In 2010, current Democratic Party presidential hopeful Joe Biden Jr. referred to Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) leader Hashim Thaci as the “George Washington of Kosovo.”
On June 24th, it was reported that Thaci had to cancel a trip to Washington because of his indictment by the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
These crimes ranged from murder, enforced disappearances and torture. The KLA stands accused furthermore of being criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders, whose victims included Serbs, Kosovars, Albanians and other political opponents.
Previous reports had linked Thaci to organized crime and to a human organ smuggling operation involving the selling of Serb organs that were extracted during violent interrogations.
From his perch on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden in March 1999 co-sponsored a resolution authorizing air strikes over Kosovo in support of Thaci and the KLA.
Biden’s main rival in the 2020 Democratic Party primary, Bernie Sanders, endorsed Biden’s resolution, giving a speech before the Congress floor in April 1999 defending the bombing on moral grounds.
The goal of the air strikes was to undermine Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovic, whose Serb forces were accused of committing large scale atrocities against the Kosovar Albanian minority.
However, the number of Serb atrocities were exaggerated and provoked in part by the atrocities of the KLA, which had been branded as a terrorist organization a mere months before the war started.
The bombing itself killed between 500 and 2,000 civilians and intensified the degree of ethnic cleansing while leaving carcinogens in the air and radioactive waste from the use of depleted uranium.
Kosovo has since experienced significant problems under KLA rule including a huge unemployment rate and staggering political corruption which resulted in Kosovo emerging at the center of the international drug trade and prostitution rings in Europe.
During the 2020 Democratic Party primary, Biden faced a lot of criticism for his poor judgment in supporting the Iraq War in 2003.
That poor judgment was unfortunately displayed four years earlier in his support for the Kosovo bombing and praise for a man who has now been indicted by an international court.
Many on the left insist that we must vote for Biden in the 2020 election as the lesser of evil.
There is some merit to this claim given that Donald Trump is a neo-fascist who is a climate change denier and has enflamed racial tensions in the country.
However, Biden’s nomination points to a deep crisis in American democracy which cannot be rectified at the ballot box but only in the streets.
The current protest movement needs to evolve its demands beyond removing statues of racists and defunding police to ones that insist on a fundamental change to the electoral structure and two-party system.
More broadly, it needs to promote an end to American imperialism and alternatives to neoliberal capitalism, which has led to the empowerment of gangsters like Thaci.
Putting aside the rhetoric about human rights, America’s main motive in bombing Kosovo had been to secure access to a U.S. military base, Camp Bondsteel, and to open the Balkans to the floodgates of U.S. investment.
In December 2004, plans went forward for the construction of a $1.2 billion Trans-Balkan pipeline south of Camp Bondsteel financed by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, while the U.S. ambassador Christopher Dell helped Bechtel – whom he went on to work for – secure a billion dollar highway building contract.
Biden throughout his career has been a shill for corporate America and the military industrial complex, and has directly profited from overseas military interventions like in the Ukraine, where he openly bragged about firing the country’s Prosecutor General in order to protect a natural gas company, Burisma, which his son, Hunter, had been appointed as an executive with.
That Biden is the “liberal” in the 2020 race speaks volumes about the rightward shift and corruption in American politics and need for systemic change that can only be driven by grass roots movements.