June 15, 2012 · 0 Comments
Above: Kosovo Liberation Army
By Michael McGehee:
On June 11, 2012 the New York Times published a piece by their journalist Paul Geitner titled “NATO Chief Sees Parallels Between Syria and Balkans,” and true to form for the “paper of record” the piece is missing such an alarming amount of context and information that what is presented is highly misleading propaganda in service to the American Empire.
The secretary general of the NATO alliance, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said on Monday that the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s illustrated what might befall Syria unless Russia and the West agreed on a “unified, clear message” to the Syrian government to stop the violence.
It’s not that there are not parallels between the two conflicts—there is—but that the parallels worth drawing are not even raised. The parallel raised by Rasmussen is the propaganda narrative that suits Western interests. It’s on “the Syrian government to stop the violence,” who is presented as the main threat, and not that of the Western-backed armed gangs, which are being used to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the government and replace it with a compliant regime (or at least have one less obstacle in its way of controlling the oil-rich region). Much like it was on the Serbian governments to “stop the violence,” and not armed gangs like the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Another interesting parallel is the involvement of al Qaeda, and being on the side of the U.S. While it is perhaps more common to know that the Islamic terrorist organization is fighting alongside rebels in Syria, and killing dozens of civilians, many may not remember that this is a lot like what happened in the Balkans as well.
As early as 1992 the U.S. was made aware of a growing al Qaeda presence in the Balkans to fight alongside the U.S.-backed KLA. What was not known by those supplying Washington with evidence was that Washington was fully aware and arming the KLA:
Intelligence services of the Nordic-Polish SFOR (previously IFOR) sector alerted the U.S. of their presence in 1992 while the number of mujahideen operating in Bosnia alone continued to grow from a few hundred to around 6,000 in 1995. Though the Clinton administration had been briefed extensively by the State Department in 1993 on the growing Islamist threat in former Yugoslavia, little was done to follow through.
By early 1998 the U.S. had already entered into its controversial relationship with the KLA to help fight off Serbian oppression of that province. While in February the U.S. gave into KLA demands to remove it from the State Department’s terrorism list, the gesture amounted to little. That summer the CIA and CIA-modernized Albanian intelligence (SHIK) were engaged in one of the largest seizures of Islamic Jihad cells operating in Kosovo.
Fearing terrorist reprisal from al Qaeda, the U.S. temporarily closed its embassy in Tirana and a trip to Albania by then Defense Secretary William Cohen was canceled out of fear of an assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Albanian separatism in Kosovo and Metohija was formally characterized as a “jihad” in October 1998 at an annual international Islamic conference in Pakistan.
Nonetheless, the 25,000 strong KLA continued to receive official NATO/U.S. arms and training support and, at the talks in Rambouillet, France, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shook hands with “freedom fighter” Hashim Thaci, a KLA leader. As this was taking place, Europol (the European Police Organization based in The Hague) was preparing a scathing report on the connection between the KLA and international drug gangs. Even Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, officially described the KLA as Islamic terrorists.
Even The National Post covered it in the aftermath of September 11th terrorist attacks when they reported that,
Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network has been active in the Balkans for years, most recently helping Kosovo rebel’s battle for independence from Serbia with the financial and military backing of the United States and NATO.
Antiwar.com‘s Christopher Deliso also wrote of NATO’s involvement in the Balkans:
Last Summer, rumors of an unstated connection between NATO and the NLA persisted in Macedonia. Two occasions in particular drew attention. First, the Battle of Aracinovo, in which German and Macedonian sources alleged that 17 ‘advisors’ from MPRI took part on the Albanian side; Macedonian security sources claim that three Americans were among those killed. Second, was a mysterious airdrop by a US helicopter over the NLA stronghold of Sipkovice, filmed by a Macedonian television crew. They claimed that a ‘container,’ perhaps of weapons, was being given to the Albanians, for use against the Macedonian security forces.
In his article “America used Islamists to arm the Bosnian Muslims,” the Guardian UK’s Richard J Aldrich wrote of
a vast secret conduit of weapons smuggling through Croatia. This was arranged by the clandestine agencies of the US, Turkey and Iran, together with a range of radical Islamist groups, including Afghan mojahedin and the pro-Iranian Hizbullah.
While on trial at The Hague, former Serbian and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević blamed the violence on “terrorists,” much like Syria’s president does today. And when drilled by the presiding judge Milošević produced what was said to be a FBI document showing the support to the “terrorists”:
Presiding Judge Richard May asked Milosevic where he was getting his information and the defendant waved a document he said was produced by the FBI last December documenting al-Qaeda and mujahedin activity in Kosovo.
The document was entered into evidence but no details were discussed.
Considering how the WikiLeaks release of Stratfor emails written in December of 2011 show that “SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan, Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce missions and training opposition forces,” the parallels are even more significant. And while the U.S. “distanced themselves” from a bombing campaign because “Syrian air defenses are a lot more robust and are much denser, esp around Damascus and on the borders with Israel” it was noted that the plan ”is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.” Though, again, the Times’ Gietner has nothing to say about this.
Wikileaks has already shown that the U.S. has been supporting the opposition forces in Syria since before Obama took office, and the U.S. has only been pushing for “the Syrian government to stop the violence” while ignoring the violence and war crimes of the opposition forces.
This makes Rasmussen’s comment that, “If we are to facilitate a peaceful solution in Syria I think it’s of utmost importance that the international community stands united and sends a unified, clear message to the Assad regime that it must live up to its international obligations and stop the crackdowns on the civilian population, and accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people,” all the more empty and cynical. Talking about the desire for a peaceful solution—while knowing full well that the U.S. is implementing a plan of supporting armed gangs “to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within,” and saying nothing about how if we are serious about peace that ending such a program is an absolute necessity—is a bunch of hot air.
One last unmentioned parallel worth noting is how the West exploits the victimization of the Syrian people (while simultaneously attacking them via armed gangs they support) in order to facilitate its imperial adventures. This too was true for NATO’s intervention in the Balkans, where the plight of Kosovar Albanians received considerable coverage and concern yet the welfare of hundreds of thousands of Serbians who were ethncially cleansed in Croatia (e.g. Operation Storm) didn’t receive comparable attention or care. But as admitted in his eyewitness account Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo , John Norris—a senior Clinton official who was party to the tripartite negotiations led by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott—wrote that, ”It was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform—not the plight of Kosovar Albanians—that best explains NATO’s war.”
Like the Balkans, the West is implementing its special brand of humanitarian imperialism in Syria. It looks for any claim, whether true or not, to demonize the insubordinate Syrian regime so that it can justify its programs of destabilization and regime change. At the same time Western leaders and officials are not only quiet on the crimes of those armed elements it backs, but have the audacity to cry crocodile tears over the welfare of others. The faux-appeal to human rights and “peaceful solutions,” a common choice of rhetoric among tyrants, gets no rebuke from the Free Press. It’s hard to imagine Geitner and the New York Times do not get this. The much more likely explanation is pretty well established by now: the Times is a propaganda outlet spreading disinformation to the public.
[Correction (6/19/2012): An earlier version of this article made a single reference to the ”Kurdish Liberation Army.” This has been corrected to read the “Kosovo Liberation Army.”