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AACL Board Statement On The Massacre At Racak

Statement On The Crisis In Kosova


January 21, 1999

To: Bill Clinton, President of the United States

Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Great Britain

Gerhard Schroeder, Chancellor of Germany

Jacques Chirac, President of France

Knut Vollebaek, Chairman of the OSCE

Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations

On January 15, Serbian police and military forces massacred forty-six innocent Albanian civilians in the village of Racak. At the site of the massacre, bodies were found with their eyes gouged out, faces slashed and, in one case, decapitated. Also, three women, a twelve-year old boy, and many elderly lay among the dead. While the international community voiced shock and anger at this premeditated slaughter of civilians and portrayed it as the worst moment in the Serbian-Albanian conflict, the killing in all of its dimensions was not a novel occurrence for the 92 percent Albanian population of Kosova.

Since 1989, Serbian police and military at the direction of Slobodan Milosevic have been responsible for the most brutal occupation that the world has witnessed since the Nazi era. And since the end of February 1998, they have conducted scores of execution-style killings, leaving 2,000 dead and 300,000 Kosovar Albanian civilians burned and bombed out of their homes. The only thing new about this latest example of the Serbian regime’s crimes against humanity is that the events in Racak took place when Western monitors, under the auspices of the OSCE, were on the ground and NATO warplanes were flying overhead.

Ironically, most of the 700 international monitors were elsewhere in Kosova on January 15, trying to fulfill the humanitarian, but impossible, mission given to them under the premature and hollow agreement signed by U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke with Europe’s preeminent war criminal, Slobodan Milosevic. But even if they had been in Racak that day, what could they have done to help? The Holbrooke agreement gives them no power to oppose Serbian state-sponsored terrorism.

The ill-fated Albanian inhabitants of Racak did not die simply at the hands of the Serbian army. They died because they believed that they would be protected under the Holbrooke agreement—especially after the Kosova Liberation Army had just released eight captive Serbian soldiers. They died as victims of the socalled peaceful diplomatic solution represented by NATO, the United Nations, the Contact Group, Richard Holbrooke, Christopher Hill, and Ibrahim Rugova. They died as victims of the West’s inaction and empty threats in the face of Slobodan Milosevic’s ongoing campaign of

“ethnic cleansing” against the Albanian people of the Balkans.

The members of the Albanian American Civic League, along with the rest of the Albanian diaspora, are shocked and outraged by the actions of the Serbian terrorist forces in Racak and by the ongoing refusal of the West to oppose Slobodan Milosevic with force. But above all, the Albanian American Civic League, led by former Congressman Joseph DioGuardi, is completely mystified, as are most Americans, by the West’s continuing embrace of the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement. As the Civic League has publicly declared, the October accord is a total failure when it comes to resolving the Serbian-Albanian conflict and related problems in the Balkans. It has amounted to a legalization of the violence and terror perpetrated by Milosevic’s army against Kosovar Albanians. By introducing the compromising presence of unarmed international monitors in Kosova, by failing to force the withdrawal of Serbian troops from Kosova, and by foregoing air strikes against Serbia, the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement is a death sentence for the Albanian people of Kosova.

The habitual false agreements and empty threats by the West will not work to conceal this new phase of Milosevic’s reign of terror. The only language that Milosevic will now understand is the use of force. As we have seen from the beginning, the threat of force has no impact on Slobodan Milosevic whatsoever. It is time to abandon the appearance of resolve in the absence of resolve. It is time to stop clinging to the diplomatic proposals and measures that might have worked years ago, before the brutal occupation and genocide that have left the Albanians of Kosova no other option than to fight for their physical survival and for freedom, democracy, and self-determination. As Paddy Ashtown, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Britain’s House of Commons, said in response to the Racak massacre, “Milosevic has lost the moral authority to govern the Albanian majority of Kosova.” Therefore, the only solution for the Albanians of Kosova and for peace and stability in the Balkans is the independence of Kosova.

The West’s refusal to intervene militarily in the face of the unspeakable horror of the Racak massacre increases the risk of a wider regional conflict. So, too, does the renewed attempt by some NATO members to criminalize, instead of recognize and support, the Albanian defense force, the Kosova Liberation Army. If the international community continues to abandon the Albanians of Kosova, it can expect its worst fears to be realized in a self-fulfilling prophecy: the Albanians of Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro will join the KLA in a war that will spread throughout the Balkans, and Turkey and Greece, two NATO members will be forced to take sides in the conflict, leading to a full-scale war. Those U.S., French, British, Russian, and German politicians who reject

independence and who continue to insist on some form of “autonomy” for Kosova under conditions of genocide have taken a politically untenable and morally objectionable position.

It should now be clear to all that as long as the Milosevic regime remains in power, the war will continue. To stop the war, NATO forces led by the United States must be mobilized to wage air strikes against Serbian military targets in Serbia and Kosova. And, to repeat, the only way to lasting peace and stability in the Balkans is to allow the Albanian people the right to declare their independence under international law, just as we allowed the Slovenes, Croatians, Macedonians, and Bosnians after the demise of the former Yugoslavia.

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