The “Albanian Issue” In Kosovo (Or If Serbia Had Fox News, What Would It Be Reporting?)

Aleksandra Rebic (click here for more info) provides an “insightful” view of the “Albanian Issue” in Kosovo. She does so with great gusto, reason, and the use of “quotes.” I can only imagine that if Serbia had a Fox News, this is what it would report about Kosovo and the “Albanian Issue.”

I would generallly knock Ms. Rebic and her article as being from another planet, but when you think about how many people watch and believe Fox News, you have to wonder when reading the attached article whether any reconcialiation is possible between Serbs and Albanians.

Surely, the danger with the beliefs expressed below are when opinions of village shamans — masquerading as academics — become national policy. In the case of Serbia, Rebic’s viewpoints not only have been expressed by Slobodan Milosovic during his rule to justify horrendous war crimes and the abrogation of civil rights, but also by certain government officials now in Serbia and Russia. At the same time, the myth of the “Albanian Issue” is one that has been ingrained into Serb national psyche. A vicious cycle of myth is perpetuated, so difficult to unlearn.

To be sure, Albanians are equally guilty of the types of viewpoints expressed below. I will post those soon. Welcome to Balkanization.

THE ALBANIAN ISSUE IN KOSOVO

Who are these “Kosovars” that engendered such sympathy and such a call to action by the world community and its leaders on their behalf at the end of the 1990s and who continue to agitate for “action” today, as the fate of Kosovo once again lies in the balance? In my view, this is who they are:

What the modern day Albanians have been attempting to “finish” over the course of these last couple of decades in Kosovo, with the full support of NATO and prominent American politicians, is a fascist program that Benito Mussolini began in 1941 during World War II but that in essence was initiated years earlier.

On November 27, 1918 the United States State Department was informed by Thomas Page, U.S. Ambassador to Italy 1913-1919, that the British Foreign Office favored the creation of a “Greater Albania” in order to block Serbian advances to the Adriatic. Years later, Mussolini had the same idea. On June 25, 1941 Mussolini proclaimed the annexation of Kosovo, the cradle of the Serbian nation, “Serbia’s Jerusalem”, to Albania. The first concern of the Albanians, led by their notables, tribal chiefs, and the so-called “Kosovo Committee” was to get rid of the Serbs and Montenegrins in their midst. Serbs were promptly murdered or expelled, and their property was looted.

Before World War II, Serbs comprised 50 percent of the population of Kosovo. By war’s end they had been reduced to 25 percent of the population. Still later, as of 1989, they were reduced yet further, to only 10 percent of the population of Kosovo. Thus, the Albanian “Kosovars” were successful in their ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Serbian sacred land.

Although Mussolini and his fascist allies lost the war, communist Josip Broz Tito, who came to power in Yugoslavia at the end of World War Two, would not allow Serbs to return to their homes in Kosovo. However, he would maintain Kosovo within Yugoslavia, stifled further expulsions, and would, with his iron fist, keep secession a moot point.

Serbs made one big mistake in regards to Kosovo. In 1945 the Provisional National Assembly of Serbia passed a law establishing the autonomous Kosovo-Metohija region known as Kosmet. Kosovo became an “autonomous province” of Serbia. This act was, in fact, the constitutional instrument of Kosovo and Metohija, and from the very outset it guaranteed the equal rights of all citizens without distinction as to nationality, race, religion, or sex, and the equality of the language of all the national groups within the region before the authorities. Similarly, the right to education in their mother tongue was also granted to all national minorities. In 1974, with the revision of the Yugoslav Constitution, the autonomous regions in Yugoslavia, (Vojvodina and Kosovo and Metohija), were endowed with many of the sovereign prerogatives of statehood. It is then that the Albanian terrorists and drug traffickers, with the support of some local ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, began planning the establishment of a second Albania in the Balkans. They began paralyzing work and progress in the Republic of Serbia, of which Kosovo and Metohija were still a part. The constitution of the Republic of Serbia could not be changed without the express consent of the Assembly of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo and Metohija where Albanians had become a majority due to the cleansing of Serbs and Tito’s policy of not allowing the expelled Serbs to return to their homes.

Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo enjoyed all the human and civil rights due them before the intrusion of the Albanian terrorists and drug dealers who would organize the Kosovo Liberation Army, the notorious KLA. Just prior to the recent war in Kosovo, the University of Pristina in Kosovo had 37,000 students enrolled in it, eighty percent of whom were ethnic Albanians. The Pristina Radio and Television Station was broadcasting their programs in the Albanian language all day. There was one Albanian Daily and eleven periodicals. Just prior to recent war the government of Yugoslavia was providing enormous subsidies to the province of Kosovo. The mistake made by the Serbs was setting up a party-run state instead of a constitutional government that would give effective sovereignty to the Republic of Serbia over its entire territory, including Kosovo and Metohija. The assumption was that all the people of Kosovo and Metohija, including the majority of Albanians who lived there, would remain loyal citizens of the Republic of Serbia, endowed with all the same rights and privileges accorded to the Serbian population and in some cases, above and beyond those rights that had been accorded to the Serbs.

