• AACL

The Albanian American Civic League: On A Collision Course With Slobodan Milosevic

by Hon. Joseph J. DioGuardi and Shirley Cloyes


On Friday, February 15, 2002, indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic at his trial in The Hague accused former Congressman Joe DioGuardi and the Albanian American Civic League of “the systematic expansion of the anti-Serb mood and the Satanisation [sic] of the Serb people in the American public opinion.” In reality, the Civic League has always made a distinction between the Serbian people as a whole and the barbaric acts of Milosevic and his henchmen. Meanwhile, Milosevic has done almost as much damage to Serbia as he has to the Albanian people of the Balkans in the course of ten years of genocidal warfare.


Milosevic also said in his opening statement that, “In support of Albanian terrorism and separatism in Kosovo and Methohija, we see the engagement of the Albanian émigrés in the countries of Western Europe and in the United States. In America in 1989, an Albanian American Civic League was set up under the presidency of Congressman Joseph DioGuardi, whose task it was to lobby on Capitol Hill for the requests and goals of the Kosovo Albanians. By actively lobbying, this opened the road to the Kosovo and Metohija separatists for official contacts in the American Senate and Congress.”


In reality, Slobodan Milosevic rose to power in 1987 on a platform of anti-Albanian racism and then, two years later, invaded Kosova and subjected the ethnic Albanian majority to a decade of state-sponsored terrorism as part of the worst occupation in Europe since the Nazi era. Upon leaving Congress 1989, Joe DioGuardi established the Albanian American Civic League, a volunteer lobby, to expose the desperate plight of Kosovar Albanians to the U.S. government, the press, and the public. As the chronology that follows demonstrates, for fifteen years Joe DioGuardi, Shirley Cloyes, and the Civic League have worked tirelessly to stop the oppression of the Kosovar Albanians and to influence U.S. foreign policy to bring a just and lasting peace to the Balkans.


The First Albanian American Is Elected to the U.S. Congress


November Joe DioGuardi, a Certified Public Accountant and a Republican, is elected

1984 to the U.S. House of Representatives by a very slim margin in a

Congressional District that had been controlled by the Democratic Party

for more than fifty years. He was born in the Bronx, New York, of an

Albanian father and an Italian mother, and he had no prior political

experience.


The DioGuardi's Discover Their Real Albanian Roots


September At Joe DioGuardi’s 45th birthday celebration, his Albanian roots were

1985 discovered when Kosovar Albanians who had supported his election to

Congress, overheard his father, Joe, Sr., then aged seventy-two, speaking in Albanian to

his younger sister. Thereafter, the Albanian community lobbied Joe about Kosova,

reminding him of his connection by bloodline to the Kosovar Albanians.


The First Resolution for Albanian Rights Is Introduced in the U.S. Congress


June After much lobbying by Albanian Americans from around the United

1986 States, who adopted Joe DioGuardi as their Albanian American

Congressman, and after much research by Joe’s staff, the first resolution

(H.Con.Res. 358) to protect Albanian human rights in the former

Yugoslavia is introduced by Joe in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The next day, Joe’s friend, Senator Bob Dole, introduced the same

resolution in the U.S. Senate (S.Con.Res. 150).


Caught by surprise, Serbian officials enlist their Russian and Greek

sponsors to use their lobbies in Washington to attack DioGuardi as a

provocateur and to get their friends in the State Department to kill the

resolution.


The battle lines for Albanian human rights and freedom are drawn openly

in Washington for the first time, and DioGuardi, surprised and stung by

the vehement opposition to his seemingly innocuous Resolution for basic

human rights meets the challenge by personally meeting over one hundred

Congressman in the following twelve months to gain their support.


DioGuardi Is Reelected to Congress


November With elections every two years in the House of Representatives,

1986 DioGuardi, known by some as the accidental congressman, works hard to

win a second term against the well-known political figure, Bella Abzug,

who brought national attention to the race.


