After years of hollow threats against Milosevic and years of Milosevic destroying much of Bosnia and part of Croatia, killing hundreds of thousands of people, and responsible for escalating human rights abuses in Kosovo, NATO was finally determined to move ahead. While always hoping that Milosevic would finally back down with the credible threat of force, NATO did not posses much credibility at that decisive moment. On March 24 NATO launched an air campaign against Serb military targets in Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.
MilosevicĂs forces responded by an all-out campaign to ethnically cleanse Kosovo of its Albanian population, driving hundreds of thousands across the border into Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro. Heavily armed Serb paramilitary forces, infamous for their tactics in Croatia and Bosnia, descended on Kosovo. At gunpoint they forced thousands of people from their homes, burning their towns and villages afterward. Many civilians were summarily executed. Most had all their money taken and their documents destroyed. Without any independent journalists and human rights monitors left in the region, it is impossible to tell the full extent of the atrocities though many, including UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, have called it genocide.
As of April 20, 1999, over a half million refugees have been forced out of Kosovo. NATO is continuing to bomb Serbia while Milosevic is fighting a war against both NATO and the defenseless population of Kosovo. The only possibility to stem the killings and expulsions is the introduction of ground troops, which the U.S. and NATO oppose. Meanwhile, if NATO achieves its objectives of securing the province, Kosovar Albanians would be forced to return to a land run by Milosevic. President Clinton still maintains that Kosovar Albanians should be returned to a Kosovo that would remain part of Serbia or Yugoslavia. Kosovar Albanians want to return but not before they would feel safe. International law expressly prohibits any country from sending refugees back home when they would be in danger. Who could possibly suggest that after all that has happened, Albanians would ever feel safe in a land overseen by Milosevic?