Kosovo, the Whole Story

Thank you for your front page coverage of “Kosovo: The Musical” [by Deanna Isaacs, June 4]. I am glad to see the issue is still getting attention even if it is no longer a “burning issue” in U.S. papers. I understand Hank Perritt has his perspective, and I applaud his creative approach to presenting his view. In fact, I look forward to seeing the play; however, as a journalist, academic, and activist who spends a good amount of time in the Balkans, I am disappointed at the lack of context provided by Deanna Isaacs.

The situation in Kosovo is portrayed in stark black and white, and the “black and white” change depending on who is covering the issue. In the U.S. media and policy it is evil Serbs against innocent ethnic Albanians in a mountainous region “over there.” This is an incomplete truth and that myth must be rectified. The Serbian army and Serbian-backed paramilitaries committed atrocities and genocide against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The ethnic Albanians were expelled to neighboring countries, the NATO bombing took place and, although ending the formal war, exacerbated many of the human rights abuses on the ground. Upon return, the KLA and some civilians committed vicious reprisals: intimidation, rape, murder and expulsion of non-ethnic Albanians. This was recently covered by the BBC not to mention extensive records in the ICTY.

Let me be clear: This is not an “eye for an eye” situation. The Serbian government was supporting the military and paramilitary and thus, as a state, must be held accountable to the legal charges of genocide. But the air of impunity also passed on to the KLA and other ethnic Albanian guerilla groups who now hold positions of power in the new Kosovar state. This is unacceptable. Human rights must be upheld, regardless of who holds the reins of power.

A second important point that was overlooked in this piece: There are many ethnic groups in Kosovo. Ethnic Turks and Roma, who, based on the fact that they do not “fit” into “a” side are, as one Kosovar Roma friend of mine explained, “caught between two fires.” The oversimplification of the ethnic composition of Kosovo, and thus the victims of human rights abuses, is simply not true. For more information please visit chicagopublicradio.org/content.aspx?audioID=2737.

Lastly, we must be careful about the role of the United States and other international actors. There was a lot of good will towards the “liberation” of Kosovo (in fact there is a “Bill Clinton Blvd” where one can still buy a great variety of smuggled cigarettes, and other goods) but it quickly turned to resentment as a self-sustaining government continued to lag and unemployment hovered at 60 percent. Kosovo was, and continues to be, good business for Western development organizations, NGOs, and funders, but its indigenous populations often resent being at the behest of Western directives.

Again, I am happy this play was written and look forward to seeing it performed but I urge Ms. Isaacs and other journalists to do their homework when providing “background” for their readers.


Shayna Plaut

Instructor, Human Rights, Columbia College

Fulbright recipient to Macedonia and Kosovo 2003-2004

You forgot to mention (1) the KLA is racist and CIA-backed; (2) Kosovo is pretty much a U.S. colony now (3) U.S. brutal break up of Yugoslavia has been economic nightmare for workers; (4) Kosovo is now home to Camp Bondsteel, a massive U.S. base used to secretly imprison and torture foreign nationals without trials; (5) For the last 20 years all U.S. military engagements and support for “democracy” have the aim of locking down the Middle East, surrounding Russia and China, and preventing any challenge to U.S. empire. For the last 8 years, including the new administration, official U.S. foreign policy has been dictated by this policy


Deanna Isaacs replies:

In the first paragraph of my story, I characterized the situation in Kosovo as a “long blood feud between Serbs and Albanian Kosovars.” That longstanding enmity, and the retaliation integral to it on both sides, has wreaked havoc on the entire population including minorities like the Roma (who, as I understand it, were generally considered by Albanian Kosovars to be Serbian sympathizers). They have an ongoing story to tell, but the story I wrote was about Hank Perritt’s experience in Kosovo, his perspective on it, and the musical theater piece he created out of it. His rock opera, set in the late 1990s, includes among its final lyrics these words:

Our war is over; it’s not yet complete

On a new battlefield we now must lead

The fight against bigotry and the hate that it feeds

And struggle to overcome past misdeeds.

Take It Outside

Re: Best of Chicago 2009, best book by a Chicago author in the last year

How was the status “best book of Chicago” arrived at? I would like to know. I would beg to differ because my book “The Street Gypsies” (paperback) published in 2007 would give this Mr. Hemon a serious challenge if it were tested against his book “The Lazarus Project.”

Glendell Latham

Grand Illusion

Re: “What TIFs Giveth, the Olympics Taketh Away,” by Ben Joravsky, June 4

Anyone who thinks the Olympics will pay for themselves is stoopid.

Anyone who is wooed by promises of what will be done with the profits AFTER the games is INSANE.


Even I think this is wrong on so many levels. Surely there are other schools or areas that could use the post Olympic facilities instead of tearing down recently built buildings.

Whether we have an Olympics in Chicago or not, money to build neighborhood pools could be snagged from homeland security. The pools could be used to train people to swim and also water rescue techniques which would be invaluable in certain types of disasters.

