Photo by David Brauchli
June 27, 1999 - French KFOR soldiers patrol past burning gypsy houses in a suburb of Mitrovica. Despite patrolling, arrests and checkpoints set up throughout the city, looters and arsonists continue to plague this neighborhood in Mitrovica, a town some 40 kms. north of Pristina. 
The Photographer's Diary

After the Bombing
Photos by David Brauchli

A Presentation of


In his fourth portfolio of pictures
from the Kosovo Crisis, David
Brauchli documents the end of the
NATO bombing campaign and the
refugees return home.

I am out of Kosovo after staying there for 16 days. Plenty of time. It wasn't nearly as bad as I had been led to believe by NATO. Most of the bad targets that had been destroyed by NATO were good clean hits including where the Serbs used to store the tanks, various police stations and factories that were used as torture chambers and some hard military targets. But on the whole, the destruction in Kosovo was surprisingly slight. 

There was some additional damage to what the Serbs had managed to do last summer when they went on their burning and pillaging campaign, but aside from the old streets in Pec and Djakovica, they didn't really get around to doing very much. That is, I guess, because they were busy killing plenty of people. 

The main issue now is to find out how many people were actually killed during the ethnic cleansing. It's difficult
because there is no central authority doing the counting. The OSCE says it's the UN, the UN says it's KFOR, KFOR says it's the OSCE. Meanwhile, bodies are being found by villagers, soldiers, journalists, dogs. Sites are being dug up, graves tampered with, evidence lost because the organization is a disaster. I guess there were probably upwards of 10K people killed by the Serbs, it's just a question of finding them all and figuring out WHO did it and getting those people to the Hague. That's the hard part. 

But society seems to be functioning normally again. Shops are reopening faster than you can say count. There are now plenty of restaurants, the flow of goods from Macedonia and Albania has increased a hundredfold. Albanians have taken over places like the hotel and library, but that doesn't mean the service got any better. I wouldn't say it got worse, though, I think it simply got less surly. Pristina, I thought, was going to be totally blasted to bits, but the strikes there were very precise, only the military targets were destroyed, really amazing bombing accuracy. There were a few misses, but they were largely in fields that were unoccupied. I did see one house that was blasted to smithereens, nothing left but a gigantic crater, but the house next to it was untouched. I wonder how they did that? 

I drove around with my friend Wade for a couple of days and we tried to find tanks that had been blown up, but you know what? There are only 13 tanks that NATO destroyed. At least that's all that are accounted for. I saw four personally. I wonder what NATO really did bomb. Not that I care, NATO did it's job, it stopped the killing, got the Serbs out of Kosovo and has enabled life to start returning to normal. The only trouble spot left is Mitrovica in the north and if the French were to clear out of there for an afternoon, there would be an enormous riot, the Serbs would be routed out of their homes (which they took from the Albanians during the bombing, the neighborhood before the bombing was 89% Albanian) and most of the situation would be settled. 

I did see many Serbs forced out of their homes waiting for transport to Serbia. They were old, they were helpless. However, many also sat by and watched as their neighbors were brutally turned out of their homes, robbed, raped and murdered. As the Serbs once said to the Albanians, "go to your NATO" or, "go to your Albania," the Albanians are now replying with, "go to your Slobo."

But the story is over now, newswise anyway. Plenty of interesting stories to do, plenty of reconstruction to do, plenty of human interest and plenty of military stories. For me, though, it's time to move on, to stay in front of the curve, to get a visa for Belgrade and get ready for the demos which are undoubtedly going to hot up as the temperatures drop and people realize they are going to be screwed for the winter. Screwed because of lack of petrol, oil and heating oil. Watch your Slobo.

- David Brauchli

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