Interview with Čedomir Prlinčević
Formerly the Chief Archivist of Kosovo and President of the Jewish Community of Priština; driven from Kosovo by KLA terrorists in 1999
Interviewer: Jared Israel
Translator: Petar Makara
[Posted 3, December 2000 * New introduction, 4 April 2006]
This is the second Emperor’s Clothes interview with Čedomir Prlinčević (pronounced Ched-o-meer Pra-linch-eh-vich).
Mr. Prlinčević, an historian, was chief archivist in Priština, capital of Kosovo, and head of the Jewish community there until, as he explained in his first Emperor’s Clothes interview, the terrorist KLA drove him and his family and thousands of others from their homes. Heavily armed British NATO forces stood by, watching the terror, ignoring the Yugoslavs’ pleas for help. You can read that interview at
In his second interview, Mr. Prlinčević gave an in-depth answer to my question, “Why did Albanians flee Kosovo in large numbers at the start of NATO bombing?”
The media claimed the Albanians were fleeing Serbian terror. NATO bombing was portrayed as a reaction to supposed Serb terror.
Some anti-Serb leftists, notably Noam Chomsky, made a fake criticism of NATO, saying that the Albanians had indeed fled Serbian terror, but this was NATO’s fault because the Serbs instituted their anti-Albanian reign of terror in response to the NATO bombing, as NATO knew they would. I say this was a fake criticism of NATO because Chomsky endorsed the NATO/media attack on the Serbs while posing as their defender. As in, “Yes! He beat his wife! But you drove him to it!” I argued with Chomsky about this. Our email exchange is published at
I and others in the antiwar movement thought the Albanians must have fled for the same reason many Serbs fled – to escape the bombs.
But Mr. Prlinčević says all these explanations were wrong. Something else was at work here: the manipulation by Western military and intelligence organizations of certain aspects of Albanian culture, both to create the terrorist apparatus known as the KLA and to stage public dramas, especially the mass Albanian flight in April 1999, which dramas were then used by the media to smear the Serbs as war criminals.
There’s a lot in this interview. As you will see, at first I had trouble understanding what Mr. Prlinčević was getting at. This was for two reasons: because I held onto the fixed idea that Albanian flight was a response to NATO bombing; and because Mr. Prlinčević was hesitant to speak frankly about Albanian culture, lest he appear culturally insensitive. But we cannot afford to ignore the features of clan-based cultures, whether in Kosovo or in the Middle East, that make them susceptible to manipulation by unscrupulous forces for nightmarish geopolitical goals. The points Mr. Prlinčević finally explained, and explained clearly, can help us understand, by extension, how military/intelligence forces can manipulate such groups around the world.
Editor, Emperor’s Clothes
Why Albanians Fled Kosovo During the 1999 NATO Bombing
Interview with Čedomir Prlinčević
Jared Israel: Why did so many Albanians leave Kosovo a few days after NATO began bombing? Was the Yugoslav Army attacking them?
Čedomir Prlinčević: No, not attacking them. In some areas the Army did relocate people, but not out of Kosovo. The idea was to move them further into Serbia. You must understand, the Army was presented with a most difficult situation. A major clash was expected between NATO and Yugoslav troops. This kind of NATO ground attack was a special threat in the area [of Kosovo] bordering Albania.
Under those circumstances, with the KLA [Kosovo Liberation Army] attacking inside Kosovo and from Albania and with NATO poised to invade and about to start bombing from airplanes, how could the Yugoslav Army hope to protect that border population?
You should understand, the Army had had an experience like this in Vukovar. That was in 1991. Civilians were trapped in a battlefield between the Army and the Croatian Ustaše [neo-fascist] secessionists. To avoid making the same mistake again, the Army wanted to empty a space 40 kilometers deep so people wouldn’t be trapped between the Army, NATO and the KLA.
At the same time there was a big increase in the number of KLA terrorists illegally crossing the Albanian border into Kosovo. In that situation there were bound to be some unhappy events. It was a most difficult situation, you see.
Israel: Was this at the beginning of the bombing?
Prlinčević: Yes, and earlier too. During this period, the Yugoslav government tried to organize local Albanian Crisis Centers to distribute humanitarian aid, and also a Headquarters to work with the Yugoslav Army, organizing ethnic Albanians who lived in the danger zone to move deeper into Serbia, away from potential fighting. But those ethnic Albanians who did cooperate with the Army became a target for the KLA. Many were assassinated.
