Why Albanians Fled During NATO Bombing
NATO claims it bombed Yugoslavia in the Spring of 1999 to stop Yugoslav war crimes against ethnic Albanians. These supposed crimes supposedly produced the much-televised Albanian flight from Kosovo.
Yugoslavia's new more-or-less Foreign Minister Svilanovich stands with NATO on the war crimes allegations. He has invited the NATO-controlled War Crimes Tribunal to set up shop in Belgrade and promises to help them hunt down Serbian leaders.
As far as the evidence hunt goes, the Tribunal hasn't done too well. It employed hundreds of forensic experts and dug up Kosovo for a year (under KLA direction) but found no evidence of Serbian atrocities. That failure hasn't fazed NATO. Bolstered by the improved attitude from Belgrade (Mayor Milan Protich was quoted in the 10-25 'Independent' calling for the "de-Nazification" of the Yugoslav government) the NATO propaganda machine has stepped up attacks against ousted President Miloshevich and others, arguing that the exodus of all those ethnic Albanians proves there must have been atrocities. Why else would they leave?
Why else indeed?
In some areas the Army did relocate people, but not out of Kosovo. The idea was to move them further into Serbia. You must understand, the Army was presented with a most difficult situation. A major clash was expected between NATO and Yugoslav troops. This kind of NATO ground attack was a special threat in the area bordering Albania.
Under those circumstances, with the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] attacking inside Kosovo and from Albania and with NATO poised to invade and about to start bombing from airplanes, how could the Yugoslav Army hope to protect that border population?
You should understand, the Army had had an experience like this in Vukovar. That was in 1991. Civilians were trapped in a battlefield between the Army and the Croatian Ustashe [neo-fascist] secessionists. To avoid making the same mistake again, the Army wanted to empty a space 40 kilometers deep so people wouldn't be trapped between the Army, NATO and the KLA.
At the same time there was a big increase in the number of KLA terrorists illegally crossing the Albanian border into Kosovo. In that situation there were bound to be some unhappy events. It was a most difficult situation, you see.
During this period, the Yugoslav government tried to organize local Albanian Crisis Centers to distribute humanitarian aid, and also a Headquarters to work with the Yugoslav Army, organizing ethnic Albanians who lived in the danger zone to move deeper into Serbia, away from potential fighting.
But those ethnic Albanians who did cooperate with the Army became a target for the KLA. Many were assassinated.
The reason they left and went out of Serbia, to Albania or Macedonia, is rooted in the cultural history of Albanian people living in Kosovo. Because of their mindset, which I think people in the West thoroughly misunderstand, the KLA had a big impact when it attacked and executed Albanians who cooperated with the government.
KLA was never what you mean by a guerilla movement. It was a foreign-organized group of terrorists delivering a message.
The so-called 'International Community,' that is, NATO, had trumpeted that they had plans for the Albanians, that they would give them independence and a Greater Albania, make them a major power in southern Europe. So there was this intense propaganda from the West for ten years and at the same time the crisis in the Albanian community was quite pronounced. Even before the bombing, some Albanian representatives asked the Yugoslav government to allow their people to form convoys and go toward Macedonia, basically to save themselves from this crisis.
The fighting between the Yugoslav Army and the KLA did have a big effect. So did the bombing, which started a bit later; it had a critical psychological effect. But this was related to the KLA. KLA was trying to fulfill their own overall goals. To achieve these goals, which involved proving to the West they could deliver, they told the ethnic Albanians to leave. And this was not a polite request. It was an order. At the same time the KLA, their special units, and then a bit later NATO bombers, were attacking traffic on important roads that led to inner Serbia.
It dissuaded them from going further into Serbia and it also told them: Yugoslavia can't help you. Meanwhile the United States was training their KLA proxies in Albania including in how to wage this sort of psychological warfare, to deliver the message that Albanians should temporarily vacate Serbia. And the U.S. was telling Albanians, "We'll help you secede; we'll make you a star. But if you reject our help we'll kill you."
Historically, the Kosovo Albanians were never involved in frontal battles. Instead, they had groups of warriors called kachatzi, small bands of fighters that used hit and run tactics. But they never kept large scale weapons to use in frontline war. Part of the purpose of the Western training was to get the KLA to surpass small group combat and become an army able to carry out NATO's commands throughout Kosovo. NATO's foot soldiers.
To this end, one KLA group left Kosovo and went to Albania where they were trained by the Americans, and by the way, they became the core of what is now called the Kosovo Protection Corps. They marched back into Kosovo with NATO in June, 1999 and seized government offices and facilities and drove out hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma ["Gypsies"] Jews, pro-Yugoslav Albanians and others.
We can see the results of the action of exactly those forces today. NATO planned the expulsion of 350,000 people. Without NATO's approval and instructions, these KLA, whom NATO had trained and brought back to Kosovo, would never have attempted this mass expulsion. Impossible. NATO was eliminating a potentially rebellious population.
And remember, they didn't expel only non-Albanians. Perhaps the most important group was Albanians who in any official capacity had helped the Yugoslav government. They had to go. NATO wanted the ethnic Albanians who stayed in Kosovo to be without a Yugoslav alternative.