Hot Topic

Monday, April 16, 2007

Was there a war in Macedonia?

The conflict in 2001 between the Macedonians and the Albanians remained one of the biggest enigmas in the recent Macedonian history. Even today, five years from its outbreak and end, round tables and tribunes are being held, where still the answer to the question: what really happened in 2001 is searched. Who stood behind the Albanian armed rebellion? Was it imported or domestic and what was the real goal? Was it a war for human rights or for territories? Was it a rebellion, uprising, war or a conflict? And finally, can violence be used as a legitimate method for the realization of political goals? The conflict ended with the Framework Agreement, which though a constitutional warning earned the Macedonian Albanian community rights that no other smaller ethnical community in the European countries have.

With the statements of domestic and foreign direct and indirect actors in the conflict, in this news article we will try to clarify this most dark period since the Macedonian independence and we will try to at least give answers to the questions raised…
„The village of Tanushevci, 16.2.2001 – there was direct shooting between ARM members and four NLA members; the same day at about 15:55 in the forest, 150 meters from the old shop, two more armed people were seen raising a tent. The border security tried to identify them, however the two armed people ran and opened fire to the border security from many positions from the forest. From our side there were no casualties nor injured, while one person was killed from their side. After the retreat of our patrol, on the opposite side five people in black uniforms were seen (Kosovo Defense Corps) who opened fire to our border guards…”
This report was put on the working table of the Chief of ARM General Staff, Jovan Andreeveski, the morning of February 17, 2001. No one expected this to be the introduction to a new, to put it mildly, uncertain chapter of Macedonia, with the epilog of 71 casualties from Macedonian and 76 casualties from Albanian side, demolished villages, mosques and churches in the crisis regions, displaced families… the Minister of Interior Affairs at that time, Dosta Dimovska, today says that even since November 200, they received warnings for big terrorist and criminal groups.
”We received such information and took measures for intensive security and increased presence of police in the border region. However, the border between Macedonia and Kosovo was guarded from only one side, the Macedonian side, while from the Kosovo side, the border was not guarded,” stated Dimovska in an article for the “Utrinski Vesnik” newspaper.
A problem was the undivided authorizations between the Armed forces and the Police. “The Armed forces then were authorized for guarding the border line, and the Police for area of 10 around the border line,” said Dimovska. “The armed conflict commenced with Tanushevci and its occupation by armed terrorist groups and keeping hostage of the civilian population. The first actions of the police and the armed forces were against these terrorist groups. Soon the penetration of Kosovo terrorist groups was intensified, and the Albanian population soon started joining these terrorist groups,” says Dimovska.
The attacks on the police station in Tearce on January 22, 2001 and on the passenger train from Skopje to Kichevo on January 26, 2001, the first signals of violence which threatened Macedonia appeared. In this assault the police officer Momir Stojanovski from Kriva Palanka lost his life, while three police officers were wounded. The assault was executed by the people who after the shooting ran away with a vehicle towards Kosovo. The so called National Liberation Army (NLA) took responsibility for the two incidents.
These was seeming calmness and serenity among the government officials, however the foreign and domestic press wrote about the possibility of military crisis in Macedonia. The village of Tanushevci was mentioned as one of the critical places.

The story of A1 TV Station
For the citizens in Tanushevci, the closest shopping malls, the stores and petrol stations are in Kosovo, not in Macedonia. When the Serbian and Macedonian government reached an agreement on the border status, the population of the Albanian villages from both sides of the border strongly opposed. For many years people crossed the border, many of whom without appropriate traveling documents. It is believed that the agreement on the border initiated the first intrusion on the Kosovo-Macedonian border in February 2001.
On February 16, a team from A1 TV station went to investigate the speculations about Tanushevci and fell into the hands of NLA. The opposition party SDSM felt that this event was deliberately staged to take the attention off of the “tapping of politicians and news reporters” scandal and the required resignation by the Minister of Interior, Dosta Dimovska.
”What we believe to be a coincidence should probably make everyone in the State think, because with each big scandal by the Government, each political crises, such as the resignation by Dosta Dimivska now, the pillar of the inter-ethnic relations is used to hide the big scandals,” stated Vlado Buchkovski, then a spokes person of SDSM.
Towards the end of February, the village of Tanushevci was under siege for days by the armed Albanian paramilitary forces. The Government, however, decided to act in a “diplomatic” way.
“Getting near the houses to register if there are people, means at the same time acceptance of the armed conflict, and this is according to me the intent of this armed group. But we do not want to fall for this,” stated the Minister of Defense of that time, Ljuben Paunovski.
Pande Petrovski, the latter Chief of the General Staff of the Macedonian Armed Forces, in his witness of the war in the article by “Utrinski Vesnik” news paper stated:
“Since the very beginning it was practically a war. It was an aggression by a foreign state on our territory. The first actions which occurred in the area of Tanushevci and Malino Maalo were by fighters or members of the Kosovo Defense Corps which crossed our border and entered our territory. There were 25 people from the Kosovo Defense Corps and five people from the village of Tanushevci.”

Missed assessment by Trajan Gocevski
In the beginning the Macedonian Government reacted with underestimation, proclaiming NLA for inexistent phantom organization. During the first days of the attacks, the Prime Minister Ljupcho Georgievski announced: “We indeed feel and the assessment is that the situation in the State is stable. I will only remind that there are many States in the World where terrorist incident occur, and no one says that those countries are instable.”
The biggest mistake in the assessment of the situation was made by the at that time member of the National Security Council, PhD. Trajan Gocevski, who said: “My personal assessment is that currently Macedonia and its national security are in no way directly threatened. Within the State I believe that the institutions function on a satisfactory level. Certain appearances in Macedonia occur, which are not wanted at all, however if we take into consideration the latest announcements by the government organs, I feel that they are in a position where they control this situation.”
And while the government was completely disoriented, wondering what befall upon the state, NLA was slowly forming a corridor through which the foreign reporters easily reached their leaders, giving to the World the one-sided truth about the conflict between the Macedonians and the Albanians. The incapability of the Macedonian Government to handle the NLA threats was the first indicator that NLA was a lot stronger then what it was thought. It had five brigades which performed operations in Kumanovo (113 brigade), Skopje (114 brigade), the Tetovo region (112 brigade) and the areas around Gostivar (116 brigade) and Radusha (115).
According to Ahmeti, there were around 5 thousand members of NLA during the crises, however according to the foreign and domestic military analysis it counted not more than 2-3 thousand members, while the brigades were recognized and enumerated before the end of the conflict in the second half of 2001.
“We could not avoid the conflict with the Albanians from Kosovo who interacted with the Albanians who had settled in the Kumanovo-Tetovo villages near the border from 1981 and on,” says Professor Ljubomir Frchkovski who at that time was advisor to the President Boris Trajkovski.
“When the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) ended its part with the tension in Southern Serbia, they simply oriented themselves towards entering Macedonia, because those were groups who did not think of disarming themselves and who made business of the war. From the NLA communiqués it could have been deducted that it was a war with racist program, a war for territories and a war against the Slavic population, and later it transformed itself into a war for rights,” witnesses Frchkovski.

Moujahedines in NLA
Among the NLA there were those who called themselves “dogs of war”, who already had experience fighting in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. The greater part, however, were Kosovo people, former or at that time current members of the Kosovo Defense Corps, who were already trained and armed by foreign trainers during the NATO war against the regime of Slobodan Miloshevich. A group of moujahedines were a part of the forces, which fought for money in the Balkan wars in the period after the fall of Yugoslavia. The members of those groups were responsible for the greatest number of murders of the members of the Macedonian armed forces. Jezair Shakiri, known as commander Hodza or Dzeza, claimed that Ali Ahmeti in 1999 believed that the war operations in Macedonia will be possible in 2003 or 2003 at the earliest. Shakiri, who led the group which seized Tanushevci in February 2001 and who later was a commander in the KLA operations in Arachinovo in June 2001, claimed that Ahmeti had made that assessment upon the entrance of KFOR in Kosovo. Some of the leaders of NDP (Kastriot Hadziredza) were in close contact with the NLA core even before the conflict in Macedonia. They stimulated the meetings in Kosovo and Macedonia in the beginning of March 2001, where the Tetovo Old Fortress activities were discussed and agreed upon. They claim that if the public finds out the details of these meetings, the idea of who is who in the former NLA will be drastically changed. Fazli Veliu was a leader of the Kosovo National Movement, and one of the financiers of NLA and of other Albanian organizations. He is the uncle of Ali Ahmeti and they are both born in the Kichevo area. Fazli Veliu was in prison in Germany, where he waited to be extradited in Macedonia. On March 13, 2000, the Former Political Prisoners Organization gathered signatures in Macedonia, which were to be sent in the German embassy, protesting against the hand over of Veliu. The petition was signed by 20 members of parliament from the Albanian political parties. The Minister of Justice, Dzevdet Nasufu withdrew and chose not to activate the arrest warrant (the request) for the extradition of Velui and he was released from the prison in Germany. These reports give support to the speculations about the relations which existed before 2001 between the NLA and the Albanian political parties in Macedonia. It is believed that the NLA recruitment was enlarged from May mainly because of the military intervention of the Macedonian government and because of NLA self confidence, its success and the occupation of territory.
Hisni Shakiri, Member of Parliament from DPA, who became member of NLA, today says that his first meetings with NLA occurred in the beginning of March, 2001. “At that time NLA was already acting in the Karadak region”, narrates Shakiri today. “The meetings became more frequent in the middle of March in the time when NLA’s structures started appearing in uniforms in the bigger villages in the Lipkovo region”, told Veliu for the “Utrinski Vesnik” newspaper.

Shakiri’s Story
“In the middle of March, the situation worsened greatly. There was panic among the civilian population (the Albanians) due to the withdrawal of NLA from the Tetovo Old Fortress on March 24. This increased the insecurity with the Albanian population. This was in the period when there was great movement and I, as a member of parliament, took the obligation to join the NLA in order to give them political support, to encourage the population not to leave their homes and to inform the domestic and international public that the problem is internal and is not taken from abroad. Thus, on March 27, 2001 I informed all media that I am joining the NLA”, said Hisni Shakiri. “The fact that I joined NLA increased the moral among the young and a voluntarily mobilization commenced, which led to increased number of NLA soldiers. The population started feeling safer because now they were counting on a consolidated military force which would defend them from the possible attacks of the government forces. This created a favorable atmosphere and the population started thinking differently and they all decided to remain in their homes and to defend themselves together with NLA,” said Shakiri.
Shakiri claims that the good relations between the civilian Albanian population and the NLA contributed to the success of their military front. “The war was terrible and it took young lives every day” he says today. Two days after the attack in Tearce, NLA announced its program. “So far we the Albanians demanded our rights through a dialogue and in a peaceful manner by using the institutions, but they (the demands) were ignored.
The Macedonian authorities used state terror methods to answer to these peaceful demands, as was the case in Skopje, Ljubanishta, Tetovo, Gostivar and Kichevo. The Albanian-Macedonian dialogue that so far took place between anti-Albanian politicians the Macedonian authorities has no point. Successful negotiations with the Macedonians can be achieved only with international mediation. The National Liberation Army (NLA) is a force that will use weapons to fight until Macedonia becomes a constitutional Macedonian-Albanian State. We want to preserve Macedonia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We respect NATO and US interests, what we want in Macedonia is the rights that belong to us and we will fight until we get them” was stated in the proclamation.
Macedonia was viewed as the exception in the region for a long time and until 2001 was also considered the most successful country in regard to its integrity and cooperation with the EU and NATO. However, the international community started becoming more and more aware of the inter-ethnic tensions in Macedonia. The tense inter-ethnic climate explains the rapid escalation often conflict that jeopardized the country’s stability. There were fresh skirmishes in Tanushevci early in 2001 and the target was an ARM patrol which came under sniper fire twice. There were three casualties on March 4. An ARM vehicle that was driving towards the border post Tanushevci, municipality Ramno region, ran over an antitank mine, which killed Kirche Dimitrov and Dejan Jakimovski. Only fifteen minutes later and in the same region, Teodor Jakimovski - another ARM soldier was killed by sniper. However, the State officials still believed that diplomatic methods should be given priority.

