The USA and the Kosovo question (1): Support from an "accidental Congressman"

Dragan Bisenić
Source: Demostat

Writing for Kosovo Online: Dragan Bisenic, journalist

At the beginning of the 70s, the potential of Kosovo and the "Albanian question" for the fate of Yugoslavia was understood in the USA. Some assumptions were so real that they literally came true two decades later. An extensive analysis by the RAND Corporation, which operates as a part of the US Air Force, conducted in 1971 marked secessionist-oriented regions as well as when the US could stand behind such secession. It was Kosovo that was designated as such a region that, under certain conditions, could receive US support, not only as Kosovo but also as "Greater Albania". "If the Albanians make some kind of promise that they will be ready to resist Soviet intervention, the US Government might consider providing political support and even limited military aid to 'Greater Albania,'" the study said. During that time, it is assumed that there will be a bloody civil war in the "truncated Yugoslavia".

Potential "northern" candidates for secession are Croatia and Slovenia. In the "south", the most likely secessionist regions are Macedonia and Kosovo. The former is an unlikely attractive candidate for US efforts to help it establish independence, even without the rift between its Macedonians and Albanians.

Kosovo, given its current national composition, is likely to be divided by conflict between its Albanians, on the one hand, and the Serbs and Montenegrins, on the other. If, on the other hand, in the meantime, the very large total Albanian population continues to increase, and the emigration of the Serbs and Montenegrins from the province continues to a greater extent, which would result in a much more homogeneous population, secessionist Kosovo could be internally united. "If Kosovo tries to secede from Yugoslavia, then its most likely goal will not be independence but, despite the disparity of internal systems, unification with Albania," RAND estimated. Although Tirana might have strong reservations about such a union in a period of crisis, fearing that it might undermine its orthodox communist system and make Albania more vulnerable to Soviet attack, it could not easily reject the formation of a Greater Albania. Even if it still enjoys the political support of China, that enlarged country could go through the experience of Yugoslavia in 1949 and ask for Western support and assistance.

"Under those circumstances, if the Albanians make some kind of promise that they will be ready to resist Soviet intervention, the US Government might consider providing political support and even limited military aid to Greater Albania. In any case, it could treat the Soviet threat to Greater Albania as an incentive to coordinate diplomatic and political measures with China that are directed against Moscow," the study says.

The secessionist efforts of at least one of the above-mentioned regions could succeed, while the bloody civil war would continue to be waged in the truncated Yugoslavia. "If the bloodshed continued too long and the breakup of Yugoslavia proved irreversible, the United States would have no option but to accept the Soviet decision to intervene and restore order, either at the request of the surviving legitimate federal authorities or at the initiative of the Soviets. In that unlikely but conceivable "worst case," the US Government should expect the Soviets to support the idea of Yugoslav integrity and seek to reincorporate all secessionist entities into Yugoslavia. The survival of the secessionist entities would require firm US and NATO security guarantees," the analysis points out.

If one takes into account the potential of the Kosovo problem for Yugoslavia, then it was only a matter of time before it would take shape as a burning issue of US policy in Europe. As a candidate of the Republican Party, Joseph DioGuardi (1940) was narrowly elected to the US Congress in November 1984. According to his own testimony, the turning point for him came when the following year, in September, on his 45th birthday, he "discovered his" Albanian roots, when the Kosovar Albanians who supported his election heard his father, Joe Sr., speaking Albanian with his younger sister, which reminded him of his blood connection with the Kosovar Albanians.” That blood connection and that discovery meant a lot to DioGuardi and were so strong that they overcame the fact that, according to his own admission, his Albanian origins date back to the 15th century. "DioGuardi, who was in Congress from 1984 to 1988, realized that his father, who had immigrated to the US from a village in southern Italy, was not really of Italian descent, but descended from Christian Albanians who had moved to Italy in the 15th century to avoid the occupation of the country by the Ottoman Turks," as reported many years later.

