Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Here’s hoping world comes to its senses on Kosovo

(Scott Taylor, The Chronicle Herald) Monday, April 07, 2008

WHEN TRAVELLING through Kosovo. it would be easy to mistakenly believe it has just become the 51st U.S. state rather than a self-proclaimed independent country. On most homes, the American Stars and Stripes are fluttering alongside the Albanian flag - even on many public institutions.

Prior to Kosovo's Feb. 17 unilateral declaration of independence, the U.S. had designed a new yellow-on-blue Kosovo flag. Thousands of these flags were produced and distributed for free in the hope that they would be a proud visual symbol of the new and distinct state of Kosovo.

Unfortunately, for the planners in the U.S. State Department, the Albanians living in Kosovo do not regard themselves as a separate Kosovar nation. Instead of flying the new flag, they continue to display the black double headed eagle on a red background - the official flag of the neighbouring Republic of Albania. They are unrepentant, proud Albanians, and they fly the American flag in recognition of the fact that only through a decade of U.S. military aid and political pressure, have they taken control of a province that is Serbian sovereign territory and proclaimed it as their own.

In addition to the flags, the Albanians pay fawning tribute to former U.S. president Bill Clinton in the form of 20-metre-high posters of him hanging in Pristina, the capital. It was Clinton who pressured NATO into supporting the separatist Albanian guerrilla force known as the Kosovo Liberation Army in its struggle against Serbian security forces in 1999. Ironically, it was only the year before that the U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization because of its tactic of targeting innocent Serb civilians in order to provoke retaliation from Serbian troops.

However, once NATO air power entered the equation, the tables were turned firmly in favour of the Albanians, and they now have no qualms about publicly showing their appreciation.

At the southern end of Pristina, a scale-model Statue of Liberty sits atop the Victory Hotel, and Hillary Clinton even has a street in the Kosovo capital named in her honour. Strangely enough, the U.S. scheme to create an independent Kosovo has not garnered much support from Muslim countries. With the exception of Turkey and Afghanistan, the Islamic republics have refused to recognize Kosovo because they see it as an American puppet state. Go figure.

Although the 1998 U.S. assessment of KLA fighters as terrorists was an accurate one, that's not how they are depicted in Kosovo these days.

In the course of the 18-month-long insurgency and NATO offensive, the KLA did not win a single standup engagement with the Serbs. Their dubious martial accomplishments include the widespread murder of Serbian civilians and Albanian collaborators after NATO entered the province and became responsible for security.

Nevertheless, there are innumerable monuments all over Kosovo to honour these "heroes" and "martyrs." Given that this conflict in Kosovo was a bloody inter-ethnic civil war, and the fact that the original NATO mandate was to provide a safe environment for all Kovoso minorities, many international observers recognize that these monuments to KLA fighters only serve to intimidate non-Albanians.

Kosovo was admittedly dependent on the U.S. for its creation, remains dependent upon NATO troops for security and protection and requires massive amounts of foreign aid to survive, and the Albanian majority openly rejoice in the fact they now live in greater Albania. One has to wonder just what the hell Prime Minister Stephen Harper was thinking when he decided to include Canada among the handful of countries that recognize this "independent" Kosovo.

One can only hope that at the UN General Assembly meeting in September, Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is declared illegal. Canada can then use the opportunity to reverse Harper's decision and uphold the UN Charter.

Scott Taylor is editor-in-chief of Espirit de Corps magazine.

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