ALBANIAN AMERICAN CIVIC LEAGUE
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AACL BALKANS PEACE AWARDS
The Balkans Peace Award is given annually to non-Albanian policy makers and professionals who have made a significant contribution to resolving the Albanian dimension of the Balkan conflict and to bringing lasting peace and stability to Southeast Europe.
The Civic League gave its first Balkans Peace Award to General Wesley K. Clark in 2001 for the important role that he played in bringing an end to ten years of war in the Balkans waged by Slobodan Milosevic and for his intercession in the case of Agron, Mehmet, and Ylli Bytyqi—the three Albanian American brothers whose bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Serbia.
The Civic League gave its second Balkans Peace Award in 2002 to Senator Joseph Biden, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for being one of the earliest and strongest opponents of Slobodan Milosevic, for being one of the staunchest supporters of U.S. involvement in the Balkans, and for working for fifteen years to bring a just and lasting peace to Southeast Europe, especially to the Albanians of Kosova and Macedonia.
The Civic League gave its third Balkans Peace Award in 2003 to Congressmen Henry Hyde, Tom Lantos, and Ben Gilman for their courage in introducing House Resolution 28 (later H.Res. 24) in support of the independence of Kosova now, at a time when the international community had sought to silence the debate on Kosova’s future.
The Civic League gave its fourth Balkans Peace Award to Congressman Dana Rohabacher in 2004 for his outspoken support of the right of Bosnians and Kosovar Albanians to defend themselves against Serbian aggression in the 1990s and for his unceasing effort to convince successive administrations to recognize Kosova as an independent State.
The fifth Balkans Peace Award was given in 2005 to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in recognition of her support for Kosova’s independence now and the equal status and treatment of Albanians in Montenegro.
The sixth Balkans Peace Award was given in 2006 to Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ). The award was conferred in recognition of Senators Schumer and McCain for cosponsoring S.Res. 521, which commends the people of Albania on the 61st anniversary of the liberation of the Jews from the Nazi death camps for their unique role in saving all Jews who either lived in Albania or sought asylum there during the Holocaust.
The 6th Balkans Peace Award
The 5th Balkans Peace Award
The 4th Balkans Peace Award
The 3rd Balkans Peace Award
The 2nd Balkans Peace Award
The 1st Balkans Peace Award
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ALBANIAN AMERICAN CIVIC LEAGUE GIVES 6th ANNUAL BALKANS PEACE AWARD TO SENATORS CHARLES SCHUMER AND JOHN MCCAIN
OSSINING, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 11, 2006 — The Albanian American Civic League will present Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ) its sixth Balkans Peace Award on September 14 at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The award is given annually to non-Albanian policy makers and professionals who have made a significant contribution to resolving the Albanian dimension of the Balkan conflict and to bringing lasting peace and stability to Southeast Europe.
This year’s award will be conferred in recognition of Senators Schumer and McCain for cosponsoring S.Res. 521, which commends the people of Albania on the 61 st anniversary of the liberation of the Jews from the Nazi death camps for their unique role in saving all Jews who either lived in Albania or sought asylum there during the Holocaust. The Civic League is honoring the senators for this important piece of legislation and for their historical support for Kosova’s independence. Senator McCain will also be recognized for his effort to secure the release of Albanian POWs who were illegally transferred from Kosova at war’s end in June 1999 to prisons in Serbia.
Former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, and members of the board of the Albanian American Civic League will present Senators Schumer and McCain each with a hand-carved marble eagle from Kruja mounted on a cherry wood base with an inscription. In addition to Members of Congress, Albanian Ambassador to the United States Aleksander Sallabanda, Albanian Deputy Foreign Minister Edith Harxhi, and American Jewish Congress Executive Director Neil Goldstein will participate in the ceremony, which will affirm the partnership between Albania and the United States. It will also affirm the partnership between the Albanian and Jewish peoples, which was so essential to Kosovar survival during the 1999 war.
The Civic League gave its first Balkans Peace Award to General Wesley K. Clark in 2001 for the important role that he played in bringing an end to ten years of war in the Balkans waged by Slobodan Milosevic and for his intercession in the case of Agron, Mehmet, and Ylli Bytyqi—the three Albanian American brothers whose bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Serbia. The Civic League gave its second Balkans Peace Award in 2002 to Senator Joseph Biden, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for being one of the earliest and strongest opponents of Slobodan Milosevic, for being one of the staunchest supporters of U.S. involvement in the Balkans, and for working for fifteen years to bring a just and lasting peace to Southeast Europe, especially to the Albanians of Kosova and Macedonia. The Civic League gave its third Balkans Peace Award in 2003 to Congressmen Henry Hyde, Tom Lantos, and Ben Gilman for their courage in introducing House Resolution 28 (later H.Res. 24) in support of the independence of Kosova now, at a time when the international community had sought to silence the debate on Kosova’s future. The Civic League gave its fourth Balkans Peace Award to Congressman Dana Rohabacher in 2004 for his outspoken support of the right of Bosnians and Kosovar Albanians to defend themselves against Serbian aggression in the 1990s and for his unceasing effort to convince successive administrations to recognize Kosova as an independent State. The fifth Balkans Peace Award was given in 2005 to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in recognition of her support for Kosova’s independence now and the equal status and treatment of Albanians in Montenegro.
