William Blum Denies Serbian Atrocities in Kosovo
By Roger Lippman
July 3, 2002
In his book Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower (Common Courage Press, 2000), author William Blum denies the well-documented Serbian expulsion of Kosovo Albanians from their villages that took place before NATO intervened in March 1999. Blum, a member of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, writes:
Perhaps the strangest aspect of the whole conflict is the collective amnesia that appears to have afflicted countless intelligent, well-meaning people, who are convinced that the US/NATO bombing took place after the mass forced deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was well underway; which is to say that the bombing was launched to stop this "ethnic cleansing". In actuality, the systematic forced deportations of large numbers of people did not begin until a few days after the bombing began, and was clearly a reaction to it, born of extreme anger and powerlessness.
But information on Serbian killings and displacements of Kosovo Albanians was readily available to anyone who would look for it, well before the NATO intervention. Following are some sources that conclusively refute Blum's assertions.
In 1998, starting more than a year before NATO intervened, Serbian forces engaged in widespread killings of Albanians, destruction of villages, and expulsions of the civilian population. (1)
Serbian authorities killed over 1900 Albanians, burned over 40,000 houses and flats, and looted extensively in the year before the NATO intervention. (2)
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 460,000 people had been expelled from their towns and villages before the beginning of NATO’s intervention. (3)
In its March 1999 report on the situation in Kosovo, the International Helsinki Foundation (IHF) observed:
The IHF has for 15 months drawn attention to the pattern of large scale attacks and reprisals of Serbian security forces and paramilitary militia. We believe that this pattern suggests a coherent policy aimed at a future partition of Kosovo following the decimation of its Albanian social and political fabric — where residents have not been killed or physically forced from their homes, they leave for fear of state terror that uses torture, mutilation, and degradation to achieve its ends. (4)
I presented the information above to Blum by e-mail in early April 2002. As of this writing he has not replied substantively, except to quibble with my references.
In his writings Blum sympathizes with the victims of aggressive U.S. policy. But if one purports to be a concerned humanitarian, one must also oppose atrocities committed by any government, including Serbia's, upon a victimized population. Instead, Blum attacks their victims and vilifies the liberation struggle of the people of Kosovo. I have tried in e-mail messages to get him to address these issues, but he does not respond.
There are many criticisms that can be made of the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia, but it is not helpful to ignore or falsify history in order to engage in that discussion. While Blum has done some useful work in detailing U.S. intervention worldwide, his discussion of Kosovo represents careless research and denial of Serbian war crimes. One would hope that he would be willing to engage in dialogue when the accuracy of his work is questioned.
(1) Report on Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law in Kosovo in 1998, No Peace Without Justice (pages 25-49), February 1999 (Word document)
(2) Report on the violation of human rights and freedoms in Kosova in the course of 1998, Council for The Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms (Prishtina), January 22, 1999.
(3) UNHCR Kosovo Crisis Update, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, March 30, 1999.
(4) Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, March 30, 1999.
The relevant portion is section 2. For the details supporting that section, look at earlier IHF Reports and Appeals. They are indexed from http://www.ihf-hr.org/documents/?sec_id=58. Select 1998 or 1999.
Other useful sources include: