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« Deterring Iran | Main | Public intellectuals »

April 22, 2008

Comments

Ewan Watt

"At least 300,000 people were displaced, many of them women and children now living without shelter in the mountains and woods."

Who caused this? I think you'll find that the bulk of the displacements were caused by NATO's actions.

What of the 3,000 missing Serbs, the 80% of NATO's victims being civilians, the genocide at Dragodan that was never described as such because all the victims were not in 210 separate graves? What about Albright stating that the Serbs "needed a little bombing?" The cluster bombs in civilian areas of Belgrade?

What about Robin Cooke admitting on 18th January 1999 that "On its part, the Kosovo Liberation Army has committed more breaches of the ceasefire, and until this weekend was responsible for more deaths than the security forces." Yes, our KLA allies who were on the State Department's 'terrorist list' only weeks before the bombings.

Can you remember when we were told that 500,000 Kosovans had been massacred? Even NATO reports indicate that 'only' 2,100 had been killed. Yet, not even the NATO-funded court could prove to Milosevic that he was responsible for these atrocities. Why? Because NATO members were bankrolling the court.

I think it was Carl Bildt that stated if NATO stood idly by and did nothing about the ethnic cleansing (the largest post-war) of 300,000 Serbs from the Krajina, how could they complain if Milosevic attempted to do the same in Kosovo?

If your consistent Mr Kamm, why did you never call for humanitarian intervention when Serbs were being massacred?

Oliver Kamm

I realise from unwanted and unsought experience of such people that devotees of Slobodan Milosevic are mystics for whom the conventions of time and space are mere propaganda constructs of the New World Order. But I hadn't fully understood till I read Mr Watt's comment that, in this most disreputable of causes, time can run backwards too. So it is that Mr Watt has convinced himself that the mass exodus of Kosovar Albanians in late 1998 was caused by Nato's intervention in 1999.

The rest of his comment is quite as a pitiful and fraudulent. He quotes the late Robin Cook (note spelling) accurately but I'm perfectly certain he has no idea of the context. You can read Cook's statement in full here. It refers to a specific three-month period, after the agreement secured by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, on 16 October 1998, in which Belgrade would withdraw its military and police forces to "pre-crisis levels". Milosevic did no such thing, of course, for Mr Watt fails to evince the slightest understanding of the significance of Cook's reference to "this weekend". What had happened that weekend, and was the reason for Cook's statement, was the Racak massacre in which at least 45 unarmed civilians were murdered by Serb paramilitaries.

We were at no point, incidentally, "told that 500,000 Kosovans had been massacred". Watt's claim is arrant and ignorant nonsense. Not even John Laughland, notorious for misrepresenting a remark by by US Defence Secretary William Cohen that 100,000 were missing, has engaged in that sort of polemical distortion.

I have never heard of you, Mr Watt, and have no idea who you are. But you are no more welcome on this site than my reader David Irving would be if he posted here, and for the same reason. So kindly desist.

Gavin

Ewan,

Re: the displacement of Kosovan refugees. "Who caused this? I think you'll find that the bulk of the displacements were caused by NATO's actions."

I think you'll find the relevant comments, including statements by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on 5 October 1998, considerably predate NATO military actions which began in March 1999.

http://www.unhcr.org/admin/ADMIN/3ae68fd68.html

Opening Statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at the Forty-ninth Session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme , Geneva, Monday, 5 October 1998

"While the pattern of displacement is not always clear, and changes by the day, its causes on the contrary are sadly obvious: while there are – indeed – reports of serious human rights violations by the Kosovo Liberation Army, the main cause for civilians to flee is the excessive use of force by governmental security units, which is designed to terrorize and subjugate them."

Your denial of Serbian agency would be fractionally more credible if it didn't demand the use of time-travel by NATO to provoke them.

Ewan Watt

Ah great, the UN statistics. So are well all in complete agreement that the UN is an impartial expert agency?

Daniel Simpson

Our side's mistake was not in intervening but - even after his aggression in Bosnia - in underestimating the brutality that Milosevic was capable of.

Shurely shome mistake, Oliver?

If you're arguing that "genocide" was averted in Kosovo (though judged to have been perpetrated in Bosnia), how was the brutality underestimated exactly?

What form, moreover, did this underestimated brutality take (other than that which was ultimately averted by intervention to "reverse a humanitarian disaster", as you put it, with the loss of somewhere below 10 percent of the lives lost in Bosnia)?

Aren't you overdoing the rhetoric at the expense of the facts? In which case, shouldn't you ban yourself?

Ewan Watt

Mr Kamm, I entirely respect you as a write and deeply resent the comparison with David Irvine. How am I at all similar to Mr Irvine? Devotee of Slobodan Milosevic? Where's your evidence?

"The worst offense that can be committed by a polemic is to stigmatize those who hold a contrary opinion as bad and immoral men."

My point is that if we're to discuss the horrors perpetrated by the Milosevic regime we should also look at those crimes committed by the KLA. If we're to be serious about this moral crusade, surely we should be consistent?

The Racak massacre. Mr Kamm please note that Dr. Helena Ranta has claimed that these were not executions. Do you not find it odd that the full report has still not been released due to legal wrangling?

