Channel 11 broadcast the first interview since the start of the NATO conflict
the world has seen with Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic, Wednesday,
Excerpts of the copyrighted interview aired on 11 News at 5, 6, and 10pm with full-hour program, 9:00-10pm CDT.
The exclusive interview was conducted by KHOU News Military Analyst Dr. Ron Hatchett inside the Yugoslavian "White Palace" in Belgrade Monday April 19. Dr. Hatchett has been reporting for KHOU from Belgrade since shortly after NATO forces began air attacks last month.
Dr. Hatchett serves as a military analyst for KHOU-TV and is currently a professor and director of the Center for International Studies at The University of Saint Thomas in Houston, Texas. He also served the United States in military and governmental capacities including senior positions with the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Here is a partial transcript of the interview:
President Milosevic I want to thank you for agreeing to meet with me today at a time when there are great difficulties between our two countries. I think that our conversation today will help the American people understand a little better what is happening here in Serbia and what the Serbian point of view in this conflict is.
As you know, in the American press, you're not pictured very well. President Clinton says that you are the butcher of the Balkans, he says that you're another Hitler, that you're a madman that you're the cause of all the problems that we've here in the Balkans for the last 10 years. Who are you really? Who are you as a person?
Well, good question. It gives me the opportunity to explain to American audience what the problem is.
And the problem is following. Your government is running two wars against Yugoslavia. Against our people. One is military war and the other war is media war or if you like it better, propaganda war. Propaganda war started long before military war and its goal was to (demonize) this country, our people, leadership of this country, individuals, and whatever was needed to create artificially of course, public opinion in United States which will be supportive to aggression they committed later.
And uh, that media war is showing clearly that their intention to commit aggression for having the long preparation before. So, we are victims of both of those wars. In first case in military war, victims are just for now our civilians and our country everywhere but in media war, victims are not only us. Victim is as well American democracy. If you're lying your citizens and if you're continually trying to create artificial public opinion based on uh false informations, on wrong informations you cannot call it democratic. You cannot tell to the world that you are doing something fair and fine.
So I believe that uh, this
kind of contacts and more than that the presence of a lot of journalists
from abroad in this country will help to the world to know the truth about
I think the American people
would like to know a little bit more about you as a person though. Have
you always been a politician, have you always been in politics?
Oh no, I was not politician. I professionally …I was professionally working in industry for a long time and then I was banker… for 8 years. I was President of largest Yugoslav bank… at that time we were dealing with a lot of American banks and I had a lot of friends in the United States from that time.
(He goes on to talk about how the bank was successful and opened a lot of joint ventures etc in other countries)
(Dr. Hatchett asks
about Yugoslav economy then the conversation returns to the NATO conflict)
The immediate cause of the problems between our two countries, according to President Clinton, is the failure of Yugoslavia to agree to the terms of the negotiations in France, first at Rambouillet then later at Paris. Uh, why was it that Yugoslavia did not sign that agreement?
(Hmmph!) You use the term negotiated. There were no negotiations at all. And your audience have to know that. In all those three long weeks, two in Rambouillet and one in Paris, there was no one single meeting between delegations to talk to each other. Albanians and Serbs and others in state delegations couldn't exchange one single word, so there were not any negotiations.
And look to delegations. On one side, you have delegation of Serbia composed of everybody who was living in Kosovo and who lives in Kosovo. Representatives of all national communities. Serbs, Albanians, three Albanian parties were represented in Serbian delegation. They are citizens of this country of course and that's so normal. Serbs, Albanians, Turks, and Muslims, Gypsy, Egyptians, (unintelligible), All seven of different national communities were represented in the delegation.
On the other side it was delegation of separation movement, not Albanian delegation. Albanians are in a delegation of Serbia as well. Delegation of separation movement purely Albanian and that's something which can explain the major differences in our approach.
Our approach from the very beginning of talks was that Kosovo problem can be solved on the basis of principle of equality for all citizens living in the region and of all national communities living in the region. So our approach is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious insisting upon equality of national communities that regardless to their number. On the other side, that is approach of your state department in alliance with those guys from separation movement which is favoring Albanians. Which is giving to them the right to be the monsters of rest of population and you must know was the structure of population is, in Kosovo.
There are Serbs in (unintelligible) Quarter million of them who are living there and their grandfathers of their grandfathers uh live there before one single Albanian came from the mountain. That is ancient Serbian territory with thousands of Serbian monasteries and monuments and so on. But so a quarter million of Serbs, 200,000 of Muslims, 150,000 of Egyptians, about 50,000 of Turks. Even Turks who are our smallest national community in Kosovo they have their schools they have their radio and TV program. They have their editing house Something in Turkish language.