DioGuardi and Dole Introduce Expanded Version of Resolution for Albanians in Kosova


June DioGuardi, after resuming his intense, personal lobbying efforts in the

1987 House, reintroduces an expanded version of the 1986 Resolution for justice

for Albanians in Kosova (H.Con.Res. 162)—this time with fifty-seven

Congressman. Senator Dole accommodated Joe by reintroducing the same

Resolution in the Senate (S.Con.Res. 150).


Milosevic Comes to Power


July Slobodan Milosevic, a Serbian banker, deceives his personal and political

1987 mentor in Yugoslavia and seizes control of the Communist Party and the

Presidency of Yugoslavia. An ardent nationalist, who unlike his

predecessor, Marshal Tito, openly disdains the Albanian people of

Yugoslavia , and calls for their suppression and total control as “enemies of

the state.” He also tries to promote his agenda in Washington and against

DioGuardi by enlisting the support of his former American colleagues,

Henry Kissinger (former Secretary of State), Larry Eagleburger (former

Ambassador to Yugoslavia), Messrs. Brent Scowcroft and Scanlon (former

State Department officials in Yugoslavia), Maryland Congresswoman

Helen Bentley, a Serbian American and ardent Serbian nationalist

supported by the Greek lobby, including Senator Paul Sarbanes, also from

Bentley’s home State, and Congressman Jim Moody, who openly dealt with

and supported Serbs in Congress.


The U.S. State Department Exposes Its Pro-Yugoslavia, Anti-Albanian Policy


October The State Department, under much pressure from the Greek lobby and the

1987former colleagues and friends of Milosevic, who worked hard behind the

scenes to promote Serbian dominance in Yugoslavia and to disparage

DioGuardi and the Albanian case for human rights, sends a letter to

Congressman Dante Fascell, then chairman of the House International

Relations Committee. The letter denounces the DioGuardi Resolution as an

affront to U.S. friend and ally Yugoslavia, and blames the Albanians of

Kosova for crimes against the Serbian people there.


First Congressional Hearing on Kosova Authorized


November Using his friendship and powers of persuasion with the Democratic

1987 Chairman Dante Fascell (D-FL), and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on

Human Rights, Gus Yatron (D-PA), DioGuardi prevails against the State

Department in getting a Congressional Hearing on his Resolution, which for

the first time openly exposes the barbaric and egregious abuse of human

rights by Serbs against the defenseless Albanians of Kosova.


First Major Albanian Rally in Front of the United Nations


June DioGuardi leads a massive demonstration by Albanians from around

1988 America in New York City in front of the United Nations and in Washington

In front of the White House and the Capitol, to make the U.S. press and

public more aware of the desperate plight of Albanians in Yugoslavia,

especially in Kosova.


DioGuardi and Congressman Lantos Confront the

U.S. State Department


September DioGuardi arranges for his friend and colleague Congressman Tom Lantos,

1988 a prominent Jewish American Congressman from California and Chairman

of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, to arrange a high level meeting

with State Department officials and the Ambassador from Yugoslavia to

confront our flawed and failing U.S. foreign policy in the Balkans. The

meeting, spearheaded by Lantos, an ardent supporter of Albanian human

rights, is a great success and Milosevic recalls his ambassador to the United

States in a show of contempt.


DioGuardi Narrowly Loses His Third Election


November In a bitterly fought election campaign against former NY Secretary of State

1988 and multimillionaire liberal Democrat Nita Lowey, DioGuardi loses his seat

in Congress the way he won—by a very slim margin. The loss is a great

surprise to all, but was due to many factors, including Vice President Bush’s

poor Presidential election results in New York (Governor Mike Dukakis won

New York State in 1988), the work of the Greek lobby on behalf of Lowey,

and illegally unreported money used at the last minute to smear DioGuardi,

for which Lowey was fined $3,500 by the FEC two years later.


The Albanian American Civic League Is Formed


January Undaunted by his loss, DioGuardi announces that he will run again for

1989 Congress after redistricting in 1991, and proceeds to form the Albanian

American Civic League to continue to lobby the U.S. Congress and the Bush

administration on behalf of the Albanians in Yugoslavia, especially in

Kosova.


