On March 10, 1999, The House Committee on International Relations held a congressional hearing, on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. The main speakers were Dr. Henry Kissinger, Former Secretary of State; Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former Ambassador to UN; Senator Bobe Dole and Shirley Cloyes – DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser of the AACL.
13 member of the board and Albanian activists attended the hearing as a special delegation from the AACL. The Testimony of Shirley A. Cloyes – DioGuardi on behalf of the Albanian American Civic League is presented below.
House Committee on International Relations
Troop Deployment in Kosova
Testimony by Shirley A. Cloyes
Balkan Affairs Adviser, The Albanian American Civic League
America’s decision to deploy U.S. Troops to Kosova will be based in no small measure on how the Clinton Administration continues to “spin” the roots and the blame for the conflict in the minds of the American people. Our State Department has invested great effort in making Americans think that the conflict in Kosova is a never-ending civil war over territory, driven by religion, on the part of two parties equally culpable for the bloodshed–one party, Serbia, the representative of a sovereign state with all of the rights that this entails and another, the Kosova Liberation Army, an Albanian band of “rebels,” “guerrillas,” and “terrorists” threatening to change inviolable borders and to engulf Europe in a wider war. This gross misinterpretation of the reality of the Serbian-Albanian conflict in our view has fueled the public perception of the war in Kosova since the Serbian military attacked Drenice a little more than a year ago, and it has been kept alive by most of the Western press until this very day. Unfortunately, this misinterpretation has been used to shape U.S. foreign policy, disguising the real political, economic, and security issues at stake for us in the Balkans.
The decision to deploy U.S. troops and under what conditions becomes easy to deal with if we understand the crisis in Kosova for what it really is–a campaign of genocide against the Albanian people waged by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, following a ten-year occupation, the most brutal in Europe since the Nazi era, that has necessitated a home-grown resistance movement on the part of the more than 90 percent Albanian population of Kosova. Those who refuse to use the word “genocide” to describe what has been happening in Kosova are unwilling to confront the fact that the events of 1998 -1999 are not unique, but part of a 100-year history of anti-Albanian racism and brutality by hostile Slavic regimes in the Balkans.
The decision to deploy U.S. troops also depends a great deal on whether we understand that Serbia is a major military power engaged in state terrorism, including the arrest, rape, torture, forced displacement, and massacre of civilians on a relentless, daily basis, and that the Kosova Liberation Army is a grassroots, self-defense force that is fighting to stop the annihilation of the Albanian people with money and arms from the diaspora. Those who do not want to involve America in this conflict, or who vainly seek to contain it by subjecting Albanian to ongoing Serb oppression, have worked to establish a false parity between the Yugoslav army and the KLA.
The decision to deploy U.S. troops will also depend on whether we think that the war in Kosova has something to do with religion. Those who would have us believe that the independence of Kosova, with its Muslim majority, will lead to a potent Islamic force in the heart of Europe that will somehow threaten American interests have concluded that the KLA must be crashed at all costs–whether through Milosevic’s reign of terror, as we clearly sow in this past summer’s Serbian offensive which was sanctioned by the West, or through their disarmament by NATO troops. The fact is that Albanians are Muslim, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, and have coexisted peacefully for centuries. But, most important, Albanian Muslims are moderate and secular, and, if anything, it would be in our interests to have a Western-oriented Balkan state that includes a majority of secular Muslims in this vitally strategic region of Europe. Parenthetically, I have repeatedly been told by KLA leaders that the KLA has refused to accept support offered from sources in Iran and Iraq in order to make the point clear that Kosovars are not fundamentalists and that they seek to build a tolerant, inclusive, and democratic society.
The decision to deploy U.S. troops also depends on whether we believe that Serbia is a sovereign state with a rights to territorial integrity, including Kosova, and that any amount of bloodshed is justifiable to preserve that right, or whether we believe that Serbia has abrogated its right to sovereignty over Kosova, under international law, because of its flagrant violations of human rights on the scale of genocide. The Helsinki accord and other international covenants make clear that respect for territorial integrity goes hand in hand with adherence to human rights conventions that reject the use of brutal force and ethnic cleansing against socalled minority populations. (I say “socalled,” because Albanians are not a minority, but a nation of seven million people, who have been arbitrarily and unfairly divided into five contiguous jurisdictions.) The fact is that, following the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, we recognized the right of Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Bosnia to declare statehood, but we refuse to grant the same to Kosova, one of the eight, coequal juridical units of the former Yugoslavia.