If the educated group of politically powerful policy makers who were so instrumental in fashioning policy towards the Serbs in the 1990s had taken one serious, honest look at the real status of the Albanian and other minorities in the Republic of Serbia, they would have discovered that these individual ethnic groups enjoyed national, cultural, and civil rights on par with the most modern and best constitutional systems in the world. Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that persons belonging to ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities shall not be denied the right in a community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, or to communicate in their own language. The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo had all of this guaranteed them and more. But it wasn’t enough. They wanted and continue to demand TERRITORIAL autonomy. Imagine the implications this scenario would have in the United States of America if such demands by different national and ethnic groups were initiated and granted. There would be no more United States, and there would be no more America.

With all that would transpire between the years of 1980 following Tito’s death and 1988, it was determined by the government in Belgrade that it was necessary to start a process of bringing the autonomy enjoyed by Kosovo and Metohija in line with autonomy as understood by the civilized world, in legal, political, and constitutional theory. The government of Belgrade did what any civilized, sovereign nation and leadership, including the United States, would do if one of her territorial areas was becoming too independent and terrorism was being used as a means of gaining that independence. Due to the nature of the trouble, in 1989, out of necessity, Slobodan Milosevic and the Belgrade government cracked down on Kosovo’s autonomy. If one examines the events of the decade prior to this, it was the only thing that could have been done to maintain civilized order in Kosovo and to protect its citizens.

It was in 1981, after several years of preparation and obtaining various arms and whatever else was necessary for conducting terrorism in Kosovo, that the Albanian separatists began their armed attacks on the local authorities loyal to the Serbian government in Belgrade with simultaneous attacks on the civilian population to drive the remaining non-Albanians out of Kosovo. Between 1981 and 1988 500 assaults on military personnel, 80 cases of harassment of military units, and 251 attacks on military facilities were recorded. What went unrecorded and the civilian casualties incurred can only be imagined. Atrocities against the Serbian population were committed in Kosovo as these events unfolded. The Serbian government was given no choice but to crack down. I don’t know of any government in the civilized world that would have done otherwise to protect its people. Yet, incredibly, the Serbian government was vilified and condemned and the criminals were elevated to victim and “liberator” status. The crackdown, however, did not stop the Albanian terrorists.

Every civilized country in the world is trying to limit the kinds and number of arms its citizens carry around. The owner of a weapon is generally legally obligated to register his weapon when such ownership is allowed. Yet, in Kosovo, still an integral part of Serbia, Albanians were in possession of all sorts of guns and arms, including machine guns, explosives, detonators, and even pieces of artillery, just prior to the Kosovo war of 1998. The Serbian police force, given these threatening and hostile circumstances, was more than justified in taking action to protect its citizens. However, the situation unfortunately only got worse, not better. What the Serbs were faced with in their own backyard would require a separate essay alone to describe so let me suffice by saying this:

The Albanian moslems destroyed more Serbian Orthodox Churches and historical monuments in Kosovo in the last five years of the 1990s than the Turks did in their 500 years of domination in the Balkans. The desecration and destruction of Serbian Orthodox and Christian monuments, symbols and places of worship in Kosovo continues today, but there is no outrage. Where is the outrage? Thus, not only should the West have considered the Albanian affiliations with the fascists and the Nazis in the 20th century as it was choosing sides in the recent conflict, but it should have considered the crimes being committed against the Christian heritage in the Balkans.

Another unconscionable Albanian crime was setting fire to the Pristina City Library. This library held tens of thousands of Serbian books collected over a long period of time. They have burned and thrown into the garbage books of Serbian origin throughout Kosovo. And they have terrorized civilians mercilessly, killing at will. For the Serbs in Kosovo, this has been an ongoing Kristalnacht.

The tragedy of western action in response to the Serbian crackdown is that the U.S. and NATO ended up aiding and abetting this Kristalnacht against the Serbs, finally bombing a people who have never been anything but a loyal, good friend of the West, particularly the United States. They ended up rewarding the terrorists. I’ll say it again: The Clinton administration, using NATO as its tool, ended up rewarding the terrorists.

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Does 1244 Provide A Directive For Kosovo Becoming Independent?

Peel away the rhetoric, grandstanding, and stump speeches, and what you have left is the legal framework for Kosovo independence in light of UNSCR 1244. Does the resolution provide for Kosovo independence? Would a uniliteral declaration of independence violate UNSCR 1244?

In “Russia’s Sane Position on Kosovo,” published by Serbianna (http://www.serbianna.com/columns/averko/002.shtml), Mark Averko argues that 1244 provides no directive whatsoever for Kosovo becoming independent. Accordingly, in order for Kosovo to obtain independence, a Security Council resolution will have to pass.

Of course, we all know — absent the exposure of some extremely incriminating photos of one Mr. Vladmir Putin — no security council resolution will come to pass. Thus, is a unilateral declaration of independence illegal? More specifically, does a unilateral declaration violate UNSCR 1244 and, in the abstract, the rule of law?

