Hon. Joseph J. DioGuardi
Member of the House of Representatives, 1985-1989
“The Future of Kosova”
House International Relations Committee
May 21, 2003
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Lantos, on behalf of all Albanians here and in the Balkans, and for freedom-loving people everywhere, a heartfelt thank you for introducing H.Res. 28 in support of statehood for Kosova and for following through with this important hearing. As a former colleague who first brought the issue of Albanian repression in the former Yugoslavia and egregious human rights violations in Kosova to Congress’s attention in 1986 as a new Member, I am especially grateful for this opportunity to once again make the case for Kosova’s independence. And, I want to remind the Chairman and Congressman Lantos that they were among the first to cosponsor a resolution that I introduced for Albanian rights in the former Yugoslavia in July 1987, with more than fifty of our House colleagues joining us as cosponsors. Also, let me say at the start that I have no financial interest whatsoever in any outcome in Kosova or any other Albanian area of the Balkans or with Albanians in America. I am an unpaid volunteer with my wife, Shirley. We have no investments with any Albanians here or in Europe. We have no political ambitions in Kosova, Albania, or elsewhere in the Balkans. And, we have not applied for governmental grants to subsidize any of our activities or pay salaries. In short, we are not conflicted in any way. We are merely seeking peace with justice for the long-suffering Albanians of Kosova.
Since leaving Congress in 1989, I have been making the case here in Washington, in the Balkans, and around the world for freedom and self-determination for the two million Albanians in Kosova. I particularly remember the Congressional Human Rights Caucus hearing on Kosova chaired by you, Congressman Lantos, and Congressman John Porter on April 24, 1990 in the large Hart Senate Hearing Room, at which Senators Pell, Dole, and Pressler also participated in support of Albanian freedom in Kosova. It has been more than thirteen years since that historic hearing for the Albanian people at which our Civic League brought twelve leaders from Kosova to make their case against Serbia for all the valid reasons that many questioned then, but now looking back have been revealed as factual truths with the advent of four Balkan wars and the indictment, incarceration, and trial of the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic since then. In these thirteen years, much has changed in the Balkans since Serbia invaded Slovenia in 1990, Croatia in 1991, Bosnia in 1992, and then tried to ethnically cleanse Kosova en masse in 1999. We have elected three presidents, convened seven Congresses, saw more than 300,000 innocent people killed in Bosnia, at least 10,000 in Kosova, and witnessed millions being expelled from their homes merely for their ethnicity or religion. On the broader scene, this period began with a war in Iraq and ended with another one in Iraq just recently. Saddam Hussein is now out, perhaps even dead. Milosevic is on trial in The Hague, and September 11, 2002, has changed our worldview as well as our personal attitudes about many things.
But, Mr. Chairman, one thing has not changed, and that is our State Department’s steadfast policy of keeping Yugoslavia together in one form or another. I still have the three-page letter sent by the State Department in 1987 to then Chairman Dante Fascell, trying to convince him and Subcommittee Chairman Gus Yatron not to hold a hearing on the resolution you signed back in 1987 for many of the same reasons you have heard from the State Department and their surrogates today. That hearing was held in October 1987, and many were informed, as they will be today, on the desperate plight of the Albanian people and about the odds, once again, being stacked against them. And, if keeping some part of Yugoslavia together is not bad enough based on all that we have witnessed from Serbian and other Slavic Communist leaders over the past thirteen years, the State Department seems inclined to follow “Old Europe” voices in wanting to preserve some rump Slavic regime, again on the backs of the Albanian people. And, in particular, our diplomats at State seems to be listening to our dubious friends in France, Russia, Serbia, and Greece (not exactly four paragons of U.S. democratic values) and seem to be supporting a new incarnation of Yugoslavia called Serbia and Montenegro. Incredibly, they seem to be holding out hope that Kosovars will agree to be part of it, even though the Montenegrin people, who are blood brothers to the Serbs, are sending us every signal that they have no intention of joining their Slavic brothers and sisters in a new state. (They even recently elected a pro-independence president, who emphasized the point, as has Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.) So why would anyone think that Albanians from Kosova, who have been battered by Serbs and Montenegrins for generations, would willingly agree to become part of Serbia again when even fellow Slavs are opting out?
