman – evil – things to each other?

This approach is indicative of ‘conflict illiteracy’ – a recipe for failure: Conflicts are not only rooted in individuals (although, of course acted out by and through them) but also in structures in time and space, in circumstances and trends – in the “Karma.” This approach also overlooks that there are never only two parties and that most actors behave as more or less grey, rather than black and white.

 

The case of Kosovo

So, what’s is the conflict – the problems that lead to the violence – in Kosovo all about?

Having worked there over the 9 years, I would say: it is not predominantly about human rights violations or ethnic cleansing, they are symptoms of deeper lying problems, but – most unfortunately – the only aspects the so-called international community has focussed on hitherto.

As in so many other conflicts there is a history going decades, if not centuries, back in time. There is constitutional matters, general political and specific Yugo-structural features. There is a series of regional dimensions involving neighbouring countries.

And there is economic mal-development. If the GNP of Kosovo is set at 100, Slovenia (1984) had 766, Serbia without Voivodina  and Kosovo 375, Macedonia 249 – and the income gap between the richer and poorer republics and peoples in Tito’s Yugoslavia began to increase rapidly in the 1980s. Structurally more advantaged republics such as Croatia and Slovenia paid considerable parts of their profits to the federal redistribution mechanism, but much of it ended up in corrupted pockets, showplace extravagant public buildings and in land purchases in Macedonia – little left for productive investments in Kosovo.

Depending on the definition, at least 55 per cent of those seeking work were unemployed; illiteracy passed 20 per cent and perhaps as many as 400,000 kids were out of the regular schools; over 40 per cent of the people had no access to tap water, only 28 per cent lived in areas with a sewage system.

Kosovo had the highest birth rate and the highest infant mortality rate in Europe; more than 50 per cent of the citizens were below 20, the average age being 24 years of age. Albanians made up 67 per cent of the population in the province in 1961 (they also lived elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, some sources say 100.000 in Belgrade alone), they appear to have risen to about 90 per cent in the 1990s.  [Read more…]

Questions to Bill Clinton in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 81 – November 22, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“Given that democratic countries have free and independent media, President Clinton’s visit to Kosovo on November 23, would be a golden opportunity to take stock of the US-lead Western policies to bring peace to the region.

Here is a selection of questions with some media advisory. In other words, if I imagine I was a journalist and had been granted an interview this is what I would focus on,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

 

(1) Mr. President, US warplanes bombed Yugoslavia and the Kosovo province with you as the Chief Commander of US forces. Does it worry you that the whole campaign was justified and conducted on the basis of what has turned out to be grossly mistaken or falsified information about a genocide planned by Belgrade?

[During the campaign, President Clinton, Secretary Cohen, and Secretary Albright are on record with figures of between 10.000 and 100.000 missing and probably killed in consequence of the alleged plan by Milosevic, Operation Horseshoe. However, the Hague Tribunal has recently revealed that, so far, 2.108 bodies have been identified – of more than one ethnicity and dead from different causes; in short, not all Albanians massacred by Serbs. From a human point, of course, this is a great relief. But it raises serious issues as to of the information and intelligence basis on which decisions with far-reaching consequences are made. And it begs the question: what is world public opinion informed about and what not, and who produces information for what purposes].

 

(2) What are your thoughts by the fact that NATO, with your country in the lead, killed at least 2.000 innocent civilians in Serbia due to stray missiles and bombs? You have apologised to the Chinese people for bombing their embassy. Did you consider the possibility personally to apologise to the relatives or, for instance, pay a compensation of some kind? And how do you feel about the indictment of you, your Secretaries and all other NATO leaders to the Hague War Crimes Tribunal?

[Click here for the  indictment of NATO leaders. Click here for the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic and four other leaders for, among other things, being responsible for the death of 340 people during the Kosovo war] .

 

(3) Mr. President, the American Camp Bondsteel here at which you celebrate Thanksgiving Day with your soldiers, [Read more…]

Post-Milosevic dilemmas – and an imagined way out

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 103 – October 25, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Based on the analysis in PressInfo 102, here follow some examples of the cul-de-sac created by the Milosevic/West symbiosis:

 

Kosovo options

1. Declare it an integral part of Serbia/Yugoslavia.

If so, it can’t be excluded that hardline Albanians would begin to attack KFOR, UN, OSCE, and NGO staff. The risk of losing lives would scare the West, the US in particular. The Albanians are perfectly right in interpreting US and other Western actions the last years as a policy of strong support to their struggle for Kosova as an independent state. The KPC could quickly become KLA again. And if Serbs and other chased-out people came back to Kosovo we would see much more violence.