Russia’s Sane Position on Kosovo

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov firmly stated that any solution to the Kosovo conflict must be agreeable to both sides. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin correctly noted how some of his Western peers have disrespected UN Resolution 1244 governing Kosovo. Recent Russian diplomatic action on the disputed south Serb province confirms how many in the West continue to misread Kremlin desires. In some Western circles, Russia was expected to cave in to the idea of granting Kosovo independence. Russia’s position isn’t yet etched in stone. However, at this late stage of Kosovo negotiating, one can’t overlook how Russia has if anything become more resolute in securing a settlement on agreeable terms with Serbia.

Contemporary Russia isn’t the same as the one of the last decade when Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote (in Foreign Affairs Magazine) of that country possibly breaking up into several nations. Some might recall the pathetic backtracking of the Russian troop deployment to Kosovo at the end of the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. That clumsy move saw Moscow back down from an engagement in Kosovo to counter NATO’s presence.

Lavrov and Churkin are hardened no nonsense diplomats, with an active background in former Yugoslav matters. During Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, Churkin represented Russia in the Contact Group of outside powers monitoring the Bosnian Civil War. At the time, Lavrov was his country’s UN ambassador to many discussions on former Yugoslav issues. In his prior role as UN ambassador, Lavrov was very much involved with UN Resolution 1244. He’s fully aware of how certain Western governments have attempted to leapfrog over that document.

When looked at in its entirety, 1244 isn’t a directive for Kosovo becoming independent.

– It specifically states that Kosovo is a part of Yugoslavia. Serbia is internationally recognized as the successor state to Yugoslavia. In Communist and post Communist Yugoslavia – Kosovo was part of the Serb republic.

– 1244 calls for a return of refugees, as well as of Serb military and government bodies to Kosovo. This has yet to happen.

– In legalese, the 1244 clause about taking into “full consideration” the unsigned Rambouillet diktat isn’t a green light for independence. It simply means that aspects of Rambouillet can perhaps be considered.
Prior to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, the Clinton Administration and Kosovo Albanian nationalists wrote a clause in Rambouillet which would’ve (if signed) permitted Kosovo to vote on independence after three years from the accord’s signing.

– The “final outcome” status for Kosovo is stated towards the end of 1244. It relates to how Kosovo should be governed as a part of Serbia. What other logical way can be otherwise suggested when the very same document recognizes Kosovo as part of Serbia, while stating that refugees, Serb government and military bodies should all return to that province?
UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke leads a pack of Democratic Party affiliated foreign policy politicos advocating Kosovo independence. They argue how Kosovo will become more violent if independence isn’t granted. Is this rational not a blueprint for encouraging violence elsewhere by effectively saying that peaceful means will not get the same consideration? Why should independence be granted to a group threatening violence? Isn’t such an acquiesce a support for law of the jungle principles?

Holbrooke claims that Kosovo is the “special case” for independence unlike some other disputed former Communist bloc territories. On this point, Lavrov can easily outdo him by noting how Trans-Dniester has a much better case for independence than Kosovo.

The lines have been drawn. Other nations have expressed sympathy with the Russian and Serb position. At the same time, the vestiges of neo-liberal and neo-conservative antipathy towards Serbia remains a strong guiding factor in American foreign policy. The art of diplomacy seeks a middle course to such a dispute. This would lead one to believe that a compromise of sorts could be in the works. Writing in The Washington Times (March 20), former Serbian Unity Congress President Michael Djordjevich sees the possibility of a partition of Kosovo.

Bosnia, in a way, already serves as a precedent for such an arrangement and in this case it means that the Bosnian Serb republic “Republika Srpska” (RS) has a greater case for independence than Kosovo. The signed Dayton Accords governing Bosnia states that each of the two established Bosnian entities can establish their own parallel relationships with other states after a four year period from the document’s signing in 1995. Unlike Kosovo: in RS, there’s no noticeable ethnic violence, with many refugees having returned to its territory.

What’s really spooky about all of this is how Anglo-American mass media outlets at large haven’t fully explained all of the valid particulars related to opposing Kosovo’s independence. This kind of a “free press” makes it easy for officialdom to hustle policies like the “humanitarian” bombing of Yugoslavia. Russia and America have a number of common interests. Why risk a betterment in Russo-American relations by supporting a faulty premised Kosovo independence?

Director of Serbia’s Sector For “Minority Rights” says to Kosovar Albanians: Your Flag Day Is Illegal!

November 28, 2007 was Flag Day for Kosovar Albanians.  Kosovo, for obvious reasons, does not yet have a flag, although many would point to the red, double-eagled Albanian flag as the one most flown in Kosovo.  It is an Albanian national holiday.  Most Albanians take the day off.  Wave the flag around.  Sing the national anthem.  Stuff like that.

Little did they know, all of this was illegal.  At least under Serbian law, which does not apply in Kosovo.

According to the BETA News Agency (http://www.beta-press.com/index2.html), Petar Ladjevic, Serbia’s director of the Sector for Human and Minority Rights, proclaimed that a) displaying the Albanian flag or b) singing the national anthem in Serbia on Flag Day is against the law.  In fact, according to Mr. Ladjevic, “only the minorities that have formed a national council” are entitled to display their “national symbols” and that “symbols of national minorities must not be identical to those of their land of origin.”