Government Inaptitude
Why didn’t the Government react on time in order to prevent further spreading of the conflict, as the experts and the analysts advised? They (the experts and analysts) gave a timely warning that if the incidents are not isolated, the conflict will have to be resolved on a negotiating table. Dosta Dimovska, Minister of Interior at the time, looks back at the events that took place five years ago and states: “The non reformed security structure, the non existing coordination and the undetermined Government institution responsibilities created vacuum. That led to postponement of necessary action which had negative consequences. We were not properly equipped as a nation as well. We did not have military helicopters, did not have other equipment, warplanes war bought only after the conflict began. We did not even have specialized groups for handling such this type of terrorism. All of this made defense and rapid actions difficult. “
The opposition party SDSM at the time insisted that only with a fierce and direct military response in Tanushevci, Brest and Malino can the crisis be resolved. The Government still held back. The incidents and skirmishes in the Tanushevci region intensified.
Women and children started leaving the village of Goshince as well and sought cover at other places. They were running away from the village, which is near Kumanovo, and were mainly looking for cover in the village of Nikushtak (in the same region), the Chento neighborhood and the village of Arachinovo in the Skopje area. The Mayor of Arachinovo, Mr. Reshat Ferati, said that those are not refugees but guests that have arrived in the village because of the Islam holyday Bajram and are visiting their relatives.
Just when it was officially announced that the situation in Tanushevci is calming down, fierce clashes commenced in that region, the very next day on March 8. Goran Stojanovski, member of the Special MOI Unit was killed on March 9 in clashes around Brest. The police convoy had been dispatched from v. Goshince to v. Brest in order to hold talks with the local population and to distribute humanitarian aid, as well as to meet with the local leaders.
Conditions at the northern border were calm for several days with no skirmishes taking place. However, Macedonian police was around Malino Maalo, but not inside. Albanian terrorists were stationed inside it. The Government still held the position that an eventual armed action could further more radicalize inter-ethnic tensions in the country.
Towards the end of March 2001 the Macedonian Army started to shell the villages above Tetovo, and four days later the Government declared the action a success.
After that the NLA moved the conflict east of the Shar Planina (mountain) as well as north of Kumanovo, increasing by that the territory under its control. For many weeks the NLA occupied Albanian populated villages in the Kumanovo Valley in the northeast and around Tetovo and Gostivar in the west during several weeks.
Thousands of civilians were stuck between the Government Forces and the NLA. Macedonian Forces accused the NLA for using civilians as a live shield in order to prevent the Army to undertake a full scale offensive. NLA on the other hand dismissed those claims and insisted that the civilians do not trust the Macedonian authorities.
„It was a drama where we were all concerned and careful” says today Mrs. Dosta Dimovska. “None of us had war experience before. We didn’t think that Macedonia is going to have war and that we will have to face war situations, and we especially did not expect the penetration of terrorist groups in civilian p[populated areas and them using the civilian population as a life shied” witnesses Mrs. Dosta Dimovska in an “Utrinski Vesnik” daily newspaper article.

Shield of civilians
Using a Live wall of civilians has greatly aggravated defense and handling of terrorist groups. “Macedonia hasn’t had defense for that sort of terrorism. As opposed to us, the Army had such units but it wasted a lot of time arguing with the Government about the method of our defense”, says Dimovska today.
In mid March Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) extended its battle to Tetovo. After six days of combat in Tetovo, the Government finally declared ultimatum to the Albanian guerrillas to disarm and to leave the country or to face up full military intervention. The ultimatum was not met.MoI distributed weapons to the Army and Police reservists in Skopje, Gostivar, Tetovo, Kumanovo and surrounding villages. But KLA continued recruiting young people during the summer. It was perfectly clear that Macedonia is on the verge of civil war.
KLA gained ever-growing support from the local Albanian population. The occupation of Tanusevci, then Brest and Malino Maalo, generated ever more supporters and KLA members.As opposed to the government top that gave priority to the diplomatic methods in the beginning of crisis, the public demanded decisive and military resolution of the crisis.„Every wound is curable after early diagnosis. That means that the measures have to be timely, decisive and led by the masters in their trade. That means if we leave them to work undisturbed then that wound will continues to grow and it will be difficult to treat “, states the former Chief of ARM General Staff Mitre Arsovski.Dosta Dimovska, as a person that found herself in the most heated armchair during most turbulent times – Minister of Interior, from today’s perspective says that she didn’t expect that the conflict will gain such proportion. But after first successful action performed and liberation of large number of villages in Tetovo, there was a constant influx of new groups of rebels from Kosovo.
„Many places in the national border zone were used for that purpose, where previously a lot of weapons had been hidden“, explains Dimovska. „So the conflict developed and reached Skopje“.
The day when Tetovo exploded was 14 March – on the group rally organized by PDP political party and Albanian NGOs. There were 10 thousand Albanians on the meeting that chanted “KLA” and at the same time they were “greeted” by shots from the surrounding mountains and Tetovo fortress.
From that day onwards all illusions of the Macedonian government that Tanusevci is isolated incident of small group of extremists were blown away.
The shootings of the KLA forces lasted whole day. Dosta Dimovska, Minister of Interior, said that it is a matter of around 200 terrorists that immersed themselves into Tetovo area from Shara mountain.
That night the senior government had a meeting with the President Boris Trajkovski. “It is a matter of well-trained sabotage units.”, said the Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski.
At first there were noticeable differences in the positions for resolving the crisis, between the President Boris Trajkovski and the Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski. Trajkovski was more inclined for resolving the crisis with political instruments whilst Georgievski was for fierce military response.
„Whoever wants to instigate war in Macedonia needs to be aware that he will encounter strongest defense both from the Macedonian police and Army, and I have to say that we won’t choose allies in defending Macedonia “, said Georgievski.

Return of general Petrovski
General Pande Petrovski has back then returned from retirement and was appointed Deputy CHOD of the Macedonian Army and was tasked to lead the defense of the country after the attacks of Albanian guerrillas.
Vlado Popovski, member of the National Security Council, was the first to contact him, and arrange a meeting of the retired general and the top government in order to reactivate him and go into action against the rebels in Tetovo.
With regards to the meeting with the Prime Minister Georgievski, the general recounts:„I thought that he was intending to ask me for an advice, but after the discussion with the Prime Minister I understood that they need a man for resolution of the crisis with military instruments, as it is becoming for a country “, says Petrovski.
That very day Petrovski talked to the President as well. „I received all authority to establish an operational group of leaders out of those 500 retired in 2000 “, he said.„The third corps were disbanded, the second bitola corps were in a phase of disband, armored professional battalion disbanded, the border brigade in a phase of establishment. The only brigade existing was the First light infantry brigade in Stip“, recounts Petrovski in news article in „Утрински весник“.
„On the 21 March I reactivated myself and formed a team for planning of operation in Tetovo. I had five days to prepare for that operation“, he says.
However, some unexpected things happened.
„On the night of 23 March I waited till midnight to see the President and for him to sign the operation Plan. But he didn’t come “, says Petrovski. He went to see the defense Minister Ljuben Paunovski. „Minister, what are we doing, is the President coming?“, Petrovski asked.
„I’ll check“, replied Paunovski.
„After he checked he told me that the President is tired, because he came that night from a business trip and he won’t come but the next day, Saturday at noon, he will come to sign the decision for Tetovo operation “, recounts Petrovski.
„Tomorrow the units already occupied the positions of the whole location planned for that operation. I didn’t’ go to Tetovo that day but I had a contact with the commanders and we started with the actions“, he says.

Waiting for the President
Around 12 o’clock Petrovski called Vlado Popovski again.
He asked him: „Pande, where are you?“
„I am waiting for the President to sign for the operation“, Petrovski said.
„Can I see you for a minute“, Popovski asked.
„Yes, you can“, the general said.
„Vlado came, I told him to sit down, he said that he didn’t have time “, Petrovski recounts.
„Can you break up the terrorists“, Popovski asked.
„Damn it, Vlado, have you come to ask me that“, Petrovski siad. „Why is the President still not coming to sign the decision ?“.
„Well, that’s the problem, Vlado told me. Someone scared him in Geneva and now he is hiding, he doesn’t want to sign. Now me and Frckoski and few other MPs will go to convince him. But 12 o’clock passed and nothing happened. Ljupco Georgievski called me to ask where I was. I told him, here. He said – Come to see me. So I went and he wanted me to explain the whole plan once again “, Petrovski recounts. „I explained the plan in detail, by time and place, goal and method. But I felt that something is going on. I was about to engage into attack tomorrow, but something is not going well. I waited until 9 pm. Dosta Dimovska, Stojan Andov and others started coming. I thought, it’s Ok, something may come out of it “.
General Pande Petrovski recounts afterwards how the whole senior government, except President Trajkovski, gathered in the Defense Minister Cabinet.
„I went there also, everybody is present, having random chat and waiting for the President. Somewhere around 11 pm comes the Prime Minister. I see him, he sees me but I can tell from his face that he is in a good mood. He sits down, after 5-6 minutes Trajkovski comes in and gives me a dark look. Sits at his seat and tells me: 'Come on general, let’s see the plan once again '. I’ve laid down the map once again and started briefing on the operation for the fourth time that day. I finished and sat down. Everyone is quiet. Trajkovski asks how many victims there will be. How many on their side, how many on ours, etc. Stojan Andov says the plan is good, sign it! And all supported it. But Trajkovski keeps silent“.
„Midnight came. And tomorrow at 7 am I am about to move to attack. The commanders are awaiting. So I got up and told the President: Mr President, Listen to me! If you don’t intend to sign the decision, let’s go! It’s already too late. Tomorrow we cannot perform the operation! And then the President said: “Bring me the document“.
The President said the following words: „God help us and take care of us “. He crossed himself and signed the decision.I took the document and went out. They stayed. My people were waiting for me outside and I immediately left. I phoned the commanders and told them, we are acting upon the Plan tomorrow.
On 28 April near Tetovo village Vejce was the most horrible massacre in this war. From an ambush between Tetovo and Kosovo border, there were eight policemen and soldiers belonging to the special units of “Tigers” and “Wolves” killed and then massacred. The following were the policemen that were killed Marjan Bozinovski, Kire Kostadinovski, Bosko Najdovski and Ilce Stojanovski and soldiers Robert Petkovski, Boban Trajkovski, Mile Janeski and Igor Kosteski. The bloodshed further accentuated the conflict and caused ethnical chaos in Bitola, Veles and Skopje.
The massacre happened near Breza, more known as Vejacka Krivina, on the local road Selce - Vejce on the slopes of Shar Mountain, when they opened fire on two combat vehicles „hammer“ and two police „lada niva“ with total of 16 members of the patrol combined of army units „Wolves“ and police „Tigers“.

