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The Unholy Alliance of Imperialism and the K(C?)L(I?)A

by David Mericle
art/Eric Spitler

Central to the manufacturing of the war against Yugoslavia was the role of the Kosovo Liberation Army, a gang of fascist terrorists that collaborated with the imperialist nations. But the KLA-imperialist connection is much deeper: the imperialist armies and intelligence agencies funded, trained, armed, advised, and even commanded the KLA, transforming it into a significant military force. The nature of the KLA is still of great importance because it reveals much about the nature of the imperialist powers and because the KLA remains a major force in Kosovo and does not have and never did have any intention of disbanding or relinquishing power.

Perhaps confusion about the Kosovo Liberation Army originates with the organization's deceptive name. The army is not from Kosovo. According to The New York Times, the original terrorists were joined by "foreign mercenaries" who "speak German better than they do Albanian" and put on German army uniforms after quitting jobs in Europe, primarily Germany and Switzerland, to fly to Kosovo in planes full of recruits. The Washington Post added that all of the KLA's funding comes from abroad, primarily the United States, and that the US KLA support group has raised over $4 million, helped greatly by its US public relations firm, Ruder Finn, which has a long history as a propagandist for CIA dirty wars. Liberation was not the KLA's goal; the leadership made no secret of its desire for ethnic purification, finishing what the Nazi invasion began during World War II. And finally, the title of Army seems a bit of a self-glorifying exaggeration for a group that assassinated civilians, ran away when another army came to fight in favor of letting its NATO air force handle the war, and only returned when the Yugoslav army had left.

The KLA's official beginning came in 1996, when the group proudly announced responsibility for a massacre of refugees. But the real roots of the KLA, and the war in Kosovo, are the macroeconomic policies and institutions of imperialism. An article in Polyconomics, run by a former Wall Street Journal editor, found in a report that "ordinary people turned into ethnic monsters only after all their options for a normal economic life were destroyed. "Ethnic cleansing" arrived only after "shock therapy" had done its work." Canadian author Michel Chussodovsky explained in greater detail:

"The break-up of the Yugoslav federation bears a direct relationship to the program of macro-economic restructuring imposed on the Belgrade government by its external creditors. This program, adopted in several stages since 1980, contributed to triggering the collapse of the national economy, leading to the disintegration of the industrial sector and the piecemeal dismantling of the welfare state. Secessionist tendencies, feeding on social and ethnic divisions, gained impetus precisely during a period of brutal impoverishment of the Yugoslav population."

It would be absurd to credit the KLA with any positive political leanings; KLA leader Jakup Krasniqi conceded, "I do not think we have an ideology. We do not have time for such things." Nevertheless, both the leadership and the rank and file have an agenda that they sought to promote through war and to which they remain committed. The ultimate goal was to create an ethnically pure state where all other ethnicities would be driven out or killed, to finish the effort that began a half-century before through the collaboration of the Nazis and the KLA soldiers' "fathers and grandfathers [who] fought with fascist Italy against the Serbs during World War II." (NYT) An article in Foreign Affairs described the current movement:

"[It is] led by sons and grandsons of the rightist Albanian fighters either the heirs of those who fought in the World War II fascist militias and the Skanderbeg volunteer SS division raised by the Nazis, or the descendents of the rightist Albanian kacak rebels who rose up against the Serbs 80 years ago. The decision by the KLA commanders to dress their police in black fatigues and order their fighters to salute with a clenched fist to the forehead has led many to worry about these fascist antecedents. Following such criticism, the salute has been changed to the traditional open-palm salute common in the U.S. Army."

It should be noted that the US worried not that the KLA was a fascist organization, but that it would become evident that it was a fascist organization. With the clothing and salute abandoned, the KLA no longer appeared fascist on the outside; it is, however, still very much a fascist force on the inside. Another cause for concern in the imperialist network was the connection between the KLA and criminal syndicates in Albania, Turkey and the EU, particularly with respect to the KLA's heavy involvement in the heroin trade. However, this raised alarm primarily in Europe, where the issue was widely publicized, and did not disturb the CIA, which has long encouraged the drug trade as a source of revenue for its dirty wars.

Hashim Thaci, the head of the KLA, is a favorite of Madeleine Albright, James Rubin, and the rest of the imperialist establishment. It is easy to see why: he murdered rival leaders in the KLA and Albanian nationalist movements and killed, arrested, or purged anyone who appeared hostile, according to The New York Times. As an Albanian nationalist aligned with Ibrahim Rugova noted, "cadavers have never been an obstacle to Thaci's career." Very similar to many other past and present agents of imperialism, he is a ruthless military leader who made the KLA powerful by "threaten[ing] to kill villagers and burn their homes if they did not join the KLA," according to the US State Department, which encouraged Americans to send him money.

To accomplish their goals, Thaci and the KLA began with assassinations and bombings that were intended to increase repression by Belgrade. "Any armed action we undertook would bring retaliation against civilians," Thaci explained. "We knew we were endangering a great number of civilian lives." But, as Dug Gorani, a non-KLA Kosovo Albanian negotiator said, "The more civilians were killed, the chances of international intervention became bigger, and the KLA of course realized that. There was this foreign diplomat who once told me, 'Look, unless you pass the quota of five thousand deaths you'll never have anybody permanently present in Kosovo from foreign diplomacy.' " When attempts to create real carnage failed, the US ambassador announced a massacre in the village of Racak that served as the pretext for the war. Later, reports in two of France's largest newspapers and video from Associated Press TV journalists found major holes in the story, leading to the conclusion that the KLA faked the massacre by redressing and accumulating its own dead.

Working closely with the KLA throughout this entire period were the imperialist powers, notably the United States. Immediately before the war began, Robert Gelbard, the senior US envoy to the Balkans, called the KLA a terrorist organization. The State Department naturally labeled the KLA a terrorist organization, too, but then suddenly changed its mind so that people could send money to the group. It was still a terrorist organization, only now it was a US-supported terrorist organization.

A long list of agencies from the US and Europe aided the KLA. Jane's Defense Weekly, reporting "special forces involvement confirmed," said that units from Britain, France, the US, and other NATO countries were working undercover in Kosovo. The London Telegraph reported that the KLA was working with the US paramilitary mercenary company, MPRI, and that the British special forces unit, SAS, ran KLA training camps in Albania, from which KLA soldiers entered Kosovo. The French press agency, AFP, reported that three French army officers died while commanding the KLA. PBS "Newshour" reported that US veterans were training KLA soldiers. The Sunday Times wrote that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe gave the KLA equipment to communicate with NATO. The paper also interviewed multiple sources working for the CIA who admitted to training KLA soldiers and "giving covert assistance to the KLA."

Most important of all in supporting the KLA was probably the collaborative effort of the CIA and the German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst, which together supplied funding, German uniforms, East German weapons, other equipment, and training to the KLA. The entire imperialist network was thus at war with Yugoslavia long before the official fighting began.

It has been shown, using exclusively pro-US sources, that the imperialist countries played a central role in creating, training, and arming the KLA, a band of proudly fascist terrorists. The more interesting and significantly more important question of why imperialism allied itself with the fascist terrorists and concocted the war against Yugoslavia is a subject for another essay, but an uncharacteristically insightful explanation was provided by President Clinton: "If we're going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key .... That's what this Kosovo thing is all about."

Email your feedback on this article to impact-press@mindspring.com.

Other articles by David Mericle: