U.S. media have given more attention to hearsay allegations of Julian Assange’s sexual encounters with two talkative Swedish women than to an official report accusing Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci of running a criminal enterprise which, among almost every other crime in the book, has murdered prisoners in order to sell their vital organs on the world market.
The report by Swiss liberal Dick Marty was mandated two years ago by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Not to be confused with the European Union, the Council of Europe was founded in 1949 to promote human rights, the rule of law and democracy and has 47 member states (compared to 27 in the EU).
While U.S. legal experts feverishly try to trump up charges they can use to demand extradition of Assange to the United States, to be duly punished for discomfiting the empire, U.S. State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley piously reacted to the Council of Europe allegations by declaring that the United States will continue to work with Thaci since “any individual anywhere in the world is innocent until proven otherwise”.
Everyone, that is, except, among others, Bradley Manning who is in solitary confinement although he has not been found guilty of anything. All the Guantanamo prisoners have been considered guilty, period. The United States is applying the death penalty on a daily basis to men, women and children in Afghanistan and Pakistan who are innocent until proven dead.
Embarrassed supporters of Thaci’s little self-proclaimed state dismiss the accusations by saying that the Marty Report does not prove Thaci’s guilt.
Of course it doesn’t. It can’t. It is a report, not a trial. The report was mandated by the PACE precisely because judicial authorities were ignoring evidence of serious crimes. In her 2008 memoir in Italian La caccia. Io e i criminali di guerra (The Hunt. Me and the War Criminals), the former prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Carla del Ponte, complained that she had been prevented from carrying out a thorough investigation of reports of organ extraction from Serb and other prisoners carried out by the “Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)” in Albania. Indeed, rumors and reports of those atrocities, carried out in the months following the occupation of Kosovo by NATO-led occupation forces, have been studiously ignored by all relevant judicial authorities.
The Marty report claims to have uncovered corroborating evidence, including testimony by witnesses whose lives would be in danger if their names were revealed. The conclusion of the report is not and could not be a verdict, but a demand to competent authorities to undertake judicial proceedings capable of hearing all the evidence and issuing a verdict.
Skepticism about atrocities
It is always prudent to be skeptical about atrocity stories circulating in wartime. History shows many examples of totally invented atrocity stories that serve to stir up hatred of the enemy during wartime, such as the widely circulated World War I reports of the Germans “cutting off the hands of Belgian babies”. Western journalists and politicians abandoned all prudent skepticism regarding the wild tales that were spread of Serb atrocities used to justify the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia. Personally, my skepticism extends to all such stories, regardless of the identity of the alleged perpetrators, and I have refrained for years from writing about the Albanian organ transplant stories for that reason. I never considered Carla del Ponte a reliable source, but rather a gullible and self-aggrandizing woman who had been selected by the U.S. sponsors of the ICTY because they thought they could manipulate her. No doubt the sponsors of the Tribunal she was working for, which was set up by and for the United States and NATO allies in order to justify their choice of sides in the Yugoslav civil wars, would have called a halt before she could stray from her assigned path to stick her nose into crimes committed by America’s Albanian protégés. But that does not prove that the alleged crimes actually were committed.
However, the Marty report goes beyond vague rumors to make specific allegations against the KLA’s “Drenica group” led by Hashim Thaci. Despite refusal of Albanian authorities to cooperate, there is ample proof that the KLA operated a chain of “safe houses” on Albanian territory during and after the 1999 NATO war against Serbia, using them to hold, interrogate, torture and sometimes murder prisoners. One of these safe houses, belonging to a family identified by the initial “K”, was cited by Carla del Ponte and media reports as “the yellow house” (since painted white). To quote the Marty Report (paragraph 147):
“There are substantial elements of proof that a small number of KLA captives, including some of the abducted ethnic Serbs, met their death in Rripe, at or in the vicinity of the K. house. We have learned about these deaths not only through the testimonies of former KLA soldiers who said they had participated in detaining and transporting the captives while they were alive, but also through the testimonies of persons who independently witnessed the burial, disinterment, movement and reburial of the captives’ corpses (…)”
An undetermined but apparently small number of prisoners were transferred in vans and trucks to an operating site near Tirana international airport, from which fresh organs could be flown rapidly to recipients.
“The drivers of these vans and trucks – several of whom would become crucial witnesses to the patterns of abuse described – saw and heard captives suffering greatly during the transports, notably due to the lack of a proper air supply in their compartment of the vehicle, or due to the psychological torment of the fate that they supposed awaited them” (paragraph 155).
Captives described in the report as “victims of organised crime” included “persons whom we found were taken into central Albania to be murdered immediately before having their kidneys removed in a makeshift operating clinic” (paragraph 156).
These captives “undoubtedly endured a most horrifying ordeal in the custody of their KLA captors. According to source testimonies, the captives ‘filtered’ into this final subset were initially kept alive, fed well and allowed to sleep, and treated with relative restraint by KLA guards and henchmen who would otherwise have beaten them up indiscriminately” (paragraph 157).
“The testimonies on which we based our findings spoke credibly and consistently of a methodology by which all of the captives were killed, usually by a gunshot to the head, before being operated on to remove one or more of their organs. We learned that this was principally a trade in ‘cadaver kidneys’, i.e. the kidneys were extracted posthumously; it was not a set of advanced surgical procedures requiring controlled clinical conditions and, for example, the extensive use of anaesthetic” (paragraph 162).
Skepticism about “liberation”
The Marty report also recalls what is common knowledge in Europe, namely that Hashim Thaci and his “Drenica Group” are notorious criminals. While “liberated” Kosovo sinks ever further into poverty, they have amassed fortunes in various aspects of illicit trade, notably enslaving women for prostitution and controlling illegal narcotics across Europe.
