Saturday, January 21, 2006

Death of Rugova Reminder of Kosovo Fiasco

Remember Kosovo? Back in 1999, NATO bombed Serbia back to the stone age to end what we were all told was a brutal Serb repression of the Kosovo Albanians living in this scrap of land somewhere far off in a corner of the world called the Balkans.

Well on Saturday, the "Ghandi of the Balkans", as the media dubbed Ibrahim Rugova, died at 61 from lung cancer; he was a chain smoker. This bumbling professor, and poet, best known for his signature scarves, worked tirelessly to free his Albanian brothers from Serb oppression, or so reads the official hagiography likely to take up lots of print in the West. Ironically, it's not what Rugova did, but what he didn't do or say that made him a hero to his people. In a land where gunrunners, drug traffickers and sundry miscreants hold power, it's no wonder that Rugova, in comparison, looked like a saint. Oh yeah, he was also a Western stooge, patsy, quisling, pick your pejorative.

But still better, nevertheless, than the KLA retreads who have stashed away their Kalashnikovs and fatigues and taken up briefcases and suits to become respectable politicians. The KLA was once called a terrorist organization -- involved in everything from gun-running, drug trafficking and prostitution -- by the State Department but became respectable rebels when pursuing Western goals namely to weaken what was left of Yugoslavia. Many of their crimes have been forgotten, or airbrushed away. Not all. Kosovo's former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj is one of the few former KLA leaders to face war crime charges at The Hague, 37 of 'em, from murder to rape. Back at home in Kosovo, however, he's a 'hero."

Today, Kosovo is a mob-run anarchical playground, with U.N. soldiers and bureaucrats sitting on the sidelines dazed and confused wondering what they have wrought and trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there.... sort of.

Betcha didn't know the U.S. has a huuuge military camp-cum-community in Kosovo. Yep. It's called Camp Bondsteel. And it's immense, 775-acres big. Houses up to 5,000 U.S. soldiers has gyms, a mall and a friggen Burger King! The ultimate military suburb.

And wouldn't you know it, it also happens to be built in the path of the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian Oil (Ambo) Trans-Balkan pipeline, the pipeline connecting the oil-rich Caspian Sea region to the rest of the world. The initial feasibility project for Ambo was done by KBR, that's Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of everyone's favorite corporation -- especially Dick Cheney -- Haliburton. By the way, KBR built Camp Bondsteel.

There are some other goodies in Kosovo as well, namely the vast Trepca mines, some of the richest mineral deposits in the world. After Hitler captured them in 1940, the mines supplied German munition factories with 40 percent of their lead. Miraculously, during 37,000 sorties by NATO bombers in 1999 Trepca remained untouched, whereas other branches of industry were destroyed with deadly precision. This is major war bootie. Shortly after the invasion, NATO troops swooped in, took control of Trepca, which were later turned over to the Washington Group, a large U.S. defense contractor with partners in France and Sweden. At least the looting gets spread out a bit.

Like Trepca, the U.N. has ruled Kosovo since 1999, and now is about to go through the theatrics of 'debating' Kosovo's future. The Albanians, the Europeans and Americans want it yanked away from Serbia. There's only one problem some Serbs are still left and some allowances will have to be made to them. Whatever results, a few things are clear: one, Kosovo will be forever dominated by the West (read U.S.) ; two, Camp Bondsteel ain't going nowhere and will serve as a perfect means to project U.S. power not only in the Balkans but beyond, like the Caspian basin, three the mineral riches Kosovo does have will be safely in the hands of the Western corporations. Aren't humanitarian missions fun?

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