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Jack Kelly: More killing in Kosovo

When Serbs are the victims, where's the outrage?

Sunday, November 07, 1999

Lost in the massive coverage of an election that won't take place for another 15 months has been news that should be coming out of Kosovo, but hasn't been.

  Jack Kelly is national affairs writer for the Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. His e-mail address is 

To prevent mass murder: that was the justification for the war in Kosovo, which violated both the United Nations charter and NATO's own by intervening in the internal affairs of another country. President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair repeatedly used the word "genocide" to describe what the Serbs were doing to ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

At war's end, British Foreign Office Minister Geoff Hoon said 10,000 ethnic Albanians had been killed in more than 100 massacres. But forensic teams from the FBI, and from 14 other countries, have been in Kosovo for the last four months, seeking evidence of war crimes. They haven't found anywhere near 10,000 bodies. The FBI has found fewer than 200.

Stratfor, a private intelligence service, published a report Oct. 17 about what the international forensic teams have been finding, or, rather, not finding. A Spanish team was told to prepare to do at least 2,000 autopsies at a site to which it was sent. There were only 187 bodies. During the war, NATO released satellite imagery of what NATO said were mass graves near the village of Pusto Selo. But there were no bodies there. Forensic teams have been unable to find any of the 150 ethnic Albanians allegedly killed in the village of Izbica, or the 96 in Klina, or the 82 in Kraljan.

Unquestionably, Serbs committed atrocities. The FBI found 124 bodies at a site in the British sector of Kosovo. The victims were of both sexes, and ranged in age from 4 to 94. Almost all were killed by a gunshot wound to the head, or blunt force trauma to the head.

But there is a difference between crimes committed by an authoritarian regime in the midst of a civil war, and genocide.

"In the former Yugoslavia crimes were committed, some no doubt horrible, but they derived from the war," Juan Lopez Palafox, chief inspector of the Spanish forensic team, was quoted in the Spanish newspaper El Pais. "In Rwanda, we saw 450 corpses of women and children, one on top of another, all with their heads broken open."

There is also a difference between ethnic cleansing and genocide. Ethnic cleansing is the forcible expulsion of a people from a region. Genocide is an attempt to exterminate them.

American attitudes toward ethnic cleansing seem to depend more on domestic politics than on distaste for the act itself.

The greatest ethnic cleansing in the history of Europe was the expulsion of Germans from the former East Prussia, Danzig and the Sudetenland at the end of World War II. Neither then, nor subsequently, have we decried this.

When Armenia forcibly expelled Azeris from the strip of land separating Armenia from the disputed territory of Ngorno-Karabakh, the Clinton administration imposed sanctions on Azerbaijan, the victim, rather than upon Armenia, the aggressor. It is probably not a coincidence that there are a number of wealthy businessmen in California of Armenian descent who are major contributors to the Democratic Party.

And it isn't just Serbs who have been committing crimes. A Bulgarian diplomat was murdered in the streets of Pristina when, asked for the time, he answered in Serbo-Croat. Near the city of Pec, a convoy of 150 Serbs fleeing Kosovo was attacked by ethnic Albanians. Several cars were set on fire, despite the fact the convoy was under NATO escort.

"The entry of multinational forces into Kosovo didn't end violence there, it just ushered in a new kind of violence - attacks by ethnic Albanians on ethnic non-Albanians . . . and it is getting worse every day," said Anna Husarka, a researcher for a French think tank.

More often than not, NATO spokesmen say they do not know who is responsible for the escalating number of incidents of violence.

"When we know the Serbs did it, we say the Serbs did it," said a NATO official who, for reasons which will become obvious, spoke anonymously to an American researcher. "When we don't know who did it, we say the Serbs did it. And when we know the Serbs didn't do it, we say we don't know who did it."

Why is ethnic cleansing bad when Serbs do it to Albanians, but OK when Albanians do it to Serbs? Why is it evil for Serbs to murder Muslims, but all right for Muslims to murder Serbs? And since NATO intervened in Kosovo allegedly to prevent ethnic cleansing, why is NATO permitting ethnic cleansing to continue under its nose?

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