Siol nan Gaidheal

Who are the KLA ?

Prior to the NATO bombing of Kosovo the area was one of the most ethnically diverse in the world, with 26 different ethnic groups represented in its make-up. Since then a vast humanitarian disaster has unfolded which the U.N. describes as "unique" and of "of an entirely new kind" caused by the NATO bombing. As winter approaches, seeping into the debris and bones of a broken Serbia imperilling hundreds of thousands of internally displaced refugees, we see the symbolic end of the ethnic diversity of Kosovo as the KLA drive out the small Jewish community of Kosovo, who now have fled to Belgrade as their premises in Pristina have been appropriated by the KLA for distribution amongst their own. Yet the interests of the KLA were seen to coincide with those of NATO who were avowedly fighting to avert the worst excesses of nationalism, excesses typified by recent KLA action. In trying to understand this confused picture we come closer to understanding the extent to which the International Community, or rather those who presume to act in its name, have any coherent attitude towards nationalism. Central to this task lies the question - who are the KLA ? The answer to this question can not be found in the mainstream media, for although we live in a world where widespread surveillance and information dissemination by the electronic media would seem to render the truth immediately available, we find in fact that this apparatus is used rather to reinforce stereotypes, distract, trivialise, distort public agendas and perpetuate false beliefs necessary to the status quo. A vivid example of this was provided by the false testimony that Iraqi soldiers pitched babies out of incubators in Kuwait a few days in advance of the Gulf War, which was used to whip up enthusiasm for the ensuing bombardment. In the current context under discussion another analogous example is the media contrivance of the massacre at Raeak, where Serb action against the KLA in dug in positions above the village was portrayed the following day to the media as a massacre of civilians from the village which had at the time of the action actually been deserted. Once again this elicited the desired knee-jerk response from the public in advance of an allied offensive.

The origins of the KLA are suitably complex, involving a variety of national interests, drugs, extortion and religious fundamentalism. The interests of Albania are represented by the explicit call for the establishment of a Greater Albania incorporating Kosovo, much of Macedonia, parts of Bosnia as well as Albania as she now stands. This received a significant boost with the fall of anti-Hoxha forces in the mid-nineties in Albania, freeing surplus ordnance for the KLA. German interests were also expressed in the provision of training conducted by German special forces. The Balkans are an area where the Germans have been systematically trying to increase their influence for the last decade. The familiar sight of KLA personnel wearing German army fatigues on the nightly news across the world is a result of this contact. The continuing appeasement of Turkey in the quest for the regional stability necessary for oil pipelines also serves the fortunes of their co-religionist brethren the KLA. Iran has also articulated its interests primarily in the provision of training.

The interests of the Turks in the affairs of the KLA are however more than the simply national. The KLA are a key link in the heroin supply of Europe. Initially from the Lebanon, then from Turkey itself and to a lesser extent from Afghanistan, once opiate production in the Beka'a Valley subsided, heroin has flooded into Europe through the hands of the KLA. Apologists have excused this activity by noting that liberation armies often have to fund themselves by these means. Against this assertion let us place the request to his Turkish suppliers of Agim Gashi of Pristina, who was the major drug dealer in Milan, not to interrupt supply during the holy month of Ramadan so that they could "submerge the Christian infidels in drugs". This strikes one as above and beyond the call of duty. The proceeds of Gashis trade went to supply the KLA with arms.

The KLA have also funded themselves by enlisting the support of Albanians in diaspora throughout the world but primarily in Germany. This usually takes the form of a request for a contribution "for the homeland" levied amongst those who still have relatives living in Kosovo, on the understanding that those relatives will be punished for any lack of generosity. It is interesting to note in this context the number of Kosovar Albanian refugees who fled KLA persecution rather than Serb persecution. A U.S. senate report details that the numbers of Albanians who fled Kosovo to go deeper into Serbia, rather than flee the Serbs, was around a third of the total Albanian refugees, and that the exodus did not in general favour any particular region as a destination, refugee numbers being proportional to the length of border with and number of available exits into the destination region.

The role of religion is pre-figured in the comment attributed to the KLA about Ramadan. In the early nineties Iran identified the Tirana - Pristina axis as the most suitable bridgehead for Islam in Europe and have acted on that basis since. The sudden exposure of post-communist Albania to western consumerist images, and disillusionment with the unregulated activities of, among others, the Apulian mafia and the Russian mafiya, fledgling Montenegrin organised crime, as well as the free hand to trade in arms, drugs and high tech equipment from Europe shipped through the Brindisi-Tirana axis, controlled by Sacra Corona Unita, created a situation ideal for proselytising for Islam amongst an impoverished population keen to adhere to simple virtues. Sunni Islamist association such as Al-Haramain and Al-Mufawaq in reality recruit Albanian mujihadeen. Direct Iranian funding for explicitly achieving the independence of Kosovo commenced in Autumn 1997. This coincides with the KLA's own avowal of becoming a properly constituted liberation army rather than a loose affiliation of guerilla bands, with the consequent organisation of divisions and theatres of operations. From this point the Leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo, Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, became a hinderance to them and their planned radicalisation and islamicisation of Kosovo, and they have plotted his assasination safe in the knowledge that the West would blame Belgrade, where he now lives unmolested. It is also of note that the brother of Muhammed al-Zawahiri, the head of the KLA Special Operations Unit (their mobile response force, as opposed to those units they have positioned in the locale where they were raised) is Aymen al-Zawahiri, the military commander for Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.

The KLA lies enmeshed in the Iranian intelligence network in the Balkans and Italy whose resilience was demonstrated by an attempt on the life of the Pope in spring 1997 which was aborted only after a widespread security alert, an operation whose key personnel were former mujihadeen and veterans of the Bosnian war. These operations are authorised at the highest level in Tehran by the Iranian Special Operations Commitee.

Throughout this affair one can perceive many currents often flowing in opposite directions. On the one hand there is the brutal imposition of an ultimatum on a prominent but weak power who is maintained along with others to be similarly used when a media distraction is required. On the other hand the failure of the KLA to meet the dealine for decommissioning set by NATO is cordially met with the comment that they must obviously require more time to comply properly, a luxury not afforded to their opponents. On the one hand there is the attack on nationalism based on the attitude best typified by U.S. under-secretary of state Strobe Talbott's assertions of the obsolescence of the nation in the 21st century, an attitude only an American would articulate given a culture defined entirely by a superficial amalgam of borrowings ultimately finding expression in the theme park theory of history and a set of iconic meat products named after German cities. On the other hand one finds a U.S. administration whose short-sighted foreign policies are dictated entirely by short- term domestic expediencies regarding presidential perjury, adultery and the need to distract attention from the Cox committee's report on the scandalous extent of Chinese financial involvement with and high level intelligence penetration of the White House. The most prominent supra-national interests involved which might seem to justify Talbott's claims are the dimly perceptible covert deals between American and European capital, organised crime and Islamic fundamentalism which trickle down the food chains on all sides as the familiar series of betrayals, and which hardly recommend the abandonment of national interests as guiding principles.

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