By SCOTT TAYLOR / On Target
LAST WEEK, I just happened to be in Belgrade attending a conference on the future status of Kosovo when the funeral for former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was held. True to form, the western media’s coverage of these events presented accused war criminal Milosevic as evil incarnate and the Serbian people, by extension, as something bordering on the subhuman. Almost entirely lost in the frenzy to heap responsibility for a decade’s worth of death and destruction into Slobo’s coffin was the announcement that the Albanians in Kosovo have just selected a new prime minister. To have examined this development in the slightest would have served to spread around some of the blame and to illustrate that the Serbs certainly did not have a monopoly on war crimes during those bloody civil wars. In fact, if one only casually glances at the resume of the incoming prime minister, Agim Ceku, it becomes apparent that his election flies in the face of international justice, foreshadows more violence in Kosovo and ignores the sacrifices and valour of our Canadian Forces. In summary, Ceku, an Albanian Kosovar by birth, began his military career as an officer in the former federal Yugoslavian army. When the initial Yugoslav breakup occurred in 1991, Ceku was quick to switch his loyalty to the Croatian cause. As a colonel in the Croatian army, Ceku commanded the notorious 1993 operation in what is known as the Medak Pocket. It was here that the men of the 2nd Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry came face to face with the savagery of which Ceku was capable. Over 200 Serbian inhabitants of the Medak Pocket were slaughtered in a grotesque manner (the bodies of female rape victims were found after being burned alive). Our traumatized troops who buried the grisly remains were encouraged to collect evidence and were assured that the perpetrators would be brought to justice. Nevertheless in 1995, Ceku, by then trained by U.S. instructors as a general of artillery, was still at large. In fact, he was the officer responsible for shelling the Serbian refugee columns and for targeting the UN-declared "safe" city of Knin during the Croatian offensive known as Operation Storm. Some 500 innocent civilians perished in those merciless barrages, and senior Canadian officers who witnessed the slaughter demanded that Ceku be indicted. Once again, their pleas fell of deaf ears. Just a few months after the Storm atrocities, Canada’s own Louise Arbour began making a name for herself as the chief prosecutor for the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Despite the Canadian connection to these alleged crimes, Arbour and her lawyers chose instead to pursue more "politically prominent" individuals such as Milosevic, and other senior Serbs, while nothing was done to bring Ceku to justice. Fast-forward to January 1999, and the world’s attention begins to focus on a war-ravaged Kosovo. With the blessing of the U.S. State Department and NATO, Ceku takes his retirement (at age 37) from the Croatian army and is pronounced supreme commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Throughout the air campaign against Yugoslavia, Ceku was portrayed as a loyal ally and he was frequently present at NATO briefings with top generals such as Wesley Clark and Michael Jackson. Under the terms of the June 1999 Kosovo peace deal, Ceku’s Albanian guerrillas were to be disarmed and reconstituted into a UN-sponsored (non-military) disaster relief organization known as the Kosovo Protection Corps. But despite the fact that they now collected UN paycheques, Ceku’s men never gave up their guns — nor their quest for a Greater Albania From the armed Albanian incursions into southern Serbia in 2000 — and Macedonia in 2001 — right up until the violent pogrom unleashed against Kosovo Serbs in March 2004, Ceku’s brand of violence, hatred and ethnic cleansing has remained unchanged. Now he is being hailed as a political leader, and the world is once again turning a blind eye to his crimes. Hopefully, Canada at least will respect the eyewitness testimony of our own peacekeepers and finally insist that Ceku face the same justice that was demanded of Slobodan Milosevic. Presenting the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry with a belated Governor General’s unit citation for the Medak Pocket battle will remain a hollow gesture until Ceku is held responsible for his atrocities.