Letter to the Editor: Albanian Kosovars have nothing in common with Slovak Hungarians

Dear Sir,

As Jonathon Dando pointed out [Letters to the Editor, Volume 5, No. 17, May 3-9], one good quality about democracy is that a person is free to praise or criticize the actions of others. From this it follows that people who don't agree with American policies on Kosovo may still be critical of the far-right opposition Slovak National Party or the opposition HZDS party of former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, and may still be pro-western in their mentality.

Concerning the war in Kosovo, I think Dando presented good arguments [that attacking a sovereign nation is not the solution to the Kosovo crisis, that military intervention has not saved Kosovar lives and has instead created a refugee crisis, and that the NATO action may have unforeseen long-term consequences]. However, it is easier to analyse errors after they have occurred. Here are some more things to think about.

1. Obviously, NATO underestimated the cruelty which many Serbs have shown towards the Albanians. It is clear to me that NATO didn't want a war and wasn't ready for war, and that they weren't ready for mass expulsions either. Milosevic called their bluff. NATO's mistake was that if they wanted to play brinksmanship, they should have followed the strategy which was used by the international alliance against Iraq.

2. Is it possible that the Serbs intended to get rid of the Albanians all along? Given Serb policies and statements and their record in Croatia and Bosnia, the humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo was inevitable. Even if the United Nations and NATO had sat on their hands, blaming events on Serb hot-bloodedness, there still would have been mass murders in Kosovo and mass deportations. Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro would still have a crisis on their hands. Europe would still have to find a way out of this and pay for refugees.

4. I have known Kurd refugees from Iraq, and now I try to understand the mentality of a Kosovar Albanian. Why do these people want to become free? They live in fear. They don't have democratic rights. According to the United Nations observers, the police patrolled the streets in Kosovo like the Nazis patrolled the streets in Germany in the 30's. Of the hundreds of UN observers, not a single one reported of Albanians living in safety. A representative of the Kosovo district in the Serb parliament was a war criminal wanted for mass murders in Croatia and Bosnia. I guess that if I lived there I also would want to find a gun. I would want to protect my family.

It is the violent suppression of minorities which causes this kind of behavior, not the mere existence of such minorities. I don't think that Mr. Dando's comparison of Kosovar Albanians to Hungarians living peacefully in Slovakia is valid. As long as Hungarians in Slovakia enjoy conditions where they live in safety and are allowed the same freedoms as everyone else, then the issue is not the same here. But if a bunch of ultra-nationalists decided to make life miserable for Hungarian Slovaks, the natural response would be a demand to live in safety and freedom under someone else's flag.

I agree with Mr. Dando that no one wins in this conflict. Neither Serbia, nor the Albanians, nor the Macedonians, nor the Montenegrans, nor Europe. I would also say that if the NATO had done nothing but meet with Serb leaders in five star hotels around the world to discuss the matter, while radical masked gunmen killed and drove people out of their homes, no one would have won either.

One man who was a pacifist during the Second World War decided to join a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. He thought that he could save more lives by stopping a mad man from shooting at people than by running around with an ambulance trying to help those being shot at. It looks like the European Community of 26 countries is stuck with both providing ambulances and stopping the madman.

Bill Baker

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