Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

The Kosovo question

From Mr John Laughland

Sir: When judging between me and Noel Malcolm ('Yes, there were mass killings', 4 December) your readers should be aware that Mr Malcolm is a declared advocate for the Kosovo Liberation Army, which in May he encouraged Nato to arm.

The KLA, which has had tens of thousands of men under arms since the spring of 1998, is a brutal drugs-running terrorist force which is even now carrying out ethnic cleansing by attacking and killing Serbs, Gypsies, Jews, Muslims and 'disloyal' Albanians. Whereas I have always claimed that there is right and wrong on both sides in the Kosovo conflict, Mr Malcolm omits to mention atrocities committed by Albanians, or the innocent men, women and children killed in Nato's attacks. He also continues to pretend that the Serb reprisals were unprovoked attacks directed against a purely passive civilian population.

Mr Malcolm's 'most devastating criticism' of me is to pretend that William Cohen, the US defense secretary, never suggested that 100,000 Albanians had been killed. This is what Cohen said.

Interviewer: 'You think there could be 100,000 people missing or having been murdered? As many?'

Cohen: 'I think that - they are missing. They may have been murdered. We have had reports that as many as 4,600 have been executed. But I suspect it's far higher than that.' (Italics added.)

The next day, media around the world reported as fact Mr Cohen's innuendo that 100,000 had been massacred, and even Mr Cohen's spokesman, Kenneth Bacon, subsequently confirmed that this was what his boss had meant to imply. Indeed, in April the state department was talking about 500,000 massacred, while comparisons between Slobodan Milosevic and Adolf Hitter abounded.

Even Mr Malcolm himself lent credence to these figures when he wrote in May that 'Slobodan Milosevic has unleashed a reign of terror [in Kosovo] ... that seems to have exceeded even his mass "cleansing" of eastern and northern Bosnia in 1992'. These early Bosnian campaigns are alleged to have killed some 50,000 Muslims. Mr Malcolm can try to doctor past news reports as much as he likes, including his own, but I inhabit a world where 2,108 dead does not equal 4,600, or 10,000, or 50,000 or 100,000, or 500,000.

If Mr Malcolm is right to correct me on Suva Reka, Podujevo and Kacanik, the fact remains that at 13 alleged mass-grave sites no bodies have been found, while the numbers discovered elsewhere are a fraction of those claimed. If grave sites have been tampered with, that does not prove that the Serbs did the tampering. Mr Malcolm is also wrong about the Trepca mines. On 11 October Kelly Moore, a spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, said that international forensic investigators had found no bones or bodies in the Trepca mine. She stressed that 'they found absolutely nothing ... not even animal bones'.

John Laughland

From Professor Mark Almond

Sir: It may be an amusing conceit to write about contemporary events as if they were ancient history, relying on secondary sources instead of making an on-the-spot inspection, but even a historian as eminent as Noel Malcolm risks undermining confidence in his historical judgment if he does so.

Noel Malcolm's Short History of Kosovo is the best account of the province from the mists of time until a generation or so ago. However, on the frequently murky recent politics of Kosovan Albanian-Serb relations, the Maoist-Mafia KIA organisation and Nato's role, his touch is less than sure.

In his long reply to John Laughland's trenchant critique of the modus operandi of the prosecution of The Hague War Crimes' Tribunal, Dr Malcolm does not mention his own observations and I feel sure that if he had been to Kosovo since the end of hostilities, he would not repeat the canard about mass destruction of 'hundreds of mosques'. On a recent journey across southern Kosovo to Prizren I saw only one badly damaged mosque, but every Orthodox church passed en route was either in ruins or under K-for protection. …

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