Ladjevic is the director of Serbia’s Sector for Human and Minority Rights?  I’ll guess I’ll ask you this Mr. Ladjevic:  What the hell planet are you from?

Battle of Kosovo, 1389 (Or: Think the Serbs Will Forget About The Last 8 Years of “UN Rule” As Water Under the Bridge? Think Again!)

In many articles about Kosovo independence, you will often read that crucial elements of Serbian identity are in Kosovo, such as churches, monastaries, and other holy sites.  But the “big kahuna” of crucial elements of Serbian identity is without question the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 — a battle in which the Serbs lost to the invading Ottomans.  Don’t think the 1389 Battle of Kosovo is still relevant to Serbian identity? 

For better or for worse, think again.

“Those who are Serbian and have a Serbian heart and do not come to battle for Kosovo will not have children — neither male or female, crops or wine.  They will be damned until they die.” 

The above is what is inscribed on a monument near Pristina that commemorates the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.  Notably, in 1989 — six hundred years later, a man by the name of Slobodan Milosevic addressed a crowd of about a million Serbians at that monument, incited nationalistic and ethnic identity, and later stripped the local Albanian majority of their rights and autonomy. 

It was essentially 19th century Serbian ideology that established the 1389 Battle of Kosovo as one of the most — if not the most — defining events of nationalistic as well as ethnic identity.  Again, for better or for worse, this is what large segments of Serbians have been taught and this is what they believe. 

In that regard, if you think Serbians are going to get over the last 8 years of “UN Rule,” you are sorely mistaken.  The Serbs still haven’t recovered from the 1389 Battle of Kosovo.  It is not likely they will either. 

I’ve included a segment of what the battle means to Serbians by a Serbian.  There is quite a bit of information out there on the Battle of Kosovo — some of it is exaggerated, some of it sorely subjective, some of it completely false.  Then again, though, that is often times history, and it is often the case that how we think depends on what we put in our brains.  I think the segment I’ve attached provides a good example of what I’m talking about (http://www.srpska-mreza.com/bookstore/kosovo/kosovo19.htm):

Kosovo and Vidovdan After 600 Years, by Father Mateja Matejic 

The Kosovo Ethics, which are implanted in the national consciousness of the Serbian people, have not changed for 600 years – nor will they ever change. The basic values of those ethics, bequeathed to Serbians on Vidovdan in 1389, have not been chiseled on 2 stone tablets, but are impressed in the inmost being of every Serb.

Every nation has 1 date in its history which it considers more important than any other. For the Serbs, the most important date in their history is June 15, by the old calendar – June 28, by the new calendar (Vidovdan). On that day, in 1389, 600 years ago, Serbian and Turkish armies clashed on the Kosovo Field. Both the Serbian ruler Prince Lazar and the Turkish Sultan Murad I died as a result of the battle. In addition, a great number of Serbian military leaders, as well as a great number of Serbian warriors, lost their lives. Notwithstanding the fact that according to historical documents neither the Serbs nor the Turks won the battle, Serbia was so exhausted that it was unable to continue resisting the Turks a few decades later the heirs of Prince Lazar recognized Turkish suzerainty and 5 centuries of domination of the Serbs by the Turks ensued. That long and martyr-like enslavement changed the course of Serbian history and interrupted the cultural progress of the Serbs, which was clearly evident during the rule of the Nemanja dynasty.

It is difficult to assess the importance of the Kosovo Battle for world history. Such is also the case with the battles at the Alamo or Gettysburg, which are so important for American history. However, it is undeniable that the Battle of Kosovo was exceptionally significant not only for Serbia, but also for Europe and European Christian civilization.

It is a fact that on Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, the Serbs, without help from a single European nation, defended on Kosovo Field not only the frontiers of their own territory and lives of their people, but, at the risk of losing their national independence, they also defended the interests and security of Christian Europe. In the conflict of 2 rival civilizations, the Muslim and the Christian, the Serbs checked the wave of the Turkish invasion, interposed themselves as a wall between the Turks and Europe, and enabled Europe to make preparations for its own defense. It is questionable whether the history of Europe would have been the same without the Battle of Kosovo and the sacrifice of the Serbian nation.

However, no matter how great the historical value of Kosovo and Vidovdan may be, for the Serbs they have an additional unique dimension and preeminence. Persons of non-Serbian origin may consider Kosovo as only a far-away, strange, and, even, unimportant geographical territory, and Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, as a date of a battle of which they know little or nothing. As far as the Serbs are concerned, Kosovo is their Holy Land, the cradle of Serbdom, and their inalienable, historical, national, and cultural heritage. As far as they are concerned, Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, is not just the date of a battle, but their nation’s identity, and the sacred will and testament which contains religious, ethical, and national principles for all Serbian generations from the Kosovo Battle until the present.

