Kosovo: The Myth of Liberation

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The latest outbreak of violence between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo last month revealed once again the stark truth behind Nato's US-led war against Serbia in 1999, and the subsequent colonial-style administration of the province.

With 31 dead and a reported 3,000 Serbs ethnically cleansed, defence minister Geoff Hoon announced that he was urgently dispatching 750 British soldiers to quell the violence - while in the same breath absurdly claiming that 'very considerable progress' had been made in inter-ethnic relations since 1999.

In fact Nato's war succeeded only in ethnically cleansing 200,000 Serbs and Roma from Kosovo, and giving the Albanians the upper hand over the Serbs, instead of the other way round. Just as the prewar situation had been oppressive for Albanians, so the postwar one has been for the remaining Serbs. This is hardly progress.

Since the war barely a month has passed without serious inter-ethnic violence. The latest incident, involving the drowning of three Albanian children chased into a river by Serbs after a Serb was shot and seriously wounded, provoked mass anti-Serb attacks. Initially spontaneous, these attacks were soon being orchestrated by radical Albanian nationalists who believe that a US preoccupied with Iraq will accept the fait accompli of an 'ethnically pure' Kosovo as a quick fix to the province's destabilising violence.

But other nationalists, such as the former Kosovo Liberation Army leader during the war, Hashim Thaci, have been keenly aware that conflict in Kosovo is the last thing the US needs at the moment. Thaci has been busy imploring Albanians not to jeopardise their close relationship with the US, fearing that Washington might eventually opt for the partition of the province recently petitioned for by the newly elected Serbian government.

The other ingredient in this explosive mix is the fact that Nato's 1999 war has not brought anything like real democracy to Kosovo - unless democracy means replacing rule from Belgrade with rule 'from 5,000 miles away in New York', to quote the complaint of Kosovo's sham prime minister Bajram Rexhepi, elected but powerless.

Real power in Kosovo is wielded by Harri Holkeri, the UN's colonial-style governor, who administers the province on trust for the US, shored up by 20,000 troops who show no signs of leaving five years after the war's end.

Kosovo is a mini Iraq. The US and Britain have brought the province neither peace nor democracy. Why should anyone think they can do better in Iraq itself?