The Economist wrote last week on the World's Newst State
, Kosovo (or Kosova
The biggest challenge [facing Kosovo] is the economy. The statistics brim with horrible figures, all unreliable and misleading. If 40% or 50% of Kosovars were really unemployed (as official figures say) and had no other source of income, then everyone would be starving. They are not."
I wonder what all these unemployed kids could be up to then? They can't all be in Germany as Gastarbeiter
or headed to New Jersey to work in their uncle's pizza shop, so what's really going on?
The Economist offers that: "Like the rest of the Balkans, Kosovo has a reputation . . . of being plagued by organised crime—a symptom of a weak state," but that's "now somewhat outdated."
Really? That's an interesting conclusion to come to. So, what is the answer to the seemingly inexplicable lack of poverty?
There are factories opening up and there are minerals
! All those 35,000 young Kosovar males of military age coming on to the job market every year can go to work making Chuck Taylors or they can become miners! "Kosovo is rich in all sorts of minerals which have been mined for centuries," whoopee!
Or, they can get a job with one of the "15 Families" and make some real money.
In 2000, Mother Jones
"For hundreds of years, Kosovar Albanian smugglers have been among the world's most accomplished dealers in contraband, aided by a propitious geography of isolated ports and mountainous villages. Virtually every stage of the Balkan heroin business, from refining to end-point distribution, is directed by a loosely knit hierarchy known as 'The 15 Families,' who answer to the regional clans that run every aspect of Albanian life. The Kosovar Albanian traffickers are so successful, says a senior U.S. State Department official, 'because Albanians are organized in very close-knit groups, linked by their ethnicity and extended family connections.'"
Something tells me this might have something to do with that "grey economy" going on in Kosovo and why no one is starving.
Here's the rub, though, the good folks of the KLA, or UCK, the Kosovar "freedom fighters" we assisted in expelling the Serbs in 1999 are up to their necks in the biz, too.
"The clans, in addition to their drug operations, maintained an armed brigade that gradually evolved into the KLA. In the early 1990s, as the Kosovar uprising in Yugoslavia grew, ethnic Albanian rebels there faced increased financial needs. The 15 Families responded by boosting drug trafficking and channeling money and weapons to the rebels in their clans."
And as if that weren't bad enough, the KLA's fight against the Serbs not only required money but military expertise, some of which came from not so savory characters, like OBL.
In March of 1999, the Senate's "Repubican Policy Committee
," led by Sen. Larry Craig (0f all people!) issued a policy paper on the KLA, it's drug problems, it's terrorist tactics and associations with al-Qaeda:
"The KLA's main staging area is in the vicinity of the town of Tropoje in northern Albania Tropoje, the hometown and current base of former Albanian president Sali Berisha
, a major KLA patron, is also a known center for Islamic terrorists connected with Saudi renegade Osama bin-Ladin . . . The following reports note the presence of foreign mujahedin (i.e., Islamic holy warriors) in the Kosovo war, some of them jihad veterans from Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Some of the reports specifically cite assets of Iran or bin-Ladin, or both, in support of the KLA."
Note: Sali Barisha, the president of Albania, got a big bear hug from W. just last year. He's now our good friend, too. Just like Hashim "The Snake" Thaci, the new president of Kosovo, who also has some interesting connections (but more on that later).
The Wall Street Journal Europe
reported in 2001:
"For the past 10 years, the most senior leaders of al Qaeda have visited the Balkans, including bin Laden himself on three occasions between 1994 and 1996. The Egyptian surgeon turned terrorist leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri has operated terrorist training camps, weapons of mass destruction factories and money-laundering and drug-trading networks throughout Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey and Bosnia. This has gone on for a decade. Many recruits to the Balkan wars came originally from Chechnya, a jihad in which Al Qaeda has also played a part. . .
The overnight rise of heroin trafficking through Kosovo -- now the most important Balkan route between Southeast Asia and Europe after Turkey -- helped also to fund terrorist activity directly associated with al Qaeda and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Opium poppies, which barely existed in the Balkans before 1995, have become the No. 1 drug cultivated in the Balkans after marijuana. Operatives of two al Qaeda-sponsored Islamist cells who were arrested in Bosnia on Oct. 23 were linked to the heroin trade, underscoring the narco-jihad culture of today's post-war Balkans."
[A slight aside about Bush's trip to Albania, where he was hailed as the second coming (I think this item is a telling commentary about our current ad hoc Kosovo policy):
"'At some point in time, sooner rather than later, you've got to say: Enough's enough -- Kosovo is independent,' Bush said. Responding to a reporter's question in Rome on Saturday, Bush had said a deadline should be set for a U.N. resolution on Kosovo's independence. 'In terms of the deadline, there needs to be one,' he said. 'This needs to come -- this needs to happen.' Asked Sunday about when he would like that deadline set, Bush seemed flummoxed. 'I don't think I called for a deadline,' he said. Told that he had, Bush responded: 'I did? What exactly did I say? I said, 'Deadline'? Okay, yes, then I meant what I said.'"]
It's good to know W. & Co. weren't satisfied with leaving us with just two major foreign policy disasters, there's still time for more!
Not to blame everything on the Bush administration, though, Kosovo is Clinton's baby.
In 1998 US special envoy to Kosovo Robert Gelbard said "'We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK is, without any questions, a terrorist group," but a short year later when testifying in front of Congress he said that while our new buddies of the UCK had committed 'terrorist acts,' it has 'not been classified legally by the U.S. Government as a terrorist organization.'"
See, by then, Clinton had decided to look the other way when it came to the drug dealing and al-Qaeda connections and use the UCK to be our hired ground troops while we fought the Serbs safely from 14,000 ft.
More to come on this issue at a future point.
Author's note: I realize that the information on the KLA's dirty dealings is mainly coming from the anti-Clinton types, because back then they were just piling on, but I also realize that a lot of the people supporting Clinton's Kosovo adventure were the very same folks who were also the loudest yelling for regime change in Baghdad at the same time. When they got their shot at power they FUBAR'd it up royally, too. And all the while the main beneficiaries of all this death and destruction were: Haliburton/KBR; the oil companies (the price of a barrel of oil in 2003 was $23); the drug dealers and OBL & Co. Coincidence? I think not. All of this leads me to believe which ever party gets into the White House come November will continue the status quo, because it's just so profitable! Too many people could lose too much if there was real "Change."
[Author's note: See much, mush more about this here