In the national consciousness all of Serbian history is divided into 2 periods: prior to the Kosovo Battle and after the Kosovo Battle. And whereas the other battles in which the Serbs took part are mentioned only in historical textbooks, Vidovdan alone is included in the calendar, which registers holidays and the names of saints exclusively. Vidovdan alone has become a national holiday which has been observed through the centuries, and it is observed on this occasion, 600 years after the Battle of Kosovo.

As a geographical territory, Kosovo was Serbian even before the year 1389, before Vidovdan. That ownership was not marked by sticks, in the way the prospectors for gold marked their claims, nor by the deeds written in ink on paper, but by ancient and magnificent churches and monasteries and by Serbian cemeteries and tombstones. The capitals of Serbian kings and the thrones of Serbian archbishops and patriarchs were in Kosovo. Moreover, with the Battle of Kosovo, Kosovo and Vidovdan merged into a single concept and became a synonym with a specific meaning: The Serbdom. After June 15, 1389, one cannot speak of Kosovo apart from Vidovdan or about Vidovdan apart from Kosovo. They are inseparable because on Vidovdan 1389, on the Field of Kosovo, in the blood of Serbian warriors was written an indelible deed that forever confirms the Serbian ownership of Kosovo. Vidovdan commemorations, which have been celebrated annually for centuries, are reconfirmations of both the Serbian ownership of Kosovo and of the Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics, which are the core of the Serbian national image and the essence of Serbian identity.

It should be emphasized that the Vidovdan commemorations are not celebrations of a Serbian military victory over the Turks, for the Serbs were not victorious in the Kosovo Battle. However, it is incorrect, and even malicious, to claim that at Vidovdan commemorations the Serbs “celebrate their defeat in the Kosovo Battle.” Such a statement has no logical or historical support. According to the historical documents, the Turks had not won a victory in the Battle of Kosovo. Neither a military victory nor a military defeat are not and could not have been either the reason or the meaning of Vidovdan commemorations. On those occasions the Serbs honor and commemorate the heroes of Kosovo who laid down their lives defending their faith, freedom, nation, and country. At the same time, Vidovdan commemorations are the annual reviews of the post-Kosovo Serbian generations. They are evaluated in terms of Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics and on the basis of their reconfirmation of the Pledge of Kosovo. On Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, on the Kosovo Field, the Serbs chose once and for all their religious, cultural, ethical, and national identity. Their choice, in the form of an unwritten pledge, was handed down to all post-Kosovo Serbian generations and, through 600 years, Serbs have lived by that pledge.

In the course of 6 centuries the geographical boundaries and demographic constituency of Kosovo, as well as the political and social conditions have changed. Serbs, who represented a majority in Kosovo, have been reduced to a minority. Uncontrolled migration of thousands of people from neighboring Albania to Kosovo on one hand and, on the other, mass exodus of Serbs from that territory, because of the merciless oppression to which the Serbs have been subjected by the newcomers, especially in the period 1943-1988, has changed the status of the Serbian population from a majority to a minority. Atrocities, unheard of even in uncivilized countries, have been perpetuated against the Serbian population in Kosovo. Regretfully, biased reporting in the world press, including the American, misrepresents the situation in Kosovo. Victims – Serbs – are portrayed as oppressors, whereas oppressors – the Muslim population in Kosovo – are depicted as victims. It is incomprehensible that the freedom-loving Serbs, the allies of America in 2 world wars, are being taunted and attacked in the American press, whereas their oppressors, the former allies of Hitler and Mussolini in World War II, are undeservedly favored and supported. Thus, not only geographical territories, social and political conditions, but allegiances change, too. 

Serbia Threatens Blockades if Kosovo Declares Independence (Or How Serbia Has Taken Off The Velvet Glove)

The tension in the Balkans has gone up yet another notch.  According to a report by the Associated Press yesterday, Serbia threatened to impose an economic and travel blockade on Kosovo if the province declares independence.  Serbia also warned — ominously — that “bloody confrontations” could await Kosovo if it declares independence, and that any country who recognizes Kosovo independence will have to “bear the consequences” for “whatever will follow.” 

Apparently, Serbia has made these statements as a “last-ditch attempt” to negotiate a settlement.

Hmmm.  Where has Serbia learned its negotiating tactics from, a rabid dog?  And does Serbia understand that it is the dog that wags the tail, not the tail that wags the dog? 

Serbia’s statements do nothing to come closer to a solution and do nothing to ease the tension in the Balkans.  Serbia has again irresponsibly placed a gas tank on top of a fire.  Statements of national unity against Kosovo only go to incite elements in the Serbian community that want to do harm.

Serbia’s actions during this negotiation process shows the validity of the old saying:  when you are in a hole, stop digging.  Serbia, though, is digging and digging itself deeper into “you-are-never-going-to-join-the-EU-with-such-behavior-and-go-ahead-join-Russia-if-you-want-land.”  By doing so, Serbia has shown what the world already knows:  that underneath that velvet glove is a misguided, backward, and iron fist.

Great behavior, Serbia!  Do you really think Kosovo will now trust being your autonomous province?  Do you see why so many countries are going to recognize Kosovo independence?  Do you realize what you are doing to the reasonable people of Serbia?  Do you like the Dark Ages?  

