Observations on an Historical Blunder

Put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men,
in whom there is no salvation
(Psalm 145:2)

Most Americans come from families that originated in politically and religiously troubled Europe. Our immigrant grandparents had tremendous respect for the integrity of the American government and, in general, for those who served it. In their experience, America was the home, not only of the free and the brave, but also of the rule of law, not of men.

Of course, when studying American history in school, we learned of occasional past political scandals, and we soon realized that a certain level of corruption in politics is inevitable. However, we were long confident that, in general and in comparison with other systems, a certain morality pervaded the American political system, and with it a dependable rule of law and personal responsibility. We were confident that the American form of government would eventually triumph over political abuses, and we felt we ourselves could help keep America just by exercising civic responsibility.

Therefore, it is terribly distressing to read today that the overwhelming majority of Americans now assume that political power no longer belongs to, by, and for the people. Government of, by, and for the people seems to have passed to unscrupulous politicians who buy their power from so-called "special interests." Many have become convinced that it makes little difference which of the competing politicians achieve political power, for if they are not corrupt initially, power will surely corrupt them eventually. Thus few now bother to listen to political debates about government policy.

Future historians may correctly sort out the causes of the present malaise. We do not need to wait for their assessment, however. We know that the malaise comes ultimately from rejection of God and His Word by both leaders and people, and that integrity will not be restored except by personal and national repentance.

Among the recent dramatic events which strengthen suspicion and fear of government by law-abiding citizens is the US-NATO bombing of Serbia in the summer of 1999. If we believed any part of the message being broadcast then by the media, we were putting our trust in princes, in the sons of men, in whom, the psalmist says, there is no salvation. In the Kosovo publicity, there was little truth, little justice, and little obedience to God's commandment against false witness in the propagandizing of public opinion by US-NATO and its supporters.

According to George Kenney, a former State Department desk officer for Yugoslavia, during the Bosnian war some Bosnians, out of self interest, decided that the best way to win U.S. support was to claim that they were victims of genocide by the Serbs. Their claim that 250,000 to 300,000 Muslims were being slaughtered helped them win the support of the Clinton administration. These numbers were accepted without question by the U.S. government and were broadcast day after day to the American people. Television was skillfully exploited to place all the blame where it actually did not belong.

In an article in The New York Times Magazine in early 1995, Kenney reported that the number of deaths in the Bosnian war caused by all sides -- Serbs, Croats, and Moslems -- had been between 70,000 and 90,000. The exaggerated death toll in Bosnia, attributed largely to the Serbs, was then cited in the Kosovo struggle to make claims of Serbian ethnic cleansing and genocide credible. When British investigators arrived in Kosovo in June 1999, they scaled down the death estimate to perhaps 10,000. The War Crimes Tribunal finally issued a report on November 10, 1999 that 2,108 bodies had been found, not all of them Albanians.. The contrast between the truth and the fiction is overwhelming, especially when one factors in the viciousness of the firepower directed at Serbia and the cost of that firepower to the American taxpayer.

It has since become absolutely clear, but little reported, that a handful of young English-speaking Albanians had maneuvered the US-NATO powers into the war in Kosovo. The Albanians opened a newspaper in Kosovo to which reporters went for briefings. Visitors could then hire these reporters and even get their help in editing their stories. (The Christian Science Monitor was the only American newspaper to report this information.)

What has been occurring in Kosovo since its occupation by US-NATO is quite surprising considering the fact that our participation in the war against Serbia last summer was supposed to ensure a safe, multiethnic Kosovo for all.

Buried on page A-18 of The New York Times of Friday, November 5, 1999, one finds the headline: "Gypsies and Others Said to Draw Kosovar Fury." This subtle phraseology minimizes public perception of the accuracy of the news report itself and the damage now being done by Albanians to Serbs and others. The article is accompanied by photos of a wounded elderly Serbian man and a family of Gypsies burned out of their home. This barely compassionate headline and the photos are greatly muted in comparison with the blaring headlines and graphic pictures featured by the media last summer.

Elsewhere we learn something very interesting. It is now admitted that during the Kosovo Civil War not more than two thousand Albanians lost their lives. Though deplorable, this figure cannot compare with the exaggerated summer statistics fulminated forth daily by US-NATO and the media last summer. It has since been discovered that the summer figures were driven, not by government sources, but by a private publicity agency. The participation of a self-serving promoter of sensationalism-for-profit was not acknowledged at the time. It has been learned that many scenes of KLA atrocities were branded as Serbian atrocities, apparently to arouse American indignation against the Serbs, and to silence American suspicion that injustice was being performed against them.

