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Friday, February 17, 2006

The Genocide That Wasn't

There's been much talk of making genocide denial a crime. But what about those who claim genocide when there isn't any? Like former US Secretary of Defense William Cohen? Or former President Bill Clinton?
There was no genocide in Kosovo. What there was was a terrorist-counter-terrorist conflict between the Western backed Kosovan Liberation Army and the Yugoslav authorities.
What words can be used to describe those who claimed Yugoslavia was carrying out a deliberate policy of 'genocide'? And what greater insult can there be to the memory of the genuine victims of genocide- than to use the 'G' word to justify an illegal and immoral war?

Some critics have accused the coalition of leading a war in Kosovo under the false pretense of genocide [6]. President Clinton of the United States, and his administration, were accused of inflating the number of Kosovar Albanians killed by Serbians[7]. Clinton's Secretary of Defense William Cohen, giving a speech, said, "The appalling accounts of mass killing in Kosovo and the pictures of refugees fleeing Serb oppression for their lives makes it clear that this is a fight for justice over genocide [8]." On CBS' Face the Nation Cohen claimed, "We've now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing...They may have been murdered[9]." Clinton, citing the same figure, spoke of "at least 100,000 (Kosovar Albanians) missing[10]". Later, talking about Serbian elections, Clinton said, "they're going to have to come to grips with what Mr. Milošević ordered in Kosovo...They're going to have to decide whether they support his leadership or not; whether they think it's OK that all those tens of thousands of people were killed...[11]". Clinton also claimed, in the same press conference, that "NATO stopped deliberate, systematic efforts at ethnic cleansing and genocide[12]." Clinton even compared the events of Kosovo to the Holocaust. CNN reported, "Accusing Serbia of 'ethnic cleansing' in Kosovo similar to the genocide of Jews in World War II, an impassioned President Clinton sought Tuesday to rally public support for his decision to send U.S. forces into combat against Yugoslavia, a prospect that seemed increasingly likely with the breakdown of a diplomatic peace effort[13]." Clinton's State Department also claimed Serbian troops had committed genocide. The New York Times reported, "the Administration said evidence of 'genocide' by Serbian forces was growing to include 'abhorrent and criminal action' on a vast scale. The language was the State Department's strongest yet in denouncing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević[14]." The State Department also gave the highest estimate of dead Albanians. The New York Times reported, "On April 19, the State Department said that up to 500,000 Kosovar Albanians were missing and feared dead[15]."
However, the numbers given by Clinton and his administration have been proven false. The official NATO body count of the events in Kosovo was 2,788 (not all of them were war crimes victims)[16], with Slobodan Milošević charged with the "murders of about 600 individually identified ethnic Albanians[17]". Critics have noted that these numbers can not be considered genocide. The headline of The Wall Street Journal, which had launched an investigation into whether genocide had occurred in Kosovo, on December 31, 1999 was "War in Kosovo Was Cruel, Bitter, Savage; Genocide It Wasn't"[18]. The Wall Street Journal wrote, "the U.N.'s International War Criminal tribunal has checked the largest reported sites first, and found most to contain no more than five bodies, suggesting intimate acts of barbarity rather than mass murder... Kosovo would be easier to investigate if it had the huge killing fields some investigators were led to expect. Instead, the pattern is of scattered killings[19]."
In addition, a United Nations Court had previously ruled that Serbian troops did not commit genocide against Albanians. The court wrote "the exactions committed by Milošević's regime cannot be qualified as criminal acts of genocide, since their purpose was not the destruction of the Albanian ethnic group[20]". According to BBC, "the decision was based on the 1948 Geneva convention which defines genocide as the intent 'to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such'[21]". Milošević was not charged with genocide in Kosovo by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) but the more broader "crimes against humanity"[22]. Spanish forensic surgeon Emilio Pérez Pujol, who led the Spanish forensic team in Kosovo, gave an interview to the British paper The Sunday Times. The paper wrote, "In an outspoken interview, Pujol complained he had been sent to head a large investigation team attached to the ICTY, consisting of pathologists and police specialists, to work in the north of the country. But he found that what was publicised as a search for mass graves was 'a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one—not one—mass grave.'[23]".

Legality of the war
The United Nations Charter does not allow military interventions in other sovereign countries with few exceptions which in general need to be decided upon by the United Nations Security Council. Since Russia and the People's Republic of China vetoed the military intervention it can be seen as illegal.
On April 29, 1999 Yugoslavia filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague against ten NATO member countries (Belgium, Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Canada, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the USA). The Court did not decide upon the case because Yugoslavia was not a member of the UN during the war.