Attendance at the September 14 awards dinner is by invitation only.
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ALBANIAN AMERICAN CIVIC LEAGUE GIVES 4th ANNUAL BALKANS PEACE AWARD TO CONGRESSMAN DANA
ROHRABACHER OSSINING, NEW YORK, JUNE 9, 2002—At a dinner at The Monocle Restaurant in Washington, DC, on June 23, the Albanian American Civic League will present Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a senior member of the House International Relations Committee, the Civic League’s fourth annual Balkans Peace Award. The award will be conferred in recognition of Congressman Rohrabacher’s courage and foresight in calling for the independence of Kosova now; for his fifteen-year-long opposition to human rights violations against Albanians in Kosova, Montenegro, Macedonia, Presheve, and Chameria; for his vigorous support of the right of Bosnians and Kosovar Albanians to defend themselves against Serbian aggression in the 1990s; and for his significant contribution to ending Slobodan Milosevic’s genocidal wars in the Balkans.
Former Congressman Joe DioGuardi, Balkan Affairs Adviser Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, and members of the Board of the Albanian American Civic League will present Congressman Rohrabacher with a hand-carved marble eagle from Kruja mounted on a cherry wood base with an inscription. The award, which is given annually to non-Albanians who have made a significant commitment to resolving the Albanian dimension of the Balkan conflict, is dated July 2, 2004, in recognition of the day in 1990 when Kosova first declared its independence from Serbia, while it was under a brutal military occupation at the hands of Serbian dictator, now indicted war criminal, Slobodan Milosevic.
The Civic League gave its first Balkans Peace Award to General Wesley K. Clark in 2001 for the important role that he played in bringing an end to ten years of war in the Balkans waged by Slobodan Milosevic and for his intercession in the case of Agron, Mehmet, and Ylli Bytyqi—the three Albanian American brothers whose bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Serbia. The Civic League gave its second Balkans Peace Award in 2002 to Senator Joseph Biden, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, for being one of the earliest and strongest opponents of Slobodan Milosevic, for being one of the staunchest supporters of U.S. involvement in the Balkans, and for working for fifteen years to bring a just and lasting peace to Southeast Europe, especially to the Albanians of Kosova and Macedonia. The Civic League gave its third Balkans Peace Award in 2003 to Congressmen Henry Hyde, Tom Lantos, and Ben Gilman for their courage in introducing House Resolution 28 in support of the independence of Kosova now, at a time when the international community had sought to silence the debate on Kosova’s future.
As the sponsors of House Resolution 28, Congressmen Hyde and Lantos conducted a House International Relations Committee hearing on the future of Kosova, in which they spoke forcefully about the need for the U.S. government to declare its support for the independence of Kosova now. As a committee member, Congressman Rohrabacher attended this hearing on May 21, 2003, where he made one of the most significant challenges to the State Department’s policy in Kosova that has taken place in the halls of Congress. He criticized the State Department with “an oversensitivity and overconcern for what the Serbs feel and for what our European allies want…at the expense of the people of Kosova.”
Rohrabacher said, “Our State Department seems to have gotten off track. They are concerned about the oppressors. It is time for us to stand up. It is long overdue. It is time for us to stand up for the independence of Kosova and for the right of Kosovars to organize and have their own government and to control their own destinies through the ballot box.”
In response to the issue of “standards before status,” the UN Security Council policy requiring Kosova to meet eight benchmarks in the service of establishing a democratic, free market economy before achieving final status, Congressman Rohrabacher asked the State Department witness at the May 2003 hearing, “How many of the eight benchmarks did the United States accomplish at the time it became independent from the British?” He then ventured his own opinion that, if we were waiting for the United States to meet these benchmarks, our country would not be independent from the British today.
Rohrabacher also cochaired with Congressman Tom Lantos the October 30, 2003, Congressional hearing on “The Future of Albanians in Montenegro,” in which he was eloquent in his support for the human rights of the long repressed Albanian population there.
For his willingness to counter more than fifteen years of administration policy in the Balkans in the quest for a just and lasting peace in the Balkans, the Civic League is happy to present Congressman Rohrabacher its fourth Balkans Peace Award.
Attendance at the June 23rd awards dinner is by invitation only. Interested persons must contact the Albanian American Civic League at (914) 762-5530
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THE ALBANIAN AMERICAN CIVIC LEAGUE HOSTED A BOOK SIGNING AND RECEPTION IN HONOR OF GENERAL WESLEY CLARK ON KOSOVA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY
Journalist Isuf Hajrizi provides a transcript of the question-and-answer session with General Clark.
