July books 6) A Narrative About War And Freedom

6) A Narrative About War And Freedom: Dialog with the commander Ramush Haradinaj, by Bardh Hamzaj. This is basically an extended (180-page) interview with KLA leader Ramush Haradinaj, produced in mid-1999 very shortly after the end of the Kosovo conflict. Haradinaj gave me a personally inscribed copy last week, and I read it on the way to work this morning (I’m going to a party this evening so came in by public transport).

Points of interest:

  • Haradinaj wanted to be an astronomer when he grew up! but circumstances turned him into a guerilla leader and then politician.
  • His significant other is (or was) a Swedish-speaking Finn – they get everywhere!
  • Ali Ahmeti appears at an early stage as helping with arms imports into Kosovo, but then drops out of the narrative. (I remember Haradinaj being questioned very closely on this point at a conference we were both at in Paris when Ahmeti emerged again in Macedonia in 2001.)
  • KLA got no help at all from Albanian government structures, until late 1998 when the US clearly signalled that it was OK to turn a blind eye to gun-running across the border.
  • Haradinaj thinks KLA had basically lost the war in September 1998 when Holbrooke brokered the deal to bring in the OSCE unarmed Kosovo Verification Mission, which gave them enough breathing space to regroup for the spring offensive which as it turned out was also backed by NATO. In fairness the Serbs breached the letter and spirit of the Holbrooke agreement much more egregiously.
  • KLA had no central command structure at all. Various individuals were declared to be overall commanders at different times but this had no practical effect. This therefore made it difficult to negotiate even with allies like the Americans, never mind anyone else.
  • Haradinaj very keen to stress importance of treating minorities decently – deplores summer 1999 violence against non-Albanians. It would be interesting to check if this is in the Albanian original text.

As with any such biography one wonders what is left out. But in the Balkans it’s unusual to read a story told by one of the key actors in the first person so soon after the events, with such a large amount of circumstantial detail.

One thought on “July books 6) A Narrative About War And Freedom

  1. The first two look the same when the font is small, but in the title of your post the bar is bigger in the Serbian h-bar than the Maltese one.

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