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The Serbs Were Not Oppressing the Kosovo Albanians... Quite the opposite

Historical and Investigative Research - rev. 14 March 2006
by Francisco Gil-White



NATO claimed that the government in Belgrade was oppressing the Kosovo Albanians. This was a lie. The Kosovo Albanians, in fact, were the best treated ethnic minority in the world -- bar none. What was true was that the Kosovo Albanians, who were a minority in Serbia, but a majority in Kosovo, and in control of all Kosovo institutions, including the government, the police, the educational system, etc., were persecuting the Kosovo Serbs, who were a minority in Kosovo. This piece documents that this was the assessment of the US army, no less, though this was never shared with the public after the NATO demonization of the Serbs began.

Table of Contents
( hyperlinked
< )

< Introduction

< Analysis of Lenard Cohen's allegations against the Serbs: Did he speak the truth?

< What Cohen left out: The WWII alliance of the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo with the German Nazis against the Serbs, Jews, and Roma (Gypsies) of Kosovo

< Back to Cohen’s original paragraph


On March 24th 1999, NATO began bombing civilian Serbia because, it claimed, this was the only way to stop widespread ethnic cleansing against Albanians by the Yugoslav government.

Ordinary Westerners accepted this.

One cannot blame them, exactly. For years, the Western media had been alleging that nationalist unrest by separatist Albanians in Kosovo stemmed from the fact that they were supposedly a besieged minority, persecuted by an ultranationalist Serbian state. Given this media barrage, by the time NATO bombed Serbia, the Western public easily believed NATO's claims that this was necessary to prevent a genocide against Albanian civilians in Kosovo. 

But suppose I told you that the following list summarizes the political facts in Kosovo in 1981, when the separatist activity by radical Albanians began in earnest:

(1)          Kosovo Albanians controlled the provincial government;

(2)          Kosovo Albanians controlled the cultural institutions;

(3)          Albanian was the official language in the province (and in fact Serbs in Kosovo were forced to learn Albanian, not the other way around);

(4)          Education was conducted in Albanian;

(5)          Albanians were the overwhelming majority of students at Pristina University;

(6)         Albanians were the overwhelming majority in the Kosovo police force;

(7)          As The Economist reported in 1981, "Mr Fadil Hoxha [was] a member of Jugoslavia's collective state presidency and a Kosovo Albanian." What does this mean? The collective presidency of the Yugoslav federation was composed of representatives from its constituent republics, and also representatives from Kosovo and Vojvodina. However, Kosovo and Vojvodina were not republics of Yugoslavia but provinces of Serbia. Thus, Kosovo was treated as if it were a republic of Yugoslavia as far as the collective presidency of the federation was concerned.

(8)          Since 1974, the Kosovo parliament in Pristina (Kosovo's capital) could veto decisions taken in Belgrade that corresponded to the entire Republic of Serbia (of which Kosovo is a province), but Belgrade had no say on matters that were decided in Pristina (!).

(9)          Albanians were discriminating against Serbs in industry and in the political administration.

(10)        Kosovo Serbs, apparently starting in the 1970s, were subjected to low-level terrorism and harassment by either the Albanian KLA or its precursors. This caused a trickle, then a flood of Kosovo Serbs to flee the province out of fear for their lives.

Is this the picture of an oppressed Albanian minority in Serbia? Or is this the picture of an oppressed Serbian minority in Kosovo?

But should you believe me that the above list summarizes the political facts in Kosovo when Albanian separatists wrecked it? You don't have to. In 1982, the US military -- the same establishment that would later make the decision to bomb Serbia -- published a country study of Yugoslavia:

Nyrop, R. F. 1982. Yugoslavia: A country study. Headquarters, Department of the Army, DA Pam 550-99: American University

Such country studies are published all the time to assist diplomats and others who may need a crash course on a particular country. This particular study was completed immediately after the 1981 riots that set in motion the disintegration of Yugoslavia, and it comments at length on the social and political situation in Kosovo, as well as on the riots themselves. As you will see below, this country study substantiates -- and for most points explicitly and directly -- the above assertions about the political facts in Kosovo, as I will document further below. Skeptics can get the book above from a library, and check whether I misquoted or distorted.

Now, as it bombed Serbia, NATO claimed that, underneath the shower of bombs, Milosevic was murdering 100,000 -- or else 500,000 (who's counting?) -- Kosovo Albanians.

A large number. But what if I told you that all the people who died in the bombing, put together, add up to no more than 788 people?

And that's not even the Albanian civilians -- that figure represents all deaths, and therefore includes dead Serbian soldiers and civilians, as well as Albanian KLA terrorists.

You reasonably might suspect that I got my numbers wrong. But these are not my numbers, they are NATO's! In fact NATO has not produced even one Albanian civilian murdered in Kosovo by the Yugoslav army or security services! [1]

Are you scandalized by that?

If not, then perhaps this will do it: NATO's excuse to start the bombing was an allegation that there had been a massacre in the Kosovo town of Racak, but Racak was a Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) hoax set up in collaboration with NATO! [2]

In other words, the entire war against Serbia was a put up job by NATO and the mainstream Western media. Those who know a bit about the war on Viet Nam, which was justified with a faked attack on US troops that never happened (Gulf of Tonkin[3]), and which was carried out by lying to the American people repeatedly, consistently, and massively, will see the similarities.

And which is the bigger scandal, here?

Is it that NATO lied to us repeatedly in order to start a war of aggression against innocent Serbs? Is it that NATO allied itself with the worst fascists, terrorists, and Islamic fundamentalists -- people who took pride and joy in massacring thousands of Serbian civilians?

Or is the bigger scandal the fact that none of this ever became a front-page-headline scandal in the Western press (unlike Viet Nam, where the lies did, eventually, surface)? Is the bigger scandal the fact that ordinary Westerners, whose taxes paid for the slaughter of innocent Serbs, still don't know what truly happened in Yugoslavia?

It's a tough call...

The KLA, on whose behalf NATO bombed Serbia, claimed to be defending Kosovo Albanians from the oppression that the mainstream media said they were suffering at the hands of Serbs, generally, and at the hands of the government of Serbia in particular. It is this media portrayal that helped build plausibility in Americans’ minds for the idea that the Yugoslav army was about to commit genocide. Since Americans did not -- and still do not -- know much about Yugoslavia, the portrayal was believed, accepted on the faith and trust they place on what they perceive to be an ‘independent’ and ‘free’ press.

Had Americans known a bit about Yugoslavia, however, they would have laughed out of court the claim that the Serbs had been oppressing the Albanians, let alone the accusation that a genocide against Albanians was in the wings. Had Americans known what the social and political situation was in Kosovo in the early 1980s, when violent separatist activity in Kosovo began in earnest, the propaganda campaign that explained Albanian terrorist violence and secessionist sloganeering as produced by Serbian oppression of the Albanians could never have succeeded.

What happened?

In 1981, riots turned violent in Kosovo amid Albanian nationalist and separatist slogans. Many Balkan analysts agree that this is the moment when the train that wrecked Yugoslavia was set in motion, for the unrest in Kosovo fed into other nascent nationalist stirrings in other parts of the country, eventually producing the Yugoslav civil wars.

Nothing, of course, is ever that simple, but there is no question that the 1981 riots in Kosovo represented a very worrisome development as it was the first time since the 1960s that popular demonstrations involving violence, and linked to separatist sloganeering, had been seen in Kosovo. And they were indeed a harbinger of things to come.

But the question for a historian should be: Why the riots of 1981?

If a historian or a political analyst argued that the extensive political autonomy and privileges enjoyed by Albanians in Kosovo -- unequaled for a national minority anywhere else -- naturally led to violent Albanian riots crying for secession in 1981, then we would sit up and listen.

The explanation better be good, and it better do three things: 

1) Make clear why, given that Albanians were obviously not oppressed, they nevertheless thought themselves to be.

2) Satisfy us that, under their extraordinarily positive conditions, a widespread sense of injury sufficient to produce violent riots by Albanians was even possible.

3) Argue successfully that an Albanian perception that they were 'being oppressed' was a more plausible cause for the riots than alternative explanations.

This is a tall order.

Alternative hypotheses easily come to mind. An oppressed population that loses patience with its condition is not, after all, the only thing that can produce violent riots. We know from recent meetings of the G7 that a handful of radicals can provoke a nervous police force into overreacting, injecting a great deal of violence into a peaceful demonstration. This changes the general character of the street activity as once non-violent demonstrators turn to violence in self-defense. Similar things have happened at some street celebrations following the conclusion of a major sports tournament, when jubilant crowds end up involved in considerable violence.

So one obviously cannot go directly from the fact of violent riots to the conclusion that the bulk of those participating were necessarily interested in protesting oppression, or even doing so with violence. And in the case of Kosovo, given that there was no oppression to protest against, such a conclusion is not only implausible but unreasonable.

And it is significant, in this regard (as we shall see), that the events of 1981 in Kosovo began as a demonstration to protest conditions in the dormitory at Pristina University. It is not clear what, if anything, this could have to do with secession, and it raises the suspicion that perhaps violent minority radicals, with an agenda all their own, turned a narrow student demonstration into something very different.

The mainstream media, and published scholarly work on Yugoslavia, has for the most part avoided any kind of analysis along such lines. Instead, they have presented the 1981 riots as though obviously reflective of the legitimate grievances of a supposedly oppressed Albanian population in Kosovo. In other words, as if this did not fly in the face of the perfectly well documented political and social facts in Kosovo!

Take, for example, the following passage from Lenard J. Cohen’s widely read Broken Bonds: The disintegration of Yugoslavia (1993:46-47).

[Start Quote From Broken Bonds]

"Throughout Yugoslavia, the economic discontent of the 1980s became closely intermingled with burgeoning ethnoregional nationalism. Only one year after Tito’s death, nationalist protests by Albanians erupted in Serbia’s economically underdeveloped province of Kosovo, setting in motion a pattern of ethnic conflict that intensified throughout the decade. Albanian nationalist leaders and much of the Albanian population (composing 77.4 percent of Kosovo’s population in 1981) expressed resentment against what they viewed as the privileged position of Serbs and Montenegrins in the province and against Kosovo’s subordination to Serbian republican officials in Belgrade. For their part, the Serbs in the province claimed that they were being subjected to ‘genocide’ and  ‘terror’ by Albanian nationalists, who, they alleged, desired not only the complete elimination of all Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo, but also the eventual removal of the country’s entire Albanian population from the control of Serbia and possibly even Yugoslavia.

The conflict between Abanians and Serbs in Kosovo spilled over and complicated other ethnoregional problems in the country…"

[End Quote From Broken Bonds]

The paragraph contains an obvious slant: the Kosovo Albanians had legitimate grievances, and these were significantly the fault of local Serbs and the authorities in the Republic of Serbia. Although the Serbs voiced grievances too, these cannot be given much credence, Cohen intimates, and should be viewed as a defensive nationalism that rises to counter the demands of the Albanians.

Most Americans would find nothing the matter with the above slant because they heard it in the mainstream media over and over again. They also heard that NATO’s bombing of Serbia was necessary to prevent a Holocaust (principally through CNN's Christiane Amanpour, whose husband Jamie Rubin was at the time -- coincidentally? -- US State Department spokesman).

However, virtually every word in Cohen’s paragraph above -- and in the rest of his book -- turns upside down the actual realities of Kosovo in 1981.

As we shall see below, before the US military developed a propaganda need to demonize the Serbs in order to bomb them, it had no trouble acknowledging that the Kosovo Albanians enjoyed autonomy and protections unprecedented for a national minority anywhere in the world, and unprecedented for any period in human history.[9]

That is no exaggeration.


Analysis of Lenard Cohen's allegations against the Serbs: Did he speak the truth?

Lenard Cohen is hardly the only academic who misportrays the realities of Kosovo. Readers are left to speculate as to their motivations. What cannot be denied is that Cohen and others have reversed the facts and put the world exactly upside down.

To dramatize this phenomenon, I shall examine each sentence in Cohen’s portrayal of the situation in the quote above, and will compare it to how the study done by the US military described the social and political situation in Kosovo in 1981. My readers will then be able to judge whether it is possible for an honest scholar to write as Cohen does. The chosen quotation is perfectly representative of the entire slant of Cohen's book.

In the quoted paragraph, Cohen opens with the following phrase.

“Throughout Yugoslavia, the economic discontent of the 1980s became closely intermingled with burgeoning ethnoregional nationalism.”

This suggests a causal model. Not explicitly in the sentence, since he says ‘intermingled,’ but in my view few readers are likely to fail to interpret this as an implication of causality, especially given that Cohen’s previous chapter, which the reader has just left, is a litany of alleged economic horrors in the former Yugoslavia.

This therefore has a framing effect: economic disturbance leads to ethnic strife.

But there are so many impoverished places in the world where ethnic conflict does not take place, and also quite a few wealthy places where it does (e.g. N. Ireland) that the importance of economic factors in causing the conflict cannot just be implied or stated. It has to be defended. As we shall see, in this case that is very hard; Yugoslavia was, relatively speaking, not that poor, and the Kosovo Albanians were not suffering oppressive conditions under any conceivable interpretation of ‘oppressive’. Moreover, the local examples contradict the thesis that relative economic disadvantage is what leads to secession: Slovenia and Croatia were the first to secede from Yugoslavia and they were the richest constituent republics of that former state.


“Throughout Yugoslavia, the economic discontent of the 1980s became closely intermingled with burgeoning ethnoregional nationalism …[so]…after Tito’s death, nationalist protests…erupted”

This makes it sound like it was the explosion of accumulated and pent up feelings. That is what a volcanic eruption is, after all: magma accumulates and is pressing from below, but it is trapped and can’t get out, so the pressure builds. When the pressure becomes very strong, there is an explosion, and you get the ‘eruption’.

Cohen's chosen metaphor is consistent with his implication that discontent over economic conditions was ‘building up,’ so to speak. However, given reactions to the events at the time, it does not appear that discontent had been accumulating in this manner.

This is Eric Bourne, writing a week after the riots in The Christian Science Monitor:

"The riots have resulted in many injuries and arrests and have taken 11 lives. They have also bewildered Yugoslavia's new leaders, who want to know who was behind the riots, and why.

…The region has since been under strict military curfew while worried local and federal leaders ponder the source of the disturbances. So far, it is baffling even the security skills of a country well versed in the traditional labyrinth of Balkan "konspiratzia" and political plotting."[10]

Notice that Bourne remarks that Yugoslavia's leaders were "bewildered" and "baffled," and didn't know who was behind the riots or why.

Bourne is reporting a picture of utter surprise.

He did not contradict this because he himself was surprised. Thus, he went on to consider 4 theories of how the riots might be Machiavellian and orchestrated by forces outside Kosovo that may have wanted to destabilize Yugoslavia by making trouble in Kosovo (the Soviet Union and Albania, for example). The Yugoslav leaders were themselves worriedly considering these possibilities.

This is Marvine Howe writing a few weeks later in The New York Times:

"Nearly a month after the rioting in a southern province of Yugoslavia, it is still unclear what the troubles were all about.

It is uncertain whether the incidents, in which at least 9 people were killed and 59 seriously injured, were a spontaneous outburst of nationalist discontent by the ethnic Albanians who make up most of the province's population or a meticulously planned action to undermine the Yugoslav Government.

What is evident from both public and private declarations by key officials is that Belgrade considers the events in Kosovo Province of the utmost gravity and is not very sure what to do to prevent a recurrence."

Howe goes on to detail a ‘Greater Albania’ scenario meant to dismember Yugoslavia that the country’s leaders had long believed the Soviet Union was planning and which they worried might explain the 1981 riots.

This scenario had the Soviets clandestinely supporting subversive pressures to create violence leading to demands in Kosovo that it be elevated to the status of a Yugoslav republic. This republic would then exert pressure for the Albanian dominated areas of Macedonia and Montenegro to be integrated into an ethnically homogenous Albanian Yugoslav Republic. Since a Yugoslav republic constitutionally had the right of secession, the newly constituted Albanian Yugoslav Republic would then proceed to do this and unite itself with Albania in a ‘Greater Albania’. Then, Bulgaria, which had always alleged that the remaining inhabitants of Macedonia are really Bulgarians, would feel justified in claiming the remaining territory in rump Macedonia. Should Bulgaria annex Macedonia the Soviet Union would gain a straight corridor to the Mediterranean.

