August 21, 2000
It has attracted curiously light interest, although it has by no means been ignored, but the arrest of two British policemen, a Canadian construction contractor and his nephew is getting odder by the day. Before you expect any answers, I can't give any. My feelings, that they have been doing something covert, may be wrong. In fact, the men have a very good case that they were merely on holiday, but the facts simply are not adding up.
The two sides can agree that the four men were leaving Montenegro to go back to Kosovo, and that is about it. The British and Canadian governments claim that the men were going for a well-earned break from their work in Kosovo to a Montenegrin holiday resort. In my opinion this story is given some credence by the fact that one of the Canadians is a nineteen year old relative of the older Canadian and has nothing to do with the OSCE presence in Kosovo. The Serbian story is, as you would expect, different. The men were allegedly leaving Montenegro by a back road, they were stopped and a large amount of explosives was found upon them. This was for training the Montenegrin police force in the use of explosives for sabotage. Oh, and they did not have the correct visas, that is something that everyone can agree upon.
The role of the Montenegrin police, the Spezijalni (do not ask me to pronounce it), is crucial. They are hardly what one would define as a police force, more as a paramilitary home guard. It has been claimed that the Spezijalni are trained by Western forces. Indeed the state owned British Broadcasting Corporation, an organisation that can hardly be said to hold a pro-Milosovic brief, repeated this claim in an interview with an officer in the Spezijalni, a 23-year-old referred to as "Velibor". In fact, the claimed was that the hardly police-like SAS was doing the training. It is almost certain that the Spezijalni have been trained by the West, although this does not mean that the policemen had done any training, it just means that they could have trained the other police force.
Two other items do not match up. The first is the lack of visas. Now it is a very sensitive subject in Montenegro as to whether one should or should not have a visa to enter. The Yugoslavian government insists on a lengthy process to get a visa, understandably this is made harder for the citizens of NATO countries. None of the four men had a visa. Now we are talking about policemen here. Not having a visa for a holiday? I do not know about police in the rest of the world but the English police, especially those who are sent abroad to give training, are not the type who act like recently graduated backpackers. The very concept of popping over to a different country for a holiday without the proper documentation would be alien to most of them. The other thing that does not add up is that the policemen did not have official leave to go to Montenegro. Now this suggests one of two things, either they were pulling a sicky and going into another country (albeit with only one day's leave) or they were supposed to be there. In other words, they did not need to get any leave because this was part of their job. There is another interesting snippet in the OECD statement; the policemen were well acquainted with the Serbian community in Kosovo. Could they have been used as interpreters?
The interesting person in the car was the elder of the two Canadians, Shaun Going. According to a piece on the Trotskyite World Socialist Web Site, Going is a larger than life figure, with his fingers in a number of Balkan pies. At the moment, he is working for NATO in Kosovo as a building contractor. Having already been arrested in Albania, is it beyond the realms of possibility that he was doing some extra-contractual work for his paymasters? The detonation devices, the presence of which is now almost admitted by the defence teams, would have come from him as would any training in their use to the Spezijalni.
Obviously to the British media, there can be no question that British people are doing anything wrong. It is all to do with the coming elections, or an attempt to demonise the Montenegrin leadership, or both. Indeed, it probably will be used to some effect for these purposes. If a car load of Serbs came into Britain with no visas, a load of detonators and circumstantial links to the Conservative Party I would be very surprised if it was not used in the coming election.
The reaction of the British Foreign Office has been somewhat more puzzling. Keith Vaz, the junior foreign office minister said, "No evidence was produced to support these charges [of espionage]." Now if he had said no proof, he would not be sounding so stupid. However, evidence, i.e. four people three of them indirect NATO employees trying to leave quietly for Kosovo without the required documents and with a carload of detonators, is present. It may be insufficient evidence, it may even be false or planted evidence, but it is evidence nonetheless.
Recently the men have claimed that they have been tortured. If true then it is outrageous. If they are innocent and have still been tortured, then we may like to think of quite what sort of policies we are creating that mean that being a British national is in itself a cause for intense suspicion. Do we want to live in that sort of world?
It is an open secret that the West wants Montenegro to leave Yugoslavia and further weaken the position of Milosovic. If you are a regular reader of antiwar.com, it has been one of our regular warnings. Nevertheless, it has to be stressed that this is going to be a disaster for the people of Montenegro. Independence may or may not be a good thing for Montenegro, but a civil war to achieve it is not going to be so attractive. Yugoslavia did give up Kosovo, after three months of bombing, and maybe it will do the same to Montenegro. However, opinion is far more divided in Montenegro, and Montenegro does give Serbia access to the sea. With excitable talk of using legal ruses to throw out Yugoslavia from the UN and CIA plans to destabilise Milosovic, it looks like good clean fun in the coming months. Montenegro will be sacrificed for its own good.
There is something in the whole affair that leaves a tremendously bitter taste in the mouth. Maybe its the fact that the police, one of these guys is a traffic cop, are being put in the line of danger like arms inspectors and charity workers before them. Maybe its the fact that not only can I not trust my government any more, but they are not even deceiving me for my own good. It could be that the government is training the paramilitary wing of a criminal gang, albeit to fight another criminal gang. Whatever it is I do hope that they free the policemen and the teenager who seem to have been caught in something bigger than they can cope with. Moreover, I hope that my government never orders or tricks civilians to risk their lives for aims that have nothing remotely to do with Britain's security. Just look at what we have become.
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