500,000 Kosovans now refugees

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at yale.edu
Sun Mar 28 13:38:37 PST 1999

See attached article.

At what level of atrocities will the NATO bombings and intervention be justified?

Or do we just get to play the ex post game of blaming NATO for "forcing" Milosevic to speed up his timetable of cultural genocide and ethnic clensing? Refugees have been streaming out of Kosovo for weeks, even months, so even the argument that this is was internal conflict was made a hash of when Serbs began driving refugees across the border. Note that 500,000 Kosovans is over one-third of the ethnic Albania population of Kosovo.

Brett Knowlton raised the idea that a diplomatic or negotiated settlement was possible with a regime involved in this kind of murder and cultural destruction. The idea that Milosevic was emotionally torn between granting autonomy to Kosovo and committing mass evictions and murder is just not credible. As to whether the motives of NATO are humanitarian, I don't know or care, but the ends being fought for are moral and humanitarian regardless of motives. And given the level of atrocities in Kosovo, it is hard to argue bombing could conceivably make things worse.

If anything, Milosevic's acceleration of ethnic clensing just shows that any agreement would have just been an excuse to buy time for his atrocities; it appears that NATO should have stuck to its timelines for bombing weeks ago, since Milosevic obviously used the time to deploy his army to be in a position to clense the country. One-third of a country are not made refugees this quickly without planning and preparation. It is all just more evidence of Milosevic's lack of good faith in all bargaining up to this point.

--Nathan Newman

NATO: 500,000 ethnic Albanians Displaced by Serbs

CNN 28 March

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- More than half a million ethnic Albanian refugees have fled what NATO calls Yugoslavia's "scorched-earth policy" in Kosovo, creating the beginnings of a humanitarian crisis, an alliance spokesman said Sunday.

"This is now a systematic campaign against the Kosovo population at large," said NATO spokesman Jamie Shea. "We are seeing reports of ethnic cleansing operations going on in a number of areas.

"Even more alarming," Shea said of the refugees now streaming across the border into Albania and Macedonia, "is that the majority of these people are women and children. What has happened to the males between the ages of 16 and 60?"

Refugees were reporting that the men in their families were being separated from them as they were forced from their homes.

"Fortunately, I thank God, I saved my 15-year-old son," said Fehmije Haxhiolli, who escaped into Albania with an extend family of 30. "I put a dress on him and a shawl and the Serbs thought he was a woman."

Haxhiolli said the Serbs told the family they would be shot if they were still in Kosovo the following morning.

The Yugoslav army and Serbian special police forces were pursuing ethnic Albanians relentlessly, NATO said, chasing them from their homes before burning houses to the ground. Ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova was reported to be in hiding, his home burned, Shea said.

"Whether we like it or not we have to recognize that we are on the brink of a major humanitarian disaster in Kosovo the likes of which have not been seen in Europe since the closing stages of World War II," he said, adding that more than 500,000 ethnic Albanians have now been displaced from their homes in Kosovo.

Bosnian veterans reported in Kosovo

The Serbs' attacks have worsened, NATO said, since the advent of bombing earlier this week. NATO's campaign was launched to try to force Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign a peace agreement that would stop the conflict between the Serbs and ethnic Albanians who make up the majority of the Kosovo province. NATO said its bombing campaign would continue in an effort to stop these "genocidal" attacks, and said it was collecting evidence for use in possible war crimes prosecutions in the future.

"We're collecting information on Serbian security forces," said British Defense Secretary George Robertson. "Those carrying out acts are committing war crimes. Those in authority can also be brought to justice."

A paramilitary commander known as Arkan is believed to be among those in charge in Kosovo. Arkan's forces were accused of widespread atrocities during the Bosnian war.

"He is a notorious and noxious thug," Robertson said. "The fact that Milosevic has recruited people such as Arkan and sent them to Kosovo tells us all anyone needs to know about his true intentions."

Russian peace mission begins

Meanwhile, three liberal Russian politicians launched a mission calling for a resumption of peace talks and an end to the bombings.

"If the situation continues in the direction it is going now, we are confronted with a serious danger of the Cold War re-emerging," said former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar after a meeting with U.S. Balkan envoy Richard Holbrooke in Budapest, Hungary.

Gaidar was joined by former Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov and former Deputy Prime Minster Boris Nemtsov. The three hope to meet with Yugoslav officials, U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Pope John Paul II.

Holbrooke said after meeting with the trio that the U.S. position on the crisis had not changed.

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