As we see, then,

1) the Yugoslav government was at a loss to explain the events;

2) the idea that machinations from the outside were responsible seemed at least worth considering to the Yugoslavs; and

3) media reports at the time (as evidenced above) were also scratching their heads about these riots.

The riots were not expected, it was "unclear what the troubles were all about," and they did not make much sense in the context of the political conditions of Kosovo.

I do not offer the Yugoslav government's speculations of a Soviet plot as evidence for such a plot, merely as evidence that the Yugoslavs were speculating. The communist government of Yugoslavia was constantly worried about homegrown nationalisms that might develop and tear the country apart (and legitimately so). Their security services were always keeping watch over such developments, and were not likely to be caught off-guard, as Bourne observed in the Christian Science Monitor. Thus, if the Yugoslavs were sufficiently surprised by the 1981 riots to wonder about outside influences, then perhaps we should take the speculation seriously. Perhaps there was no ‘eruption.’

Eruptions are anticipated: the ground shakes, the mountain exhales fumes, etc. You can see the signs of the accumulation of pressure. But Yugoslavia’s leaders were bewildered and baffled, and suspected outside influences. It was certainly not obvious to them that this had been a spontaneous outburst of a widespread and homegrown nationalist discontent. The general picture suggests that the riots were relatively sudden and were not preceded by relatively clear signs of building pressure.

I should not give the impression that there was no constituency for irredentist nationalism in Kosovo. The 1982 country study done by the US military says:

"According to an interview with the federal secretary for internal affairs published in the aftermath of these [1981] demonstrations, a variety of Albanian nationalist activities and incidents had been taking place in Kosovo and those areas of Macedonia inhabited by Albanians throughout the 1970s. These incidents included the painting of nationalistic slogans on buildings, distribution of nationalist pamphlets, and organization of secret societies—which resulted in the arrest, trial, and punishment of 600 individuals."—Nyrop (1982:222)

The size of this nationalist Albanian constituency in the 1970s and leading up to 1981, however, is a key question. The government activity to suppress violent nationalists in Kosovo could be evidence of widespread nationalist activity, or it could be evidence of considerable government concern. A handful of nationalists can provoke considerable suppressive activity by the state if they are sufficiently radical, or if the government is sufficiently worried about nationalism, or both. In a country as touchy about possible nationalist stirrings as Yugoslavia was, and replete with unreconstructed fascist ex-allies of the Nazis among the Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Kosovo Albanians, as was Yugoslavia, it did not take much to invite suppressive activity from the government in this domain.

To give just one example, consider that in the same year, 1981, “Professor Franjo Tudjman, a [Croatian] historian and former Partisan general, gave a series of interviews to Croatian émigré journals and received a three-year sentence for ‘hostile propaganda’” because such émigré organizations were “dedicated to an independent Croatia [and] engaged in a terrorist campaign mostly against Yugoslav diplomats” (Nyrop 1982:70). The concerns of the Yugoslavs were not baseless, dozens of government officials had already been murdered by the Croatian terrorists (see APPENDIX).

Though Yugoslavia was a liberal country by comparison to the Eastern bloc countries and the Soviet Union, and though its citizens enjoyed considerable freedoms of the press, etc., and even the freedom to emigrate, ethnic nationalisms (which had caused unparalleled blood-letting during WWII) were officially tabooed, closely watched, and stamped out when identified. It is obvious from all this that authorities were keeping a close eye on such activities in Kosovo, and knew they had a constituency. But if they were bewildered and baffled by the 1981 riots (as the news accounts at the time suggest), then they must have been unprepared for the scale of the violence they encountered, and the suddenness of the conflagration. This suggests that the riots were out of all proportion to the size of the known constituency for irredentist nationalism in Kosovo.


“Throughout Yugoslavia, the economic discontent of the 1980s became closely intermingled with burgeoning ethnoregional nationalism. Only one year after Tito’s death, nationalist protests by Albanians erupted in Serbia’s economically underdeveloped province of Kosovo, setting in motion a pattern of ethnic conflict that intensified throughout the decade. Albanian nationalist leaders and much of the Albanian population (composing 77.4 percent of Kosovo’s population in 1981) expressed resentment…”  

To know that there were nationalists in Kosovo does not tell us how most of the Albanian population felt. Cohen says that “much of the Albanian population…expressed resentment,” but this is a vague formulation. Since we are not given a figure, and since we do not have privileged access to Cohen’s mind, it is impossible to determine whether he is exaggerating. From looking at the data that he himself relies on, however, it seems that he might be.

Cohen repeatedly uses polling data about participation in the League of Yugoslav Communists as an index of the support that there was for the unity of federal Yugoslavia, interpreting participation in the league as synonymous with support for a united Yugoslavia. This list has an utterly amazing datum which Cohen does not pause for even a second to examine: as late as 1989, residents of Kosovo had—by far—the highest rate of participation in the league. And in 1981, when the disturbances occurred, they were practically tied in first place with Bosnia. Here is the table (Cohen 1993:48):

Table 2.1b - Membership in the League of Yugoslav Communists (in percentages)























































Total of League Communists






Thus, looking at this table, Kosovo would be the last place one would predict that was going to ‘erupt’ in nationalist discontent. Cohen (2001:26) tells us that Albanian membership in the league rose steadily until, by 1978, Albanians constituted nearly 2/3 of the communist membership in Kosovo. This means that 34.5% of Kosovo Albanians were members of the communist league immediately prior to the 1981 disturbances, and thus that they had the highest participation of any ethnic group in the country (because the participation of Bosnia is divided into Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims). Such facts lend support to the idea that the authorities would have been rightly surprised by a sudden conflagration of nationalist sentiment in Kosovo.

One could argue it the other way and say that high participation in the league was an indication of looming ethnic strife. But Cohen chooses the opposite interpretation because the whole point of the league was to create a cadre of Yugoslav loyalists in every region. Indeed, Cohen’s thesis is that the low participation in Croatia evident in the table was symptomatic of burgeoning nationalist activity there.

But, in any case, for Kosovo it matters little which way one interprets the significance of participation in the communist league because it is almost perfectly constant there. So not only is it difficult to argue on the basis of this data that nationalist activity in Kosovo had widespread grass-roots support, but it is also difficult to argue that the nationalist pressure was building up.

What then of the hypothesis that the violence in 1981 was the work of a few radical elements who were getting support from forces outside Kosovo wishing to destabilize Yugoslavia? Well, Kosovo borders Albania. When the Yugoslav-Soviet split happened, shortly after WWII, Albania had sided with the Soviets, who threatened several times to invade Yugoslavia. Moreover, the Nyrop military study says that immediately after the 1981 riots:

"The Albanian leadership [that is, from Albania, the country], through its closely controlled press, expressed open support for the demands raised by the demonstrators in Kosovo, calling for the “liberation of Kosovo from the tutelage of Serbia,” and raised thinly veiled irredentist demands of their own in Yugoslav territories."—Nyrop (1982:223; my insertion)

Also consistent with the ‘outside forces’ hypothesis are the apparent dynamics of the riots. A curious fact that Cohen never mentions is that “poor living conditions at Pristina University” were responsible for “sparking” the riots of 1981 (Nyrop 1982:77). It is not obvious why one should see, at a disturbance that has as its “spark” a protest over the living conditions at the University, any demonstrators who “wanted full status as a republic” for Kosovo, and even less some who “suggested that the proposed Kosovo republic ought to include Albanians in Macedonia and Montenegro too,” and still even less “some extremists [who] voiced secessionist sentiment calling for a ‘Greater Albania’” (Nyrop 1982:77).

What does any of this have to do with the quite possibly awful dormitories at Pristina University?

Given that Kosovo was heavily subsidized by the other Yugoslav republics (see below), and hardly oppressed but all to the contrary (see below), Albanians were quite unlikely to get “better conditions” at the University or anywhere else by becoming a part of Albania, which was and is (1) a radically impoverished country far below the living standards of Yugoslavia;  (2) unable to favor Kosovo with the astonishing subsidies it enjoyed in Yugoslavia; and (3) with a truly Stalinist system of government that contrasted sharply with Yugoslavia’s considerably more liberal policies.

But if a few radical elements assisted from the outside were indeed active, it becomes easier to understand why anybody would call for a ‘Greater Albania’ at a demonstration to protest for better living conditions at the university, and also why such a demonstration could become a violent riot: perhaps what began as a student demonstration was infiltrated by a few radicals who wanted to create a nationalistic confrontation.

It is well-documented from recent meetings of the G7, etc., that peaceful mass demonstrations can easily be turned into violent riots when a few radicals provoke a nervous police force to overreact and manage thus to use this state organ as a tool for causing a much larger proportion of the demonstrators to engage in angry violence. Such an overreaction by the state would also tend to make the irredentist claims of the nationalists more palatable to the other demonstrators, and would also create a fresh grievance leading to more anger in the streets. That these radicals could count on a vigorous reaction if they engaged in violence while chanting nationalist slogans was virtually guaranteed by the fact that there was always great concern in Yugoslavia that ethnonationalist activity could ignite another civil war.

The ‘outside influences’ hypothesis has sufficient circumstantial evidence going for it that one would expect a scholar to put it on the table—if only to dismiss it. It deserves this minimal courtesy, especially since it was being considered by the Yugoslav government. But Cohen does not even allude to it—not even as a speculation entertained at the time by the authorities; not even to call it a ‘scapegoat.’ Nothing.

Cohen simply proceeds as though everybody knows that the Albanian separatists had reasons to be upset. But I shall address the question that Cohen ignores: did the Albanian nationalists among the rioters have legitimate grievances?

As we shall see, to investigate this question is to provide even more circumstantial evidence for the ‘outside influences’ hypothesis.


“Throughout Yugoslavia, the economic discontent of the 1980s became closely intermingled with burgeoning ethnoregional nationalism …[so]…after Tito’s death, nationalist protests…erupted. Albanian nationalist leaders and much of the Albanian population (composing 77.4 percent of Kosovo’s population in 1981) expressed resentment against what they viewed as the privileged position of Serbs and Montenegrins in the province and against Kosovo’s subordination to Serbian republican officials in Belgrade.”  

Since Cohen emphasizes that the Kosovo Albanians were 77.4 percent of the population, his statement that Albanians felt “resentment against what they viewed as the privileged position of Serbs and Montenegrins in the province” seems to suggest that the province was a less extreme form of the South African model: a tiny minority has control of all the institutions and economic power, whereas the vast majority are disenfranchised. Most people in the West, educated as they are by the mainstream media, probably have this picture of Kosovo. But what Cohen does not tell you is that Kosovo Albanians were in control of the provincial government, and all other important institutions.

"Kosovo became an autonomous province in 1968; Albanians had extensive control of the local political administration, and cultural and educational organizations…"—Nyrop (1982:76)

Does that look like the picture of a province where Serbs and Montenegrins had a privileged political position?

And if not, then why does Cohen write that "much of the Albanian population...expressed resentment against what they viewed as the privileged position of Serbs and Montenegrins in the province"? Cohen provides no comment on "what [Albanians] viewed" and thereby communicates that he considers the supposed Albanian view as justified.

One of course may wonder about economics. Perhaps the Serbs were privileged economically if not politically? But in fact the Serbs in Kosovo were mostly peasant farmers, and they were not economically dominant. This was true even of white-collar Serbs. Consider:

"Between 1961 and 1981 Serbs dropped from roughly 23 percent to slightly more than 13 percent of the province’s population; at the same time, Albanians rose from two-thirds to over three-quarters of all inhabitants of Kosovo. In part the Albanian high birthrate accounted for the province’s changing ethnic portrait; the exodus of Serbs from the province, however, was more worrisome to Serbian officialdom. There had been a trickle of Serbs, mostly white-collar workers, displaced by the growing Albanian presence in local industry and government administration from the late 1960’s onward."—Nyrop (1982)

There was an exodus, the Nyrop military study says, of white collar Serbs leaving the province of Kosovo because they were being "displaced by the growing Albanian presence in local industry and government."

Those who occupy a privileged economic position are not forced to go looking for jobs elsewhere because they get displaced. In fact, the Serbs were being actively discriminated against.

To see the justice of this point, consider first that the access Albanians had to higher education was as good or better than that enjoyed by Serbs in Kosovo.

Pristina University, founded in 1970, was Yugoslavia’s third largest university by 1980. Its enrollment expanded nearly seven times in the decade and was transformed from being a disproportionately Serb student body to one predominantly Albanian."—Nyrop (1982:76)

However, this did not translate into greater numbers of Albanians who were trained for white-collar jobs in the private sector. Albanians overwhelmingly chose to study such things as history and literature, rather than obtain marketable degrees.

"While the number of Albanians holding higher academic degrees rose, the preponderance of graduates in the liberal arts gave Kosovo little of the technical expertise it needed... The dramatic increase in educated Albanians contributed less to an indigenous intelligentsia than to unemployed academics."—Nyrop (1982:76)

Since the white-collar Serbs who could not get jobs in Kosovo were apparently better trained than the Albanians, then we can see that not only were the Serbs not economically privileged, but they were in fact being discriminated against.

Thus, Serbs had a privileged position neither in politics, nor in access to education, nor in economic status... Quite the opposite.

Had Cohen included these details in his book he would have had to reword his paragraph or else his claims about the supposedly privileged position of the Serbs in Kosovo would have seemed utterly bizarre. This does not look like minority colonialism or apartheid at all, and, to the extent that there seems to be unfair patronage, it goes against the Serbs.

Serbs were not the ‘establishment’ in Kosovo, the Albanians were.

Cohen also does not include the interesting constitutional status of Kosovo. Was it colonial? Or even remotely approximating colonialism? A colony is controlled by the mother country and cannot run its own affairs. Kosovo was a province of Serbia, true, but a province and a colony are hardly the same thing, especially if the province is autonomous and all its institutions are run by the locally majoritarian ethnic Albanians.

In fact, ‘autonomous’ doesn’t quite describe it.

Cohen writes that Albanians "expressed resentment against what they viewed as...Kosovo’s subordination to Serbian republican officials in Belgrade."

What subordination?

The Kosovo parliament, meeting in Pristina, could veto Serbia-wide measures passed by the Serbian parliament in Belgrade, but Belgrade did not have a similar veto power over decisions taken in Pristina pertaining to Kosovo!

That's subordination?

"…even in policy areas formerly subject to uniform solution throughout Serbia, the provincial leaders—primarily the Albanian dominated leadership of Kosovo (for the leadership of Vojvodina remains heavily Serb)—exercise de facto veto power through their representatives in the [Serbian] republican parliament. The constitutional provisions for the organization and operation of the Serbian parliament have created a de facto federal structure for the republic [of Serbia]."—Nyrop (1982:192)

Again, had Cohen included these facts in his book, he would have had to reword his paragraph, for otherwise the claim about Kosovo’s supposed subordination to Serbia would have seemed fantastic.

What remains? The police, perhaps...

Nyrop (1982:192) does say that the security police apparatus in Kosovo was under the direct administration of the Serbian republican apparatus, and characterizes this as almost the only element of formal subordination of the province of Kosovo to Belgrade.

This may appear to be disproportionately meaningful because the police can easily be an organ of repression. However, Nyrop’s statement pertains to the degree of linkage between the chains of command in the security police apparatus in Kosovo and republican-level authorities. Whatever the institutional structure of this chain of command, it does not change the fact that the manpower of the Kosovo police force was predominantly Albanian, something that even Cohen (2001:62) concedes was true as late as 1987, when nationalist passions in Kosovo were considerably more inflamed and the mostly Kosovo Albanian policemen beat peasant Serbs who had come to air their grievances to Slobodan Milosevic, who was then visiting Kosovo.

Could we at least say that Kosovo was economically exploited, as a province, by Belgrade? Many who attack the Serbs like to portray the relationship between Belgrade and Kosovo as a colonial one. In the minds of many, this suggests that Kosovo was plundered and exploited because colonies often are.

But not only was Kosovo not a colony, it was economically subsidized. And not just a little: 70% of its income came from the federation. “In the 1970s Kosovo was the biggest gainer in transfer funds; with less than 20 percent of the population of the less developed regions, it received one-third the [total] federal investment funds [in Yugoslavia]” (Nyrop 1982:66). Since 1957 Kosovo had been designated as a ‘less-developed region’ and therefore eligible for federal funds (Nyrop 1982:64).

An enormous effort had been made to benefit Kosovo disproportionately and bring it economically up to par with the other regions of the country.

What about language, then? Perhaps the Kosovo Albanians were not allowed to speak their own language? 

Subjugated peoples gripped by secessionist feelings are typically not allowed to speak their language. The English did not allow Irish; the Turks do not allow Kurdish, etc. The suggestion that there was a relationship of subordination and/or subjugation again will suggest to many that Albanians could not express their culture.

But in Kosovo, most everything official, and almost everything else (education, commerce, etc.) was conducted in Albanian. The right to make Albanian the official language in Kosovo was explicitly specified in the Yugoslav constitution of 1974 (see Krieger 2001; pp.2-11):

Article 246: The languages of the nations and nationalities and their alphabets shall be equal throughout the territory of Yugoslavia. [...]

Albanians were a "nationality" (rather than a "nation") in the definitions used by the Yugoslav constitution, and so the following applies to them:

Article 247: In order to ensure that its right to express its nationality and culture shall be realized, each nationality shall be guaranteed the right freely to use its language and alphabet, to develop its culture for this purpose to set up organizations and enjoy other constitutionally-established rights [...]

This freedom to express Albanian culture extended to all of cultural and political life in Kosovo. Albanians dominated the political administration and could thus decree that official life and education be conducted only in Albanian. But though this may have satisfied a desire for cultural expression, it crippled Albanians because, as the Nyrop (1982:76) study states, "Employment opportunities for Albanian speakers were limited in Serbo-Croatian regions." This kept Kosovo economically backward despite the high subsidies.

An additional problem, economically, was the high rate of Albanian population growth.

"Perhaps the single most damaging [economic] factor…was the poorer regions’ cripplingly high population growth rate. Between 1947 and 1966 Kosovo’s national income grew by 320 percent—hardly less than Slovenia’s 360 percent. Per capita, however, Slovenia’s growth rate was 311 percent to Kosovo’s 274 percent. The picture is one of general postwar economic growth—but the rank of the individual regions on a national income scale has changed little. Had the less developed regions maintained a population growth rate comparable to that of the developed north…Kosovo’s rate would increase from one third to half the Yugoslav average."—Nyrop (1982:66)

When there was an economic downturn in the 1970s and the Albanian growth rate did not let up, Kosovo was especially hard hit.

None of this can be explained in terms of inattention from the federal authorities, oppression of the Albanians at the hands of Serbs, or the ‘subordination’ of Kosovo to Belgrade. These are wounds that Albanians inflicted on themselves with the unparalleled autonomy given to Kosovo and the extensive control Albanians had of the province. The predilection of Albanians for degrees in the humanities that offered few job prospects can hardly be blamed on anybody but the same Albanians who chose to pursue such degrees. The choice of Albanian leaders in the political administration to educate and conduct most of Kosovo's official life in Albanian prevented labor from migrating to areas with higher employment opportunities. And the high growth rate of the Albanian population which prevented economic growth in the province from translating into per-capita improvements comparable to those of the other republics was due to the millions of individual and freely-made decisions of Albanian fathers and mothers.

One final point deserves to be made here.

There are simply no examples of colonialism where people from the colonized country are sent to govern the mother country. None. So it is worth noting that Fadil Hoxha, a Kosovo Albanian, was president of the federation of Yugoslavia in the mid 1980s. He occupied the post for one year as it was Kosovo’s turn in the system which rotated the presidency of Yugoslavia every year among its constituent republics and provinces. This is the final nail on the coffin of any interpretation that wishes to suggest that Albanian radical separatism resulted from conditions of oppression in a colonial or apartheid system.

So what exactly was the supposed “resentment” of the Kosovo Albanians that Cohen refers us to about? How can such an argument be defended in light of the above facts? It is noteworthy that (1) Cohen does not try to construct it, but merely states it (or implies it), and (2) he leaves out all of the above information. If he had included this information, then his implicit characterization of the situation in Kosovo would have stuck out as positively aberrant, and would demand a quite extensive explanation of his slant.

Kosovo was a province coddled with extensive subsidies that were considerably costly to the other republics, and enjoyed a degree of political, cultural, and constitutional autonomy that amounted to the status of a Yugoslav republic in everything but name (including representation in the rotating presidency of the federation, and an asymmetric veto power in its favor in the republic of Serbia).

The one thing it lacked was the right to secede from Yugoslavia.

Thus, the indignant passion for making Kosovo a bona-fide Yugoslav republic indeed suggests that what the radicals really wanted was to secede, which again is consistent with other cries heard at the same 1981 riot calling for a ‘Greater Albania’. The entire picture is consistent with a group of radicals who wish to generate the conditions for secession rather than a mass upwelling of discontent following unnecessarily harsh or unjust conditions.

But lest someone find sufficient evidence of ‘oppression’ in Kosovo’s inability to secede and in the reluctance of Serbian authorities to consider giving it the republican status that would have enabled secession, it is important to review the pertinent historical facts that underlie this reluctance, which facts are entirely absent from Cohen's book.


What Cohen left out: The WWII alliance of the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo with the German Nazis against the Serbs, Jews, and Roma (Gypsies) of Kosovo

During World War II, the Albanians of Kosovo allied themselves with the Nazis as part of a ‘Greater Albania’ Nazi puppet state that carried out genocidal massacres against the Serbs, Jews, and Roma living there. More well-known are the genocidal atrocities suffered by the Serbs at the hands of the Croatian Ustashe, whose policies of extermination “appalled even the Nazis” (Nyrop 1982:68).

To get a sense of the scale of these crimes, consider that only Poland suffered a higher percentage loss of its population than Yugoslavia in the second war. Both the Albanian and Croat Nazi collaborators, and also the Bosnian Muslim Nazi collaborators (these last organized by the Palestinian Arab Hajj Amin al Husseini, ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, and founder of the Palestinian movement), were enthusiastic murderers who adopted wholesale the Nazi ideology of ethnic purity through genocidal violence.

Marshall Tito’s communist Partisans won the civil war in Yugoslavia. Serbs on balance fought against the Nazis, whether as Partisans or Chetniks. The Chetniks were politically and morally ambiguous; they were guilty of gruesome atrocities in reprisal to those committed by the Ustashe, and though never truly allied with the Nazis they did not consistently oppose them either, which eventually caused the Allied powers to switch their support to the Partisans who, though having the handicap (in the eyes of the Allies) of being communists, were nevertheless attractive for being staunchly and actively anti-Nazi. The Partisans were also multi-ethnic and had a dogmatically explicit ideology of ethnic tolerance. Finally, even up to the end of the war, they were also mostly Serbs.

The Serbs made a very important contribution to the Allied victory from the beginning because in forcing Hitler to invade Yugoslavia they delayed Operation Barbarrossa (for the invasion of Soviet Russia), which prevented Hitler from completing his invasion before the winter overtook him.

Initial quisling behavior by the rulers of Serbia seeking an accommodation with the Nazis immediately led to a revolt and coup d'Etat by the people of Serbia, and that is when Hitler decided to invade Yugoslavia. Very high numbers of Croats, Bosnian Muslims, and Kosovo Albanians, on the other hand, chose to ally themselves enthusiastically with the invading Nazi forces (this behavior echoed similar choices made by the leaders of those areas at the outbreak of WWI, which contrasted -- then too -- with the choices made by Serbs, who fought to maintain their independence against two empires, and who allied themselves with the western democracies).

World War II ended everywhere in 1945, and in Yugoslavia this was thanks to the Partisan victory, which allowed for the re-creation of the country with its capital in Belgrade. And yet, in Kosovo, the fighting continued until 1951! Despite this, it was only a few years after the fighting finally ended that the province was treated to an extremely generous policy, as detailed in the previous section.

One cannot paraphrase a genocide. To give a list of crimes is not to convey the genocide either, but at least it provides a context and a historical understanding that a paraphrase would obliterate.

Below I give a partial list of crimes committed, during World War II, by the Shqiptars (this is what Albanians call themselves) in Kosovo against the Serbs, Montenegrin, Jewish, and Roma (Gypsy) residents of the province. It comes from Smilja Avramov’s Genocide in Yugoslavia (1995).

Avramov’s sources are unimpeachable: for the most part, she relies on reports that the Axis authorities, on the ground in Kosovo, were relaying back to their superiors. In other words, these are accounts of Albanian (or Shqiptar) atrocities, told by the very allies of those same Albanians. Here, then, is Avramov’s account of what happened in ‘Greater Albania,’ and especially in Kosovo, during World War II.

[Quote from Avramov begins here]

The mass terror was first visited upon the district of Dakovica, where in the course of April and May 1941, more than 200 Serbs and Montenegrins were killed. Those inhabitants who managed to escape from Dakovica set off in the direction of Montenegro. Passing through the Albanian village of Crnobreg, they met a tragic fate: Shqiptars from this village opened fire on the women and children. The village of Bardonici, not far from Decani, and inhabited by Serbs, was burned down by Shqiptars from a neighboring village. The same fate in the first days of the occupation befell many other villages in Metohija: Dubrava, Suvi Lukavac, Belic, Osojane, Beric, Dobrusa, and many others. In the month of June the massacres took on a more organized character when Shqiptar volunteer companies (the so-called Vulnetari) were formed and armed. A company headed by Ram Alia and another group under Tsola Bajraktar perpetrated large-scale atrocities throughout September and October, 1941, leaving in their wakes piles of corpses and the smouldering ruins of houses. One favorite method was to murder the head of the household when he was out working in his fields and then pillage his property, evict his family from the farm, and move into his house…The murders were often accompanied by sadistic bestialities: little girls would be raped before the eyes of their mothers or corpses horribly mutilated. In the village of Toplicani, near Suva Reka, the unfortunate Arsenije Ilic was murdered; his assailants then cut off his head, impaled it on a stake, and carried it through the village in order to intimidate the villagers and force the Serbs to move away. The Dajic brothers from the village of Grbole were first cut up alive in the presence of their family by the Vulnetari, and Jagos Milic from the same village was hacked to pieces with axes. The Italian diplomat Carlo Umilta, who had been appointed civilian commissioner to General Pilzio Biroli, commander of all the forces of occupation of Albania as well as of the divisions of Prizren and Debar, was in Kosovo during these days. In his memoirs he describes the suffering of the Serbian people, particularly “in villages where the Italian forces had not yet established control.” He was shocked by the hatred displayed in this region. “The Albanians are out to exterminate the Slavs,” he wrote, adding that “people are waiting on the streets for the lorries and vehicles of our army to pass, begging them for a lift to Old Serbia and Montenegro, where they hoped to find safety.” But “there were not enough Italian vehicles” to transport the thousands and thousands who were threatened. After visiting Pristina, Umilta went on to Dakovica and Pec, everywhere witnessing horrors. When he passed through villages he noted that “not a single house has a roof; everything has been burned down…there are headless bodies of men and women strewn on the ground, while the living frantically seek refuge.” The Shqiptar terror also reached parts of Kosovo under German occupation. “In the area of Old Kolasin, near Kosovska Mitrovica, 31 out of the 51 Serbian villages have been put to the torch. Of the 10,000 Serbs inhabiting this region, 5,000 have been murdered or driven out.” Reports sent by the command of the occupied region described the “horrible crimes” committed by Shqiptar volunteers, who were causing disruptions in the operations of nearby mines, so that even the Germans started taking steps to ‘pacify’ the situation. The Shqiptar volunteers and police forces sometimes penetrated as far as Serbia, committing numerous crimes there as well. The Kosovo gendarmerie, headed by Bayazit Boletini, occasionally also took part in punitive expeditions to Serbia.


The robbing and murder of Serbs and Montenegrins were carried out under the cover of darkness, and villages became transformed into the scene of a pitched battle and the villagers into living torches. In his memoirs, Carlo Umilta wrote: “At Pec I was present at one such repellent scene.” In the night between June 8th and 9th, a clash occurred in which armed Italian units became involved trying to prevent further bloodshed. The fighting became so intense, states this Italian diplomat, that in the end it was impossible to tell who was attacking, the Slavs or the Albanians. The Italian police arrested a group of Shqiptars. On Christmas night, 1942, also in Pristina, the Shqiptars , according to Umilta, murdered “dozens and dozens of Slavs, wounded a large number, and it was only thanks to the swift intervention of our carabinieri and troops in Pec that further violence was prevented…But there was no peace.”


The village of Pomazetin near Pristina was burnt to the ground in 1942, and its Serb inhabittants were either killed or expelled. Massacres were carried out in Obilic, Gracanica, Novo Selo, Bresnica, Lipljan and Batus. According to Italian sources, the crimes were committed by next-door neighbors and Shqiptars from nearby villages. In the middle of the street in Pristina, shots were fired on Dr. Nikola Radojevic, a surgeon, and in the hospital where his body was taken it was bestially butchered. The Shqiptar authorities in Pristina announced that this was the work of “Serbian communists.” The terror against the Serbian and Montenegrin population reached its culmination in 1943, after Italy’s surrender. Pec was again a target; in mid-September a systematic extermination of Serbs and Montenegrins began. Before the German troops entered the town, the streets were littered with massacred and disfigured bodies. The mother of Vukadin Mikelic, one of the victims, could only identify her mutilated son by his shoes. A report from the CPY Regional Committee for Kosovo and Metohija dated September 3, 1943, states: “The occupational forces are systematically carrying out a reign of terror against the Serbian population through plunder, imprisonment and murder, with the assistance of the Shqiptar army, the Vulnetar volunteers, and the police.” A letter written by the secretary of the CPY District Committee for Metohija on October 15, 1943, states: “In Pec…the situation is deteriorating.” Because of the disappearance of one German and fourteen Russians, “51 Serbs were shot by the Germans. Four days ago, in the village of Brestovik, 25 people were shot in the night; 19 were murdered and six were wounded by the Shqiptar fifth-columnists. Almost every night Serbs are murdered and robbed.”

[Quote from Avramov ends here]

Avramov explains that Shqiptar resistance to the occupation was so weak in these parts that here, unlike in Croatia, no pretenses were kept or excuses given by the authorities. The local Shqiptar authorities in Kosovo branded all Serbs ‘Cetniks’ and then ‘communists’ in order to mobilize the occupying German and Italian forces into punitive expeditions and collective terror which had the effect of facilitating the objective of the Shqiptar authorities which was “the total extermination of the Slav population in this area.” In 1943 German troops entered Kosovo and Metohija and under their patronage a coalition of all local nationalistic organizations was created under the name Second League of Prizren (the first had been created in 1878 by Austria-Hungary “so as to turn the resistance of Albania against Serbia and Montenegro”). The Second “made its primary goal the ‘defence of all territories where Shqiptars live,’ and to this end there was to be a military draft of all Shqiptars up to the age of 60.” On March 5th, 1944, Hitler sent a telegram to Tirana ordering that in Kosovo, in addition to the gendarmerie regiment, a “volunteer SS division” should also be created so that the Albanian government could “achieve its well-known political objectives.”

[Quote from Avramov begins here]

"Prior to this time the Shqiptars had been members of armed SS formations, and they formed part of thirteen SS divisions which perpetrated unspeakable crimes against Serbs in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The German mission in Tirana informed Berlin on April 3 1944, that the League, headed by Xhaver Deva and vice president Muse Shehu, was “prepared to devote all its energies and means to the struggle against Serbia and Montenegro, particularly to fight against the Slav element…The Skenderbeg SS Division was formed, and its first “successful” operation was to arrest and hunt down Jews, who under the Italian occupation had until then managed to survive. Next came a witch hunt against the Serbs in Pristina and the vicinity, in Pec and in other localities. On August 28, 1944, the division slaughtered 428 Serbian children and old people who happened to be at home in the village of Velika, not far from Cakor. And while the Germans were retreating, the Shqiptar units grew ever bolder in their reign of terror and indulged in unimaginable acts of sadism: they gouged out the eyes of the living, cut off parts of their bodies, and so forth. One wonders what made the Shqiptar masse bloody their hands to such an extent at a time when the system on which they had relied was obviously collapsing. The secretary of the [CPY] District Committee for Gnjilane mentioned an interesting fact in his report to the Regional Committee for Kosovo, dated March 31, 1944: “I hear that in Gnjilane a consultation was held of leading Shqiptars at which they discussed the status of Serbs in the town and district. There seem to be two schools of thought. Some say that they went too far in the terror against the Serbs and that they are sorry, while others say that the terror had gone so far that they now had no choice but to carry on to the bitter end, come what may.” … In his book, Sinan Hasani writes that in addition to the Skenderbeg SS division, which numbered 11000 Shqiptars, the Ballists [Balli Kombetar], about 5000 of them, also carried out a reign of terror against the Serbs. With virtually the same degree of sadism they settled scores with those few Shqiptars who had joined the Partisan or Cetnik movements or those who had given refuge to a surviving Serb in their homes.