Regarding Cook's statement (thanks for the correction). All I pointed out was that crimes were being committed by the KLA, notably those at Dragodan. That's all. A group who - as I stated - were on the State Department's terrorist list. What's wrong with that?

I do apologise about the 500,000, although the State Department did report that 500,000 were either dead or missing. I was meant to have said 50,000.

I'm sorry that I'm not welcome on your blog. I always thought that allowing people to post their comments were welcome - even if they do "hold a contrary opinion". As you state, you know very little about me, therefore I'm perplexed why you rush to so many assertions?

I'll continue to enjoy your writings.

Ollie

I dunno - something about Ewan Watt's English. It's not bad. But there are some oddities ("I was meant to have said 50,000")that sound a bit non-native - even slavic - to me (I speak one slavic language decently well and have some knowledge of another). I suspect there's more to Mr, er... "Watt" than meets the eye...

PJD

"Racak massacre in which at least 45 unarmed civilians were murdered by Serb paramilitaries."

If you really think this is a true statement you are very much mistaken.

hasan prishtina

Mr Watt

The report on Racak has been released - seven years ago. Dr Ranta's views on the subject are not as you claim; this shows what she thinks of the 'nonsense' served up by Milosevic and his fellow-travellers about the massacre.

If Racak was not the killing of unarmed civilians, why did Dr Ranta testify at Slobodan Milosevic's trial at the Hague that they were 'unarmed civilians'?

hasan prishtina

Mr Watt

The report on Racak has been released - seven years ago. Dr Ranta's views on the subject are not as you claim; this shows what she thinks of the 'nonsense' served up by Milosevic and his fellow-travellers about the massacre.

If Racak was not the killing of unarmed civilians, why did Dr Ranta testify at Slobodan Milosevic's trial at the Hague that they were 'unarmed civilians'?

PJD

It is misleading to say Ranta testified that the dead were "unarmed civilians" at Milosevic's trial. What she said is that was her initial assessment.

The actual forensic evidence presented by the defence showed that the dead had been shot from different directions and all but one was from long distance.

The bodies were wearing many layers of clothing. Some of the corpses were wearing as many as three and four layers of clothing, also many were wearing heavy rubber boots, and military-style belts.

All the observers at the scene during the incident at Racak describe a battle between the KLA and the Yugoslav forces. This includes the written press, TV journalists who filmed the operation, and OSCE observers as well. Nobody from this group is on record as describing a "massacre" as having taken place.

hasan prishtina

It is misleading to say Ranta testified that the dead were "unarmed civilians" at Milosevic's trial.

Untrue. This is what Dr Ranta said in her evidence "I said that there was no indication of them being anything but unarmed civilians, and this was based on the findings of their clothing and the findings of corresponding exit and entrance wounds in the clothing they were wearing." Dr Ranta also denied that she had changed her opinion.

The actual forensic evidence presented by the defence showed that the dead had been shot from different directions and all but one was from long distance.

This is not the evidence provided by Dr Ranta. "I find it extremely difficult to figure out how these bullets and bullet fragments could have penetrated the ground had they been fired in the distance of hundred or 200 metres. It's impossible."

The bodies were wearing many layers of clothing. Some of the corpses were wearing as many as three and four layers of clothing, also many were wearing heavy rubber boots, and military-style belts.

One person had a cartridge belt. Dr Ranta's view was that "To me, this does not indicate anything. It is just an ornament."

As for the boots, "They were more shoes of -- of simple winter shoes worn by people who live in the 8 countryside in harsh conditions."

Judge May told the court that the layers of clothing were a matter for the judges rather than the witness. It should be said, however, that the massacre took place in the midst of a severe winter when the activities of the army, police and paramilitaries made gathering firewood more than risky. Other forms of heating had not been available in the area for many months.

Conor Foley

I had been wondering about where that figure of 300,000 came from. An Amnesty report, published in September 1998, says 180,000, but this probably only covers the period of July and August. However, as the UNHCR report shows, most of the displaced only left their homes on a temporary basis.

The 'humanitarian' criticism of the intervention is not that the Serbs were not committing atrocities, but how should the international community have responded to these. The death toll by the autumn of 1998 was several hundred. The arrival of the OSCE monitoring mission led to an initial reduction of the killing, but it rose again during the winter, partly because the KLA were deliberately trying to provoke the VJA with terrorist attacks.

Many of those killed at Racak were undoubtedly civilians, but I would not be so absolutely sure that none of them were KLA and William Walker's early and definitive assessment about this was either a serious blunder or part of a calculated US strategy to go for the military option.

Those of us who point out that NATO's intervention led to a dramatic upsurge in the killing are stating a simple fact. According to NATO's own figures the death toll at the start of the intervention was 1,500 and a significant number of those deaths came in February and March 1999, after the withdrawal of the OSCE monitors. The total subsequent death toll was between 5,000 and 10,000, which is equivalent to the number who died in Srebrenica. UN inaction was rightly blamed for that loss of life. NATO's decision to take military action in Kosovo deserves a similar scrutiny.

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