Text of report by Augustin Palokaj entitled "Little criticism of our American friends" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 16 May
Kosova [Kosovo] has a very careful president who does not miss a single opportunity to thank our friends for the contribution they have made and are making for Kosova. The United States is always at the top of the list of those for whom our president expresses appreciation. No doubt that such a courtesy of our president should have created room for him to also criticize our friends, whenever there is reason for that. And, today there is a big reason to criticize the Americans, even though the actual US Administration is not directly linked to this reason. By bestowing a decoration for special merits on Chetnik movement leader Draza Mihailovic, which was presented to his daughter, perhaps the Americans expressed gratitude because he had allegedly rescued 500 US pilots during the World War II. But, that award heavily insults hundreds of thousands of victims of the Chetniks in Kosova, Croatia, and Bosnia-Hercegovina. It is surprising that the Kosovar public, including the media, did not show any interest in this event, even though we pretend to be a country that is very sensitive whenever speaking about the consequences of the war and crimes.
The official US explanation, at least based on what the media officials of that country have said, is that "The decoration for Draza Mihailovic has nothing to do with the present-day US policy, and that the medal was given in 1948 by President Harry Truman." However, even if symbolic, this gesture on the part of the Americans greatly harms the image of the United States, which is first on the list of those countries that condemn war crimes and urge dealing with them. It offends the victims and rehabilitates a movement that was the biggest motivation for the movements that caused the latest wars in the territories of the former Yugoslavia. It was precisely the Chetnik idea about a greater Serbia - which was so extensively applied by [former Yugoslav president] Slobodan Milosevic - that motivated hundreds of thousands of Serbs to join the ranks of the Yugoslav Army to crack down on Vukovar, to destroy Dubrovnik, to keep Sarajevo under siege for years, and to slaughter 8,000 Bosnians in Srebrenica. With that very idea, they continued their campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosova, by committing the heaviest crimes in the same place that Draza Mihailovic's Chetniks had done in Kosova, in Drenica [central Kosovo].
The anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre is this year, while the 60th anniversary of the victory against fascism is also currently being celebrated. The Serbian diplomacy, led by [Serbia-Montenegro Foreign Minister] Vuk Draskovic, who is an open follower of Chetnik ideology, can say with delight that he has succeeded in convincing the whole world that all Serbs were "antifascist." In this way, Serbia emerges as one of the rare countries in the world where everyone, including the Chetniks and partisans, were antifascists. And this happens at the time when, even for the recent wars, Belgrade is trying to gradually write Serbian history, and to sell to the world its variant as the truth. And, this truth suggests that in the Balkans everyone fought against everyone and that all committed crimes, a prejudgment that, to a great extent, has been employed by the Hague tribunal [International Criminial Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia - ICTY] to accuse all the parties. Later on, the Serbs will start a campaign of convincing the world that they were victims of all those wars, and were not the aggressors. If one looks at what they now succeeded in explaining in World War II, it is no surprise that after several years they will be rehabilitated even for the Serbian forces' crimes committed in the recent wars. If the Americans decorate Draza Mihailovic for having rescued some US pilots, it may easily happen that after several years France will also decorate [Bosnian Serb leader] Ratko Mladic, who may have rescued some French pilots in Bosnia.
Perhaps it is understandable for the Americans that whoever has saved an American life deserves merits, but for us it cannot be acceptable seeing those that who committed heinous crimes against our people are being rehabilitated. Our grandparents who know better than former US President Harry Truman what Chetniks did in Kosova still speak about the horrible crimes committed by them. The United States is big and we are small, but this does not mean that we do not have the right to at least tell them that the medal awarded to Draza Mihailovic offends us. We can do that at least to the extent that Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia have done, because the Americans may think that we have nothing against if they decorate Draza Mihailovic. Whenever Albanians mention the heinous crimes committed by Draza Mihailovic's Chetniks in Kosova and Drenica, in particular, they have to be careful not to annoy our American friends who have recently decorated Draza Mihailovic for special merits on the anniversary of the victory against fascism.
We cannot change the US decision to decorate "Draza," but we have the right and even moral obligation to criticize such an act, because even though some may argue that this is history now, some things from history must be remembered so that they do not repeat. Perhaps it would be good if our American friends listened carefully to Ibrahim Rugova speaking about the experience of his family with the Chetniks, because at least what our public knows, his family was a victim of Chetnik crimes. Therefore, this should be a right and moral obligation to react against the Americans' decoration of Draza Mihailovic. If we do not react, even our American friends do not take us seriously.
Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 16 May 05 p10