Horrible pictures
In addition to eight killed, there were six wounded. Branko Stojkovski, Jonce Dancev and Tose Krstevski from “the Wolves” and Goran Kolevski, Jovica Bozinovski and Zlatko Jankulovski from “the Tigers” received severe wounds.
After the killing, the band massacred the victims and then withdrew to the Shar Mountain villages and moved to the border zone, wherefrom it escaped into Kosovo.
he government spokesman Antonio Milososki described the crime as “horrifying massacre that demonstrates that Macedonian democracy is faced in combat with monsters, for which we have no choice, but to defeat them “.
The Minister of Interior Dosta Dimovska estimated that after this event the security of the country has significantly deteriorated.
The horrible pictures cause great revolt in Bitola, place where many of the killed came from, that climaxed into riots on the streets resulting in four wounded and 40 shops damaged, mostly of Muslim owners.
First speculations that emerged after the event were that the massacre was performed by Mujahadenis, and Daut Haradinai commanded the group – brother of the Kosovo politician Ramush Haradinai.
The eyewitnesses claimed that the crime was committed by a group of ten people with beards and long knives. The terrorists shot only one of the victims whilst the remaining seven were slaughtered in peaces or were burnt alive.
Daut Haradinai was a Chief of the Kosovo defense corps and it was easy to identify him because he was one-armed after losing his other arm in mine accident. His brother Ramush Haradinai is also under suspicion for responsibility of killing at least 50 Kosovo Serbs.
The ambush was set up on a very good location and the Macedonian Security Forces jeep was all drilled with grenades and machine gun fire from all sides.
Many evidence prove that the terrorists were informed about the movement of the combined police-military patrol by radio link. According to police sources, only few days after the horrible event, there was an attempt, for another ambush near the same place. However, the police found about it on time and broke up the terrorist group.
The police radio station „motorola“ was found on the place, which indicated that the terrorists have been in constant contact with some of the members of the Tetovo police all the time.

Hard moments
The director of the Public Security Agency of that time Zvonko Kashirski says today: „I was in Berovo when the Operational Centre in Skopje notified me that combined police-military patrol was ambushed near Vejce. First information was that there was only one wounded. I immediately set out for Skopje, but received information on the way that there is one killed, then they said two and at the end the number rose to eight “. He was notified about the event by the Minister of Interior Dosta Dimovska.
Speaking about that horrible event today, the former Minister of Interior Dosta Dimovska says: „ The director of the Public Security Kashirski briefed me about the case. For me Vejce was a tremendous shock. Regardless of the fact that we were serving at such high positions, first of all, we are humans and such situations require cold heads to finish the work. But those were very hard moments, we strived to investigate the whole case, to determine how all that happened. Yet that has not been cleared up and I hope that in the course of time this event will be completely cleared out“.
Daily newspaper „Vreme“ in December 2004 published that there was an official note in MoI that the Mayor of Tetovo Hazbi Lika, who was former Deputy Minister of Interiors, popular under the name of Commander Chela during the 2001 conflict, was one of the twenty participants in the Vejce massacre.
The police record, titled as „insight of the horrifying murder at the village of Vejce , Tetovo“, was registered under No. 470/13.11.2001, „Vreme“ wrote. According to the police record, as „Vreme“ states, the massacre was led by Ismaili Shinasi or known as Commander Hodza, Ceka Iljaz –Cori, and Ceka Bilal-Brada, all three from Kosovo. Ceka Iljaz was indebted with two million DM to pay out the foreign mercenaries from Western countries, Mujahedinis and volunteers from this country. Ceka Bilal, was member of the Kosovo intelligence service and one of the main organizers to supply KLA with arms.
From the “domestic” participants in the event, besides Hazbi Lika, Лика Иса-Илир, Самии Раим-Зогу, Самии Изаир-Шурли, Бајрами Асим-Пуча, Рифати Енвер-Џаџи, Абдурамани Исак, Велиу Муарем, Вејсели Екрем, Османи Фадил, Љуљзим Ислами, Емини Ибрахим, Џемаили Џават, Башким Рустеми-Кими, Османи Хајри, Хисен Џемаили, Емини Абаз и Емини Рамадан were also listed. Most of them were from Tetovo area and few from Vejce village.
Part of them were well trained as former members of KLA from Kosovo. Few days before the attack they were preparing themselves and did training in a camp in Kosovo that was very close to the Macedonian border. The sabotage-terrorist group had a specific task to eliminate live patrol force and to destroy the vehicles and military equipment. In cooperation with terrorist group from Tetovo, they have organized the ambush and performed the terrorist attack on the patrol of the Macedonian security forces, for which they had wide support from the local population too. After the attack some of them have found shelter in the villages of Vejce, Brodec and Bozovce and some have withdrawn to Kosovo, having mined the road of their withdrawal, the official MoI record stated according to „Vreme “.
During the 2001 conflict the national government acted under conditions of deep internal crisis. The Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and Minister of Interior Ljube Boskoski requested declaration of state of war, but the international community and part of the government disagreed. The President Boris Trajkovski was exposed to strong criticism by all internal stakeholders in power whilst the international community used him to implement the peacekeeping plan. Professor Ljubomir Frckoski who was advisor of Trajkovski says today:
„There was a great discord between President Trajkovski, Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski and Minister of Interior Ljube Boskoski. We had a problem coordinating the work. I believe that the main problem was not the indecisiveness of the President or his mentors. At the end he delivered the decisions“, Frckoski says.
Not only the security actions in Tetovo, but also in Kumanovo and Skopje were a problem, where the incapacity of our police was demonstrated.
„Then the system of lack of coordination emerged. We have to acknowledge that, not fool ourselves, because that is the reason we lost both lives and part of our political positions“, Frckoski says.
„I could never forgive the Macedonian part of the government for that lack of coordination which was paid by the lives of the Macedonian soldiers who were sitting targets for the bandits. That was horrible. The least informed and least victim was the President. I was a witness how that functioned and how bad it was. We had to create monumentality with articles in public.“, Frckoski says today.
The Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski was Defense Minister of that time as part of the Wide coalition government. Today he claims that at the beginning SDSM tried not to impede the government action against terrorist attacks.
„Though, he says, there was a long hesitation and tactics by the former government. An affair with the Defense Minister Ljuben Paunoski came to the surface and he was removed, so until establishment of the wide coalition government Defense Minister was actually the Prime Minister Georgievski “, Buckovski says.
Today Buckoski claims that when he undertook the function of Defense Minister, there was no one to pass him over the duty.
„I entered the Ministry of defense on 14 May and there was no one to give me the function. Paunoski was removed, Ljubco Georgievski didn’t even show up and I found myself face to face with reality “, Buckovski says.
The night on 13 May after the government election, the meeting finished somewhere before midnight and Buckovski and Crvenkovski went to Crvenkovski’s cabinet that he used as Chief of the Parliament opposition.
„I told him: 'Branko, pour a glass of whiskey for us to drink and make a toast because from now on God should save us “, Buckoski recounts.
„After a short while President Boris Trajkovski called us to go into his cabinet. I thought that he wanted to do small celebration on the occasion of election of wide coalition government and to wish us cooperation, as the Defense Minister, by the Constitution, is collaborator to the Supreme Commander too“, Buckovski says.
„But when we entered his cabinet, the Prime Minister Georgievski, General Jovan Andrevski, the CHOD, the new Minister of Interior Ljube Boskoski and Stojan Andov were already sitting there. There were two maps laid on the table. I understood that nothing will come out of the information that the international community has found a solution to the crisis. That night all my expectations that we are getting a large and wide coalition government able to politically resolve the crisis were put out. I faced the reality that the national and military top management are already planning operation in the Lipkovo region. Then it became clear that we are not formed as big coalition to resolve the crisis politically “, the Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski speaks for the news article in „Utrinski Vesnik “.
There were two opposing forces, Buckovski says. "One were 'the hawks' that wanted military solution, аnd me, Ilinka Mitreva and part of other structures were peacekeepers led by the late President Trajkovski “, Buckovski says.
„I think that it is high time for those who were directly involved in the crisis to speak up about the events in those several months from their perspective“, said the Prime Minister Vlado Buchkovski five years after the military conflict in Macedonia.
The former Minister for Interiors, Dosta Dimovska, who was replaced from that function, stayed closely connected to the President Trajkovski until the very end of the conflict. She stated that she saw difference in the approach that Gjorgievski and Trajkovski wanted to use to resolve the crisis.
„Gjorgievski and Trajkovski were strongly committed to the defence of the country. They both lived 24 hours with that thought. They proved great patriotism. They just had differences when deciding about the approach to resolve the crisis. Ljupco wanted to resolve the conflict as soon as possible and successful, while the President wanted to end the crises in peaceful manner“, states Dimovska today.
„But, you know, added Dimovska, the military experience is the most difficult temptation for every person. I can’t put the blame on anyone or say this one is the good and the other one is the bad patriot“.
The senior EU representative for foreign and security policy, Havier Solana, who was constantly present in Macedonia during the critical months, stated for the daily newspaper „Utrinski vesnik “ the following
Under the leadership of President Trajkovski, your leaders have professionally completed their work. They were in a position to work as a team and together they succeeded to give priority to the highest national and government interests. In critical moments, regardless of the political and ethnical affiliation, they all demonstrated maturity and leadership potential. That was a lesson learned for the entire region “, stated Solana.Quite different is the statement given by the NATO secretary general George Robertson, who practically was part of the Macedonian political team who was trying to resolve the crisis. This is what he stated for the daily newspaper „Utrinski vesnik “:
„Their relationship was, mildly said, under tension. The Government was wide coalition composed of all major parties with serious differences in their views, while some were occasionally trying to ambush the peacekeeping process with plea for use of force. “, said Robertson, who is not politically active any longer.
„Regardless of the tensions, still all key players signed the Ohrid Framework agreement. They, even though a team, passed the ball at each others goals, unfairly attacked the captain of the team and sometimes were even unable to pass the ball to their players, but at the end, they were all on the same side, wanting the same results and goals and all signed in Ohrid in 2001 “.
NLA occupied Arachinovo on June 9, 2001, which is a village close to the capital Skopje. This was a new serious escalation of the conflict. NLA threatened that they would attack the Parliament building and Government, as well as the international airport located several kilometres away from Arachinovo.
Arachinovo occupation was commanded from start till end by commander Hodza or Dzezer Sakiri, who is a Parliament representative today. He stated that he is following the instructions provided by Ali Ahmeti and other NLA leaders.
When the public realized that NLA is in Arachinovo, the illusions disappeared and the tension in Skopje grew higher. MOI started handing out weapons to the police and military reservists. There were rumours going around that the NLA rebels spread through the Albanian neighbourhoods in the capital city.