In its off-front-page article, The New York Times describes a report of November 3, 1999 issued by two high-placed agencies, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. These organizations label the present situation in Kosovo "a climate of violence and impunity." Here is the heart of the situation: "Violence is occurring with impunity."

But why should impunity prevail in a region of the Balkans subdued and now occupied by US-NATO, where international security police are there to guard against anti-ethnic violence and to punish its perpetrators?

NATO forces occupying Kosovo are sup-posed to have guaranteed, for example, that Serbian Orthodox monasteries and churches would be protected following the departure of Serbian forces from the area. It seems from all appearances, however, that the Western powers are interested mainly in supporting Moslem Albanians against Serbs, and will expend very little effort to defend Serbs from terror and destruction by Moslem Albanian extremists.

In September 1999 the Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Rashko-Prizren Diocese, Artimije, published a list of damaged and destroyed Orthodox churches in his diocese.

The fourteenth-century Holy Trinity Monastery in Musutushte, near Suva Reka, was burned in June and leveled by explosions. In the same place the Dormition Church, built in 1313, and St. Mark's Monastery near Prizren, built in 1467, were also destroyed.

By September 1999 more than thirty churches had been burned or blown up while nominally under the occupation of the Western powers.

Many newly restored and consecrated churches have been blown up. In August 1999 Christ the Savior Church in Prizren was damaged while supposedly under British protection.

On August 19, 1999 Italian troops stopped an attack on a church in Dokavice in western Kosovo, but eight days later a fourteenth-century Orthodox Church considered worthy of UNESCO protection was attacked not far from the Monastery of Grachanica.

On September 4, 1999 several bombs were thrown into the historic monastery of the Serbian Patriarchate, Pech, which while not destroying the churches, caused considerable damage to surrounding buildings.

On September 14, 1999 the fourteenth-century Saints Cosmas and Damian Church, famous for its frescoes, was dynamited in Zochishte by Albanian extremists. The Western powers specifically promised Bishop Artimije that monks living in the neighborhood of the church would be protected, yet they were harassed and had to leave the place. Experience is showing that promises of protection have a hollow ring.

The bulletin "Service Orthodoxe de Press" reports that Albanians have demanded that a cathedral in Prizren be handed over to them, claiming that it has always been a mosque. Holy Archangels Monastery is also being claimed as an "integral part" of the Albanian cultural patrimony. As proof Albanians released a photograph depicting the cathedral when it had been turned into a mosque during the Ottoman occupation.

The cathedral was built by King Milutin in the fourteenth century and some 300 years later was remodeled into a mosque. In 1912 it became a church again, but only in 1950 was its original appearance fully restored.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has sent a protest to Bernard Kouchner, UN representative, with an explanation that in the history of Kosovo the Holy Archangels Monastery has been a spiritual center in the area since the beginning of the seventeenth century. On September 22, 1999 at a meeting of the Temporary Council of Kosovo established by Kouchner, Bishops Artimije and Momchilo Trajkovich announced their resignation from the Council, declaring that for three months nothing had been done to defend Serbs against Albanian attacks. They had both joined the Council in the hope of obtaining some defense for Serbs and the improvement of the worsening Serb situation. The occupation of Kosovo by NATO troops appears to have resulted, not in equity and justice for all sides, but in a catastrophe for Serbs, Gypsies, and other minority groups.

Two hundred thousand Serbs have gone into exile, 350 have been killed, 450 have disappeared, more than a thousand Serbian homes have been burned, seventy churches and monasteries have been destroyed in the presence of 50,000 international soldiers meant to keep the peace.

Before departing from the Council, Bishops Artimije and Momchilo Trajkovich proposed as a solution that the region be divided for ethnic homogeneity on the model of the Swiss cantons. They also proposed the creation of a Serbian protection force.

The Western powers are obviously adhering to a policy which generally has favored the Moslems against the Orthodox. Having lost all interest and concern about Kosovo since the summer attack on Serbia, the United States and NATO are ignoring Albanian violations of civility, humanity, and guarantees previously made.

