Paramilitary Thug With Long History With Top U.S. Democrats Arrested for 'War Crimes'

Agim Ceku commanded “ethnic cleansing” operations in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, then headed an organization labeled “terrorist” by a senior US official. But top Dems made him their man in Kosovo.

A US-trained paramilitary figure from the Balkans with a lengthy
history with leading Clinton-era Democrats, including some now in the
Obama administration, has been arrested
in Europe on an Interpol warrant for war crimes. Agim Ceku, an Albanian
from Kosovo, is a former Croatian Army General who was trained by the
private US security firm Military Professional Resources Incorporated
(MPRI) during the Clinton Administration. Ceku, backed by the US, would
go on to become the "prime minister" of Kosovo despite the fact that he
was responsible for some of the worst acts of "ethnic cleansing" in the
former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and was the leader of a paramilitary
organization with drug trade ties, which Clinton's top envoy to Kosovo
called a "terrorist" organization.

Ceku was detained in
Bulgaria on the basis of an Interpol warrant issued by Serbia as he
crossed the border from Macedonia on Tuesday. Serbia demanded his
extradition on war crimes charges stemming from his role as the
military commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1999. Ceku is
a shadowy figure with a violent-some say genocidal-record in his
leadership capacity in both the Croatian military in the 1990s and as
commander of the KLA. At the same time, this is a man who was embraced
and promoted by powerful Democrats after and during his brutal
activities. In the 1990s, Ceku had private meetings with now-Vice
President Joe Biden and Sen. Carl Levin, and Obama's current
coordinator of Afghanistan/Pakistan policy Richard Holbrooke. Ceku
drank whiskey with Madeleine Albright's deputy Jamie Rubin, with whom
he developed a close relationship, and was praised by Gen. Wesley Clark as "one of the more reasonable people in that region."

is not the first time Ceku has been arrested. In 2003, he was detained
in an airport in Slovenia and in 2004 at the airport in Budapest. In
May 2009, he was deported from Colombia.
Ceku's political allies predict he will, once again, be released.
Complicating the case, the Interpol warrant was issued by Serbia, a
country with little credibility on the issue of accountability for war
crimes, instead of an international criminal court. Regardless of the
possible trial venue, powerful US officials, particularly Democrats
from the Clinton administration, have a vested interest in making sure
Ceku is not put on trial.

Ceku Used US Training for 'Ethnic Cleansing' Campaign

Ten years ago, as Ceku-backed by the US- rose to power in Kosovo, I investigated Ceku's "brutal past:"

A past the US knows well because it was influential in
making Ceku one of the top "ethnic cleansers" in the Balkans, alongside
Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Ceku refined
his brutality as a general in the US-backed Croatian Army during the
Balkan war and was trained by Military Professional Resources Inc., a
private paramilitary firm founded in 1987 and based in Alexandria,
Virginia with former high-ranking US generals and NATO officials on its
board. These officers include the former Commanders in Chief of the US
Army in Europe and US Central Command, the Supreme Allied
Commander-Atlantic and the former US Representative to the NATO
Military Committee. In 1994, armed with a contract authorized by the
Clinton Administration, MPRI officially began to train Croatian forces.

months after MPRI arrived on the scene, Croatian forces carried out the
notorious Operation Storm. In a brutal four-day blitzkrieg in 1995,
these forces expelled some 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina region of
Croatia after their villages were mercilessly shelled. Jane's Defense
Weekly reported that Ceku was "one of the key planners" of the
operation that the New York Times called "the largest single 'ethnic
cleansing' of the war."

The [International] criminal tribunal
has been investigating Operation Storm for years.... [Ceku was also]
suspected by the tribunal of war crimes committed during raids he led
in the south of Croatia in September 1993, when he was commanding the
feared 9th Brigade.

War crimes investigators at the Hague
concluded, "In a widespread and systematic manner, Croatian troops
committed murder and other inhumane acts upon and against Croatian
Serbs." Investigators also documented deliberate and indiscriminate
attacks on civilians and civilian buildings, along with summary
executions, as Croatian forces "committed numerous violations of
international humanitarian law."

