A commentary on the ongoing tragedy in Kosovo from the courageous and insightful Paul Weyrich. From CNSNews.com, with thanks to Sparta:
Many Americans’ view of Kosovo — if they have one at all — is shaped by the tragic stories they see on CNN.
Some may even remember that our country, as part of NATO, participated in bombings there in 1999 to protect Albanian refugees as part of a war that lasted for over two months. Most Americans pay Kosovo little mind, viewing it to be the staging ground of a conflict that holds no important consequence for the United States.
However, Kosovo is more essential to the security of America and the West than many people realize.
The ability of our country, our NATO allies and the United Nations to promote stable governance that ensures minority rights very well could make the difference between peace and war in a historically and still volatile region, the Balkans, situated between Adriatic and Black Seas.
Islamists recognize the strategic importance of Kosovo and, left unchallenged by a complacent West, could use it to gain a strategic foothold in Europe.
The Serbian population is the minority. They are predominantly Christian and face persecution from an energized Albanian majority.
Right after a wave of violence shook the country in March, Damjan de Krnjevic-Miskovic, then the managing editor of The National Interest and a senior fellow of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, wrote in National Review Online the article “Kristallnacht in Kosovo.” In it he stated: “…Kosovo’s Serbs have for years been warning of the real nature of Albanian nationalism, and the U.N. and the West have assumed they were exaggerating.” …
Many Albanian Muslims are marginally religious and, up to now, the relations between them and Albanian Christians (mostly Orthodox, some Roman Catholic) have been stable compared to the animosity directed by Albanian Muslims against the Serbs.
Middle Eastern organizations are devoting great resources to building mosques and other Islamic institutions. Given the poverty of Kosovo, it could easily become a breeding ground for Islamic extremism as we have seen in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The history of Kosovo, only some 4,200 square miles, is quite complicated: It became Christian in 874 A.D., only to become part of the Ottoman Empire when Muslims invaded Serbia in the late 14th Century. In 1912, Kosovo and Methohija were liberated from the Ottoman Empire and incorporated into Serbia, and then entered into as (at least theoretically) an autonomous state at Yugoslavia’s founding in 1919.
Kosovo has remained part of Serbia since then, with the exception of World War II when Kosovo was administered as a part of Greater Albania by the Axis powers. During that time, churches and monasteries were destroyed.
Throughout the 1920s, 30s, and 40s there had been a simmering conflict between the Albanians — largely, but not completely, Muslim — and the Serbs who generally belong to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The Albanians in Serbia collaborated with the Nazis against the Serbs. In 1945, Yugoslavia became a Communist country, and the authorities covered up ethnic tensions through force, intimidation, mass resettlement of Serbs from Kosovo, and ideological propaganda.
Yugoslavia’s grip on its provinces diminished over time, greater autonomy was granted to Kosovo, a state of Serbia with a population composed of ethnic Serbs, Albanians, and Montenegrons. After Yugoslavian Communist Dictator Tito died, the tensions between ethnic and religious groups resurfaced.
Eventually, as Communist rule weakened, Slobodan Milosevic, a Serb, became the President of Serbia, only to crack down on the Albanian extremists bent on seeking independence through force of arms which led to bloody confrontations in 1998 between the Serbian troops and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a largely Albanian terrorist outfit. A ceasefire negotiated by NATO fell apart, setting the stage for the NATO air strikes that started in March 1999, designed to bring Milosevic to heel.
Our participation in the effort was premised on our being part of NATO; we ignored Russian arguments in favor of the Serbs. Some have called this “Monica’s War” because it came soon after the Clinton impeachment. However, our effort also led to the removal of the KLA from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
Many Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo became refugees. A peace agreement was signed after a 78-day bombing campaign. Control of Kosovo was divided between German, French and American sectors, with the primary duties of peacekeeping divided between the armies of NATO countries and agencies of the United Nations.
Neither NATO nor the United Nations has been effective in keeping a lid on the animosity. For one reason, the missions of the armies are mixed. French and German soldiers are there only to protect persons. Our soldiers, numbering less than 2,000, are there to protect both persons and property. Kosovo’s population is beset by high joblessness and substandard living conditions as well as crime and ethnic and religious rivalry.
Since the end of the conflict in June 1999, violence has been perpetrated against Serbian Orthodox Churches and holy sites. Over 120 holy places, including many that date back to the Middle Ages, had been desecrated or destroyed by December 2003.
At the same time, at least 200,000 Kosovar Serbs and other non-Albanians have been “cleansed” from their homes, only 10,000 have returned. In March 2003, apparently false reports of violence perpetrated by Serbian children against young Albanians ignited what was called the “March Pogrom” in which 35 churches and monasteries were destroyed. Strong suspicion exists among many in Kosovo, even those within NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR) peacekeeping forces, that the March Pogrom was anything but a spontaneous event.
Members of the delegation visited the Devic Monastery — founded in the 15th Century — which had been ransacked and burned by a mob. French troops took the nuns to safety but they refrained from doing anything further, given that the definition of their mission was to protect people. In fact, the French troops left an ailing nun to be attacked by the mob. Thankfully, she escaped unharmed. The looters smashed crosses on graves, even trying to open the sarcophagus of a saint (whose relics had already been moved). This unfortunate monastery had been rebuilt after having been badly damaged by the (terrorist?) KLA in 1999.