The Shqiptar masses were seized with fear. Ismet Shaqiri-Stopi reported on this fact to the Provincial Committee for Kosmet: “Our masses are waiting as though in a daze for what is going to happen, some in trepidation of revenge by the Serbs and Montenegrins, because they know what they did to them…” The secretary of the CPY District Committee for Urosevac, Tankosava Simic,…in her report of September 28, 1944, to the Regional Committee for Kosmet, pointed out that “the fear of the Shqiptar masses of what tomorrow will bring cannot be described. Whereas some of the Shqiptar murderers feel sorry for not having finished the job of slaughtering all the Serbs so they should have nothing to worry about now, quite a large section of those Shqiptars who had remained passive regret having allowed these ‘monsters’ to perpetrate such terrible crimes that all Shqiptars are being held to blame…But a small section believes that Turkey will save them from all this chaos by mediating on their behalf with the Allies.” Some hoped that England would save them, because “it is a great nation and will not do us any harm.” However, no outside intervention was necessary to save the Shqiptars; they were saved by the remnants of that very nation which had been the victim of their genocide, the Serbian people against whom they were soon to begin a new round of genocide.

[Quote from Avramov ends here]

Avramov is not exaggerating. There were no reprisals against the Shqiptar population of Kosovo. There was certainly continued fighting and police activity against Shqiptar terrorists who refused to put down their arms until 1951. But civilians were not subjected to reprisals. In fact, the policies Tito instituted for Kosovo after the war discriminated against the Serbs in favor of the Shqiptars. During the war, as Avramov states, “The mass exodus of Serbian population made way for a flood of [what Tito’s government called] ‘refugees’ from Albania, who moved into their [the Serbs’] vacated homes…” In other words, the mass of ethnic Albanians that had been sent from Albania to Kosovo to occupy the homes of the cleansed and slaughtered Serbs was allowed to stay. As if that were not enough, a law was passed prohibiting the expelled Serbs from returning to their lands. “As a result of the adoption of this law, 1,683 Serbian and Montenegrin families were left homeless.” And once the province of Kosovo was pacified, as we have seen, it was treated with unprecedented tolerance and granted every conceivable exercise of autonomy.

This historical context means three things:

1) It was perfectly legitimate for the state of Yugoslavia to resist any separatist demands by the majority Albanians in the province of Kosovo given that very recently there had been a genocide against the non-Albanian populations of the province.

2) No former enemy has ever been treated with a generosity greater than that which the victorious Serbs bestowed on the defeated Kosovo Albanians, who had been Nazi allies.

3) Even though point 2 holds all by itself, it is worth adding this: The Kosovo Albanians were not just any enemy: they had carried out a genocide against those who were now in a position to take revenge and didn’t.

Cohen does not even try to convey this. For him to suggest that the disturbances in Kosovo resulted from an awakened nationalism arising from the supposed domination, bullying, or oppression of the Kosovo Albanians at the hands of the Serbs, when it was the Albanians who had oppressed the Serbs, and also the Albanians who had been treated with the utmost magnanimity by the Serbs, is simply incredible. This is a bit like having Japan attack Pearl Harbor once again and hear a social scientist explain it as a result of resentment by the Japanese at the oppression they had been suffering at the hands of the Americans for the last half-century—and never once mention the fact that Japan was an erstwhile aggressor magnanimously rescued by the American Marshall Plan, or for that matter the intervening years of military alliance and economic trade. I am not saying this sort of explanation is in principle utterly impossible, but merely that it would bear the burden of dealing with these apparently embarrassing facts. Cohen has a similar burden. The problem is not that he does not succeed, but that he does not even try. Why?

A reader of Cohen’s not familiar with Yugoslavia (practically everybody), will simply nod to himself and think: “Of course, they give the Kosovo Albanians a raw deal, and sooner or later there are problems. Doesn’t this happen everywhere?” Cohen of course should anticipate that. That is the first point. The second is that Cohen is certainly not in ignorant bliss about the details I have given here. He knows better. Thus, I cannot escape the conclusion: Cohen is not being remiss, he is being dishonest.

This can be readily established from the fact that one can find an admission in Cohen's book - made in passing - that shows he was perfectly aware (as any scholar of Yugoslavia should be) that the Kosovo Albanians were in control. This admission appears in a passage where Cohen demonstrates a great tolerance for incoherence, for he defends the idea that it was the liberalizing of politics that fueled Kosovo Albanian nationalism - in other words, Albanians in Kosovo became bitter nationalists because they had so many freedoms and were so exquisitely enfranchised.

"Throughout Yugoslav communist history, interethnic rivalry was viewed by some party leaders more as an opportunity than a danger. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, several leaders of Croatia’s League of Communists tapped the nationalism that was sweeping the republic to build a base of popular support. A similar development occurred in the province of Kosovo between 1968 and 1981, when the regime’s unprecedented tolerance for ethnoregional autonomy in that area allowed local Albanian communist leaders to politically mobilize the long suppressed aspirations of their ethnic group."—Cohen (1993:51; my emphasis)

But in order to make this argument, notice, Cohen has to concede that Albanian discontent had nothing to do with Serbian oppression. Even so, Cohen refers to the “long suppressed aspirations” of the Albanians. This couches his admission of the "unprecedented tolerance for ethnoregional autonomy in [Kosovo]" in a way that partially reinforces the earlier Serbophobic slant. It is almost as if Cohen cannot help but inject whispers of legitimacy to the behavior of the Kosovo Albanian rioters in 1981, which legitimacy in his analysis appears to be a self-evident and foregone conclusion in need of no historical documentation (the Kosovo Albanians had legitimate grievances; the Earth is round; the sky is blue; the Pope is Catholic). Even as written, one has to be an ignorant reader, and one who reads fast, not to notice that Cohen’s admission of unprecedented tolerance towards Kosovo at the very least suggests that any Albanian perceptions of Serbian domination of Kosovo in 1981 would be utterly bizarre.

Contrary to what Cohen says, the aspirations of Albanians had not been “long suppressed,” and they certainly were not being suppressed at the time of the riots. But most readers probably are ignorant and read quickly. Everybody cannot be expected to be an expert on Yugoslavia. So most readers will get the impression that the Kosovo Albanians had somehow been sat upon. After all, Cohen has been implying or saying this all along so the admission we see above is just a blip in his narrative.

It is worth noting also that nowhere in Cohen’s 1993 book do we find any mention of the WWII slaughters carried out by the Shqiptar authorities in Kosovo with the enthusiastic participation of the Shiqptar population (whether under Italian, or more violently, under German occupation). Again, this is a crucial historical context, especially since the government in Belgrade has always contended that unreconstructed terrorists were to blame for the unrest in Kosovo. It is not just bizarre for Cohen to omit what was, still in 1981, a very recent history (the fighting in Kosovo had ended, after all, in 1951, a mere 30 years earlier)—it is also a little too convenient.

In 2001 the same Lenard Cohen published a book called Serpent in the Bosom where he seeks to explain the alleged evils of Slobodan Milosevic. In that book, concerning the history of Kosovo, Cohen does better. Instead of omitting utterly everything that happened in Kosovo during WWII from his account, he now devotes one paragraph. He writes:

[Quote from Cohen begins here]

For most of Kosovo’s Albanians, “liberation” from nearly three decades of Serbian ‘domination,’ and the opportunity to be reunited in a single territorial unit with Albanians outside Kosovo, initially offset the reality of subordination to Fascist control. Offering the inhabitants of the newly co-opted territory the vision of a “greater” and “ethnically pure” Albania allied to the Axis, the Fascist authorities found many enthusiastic collaborators among the Albanians of Kosovo. Shkelzen Maliqi, a leading present-day Kosovar analyst, has pointed out, for example, that: “Albanians chose to look upon the Italians and Germans as liberators and protectors from the Serbs, which explains the weakness of the resistance movement again[st] Fascist occupation in Kosovo.” Reverting to the situation before 1912 and during a good part of World War I, the Serb and Montenegrin inhabitants of the region once again became second-class citizens, while Albanians assumed a position not without similarities to the status they had enjoyed under Ottoman rule. Indeed, some members of the former Turkish and Albanian economic elite were even allowed to reassert their earlier feudal control over agricultural production. The small Albanian intelligentsia was also recruited to work in the bureaucratic apparatus of the occupation authorities, and an Albania gendarmerie was established to police each local district. The new regime also provided Albanians with schools, media facilities, and other outlets for ethnic expression in their own language, opportunities that had been prohibited under the interwar Yugoslav regime. For their part, a large number of Serbian and Montenegrin colonists [were] subjected to an official policy of discrimination, violent harassment, confiscation of their properties, and sometimes deportation, were forced to flee from Kosovo. Interethnic animosity reached a high pitch as the population chose up sides in an emerging civil war and resistance struggle.

[Quote from Cohen ends here]

There would seem to be a few things missing from Cohen’s account. Organized slaughters against Serbs, Montenegrins, Jews, and Roma by the Shqiptar authorities, which involved unspeakable atrocities with genocidal goals, and which were far worse than mere mass murder, have become “discrimination, violent harassment, confiscation of their properties, and sometimes deportation.” This would be like describing a violent rape followed by the murder of the victim as “an untoward remark, and possibly even sexual harassment.” Instead of telling us about the organized atrocities in which poor peasant Serbs were the victims of the occupation authorities and the puppet Albanian regime, Cohen explains that “interethnic animosity reached a high pitch as the population chose up sides.”

What side would Cohen have the Serbs, Jews, Montenegrins, and Roma ‘choose’? In his opinion, was it a wise ‘choice’? In their place, I certainly would not ‘chose’ to be slaughtered in my home.

Cohen’s statement that Albanians were excited at the prospect of being “reunited in a single territorial unit with Albanians outside Kosovo” is a bare-faced lie. One cannot reunite with something that one has never been in union with in the first place. Kosovo had never been part of Albania, and this includes the times when the Turkish empire had administered both regions.[12] This blatant dishonesty of Cohen’s is obviously designed to legitimize the idea of ‘Greater Albania.’

What is Cohen relying on? On the fact that you know nothing about Kosovo.

And the WWII Kosovo genocides omitted from Cohen's lonely paragraph on the subject are omitted from the rest of the book as well. This is the cleansing of ethnic cleansing, made more palatable to the reader by describing the Kosovo Serbs as ‘colonists’.

But that characterization, too, cannot be allowed to stand. Although it has been popular to portray the Serbs in the media as stuck in the middle ages, and to represent their attachment to Kosovo as an outdated vestige of a bygone era completely at odds with modern realities (and in fact symptomatic of their supposedly virulent nationalism), there is no substance to the picture.

Serbs are certainly emotionally attached to Kosovo, but there is nothing outdated about that. Kosovo may be the medieval cradle of Serbian culture and a vast repository of Serbian medieval architecture, but it has also been continuously inhabited by majority Serbs since the Middle Ages until the 1880s, when there was still a 4 to 1 Serb majority in Kosovo.[12]

However fast the rate of growth of the Shqiptar population—and it is fast—it cannot even begin to account for how a Serb 4 to 1 majority became a Shqiptar 4 to 1 majority in the space of a mere century, because barely three or four generations go by in that space of time. The numbers alone are evidence of genocide—and genocide can certainly explain the reversal. A full explanation of the population shift would include all of the following.

First, beginning with atrocities committed by Shqiptars against Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo during WWI, which caused a mass exodus at the time. Second, the genocides carried out during WWII. Third, massive illegal settlement from Albania when ‘Greater Albania’ was a Nazi puppet state, which settlement the Tito regime chose to normalize at the end of the war rather than expel these Albanians back into their country.  Fourth, the prohibition imposed by the Tito regime on Serbs expelled from Kosovo to return to their homes.

And we must add one final chapter: in the years after WWII, Serbs in Kosovo were subjected to a campaign of violent harassment by terrorist elements in the province such that some were fleeing the province, while at the same time many Albanians were crossing the international border illegally and settling in Kosovo. Amazingly, there is a weak and passing admission—but an admission nonetheless—of these latter facts in Cohen’s (2001:32) second book:

"…the porous border with socialist Albania also stimulated Albanians in that country to illegally enter Kosovo in order to escape political authoritarianism and economic impoverishment. At the same time, Serbs continued to leave Kosovo due to harassment, anxiety, and a perception of poor long-term prospects for their ethnic community."

Now we can explain the population shift.

The reference to the porous border with Albania makes the following point: certainly many were moving across this border; certainly all kinds of subversives and terrorists could have been among them. This again points to the plausibility of the ‘outside forces’ hypothesis for the disturbances in Kosovo in 1981.

What is harder to explain is why Cohen in the earlier quote above, like so many others, has chosen to refer to the Serbs who settled in Kosovo in the inter-war years as ‘colonists.’ Some of these people were returning to their land after having been chased out during WWI, and others were choosing to move there from other parts of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In what sense were they ‘colonists’? When I moved from California to Philadelphia nobody called me a ‘colonist.’ The word is an epithet meant to smooth acceptance or exculpate atrocities committed against these Serbs by making it seem as though they were going to lord it over in a foreign country! This, again, is evidence of Cohen’s dishonesty.

Finally, on the question of who lords it over whom, it is worth remarking that it is only in the period after 1912 and before 1941—a mere 29 years—that the Shqiptars in Kosovo had not been in a dominant political position there in recent memory, a fact that Cohen himself alludes to when he says that ethnic Albanians had resumed, during the Nazi occupation, the status of Kosovo Albanian feudal overlords which they had enjoyed until 1912, and also when he says that they wanted “‘liberation’ from nearly three decades of Serbian ‘domination.’” This context makes Cohen’s reference to the supposedly “long suppressed aspirations” of the Albanians entirely dishonest.

It is true that things were tough for some years in Kosovo immediately after the second war. The years immediately after the war were full of difficulties and uncertainties because the country was still crawling with Nazis and many of these Nazis were still fighting. There was considerable repression from the state to prevent these forces from destabilizing the country. In Kosovo, there was fighting against organized and irredentist former Nazi-collaborators until 1951. Even under such circumstances, Aleksandar Rankovic, a Serb, and the head of the security service and secret police at the time, made admissions in the same year of 1951 of the sort that one simply does not see in a truly repressive or totalitarian state, and certainly not one with the pressures Yugoslavia’s leadership understandably felt to use state power in order to maintain order against violent and subversive outlaws. Here they are:

"…in 1951 Alexsandar Rankovic, in charge of the security service and secret police, admitted that in 1949 (a rather mild year compared to the 1945-48 period) 41 percent of the arrests had been unjustified and 23 percent had been for crimes of “minor importance.” He further admitted that the courts had “converted ordinary crimes into political offenses” and that many defendants had been deprived wrongly of their liberty."—Nyrop (1982:37-38)

If during this period up to 1951, and then for some years after, Kosovo suffered disproportionately from the repressive actions of the state, that is also because Kosovo had been the location of particularly spectacular atrocities, because it had more Nazis and terrorists than other regions of the country, and because these Nazis and terrorists were the very last to lay down their arms. When peace finally did come to Kosovo in 1951, however, it took only 17 years, with the triumph of the Yugoslav liberals in the 1960s, for the province to be granted what even Cohen admits was “unprecedented tolerance for ethnoregional autonomy in that area,” as well as grossly disproportionate economic assistance from Belgrade.

The aspirations of the Kosovo Albanians were only temporarily suppressed, as we have seen, and then much less than they probably would have been in any other part of the world given the crimes against humanity of the Albanian Nazi collaborators in WWII, and given also the ferocity of their stubbornness in continuing to fight years after the World War had officially ended.