The U.S.-NATO violence against Serbia last summer was advertised as a measure to prevent the Serbs from creating an alleged monoethnic Kosovo. Evidence is strong, however, that U.S.-NATO bombing of Kosovo and Serbia did more to drive the thousands of ordinary Albanians out of Kosovo than Serb efforts that aimed at overcoming the aggressive behavior of the KLA.

On November 3, 1999, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in a joint report to the world announces that a "climate of violence and impunity" now prevails in Kosovo.

Kosovo Albanians have been aggressively and continuously attacking not only remaining Kosovo Serbs, but also Gypsies and Moslem Slavs (Goranis) who live in the mountainous tip of the region. There is growing evidence that at least some of the harassment of minority populations is being actively supported by Kosovo Albanian leadership with a view to creating an intolerant monoethnic state. Moderate Albanians who have spoken out against these attacks have also been subject to threats. While these Albanians appear to be uncomfortable with the destruction of the homes and property of their minority neighbors, few dare publicly to condemn it out of fear of the KLA.

Looking back at the recent US-NATO victory over Serbia and its aftermath, it seems the American president argued persuasively that Kosovo must be preserved intact as a multiethnic state within the nation of Serbia and that every ethnic group would be protected to live in peace with all others. Given these assurances, one may reasonably inquire, "Should these ethnic tragedies be occurring?" That peace is not being preserved is evident. Yet who cares? Apparently no one, especially not the American government.

Observers from the European organization whose goal it is to promote democracy and to prepare for the coming elections are expressing strong alarm over the ugly atmosphere being created and spread throughout Kosovo. The suffering ethnic groups no longer place much confidence in the international organizations which are on site to defend them.

A German officer said under condition of anonymity that NATO troops are eager to avoid confrontation with the KLA. He maintains NATO troops want to go home with clean uniforms.

Benedicte Giaever, head of the regional security group in Prizren insists that the Albanians now have a free hand to threaten and even to kill unprotected minority persons with impunity.

A Gypsy named Dzemail Zeinulah, a former resident of Mahala in Kosovska Mitrovica wrote on July 26, 1999, "We stood on the other side of the Ibar River and watched as clouds of smoke rose in the air, the sweat of our lives, more than five hundred houses. We are a strange people, a damned people. We do not want war, but war wants us. It has always been so. How nicely the Albanians have paid us back. We sent our children to their schools. We spoke Albanian. Many Gypsies registered as Albanians. How fortunate for them, because they could demonstrate how many Albanians there were. They could maintain that Kosovo was theirs, but now only theirs. NATO came, and then the KLA. They all had guns, machine guns, pistols, knives in their hands. They stormed into our Mahala from house to house. They know that Gypsies have no guns, no defense. Out! Out! Or you will be slaughtered.

"What should we do now? I have lost my pension and my house. After centuries we are seeking a new homeland. We can't take the least thing with us, only the clothes on our backs. Those who can't flee are killed.

"Some thousands of us Gypsies finally fled to Zvecara in Kosovo where they interned us with Serbs, then we wandered on to Novi Pazar. Thousands of Gypsies from everywhere. In the end Croats and Slovenes, all driven out of Kosovo by Madeline Albright's new friend, Hashim Thaci."

The media made their contribution to the lying and the special interests of US-NATO, then packed up their bags, abandoned the charade, and turned to more important business, like the death of Princess Diana or John F. Kennedy, Jr.

A Different Story in Bosnia

Julius Strauss of the London Daily Telegraph published in The Washington Times of December 20-26, 1999, reports that thousands of Serbs are abandoning Republika Srbska, the independently Serbian-run region of Bosnia, to return to the city of Sarajevo which is dominated by Bosnian Moslems. Before the war, 200,000 Serbs lived there in peace with their neighbors. Their move to live under Moslem control is seen as an indictment of Serbian nationalist leaders, especially Radovan Karadzic who believed that Serbs would pay any price to live in a country free of Croats and Moslems.

These former Serb residents of Sarajevo were basically city-dwellers anyway, and found the villages of eastern Bosnia too constraining. They also are "fed up" with low wages and high unemployment in Republika Srbska. Most who had been living before in Moslem dominated territories left in fear when the war broke out and headed for Serbian territory. Under the Sarajevo Declaration signed in 1997, Moslem authorities pledged themselves to work for the return of their former Serbian neighbors. Apparently they have been keeping their word.