The Civic League is founded to continue the Congressional agenda of

former U.S. Congressman Joe DioGuardi to liberate the seven million

Albanian people in the Balkans from hostile Slavic domination and

Communism.


Feb.-Oct. With more time to devote to Albanian issues, DioGuardi and three of his

1989 former key staff, now paid by the AACL, intensify Congressional pressure

against the pro-Serb State Department policy and by engaging in mass

demonstrations, sending out press releases, and causing Congressional

statements to be issued by our friends in Congress.


The First Major Rally in Washington Is Held


June The first Washington rally is held to free Kosova from Serbian occupation

1989 and to free Albanian dissident Adem Demaci from prison.


Congress Passes First Albanian Rights Resolution


July The June rally sparks the passage of Civic League-sponsored House

1989 (H.Con.Res. 314) and Senate (S.Con.Res 124) resolutions condemning Serbia

for human rights abuses in Kosova. This leads to the immediate removal of

the Serbian ambassador to the United States by Slobodan Milosevic.


DioGuardi Takes First Trip to Belgrade and Prishtina to Confront Milosevic


November DioGuardi goes to Belgrade’s International Press Center and

1989 Milosevic’s office with a letter signed by Senator Bob Dole and

twelve other U.S. Senators to free Kosova. He then makes his first

trip to Kosova to witness firsthand the brutal Serbian occupation and is

evicted from the Grand Hotel in Prishtina for conducting a press conference

there.


DioGuardi Brings the Congressional Human Rights Caucus to Belgrade and Prishtina


February DioGuardi goes to Belgrade with the staff of the Congressional

1990 Human Rights Caucus, chaired by Congressmen Lantos and Porter,

to conduct a press conference in Belgrade about Serbian oppression

of Kosova’s Albanians. He then makes an unannounced visit to Kosova to

meet leading intellectuals, journalists, and activists, including Dr. Zekeria

Cana, Zenun Celaj, Bajram Kelmendi, Ibrahim Rugova, Rexhep Qosja, and

Vetton Surroi.


The Serbian Secret Police (UDBA) Under Milosevic’s Control Kill Enver Hadri


Kosovar activist Enver Hadri is assassinated in Brussels, and

DioGuardi is invited to give a eulogy at his funeral before

thousands of mourners. Afterwards, he travels to Geneva at the

request of Hadri’s widow and son to deliver to the United Nations

Human Rights Commission the list of 34 peaceful Albanian

demonstrators killed by Serbian authorities that was found on Hadri’s body

at the time of his death.


Kosova Comes to Washington for the First Time


April The Civic League sponsors a delegation of 15 Albanian leaders from

1990 Kosova to testify against Milosevic’s occupation of Kosova at an historic

Congressional Human Rights Caucus Hearing for Kosova in Washington

and to be honored at an historic dinner at the Sheraton Hotel in New York

City, attended by 2,700 Albanian Americans, to “Salute Freedom and

and Democracy for Kosova.”


DioGuardi Brings Lantos to Kosova to Expose Milosevic’s Modern Day “Warsaw Ghetto”


May Congressman Tom Lantos and Joe DioGuardi lead a delegation to

1990 Kosova to challenge the brutal Serbian occupation of Kosova. They blast

Milosevic as a modern day tyrant bent on policies that will destroy any

democracy in Yugoslavia.


July DioGuardi is officially banned from returning to Yugoslavia by the

Milosevic controlled parliament in Belgrade for his press

conferences in Belgrade and Kosova as “hostile acts against the

State.”


DioGuardi and Lantos Form the Interparliamentary Group for Kosova in Luxembourg


January DioGuardi brings Iljaz Ramali, speaker of the exiled Kosova Assembly, to

1991 Luxembourg to meet with Congressman Tom Lantos and Lord Nicholas

Bethel of the British and European Parliaments to sign a joint declaration

proclaiming an “Interparliamentary Group for Kosova’s Protection,” as a

strategy to further expose Milosevic’s occupation of Kosova.


