Friday, 21 April 2017
Yet even here, the implications of a direct link between CIA involvement and Račak are somewhat underplayed. Western media coverage in the first three months of 1999 amounted to nothing less than a rolling barrage of slick, turbocharged anti-Serbian propaganda. How on earth could Serbia make its case, when for instance Kofi Annan’s next-to-kneejerk condemnation of Račak as a “crime against humanity” coincided with the publication of R. Jeffrey Smith’s Washington Post article, “Serbs Tried To Cover Up Massacre”?
“The attack on this Kosovo village that led to the killing of 45 ethnic Albanian civilians 12 days ago came at the orders of senior officials of the Serb-led Belgrade government who then orchestrated a cover-up following an international outcry, according to telephone intercepts by Western governments.”
“The bodies of 45 ethnic Albanian civilians were discovered on a hillside outside the village by residents and international [i.e., Kosovo VerifiCIAtion Mission] observers shortly after the government forces withdrew.
“"We have to have a full, independent investigation of this to get to the bottom of it," a senior Clinton administration official told staff writer Dana Priest in Washington. "Those responsible have to be brought to justice."
“In a series of telephone conversations, Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic and Serbian Interior Ministry Gen. Sreten Lukic, expressed concern about international reaction to the assault and discussed how to make the killings look as if they had resulted from a battle between government troops and members of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army.
“The objective was to challenge claims by survivors -- later supported by international monitors -- that the victims had been killed in an execution-style massacre and to defuse pressures for a NATO military response.” (my emphasis)
On four separate occasions the article’s claims are backed up with references to “international inspectors”, “international monitors” and “diplomatic observers” – who we now know to have been US spies. As far as BBC coverage is concerned, most of its output from the time is unavailable, but it’s clear that by 2002 the “telephone intercept” was regarded as established fact:
“Mr Sainovic has been linked to the event which spurred the international community into action in Kosovo - the massacre of 45 Albanians in the village of Račak in January 1999. In a tapped telephone conversation Mr Sainovic told General Lukic to "go in heavy" in Račak, which was one of the places harbouring fighters from the Kosovo Liberation Army.”
…and certainly the UK’s Independent was just one of many major international news organisations which ran with the story immediately after it had been broken by the Washington Post:
“Belgrade has denounced the report as CIA propaganda, but the intercepts paint a detailed picture. Government forces were ordered to “go in heavy” at Račak after an ambush that killed three policemen a few days earlier. A deputy prime minister, Nikola Sainovic, the most senior government figure with responsibility for Kosovo, spoke to General Sreten Lukic of the Interior Ministry special forces during the assault and asked how many had been killed (22 at that moment, he was told); in ensuing days the two spoke several times about how to make the killings look as though they had happened in battle.” (my emphasis)
Importantly, the same warmongering claptrap was cited in a major report on Račak by Human Rights Watch, an NGO which wields huge influence on western public opinion (although it happens to be bankrolled by wealthy Saudi Arabians among others):
“A report in the Washington Post yesterday provided excerpts from telephone conversations between Serbian Interior Ministry General Sreten Lukic and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, who clearly ordered government security forces to “go in heavy” in Račak. The two officials later discussed ways that the killings might be covered up to avoid international condemnation.” (my emphasis)
Thus HRW effectively arrogated to itself an entitlement to undermine the sovereign right of an internationally recognised government to administer its own affairs in the way it sees fit:
“Human Rights Watch called on the Yugoslav government to allow an unhindered investigation by international forensics experts and the war crimes tribunal to determine the precise nature of events. Government authorities, directly implicated in the crime, cannot be trusted to conduct an impartial investigation.” (my emphasis)
Kofi Annan’s remarks to Nato’s North Atlantic Council on 28 January included the following:
“Let me conclude by congratulating you - a bit early - on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the alliance, and wish you all success in your deliberations on devising a new strategic concept for the next century.”
With hindsight, perhaps some kind of rebranding would have been appropriate. The North Atlantic Zone of Invulnerability, for instance, has a certain ring to it.
At about 9 o’clock in the evening I was invited into a restaurant near Cačak to join the table of some very engaging, funny Serbs. In good English they joked about Užice being in a hole with no escape, about their admiration for Millwall FC, and suggested that twenty four hours was already too long to spend in Slovenia. When one of them noticed my kilt he asked “Where are your golf clubs?” They told me for the first time about a trumpet festival which draws musicians from all over the world to the nearby town of Guča. On the more serious subject of Nato however, one of the others pointed out that Serbia’s experience was potentially that of any small, weak country, bullied by the rich and powerful. He also explained how, when he visited western Europe as a Yugoslav citizen in the 80s he would always be treated as an equal; but since Yugoslavia’s disintegration, to admit to being Serb meant automatically to be regarded as inferior. I told them I respected two people in the world above all others: Pope Benedict XVI (they weren’t impressed but humoured me) and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin – a markedly better received choice.”