One can expect Serbs to be painfully conscious of the means used to reduce them to a minority in Kosovo. One can also expect Serbs to be understandably and justifiably worried about the Serb minority in Kosovo when irredentist Albanian movements there advance the demand for secession and union with Albania. What one might not expect—given the history—is a policy of unprecedented tolerance towards Kosovo. But that is what Tito gave Kosovo, and this would have been impossible without the forbearance of the Serbs, who formed from the beginning the core of the victorious Partisan movement, and who were till the end the overwhelming majority of its members.


Back to Cohen’s original paragraph

Let us now go back to the original paragraph by Cohen describing the 1981 riots, and take it up where we last left it.

“Throughout Yugoslavia, the economic discontent of the 1980s became closely intermingled with burgeoning ethnoregional nationalism. Only one year after Tito’s death, nationalist protests by Albanians erupted in Serbia’s economically underdeveloped province of Kosovo, setting in motion a pattern of ethnic conflict that intensified throughout the decade. Albanian nationalist leaders and much of the Albanian population (composing 77.4 percent of Kosovo’s population in 1981) expressed resentment against what they viewed as the privileged position of Serbs and Montenegrins in the province and against Kosovo’s subordination to Serbian republican officials in Belgrade. For their part, the Serbs in the province claimed that they were being subjected to ‘genocide’ and  ‘terror’ by Albanian nationalists, who, they alleged, desired not only the complete elimination of all Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo, but also the eventual removal of the country’s entire Albanian population from the control of Serbia and possibly even Yugoslavia.”

Whereas the Albanians are represented as having a ‘view’, notice, the Serbs are represented as ‘claiming’ and ‘alleging’. That is a very different slant. A ‘view’ has the connotation of a valid opinion. A ‘claim’, but especially an ‘allegation’, has the connotation of a questionable assertion. Cohen’s paragraph is not a neutral “he said, she said” but rather implicitly makes an argument: the supposed grievances of the Albanians had legitimacy, whereas those of the Serbs are suspect. If I had wanted to give the opposite slant, I would have put scare-quotes on the claims of the Kosovo Albanians, and accused them of making allegations. This is the Cohen excerpt thus rewritten:

Albanian nationalist leaders…expressed resentment against what they alleged was the ‘privileged’ position of Serbs and Montenegrins in the province and against what they claimed was Kosovo’s ‘subordination’ to Serbian republican officials in Belgrade. But the Serbs protested that they were being subjected to genocide and terror by Albanian nationalists who desired not only the complete elimination of all Serbs and Montenegrins from Kosovo, but also the eventual removal of the country’s entire Albanian population from the control of Serbia and possibly even Yugoslavia.

The changes are subtle but the passage reads very differently. My slant above intimates that it is the Albanian protesters who are probably distorting, fabricating, or exaggerating, and that the minority Serbs in Kosovo may have legitimate grievances. My slant, in fact, is in harmony with how the 1981 events were described by the 1982 US Military study that I have been relying on here:

"Demonstrations were characterized by slogans demanding, among other things, full republic status for Kosovo, the unification of all Albanian-inhabited territory in Yugoslavia, and even the separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia and its annexation to Albania…Other slogans protested the alleged economic exploitation of Kosovo by the Belgrade regime and decried the economic inequalities characteristic of society generally."—Nyrop (1982:223; my emphasis)

Nyrop keeps his prose consistent. Since, as we have seen, he spends much time detailing (1) the unprecedented autonomy of Kosovo, (2) the domination of the political administration, cultural institutions, and industry by Albanian ethnics, (3) the tremendous effort made by the government in Belgrade and the other republics to assist Kosovo economically, and (4) the acceptance of the constitutional status of Kosovo as a quasi-republic of the federation entitled to representation in the rotating presidency of Yugoslavia, and (5) also entitled to an asymmetric veto power in its favor over decisions taken in Belgrade pertaining to the entire Republic of Serbia... ...given all that,  it would have been aberrant for Nyrop to imply that the claims of nationalist Albanians to being ‘exploited’ by the Belgrade regime had any legitimacy. He thus chooses to characterize such claims as ‘allegations.’

The realities of life, politics, and history in Kosovo are nowhere to be found in Cohen’s account. But had he chosen to inform his readers about them, he would have been forced to use language similar to Nyrop’s, or his readers would have noticed the glaring contradictions.

Notice also that it is obvious from Nyrop’s statement that at least some radical Albanians were in fact chanting slogans calling for uniting Kosovo with Albania. Why does Cohen then present this as an allegation of the Kosovo Serbs? It happens to be a well known fact that a scholar such as Cohen should be in command of. And his dismissive skepticism of the claims of the Serbs that these radical Albanians were visiting terror on them appears deaf to the plausibility of the complaint given that there were unreconstructed fascists still in Kosovo left over from WWII.

Let us consider more closely this question: were the Kosovo Serbs fabricating—or even exaggerating—the Albanian terrorism they said was being visited on them?

Consider that at the time of the riots, the Nyrop US military study I have been quoting here reported that “the trickle [of Serbs leaving Kosovo] became a stream, not just of former civil servants and intelligentsia, but of farmers apprehensive of the growing Albanian nationalist fervor” (Nyrop 1982:67-68).

People do not lightly leave their home and their land, especially peasants who have a thoroughly romantic attachment to the land, who are fearful of travel and strange places, and whose entire property is almost coextensive with the territory they farm. Terrorism however, can certainly tip the balance. The quoted passage by Nyrop above suggests that not only were the Kosovo Serbs not oppressing the Kosovo Albanians but that, after 1981, a troubling number of Kosovo Serbs were at least sufficiently fearful to leave everything they knew and loved behind. Indeed, the facts reviewed above suggest that there was nothing easy, institutionally, about the Serbs oppressing the Albanians when the latter controlled all of the government organs in Kosovo. It is clear even from a book dedicated to explaining the alleged extremism of Slobodan Milosevic (Cohen 2001) that as late as 1987 Milosevic could not yet figure out how to get the Albanian policemen not to beat the Serbian peasants in Kosovo. His hands had been tied by concerns in Belgrade—including his own concerns—that any moves to protect the Serbian peasantry in Kosovo (as any state should protect its citizens) would be perceived as Serbian nationalism!

Consider also the following three recent facts retrospectively:

(1) KPC (The Kosovo Protection Corps), which is the KLA as ‘cleaned up’ by NATO to enforce a monopoly of violence in post-NATO-bombing Kosovo, was described as ‘terrorist’ in a report requested by, and handed to, the UN, where their routine atrocities against Serbian civilians were exposed.[13]

"Murder, torture and extortion: these are the extraordinary charges made against the UN's own Kosovo Protection Corps in a confidential United Nations report written for Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The KPC stands accused in the document, drawn up on 29 February, of 'criminal activities - killings, ill-treatment/torture, illegal policing, abuse of authority, intimidation, breaches of political neutrality and hate-speech'."

The 5,000-strong corps, funded by UN members including Britain, has a Ł30 million aid budget for Kosovo. It was set up to provide 'disaster response services'; instead, says the UN, it has been murdering and torturing people." [see here]

If this is the KLA 'cleaned up,' one shudders at the original KLA.

Who are the KLA? Does the imagination really stretch with the suggestion that, if the KLA are terrorists, these are one and the same with the radicals whom the Kosovo Serbs had earlier accused of visiting terror on them?

(2) If you think the atrocities of the KLA were merely reprisals against atrocities that Serbs had supposedly been committing against Albanians, then consider that while NATO was going around being the KLA’s air force and bombing Kosovo and Serbia, the KLA destroyed an astonishing number of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo which date to the Middle Ages and which were architectural jewels that have now been lost to humankind. They celebrated their actions by signing the initials of the KLA (UCK in Albanian) on the walls of the demolished churches and monasteries with machine-gun bullets (see here). By contrast, despite the openly anti-Serb character of reporting in the Western media, during the entire period when the Yugoslav forces were fighting the KLA—which extended from February 1998 until June 1999—there appear to be no news reports attributing damage to mosques resulting from Yugoslav army activity, or resulting from the actions of Serbian residents of Kosovo.

(3) And consider also that in February 1998, before open fighting started, US special envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard “condemned the actions of an ethnic Albanian underground group Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) which has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Serb targets. ‘We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK is, without any questions, a terrorist group,’ Gelbard said.”[14] Another wire had a little more detail on this:   “…a group calling itself the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) says it has mounted a series of recent armed attacks in which several Serbs, including a number of police, have died.  Condemning the incidents, the US envoy said: ‘I consider these to be terrorist actions and it is the strong and firm policy of the US to fully oppose all terroristic actions and all terrorist organizations.’”[15] On November 26, 1998, the Times reported that mujahedin were present among the KLA in Kosovo, and that American intelligence had raised the possibility of a link between the KLA and Osama bin Laden.[16] Later that month, the Scotsman reported that

"Fundamentalists are well established in Albania, despite several raids by the CIA and Albanian security forces that seized five key members of Islamic Jihad and other Middle Eastern groups this summer.

Now a joint CIA-Albanian intelligence operation has reported Mujahideen units from at least half a dozen Middle East countries streaming across the border into Kosovo from safe bases in Albania.

According to the KLA, following a US request, they were refusing offers of help from the Mujahideen, [and had] agreed not to use terrorist tactics such as car bombings against the Serbs outside Kosovo. It also promised not to foment revolt among the ethnic Albanian majority in neighbouring Macedonia.

The KLA is coy about saying what it got in return."

This is quite a lot to digest. First, what in the world was the CIA doing conducting intelligence operations with Albania? Every time there was a trouble spot in Latin America and the CIA was conducting “intelligence operations” it was training terrorists of one sort or another. Was the CIA already training the KLA whom Gelbard only a few months before had said were “without any questions, a terrorist group”? Is this what the KLA got in return for acquiescing to US demands that it not accept help from the mujahedin? Mind you, this is well before the US Congress ever voted to arm the KLA (the one who proposed the legislation was senator Joe Lieberman who, in doing so, said that these terrorists, the "Kosovo Liberation Army [stood] for the same human values and principles [as the] United States of America". The CIA almost certainly was training the KLA long before Congress said anything about arming them.[17d]

Second, notice that we hardly need Gelbard or anybody else's claims that the KLA are terrorists if, under US pressure, the KLA "agreed not to use terrorist tactics such as car bombings against the Serbs outside Kosovo." Only an organization that routinely had resort to such tactics would have reason to agree to any such thing.

Third, notice that they agreed not to use terrorist tactics against Serbs outside Kosovo. In other words, the US, in making its demand, was implicitly giving the KLA a green light to use terrorism against Serbs inside Kosovo. What could be the purpose of this? One idea suggests itself: if the terrorist violence was limited to Kosovo, it could more easily be presented as clashes between the allegedly 'oppressed' Kosovo Albanians and their alleged 'oppressors,' the Serbs. This would be consistent with a US desire to legitimate the terrorist KLA politically in order to support their secessionist aims.

Turning to the genocide supposedly carried out by the Yugoslav army and Serbian irregulars in Kosovo, what about it? Did it happen? Was it even attempted?


Every allegation of massacre in Kosovo has turned out to be a hoax.

Racak, for example, has now famously been revealed to be a hoax (see here)

My own research has shown that the allegations about massacres of Albanian civilians whose bodies were then supposedly shipped to Yugoslavia in freezer trucks were lies. They were part of an elaborate media hoax carried out in conjunction with the current, US-installed government in Belgrade (see here) and with the KLA. It was these allegations that served as the pretext to send Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague.

And these were not the only allegations that turned out to be hoaxes. As reported in the Spanish press:


“On Monday the experts of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia revealed to be lies that there had been a mass grave in the Trepca mine, in Kosovo’s north, where supposedly the mortal remains of more than 500 Kosovo Albanians would be found. The spokeswoman for the Tribunal, Kelly Moore, declared to the press that the experts of this UN created tribunal to try the war crimes in the former Yugoslavia had not found any human remains in the Trepca mine.

The Tribunal’s experts investigated this locale following reports in the Kosovar Albanian press that there were hundreds of Kosovar Albanians buried in this mine, supposedly assassinated by Serbian security forces.”[17a]


A team of Spanish forensic experts who went in to document the supposed genocide reported that they had found no evidence of it. They still asserted there had been ‘crimes of war,’ even though they had found no evidence of Serbian guilt. Perhaps they felt they had to talk about Serbian crimes of war a bit, given the media onslaught. But the truth is that they came back empty-handed and very critical of NATO accusations.

Their statements to the press were reported in El Pais, a Spanish daily (see here for an analysis of the press report below):


“Crimes of war, yes; genocide, no. Such was the no-nonsense declaration yesterday by the team of Spanish experts -- composed of members of the scientific police and civilian forensic experts -- which has just returned from Istok, the area north of Kosovo under control of the Legion. The 187 corpses found and analyzed in nine villages were buried in individual pits, most of them oriented towards Mecca -- to respect the beliefs of the Kosovar Albanians -- and they showed no signs of torture. “There weren’t any mass graves…perhaps the Serbs are not as bad as they have been portrayed,” mused the forensic expert Emilio Perez Pujol.

That was not his only ironic remark. He also questioned the numbers that “the allies” have been offering concerning the tragedy in Kosovo: “I have been reading the UN’s data,” said Perez Pujol, director of the Anatomic Forensic Institute of Cartagena, “and they began with 44,000 dead, then down to 22,000 and now they are at about 11,000. I can’t wait to see in the end how many they really were…!”. The Spanish mission, which must send a report to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, left Madrid early August with the expectation that it was going straight to Hell. “They told us that we were going to the worst area in Kosovo, that we should prepare ourselves to practice more than 2000 autopsies, that we would be working at it until late November; things have turned out quite differently: we only found 187 corpses and we are already back”, was the very graphic explanation given by chief inspector Juan Lopez Palafox, responsible for the Anthropology section of the Scientific Police.”[17b]


Less than a month later, Pujol was already being obliged with much lower numbers:


“The initial estimate of violent deaths during the Kosovar conflict from 1998 to the present year was 50,000 people, but it has been going down as low as less than 10,000, and sources from the UN are saying privately that it will not be more than 2000.”[17c]


The final figure was less than 3000, and the bulk of these, and any civilian casualties among them, are easily due to NATO and the KLA. But accusations of atrocities against civilians by the Yugoslav army have proven baseless (see here).

If you don’t read Spanish, then you never heard about this. The press conferences that these Spanish forensics gave were repeated nowhere else. Strange bias, isn’t it? When people come back with hard facts that contradict the image of the Serbs as monsters, the media is nowhere to be found. But when unfounded rumors against the Serbs are made, then you get front-page headline after front-page headline, with positively baroque elaborations (see here for a thoroughly analyzed example of this ‘bias’).

. . .

At this point, you may be reeling. So am I.

The Albanians were not being oppressed. The Serbs were not oppressing them. It was exactly the opposite. And at no point was the Yugoslav government organizing violence against Albanian civilians. They told us lies. And they destroyed Yugoslavia with those lies. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of those lies.

What my analysis of Cohen demonstrates is that some academics participate in this dishonesty. He is hardly alone.


Footnotes and Further Reading


Alexander, S. 1979. Church and state in Yugoslavia since 1945. Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press.

Avramov, S. 1995. Genocide in Yugoslavia. Belgrade: BIGZ.

Bulajic, M. 2002. Jasenovac: Balkan Auschwitz. Belgrade: Strucna Knjiga.

Cohen, L. J. (1993). Broken bonds: The disintegration of Yugoslavia. Boulder: Westview Press.

Cohen, L. J. (2001). Serpent in the bosom: The rise and fall of Slobodan Milosevic. Boulder, Colorado: Westview.

Cornwell, J. 1999. Hitler's pope: The secret history of Pius XII. New York: Viking.

Kertzer, D. I. 2001. The Popes against the Jews: The Vatican's role in the rise of modern anti-semitism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Krieger, H. Editor. 2001. The Kosovo conflict and international law: An analytical documentation 1974-1999. Cambridge International Documents Series, Volume II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nyrop, R. F. 1982. Yugoslavia: A country study. Headquarters, Department of the Army, DA Pam 550-99: American Univeristy

[1] “THE FREEZER TRUCK HOAX: How NATO framed the Serbs”; Historical and Investigative Research; 2 December 2005; by Francisco Gil-White

See parts 1 and 2 for demonstrations that NATO and The Hague have found zero evidence of massacres in Kosovo by Milosevic's forces, and that the press has been covering this up.