Gen. Wesley Clark Receives a Hero’s Welcome in New York
By Isuf Hajrizi (New York, July 2, 2001)
Last week Albanian-Americans from the New York area came together at Royal Regency Hotel in Yonkers to honor General Wesley Clark on the occasion of the publication of his book Waging Modern War.
“General Wesley Clark is a hero to Albanians throughout the world, because of the critical role he played as NATO’s supreme commander in Europe in finally putting a stop to ten years of Slobodan Milosevic’s genocidal march across Southeast Europe”, said Shirley Cloyes-DioGuardi. Ms. Cloyes and her husband Joseph DioGuardi, who head the Albanian American Civic League, sponsored the event.
General Clark just completed one year as a retired army officer. He said he has spent much of his time completing his book, which he said, was an effort to “Promote greater public understanding of the dangers, the importance, the
significance of what NATO and the United States were attempting to achieve in the Balkans”.
After a brief press conference he signed hundreds of books before taking questions from the audience (some of the questions from the press conference were inaudible, and thus are paraphrased). Below is a transcript of General
Clark’s answers and remarks.
Q: Slobodan Milosevic was arrested recently. Were you convinced that he would eventually end up in the Hague?
Clark: I think it started with some ambivalence because he was a factor in helping us secure an end to the fighting in Bosnia. And so there were some people who believed that he could be dealt with and even relied upon . It
was known that he was an unsavory character, that he may have been behind some of the Serb activity but on the other hand that he wanted peace and it seemed that that was the expeditious path to take at the time. I had
reservations at the time even then in dealing with Milosevic as I explained to Ambassador (Richard) Holbrooke because it seemed to me that we were still dealing with a man who was essentially an evil force in the region. I went to the region in 1997 and discovered the status of implementation of the Dayton Accord and recognized again the aligned influence of Slobodan Milosevic. I’ve had many meetings with him, I would occasionally talk to him on the telephone and ultimately when I saw the design that he had in mind for Kosova I had to take measures to alert western leaders of the dangers and his own actions in the face of NATO warnings are what brought him down.
Q: You’ve had several discussions with Milosevic — what kind of a person is he?
Clark: He’s very bright, he speaks English. He considers himself a wise, worldly, crafty leader. He believes he is acting with the best interest of the Serb people. He doesn’t consider himself personally prejudiced against other ethnic groups. As he told me on two occasions, many of his best friends were Moslems. On the other hand he is a man who would stop at nothing to achieve his aims and that included murder — I believe the actions directed against whole groups of populations which the United Nations has branded “crimes against humanity.”
Q: Gen. Clark, in a recent Congressional hearing you said that Albanians in Kosova would not feel secure unless they are independent. Although this is more of a political question, what do you thing are the chances for Kosova
to be recognized as an independent country?
Clark: That’s a slight misstatement of what I said. What I said is that they (Albanians) have feelings that they would need independence to be secured. I think it’s up to the international community to undertake a process that
let’s the Albanian community in Kosova educate itself and make an informed decision as to the best course of events to follow – whether it’s independence or some form of autonomy within a broader Yugoslavia. Those
decisions remain to be made, but I acknowledge the strong preference of all Kosovar Albanians for independence right now, which I think it’s a natural thing.
Q: It was quite surprising to many people to find out from your book that the Pentagon had agreed to take the issue of the prisoners from the negotiating list. Was it necessary for the prisoners to be taken out of the agenda – was it possible to reach an agreement with the Serbs that included the release of all prisoners?
Clark: I believe it was a mistake to take it out. I told them at the time it was a mistake, but I was overruled. The prisoner issue was a very important issue and remains an important issue. Whether they were prisoners or whether they were missing remains to be determined, but I think every one of these people should be accounted for – on all sides, not only Albanians but also all the Serbs. All the information about all these tragedies should be
opened up in this region so the public understanding can be informed by the truth.
Q: Can you elaborate on Gen. Mike Jackson’s motives not to take action against the Russians who dashed to occupy the Prishtina Airport at the end of the war?
Clark: It’s very difficult for me to elaborate on Gen. Jackson’s motives other than what I’ve said in the book. I know what he said, what was behind him and how he implemented that, I don’t know. We probably have to wait for
Gen. Jackson’s book. I believe that it was necessary to take strong action so that NATO and NATO only would have the deciding voice in which forces went where. Ultimately, NATO did have a deciding voice in that. And we
prevented the Russians from having their own independent sector and I think that was the right thing to do under the circumstances. As you know, for a long time a confrontation in the region southwest of Prishtina where the
Russians wanted to occupy an area and never quite got into the area due to the strong objections of the local populous who felt that Russian mercenaries have been fighting with the Serbs and have been participating in
ethnic cleansing in the area. I drove through that region many times as I looked at the UN investigators as they were finding mass grave sites. I understood the feelings of the local populous. So I think that ultimately
NATO did the right thing at the operational level. There are some in Eastern Europe who suggest that Russia took the measure of NATO in this action and this is one of the considerations that later gave them the idea that they
could later go into Chechnya and take action there with impunity.
Q: What were some of your greatest difficulties during the air campaign?