The war close to Skopje
The sounds of the mass attack of the governmental forces for re-occupation of Arachinovo were vividly heard and seen from the capital. Skopje and Macedonia were shaking from the “SU 25” test flights. So, the citizens of Skopje realized that the country is standing on the verge of a civil war.
The battle for Arachinovo finished ingloriously on June 24th. During this battle three police members were killed: Atanas Janev, Nikola Pehchevski and Aleksandar Stojchev; and Oliver Kitanovski was heavily wounded and passed away in the hospital on June 28.Although earlier the Minister of Interior, Ljube Boshkoski expressed optimism for rapid liberation of the village, it did not happen. Three days later, the offensive of the Macedonian security forces was discontinued under the pressure of the EU Senior Representative Xavier Solana, the US Ambassador Mike Aenik, UK Ambassador Dickinson and the French Ambassador Terral on Trajkovski, Georgievski, Boshkoski and Buchkovski.
NATO made an agreement with NLA to evacuate the insurgents from Arachinovo. The operation was agreed and personally observed by Peter Fait, special representative of NATO Secretary General George Robertson, and a person that maintained close connections with the NLA practically throughout the conflict. Around 350 insurgents were allowed to leave the village, with their weapons, assisted by the US troops serving in KFOR, NATO Kosovo Forces. The Macedonian Army was forced to withdraw.
The Macedonian majority considered the evacuation as humiliation and the people reacted strongly to the fact that the insurgents have not been disarmed, but deported with their weapons to another Macedonian territory occupied by NLA.
That evening several thousand Macedonians gathered in front of the Parliament building in Skopje and requested resignation from the President and the Prime minister. The demonstrators occupied the Parliament building, and the protest turned into mass riots, breaking the vehicles owned by the international organizations, total demolishment of the entrance door of OSCE and the offices of “British Airways”. President Trajkovski was evacuated at “Ilinden” barracks.
Xavier Solana, who was in Skopje in those days, states today for the feuilleton in “Utrinski vesnik”:
“In that time I was visiting Skopje regularly, almost every week. I was observing the events with great engagement from my side. Clearly I was worried. But I always believed that a political solution is possible”.

Dangerous situation
In his testimony for this feuilleton, the NATO Secretary General at that time, George Robertson agrees that Arachinovo was a turning point. “I believe that unless we discovered a solution for the crises at that moment, the conflict would have escalated into a civil war”, he says today.
“It was a dangerous situation from numerous aspects and I admit I was desperately worried concerning several things. The question of wanting war or peace was open on both sides. There were people from the side of the Government that wanted to defeat military the NLA, regardless of the cost. This ignored the brutal reality that the Macedonian security forces were incapable of accomplishing this victory, and the hardcore currents publicly persuaded the public regarding this issue”, says Robertson for our feuilleton. On the NLA side, he says, there were people that preferred to keep the villages occupied and undertake actions anywhere, than to accept withdrawal even without their weapons being taken.
“So, the leaders, such as Trajkovski and Ahmeti, regardless of their differences had to face and oppose each with his own hardcore followers, and thank God they won”, says Robertson.
“From my perspective I was very proud of the role of the small NATO team that was negotiating and leading the withdrawal. Those were only a few persons that were unarmed, but showed courage and skills in a very difficult situation. They were also helped by other factors of the international community, for example EU and OSCE monitors, and finally the US soldiers, so that all together they solved a dangerous crises. It was an uncertain situation, worse than ever before, and partially because, I believe, all the sides decided to look for a longer-term and realized that they do not want to lead its own country to ruin”, he says today.
The unsuccessful of the Government to free Arachinovo from the occupation of Ali Ahmeti’s army is a claim that even today has two sides. One say that it is not true that the Macedonian security forces couldn’t defeat the insurgents, whilst others claim that the Army and the Police together with the operation organization truly showed as incapable. General Pande Petrovski, who was commanding with the Arachinovo operation and the evacuation of President Trajkovski speaks about these critical moments.He says it is not true that they were unable to occupy Arachinovo.
“ARM had 20 thousand soldiers available, armored battalions and professional crews, 54 tanks, 120-130 mortars, combat helicopters and enough ammunition for conduct of a final operation and full disburse of NLA”, claims the General today.