I guess I’ll ask this to you Serbia:  what the hell planet are you on? 

As talks deadlock, Serbia threatens blockades if Kosovo declares independence

William J. Kole (Associated Press)

BADEN, Austria — Serbia threatened to impose an economic and travel blockade on Kosovo if the breakaway province declares independence, as a last-ditch attempt to negotiate a settlement deadlocked and appeared doomed to fail. 

“Hopefully, in a time not too long from now, we will be able to take our decision,” Kosovo’s president, Fatmir Sejdiu, told reporters in the Austrian spa town of Baden, where the closed-door talks at a castle hotel wrap up Wednesday. Sejdiu shrugged off Serbia’s fierce opposition to statehood for Kosovo, saying the province “will not be held hostage” to those who object.

As the talks mediated by the U.S., European Union and Russiahit what looked like an insurmountable stalemate, there were ominous statements from the Serbian side suggesting ugly and possibly bloody confrontations could await Kosovo if it declares independence unilaterally as many expect. Serbia will impose a “complete economic and travel blockade” of Kosovo, including cutting off electricity supplies to the province and banning ethnic Albanians and their goods from crossing the borders, a high-ranking Serbian official told The Associated Press in Belgrade on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.

In Baden, Serbia’s minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, said Serbia would respond “like any country in Europe would react if its borders would be in danger.”  And Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic said: “Whoever decides to make such a unilateral act will have to bear the consequences for whatever will follow.”

Serbian President Boris Tadic insisted there was room to compromise and offered Kosovo self-governance, which the Albanian side rejected. “The way these negotiations started, they must end, and that is in the U.N. Security Council,” said Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. He denounced any unilateral declaration of independence as “completely unacceptable” and a violation of international law.

Critics, including Russia — an ally of Serbiathat insists the U.N. Security Council have the final say on Kosovo’s future — contend a unilateral declaration of independence would plunge the Balkans back into turmoil and set a dangerous precedent for other separatist movements worldwide. Kostunica said his government would swiftly pronounce Kosovo’s statehood “null and void, illegal, which it is.” Asked about specific punitive measures under consideration, he said only: “If it happens, you’ll see.”

Hashim Thaci, a former rebel leader who is Kosovo’s incoming new prime minister, played down the chances of renewed violence. “No more war, no more killing, no more violence in the region — that is our commitment,” he said.

Extraordinary Rendition (Or How The U.S. Government Is Doing Some Really Scary Stuff)

I figure it’s about time that I start commenting on the CIA’s speciality:  extraordinary rendition.  Basically, extraordinary rendition is when the CIA snatches a terrorism suspect and sends them to another country for interrogation.  By doing so — the CIA reasons unofficially — the suspects do not have the same rights of due process that a suspect has in America, which can often times make interrogation difficult, like when a suspect asks for an attorney or that sticky ban against torture. 

To get around these “technicalities” and “road blocks” (and essentially the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments, along with the Civil Rights Law), the CIA sends a suspect for interrogation to another country, like Egypt, who will then torture our suspect — or do things that certainly are not allowed under U.S. Law — while we keep our hands clean.

Sounds like some twisted logic to me, to say the least.

How far is the government going to take this war on terror?  Is there an end in sight?  (By definition, it does not appear to have an end).  And how much are the American people going to accept what the government is doing simply under the rubric of the “war on terror.” 

I can see it now.  What’s two plus two?  War on Terror.  How do you make a chicken salad?  War on Terror.  How many aspirins should I take?  War on Terror.  Why is the stock market going up?  War on Terror.  Why are people fat?  War on Terror.

Of course, there are terrorists in this world.  Truly bad things are being planned as I write this against the United States and its allies.  It’s important to catch these people who are doing this.  But this has to be done within the confines of our constitution.  They are not mere “technicalities.”

Extraordinary rendition violates just about everything.  It violates due process.  It violates the separation of powers.  It violates accountability and the rule of law. 

You have to ask yourself this:  if the government can do this to terrorist suspects without impunity or review, what will stop it from doing things like that to us?

What bothers me is that presidential candidates are not talking about it.  Why not?  At best, perhaps a presidential candidate does not want to be accused of being soft on terrorism?  At worst, perhaps a presidential candidate does not have the information to make a detailed position, since the CIA and the current administration of whack jobs have insulated themselves from any transparency?  Either way, the presidential candidates must make it an issue.

Here’s an interesting article, “Congress and the Disappeared,” by Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice (http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0747,hentoff,78426,2.html), published November 20, 2007.

Congress and the Disappeared 

Human-rights history was made on February 7 of this year when, in Paris, 57 nations signed an unprecedented new international treaty prohibiting any of these countries from engaging in what the CIA calls “extraordinary renditions”: secretly snatching terrorism suspects and sending them to countries known for their expertise in torturing the people in their custody. The new treaty also forbids holding suspects in secret prisons—a continuing CIA specialty—or otherwise making people disappear.

Though invited to sign the treaty, the United States of America declined, without any discernible sense of embarrassment at being, after all, the world’s most expert and efficient producer of secret prisoners.