[2] "THE ROAD TO JENIN: The Racak 'massacre' hoax, and those whose honesty it places in doubt: Helena Ranta, NATO, the UN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Associated Press, and Human Rights Watch." Historical and Investigative Research; October 2005; by Francisco Gil-White

[3] "The 'Gulf of Tonkin Incident' defined the beginning of large-scale involvement of U.S. armed forces in Vietnam. Historians have shown that the second incident was, at its best interpretation, an overreaction of eager naval forces, or at its worst, a crafted pretext for making overt the American covert involvement in Vietnam."

SOURCE: Gulf of Tonkin Incident | From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[5] The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 1999. WAR IN KOSOVO WAS CRUEL, BITTER, SAVAGE; GENOCIDE IT WASN’T. by Daniel Pearl and Robert Block

[6] Contrary to what Pearl and Block say, finding 5 bodies in a grave does not, by itself, suggest an act of barbarity at all, whether intimate or not. That depends on the forensic evidence, not on the number of dead found. It is very common for more than one combatant to share a grave when the burying of the dead is happening in conditions of war. “Mass grave” does not equal “massacre.”

[7] Agence France Presse, February 23, 1998 22:24 GMT, SECTION: International news, LENGTH: 631 words. HEADLINE: Washington ready to reward Belgrade for "good will": envoy; Agence France Presse, February 22, 1998 21:21 GMT, SECTION: International news, LENGTH: 554 words. HEADLINE: US Balkans envoy appeals for calm in Kosovo.

[8] Rick Grant, who has “been on both sides of the fence” and has advised “aid groups on how to handle the media and…managed information campaigns directed at foreign correspondents” says that journalism “is becoming as managed, influenced, nuanced and manipulated, [as] the worst of government spin-controlled news… Over the past year, I've experienced first hand a remarkable change in how the media works when reporting on humanitarian disasters in such places as Albania, Kosovo, East Timor and, from a distance, in Chechyna. Amid the hellish dangers of such places, there is a formal dance of intricate detail between United Nations officials, aid workers, reporters and news managers. It's a dance that allows a reporter newly parachuted into some vile human emergency to be filing stories to the news desk within hours, direct from the front lines or from the edge of a mass grave. The days of a foreign correspondent needing to spend huge amounts of time just finding out where to go for information in a disaster area -- after spending hours or days just trying to find accommodation and a place from which to file stories -- are gone. Instead, there is an mobile, worldwide army of disaster officials, information officers, spokespersons and spin doctors that can provide itinerant reporters with everything they need, including food, lodging and transportation. Indeed, it is possible for a lazy reporter -- and there are many of those -- to file as though from the circles of hell while sitting in comfort at a five-star hotel. Information flow and control by UN agencies and relief groups is so complete that it is possible for a reporter to make a name reporting a humanitarian disaster without leaving Ottawa, New York or London.” From: The Ottawa Citizen, April 20, 2000, Thursday, FINAL, 1030 words, Manufacturing content: Aid organizations and political groups drive the news from the world's hot spots., Rick Grant

[9] But for many of these points one can also consult Cohen himself. In 2001 Cohen published a book to explain the alleged evils of Slobodan Milosevic (Cohen, L. J. 2001. Serpent in the bosom: The rise and fall of Slobodan Milosevic. Boulder, Colorado: Westview). In contrast to Broken Bonds, Cohen’s second book documents many of the points above, though he continues to argue that the Albanians had legitimate grievances! In 2001 he can afford to do this (whereas in 1993 he could not) because the Serbs have already been bombed. It is no longer a question of legitimizing the grievances of the KLA—now the urgent task at hand is to convince everybody that Milosevic is a butcher who must be tried and convicted at The Hague.

[10] Christian Science Monitor, April 08, 1981

[11] New York Times, April 27, 1981, Late City Final Edition, Section A; Page 3, Column 1; Foreign Desk

[12] Roth, H. (1996). Kosovo origins. Belgrade: Nikola Pasic. http://www.kosovo.com/history/kosovo_origins/default.htm

[13] The Observer,  March 12, 2000,  Observer News Pages; Pg. 23,  727 words,  Revealed: UN corps' reign of terror in Kosovo; 'Disaster response service' stands accused of murder and torture,  John Sweeney and Jens Holsoe;

[14] Agence France Presse, February 23, 1998 22:24 GMT, SECTION: International news, LENGTH: 631 words. HEADLINE: Washington ready to reward Belgrade for "good will": envoy

[15] Agence France Presse, February 22, 1998 21:21 GMT, SECTION: International news, LENGTH: 554 words. HEADLINE: US Balkans envoy appeals for calm in Kosovo

[16] The Times (London),  November 26, 1998, Thursday,  Overseas news,  608 words,  US alarmed as Mujahidin join Kosovo rebels,  Tom Walker

[17] The Scotsman,  November 30, 1998, Monday,  Pg. 7,  675 words,  Us Tackles Islamic Militancy In Kosovo,  Chris Stephen In Pristina

[17a] Spanish Newswire Services,  October 11, 1999,  223 words,  KOSOVO-FOSAS FORENSES INTERNACIONALES DESMIENTEN EXISTENCIA FOSA COMUN; Author’s translation.

[17b] El Pais,  September 23, 1999,  Internacional; Base; Pg.6,  420 words,  POLICIAS Y FORENSES ESPANOLES NO HALLAN PRUEBAS DE GENOCIDIO AL NORTE DE KOSOVO; LOS PRESOS DE ISTOK FUERON TIROTEADOS TRAS EL BOMBARDEO DE LA OTAN,  Pablo Ordaz,  Madrid; Author’s translation

[17c] Spanish Newswire Services,  October 11, 1999,  223 words,  KOSOVO-FOSAS FORENSES INTERNACIONALES DESMIENTEN EXISTENCIA FOSA COMUN; Author’s translation.

by Jared Israel and Eric Garris; Emperor's Clothes; 23 May 2001


The following two pieces contain much material documenting that the CIA trained the KLA from the start:

"How to lie with (or without) statistics: An examination of Patrick Ball’s indictment of Milosevic"; Historical and Investigative Research; 14 March 2006; by Francisco Gil-White

THE OSLO WAR PROCESS: Norwegians are the diplomatic 'advance guard' of the US-European empire. They helped destroy Yugoslavia. They set Israel on the path to destruction. Now they will finish destroying Sri Lanka. Next: India."; Historical and Investigative Research, 29 October 2005; by Francisco Gil-White

[18] The Atlanta Journal and Constitution,  January 15, 2000, Saturday,  Home Edition,  667 words,  Media With A Message: 'Hitler's Pope' traces early career of Pius XII, fuels debate,  Laurie Scott, For the Journal-Constitution

[19] The Herald (Glasgow),  September 23, 1999,  Pg. 20,  892 words,  A far from pious world view,  Frank Mclynn Welcomes A Biography Which Reveals The Shameful History Of The Wartime Pope.

[20] The New York Times,  October 4, 1998, Sunday, Late Edition - Final,  Section 1; Page 13; Column 1; Foreign Desk,  805 words,  Pope Beatifies Croat Prelate, Fanning Ire Among Serbs,  By Alessandra Stanley,  Marija Bistrica, Croatia, Oct. 3

[21] ibid.

[22] The New York Times,  September 23, 2001, Sunday, Late Edition - Final,  Section 7; Page 13; Column 1; Book Review Desk,  1290 words,  Before the Holocaust,  By Garry Wills.

[23] The Guardian (London),  December 13, 1999,  Guardian Leader Pages; Pg. 18,  2328 words,  Franjo Tudjman; Authoritarian leader whose communist past and nationalist obsessions fuelled his ruthless pursuit of an independent Croatia

[24] The Independent (London),  October 21, 1991, Monday,  FOREIGN NEWS PAGE; Page 10,  725 words,  War raises old anxieties for Croatian Jews,  From Phil Davison in Kragujevac

[25] The same Dr. Mandic, who was so worried about the Croats, had no similar fears about the Serbs. Quite the contrary. She was an outspoken defender of the Serbs and spent considerable efforts—as did many other Yugoslav Jews—trying to counter the untruthful depiction of the Serbs in the mainstream media in the West. In particular, she and other Yugoslav Jews appealed to American Jewish organizations to stop lending propaganda support to the demonization of the Serbs (see Appendix C). Outspoken Yugoslav Jews like Dr. Mandic were a thorn in the side of NATO’s propaganda efforts, which makes the suspicious circumstances of her death very troubling. In May 2001, Dr. Mandic was beaten, then shot in the back of the head, then finally her apartment was set on fire. The media controlled by the Washington-supported regime in Belgrade, and the Western media, said that this was  a “burglary” (Los Angeles Times,  May 12, 2001 Saturday,  Home Edition,  Page 4,  101 words,  THE WORLD; IN BRIEF / YUGOSLAVIA; Milosevic Ally Found Slain in Apartment,  From Times Wire Reports). They also said that she had been “controversial”, had “murky political connections”, and was “viewed with suspicion by the Jewish community” in Belgrade (AP Worldstream,  May 11, 2001; Friday,  International news,  321 words,  Ally of Milosevic, Karadzic found dead following suspected robbery attempt,  Belgrade, Yugoslavia). They stopped short of saying that she deserved what she got, but apparently she could not be forgiven for having been an ally of Milosevic. It is not clear what exactly made her “controversial” when Milosevic had been twice popularly elected, and it is even less clear why the police so quickly convinced themselves that this was a burglary. As Jared Israel has pointed out, since there were no signs of forced entry, since nothing apparently was stolen, and since the late Dr. Mandic was beaten, then shot execution style, then burned, there is a much more reasonable hypothesis: this was a murder meant to send a political message either to allies of Milosevic, or to outspoken Jews piercing through the NATO propaganda, or both. http://www.tenc.net/articles/jared/sjf.htm

[26]  The New York Times,  October 8, 1995, Sunday, Late Edition - Final,  Section 4; Page 1; Column 2; Week in Review Desk,  1227 words,  Trading Villains' Horns for Halos,  By Elaine Sciolino,  Washington

[27] The Christian Science Monitor,  July 13, 1992, Monday,  OPINION; Pg. 18,  948 words,  The Balkan 'Mandates',  Cvijeto Job; Cvijeto Job is Washington columnist for Vreme, an independent magazine in Belgrade.

[28] The Independent (London),  August 6, 1991, Tuesday,  FOREIGN NEWS PAGE; Page 8,  549 words,  Bloody path to a 'Greater Serbia',  By Steve Crawshaw, East Europe Editor

[29] The Toronto Star,  April 1, 1991, Monday, FINAL EDITION,  NEWS; Pg. A12,  362 words,  Tanks used to control Yugoslav tourist resort,  Plitvice, Yugoslavia

[30] As an aside, it is interesting to note that the author of this article, Chuck Sudetic, wrote an entire book on Yugoslavia (Sudetic, C. 1998. Blood and vengeance. New York and London: WW Norton and Co.), where, among other falsehoods, he gives a mostly fabricated picture of what happened at Srebrenica. That his account must be a fabrication is strongly suggested merely by looking at his sources for that chapter: his main source is none other than Naser Oric, the brutal fascist Islamist who was terrorizing Serbian villages from his base in Srebrenica. So say the Dutch officers who were stationed in the supposedly “safe haven” of Srebrenica, and who don’t believe the allegations of a Serbian massacre of Muslim civilians there.

Neither, by the way, do the Islamists who fought in Srebrenica believe that there was a massacre against Muslim civilians, and they take umbrage at the suggestion, since they were supposed to be defending the town

But for a characterization of Oric, one could go straight to Oric himself. The man has boasted of his atrocities to the Western media, proudly showing Western journalists videos he made of people fleeing his terror, and of the severed heads and the knifed bodies of his tortured and murdered victims, grinning throughout the presentation. To read about this, visit this link:

This then, is ‘investigative journalist’ Chuck Sudetic’s main source for the truth of what happened at Srebrenica.

On Naser Oric, you may also consult the following two sources:

For example, see The Toronto Star,  July 16, 1995, Sunday, SUNDAY SECOND EDITION,  NEWS; Pg. A1,  816 words,  Fearsome Muslim warlord eludes Bosnian Serb forces,  Bill Schiller Toronto Star,  BELGRADE, Yugoslavia;

The Washington Post,  February 16, 1994, Wednesday, Final Edition,  FIRST SECTION; PAGE A14,  745 words,  Weapons, Cash and Chaos Lend Clout to Srebrenica's Tough Guy,  John Pomfret, Washington Post Foreign Service,  SREBRENICA, Bosnia.

[31] Financial Times (London),  January 23, 1993, Saturday,  Pg. 2,  991 words,  Croatian attack on Serbs shatters ceasefire: Krajina offensive threatens to put skids under United Nations peace arrangements,  By Laura Silber,  Belgrade.

[32] The Christian Science Monitor,  February 2, 1993, Tuesday,  THE WORLD; Pg. 1,  860 words,  Serb Restraint Seen as Diplomatic Ploy,  Jonathan S. Landay, Special to The Christian Science Monitor,  Belgrade

[33] Los Angeles Times,  January 31, 1993, Sunday, Home Edition,  Part A; Page 10; Column 1; Foreign Desk,  1334 words,  Isolated Krajina Serbs Could Be Bested By Resurgent Croat Army; Balkans: Rebels Can't Rely On Help From Federal Yugoslav Military, Which Helped Carve Out Their Now-Threatened Enclave.,  By Carol J. Williams, Times Staff Writer,  Zagreb, Croatia.


APPENDIX -- Croatia, the Vatican, and the Krajina Serbs __________________________________________________________

When Hitler invaded Yugoslavia, he found much support among the Croatians, and particularly among the extensive Ustashe organization that had been plotting the destruction of Yugoslavia for years from their base in Italy. The Ustashe very quickly became the state in Croatia—a quisling state that sympathized deeply with the German Nazi occupation forces to the point where Ante Pavelic (the poglavnik or ‘leader’) personally requested to Hitler that Croatian men of arms be allowed to fight under German command in the Eastern front (Avramov 1995:259). This was in addition to the thousands of Croats already serving under German and Italian command. The Ustashe also obliged the German Nazis by conducting extensive pogroms of Jews and Gypsies. However, the mission in which they took a special delight was that of the extermination of the Serbs, whom they considered their special ‘enemy’. They established an extensive system of death camps and butchered a still unknown number of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies, with a fanatical brutality that shocked even the German Nazis. Towards the end of World War II, many Croatian Ustashas fled and were assisted in their escape by the money they plundered from hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, and Roma that they had butchered. They were also assisted in their escape by the Vatican (Avramov 1995:243-244).

Helping spirit out the Ustashe murderers out of Croatia was by no means out of character for the Vatican, nor was it an innocent or well-meaning mistake. The Vatican had been supporting the Ustashe from the beginning with full knowledge of what they were and what they did, starting from the time when Ante Pavelic and his collaborators were training and preparing in fascist Italy, and also during the time of the creation and formation of the “Independent State of Croatia” (this is the name of the quisling state led by Pavelic under German occupation). “The first to congratulate Kvaternik on the proclamation of the Independent State of Croatia was Zagreb Archbishop Dr. Alojzije Stepinac, and when Pavelic arrived in Zagreb he again was the first to pay his respects and bestow upon him his ‘Christian blessing.’” (Avramov 1995:252). The Croatian Catholic clergy was deeply involved with the Croatian quisling state, even down to the details of running the astonishingly barbaric Ustashe death camps. “…priests, Franciscans in particular, had the leading part in the massacres of Orthodox Serbs. They approved of the forceful conversion of Orthodox Serbs, about which the Vatican was informed through the Eastern Church Congregation (…) Four days after the massacres in Glina, Ustasha Leader Ante Pavelic was received by Pope Pius XII at the Vatican, and the Independent State of Croatia was, de facto, recognized by the Holy See” (Bulajic 2002:33). The Vatican collaborated closely with the Croatian Ustashe despite appeals from within its ranks.