Mr. Chairman, it took thirteen years and another war to correct a failed foreign policy in Iraq. During that time, hundreds of thousands of innocent people there were killed,tortured, maimed, or forced to flee for their lives. How many more years will it take for our State Department to realize that the independence of Kosova is the only way to peace and stability in the Balkans and, therefore, in Europe, which is in our vital national interests?
Let’s look at the bleak record of Albanian and Serbian relations for a moment. I could go back five hundred years and amply demonstrate the Serbian betrayal that left their fellow Christian Albanians (all Christian then) bearing the brunt of the Ottoman Turkish occupation for more than 400 years. But I won’t take time to explore this somewhat ancient history. Instead, let’s start with March 7, 1937, when the rabid ultranationalist Serbian academic and political leader Dr. Vaso Cubrilovic, whose evil philosophy and deeds spawned the likes of the satanic Aleksandar Rankovic and Slobodan Milosevic, presented his written plan in Belgrade to rid Yugoslavia, especially Kosova, of all Albanians. His paper was entitled “The Expulsion of the Albanians.” Here it is, and I ask permission to put only two sections on the Record: “The Mode of Removal” and “The Organization of the Removal.” Let me just turn to one page, page 7, entitled the “Mode of Removal,” to demonstrate where Milosevic and his Serbian Communist compatriots, many of whom are still in Serbia and Montenegro today, got their wild ideas to ethnically cleanse Yugoslavia and push for a Greater Serbia. Without reading the entire text, let me just list a few of the ungodly, terrorist tactics proposed by Dr. Cubrilovic from his podium in Belgrade in 1937: We must create a suitable psychosis among the Albanian people to relocate a whole population.We must use money or threats to win over their clergy and men of influence. We must also employ agitators, especially from Turkey, to trick Albanians about the benefits of moving to Turkey. If this doesn’t work, we must use the state apparatus to coerce Albanians so that staying will be intolerable for them, and use the ruthless application of all police tactics at our disposal. If this doesn’t work, we must distribute weapons to our colonists from Montenegrin clans and Chetniks, not our army, to incite local riots and suppress them brutally and bloodily. And if none of this works to drive out all of the Albanians, “there remains one more means that Serbia (and Montenegro) employed with great practical effect after 1878, that is, by secretly burning down Albanian villages and city quarters” (something they did again in Kosova in 1999).
Mr. Chairman, it is hard to believe that this plan survives in writing today. We had it translated from the original Serbian Cyrillic script fifteen years ago and have distributed it widely, especially to the leaders of the Jewish community, which suffered unspeakably at the hands of another dictator we tried to appease, and the press after the failed Dayton Accords in 1995, in order to finally get the United States and NATO to understand that Milosevic was hell-bent on implementing, finally, the plan of his mentor, Vaso Cubrilovic. Incredibly, the plan preceded Hitler’s written plan for the “final solution” of the Jewish people of Europe by two years. The Cubrilovic plan survived for fifty more years, and when Milosevic came to power in 1987, he immediately set his sights on implementing it in Kosova. His ultranationalist and Communist regime initiated massive police action against Albanian civilians in 1987 and 1988, total military occupation and police state repression of Kosova from 1989 to 1998 (creating another Warsaw Ghetto in the middle of Europe), and ethnic cleansing and genocide in 1999, for which he and his brutal regime are now on trial in The Hague. Because of the hard and effective work of our grassroots lobby, the Albanian American Civic League, and with the help of the Jewish community in the United States spearheaded by Congressmen Lantos and Gilman here in Washington, our State Department finally pushed NATO to do the right thing after ten years of coddling Milosevic—and that was to bomb Serbia into submission as we did with Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler.
But, Mr. Chairman, let us not forget that until the Rambouillet (France) process began in early 1999, in our desperation to avoid another Balkan war, this time in Kosova, our then-U.S. Balkan Envoy Richard Holbrooke and the State Department were doing everything possible to make Slobodan Milosevic our partner in peace, even after he caused three wars, killed 300,000 innocent Bosnians, and was threatening to implement the medieval Serbian dream of a Greater Serbia, connecting all Serbian populations in the Balkans into one state. I think, at the least, that this showed our poor judgment then and allows us to question any new deals with Serbia and other undemocratic Slavic regimes that could be put in a position, once again, to dominate the Albanian people and cause another war, which only U.S. troops and money would be able to stop, based on past experience with the Europeans.