So what is the problem if there are only 50,000 comparing with let us say 8 to 900,000 Albanians? In terms of equality, they must have same rights as national community and they must participate in the institutions of Kosovo in a equal footing on the basis of that, and that was crucial difference between those two approaches.
And, uh practically what was tried to be imposed in Rambouillet was not autonomy at all that was independence. And I really don't believe if you show it to any honest American that there is one single honest American that will tell you if they were in the place of our delegation would sign it. We are talking on autonomy, we are talking on quality, on equal approach to interest of all national community, not on independence of Albanian separation movement which had by that agreement, so called agreement. Practically the right to organize new state within Serbia. They have their state, that is Albania that is their national state. In Serbia they are national minority they are living everywhere in Serbia and I want to add to you something very important. In Serbia there are 26 different national minorities.
There was never any problem with any of national minorities in Serbia, including Albanians, the problems were only with separation movement of Albanians in Kosovo and we were making a big difference between separation movement in Kosovo and Albanian people which is honest, and good ??? (Unintelligible) which was equal people in Yugoslavia.
Even the separation movement was not using the arms before you came. Before your representative came to tell them, to supply them, and to make the alliance with those killers, rapists, kidnappers and drug dealers who are collected from the underground around Europe to be organized as so-called Kosovo liberation army which never existed.
That was a kind of Hollywood you know uh, just to explain that they are having some kind of military force and so on. They were never able to attack any sort of police or military unit they were able to kill somebody only from the ambush and they were clear terrorists. What else they could do they were killing people from the ambush they were putting bombs under cars or in front of markets they are taking hostages, civilians, workers from the open mine near Pristina for example. We never saw those hostages. We're afraid that all of them are killed. We don't know their destiny, where they were at the end.
So there was no one single act of them which couldn't be clearly defined as terrorist act.
And uh, I was real surprised that NATO downgraded its' dignity making alliance with those killers and drug dealers and uh, I think that uh, that kind of alliance cannot help the future.
The American people, every
day, see on their television all of these heart-wrenching scenes of Albanian
refugees. The United Nations says now that there are over five hundred
and 32-thousand that have left Kosovo. And they appear to be in a very
traumatized type of condition. Is it your policy to expel all Albanians
There was never policy of this country and my policy to expel any citizen of Yugoslavia from any part of this country. I must tell you when there was a war in Croatia, we protected all Croats in Serbia. We protected when there was a war in Bosnia we protected all Muslims in Serbia. We preserved all the multi-ethnic States within former Yugoslavia that is Yugoslavia the republic of Yugoslavia today with 26 different national communities. And many visitors including high level visitors visiting our country we're always saying that we are example good example of positive treatment of good treatment of national minorities. And we always have in mind that test for any democracy is treatment of minority not treatment of majority and that's the practice that's the policy in Yugoslavia.
And to answer your question about Albania refugees, you are right, there are lot of refugees but they are a result of bombing and they are not only Albanians.
Everybody's running away because of bombing. Serbs, Turks, Gypsy, Muslims, of course, Albanians their number is biggest. Everybody's running. Deers are running, birds are running everybody's running away because of bombing. Bees are running everybody's running away and who can who can really ask to understand that civilian population cannot play the role of heroes staying in their places when bombs are getting down. That is not possible.
And uh, you know that before 24th of march when they started damn bombing they started their dirty aggression against this country there was no one single refugee. When they started bombing, refugees appears of course as a result of bombing and everybody knows it. Uh, but uh, connected with that bombing you're not throwing only bombs from your aircraft, you are throwing small piece of paper with the messages of NATO explaining that to our people.
Do you know what we did with those small leaves with messages of NATO? They expected we would collect that and hide it from our citizen not to see that, that was in our language of course. We presented that on t-v from both sides, all those leaves. We presented that on TV without any uh further explanation because of fact that 11 million of citizens of this country they already know the truth. We are not afraid to broadcast uh propaganda of NATO thrown through those humiliating leaves, for them humiliating from their aircrafts.
But problem is in United
States, you don't have protection. Our protection is the truth and the
fact that people knows what the situation is. United States, average American
cannot know what really is here he must believe to propaganda to those
piles of lies which are broadcast every day.