Clark: The greatest difficulties I had were with the Pentagon. The reason was that those in the Pentagon who didn’t want to attack the Serb forces on the ground, the way I wanted to attack them. I believe that Milosevic’s
forces that were doing the ethnic cleansing in Kosova were actually a center of gravity, so to speak. We call it a center of gravity because it was so important to Milosevic, that I believe if you destroyed these forces, you
would have ended his campaign. Even if you had seriously attacked these forces, but as it turned out, this was very difficult to do. The airmen weren’t quite trained and ready to do it. The Pentagon did not want to
approve the use of the Apaches to augment the jets and so I was never satisfied that we’ve done enough to strike and take out the Serb ground forces. That was really the greatest problem I had during the campaign. It
was not the European nations.
Q: There are those who are saying it will be difficult to convict Milosevic since he did not participate directly in the killings?
Clark: Three points. I do believe that the precedence in war crimes trials is that the person who is in command and is presumed to be knowledgeable, even if it cannot be explicitly proven, and this was a standard that was
used against the Japanese General who was found guilty after WW II, in a War Crimes Tribunal. He was found guilty for allowing his subordinates to take action, even though it was never proved that he had ordered such an action. So the only question here will be did Milosevic have any authority over the armed forces? I think there is adequate information available to indicate that he did. Milosevic was serving as a lieutenant in the Serb military, an
artillery officer. Later he told me he reached the rank of major in the Serb military reserve. He [entered] a staff college, he knew how the military was organized and so he had specific military knowledge. He had commanders at his fingertips. I recall one point the Dayton negotiations and shuttle diplomacy when Ambassador Holbrooke asked for us to receive guaranteed safe passage into Sarajevo. Milosevic said get me Mladic on the phone and within two minutes he was talking to Mladic . So I think he was very much inside the chain of command and I think there is adequate information beyond what I’ve already discussed to show that. I think nations will have to cooperate in making such information available.
Q: Do you think the National Liberation Army (NLA) of Macedonia should be included in the peace talks?
Clark: I think the Albanian politicians, not the NLA, but the Albanian politicians well represent now the sentiments of the Albanian community. As I have read the figures over 100,000 Albanians, Macedonian Albanians now
left Macedonia, and 70,000 apparently are now living in Kosova with family and friends. So it is a very difficult and dangerous situation. I think what we have to do is that we have to maintain territorial integrity of the
government of the country of Macedonia. No divisions, no zones, no breakups, no ethnic separations in there and we have to establish a condition in which the rights of the Albanians as a minority are fully and totally accepted and supported within the framework; and that means Albanian participation in all the institutions of government-Albanians in the police force and the military and so forth. It probably can’t be done overnight. It is a program
which it has to achieve success. Macedonia was the model country of the Balkans. It’s the only country of the five that came out of Yugoslavia this breakup thus far that has gotten its independence without a fight. It was a
remarkable democracy. The U.S. had its troops there from 1993 on. We strongly supported the government as a multi-ethnic democracy and that’s the way we would like to see it. We also don’t believe the conditions there
warranted the initiation of conflict. We believe the rights of the Albanians could have been achieved by other means, so we don’t support fighting.
Q: Gen. Clark can we go back to the NLA one more time. During the war in Kosova you either directly or through intermediaries talked to the Kosova Liberation Army (KLA). Do you think the international community is correct
in refusing to the NLA?
Clark: I believe that people have talked to the NLA. In fact, isn’t that what Robert Frowick did? He did talk to the NLA. But I think as a matter of principal, just as during the war, we stayed away from the KLA. I had no direct contact with the KLA on a routine basis. I did meet Hashim Thaci one time and that was it and I also talked to him before the war. He asked me about three or four days before the bombing began, he says, “What do you expect from us?” And I said only one thing, “Just get out of the way and stay alive”. Because I think in that case it wasn’t appropriate to work with the KLA and we didn’t. I think in this case what’s important is that the fighting stop as
rapidly as right now turn that fighting off, lets get NATO in there. NATO has agreed to go in on the ground and then I think the Albanian community can rightly insist on a full and effective program for implementation of broader rights for Albanian mass dominance.
Q: So what was in fact your relationship with the KLA during the war?
Clark: Well in fact, what I did was take advantage of the KLA efforts. We knew for example early on — we heard that the KLA was going to be destroyed in the first few days. Milosevic believed that he was going to destroy the
KLA in five to seven days. He said five days, but his military said, well seven days just to be sure. Of course they didn’t. But then a week or two weeks into the campaign, we began to receive information that the KLA was
about to be destroyed. Its large units were breaking up and was unable to offer effective resistance. But in fact, as is so often the case, when there are determined people fighting, it is very difficult to destroy a group like
that. I noticed that the KLA held a corridor open towards northeast Albania, toward the town of Junik. We continued to watch that area because as the Serbs reacted against the corridor, we were able to bring in aircraft to
attack the Serb positions. There is a small village called Koshare, where unfortunately we struck a number of the KLA people who were in there on the ground as we were trying to hit the Serbs. A terrible misfortune of fighting
that those things happen. We did try to take advantage of the courage and determination the KLA showed. There was no direct coordination between the KLA, at least certainly not by my headquarters. I got reports of what they
were intending to do and I worried about it everyday, because I knew that they were not trained and equipped to really stand up and fight head to head against Serb forces.