Why did US policy towards Yugoslavia follow the obscure accountant Joseph DioGuardi, and not the generations of top US politicians and diplomats who made the entire 20th century truly American, and Yugoslavia a country in whose existence the US policy, diplomacy, security, and money were invested? Such a man, who was called an "accidental Congressman", managed to overcome the entire US "establishment", the policy of Hamilton Fish Armstrong and the Council on Foreign Relations, several US Presidents, William Donovan, the founder of the CIA and convince them that support for the Kosovo Albanians is more important than support Yugoslavia, that the Albanians in Kosovo were exploited even though the whole country provided them with funds for development or by having their own University, media, books, Academy, guaranteed rights and freedoms that did not exist even in their home country, Albania, and at the same time discredits all those who supported the unity of Yugoslavia, from Henry Kissinger to Richard Holbrooke?

DioGuardi carefully dosed all his performances fueling prejudices about "centralist", "conservative", and "pro-Russian Serbs". Pretending that he was only interested in "equal respect for human rights" and by no means in the "disintegration of Yugoslavia", DioGuardi eventually came to admit that he had been advocating for an independent Kosovo for 15 years and that without his advocacy there would be no independent Kosovo. DioGuardi will have the opportunity to present his motives and his platform many times to members of Congress and the Senate when he will talk about "Slavic hatred of Albanians" and "Slavic tyranny over Albanians", and not just about the Serbs as one of the Slavic peoples. He was joined in this by two other influential senators, Bob Dole and Tom Lantos.

Already in June 1986, Senator Robert Dole proposed a resolution condemning the SFRY for failing to "fully protect the rights of the Albanians" in accordance with the Helsinki Accords, and asking the Government of the SFRY to "ensure basic rights and the right to free expression of Albanians".

In explaining this initiative, Dole described that two million Albanians live within the borders of the SFRY and represent the third largest group within Yugoslavia, several hundred Albanians were killed in local violence and the Government's attempts to control them, there is evidence that several thousand were arrested because they "expressed their opinion peacefully, and that many of them were punished with "the most severe sentences of one to 15 years" and that "a large number of Albanians were denied full economic opportunities due to "alleged nationalist activities", and that Amnesty International published allegations of "abuse and murder of Albanians in exile by the Yugoslav secret police".

In his address to the Senate, Dole stated that a similar resolution had been proposed in Congress by Joseph DioGuardi and that the Albanians in Yugoslavia "who make up the third largest ethnic group" had very strong ties with the "growing Albanian community in the USA". Dole said that "under the pretext of a very exaggerated threat that the Albanians can represent to the unity of Yugoslavia, the Government in Belgrade arrested thousands of Albanians, and this year alone, a thousand, often because they did nothing but peacefully express their determination. The Helsinki Commission and other well-known, independent observers reported that more than half of the political prisoners in Yugoslavia were in fact Albanians.

Senator Dole explained that, once they were arrested, they were faced with particularly harsh sentences of one to 15 years, and "the most common misdemeanor is holding public meetings where they called for the preservation of elements of Albanian culture", and that many Albanians had been fired, or they had been denied access to some jobs "because they expressed their Albanian origin in some way or showed elements of Albanian culture", and "in particular, many University Professors were fired for teaching subjects of Albanian history or culture".

The most troubling fact, Dole continued, was that "hundreds of Albanians have been killed in recent years in local protests and by the frequent use of violence by the authorities to suppress those protests. Those who died became martyrs among the Albanians, emphasized Dole, accepting that "in some cases, even those actions of the authorities were not unprovoked in all cases, there is strong evidence that the reactions of the authorities were exaggerated as a part of a campaign to remove any sign of Albanian ethnocentrism or every effort by the Albanians to develop a stronger political self-identification," Senator Robert Dole said. He then concluded, "Mr. President, as I mentioned, the Albanians are not the only ones that suffer, but it seems that they may be the group that suffers and endures the most."

DioGuardi wrote a letter regarding the proposed resolution to the President of the Subcommittee for Human Rights and International Organizations, Gus Yetron. He requested that a hearing be held in the Subcommittee regarding this resolution in order to correct the "major violations of human rights that are currently underway in Yugoslavia."

Since the Committee on Foreign Relations usually seeks the State Department's opinion on submitted resolutions, the Committee's chairman, Senator Dante Fascell, forwarded proposed Resolution 162 for consideration by the State Department, introduced on July 15 by Joseph DioGuardi, supported by 50 other congressmen.

Tomorrow: The State Department in the dock