DioGuardi Calls Milosevic the “New Hitler” in the U.S. Senate


February DioGuardi testifies before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee,

1991 cochaired by Senators Joe Biden and Claiborne Pell, and makes the first

public case for the independence of Kosova under international law. In the

process, he compares Milosevic to Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein and

issues a press release calling Milosevic the “Saddam of Serbia.”


The Albanian Lobby Takes Its Case to the Helsinki Commission


June DioGuardi goes to Copenhagen, Denmark, to meet the Albanian community

1991 and attend the Helsinki Commission Conference. He addresses a massive

Albanian rally just outside the conference hall and conducts a press conference

about human rights abuses in Kosova, showing for the first time enlarged

photographs of Albanians brutally tortured and killed by the Serbian police

at the direction of Slobodan Milosevic.


Sen. Dole Greets 10,000 Albanian Demonstrators in Washington and Goes to Kosova


July The Civic League sponsors a massive rally in Washington in front of the White

1991 House and the U.S. Capitol. More than 10,000 Albanian Americans march

from the White House to Capitol Hill and demonstrate for freedom for Kosova.

Senators Bob Dole, Claiborne Pell, Larry Pressler, and Al D’Amato and

Congressmen Gilman, Lantos, Porter, and Broomfield address the crowd.

August At the request of the Civic League, Bob Dole and six other U.S. Senators visit

1991 Prishtina to see firsthand the brutality of Milosevic.


The Civic League Stops U.S. Aid to Serbia


October The Civic League lobbies for and passes economic sanctions banning aid to

1991 Serbia under the Nickles-D’Amato Amendment to the Foreign Aid Bill.


The Civic League Gets Lantos to Introduce a Resolution for the Independence of Kosova


January The Civic League introduces a well-documented Congressional Resolution

1992 (H.Con.Res. 264) cosponsored by Congressmen Lantos and Gilman calling for

the recognition of the independence of Kosova.


Demaci Comes to Washington


March The Civic League brings Adem Demaci, after 28 years in Serbian jails, to

1992 Washington to discuss the crisis in Kosova with Secretary of State Larry

Eagleburger and to New York to meet with Mayor David Dinkins at Gracie

Mansion, where he was honored as the Nelson Mandela of the Albanian

people.”


Shirley Cloyes Joins the Albanian Lobby


October Joe DioGuardi meets Shirley Cloyes, then publisher of Lawrence Hill Books,

1993 who is working on a book entitled Yugoslavia’s Ethnic Nightmare, the first to

bring the perspective of the anti-Milosevic, anti-war opposition inside the

former Yugoslavia to U.S. readers.


The Civic League Introduces Clinton to Rugova


February Joe DioGuardi and Civic League Balkan Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes bring

1994 Kosova President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister-in-exile Bujar Bukoshi

to Washington, DC, to meet President Bill Clinton at a private reception

before the annual Prayer Breakfast, to hold a press conference on Capitol Hill

about Kosova’s occupation by Milosevic, and to participate in a special tour

and special tour and reception at the newly opened U.S. Holocaust Memorial

Museum.


DioGuardi Goes to Turkey to Win Support for Kosova


March DioGuardi addresses a Balkan peace conference in Istanbul, sponsored by the

1994 Balkan Solidarity Foundation, and publicly condemns Milosevic, Tudjman,

Gligorov, the Greek government, Lords Owen and Carrington, and the U.S.

State Department for their roles in suppressing the Albanian people of

Kosova.


The Civic League Conducts First Rally Calling for U.S. Troops


April The first rally calling for U.S. troops in Kosova is led by DioGuardi in front

1994 of the United Nations in New York City.


