- - Thursday, April 23, 2020

In his op-ed, “Let Bill Clinton’s failed Kosovo strategy wither amid the COVID-19 pandemic” (Web, April 22) J. Michael Waller makes several false claims. He writes that the U.S. presence in Kosovo is a must to “keep locals from killing each other,” but he apparently forgets we are not in the 1998-99 conflict anymore — and that the last ethnically motivated unrest, which claimed 14 lives, was recorded in March 2004.

While insulting some 2 million people who call Kosovo their homeland by referring to it as a “freak show,” Mr. Waller ignores the fact that Kosovo is an independent country, recognized by over 110 nations worldwide. By claiming that the Kosovo War was a “war against the Christians” and “[e]ach side ethnically “cleanses” itself of the other in a civil war horror between ethnic Albanian Muslims and ethnic Serbian Christians,” Mr. Waller depicts an utterly false picture of the Kosovo War of 1998-1999, which was one of the most horrible in modern European history. In it, the Serbian forces of world-known dictator and accused war criminal Slobodan Milosevic committed ethnic cleansing against the innocent ethnic Albanians.

Moreover, Mr. Waller should know the war was not religiously based. Albanians are not only Muslims, but Christians, too. Indeed, the well-known story of the Albanian “Besa” and the rescue of all Jews in Albanian lands during the Holocaust is testament to the religious harmony in which Albanians have lived for centuries.

Mr. Waller also suggests that Kosovo is a breeding ground for jihadists. This is tantamount to xenophobia against Kosovars. Yes, Kosovo is a developing country with an unemployment rate of about 26%. But it is no jihadi training camp. Out of some 30,000 foreign fighters that joined the Islamic State from 85 countries, only 126 were from Kosovo.

The U.S. support for Kosovo has been bipartisan. Mr. Waller should learn more about many key Republicans who have played an important role in helping Kosovo. These include Sens. Bob Dole, John McCain, Reps. Henry Hyde and Ben Gilman, as well as President George W. Bush, who was the one to recognize Kosovo’s independence.

As someone who was born and raised in Kosovo and survived the Kosovo War as a teenage refugee, forced out of my home and separated from my family, I am grateful for America’s role in saving my people and supporting my country.


Board member and Balkans policy coordinator Albanian American Civic League

New York

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