According to a 1999 report in Jane's Defense Weekly:

A retired US Army officer now with the Virginia-based
Military Professional Resources Incorporated and who has served as
consultant to the HV [Croatian military] since 1995 describes Brig
Ceku as a highly competent and disciplined officer. "We were impressed
by his overview of the battleground and the ability to always predict
his enemy's next move."

Gen. Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO,
worked with Ceku when Clark led the bombing of Kosovo. "[Ceku] could
have been in anybody's army and done well," said Clark in 2007.

The Clinton Administration's Man in Kosovo

ultimately left the Croatian military to join the secessionist movement
in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo. In 1999, he was named the
military commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army where he worked
closely with several US officials, perhaps chief among them Jamie
Rubin, who was then the top aide to Madeleine Albright, President
Clinton's Secretary of State. Earlier in his career, Rubin was a
staffer for Senator Joe Biden and is married to CNN's Christiane
Amanpour (who covered the war while her husband helped wage it). "Their
well-meaning advice offers us answers to many questions," Ceku said of Rubin and Albright.

Despite US intelligence that indicated
that the KLA was a terrorist organization with ties to
narco-trafficking and networks connected to Osama bin Laden, the
Clinton Administration embraced the organization as its proxy armed
force on the ground in Kosovo in 1998-99.
Richard Holbrooke, who is currently the Obama administration's special
envoy on Afghanistan-Pakistan policy, was the US official who in 1995
called for the US to drop "bombs for peace" in Bosnia. He would then go
on to serve as a key liaison between the Clinton White House and the
KLA before becoming Clinton's UN ambassador.

The Clinton
administration armed and supported the KLA despite the fact that in
February 1998, Clinton's special envoy on Kosovo, Robert Gelbard,
labeled the KLA a "terrorist" group. "We condemn very strongly
terrorist actions in Kosovo," Gelbard said
in February 1998 on a visit to Serbia. "The [KLA] is, without any
questions, a terrorist group." Despite this statement by its own
on-the-ground envoy, Clinton's State Department did not classify the
group as such and the US began accelerating its support for the KLA on
the ground. In the lead-up to the war, Holbrooke met several times with
the KLA, in his own words, "in secret, with no publicity."

the summer of 1999, as US-led NATO forces escorted KLA-backed
politicians to power in Pristina, Kosovo, the Clinton Administration
worked closely with Ceku to make him the head of what would amount to a
Kosovo Army-despite the fact that Kosovo was a province of Serbia, not
a sovereign nation. Then-Senator Joe Biden worked closely with Ceku and
other KLA commanders to transform the KLA into a "Kosovo Protection
Corp (KPC)" which Ceku described as the future "army of Kosovo." These
actions set the Yugoslav province on the path to secession.

Some European countries opposed
the creation of this force, drawn from KLA members, but ultimately
relented under intense US pressure, particularly from Albright. Rubin
was with Ceku and other KLA figures at Ceku's wartime home in the
mountains of Kosovo when Albright called to say the US had convinced
its allies to support the US position on the KLA. Rubin, Ceku and the
others toasted their victory over Bushmill's Irish whisky. Rubin then
flew by helicopter to Pristina with Ceku so Ceku could begin his new
role in Kosovo that would ultimately lead to the position of "Prime
Minister" in 2006.

At the time, the Spokeswoman for the UN
Mission in Kosovo, Susan Manuel, told me the UN was "aware" of Gen.
Ceku's history and the accusations against him but did not oppose him
as the head of the newly-created KPC "because he was the leader of the
KLA when we arrived, and he wanted to contribute to the transformation
of the KLA to a constructive force for the future of Kosovo." This
configuration was largely the work of Washington.

As I wrote in 1999:

At nearly every turn in the UN/NATO negotiations with the
KLA over their role in the "new" Kosovo, American officials swooped in
to appease Gen. Ceku and his KLA cronies by making changes to key
principles to agreements. In one instance when NATO negotiators were at
a standstill with the KLA over its role in the future administration of
Kosovo, then-State Department spokesperson James Rubin came to the
group's rescue, adding a clause that said, "special consideration
should be given to current KLA members to participate in the
administration and police force of Kosovo in exchange for the help the
KLA provided to NATO during its air campaign." Rubin said he had "made
the deal in his capacity of adviser to Secretary of State Madeleine

Such actions prompted Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, legal
advisor to UNMIK, to say, "The US stands to destroy the neutrality of
our mission if it insists upon these clauses."