Strauss believes that Serbs suffer from having been fed nationalist myths by state television. Four years after the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the war, he says, Bosnia's internal borders are opening up, permitting many to see that they had been lied to.

Charles Krauthammer Finds President's Kosovo Speech "Appalling: Simpleminded, Disorganized, and Intellectually Lazy."

Just hours before the President sent bombers to attack Serbia, he gave an apparently unscripted speech to explain why he was taking such violent action. His speech has to be read to appreciate how incoherent, simple-minded, disorganized, and intellectually lazy it was.

While it may be forgivable to make a difficult, if mistaken, decision when there are no really good choices, it is not forgivable to send American soldiers into battle when the decision-maker can barely articulate and clarify the reason why that should be done.

The President's first venture at telling us "what Kosovo is all about" is this: "Look all over the world. People are still killing each other out of primitive urges because they think what is different about them is more important than what they have in common."

But if that is what Kosovo is all about -- the inability of different ethnic groups to get along with one another and tolerate their differences -- why are we going to war? Cruise missiles are an odd instrument of moral persuasion.

As a matter of fact, the reason for the original killing in Kosovo was not mindless ethnic hatred, but quite rational power politics. First of all, there is a guerrilla army of Kosovo Albanians who wanted independence from Serbia and were willing to kill, rape, and ethnically cleanse to achieve it. And there is a Serbian army that wanted to keep Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia to preserve the sovereignty of the state. And apparently they were willing to kill, rape, and ethnically cleanse to achieve it.

By the President's logic, the American Revolution was a simple matter of colonial Minutemen and British Redcoats killing each other out of primitive urges because they thought that what was different about them was more important than what they had in common. Contrary to this sentimental view, civil war -- in Kosovo, America, Russia, or anywhere else -- is not mere irrational bigotry. Civil war is the determination of one group to dominate another, and the determination of another group to resist that domination. It is about politics, not about psychology or genetics.

Later in his speech, the President seems dimly to acknowledge this point. He said it was an insult to claim that Balkan peoples are congenitally given to ethnic warfare, that they were somehow made to murder one another. Thus he contradicts his earlier view that people are fighting over ethnic differences out of primitive urges.

If the reason for our involvement is not the genetic makeup of Balkan peoples, what is it then? The President makes a half-hearted attempt to explain the cause of our involvement as economic. "If we are going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be key." Our economy requires a "Europe that is safe, secure, free, united, a good partner for us for trading." This argument is supposed to mollify hard-headed capitalistic Americans.

However, during the recent Bosnian wara savage conflict involving three European countries -- the United States enjoyed its greatest peacetime expansion in history. Why should a Kosovo conflict involving one country -- Yugoslavia -- be such a threat to the American economy?

Perhaps recognizing that he is on soft ground here, the President immediately shifts rationale again: "And so I want to talk to you today about Kosovo, but just remember this -- it's about our values. What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up to Hitler earlier?"

But if Serbia's Milosovic is Hitler, how come this new Hitler has been our peace-partner in the Dayton Accords these last three years?

Never mind how ridiculous this analogy. When in doubt play the "Hitler card." Even if little Serbia had the ambition to rule the continent -- and there is no evidence of that -- she certainly does not have the power.

It has always been wrong and unwise for American presidents to equate Saddam with Hitler. Because of its vast potential oil wealth, if not stopped, Iraq under Saddam could have become the dominant power in the Mid-East and a nuclear armed threat to world peace. But Serbia was not attempting to take over any foreign territory. Its aim was to retain sovereignty over Kosovo which has been part of Yugoslavia as created by the Allies after World War I.

Then the President veers into an attempt at domino-theory, saying that the cause of his attack on Serbia is really about Greece and Turkey. He says that twice, but never explains why, and then drops the subject completely. Was he just reading talking points?

All in all it was a disgraceful performance. People join the military knowing that they might be asked one day to risk their lives. Thus they cannot complain when that day comes. But they also join the military with the expectation that when they are sent to risk their lives, they serve a commander-in-chief who can, unscripted, justify their coming sacrifice that at least simulates deliberation, strategic thinking, and coherence. On that score they have already been seriously let down.


Church News, Vol. 11, Nos. 5 and 6.
The New York Times, November 5, 1999;
The Washington Times, December 20-26, 1999, p. A 18;
The Diocesan Observer, No. 1084, April 15, 1999;
AIM Report, December A and B, 1999.

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