You know, that's one of those things about the media. We have a comedian in American in the 1920's, 1930's named will Rogers that said all I know is what I read in the newspapers. Well, to modernize that, all the American people know is what they see on TV and the images they see on TV so how do you explain the fact that many of these refugees from Kosovo are talking about (being) driven out of our homes by the Serbs?
The Serbs come and knock
on our door tell us that we have to leave within ten minutes and they take
all of our possessions and we have to leave. How do you explain when the
NATO briefer, Jamie Shea says and shows pictures on television that says
here are satellite pictures of what we believe to be mass graves, how do
you explain these things?
Well, those who you saw on TV were told to say that. And, by the people, by those killers, rapists, and kidnappers who are not terrorizing only Serbs and other non-Albanian population in Kosovo they are terrorizing Albanians as well. I must tell you it is a tragic situation with Albanians in Kosovo.
They are manipulated. They are terrorized by those killers and kidnappers, those rapists those narco dealers uh, I will tell you a simple fact, when you look to the numbers of peaceful citizens killed by (unintelligible).
In Kosovo, the number of Albanians who were killed by that so-called Kosovo Liberation Army is twice bigger the number of Serbs. They were killing Albanians to discipline them. Uh, to send a message to them that they all have to support them that they all have to pay to them fees, and they all have to pay if they are called under their so-called flag, so what, what simple peaceful Albanian average Albanian can stay if he is told to stay otherwise he will be killed he will stay with terror.
They want for them to stay but that was not the truth. We saw a lot of their explanations on TV just leaving country on territory or republic of Macedonia lot of them saying lot of them were asked why you are getting here. Everybody was explaining, bombs are falling down how to stay there? That was explanation.
But CNN, you know, I saw my own eyes at the beginning of this war on CNN, poor Albanian refugees walking through the snow and suffering a lot and you know, in Kosovo there was spring, no snow. And that's explanation for uh, uh, information from CNN.
We are looking to CNN practically everybody can see CNN all the time. CNN, sky, BBC, everything you see here, so uh nothing special they are paid to lie. That is in nowadays media I believe is even most dangerous arm than those bombs or rockets, that is most dangerous arm and they started with that media war or that propaganda war long before they started military war.
But, we uh said publicly we have organized return of those refugees that we cannot count with ending of bombing and people is afraid. One pretty big number who was getting back was bombed by NATO aircraft 75 citizens all Albanians were killed. And uh, several dozens were wounded badly.
So, how to restore uh, their confidence in safety if they're exposed to be bombed that way. Nobody could make the mistake in sunny day to confuse between ordinary tractors and peasants with tanks and military units that was out of question. And I uh believe that was done by purpose to send message to them it's not their business to come back.
NATO is creating refugees. That is their tactic to create as much refugees as possible to empty Kosovo if possible. To have a lot of refugees outside and then to say, that is the alibi for NATO to get here, to help to deliver humanitarian help to helpthose refugees to get back. They can't get back immediately only obstacle to them is NATO bombing.
(The) only obstacle to political
process, which is going on despite the bombing, is bombing.
Let's talk about the political process. Obviously there are lots of people on both sides of this issue, even people in America that are concerned about continuing a maximum position of NATO and trying to solve this thing solely by military means because they think the cost in terms of economic costs and in terms of human costs both to your country and to our country may be much higher than either one of our people want to pay.
So I think both peoples
would like to see some kind of political settlement to this situation and
if we hold to the maximum positions that each side has right now uh, there
may not be any progress. It will delay progress… so, what do you see as
a possibility for some negotiated political settlement of this problem
in the near term?
Well, I believe that uh, when aggression stops when bombing stop, then it will be very easy to continue political process but taking into account experience from Rambouillet and Paris, it is so clear that negotiations have to direct between those who will live in Kosovo. Between representatives of national communities who live in Kosovo. Not between government of Yugoslavia or government of Serbia and let us say representatives of international community.
We said very clearly we will welcome civilian United Nation mission to witness what happened there and to witness the process of political settlement as well, and we always were open. Look to the facts. Before this war, we accepted, we received verification mission of overseas, biggest verification mission of history overseas, 2000 of them, plus UNHCR personnel plus International Red Cross, plus 1000 journalists from all around the world, plus Kosovo diplomatic observation mission composed of all diplomatic mission in the country and who would tell us we are not open to international community.
In so small territory like Kosovo with so huge verification mission OAC, and UNHCR and International Red Cross, foreign journalists, diplomats and every road open to everybody but that was not the goal. The goal was how to create instability and how to start bombing.