The Macedonian minority in Arachinovo suffered the consequences
The inhabitants were pressed to abandon Arachinovo. Until June 2001, around 1300 Albanian and around 200 Macedonian families were leaving in Arachinovo. The Macedonian minority was not aware that Albanian paramilitary forces are penetrating until June 7th, when they realized the Albanian women and children have left the village. The Macedonians did not begin their evacuation until the situation escalated dramatically. Since the Macedonian inhabitants could not prepare themselves before abandoning the village, they had to leave most of their property behind. Those that did not leave on time or had to come back were threatened, kidnapped, and even tortured by the NLA fighters.
The Macedonian Army General, Pande Petrovski who was commanding with the Arachinovo operation speaks about the dramatic events at the discontinuation of the operation, the gathering of the revolted Macedonian citizens in front of the Parliament and the evacuation of President Boris Trajkovski.
“Propaganda was spread in the public through the media that there are 4 thousand terrorists in Arachinovo, but there were only 200-220. I was against an intervention in Arachinovo. It was not a real problem and we could have occupied it. I claim this as an expert”.
The first day of the operation, the security forces penetrated up to the new mosque in Arachinovo and began their actions against the insurgents. The circle was closing slowly and the third day the security forces have already penetrated in two thirds of Arachinovo”, Petreski says.
But, at the meetings we were having, it was strange at the very beginning that President Trajkovski several times emphasized that for Arachinovo “we have been given only two days”. At the beginning I could not understand it. Who has given us two days? And that is why I reacted as a soldier. I said that I do not rush in Arachinovo, two days, three, ten, fifteen days, it doesn’t matter since it does not cause any problems in aspect of some strategy” the General told President Trajkovski. But, Trajkovski replayed that it was the recommendation received from NATO Secretary General George Robertson.On June 25th, around 12.45hrs Trajkovski called him on the phone and told him: “General you are to stop the operation at 13.00hrs”. Petrovski replayed that it can not be stopped at 13.00hrs, but at 13.30hrs since the units are in action.
Trajkovski told the General to be at the “Belvi” hotel at 14.00hrs.
On his way to hotel “Belvi” Petrovski received a phone call from General Zvonko Stojanovski, the Air Force commander and informed him that his pilots noticed white sheets on the houses in Arachinovo and that six fighter planes were noticed on the radars, heading from Italy on a course towards Macedonia.
The General told him to have the helicopters grounded.
“When I arrived at “Belvi” hotel there was quite a sight to be seen. All the western diplomats and military-diplomatic representatives were present. I was surprised from what was going on. I entered the hall and met Buchkovski and Boshkoski there. I am asking Minister Buchkovski: what is this? He says: You will hear! And then, I don’t remember if Nikola Dimitrov or Stevo Pendarovski, introduced me to a men and told me that he is Mr. Peter Fait, a personal representative of NATO Secretary General”, tells Petrovski.
Everyone was present at “Belvi”, says Petrovski, “Ljube Boshkoski, Buchkovski and Peter Fait were sitting next to me. They asked me to prepare a plan for evacuation of the terrorists from Arachinovo”, Petrovski says.The plan was to evacuate the insurgents from Arachinovo and take them to Kosovo.
Then Ljube Boshkoski raised his voice: “They can not be withdrawn unpunished!”General Petrovski calmed him down by saying “Let’s listen to what he has to say and afterwards we will talk”.
And that is what happened. At 16.00hrs NATO entered with four buses from Tetovo and seven NATO buses, with security and plus seven combat “HUMWEES” and seven medical “HUMWEES”.
“As a professional, then I realized that our Army has been humiliated. It turned out that in two days we were unable to occupy Arachinovo, so NATO was suppose to enter for all of us to be able to sit around the table. I understood that this was planned since June 14th, when President Trajkovski send a letter to NATO Secretary General Robertson”, says today Petrovski.
But the problems occurred after entering Arachinovo. Nikola Dimitrov, Advisor of President Trajkovski at that time, told Petrovski: “General, Peter Fait is calling, saying that the insurgents do not want to be evacuated with NATO buses, but they want to withdraw through Nikushtak with their own tractors and trucks”.
“If that is the case, then let NATO withdraw and I will continue the operation! Tell that to Peter Fait” General Petrovski replayed wrathfully.
Dimitrov passed the reaction to Fait. Five minutes later he came back to the General smiling, and said: “General, they accepted the decision to withdraw with NATO buses”. Petrovski told Dimitrov: “You should know that it has been planned in advance. They (NATO) are not joking”.
When the public realized what has been happing at Arachinovo, gathering in front of the Parliament began. That evening, when Petrovski returned to the General Staff, Zlatko Keckovski Chief of President Trajkovski security called. He told him: “General there is a threat for the President to be assassinated, let’s evacuate him to a safe house”. Petrovski suggested evacuating President Trajkovski at “Ilinden” barracks”. Trajkovski arrived there with bodyguard Keckovski and one more bodyguard, all of them in one vehicle.
“The President was very upset, because already the events from in front of the Parliament were shown on television”, Petrovski tells. The group of revolted citizens began entering the Parliament. “I told the President I had to inform Minister Buchkovski of my whereabouts. I asked the President if the Prime Minister knows that he is with us here”, Petrovski tells.
But Trajkovski replayed “Nobody knows where I am, except me and you”. Petrovski informed the President that he told Minister Buchkovski where they are and that he immediately departed towards “Ilinden” barracks.
In meantime, General Petrovski also called the Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski. He asked: “Where is the President?” Petrovski told Trajkovski that he would have to inform also Georgievski where they are. “He is with me”, he told Georgievski. “Where are you?” Georgievski asked. “At “Ilinden” barracks”, Petrovski replayed. “I am coming as well”, Georgievski said.
After a short time Crvenkovski arrived also and the event turned into a small state officials gathering. From “Ilinden” barracks they were observing the events in front of the Parliament on the television. Prime Minister Georgievski said: “Find Ljube Boshkoski”.
Petrovski tried to reach the Minister for Interior Ljube Boshkoski on his mobile phone, but he could not be reached. Georgievski himself tried to call him as well, but without success. “I knew where Boshkoski was and with who”, claims today General Pande Petrovski. General told as a joke to Georgievski: “Why they are not pulling down the Government, but the Parliament?” Then Petrovski phoned the police General Risto Galevski. He told him: “Do not let anybody cross Vardar”.
“If they went to Bit-Pazar it would turn into a civil war! The swarm was furious. There was a serious discussion on the possibility for the Army to be used to close down the bridges on Vardar towards Bit-Pazar. I did not allow that. The Army is not for that, neither has been trained for that nor has that function. The whole situation could easily get out of control”, says Petrovski.
As the intensity of the crises was increasing, the number of foreign diplomats and politicians that were staying in Macedonia was increasing. One day before the offensive of the Macedonian security forces in March, the OSCE Presidents’ Special Representative, American Robert Frowick arrived. He was pessimistic regarding the “military defeat of the terrorists”. Because of his suggestions for negotiations with NLA, cease of fire, amnesty and change of the Constitution he was fiercely criticized in public, even by the Macedonian political bloc.
It was stated in his plan that cease of fire is the first step that Macedonia should make, and the Macedonian forces to maintain the positions and not continue forward. After this, the withdrawal of NLA would follow through a security corridor into Kosovo. The plan also envisaged the NLA withdrawal to finish within 48hrs. NLA would not be allowed to enter Kosovo with their weapons. KFOR would not arrest NLA members unless accused in Kosovo. Creation of a wide coalition that would initiate a political dialogue, in which the final task that would need to be attained is the amendment of the Macedonian Constitution. In May 2001, the public discovered that DPA and PDP have signed an agreement with Ali Ahmeti secretly, at a meeting in Prizren, Kosovo.
The agreement caused additional mistrust between the Macedonian side and the international community because of the role of the American diplomat Robert Frowick, who believed that direct contacts with NLA are necessary for establishment of permanent agreement. Frowick suggested immediate cease of fire from NLA side, in exchange of a promise for amnesty. His mission finished soon after the photo of Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri with Ali Ahmeti was revealed in the Macedonian media at the end of May, when the Macedonian public learned about the agreement between the Albanian leaders.
Because of his plan for resolution of the crisis, Frowick was discretely banished from the country. But after a few months, his ideas officially became part of the plan of President Boris Trajkovski, supported also by the four leaders: Ljubco Georgievski, Branko Crvenkovski, Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri.
In the spring of 2001 the EU Senior Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Xavier Solana, and NATO Secretary General, George Robertson, used shuttle-diplomacy in an attempt to accelerate the agreement process. Today, Xavier Solana, in the feuilleton of “Utrinski Vesnik”, diplomatically replies to our question on which was the crucial moment during the conflict for the Albanian insurgence to be renamed into fighters for human rights:
“In 2001 there was a very complicated situation. The black and white categorization does not help in understanding what happened!”
In June 2001 the American administration named James Perdue from the State Department as a special representative in Macedonia, while EU presented that role to the French politician François Leotard. Perdue was a former officer of US military intelligence, and Leotard a former minister of defense, so they could combine diplomacy and security expertise in their activities for resolution of the Macedonian conflict. During the crisis and after, it was considered that NATO\KFOR, EU and USA consolidate with the Albanian people not only in Kosovo 1999 but also in Macedonia in 2001. In spite of the common attitude and the public condemn of NLA and the insurgency in Macedonia by the international community, the Albanians believed that the outside world not only supports the political dialogue and the new reforms, but also the Albanian uprising as such. The Albanian interlocutors claimed that KFOR enabled NLA to move almost freely between Kosovo and Macedonia and by this it was believed that NATO explicitly supports NLA.
Also, the international press was considered to be ally of the Albanians. Many Macedonians claimed, for example, that the BBC world news is reporting in favor of the Albanians especially at the beginning of the crisis.
Today, the NATO Secretary General at that time, Robertson, in the feuilleton of “Utrinski Vesnik” says that NLA was not right in its actions, but also the Macedonian government did not have a good approach.
“Yes – I knew that some people believe that we support the insurgents, but it was not true. To make it clear, the NLA was not right, as I was constantly repeating back then. But, this did not automatically mean that the only way was to attack NLA”, he says today. The Albanian ethnic community had legitimate complains, adds Robertson, regardless of the fact that NLA was using illegitimate means to reach its goals.
“Our policy was, with the full support from the government, to discover a peaceful solution for the crisis, to give a guarantee that the problems of the Albanian ethnic community will be solved in legitimate manner and by such to cut all the possible justifications of the NLA violent behavior. Allow me to emphasize that we’ve been always acting in agreement with the government and if during any phase of the conflict President Trajkovski would ask us to leave, we would have gone although without our free will”, says Robertson today being no longer an active politician.
According Robertson, the thing that was making the situation even more difficult was the big differences inside the Macedonian government, and fierceness caused by violence is difficult to be controlled.
“We did not support NLA, but both we and the legitimate government of Macedonia mutually realized that the best way to surpass it is what later became known as the Ohrid Agreement”, stated Robertson five years after the conflict ended.
Generally the Macedonians believe that the international community supports the Albanians and the former NLA and not only in 2001 but today also. They believe that in 1999 NATO started a war on behalf of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The Macedonians strongly believe that NATO was supporting NLA also by pretending to be blind for the NLA movement and through the purchase of, for example, the communication equipment.
Even today the Macedonians believe that it was inadequately reported about the great number of ethnic Macedonians abandoned their homes in Tetovo region during the crisis (fifteen thousand in less then two weeks in July).
This was not fair, looked from the Macedonian perspective, having in consideration the international focus on the ethnic Albanian refugees at the beginning of the crisis. Especially considering the fact that during the refugee crisis in 1999 Macedonia accepted several hundred thousands Kosovo-Albanian refugees to Macedonian territory.
Fazli Veliu was the leader of the People’s Movement of Kosovo (PMK). Although, born in Kichevo, he hid himself running from the Belgrade regime and lived in Switzerland for a certain period of time. He gave wholehearted support to NLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) since its formation. The book “PMK and NLA, one symbol, one goal” was written by him.Veliu took diary, that is very confusing, during the conflict, but we pulled out a few major events and conversations he described. Several conclusions can be made reading the diary about the thing that actually remained as biggest enigma during the war: the foreign support of NLA, the moral among the rebels, the role of Albania and the disparity inside NLA.
On June 10th, 2001 during a phone call with Ali Ahmeti whom he dubs as “Ali the nephew”, Ahmeti told him: “Our forces are moving to Skopje. They have targeted the main aims, the highway Belgrade – Skopje – Athens, the airport, etc.” In reference with the international support they received, Veliu wrote that on July 2nd, 2001 he had an immediate meeting with the Albanian ambassador in Bern, Vladimir Tanasi, who told him: “What the Albanian government can do for the Albanians in Macedonia at this crucial moment? It is suggested for an international conference! Which role can our father land have? It deserves more then the other countries to give guarantee and contribution”.On July 23rd, 2001 Veliu had a meeting in Prizren for which he says:
“I met there Ali (Ahmeti), G’zim Ostreni and the others. There are skirmishes in Tetovo. We are providing means. I express my wish to enter the vicinity of Tetovo or Kumanovo. `It is not easy, say Ali and Gzim. There are checkpoints at the both sides, be careful how you go.` Haxi Mefail, the son of Shukri and the son of the killed Kamber (killed near Gajre), arrived from abroad. We have one accidental but important meeting with Rafiz Aliti who is disappointed and tired. We encourage him suggesting to have a meeting with the freedom fighters”, wrote Veliu.
On July 25th, Veliu phoned in Tetovo. “I express my deep condolences to Ilir for the members of NLA that were killed. I congratulate him for the raise of the flag in Tetovo and he does the same”. “Here they do not ask for politics but for joint action with the people. They want to join us! The situation made them all take important duties”, Ilir told him.
Finally, on July 26th, Veliu went to Macedonia. “We are going to our areas in Macedonia together with Shaban, Mefail, Azem and Hamdi. Despite the obstacles we are determined to get there. There are young people escorting us, helping us, carrying the weapons. We just passed the border with Kosovo – approaching our area. In Macedonia we were welcomed by our NLA soldiers. We arrived in the legendary Lipkovo… We are standing in the improvised barracks with Commander Sokoli. We are awarding them with guns, books, memorabilia…” Veliu had written.“I have heard sad news. Three young people have been killed by an explosion, among which was Tahir Sinani (expert from Albania). I met with him in Prizren. He was one of the most professional NLA officers.”
eliu met with NLA soldiers on 9th of August in the village of Lisec.
“The previous day, one of them had been wounded in the battles in Tetovo. I am meeting a commander from Albania”, he explains.On ninth of September nearby the school in Sipkovica, where the NLA headquarter was located, a working meeting was taking place between the NLA and NATO political and military representatives. This is how Veliu is describing this meeting:
“Ali is meeting them by the stairs, as always modest and hospitable. Gzim Ostreni in dress uniform with rank on his chest…The NATO representative greets me and he says to me”I know you, but I would like you to tell me your surname.”
“Veliu” – I respond to him.
“Yes”. I add“Congratulations” he said.
The discussion was in German.
Veliu, in his diary wrote also one interesting dialog that took place during the disarmament:
Veliu: “Are any weapons left for self-defense?”
Hadjibaba: “We have turned in the old ones”.
Veliu: Do we have an agreement for participation of the Macedonian side, because today, during the disarmament one of the Macedonian parliamentary members was present”?
Ahmeti: “The agreement intends this. We have agreed to have a common country”.
Veliu:”We will not go to be together with the Macedonians”.
Ahmeti:” Those that have the courage will go”.
Veliu: “Who”?Ahmeti: “I”.
Veliu: “They do not like your photograph; let’s not even discuss your presence”.
Ahmeti: “They will have to”.
Veliu: “They do not let the other citizens to move, nor the Albanians”.
Ahmeti: “I can play the role of Prime Minister from Tetovo”.
Veliu: “We have not placed this in the agreement.”
Ahmeti: “We will in the future.”
Veliu jokingly: “I guess you have signed something in secrecy, are you trapping me prematurely…”
Veliu, in his diary wrote also a detail when NATO representative participated in promotion ceremony for certain Commander Sokol, which occurred after the official ending of the war.
Ali Ahmeti was treating. This is what he wrote:
“This one is our ideologist”, says Liar (Nazmi Bekiri), finger pointing Veliu.
“Prison waits for him” he said smiling.“