Q: Did you always feel that your were handling things appropriately?
Clark: I never had any second thoughts. I knew what we were doing was the right thing to do.
Q: Gen. Clark, what brings you in the Westchester area?
Clark: I was invited. It’s a wonderful area. When people are interested in the book, I am happy to come and talk about it because I think what NATO did was historic and people need to recognize and appreciate it. In this case
the NATO operation was a success. We achieved all of our conditions. There was a cease-fire. The Serb police, military and paramilitary forces were pulled back and NATO led forces entered and the largest spontaneous return
of refugees and displaced people, as the Kosovar Albanians, almost 900,000 who were in Albania and Macedonia, returned home. Another 500,000 that had been living in the forest, came back to their homes and villages – all in a
space of three to four weeks. It was a remarkable testimony to NATO success. We should have celebrated that success but because we couldn’t call it a war - we could not call it a victory. There was no victory parade on 5th Avenue as in the case of Desert Storm. The pilots, those brave men and women who flew those aircrafts, weren’t called in and publicly idolized. We went about the next task which was to put KFOR on the ground and try to establish order and build a foundation for democracy in Kosova.
Q: Do you think the NLA will be included in the talks at the end since they are realistically the ones who can make or break an agreement?
Clark: I don’t think that’s going to happen in this case. Although the government of Macedonia didn’t go as far as we would have liked in assuring the rights of its Albanian minority. Nevertheless, they were a legally
constituted, democratically elected government with an Albanian participation government. So, we can’t justify the use of force which was initiated by the NLA. I don’t think anything is going to change that. I think it’s regrettable; we’ve done hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars worth of damage to homes and communities, mostly Albanians homes, and communities in Macedonia. I don’t know who is going to repair that. I worry about the future. I wish it hadn’t happened. I wish we could have gotten a sense of the issue that had more international recognition before the fighting began. So I think there will be a concerted effort on the part of most nations not to recognize the NLA. In the case of the KLA – we transformed it, not recognized it. Of course I met with Thaci and (Ramush)
Haradinaj and many others. We basically said that it could not remain as that kind of organization that became the Kosova protective force. A demilitarized organization at that.
Q: Were you surprised when you were asked to vacate your position as an Allied Commander three months early?
Clark: Yes I was. I explained in my book. I can’t go beyond that. I have no idea what people might have had in mind. I know there were frictions with the Pentagon. There are always frictions in warfare. The myth of a monolithic command structure. It’s never like that. In any operation, when lives are at stake, the future of nations are at stake. Small issues become extraordinarily important and the issues are fought out in internal confrontations- always. But I was surprised that it became personal the way it did.
Q: Regarding Gen. Jackson, was he ordered to hit the Russians?
Clark: Ok, I’m going to tell you the story of Prishtina airport. As the negotiations continued, the French came to me and said you need a plan to take the airfields and France volunteers to receive the glory of taking Prishtina airfield. I said, “Ok, I’ll mention that to Gen. Jackson”. Jackson didn’t want to do this. He said the airfield was too dangerous to occupy. And that it wasn’t important. And so he turned down the request of the French to lead an air assault. On Thursday afternoon, June 10th, as we concluded the air campaign, I had the expectation that Gen. Jackson’s forces would be entering the next morning, but he called me and he requested a delay and said that the Serbs had come to him and asked a 24 hour delay so they could get their forces back and we wouldn’t come in so soon. So since he was the field commander, I said, “I’ll discuss this with the Secretary General, we’ll get back to you”. We supported the field commander. Well, that was the day that the Russians came. During the morning of the 11th of June, I ordered Jackson to prepare to launch an air, what we call an air assault to occupy the airfield. In
accordance with the original French plan, which he had even though he didn’t want to use it. But he developed many reasons why this was not a good idea. Ultimately, confusion on the ground plus assurances from the Russian Foreign Minister convinced Washington and London not to do anything. So I was ordered to do nothing. That night, just as I feared, the Russians got to the airfield. The next morning, I was ordered to move as rapidly as possible with Jackson’s forces to get to the airfield before the Russians could do anything with it. But it took all day. That night, Washington called and asked me to block the runways on the airfield so that the Russians couldn’t land reinforcements. I passed the order to Jackson, but there was a thunderstorm. We were going to fly the Apache helicopters in, set them down on the runways and block the runways. But Jackson did not want to do this, and there was a storm. I was already planning to go to Macedonia to meet with Jackson. So I just said we’ll settle it face to face. I knew I had highest level support in the American channels for blocking the runways. So
when I went to confront Jackson, he told me no, he wouldn’t do it. I called the British government and said your commander doesn’t want to take my order and they said we agree with the commander and so does Washington. So I called Washington and I woke up the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at three in the morning and said, “You told me that I had your support to do this, now the British are saying that you don’t support it. What is your
view?” He said, “There is some confusion, I knew the British didn’t want to do this but I knew that you were being instructed to do it, I support you.” I said, “Fine, you and the British have to get an agreement because you have
a policy problem”. That’s where it really was. It was a disagreement between London and Washington. You see what decided the outcome was that it was the British that had the soldiers on the ground, not the Americans. Americans didn’t want to lead on the mission. They wanted the British to lead. They didn’t want to be in Prishtina, they wanted the British to be in Prishtina. The Americans didn’t want the majority of the forces, they wanted the
British to have the majority of the forces. The Americans didn’t want to have the commander, they wanted the British to have the commander. So the Americans had to live with the British commander’s judgment. It’s a very important lesson in the use of military power. If you want to lead, you have to put your troops in the lead, and that means if Washington is going to have a voice in helping to solve the problems in Macedonia today, there have to be American soldiers in the lead in that mission.