 

2. Declare Kosovo an independent state.

That is incompatible with UN SC resolution 1244. More important, no democratic government can be elected in Belgrade on “let’s give Kosovo away forever.” If a democratic government actually did so after having been elected, the people, the Army, the police, paramilitaries – or whoever – would likely attempt to turn over that government and we would be back to a Milosevic-like situation, a stalemate. Neither could attempts to militarily re-take Kosovo be excluded. People knew that Kosovo was lost to a large extent because of Milosevic’ arrogant policies, but it does NOT mean that they think it should be permanently lost under a democratic government. Furthermore, Albanians in Montenegro and Macedonia would ask: if Kosovo-Albanians can achieve independence, why not us?

 

3. Declare Kosovo a protectorate for decades ahead or just make no decision concerning its future status.

Would also go against SC resolution 1244. No government is willing to pay for the international presence in Kosovo the next 10-20 years which is what would be required; the UN and others are already strapped for funds. Donor conference promises have never materialized – money never being a problem for war, but certainly always for peace. A protectorate would also sour relations and make cooperation impossible with Belgrade and, thus, be an impediment to Balkan stability as well as to the promotion of Western economic and strategic long-term interests. [Read more…]

Some ethical aspects on NATO’s intervention in Kosovo – Part A

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 73 – July 14, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Now is the time to begin to reflect on what actually happened this spring in Kosovo and, thus, to the world. I believe that historians will agree that from March 24, 1999 international politics and relations as well as the global system has changed in a deep sense,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“Many consider NATO’s intervention a moral success, a just war, a victory for democratic values.

But I believe we need to look at it from a variety of angles to a) understand it more deeply and b) to work out ideas, concepts and policies so that anything similar will never happen again elsewhere. It is indeed peculiar that this war – conducted from a moral high ground and with the aim to promote the finest ideals of Western culture – has hardly been evaluated in just such terms. I am not a philosopher of ethics, but here are some points you may use in your own thinking about contemporary history and – if it exists – ‘moral foreign policy.’

• A high-ideals, low-risk war
The West has man and noble ideals. But when it comes to risking Western lives for them, they crumble. Both Albanians and Serbs have proved themselves willing to pay a price for what they believe in.

• David and Goliath
World history’s most powerful alliance attacks a small state, devastates it with 1100 planes during 79 days. NATO could do anything in Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia had no capacity to hurt any NATO country. Whatever propensity to feel sympathy for David there may be in Christian values, it didn’t surface. Explanation? Ten years of demonization. In addition, cruise missiles are low-cost and promise destruction on the enemy’s territory without human or material costs on our side. Behind NATO’s boasting of success and determination hides a high-tech-based cowardice second to none. [Read more…]

NATO’s war – Boomerang against the West (Part B)

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 66 – April 30, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

12. An increasingly authoritarian West
Look at the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of various influential Western dailies, watch debates on television, listen to new questions being asked by journalists. Surf Internet, read list servers, websites and discussion groups and one thing is abundantly clear: ordinary citizens throughout the West are increasingly skeptical. They see the ever widening gap between NATO and State Department news and other news. Many feel that bombing innocent civilians is just not right; common sense also tells that this is not the way to create trust between Albanians and Serbs – or for that matter between any conflicting parties. It all militates against all we know about human psychology.

The longer it takes, the more likely the momentum of that public protest. NATO country citizens will begin to ask: if a mistake like this could be made in this important field, are other mistakes also lurking in, say, globalization, in the more or less forced democratization, in the zeal with which Western human rights are used as a political tool? If we can’t trust NATO, can we trust the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, can we trust our own governments after this? Can we believe in security a la NATO and in further NATO expansion if this is what NATO does?

Government decision-makers meet these challenges either with silence or with counterattacks: we are at war, this is not the time to question and split our own ranks, fifth column activity cannot be tolerated. We must achieve our goals, no matter the cost. Too much is at stake. In short, democracy, the freedom of expression and the open society, the public discourse itself could well be curtailed in the West as this situation becomes more and more desperate. Quite a few media people already seem to practise self-censorship.

Also, let’s not forget that those who say that Milosevic is a new Hitler are leaders of countries which actively seek a kind of world dominance (economically, militarily, politically and culturally), which violate international law, which demonize a nation (Serbs, not Jews), and which possess mass destructive weapons. [Read more…]

The West is in moral trouble if there is an ethnic cleansing plan – and if there isn’t

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 64 – April 25, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“We are told there the West knew already last autumn that President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse all Albanians from the Kosovo province. However, while it is true that Yugoslav forces have exploited NATO’s bombing campaign to drive out Albanians in a way and to an extent that must be morally condemned, the unproved allegation that there existed a plan tells more about NATO than about President Milosevic – and what it tells is not to the advantage of the former,” says TFF director Jan Oberg. 