Ceku, with his support from the Clinton Administration, was one of
the key figures involved with the ethnic cleansing of minority Serbs
from Kosovo. In fact, that is what the Interpol warrant which Ceku was
just arrested on is based upon:

Mr. Ceku is wanted for alleged war crimes committed during
the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, when he was a commander of the Kosovo
Liberation Army, a rebel group which fought a guerilla war against
Serbian forces. In the indictment filed against him in a Serbian court,
he is accused of command responsibility for the deaths of 669 Serbs and
18 other non-Albanians - allegations he has strenuously denied and
dismissed as politically motivated.

In describing these crimes at the time, I wrote:

Washington's maneuvering to reward the KLA in the "new"
Kosovo, has forsaken human rights and ethnic tolerance to a desire to
maintain a close relationship with the forces it hopes to do business
with for years to come. By legitimizing Agim Ceku and thousands of
other KLA members by putting them in positions of authority, Washington
is giving ethnic cleansing a green light. Not criminally charging KPC
members sends a clear message to those in- and outside the KPC that
crimes may continue with impunity. It's not surprising that some of the
worst brutality against Serbs has occurred in the US sector of Kosovo.

A year after Ceku became head of the "Kosovo Protection Corp.," the
UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that more than 200,000
ethnic minorities-mostly Serbs- had fled Kosovo in the face of
escalating violence against them.

The KLA's Ties to Narco-Trafficking and 'Terrorism'

Clinton officials and other key Democrats were bolstering Ceku and the
KLA, US intelligence reports painted a picture of that organization as
a narco-trafficking organization with ties to terrorists, as The Washington Timesreported in May 1999:

Some members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has
financed its war effort through the sale of heroin, were trained in
terrorist camps run by international fugitive Osama bin Laden - who is
wanted in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed
224 persons, including 12 Americans.

The KLA members, embraced
by the Clinton administration... were trained in secret camps in
Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere, according to newly
obtained intelligence reports.

The reports also show that the
KLA has enlisted Islamic terrorists - members of the Mujahideen - as
soldiers in its ongoing conflict against Serbia, and that many already
have been smuggled into Kosovo to join the fight.

Before his death, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic said at his war crimes trial at the Hague:

"In 1998 when [Clinton envoy Richard] Holbrooke visited us
in Belgrade, we told him the information we had at our disposal, that
in Northern Albania the KLA is being aided by Osama bin Laden, that he
was arming, training, and preparing the members of this terrorist
organisation in Albania. However, they decided to cooperate with the
KLA and indirectly, therefore, with bin Laden, although before that he
had bombed the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania [and] had already
declared war."

US support for the KLA would have been explored in detail at
Milosevic's war crimes trial-as would Washington's dealings with
Milosevic throughout the 1990s as well. When Milosevic died, he was
fighting to subpoena Bill Clinton and other US officials to testify.

When Kosovo finally declared its independence in February 2008, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton issued statements
supporting the breakaway province. Clinton's was much further reaching
in its overt support for Kosovo, which was not surprising given that
her top foreign policy advisors-Albright, Holbrooke, Rubin-were among
the chief architects of the dismantling of Yugoslavia throughout the

Agim Ceku is a man the Clinton administration trained, armed and
funded throughout the 1990s. This crucial US support amounted to aiding
and abetting war crimes. While it would send a strong message to the
world for Obama and Clinton to call for a war crimes trial for Ceku,
that seems unlikely given Obama's passionate opposition to "looking
backwards" even in the face of overwhelming evidence that grave crimes
have been committed. Moreover, at the end of the day, many of Ceku's
crimes were made possible by powerful Democrats, including some with
deep ties to the current White House.

NOTE: I debated this issue with Samantha Power on
Democracy Now! in February 2008. At the time she was one of Barack
Obama's foreign policy advisors. The transcript and video are here.

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