Congressman Gilman Introduces a Resolution Asking Clinton to Protect

the Rights of the Kosovars


May Congressman Gilman introduces a resolution (H.Con.Res. 251) calling on

1994 President Clinton to report to the Congress within 60 days about the

conditions in Kosova and to make recommendations for protecting the rights

of Kosovars, including the possibility of establishing an international

protectorate for Kosova together with other members of the UN Security

Council and the European Union.


DioGuardi and Cloyes Create the First Hearing on the Albanian National Cause


February DioGuardi and Cloyes create the first Congressional hearing on the

1995 Albanian dimension of the Balkan conflict, including Arben Xhaferi, Fadil

Sulejmani, Iliaz Halmi, and Ismet Ramadani from Macedonia, Bujar

Bukoshi from Kosova, Gjerg Gjokaj from Montenegro, and Riza Halimi

from Presheva.


The Jewish Lobby Becomes a Partner with the Civic League for Kosova


The Civic League makes the addition of Albania to the “Righteous among

Nations” section of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum a reality. Three

Jewish congressmen, Gilman, Lantos, and Nadler, cochair and speak at a

League-sponsored ceremony and reception commemorating the installation.

The connection is made for the first time between the ethnic cleansing in

Kosova and the genocide of the Jewish people in the minds of Jewish

American leaders.


Gilman Introduces a Resolution Making the Lifting of Sanctions Against Serbia Conditional on Improvements in Kosova


March Congressman Gilman introduces a resolution (H.Con.Res. 1360),

1995 conditioning the lifting of sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro on

improvements in Kosova. The resolution details the horrors of the

occupation and states that “the rights of the people of Kosova to govern

themselves and to establish a separate identity for Kosova must not be

denied.”


DioGuardi and Cloyes Return to Turkey to Make the Case Against Milosevic and for the Independence of Kosova


September DioGuardi and Cloyes travel to Istanbul, Turkey, to speak about the Balkan

1995 conflict and to make the case for the independence of Kosova at the

National Press Center and at a seminar with key members of the faculty for

international affairs at the University of Marmara.


The Civic League Distributes 10,000 Copies of Rescue in Albania


October At the Civic League’s request, Congressmen Lantos and Gilman write a

1995 foreword to Rescue in Albania by Harvey Sarner. The League begins

distribution of 10,000 copies to demonstrate the courage and tolerance of

the Albanian people who saved Jews from the Nazis in World War II.

Congressmen Gilman and Traficant send the book with a personal letter to

each Jewish member of Congress and with a “Dear Colleague” letter to the

other members, as pat of a strategy to publicize Milosevic’s barbarity

against Albanians and Kosova.


The Civic League Tells Congress that the KLA Is Not a “Terrorist Group


March The Civic League shifts the focus of a Congressional hearing with Balkan

1998 envoy Robert Gelbard from Bosnia to Kosova. Under questioning instigated

by the Civic League, Gelbard is forced to retract his earlier, erroneous

depiction of the KLA as a “terrorist”organization. The retraction creates a

storm in the Western media, and overnight the attempt to “criminalize”

the KLA is halted. In an historic confrontation, Cloyes tells Gelbard that

“the KLA is not a terrorist group, and that the 500,000 Albanians in America

are all KLA.” After the hearing, the Civic League holds the first rally on Capitol Hill in

support of the Kosova Liberation Army.


DioGuardi and Cloyes Call Congress to Support U.S. Intervention

in Kosova and to Indict Milosevic


March DioGuardi testifies before the Congressional Helsinki Committee, calling for

1998 U.S. intervention in Kosova before Milosevic kills more Albanians.


May DioGuardi testifies at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on

1998 Kosova, criticizing U.S. foreign policy there and clashing with Biden over the

need for U.S. military intervention.


June DioGuardi again testifies before the Congressional Helsinki Committee, this

1998 time about the Serbian invasion of Kosova and the need to indict Slobodan

Milosevic as a war criminal.


July Al D’Amato in the Senate and Chris Smith in the House pass Civic League-

1998 sponsored Resolutions (S.Con.Res. 105 and H.Con.Res. 304) calling for the

indictment of Slobodan Milosevic as a war criminal.