Q: What is the significance of the Battle of Pashtrik and the significance of the KLA soldiers in their operation?
Clark: Early in the war, we heard that the KLA was about to be destroyed. I knew this was going to be a very bad thing for NATO, even though we were not allowed to cooperate with the KLA. I knew that the presence of KLA forces on the ground was a critical ingredient in bringing pressure there to cause the Serbs to call off their ethnic cleansing campaign. So I was very pleased to see the KLA passage, that I think went to Junik through Koshare. Then on about the 20th of May, I received the first indications of this operation “Arrow” that was going to take place over Mt. Pashtrik, to go as far as to seize both banks of the Beli Drin (Drini i Bardh). I was astonished when I saw the boldness of this plan because the Serbs had heavy forces there with artillery and armored vehicle and the KLA did not have these forces. The KLA men were armed with mortars, rifles and light machine guns to the best of my
knowledge. (And American snipers, said someone from the crowd – laughter)… I knew there were men from the Bronx serving in there because it was in the newspapers. When I looked upon it, I said you know this is going to do two things: 1. It’s going to provide an opportunity for NATO to be able to draw the Serb forces out and then attack them, but if it fails, it is going to end not only with loss of this KLA force doing the attacking, it’s going to
bring the Serbs into Albania. That’s going to be extremely dangerous for us because I had planned a ground operation to take place at the end of the summer. They would go over Mt. Pashtrik, and sweep the Serbs from the field. I planned to use many KLA troops along with this force although I didn’t have permission yet. One thing was clear to me – we weren’t going to commit NATO troops on the ground against the Serbs in Kosova and at the same time, preventing Kosovar Albanians who wanted to fight for there own land from doing so. So I knew we had, if we had 200,000 NATO troops, we would have probably had 50,000 Kosovar Albanians. I’ll tell you who the Serbs would have been most afraid of. You know who they would have been afraid of. The Kosovar Albanians. So I didn’t want that operation “Arrow” to fail. When I saw it being launched, I made it the priority of all of our air efforts. Behind it I had radars that could detect Serb artillery. I had apache helicopters flying at night but I never got permission to fire our American artillery. I never got permission to fire the radars. I had long range missiles, I never got permission to use them. So I don’t know how many people from the Atlantic Battalion became casualties in that operation. Six wounded? Well you were lucky. I’m glad that that was all because I was quite concerned. I think it was highly significant, for me it was the most important operation of the war and we didn’t lose it.
Q: How much damage was done from the French spy at the NATO headquarters in the Kosova matter?
Clark: The French General Kelsh called me when we discovered the French spy had given the Serbs the operations plan. We discussed how much damage was done. The Serbs had the operations plan, they knew we were going to first attack the air defense system. They knew we were going to attack air fields. They knew we were going to be attacking ammunition supply points. They did not know which air fields, or which ammunition supply points, or which air defense and communication sites. Some damage was done, but not enough to invalidate the overall thrust of the plan. Not enough to endanger the pilots. If we could have had stronger support for a stronger strike initially, we would have probably had, we might have had better results. But as it was, we did as much as we could. The first day of the war, before the first strike,I went to the North Atlantic Council where the ambassadors meet for NATO. One ambassador said, are you going to strike the barracks with the Serb soldiers? I knew what the answer had to be. The answer was no. The idea was to cause no Serb casualties, none. So that Milosevic could gracefully say, okay in that case, thank you for striking me, I’ll stop everything I’m doing. That was the NATO logic. About two hours into the fight that night, the 24th of March, I received word that we had shot down the first three Migs. They had flown up to challenge us and our airmen took them down immediately. One was shot down by a Dutch F16. I called Secretary General Solana, I was happy; when you’re a commander and the enemy comes up to challenge you, you strike and hit him hard. Solana was not happy. I said, “but Javier, we shot down three aircrafts”. He said, “This is bad, this is bad”, because he was hoping that Milosevic wouldn’t resist and then would call off the campaign in Kosova. But it wasn’t to be. And so from that time forward, will power became stronger. We basically through out the plan, we did as much as we could do. It’s too bad about the French spy, I feel bad for France and I wish we hadn’t had him. The lesson to that is, you can spy all you want, nothing stops an idea whose time has come. That idea of freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe.