"A group of Slovenian Catholic priests, banished by the German Nazis into the Independent State of Croatia, were arrested by the Ustashas and sent to the Jasenovac Camp because they refused to serve a mass of thanksgiving (Te Deum) to Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic. Archbishop Stepinac was informed of the arrest of the group of Slovenian Catholic priests and of their dispatch to the Jasenovac death camp. The Zagreb Kaptol (seat of the Archbishop of Croatia) refused to discuss the matter, considering that all those opposed to Hitler and Pavelic, “who are fighting for the Cross”, were to be considered criminals.

One of the imprisoned Slovenian priests, Anton Rantasa, managed to escape the hell of Jasenovac. On 10 November 1942, he informed the Kaptol and the Apostolic Legate, Marconi, on the fate of his colleagues and on the crimes of genocide being perpetrated at Jasenovac. He was told to keep silent! His testimony, written in 1950, has been preserved."—Bulajic (2002:36-37)

The foregoing gives only the merest taste of the degree of involvement of the Croatian Catholic Church, and the Vatican, in these crimes. It remains here only to note that, even if the evidence of involvement at the time were not already so clear, the assistance that the Croatian Ustashe got from the Vatican in escaping the law, at the end of the war and afterwards, is evidence enough of complicity, for this assistance continued well after the crimes were known to the rest of the world, and therefore well after any claims of innocence on this matter could be credible by whatever measure.

"On May 4, 1945, [Pavelic] paid a farewell visit to the Zagreb archbishop in his residence at the Kaptol, delivering to his safekeeping crate upon crate of gold, jewelry and other valuables plundered from his victims; on May 5th he left Zagreb, together with some 500 Catholic clergy, headed by Archbishop Saric of Sarajevo. Pavelic first hid in the monastery of St. Gilgen outside Salzburg and then, disguised as a priest and under the assumed name of Father Gomez, he went to Rome and for a time stayed in a monastery there. Three years later he went to Argentina, traveling under a false passport issued to him in the name of Pablo de Aranios by a branch of the International Red Cross in Rome on July 5, 1948. After an abortive assassination attempt on his life, he left Argentina for Spain, again going to stay in a Franciscan monastery. All this was taking place at a time when the Ustasha crimes were no longer a secret to anyone, least of all the Vatican. Pavelic was on the list of war criminals, as undoubtedly one of the most monstrous figures of the twentieth century. He died in a German hospital in Madrid on December 26, 1954, after having received the last rites and the personal blessing of Pope Pius XII."—Avramov (1995:243-244)

The Ustasha mass murderers and their families who had escaped with the help of the Vatican were resident in various countries (including the United States) and spent the entire cold war plotting (once again) the destruction of Yugoslavia. Here is a partial list of their accomplishments during the Cold War (from Avramov 1995:246):

-           1967. Assassinations and bombs in the Yugoslav embassies of Washington DC, Ottawa, and at the Yugoslav consulates in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Toronto.

-           February 19, 1968. One killed and several wounded during an attempt to place a bomb in the Yugoslav Club in Paris.

-           March 4, 1968. A bomb exploded in front of the Yugoslav Consulate General in Graz (Austria).

-           August 10, 1968. A bomb detonated in front of the Yugoslav mission to the United Nations.

-           1969. A bomb went off in Sidney on June 8th; the Yugoslav embassy at Canberra was bombed; on May 8th a bomb exploded in front of the Yugoslav ambassador’s residence in Brussels; on June 30th the military mission at Berlin was attacked, and the head of the mission was seriously wounded; and on August 21 another bomb exploded in front of the Yugoslav consulate in Melbourne.

-          January 31, 1971. A large cache of Ustasha weapons was discovered at 334 Heide Street in Frankfurt.

-          February 10, 1971. Croatian terrorists occupied the Yugoslav consulate in Göteborg in Sweden and held the employees there hostage.

-          April 25th, 1971. A bomb was thrown at the Yugoslav Consulate General in Milan.

-          April 7, 1971. The Ustashas Miroslav Barisi, Andelko Brajkovic, Ante Stojanov, Stanislav Milicevic, and Marinko Lero murdered the Yugoslav ambassador Vladimir Rolovic in Stockholm.

-          September 25th, 1971. Ustasha Tomislav Tebrina made an assassination attempt against the president of the Club for Yugoslavs in Stockholm. A year later, a group of Ustashas hijacked a Swedish airplane with 86 passengers aboard, demanding that the murderers of Ambassador Rolovic be set free.

-          November 22, 1972. A bomb went off in front of the Adriatic Travel Agency in Sidney.

-          January 26, 1972. An airplane flying from Stockholm to Belgrade exploded over Czechoslovakia, and 27 passengers and crew members died. Three days later, a bomb completely wrecked the Yugotours office at Stockholm. On the same day, a bomb exploded in the Vienna-Zagreb express train, wounding six.

-          Spring, 1972. 19 Ustasha terrorists (trained in Australia and the Federal Republic of Germany), led by Ambroz Andric, entered Yugoslavia clandestinely and tried to organize an uprising in Bosnia. All 19 belonged to the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood, which had been formed in Australia and was headed by Srecko Rover (there were ten terrorist training camps located in Australia). Fifteen terrorists were killed in a shoot-out with Yugoslav regular police forces, and the uprising proved abortive.

-          July 15th, 1972. A bomb exploded at the entrance to the Yugoslav consulate in Munich; a subsequent attempt to free the arrested terrorists was foiled by German police. However, on September 15th, three terrorists successfully hijacked a Swedish airplane and forced the Swedish authorities to free the murderers of Ambassador Rolovic in return for the plane.

-          Autumn, 1974. A group of Ustasha terrorists, led by Zelimir Mesterovic, infiltrated Yugoslavia and began a series of subversive actions. Two of them were killed in an encounter with the police on October 29th; one policeman was killed and another one seriously wounded. This group maintained ties with the Black International and attended the congress of Catholic organizations held in Lyon on December 28 and 29 of that same year. The same group claimed responsibility for the assassination of Mladen Dokovic, consul in Lyon in February 1974.

-          1975. From this point onwards, tactics changed and the principal activities were transferred to Yugoslavia, and the various organizations eventually coalesced into the coalition known as Hrvatsko Narodno Vijece (HNV), whose headquarters were established in the United States, with branches in Croatian towns. An important component of their strategy to dismember Yugoslavia, from this point onwards, became to give assistance to the ultranationalist Shqiptar (Kosovo Albanian) separatists in Kosovo.

The question that must come to many people’s minds, concerning the Vatican’s support for these people, is why? Why would the Vatican associate itself with a policy of extermination and forced conversion of Orthodox Serbs, Jews, and Roma? Why would it help spirit out the Ustashe monsters far from the reach of justice, enabling them to continue a campaign of terrorism against Yugoslavia from the Diaspora? The answer is that

"[Ante] Pavelic was an exponent of the Vatican and two popes, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII, who were committed to confessionalism, to a policy which was based on theological traditionalism—“Roma eterna” and Roman Catholicism as the only true faith. It is true that this policy was crushed in the Thirty Years’ War, but the Vatican never renounced it in its policy toward the Orthodox world. It was pursued systematically, and Vatican diplomacy was engaged on several parallel fronts. In essence it was the ideological opponent of communism, but it supported communism wherever such a line meant the destruction of Orthodoxy, and this was true of the countries of Eastern Europe.

The Vatican made every possible effort to save the Ustashas, so that at a given moment it could skillfully use them in the anti-communist movement of the West, again heaping all the odium on the Serbs and Serbia. This explains why Ustasha war criminals received a different treatment in the West from that meted out to Nazi war criminals, and this explains why the genocide of the Serbs was hushed up. Under the aureole of “papal infallibility,” with clerical discipline and assistance from the highly sophisticated Vatican propaganda machine, the Ustasha movement survived the death of its own state. Under the patronage of the Western democracies, the Ustashas consolidated their ranks and began their campaign to destroy Yugoslavia, this time the communist “AVNOJ” Yugoslavia."—Avramov (1995:244)

In Hitler's pope: The secret history of Pius XII (1999), John Cornwell has meticulously documented the involvement of the former pontiff with the Nazi powers and in the Holocaust. Cornwell’s book is all the more remarkable for the fact that the work is based on painstaking research in the Vatican secret archives and other previously unmined sources, and for the fact that he is a Catholic. Moreover, he began his research in an attempt to exonerate Eugenio Pacelli, also known as Pius XII, of what he initially believed to be unfair accusations.

"When journalist John Cornwell began his examination of certain secret Vatican records, he believed he would find evidence to vindicate the controversial papacy of Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII, pope during World War II.

In fact, Cornwell's very access to the archives depended on the assurances he gave Vatican scholars about the viewpoint of his work."
[18] [my emphasis]

But the data leads where it will and because it convicts Pacelli it changed Cornwell’s mind. The following summary of Cornwell’s findings is by Frank Mclynn, writing in the Glasgow Herald[19]:

"As Pius XI's Secretary of State he [Pacelli] suppressed the powerful Catholic opposition to Hitler in Germany, which might well have led to Hitler's defeat, just as it had led to Bismark's in the Kulturkampf of the 1870s. Pacelli backed the Nazis to the hilt throughout the 1930s, even going behind Pius XI's back to do so. As Pope from 1939 onwards he supported Germany's annexation of Poland and overrunning of France and Belgium in 1940. He backed the vile fascist regime of Ante Pavelic and Ustashe in Croatia and connived at the anti-Serbian pogroms there. He did not protest when the Nazis in 1943 transported thousands of Italian Jews from Rome, under the very walls of the Vatican, to death camps in Poland. He did not protest when German bombers razed London and Coventry, but did so when Allied bombers appeared over the Eternal City. He was an anti-communist zealot throughout his life, thought Franco's Spain the most perfect society on earth, and despised democracy and the parliamentary system. His apologists, defenders of the indefensible, have tried to palliate, extenuate, or explain away his guilt over the Holocaust. Their arguments vary from the (documentarily falsifiable) claim that he did not know what was going on in Germany to the barefaced Cold War argument that to help in discomfiting Hitler was to aid the Soviet Union. Cornwell's meticulous research blows away all this nonsense. How can anyone seriously claim that the following mealy-mouthed formula, part of Pacelli's Christmas 1942 broadcast, amounts to a condemnation of the Final Solution? After pleading for a vow to be made by men of good will to bring society back to its "immovable centre of gravity in divine law" (whatever that means), Pacelli continued: "Humanity owes this vow to those hundreds of thousands who, without any fault of their own, sometimes only by reason of their nationality or race, are marked down for death or gradual extinction." No mention of Nazis or Jews here, millions are reduced to "hundreds of thousands," and systematic extermination becomes "sometimes". And this was actually Pacelli's strongest statement ever on the Holocaust!"

Just as some have tried to defend Pius XII, others have tried to defend Croatian Archbishop Stepinac. Stella Alexander (1979), in Church and state in Yugoslavia since 1945 makes her defense by referring us to a list of letters that Stepinac sent to Pavelic and others protesting the massacres and the forced conversions. But given the historical facts, including those documented by Alexander, it is difficult not to interpret these letters as a cover (just like Hitler’s remarks to Goering about the “fabrications” that people were making concerning death camps were a cover for the stenographer, ever present, to document). In the first place, Stepinac knew perfectly well who and what the Ustashas were—fascists and terrorists—before they even came to power in Croatia. France had condemned Ante Pavelic to death for the assassination of Yugslav King Alexander while the King was in French soil, so the entire world knew who he was, but the Vatican especially had better information than the rest of the world. And how did the good archbishop receive this murderer? With open arms: “After Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Pavelic led a pro-Nazi dictatorship that controlled a newly independent Croatia. The Archbishop of Zagreb [Stepinac], a fervent anti-Communist, initially embraced the Pavelic Government as ‘God's hand at work.’”[20]

Secondly, Alexander herself documents that the Catholic hierarchy in Croatia was deeply involved in the mass slaughter of civilians. And who was at the top of that hierarchy? Why, Archbishop Stepinac! The same NYT article from which the above quote comes says, “By 1942 he [Stepinac] began denouncing Ustashe excesses, once in a letter to Pavelic and, in 1943, in church homilies and letters to priests.” This is a very favorable (to Stepinac) way of putting it. A fairer rendering would be to say that not until 1942, not until after astonishing crimes that appalled even the German Nazis had already been committed, not until they had been committed for an entire year, did Archbishop Stepinac bother to stir. And in the entire year of 1942 he sent the grand total of one letter of complaint to Pavelic. Nothing came out of his mouth where people could hear it until the year 1943, two full years into some of the most astonishingly brutal atrocities humanity has ever seen, atrocities committed enthusiastically by Catholic priests under his authority. To construe one lonely letter to Pavelic, and complaints in homilies and letters to priests, as ‘resistance’ beggars even the most overflowing charity. Stepinac was the Archbishop: the highest local authority in the quasi-military structure of the Catholic Church that demands complete obedience as one of the vows of its inductees. Why should Stepinac whimper in a few letters to his subordinates when he is in a position to issue orders? Such letters have all the appearance of a cover—they hardly look like committed activism, let alone evidence that he assumed responsibility for what his own subordinates were doing.

The NYT goes on to say that “The Vatican and many historians credit him with saving hundreds of Jews and Serbs.” But what can it possibly matter what the Vatican says on this score? It has no credibility here, as established by all of the above, and especially given that it was beatifying Stepinac! We are also not told who constitutes this alleged multitude of historian apologists for Stepinac. Phrases such as “many historians,” “many scientists,” etc. are all too easy and should be abolished from journalism. Any unfounded claim can always be attributed to unnamed multitudes. But if such historians exist, they are probably to be found in the ranks of Croatian nationalists. As the same article informs us, “…Stepinac is a national hero to millions of Roman Catholic Croats, and to Croatia’s nationalist President, Franjo Tudjman.” Of course, the NYT has found one Croatian Jew to give a partial exculpation of the late Archbishop (as a weak man who was not up to it), and the man is quoted! Nobody is quoted for the more traditional, much better documented, and, on the face of it, much more plausible point of view: that Stepinac is guilty of willingly participating in crimes against humanity. But can we even believe that this lonely Jew has spoken his mind? He was interviewed when the repatriated Ustashas were again in power in Croatia (see below)—that is, when all Croatian Jews were again fearing for their lives.

Stella Alexander presents Stepinac as a man persecuted by the communists. This seems to rely on the popular Western image that any and all communists are the spawn of evil and therefore that anybody persecuted  by them deserves our sympathy. But those communists allegedly ‘persecuting’ Stepinac were in fact seeking justice, which should never be confused with ‘persecution.’ Those communists were the ethnically dogmatically tolerant Partisans who fought for all Yugoslavs regardless of ethnicity or religion, and who paid with their lives to end the slaughters at Jasenovac that Stepinac so late, and so tepidly, ‘protested’ (if indeed we were to credit him with doing that).

The Vatican has gone one better than Stella Alexander. On October 4th 1998 Pope John Paul II beatified Alojzije Stepinac (beatification is the first step on the road to sainthood, according to the Vatican’s rules for proclaiming saints) as a martyr who suffered under communism[21] (has the Vatican sanctified any of the numerous Catholic Croats who defied the Ustashe and valiantly tried to protect the Serbs, Jews, and Roma in their midst, paying for this charity with their lives?). Earlier, Stepinac had already been made a Cardinal while he sat in a Yugoslav prison after the war.

Is the Catholic Church merely misled in this case? Is this a fluke? Hardly. This is consistent with the entire history of the Church towards those who oppress non-Catholics, especially when those non-Catholics are Jews (see Kertzer 2001). And things do not appear to have changed. To take just one example (in a very long list), consider that Pope John Paul II beatified Pius IX. Who was Pius IX?