A recent, tragic example of Serbian police and paramilitary brutality happened after the NATO conflict in July 1999, when three young Albanian Americans, the Bytyqi brothers (whose father, Ahmet Bytyqi, is with us today still looking for justice), were executed and thrown into a mass grave for merely straying across the Serbian border by accident while helping a few ethnic Roma neighbors to safety. They were executed by special police operatives in Serbia just for being Albanian and American after serving their court-imposed term in a Serbian jail. This example clearly shows the ingrained racism that exists against the Albanian people and the animosity towards America for leading the NATO war there. (Let me take this opportunity to once again thank you, Congressman Lantos, for helping us pursue and bring to justice the murderers of Agron, Mehmet, and Ylli Bytyqi.)
Mr. Chairman, you might ask how our State Department could be seduced so readily by such brutal Serbian dictators from Rankovic to Milosevic and now, in Western garb, tone and style, by Vojislav Kostunica and Nebojsa Covic. For one, these “masters of deceit” and their predecessors used the controlled press in Belgrade to their advantage for fifty years, rewriting the history and image of the Albanian people, who were suppressed by the worst forms of totalitarian Communism since World War II in Albania and in Belgrade. For another, these new “masters of deceit” used monetary rewards for Western diplomats and politicians like Henry Kissinger and Lawrence Eagleburger, who worked with them as bankers, served on their government-owned corporate boards as paid outside directors and got huge consulting fees—still undisclosed as we have recently seen from Mr. Kissinger’s demurral to head a national Presidential Commission once he realized that he would have to disclose his finances, which would, many believe, shed light on many past conflicts of interest involving government contracts steered to his patrons. Mr. Eagleburger, a former U.S. ambassador in Belgrade and partner of Henry Kissinger, played a major role in Global Motors, the company that made the Yugo car, served on at least one bank Board with Milsoevic, and still became Secretary of State in 1992 after dodging relentless questioning by Senator Jesse Helms about his past financial dealings with Yugoslavia and Milosevic. No wonder there was a Serbian tilt in our State Department policy in the early 1990s,when then Secretary of State James Baker declared that we had to keep Yugoslavia together at all costs and that “we didn’t have a dog in that fight,” giving the green light to Milosevic to continue his wars and carry on with the brutal occupation of Kosova. That Serbian tilt showed itself again when Richard Holbrooke bowed once more to Milosevic in 1995 and allowed no Albanian leader to sit at the table at the Dayton Peace Accords, even though Albanians represent the third largest ethnic group in the Balkans (after Serbs and Croats), giving Milosevic another green light to continue his brutality. The final insult was delivered by Special Balkan Envoy, Ambassador Richard Gelbard, when he deliberately called the Albanian citizen army known as the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) a “terrorist group,” when they were merely trying to defend their families and property from the marauding Serb paramilitaries (many of whom were criminals let out of jail and put in uniform for the occasion) and when nowhere was the KLA listed as a terrorist group. This gave Milosevic exactly what he wanted and needed to march into Drenica in early 1998 and execute many innocent men, women, and children as terrorists, or for “hiding or supporting terrorists,” as we looked the other way.
So, Mr. Chairman, with this short history of manifest hostile racism by Slavs against the Albanian people and our State Department’s exceedingly bad judgment favoring the Serbs until it was almost too late, how can anyone expect the Albanian people of Kosova, which is comprised of two million people, 95 percent of whom are Albanian, to ever deal with Serbia unless it is as a partnership of independent states looking to work together for mutual benefit, leading to European integration?
Mr. Chairman, now that I have presented a gruesome picture of collective anti-Albanian behavior of the Serbian Communist regimes since World War II, let’s talk about the Albanian people for a moment. Who are they? And what are they asking for today?