”No, no, said Veliu, neutral Switzerland defends me. Besides that I have a decision for representation by the Court of Carlsrhooe from Germany”.
Veliu was trying to find out the destiny of his brother the entire time, which remains unknown today:
“I continually try to find out about my brother Ruzhdi. I have informer Dj. N. by telephone where my brother can be found (on Vodno-Skopje) and I have asked him to help me, but he did not call me that day. The lawyer did not call me, nor the Red Cross representatives to give me information. Chaos, confrontation, treason is in the Government…”
“My wife from Switzerland is informing me on the situation there: the prosperity has improved. Besarta and Ariana have gotten used to being in preschool. By the nephew Ali Ahmeti things are good and are preparing their residency documents. It is a wish to live in the mother land. “
During the negotiations in Ohrid, the balance of war was totaling to 47 killed and 217 wounded members of the security forces, 35 wounded civilians and 25 kidnapped 6 of those children.With the beginning of the negotiations the conflict intensified on the field.
The radical politicians and Para military structures used violence to strengthen their positions in the negotiation, while threatening with civil war if their demands were not met.
On the road Zhilce-Leshok, Naca Petrovska and Petre Petrovski, a mother and son were killed when their vehicle drove over a mine. Near Lavce 4 soldiers were wounded. The road Tetovo-Jazhince with days was a location of the NLA members.
The key event, for which many presume to be the generator of new violence, even though on the negotiation table the end of the war could be seen, happened on 7th August. That day at 5 o’clock in the morning, MOI conducted an action in the Skopje suburb Chair, during which the Commander Teli’s group was killed (explosives expert from Albania). The goal of the terrorists group, as it was claimed, was to organize execution of police members. The epilogue of the action was five killed, among which was Commander Teli and five arrested.
After the execution of Commander Teli in Chair, the revenge by NLA was not waited on for long. The next day on 8th of August, bloody event took place. ARM convoy was going towards Tetovo to replace personnel in the barracks. An ambush set by the rebels in the Grupchin region, near Karpalak opened fire with rockets launchers and automatic weapons. In the attack, transport vehicle from the convoy was hit, eight soldiers and two officers were killed, and all members of ARM reserve composition.
Nane Naumoski, Sasho Kitanoski, Branko Sekuloski, Goran Minoski, Marko Despotoski, Erdovan Shabanoski, Ljube Grujoski, Darko Veljanoski, Pece Sekuloski and Vebi Rusitoski were killed.
Buchkovski, Minister of Defense at the time, was in the base of the Ministry of Defense in Sveti Naum in Ohrid, when Karpalak happened, he tells the story today. He returned to Skopje immediately, and in the evening returned to Ohrid again, where the Where the Session of the Security Council was held.
“That was one of the most dramatic sessions, because it was obvious the many things were broken in the state and military senior officials, which options will win-if the option that more like Israeli tactic of maximum use of military and to convey revenge, or to implement other solutions”. Says today Buchkovski.
“It was clear that the end would not have been seen if the revenge continued by both sides, speculation was spread that Karpalak was consequence of the Commander’s Teli’s group execution”, he adds.
The violence continued the next day on 9th of August. During the NLA attack on the security forces in Ratae, a member of the police composition was killed. On 9th and 10th of August, during the night the security forces were attacked in Radusha, with mortar fire from Krivenik and Goranci, Kosovo. MOI has called upon ARM for help. In meantime in the Tetovo village Ratae one more policeman was killed.The NLA members again had closed the valves from Lipkovo Lake, which had left one hundred Kumanovo residents without water.
Only 48 hours after the bloody event by Karpalak on 10th of August one more shock took place: near Skopje village Ljubanci, 8 soldiers were killed when their transport vehicle drove over two mines on the forest road between Ljubanci and Ljuboten near Skopje. Aside the eight killed ARM members, other eight soldiers were wounded. Branko Brdarevski, Branko Janev, Marjanco Boskovski, Rade Jankovski, Goce Chankulovsk, Tomislav Nastevski, Ivica Zlatevski and Tome Dimovski were killed.
On the same day the border post near Radusa had been attacked. According to the information from the Macedonian authorities, in the attack large part of KPC participated in the attack.The shootouts in Radusa have continued on 10th of August. Soldiers and policemen were wounded. It is presumed that NLA here suffered the most casualties, although for NLA and KPC casualties official data does not exist.
On 12th of August a controversial police action took place in Ljuboten, which today happens to be a subject of interest by the Hague Tribunal, and the former minister of Interior is being tried and is still pending.
On the same day, in the afternoon, one day before the signing of the Ohrid Agreement, President Trajkovski has announced unanimous cease of fire that became effective at 19:30 that night.
Even though on August 13 the Framework agreement was signed in Skopje it did not mean end to the violence.
One week after signing the agreement, on 20th of August the Leshok Monastery was destroyed. Five days later, near Tetovo village Chelopek, Hotel Brioni was mined with the two guards, civilians, which were tied to a chair under which the explosives were placed.
When we asked the question if he feared for the future of the country during these moments, Vlado Buchkovski today says:
“Realistically the issues were quite critical. In such circumstances common sense could hardly overcome the emotions. In any case, I believed that the crisis was managed within the borders and we were able to control it. Therefore, there was control”, says Buchkovski.
The engagement of the International Community in these critical moments was enforced, says the Prime Minister today. Buchkovski was encouraged when he understood that the NATO representative Peter Fait has the role to be the liaison between the NLA and NLA on one side and government forces on the other side.
Therefore, Buchkovski says today, during the critical moments when we faced problems with respecting the cease-fire, we used the services provided by Peter Fait. The services by Fait, he says, were especially used on 15 and 16 of August, during these two days, even though the agreement for cease fire was in effect, the danger of the crises to escalate existed.
Ljubomir Frchkovski, which happened to be an advisor to the President during the conflict in 2001and actively participated in the Ohrid negotiation’s process, today asked by us why so many were killed in this period and if maybe some felt insecure because the end of the “game” was getting closer, he responds:
“Partially yes”. The manner in which the negotiations were led has shown to the radical elements amongst the Albanians that there is nothing to be gained from claiming territories.But, that does not justify our mistakes. Our casualties were all casualties of ambushes and bad organization.
Practically we did not confront that with anything, except maybe with even worse organization”, says Frckovski today.
In July and August of 2001 the continuous international pressure had traced the path to the peace negotiations. NLA had not been directly involved in the agreement process in Ohrid. It was quite clear that only active inclusion of the international community can bring closer the two sides from their hard set positions.Professor Frckovski as an advisor to President Trajkovski actively participated in the preparation of the framework agreement. He says that if NLA sat behind the negotiations table, that would have meant something else.“It would have meant that we have been in a civil war, which was not the case here. We said that we will not talk to them, because their platforms were already known to us and because the larger part of the rebels were penetrated from Kosovo”, says Frckovski today.
“You will let us deal with Ahmeti, the international community said to us, says Frckovski. That is why we negotiated with Perdue and Leotard, which represented the Albanian requirements.
The international envoys, the American representative James Perdue and EU representative François Leotard have played a key role during the peace discussions.
The Albanians claimed that the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia have deepened the crises. That is why the aim of the Ohrid agreement was to incorporate the ethnic equality between the Macedonian and the Albanians.
On August 13th 2001 in the residence of President Boris Trajkovski on Vodno, the framework agreement had been signed by Ljupco Georgievski (VMRO-DPMNE), Branko Crvenkovski (SDSM), Arben Xaferi (DPA) and Imer Imeri (PDP).
“This agreement will not bring peace on its own, but without this step that we have taken today, the chances for peace were almost none”, stated Crvenkovski. “From this moment on I will work for the Albanian people to send kind messages to the Macedonian people”, stated Xaferi.
One day after the Ohrid agreement was signed, on 13th of August 2001 an agreement for disarmament was made between the Albanian militia and NATO with the promise that the ones that voluntarily will surrender their weapon will be pardoned with amnesty. A ceremony was held in Sipkovica with the signatures of NLA’s political leader Ali Ahmeti and promised to disarm his soldiers and NATO ambassador Peter Fait, who stayed in contact with NLA. Few days later for the first time Ali Ahmeti officially addressed the public through a press conference that was held in Sipkovica, where he arrived with a car that belonged to the government.
Two days after the disarmament agreement was signed, President Trajkovski issued a decree for amnesty for the NLA fighters. Three thousand peaces of weapons were surrendered. The Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski at the time claimed that at least 30-60 thousand peaces of weapons are supposed to be collected.
In accordance with the Framework agreement the use of the Albanian language has widened and was promoted to a second official language. One of the strongest requirements by the Albanians was to be given the status of constitutive community. On the other side, equally divided consensus by the Macedonians existed that the constitutional preamble should not be amended.
To the Albanians such reforms were of great significance for their inclusion in the Macedonian society, but also end of the Macedonian cultural and political dominance. The Macedonians viewed the reforms in entirety and the amendment of the preamble was taken as capitulation in front of the Albanian rebels.
“ The Macedonians thought the battle for the soul of Macedonia, long few hundreds of years, had been futile, and the loss of the preamble announces the burial bell of the Macedonian culture”, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee had written while analyzing the war in Macedonia.
The Framework agreement amended the parliamentary voting procedures. In accordance with the French supreme judge Robber Badinter, the overall legislation that has cultural or language significance can be adopted with two thirds majority votes, including at least half of the ethnic members of parliament.Professor Frckovski says that criticizers of the Ohrid Agreement are not right, Macedonia is not federalized nor has parallel use of the Albanian language or right to veto in the parliament”, Frckovski says today. On the question whether something could have been done better he says: “perhaps the provision for use of the language in the parliament should have been explained in details”.
Javier Solana, Senior Representative for Foreign and Security Policy of EU, today after five years from the crises says that the conflict in 2001 was mere test for the strength and maturity of the country. “The fact that the path of dialogue and mutual agreement had been chosen, has led the country to candidate status for EU membership, and only 5 years after the crises” he says in the column in “Utrinski Vesnik”.
George Robertson, NATO Secretary General at the time, he is no longer politically active, says that he feels combination of satisfaction and pride after the successful solution of the crises in Macedonia.“It was satisfaction because I played a role of helper to Macedonia to avoid the horrible civil wars that have devastated the Balkan, says Robertson today. The interest of NATO was to prevent the civil war that was getting closer”.
“There were individuals on both sides that regardless of the mutual differences saw that they have to make a compromise and to give up their strong views, as a price worth paying in order to avoid a civil war”, says Robertson.
The DUI leader Ali Ahmeti, NLA General Gzim Ostreni and present vice President of the Parliament, DPA leader Arben Xaferi and Ljupco Georgievski the Prime Minister during the conflict refused to provide their views in this column. Their testimony would have been crucial to solve the enigma of the armed rebellion by the Albanians and manner in which the crises was solved.Due to this fact, even today the dilemmas remains unsolved as to what exactly happened to Macedonia in 2001. Insurgency, transferred conflict from Kosovo, battle for territory or battle for human rights. In this last sequence of the feuilleton we are providing few of the analysis conveyed by the Helsinki Committee.
During the crises in Macedonia, the international community was becoming more and more aware of the connection between the Albanian militia in Kosovo and in South Serbia and the Albanian rebels in Macedonia. It is not a secret that NLA was undertaking military activities in Kosovo in which many young Albanians from Macedonia participated.
Today it is claimed that connections between NLA and the Macedonian Government existed through DPA, which was the coalition partner in the Government. The DPA contacts were mainly with NLA Chief, Hashim Tachi, while the connections with the regional leaders that acted more or less independently were by far weaker.
One of those leaders is Ramush Haradinaj, which was in control of the Prizren territory in South Kosovo. The NLA soldiers that begun the operations in Macedonia were recruited from Haradinaj’s former army. The other connection was Gzim Ostreni, Chief of the NLA Headquarters, which held high positions in KPC.
Fazli Veliu and Ali Ahmeti had been politically active earlier in Kosovo and NLA financiers.The role of the Kosovo leaders at the time, Hashim Tachi, Ramush Haradinaj and Ibrahim Rugova that called upon NLA to stop the operations and threatened with political isolation of its leaders remains unclear. They continuously kept saying that NLA action brings them damage.
Since the intervention by NATO in Kosovo in 1999 it was stated that the uncontrolled situation in Kosovo could be a threat to Macedonia.
The Albanian extremists from Kosovo kept trying to stimulate the Albanian national feelings, as well as aspirations for Great Kosovo or Albania among their people in Macedonia.
Few observers have connected the withdrawal of the Albanian guerrilla in South Serbia with the conflict in Macedonia. During this the Albanian militia and the armament were driven away from one area yet to show up in another area, emphasizing the regional dimension of the Albanian armed resistance in Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia.According to the opinions of international analysts, the political conflict in Kosovo, South Serbia and in Macedonia must be studied in the close geographical, cultural and family relations between the ethnic Albanians in these areas. Prior to the fall of Yugoslavia, prior to the establishment of the new borders, the people with generations moved freely through the border and as a result of that members of one family quite often were located on both sides of Macedonia and Kosovo.
During the last decades large numbers of Albanians have migrated to Macedonia from Kosovo. The exact number of Kosovo Albanians immigrants in Macedonia is not known. According to some data by foreign researchers 40 thousand Kosovars live in Macedonia. This tendency has increased with the strengthening of Serbian repression in the 80’s and 90’s last century. Besides that in the time of Yugoslavia, when significant number of Albanians studied in the Albanian University in Prishtina, politically radical environment was created by the Albanians from the entire region, including parts from the present Albanian leadership in Macedonia. This is how the ideological connections were established among the Albanians. Few leading ethnic Albanians –politicians and intellectuals from Macedonia have completed their university education in Prishtina, lived for few years in Kosovo and many of them continued to maintain close contacts with the Kosovo Albanians politicians.
NLA was recruiting ethnic Albanians from Macedonia and South Serbia, as well as from abroad, and the Albanian militia was financed by the entire Albanian community. In Western Macedonia, the former NLA fighters were greeted as heroes after the war and in the spring of 2000. In a village near Tetovo a monument for the fallen fighters was built in their honour. Therefore it is impossible to define a strong “border between Kosovo and Macedonia and to describe the events in Macedonia as purely “internal”.
Few questions are of great importance connected to the influence of the Albanian cultural traditions on the modern Albanian life, the status of the clans and the wider family in the Albanian societies, as well as the relations among the powerful families, political parties, militia and the economic structures in the region. For example, do we really know in which manner the family ties between the PDK leader in Kosovo, Hashim Tachi and the DPA vice president Menduh Tachi influence the political and finance relations between the two parties? Close family ties were confirmed at the meeting with Hashim Tachi in Prishtina in November 2001.
And do we know at all, in which manner the former NLA and NLA structures are linked mutually logistically, financially and politically?
In the search of the roots of the armed conflict in Macedonia in 2001 other analysis should not be neglected. Some Albanian segments have gained a real economic growth in the last years. This is owed to few factors. First, in lack of economic integration during the communism, the Albanians were forced to establish small private enterprises and their own none-formal economy.Second, because the Albanians did not have access to employment in the public sector, large part of the male population migrated to Western Europe. The Albanians that working abroad kept sending finances to their families back home and many Albanian families still provide large part of the income in this manner. Also the rebuilding of Kosovo, which is marking high growth, after the war in 1999, has contributed to increase of the economic activities of the Albanian centres in Macedonia. This is quite obvious in the Tetovo region, where for the longer period of time construction is brewing and investments have increased. It is believed that part of the Albanian communities in Kosovo and Macedonia are involved in profitable criminal activities, such as smuggling and drugs.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