"In 1867, he [Pius IX] canonized Peter Arbues, a 15th-century inquisitor famed for forcible conversion of Jews, and said in the canonization document, "The divine wisdom has arranged that in these sad days, when Jews help the enemies of the church with their books and money, this decree of sanctity has been brought to fulfillment." (…) Pius IX not only gave the Cross of Commander of the Papal Order to a man famous for a book endorsing the myth of Jewish ritual murders [the famous ‘blood libel’], but established the feast of a boy "martyr" who was supposedly the victim of such a rite. In 1871, addressing a group of Catholic women, Pius said that Jews "had been children in the House of God," but "owing to their obstinacy and their failure to believe, they have become dogs" (emphasis in the original.). "We have today in Rome unfortunately too many of these dogs, and we hear them barking in all the streets, and going around molesting people everywhere." This is the pope beatified by John Paul II in 2000. (…) A Catholic will especially wonder why John Paul II was so determined to beatify Pius IX. Determined he certainly was. The board of experts established to examine Pius IX's credentials did not include the man who knows most about him, Giacomo Martina, S.J., the author of the definitive three-volume life of him. Why was this? Probably because, when Kenneth Woodward of Newsweek asked Martina if, after decades of studying the man, he thought Pius IX a saint, Martina answered 'No, I do not.' "[22]

So it should come as no surprise that John Paul II has also led efforts to beatify Eugenio Pacelli—Pius XII—since the late 1990s.

Neither should it come as a surprise that, when Croatia illegally announced its secession from Yugoslavia, the Vatican, defying a United Nations resolution calling on member states to refrain from actions which might harm a peaceful solution of the Yugoslav crisis, very quickly recognized the claims of the new ‘state’.

And the Vatican was the first state to do so.

What was the Vatican in the process of so eagerly, so immediately, so unilaterally, and so recklessly recognizing? What was the Vatican rushing to ‘bless’ in defiance of the explicitly expressed wishes of the United Nations, and knowing that this could plunge the Yugoslav crisis into bloodshed? The answer, which beggars belief (and yet is perfectly consistent with the history of the Vatican), is that it was recognizing a political structure newly dominated by the repatriated Ustashas which formed the core of Franjo Tudjman’s nationalists!

"Many of the hardliners, previously grouped around the late defence minister Gojko Susak and now headed by Ivic Pasalic, Tudjman's key adviser, stem from Herzegovina or the diaspora - fierce anti -communists who fled Tito's Yugoslavia, or the offspring of old Ustashe families who escaped his revenge at the end of the second world war."[23]

The Yugoslav Jews could see the writing on the wall, and they were warning about it. This was reported by The Independent at the time of Croatia’s breaking away from Yugoslavia:[24]

Jewish leaders were holding a crisis meeting in Belgrade last night to discuss the situation of the Jewish community. They expressed particular concern for 1,500 Jews in the breakaway republic of Croatia, most of whom have not been in contact for two months or more as a result of a cut in communications with the rest of Yugoslavia.

Coincidence yesterday's events may have been, but Jewish leaders were unanimous in saying they saw worrying parallels between the Nazi and pro-Nazi massacres of 50 years ago and the unease of Jews in Croatia under the strongly nationalist regime in the breakaway republic [of Croatia] today.

A Jewish community centre and cemetery were damaged by explosives two months ago in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, and local Jews there have been subjected to death threats and other intimidation. Jewish sources revealed last night that several hundred Jews, mostly young to middle-aged, have recently fled Croatia to Israel, via Budapest.

As Yugoslavia's 6,500 Jews constantly remind visitors, Hitler set up a puppet regime of local Nazis in Croatia in 1941. That regime's forces, known as the Ustashe, executed hundreds of thousands of Jews, Serbs, gypsies and other ''undesirables'' in Croatia while German troops carried out parallel massacres in Serbia itself.

''What worries us is that those in power in Croatia now are largely the same as during the Nazi era,'' said Dr Klara Mandic, a senior Jewish community leader at yesterday's ceremony. ''In some cases, they are exactly the same people, now in their seventies and back from exile under the Communists. In other cases, they are the children of the Ustashe.  They wear the same black shirts, the same black trousers, many carry the same ''Serbo-seks'' knives for the Serbs. Tudjman the Croatian President would not dare touch Jews now that we have our own state to protect us. But he has prepared an atmosphere similar to that at the start of the Second World War and the fact is that many of the Croatian groups are out of his control. We are extremely worried about Jews in Croatia. They are afraid to get in touch with us. We have had messages reaching us underground from them, saying 'It is safer that we don't try to call or write. The police are watching and listening and we know we could be killed'...''[25]

And it was well known to the Vatican and everybody else what kind of person Franjo Tudjman was.

President Tudjman of Croatia, unlike Mr. Milosevic, was never shunned by the international community, despite his racist views and his territorial ambitions... In 1993, he was given a visa to attend the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington even though he had written that estimates of the number of Jewish victims in the Holocaust were vastly inflated and that the main characteristics of Jews were "selfishness, craftiness, unreliability, miserliness, underhandedness and secrecy." (He has since apologized for his anti-Semitic views). Last year, Mr. Tudjman was welcomed to the White House and lauded as a man of peace by President Clinton after he agreed to join a federation with the Bosnian Government against the Serbs. No matter that Mr. Tudjman has boasted of his own expansionist intentions regarding large swaths of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[26]

This, then, is the new state that the Vatican rushed to bless. This is no exaggeration: if the Croatian Catholics who formed terrorist organizations and slaughtered countless members of other faiths and ethnicities had been Muslims, they would have been called “radical fundamentalist Islamists”, and the US State Department would list the Vatican as a “state sponsoring terrorism.”

Anybody familiar with the sequence of events in Croatia cannot but find the light in which the Krajina Serbs have been portrayed—as ‘aggressors’, as ‘rebels’—a very strange one. Franjo Tudjman’s nationalists, among many other troubling signs, adopted the same flag that the quisling Ustashe state had used in WWII; they repatriated the former Ustashe diaspora and their families and peppered them in the posts of the highest authority; and, within months of illegally announcing their secession, they were eagerly recognized by—of all states—the Vatican! Can the Krajina Serbs be blamed for fearing a return to the atrocities of the fascist/Catholic clerical state that was the Independent State of Croatia in WWII? After all, they were witnessing an alignment of forces that recalled exactly that which had slaughtered them in WWII (the next state to rush into recognizing Croatia—also unilaterally, and this time without consultation in the European Union—was Germany; Italy soon followed).  “The rewritten Croat constitution of 1990…described not a state for the people of Croatia—but a state of Croatian people.”[27] Tudjman’s nationalists were not shy about making public statements that Croatia should be a ‘pure’ Croat state. It was entirely reasonable for the Krajina Serbs to conclude that they were in danger if they were left stranded inside a secessionist Croatia.

It is important here to note that it was before Croatia ever succeeded in breaking away from Yugoslavia that the Krajina Serbs made it clear that they wished to remain citizens of the state that they were already citizens of: Yugoslavia.

But the Vatican did not rush headlong, tripping over its skirts, to endorse that.

And the international community did not show much sympathy for the cause of the Krajina Serbs either, and prevented Serbia from assisting them, even though, of course, they were not aggressing but reacting. In spite of the general anti-Serb slant in all of the mainstream media, The Independent conceded,  “Certainly, the non-Communist Croatian government helped to trigger the Serb rebellion, which began only a few months after the elections last year.”[28] That would be, as they say, an understatement, which adds a nice Orwellian touch by describing the virulent Croatian nationalists and fascists as “non-communists”, and the Krajina Serbs, who merely wanted to remain in their own country, as staging a ‘rebellion’. To picture how the Krajina Serbs felt, try the following ‘empathy thought experiment’:

It is the 1990s. You are a Jew living in an ethnically homogenous (or almost) region of Germany that was left over from WWII, where mostly Jewish peasants live and farm the land (forget for the moment that no such thing ever existed, this is a thought experiment). Since West Germany became a post-war ally and was nursed to normalcy, it was negotiated after the war that this Jewish enclave should stay within the borders of Germany because, after all, it had some Germans in it, and the Jews were all German-speaking. But here now comes German unification. And as Germany unifies, people start talking about the 4th Reich, and a new flag is adopted, which has a big swastika in the middle. The ominous eagle is back in force. Large rallies are held and up goes the cry of “Sieg…heil!” What do you want to do? Secede, of course.

The situation for the Krajina Serbs was actually worse than this. First, they did not suffer less than Jews did in World War II even though the world has chosen to ignore the Serbian Holocaust. After all, remember that the systematic slaughters of the Croatian Ustashe appalled the German Nazis (it takes a lot to shock a German Nazi), and the special ‘enemy’ of the Croatian Ustashe were the Serbs (in the same way that the Jews were an ‘enemy’ of the Germans). The decision to include the Krajina within the borders of the constituent republic of Yugoslavia that got called ‘Croatia’ was an administrative one by the Tito regime. There was nothing sacred about the Krajina being part of Croatia, and there is no historical basis for the idea that Zagreb should have any claim to the region, which had been continuously inhabited by Serbs for hundreds of years. This area was a province—‘The Military Frontier Province’ (‘Krajina’ means ‘frontier’)— established by the Hungarian empire in 1578 when large numbers of Serbs fleeing the Ottoman empire were allowed to settle there as soldier peasants to act as a buffer against the Turks. The lands had been expropriated from the same Croatian nobles who in the year 1526 had chosen to submit to the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand, and they were also lands that had been depopulated by the advances of the Turkish armies (Nyrop 1982:9). 1578 is a long time ago, before most of the United States had been settled by Europeans, who today think of themselves as living in their own country. Zagreb’s claims to this territory were not in the name of the expropriated nobles or their descendants, nor could they be even in principle since the expropriating authority no longer exists. Mexico City has a much better claim to Texas than Zagreb had to the Krajina.

What happened in Croatia was that Tudjman’s nationalists started talking about an independent Croatia, and started denying that so many people had been killed in the Holocaust and that, in particular, at Jasenovac (the main system of Ustashe death camps), the numbers of dead had been wildly exaggerated (if these had been Germans fresh into the highest office of a unified Germany, and talking about Auschwitz, they would have been excoriated as ‘Holocaust deniers,’ and everybody would have been properly horrified that Nazis could come back to power in force). These Croatian nationalists also began saying that Croatia was a state for ‘pure’ Croats (in other words, if they coveted the Krajina, it was surely the real estate—they did not evince much sympathy for its population). Then they unfurled the proposed flag for an independent Croatia. This is a flag that had been seen before but not one with a long history: it was the Ustashe flag. Naturally, under these circumstances, the Krajina Serbs feared for their lives, and as it became clear that Tudjman would seek Croatian independence, they declared their wish to remain in Yugoslavia.

Again, this point must be emphasized: the declaration by the Krajina Serbs to wish to stay in Yugoslavia took place before Croatia managed to break away with the help of the Vatican and Germany. It took place before Croatia unilaterally and illegally announced its independence. The mainstream media has portrayed the Krajina Serbs as ‘aggressors’ and ‘rebels,’ but what happened in Krajina is clear: as the symbols and signs of a reinstated Ustashe government crept all around them, and as the noises calling for Croatian independence from Yugoslavia became louder and louder, the Krajina Serbs let it be known that, if Croatia seceded, they wanted to stay in Yugoslavia.

"The Serbs who dominate the area around Plitvice, which they call Kninska Krajina, have declared independence from Croatia and say they want to remain in Yugoslavia if Croatia's nationalist government carries out its threats to secede."[29]

It is this fact that exposes how much propaganda there has been about the Krajina Serbs. We have been told over and over again that they were ‘rebels.’ By what stretch of the definition of the word ‘rebel’ can we make it describe a population that is an ethnic majority in its region and which states its wish to remain in its own country as opposed to joining a breakaway province that is seceding illegally? That would indeed be a new definition of ‘rebellion’! A definition worthy of Orwell. But perhaps we should ask the mainstream Western media to explain themselves. Here follow two representative excerpts:

BELGRADE (Special) - Yugoslavia's internal borders underwent a striking change yesterday after leaders of Croatia's rebellious Serb minority announced the secession of Krajina from Croatia.

The declaration by leaders of the self-styled "Serbian autonomous region of Krajina," which is populated by 250,000 Serbs and based in Knin, stripped Croatia of almost a third of its territory.

The move was in reply to proclamations passed by the Croatian and Slovenian parliaments last week calling for the two republics to secede from Yugoslavia. Milan Babic, the leading politician in the breakaway government, said Serbs did not dispute "the right of the Croatian people to leave Yugoslavia," but only on their own "ethnic territory."

"The Serbian people in Croatia have no reason to cut themselves off from the Yugoslav state and reject the Croatian parliament's resolution on leaving Yugoslavia," he said.
[The Toronto Star,  March 2, 1991, Saturday, SATURDAY SECOND EDITION,  NEWS; Pg. A3,  343 words,  Rebel Serb region opts out of Croatia,  The Independent News Service,  BELGRADE]

Notice that at this date Yugoslavia is still whole and these Serbs are expressing their desire to remain Yugoslavs. We are told exactly what the reasoning was: “The Serbian people of Croatia have no reason to cut themselves off from the Yugoslav state.” In other words, they wanted to stay in their own country. But the title of the article is still “Rebel Serb region opts out of Croatia”—that is, it opts out of an illegally seceding breakaway province so that they can remain in their own country! How are they ‘rebels’?

Policemen and rebels [my emphasis] fought for control of a rebel-held [my emphasis] national park in the Yugoslav republic of Croatia today, and at least 1 person was killed and 13 were wounded.

The clash was the worst between Croatia's rebellious Serbs and the republic's authorities since the Serbs took control of Krajina, an area of Croatia with a mostly Serbian population, in August.
[The New York Times,  April 1, 1991, Monday, Late Edition - Final,  Section A; Page 3; Column 1; Foreign Desk,  816 words,  Deadly Clash in a Yugoslav Republic,  By CHUCK SUDETIC, Special to The New York Times,  BELGRADE, Yugoslavia, March 31][30]

Henceforth the Krajina Serbs were always referred to as ‘rebels’ even though they had stated their intentions very clearly: they had no objection to Croatia seceding from Yugoslavia if it wanted to, but they themselves wished to remain. Given the systematic representation of the Krajina Serbs as ‘rebels’, which in light of the facts clearly betrays a propaganda animus, one is forced to wonder how many of the allegations of atrocities committed by them—allegations by the same media that, in defiance of all reason, called them ‘rebels’—are really true.

Fighting of course did break out in the Krajina, but that would not have happened if Tudjman had not resorted to force in order to crush the Krajina Serbs, to whose land he had no legal claim. The entire world chose to ignore History, Yugoslav law, international law, and the democratic and human rights of the Krajina Serbs, who understandably feared for their lives in a resurrected Ustashe state. Were they exaggerating? Hardly. They were completely cleansed from the Krajina region, something the original Ustashe was not able to achieve when it first tried it, in WWII. The new, totally successful cleansing of the Krajina Serbs was the culmination of a Croat offensive that, without provocation, broke a year-long ceasefire in 1993, and just at the moment when a comprehensive peace plan (the Vance-Owen plan) was being negotiated.[31] The Serbian government, in an act of good faith, did not come to the aid of the Krajina Serbs because they were foolish enough to believe that a show of restraint would help, since they were trusting the good intentions of the Western powers who were supposedly brokering the peace plan. In the Western media, this restraint was characterized as ‘cunning diplomacy’ designed to make the Croats look bad![32] (even when the Serbian behavior can be observed by all, unfiltered by the Western media, the same media forcers an interpretive filter on it so that everybody knows what the ‘real intentions of the Serbs are, and these are always made out to be evil; it is interesting to note that Franjo Tudjman’s unprovoked breaking of the cease fire was consistently described by the same media as a diplomatic “blunder”).

The cleansing of the Krajina Serbs took place under the watchful eyes of the ‘benevolent’ Western powers who did not bestir themselves to prevent a genocide (even though later they would sanctimoniously invoke precisely this principle to bomb Serbia). It was also under the watchful eyes of the same ‘benevolent’ Western powers that the conditions for this genocide were laid. In an act of good faith, the Krajina Serbs had largely met the conditions of the cease-fire and turned in their heavy weapons to the UN for monitoring, or else packed them to Bosnia to avoid giving them up. The Croatian army, on the other hand, had little trouble getting around the arms embargo that was supposed to apply to all of Yugoslavia. When attacked, the Krajina Serbs broke into the UN-monitored warehouses and recovered what they could of the stored weaponry in order to defend themselves, but much of the recaptured hardware had not been maintained for months and lacked fuel and ammunition.[33] They were eventually butchered.

This is why the second Ustashe succeeded where the first failed: the first had Hitler for an ally, but Hitler was fighting enemies. The second Ustashe, on the other hand, had the combined support of the West.