I believe that our deceased colleague, then Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Claiborne Pell (whose first assignment as a young U.S. foreign service officer was to Albania in 1939), aptly described the Albanian people at a hearing in 1990 when he said:
“Albanians have a proud tradition of resisting foreign oppression. Their Illyrian ancestors were never fully incorporated into the Roman Empire, and the Turkish sultans were not more successful in subjugating the Albanian Ghegs and Tosks. In both cases, the nominal rulers of today’s Albanian lands preferred to leave well enough alone and to accommodate a good deal of Albanian self-rule in those lands. The Romans and Turks learned a valuable lesson—don’t stir up the Albanians; it doesn’t pay. “Today, however, the leaders of another multiethnic state have ignored that lesson.The leaders of Yugoslavia—but particularly those of Serbia—have launched a brutal campaign of repression against the Albanians in Kosova. Mass arrests have taken place, killings and beatings have occurred, and the province’s autonomous status has been revoked. “It cannot be in Yugoslavia’s or Serbia’s or U.S. interests to deny in Kosova what is being exercised all over Eastern Europe. …Albanians are a fiercely independent people, and they will resist repression with every ounce of their strength. But they need help and encouragement from other free societies, particularly from the United States. I want you to know that I will do what I can to support the just cause of the Albanians in Kosova.”(Claiborne Pell made this statement thirteen years ago, and yet it is still very much on point.) And, Mr. Chairman, no statement can substitute for the historical fact that Albanians who share three religions—Catholicism, Islam, and Orthodox Christianity have shown great tolerance and understanding for others, especially for the oppressed Jews of the Nazi era, many of whom made it to Albania and Kosova, knowing that they would be protected by Albanian tradition from their Nazi tormentors. The great stories of Albanian heroism in the face of death are described in Rescue in Albania. Incredibly, every Jew already living in the Albanian lands and every Jew fortunate enough to escape to there was saved. These Albanian lands, in and around Albania and Kosova, were the only ones in Europe to have more Jews after World War II than before the war started. I would like to put on the Record the Congressional Foreword to Rescue in Albania by Congressman
Lantos and former Congressman Ben Gilman, two prominent Jewish Americans, and give a copy of this wonderful book to you, Mr. Chairman. One final point about the Albanian people—they are America’s best friends in the Balkans. When the tragedy of 9/11 occurred, Albanians lit candles, held nightly vigils, displayed supportive posters and cried openly on TV in support of America and its 3,000+ victims of terror, while the Slavs of Belgrade and Skopje and their Orthodox brothers and sisters in Greece and Russia danced with joy in the streets over our tragic loss for all to see. Albanian soldiers in the KLA fought on the ground in Kosova during the NATO war and guided our pilots to their targets so that not one U.S. soldier or airman was killed during the NATO bombing of Serbia. (Many of them were Albanian Americans who joined the Atlantic Brigade to go to Kosova to save their families and neighbors, and are with us today.) And Albanian Americans proudly served our country during the recent Iraqi War, where one Albanian American in a recent interview said that he volunteered to go fight in Iraq because of what America did for Albanians in Kosova. Albania even sent a contingent of one hundred special forces to actively support our armed forces in Iraq.
Mr. Chairman, it is time for our State Department to realize who our friends are and to join them in building an independent state now so that Kosova can attract investment, secure loans, and employ its people. There are so many young people in Kosova (Kosova has the youngest population in Europe) and more than sixty percent of them are unemployed. Kosova needs its independence so that it can create jobs and build capital, as Kosovars have done so convincingly in America and in Western Europe in the last two decades.
So, Mr. Chairman, as to what the Albanian people of Kosova want. That’s easy! It is complete freedom from those who have sought to exterminate them, expel them, and who until today, almost three years after the brutal Serbian war in Kosova which killed 10,000 innocent Albanians and maimed, raped, and tortured tens of thousands more, have not apologized for the horrible crimes that are being disclosed at the Milosevic trial in The Hague as we speak. Complete freedom for the Albanians of Kosova means independence from Serbia. Albanians have earned it with their blood, their friendship and loyalty to us, and their love of western democratic values. They have gone through three democratic and peaceful elections since the NATO war ended in 1999, have established a coalition government under UN authority and, in general, have shown their ability to live and work with others. The lack of final status is even preventing small, but important, things necessary to create a civil society. As you know, Mr. Chairman, an official Rotary Chapter in Gjakova, Kosova, was not authorized, even after you wrote a compelling letter because the district Governor of Rotary in Athens felt that Belgrade still had standing in this and they ruled against a Rotary chapter in Kosova so as not to offend Belgrade. What an insult this is to the Albanian people in Gjakova who are continuing to act as a Rotary club, helping their needy neighbors, but without an official charter or recognition.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Albanians need investment, loans, and the freedom to engage in civic activities that will only come from final status as an independent state. Jobs will then be created from the resulting investment and international loans to fuel the incredible work ethnic of the Albanian people. Our choice is to develop a productive European partner in Kosova through investment and self-sufficiency, or to let Serbia, still an undemocratic state, whose reformist Prime Minister was recently assassinated, once again have its way. Choosing the latter will most surely lead, in my opinion, to another Balkan conflict, which clearly is not in the national interests of the United States. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
# # #