“The disgusting expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo can’t be defended. The Yugoslav authorities who carries it out or lets individuals do it, can not defend such human rights violations with reference to NATO’ bombing. Sure, Serbs will see NATO’s destruction of Yugoslavia as work commissioned by Kosovo-Albanians/UCK, but it is anyhow up to Yugoslavia to fight NATO, not to take revenge against those who are innocent civilians.

Having said that, NATO and the West can not be trusted when it seeks to legitimise its Balkan bombing blunder by insisting that it has “evidence” of an ethnic cleansing plan but has still not provided the slightest evidence. Here are some reasons why this is utterly irresponsible and, thus, undermines NATO credibility – and the credibility of a free press that does not ask more critical questions:

First of all, we never heard anybody talk about such a plan before NATO’s bombs started falling. Second, the argument for bombing was related to whether or not Yugoslavia would sign the Rambouillet Dictate. We never heard anybody saying that NATO would bomb Yugoslavia should they carry out an ethnic cleansing plan.

Third, if such a plan was known already during autumn, how could the West invite representatives of a killer regime to Paris? How could the US send ambassador Richard Holbrooke to Belgrade to try to make a last-minute deal with such ‘a serial cleanser’ President?

Fourth – and worst, perhaps of all – if the West knew of such a plan why did it do absolutely NOTHING to plan for the humanitarian emergency it would cause? Why did the West/NATO not actively threaten to prevent it OR initiate bombings much earlier? Isn’t it simply too immoral to know about such a plan and do nothing?

Fifth, if Milosevic, Serbia or Yugoslavia wanted to get rid of all Albanians, why did they choose this particularly awkward moment [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…]

Interview With Jan Oberg in Kosovo-Albanian “ZËRI” in Pristina by Blerim Shala

By Jan Oberg
December 22, 1998

1. DR. OBERG, HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THE PRESENT SITUATION IN KOSOVA, ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE OSCE OBSERVER MISSION WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE ESTABLISHED IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS?

Compared with one or five years ago, the present situation is worse for all parties. Innocent civilians – about 10% of the Kosovo-Albanians and 10% of the Kosovo-Serbs – have lost their home, belongings, human rights and safety. No politician ever asked them and I am sure they did not want this to achieve any political goal. Second, Serbia/FRY has lost important parts of its control and sovereignty and it has more international interference than ever – what all Serbia was directed out to vote against just a few months ago.

And the Albanians in Kosovo are worse off too – they no longer obtain the sympathy, solidarity and admiration for their nonviolent policies from the world community. Some may value that as irrelevant anyhow, I don’t. With blood on their hands, the political goals and the vision of a independent, peaceful and democratic Kosova is gone. You can’t obtain a good thing by bad means: killing, maiming and terrorising those who disagree with you, also on your own side. No election or referendum was ever held that, directly or indirectly, gave KLA/UCK a mandate to militarize the issue.

Some here will say: “But we had two!” I understand this psychological mechanism, given the politically unwise and untalented policy of repression by Belgrade. But here I want to point out what, in all humility, I consider the “Himalayan mistake” of some Kosovo-Albanians: they believed that the alternative to Dr. Rugova’s somewhat passive and practical policy of nonviolence was armed struggle, killing and all that. The real alternative would have been active and principled nonviolence and training the whole people in this different way of thinking and struggling.

In short: it would have been good if someone in power on either side had read and understood the deep messages of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Dalai Lama – if someone among all your good intellectuals had learned from the nonviolent victories of the European peace movements and Soviet dissidents who, together with Mikhail Gorbachev, dismantled the whole Cold War structure; or had learnt from the Solidarnosc movement in Poland and the Velvet Revolution in Chechoslovakia, from the resistance movement against the Shah of Iran, from the Catholic nuns who lay down in from of Marcos’ tanks in the Philippines etc.

Modern history is full of conflicts at least as bad as that in Kosovo that have been overcome by nonviolence. But – all these issues were never studied, people never educated and trained in nonviolent politics, ethics and methods of struggle. Your alternative schools never trained pupils in thinking this way. So, the shortsighted militarists took the lead. That’s why pragmatic nonviolence of Rugova/LDK was never enough – and was tainted by wishig all the time that the US/NATO should come and do the dirty job for them. [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.

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“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).

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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.

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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…]