Finally, the decision to deploy U.S. troops hinges on whom we think poses the threat to peace, security, human rights, and democracy in the Balkans. Those who erroneously conclude that KLA’s fight for independence from Serbia is part of a hypothetical Balkan-wide drive for a Greater Albania are comfortable with a peace settlement that pursues a policy of containment by leaving 4.000 Serbian military and police in Kosova, 1.500 of which will control the borders to Albania and Macedonia. But those of us who view Slobodan Milosevic as the principal threat in the Balkans believe that peace, security, and democracy cannot come to the region until his demonstrated quest for Greater Serbia is forcibly halted and the two million Albanians in Kosova are allowed to declare their independence under international law.
The fact remain that it was the Serbs who invaded Kosova in 1989, who subsequently instigated wars in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia that killed 300.000 people and created two million refugees, and who have killed more than 2.000 Albanians, forced 300.000 to flee from their homes, and destroyed 500 villages since February 1998.
Until Slobodan Milosevic is stopped by force, the prospect of a wider war in the Balkans looms large, and it is further exacerbated by Milosevic’s pan- Orthodox alliance with Russia and Greece, where he has found support among ultranationalists for his cause. As long as we try to resolve the crises in Kosova within the Contact Group, Russia will block the use of force and advance Serbia’s aims in order to protect its own power and influence in the region. This is why the crisis in Kosova must be taken out of the Contact Group and resolved within the NATO milieu.
We of the Albanian American Civic League believe that it is time for the West to move from political expediency to justice, and hence to lasting peace, in the Balkans. As such, we believe that any decision about troop deployment or any agreement that does not concentrate on ending Slobodan Milosevic’s decade- long reign of terror in the Balkans is doomed to failure. We also believe that anything less than the independence of Kosova will fail to solve the Albanian question, and therefore, the Balkan conflict. We concur with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who wrote in The Washington Post on January 22, that, “It is time for the United States to accept reality…we must recognize Kosova’s independence and implement plans to arm the KLA.”
The Albanian American Civic League is not initially supporting deployment, because we believe that U.S firepower and intelligence, our main contributions to NATO, are more then sufficient to stop Slobodan Milosevic, as we ultimately showed in Bosnia–two years too late for the more than 250.000 who perished waiting for our decisive military strike. Given the massive Serbian offensive now in full swing in Kacanik in direct violation of all existing UN resolutions and agreements, we believe that NATO must issue an ultimatum to Milosevic to immediately stop the onslaught and, if he fails to comply, to bomb Serbian military positions in Serbia and Kosova. In addition, we believe that the United States and Europe should let arms go through to KLA soldiers, who have shown that they are willing to die for the freedom of Kosova.
If we and our European partners reject this route, then NATO should establish an international protectorate in Kosova for a three-year period, at the end of which a referendum on the independence of Kosova must be held by the people of Kosova and recognized by the international community. However, U.S. troops should not be deployed, in any case, until the Rambouillet agreement is modified to call for zero Serbian troops in Kosova, the immediate bombing of Serbia if it violates the terms of the agreement, and the apprehension and trial in The Hague of suspected Serbian war criminals. Otherwise, we fear that the Yugoslav army will instigate a conflict, disguising themselves as KLA soldiers, and attack and kill U.S. and other NATO troops to the point of driving them out of Kosova. After that, the genocide against Albanians will resume.
The Albanian American Civic League believes that it is time for the West to acknowledge that that it has failed to prevent the wanton killing of thousands of innocent Albanians and destruction of millions of dollars worth of property because it has sat on the sidelines while a ruthless dictator wreaks havoc on an innocent civilian population. In the process, the United States has abandoned the principles on which our country was formed, and triggered the possibility of a larger and more dangerous conflict by not demonstrating the resolve that we keep talking about.
The real issue for the United States is not troop deployment, but our failed foreign policy. It is time to put an end to the Holbrook-Hill experiment. The former Yugoslavia dissolved because it did not represent the solution to the national questions of all the peoples that constituted it, and because Milosevic and his henchmen destroyed the human rights of all non-Slavs and committed crimes against humanity in Kosova. As long as we deny to the Kosovar Albanians the recognition that every other ethnic majority in the former Yugoslavia has been granted, we will fail to solve the Balkan conflict and our worst fear, an expanded regional war leading to an European conflict, involving Turkey and Greece, will become a reality.
Washington D.C, March 10, 1999