Our president, after all, had already signaled very different intentions about protecting American values in an age of terrorism when, in his second State of the Union address (January 28, 2003), he chillingly declared: “More than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let’s put it this way—they are no longer a problem.” 

Only six days after 9/11, Bush had set in motion CIA “special powers” that would lead to the renditions and the secret prisons. On September 17, 2001, he told the National Security Council that he was about to give the agency “special authorities to detain Al Qaeda operatives worldwide.” He followed up on March 13, 2002, insisting on “the President’s power as commander-in-chief to transfer captured terrorists to the control and custody of foreign nations.”

As he was later to say on Ted Koppel’s Nightline: “You need to have a president who understands you can’t win this war with legal papers. We’ve got to use every asset at our disposal.”

By July 2004, the investigative organization Human Rights First had released a thoroughly documented 43-page report, “Ending Secret Detentions.” It was announced under a news release headlined “U.S. Holding Prisoners in More Than Two Dozen Secret Detention Facilities Worldwide.” And in the text itself: “At least half of these operate in total secrecy . . . beyond the reach of adequate supervision, accountability, or law.”

On seeing that report, the International Red Cross told Agence France-Presse: “We are more and more concerned about the lot of the unknown number of people captured . . . and detained in secret places. We have asked for information on these people and access to them. Until now we have received no response from the Americans.”

One American wasvery concerned, but we didn’t hear from him until November 6 of this year, on PBS’s Frontline—the most fearless and valuable documentary series since Edward R. Murrow’s on CBS. In Extraordinary Rendition, Tyler Drumheller, who ran CIA operations in Europe in 2003, said of the CIA’s secret jails: “We are an intelligence service, an espionage service. Not jailers. . . . Everything that the military didn’t want to do or felt uncomfortable doing ended up in the lap of the CIA.”

For the last three years, the existence of these secret prisons and the practice of extraordinary rendition has been increasingly known around the world thanks to the European press and such American reporters as Dana Priest of The Washington Post and Jane Mayer of The New Yorker—and has also been detailed in many of these columns.

But there has yet to be a Congressional investigation into these pervasive American war crimes, as clearly defined in the Geneva Conventions and our own war-crimes statutes— including nothing from the present Congress, led by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

There are Democratic members of Congress—notably Senators Pat Leahy, Dick Durbin, Russ Feingold, Joe Biden, and Ron Wyden—who keep pressuring the White House, to no avail, to release the documents outlining the orders that have made this nation a worldwide supercriminal, thereby lowering our stature throughout the globe as never before.

So the leaders of Congress, by their inaction, are as complicit as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, and the rest of those administration officials who have authorized untold numbers of disappeared prisoners and the torture of kidnapped suspects worldwide.

In an October 27 article by Craig Whitlock in The Washington Post (“From CIA Jails, Inmates Fade Into Obscurity”), the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that it had “failed to find dozens of people once believed to have been in CIA custody. . . .”

So far as I can learn in the years I’ve been covering this story, CIA “black sites” have existed and may still be operating in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Tunisia, Jordan, Pakistan, Morocco, and India.

“Some [prisoners],” Whitlock reports, “have been secretly transferred to their home countries, where they remain in detention and out of public view, according to interviews in Pakistan and Europe with government officials, human rights groups and lawyers for the detainees. Others have disappeared without a trace and may or may not still be under CIA control.” (Emphasis added.)

In June 2004, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch wrote: “The Bush administration apparently believed that the new wars it was fighting could not be won if it was constrained by the ‘old’ rules.”

Our new attorney general, Michael Mukasey, agrees with his commander in chief, having written in The Wall Street Journal before his nomination that “current institutions and statutes are not well suited to . . . what became, after Sept. 11, 2001, principally a military effort to combat Islamic terrorism.”

Nonetheless, Senators Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein are primarily responsible for making Mukasey our chief law-enforcement officer, even as the secret CIA “black sites” continue to exist under the depraved new rules by which we are now being judged around the globe—and will be judged by history.

Three years ago, Brody foretold the ultimate result: “Ironically, the new administration is now finding that . . . rather than advance the war on terror, the widespread prisoner abuse has damaged efforts to build global support for countering terrorism. . . . Policies adopted to make the United States more secure from terrorism have in fact made it more vulnerable.”

Will any candidate for the presidency in 2008 be able to turn us around? So far, this appalling state of affairs has yet to become a campaign issue.

Death Ruled Not Homicide For Officer At Ground Zero (Or How The NYC Chief Medical Examiner Has Made A Distinction Without A Difference)

A strange decision indeed by New York City’s chief medical examiner to not reclassify the death of a police officer who worked at Ground Zero as a homicide.  Dr. Charles S. Hirsch reasoned that because Officer James Godbee, Jr. did not arrive at Ground Zero until September 13, 2001 (when he then began inhaling noxious dust particles from the terrorist attack), his death in December 2004 from those noxious dust particles was not “directly caused” by the World Trade Center attack.  Therefore, Officer Godbee Jr.’s official cause of death was sarcodosis as opposed to homicide.