Israel: Were these Crisis Centers located all over Kosovo or just near the Albanian border?
Prlinčević: Mostly near the border. The Crisis Centers distributed humanitarian help from all over Serbia. For example there was food and building materials to repair homes from the North, from Vojvodina. People sent blankets, food, clothing, everything.
Ordinary Western citizens misunderstand Albanian culture
Israel: Getting back to the Albanian exodus during the bombing, here’s the question: if the Yugoslav Army didn’t throw the Albanians out, why did so many leave? It’s true we don’t know the exact number. The Western media has given all sorts of figures, from 150,000 to over a million, which is slightly ridiculous – but certainly many thousands did leave. Why? To escape the bombs?
Prlinčević: Not exactly.
Israel: Not exactly?
Prlinčević: No. The reason they left and went out of Serbia, to Albania or Macedonia, is rooted in the cultural history of Albanian people living in Kosovo. Because of their mindset, which I think people in the West thoroughly misunderstand, the KLA had a big impact when it attacked and executed Albanians who cooperated with the government.
Israel: I would have thought such attacks would turn them against the KLA.
Prlinčević: No, no. They led the ethnic Albanian population to stop cooperating with the Yugoslav government and start cooperating with the KLA.
Israel: Doesn’t a guerilla movement need to treat ordinary people decently to get support?
Prlinčević: Yes, but the KLA was never what you mean by a guerilla movement. It was a foreign-organized group of terrorists delivering a message. The so-called ‘International Community,’ that is, NATO, had trumpeted that they had plans for the Albanians, that they would give them independence and a Greater Albania, make them a major power in southern Europe. So there was this intense propaganda from the West for ten years and at the same time the crisis in the Albanian community was quite pronounced. Even before the bombing, some Albanian representatives asked the Yugoslav government to allow their people to form convoys and go toward Macedonia, basically to save themselves from this crisis.
Israel: What crisis? The fighting between the Yugoslav Army and the KLA?
Prlinčević: Not exactly, although this fighting did have a big effect. So did the bombing, which started a bit later; it had a critical psychological effect. But this was related to the KLA. You see the KLA was trying to fulfill their own overall goals. To achieve these goals, which involved proving to the West they could deliver, they told the ethnic Albanians to leave. And this was not a polite request. It was an order. Do you see? At the same time the KLA, their special units, and then a bit later NATO bombers, were attacking traffic on important roads that led to inner Serbia.
Israel: And this influenced the Albanians?
Prlinčević: Yes. It dissuaded them from going further into Serbia and it also told them: Yugoslavia can’t help you. Meanwhile the United States was training their KLA proxies in Albania including in how to wage this sort of psychological warfare, to deliver the message that Albanians should temporarily vacate Serbia.
Israel: So you’re saying that this culture, this Kosovo Albanian culture, had a strong tendency to respond to carrots and sticks?
Prlinčević: That’s it. Now you’re beginning to understand.
Israel: And the U.S. was telling Albanians, “We’ll help you secede; we’ll make you a star. But if you reject our help we’ll kill you.” Is that it?
Prlinčević: Your question is complex. I’ll have to give a long answer.
Prlinčević: Historically, the Kosovo Albanians were never involved in frontal battles. Instead, they had groups of warriors called kachatzi, small bands of fighters that used hit and run tactics. But they never kept large scale weapons to use in frontline war. Part of the purpose of the Western training was to get the KLA to surpass small group combat and become an army able to carry out NATO’s commands throughout Kosovo. NATO’s foot soldiers.
To this end, one KLA group left Kosovo and went to Albania where they were trained by the Americans, and by the way, they became the core of what is now called the Kosovo Protection Corps. They marched back into Kosovo with NATO in June 1999 and seized government offices and facilities and drove out hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma [‘Gypsies’], Jews, pro-Yugoslav Albanians and others.
Israel: You’re saying that after NATO took over Kosovo these KLA types were under orders to drive out those people?
Prlinčević: Yes. We can see the results of the action of exactly those forces today. NATO planned the expulsion of 350,000 people. Without NATO’s approval and instructions, these KLA, whom NATO had trained and brought back to Kosovo, would never have attempted this mass expulsion. Impossible. NATO was eliminating a potentially rebellious population.
And remember, they didn’t expel only non-Albanians. Perhaps the most important group was Albanians who in any official capacity had helped the Yugoslav government. They had to go. NATO wanted the ethnic Albanians who stayed in Kosovo to be without a Yugoslav alterna