Fwd: Weekly Analysis October 18, 1999
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>Global Intelligence Update
>Weekly Analysis October 18, 1999
>Where Are Kosovo's Killing Fields?
>During its four-month war against Yugoslavia, NATO argued that
>Kosovo was a land wracked by mass murder; official estimates
>indicated that some 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed in a Serb
>rampage of ethnic cleansing. Yet four months into an international
>investigation bodies numbering only in the hundreds have been
>exhumed. The FBI has found fewer than 200. Piecing together the
>evidence, it appears that the number of civilian ethnic Albanians
>killed is far less than was claimed. While new findings could
>invalidate this view, evidence of mass murder has not yet
>materialized on the scale used to justify the war. This could have
>serious foreign policy and political implications for NATO and
>On Oct. 11, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
>Republic of Yugoslavia (ICTY) reported that the Trepca mines in
>Kosovo, where 700 murdered ethnic Albanians were reportedly hidden,
>in fact contained no bodies whatsoever. Three days later, the U.S.
>Defense Department released its review of the Kosovo conflict,
>saying that NATO's war was a reaction to the ethnic cleansing
>campaign by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. His campaign was
>"a brutal means to end the crisis on his terms by expelling and
>killing ethnic Albanians, overtaxing bordering nations'
>infrastructures, and fracturing the NATO alliance."
>The finding by The Hague's investigators and the assertion by the
>Pentagon raise an important question. Four months after the war
>and the introduction of forensic teams from many countries,
>precisely how many bodies of murdered ethnic Albanians have been
>found? This is not an exercise in the macabre, but a reasonable
>question, given the explicit aims of NATO in the war, and the
>claims the alliance made on the magnitude of Serbian war crimes.
>Indeed, the central justification for war was that only
>intervention would prevent the slaughter of Kosovo's ethnic
>On March 22, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of
>Commons, "We must act to save thousands of innocent men, women and
>children from humanitarian catastrophe, from death, barbarism and
>ethnic cleansing by a brutal dictatorship." The next day, as the
>air war began, President Clinton stated: "What we are trying to do
>is to limit his (Milosevic's) ability to win a military victory and
>engage in ethnic cleansing and slaughter innocent people and to do
>everything we can to induce him to take this peace agreement."
>As NATO's first intervention in a sovereign nation, the war in
>Kosovo required considerable justification. Throughout the
>year, NATO officials built their case, first calling the situation
>in Kosovo "ethnic cleansing," and then "genocide." In March, State
>Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters that NATO did not
>need to prove that the Serbs were carrying out a policy of genocide
>because it was clear that crimes against humanity were being
>committed. But just after the war in June, President Bill Clinton
>again invoked the term, saying, "NATO stopped deliberate,
>systematic efforts at ethnic cleansing and genocide."
>Indeed, as the months progressed, the estimates of those killed by
>a concerted Serb campaign, dubbed Operation Horseshoe, have
>swollen. Early on, experts systematically generated what appeared
>to be sober and conservative estimates of the dead. For example,
>prior to the outbreak of war, independent experts reported that
>approximately 2,500 Kosovar Albanians had been killed in the
>Serbian ethnic cleansing campaign.
>That number grew during and after the war. Early in the campaign,
>huge claims arose about the number of ethnic Albanian men feared
>missing and presumed dead. The fog and passion of war can explain
>this. But by June 17, just before the end of the war, British
>Foreign Office Minister Geoff Hoon reportedly said: "According to
>the reports we have gathered, mostly from the refugees, it appears
>that around 10,000 people have been killed in more than 100
>massacres." He further clarified that these 10,000 were ethnic
>Albanians killed by Serbs.
>On Aug. 2, the number jumped up by another 1,000 when Bernard
>Kouchner, the United Nations' chief administrator in Kosovo, said
>that about 11,000 bodies had already been found in common graves
>throughout Kosovo. He said his source for this information was the
>ICTY. But the ICTY said that it had not provided this information.
>To this day, the source of Kouchner's estimates remains unclear.
>However, that number of about 10,000 ethnic Albanians dead at the
>hands of the Serbs remains the basic, accepted number, or at least
>the last official word on the scope of the atrocities.
>Regardless of the precise genesis of the numbers, there is no
>question that NATO leaders argued that the war was not merely
>justified, but morally obligatory. If the Serbs were not
>committing genocide in the technical sense, they were certainly
>guilty of mass murder on an order of magnitude not seen in Europe
>since Nazi Germany. The Yugoslav government consistently denied
>that mass murder was taking place, arguing that the Kosovo
>Liberation Army (KLA) was fabricating claims of mass murder in
>order to justify NATO intervention and the secession of Kosovo from
>Serbia. NATO rejected Belgrade's argument out of hand.