Consequences of the war
When the war ended on June 10, it left Kosovo in chaos and Yugoslavia as a whole facing an unknown future.

The most immediate problem — the refugees — was largely resolved very quickly: within three weeks, over 500,000 Albanian refugees had returned home. By November 1999, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 808,913 out of 848,100 had returned. However, much of the remaining Serb population of Kosovo fled or was driven out by revenge attacks. Gypsies, Turks and Bosniaks were also driven out after being blamed by Albanians for siding with the Serbs. The Yugoslav Red Cross had registered 247,391 mostly Serbian refugees by November. The new exodus was a severe embarrassment to NATO, which had established a peacekeeping force of 45,000 under the auspices of the United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK). Kosovo's Serbian population was soon reduced by over 75%, with NATO apparently unable to provide much security to Serbs outside a few enclaves, most notably the northern town of Mitrovica and the surrounding countryside. Most Serbian refugees have been unable to return and NATO has not yet been able to provide returnees with security guarantees, largely because of KLA violence.

Locals claimed these to be graves of Albanians killed by Serb security forces
The war inflicted many casualties. Yugoslavia claimed that NATO attacks caused between 1,200 and 5,700 civilian casualties. Human Rights Watch counted a minimum of 500 civilian deaths in 90 separate incidents. NATO acknowledged killing at most 1,500 civilians. The majority of deaths appear to have been within Kosovo itself; there were up to 5,000 military casualties according to NATO estimates, while the Serbian figure is around 1,000. Large numbers of Albanian civilians were also killed, although the exact numbers are unclear. Early predictions of hundreds of thousands of deaths proved untrue, but in the months after the war some 2000 mostly Albanian bodies were dug up around Kosovo. Some alleged mass graves were also found in Serbia itself, on Yugoslav military bases or dumped in the Danube. The total number of Albanian dead is generally claimed to be around 10,000, although several foreign forensic teams were unable to verify more than a few hundred dead, and some of those appeared to be Serbs rather than Albanians. The largest mass grave so far found is in Dragodan, an Albanian suburb of Priština. Those bodies so far identified are of Serbs, Gypsies and anti-KLA Albanians, some, or possibly all, of whom were alive when NATO moved in. One explanation is that some of the largest mass graves were cleared before the war's end in an apparent effort to obliterate potential war crimes evidence though it would be amazingly difficult to remove microscopic forensic evidence of the presence of so many bodies. Another explanation is that the whole story is a deliberate lie. Shortly after NATO started bombing the US State Department issued a claim the 500,000 Albanian men were "missing" and by implication dead. The International Red Cross compiled a list of over 3,000 missing Albanians. Most of them turned out to be prisoners transferred to Serbia, and have been released, although some 1,000 are reported to still be in Serbia today. Around 1,500 Serbian civilians were reported missing, believed dead


grapesofplenty said...

Will those people who talked about 'genocide' in Kosovo now come and apologise?
Do you have an address for Cohen and Clinton where people could write to ask them this question?
And what about providing a list of other politicians and journalists who claimed genocide too?
Shouldn't they apologise as well?

1defender said...

Unfortunately, the terrorists in Kosovo will be given a piece of Serbian land as a reward for their efforts. Time passes the circus moves on. However, this is a good time to look back at Bosnia. You could not have missed the news that a Bosnian film has got the gold bear at the Berlin film festival. Grbavica, the name of the film, was a Serb district of Sarajevo. I say was because not many Serbs live there any longer.In her acceptance speech the Muslim director of the film claimed that 20.000 Bosnian women had been raped by Serbs and that 100.000 Muslims died in the war. Both of these claims are fantasy yet here words were met with ecstatic applause. To make such a comment while telling the story of one woman, one rape and one child was a clear accusation of all the Serbs. Her winning the prize shows approval by the prize givers. Bad news for many, especially those who want the truth to come out .

Neil Clark said...

I will try and get an address for Clinton and Cohen and post it on the blog- but I wouldn't hold out too much hope for an intelligent- or honest reply- if indeed either of them does reply.
Even so, it's a good idea to let them know that we haven't forgotten what they said.

History Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
1defender said...

To history guy. That's just what happened. The BBC has footage of it. You don't have to take anybody's word. Wouldn't you get out if someone was deliberately targeting trains, civilians, bridges, anything that moved? As for the definition of genocide. A word lately so overused that it has lost its meaning. Look it up in the dictionary

Milosevic is into his fifth year in the Hague. Wouldn't you think that the court would have had enough, if they had anything, to convict him in the first year, at least.