Genocide in Kosovo?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Nov 1 13:41:37 MST 1999

The Los Angeles Times

Friday, October 29, 1999


Yugoslavia: Uncertainties are immense, but body counts still don't show
extermination plan.

By Alexander Cockburn

So, is there serious evidence of a Serbian campaign of genocide in Kosovo?
It's an important issue because the NATO powers, fortified by a chorus from
the liberal intelligentsia, flourished the charge of genocide as
justification for bombing that destroyed much of Serbia's economy and
killed about 2,000 civilians.

Whatever horrors they may have been planning, the Serbs were not engaged in
genocidal activities in Kosovo before the bombing began. They were fighting
a separatist movement, led by the Kosovo Liberation Army, and behaving with
the brutality typical of security forces. One common estimate of the number
of Kosovar Albanians killed in the year before the bombing is 2,500. With
NATO's bombing came the flights and expulsions and charges that the Serbs
were accelerating a genocidal plan; in some accounts, as many as 100,000
were already dead. An alternative assessment was that NATO's bombing was
largely to blame for the expulsions and killings.

After the war was over, on June 25, President Clinton told a White House
news conference that tens of thousands of people had been killed in Kosovo
on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's orders. A week before came the
statement from Geoff Hoon of the British Foreign Office that, according to
reports, mostly from refugees, it appeared that about 10,000 Kosovar
Albanians had been killed in more than 100 massacres.

Of course, the U.S. and British governments had an obvious motive in
painting as horrifying a picture as possible of what the Serbs had been up
to, since the bombing had come under increasingly fierce attack, with rifts
in the NATO alliance.

The NATO powers had plenty of reasons to rush charges of genocide into the
headlines. For one thing, it was becoming embarrassingly clear that the
bombing had inflicted no significant damage on the Serbian army. All the
more reason, therefore, to propose that the Serbs, civilians as well as
soldiers, were collectively guilty of genocide and thus deserved everything
they got.

Teams of forensic investigators from 15 nations, including a detachment
from the FBI, have been at work since June and have examined about 150 of
400 sites of alleged mass murder.

There's still immense uncertainty, but at this point it's plain that there
are not enough bodies to warrant the claim that the Serbs had a program of
extermination. The FBI team has made two trips to Kosovo and investigated
30 sites containing nearly 200 bodies.

In early October, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported what the Spanish
forensic team had found in its appointed zone in northern Kosovo. The U.N.
figures, said Perez Pujol, director of the Instituto Anatomico Forense de
Cartagena, began with 44,000 dead, dropped to 22,000 and now stand at
11,000. He and his fellows were prepared to perform at least 2,000
autopsies in their zone. So far, they've found 187 corpses.

A colleague of Pujol, Juan Lopez Palafox, told El Pais that he had the
impression that the Serbs had given families the option of leaving. If they
refused or came back, they were killed. Like any murder of civilians, these
were war crimes, just as any mass grave, whatever the number of bodies,
indicates a massacre. But genocide?

One persistent story held that 700 Kosovars had been dumped in the Trepca
lead and zinc mines. On Oct. 12, Kelly Moore, a spokeswoman for the
International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, announced that the
investigators had found absolutely nothing. There was a mass grave
allegedly containing 350 bodies in Ljubenic that turned out to hold seven.
In Pusto Selo, villagers said 106 had been killed by the Serbs, and NATO
rushed out satellite photos of mass graves. Nothing to buttress that charge
has yet been found. Another 82 Kosovars allegedly were killed in Kraljan.
No bodies have been turned up.

Although surely by now investigators would have been pointed to all
probable sites, it's conceivable that thousands of Kosovar corpses await
discovery. As matters stand, though, the number of bodies turned up by the
tribunal's teams is in the hundreds, not thousands, which tends to confirm
the view of those who hold that NATO bombing provoked a wave of Serbian
killings and expulsions, but that there was and is no hard evidence of a
genocidal program.

Count another victory for the Big Lie. Meanwhile, the normally reliable
Society for Endangered People in Germany says 90,000 Gypsies have been
forced to flee since the Serbs left Kosovo, with the KLA conducting ethnic
cleansing on a grand scale. But who cares about Gypsies?


Alexander Cockburn writes for the Nation and other publications.

Louis Proyect

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