>Thus, the question of the truth or falsehood of the claims of mass
>murder is much more than a matter of merely historical interest. It
>cuts to the heart of the war - and NATO's current peacekeeping
>mission in Kosovo. Certainly, there was a massive movement of
>Albanian refugees, but that alone was not the alliance's
>justification for war. The justification was that the Yugoslav army
>and paramilitaries were carrying out Operation Horseshoe, and that
>the war would cut short this operation.
>But the aftermath of the war has brought precious little evidence,
>despite the entry of Western forensics teams searching for evidence
>of war crimes. Mass murder is difficult to hide. One need only
>think of the entry of outsiders into Nazi Germany, Cambodia or
>Rwanda to understand that the death of thousands of people leaves
>massive and undeniable evidence. Given that many NATO leaders were
>under attack at home - particularly in Europe - for having waged
>the war, the alliance could have seized upon continual and graphic
>evidence of the killing fields of Kosovo to demonstrate the
>necessity of the war and undercut critics. Indeed, such evidence
>would help the alliance undermine Yugoslav President Slobodan
>Milosevic, by helping to destroying his domestic support and
>energizing his opponents.
>As important, no one appears to really be trying to recover all of
>the Kosovo war's reported victims. Of the eight human rights
>organizations most prominent in Kosovo, none is specifically tasked
>with recovering victims and determining the cause of death. These
>groups instead are interviewing refugees and survivors to obtain
>testimony on human rights violations, sanitizing wells and
>providing mental health services to survivors. All of this is
>important work. But it is not the recovery and counting of bodies.
>It is important to note that a sizable number of people who resided
>in Kosovo before the war are now said to be unaccounted for - 17,
>000, according to U.S. officials. However, the methodology for
>arriving at this number is unclear. According to NATO, many
>records were destroyed by the Serbs. Certainly, no census has been
>conducted in Kosovo since the end of the war. Thus, it is
>completely unclear where the specific number of 17,000 comes from.
>There are undoubtedly many missing, but it is unclear whether these
>people are dead, in Serbian prisons - official estimates vary
>widely - or whether they have taken refuge in other countries.
>The dead, however, have not turned up in the way that the West
>anticipated, at least not yet. The massive Trepca mines have so far
>yielded nothing. Most of the dead have turned up in small numbers
>in the most rural parts of Kosovo, often in wells. News reports say
>that the largest grave sites have contained a few dozen victims;
>some officials say the largest site contained far more,
>approximately 100 bodies. But the bodies are generally being found
>in very small numbers - far smaller than encountered after the
>Only one effort now underway may shed light on just how many ethnic
>Albanian civilians were - or weren't - killed by Serb forces. The
>ICTY is coordinating efforts to investigate war crimes in Kosovo.
>Like human rights organizations, the tribunal's primary aim is not
>to find all the reported dead. Instead, its investigators are
>gathering evidence to prosecute war criminals for four offenses:
>grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, violations of the laws of
>war, and genocide and crimes against humanity. The tribunal
>believes that it will, however, be able to produce an accurate
>death count in the future, although it will not say when. A
>progress report may be released in late October, according to
>tribunal spokesman Paul Risley.
>Under the tribunal's guidance, police and medical forensic teams
>from most NATO countries and some neutral nations are assigned to
>investigate certain sites. The teams have come from 15 nations:
>Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany,
>Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the
>United Kingdom and the United States. The United States has sent
>the largest team, with 62 members. Belgium, Germany and the United
>Kingdom have each sent teams of approximately 20. Most countries
>dispatched teams of fewer than 10 members.
>So far, investigators are a little more than one quarter of the way
>through their field work, having examined about 150 of 400
>suspected sites. The investigative process is as follows: ICTY
>investigators follow up on reports from refugees or KFOR troops to
>confirm the existence of sites. Then the tribunal deploys each team
>to a certain region and indicates the sites to be investigated.
>Sites are either mass graves - which according to the tribunal
>means more than one body is in the grave - or crime scenes, which
>contain other evidence. The teams exhume the bodies, count them,
>and perform autopsies to determine age, gender, cause of death and
>time of death all for the purpose of compiling evidence for future
>war crimes trials. The by-product of this work, then, is the actual
>number of bodies recovered. The investigations will continue next
>year when the weather allows further exhumations.
>In the absence of an official tally of bodies found by the teams,
>we are forced to piece together anecdotal evidence to get a picture
>of what actually happened in Kosovo. From this evidence, it is
>clear that the teams are not finding large numbers of dead, nothing
>to substantiate claims of "genocide."
>The FBI's work is a good example. With the biggest effort, the
>bureau has conducted two separate investigations, one in June and
>one in August, and will probably be called back again. In its most
>recent visit, the FBI found 124 bodies in the British sector of
>Kosovo, according to FBI spokesman Dave Miller. Almost all the
>victims were killed by a gunshot wound to the head or blunt force
>trauma to the head. The victims' ages were between 4 and 94. Most
>of the victims appeared to have been killed in March and April. In
>its two trips to Kosovo since the war's end, the FBI has found a
>total of 30 sites containing almost 200 bodies.