War Crimes and The "Just War" Theory

The "Just war" theory serves to camouflage the nature of US foreign policy, while providing a human face to the invaders.

The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) through sessions held in Western Europe, Asia and the US has established a comprehensive record of US-UK war crimes in Iraq.

An extensive documentation has been put forth, testimonies have been presented in some 17 global sessions. The Brussells Tribunal sessions of the WTI in Brussels in April 2004 focused on the role of "The Project for the New American Century" (PNAC) which consists in a blueprint of global military conquest.

At the New York session in August 2004, organized by the International Action Center, criminal indictment charges were brought against inter alia George W. Bush, Richard B. Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld, for "Crimes Against the Peace" and violations of the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of the United States.
( )

The WTI at its final session in Istanbul in June 2005, brought to public attention the testimonies of several prominent writers including Dahr Jamail , Arundhati Roy, Niloufer Bhagwat , Hans von Sponeck, not to mention the powerful statement of Denis Halliday on the role of the United Nations. ( )

The WTI put forth a powerful final declaration by the Jury which contains the following charges against the the governments of the UK and the US:
• Planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.
• Targeting the civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure
• Using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapon systems
• Failing to safeguard the lives of civilians during military activities and during the occupation period thereafter
• Using deadly violence against peaceful protestors
• Imposing punishments without charge or trial, including collective punishment
• Subjecting Iraqi soldiers and civilians to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
• Re-writing the laws of a country that has been illegally invaded and occupied
• Willfully devastating the environment
• Actively creating conditions under which the status of Iraqi women has seriously been degraded
• Failing to protect humanity’s rich archaeological and cultural heritage in Iraq
• Obstructing the right to information, including the censoring of Iraqi media
• Redefining torture in violation of international law, to allow use of torture and illegal detentions

"The Jury also established charges against the Security Council of United Nations for failing to stop war crimes and crimes against humanity among other failures, against the Governments of the Coalition of the Willing." 

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The Just War Theory

There is one important aspect of the WTI's activities at its final sessions in Istanbul, which tends, however, to weaken the thrust of the work accomplished in the various global sessions. It pertains to the role of the "Just War theory" in assessing war crimes.

At the WTI's Istanbul venue, the "Panel of Advocates", which had a mandate to collect and analyze the evidence of US war crimes, was led by Professor Richard Falk, a protagonist of the "Just War" theory, who has gone on record for openly supporting two previous US led wars.

The "Just War" theory (justum bellum) has a longstanding tradition. It can be found in the writings of the Greek philosophers including Plato. It is contained in the Old Testament and was later embodied into the teachings of the early Christian Church. It has been used throughout history to uphold the dominant social order and provide a justification for waging war.

While Professor Falk rightly focuses on ethical and moral principles in assessing war crimes in Iraq, he fails to put the Iraq war in an appropriate historical perspective. War Crimes in Iraq cannot be divorced from the broader history of US military aggression and the crimes and atrocities committed in previous wars including Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia. Moral and ethical standards for assessing war crimes cannot be formulated in a historical vacuum or in piecemeal fashion, in defiance of the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg Charter, which apply unequivocally to all US led wars.

While Professor Falk condemns the US led war on Iraq, he has endorsed, on moral and ethical grounds, the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan:

"The Kosovo War was a just war because it was undertaken to avoid a likely instance of "ethnic cleansing" undertaken by the Serb leadership of former Yugoslavia, and it succeeded in giving the people of Kosovo an opportunity for a peaceful and democratic future. It was a just war despite being illegally undertaken without authorization by the United Nations, and despite being waged in a manner that unduly caused Kosovar and Serbian civilian casualties, while minimizing the risk of death or injury on the NATO side."

( ,  emphasis added)

In the immediate wake of 9/11, Professor Falk made a case for "self defense" and retaliation against terrorism, on moral and ethical grounds. His position regarding the launching of the war on Afghanistan was broadly consistent with that of the Bush Administration announced on September 12, 2001:

"I have never since my childhood supported a shooting war in which the United States was involved, although in retrospect I think the NATO war in Kosovo achieved beneficial results. The war in Afghanistan against apocalyptic terrorism qualifies in my understanding as the first truly just war since World War II. But the justice of the cause and of the limited ends is in danger of being negated by the injustice of improper means and excessive ends. Unlike World War II and prior just wars, this one can be won only if tactics adhere to legal and moral constraints on the means used to conduct it, and to limited ends. (The Nation, 11 October 2001, emphasis added)

He later revised his position with regard to Afghanistan, while maintaining the main moral and ethical thrust of his argument:

Early on, I was overly persuaded by the language used by President Bush and other leaders that they understood that force must be used sparingly and with great sensitivity in relation to civilian innocence. As the military campaign in Afghanistan deepened, with America once again seeming to confine its battlefield role to high-altitude bombing and Vietnam-era tactics, I felt unable to endorse any longer the justice of the means. Now, given the unexpectedly rapid collapse of the Taliban regime and the obvious impact on the operational nexus of Al Qaeda, there seems, at least temporarily, to be a restored sense of proportionality between means and ends. (The Nation, 6 December 2001, emphasis added)

Professor Falk was not alone in endorsing the wars on Yugoslavia (1999) and Afghanistan (2001). Many "progressive" intellectuals supported the US war agenda. The humanitarian mission of the US administration was accepted and upheld: jus ad bellum. In March1999, a large segment of "the Left" in the US, Canada and Western Europe took a stance in favor of the NATO led war, including support, in some cases, for the self proclaimed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which was responsible for atrocities committed against  Albanian, Serbian and Roma civilians in Kosovo.

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It was known and documented at the time that the pretext to bomb Yugoslavia had been fabricated in the same way as the WMD pretext was fabricated for Iraq. NATO was upheld by Western public opinion as coming to the rescue of ethnic Albanians, whose rights had supposedly been violated.

I recall when the 1999 bombings of Yugoslavia occurred, the Canadian antiwar movement was completely isolated. None of the main organizations, including the trade unions and the NGOs were prepared to lift a finger.

The media lies on Yugoslavia were accepted as indelible truths. While the bombings were often condemned on humanitarian grounds, the overall legitimacy of the war was not questioned.

According to Nuremberg jurisprudence, NATO heads of State and heads of government were responsible in Yugoslavia for the supreme crime: "the crime against peace." In the words of the late William Rockler, former prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal at the height of the 1999 bombings of Yugoslavia:

"The [1999] bombing war violates and shreds the basic provisions of the United Nations Charter and other conventions and treaties; the attack on Yugoslavia constitutes the most brazen international aggression since the Nazis attacked Poland to prevent "Polish atrocities" against Germans. The United States has discarded pretensions to international legality and decency, and embarked on a course of raw imperialism run amok."

The geopolitics behind the war in Yugoslavia, not to mention the underlying economic interests, were misunderstood. The disintegration of Yugoslavia was part of the US foreign policy agenda, which had been carefully prepared in several stages since the early 1980s. National Security Decision Directives (NSDD) had been issued under the Reagan administration, which called for the destabilization of the Yugoslav model of market socialism. (See Michel Chossudovsky, Dismantling Former Yugoslavia, Recolonizing Bosnia-Herzegovina , 1996)

In the mid-1990s, the CIA and Germany's Secret Service, the BND, joined hands in providing covert support to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). In turn, the latter was receiving support from Al Qaeda.