James Reyes

Why don’t all the haters stop with this anti-Olympic crap. This will bring so much visibility to a city that really needs it. I’m sick of being called the second city. To me Chicago is a top rate city, and we want the world to appreciate it. What better way to pimp the city than the Olympics? Everyone is taking such a pessimistic approach to this. How ’bout the less fortunate communities that will benefit from the new Olympic-related gentrification—cuz we all know the south side really needs it. So please stop with this Daley bashing. I personally don’t like the guy either, but this will be his legacy if we get it. Will put Chi town on the map. If the city doesn’t spend the money on the Olympics, would you rather see it go in the form of raises for city employees? I sure as heck would not.


Leaser’s Remorse

Re: “One Billion Dollars! New evidence suggests Chicago leased out its parking meters for a fraction of what they’re worth,” May 21, and “Fail: How Daley and his crew hid their process from the public, ignored their own rules, railroaded the City Council, and screwed the taxpayers on the parking meter lease deal,” April 9, and multiple posts at the Reader‘s politics blog, Clout City, by Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke

So now our alder-creatures are expressing reservations about the parking meter lease. One of them actually told the television news media that the City Council didn’t have adequate time to review the proposal. I have one question. If you didn’t have time to read it carefully, why the hell did you vote for it?

Please don’t give us the lame excuse that the mayor exerted pressure, said the city would collapse without the money, blah, blah, blah. I don’t care what kind of pressure the mayor exerted—he can’t censure the entire City Council. And telling us that you didn’t have access to all the details is no excuse either. Who in their right mind signs a lease or contract without reading it? You all need to grow a collective spine and tell the mayor that he can’t continue ramming these bad deals down our throats. You’re supposed to represent the best interests of your constituents, not the mayor.

Ben Joravsky recently wrote in the Chicago Reader that we should write to our aldermen to express our views on corruption, bad lease deals, etc. I would if I thought it would do any good. I live in the 50th Ward, where Berny Stone was anointed Alderman for Life by King Richard I in the 70s. I suppose now he feels he owes some debt of gratitude to Hizzonner’s idiot/mayor-savant kid. Like a seagull at a beach party, he eagerly gobbles up anything Prince Richie throws his way. As a member of the finance committee, he should have led the charge against this loony lease deal until the full council had a chance to read it. Now he criticizes Inspector General David Hoffman’s report, which revealed that the city will lose almost $1 billion over the term of the lease, as invalid because Hoffman isn’t an MBA or CPA. Stone is also lambasting his fellow alder-creatures for “selling out” by criticizing the lease and the way it was presented to the council. If the definition of a sellout is someone who wakes up and smells the toast burning, then we need more sellouts in the City Council.

So we’re stuck with a losing deal with a service provider that was not adequately prepared to execute the contract and service the meters, which, in the private sector, would have put the company on the express train to court. It’s called non-performance. But since Parking Meters LLC (which I suspect was hastily thrown together when the lease proposal was announced) is a unit of Morgan Stanley, a company that hired William Daley Jr., Prince Richie’s nephew, so its financial stake in the city’s parking meters is protected.

When parking meters all over the city stopped functioning properly, Parking Meters LLC admitted that it underestimated the number of service technicians it needed to fulfill its obligations. The city should have declared a breach of contract and voided the lease.

However, in his hurry to raise much-needed cash to repair the city’s infrastructure in pursuit of the Olympic bid, Prince Richie probably didn’t include this kind of protection in the lease. Either that or he doesn’t want to admit that it was a bad deal to begin with and give up the instant cash infusion. Considering the inspector general’s report, this is penny wise and pound foolish, or perhaps nothing wise and just plain foolish.

Here’s an idea. Rescind the lease and keep whatever funds have already been collected from PMLLC as punitive damages. Then declare the entire city a TIF district, which would allow use of the hundred of millions in TIF funds to rebuild our streets and public transit system. Or simply use the nearly $1 billion in parking meter revenue the city would have lost in the lease deal.

John Albergo

Here’s How It’s Done

Memo to the clown’s comments printed in the recent Letters & Comments section on J.R. Jones review of Outrage [May 21] and the editor who printed this one viewpoint [June 4]:

A film critic is neither a “reporter” nor a “journalist,” at least not in this capacity. Details are often omitted in the best reviews such as plot twists, surprise endings, etc. It is the job of a reviewer to paint a picture of the work using details when required and state an opinion that gives the reader guidance towards a decision on seeing the film. If these individuals are so interested in finding out the names of the outed, then they should cough up a sawbuck and view the picture—it is obvious that their letters are politically based.

Mr. Jones does have a tendency to go off on a tangent in his extended reviews—after reading the first half of his piece on The Dark Knight, I was aware that he detested the Bush administration (not sure why this was inserted here) but knew nothing about the Batman flick. The fact that Outrage is a political documentary necessitates the dialogue in this case, though.

David G