As a whole, 70 per cent of Albanians are of Muslim background. Another 20 per cent are of Orthodox Christian heritage. The Orthodox Christian Albanians tend to reside in the southern part of Albania, away from Kosovo. The remaining 10 per cent of Albanians are Roman Catholic. Mother Teresa was an Albanian Catholic from Skopje. In Kosovo, at least 90 per cent of Albanians are said to be of Muslim origin. Most Kosovo Albanians appear secular. It does not take many religious extremists to cause mayhem. With Adolph Hitler as an extreme example, some of the most passionately violent of nationalists are secular. Kosovo’s Albanian community has traces of religious extremism and secular nationalism.
Tariq Ali’s CounterPunch interview and the non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence by several Organization of the Islamic Conference nations show how exaggerated are claims of an anti-Serb position in the Muslim world. The other examples relate to Russia’s support for Serbia and its wars in predominately Muslim Chechnya. Despite these two instances, Russia is on relatively good terms with the Muslim world. For some, the rights to defend territorial sovereignty and combat terrorism are greater than a pan-religious sympathy. To further underscore this point, note how Turkey is the only country to recognize the mostly Muslim inhabited “Turkish Cypriot Republic”.
Kosovo’s demography is often mentioned as a basis for supporting the province’s independence. Overlooked in this advocacy is how the Albanians replaced the Serbs as the majority in Kosovo within the last hundred years–ethnic cleansing campaigns against non-Albanians (overwhelmingly Serbs), migration from Albania into Kosovo (much of it illegal) and the comparatively high Albanian birthrate.
The G word (genocide) continues to be used against the Serbs. Compiled research data indicates that within the year to year and a half of Kosovo fighting before the NATO bombing, there were about 2,000 fatalities out of the province’s 2 million population. About 500 of the 2,000 casualties were Serbs, who at the time were said to make up 10% of the population. Per capita wise, Serbs suffered considerably more. A good number of the Albanian casualties included those who showed a willingness to work within the existing government framework. I was forwarded statistical data confirming that Washington DC has had greater annual murder rates than what has been referenced to Kosovo. Regarding the stated pre-NATO bombing Kosovo conflict death toll, feel free to forward any well established documentation to the contrary.
There have been rhetorical exchanges on what act constitutes the greater violation of sovereignty: the disrespecting of Serb territory, or the follow-up vandalizing of Belgrade-situated foreign embassies–whose countries support Kosovo’s independence. There is an overwhelming Serb consensus of non-support for both acts. When comparing acts which violate sovereignty, recall the stated reason for why Russia did not beef up its somewhat clumsily implemented military presence in Kosovo, following the 1999 NATO bombing campaign. Russia was denied clearance from NATO member countries whose air space it would have utilized. In other words, the air space of a country (Yugoslavia) could be violated with bombs, unlike the instance of Russia flying in peacekeepers.
A commonly repeated thought claims that Serbia lost the right to govern Kosovo because of past wrongs. Repeating an opinion over and over again, in an effort to have it become legitimate is common. This process can succeed when there is no opposition to it. United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244 says NOTHING about Serbia losing sovereignty over Kosovo because of past actions. Turkey and Iraq are not expected to lose territory in retribution for their brutal actions against the Kurds. UNSCR 1244 recognizes Kosovo as a continued part of Serbia and calls for a return of Serb military and non-military government personnel to that land. The way some interpret UNSCR 1244 is along the lines of: the rules are there are no rules. In conjunction with UNSCR 1244: as long as Serbia, two UNSC permanent members (Russia and China) and others oppose Kosovo’s independence, the recognition of that independence is indicative of how some go against basic principles of international law.
This of course sits well with the pro-Kosovo independence “humanitarian intervention” types–the same people who were not gung ho to bomb
Turkey for the way that NATO country was going after the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from 1975-2000. A matter that has not completely dissipated. Not to be outdone are some of the Russia friendly folks who give credence to the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia (Serbia & Montenegro) in 1999. Would they support bombing Russia at anytime during the last decade’s two wars against Chechen separatists? Heck, why not advocate a coalition of nations to bomb the US for some faulty American policies which have contributed to the deaths of so many?
In explaining why his government supports Kosovo’s independence, a Polish official said that two peoples clearly not liking each other should be kept separate. Note how pro-Kosovo independence enthusiasts tend to advocate a multi-ethnic state in Bosnia, where there has been fierce ethnic division. It is fair to say that Albanian-Serb differences are probably greater than those among the Slavic Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs. It is also reasonable to state that Serbia minus Kosovo is more multi-ethnically tolerant and democratic than Albanian-dominated Kosovo. The Serbs are being punished despite having the better democratic and multi-ethnic outlook.
An acquaintance inquired about the alleged organized crime activity of Kosovo Albanian leader Hashim Thaci. The American Council for Kosovo web site has a page with plenty of information about the Kosovo Albanian leadership. A Google search of: German BND Hashim Thaci–provides many results suggesting that the organized crime claims on Thaci are true (the BND or Bundesnachrichtendienst, is
Germany’s government intelligence service). In comparison, one is hard pressed to find firm denials to the contrary. Mark Almond’s July 26, 1999 National Review article “Our Gang–Kosovo Liberation Army” writes that the Thaci led Kosovo Liberation Army (repackaged as a non-army political bloc after the 1999 NATO bombing campaign) and Kurdish PKK have elements which “have been fighting to control the drug and prostitution rackets of many big West European cities”. The pro-Thaci spin says that such activity is exaggerated and that as a now “accepted” leader (at least by some powerful forces) Thaci is changing for the better.
Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. He can be reached at email@example.com