Q: What are your thoughts on Mitrovica and the French policy there?
Clark: Mitrovica should be a multi-ethnic community and every institution should be multi-ethnic. There should not be a dividing line of the Iber River. It’s wrong. I had trouble with one government in NATO that believed that the only way to prevent conflict in Mitrovica was to separate the groups. Now, you know who that government is, I don’t have to name it, but you also have to understand that this is the challenge for the Kosovar community. You must create a multi-ethnic climate, a multi-ethnic acceptance, a multi-ethnic community in Kosova. You must do this for your own legitimacy and credibility. You can’t have a single ethnic community anymore than the Serbs can. The way to claim Mitrovica is to demonstrate hospitality to the Serbs, and that’s the hard truth. I know that’s a hard truth. I know there are things that are wrong there but that’s what has to be done.
Q: Other U.S generals have become sort or celebrities after their wars. Do you feel that you’ve been short changed?
Clark: I am very grateful that I got to be the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe in NATO and I was given the most wonderful gift that any person can be given. It’s not the publicity, it’s not becoming a celebrity, it’s not becoming a hero. It’s the chance to stand up and fight for what you believe in. If anybody ever gives you that gift, take it. It’s the most precious gift in the whole world.
Q: Would you consider to become a Kosovar citizen and would the U.S. allow you to have both US citizenship and Kosova citizenship? Would you be willing to do that?
Clark: Well, it would really be an honor, thank you very much. You know I saw after the war the most wonderful spirit in the Kosovar Albanian community. We went to a school, George Robertson, became the NATO Secretary General and he and I went a school where several young people had been massacred by the Serbs. The school was rebuilt, the children were there, the parents were there and I saw real courage and I saw real determination. You know it’s a pretty easy thing to drop bombs but it’s a really hard to put your life back together and your families life back after a war is over. That’s what takes real courage and I solute the people of Kosova for that courage.
General Clark’s speech:
Our nation is a nation that came from every where else. People came to America because they wanted to be here. They left behind their families, their friends. My grandfather came from a place in Belarus called Minsk over a hundred years ago. He came to Chicago with his brother. He brought his fiancee and her younger sister. And so today I have a hundred cousins. All of us came from abroad and I fell a special kinship with you all who have recently become Americans, a part of this country, and who are still reaching out your hands and support to people in your homeland.
Thank you for being great Americans and great human beings. My first trip to Albania was the summer of 1998, but I had studied about Albania and I had learned about the problem of Kosova. We talked about it many times during the Dayton negotiations. In 1995, we knew that Milosevic had to release his iron grip on Kosova. But he wouldn’t discuss it. The most we could get was an American Embassy Information Center in Prishtina. No more. In early March of 1998, I went down to Macedonia to visit the 350 American soldiers who were a part of the US Preventive Deployment Force. When I landed, the American ambassador said, “You have to go see President (Kiro) Gligorov right away.” I went in to see the president, it was on a late Saturday afternoon and he was there with two of his ministers.
The American ambassador and I joined the conversation. President Gligorov told me that he was worried about what was happening in Kosova. He said the Serb police just massacred the Jashari family — 60 people. He said, “You can’t treat people that way”, he said, “especially Albanian people”. He also said, “There will be war and Milosevic will pretend to negotiate. But really, he only understands the threat of military force.” I carried that message back to Washington. But some people in Washington did not want to hear it. During the summer of 1998, I worked to try to create a NATO threat to restrain Milosevic. I remember calling him on the 25th of June. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke was there. Holbrooke had met with Rugova. He was meeting with Milosevic. He was traveling to the village of Gllogjan?, which at that time, was considered, as Holbrooke said, “the most dangerous place in Europe.” He asked me to call Milosevic and make sure Milosevic knew he was in danger. So I called Milosevic who was very cordial on the phone. He invited me to come to Serbia: “Please come and ride horses at Karagjorgica. Please, I can play golf”. “Oh yes, thank you Mr. President,” I said, “but Mr. President, what we don’t want you to do is to attack your own people.” He said to me, “General Clark, they’re my own people. They are all citizens of our country and I just want them to live together in peace, despite your threats.” My NATO threats. Well, I had many hours of dealing with Milosevic and I knew what a liar he was and the next day after Holbrooke had left he attacked with his military, paramilitary….