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The role of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as a terrorist organization has been amply documented by Congressional transcripts, yet many "progressive" voices upheld the KLA as a liberation movement.

According to Frank Ciluffo of the Globalized Organized Crime Program, in a testimony presented to the House of Representatives Judicial Committee:

"What was largely hidden from public view was the fact that the KLA raise part of their funds from the sale of narcotics. Albania and Kosovo lie at the heart of the "Balkan Route" that links the "Golden Crescent" of Afghanistan and Pakistan to the drug markets of Europe. This route is worth an estimated $400 billion a year and handles 80 percent of heroin destined for Europe." (House Judiciary Committee, 13 December 2000)

The relationship between the KLA and Al Qaeda had also been confirmed by Interpol's Criminal Intelligence division:

"The U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, indicating that it was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Usama bin Laden . Another link to bin Laden is the fact that the brother of a leader in an Egyptian Jihad organization and also a military commander of Usama bin Laden, was leading an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict." (US Congress, Testimony of Ralf Mutschke of Interpol's Criminal Intelligence Division, to the House Judicial Committee, 13 December 2000).

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The Broader War Agenda

With perhaps the exception of Michel Collon in his book Monopoly and the late Sean Gervasi, the relationship between the war in Yugoslavia and the broader US-NATO military agenda extending into Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East was never analyzed, nor was it addressed in a meaningful way by the antiwar movement.

Gervasi had already foreseen in 1995, the crucial geopolitical role of the Balkans:

There are deeper reasons for the dispatch of NATO forces to the Balkans, and especially for the extension of NATO to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in the relatively near future. These have to do with an emerging strategy for securing the [oil] resources of the Caspian Sea region and for "stabilizing" the countries of Eastern Europe -- ultimately for "stabilizing" Russia and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States. (Sean Gervasi , 1995)

Jus ad Bellum: 9/11 and the Invasion of Afghanistan

The Just War theory in both its classical and contemporary versions upholds war as a "humanitarian operation". It calls for military intervention on ethical and moral grounds against "rogue states" and "Islamic terrorists", which are threatening the Homeland.

Possessing a "just cause" for waging war is central to the Bush administration's justification for invading and occupying both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Taught in US military academies, a modern-day version of the "Just War" theory has been embodied into US military doctrine. The "war on terrorism" and the notion of "preemption" are predicated on the right to "self defense." They define "when it is permissible to wage war": jus ad bellum.

Jus ad bellum serves to build a consensus within the Armed Forces command structures. It also serves to convince the troops that they are fighting for a "just cause". More generally, the Just War theory in its modern day version is an integral part of war propaganda and media disinformation, applied to gain public support for a war agenda.

The US Military Academy at West Point has recently sponsored a Conference focusing inter alia on "just cause " and "the rules that govern just and fair conduct in war" (jus in bello).

In 2001, when Afghanistan was bombed and later invaded, "Progressives" largely upheld the Administration's "just cause" military doctrine. The "self-defense" argument was accepted at face value as a legitimate response to 9/11, without examining the fact that the US administration had not only supported the "Islamic terror network", it was also instrumental in the installation of the Taliban government in 1995-96.

In the wake of 9/11, the antiwar movement against the illegal invasion of Afghanistan was isolated. The trade unions, civil society organizations had swallowed the media lies and government propaganda. They had accepted a war of retribution against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Several prominent intellectuals upheld the "war on terrorism" agenda.

Media disinformation prevailed. People were misled as to the nature and objectives underlying the invasion of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden and the Taliban were identified as the prime suspects of the 9/11 attacks, without a shred of evidence and without addressing the historical relationship between Al Qaeda and the US intelligence apparatus. In this regard, understanding 9/11 is crucial in formulating a consistent antiwar position.

Professor Falk has not revised his position on Kosovo despite recent documentary evidence , nor has he fundamentally altered his position with regard to Afghanistan and America's right to defend itself in the wake of 9/11:

The Afghanistan War was again controversial in relation to the just war tradition. It seems to qualify as an instance of defensive necessity in view of the high risks of harm associated with the heavy al Qaeda presence in the country, and its demonstrated capacity and will after September 11 to inflict severe harm on the United States in the future. Again, as with Kosovo, the means used and the ends raised serious doubts about the just means and just ends of the war. The American failure to assume the risks of ground warfare in order to carry out the mission of destroying the al Qaeda presence, as well as the failure to convert the battlefield outcomes into a durable peace, raise doubts about the overall justice of the war. (Turkish Daily News, August 1, 2003)

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With regard to Iraq, Falk's position remains ambiguous. While he condemns the US led war, he nonetheless tows the official line in stating that the 2003 invasion had the "effect of freeing Iraqis" from oppression:

When it comes to the Iraq War, there seems to be little doubt that the war is generally regarded as an unjust war, despite its effect of freeing the Iraqi people from the oppressive rule of Saddam Hussein. The reasons for viewing it as unjust in origin are the following: the absence of defensive necessity, the refusal of the UNSC to authorize war, the dangerous uncertainties associated with recourse to war, the manipulation of evidence relating to the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the reluctance in the aftermath of the fighting to respect the aspirations of the Iraqi people to achieve political independence and exercise their rights of self-determination. For all of these reasons it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Iraq War is a clear example of an unjust war. (Ibid)

Moreover, at the WTI's press conference in Istanbul in June 2005, Richard Falk, speaking this time on behalf of the Tribunal, in blatant contradiction with the WTI Jury, indicated that the WTI "is not opposing the governments or the UN":

"The WTI is opposing aggressive war, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It is not opposing the governments or the United Nations. Indeed it hopes to create pressure from below that will encourage law-abiding governments and the UN to do their proper job of protecting weaker countries and their populations against such illegalities. (WTI at, June 2005, emphasis added)

The issue has to do with the perpetrators of war crimes as defined by the Nuremberg charter. In this case, it is the governments, which have committed war crimes. Military invasion on a fabricated pretext is a war crime under international law:

"To initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes, in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole". (1948 Nuremberg Military Tribunal).

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The illegal invasion of Iraq was ordered by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair and endorsed by the US Congress and the British House of Commons. In other words, war criminals lead those "governments" and Richard Falk speaking on behalf of the World Tribunal on Iraq at its final session in Istanbul, says we are "not opposing the governments". We want to put pressure on "law abiding governments" and help the UN "to do their proper job".

Is Falk suggesting that the WTI is opposed to war crimes but not to the governments, which have committed and ordered those war crimes, nor is it opposed to the United Nations, which is in violation of its own charter? The statement of Professor Falk is not only contradictory and misleading;  it serves to weaken the thrust of the testimonies as well as the work accomplished in the WTI global sessions. It also contributes to creating divisions within the anti-war movement.

Unless there is a meaningful change of government in the UK and the US, not to mention the other governments which are part of the "Coalition of the Willing", it is difficult to see how the antiwar movement can "work with governments" headed by war criminals. This of course raises the broader issue of impeachment and prosecution of the war criminals, who continue to occupy positions of authority in the governments, which have ordered countless atrocities.

Moreover, the illegal occupation of Iraq was accepted by the UN and the so-called "international community", which instead of initiating sanctions against the invaders, have collaborated with the US-led occupation forces. Professor Falk's stance, once again, speaking on behalf of the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) is that we should work with the United Nations.

Under the disguise of peacekeeping, the UN played a supportive role in violation of its own charter. In the words of Denis Halliday in testimony at the Istanbul WTI sessions:

"[T]he March 2003 invasion took place in breech of all known international laws, executed with the application of terrorism and commission of war crimes, including further and massive use of depleted uranium. The UN, its member states and its Secretary-General failed to employ all possible means to protect the people of Iraq. Worse the UN was generally seen around the world to be acquiescent and collaborative. (…). The occupation was supported by member states and donor agencies, and then actively supported by the UN. That support and active involvement constitutes collaboration. (…) The UN had no mandate to be in Iraq. A demand from Washington and/or London does not constitute a legitimate invitation. And puppet regimes cannot be recognized by the UN.

History of US Led Wars

The "Just War" theory as formulated by Richard Falk sets double standards (on ethical grounds): some US led imperial wars are "just" whereas others are "unjust".

On what grounds? The whole concept is devoid of a historical perspective. Crimes against humanity were committed in all US led wars including Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq and more recently in Haiti where UN "peace-keeping" troops have participated in the massacres of innocent civilians

The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 was not different from that of Iraq. It resulted in countless civilian casualties, it destroyed an entire country, while installing, with the UN's seal of approval, a US sponsored puppet regime.

The issue, however, does not pertain to Professor Falk's writings per se. The fundamental question is why did the Istanbul organizers invite Professor Falk to lead the Panel of Advocates, knowing that he was supportive of two previous US led wars, on "humanitarian grounds"? Why was this issue not raised by the participants and those who provided testimony?

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From the Truman Doctrine to the "War on Terrorism"

George F. Kennan had outlined in a 1948 State Department brief what was later described as the "'Truman doctrine." What this 1948 document conveys is continuity in US foreign policy, from "Containment" to "Pre-emptive" War. In this regard, the NeoCons Project for a New American Century (PNAC), should be viewed as the culmination of a post-war agenda geared towards establishing US military hegemony and global economic domination, as initially formulated under the "Truman Doctrine" at the outset of the Cold War.

Needless to say, successive Democratic and Republican administrations, from Truman to George W. Bush contributed to carrying out this military agenda of global conquest.

Kennan's writings point to the formation of the Anglo-American alliance, which currently characterizes the close relationship between Washington and London. It also points to the inclusion of Canada in the Anglo-American military axis. In this regard, Kennan also underscored the importance of preventing the development of a continental European power that could compete with the US.

With regard to Asia, including China and India, Kennan hinted to the importance of articulating a military solution: "The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better"

Moreover, from the outset of the Cold War era, Washington was also intent upon weakening the United Nations as a genuine international body, an objective that has largely been achieved under the Bush administration:

The initial build-up of the UN in U.S. public opinion was so tremendous that it is possibly true, as is frequently alleged, that we have no choice but to make it the cornerstone of our policy in this post-hostilities period. Occasionally, it has served a useful purpose. But by and large it has created more problems than it has solved, and has led to a considerable dispersal of our diplomatic effort. And in our efforts to use the UN majority for major political purposes we are playing with a dangerous weapon which may some day turn against us. This is a situation, which warrants most careful study and foresight on our part. (Kennan 1948)

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The wars in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq are part of the same "military road-map", responding to US strategic and economic objectives. These wars are intimately related from a geopolitical standpoint. Iran and Syria have already been identified as the next targets of the US led war.

There is a continuum in US-led military operations from the "Truman doctrine" to Bush's "war on terrorism".
The "Just war" theory serves to camouflage the nature of US foreign policy, while providing a human face to the invaders.

It undermines and weakens all forms of meaningful resistance to the US led war agenda. It is in contradiction with the basic tenets of international law including the Geneva Convention and the Nuremberg Charter. It can under no circumstances be part of a war crimes tribunal.

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