Dr. Hirsch’s distinction between the manner of death and the cause of death in determining whether a death should be classified as a homicide or not is surely a strained one.  Dr. Hirsch’s reasoning goes something like this: 

If you were near Ground Zero on September 11, 2001, enveloped by a dust cloud, and later died from inhaling the dust, then Dr. Hirsch says that’s a homicide.  However, if you came to Ground Zero a few days later, were exposed to the same dust, and later died from inhaling that dust, then it’s not a homicide, because it’s work-related.

What the hell kind of distinction is that?

The distinction that Dr. Hirsch draws misses one crucial element:  foreseeability.  A death that is foreseeable consequence from a particular crime is a homicide, regardless of whether that death is “work-related” or not.  Of course, the issue of foreseeability deals with causation and proximity. 

It surely cannot be denied that Officer Godbee Jr.’s death was caused by the dust from the terrorist act, and that the dust was the proximate cause of Godbee’s death.

To be sure, proximity is often times a policy question.  Should it be a policy that any death occurring from a victim’s injuries after September 11, 2001, even though it can be shown to be a direct result of that particular day, not be classified as a homicide?  Dr. Hirsch’s attempt to make a bright line rule is like trying to fit a square into a round peg.  It does not work.

Here’s the article, “Death Ruled Not Homicide For Officer At Ground Zero,” by Anthony DePalma, published in the New York Times today (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/27/nyregion/27dust.html?_r=1&ref=nyregion&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin).

Death Ruled Not Homicide for Officer at Ground Zero

New York City’s chief medical examiner has decided not to reclassify the death of a police officer who worked at ground zero as a homicide linked to the attack on the twin towers because the officer did not arrive at the site until Sept. 13, 2001.  The examiner’s decision appears to cast doubt on the future of thousands of cases involving sickened rescue and recovery workers whose relatives may in the future seek to have them included on the 9/11 victims’ list.

When the officer, James J. Godbee Jr., died in December 2004 at age 44, the medical examiner’s office listed the cause of death as sarcoidosis, a disease that scars the lungs and other organs. Although the death certificate did not link Officer Godbee’s disease to the days he spent at ground zero, the police pension fund did make that link later, granting the officer’s widow a line-of-duty pension.

Earlier this year, the officer’s widow, Michelle Haskett-Godbee, formally requested that the medical examiner review the case. She hoped that if her husband’s death was formally linked to the trade center attack, his name would be added to the official list of 9/11 victims.  But the medical examiner, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, turned down Mrs. Haskett-Godbee’s request in a letter dated June 13, which was reported Monday in The Daily News.

“All persons killed at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and others who died later from complications of injuries or exposure directly caused by the collapse of the twin towers on that day are homicide victims,” Dr. Hirsch wrote. “However, P.O. Godbee first arrived at the World Trade Center site on September 13, 2001.”

Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, said Dr. Hirsch drew a distinction between the manner of death, which she defined as the circumstances leading up to a fatality, and the cause of death, which she said is the underlying reason a person died.

“If you were there when the towers came down and were enveloped in the dust cloud, that was a direct result of what was happening at the time the attack was under way,” Ms. Borakove said. “On other hand, if you were there later on and you were doing work, you may be in a position where you were exposed to the same dust, but since you were not exposed during the time of attack, then that becomes work-related.”

New York City death certificates list the immediate cause of death separately from the manner of death. Homicide is given as the manner of death for the 2,750 names on the official victims’ list. In the letter about Officer Godbee, Dr. Hirsch stated that deaths linked to inhalation of dust while performing work are classified as “natural deaths,” not homicide.

In May, Dr. Hirsch reclassified the death of Felicia Dunn-Jones, a lawyer who was engulfed in the dust plume on the morning of Sept. 11 as she ran from her office in Lower Manhattan, as homicide. In that case, he focused special attention on the fact that Mrs. Dunn-Jones, 42, had inhaled trade center dust on the day of the attack.

That reversal opened the way for other cases to be reviewed. According to Ms. Borakove, Dr. Hirsch has declined to reclassify three or four other cases, including those of Officer Godbee and Detective James Zadroga, whose death in early 2006 had been linked to trade center dust by a New Jersey medical examiner.

Dr. Hirsch’s decision to disallow those who arrived at ground zero after Sept. 11 from being considered possible homicide victims confused some legal experts. Stephen M. Gillers, a law professor at New York University, said that a fatality that is a “foreseeable consequence” of a particular crime is usually considered to have been caused by that crime.

“Because Godbee arrived only two days later, you could make a pretty strong case that it was 9/11 exposure,” Professor Gillers said in a telephone interview. “The medical examiner may just be saying, ‘If I allow Sept. 12 or 13, I may be nickel-and-dimed to Sept. 15 and beyond.’ At some point, you just need to get on with things.”

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, who, with other members of New York’s Congressional delegation, has sponsored a bill providing compensation for ill ground zero workers, called Dr. Hirsch’s decision on Officer Godbee “absolutely arbitrary” and sure to increase the anger and frustration of many New Yorkers.