And through the summer of 1998, he conducted a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the villages in Drenica. NATO secretary General Solana called it “A village a day, keeps NATO away”, because Milosevic knew that as long as he only attacked one or two villages a day, he could escape the wrath of NATO. But we called him on the carpet. We didn’t let him escape NATO attention. After Ambassador Holbrooke did the negotiations in early October, that resulted in the creation of the Kosova Verification Mission, I realized that Milosevic had not committed himself to withdraw forces. So, with Secretary General Javier Solana and General Nauman, we took a trip to Belgrade. We talked to Milosevic and he got very angry. I went back alone so that I could talk to him, one man to another. I said, “Mr. President, if you don’t pull those forces back out of the field, we’re going to bomb you.” And of course, there he was, the president of a country in his own palace - and here am I, just an American general, a man that he has known for five years – threatening him. So he shrugged his shoulders and said, “General Clark, NATO must do what it must do.”
I said, “Mr. President, get real. You don’t want to be bombed by NATO”. He said, “You’re right”.
So we used the threat. We held off the conflict until the 15th of January when Ambassador Bill Walker called me and said, “Wes, I’ve seen massacres. I know what a massacre looks like. I am looking at a massacre. These people are not fighters, they’re farmers. I recognize the boots that they are wearing, I’m looking at the calluses on their hands. These are people of every age. They’ve been shot at close range. The clothes they are wearing
are the clothes they’ve been shot in, they haven’t been rearranged. This is a terrible tragedy.” Ambassador Bill Walker was in Prishtina as the head of the Kosova Verification Mission and was looking at the trench going up to
Racak.And I knew at that moment that we were going to go to war to stop the Serbs in Kosova. It was only a question of what it took. Many people have asked me what the worst night of the war was? And they talk about the bombing of the Chinese embassy. But you know that wasn’t the worst night of the war for me or for any of the men and women who flew. There were two really bad times in the war. The first had to do with Albanian civilians who were killed in the air attacks. All I want to tell you right now how terribly sorry all of us and NATO were for those casualties. It was a terrible thing, and that was the worst night of the war. There was a place called, I think Korishe. We had watched it and we knew this farmhouse was a Serb police station. We saw the Serb vehicles there and unfortunately that night, it was used to imprison Albanian civilians. The other bad time in the war was when the KLA was attacking over Mt. Pashtrik. Because I know there are some people here who have fought in that battle from the Atlantic Brigade, and I know that you guys are very proud of what you did there.
But I also knew that the Serbs had waiting for you and I knew how little I could do to help. And I worried about that a lot. Thank God it worked out okay. You accomplished a mission and we accomplished our mission to help you. And Milosevic recognized that he was facing an inevitable defeat. So, he gave into all of NATO’s conditions. He called a cease fire and pulled all of his forces and his thugs back out. NATO went in and we had the largest, spontaneous return of refugees in Europe since WWII. I knew this was going to happen because I had been in camp and talked to the Albanian refugees. U.N. officials said, “Oh no, you have to slow them down, there might be mines.” I said you can’t slow these people down. They’re going to their homes. I went in early, I think the 17th, 18th of June was my first trip into Kosova. I went in with the Secretary of Defense. We went up the road and stopped in villages and cities and we were just surrounded by people. I think he had no idea what the incredibly powerful emotions were. You see for some of the people who were in the U.S., the NATO effort was — I hate to say it — but was more of a distraction. They didn’t understand, but for me, it was a passion. We were dealing with a man whom I believe is a mass murderer; and that’s Slobadon Milosevic. He told me in January of 1999, that Kosova was more important than his head. So I knew that when we went after him in Kosova, he would lose his head. We never could get the approval to make an official objective the ending of Milosevic.
We knew that that was beyond what we could accomplish with air power alone, immediately. But we also knew that with the results that we achieved and with the tremendous courage and spirit of the people of Kosova, that Milosevic was finished. And he is in the Hague today. Six months ago, I was in Houston and I was speaking to a group. Afterwards two Albanian men came up to me and one of them stood very tall and straight and said, “I am Albanian, and we are 300 strong in this community today.” He was very proud of himself. He put his arm around the man next to him and said, “and my friend is from Bujanovc and he is going home to fight for his homeland.” I said, “Does he have to fight?” He said, “Yes, he must fight”. And I said, “Why does he have to fight? “Because there are Serbs.”, he answered. I asked, “Aren’t you an American citizen?” He said, “Yes, for five years”. I said, “So let me ask you a question. If a Serb moved next door to you, could you be kind to him, treat him as a neighbor and become friends with him even though he was a Serb?” He thought about this question and finally he gave me what he thought I wanted to hear. He said, “Of course not.” I understood his passion and I understood his love for his country and I understood why he felt the way he did. But now I have to tell you how I feel about that. What I was fighting for was not to write the wrongs of the 19th century but try to set in place a framework for the 21st century. Somehow everyone in the region has to get along without changing borders, without changing boundaries, without forcing people to leave their homes or the graves of their ancestors, without requiring them to change the language they speak, but somehow all get along together, because I think the Euro Atlantic community, where we live in this country, we’re all Americans and we should all be in this together. Whether we live on this side of the Atlantic or on that side of the Atlantic.
So I want to tell you that I am very, very proud to be with you tonight. I am very proud of the spirit, courage, the patriotism shown by the Albanian-American community. I feel very, very honored the way you welcomed
me and taken me into your hearts. And I thank you for that.