In Rambouillet as I said to you, we are not talking to Albanians we are talking to Americans who would like to take our territory for themselves and for NATO. And Albanians were just excuse for that. They were keeping them on side, their own, to be their alibi for doing those crimes uh which your government committed against our country and our people.
And victims are not selectively
chosen, everybody's a victim, predominantly children, women, all people
uh, civilians, civilians, and civilians.
Are you willing as part of an agreement to re-institute autonomy in Kosovo similar to the autonomy that they had in 1989 up until 1989?
Of course, we will not change our position because of one simple fact, we had never any intention to cut any right to Albanians, they are our citizens. We don't have any idea to make damage to them, but it is clear they are living in this country they cannot make part of territory of this country and turn it into independent state.
If their formula which was tried to be deployed here, gets into practice in the world I don't see any state in the world that could survive. Look to Europe. Look to Spain, look to France, look to Belgium, to Italy, look to Africa. In Africa there is no one single country who could survive if you were allowed that kind of separation movements to take let us say a kind of legal, legal support.
So if that become practice,
no one country will be safe so we are not, we are not uh, confronting that
big power only in a position that we are defending ourselves. I think we
are defending right to be free and to be independent and right to live
in peace. That is what we are doing.
Are you willing also as
some part of a negotiated settlement to accept some kind of international
presence that will verify for the world community that uh, the things that
were agreed to in terms of the autonomy for the Albanians and their rights
of all citizens are being equitably implemented?
Of course. We are ready to accept UN Civilian mission. Of course without representatives of the countries who participate in aggression against our country. We say that clearly. We are ready for that, we have nothing to hide.
And you're willing also
to let the international aid and charity missions to come back and do their
Absolutely. They are even now allowed to come back, but they are afraid. We never sent them out. They were afraid from bombing. That is one of their explanation why they didn't stay in Kosovo.
Let us say the International
Red Cross - they stayed everywhere in conflicts, but how to be safe from
bombing? They fled Kosovo, and civilians as well. They were not sent away,
they simply went away to save their lives. Who can be protected by bombing?
You think that even now,
while the bombing is going on, if the International Red Cross or other
agencies want to come back to Kosovo they would be allowed to come back?
Even now, International Red Cross and UNHCR can get back. I cannot tell you for every single humanitarian organization because of some so-called humanitarian organization were organized to support terrorism or to support separation movement being under coverage of that so-called humanitarian task.
We, our police arrested a couple of Australians who were organizing a spying network in Yugoslavia. They admitted that in front of camera. They said they are very sorry. They said that was being damage to our country. They were spying for NATO to explain where our positions they had to bomb, what was the results of their bombing and so on. They explain even that they abused the domestic personnel for that.
So we believe that International
Red Cross and UNHCR can cover all those needs if they want to help the
refugees. And that is something which was never under any question. They
can come whenever they want.
One more thing that the
American people are very concerned about, Mr. Milosevic, is the fact that
3 Americans are being held as prisoners of war here. Can you assure the
American people that they are in good health, all three? And that all 3
of them are being cared for in a humane way?
Well in the situation in which we are, I think the question must be, what would those civilians who are the victims of your soldiers and your pilots? And I hope you will start thinking that way, but to answer your question, we are very old people in Europe, very old with a long tradition and we are respecting prisoners of war.
Nothing will happen to your
soldiers. They are treated well. They are healthy, and in everything what
exists Geneva Convention is respected. So, we are civilized people. We
are not to make any damage to your guys who are in prison.
One of the big criticisms
that President Clinton continues to say almost every time he speaks on
this issue is the refusal of your government. To allow the Red Cross to
come and see these prisoners as the Geneva conventions provide for. What's
your reason for not allowing the Red Cross to see these prisoners?
I think that the Red Cross can visit them. I don't know that they were not allowed. I don't know where is Red Cross? Who asked for that?
If there is a Red Cross mission
that is under Geneva Convention, they can see them. That is not a question
at all. They can , they can... I am not an expert for the Geneva Convention,
but as I know they can receive mail from their families, they must have
medical care and all conditions (will be met).
But your position is you
would not allow the Red Cross to see these prisoners..
Red Cross is always authorized to visit Prisoners of War. Of course not every day but from time to time as it was in the rules of army but those rules are in compliance with Geneva Convention. That is not a question, I don't see a problem that way.
One last question. We hear rumors in Belgrade from various people that many more aircraft have been shot down than the American press or the American administration admits to that maybe as many as 80 airplanes have been downed, that there may be other pilots of NATO countries and the United States that have been made prisoners.