“Notably, in confidential reports spanning more than a decade, agencies dedicated to combating drug smuggling in at least five countries have named Hashim Thaci and other members of his “Drenica Group” as having exerted violent control over the trade in heroin and other narcotics” (paragraph 66).
“Similarly, intelligence analysts working for NATO, as well as those in the service of at least four independent foreign Governments, made compelling findings through their intelligence-gathering related to the immediate aftermath of the conflict in 1999. Thaci was commonly identified, and cited in secret intelligence reports, as the most dangerous of the KLA’s ‘criminal bosses’” (paragraph 67).
The leftists who fell hook, line and sinker for the “war to rescue the Kosovars from genocide” propaganda that justified NATO’s debut as aggressive bomber/invader in 1999 readily accepted the identification of the “Kosovo Liberation Army” as a national liberation movement deserving their support. Isn’t it part of romantic legend for revolutionaries to rob banks for their cause? Leftists assume such criminal activities are merely a means to the end of political independence. But what if political independence is in reality the means to sanctuarize criminal activities?
Assassinating policemen, the KLA specialty prior to being given Kosovo by NATO, is an ambiguous activity. Is the target “political oppression”, as claimed, or simply law enforcement?
What have Thaci and company done with their “liberation”? First of all, they allowed their American sponsors to build a huge military base, Camp Bondsteel, on Kosovo territory, without asking permission from anyone. Then, behind a smokescreen of talk of building democracy, they have terrorized ethnic minorities, eliminated their political rivals, fostered rampant crime and corruption, engaged in electoral fraud, and ostentatiously enriched themselves thanks to the criminal activities that constitute the real economy.
The Marty Report recalls what happened when Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, under NATO threat of wiping out his country, agreed to withdraw from Kosovo and allow a U.N. force called KFOR (quickly taken over by NATO) to occupy Kosovo.
“First, the withdrawal of the Serb security forces from Kosovo had ceded into the hands of various KLA splinter groups, including Thaci’s “Drenica Group”, effectively unfettered control of an expanded territorial area in which to carry out various forms of smuggling and trafficking” (paragraph 84).
“KFOR and UNMIK were incapable of administering Kosovo’s law enforcement, movement of peoples, or border control, in the aftermath of the NATO bombardment in 1999. KLA factions and splinter groups that had control of distinct areas of Kosovo (villages, stretches of road, sometimes even individual buildings) were able to run organised criminal enterprises almost at will, including in disposing of the trophies of their perceived victory over the Serbs” (paragraph 85).
“Second, Thaci’s acquisition of a greater degree of political authority (Thaci having appointed himself Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of Kosovo) had seemingly emboldened the “Drenica Group” to strike out all the more aggressively at perceived rivals, traitors, and persons suspected of being “collaborators” with the Serbs” (paragraph 86).
In short, NATO drove out the existing police, turning the province of Kosovo over to violent gangsters. But this was not an accident. Hashim Thaci was not just a gangster who took advantage of the situation. He had been hand-picked by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and her right-hand man, James Rubin, for the job.
“You ought to be in movies…”
Until February 1999, Hashim Thaci’s only claim to fame was in Serbian police records, where he was wanted for various violent crimes. Then suddenly, at a French chateau called Rambouillet, he was thrust into the world spotlight by his American handlers. It is one of the most bizarre twists to the whole tragi-comic Kosovo saga.
Ms Albright was eager to use the ethnic conflict in Kosovo to make a display of U.S. military might by bombing the Serbs, in order to reassert U.S. dominance of Europe via NATO. But some European NATO country leaders thought it politically necessary to make at least a pretense of seeking a negotiated solution to the Kosovo problem before bombing. And so a fake “negotiation” was staged at Rambouillet, designed by the United States to get the Serbs to say no to an impossible ultimatum, in order to claim that the humanitarian West had no choice but to bomb.
For that, they needed a Kosovo Albanian who would play their game.
Belgrade sent a large multi-ethnic delegation to Rambouillet, ready to propose a settlement giving Kosovo broad autonomy. On the other side was a purely ethnic Albanian delegation from Kosovo including several leading local intellectuals experienced in such negotiations, including the internationally recognized leader of the Albanian separatist movement in Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova who, it was assumed, would lead the “Kosovar” delgation.
But to the general surprise of observers, the seasoned intellectuals were shoved aside, and leadership of the delegation was taken over by a young man, Hashim Thaci, known in law-enforcement circles as “the Snake”.
The American stage-managers chose Thaci for obvious reasons. While the older Kosovo Albanians risked actually negotiating with the Serbs, and thus reaching an agreement that would prevent war, Thaci owed everything to the United States, and would do as he was told. Moreover, putting a “wanted” criminal at the top of the delegation was an affront to the Serbs that would help scuttle negotiations. And finally, the Thaci image appealed to the Americans’ idea of what a “freedom fighter” should look like.
Albright’s closest aide, James Rubin, acted as talent scout, gushing over Thaci’s good looks, telling him he was so handsome he should be in Hollywood. Indeed, Thaci did not look like a Hollywood gangster, Edward G. Robinson style, but a clean-cut hero with a vague resemblance to the actor Robert Stack. Joe Biden is said to have complained that Madeleine Albright was “in love” with Thaci. Image is everything, after all, especially when the United States is casting its own Pentagon superproduction, “Saving the Kosovars”, in order to redesign the Balkans, with its own “independent” satellite states.
The pretext for the 1999 war was to “save the Kosovars” (the name assumed by the Albanian population of that Serbian province, to give the