>The Spanish team was told to prepare for the worst, as it was going
>into Kosovo's real killing fields. It was told to prepare for over
>2000 autopsies. But the team's findings fell far short of those
>expectations. It found no mass graves and only 187 bodies, all
>buried in individual graves. The Spanish team's chief inspector
>compared Kosovo to Rwanda. "In the former Yugoslavia crimes were
>committed, some no doubt horrible, but they derived from the war,"
>Juan Lopez Palafox was quoted as saying in the newspaper El Pais.
>"In Rwanda we saw 450 corpses [at one site] of women and children,
>one on top of another, all with their heads broken open."
>Bodies are simply not where they were reported to be. For example,
>in July a mass grave believed to contain some 350 bodies in
>Ljubenic, near Pec - an area of concerted fighting - reportedly
>contained only seven bodies after the exhumation was complete.
>There have been similar cases on a smaller scale, with initial
>claims of 10 to 50 buried bodies proven false.
>Investigators have frequently gone to reported killing sites
>only to find no bodies. In Djacovica, town officials claimed that
>100 ethnic Albanians had been murdered but reportedly alleged that
>Serbs had returned in the middle of the night, dug up the bodies,
>and carried them away. In Pusto Selo, villagers reported that 106
>men were captured and killed by Serbs at the end of March. NATO
>even released satellite imagery of what appeared to be numerous
>graves, but again no bodies were found at the site. Villagers
>claimed that Serbian forces came back and removed the bodies. In
>Izbica, refugees reported that 150 ethnic Albanians were killed in
>March. Again, their bodies are nowhere to be found. Ninety-six men
>from Klina vanished in April; their bodies have yet to be located.
>Eighty-two men were reportedly killed in Kraljan, but investigators
>have yet to find one of their bodies.
>Killings and brutality certainly took place, and it is possible
>that massive new findings will someday be uncovered. Without being
>privy to the details of each investigation on the ground in Kosovo,
>it is possible only to voice suspicion and not conclusive proof.
>However, our own research and survey of officials indicates that
>the numbers of dead so far are in the hundreds, not the thousands.
>It is possible that huge, new graves await to be discovered. But
>ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are presumably quick to reveal the
>biggest sites in the hope of recovering family members or at least
>finding out what happened. In addition, large sites would have the
>most witnesses, evidence and visibility for inspection teams. Given
>progress to date, it seems difficult to believe that the 10,000
>claimed at the end of the war will be found. The killing of ethnic
>Albanian civilians appears to be orders of magnitude below the
>claims of NATO, alliance governments and early media reports.
>How could this have occurred? It appears that both governments and
>outside observers relied on sources controlled by the KLA, both
>before and during the war. During the war this reliance was
>heightened; governments relied heavily on the accounts of refugees
>arriving in Albania and Macedonia, where the KLA was an important
>conduit of information. The sophisticated public relations machine
>of the KLA and the fog of war may have generated a perception that
>is now proving dubious.
>What is clear is that no one is systematically collecting the
>numbers of the dead in Kosovo even though such work would only help
>NATO in its efforts to remain in Kosovo and could possibly topple
>Milosevic. What can be learned of the investigations to date
>indicates deaths far below expectations. Finally, all of this
>suspicion can be easily dispelled by a comprehensive report by
>NATO, the United Nations, or the United States and other
>responsible governments detailing the findings of the forensic
>teams, and giving timeframes for completion and results. It is
>unclear that, even if the ICTY releases a report soon, it will
>address all these issues. The lack of an interim report indicating
>the discovery of thousands of Albanian victims strikes us as
>decidedly odd. One would think that Clinton, Blair and the other
>leaders would be eager to demonstrate that the war was not only
>justified, but morally obligatory.
>It really does matter how many were killed in Kosovo. The foreign
>policy and political implications are substantial. There is a line
>between oppression and mass murder. It is not a bright, shining
>one, but the distinction between hundreds of dead and tens of
>thousands is clear. The blurring of that line has serious
>implications not merely for NATO's integrity, but for the notion of
>sovereignty. If a handful - or a few dozen - people are killed in
>labor unrest, does the international community have the right to
>intervene by force? By the very rules that NATO has set up, the
>magnitude of slaughter is critical.
>Politically, the alliance depended heavily on the United States for
>information about the war. If the United States and NATO were
>mistaken, then alliance governments that withstood heavy criticism,
>such as the Italian and German governments, may be in trouble.
>Confidence in both U.S. intelligence and leadership could decline
>sharply. Stung by scandal and questions about its foreign policy,
>the Clinton administration is already having difficulty influencing
>world events. That influence could fall further. There are many
>consequences if it turns out that NATO's claims about Serb
>atrocities were substantially false.
>(c) 1999, Stratfor, Inc.
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