Because of this uh, we've also heard rumors that your forces in Kosovo have already engaged in firefights with the special forces from the United States and special air services from the U.K. And have killed maybe 20, 24 of these kind of special soldiers that have come into Kosovo. Is this just a rumor or are these facts?
You know, it is not black and white, I cannot tell you this is just a rumor or it is just a fact that is mixed. Some are facts some are rumors. And it is so logical that NATO will not admit that. They have tried even to avoid to acknowledge killing all those refugees. But when they saw it was unavoidable they said yes, it happened.
But it is so logical. For now, for the time being we have no foreign troops in our territory, even those specialists you have mentioned. We had several tries. All Albanian. Soldiers of Albanian army mixed with those bandits from Kosovo in the units composed of let us say 1000 or 1000 and a half to get to the frontier and to penetrate into territory of Kosovo and they were stopped by our army. They had very big losses they are not any army I must tell you and whoever is combining with recruiting those criminals into kind of military units doesn't know a lot about them.
They would escape on the first shot always and they show that. Whenever they have tried to get in through the borders they were running away back. So that happened several times. If there were some instructors with them foreign origin that was not seen uh so far. But they are instructing them in (town???), In Kukes, in some other place they are of course violating UN security council resolution prohibiting the delivery of arms uh so that is something that is so logical in a situation when practically United nations outvoted by your country.
United Nations charter prohibits aggression. Prohibits even any military intervention without decision of Security Council. In this case you abolish United Nations. Practically, your bombing destroyed first United Nations, destroyed the truth, and of course what is the most sad thing for us, killing our civilians and ruining our factories, bridges, housing area residential area and all those things..
And you know something which was the message printed, printed message in many areas all around Yugoslavia and I saw many of that in other countries for example in Thessolonica. There were many many people in demonstration, million in Athens, about that figure and so on, in Hungary, in Duseldorf, in Vienna, in many places around and uh one printed message was very illustrative uh, stop bombing stop lying.
Those two things are done together and uh that is explanation of those two wars you're running against one small, sovereign, independent country five thousand miles away from your coast. For what?
Could you explain to me for what, and what is America national interest? And you're trying to tell us that your national interest is stronger in our ancient territory than Serbian national interest in Serbian ancient territory and you're doing so for what? Where is the reason for that?
When our soldiers are dying, they know why they are dying,. They are dying for their homeland, for their fatherland and for what will die your soldiers 5000 miles from home? Killing children (while) they sleep? Killing women and girls and peaceful citizens and ruining what we were building through the decades after Second World War?
And, (even more absurd) we were allies in those wars and uh, you decided to support the separation process, the separation movement which is in its character not a movement. I will tell you why.
Quite clearly, their publicly declared aim is ethnically pure Kosovo. That is not character. We in Yugoslavia we know having 26 national communities that only basis for successful life of this country is get back to the principle of national equality. No other way.
That is the main principle in this country, composed of 26 national communities and of course, ethnically pure Kosovo that separation movement explains as (unintelligible) And, in a historical sense they are followers. Mussolini created a greater Albania in Second World War. Fascist creation which took part of Kosovo, part of Macedonia and part of Greece. And that was so-called greater Albania created by Mussolini.
So they are Nazis and fascist character is very clear. But I want to tell you again. We are making big difference between the separation movement and Albanian people living in our country. And we want to help people, and of course to eliminate separation movement as any country in the world.
I think there is at least now 100 countries in the world which have problems with some kind of separation movement but it is only this country is bombed by strongest and most powerful war machinery ever existed in the world.
And who will gain the glory with those powerful and high technology ruining one small, independent country, member of UN? And what will the world look like after that practice? (The) world has to be free.
Every country, every people has a right to live in freedom, not to be occupied or terrorized by superpowers who will tell them how to live, what to do, what to think, and how to behave. So, we cannot divide peace from freedom.
If people want to live in peace, must be free and here on a territory about which empires we are fighting through the centuries, through all our history, there was no one generation who was not fighting for freedom. And we are always conquered by empires, by very big empires. (Names two empires) or, Hitler or big war machine and every time we liberated our country. That is what we are doing now.
And I believe in (the) future. I believe in peace, in equality and in freedom. Not only of this country of all countries, without domination of powers. They are dominant enough being superpowers they don't need other additional domination to the rest of the world.
So I believe we have used all of our time --- at least one hour I would say.
President Milosevic I
would like to thank you on behalf of the American people for sharing your
views with us today and let's hope we can end this problem peacefully very
soon. Thank you very much.
(they shake hands)
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