Unable to find a motel they'd mentioned, towards midnight I settled for the derelict shell of a roadside café to sleep in. Setting off in my kilt again next day, some workmen called me over to share their lunch, I was given a free drink at a garden centre, and I was then spotted and invited to drink tea at the workplace of two of the same chaps I’d met on the previous evening. A colleague of theirs, about my age with great English, memorably referred to Russia as “a miracle”, and told me of his long-held wish to follow the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. An attendant produced a great big free sandwich at a petrol station further on, then I took refuge from heavy rain and changed out of my kilt in a café patronised by friendly students. That night I slept in an ideal little empty out-house, a few kilometres short of Kraljevo.
 Washington Post “SERBS TRIED TO COVER UP MASSACRE”, R. Jeffrey Smith, 28 January 1999
 BBC “Milosevic allies still at large”, Paul Anderson, 11 February 2002
 Independent “Belgrade's link to massacre”, Raymond Whitaker, 29 January 1999
 Human Rights Watch Report: “Yugoslav Forces Guilty of War Crimes in Račak, Kosovo”, 29 January 1999
 The following extract from Allan Little’s online Kosovo Question and Answer session of 15 March 2000 merits inclusion because from 1997 to early 1999, Little was the BBC’s Moscow correspondent.
“S. Plimmer, U.K: Given all we have heard about Russian objections to much of Nato’s actions in Kosovo, what is their role?”
“…the Russian role… was absolutely vital to the ending of the war. I think by the end of April the Nato allies understood the importance of getting the Russians on board. They completely disregarded Russian objections at the UN Security Council, they disregarded Russian objections at Rambouillet, but by the end of April they realised that they couldn't do it really, without the Russians. They invited the Russians back in. The Russians opened up a new diplomatic channel and a secret back channel which we talked about in our programme.”
The relevant part of ‘Moral [sic] Combat: Nato at War’ highlights Moscow’s relationship with Berlin:
Prof Karl Kaiser, advisor to German Chancellor: “It was not easy for Germany. This country was particularly interested in getting the war ended. There was a possibility that the crisis could evolve in a way that could end up in a tragedy.”
Little: “Nato now turned to an old adversary for help. The Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin opened a new diplomatic channel with his US and European counterparts. He saw it as an admission of Nato’s growing desperation.
Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russian Peace Envoy: “They were looking for a way out. They realised that it would not be over in two or three months.”
Little: “But it wasn't Chernomyrdin that mattered to Belgrade. Milosevic believed he had potential allies in the powerful old security establishment: the military, the secret police, and the successor to the KGB.”
[This latter was the FSB, led since July of the previous year by Mr Putin, the hitherto inconspicuous Leningrad/St Petersburg-born former KGB Lieutenant-Colonel, who spent much of his soviet era career in Dresden, East Germany. He was married to Lyudmilla Aleksandrovna, born and raised in Kaliningrad, formerly the German city of Königsberg.]
Prof Kaiser: “Chernomyrdin represented, so to speak, the government, President Yeltsin. But to Milosevic, whose conception of power and whose relationship with the security services was of a very special nature, it was extremely important that the security part of the Russian power structure said the same, in fact said even more.
Little: “Russian security forces co-operated with Germany to open a secret back-channel to Milosevic himself. It relied on the connections of an inconspicuous Swedish financier called Peter Castenfelt. Peter Castenfelt went to Moscow to meet the security forces. What he was told there would be crucial in bringing the war to an end.”
Prof Karl Kaiser: “Peter Castenfelt, having given advice to the Russian government, including Yeltsin, had the full trust of the Russian leadership, and the intelligence and security site there. He waited for a signal, the signal came, the Russian secret service took him to the border and there the Yugoslavs were waiting and a car was there and avoiding the bombs took him to Belgrade where he then met Milosevic.”
Returning to Allan Little’s extempore reply to Mr Plimmer;
“What was most interesting to me was the nature of the deal that was done in Moscow between Yeltsin's people, the political leadership, and the military. I don't know the answer to that but there was clearly a deal at the end of May. Yeltsin in some way bought off the military. They were very unhappy with what was happening in Kosovo, public opinion was extremely unhappy, it’s clear that Yeltsin felt very threatened and challenged both by the rising tide of public anger and by the strength that this gave the military, and he did something to strike a deal with the Russian military. The price that the Russian military paid was to send the signal to Milosevic that they weren’t going to come to his aid. What the military got in exchange is not clear. There is all sorts of speculation in Moscow but it is only that as far as I know.”
There was also speculation in Berlin. One of the things said in Germany at that time was that:
“Der ist ein spion in Königsberg.”
 The idea of pilgrimage to Jerusalem has a particularly strong allure to Serbs, among whom observance of the Muslim custom of adding the prefix ‘Hadji’ (denoting someone who has completed the ‘Hadj’) to the surnames of those who have visited the Božji grob (i.e. God’s Tomb; the Holy Sepulchre), is not unknown.